Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters

Author: Malcolm Hulke
Read by: Caroline John
BBC Audio
RRP: £17.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67799 8
Available 03 September 2007

All is not well at the Wenley Moor underground atomic research station in Derbyshire. There are unaccountable losses of power output, nervous breakdowns amongst the staff, and then... a death. UNIT is called in, and the Brigadier is soon joined by the Doctor and Liz Shaw in a tense and exciting adventure with subterranean reptile men - the original intelligent life forms of this planet, who have been revived from aeons of hibernation - and a 40ft-high Tyrannosaurus rex, the biggest, most savage reptile ever to have walked the Earth...

In fact, the synopsis on the back of this four-CD pack states that the T rex is “the biggest, most savage mammal which ever trod the Earth”, a rather embarrassing scientific inaccuracy. But then this is an entirely faithful presentation of Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation, originally published by Target Books in January 1974 - even down to the wording of the back-cover blurb. Narrator Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw in the original television serial, Doctor Who and the Silurians, even includes the “Changing Face of Doctor Who” preface that appeared in the book’s prelim pages.

The cave monsters are never actually referred to as Silurians in the book. Hulke, always a better writer than a scientist, had borrowed the term for the titular creatures of his 1970 serial from the Silurian geological period, because he thought it sounded good, even though it was a totally inappropriate era for land vertebrates of any kind. The writer subsequently fudged an explanation for this in his 1972 follow-up, The Sea Devils, by having the Doctor claim that the beings had been inaccurately named and should have been called Eocenes, but that designation never really caught on. Here he avoids the issue altogether by referring to them as reptile men and women.

However, the cause of the creatures’ hibernation, the arrival of Earth’s moon from elsewhere in space, remains unchanged. This poses a problem, because without the moon there would be no tides, so how do we explain the geology and life patterns that arose in response to tidal forces prior to the moon’s presence? Another aspect of Who mythology may provide the answer: Earth’s twin planet Mondas, the original home of the Cybermen. We know that this planet drifted into space for reasons unknown millions of years ago. Perhaps, prior to the advent of the moon, the presence of Mondas created tidal forces on Earth, and perhaps (as suggested in David Banks’s Cybermen book) the moon’s arrival is what caused Mondas to drift from its orbit.

References to the Van Allen belt as a protective layer that deflects solar radiation from Earth also remain unchecked. In fact, these protective properties belong to the ozone layer. I can offer no explanation for this, except perhaps that the Doctor and Liz were too nervous to notice their error at the time.

As well as changing the name of the Silurian species, the author also gives them individual names, which they did not have in the original television serial. For unknown reasons, he also alters the name of security chief Major Baker to Major Barker - is it possible that Hulke was aware that Tom Baker was about to be cast as the Fourth Doctor and so avoided using the actor’s surname for such an unpleasant character? Curiously, he leaves the name of the government minister Masters unchanged - following the creation of the Doctor’s arch enemy, the Master, such a surname usually indicates that a character is the Master in disguise.

The most important adaptations that Hulke makes to his scripts, however, is the additional material exploring the back-stories and motivations of his characters. We are granted insights into the inner thoughts, recollections and motivations of protagonists such as the reptile men, who appear in an original prologue; Dr Quinn, who is a really quite devious blackmailer; Miss Dawson, who has been held back for years by a Steptoe-like relationship with her ailing mother and is in love with Dr Quinn; and Major Barker, who is trying to rebuild his career following a regrettable incident involving the IRA.

Caroline John gives a lively reading, though some of her character voices are better than others. The most distinctive voices are those of the Scottish Dr Quinn and the gruff Major Barker. The nasal Dr Lawrence and Masters are less successful, sometimes coming across as vaguely comical. John’s high-pitched Dr Lawrence is very different from the vocal qualities of Peter Miles, the actor who played him on screen. The narrator’s voice is modulated when reading reptile man speech.

Scientific inaccuracies aside, this is a good reading of a great, adventurous yet moral story. With a running time in excess of five hours, this CD pack will keep you occupied for what might seem like aeons.

Richard McGinlay

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