Doctor Who and the Pescatons

Posted in Audio by - November 06, 2017
Doctor Who and the Pescatons

Released July 1976

Released on LP and cassette in 1976, ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons’ represents something of a rarity for the classic series of Doctor Who, a spin-off of sorts featuring the current Doctor and companion. Written by Victor Pemberton, script editor during season five of Patrick Troughton’s tenure, the shark-like Pescatons have mounted an invasion of Earth while trying to escape their own doomed world.

Even with a brief running time of just forty-six minutes, ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons’ is still a rather light affair composed mainly of disparate moments of action that seem to pay rather direct homage to Pemberton’s own ‘Fury from the Deep,’ even granting the Fourth Doctor a sudden obsession with a piccolo that is more becoming of the Second Doctor in order to utilize high-pitched sound as a weapon. While recycling elements is not by itself egregiously bad, it is something of a disappointment for this first foray into contemporary audio adventures that it can’t offer something more novel. And although Pemberton does try to instill something of a moral dilemma into the story with the Pescatons’ plight, the foes are presented as nothing more than clear-cut villains rampaging through London from the outset with the Doctor describing the invasion as a clash of two civilizations, one bad and one good.

Still, despite the unremarkable storyline, the decision to frame the story as a series of set pieces actually works quite well for Pemberton given that there are only three voices in the entire production, with Bill Mitchell as the villainous Zor joining Tom Baker’s Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith. This ensures that the action is always front and centre with little filler that might detract from listeners’ overall interest. This style certainly doesn’t create an entirely cohesive experiences like the more modern audio adventures of the Doctor, but it serves its purpose well enough with the tone never becoming too violent or serious to warrant the criticisms increasingly aimed at the television series around that time.

Tom Baker is undoubtedly the star of ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons,’ playing the production with a perfect blend of levity and seriousness to make a rather generic script that could function well enough for any Doctor completely his own. Given that Sladen and Mitchell have strong but rather limited roles and that the story primarily unfolds through the Doctor’s actions and Baker’s own narration, this is all the more important and gives early insight into just what made his charismatic incarnation of the Doctor so popular and enduring.

So although ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons’ is hardly a classic serial from a script or plot perspective, it nonetheless represents an important piece of Doctor Who history that further expanded its presence outside of the television medium as well as the franchise’s own mythology by giving fans of the time a story that they could actually own and enjoy at home and by hinting at an unseen previous adventure in which the Doctor first came upon the Pescatons, respectively. It’s clear that much more could have been done with this release, but its limited scope and straightforward nature allow Tom Baker to highlight just what a natural in the role of the Fourth Doctor he is, a true testament to the actor and the character.

  • Release Date: 7/1976
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