on 12 November 2012
If only John Leeson's narration for Douglas Adams' 1978 four-parter, DOCTOR WHO - THE PIRATE PLANET had been deployed as part of the original story's broadcast then it would have been both more bearable, detracting from overly witty idiosyncrasies of Adams' script, broadcast.
Kimus: That's the Captain's!
The Doctor: I don't mind travelling First Class, do you?
For AUDIOGO's narrated two-disc original television soundtrack, Leeson confidently and reassuringly, like having your grandfather's comforting arm around your nine-year old shoulder as you delve into his cardigan's voluminous pocket for that final cellophane wrapped blackcurrant liquorice boiled candy, guides the listener through Adams' thrilling & entertaining Fourth Doctor story as the Time Lord and Romana attempt to locate the second segment of the elusive Key To Key.
If you don't know the plotline - "...call yourself a DOCTOR WHO fan..?", I say cheekily - then it's a wonderful dynamic conceit. A space-jumping hollow `planet' (Zanak) under the piloting skill of the a `cyborg' known as the Captain hunts mineral & element rich planets, envelopes the unwitting planetary body, consolidates it and leaves an immensely dense ball of condensed matter (which he lovingly displays like a proud hunting trophy). But why? Is there an ulterior motive for his savaging across the galaxy? And what will be his next `rich' planet? And how is the second segment disguised?
Adam's script, as you would expect, is bunting-like, strung out with unacquainted joy & patriotic fever, celebrating inventiveness, brain-defying conceits and enamoured humour. It's like re-discovering a lost world of neurotic genius, and with Leeson's linking script (penned by John Molyneux - frequently ignored by reviewers but, in this instance, deserves due credit and keyboard applause. Hear me tap away vehemently.
The Doctor (earnestly): A planet of a hundred million souls. `Captain fodder'.
Working with more consistently than with the bluster, pantomime-like demeanour on-screen, the Captain's character, performed like a Bonfire Night firework on Viagra, by Brian Purchase, is deservedly more appreciable as, with just the audio, his terseness and frustration seems more focused and, hence, more explicable. Devoid of his extraneous frivolousness, the character is far more believable and his ambition seemingly acceptable (especially as we understand the reasoning behind his planetary scavenging). In many ways, his character become heroic than vitriolic by its conclusion.
Narration: "...he gives her a dirty look..."
Due to the nature of Douglas Adams' wordy - that's the most accurate phrase - script, delivered with relish & aplomb by both Baker and Mary Tamm, Leeson's time in the AUDIOGO recording booth must have been a fairly relaxed affair, time for copious cups of tea and freshly baked scones, dropping in-and-out for the odd narration linkage, but, when he does, he delivers every line with verve, attention to detail and professionalism.
Additionally, the two-disc release includes an interview with the narrator as he discusses the rehearsals for THE INVISIBLE ENEMY (seeing himself crawling on all fours as he literally fleshes out K9 for which he (still) provides the voice for), working with the volatile Tom Baker and the serene Mary Tamm, and how the K9 character was eventually written out.
Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE PIRATE PLANET (the narrated original television soundtrack release) is an unqualified success, exploring the deep creative recesses of Douglas Adams' brain whilst being held firmly on course by John Leeson's steady, directional hold on the tiller for which I can, remarkably, say without hesitation is far more enjoyable to listen to than to watch.
And there are not a lot of DOCTOR WHO episodes that you can say that about without incurring the wrath of online fans.
Appropriately, this release is "dedicated to the memory of Mary Tamm".