Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen
By Terrance Dicks
Published by BBC Worldwide Limited
Read by David Troughton
This story involves the “Second Doctor” of the long-running Doctor Who series and the one played by Patrick Troughton… the one in the Quasi-Beatles/Quasi Moe Howard Haircut. I think for most of us, our favorite Doctor was the one who was being featured when we first became aware of the series. For a long time, my fave was the fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, but as I got to see other actors and their take on the character I came to appreciate each one for his own reasons. For example, I think my all-time favorite story line was “Inferno,” which featured the Jon Pertwee, “Third Doctor.”
I have also enjoyed most of the versions of the Doctor even if some of them left me cold at first. That was especially true of the Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston and I nearly erased by VCR recording of the Doctor Who movie featuring the Either Doctor played by Paul McGann, but by the third Eccleston story and after hearing McGann reprise the role in the Big Finish audio plays, I came to enjoy them very much as well.
The Second Doctor must have been the toughest role to establish. Doctor Who is hardly the only series to recast a major character. It has become a too common occurrence sometimes called the “Darrin Effect,” after the oft referenced replacement of Dick York by Dick Sargent in the 1960’s series Bewitched. However, Doctor Who changes are not technically the Darrin Effect in which a major character is replace with little or no explanation (in the show… in real life Dick York had been suffering from an old back injury). Instead, the producers/writers of Doctor Who decided to completely change the character. So where the original Doctor (William Hartnell) was an elderly and irascible character, the second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) was somewhat younger, more active and very much a clownish figure at times. In retrospect the change was genius and easier for the audience to accept than merely bringing in another elderly actor made up to look like Hartnell. It put a life into the show that has kept it going (off and on) for over fifty years.
However, when Troughton stepped into the role, nothing like this had ever been done before. Happily, it was just the first of many regenerations, If you count all the various adaptations and renditions, counting both serious and parodies, the Doctor has been played by dozens of actors and actresses although in the TV series, so far there have only been thirteen Doctors (counting the unnumbered “War Doctor.” Still it was Patrick Troughton who changed the Doctor from a single character to a multiplicity of them,
This story is a novelization of one of the Second Doctor’s adventures with his companions, Jamie, a Jacobean-era Scot and Victoria, who came from the 19th Century (no, not that Victoria, although Her Majesty did appear in a later episode). In it, the Doctor arrives in Det-Sen Monastery in Tibet, expecting a warm welcome. However, the monks and lamas there are preparing to defend themselves against an attack by the legendary Yeti. Eventually the Doctor teams up with an intrepid English explorer named Travers to find the elusive abominable snowmen. The Yetis, however turn out to be the fierce and unstoppable servants of an alien intelligence. Yeah, yeah, typical Doctor Who.
The story really brought me back to the original Docotr Who series with its complex and convoluted plotlines and one thing led to another with at least one cliffhanger per half-hour episode. I don’t believe I ever saw this particular episode on TV, but I really enjoyed the story.
It is quite appropriate that this book is read by Patrick Troughton’s son, David. Not too surprisingly, he sounds just enough like his father that I occasionally forgot it was not being read by the man who actually played the Doctor, although David Troughton’s characterizations of Jamie, Victoria and the other characters were all very well done.
I did have a few unintentionally funny moments when the text repeatedly talked about the “Monks and lamas.” I am not sure if it was Troughton’s accent, but I could not help but think of Monty Python and I kept getting mental images of monkeys and llamas. My fault, that, not his.
So, all told, it’s an engagingly fun story and read in an equally engaging manner even if I did keep seeing crowds of South American animals running a monastery in Tibet…