An Audio-Book Review: Let Me Just Adjust My Sonic Screwdriver

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders

By Terrence Dicks

Published by AudioGO Ltd.

Read by Elisabeth Sladen

The Book:

This is the novelization of the final story featuring the 3rd incarnation of Doctor Who, who was played by Jon Pertwee way back in the days before most of us poor underprivileged Yankees had even heard of the Doctor (As far as I know the first Doctor to cross the Atlantic was the 4th (Tom Baker – the guy with the really long scarf). John Pertwee’s Doctor was the one who was always dressed up for the opera, just in case tickets somehow came his way. Actually, how he got those clothes was amusing. He woke up in a hospital bed, escaped and on the way out found some doctor’s clothing so he put them on and proceeded to wear nothing else for the next few years. Televison; what more need be said, right?

For those who have never watched Doctor Who, the TV Show has been running off and on for over fifty years, has spawned a few (really bad movies), a large number of toys and some really iconic aliens/monsters. The Doctor has been played by dozens of different actors, male and female, in the series, movies, BBC parodies, Theatre, and audio productions, not counting the doubles, although the Dr. Who canon only counts twelve Doctors. Timelords, it seems, can regenerate, taking on entirely new bodies and personalities when their bodies wear out, so every three to five years more or less, when an actor chooses or is forced to move on,

At this point in his life, the Doctor has been exiled to Earth by his fellow Timelords of the Planet Gallifrey because it had been getting too expensive to produce alien sets for the show, however in this final episode, he got to go to the Planet Metebelis where humans are being ruled by giant spiders although much of the action takes place on Earth too. For his finale as the Doctor, Jon Pertwee got all the action he could have wanted included a convoluted chase scene in a variety of vehicles including a hovercraft.

Unfortunately, the action does not quite come across in this novelization. I normally consider Terrence Dicks a talented writer, but compared to the original televised version this story falls flat. Scene changes are occasionally confusing and there is very little of the sense of urgency one normally gets from a Doctor Who story. If I had not been a long-time fan and seen the original, I would not have walked away from this novelization wanting more.

The Audiobook:

Flat as the written version of this story was, it was (and is always) a delight to listen to Elisabeth Sladen’s reading of it. She brought what little life there was in the book forward and saved what would likely have been several days of torment as I drove around Southcoast Massachusetts.

Ms. Sladen was a most appropriate choice as narrator as her own signature character, Dr. Who companion, Sarah Jane Smith, was also featured in this story. Ls Sladen was an accomplished actress with a long resume but Sarah Jane was the role she reprised several times throughout her life. If you can find episodes, I recommend watching her series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which while written for a younger audience are still fun to watch.

I did not really appreciate the music and audio effects track on the recording, however. The producers obviously wanted it to sound like a Doctor Who so much of the familiar sound effects (like the TARDIS) and bits of music commonly used in the show kept cropping up. It could have enhanced the story, but I found it distracting.

So while the story was somewhat lacking, Lis Sladen’s reading of it kept me listening to the very end. I’ll have to find some of her other readings.

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3 Responses to An Audio-Book Review: Let Me Just Adjust My Sonic Screwdriver

  1. Pingback: Audiobook News & Reviews: 11/21-11/24 | ListenUp Audiobooks

  2. Michael says:

    I think the Pertwee stories did make their way across the Atlantic to selected US stations before Tom Baker’s run was syndicated here. It was an off-air VHS copy of a couple of these stories that were used to restore the color to a couple of Pertwee serials before they were released on VHS in the 90’s.

    As for Planet of Spiders, the novel comes from a time when Dicks was penning a lot of classic Who novels for the Target range and the overall quality suffered. He’s a good writer (see Day of the Daleks or The Auton Invasion) when given time to fully flesh out the story and not just have it be little more than a transcription of the episodes in question. I think the rest of it comes from the fact that Planet of the Spiders isn’t the BEST story of the era.

    • I stand corrected on Pertwee’s appearances here. I just remembered the big deal some PBS stations (especially in New Jersey) made about getting the first 3 Doctors. Maybe I just assumed they meant they were the first to show them, or possibly they were unaware of earlier showings.

      As for Dicks, I agree he is usually better. This novelization was not representative of his talent.

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