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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who


Author: Terrance Dicks
Read by: Caroline John
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.25 (CD), £12.29 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6832 6 (CD), 978 1 4084 5053 6 (download)
Available 07 April 2011

Inferno is the name of a top-secret drilling project to penetrate the Earth’s crust and release a major new energy source. A crisis develops when a noxious green liquid leaks out as drilling progresses - the green poison has a grotesquely debilitating effect on human beings. As the Earth’s plight worsens, the Doctor is trapped on a parallel world, unable to rescue the planet and its inhabitants from the destructive force of Project Inferno...

This complete and unabridged audio book presents Terrance Dicks’s novelisation of the 1970 Jon Pertwee serial, published in print by Target Books in 1984.

This is not to say that Dicks’s book is itself entirely unabridged. In condensing Don Houghton’s seven-part teleplay into a 128-page novelisation, Dicks edits out a few scenes, primarily from the cutaways to the “normal” universe while the Third Doctor is stranded on the parallel Earth. On the whole, though, it’s remarkable how much of the original story remains intact, including the light-hearted closing scene. Events unfold at breakneck speed.

That pace could have been undermined by the conversion from 128 pages of concise prose to a four-hour talking book. However, aside from a few minor stumbles, reader Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw, maintains an impressive level of intensity, matching the natural ups and downs of Dicks’s narrative, aided by dramatic music and sound effects from Simon Power.

Apart from one fleeting moment when Platoon Under Leader Benton sounds similar to Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart, the reader differentiates the voices of the various characters very well, which is no mean feat when you consider that she has to deal with two versions of most of these characters, from both the regular universe and the fascist one. The novelisation has a more international flavour than the TV serial, and John emphasises this by delivering Professor Stahlman’s lines with a German accent and Greg Sutton’s with an Australian one.

Whichever version of Inferno you choose to experience, be it on screen, in prose or on audio, the strengths of Houghton’s scripts shine through: a drilling disaster that puts the BP oil spill in the shade, the irresistible concept of a parallel universe populated by sinister versions of familiar characters, and loads of cracking dialogue. The Third Doctor is at his sardonic best in this story as he utters such gems as: “Our liver playing us up again this morning, Professor?” He gets more dramatic with: “Listen to that... It’s the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!” And of course there’s the Brigade Leader’s classic line: “Then you won’t feel the bullets when we shoot you.”

All in all, the audio book of Inferno should go down like a house on fire.


Richard McGinlay

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