Intercepting a distress call, the TARDIS is drawn to a Shinto shrine in medieval Japan, where the Doctor and Amy are met by village elder Shijo Sada. He explains that the ogre-like mannequins surrounding the holy site are harmless guardians, called Otoroshi. At the heart of the temple is an ancient jade pyramid, so sacred that only the monks may look at it. But the Shogun, the ruler of Japan, wants to possess the pyramid and has ordered seven samurai and a band of soldiers to come to Kokan and seize it. Whilst the Doctor is tracked by a ninja assassin, Amy discovers what happens to trespassers at the shrine. Soon the secrets of the jade pyramid - and the towering Otoroshi - will be known...
Read by Matt Smith
Written by Martin Day (BBC AUDIOBOOK author, THE WOODEN HEART - "WOODEN HEART is an absorbing, intelligent (for all age ranges) and character driven story, balancing the jeopardy and wit fans have become accustomed to in the NEW SERIES episodes".
I am in two minds about DOCTOR WHO - THE JADE PYRAMID which is strange, as on the surface the combination of Matt Smith reading and Martin Day's literary skill would seem be a winning one on paper.
Certainly, it is wonderfully evocative of the medieval Japan with billowing rafts of period description like organic clouds of tended Buxus sempervirens beneath the skeletal arms of Magnolia adorned with its time-defying tissue white blooms, but the story is dry as the raked sand of a Zen contemplation garden.
Day's pre-title music sequence is, unsurprisingly, beautifully crafted. It sounds like a BBC FOUR TV natural history narration with Alan Titchmarsh (by the way I like Titchmarsh...) - succinct without the bitter after taste of saccharin.
Amid the action of the awakened Otoroshi guardians and the attack of the ninja, THE JADE PYRAMID is basic and so familiar in content that by the end of the story you feel like saying, "Oh, was that it?" And then you ask, "Didn't they use that story idea in THE DOCTOR DANCES?" It filled a hour in the car while driving the kids to-and-from football practice.
And the thrilling, memorable ending? A silent whimper. You can hear a Bonsai tree grow more loudly.
This is Matt Smith's second audio "exclusive" and, I feel, that he's been poorly directed in this instance. An eminently engaging voice, Smith's talent has not be utilised, and whilst he "does" the Eleventh Doctor with consummate style and his Amy Pond Scottish lilt is plausible he does not attempt neither an oriental accent or tone (young or aged Japanese). Here lies the fault; the actor can either read the script without inference or to act each part accordingly but you cannot do both without having to fall upon your steel blade, as a disgraced Samurai would complete. Perhaps, if the post-production would electronically vary the left and right channels to place the characters either side of the Doctor's/Amy's audio viewpoint then distinction would be apparent.
Redeeming itself, the production cleverly weaves its incidental music and atmospheric sound effects (by Steven Jones at Heavy Entertainment) with precision and cause like a finely woven sundare.
DOCTOR WHO - THE JADE PYRAMID is workman-like, not only by the author (from whom I had expected a far more intricate plotline from) and the reader. And that's it, workman-like. Job done.
Testament to a good (or excellent, such as Geoffrey Beevers' reading of DOCTOR WHO AND THE SPACE WAR or Tom Baker's reading of DOCTOR WHO AND THE PYRAMIDS OF MARS) audio book is the "repeatability" of it and in this case once will be enough.
Oh, and word about the packaging design. The yellow stripe at the bottom of the sleeve artwork has not feasible reason to be there, and the typography used is not DOCTOR WHO "branding". It's plain wrong.