Doctor Who Series 12 rumor: Mary Shelley, Cybermen and what this could mean for Big Finish

The Silver Turk also featured the Doctor and Mary Shelley fighting the Cybermen. Could this be completely ignored by the New Series?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/Big Finish Productions.
Image obtained from: Big Finish Productions.)

There’s a rumor that’s been floating around that the Doctor could be meeting Mary Shelley and the Cybermen in the next series. If this is true, what would this mean for Big Finish?

 

By now, you’ve probably heard a rumor about Series 12 of Doctor Who. Specifically, that not only will Mary Shelley be appearing, but the Cybermen will be returning, too. Furthermore, they’ll be “inspiring author Mary Shelley to write iconic horror novel Frankenstein”.

At Doctor Who Watch, we’ve essentially held ourselves back from covering that rumor. Partially, because it is just that: a rumor. While it’s been revealed by “a source” at the Mirror, the BBC has yet to confirm or deny this.

Not that I’m saying it’s completely untrue, just that we know how hit-and-miss tabloid rumors can be in general. For every report that Derek Jacobi is playing the Master in Series 3, there’s a report of Paul McGann returning in Series 2/3/4 etc. (A key reason why the surprise worked in The Night of the Doctor: it was the only time McGann had been rumored to return that was actually true!)

The other time the Doctor met Mary

There is admittedly one other key reason why I haven’t covered this sooner. And it is, quite frankly, a totally fanboyish reason. Because if I’m honest, a part of me doesn’t want this to be true.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. A story as dark and Gothic sounding as the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley while fighting Cybermen sounds deliciously horrific. But honestly, it’s already been done. Unsurprisingly, by Big Finish.

In 2009, Big Finish released The Company of Friends, an anthology that focused on four different stories with the Eighth Doctor. In one of them, he not only met Mary Shelley, but he made her his companion for a while, too.

In 2011, their adventures were expanded on with a trilogy of stories that had the two fighting dark and horrific threats and monsters. One of them was The Silver Turk, where the two of them faced – you guessed it – a Cyberman.

Stories like Spare Parts have served as the inspiration for some major TV stories. But at the same time, they’ve also fitted alongside perfectly in terms of continuity.
(Image credit: Doctor Who/Big Finish Productions.
Image obtained from: Big Finish Productions.)

A supportive relationship

If this rumor is true, it’s extremely likely that these previous stories will be ignored, in a big way. Now, a part of me knows that this was always likely to happen. That the people making the TV series don’t really owe any loyalty to Big Finish, and that they’re free to remake or reuse an idea that completely replaces a story in another medium. Paul Cornell did it himself with one of his own novels when he wrote the episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood.

But despite that, Big Finish has generally been pretty easy to reconcile with the TV series. Somehow, over the past twenty years, both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have managed to avoid contradicting it. Even with TV stories that have used similar ideas to some of the audios, they can still easily be reconciled as being in the same continuity.

For example, while Robert Shearman used some elements from Jubilee for his episode Dalek, the overall stories are so completely different that they’re hardly the same story twice. And while Spare Parts was used as the inspiration for Rise of the Cybermen in Series 2, the stories are radically different, and in fact, literally tell an origin for the Cybermen in separate universes! Even the story that came close to replacing Spare Parts – namely, World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls – acknowledged that the Cybermen have many origins in our universe alone.

Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have always been clearly supportive of Big Finish. They’ve always given the go ahead for some of their ideas and characters to be expanded on, such as the War Master or River Song. Steven Moffat even went so far as to name the Eighth Doctor’s audio companions in The Night of the Doctor!

Could some of Big Finish’s more major stories like An Earthly Child end up completely replaced by the TV series?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/Big Finish Productions.
Image obtained from: Big Finish Productions.)

What it could mean

If the rumor about Mary Shelley and the Cybermen in Series 12 is true – and this is an extremely big if – it would make Chris Chibnall’s position clear. That he won’t be supporting Big Finish or worrying about their history.

On the one hand, it is expanded media in another medium. Plenty of continuity in other media has been completely ignored or replaced by the New Series. So I acknowledge that having a problem with this is, as I said, not exactly a rational reaction on my part.

But Big Finish has been giving us so many great Doctor Who stories for years. More than that, they did it with the original actors, and in the case of Paul McGann, who hardly had a run on TV, that’s something I’m extremely grateful for. So for them to be ignored by the TV series now would be a huge shame. Especially as this could be extended to so many other major stories, stories that have a huge impact on Doctor Who mythology. For example, An Earthly Child gave us the long-awaited reunion between the Doctor and Susan that the TV series never gave us. Could this be completely replaced in future episodes?

We will see what happens. Perhaps this rumor will amount to nothing. In the meantime, I’m going to re-listen to the Eighth Doctor’s and Mary Shelley’s adventures while we wait for Series 12.

Do you think there’s any truth to this rumor? If so, do you think Big Finish should be ignored in favor of a good TV story? Or do you think they should be respected as much as the TV series? Let us know in the comments below.