Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Underworld by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Underworld: 4th Doctor Novelisation

This is one of the few novels from the Tom Baker/Louise Jameson era of classic Doctor Who I had in my original Target books collection. It was only because I somehow kept missing the serial — whether it was my PBS station skipping it in the rotation or just plain not setting the VCR right to catch it when it was repeated (ask your parents, kids).

So, for a long time, my only impression of this story came from Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the Bob Baker and Dave Martin scripts. And that probably helped things a good bit because, quite frankly, Dicks seems a bit more invested in this fourth Doctor story than he is in many of the others he adapted.

Of course, this being a Baker and Martin script, there has to be the attempt at a catchphrase with “The quest is the quest.” Thankfully, Dicks keeps inclusions of this to a minimum and they never feel quite as forced upon the consumer as they do on-screen. I have to be honest and say my only memories of this one are the connection to the Time Lords and some dodgy CSO that was done to cut the budget. Dicks wisely puts the Time Lord connection front and center with a prologue that feels right out of his Jon Pertwee era novels and then minimize the amount of time the novel spends corridor running down various CSO corridors. The final episode feels fairly condensed on the printed page, possibly because it’s just so many battles between various parties that can be easily summed up in a paragraph or two.

I can’t help but feel like this one takes one of the themes of classic Star Trek with a computer that is bent upon keeping and maintaining its power and status within a society that seems to be stuck in neutral. Indeed, the Doctor pulls his own version of Captain Kirk using illogical logic to defeat said computer in the final pages — though in this case, it’s the Doctor pulling the old switch the McGuffin trick instead.

Looking past the dodgy CSO, there’s actually a pretty decent story here, even it’s a retelling of a Greek myth in space (though give the script credit for pointing this out in the coda). Dicks does a decent enough job adapting it for the page and the story hums along at a good enough clip to keep the pages turning. Or in the case, the audiobook moving. Once again, Louise Jameson does a nice job bringing the story to life. Her Leela is, of course, spot-on and her impression of Tom Baker has its moments. As with other audiobooks in this range, the special effects and music really help create a good sense of atmosphere, though I will admit I’m it’s becoming a bit more obvious that they’re using the same set of sound effects in these books.

This may be a sign that I need to take a break from the Target audiobooks for a bit as a bit of a palate cleanser. But with a couple of promising entries on the horizon and some gaps in my listening, I doubt that I will be able to stay away for too long….

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Filed under audio book, audio book review, audiobook review, book review, Doctor who, review

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