Top positive review
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on 16 May 2016
‘Thumping’, ‘pulsating’, ‘squealing’, ‘hissing’ and ‘bubbling’ out of the depths of “lost” ‘Doctor Who’ comes another classic Second Doctor base-under-siege adventure. North Sea Gas seemed like a natural bonanza from under the waves – but what if the pipes brought up something else too, something roused in fury from the deep…? 5* (6 CDs, 6 hours 55 minutes)
At just under seven hours on six CDs, this six-parter has been given the epic Audiobook treatment by any standards and it’s fully justified for a great novelisation by Victor Pemberton of his original story, making exciting and grownup science fiction. Rich in atmospheric music and sound effects, in a story where sound is a crucial part of the menace and the plot, it’s brilliantly presented and grips the listener, as a group of people working at the drilling edge of new technology encounter something very old and deadly seeking to grow – and grow –and grow…
David Troughton performs the story superbly, in this tale full of human character drama and the menace from beneath the sea. His performance of the Second Doctor is, as you would expect, uncannily brilliant and often sounds as if his illustrious father was playing his own classic role again.
The Doctor is well supported by brave, loyal Jamie, sharing moments of serious danger with his Doctor and some humour too, and spirited Victoria, by her own admission always terrified but determined and demonstrating her own special talent in a pitch-perfect farewell story for the popular companion. Between the three of them they save the day once more, with a surprisingly happy ending to the crisis – but a deeply emotional ending for Victoria, Jamie and the Doctor.
With six episodes to fill in the televised original, as with ‘The Ice Warriors’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ it draws much of its plot from the human friendships and rivalries of the characters, all strongly written and given clear individuality and personalities by David Troughton’s performance.
Mr. Robson runs the gas refinery with arrogant efficiency – he’s very good at his job and boy does he know it! Self-taught over years on the rigs at sea, he’s got no time for his clever, rather shy young deputy Harris – and a huge and obvious class chip on his shoulder about Harris’ university education. Treated with equal scorn by Robson is Mr. van Lutyens, just as educated as Harris AND a foreigner (!), the Dutch representative of Euro-Gas suffers as official adviser to a man who won’t take advice.
The only people who really understand Robson are his friend the Chief Engineer, so deep in his work that his own name is practically forgotten, and the one who appointed Robson in the first place, clever, professional Megan Jones. The normally organised Chairperson for once finds herself all at sea – and she isn’t much helped by Perkins, her chinless wonder of a P.A., bringing a comic element to a deadly story.
That danger seems very real and very well portrayed in the writing and reflected in the sound effects, with repeated literary motifs for each aspect of the menace – the ‘bubbling’ white foam, the ‘hissing’ gas, the ‘squealing, wriggling’ seaweed clumps and the ‘thumping, pulsating heartbeat’ that heralds the monstrous weed-creature itself. There are great cliff-hangers in this story (some timed perfectly for the end of a disk in this Audiobook version) and very sinister happenings with the unforgettable ‘Mr.’ Oak and ‘Mr.’ Quill. Their encounter with the unfortunate Maggie Harris (another fine character) is one of many stand-out moments and one of the clips that survive from the televised story, thanks to squeamish overseas censors.
And beyond the struggling people and the encroaching weed, there is one final character that Victor Pemberton evokes brilliantly – the wild, windswept east coast of England in the depths of winter; a landscape of frost, thin snow, biting air and the ‘cruel, unyielding sea’…