The Monster of Peladon (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 24 July 2020 - Reviewed by Kenny Scheck
The Monster of Peladon (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By  Jon Culshaw
Released by BBC Audio - March 2020
Available from Amazon UK

Despite my love for the Third Doctor era of the show, I was never a big fan of the Peladon adventures.  I found the stories underwhelming and Alpha Centauri to be an annoying shrieking character in a lame alien costume.  Those were my main takeaways, and since I haven’t ever revisited since my initial viewing, it is really all I have to go on.  Something of a vague memory.  Someday, when the blu-ray collections get to the seasons that feature these adventures, I will give them another whirl and we will see how they hold up then.  Until then, I have the audiobook of the Terrence Dick-penned Target Novelization to refresh my memory.  

It is okay I guess. It isn’t as lame a story as I recall, but Alpha Centauri’s shrieking is definitely toned down by Jon Culshaw’s reading.  Culshaw really sells the whole thing.  He is a solid narrator, but it is his Pertwee that is just perfect.  

I do think this story has too much pad, even in this fairly short novelization I found parts of it were dragging.  But Culshaw’s reading elevates what I found to be mostly forgettable material.





At Childhood's End (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 25 April 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
At Childhood's End (Credit: BBC)
Written by Sophie Aldred
Read By Sophie Aldred
Released by BBC Worldwide - February 2020
Available from Amazon UK

It is always interesting when an actor writes a story based on the character they are so famous for.  It can be very revealing about the actor. When Colin Baker wrote a comic about the Sixth Doctor in the 90s, his Doctor was not the cranky know-it-all jerk he was on TV, he was far more reserved and kind...clearly the Doctor Baker always wanted to play was on those pages. William Shatner wrote a series of novels (with the help of ghostwriters) in which his Captain Kirk is written as the greatest guy in the universe who comes back from the dead and can beat up Data.

Sophie Aldred has now returned to the world of Doctor Who with her novel, At Childhood’s End, and it pretty much shows she just gets it.  She sees what worked about her character back in the late 80s, but is not afraid to give her character a ton of growth and maturity (as she is an older version here). Aldred recently made a brief return to the role of Ace in a specially made trailer for Season 26’s Blu-ray release, reflecting on her time with the Doctor while standing in her office for “A Charitable Earth,” her successful charity organization (first mentioned in the RTD penned Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor)...and now she has dug deeper into that version of an older Ace, in which Ace gets a chance to reunite with the Doctor, albeit with the latest version.  

Aldred not only knows Ace (and how she would be as a middle-aged woman), but she also seems to be steeped in the confusing expanded universe lore involving the character. Ace is arguably the first of the modern companions, the first to have a real unfolding storyline.  When Doctor Who was put into hiatus following the 1989 season, Ace was still with the Doctor...her story left unfinished. The character then took on a new life in the comic strip, then the Virgin New Adventures novel series really let the character change and grow (becoming some kind of space mercenary), then the comics retconned everything and killed her off, meanwhile, the audio adventures at Big Finish have had their own life and development for over 20 years.  If you dig too deep you find a lot of conflicting ideas of where Ace ended up. She is either a space bad-ass, a spy for Gallifrey, dead, a perpetual teenager, or running a charity on Earth. It’s confusing.  

This story doesn’t dwell on rectifying all of that, and it is better for that, but it does feature Ace (in flashback) with the Seventh Doctor using a machine that shows a variety of these outcomes for her possible futures.  I also feel like there are some deep-cut references to audios or novels thrown in her. I get the feeling Aldred kept up, at least a bit, with the novels or comics that followed her and Sylvester McCoy’s exit from the show. She certainly was involved in the audio stuff. Luckily, while it feels like her story fits in nicely with (or at least compliments) the variety of adventures Ace had in spin-off material, it still stands on its own.  

It is extremely weird to pit Ace against the Thirteenth Doctor.  The thirteenth is so light and happy and utterly different to the Seventh.  He became so restrained, serious, and mysterious...and his little games certainly began to rub Ace the wrong way. All of Ace’s baggage for that version of the Doctor is carried over to a woman who is so utterly different, and it is odd.  But that odd nature is in the book. Ace is weary of the Doctor at all times and clearly is put off by her newer bubbly personality.  

 

Aldred’s audiobook is extremely well-read. Beyond being able to perform as Ace again, she puts on a variety of voices to keep things interesting.  She nails her performances as the Thirteenth Doctor and her three companions, really capturing their voices. The story is not nearly as interesting as all the character development for Ace...but that development is really good and the closure this story brings to Ace is welcome and makes it all worthwhile. 





