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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The TV Episodes
Collection Six


Starring: William Hartnell
Publisher: AudioGO
RRP: £55.00
ISBN: 978 1 4713 4487 9
Release Date: 05 September 2013

On the Sense-Sphere, the Doctor and his companions meet the alien Sensorites… In first-century Rome, Ian and Barbara are sold into slavery and the Doctor encounters Nero… The time travellers see a terrible potential future in the Space Museum… Aboard the Ark, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo come face to face with the last humans and their servants, the Monoids… In Tombstone, 1881, the TARDIS crew try to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of the gunfight at the OK Corral… In London, 1966, the brand-new Post Office Tower is home to a monstrous supercomputer, which is planning the widespread construction of War Machines… These classic soundtrack adventures, with additional linking narration, have all been remastered and include bonus interviews with William Russell, Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves and Anneke Wills...

You may notice that this sixth box set of television soundtracks has lost the word “Lost” from its title. That is because, having used up its supply of audio releases from Doctor Who’s missing and partially missing serials, AudioGO is now collecting its CD releases of stories that also exist on film. Moreover, since nine episodes in its Lost TV Episodes collections have recently been found, it may become necessary to rename the whole range. The adventures in this box set are all available to view on DVD, so let the buyer beware. They are useful for the visually impaired, though, and sometimes the stories work better when the pictures are in your mind rather than on the screen...

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara arrive on board a drifting spaceship in the 28th century, in orbit around a planet called the Sense-Sphere. As the crewmembers wake from a catatonic trance, the TARDIS’s door lock is stolen by two shadowy aliens also on board. Before long the travellers encounter the Sensorites – humanoid creatures who are sensitive to bright light and loud noise. Establishing a telepathic link with Susan, they request a meeting with the Doctor and his friends down on the Sense-Sphere. The Doctor discovers deep mistrust between the humans and the Sensorites, whose people are afflicted by a strange disease. When Ian also falls ill, the Doctor must discover the cause of the disease whilst also trying to make peace between the two races...

Like many early Doctor Who stories, The Sensorites now seems very slow, especially by the recent “run and shout” standards of the new series. However, what this enabled the writers (in this case Peter R Newman) to do was create characters and write dialogue that was more than just sound bites. Sadly, unlike the same season’s The Daleks, which maximised the use of its seven episodes, The Sensorites’s six instalments simply drag. The entirety of the first three episodes could easily have been condensed into a single 25-minute slot without losing a single important plot element.

The story premise, however, is better. A race of peaceful aliens who believe they are being attacked by humans defend themselves by imprisoning the crew of a visiting Earth spaceship in an endless waking death – the Sensorites’ pacifist ideals prevent them from taking lethal action. The TARDIS delivers its passengers into the middle of this cycle, leaving the Doctor (William Hartnell) to untangle the puzzle and free the captives while also proving that Earthmen can be trusted.

The serial introduces us to what is arguably the earliest example of a morally complex alien species in Doctor Who. The Sensorites initially appear to be monsters in every sense of the word, but we gradually realise that they are simply trying to protect their own planet. They are not generically “evil”, but neither are they generically “good”. Just like human beings, they are all too susceptible to bigotry, xenophobia or the thirst for power. In a way, they are forerunners of the Silurians.

Thrown into the mix is the idea that the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) has telepathic abilities, a theme that works well within the story but which was sadly never picked up on again. But despite this giving the narrative an added dimension – Susan can form mental links with her captors – there really is little else to drive along the plot.

In fact, the Sensorites – always intended to be misunderstood rather than malevolent – are just plain pitiable as bad guys. Not only are they scared of the dark, they also haven’t realised that they all look the same – humans can’t tell them apart, and even other Sensorites have difficulty doing so.

No amount of pacey linking narration could instil energy into these six episodes, and while there are charming moments, it’s hard to get excited by a story that is long, slow, often badly acted, and lacking both internal logic and menace. William Russell (who played Ian) does a serviceable job reading the narrative links but there’s really nothing that anyone could have done to breathe life into this yarn.

And yet there’s still something about early Doctor Who that manages to redeem even the most leaden clunker, and The Sensorites is no different. Despite its legion of weaknesses there’s still a kernel of sci-fi goodness at its heart. It did, after all, inspire the creation of the new show’s Ood, who live on the neighbouring Ood-Sphere.

Unlike the Lost TV Episodes collections, interviews with the narrators have not been compiled on to a separate disc, but are presented with their relevant adventures, as originally released. Here William Russell spends a brief five minutes recalling the making of the serial and his time on Doctor Who in general.

This soundtrack isn’t essential, but I challenge any fan of the show not to enjoy The Sensorites, if only for a minute.



