Once in a while AUDIOGO releases a DOCTOR WHO unabridged novelisation reading, based upon the original TARGET range of paperbacks, that is dull, poorly paced and abhorrently boring immediately tossed into an old TESCO plastic carrier bag for its one-way day-trip to the local charity shop. Unsurprisingly, I think my OXFAM donated copy of DOCTOR WHO - GHOST LIGHT will either be heavily reduced or gathering dust on their shelf unwanted and ignored. Now, that was a release depressing to listen to.
However, once in while a genuine masterpiece is released and this is it; DOCTOR WHO AND THE SEA-DEVILS.
In 2012, if you want/have to/need to select one novelisation release then Geoffrey Beevers' charismatic performance in reading Malcolm Hulke's 1974 published novel is an unequivocal choice.
Nearly four and half-hours delivering thrilling action, a subdued characterisation of the Third Doctor, a chillingly personification of hatred embodied in the Master, and an aural canvas of technical & atmospheric sound effects that is more akin to a cinematic production rather than a humble spoken word release.
With an opening sequence - wonderfully written by Hulke nearly 40 years ago that has stood the test of time - that is as heart-stoppingly energetic as Spielberg's sequence of a mass troop deployment on Utah Beach in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. In Chapter One ("Abandon Ship") Crafted by Simon Power (MEON SOUND), we are treated to a multi-layered audio feast that assaults the ears with storm-forced winds, inconsolable waves, creaking steel-work of an aging vessel (SS Pevensey Castle), mechanical winches, and the chilling impossibility of crackling flames from the sea that was anything but empty. Thankfully, this sequence does not have any screaming mariners as they are dragged from their discarded lifeboat and down under the relentless white water as, if it had, then this audio release would be subject to a PG rating.
For DOCTOR WHO AND THE SEA-DEVILS barking seagulls, out-board motors, choppy waters and were a part of MEON SOUND's extensive "audio shopping list" in order to enhance Beevers' confident and artistically adept reading, but I do wonder what sound effect that could have been employed for Jo Grant's observation of a sewer "floater" if it had slapped against the side of boat's hull. An uncooked Saveloy sausage flapped against his front door on a wet Monday morning?
Listen out (disc two, chapter seven) for the superb multi-layered fast-paced sound effects of scuffling feet as the Doctor and Sea Fort engineer, Alan Clark as it would not be out of place in STRICTLY COME DANCING as a "quick step"; superb `Foley'.
Once again, Geoffrey Beevers delivers another `listen-in-one-sitting' reading that, ironically, hypnotises, drawing you closer and deeper into the story. His vocal clarity is matched with his engaging warmth; Beevers' ensures that each character is industriously rendered whether it is an overly-authoritarian Prison Guard (Mr. Crawley), or the pompous but misguided Col. George Trenchard, or the toast devouring Parliamentary Under Secretary (Mr. Walker) but is it is, naturally so, his manifestation as the Master that is unparalleled.
Seditious and slimy in equal measure, Beevers' characterisation of Roger Delgado's Time Lord is curtly crisp, tautly traditional and undemandingly malevolent.
There is only one minor error that the production team should have identified during the recording; the pronunciation of `Azal' (see DOCTOR WHO - THE DAEMONS). Beevers reads this is `Ar-zal' as opposed to `Az-al'. Minor quibble and it has been difficult to find anything that undermines the quality of the release.
With his novelisation, unlike the televised version, there is a realisation that DOCTOR WHO AND THE SEA-DEVILS is less of a `monster story' and more of a `bureaucratic story' with Hulke highlighting the inadequacies and determinations of Government policy in the early 1970s with the Sea-Devils representing the disrespected `common-man'. Perhaps, Col. Trenchard is `monster' of the story, relegating the Master to a mere henchman?
It is testament to the quality of DOCTOR WHO AND THE SEA-DEVILS that I have enjoyed the four-disc set three times already; it's that good.
Good? It's more than that. Exemplary? Yes, that's more like it.
You will find it difficult to find a better example of DOCTOR WHO on audio.