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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Mind Robber


Author: Peter Ling
Read by: Derek Jacobi
BBC Audio
RRP: £17.61
ISBN: 978 1 4084 0995 4
Available 06 August 2009

To escape a catastrophic volcanic eruption, the Doctor takes the TARDIS out of space and time - and into a void he can only describe as “nowhere”. But the crisis is far from over, and when the time machine’s circuits overload, the TARDIS explodes. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe come to in a dark unearthly forest. There they encounter a host of characters who seem somehow familiar: a beautiful princess with long flaxen hair, a sea traveller dressed in 18th-century clothes, and a white rabbit frantically consulting his pocket watch... What is happening to the three time travellers? What strange power guides their actions? In the Land of Fiction, who can really tell…?

The Mind Robber was a very imaginative Doctor Who serial, particularly given the time of its production, when alien invasions and bases under siege were often the order of the day. Peter Ling’s 1986 novelisation of his own script is no less inventive. He expands upon the original 1968 serial (which, though it ran to five instalments, had a total running time similar to that of a four-parter, because of under-running episodes) to such an extent that this unabridged audio book covers five CDs and nearly five and a half hours.

Ling, best known for co-creating the soap opera Crossroads, develops the story’s ideas in several ways that the original television budget and production processes could not have permitted. We meet more fictional characters, including the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Jamie and Zoe find a cottage in the otherwise desolate white void, and we see two sets of the companions, the regular versions and the white-clad ones, at the same time. The novelist draws a more obvious connection between the villain’s two types of troops, the White Robots and the Clockwork Soldiers, by having them fitted with similar devices.

Perhaps because the serial’s opening episode was not written by Ling but by story editor Derrick Sherwin as an emergency filler, the novelist conveys the events of that instalment as a flashback. In order to allow the novel to stand alone, and despite the fact that Ian Marter had already preserved the cliffhanger ending to the previous serial in his novelisation of The Dominators, Ling has the TARDIS departing an exploding Mount Vesuvius rather than a lava flow on the planet Dulkis.

However, despite the fact that the behind-the-scenes motivation for Jamie’s temporary change of face (Frazer Hines’s chicken pox) need not apply to the novelisation, Ling retains it as a wacky and enjoyable plot element. He also keeps the name of his villain, the Master, though he explains that this is not the same character as the Doctor’s recurring Time Lord nemesis.

Perhaps the producers of this audio book didn’t realise that it’s a different Master in The Mind Robber, because the actor they have chosen to read it is Derek Jacobi, who played the renegade Time Lord in Scream of the Shalka and Utopia. However, the subject matter is similar to the Doctor Who Unbound audio drama Deadline, in which Jacobi took the lead role. The actor gives a compelling reading, though his deep voice isn’t really suited to rendering the regular characters. Jacobi’s Doctor sounds more like Pertwee than Troughton, while his Jamie is more akin to Hines’s temporary stand-in Hamish Wilson.

Mind you, it’s still well worth allowing these five discs of fun to rob you of more than five hours of your time.


Richard McGinlay

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