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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Great Space Elevator


Author: Jonathan Morris
Read by: Deborah Watling
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 351 4
Available 29 August 2008

The Great Space Elevator is a marvel of human engineering, a transit tube stretching from the equator up to a space station held in geosynchronous orbit. When the TARDIS lands in Sumatra in the future, the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are captured by guards just as the station loses power. Together with Security Officer Tara Kerley, the three travellers take a one-way trip on the elevator to fix the problem, and find themselves confronted by a powerful alien force that threatens to wreak chaos on Earth...

Like Gareth Roberts, Jonathan Morris is very good at re-creating the flavour of a particular era of Doctor Who. Like Roberts, he is most commonly associated with the Season 17 era of the Fourth Doctor and the Second Romana, though he can turn his hand to other periods.

The Great Space Elevator is so full of the trademarks of the Patrick Troughton era, and of Season 5 in particular, that it almost becomes a pastiche - almost. Set between The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Abominable Snowmen (though between The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep would have been a better placement, as Jamie’s dialogue at the beginning of Abominable suggests that the travellers have only just left Telos), all the prerequisites of the period are in the place: an alien threat to Earth; an outpost under siege; an overwrought commander; and possessed humans. Other common characteristics of the time are also present: Victoria can’t help noticing how short the women’s skirts are; the Doctor goes on about electromagnetism; and Victoria, told to stay behind where it’s safe, decides to wander off on her own and ends up in danger.

Some of Morris’s inclusions are decidedly tongue-in-cheek. “Look at the size of that!” says Jamie of the space elevator, a line Frazer Hines often liked to sneak in. The Doctor refers to the “sectional air supply”, a line that Troughton famously fluffed in The Wheel in Space. There’s even some foam for all you Fury from the Deep / The Seeds of Death fans out there!

Hines really spoiled us with his imitation of Troughton during the audio book Helicon Prime. Now I - probably unfairly - expect other narrators to achieve the same thing! Deborah Watling isn’t great at impersonating either Hines or Troughton, though it is wonderful to hear her playing Victoria again after so long (she last portrayed the character in the direct-to-video Who spin-off Downtime in 1995).

Helen Goldwyn plays the secondary voice of Tara Kerley, a character who, for a change, doesn’t impact upon the barely there frame narrative. Actually, she doesn’t have that major a role in the main narrative either, which makes me wonder whether some future releases could feature companions as both voices. Imagine that: being able to hear Steven and Vicki, Jamie and Victoria or Jo and the Brigadier together again...

However, even without the presence of Frazer Hines (or any interviews) to elevate the status of this audio book, it’s well worth making space for it on your shelf.


Richard McGinlay

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