BBC audio CDs will take you to another world...

Doctor Who: The Jade Pyramid (11th Doctor Audio Original) RRP £8.99, £6.29 from

Writer Martin Day conjures a terrific new adventure for the 11th Doctor and his companion, as played by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in the hit BBC One TV series.

This time the Doctor is plunged back centuries into rural, medieval Japan - another world in which all is not as it seems.

The country community is troubled, threatened by the imperial forces who seem intent on snatching its treasure within the Jade Pyramid.

But this being Doctor Who, this is no ordinary treasure, and it is no ordinary guards who protect it.

Characters are sketched in quickly and well in an intriguing tale which hits the ground running. Medieval civilisation comes face to face with infiltrating aliens in a story which romps along effectively, and yet still finds time to offer both heart and soul, with subplots delving into the changing order within the settlement.

Smith reads it with all the energy he has brought to the TV screen; the text is vivid and real in this BBC Tardis of a book which plonks you right where the action is.

Classic Radio Sci-Fi: Journey Into Space: The Host, £11.99 from

Jet Morgan and his crew are confronted with the most mystifying of mysteries in this highly-entertaining BBC Radio 4 full-cast drama, based on the original Journey Into Space radio serial by Charles Chilton.

Perhaps a little bit more exposition somewhere along the line for the incognoscenti might be helpful, but maybe you just don’t need the background.

Suffice to say that Jet & Co, floating around in space, discover the spacecraft of a Russian who’d apparently died years before. Stranger still, he’s still chatting away - within the craft’s computer.

Somehow he’s been reduced to a “personality construct” and treacherously he lures Jet in for an adventure which gets curiouser and curiouser by the minute.

Is the Russian out for his own ends, or could he just possibly be in the innocent victim in all this, a puppet with his strings being pulled by higher and rather more alien beings? You’ll have to listen to find out, but you certainly won’t be disappointed. This is a cracking tale re-enacted with pace and panache - perfect radio fare which leaves the mind free to imagine it all unfurling.

Toby Stephens and David Jacobs are amongst the cast of this exciting adventure, first broadcast in June 2009.

Charles Paris: The Dead Side of the Mic (BBC Radio Crimes), RRP £13.25, £7.29 from

Bill Nighy brings the languid, jaded, washed-up actor-cum-reluctant sleuth teasingly and amusingly to life in this latest adventure, a particularly satisfying mystery which across its four episodes allows plenty of time for the characters to develop.

Snatches of The Rolling Stones et al are all part of the liveliness of the presentation as Paris wanders unthinkingly into another murder, this time that of a BBC editor in the editing suite at Broadcasting House where Paris - in a rare moment of work - has landed himself employment with the BBC radio rep company.

In the background, Paris is having to contend with all the tensions of his estrangement from his wife Frances (Suzanne Burden). Complicating matters still further is his highly-strung and heavily-pregnant daughter. Small wonder he disgraces himself when he gets dragged along to one of her ante-natal classes.

Paris is on firmer territory when it comes to nailing the killer, but even then nothing is simple and the threat of further killings, as he unravels the truth, is ever present.

In truth, there are moments where the plot gets a little convoluted, and the whole thing is a little on the long side, but the advantage of the four-episode format is the little recap subtly slipped in at the start of each half hour - necessary and useful to keep us all on the right track.

Macbeth (Classic Radio Theatre), RRP £13.25, £9.50 from

Macbeth is a tragedy, but just as importantly it’s also a thriller - and it’s this that comes across most strongly in this superb little dip into the BBC Radio archive.

Newly-released, this BBC Radio 4 production from 2000 features Ken Stott as Macbeth and Phyllis Logan as Lady Macbeth, and between them they certainly turn the screw.

Macbeth’s vaulting ambition is evoked as vividly as the opportunities which he snatches and then villainously creates, egged on by a wife who will stop at nothing and fears no consequences in her quest for power.

Richard Eyre is the director, and once again, you sense the sheer power of radio - disembodied voices creating a whole world of menace and murder, nothing standing between you and the brilliance of the language and the clarity of its delivery.

So many people see Shakespeare’s language as some kind of obstacle; it is only so when it is delivered without understanding. Stott and Logan make it come alive, crystal clear at every turn and compelling throughout.

Merchant of Venice (Classic Radio Theatre), RRP £13.25, £9.50 from

It was the role he always had to play, and he plays it magnificently in this deeply-impressive BBC Radio rendition of The Merchant Of Venice.

It’s not an easy play; many would say it is an unpleasant play, difficult to stomach for all sorts of reasons.

But Warren Mitchell makes it compelling indeed, capturing the grievance and the revenge in Shakespeare’s courtroom drama.

Mercy and justice - and not a huge amount of either - go under the spotlight as Shylock rightfully and angrily demands his pound of flesh.

The issues are complex, the emotions even more so, with young lovers threatened and with that strange, strange tale of three caskets.

But the quality of the cast, which also boasts Martin Jarvis, Samuel West and Juliet Aubrey, once again underlines where radio can score at the expense of stage.

The delivery is superb; the disembodied voices allow you to focus all the more fully on meaning, wringing out its every nuance.

However well you know or think you might know the play, this is a production which will make you think again - and most definitely one which grips.