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John Leeson reads this thrilling brand new novelisation of a classic Doctor Who serial.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: 'The Androids of Tara was the second script I wrote for Doctor Who, the first being The Stones of Blood. Script editor Anthony Read and producer Graham Williams were keen to base stories on traditional myths and legends, such as Dracula, Theseus and the Minotaur, etc. This seemed to me brilliant - a way of anchoring the programme to certain universal themes as well as making it easier for the writer. What did I think, asked Tony, of a script based on The Prisoner of Zenda? The Prisoner of Zenda is a novel by Anthony Hope, an Edwardian barrister and part-time writer. It tells the story of an English tourist in Ruritania, a mittel-European kingdom, who is discovered to be the spitting image of the next king. The latter is conveniently kidnapped, leaving our man to be crowned in his stead. To complicate matters further, our man then falls in love with the future queen but is too honourable to take advantage of the situation. Legend has it that this whole plot just popped into Hope's head, complete in all details, while returning to his chambers in the Inns of Court from a convivial evening at his club (God knows what he had been drinking!) The book was hugely successful, and was later seized upon by Hollywood, which made three versions of the story. The first, in 1937, starring Ronald Coleman, is considered by many to be the greatest swashbuckler of all time. An intimidating thought for a writer who had never swashed a TV buckle in his life. It promised to be a challenge, if nothing else! All credit is due to Tony Read, who suggested that, instead of following the story slavishly, it should be Romana who finds herself the double of Princess Strella, the future queen. The only thing left was to jettison Ruritania, which suggested the world of operetta rather than Doctor Who. What was needed was less Lehar and something more Wagnerian. Writing the audio novelisation all these years later has meant that I have had to justify and explain various things in the text that could be comfortably ignored in the television script. For example, how and why does a relatively backward economy like Tara manage to develop androids? Hence my invention of the plague which leaves the lords relatively untouched in their castles and the serfs dying in the fields. Obviously the next step is the extensive mechanisation of agriculture. From there it seemed logical for such a hierarchical society to concentrate on androids to replace the missing serfs. One last word on Anthony Hope: he produced one of the most attractive villains in literature - Rupert of Hentzau. He has all the best lines in the novel and the movies. My Count Grendel may lack something in the charm stakes, but he is more fun than anyone else on Tara, who generallly speaking are a pretty thick lot.' David Fisher, May 2012