The Rescue (AudioGo novelisation)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 - Reviewed by Andrew Batty
The Rescue, read by Maureen O'Brien
Doctor Who - The Rescue
Originally starring William Hartnell
Written by David Whitaker
Narrated by Maureen O'Brien
Released by BBC AudioGo, April 2013
The Rescue is a rarity in pre-00s Doctor Who. At only two episodes (50 minutes) in length, it zips along at a fast pace handling the series’ first ever companion changeover deftly and swiftly. The idea of a four-hour long reading of an adaptation of such a slim and expedient story is a rather daunting one.

In adapting The Rescue to fill the page count of a Target novel, Ian Marter uses two main tricks. Firstly, (and understandably) he expands on the events of the TV version, including scenes of the rescue ship en-route to find the survivors of the Astra, further background on the planet Dido and its inhabitants, and more exploration of the planet than we saw on screen. Secondly, he writes lengthy descriptive passages about the locations and the action taking place.

Unfortunately, the majority of this protracted description comes in the first half of the story, making it a bit of a slog to get through, but things do pick up past the half way point.

Many of Marter’s additions to the story (particularly the expanded role for the surviving Didoids and the exploration of their history) are very welcome, adding depth and background, while also ironing out some of the dangling threads and inconsistencies in the TV original (such as the rescue ship). However they also lead to a rather odd structure and uneven pacing with this version of the story carrying on well past the defeat of its villain.

Marter is very successful in emphasising and expanding the script’s focus on appearances being deceptive, with this motif recurring in the characters of Bennett, Koquillion, Sandy and the Didoids, along with the terrain of the planet Dido. He also has a refreshingly different turn of phrase and choice of reference points to some of the other Target writers. A particular highlight comes early on in the novel, where Vicki is described at length and compared to Joan of Arc.

One surprising change Marter makes comes in the epilogue. He ends the story on an unexpectedly downbeat note, but one which he has carefully foreshadowed throughout the novel, and it ties together many of the themes of the original script and the additional ones Marter has added.

Marter captures all of the regulars very well and (as previously shown in The Companion Chronicles) Maureen O’Brien is an excellent reader. She’s very good at adopting different styles of delivery (with the exception of a weak American accent), and unsurprisingly, she excels when taking on Vicki's dialogue. One slight weakness is her portrayal of the Doctor, who she performs in an austere tone, meaning some of the humour of the story (present in the script and in William Hartnell’s performance) doesn’t come across, particularly in the Doctor’s early scenes with Ian and Barbara.

Typically, the audio design is very good and the music and effects are subtle, in keeping with the tone of the story and enhance the experience, rather than distracting the listener.

While Marter's take on The Rescue doesn't quite succeed in stretching the story out to fill the required length it is an interesting curio which offers unexpected insights into one of the highlights of the Hartnell era.