on 10 May 2011
Geoffrey Beevers is an accomplished actor with a wealth of roles to his credit, but like other DOCTOR WHO "luminaries" such as Steven Thorne (In 2009, providing a thoroughly enjoyable unabridged interpretation of DOCTOR WHO - THE MYTH MAKERS) and Gabriel Wolfe, he'll arguably be remembered indefinitely for his incredible vocal talent. Simply put, Beevers is an ideal choice to narrate BBC AUDIO's prodigious crop of DOCTOR WHO TARGET novelisations.
Bringing a gravitas to the role, Beevers immediately commands your attention, translating much loved characters from prose to audio in such a way that you can't help but buy-in to the illusion he creates. He is equally adept at conveying the wide-eyed hapless innocence of Jo Grant on her maiden adventure or as the Doctor as he slowly becomes the semi-reluctant establishment figure that characterised Pertwee's later years, or the portrayal of UNIT's Brigadier, Mike Yates or Benton in a way that gives them individuality, steering clear of stereotypical military types.
For Terrance Dicks' DOCTOR WHO AND THE TERROR OF THE AUTONS, Beevers' triumph is with the character that he played on television at the twilight of Tom Baker's tenure, the Master (DOCTOR WHO - THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN). Here, he conveys a character familiar to all of us in the 21 st century, but, back in 1971, he was as new as Jo herself. There's no convoluted back-story here, he's just a Time Lord "gone bad" with a grudge against the Doctor and tantalising hints of their previous encounters. A fresh concept and brilliant realisation of a character devised by the series' Script Editor, Terrance Dicks and Producer, Barry Letts, first given life in the script writing of the legendary Robert Holmes. Be it in character as the evil Time Lord or as his alter ego, Colonel Masters, Beevers' interpretation of this twisted genius is world class, with a vocal resonance that simultaneously sucks you in whilst chilling you to the bone.
Worth a mention is the fact that this is Beevers' second time of introducing Jo Grant such were the vagaries of 1970s DOCTOR WHO TARGET novelisation, although this release is the authentic time-linear interpretation. In TARGET's DOCTOR WHO AND THE DOOMSDAY WEAPON, (the original television version, DOCTOR WHO - COLONY IN SPACE) Jo Grant's introduction owes a great deal more to author Malcolm Hulke's creative licence than it does to its television counterpart, where she was by that point a well-established character.
Noteworthy is the manner that the text and its narrator symbiotically coalesce to translate moments of unintentional comedy (seen as part of the 1971 broadcast) into nuggets of pure terror. For example, on screen, the murder of Farrell Snr. at the hands of a vicious troll doll was a combination of "fuzzy-edged" 1970's green-screen (well, "yellow-screen" in this instance. See CSO) and a death depicted by his leg shaking remorselessly then dropping to the floor behind a chair in a fashion reminiscent of something from the comedic mind of John Cleese or Spike Milligan.
However, on audio it's a spine-chilling scene and if you're listening to this BBC AUDIO release whilst driving you will not be able resist reducing the air-conditioning heat and checking the rear seat to be sure no crafty evil Time Lord has hidden one in your vehicle too. If you do, don't take it home.
This is Beevers' third unabridged BBC AUDIO featuring the Master, yet it is arguably the best in the range so far.
It is not just because of the sublime narration skills but it is a punchier story - perfect for the transfer to audio - free from a "saggy middle" that the longer (e.g. seven parts) adventures were afflicted with.
Additionally, with this release, the audio design (from MEON PRODUCTIONS) comes to its own. From the base background musical score (which for this reviewer had previously peaked with DOCTOR WHO AND THE GREEN DEATH) to the supplementary sound effects be they a fairground, a forest, pouring water, low flying jets, the familiar Auton signature or a full-on battle with guns and grenades mixed with alien energy weapons. It's an aural tour-de-force, complementing a superior narration in such a way that you feel you've been picked up and hurled into the action. This is the book as it happened in the head of a captivated nine-year-old reading it on first release in 1975.
Roll up, roll up to the Circus Rossini for fantastic plastic antics with the Third Doctor and UNIT! More sinister schemes, synthetic horrors and Escapes From Certain Death than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at! 5* (4 CDs, 3 hours 50 minutes)
Robert Holmes' Auton sequel marked a major shift for `Doctor Who', from the `Quatermass' science fiction of Season 7 to a new style of action-packed melodrama with a terrific villain - the Master - and an equally terrific new assistant - Jo Grant, sometimes a damsel in distress, sometimes saving the Doctor - and the gallant chaps from UNIT riding to the rescue, guns blazing, in the best style of the cavalry turning up at the eleventh hour.
