IT is somewhat fitting that the release of this latest audio reading of a Target Books Who novelisation should coincide with the sad death of Mary Tamm, who was very much at the forefront of this particular story, portraying as she does the Time Lady Romana, the Taran noble the Princess Strella and their respective android doubles.

In a story which makes no attempt to hide its inspirations in The Prisoner of Zenda, we have a remarkable tale of android duplicates and courtly intrigue, all caught up in the quest for the fourth segment of the Key to Time, an all-powerful device which needs to be assembled to restore universal harmony.

The Fourth Doctor is in a particularly irreverent mood, declaring his intentions to enjoy a spot of fishing instead of fulfilling his obligations in the quest, leaving Romana to find the next segment and almost immediately be captured by the charming Count Grendel of Gracht, who mistakes her for an android copy of her lookalike Strella.

With the Doctor recruited by Grendel’s rival, Prince Reynart, to help with his own bid for the throne of Tara, what follows is a series of increasingly complex encounters involving doubles both android and organic, with everybody getting more and more confused about who exactly they’re dealing with. However, it’s all handled with wit and verve, leaving the listener completely immersed in one of the stand-out stories from this period of the show’s long history.

Tara is a fascinating mix of hi-tech and high court, its middle European sensibility caught up in power games involving android doppelgangers, with the conventions of the swashbuckling romp twisted by these contrasts.

After his recent new novelisation of The Stones of Blood, writer David Fisher is back with a follow-up, once again taking the opportunity to pen his own interpretation of his television script after missing the chance back in the 1970s when Target Books gave it to Terrence Dicks.

Again he succeeds in fleshing out his world and characters, adding background details which were lacking on-screen, and shaping a version of the story which does not disappoint at any level.

The voice of K9, actor John Leeson, provides a perfect reading of the narrative, ably switching between the different characters as well as his tradition role as the Doctor’s metal dog, and there is the usual use of music and sound effects to add to the experience.

A highly recommended addition to the Target Books audio range.