The Third Doctor? The Master? A multi-point thrilling narrative? Oh, go on then, I’m in.
‘Harvest Of Time’ is the child of Alistair Reynolds, known for his own space opera and well respected for the creation of sprawling realities. This time he takes the Third Doctor and UNIT and marries them into a complex narrative which offers an occasionally boggling plot and pitches the Doctor against a deadly foe. It’s big enough and spread out enough to make some waves and some time ruptures. It’s like a TV adventure that should have happened and would have in an alternative universe. In a galaxy far, far away, an alien civilisation attempts to crack the secrets of the mysterious artefact hovering above their planet.
At a seaside near you in the 1970s, the Sild are coming and they don’t intend to be made into crab sandwiches. As the evil crustacean lookalikes prepare to invade, they use the population as meat puppets to further their plans. Their objective is the Master.
The Doctor and Jo Grant visit a North Sea oil platform where an inexplicable event has been recorded. The sea has been seen to part in an almost biblical fashion. Their witness proves unreliable and they are given the brush off by the manager of the platform Edwina ‘Eddie’ McCrimmon and are soon on their way. But Eddie is in two minds. She has been co-operating with another government department on a secret project and she starts to be convinced that this has caused the extraordinary occurrence.
When the Doctor and Jo consult his old adversary, the Master, now imprisoned deep in an impenetrable nuclear facility he offers no insight but a clue spurs the Doctor on to connect him with the events at the oil platform. Meanwhile, there is something very odd happening at UNIT when the Brigadier and the rest of the UNIT team start to forget the existence of the Master.
This is The Master, the original as we know and love him as played in the early 1970s by the late Roger Delgado. He’s the ultimate super-Bond villain. He has no second thoughts and is totally amoral; thoroughly tonto. Better than John Simm (gasp!), Delgado just did it and without an evil cackle. Luckily, Beevers as both narrator and evil genius is more than up to this task and is thoroughly believable in the role. He switches easily between the characters and presents an immersive experience of ‘Harvest Of Time’.
There are some thoroughly modern women in ‘Harvest Of Time’, too, with Jo Grant leading the women’s lib and matched by the McCrimmon woman. This is great stuff, not patronising but drawing on the character established in the series and casting a knowing glance to the 21st Century. Jo and her kinky boots made us all feel like we could be anyone we wanted to be.
There are plenty of characters included here as well to fill in the gaps of narrative which the Doctor and Jo can’t fill. With the welcome return of the Brigadier, we also get Benton and Yeats, UNIT hardware and the obligatory crusty Scotsmen and middle class prison governor. To borrow a phrase from Tom Baker, ‘It’s like Saturday tea time all over again.’
‘Harvest Of Time’ has lots going on and makes me think back to the glory days of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and my childhood. It is tremendously enjoyable and very evocative of that era.
(pub: Audio Go/BBC. 10 CD 707 minute story. Price: CD: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4458-979-7. Download: Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4458980-1-8)
reader: Geoffrey Beevers
check out website: www.audiogo.co.uk