I love audiobooks, mainly because I spend so much time in my car taking my daughters to various places that I rarely have time to sit down and read a novel! Anyway, Harvest of Time is a cracking story from Alastair Reynolds and one of the best of recent months thanks to the effortless way he captures the Third Doctor’s era – not to mention a faultless reading from Geoffrey Beevers.
After billions of years of imprisonment, the vicious Sild have broken out of confinement. From a ruined world at the end of time, they make preparations to conquer the past, with the ultimate goal of rewriting history. But to achieve their aims they will need to enslave an intellect greater than their own… On Earth, UNIT is called in to investigate a mysterious incident on a North Sea drilling platform. The Doctor believes something is afoot, and no sooner has the investigation begun when something even stranger takes hold: The Brigadier is starting to forget about UNIT’s highest-profile prisoner. And he is not alone in his amnesia. As the Sild invasion begins, the Doctor faces a terrible dilemma. To save the universe, he must save his arch-nemesis… The Master.
Reminiscent of a classic Third Doctor six-parter, Harvest Of Time contains a masterful plot that could easily slide into the official canon of stories. It oozes with nods to the classic series without suffocating the listener with smartass references. It’s a slow burner with plenty of prose without feeling watered down with the Doctor, Jo and UNIT family all having equal input into the story without being cast just for the hell of it. Reynolds picks up each of our heroes’ ticks such as the way Pertwee’s Doctor used to rub his neck and chin when thinking and Jo’s scatty but lovable innocence. The Master himself comes alive with the smouldering menace Roger Delgado gave the much-loved character. To give it the authentic 1970s setting the supporting cast are given archetypal Scottish names and the alien race has a heavy presence.
The story is accompanied by subtle and impressive sound effects that keep the reading from Beevers clear and at the front, only turning up to emphasise endings of chapters. Talking of Geoffrey Beevers he brings the whole piece to life, injecting an infectious feeling to the piece by mimicking rather than impersonating the better known characters. His take on the nasty Sild is wonderfully surreal and sombre with just a slight touch of knowing humour.
Running just 15 minutes shy of 12 hours the audiobook is best enjoyed over a few sittings so you can allow the strong characterisation to sink in but its time wisely invested. If you’ve never experienced a Doctor Who audiobook then start here and work backwards.