Its 1979 and 13 year old slightly overweight (due to a three Mars bar a-day-habit) exits WH SMITH (the UK book retailer) with his latest paperback purchase and heads back home on a bright red painted Chopper bicycle.
The excitement of yet another TARGET release was a monthly event, yet more so as that month’s DOCTOR WHO novel was a Robert Holmes story and on top of that a former TARDIS companion, Ian Marter, had novelised it. Christmas had come early.
With the original televised story being interminably dull, lacking neither threat nor action and acted as if it was amateur dramatics production, the hope was that the novel would redeem it with pacy dialogue, enthralling action and a new thrilling ending.
It was a hope that fell shorter than my summer grey polyester school trousers that had shrunk in the laundry. Regrettably, it remained unispiringly dull.
So, it was with a raised eyebrow that I read that AUDIOGO had decided to impose yet another version of the 1978 episode on DOCTOR WHO fans who, over the interceding years, have become more discerning. Of course, where this is one release from the six-story segment-hunting THE KEY TO TIME story-arc (season 16) there will be others released (bar Douglas Adams’ THE PIRATE PLANET).
Have DOCTOR WHO fans upset AUDIOGO in some way to be punished in such a way?
Following on the heels to two “excelling” releases (DOCTOR WHO AND THE EDGE OF DESTRUCTION and DOCTOR WHO AND THE WAR GAMES), DOCTOR WHO AND THE RIBOS OPERATION is eclipsed by their combined corona, and it is not helped by the inexcusable format of five CDs (and an almost unimaginable running time of nearly 5½ hours).
It’s too long and badly edited.
With a tedious plotline to traverse and a pointless script, its reader/performer, John Leeson, has, regrettably, drawn the shortest straw from a box of one-sized straws that has been labelled “Guinness World Records Official Short Straws”. He is this release’s redeeming feature, delivering a pitch-perfect avuncular reading that will delight CLASSIC SERIES fans that grew-up with the actor’s iconic character (K9) and will reassure NEW SERIES fans with his confident and engaging reading.
Unlike the televised performance by Tom Baker, Leeson's aural interpretation of the Fourth Doctor is (thankfully) restrained, matured and earnest, whilst his “Cockney East End” Garron is more akin to Lionel Bart’s realisation of Fagan rather than Charles Dickens’ version. Of course, every fan will have a broad smile as Leeson is transformed into the electronic metallic mobile computer, K9 Mark II, and along with a suitable sound treatment & sound effects from Simon Power (Meon Productions), it is fantastic to have “him” back whirring and humming with “his” caterpillar tracks firmly planted to solid earth. Leeson will reprise the role of K9 in a forthcoming AUDIOGO release, DOCTOR WHO AND THE STONES OF BLOOD (a newly written version by its original television writer, David Fisher, and read by Susan Engel) in May 2011.
Unfortunately, on several levels, this release fails to satisfy. Firstly, it should not have been selected as an audiobook, and, secondly, the pedestrian editing (“the reading produced by Jo Palmer”) is as irksome as K9 endeavouring to scurry across Brighton Beach’s endless pebbles on a windswept February morning. It’s never going to work without some assistance.
With tighter editing of the voice-track, removing “dead-air” (in this story, there were no instances of “dramatic pause” that the producer thought that there may have been) and directing the reader, let’s face it, to read more quickly then the product would have been delivered as a four disc, pacy, compelling release.
Sadly, With DOCTOR WHO AND THE RIBOS OPERATION, the AUDIOGO production team has taken its eye off the ball, or should that be “off the segment”, with its only redeeming feature being that yet another WHO icon has returned home. Welcome back, John Leeson.
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