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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Daleks: The Mutation of Time


Author: John Peel
Read by: Peter Purves and Jean Marsh
BBC Audio
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 4084 0999 2
Available 03 June 2010

The Daleks’ Master Plan is well under way. With the Time Destructor, the most deadly machine ever devised, they intend to conquer the universe. Only one person stands in their way - the Doctor - for he has stolen the precious Taranium Core, which is vital to activate the machine. Travelling through time and space, the Doctor and his companions are forever on the move in case the Daleks track them down. After several months, to their horror, the TARDIS indicates that they are being followed...

Picking up where the previous volume, Mission to the Unknown, left off, this novelisation adapts the final six episodes of the monster 12-part William Hartnell serial The Daleks’ Master Plan.

Thematically, The Daleks’ Master Plan splits into two quite readily, the first half involving a chase through space via various means of transportation, while the second half involves pursuit through time - inviting comparison to a previous Dalek story, The Chase. There’s a more comedic tone to this half, especially during the earlier chapters, presumably owing to the influence of the serial’s co-writer Dennis Spooner, who reintroduces his comical creation, the Monk, and throws him into the mix for three episodes. Peel widens the divide by inserting of gap of several months for the TARDIS travellers between the two volumes of his novelisation, allowing for plenty of unrecorded adventures with Sara Kingdom.

Following the addition of a scene-setting chapter aboard the TARDIS, to remind us of the story so far, Peel sticks fairly closely to the original television scripts. He even includes the light-hearted Christmas episode, The Feast of Steven, though this has nothing to do with the overall plot.

The novelist makes no attempt to play down the frivolous nature of the Christmas episode. If anything, he accentuates the comedy, adding a food fight near the end. The Feast of Steven sequence works surprisingly well, despite the inability of the prose medium to accurately convey the appeal of silent movies during the film-set scenes (more on those later). Peel also incorporates the production team’s original plan of featuring characters from Z-Cars, basing the names of the policemen on those of the stars of the popular police series, so that what were unnamed characters on screen become PC (Colin) Welland, PC (Brian) Blessed, Sergeant (James) Ellis and Inspector (Frank) Windsor. Not surprisingly, in this version the Doctor does not wish a Merry Christmas to all the viewers at home!

Other changes include a more convincing explanation for how the Doctor is able to overcome the Monk’s tampering with the TARDIS lock; the Doctor doesn’t hand over the Taranium Core quite so readily as he appears to do on screen; and there’s a new coda to the events in ancient Egypt.

Throughout the book, Peel charts an effectively tragic character arc for Sara Kingdom. It begins with her waking from a nightmare, still haunted by her guilt over the death of her brother, Bret Vyon. She believes that her only chance of peace is to return to the planet Kembel, defeat Mavic Chen and put an end to the Daleks’ scheme. Initially, these aims seem impossible, especially given the Doctor’s inability to steer his ship. Ultimately, however, she finds redemption, but pays a terrible price for it...

As with the previous volume, the narration chores on this audio book are shared between Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (alias Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom), who take turns reading sections of the story, each of them compelling in his/her distinct style. The narrative is augmented by Dalek voices provided by Nicholas Briggs, and music and sound effects courtesy of Simon Power. The latter’s contributions are particularly effective during the film-set scenes, with period music and film-projector sounds evoking the silent era of the movies.

As with the previous volume, this is a masterful release. Make time to track it down.


Richard McGinlay

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