Doctor Who
Tales from the TARDIS Volume Two (MP3-CD)

Narrators: Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Paul McGann
BBC Radio Collection
RRP 19.99
ISBN 0 563 52377 8
Available 05 July 2004

In these seven stories of space and time, four different Doctors bump into Daleks, Thals, invisible Spiridons, Silurians, Sea Devils, violent Varosians, Sil, the Master, an alien bounty hunter and some bloodthirsty Neolithic humans...

Volume One of this talking-book anthology was hefty enough at nine and a half hours, but this one is even longer at a full ten hours! That's a lot of Who for your money.

Kicking off this collection is Jon Pertwee's reading of Terrance Dicks' novelisation of Terry Nation's script for Planet of the Daleks. This doesn't work as well as the previous collection's The Curse of Peladon, because instead of the diverse voices of the alien delegates, Pertwee has to impersonate the Daleks, monsters that the actor never even liked! His nasal vocalisation fails to emulate the creatures' squawking modulated voices and dissipates their essential menace. He also mispronounces several names, including Thal (which should be spoken with a soft "th" sound rather than a hard "t"), Spiridon (which should be pronounced "spire-a-don" not "spirra-don") and Latep (which should be "lar-tep" as opposed to "lay-tep").

Nevertheless, Nation's story contains plenty of pulpy appeal, including deadly plants, invisible aliens, ticking bombs, Dalek disguises and "icecanoes", even if most of these ideas had already been used in previous Dalek serials.

Similarly, Peter Davison's reading of Warriors of the Deep, from Terrance Dicks' novelisation of Johnny Byrne's script, isn't as enjoyable as the last volume's Kinda, because the original script isn't nearly as strong. The narrator doesn't even try to capture the true sound of the Silurians' or Sea Devils' voices. However, at least we are spared the appalling visuals that let this story down so badly on TV: the Samurai Sea Devil costumes, the foam-rubber bulkhead door and the dreadful pantomime-horse Myrka. And thankfully Davison has toned down the Aussie twang of his Tegan voice.

Colin Baker has a field day with Vengeance on Varos, conveying the story's satirical aspects with a splendidly sarcastic tone of voice. He also imbues the population of Varos with a rich array of regional accents. The character of Bax stands out in particular. On TV, the actor Graham Cull possessed a rather droning voice, but Baker gives Bax a boyish enthusiasm for his sadistic line of work.

As with Attack of the Cybermen, the Sixth Doctor story from Volume One, Philip Martin's novelisation of his own script differs the most from its TV counterpart. In particular, there are several new scenes towards the end of the story concerning events that take place outside Varos' protective domes, while Sil's superior, Lord Kiv, who appeared in The Trial of a Time Lord, is given a name check here.

The talking-book version of the Paul McGann TV movie is even farther removed from its source material in terms of degrees of separation. The other readings derived from TV stories are abridged readings of novelisations of televised serials, but The Novel of the Film wasn't even based on the script's final draft. Because of this, the Master takes on a rather different form at the end of the narrative, while Chang Lee and Grace Holloway are not killed then brought back to life. The latter difference is definitely for the better, because the temporal resurrection that took place on screen was terribly corny and went against the usual ethos of the series.

In my review of Volume One, I commented upon the quality of Peter Davison's speaking voice. Well, Paul McGann's is even better, as he demonstrated in the voice-over that opened the TV movie. He proves it again here in his readings of The Novel of the Film and Earth and Beyond, the latter of which is based on short stories from BBC Books' Short Trips collections.

Though he has since reprised his role as the Eighth Doctor in full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish, when Earth and Beyond was originally released on cassette in 1998, many fans, myself included, relished these stories as an exciting opportunity to hear McGann giving voice to the character for the first time in two years. His reading brings to life what are, to be frank, not the most original or engaging stories ever told: the aliens' Achilles heel in Peter Anghelides' Bounty owes too much to Alien Nation, while the plot of Andrew Miller's Dead Time is unfortunately similar to the Doctor Who Weekly comic strip Timeslip. However, there is some unintentional humour as the Bear Men in Paul Leonard's The People's Temple end up sounding like "bare men"!

As with the previous volume, the readings of the novelisations are illustrated with photographs from their televisual counterparts. Now that gives me an idea... How about releasing some MP3-CDs of soundtracks to partially or wholly missing stories, with telesnaps to illustrate them? There are several William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton serials that would be suitable for such treatment.

As for this volume, I consider it well worth the asking price for the McGann material alone.

Richard McGinlay

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