Audio Review: Doctor Who: Dalek Menace!

13:17 04 October 2012

Doctor Who: Dalek Menace!

Doctor Who: Dalek Menace!

Archant

(AudioGo)

JUST in time for Christmas, AudioGo have collected these audiobook versions of classic Who novelisations, featuring the First Doctor in battle with his old foes the Daleks in adaptations of TV stories The Chase and The Daleks’ Masterplan.

The chase is on in the first story, which hails from the programme’s second season way back in 1965. Having defeated them on their home planet of Skaro and thwarting their invasion of Earth, the Doctor has finally gained the dubious status of arch enemy for the insidious Daleks, prompting them to develop their own means of time travel in a bid to hunt him down wherever he might land the TARDIS.

What follows is a desperate pursuit across various planets and time-zones, taking in the desert world of Aridus, the top of the Empire State Building, onboard the Mary Celeste, inside a haunted house attraction at the Festival of Ghana, and finally the planet Mechanus, home to the flame-throwing Mechonoids…

At each step of the way, the Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara and Vicki are forced to outwit their Dalek pursuers as well as dealing with whatever fresh situation they find themselves in, but sooner or later their luck will undoubtedly run out…

The original television serial of The Chase would have offered viewers a new location to explore every week, and it is that episodic nature of this story which is it’s biggest downfall, as it requires a certain suspension of disbelief watching the TARDIS crew make a narrow escape from the Daleks week after week.

As a novel, writer John Peel has moved away from those obvious restrictions to add some depth of character and situation to proceedings, which means this audio version probably works a lot better as a narrative than it did on screen.

Perhaps one of the weakest of the classic series’ Dalek stories, and showing early signs of creator Terry Nation’s lack of imagination when it comes to his progeny, there’s still much to be recommended here, including the poignant departure of original companions Ian and Barbara.

Nicholas Briggs, the current voice of the Daleks on TV, returns here to provide Maureen (Vicki) O’Brien’s reading with added colour, complemented by some first-rate sound and music work.

The other two releases are Daleks: Mission to the Unknown and Daleks: The Mutation of Time, which adapt the epic 12 part serial from 1966 and its one episode prologue.

On the distant and dangerous jungle planet of Kembel, representatives of hostile factions from various worlds meet with the Daleks to discuss their plans to conquer the solar system, but their plotting is overheard by Space Security Agent Marc Cory. Just before he is exterminated, he manages to record his findings on a tape…

Months later, recovering from their experiences during the Trojan Wars of mythology, the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Steven (Peter Purves) and Katarina (Adrienne Hill) discover the incriminating recording and join forces with secret agents Bret Vyon (Nicholas Courtney, prior to his long-standing role as the Brigadier) and Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh). Their objective: stop Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System, from handing over a sample of the deadly element taranium to the Daleks, allowing them to unleash their Time Destructor on the vulnerable Earth…

For the duration of this story 1960s audiences were gripped to their screens by a Dalek epic the likes of which has never been challenged. Travelling through time and space in a game of cat and mouse, the Doctor and his arch enemy find themselves in 1920s Hollywood, 1960s Liverpool on Christmas Day, ancient Egypt and back on Kembel, as the Time Lord tries desperately to outwit the Dalek forces.

His efforts cost him the lives of Trojan handmaiden Katarina, ejected from an airlock into space, and new companion Sara, who is prematurely aged to a pile of bones in a bid to thwart the Daleks’ power, and leaves the Doctor himself scarred by the death and destruction wreaked in their wake.

With many of the original episodes wiped clean from the BBC archives, this two-part novelisation of the complete saga is an excellent alternative, with John Peel’s prose neatly expanding upon what was seen on screen. Read by the tag-team of Marsh and Purves, again with Briggs’ providing the voices of the Daleks, it’s almost a better experience than the at-times repetitive and slow-paced TV serial.

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