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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Edge of Destruction


Author: Nigel Robinson
Read by: William Russell
BBC Audio
RRP: £12.99, US $34.95 (CD), £10.80 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6676 6 (CD), 978 1 4084 8085 4 (download)
Available 06 January 2011

In a bid to regain control of the TARDIS’s faulty systems, the Doctor is driven to experiment with a dangerous untried combination. With a violent explosion the TARDIS blacks out and the crew find themselves trapped inside. Is it a simple technical fault, sabotage, or something even more sinister? Tension mounts as the Doctor and his companions begin to suspect one another. What has happened to the ship? Slowly a terrifying suspicion dawns. Has the TARDIS become the prisoner of some powerful fifth intelligence that is even now haunting the time machine’s dark and gloomy corridors...?

Nigel Robinson’s novelisation of the 1964 serial The Edge of Destruction / Inside the Spaceship / Beyond the Sun / whatever you prefer to call it, published in print in 1988, is a remarkable achievement. The original serial had been hastily penned by story editor David Whitaker as what is nowadays referred to as a “bottle episode”, making use of only the regular cast and the existing TARDIS interior set, in order to bring the show’s episode count up to 13, which was all that had been formally commissioned at the time. The result is a rather bizarre two-parter, in which the four crew members behave very oddly for reasons that aren’t always made clear. However, despite this fact and a running time of less than 50 minutes, Robinson has managed to turn The Edge of Destruction into a very serviceable novel running to 120 pages, which has now been reissued as a 3 hour 20 minute talking book.

The author doesn’t simply pad the story out. His additions heighten the tension and make sense of the paranoia that afflicts the entire crew. An introduction recaps the events of the preceding two stories, An Unearthly Child and The Daleks, adding some background material to the first serial along the way. He reminds us how short a space of time Ian and Barbara have been travelling with the Doctor and Susan at this point, and how little the schoolteachers know about these mysterious wanderers from another time and place. Robinson adds new scenes and gets into the characters’ heads as, for example, Ian finds himself lost in the seemingly never-ending TARDIS corridors, and Barbara explores the Doctor’s impressive laboratory (we see more of the ship’s interior here than we’ve ever seen on television). When they reawaken following an explosion in the control room, the disoriented schoolteachers initially believe that they are back at Coal Hill School, which explains some of the peculiar dialogue in the televised version.

Most of the new material is added to the first half of the serial, so it’s almost the end of CD 3 (of four) before we reach what was the cliffhanger ending to the first episode. I’d be lying if I said that the story doesn’t drag at all at times, but generally this is a more successful psychological narrative than its television counterpart.

The author also inserts a few up-to-the-minute (by 1988 standards) technological terms, such as LED and VDU, when describing the TARDIS’s systems. However, he is more prescient when one of his chapter titles predicts David Tennant’s swansong, The End of Time.

William Russell, who played Ian in the television serial, returns once again to read this unabridged audio book, going through a range of emotions during his performance. The creepy, psychological aspects of the narrative are augmented by Simon Power’s music, which often sounds like something from a horror movie soundtrack.

Though it doesn’t really need to occupy four discs (three would have comfortably accommodated it), The Edge of Destruction provides more than three hours of edgy distraction.


Richard McGinlay

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