The year is 64 AD, and the TARDIS travellers are taking the rare opportunity for a vacation, enjoying a restful time in a villa close to Rome. Their peace and quiet is shattered when a visit to the city sees the Doctor mistaken for a lyre player, even though he cannot play a note on the instrument, and he and Vicki are subsequently pursued by an assassin. Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped and sold as slaves – Ian on a galley in the Mediterranean Sea, and Barbara to serve in the court of Emperor Nero himself. Using all his ingenuity to gain the freedom of Nero’s court, the Doctor inadvertently inspires the Emperor’s plans to completely rebuild Rome. Can the Doctor, Vicki, Ian and Barbara escape with their lives before the city is reduced to a cinder…?

The Hartnell era was a time when historical stories were thought to be important for the education, as well as entertainment, of Doctor Who’s young audience. For every trip into the future or into space to an alien planet, there was a visit to Earth’s past. In The Romans we have Nero (Derek Francis), gladiators, slaves and the burning of Rome.

This serial is a bit of an oddity. On the one hand we have the Doctor and Vicki’s (Maureen O’Brien) plotline, which is a light-hearted romp, giving Hartnell a rare chance to play a comic role, set against the backdrop of Nero’s court, as he comes up with increasingly ingenious and unlikely reasons not to play his lyre. Ian and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) fare less well in their bondage, their stories being played as straight, even a little harrowing, drama. That said, the two pieces work seamlessly, partly due to the often overt violence of the court – Nero is not above randomly killing his subjects.

If any criticism can be laid at this serial’s door it is that, given its remit to inform as well as entertain, writer Dennis Spooner’s knowledge of Roman history appears to have been gleaned from various Hollywood films rather than from any historical fact. So, while I’m on my historical rant and for the sake of any younger listeners, I would like to point out that there is no evidence that Nero set fire to Rome – that story was written after his death to discredit him.

As with The Sensorites, William Russell provides the linking narration, and you also get three bonus tracks on the second CD: twelve and a half minutes of archive radio items that look at both the real-life Nero and the life and career of William Hartnell.

The Romans works well as an audio-only story, more so than it does as a television show, mostly because you have to construct the sets in your head and so are free of the usual Doctor Who budget constraints. For a recording of this age the sound quality is surprisingly clear, with only a minimum of hiss evident.

The plot itself has not held up so well. Though it presents a nice mix of drama and farce, especially during the third episode, the pace of the show is likely to leave newer listeners unimpressed. That said, for old fogies like myself this is a welcome addition to the collection.



Following their adventures in the Crusades, the Doctor and his companions, Ian, Barbara and Vicki, awake in the TARDIS – but something is wrong, as they are in their normal clothes and not the period costumes they remember wearing. Entering a museum on the alien planet of Xeros, they are astonished to find themselves displayed there as exhibits! The Doctor realises that the TARDIS has jumped a time track and is offering them a glimpse of what the future could hold. Meanwhile, the native Xerons are planning a rebellion against the occupying force of the Moroks who have invaded their world. The Doctor and his friends struggle not only to survive in the midst of battle, but also to help change the future sufficiently to ensure their own freedom…!

The basic premise of The Space Museum is a strong one – initially at least – posing the question that if the Doctor and his companions could see their future, ending up as exhibits, could they do anything to change it? This was truly the Doctor’s first adventure in the fourth dimension.

Although Glyn Jones’s story starts well with the discovery of the Space Museum – which, it turns out, is oddly neither about or even in space – it declines fairly quickly. This is partly due to the weak performances of the guest actors (led by Richard Shaw as Lobos) and partly because the story becomes a pedestrian plot about overthrowing tyrannies – a theme ever popular in Doctor Who – regardless of how many people have to die for the right to be free. The Doctor even disappears for a whole episode as William Hartnell goes away on holiday.

On the plus side, the audio eliminates any faults the original may have had in terms of its sparse set and ludicrously eyebrowed aliens, leaving all of this to the listener’s much more fertile imagination. The producers of these audio CDs have, thankfully, left in all instances of Hartnell fluffing his lines, a habit which made him all the more endearing to me. The poor man wouldn’t have stood a chance against the technobabble of Star Trek!

The other members of the core cast all put in strong performances, and it is these that rescue the production. Indeed, this is arguably one of Vicki’s strongest stories since her introduction, and appropriately enough it is Maureen O’Brien who provides the linking narration. There are some who view Doctor Who’s earlier episodes with unwarranted criticism. Sure, acting styles have changed, but against the supporting cast these actors’ abilities to carry you along with the story shine through.

As a bonus, there are 29 minutes of eye-opening interviews with O’Brien, who recalls her time working on Doctor Who and, in particular, her career after it. The CDs are worth a listen just for this.

