Down the years, many stories have been written for Doctor Who which, for one reason or another, never got to the tv screen. Now, thanks to Big Finish adapting them for audio, we can find what might have been.
This story features the First Doctor, plus Susan, Ian and Barbara. It runs for six parts and is spread across three cd's. The episodes vary in length. The longest is just over forty minutes, the shortest just over twenty five. But most are just over thirty minutes long.
This story will be familiar to some because a book of the script for it was released, almost twenty years ago.
The audio version is pretty faithful to that, although it has edited out some religious references that were in the original script. Also, since only two of the four original stars are still with us, this isn't a full cast drama as per usual for these audios. It's a talking book with narration. William Russell [Ian] and Carole Ann Ford [Susan] share the duties for that. And also do the dialogue for their characters. Plus the Doctor and Barbara. William Russell's version of the Doctor is pretty good. Carole Ann Ford's version of Barbara is very good.
The nature of the story means that which of the two is doing the reading can flash back at forth, often at short notice but occasionally a lot longer. This is something you do quickly get used to.
Another thing that has resulted from adapting the original script into this format is that there's a lot of narration and scene setting at times, which is probably why some of the episodes go well over twenty five minutes.
The story sees the TARDIS drawn to a seemingly dead planet by a strange signal. Inside a strange structure the crew find robots. Who are waiting. For the masters of Luxor to return to them.
But one of the creatures who is in this structure has a desperate desire to achieve a certain something. And will stop at nothing to get it. All of which puts the Doctor and friends in terrible danger.
This script does feel as if it's structed in the typical way for a six parter of the time. IE; there will be some padding and long scenes of the TARDIS crew exploring a strange new environment. But it also does feel a little different from what you might expect from this Doctor and companions. Particularly in the first two parts. The character relations don't feel formed in the way that they should be.
The length of the first two episodes does mean that whilst they are a good listen you can feel that you're spending a long time waiting for something to develop. There are long bits of description and moral debates. But then about a third of the way into part three it somehow clicks, and the rest, perhaps because it feels like a more traditional story from then on, is a pretty good listen.
It is quite a serious piece, offering some big moral and ethical questions for the listener to consider.
Guest actor Joseph Kloska reads four different supporting characters, and does a very good job with each.
The production team never used this script. They went instead with a story - in defiance of an instruction from on high in the bbc not to use 'bug eyed monsters' - involving creatures called the Daleks. And the rest is history. Would Doctor Who have endured had they gone with this story instead? Would the Doctor have seen many a return engagement with the deadly Derivatrons?
Who can say. But whilst this isn't the best lost story ever, it's a fascinating look at what might have been. And thus it's worth a listen.
There are five minutes [approx] of interviews on the last track of disc two with the writer of the audio version.
Eleven minutes [approx] of interviews with cast and crew on the last track of disc three.
And a trailer for the next release in this range on the track before that.
Firstly, can I suggest that whoever thought of putting these "lost stories" on as audio cds for us to enjoy now should be given a pat on the back for his or her brilliance. This is an absolutely wonderful idea, and I am thrilled that this looks to be a good series of stories from all Doctor Who eras, with stories that we never got to hear or see previously now being released in an audio format, narrated and performed by wonderful actors.
This story features a First Doctor story, originally put forward in 1963 for a six-part tv story by Anthony Coburn. The Doctor, with Ian, Barbara and Susan find themselves drawn unwillingly down to the surface of a planet. There does not appear to be anybody there, but there are vast buildings, futuristic technology and robots. Are the time travellers expected? And if so, by whom, and for what purpose?
The narration in this story is brilliantly done by William Russell (playing his original character, Ian, and the part of the Doctor) and Carole Ann Ford (playing her original character, Susan, and the part of Barbara). The nuances of the voices as they speak the characters' parts are brilliantly done, and the linking narration which is shared by both narrators is top-notch. Other voices in the story are played by Joe Kloska. I particularly like the absolutely spot-on characterisations of the four main time travellers - the Doctor's tone is captured perfectly, Ian's joking and teasing attitude is played perfectly, and Barbara and Susan are also captured absolutely perfectly.
This is a real `classic' Doctor Who story - even though we never got to see it on the small screen, there is no doubt that this story was well suited to the Hartnell era, with his companions Ian, Barbara and Susan. This cd brings the story totally to life; you can `see' it in your minds' eye as the story unfolds, and imagine how it would have looked without a doubt on the tele. Not only that, it's a whole 180 minutes long. And there are very interesting cast and production interviews as extras on the cds. What more could you ask for? Absolutely wholeheartedly recommended. Totally brilliant.
Almost at the beginning of ‘Doctor Who’ time was a tale of a solitary light on a dark, dead world, of a vast, gleaming city, of eugenics, genetic engineering and distorted science, of pitiless metal beings and their quest for perfection. But they are not Daleks, because this is the unique story that never was, the story of ‘The Masters of Luxor’… 5* (6 episodes, 3 hours 18 minutes, 3 CDs)
In some ways this is the most astonishing ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve ever heard or seen in over 40 years. The scripts were published in book form but I had never read them, so I landed in this adventure with as little foreknowledge as did the crew of the Ship and it astonished me as much as it did them.
As with ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’, Big Finish have produced this story as a sort of ‘Super-Companion Chronicle’, with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford brilliantly recreating their characters of Ian and Susan and also playing the Doctor and Barbara, as well as sharing the narration. Before I listened to that other story, I briefly wondered if the ‘Companion Chronicles’ format could sustain a six-part production lasting more than three hours. In fact, I wished that it could have lasted longer and I did so with this story too; once again it is a powerful, tragic ‘Lost Story’ and another true classic.
