‘Doctor Who’: ‘The Rescue’ audiobook review

On television ‘The Rescue’ was a rather modest affair. A two-parter set after the drama of ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, its primary role was to provide an introduction Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) who was cast in the wake of Susan’s departure.

The job of handling this first line-up change was outgoing story editor David Whitaker, who continued to contribute scripts to the show right up to Pertwee’s first season.

In book form Ian Marter, author and sometime travelling companion of the 4th Doctor (as Harry Sullivan), expands and enlarges the scope of Whitaker’s original script. Marter scales up the story in every dimension, from the breadth of the drama and the level of threat, to the heightened emotions of those involved.

In truth, this novelisation is tantamount to a page one Hollywood rewrite; the explosions are larger, the monsters more scary and the problems far greater to overcome. This feeling is helped in audio by some atmospheric music and plenty of excellent sound effects work.

Marter’s prose is wonderfully descriptive and very engaging, a far cry from your average TV tie-in. He grants the mysterious planet of Dido gains a cultural heritage and an astronomical back-story, with the role of the mysterious local inhabitants built up. The ‘seeker’ rescue ship also receives this treatment. On screen it was simply a voice from a speaker, but in prose it contains a diverse bunch of crew members. They even enjoy a couple of terrifying close encounters with the TARDIS in flight at the start and end of the novel.

While nothing substantive is changed regarding the villain’s motivations, the final encounter between Koquillion and the Doctor is beefed up, adding a properly life threatening struggle for our hero in addition to the engaging battle of words. As this goes on, Ian, Barbara and Vicki enjoy a whole sub-plot surrounding their negotiation of a cave system and a worm like monster.

The book is read by Maureen O’Brien, the ideal choice given the tale’s strong focus on her character of Vicki. We found it very easy to settle into her take on the TARDIS crew and particularly the Doctor. While not attempting an impersonation, she delivers enough Hartnell in her voice to be on solid ground.

There is a considerable amount of sadness associated to this story. David Whitaker himself had begun novelising his Troughton adventure ‘The Enemy of the World’ before his death in 1980, and one imagines he might have got to ‘The Rescue’ too in time. As it was, the task fell to Ian Marter, but it was his last contribution to the range too. Finishing touches were made by editor Nigel Robinson after Marter’s untimely death, aged just 42.

This audiobook takes a somewhat insubstantial two-part character piece and transforms it into something altogether more interesting. In this form ‘The Rescue’ is not only a handsome slice of vintage Hartnell from one of the show’s early guiding hands, but also a glimpse into the limitless imagination of two of the shows great talents, both sadly taken before their time.

Released on Thursday 4 April 2013 by AudioGO.

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