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Audio Book Review
At the bottom of the sea, in the wreck of a floating radio station, a lost recording has been discovered. After careful restoration, it is played for the first time - to reveal something incredible. It is the voice of the Doctor, broadcasting from Radio Bravo in 1966. He has travelled to Earth in search of the Hush - a terrible weapon that kills, silences and devours anything that makes noise - and has tracked it to a boat crewed by a team of pirate DJs. With the help of feisty Liverpudlian Layla and some groovy pop music, he must trap the Hush and destroy it - before it can escape and destroy the world...
The latest Doctor Who audio exclusive from BBC Audio is rather unusual by this series’ standards. For one thing, it occupies just one disc (70 minutes) rather than two, and, in what could be his last contribution to Who (certainly his last before Matt Smith takes over the role full time), David Tennant reads the story in the first person, as an account of events recorded by the Doctor himself.
The narrative is presented as though it is a recently discovered recording from 1966, one that has undergone diligent restoration but nevertheless bears a warning, spoken by an announcer at the start of the CD, that due to the age of the material, the sound quality may vary. Fans of BBC Audio’s earlier releases of soundtracks from otherwise missing Doctor Who episodes will find both the disclaimer and the dateline eerily familiar (most of the absent episodes are from the period September 1965 to May 1968, including one that features a feisty Liverpudlian from 1966). Sound designer Simon Hunt has added occasional bits of noise and dropout to the soundtrack to augment the illusion.
Some of the familiarity in James Goss’s story is less welcome, however. The notion of a deadly sound creature has been explored before, in the audio drama Whispers of Terror, while characters have also faced being trapped within recordings in the Sapphire & Steel audio The Mystery of the Missing Hour. The Tenth Doctor himself has previously encountered sinister enemies who have a habit of replacing people by mimicking their words in the television episodes Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead and Midnight.
Dead Air is interestingly experimental, but not as original as its author probably thinks it is.