REVIEW: "Earth and Beyond" Audio Cassette

by Zepo
26 December 1999

_Doctor Who: Earth and Beyond (Read by Paul McGann)_, (?: BBC Worldwide,
1998), double audio cassette set, oversized jewel case. [#ZBBC-2223]

[Image of Audio Cassette]

RATING: 8 (of 10)


     The first audio offering to feature the "Eighth" Doctor as featured in
the Fox TV-Movie is "Doctor Who: Earth and Beyond" which is read by Paul
McGann.  This double cassette set features three separate stories feature
this incarnation of the Doctor.
     Sadly, the stories in this set do not feature an opening with the
Doctor Who theme music, which means that the listener must be prepared
beforehand for a Doctor Who audio story.  Usually, the theme sets the viewer
or listener into the mood to suspend their beliefs.  The stories though, are
well written and well read by Paul McGann and even feature wonderful sound
effects in key parts.
     The first story taking up the first side of tape one, is the story
"Bounty" by Peter Anghelides.  The story may be interesting to fans of the
McGann Doctor as this story is the first adventure and trip that the
Doctor's new companion Sam ever takes in the TARDIS.  The story is
compelling and interesting, and is punctuated by wonderful sound effects as
McGann tells us how the adventure unfolds.  A very well done interplay
between the Doctor and Sam is one of the strengths of this story, but even
more compelling is the dangerous atmosphere that seems to be present as we
meet strange aliens with eyelids that blink from the side as they search for
strange alien artifacts on an Earthside beach.  This first story really
seems to work, and gave me perhaps the best characterization that I have
ever seen (heard?) of the McGann Doctor.  
     "Bounty" is a strong story that is compelling and interesting.  Perhaps
its only negative is that it involved expanding on Sam's character implying
that she is a viewer of "Babylon 5."  As with many of the original novels,
the authors continually try to make Doctor Who's characters viewers of
contemporary science fiction shows.  Leaving this out would be much better,
if only so that viewers (listeners/readers?) can picture the Doctor entering
any science fiction environment.  After all, leaving the Doctor Who universe
open to any possibility is really the strength of the program as a whole.
     The second story, that takes up the second side of tape one, is "Dead
Time" written my Andrew Miller.  This story features the Doctor and Sam
trapped in a void in deep space menaced by an unknown force.  The story is
interesting and again its the stories sound effects that heighten a great
deal of the drama.  Unfortunately, this story involves secrets from
Gallifrey's past and the crux of the plot requires that once again elements
of the Doctor's mysterious home planet are expanded upon.  I did not prefer
this story because of the reliance on the Gallifreyan elements to make the
story work rather than being a wholly original tale, but I must say that
Paul McGann's reading of the tale does captivate the listener into finishing
the listen.
     The third story "The People's Temple," written by Paul Leonard, takes
up both sides of the second cassette.  A story that brings the Doctor and
Sam to the days of the construction of the stonehenge circle, it is the best
written of the three stories.  The tale features a wonderful twist which
makes us as listeners, or at a more direct level as human beings, look at
ourselves and decide which of us and our actions are responsible for the bad
things that happen around us.  This story is written in the tradition of
"The Aztecs" and works on a very deep moral level.  Though the longest of
the three audio adventures, "The People's Temple" captured my imagination
intensely for its full duration.
     Those you of who have followed my various articles or reviews know that
I do not consider the stories of McGann's Eighth Doctor as canon.  In this
set of audio cassettes, however, I have found perhaps the strongest offering
yet featuring this "incarnation" of the Doctor.  I recommend this tape as it
truly captures the imagination, and in my opinion brings to life McGann's
Doctor one hundred times better than the 1996 TV-Movie ever did.  Too bad
that the TV-Movie will continue to haunt my impression of the McGann
incarnation, for if these tapes had been my introduction to him, I might
truly be a fan of his Doctor's incarnation.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 1999.


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