Friday, 28 May 2010

Doctor Who free CDs review

Can I just mention up front that it's my parents who get the Telegraph, not me. And the Telegraph recently gave away free Doctor Who CDs which Mum & Dad kindly collected up for me. The other day I had a particularly long car journey (gig in Castleford, Yorkshire, now you ask) which gave me the opportunity to listen to almost the lot. And what a delightful mixed bag they were. In no particular order they were:

Mission to the Unknown. Ostensibly a William Hartnell episode from 1964, this is famously the only episode where the Doctor himself doesn't appear. Surviving only as a soundtrack, with all video long since erased, the pictures are filled in with a description by Peter Purves and it's jolly good fun. I mean by that that sod all happens and people and Daleks spout nonsense in very silly voices, but imagining the pictures makes it undoubtedly a lot better than it originaly was, and a great thing for a childhood fan to hear, about 30 years after he first heard of it.

Exploration Earth. A brilliant brilliant rarity "unheard since it was broadcast in 1976" and with good reason. It's rubbish, but brilliantly so. Made for BBC Schools Radio, it features Tom Baker and Lis Sladen reading dialogue that's clearly written by someone who's never written dialogue before. Hear words put into sentences that should never be read by someone even pretending to be a human with English as their first language. Tells the story of the creation of the earth, and is silly, but not in any deliberate way. Baker & Sladen were very generous not to refuse on the grounds that someone might someday actually hear it.

SlipBack. A Colin Baker & Nicola Bryant radio play that's actually rather good, made back in the 80s it hasn't really dated. It remains hard to see CB's Dr as likeable, but this story is fun and shows what the TV series could have been like if it had had a budget, confidence and a sense of humour. Of course it's not a patch on...

Pest Control. This is the best of the batch. A two-CD story, read by David Tennant, rather than dramatised. And it does show off the strength of a fully written text as opposed to a dramatisation, especially when there is strong imagery to conjure up. Unlike Slipback's "look at that monster it's huge and slimey" technique, this adapted book is able to describe both the fantastic monsters (everything from giant robots to centaurs come to life in a way that would test even the most expensive CGI) and the thoughts and feelings of its characters. Tennant is so versatile with voices and accents that this also reminds us of how great his stint as the Doctor was. Whereas...

The Runaway Train. Another book, this time read by Matt Smith, contrasts unfavourably with Tennant. It still comes across very well, and is a good story well visualised in the mind, but Smith's reading is less confident than Tennant's, his characters less clearly defined, and his impersonation of Amy Pond frankly rubbish. He's still a good Doctor by the way, but his voice alone doesn't demonstrate that.

The final CD was Genesis of The Daleks which I have yet to listen to. If these babies are still available from the Telegraph website I'd recommend them. To the sad Dr Who fan with a long car journey ahead of them.

Kev F

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