Doctor Who
The Abominable Snowmen/The Web of Fear MP3-CD

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Radio Collection
RRP 19.99
ISBN 0 563 49418 2
Available now

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria confront the fearsome Yeti - twice - first in the Tibetan Himalayas during the 1930s, then several decades later in the London Underground...

Previously issued individually on regular CDs, Patrick Troughton's two run-ins with the Yeti make perfect partners for this MP3-CD release. The Beeb could have fitted both six-parters on to one disc, but - no doubt for the sake of convenience to the listener - each story is presented on a separate CD.

The first two episodes of The Abominable Snowmen romp along very nicely indeed, and Frazer Hines' linking narration seems particularly sprightly as he is forced to gabble with rapidity in order to fit his voice-over into the small gaps betwixt dialogue and action. Once into Episode Three, however, the pace slackens off considerably. Much of the dialogue is mere padding as characters wonder who could be in league with the Yeti, even though writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln have already blown the identity of the Great Intelligence's agent by this time. It's a pity that Haisman and Lincoln couldn't have maintained the mystery for a little longer - but they learn from their mistake and succeed in keeping us guessing throughout The Web of Fear.

It's interesting to note that while offering a scientific explanation for the legendary Yeti (as robotic instruments of the disembodied Great Intelligence) the writers offset this by maintaining that real abominable snowmen also exist within the fictional realm of Doctor Who. The monks in the first story speak of the Yeti's usually timid nature, and explorer Edward Travers (Jack Watling - father of series regular Deborah) actually gets to see one at the end of the tale. It's almost like The X-Files with one if its "so it is spooky after all" kind of endings!

Certain aspects of The Abominable Snowmen work better on audio than they did on TV. For one thing, we are spared the sight of the total lack of snow on the location footage, which was filmed in Wales during a warm August. And in both serials, we cannot see how cuddly the supposedly terrifying Yeti were on screen. But on the other hand, we are denied the visual appeal of David Myerscough-Jones' extraordinary Tube station and tunnel sets, created for The Web of Fear, which looked so convincing that London Underground actually thought the BBC had filmed there without permission!

However, Web remains essential listening for the debut appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Colonel (later, of course, promoted to Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart. The role played by the army in this adventure sets a trend for the next several years of UNIT stories.

This product represents even greater value for money than the MP3-CD version of The Daleks' Master Plan, when you bear in mind the prices of the original releases of these Yeti adventures. Let's hope it's not too long before the BBC chooses to unite Troughton's two Dalek stories in a similar fashion.

Richard McGinlay

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