December 22 2014 Latest news:

(AudioGo, £13.25)

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THE beauty of a novelisation is that it can paper over the cracks in production values, miscasting decisions, overacting and general plotholes, leaving the reader (or in this case listener) with all the good bits.

With a story like Paradise Towers, which was pretty universally derided as a television series, this allows writer Stephen Wyatt to focus on his original story conception and move away from the committee-led version which was eventually screened.

On paper it must have seemed great. The luxury man-made planet of Paradise Towers has deteriorated into a world of rogue cleaning machines, teenage gangs, authoritarian caretakers and cannibalistic old ladies, with the Doctor and Mel caught up in the chaos… Alas, what was broadcast was much more lacklustre, budget-conscious and poorly acted, resulting in its reputation as one of the worst stories in the classic series’ 26 year run.

Wyatt doesn’t add a huge amount of additional material to the televised version of his script, but what he does do is dramatically improve on the world he has created, adding some lovely descriptive detail and expanding the characterisation of the guest cast.

There’s a lot of pace to proceedings, so you’re in no danger of getting bogged down in a scene, and his vision of what the story should have been actually outweighs any preconceptions about the TV version, with the black comedy if anything even darker here.

Of course, the elephant in the room with most early Sylvester McCoy stories is the presence of Bonnie Langford as Mel, but instead of trying to work around one of the most unpopular companions ever, AudioGo have confronted the issue head on and actually employed her to read the novelisation.

And what a breath of fresh air she actually is. Admirably impersonating the various characters, including the Seventh Doctor, she brings a comfortable humour to her reading, especially with Mel, who comes across as much less annoying compared to her onscreen persona.

An all-round success story then, and a worthwhile addition to AudioGo’s burgeoning collection of Target novelisations.

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