Friday, September 13, 2013
A wealth of classic sixties stories are given the audio spin...
THANKS to the diligence of early Doctor Who fans labouring away with reel-to-reel cassette recorders during the 1960s, the episodes of the show which were tragically junked from the BBC Archives have survived as audio recordings.
After digital remastering and with the introduction of linking narration by original series stars, these lost stories were finally released on CD, bringing a plethora of lost classics to a generation of fans who never saw them on their original broadcast.
But once these missing stories were completed, attention was turned to other stories from the sixties which could support the audio treatment, and although not every surviving story underwent adaption, a large selection did, once again featuring narrative work from stars including William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki) and Anneke Wills (Polly).
Although all of these stories are also available to enjoy on DVD, these soundtrack releases offer the benefit of being able to enjoy sixties Who from the comfort of your iPod or in the car, as well as glossing over the budgetary limitations of the time to free the listener to create a visionscape of the story in their imagination.
The six stories here are all from the William Hartnell era of the show, offering a somewhat appropriate nod to the original Doctor in the run-up to the 50th anniversary celebrations in November, and present a mix of futuristic science fiction, pure historical and contemporary menace of the sort which would become prevalent during the UNIT years.
The selection includes The Sensorites, The Romans, The Space Museum, The Ark, The Gunfighters and The War Machines, a very disparate collection of First Doctor adventures, both in terms of tone and quality.
Highlights are definitely The Romans, which brings thick black comedy to Nero’s empire, and The War Machines, which brings the TARDIS back to contemporary London for the first time since the opening episode, and pits the Doctor and his companions against a malevolent computer and its tank-like servants.
Less successful, but perhaps better on audio than on screen, are the likes of The Sensorites and The Space Museum, which offer the sort of sombre and plodding sci-fi which was a staple of many other television programmes at the time, lacking the excitement and verve that made Doctor Who stand out from the crowd.
The Gunfighters, which offers a Hollywoodised version of the gunfight at the OK Corral, complete with piano ballad narrative sequences, and The Ark, a clever time travel tale which shows the consequences of the TARDIS crew’s actions in a way often ignored, are both more than competent, and once again the audio format serves them well.
Overall the highlights here are the work of the original cast members in bridging the action with narration, which adds a depth to the television scripts that was often lacking, and providing additional colour and background to “fill in the gaps”.
There is also a wealth of supplemental material not available when these stories were released as individual CDs, including pdfs of original BBC camera scripts, bonus interviews with the narrators, and a special music segment for The Gunfighters.
Of course there will always be the option of watching these stories on DVD, but if you’re looking for an alternative take on familiar adventures, or simply want the flexibility that audios offer, then this box-set is your answer. It might not be an essential Who purchase, but it is certainly a worthwhile one.
* Available from www.audiogo.co.uk