Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon

Author: Malcolm Hulke
Read by: Geoffrey Beevers
BBC Audio
RRP: £17.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67795 0
Available 03 September 2007

The evil Master has stolen the Time Lords’ file on the horrifying Doomsday Weapon, with which, when he finds it, he could blast whole planets out of existence and make himself ruler of the galaxy. The Time Lords direct the Doctor and Jo Grant in the TARDIS to a bleak planet in the year 2471, where they find Earth colonists under threat from unscrupulous miners and mysterious monsters with frightful claws. And hidden somewhere on the planet is the Doomsday Weapon, for which the Master is intently searching...

This audio book has a lot in common with its sister title Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, also released this month. Both are unabridged readings of Malcolm Hulke novelisations of Third Doctor stories, originally published by Target Books in 1974; both feature dangerous reptile creatures (though in this instance they prove to be faked); and both are read by a member of the Beevers household. Whereas Caroline John revived The Cave Monsters, her husband, Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in The Keeper of Traken, Dust Breeding and Master, activates The Doomsday Weapon.

Geoffrey beavers away for 4 hours 45 minutes, and he does a decent approximation of Jon Pertwee’s vocal characteristics. Unfortunately, we frequently hear him turning his pages, and his velvety yet guttural tones are quite different to those of Roger Delgado, who played the evil Time Lord in Colony in Space, the television serial upon which this novelisation is based. This is a little off-putting and can make it difficult to imagine Delgado’s Master rather than Beevers’s emaciated incarnation. When the Master pleads with the Guardian of the Doomsday Weapon towards the end of the adventure, his entreaties sound more like pathetic whimpers than the shouted protestations that Delgado typically delivered.

It is therefore somewhat fortunate that the villain doesn’t actually appear until about two-thirds of the way into the story. And there lies a flaw in Hulke’s story structure. The threat of both the Master and the Doomsday Weapon are set up in the first chapter, but then nothing comes of either of these plot elements until more than halfway through the third of the four discs in this pack. This flaw is magnified in the novelisation due to the change of title from
Colony in Space to The Doomsday Weapon, the prominent illustration of the Master on the front cover, and much fuss being made of both villain and weapon on the back cover blurb.

A similar fate befalls the character of Jo Grant. She gets an excellent introduction in Chapter 2, but thereafter has very little to do. This chapter is almost entirely original, establishing Jo as a new character, because, even though she appeared in three serials prior to Colony in Space, this is the first book to feature her.

The author also changes the year from 2471 to 2972 (though this is not reflected in the synopsis) but, as ever, the most crucial alterations that he makes are the ways in which he fleshes out his characters. We see through the eyes of protagonists such as Captain Dent, a slave to the Interplanetary Mining Corporation rulebook thanks to his IMC wife, IMC children and beautiful four-room IMC home. There is also copious and poignant detail about the over-crowded conditions on 30th-century Earth and an almost completely original opening chapter featuring the doddering old Keeper of the Time Lord Files and his young protégé. Hulke generally tightens up his rather plodding six-part television script, and we are spared the embarrassing visual aspects of the transmitted serial, including the pathetic-looking IMC robot and the tiny model of the Adjudicator’s ship.

Though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Cave Monsters, The Doomsday Weapon is well worth a listen. Buy this and you’ll be doomed to almost five hours of fun.

Richard McGinlay

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