Children of Steel.

Books Martin Day’s Children of Steel is this month’s other spin-off release based on The Sarah Jane Adventures and sees the gang bidding for an unusual Victorian brass head at a local auction which is revealed to contain a futuristic research probe. After some digging they discover that this metal bonce is part of a much the larger robot, a Difference Golum, designed by a turn of the century abolitionist as an alternative to human slavery, the irony being of course that in creating an intelligent being he’s essentially creating a more complex version of the same problem.

In other words, it’s I, Robot for kids. As with other push-button stories, it’s taking advantage of futuristic metaphors to introduce youngster to fairly weighty concepts. Most of the old well rehearsed arguments from Asimov’s original story, Alex Poroyas’ film adaptation and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Measure of a Man are trotted out albeit simplified (there’s no direct talk of the three laws here) and having repaired the automaton, Sarah Jane etc have to decide whether he should continue his sometimes menacing existence.

Which rather means, unlike the other release, there’s not much here for adults. The dialogue is more straight forward and generic, and there’s more plot than character. If Scott Gray’s Judgement Day is akin to one of those thoughtful Sarah Jane centric stories by Gareth Roberts, this is one of the early Phil Ford efforts, albeit on a much smaller scale with fewer locations. Ironically, Gray covered some of this ground himself, and better in Autonomy Bug, which was part of his classic Eighth Doctor run of comic strips for Doctor Who Magazine.

Daniel Anthony’s reading is good and especially impressive when working sparks of humanity into the Golem, though his pronunciation takes some getting used to after hearing the similarly named but differently spelt character from Lord of the Rings. Simon Power’s sound design also helps bring the metal man to live, the creaking turns of his head and stomping rattling into headphones and out of speakers and there’s possibly enough of that to keep children entertained which is really the point. Sometimes the target audience is king.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Children of Steel by Martin Day is published by AudioGo. Review copy supplied.

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