Terrance Dicks captures the style of this new `era' perfectly in his novelisation of the story; it's a fast-paced science-fiction thriller where action and tension blend together as the Master and the Doctor fight their private feud while the fate of Earth hangs in the balance. He mostly stays true to the original script; where there are changes it might be that television sequences were originally planned but scaled down due to cost - an example is the pair of spectacular battles between UNIT and the Autons. These were good on screen but here they are epic struggles full of whizzing Nestene energy bolts and Autons blown to plastic fragments by UNIT firepower.
The excellent book is brought to vivid life by a superb performance by Geoffrey Beevers, performing the characters from the commanding Third Doctor and the Brig's clipped tones to Jo's excited chatter and of course, the sinister voice and echoing hypnotic commands of the Master. His narration of the prose shifts from pleasant tones for the comradely scenes at UNIT to a dark, chilling note accentuating the unfolding Nestene horrors; it's great narration that draws the listener deeply into the story.
The sound production quality is first-class; a world of sound is created to support the story from the opening circus music to the tumult of the final battle. There's a definite `surround-sound' quality thanks to the `placing' of characters - for example, when Jo is talking with the Doctor in his lab., their dialogue and the linking prose are clearly sited at three different positions and `distances' - use headphones to get the full effect of this, I found it strongly added to the sense of realism.
The novelisation fills in the back-story and motivation of many characters in a very satisfying way; we learn exactly why Rossini's seedy circus has a ready-made supply of thugs to do the Master's bidding, why Rex Farrell is easy prey for his hypnotic powers, exactly how Jo Grant was assigned as the Doctor's assistant (a bit of scheming by the Brig!) and even gain some chilling glimpses into the dark mind of the Master himself.
The original television version has a couple of irritating plot mistakes that are fixed here; Jo no longer goes covertly sneaking around the plastic factory *before* knowing it is the correct one, the Auton coach isn't being followed *before* they know it's a coach-load of Autons! The ending is strengthened too; not only is the final Nestene apparition far more impressive in print than could be done on screen in 1971, but the Master's last-minute change of heart is given a very clear motive - if he doesn't help the Doctor, and fast, the Brigadier will shoot him! I'd guess this was in the original script but was too tough for the ethos of the show at the time.
Having said that, this was the story that first got `Doctor Who' into serious trouble with the "too scary for the kids" critics, thanks to Robert Holmes' superbly macabre imagination. Terrance Dicks does a great job of bringing across in prose the plastic horrors of a lethal, hissing devil-doll, a clammy, engulfing armchair and a noxious killer daffodil in a way that, thanks here to the excellence of Geoffrey Beevers, can still give a chill when you immerse yourself in this audio. It probably helps if the original gave you the shudders at an early age, as it did me! As I've commented elsewhere, in 1971 this was my first ever `Doctor Who' story - very, very frightening at that age but it made me a fan for life!
Finally, the paperback edition of the novelisation I originally bought in the 70s was enhanced by some exciting, `sci-fi action cartoon' illustrations on the front and back covers as well as several within the book. I was delighted to see that all of them are reproduced here for the CD case or in the enclosed booklet and their style perfectly captures the feel of this first story in the new-look, all-action Season 8.
Terror Of The Autons kicked off the second season of Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who. During their time on the series, Producer Barry Letts and Script Editor Terrance Dicks always looked for a hook to launch the season with a bang, and Terror Of The Autons was to set the trend.
Not only did it see the return of the Autons, featured in Pertwee's debut - Spearhead From Space - but also the first appearance of The Master, designed to be Moriarty to The Doctor's Sherlock Holmes.
Terrance Dicks' novelisation of Robert Holmes' scripts is pretty faithful, although the pursuit of The Doctor and Jo by the Autons is switched from a quarry to a forest, and works much better, as it feels a lot more exciting and tense than the screened version. Other little tweaks tighten up the story and some elements that were difficult to visualise on television work better on the printed page.
Geoffrey Beevers, who briefly played The Master in the Tom Baker story The Keeper of Traken, is an excellent reader. Apart from this release, Beevers also reads The Doomsday Weapon, The Sea Devils and The Space War. Hopefully eventually he can complete the remaining Master stories from the Pertwee era.
Music and sound design are pretty good, although they can sometimes be a little overpowering. Less is more, if the story and reader are good then you don't need the distraction of twittering birds or dramatic strings.
Notwithstanding this, Terror Of The Autons is an excellent Audiobook, and if you only want to pick and choose a few titles in this series, then this is one to pick up.
This is a reading of the novelisation of the story of the Terror of the Autons; a Third Doctor story, which also serves to introduce Jo Grant as his new companion after the departure of Liz. The Doctor is not, of course, too keen on having an "assistant" foisted on him by the Brigadier, especially as Jo has no scientific skills, but he soon gets used to her.
