Doctor Who
Sting of the Zygons

Author: Stephen Cole
Read by: Reggie Yates
BBC Audio
RRP: 9.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67774 5
Available 02 July 2007

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorised by a giant, scaly monster. The search is on for the elusive "Beast of Westmorland", and explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the fells. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor is soon embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy. As the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins - with the future of the entire world at stake...

Each release in this initial batch of three audio books featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones is read by one of the Jones clan - or rather, one of the actors to have played them on television. This story, for instance, is read by Reggie Yates, who plays Leo Jones and who is also well known for presenting programmes such as Bring it On, Smile and Top of the Pops. He gives an enthusiastic reading and does a decent Zygon voice.

Which is just as well, because this is the first time old monsters have appeared in a new series audio book (though the Slitheen returned in the printed novel The Monsters Inside, while the Daleks and the Cybermen have both made comebacks in Quick Reads books). In fact, this is the first occasion that an enemy from the old show that has not already reappeared in the new one has been depicted in a new series novel or talking book.

The Zygons and their pet Skarasens, both of which made their debut on television in the 1975 Tom Baker serial Terror of the Zygons, have also battled the Doctor in the Eighth Doctor novel The Bodysnatchers - though author Stephen Cole makes no overt references to that book, only to the events of the television serial.

He succeeds in treading the fine line between bringing unfamiliar listeners up to speed with who and what the monsters are, without boring those of us in the know with lengthy exposition. In terms of recapturing the appeal of Terror of the Zygons, the author ticks all the right boxes. Deceptively idyllic rural location? Check. Scary lake monster? Check. Aliens impersonating human beings? Check. Eccentric locals? Check. However, this is no mere rehash. Cole plays with and adds interesting twists to familiar ideas, and ties in themes of hunting and the contamination of livestock (the Zygons lose a Skarasen to a condition not unlike mad cow disease).

My only real criticism is of the rather poor photo-montage cover, with its black-and-white Edwardian hunters superimposed over the colour background, but at least the relative scale of the montage elements is an improvement on the cover of the printed book version.

Unlike previous batches of these audio books, there are no interviews between the narrators and authors at the end of the second disc. However, even at the reduced running time of a "mere" 2 hours 10 minutes, this double CD is still good value for money.

Richard McGinlay

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