The TARDIS arrives in Tibet in 1935 and the Doctor visits the remote Detsen monastery in order to return a sacred bell, the ghanta, given to him for safe keeping on a previous visit. There he meets an Englishman, Travers, on an expedition to track down the legendary Abominable Snowmen or Yeti.
It transpires that the Yeti roaming the area are actually disguised robots, which scare away or kill anyone who approaches.
This four-CD audio release is an unabridged reading by David Troughton of the novelisation written by veteran DOCTOR WHO plodder, Terrance Dicks. Published in 1974, it was the very first in the Target series of WHO paperback adaptations. Based on the 5th Season (1967) Pat Troughton six-parter written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, this is one of the 'missing stories' - only episode 2 exists in its entirety in the BBC Archive - but audio versions have been released on CD in 2001 and 2003, featuring linking narration by Fraser Hines. The surviving episode appeared among those compiled for the 1991 VHS video THE TROUGHTON YEARS and then in the DVD release DOCTOR WHO - LOST IN TIME (2004). And yes, this is another case of fan boy heaven because this is pure gold on several levels.
David has appeared in Who a few times (most recently and most notably in the Tennant gem MIDNIGHT) but fans will know him as Pat's son, of course, and so this release has a poignancy to it not least because there are several moments when he sounds very much like his dad. Even Terrance Dicks cannot nullify the magic of this story and the skill of the audio performance. David presents the TARDIS crew with a warmth and emotion that captures the attention. Someone press-gang him pronto into performing the sequel, THE WEB OF FEAR. The production values are also spot-on, sound effects and music providing an emotional underscore to David's narration. The baddie - The Great Intelligence - is one of the all-time-greats and David gives him a suitably creepy voice.
Nothing is complicated about this story. Its appeal lies in the brilliant set up - presumably inspired by Nigel Kneales' classic teleplay THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN - an exotic, isolated, locale (a Tibetan monastery) is under siege by what appears to be a legendary monster (the Yeti) but turns out to be something much worse (in Kneales' case, the monster is Man, remember) - and the affectionate relationship between the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Victoria, both of whom are presented to great effect as robust personalities in their own right (Jamie guesses that the Yeti are artificial very early on in the story). Troughton's genial, avuncular, middle-aged persona (a rejection of Hartnell's brittle, prickly, elderly Doctor) framed a TARDIS crew that was more a family than the ill-assorted bunch of strangers that came later.
The only serious problem is Terrance Dicks who set the tone for his approach to DOCTOR WHO novelisations with this workmanlike effort. The best thing you can say about his writing is that he is literate and can type, because he refuses to build upon the source material. One infamous script gaffe is translated unchallenged - "It's too quiet, Jamie" - and no attempt is made to improve the pacing of the story; people go up the mountain and down it, and then up the mountain again, and . you get the idea.
It does not work as a novel but the audio version does work as an interpretation , carried by the concept and the performer. Those qualities make this unmissable Classic WHO, hence the rating.