This story is one of the classics, in my opinion - it has UNIT, with the Brig, Captain Yates, Benton and lots of soldiers dashing about with automatic weapons - it has the Autons and the Nestene threat, the Master and the Doctor and Jo and lots of cunning inventions - both malevolent and benign. Hapless individuals get caught up in the Master's cunning and convoluted plots to rule the world, and the Doctor and the Brigadier must combine their military and scientific skills to stop the Master before it's too late.
Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in the Keeper of Traken (and who is, incidentally, married to Caroline Johns, who played Liz Shaw in Doctor Who), reads this perfectly. There is a very subtle but quite evident nuance of a change in the voice when he reads different characters - the Doctor, the Brigadier, even Jo are subtly different - and the Master is read chillingly by him. Absolutely perfect casting for the narrator. The story is further enhanced with great sound effects - again, subtle but just right for the moments at which they are introduced.
Cannot recommend this highly enough - the story is classic, the plot is great, and the reading and production of this audio cd set is utterly brilliant.
on 6 February 2011
The great thing about the Target books is that they are not aged by 1970s production standards. And when it's read well you get the whole magic of the UNIT era combined with the visuals provided by your own imagination.
Geoffrey Beevers does a great job of narrating the story, his tones are perfect for the male voices of this era of Doctor Who and his Jon Pertwee impersonation in particular is bang on.
Having listened to a couple of this series of audiobooks I'd say this is my favourite so far, and it is very much recommended to those that want to enjoy the old stories but are used to the production standards of today's Doctor Who.
on 2 December 2014
A year after their failed attempt to take over the Earth, the Nestine Consciousness and its Auton minions try again. This time, however, they, like UNIT, have a Timelord to aid them, the Master.
I have always considered that ‘Terror of the Autons’ was perhaps not the best way to introduce the Master as he has to share the limelight with the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons. The relationship between the two was always quite vague. There is, perhaps, more of a sense of it being an uneasy alliance in the novelisation and a bit more vying for power. This impression is mainly given through Dicks providing the reader with some access to the Master’s internal thoughts. It is still not really made entirely clear how the Master actually expects to benefit from the arrangement. For a man that is painted as supposed to be incredibly intelligent (a rival for the Doctor no less) he comes across as extremely, uncharacteristically gullible in trusting the Nestene Consciousness. His realisation on screen that he can’t trust his allies seems a little convenient for the plot. At least the novelisation has the Brigadier give him a bit of a further incentive.
As you might expect the characterisation of Delgado’s Master is spot on from Dicks. After all the character was partially his conception. Likewise, his grasp of the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Jo is excellent. However, Yates is portrayed a little blandly. Non-regular characters Professor Phillips and Rex Farrel are given more attention than allowed for in the onscreen version and thus become more rounded and realistic.
The Autons are quite a visual monster in ‘Terror of the Autons’. Some of their visual impact is lost in the novelisation (Dicks does a lot better with them in ‘The Auton Invasion’). However, this does have its plus side as it negates some of the awful appearance of the devil doll and the telephone cord. The Nestene Consciouness is given a little more attention and interestingly the Autons/Nestenes seem to be given some form of political set up that wasn’t really apparent on the televised version of the story. There appears to be some form of hierarchy and there are references to a ‘high command’.
The novelisation successfully captures the essence of the onscreen story but infuses it with a better pacing and continuity allowing for the story to flow smoother.
on 19 October 2012
A classic adventure - far better than the screen version & expertly read by Geoffrey Beevers. Utterly compelling, the moody music & sound effects make this listening experience a chilling one. There is an overall sense of danger. Which is just how Doctor Who is supposed to be!
on 19 January 2011
One of the finest Doctor Who stories ever made became an outstanding novel when adapted by Terrance Dicks. This unabridged audio reading is equally impressive: Geoffrey Beevers - 'The Master' in late 70s adventure 'The Deadly Assassin' - has a crisp and concise narrative style, while his restrained takes on The Master, The Doctor, Jo Grant and The Brigadier in particular, make this a thoroughly impressive entry in the ever-expanding audio series.
As ever, one of the best things about this release is the presence of the original cover art from the Target novelisation - complete with caption from one of the internal illustrations added to some of these books in the mid-Seventies, Peter Brookes' depiction of the cephalopod-esque Nestene creature is superb - far better than the original TV creation!
on 8 August 2010
This was another excellent addition to the BBC Audio DR Who range. Geoffrey Beavers is an excellent voice artist and portrays all the characters well. Luckily I could listen to this all in one go on a long car journey - even though I know the story well it was still made fresh by this new reading. I would recommend to all fans of the good Dr.
on 29 June 2013
Another excellent addition to the WHO collection, well worth listening to before watching the DVD. It is interesting to see how the scriptwriters cut down the original material.