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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Death Among the Stars


Author: Steve Lyons
Read by: Nicola Bryant
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £5.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78529 805 9
Release Date: 07 September 2017

At Kennedy Space Centre, in 2060, the Doctor meets Amber Lewis. Both are there to observe the launch of Earth’s very first off-world colony ship, as it heads for Jupiter’s sixth moon. But to everyone’s surprise it seems that somebody has reached Europa before them. The figure is oddly familiar – to the Doctor and Amber in particular… So begins the adventure of a lifetime for Amber, as she journeys in the TARDIS to set foot on a distant moon. Events take a bizarre turn when she and the Doctor apparently witness celebrity figures wandering freely on the rocky surface. A sinister presence lurks behind the apparitions, and Amber is about to fall into its clutches. An alien base, a stranded abductee and a group of creepy ‘Icemen’ all add up to trouble for the Doctor. Can he rescue his new friend and avert disaster on humanity’s new frontier…?

As I started to listen to this original audio book, I was reminded of The Ambassadors of Death, with its televised coverage of a manned mission to a body in our solar system that might just harbour life. In Ambassadors, it was a mission to Mars. Back then, in 1970, the existence of life on the red planet (life more complex than microbes, that is) seemed like a more believable prospect than it does now. In Death Among the Stars, the mission has moved out to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. It’s a mission, of course, that soon runs into trouble…

With the probability of liquid water existing beneath its frozen surface, Europa is now considered to be one of the most likely environments for complex extraterrestrial life in our solar system. However, writer Steve Lyons’s scientific knowledge falters slightly when he suggests that Europa has a rocky surface, whereas in fact it is believed that the moon’s rocky interior is entirely covered by ice.

It may also seem odd that Europa is repeatedly said to be the site of humanity’s first-ever off-world colony in the Doctor Who universe. Wouldn’t Earth’s own moon be a much more likely first step? However, though we have seen plenty of lunar bases in this time period (in, for example, The Moonbase and The Seeds of Death), those were scientific outposts rather than colonies as such. A shortage of accessible water could be an obstacle to establishing a large lunar settlement. The planet Mars, of course, is not short of H2O but we all know what happened there (this story takes place one year after the events of The Waters of Mars, and Bowie Base One gets a name-check).

Unlike the previous few Twelfth Doctor audios, this is a standalone adventure, so Lyons creates a one-off companion for the Time Lord, in tour guide Amber Lewis.

Because Amber is an American character, this is a good opportunity to bring back Nicola Bryant as the narrator, since she has plenty of experience doing the accent as the mid-1980s companion Peri. Bryant also spends much of this release putting on a croaky old man voice as a character called Morton Beck. Her Twelfth Doctor voice has improved since The Lost Planet, though occasionally he sounds more Welsh than Scottish.

Following a gripping opening, including a pre-titles teaser that would be worthy of the television show, and a bizarre group of beings on Europa who put an unexpected twist on the title wording, the plot of Death Among the Stars runs out of steam as we get to long scenes of exposition from Morton Beck with few surprises. Fortunately, the excitement levels make a resurgence for the climax of the mission.


Richard McGinlay

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