Image of the Fendahl (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 April 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Image of the Fendahl (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Louise Jamesona

Released by BBC Worldwide - February 2020
Available from Amazon UK

To be totally honest, I barely remember the TV version of Image of the Fendahl.  I remembered the image of the golden priestess at the end of the story, but the bulk of it has faded completely from my memory.  So as I entered this Target Audiobook, I was very much like the fans who originally picked up these Target Novelizations.  Repeats were uncommon and chances are the book was going to be your main source for re-living a story.  As a book, I enjoyed it. I think I actually enjoyed it more now than the TV version, even though my memory is definitely vague.

Apparently, this is a story that involves a small village, witchcraft, and an ancient evil alien.  Yep, seems like a Tom Baker adventure. His era, particularly in the first half of his run, was filled with gothic horror elements...so a small village with a Witch and ancient evil seems just about right. 

As expected, Terrence Dicks' writing is easy and engaging.  Louise Jameson does a solid reading, and the production value for the audiobook (featuring some music and sound effects to add to the drama), are excellent.  If you, like so many of us, are now trapped at home looking for something to fill the air as you work from home,  why not pass some of the time with one of these Target Audiobooks?






Resurrection of the Daleks (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 15 March 2020 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Resurrection of the Daleks (Credit: BBC Books)
Released September 2019
BBC Books/BBC Audio
Earth 1984..a man casually lighting a cigarette suddenly is unnerved by a peculiar sight. A party of strangely clad men and women burst from a Shad Thames warehouse, hounded on the run by some very odd behaving policemen. Policemen with guns and a distinctly unofficial licence to kill.
 
Abroad the TARDIS the Fifth Doctor and his companions have been caught in a time corridor, the origin of which is at first unclear. However, with due care and attention, the Doctor eventually ascertains that this potentially lethal obstacle is the work of his sworn arch enemy -the Daleks!
 
Meanwhile at the other end of the time corridor from Earth 1984 is a battlecruiser brim-full of mercenaries who are preparing for an attack on the semi obsolete prison ship the Vipod Mor. 
The Mor has a solitary prisoner abroad but one who has crossed paths with the Doctor on several occasions and who is as demented as he is brilliant, as dangerous to the cosmos as he is capable of breaking a centuries-long impasse between two logic-driven races.

This Dalek story is quite possibly the most convoluted and plot-hole-heavy of any in the original classic run of the TV show. However, it has plenty of blockbuster gusto to spare and ends up being a relatively memorable watch. For many years since TARGET tried to produce novelisations of the Saward Dalek stories, there has been speculation over how a book version of Resurrection might turn out.

Eric Saward does a reasonable job of bringing his mid 80s Season 21 story to life in the written word format.

Davros gets relatively short shrift in this adaptation, in that we don't get much insight into his psychology or his motivations as might be expected. I happen to be a keen fan of this villainous character and unlike a not inconsiderable contingent of Who fandom also laud Terry Molloy's reading of the role in TV, as much as his later Big Finish outings. Molloy is the narrator of this audiobook release and puts all his skill and vitality into making the 5 CDs' worth material carry through with conviction.
 
On the other hand, the Vipod Mor station crew are very nicely fleshed out indeed in this novel, with a particularly well-done back story for the traitor (Seaton) who enables the easier subjugation by the Supreme Dalek and mercenary forces. There is some particularly amusing material about a beautiful female android that bewitches a senior member of the crew, and also comedic is the addition to the TV scripts of Sir Runcible - the universally loved resident cat of the station.
 
A theme of Saward's closely linked story Revelation emerges at one point with the Daleks as immortals getting a brief outing here. Furthermore, Dalek characterisation is strong. The Supreme Dalek is both more pretentious and sadistic than the somewhat generic TV counterpart.
 
Terileptils get over a half dozen name-checks despite minimal links between Dalek lore and the season 19 pseudohistorical The Visitation. 
 
The subplot of the Earth army soldiers being overcome by the Dalek/ mercenary forces is expanded on well and some unanswered questions on TV are addressed.
 
The early episodes get the most expanding such that two whole discs are consumed before the first cliffhanger manifests itself. Also, the tense airlock battle ends up much more epic than the modest BBC Eighties budget would allow. A real uncertainty exists over just who will end up being the winning side for a good portion of the chapter this takes place in.
 
Nick Briggs has come to be known as the 'Voice Of the Daleks' from his many contributions on TV and other media. Here he does a sterling job bringing individual Dalek voices to life, not least when having to do one on oned Dalek conversations. These all too easily fall flat in less capable hands. 
 
