Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Four to Doomsday


Author: Terrance Dicks
Read by: Matthew Waterhouse
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £20.00 (CD), £7.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78529 578 2
Release Date: 01 March 2017

When the TARDIS materialises on an alien spacecraft, the commander of the ship – the reptilian Monarch – invites the Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan to continue their journey to Earth in his company. Monarch’s hospitality even extends to a generous offer to liberate the time travellers from the shortcomings of their bodies and replicate them as androids – so much more practical. Although Adric finds this proposal extremely attractive, the Doctor has good reason to be suspicious of Monarch’s motives. When the purpose of Monarch’s impending visit to Earth is realised, a race against time begins. With the TARDIS stranded in space, the Doctor must use all his ingenuity to save mankind…

This is an unabridged reading – by Adric himself, Matthew Waterhouse – of Terrance Dicks’s 1983 novelisation of the 1982 Fifth Doctor serial by Terence Dudley. It takes Waterhouse just under three hours to complete the task, because this is one of Uncle Terrance’s more basic prose adaptations.

Dicks appears not to be aware that Nyssa’s home planet Traken has been destroyed. He also claims that the TARDIS crew have been travelling together for more than just the couple of stories they had experienced on screen by this point. Since boarding the TARDIS, Tegan has “been carried through a series of bewildering and terrifying adventures, demanding stridently all the time to be taken back to Earth”, and she has witnessed the ship’s take-off sequence “many times”. This assertion has since come true, as new prose and audio adventures have subsequently been slotted into place prior to Four to Doomsday. In other respects, though, the novelist doesn’t deviate much from Dudley’s scripts.

However, his no-frills writing style actually lends itself to the medium of the audio book. Whereas more complex narratives and sentence structures can be confusing when read out, Dicks’s text is easy to follow and works well when delivered in a suitably dramatic fashion. Waterhouse pitches it just right when reading descriptions such as the following: “Bigon slipped his robe from his shoulders, revealing a rather scrawny bare chest. He opened his chest, like someone unfastening an invisible zip, peeling back the skin to reveal – nothing. Empty space.”

The narrator also breathes life into the dialogue, doing a good, breathless impersonation of Peter Davison’s Doctor. He also appears to have done his research regarding the guest cast, giving us a suitably sombre Bigon and a guttural Monarch – matching both the textual description of the Urbankan’s voice as “croaky” and the vocal delivery of Stratford Johns, the actor who played him on screen. Waterhouse’s Lin Futu is less successful, coming across more in the way of a stereotypical, high-pitched “ah, so” kind of voice than the deep tones of Burt Kwouk.

Just occasionally, the narrator pitches his voice too low and it is hard to catch certain phrases. For instance, the word “Monarch” is all but lost in his reading of the chapter title “A Meeting with Monarch”, so listeners may be confused if they don’t already know who Monarch is – which, admittedly, is unlikely.

The printed book’s original cover was an uninspiring photo montage of Monarch and the Doctor (which is shown in miniature within the CD jewel case). This audio release makes use of the main image from Alister Pearson’s illustration for the 1991 reprint (which curiously isn’t shown inside the CD case), with a new red background, which provides a better contrast than the previous green while also subtly referencing the colour scheme of the 1983 cover.

This novelisation is never going to win any literary awards. However, thanks largely to Waterhouse’s reading, Four to Doomsday kills three (not necessarily to doomsday) hours rather effectively.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Digital Download