The TARDIS's arrival on a lonely stretch of beach is closely
followed by a slithering sound and a chilling roar. The deadly
Pescatons have arrived on Earth. Refugees from their own dying
planet, Pesca, the shark-like creatures are led by the telepathic
Zor, whom the Doctor has met before...
before the days of Big Finish, BBV or even the radio adventures
of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, there was Doctor Who and the Pescatons,
the first-ever commercially released complete Doctor Who
audio adventure. Originally issued on LP by Argo Records (a
subsidiary of Decca) in 1976, it was subsequently reissued
by London Records in 1985 and on CD by Silva Screen in the
1990s, but it has since been unavailable for a decade... until
this counts as a proper full-cast drama is open to debate.
The cast comprises three members - Tom Baker as the Doctor,
Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah and Bill Mitchell, vocally treated
as the villainous Zor - though several sections of the story
are conveyed via narration by Baker. In particular, the characters
of Professor Emmerson and his fellow astronomers are talked
about rather than speak for themselves. In retrospect, one
wonders why an untreated Bill Mitchell could not have doubled
Pemberton's script has its shortcomings. Several aspects of
the story are lazily recycled from his Patrick Troughton serial,
from the Deep,
including some deadly seaweed, the very notion of invaders
from the sea, and the fact that high-pitched noise is deadly
to them. The Doctor suddenly takes up playing the piccolo
in order to facilitate the latter plot device, which suggests
to me that Pemberton initially laboured under the delusion
that the Time Lord was still in the habit of playing Troughton's
recorder. "I always play the piccolo when I'm nervous," claims
the Doctor. No, you don't - well, certainly not in any of
your television adventures!
When he first encounters the Pescatons on their dying home
planet, the Doctor seems quite prepared to abandon them to
their fate, despite there being no direct evidence that they
are "evil" or should be denied the right to survive. After
that, the narrator simply tells us that he escaped, one of
several junctures at which events are casually glossed over.
thanks to the vocal talents of Baker, Sladen and Mitchell,
together with some nerve-shredding sound effects, such as
breaking glass and screams of fear and agony, this is still
an effective story. Pemberton and Baker convey some gruesome
images of death, destruction and pain, including a description
of the Pescatons' metallic octopus-weed creature cutting into
the Time Lord's flesh "like sharp wire".
terms of continuity with the television series, Sarah's comments
about the uselessness of the army and the fact that no one
was prepared for an alien invasion suggest that this story
takes place in the days before UNIT (or that it is set in
a UNIT-free parallel universe). True, the Doctor tells us
that the TARDIS has materialised in the present day, but that
could mean anything (to a listener in 2005 it might mean the
story is set in 2005). In any case, Pemberton seems to have
some rather confused ideas about time travel: when they arrive,
the travellers have no idea where or when they are, yet somehow
Sarah seems to think it is February. (It could be that the
Doctor is guessing the TARDIS might have brought them back
to Sarah's contemporary time, and so he asks her for a reminder
of what month that would be.)
The flashback to the Doctor's solo trip to Pesca could take
place during Robot, around the time of his first visit
to Xoanon's world, as described in Terrance Dicks' novelisation
of The Face of Evil.
a technical point of view, the recording techniques are not
as proficient as we are used to nowadays from the likes of
Big Finish. The "outdoor" sequences sound very "indoors",
the voices in the beach scene sounding particularly hollow.
The electronic incidental music, by Kenny Clayton, is more
mid-Pertwee era than early Baker.
Thanks to its original vinyl medium, the story is divided
into two 23-minute instalments, an episodic duration that
is pleasingly similar to that of the television show. Thankfully,
unlike with its recent CD re-release of Genesis
of the Daleks,
the BBC has preserved the episodic structure.
If you don't already possess this story in one format or another,
then it is a must-have. However, if you do already own it,
then the addition of a new 45-minute interview with Elisabeth
Sladen on the second disc might tempt you to buy it again.
Sadly, her recollection of the recording of Pescatons
is hazy (her participation was far less major than that of
Baker), but she shares plenty of memories about the television
series in general with interviewer Mark Ayres.
possessing a few fishy qualities, Doctor Who and the Pescatons
is a classic recording.
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