Synopsis: The Master’s up to no good in an English village, posing as both a vicar and the leader of a satanic cult. The Doctor and Jo appear on TV and they take on the Master, a gargoyle and an ancient god – with the help of UNIT and a self-proclaimed white witch.
- 1. The White Witch
- 2. The New Vicar
- 3. The Opening of the Barrow
- 4. The Appearance of the Beast
- 5. The Heat Barrier
- 6. Meetings
- 7. Explanations
- 8. The Second Appearance
- 9. Into Danger
- 10. The Third Appearance
- 11. The Rescue
- 12. Into the Cavern
- 13. The Sacrifice
Background: Barry Letts adapts the 1971 scripts he co-wrote with Robert Sloman as ‘Guy Leopold’.
Notes: An early manifestation of Azal is much more dramatic, involving the death of the verger. Benton recalls earlier adventures with the cybermen, Axons and the daffodil-touting autons, none of which have been novelised by this point, while Jo recalls her first meeting with the Master as seen on TV but which flatly contradicts the books so far. We also get the first revelation that the Doctor and the Master were schoolfriends – and that the Doctor wasn’t a particularly keen student. Azal reveals that his race were responsible for the dispassionate destruction of all life on the planets Talkur and Yind. The character of Stan Wilkins is new to the book, on TV he’s just a nameless acolyte in the coven who recognises that the Master is evil and tries to save Jo and the Doctor. His courage serves to make Jo’s attempted self-sacrifice all the braver. Stan also gets to review events with ‘mixed feelings’ in the epilogue; while he acknowledges the number of people who’ve died, he also realises that he’ll inherit his uncle’s garage and be able to care for his ‘Mam’.
Cover & Illustrations: The original cover was by Chris Achilleos following the now-familiar formula of the Doctor’s face with a head-shot of Azal and a teeny Bok. Internal illustrations are by Alan Willow. There’s a lovely drawing of Jo back against an ivy-covered wall (that’s based on a photo from The Sea Devils), but Azal and Bok are both faithfully reproduced. My first cover was the 1980 reprint with a portrait by Andrew Skilleter of Azal in the cavern, while the 1993 reprint used Alister Pearson’s VHS cover, with an almost-Celtic cross that shows the Doctor and Master both in half-portrait, Azal at the top and Bok at the bottom against a sunburn-pink background.
Final Analysis: Barry Letts adapts the scripts well, so it’s surprising this is his only novelisation of a TV story (though it’s not his only entry in this blog – as you’ll find out in about 146 chapters). It enhances what was possible on telly but doesn’t elaborate vastly; the prologue is just everything that happens on TV before the Doctor appears, where Mac Hulke might have given us an insight into Azal’s arrival on Earth. Azal gets a better motivation to implode though – being both confused by Jo’s illogical actions and on the verge of death anyway. We do gain some lovely insight into the Squire (a minor character on TV), who is perplexed by his regular headaches that always arrive the morning after a night in the pub. And the lead character is referred to as ‘Doctor Who’, right at the start of the first chapter.