So The Space Museum is an older show, a museum piece you might say, with faults with the story and the supporting cast, but the main cast are on top form. Not the complete load of old Moroks that this serial has often been assumed to be.



The TARDIS materialises in a tropical forest, and the Doctor, Steven and Dodo are surprised to find that it is situated inside a vast spaceship. This is the distant future, and the last survivors from Earth are on a 700-year voyage to the planet Refusis II. Accompanying them are their mute, one-eyed servants, the Monoids. When Dodo unwittingly spreads her cold amongst the Monoids, it proves deadly to them, and the travellers are accused of sabotage. Having apparently resolved the crisis, the TARDIS then jumps forward in time to the Ark’s future, where the Doctor and his friends make a horrifying discovery. The balance of power has shifted, and humanity is now enslaved by the vengeful Monoid race, who plan to make Refusis II their own...

Whereas AudioGO’s soundtrack releases do not provide resolutions to the cliffhanger endings of the previous two stories in this box set (you’ll have to turn to the DVDs of The Web Planet and The Chase to get those), The Ark and the stories that follow it effectively plug the gaps between the Lost TV Episodes releases, commencing a complete run of adventures from Seasons 3 to 5 on CD.

The Ark works rather well on audio. We are, of course, denied visual elements such as the impressive Monoid costumes and the invisible Refusians (yes, invisibility counts as a visual element), but at least we are spared the sight of the future fashions, which will apparently include flip-flops.

Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott’s script is a high-concept drama representative of producer John Wiles’s intention to give the series a harder scientific edge. Thus we travel farther into the future than the show had ever taken us before and witness the destruction of Earth. For the first and only time, the TARDIS crew carry infection from one place and time to another. For the first time, the travellers’ wanderings are shown to have consequences – and not very pleasant ones at that.

The serial’s format is also rather ahead of its time. Effectively two two-parters bolted together, the second half of the story takes place 700 years after the first, when the TARDIS crew discover that the balance of power on the Ark has shifted. Two 50-minute stories, the latter of which deals with the consequences of the former…? It sounds like something that might have been commissioned for the new series. And does anyone else think that the double act of the genial Commander (Eric Elliot) and hostile Zentos (Inigo Jackson) uncannily predicts that of the B Ark’s Captain and Number Two (“Can’t I just interrogate them a little bit?”) from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

The Earth’s obliteration need not necessarily contradict the 2005 episode The End of the World, which depicts a similar event but several billion years later. I would suggest that the First Doctor’s guess of “We must have jumped at least ten million years” is an underestimate. Remember that this Doctor is not as savvy about galactic history as he would later become.

The downside of Erickson and Scott’s script is some rather clunky dialogue, particularly from the Monoids (Roy Skelton and John Halstead) as they order people to the “Security Kitchen” and repeatedly explain to one another where they have hidden their bomb. Matters are not helped by the elderly Elliot, who fluffs several of his lines as the Commander, giving Hartnell a run for his money. I think Hartnell wins, though, for managing to mangle the line, “I-I’m going to teach you to speak English.”

The narrator, Peter Purves (alias Steven), discusses his time on the series in a 23-minute interview at the end of the second disc. Here we learn that he would have liked to return to the show, only with Steven having become a corrupt dictator. Unfortunately, the actor doesn’t rate the new series too highly, because of its frequently mundane Earthbound settings, which he regards as a “trick missed”.

However, this particular story arc is not one to be missed. You can’t refuse this – Refusis, geddit?



It’s 1881 and, in the Wild West settlement of Tombstone, there are three strangers in town: “Doctor Caligari”, “Steven Regret” and “Miss Dodo Dupont”. They’ve arrived in a 20th-century police box, and they’re about to wander into a whole heap o’ trouble. The Doctor is in need of a dentist, but the sort of anaesthetic Doc Holliday uses comes out of a liquor bottle. He’s in the middle of a feud with the Clanton family, whilst Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson try to keep the peace. This ain’t the place for a relaxin’ holiday, as the TARDIS crew soon discover. Tombstone’s not the most happily named of towns, and it seems it may live up to that name any day now. There’s a gunfight at the OK Corral brewin’ and, if the Doctor and his friends ain’t careful, they’re gonna get caught in the crossfire...

Contrary to received fan wisdom, which for decades held that this was one of the weakest Doctor Who serials ever, The Gunfighters is actually pretty good. Peter Purves, who provides the linking narration for this soundtrack, hated the serial when he was making it, as he admits in a 15-minute interview towards the end of the second disc. However, having reacquainted himself with the story, he has revised his opinion of what is, in fact, an enjoyable and innovative yarn.

