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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Daleks: The Chase


Author: John Peel
Read by: Maureen O’Brien
RRP: £13.25, US $29.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6835 7
Available 04 August 2011

Through a Space-Time Visualiser the Doctor and his companions are horrified to see an execution squad of Daleks about to leave Skaro on a mission to find the TARDIS and exterminate the time travellers. Eluding the Daleks on the barren planet Aridius, the Doctor and his friends escape in the TARDIS, but this is only the beginning of an epic journey. As they travel through space and time, they try to shake off their pursuers by making a series of random landings - but the Daleks don’t give up easily. This is a chase to the death...

Inspired by Terry Nation’s original story submission and intentions, John Peel’s debut Doctor Who novelisation (first published by Target Books in 1989) is a very different Mire Beast from the 1965 serial upon which it is based.

The author lends the narrative depth and scale that were impossible to achieve on the TV show at the time, despite an ambitious director (in the shape of Richard Martin) and a bigger than normal budget. There are no peeling Aridian tea-cosy skullcaps or floppy Mire Beasts here, or a robot “duplicate” of the Doctor who looks nothing like him. Instead, we get more Daleks, more Aridians, and some quite frightening Mire Beasts. It’s also a lot easier to tell what the Mechanoids are saying, thanks to the lucid reading of Maureen O’Brien (who played Vicki in the original serial and who reverts to the character’s childlike tones with remarkable ease) and the fact that the machines’ words are no longer in a bizarre code.

The biggest difference, however, is one of tone. In the screen version of The Chase, the Daleks were frequently presented as figures of fun, whether coughing while rising from the sands of Aridius, stammering “Er... er...” while trying to decipher instrument readings, or getting well and truly thrashed by Frankenstein’s monster in the haunted house. Here, they are a deadly and terrifying force. This is made apparent by the horror that is experienced by the TARDIS travellers, and by a new scene in which the Daleks show the Aridian leaders the price of disobedience.

The producers of this unabridged (5 hours 35 minutes) audio book have followed suit, with sound designer Simon Power providing doom-laden music that is in stark contrast to Dudley Simpson’s often jaunty score to the televised adventure. Meanwhile, Nicholas Briggs’s Dalek voices, which accompany O’Brien’s earnest reading, are generally far more formidable than the stuttering and expectorating creatures encountered on TV.

The novelisation isn’t humourless, though. For example, Barbara’s line about the Doctor’s singing has been retained: “No, Doctor, not that awful noise - the other one!” Peel’s depiction of the irritating Morton Dill is genuinely amusing - and explains why the other tourists at the Empire State Building tend to give him a wide berth! The author’s descriptions of the First Doctor are quite charming too.

The departure of Ian and Barbara at the end of the book is almost as poignant as the screen version.

The only notable omission is Steven’s panda mascot Hi-fi. Though far from essential to the plot, the stuffed toy appears at the beginning of the novelisation of the next story, The Time Meddler, so its absence here creates a small continuity error between the books.

John Peel’s Space-Time Visualiser affords us a tantalising glimpse of what The Chase could have been.


Richard McGinlay

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