Writer: Bernard Venables
Exploration Earth was an education BBC radio programme designed to teach students about geography. The third episode, The Time Machine took the form of a brief Doctor Who adventure, where the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) involuntarily travel in the T.A.R.D.I.S back in time to various stages of planet Earth’s early development. Obviously it’s a unique and slightly odd Who story, being so short and designed for basic education, but on the whole it is reasonably well-made, considering that it is the first ever original Who audio drama.
Unsurprisingly the script is poor and contrived but that can be forgiven. Less forgivable are the bizarre, random excerpts of music and/or sound effects (Dick Mills) and the silly, simple and unexplained concept of a ‘telepathic battle’ between the Doctor and the Megron (John Westbrook), inserted basically for the sake of giving the piece a villain, which of course presents the issue of how to get rid of him again. Nonetheless the general concept of chaos gradually forming order makes a basic but very successful storyline for an educational episode. Perhaps more surprising still is the quality of the acting! None of the three actors seem to put in any less effort for the small restricted target audience and they come off very well in audio – yet it was Baker’s last audio appearance as the Doctor for decades! If indeed it is still (or ever has been) on sale as an individual episode, it is not exactly worth paying for (unless of course it is for the educational purpose for which it was made), but for what it is I was pleasantly surprised.