Eric Saward’s adaptation of his own fifth Doctor script is very much in the mid-level Terrance Dicks mode of transcribing the television story with little or no embellishment.
In the day and age in which the Doctor Who novels were originally published, I suppose this is good enough. But thirty years out when we can easily stream the episodes of this popular story or pick it up brilliantly remastered on DVD, it only makes “The Visitation” as a novel that much more disappointing.
That means heading into the audio release of the story, it had a strike against it. Strike two comes from Matthew Waterhouse’s rather uninspired reading of the story. Waterhouse’s choice for the voices of Richard Mace and the Terraleptils is uninspired at best and distracting at its worst. I’m not saying that an audio reader has to exactly capture the performance given by another actor on screen, but doing a complete 180 of the performance in the case of Mace and the alien invaders really takes you out of the story. Add to it that Waterhouse puts little or no effort into distinguishing the voices of the rest of the main cast and you’ve got a disappointing release in what is generally a great line of audio books.
“The Gunfighters” is not one of the more well-regarded serials from the first Doctor’s era.
So this could be why I skipped Donald Cotton’s adaptation of the serial in my Target novel collecting days.
I will also admit it’s been a long while since I’ve seen the original serial, though it sits on my DVD shelf. Call me a slave to my completest tendencies.
When I saw that the story was coming out as an audio book, I decided I’d take the plunge on it, figuring it would be a nice way to spend a few hours while working out or working around the house.
Unfortunately, the old saying that “the horses get the best lines” in this story is further evidenced by Cotton’s adaptation of the story.
Seeking a cure to a toothache, the Doctor sends the TARDIS to the wild, wild west, around the time of the historic gunfight at the OK Corral. Before long, the Doctor, Stephen and Dodo are caught up cases of mistaken identity and the events leading up to the infamous gun battle.
On the printed page, Cotton is freed from the limitations of a TV budget and allowed to let the story roam a bit more freely. And thank heavens he doesn’t try to incorporate the infamous song from the television serial into his novel. But the novel does tend to ramble a bit and while some of the asides and alleys are humorous, often times I found the humor falling a bit flat.
The novel is read by Shane Rimmer, who was part of the guest cast in the original serial. His deep Western drawl gets a bit tedious and quickly wears out its welcome.