As Doctor Who celebrates its sixtieth anniversary later this year, the Target audiobooks line looks to complete the range that began a decade and a half ago. For the first seven months of the year, the range is releasing one story from each classic series Doctor that hasn’t seen the audio light of day until now.
And honestly, the range may not get a better classic Who release than the first novel of the year, “The Romans.”
After a recent diet of novels did little more than translate the shooting script to the printed page, “The Romans” is a delightful breath of fresh air. Told in epistolatory style, the varying first-person viewpoints are well-done and delightful. Whether it’s the Doctor believing that the slave he keeps seeing looks an awful lot like Barbara to Ian wondering if an alternate timeline through his actions and writings to Nero’s uncertainty as to whether he rules Britain or not, the shifting perspectives keep you on your toes — and laughing all the way.
This may be one of the wittiest and laugh-filled entries from the Target line, with Cotton clearly not giving two figs and going for the gusto. This may not please the strictest of fans who want the novel to mimic the story we got on-screen. However, this one falls into that canon of later Target books that enhanced and deepened the enjoyment of the TV stories. (I can’t wait to get to this serial in my current rewatch of the classic series if only to recall the various thought processes and reflections Cotton gives us here).
The audiobook only enhances the enjoyment of this novel, featuring a wide range of talented narrators bringing each person’s section delightful to life. The cover gives away which actors appear, though the version I purchased didn’t detail who narrated which part (or at least if it did, I didn’t look), thus ensuring some smiles and pleasant surprise over the all-too-brief running time of the audiobook.
My only disappointment comes that the audio range couldn’t lure William Russell out of retirement to read the portions of the story told from Ian’s point of view. But that is just nitpicking what is one of the more enjoyable and delightful entries in this range.
Listening to “The Romans,” I now feel I have to listen to Cotton’s other two books for the range, though I may take a bit of a gap between them. Right now, most other Target books are going to pale in comparison to this one.
A superb beginning to celebrating sixty years of Doctor Who.