- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 3 hours and 51 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: BBC Worldwide Limited
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 1 July 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003UH98SK
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
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.
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.