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Audio Drama Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Romans


Starring: William Hartnell
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 68761 4
Available 22 May 2008

Taking the rare chance of a vacation, The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki drop into first century Rome for a bit of R&R. Things do not go exactly to plan when Ian and Barbara are taken by slavers and the Doctor is mistaken for a great lyre player, even though he cannot play a note on the instrument. With Ian a galley slave and Barbara sold to Nero’s court can our adventurers escape their predicament before they are discovered and killed…?

Doctor Who: The Romans is a two CD audio adaptation of a William Hartnell story originally transmitted on TV in January 1965. This was the period where historical stories were thought to be important for the education, as well as entertainment, of the show's young audience. So we have Nero, gladiators, slaves and the burning of Rome.

If any criticism can be laid at the stories gate it is that, given its remit to educate, its knowledge of Roman history appears to have been culled from various Hollywood films rather than any historical fact. So, while I’m on my historical rant and for the sake of any younger listeners, there is no evidence that Nero set fire to Rome. This story was written after his death to discredit him.

The adventure works well as a stand alone audio story, more so than it did 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. As the audio was lifted from the show William Russell provides the linking narration. The whole story runs to one hour and fifty-five minutes, but you also get three bonus tracks on the second CD, which look at both Nero and William Hartnell. You also get a nice fold out booklet, which gives you the background to the story.

The story, itself, has not held up so well. Though it presents a nice mix of drama and farce, especially in 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.


Charles Packer

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