In sum, this book/audio release is diverting enough if not quite an essential top tier Who product




The War Machines (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 19 May 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The War Machines
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Read By  Michael Cochrane
Released by BBC Audio - March 2019
Available from Amazon UK

I have always ranked The War Machines fairly high in First Doctor stories.  I've always felt Hartnell is quite good in it, and it drops dead weight companion Dodo in favor of the charming Ben and Polly, who at the time better represented modern youth. It also had fun robot villains trying to overtake London and the World, and what isn't fun about that? But somehow, I didn't really find myself that interested in this audiobook of the Target Novelization. 

Written by original script writer Ian Stuart Black, the novelization just isn't written with any energy. It highlights the deficiencies of the television story.  On TV they got away with some filler and a story that isn't full of action, because the performances of Hartnell, Anneke Wills, and Michael Craze keep you engaged. But as a novel or audiobook, I just found that there isn't much happening, and even though I finished listening to it a week ago, I've been struggling to think of much to really say about it. 

The only thing of note I truly remember is that the first chapter adds a bit of business between the Doctor and Dodo, in which both note secretly think they will be parting soon.  This is certainly more than the TV version ever did, as Dodo just disappears at one point, and at the end of the story, her replacements show up and say she's gone to live on a farm upstate somewhere, and then they callously steal her job. The book does the same, but at least there is this acknoweldgement of her exit in the beginning of the story.

I don't think it is the fault of the narrator, Michael Cochrane, who I think does a fine job.  His Hartnell impression is particularly great.  But the guy has little to work with. I find it so odd that a story I have always liked has left me so cold in the novelization. 





The Caves of Androzani (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 5 March 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Caves of Androzani  (Credit: BBC)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Peter Davison

Released by BBC Worldwide - November 2018
Available from Amazon UK

The Caves of Androzani is not only my favourite Peter Davison story, it is not only among the top of my regeneration story lists, but it is definitely my favourite story from the entire 1980s.  So much of that decade had iffy scripts, were still stiffly directed like it was 1965 and were overly lit studio episodes.  Anytime they would leave the studio it becomes a relief because suddenly everything is lit so naturally.  But then there is The Caves of Androzani, a story which mostly takes place in dark caves, and is directed with a modern pace with the camera movement feeling free once.  And then there is Davison giving the performance of his life in his final moments as the Doctor.  I just love the serial, I think it is excellent.  But what if you strip away Davison's fiery performance?  What if the directing and lighting that I admire are taken out of the equation? 

Peter Davison reads this audiobook of the Target Novelization from the 80s, and while certain elements aren't nearly as exciting as their television counterparts (the crash landing cliffhanger from Episode 3 is one of my favourite moments in the whole of the classic show, and a lot of the umph is sucked out of it in this reading), I think I appreciated the base story elements better in this.  For example, I sometimes forget that this story is so simple.  It could be any random adventure for the Doctor...he lands on a planet, finds there is two factions warring over a rare medicine, there are androids and cave monsters, and the Doctor and his friend get captured by each faction have to figure out a way to save their own skin while possibly helping fix this society's ills. 

It is a fairly standard Doctor Who story...but what sets it apart is that all those elements aren't actually what the story is about in any way.  Our heroes step out of the TARDIS and almost immediately touch an odd plant, which immediately poisons them. The entire story has the Doctor and Peri dying from the word go, and all of those fairly average story bits that might otherwise be the focus of the story, merely become obstacles in the way of the Doctor finding an antidote in time.  The Doctor doesn't try to find a way to sort out the fighting, he doesn't solve any issues with cave monsters or help find an alternative for this rare drug that is being battled over...no beyond the two main leaders of the faction killing each other, the problems of Androzani aren't really solved in the end.  Because the Doctor is actually just too damn busy trying to save his friend.  And that is what sets this story apart.  

We've become accustomed to regeneration stories that are big sweeping epics...the Doctor against a horde of Daleks, with Earth in the balance!  The entire universe will be destroyed by the Master, but the Doctor will give his life to stop him and make a grand farewell speech before he finally changes into a brand new actor.  But for as much fun as those can be, sometimes it takes dialling it back a bit.  Focus in on a more personal story, and the regeneration can be just as, if not more, powerful.  The Doctor doesn't have to save the galaxy for his death to have meaning, sometimes he can just save his friend.  

This audiobook was read with enthusiasm from Peter Davison, who has long professed that his final outing was his favourite of his tenure.  Terrence Dicks novelization of the original Robert Holmes script is quite good, and it let me focus in on different details that I've sometimes glossed over when I think of this story. If you are a fan of the original story, and we all know you are...check out this audiobook, it added to my already high enjoyment of the original television adventure.