The Doctor and Sarah arrive in modern-day England, where they are almost immediately stalked by a shark-like creature that can take to land for limited times. The Doctor recognizes it as a Pescaton – a being from a world whose ecosystem is doomed, probably searching for a new world rich in salt water for the rest of its kind to colonize. The fact that Earth is already quite inhabited doesn’t seem to faze the Pescaton invader at all. The Doctor patiently waits for the creature to exhaust itself after a few rampages through London, and it quickly dies – but not before summoning the rest of its kind. The entire Pescaton race is coming to Earth, including their sinister leader Zor, who the Doctor has met before – and to whose psychic powers even the Time Lord is not immune.
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Bill Mitchell (Zor)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: This early example of Doctor Who in an audio format – actually, the first attempt to create an audio adventure for the Doctor without also serving another purpose (i.e. Exploration Earth‘s educational mandate). If nothing else, it’s an interesting study in how Doctor Who would’ve been translated into audio in the 1970s – the entire story is narrated in the first person by Tom Baker, unless there’s a dialogue exchange between the Doctor and Sarah or the Doctor and Zor. Where sound design is concerned, The Pescatons is almost as primitive as one can get – there are few sound effects and a well-worn suite of background screams and Pescaton roars (the latter obviously a slowed down and only slightly processed human vocalization), unless one counts Tom Baker singing. Yes, singing. Needless to say, at a time when Doctor Who was at something of a dramatic epoch (the Philip Hinchcliffe era), The Pescatons is also an early sampling of the sheer level of eccentricity which Tom Baker would later inject into his televised portrayal of the Doctor. For some reason, the Doctor also appears to carry a piccolo around with him which becomes something of a major plot point; this almost makes one wonder if the story wasn’t originally written for Patrick Troughton, who carried a recorder with him on many occasions. (It’s also worth noting that Victor Pemberton, the writer of The Pescatons, had last written Doctor Who during Troughton’s reign, specifically the TV serial Fury From The Deep.) The script doesn’t do the listener favors by having Baker ruminate about how he was falling down, down, down into the depths.
At the same time, it’s interesting to hear another take on Doctor Who audio a la Tom Baker, and the voice of his enemy – the only character to speak other than the Doctor and Sarah – is dripping with malevolence. And given that, at the time, Doctor Who was still stubbornly considered to be a children’s show, The Pescatons is really rather surprisingly mature – the story carries quite a body count, especially if one doesn’t just count human casualties. The music is quite authentic for its period as well, done by Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workship in a style akin to Dudley Simpson’s music from the Pertwee years. In other words, despite the somewhat cheesy production values, it’s actually more or less in line with its era – rather surprisingly given that persistent children’s show perception. This review was written from an earlier CD release by Silva Screen, circa 1992, though the original LP was issued in 1976. (BBC Audio has since issued a new version of The Pescatons, this time remastered and including a new interview with Elisabeth Sladen about the making of the Doctor’s first dramatic audio outing.)