Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Doctor Who, Daleks: The Mutation of Time – reviewed

"Doctor Who": Daleks - The Mutation of Time (Classic Novels)
Jean Marsh and Peter Purves take it in turns to read chapters of this, the second of John Peel's novelisations of The Daleks' Master Plan, a twelve-part serial from the later period of William Hartnell's time as the Doctor. With space spy Sara Kingdom and space pilot Steven Taylor he absent-mindedly battles the daleks and their allies across time and space, from ancient Egypt to the year 4000, with flying visits to a police station, a cricket match and a Hollywood film set.

The Chase, the previous dalek story, had been rather long and silly, and it seems at times as if the goal with this one was to make it even longer and sillier. If a modern-day dalek story took a detour into a cream-pie fight, I imagine many fans would simply explode at their keyboards! Jean Marsh gives her reading a gravitas that the bulk of the story doesn't quite deserve – though how do you approach a reading that begins with your character asking questions about the dangers of fish and chips and ends with her tragic death? – while Peter Purves' reading is perhaps a bit too neutral at times, reminding me of the linking narrations he provides on the Doctor Who radio collection CDs.

But silly isn't necessarily bad: I had great fun listening to this set, and it had an epic scope few Doctor Who stories share. These five CDs will often find their way back into my stereo. John Peel's novelisation adds much to our limited understanding of Kingdom's character and motivation, and in the dalek scenes you get a real sense of how frustrating and baffling it is for them to be repeatedly defeated by this strange old wanderer. This story is 45 years old, but the Doctor's the same man we see on television today, throwing himself into ridiculously dangerous situations with little more than wits and luck to get him through, and giving the bad guys every possible chance to do the right thing.

Doctor Who, Daleks: The Mutation of Time. By John Peel, read by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh, with dalek voices by Nicholas Briggs. BBC Audio, 5xCD, 5hrs50.

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