Doctor Who
The Last Dodo

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
Read by: Freema Agyeman
BBC Audio
RRP: 9.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07177 5
Available 02 July 2007

The Doctor and Martha go in search of a real live dodo, but are transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones. There, in the Earth section, they discover every extinct creature up to the present day - billions of them, from the tiniest microbe to the biggest dinosaur - all still alive and in suspended animation. Preservation is the museum's only job: collecting the last of every endangered species from all over the universe. But exhibits are going missing. Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the curator adds the last of the Time Lords to her collection...?

If you thought the last dodo was the First Doctor's companion Dodo (Dorothea) Chaplet, think again - though she does get a name check of sorts in this entertaining audio book.

Jacqueline Rayner's narrative is read by Martha Jones herself, actress Freema Agyeman - which is entirely appropriate, since this is very much Martha's story. As with the print version of the book, many passages are conveyed from the conversational first-person viewpoint of the companion, in a style similar to that of the character's blog on MySpace. These cutaways really get inside Martha's head. Agyeman gives an emotive reading - I almost shed a tear at the end!

In common with Sting of the Zygons, The Last Dodo touches upon the issue of hunting, tying it in with that of conservation and captivity. During the course of the story, Martha encounters several creatures, including the eponymous dodo and a black rhinoceros, that have become extinct or are currently endangered as a result of humanity's activities.

Unfortunately, this abridged reading omits memorable cameo appearances by several customers who have received stolen goods from someone at MOTLO, including a Cruella de Vil type collector of rare skins and an evolutionary scientist desperate not to be proven wrong. It was also sadly impossible in the audio medium to include the pages from the guidebook that Martha consults, The I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures, which reinforced the original novel's moral message.

Unusually for this series of books, there are no child characters, though I'm sure the lovable dodo will more than make up for that in terms of appealing to younger fans.

The plot structure is somewhat uneven and episodic, starting off as a mystery surrounding missing animals, which then gives way to another calamity and then an even greater one, threatening the entire Earth. However, this has actually been improved to an extent by the omission of the aforementioned receivers of stolen goods.

There's also a rather too miraculous "TARDIS saves the day" moment (like the one in Carnival of Monsters) at the end. All in all, though, this lively listen couldn't be farther from being as dead as a dodo.

Richard McGinlay

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