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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
Here There Be Monsters


Author: Andy Lane
Read by: Carole Ann Ford
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 350 7
Available 31 July 2008

“It was a terrible sound, like someone had just stabbed the universe and it was crying out in pain.” The distant future: the TARDIS, with the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara aboard, is drawn out of the Vortex and lands aboard the Earth Benchmarking Vessel Nevermore, where Captain Rostrum is navigating by punching holes in the very fabric of space. The Doctor is appalled by this act of vandalism, fearful that it could unleash monsters from the dark dimensions. As the benchmarking holes begin to fray, the fate of the universe is at stake. While the Doctor contemplates a terrible sacrifice, Susan befriends the Nevermore’s First Mate - someone she will remember for the rest of her life…

In my review of Old Soldiers, I expressed my wish for some double-disc Companion Chronicles, in order to better represent the first four Doctors, who are at a disadvantage when it comes to new audio adventures, what with the actors being either deceased or (in the case of Tom Baker) unwilling to participate. Well, there’s no sign of any double-disc releases yet, but the series output has increased to twelve discs a year (though two of them feature surviving Doctors from the standard monthly Who releases, which I can’t help think defeats the object).

As usual, the First Doctor kicks off the season, in a story told this time by Carole Ann Ford as his granddaughter Susan. I have to say that Ford isn’t great at conveying the speech patterns of Hartnell’s Doctor, and she overdoes his characteristic “hmm”s in an attempt to compensate. Ian Chesterton comes across better, and Barbara Wright best of all, thanks also to a finely honed script by Andy Lane.

In his sleeve notes, producer David Richardson describes his brief to Lane for a story that is completely authentic to the period. For the most part they have succeeded in this aim, though Susan is rather too revelatory about the relationship between the unruly TARDIS and its largely clueless pilot (who, we are told, has not yet developed a full working knowledge of the ship’s operation or formed the crucial bond that we later see in stories such as Planet of the Spiders). More in keeping with the time is the characterisation of Susan, in particular her imminent desire to leave the TARDIS and embark on a life of her own (which thus places this story between The Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants or between Planet of Giants and The Dalek Invasion of Earth).

Ford is also good as Rostrum, sounding so different (with the aid of voice modulation) that at first I thought the vegetable captain was being portrayed by guest voice artist Stephen Hancock, who plays the “First Mate” (whose presence in the frame narrative is rather dubious and lacking in explanation).

Yes, I said “vegetable”, for Captain Rostrum is an intelligent plant, specially cultivated by future humans for space exploration. This is one of several fascinating concepts in this story, which also includes the marvellously steampunk notion of ships flying blind into the unknown reaches of space like sea vessels of old, mapping their routes by blasting great holes in the fabric of the ether.

I’d say that all makes this audio book well worth listening to, wouldn’t you... hmm, hmm...?


Richard McGinlay

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