DOCTOR WHO -
BBC Audiobooks - 2 x CD Set
Reviewed by Ceri Laing
Starring: William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie
Lane, William Hurndell
Linking narration by Peter Purves
BBC Audiobooks’ releases of Doctor Who
TV programme soundtracks continue with this four-part story from the
third series of the show in 1966. William Hartnell stars as the Doctor,
accompanied by assistants Steven Taylor (played by Peter Purves) and Dodo
Chaplet (played by Jackie Lane), together they venture into the American
Wild West of the 1880s, the town of Tombstone and a certain shoot-out at
the OK Corral.
The writer of The Gunfighters was
Donald Cotton and this was his second contribution to the series, with
both stories having a historical setting and written with a comedy edge.
In this serial the Doctor has toothache and with the TARDIS setting down
in Tombstone the only attendant dentist is Doc Holliday whose blood is
wanted by the local Clanton family. Throw in a couple of gunfighters for
hire; Steven and Dodo assuming identities of singer and pianist; confusion
over which Doc is which; and a narrative leading up the infamous
shoot-out, and you have an enjoyable romp of a serial.
As an experiment for the story a ballad was
conceived – The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon – and segments of
this were used as the incidental music, bridging scenes and helping to
tell the story as the serial progresses. This, especially, makes this
serial an apt choice for an audio release. It was sung by Lynda Baron, who
has had a long and varied career but is perhaps best known as Nurse Gladys
Emmanuel in the Ronnie Barker sit-com Open All Hours. Fortunately,
the composer for this serial, Tristram Cary, kept all the recordings of
the segments and they are presented on this release so they can be heard
Amongst the fine supporting cast are two
actors - David Graham and Shane Rimmer – whose voices will no doubt be
familiar to fans of Gerry Anderson’s puppet series Thunderbirds, in
which they played Brains and Scott Tracy respectively.
Peter Purves provides the linking
narration, which covers the unseen on-screen action, and is very
effective; helping to convey without being intrusive and taking you out of
the drama. In additional there is an approximately ten-minute interview
with Purves , in which his memories of this story and his time in general
on the show are discussed. He compares this serial with Donald Cotton’s
previous serial (in which Purves also starred). The interview was
conducted by Mark Ayres of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, who has also
re-mastered the recording for the release.
The four episodes of the serial are
presented over two discs, with the Peter Purves interview and The
Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon segments appended at the end of the
second disc. Disc one, which includes episodes one and two, runs to a
total of 48 minutes and 30 seconds. Disc two, which includes episodes
three and four, the Purves interview and the Ballad segments, runs
to a total of 75 minutes and 40 seconds. The Peter Purves interview is
just over fifteen minutes long. The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon
segments total just over ten minutes.
The soundtracks of the episodes have been
cleaned to a high standard, as ever, by Mark Ayres and sound clear and
fine with a good ambience.
Considering it’s extremely lucky that they
still exist (thank you composer Tristram Cary!) The Ballad of the Last
Chance Saloon segments also sound extremely good.
This range of BBC Audiobooks Doctor Who
soundtrack releases began life as a way of releasing the soundtracks
of serials where the visuals no longer exist – so-called “Missing Episode”
soundtracks taken from tape recordings made by fans during the original
broadcasts. All the "Missing Episode" stories have been released, so now
the Audiobooks range has, somewhat controversially, switched to releasing
stories where the visuals do exist. Unsurprisingly, there has been much
comment about the validity of continuing the range. However, it continues
to sell, presumably for a variety of different reasons (they're bought by
people with impaired vision, fan completists, etc). The increased
awareness of the series in general, through the popularity of the current
TV series, has had an impact on sales as well, so you can’t really
criticise BBC Audiobooks for still continuing the range, especially as
they add value to each release with additional features (in this case a
very interesting wide-ranging interview with Peter Purves and the clean
music links), which are most welcome, and a nice bonus to the episodes
Additionally, Andrew Pixley provides in
depth sleeve notes on the production of the serial, which, as ever,
are very enlightening. BBC Audiobooks also continue the trend for this
range of providing a reversible back inlay in the old style (the style
having been updated a few years back) to allow long term collectors to
keep their collection in the same style if they want to. Very laudable and
canny on BBC Audiobooks’ part.
So, who would I recommend this release to?
…anyone who is a fan of Westerns, archive television and spoken word, and
of course fans of Doctor Who old and new. And, as with all the
titles in BBC Audiobooks’ Doctor Who soundtrack range, if you find
old Doctor Who can be a bit lacking in production values –
experience it this way – you might find the pictures are better!
£11.99 (click on link for latest price)
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