If your children are fans of the new series of Doctor Who, but you've failed to interest them in DVDs of the "classic series" then these BBC Audiobooks are for you. Without the overreliance on CGI effects of the modern-day adventures or the (now) laughable sticky-tape-and-egg-box special effects of the 1970s, these stories can be enjoyed for what they are – excellent science-fiction adventures. BBC Audio has chosen two works by Malcolm Hulke, one of the series' most thoughtful and humanistic contributors.
Although aimed at children, these unabridged readings show how the Doctor tackled such adult concepts as fascism, genocide, fragile ecologies and the joys of keeping an open mind. Hulke, however, saw that in science fiction there are just two basic ideas: "We go to them" or 'they come to us' and these audiobooks demonstrate his talent for both types of story. In The Cave Monsters, the Doctor is up against a long-buried reptile race that have emerged to reclaim what was their planet, and are not too pleased to find "the little hairy apes" they saw as nothing more than pests that raided their crops have grown up somewhat.
The second adventure, The Doomsday Weapon, finds the Doctor travelling to a far-off planet in the 29th century to battle ruthless mining corporations, the remains of a telepathic super race and his arch enemy, the Master. In both stories, Hulke has skilfully fleshed out the screenplays he wrote for the television series. Characters are given poignant and engaging back stories, although some of the terminology (and technology) is resolutely set in the 1970s. Both audiobooks are expertly read by ex-members of the cast and with the minimal use of sound effects, manage to evoke a powerful and sometimes chilling atmosphere. Certainly, my children soon found themselves hooked and have realised that there is more to enjoying sci- fi than how many £ signs are included in the budget.
With a running time of over four hours each, these audiobooks not only provide a great distraction on long car journeys but show what modern-day fans of Doctor Who are missing. Instead of having to wrap everything up in just 45 minutes, these stories allow tension to build and concepts to be fully explored. My only gripe is the lack of the famous cliffhanging moments and the absence of the classic theme music. However, the Doctor remains a highly engaging hero.
Stan Broadwell, Community psychiatric nurse, Bristol
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