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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Ambassadors of Death


Starring: Jon Pertwee
BBC Audio
RRP: £16.63
ISBN: 978 1 408 41012 7
Available 06 August 2009

Things are not going well with the British Space program. Having lost contact with its Mars Probe Seven it has sent out the Recovery Seven Probe in an effort to discover the fate of its three astronauts. But soon after the recovery probe docks with the stricken ship the airwaves are drowned out by an unearthly scream. The Doctor, still not completely recovered from his last regeneration, recognises the sound as a signal, though he cannot remember what it means or who sent it. Joining the scientists at the Space Program he immediately sets to work to uncover the truth. When he detects that a reply has been sent from a nearby location, things start to spiral out of control...

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (1970) was a, seven episode, Jon Pertwee story from Who’s seventh season. That season's companion was Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, though so many of the stories involved UNIT it would be fair to consider Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney, as an honouree companion. Pertwee’s Doctor was initially confined to Earth, which explains why most of his stories seemed to happen all within a ten mile radius of UNIT headquarters. This does create a few unbelievable coincidences, such as the reply signal emanating from a building only seven miles from the British Space Centre, but if you’re able to suspend disbelief this is a pretty good Who story, which deals with prejudice and xenophobia, problems which unfortunately are still with us nearly forty years after the show’s original transmission.

The show is presented here as an audio, presumably because the original televised show exists as mostly black and white prints, the original colour prints having been destroyed by the BBC. Often this isn’t a problem for Who audios, but in this case, the story lacks the visual flamboyance of Pertwee’s performance, loosing much of both his comedic and dramatic presentation.

As an Audio CD the story works very well with linking narration by Caroline John, though oddly enough either time has made changes or she was originally performing an accent when playing Liz, but Caroline no longer sounds much like Liz, she does, however provide an insightful bonus audio interview (19 min, 30 sec). Being the whole seven episodes the show is presented over three CD’s, with a foldout information sheet, which contains track listings, the cast and credits and a nice little background piece by Andrew Pixley.

Given the age of the show I was pleasantly impressed with the audio quality as it lacks much of the low end rumble and high end hiss heard in so many of the older recordings. I do have a gripe with the individual episode introductions which name the program but fail to name the episode number, so if you transfer it to your portable player, it would be pretty frustrating trying to find your last listening point.

So, until it becomes financially viable to colourise the B&W prints this is probably the best way to catch up with the story.


Charles Packer

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