Writer Donald Cotton gives us the highest comedy quotient since The Romans and his own The Myth Makers. As in those earlier serials, William Hartnell evidently relishes the opportunity to perform in some lighter scenes. We are, of course, denied visual delights such as the Doctor’s glee at being able to spin a couple of pistols in his hands and Steven tripping over his own spurs, but we can still hear the Doctor repeatedly getting Wyatt Earp’s (John Alderson) name wrong and Steven’s phoney American accent. The latter is possibly an in-joke referring to the actor’s first role in the series, as Morton Dill in The Chase.

Dodgy accents among the rest of the cast are less forgivable, though it’s worth listening out for the voices of Gerry Anderson stalwarts David Graham and Shane Rimmer.

As with The Myth Makers, the comedy gives way to tragic and bloody conflict during the final episode. Cotton takes enormous liberties with historical events: in the real gunfight at the OK Corral, Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp alongside Doc Holliday faced Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton. Although Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne (who also appear in Star Trek’s Wild West episode, Spectre of the Gun) were present, there is conflicting evidence as to whether or not they actually participated, and both men survived. The Clantons’ father had died two months previously, there was no one by the name of Reuben Clanton, and neither Johnny Ringo nor Phineas Clanton was in town at the time. Warren Earp did live in Tombstone with his brothers, but he missed the battle and lived for another two decades.

The serial is also unique for its use of an original song, “The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon”, verses from which punctuate and illustrate the unfolding narrative – though it does get a little tedious towards the end of the adventure! The original recordings of all the sections of this song (running to 10 minutes), performed by Lynda Baron, are included at the close of the second disc.

Four episodes of well-paced comedy-drama, The Gunfighters sure goes with a bang.



It’s 1966, and London’s brand-new Post Office Tower looms over the Doctor and Dodo as they step from the TARDIS. When the Doctor meets Professor Brett, creator of a new, super-intelligent computer called WOTAN, he is intrigued to hear of a plan to link all the major computers around the world. But there is more to WOTAN than meets the eye. It secretly believes humans to be inferior to machines, and already has a number of Post Office Tower staff under hypnotic control. WOTAN is planning the widespread construction of War Machines to take over the world! With the help of two new companions – sailor Ben Jackson and Brett’s secretary, Polly – the Doctor races against time to outwit the War Machines and break WOTAN’s power. If he can’t, then the end of humanity is in sight...

Though frequently quaint, there’s no denying that The War Machines was ahead of its time. Kit Pedler’s idea (which was fleshed out into full scripts by Ian Stuart Black) of a worldwide network of computers obviously predicts the internet, as narrator Anneke Wills (Polly) and sound restorer Mark Ayres discuss in the 17-minute interview at the end of the second disc. The notion of a governing computer which decides that the world would be a better place without human beings, and so builds an army of killer machines to wipe us out, is like a lower-tech version of Skynet from the Terminator movies. The War Machines themselves become a more potent menace on audio than on screen, owing to the fact that we can’t see how clunky they look!

This is also a pivotal tale in terms of Doctor Who mythology. For the very first time, the TARDIS touches down in contemporary London for an entire adventure, and the Doctor works with the authorities, including the military, to defeat an invading menace. This is the template for the UNIT years to come. The series also embraces the Swinging Sixties for the first time, with the introduction of Polly and the scenes set in the Inferno nightclub.

The other new companion, Ben (Michael Craze), is the first regular to be allowed to exhibit a distinctive regional accent (Cockney). The previous producer, John Wiles, had attempted such a thing before with the creation of Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane), but he was overruled by his superiors, resulting in Dodo’s notoriously inconsistent accent. This time around, due to a change of regime at the BBC, producer Innes Lloyd faced no such objections to the introduction of the Cockney Ben.

Unfortunately, Dodo is written out in a rather ignominious fashion. She disappears after the first two episodes of this four-part adventure and is thereafter referred to only in dialogue. Ben and Polly would ultimately be written out in a similar manner, appearing in only a single pre-filmed insert during the final four episodes of the six-part The Faceless Ones.

Despite such clumsy instances of storytelling, this serial is surprisingly adult, as Wills remarks in her interview with Ayres. Polly is confronted by an aggressive suitor in the Inferno Club. Later on, numerous dead victims of the War Machines are described lying here, there and everywhere.

A bonus disc contains PDF scans of scripts for all the episodes in this box set. These appear to be scans from the originals (if only the BBC had been as diligent at preserving the episodes themselves as it was at filing paperwork!), though five of the scripts (for the second part of The Romans and all of The War Machines) appear to be scans from photocopies. They are all quite legible, though, apart from a few faint areas in the final War Machines script. To be honest, the files sizes of these scans are so small that they could have been included on the relevant story discs, without the need for an additional CD.

Completing this collection, like the Doctor closing his immobilising circuit in The War Machines Episode Four, the story of WOTAN certainly gets my vote.


Anthony Clark, Charles Packer and Richard McGinlay

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