(This is a review of the audio reading of the novelisation of the tv story, novelised by Terrance Dicks and performed here by Geoffrey Beevers.)
The Deadly Assassin was the third story of the fourteenth season of Doctor Who. It was an unusual story for several reasons. One was that the Doctor was without any companion at all; something which the writer, Robert Holmes apparently found slightly difficult, as the companion was usually the one that the Doctor could explain everything to, for the audience’s better understanding as well. Another reason the story was rather unusual was that it was set altogether on Gallifrey, apart from the very beginning of the story, where the Doctor is in the Tardis. Quite unusually, we got to see quite a lot of the Gallifreyan Timelord way of life, and we even got to see further into the Timelord’s great Matrix, the repository of all Gallifreyan knowledge of the Timelords.
The Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) finds himself haunted by nightmares of the assassination of the President of the Timelords. Hastening to Gallifrey in response to the summons he has received from his home planet, the Doctor finds himself in the midst of the nightmare that he had been suffering on his homeward journey, but this time it seems to be real. Can the Doctor save Gallifrey? Can he even save himself, or will his old nemesis be the final death of him at last?
The original story of The Deadly Assassin was written by Robert Holmes for the 1976 story, and was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1977. The story in this audio reading of the novelisation is performed by Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in the tv series in 1981, but is well known to fans of Big Finish productions for reprising the role in their audio stories.
In the tv story shown in 1976, the scenes where the Doctor faces mental as well as physical death in the Matrix were quite shockingly graphic for the time – the Doctor is hunted, and very realistically threatened by all sorts of gruesome ends. I found this audio reading of the novelisation of the story kept that surreal feeling very much alive, with all the Matrix scenes being highlighted by very appropriate sound effects throughout.
In the small booklet with this audio reading, it is noted that Terrance Dicks’ novelisation stays true to the teleplay, but removes the suspense as to who is manipulating the events on Gallifrey, which the tv story had done. Also, the character of Commander Hilred in the tv story rather inexplicably became Hildred in the novel, and he remains so called in this reading, of course.
Geoffrey Beevers is a brilliant narrator; he has narrated a number of the ‘classic’ Doctor who novelisations, and always performs each of the characters, and the narration, with great verve and in such a way as to the draw the listener fully into the story. This is a great classic story, both on tv and in the novelisation, and this audio reading of the novelisation is a very welcome addition to the Doctor Who media of the Fourth Doctor classics.
on 30 September 2007
The Doctor is suddenly summoned to Gallifrey, the home of the Time Lords, where his ghastly hallucination of the President's assassination seems to turn into reality. When the Doctor is arrested for the murder, there is a hideous, dark, cowled figure gleefully watching in the shadows. Faced with his old enemy, the Master, Doctor Who approaches defeat in a battle of minds in a nightmare world created by the Master's imagination. But the Master's evil intentions go much further - he has a Doomsday Plan. It is up to the Doctor to prevent him from destroying Gallifrey and taking over the Universe!
Whilst the narrative is strong, the characterization suffers. Only the Doctor and the Master come across effectively, the latter mainly because he is confined to the shadows for much of the time. Most of the other characters come across weakly, especially Goth who dies too soon for a proper expose of his character, leaving only his brief lines about how he learnt he wasn't going to be named President and how he found the Master. The legends of Rassilon are also left underdeveloped and so there is no attempt made to reconcile the conflicting stories of Omega and Rassilon both being the most important figures in the history of the Time Lords. As a normal novelisation, Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin isn't that bad, but given the significance of the story it could have been so much more.
on 12 December 2013
This is one of Doctor Who's best stories and one of the most game changing. By the end of `The Deadly Assassin' the Doctor is no longer running from or being used as a pawn by the Timelords. He seems to have gained the full independence he was seeking before the very first episode. Dicks does an impressive novelisation that does the television version justice. No one really portrays the squabbling, over-pretentious, introverted Timelord society as well as Dicks. He does it very effectively here, building a little on the original script by Robert Holmes. In fact, much of how we think of the Timelords is a product of these two great writers and examples of this influence can be seen in 21st century Who.
This is also a great story for the Master. He is at his most malicious, desperate and dangerous. The pseudo-friendly, mutual respect that lay between the Master and the Third Doctor is gone; the Fourth Doctor and the Master seem nothing more than the bitterest of enemies.
This was the first televised adventure where the Doctor was without a companion. Despite expectations it worked perfectly well. It does so in this novel as well. The story has such pace, excitement and political intrigue that the absence of a companion isn't even noticeable.