Thanks for the memories, says Tony Fyler.
Ever wondered what a perfect storm of Doctor Who sounds like?
Capsule review – it sounds pretty much like this.
First, you take one of, and arguably the best Sylvester McCoy story from TV, the story in which the show first felt like it had a handle on a Seventh Doctor that wasn’t going to just be about looking a bit silly and playing the spoons, and the first time McCoy’s ‘Dark Doctor’ was allowed to the fore. Plus – Daleks! Not only that, but two rival factions of Daleks. Daleks climbing stairs! The Emperor Dalek from the comic strips! Plus the first actually new storytelling invention for the Daleks since Genesis – the seriously kick ass Special Weapons Dalek. Also, the story gave an introduction to a group of well-rounded characters that clearly had legs – what would go on to become the Countermeasures team – and told a solidly moral story about the reality of sixties Britain, and its division on racial lines (it will be telling, not to mention shaming, thirty years from now when Doctor Who gets to look back with this kind of perspective on the Britain of UKIP and the BNP). In essence, it was a barnstorming story by then series-newcomer Ben Aaronovitch and remains more watchable than much of McCoy’s era to this day.
Add to that the fact that when the Target novelisation was released, it took an already barnstorming story and broadened and deepened it massively, making sense of some things that never quite translated to the screen, like the three-Dalek ‘Exterminate!’-screaming cliffhanger that had everyone shouting ‘Well, just do it then!’ at their TV sets. The deepening went much further than that though, giving us scenes from many of the characters’ viewpoints, including Ace, Rachel Jensen (as played by Pamela Salem) and George Ratcliffe (George Sewell), to explain their motivations and make them feel more like real human beings than the pacing of the show allowed. But especially thrilling were additions like the external sources – the book contains extracts from a fictional academic history of the Daleks, and from a fictional history of the formation of UNIT (of which Countermeasures was intended to be a forerunner) – the scenes dipping back into Time Lord history to explain the creation of the Hand of Omega, showing Omega, Rassilon and ‘the other’ (Guess who?!) in the times before the Time Lords really were Time Lords, and the scenes, and there were many, from various Dalek points of view. These last were revolutionary to read, taking us into the ‘mind’ of the Dalek mothership, of TacOps, of the Special Weapons Dalek (known even among Daleks to have a name – The Abomination), and the Emperor Dalek, which is heavily hinted in print much earlier than was revealed on screen to be Davros. In the days before Big Finish, that especially sent a thrill up the Who fan’s spine – the idea of Davros ever being young, having lovers and friends and feelings, and how he became the thing we first met in Genesis of the Daleks. By any measure, the Target novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks was a fantastically special, invigorating read, and if anything a better version of the story even than the one that was filmed.
So who do you get to read the audiobook?
How about an actor known to this day principally for his outstanding audio work, his vocal versatility and his ability to make characters come to life purely by what he does with his voice? How about an actor who was in the original, and who has played a vital role in the story of the Daleks, both on screen, and throughout their appearances in the Big Finish audio range. How about Terry Molloy, the voice of Davros himself?
As the world of the internet meme has it, ‘Shut Up and Take My Money!’
The choice of reader for a Target novelisation matters a lot in terms of their ability to bring it to life in a way that stops it being ‘Just Anyone’ reading a book at you. Molloy is the perfect choice for this one, because he has the range to make a damn good fist of Sylvester McCoy’s rrrrrrrolling intonation, delivers a short, sharp Ratcliffe and even gives the listener more than an idea of Simon Williams’ Group Captain Chunky Gilmore. He also knows how to pitch the other characters, including those who never appeared on screen, or if they did, never said a word, and ramp up or cool down the drama according to the needs of the scene. In short, he’s a damn good actor. And while there have been plenty of audio readings by people other than Doctor-actors, somehow, it would feel practically sacrilegious for an eighties Davros story to be read or voiced by someone else pretending to be Davros. Somehow, even typing the idea on a computer seems just inherently wrong.
That’s the power of Molloy’s original portrayal of course – while Michael Wisher’s original was definitive in very many ways, it’s Molloy that many (indeed, most?) fans immediately think of when they think of Davros, because his version lasted longest, and has had the greatest potential to show the range of the character (I, Davros, Big Finish – just saying. If you haven’t heard it, you’ve missed part of the point of being both alive and a geek at the same time).
The marriage of a great original script by Ben Aaronovitch, a possibly even better novelisation by the author, and a reading (and at many points, a playing) by Terry Molloy – that, O my Geekbrothers and Nerdsisters, is what a perfect storm of Doctor Who sounds like. Go away and buy it now.
Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk