Original Novelisation By: Ian Marter
Audio Performances And Narration: David Troughton
Released: 7th April 2016, BBC AUDIO.
Duration: 5 hours approximately.
The TARDIS crew have overcome unpredictable and unnerving events in The Land Of Fiction and now are returnd to their familiar time/space dimension. But it is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. A quick control manoeuvre saves the TARDIS from an alien missile fired from the vicinity of the Moon, and the Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot travel down to Earth.
The heroic trio have ended up in a relatively innocuous field with cows, but the ship needs some circuit repair work before further travels are possible. Ideally, help is needed from someone native to Earth. Knowing that they are in the general time zone where they last met their ally Professor Travers they set off to nearby London.
But it is a somewhat different London from the one Jamie and the Doctor last visited, when the Underground was brought to a standstill by the Great Intelligence and its 'Yeti' forces. International Electromatics has made a decisive impact on the lives of consumers from all walks of life. The head of the corporation, Tobias Vaughn, is clearly a man of great vitality and drive, but he harbours a number of terrifying skeletons in his cupboard.
Eventually the Doctor crosses paths once again with the charismatic and brave Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, who has risen up to the rank of Brigadier, and who heads a military organisation known as UNIT.
Professor Travers is absent, and instead his apartment is rented to a Professor Watkins and his photographer niece Isobel. Watkins has seemingly been kidnapped by Vaughn's men and it falls on the Doctor to try and retrieve him, as well as help UNIT's investigations into just what International Electromatics are up to.
Before long, Watkins' niece Isobel and her new friend Zoe also fall into Vaughn's clutches, and the Doctor and Jamie must employ their wits in order to save them. A far bigger problem soon manifests itself: the emotionless Cybermen are planning to invade Earth, and they know that the Doctor is one of the few things that will stand in their way..
One of the most confident stories of Season 6 - along with the vitally important The War Games - The Invasion was pivotal in setting the groundwork for the imminent colour era of Doctor Who. It is also one of the longest stories in the show's history at eight parts; itself an episode quota that was never seen before or since.
It could have come over as unwieldy and padded, but wonderful one-off characters such as Vaughn, Packer, Watkins, and Isobel all play their parts to perfection. Having the first four episodes feature more of Jamie, and the latter four feature more of Zoe was also an unusual aspect at the time but paid off well. Even though the story is essentially action and thriller rolled together, there are some other notable themes. These include the dangers of technological progress, the price paid for being successful at all costs, the rise of feminism and its clashes with old-school male institutions, such as the military, and the importance of friendship and loyalty. The story was of course vital to Doctor Who's long-term future, and it is good we have it largely intact, although there is still a vague hope that episodes one and four are found somewhere, one day.
David Troughton has contributed much to film, TV and theatre over the years, and still is a busy actor to this day. I myself have had the pleasure of seeing him live on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon, and he had a poise and assuredness that made him magnetic to watch. He also has appeared many times in classic Doctor Who, as well as the modern show, with The Curse Of Peladon remaining his most significant contribution.
Troughton sounds uncannily like his father Patrick, and thus delivers a recitation of the Second Doctor that gives much of this 'alternate take' on the official story an identity and compelling nature all its own.
However a number of the voices of the original are somewhat missed. I have returned to both the VHS and DVD releases of The Invasion many times since first purchasing them, and much of the reason for that were the strong performances across the board. This meant that whatever the quality of this new audio book, I would regard the Brigadier, Packer, Vaughn and Professor Watkins as 'the original and best'. Our audio perfomer nonetheless does very well to provide a rich vein of identity and distinctive personality in his voices. His narration is also very good, and manages to keep a potentially demanding runtime pass by relatively without fuss.
As with the recent Death to the Daleks release, we have the participation of multi-skilled audio icon Nicholas Briggs, who does a fine job of updating the monster voices that Peter Halliday had provided in the original 1968 TV serial.
Sound effects and music are serviceable here. For the climactic battle scenes there is plenty of fizz and fury. The occasional melody comes along to signify a chapter of significance, as well as beginnings and ends of (the in total five) CDs. Yet otherwise, and especially for such a long run time, the audio backing side of the production can feel a bit sparse.
The much-missed Ian Marter played companion Harry Sullivan - who was himself a member of UNIT - and is the writer of the text that fuels this unabridged reading. The book is generally very faithful to the original story, with the odd extra death or variant set piece slotted in. Thus, despite this audio release's cover and title, the prominence of the Cybermen remains somewhat minimal. The heart and soul of the antagonism is still to be found in the form of Tobias Vaughn. There is a fascinating relationship of power between him and his security chief Packer, which is developed by the story being as long as it is. The novelisation does well to make Packer a bit less incompetent and displaying some insights that are of potential use to his superior.
And as a story in its own right, Marter has made sure to move events along at a steady clip. Most of the prose is pleasant to the ear, and there is a good amount of adjectives that stand out as creative. Some extra dialogue and emotion also make this version distinctive.
Overall this is another a fine exhibit of a story with a perennial enemy of the good Doctor. A previously made narrated 'off-air' soundtrack of the story is still available second-hand. Arguably that version now adds little to the official DVD, which was complete with excellent animation by the now sadly defunct Cosgrove Hall. But this release offers all the excellent prose and urgency that Ian Marter brought to his Doctor Who novelisations, and of course the versatile acting skills of David Troughton. It is truly deserving of a science fiction aficionado's time.