Since the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get the audio treatment. So imagine my delight when the range included several of those titles last year, including my all-time favorite Doctor Who serial and one of my favorite adaptations, “The Curse of Fenric.”
The Doctor and Ace arrive in World War II at classified naval base where one of the first computers is being used to break the German coded ciphers. But with the arrival of a group of Russians, it soon becomes clear that a bigger game is being played — one that the Doctor has known was coming ever since he met Ace.
To number the ways I love “Fenric” could take all the characters I have left in this review and it wouldn’t even crack the surface. While the storytelling in the late 80’s wasn’t quite as serialized as we see in many of the television series today, seasons 25 and 26 did insert a loose character arc for Ace.
The novelization comes from the end of the Target line when writers were given more than 126 or so pages to adapt the story, allowing original script-writer Ian Briggs to expand the story a bit and give us some more shading. As with the televised version, the key word is “undercurrents” (a word you’ll hear/read a lot in the book) as Ace grows up and begins to understand what being an adult is about. Briggs fills in the history of various characters, painting a more sympathetic version of Ms. Hardacre and offering some shades of nuance to Dr. Judson and Commander Millington. Also included is a document that details the original battle between the Doctor and Fenric. This was one of the things I loved when I first read this adaptation close to twenty years ago and it still brought a big, silly grin to my face as I heard it again.
I’m not sure what it says about me as a discerning literary person that one of my favorite novels is a printed adaptation of one of my favorite television shows. But listening to this one again, I found myself becoming less and less concerned with that and instead enjoying the story Briggs is relating here. There’s a lot of room on my favorites shelf for a wide variety of literary offerings — and while this one won’t necessarily be taught in an overview of great world literature, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t connect with me and speak to me in the same way some of the best literature in the world does (and if we’re being honest here, in a way that Lord of the Flies never really did).
The audio version is performed by Terry Molloy, who is best known for his on-screen portrayal of Davros in several late 80’s serials. Molloy’s reading of this one is well done and his attempts to mimic certain characters speech patterns works well. It helps that he’s got strong material to start with, but I’ll say that Molloy’s performance made me enjoy the story even more over the course of the four plus hours I spent revisiting this one.
I’m sure there are people who can and will point out flaws, defects and plot holes in the original tv version and the novel. This fan isn’t one of them.
Simply put, I loved it then and I love it now.