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The story itself is one of the true classics of the golden era of Doctor Who. Tom Baker in his pomp, Leela newly joining him on his travels and a strong story that keeps you entertained from start to finish.
The story itself, originally written by Chris Boucher, novelised by Terrance Dicks, is tightly woven and there is very little padding throughout. There are aspects that are a little better explained, such as the climax and why it worked but otherwise the story itself is intact.
Sadly, the only thing that lets the production down is Louise Jameson's performance of the voices. There are a few pronunciation issues such as with the name Taran Capel; pronounced to rhyme with apple in the audiobook but pronounced CAP-el on the show. Not a big problem but a distraction and immersion breaker. The clearest example of the poor characterisation by the performer was where the initial mineral analysis at the start of the story has Toos delivering the line, "... traces of lucanol" and Ivanov replies, "Ahhh, money in the bank". In the show, the actors put inflection into the delivery and showed they were delighted with the discovery. Louise Jameson delivers the lines as flat as a pancake. I'll be generous and say that she struggled interchanging human with the monotone robotic voices and thus lost track of the characters who were delivering the lines. Either way, it took something away from the performance.
I must admit, I'd have loved to have had Tom Baker reading this one but you can't have everything. It's well worth a listen but prepare yourself for a little disappointment.
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My first experience of these BBC produced audio adaptations of the Terrance
Dicks novelizations of classic Doctor Who TV stories was the superb "The
Brain of Morbius". This was read by the equally superb Tom Baker who imbued
this story with such gravitas in my view. I was impressed with the writing
of Dicks and the translation to audio book complete with background effects
to add atmosphere and so went on to purchase anything I could in this range
read by Tom Baker.
Having seemingly gone through all available such adaptations read by Baker,
I went back to this genre some years later and recently came across some
additional stories that piqued my sense of nostalgia for that golden age of
gothic horror at that time. A classic I remember from my youth was the 1977
story "The Robots of Death" which I saw was now available and read by Louise
Jameson AKA Lela. In truth, I'd have preferred Tom Baker to have narrated
this but it seems he may have retired from doing this sort of work due to
his age which is understandable. In any case, I snapped up this short story
as I wanted to immerse myself back in that time and a story I was very
familiar with in order to bask in nostalgia once more.
Jameson does a good job of reading this book and delivers the lines of Lela
just as they were all those years ago. She, like Baker before her, have the
benefit of not having age change their voices unlike the barely recognizable
Gareth Thomas as Blake in the recent spate of Blake's 7 audio stories.
Suitable electronic effects are used to provide atmosphere and context to
the telling of this story and Jameson's voice is altered in exactly the same
way as was done back in 1977 to deliver the voices of the robots.
My only slight disappointment with Terrance Dicks' adaptation of this story
is the lack of finer detail or additional narrative to round out the story a
little more. I understand that adapting something already written to a book
format leaves little room for this but I cite the excellent intros to "the
Time Warrior" and the aforementioned "The brain of Morbius" where in the
latter we realize the struggle and indeed the name of the insect like alien
seen fleetingly in the television version.
Although "The Robots of Death" is a story of its time, it's interesting to
note how we are starting to become ever more weary of the rise of artificial
intelligence and so these types of stories are a mirror to our innate fears
of sophisticated artificial intelligences.
The story does have one or two inconsistencies it must be said and I seem to
have an ear for such things which is probably a bit sad. In one scene
commander Uvanov is facing off against the Doctor with a gun of some sort as
I recall and yet later on when the Doctor asks if there are any weapons
aboard , he is told that there isn't. I think in another scene we find robot
SV-7 about to murder Tousse but if memory serves, SV-7 becomes V-7. These
minor nitpicks aside, this is a well produced listen and will bring anyone
as old as me and can remember the TV episodes right back to that wonderful