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Earth and Beyond, read by Paul McGann

Audio Book reviewed by Rex Duis

It was with much trepidation that I purchased this audio tape. The problem was that I hadn't been exposed to McGann's Doctor very much.

My first disappointment was that there was no ‘Who theme’ of any kind. This was a mistake as the music would have firmly set the mood as Doctor Who.

The first story is Bounty by Peter Anghelides, telling of Sam's first trip in the TARDIS to the Seychelles.

Sam's crush on the Doctor (in all three stories) is at the very least amusing, as is her mispronunciation of TARDIS as ‘Tundish’! The alien Rictogans are very good, being able to change shape, blink sideways and with salt water lethal to them, they are some of the best Who monsters so far. However my opinion would probably be very different if I had seen them on screen. Listening to the story they reminded me of Predator.

This story proves that the Eighth Doctor is certainly different, but maintains qualities of the past Doctors, i.e. getting tangled up in a deck chair and churning up the sand on the beach with a VW! This story would have been better if expanded, as it seemed rushed.

The second story, Andrew Miller's Dead Time, has the TARDIS crash-landing in “a freezing world of utter darkness”. This is my favourite of the three stories. Not only does it feature a primitive TARDIS and an early Time Lord cartographer (dead, sadly) but the Doctor has an amusing talk inside his head with a projection of himself from the future. The whispering voices are especially eerie, with McGann's voice altered by an echo effect so it sounds like there are two different people reading the story. It's a very interesting concept to have a TARDIS ‘shredded’ and being in a dozen different time zones simultaneously. What's also nice is that Sam gets to ‘fill in the words’ that the Doctor can't think of to describe their situation, rather than just saying ‘What do you mean Doctor?’!

This story proves that Sam is not stupid and that she is a very different, unique companion.

The third story, The People's Temple by Paul Leonard, is unfortunately the longest (taking up one whole tape in the two-tape pack). My main gripe with this story is that it is too long. It is also confusing and certainly requires a second listening. Paul Leonard seems to have ignored the show's history, excluding any reference, even subtly, to the Meddling Monk's (or any other alien) involvement in Stonehenge's construction. So the story turned out to be more historical than anything else. Very boring, although the beach sequence in the beginning initially caught my interest.

Overall, this tape set is very good. Of all the Doctors, McGann's voice, I'm sure you'll agree, is the most alien. Indeed his entire performance as the Doctor - on video or audio - is best described as ‘alien’; perfect. I'd like to hear this Doctor on tape again in a radio play. His deep, velvet tones offset by a slightly off-key feel would definitely suit this format, and bring something special to even the dullest story. Perhaps The People's Temple would have benefited from this treatment.

The music and sound effects are appropriate and not overused or gratuitous, and leave you wanting more. Four stories would probably have been a better idea, with perhaps two well-established writers and two newcomers.

A good try which partly succeeded. I give it 7.5/10

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).