Carole Ann Ford and William Russell are of course superb, with two magnificent performances creating another epic tale on a strange, alien world that might have been, if the Daleks and Skaro had not taken its place in the schedules (and made history in the process.) The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan are perfectly written in character for most of the time; though there are a few moments early on when Ian seems angrier than we usually remember him and the Doctor more remote. But this story dates from the very beginning and would have been the second ever televised story, in place of ‘The Daleks’. At that time, the four companions were not yet all friends; in this story we see the shared experiences that would forge their friendships, as events on Skaro did in the televised adventure that replaced this.
The only other actor in this story is Joseph Kloska as ‘The Perfect One’ (and as some other, related characters). His performance is also excellent and it’s a triumph by all three actors to carry such a long production with such energy and style, helped by Lisa Bowerman’s excellent direction. Toby Hrycek-Robinson’s wonderful music and sound design helps create a cratered, moon-like world under a starry sky, a brilliant, crystalline city, its metallic inhabitants and an atmosphere of edge-of-the-seat tension.
In some ways the story will be familiar to any ‘Doctor Who’ fan; the TARDIS and its crew trapped on a strange planet, their exploration and discovery of new and perilous beings with intentions of their own, danger, capture and rescue, a gradual uncovering of the truth behind the mystery and eventual escape to safety in the Ship. So in that sense, it’s a familiar (but exciting) adventure, yet in other ways it is, as I said, the most astonishing ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve heard or seen in over 40 years.
It’s an openly religious story, and classic series ‘Doctor Who’ didn’t really ‘do’ religion, apart from a few references to Greek myth and similar ancient beliefs, and the Buddhist parable that is ‘Planet of the Spiders’. ‘The Masters of Luxor’ is not only religious, but mostly Christian in its themes, though there is one idea that I think comes from Buddhism. In fact, much of it can be read as a religious allegory, and around that is woven a dramatic and thought-provoking science fiction adventure, with other elements that (as in ‘The Daleks’) would have been all too familiar in 1963 to the generation that had so recently defeated Fascism.
I won’t say much about the plot, to avoid spoilers, but you will have no difficulty making the many links and parallels: Eden and the apple of knowledge; evolution, creation and seeking the Creator; evil and redemption; resurrection and the afterlife. All these themes and more are explored, seriously and respectfully, in a society of gleaming technology, robots and distorted science, the world of the Masters of Luxor…
Anthony Coburn’s original scripts were adapted for audio by Nigel Robinson (who also did the excellent adaptation of ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’). In the documentary tracks and the CD booklet notes he comments that he “slightly toned the religious aspects down”, though I thought this was better expressed in the written notes than the recorded interview. I would never have known it was toned down from listening to the finished audio; the religious themes that run through it really surprised me and make this story stand out as a unique moment in classic series ‘Doctor Who’.
Perhaps some people would prefer these ‘Lost Stories’ to be presented exactly as originally written, but not having read the published scripts, I thought the production was excellent and Nigel Robinson’s visualisation of the city and its inhabitants (not specified in the scripts) was so clear, I could imagine how it would have looked on screen – though the vast scale imagined here would certainly not have been possible in those tiny studios!
I’d only make one criticism (obliquely, to avoid a spoiler): it is perfectly obvious (if incredible and impossible) what ‘The Perfect One’ desires to make him complete, so why not use the word? Some very famous modern fantasy films and television series use the concept, and if that is the character’s belief, it should not trouble listeners who do not share it. ‘The Perfect One’ believes, and there is nothing he will not do to fulfil his belief, though it costs the whole world…
At the very end, the Doctor says something most surprising, twice, showing his deepest beliefs and making him seem more human than perhaps ever before or since. But Time and the TARDIS moved on and we would never see anything like this story again. It is literally unique, and another truly great First Doctor ‘Lost Story’ from this outstanding team. 5*
Thanks for reading.
(17 minutes of documentary tracks follow the episodes on CDs 2 and 3, and there are interesting writer’s notes, a cast photo and a CGIed ‘scene from the show’ in the CD booklet.)
(Thanks to Timelord-007 for recommending this classic.)
on 8 July 2013
I was always wondering how this lost tale from the earliest days of Doctor Who would be brought to life. I had the script book and read it and thought what an amazing story. Rather a bit like the story of the Cybermen done early, but in reverse. Here in this story we have the notion of an alien robot wanting to gain a soul, (one is reminded of Bicentennial Man but this story has none of Robin Williams loveable robot in the mix) and this theme is quite lavishly explored and delivered with class gusto by the mighty giant actors Carole and William. But I was just hoping that if and when it ever saw the light in a Big Finish production, they might sell the script short. And I needn't have worried. The Masters of Luxor boasts so many gripping moments of terror and there is even a touch of religion, but it isn't just a mickey take or insulting take on different peoples beliefs. What this story boasts too is a creepsville sound score, which actually almost gave me palpitations with fear! But the robots are all barren and soulless machines and this makes also for some tense showdowns between the four TARDIS crew and the Perfect One, who is so easily and brilliantly brought to life by Joe Kloska. And William Russell and Carole Ann Ford masterfully capture the Doctor and Barbara too. This really is another excellent, and exceptional first Doctor lost story! I cant wait for The Dark Planet....