The Masters of Luxor scriptbook
Big Finish Productions
The Masters of Luxor
|Written by||Anthony Coburn, adapted by Nigel Robinson|
|Starring William Russell and Carole Ann Ford|
|Synopsis: The TARDIS is drawn to a mysterious signal emanating from a seemingly dead world. Trapped within a crystalline structure, the Doctor and his friends inadvertently wake a vast army of robots that have lain dormant for many, many years. Waiting... for the Masters of Luxor.|
Of Gods And Robots by Matthew Kresal 16/4/13
It almost seems surprising that has taken this long for Big Finish to get around to doing The Masters of Luxor as part of their Doctor Who - The Lost Stories range. It is the oldest "lost story" after all, having been originally commissioned to be the second-ever story for the series as well as having had its script published in book form in the early 1990s. So, after forty-nine years, we can finally hear the story with two of the original actors, William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, who would have been in it. So has it been worth the wait?
Unlike the usual full-cast audio dramas that Big Finish normally releases for Doctor Who, this production of The Masters of Luxor was done instead as an "enhanced talking book". To explain the format, Robinson took the Coburn script and turned it into what is effectively prose. This prose is read by actors William Russell and Carole Ann Ford (who reprise their respective roles as Ian and Susan from the television series, as well as narrating the story and also taking the parts of the First Doctor and Barbara). Joining them is actor Joseph Kloska who reads in the various robots as well as The Perfect One and Tabon. The result gives this version of the story the most unique feel of its three versions: a cross between a novelization of the scripts and one of Big Finish's Companion Chronicles releases.
The adaptation by writer Nigel Robinson (who adapted the scripts for the First Doctor Box-set) of the original Anthony Coburn scripts is largely faithful. Robinson keeps the six episode structure of the story and also retains the originally written cliffhangers. But instead of keeping the story in its originally intended placement, the story is shifted to after the previous First Doctor stories in the Lost Stories range. It also keeps the originally written cliffhangers despite some of them being rather odd (the first episode cliffhanger is a good example) which nevertheless helps make it faithful to the original scripts in that regard anyways.
Robinson, though, makes some changes of his own. Due to the lack of descriptions given in the script, Robinson was largely given free rein to create descriptions for the characters and sets. The Mark One robot descriptions seem to come out of 1950s B-movies while the Derivitrons were based, by Robinson's own notes for the CD booklet, on the Miranda robot from the classic silent film Metropolis. For The Perfect One and Tabon, Robinson took note that the name seemed to come from the discovery of the so-called 'Tabon Man', a fossilized early humanoid discovered in the Philippines the year before Coburn wrote his scripts. As a result, the characters were given a description somewhat Asian in appearance with skin "the color of pale honey". The devices used for The Perfect One's experiments are also taken from the aforementioned Metropolis as well.
Some of Robinson's characterization, where he was allowed to fill in gaps in the script, can be a bit odd as well. A perfect example being a moment early on where Susan daydreams about being kidnapped "half naked" by one of the robots. While this is perhaps befitting any number of B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s, it feels odd coming from this character even if Carole Ann Ford is reading it.
The production also reduces the religious subtext found in the script significantly. The main result of this is that a pivitol scene in episode six has been cut out completely as well as the hymn sung by Susan and Barbara being changed from Onward, Christian Soldiers to the somewhat less religious hymn Jerusalem. Given that the point of the Lost Stories range is to present stories from the era, this change in emphasis (while having its reasons) seems odd as surely the point is to present the story, even with some possibly anachronistic themes, intact.
As mentioned earlier, this has two of the series original cast members both reprising their roles and narrating the story. William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, having done similar jobs on The First Doctor Box-set as well as their work on the Companion Chronicles, are well versed in this style of production and are the definite highlight of this production. Their performances also bring out the best parts of the original Coburn script such as Ian's "the projectionist has gone home" line in the first episode. Joseph Kloska's performances as the various other characters is the icing on the cake, giving Russell and Ford both a fine actor to bounce off in their scenes together. The sums of their performances give this version an air of authenticity it might otherwise lack.
So has The Masters of Luxor been worth the wait? For me, the answer is yes and no. "Yes" because of the excellent performances and readings from the actors. I say "No" because of the sometimes-excessive changes made by Robinson in his adaptation. Perhaps someone who hasn't read the original scripts might feel differently but, to my mind, this version of The Masters of Luxor is good but definitely flawed.