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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
The Dark Planet


Author: Brian Hayles, adapted by Matt Fitton
Performed by: Maureen O’Brien and William Russell
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £16.99 (CD), £14.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 095 4
Release Date: 30 September 2013

Somewhere far back in the early days of the universe, the TARDIS lands on a world lit by a dying sun. Missing from the Doctor’s star maps and dotted with strange crystalline statues, it is a world ripe for exploration. But it is also a world of destruction. Venturing out onto its surface, the time travellers find themselves drawn into an age-old conflict between the two species residing on the planet – people of Light and Shadow. Proving to be a catalyst for the escalation of the conflict, the Doctor and his friends need either to create a peace or to pick a side – because in times of war, nothing is ever black and white...

The final series of Lost Stories offers a veritable cornucopia of previously unmade story ideas by Ice Warriors creator Brian Hayles, beginning with this three-hour First Doctor tale.

Contrary to many previous accounts of the content of this story, The Dark Planet does not concern a hidden world on the opposite side of our sun. Lumia is a very different world, a very alien world, whose inhabitants are literal forces of light and darkness: people made of photons fighting enemies formed from shadows.

As I listened to this production, I was reminded of The Web Planet – this is an ambitious narrative, in which the only humanoid characters are the TARDIS crew. Perhaps it was similarities to The Web Planet, which likewise features divergent creatures who share common ancestry and whose differences are the result of aeons of separation, that led to this submission not being taken on as part of Doctor Who’s second television season. Certainly it had nothing to do with any likeness to Malcolm Hulke’s The Hidden Planet, as has previously been reported. I expect it would also have been a great challenge to realise beings made of glowing energy and crystals on a 1960s BBC budget… though the darkness would have been easier! Hayles’s idea also pre-empts Galaxy 4, in that the most beautiful aliens aren’t necessarily the most morally superior.

Though the front cover states “by Brian Hayles, adapted by Matt Fitton”, it should really say “by Matt Fitton, from an idea by Brian Hayles”, because all that existed of this adventure was a storyline synopsis before Fitton fleshed it out into full scripts. In doing so, the writer cannot resist a little bit of retroactive continuity, with the Doctor mentioning that his people have knowledge of stellar engineering and that it is this technology which powers the TARDIS.

This series continues to find inventive ways to work around the absence of the late William Hartnell (as the Doctor) and Jacqueline Hill (as Barbara). As usual, William Russell doubles up quite nicely as both Ian and the Doctor, while Maureen O’Brien (in her first Lost Story) fulfils the roles of Vicki and Barbara. The actress sounds incredibly youthful as the inquisitive Vicki, which allows her to play Barbara a little older. There is a distinct lack of “he said” and “she said” in the narration, and the listener barely misses it. Instead, the actors instantly switch between characters with apparent ease. On only one occasion, and only for a moment, did I mistakenly believe that Ian was speaking when in fact it was the Doctor. This bodes well for the forthcoming Early Adventures range, which will employ a similar part-dramatised, part-narrated production technique.

This is, ironically, a very visual story, requiring quite large amounts of narration by O’Brien and Russell. However, the ranks are swelled by John Banks and Charlie Norfolk as various inhabitants of the planet Lumia.

The story is somewhat slow-moving, but then that is true of many a six-parter in Hartnell’s day. There’s also a curious lack of extras on the three CDs. On the whole, though, I am glad that Big Finish has shone light on The Dark Planet.


Richard McGinlay

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