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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Scales of Injustice


Author: Gary Russell
Read by: Dan Starkey
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £25.00 (CD), £10.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78529 325 2
Release Date: 01 December 2016

When a boy goes missing and a policewoman starts drawing cave paintings, the Doctor suspects that the Silurians are back. With Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart distracted by questions about UNIT funding and problems at home, the Doctor swears his assistant Liz Shaw to secrecy and investigates alone. But Liz has enquiries of her own, teaming up with a journalist to track down people who don’t exist. What is the mysterious Glasshouse, and why is it so secret? As the Silurians wake from their ancient slumber, the Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier are caught up in a conspiracy to exploit UNIT’s achievements – a conspiracy that reaches deep into the heart of the British Government…

This is an unabridged reading of Scales of Injustice, an original Doctor Who novel first published by Virgin Books as part of its Missing Adventures range in 1996, and reprinted by BBC Books under the Monster Collection umbrella in 2014.

And this really is a monster collection. Writer Gary Russell doesn’t just bring back the Silurians. He also foreshadows their aquatic cousins the Sea Devils via a group of hybrids between the two reptile races and, along the way, explains how the Doctor knows about Silurian battle cruisers, the Triad and the Myrka in Warriors of the Deep. There are callbacks to other Season 7 monsters, including a pair of Auton siblings called Ciara and Cellian, and the Stahlman hound, a fearsome dog that has been mutated by the green ooze from Inferno.

Furthermore, there’s a whole raft of references to all things UNIT-related, with appearances by and mentions of General Scobie (Spearhead from Space), Sir John Sudbury of Department C19 (Time-Flight), previous captains, the promotion of Mike Yates, and the departure of Liz Shaw. The latter two developments were never seen on screen (and have, unfortunately for continuity fans – the very audience that Russell is addressing – been presented differently by other writers since). The structure of the novel is itself a homage to those Season 7 epics, being divided into seven episodes. On CD, each episode takes up one disc, with a total running time of 8 hours.

This might sound like nothing more than a massive continuity-fest, and it could be dismissed as such – except that the development of the television characters is spot-on. The Doctor is simultaneously a pompous ass and a passionate pacifist. Liz Shaw is torn between the ignominy of being a mere assistant to the Time Lord and her fascination for the scientific wonders that this posting has exposed her to. She and Corporal Bell have to deal with the casual sexism of numerous male colleagues on a daily basis. Mike Yates is uncertain and eager to please. But the real master stroke is Russell’s depiction of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. In some heartbreaking scenes, the indomitable military leader, who has seen off threats from the likes of the Yeti and the Cybermen, is powerless to prevent the breakdown of his marriage to his first wife Fiona.

This being a Silurian story, you might expect Neve McIntosh (who plays lizard lady Madame Vastra) to be chosen to read it, but instead that duty falls to another member of the Paternoster Gang, Dan Starkey (alias Strax and other Sontarans). He’s a versatile voice artist, though his Sir Marmaduke Harrington-Smythe does sound a bit like Strax – crossed with Peter Purves’s impersonation of the First Doctor. His Third Doctor, meanwhile, is suitably haughty, his Dr Peter Morley sounds like a cross between Max Wall and Brian Wilde, and he does a mean imitation of Brian Perkins as the voice of a newsreader. While listening to this audio book, I learned for the first time how to pronounce Ciara and Cellian (who would go on to return in two further novels by Russell), though Starkey mispronounces the name of Silurian Triad member Scibus as “sky-bus”.

The start of the book is somewhat stilted, constructed as it is in the form of a series of letters sent between various parties, but after that Russell and Starkey soon draw you in. If, like me, you’re a Season 7 fan, you’ll find plenty to justify your purchase of Scales of Injustice.


Richard McGinlay

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