Chapter 13. Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (1975)

aka Doctor Who – Robot (1992)

Synopsis: As everyone comes to terms with the appearance and behaviour of a brand new Doctor, a robot with conflicting orders is stealing parts for a super-weapon. Sarah Jane Smith investigates an elite scientific research group while new arrival Harry Sullivan tries his hand at playing James Bond.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Killer in the Night
  • 2. Something More than Human
  • 3. Trouble at Thinktank
  • 4. Robot!
  • 5. The Killer Strikes Again
  • 6. Trapped by the Robot
  • 7. The World in Danger
  • 8. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 9. The Battle at the Bunker
  • 10. The Countdown Begins
  • 11. The Kidnapping of Sarah
  • 12. The Giant Terror

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts for the 1974-5 story Robot (snatching the record from The Sea Devils for the shortest gap between broadcast and novelisation publication, at one month and three weeks).

Notes: The regeneration is a lot more involved and emotional than the simple cross-fade seen on telly. It’s told in flashback from the Brigadier’s point of view and it enables Dicks to give us a very brief history of the Brigadier’s relationships with his two previous Doctors.

Suddenly it had been all over. A new man with a new face was lying on the laboratory floor. Like, and yet unlike. Still tall and thin, still with the same rather beaky nose. But a younger man, the face far less lined, a tangle of curly brown hair replacing the flowing white locks.

The Doctor’s recovery takes much longer than on screen. The Doctor’s car, Bessie, is described as ‘an old Edwardian roadster’ (and we’ll see variations of this again over the years). On first seeing the robot, Sarah faints (no, she doesn’t, Terrance! No!). There’s a new scene where UNIT raids Thinktank only to discover they’ve already abandoned their base, while the K1 robot is attacked by RAF jets (as shown on the first cover). And at last, we experience Harry’s first reaction to being inside the Tardis!

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes ushers in a more comic-book style for this cover, which shows the K1 robot attacked by fighter planes on three sides while an inset shows the robot’s giant hand clasped around a screaming Sarah Jane – it’s very reminiscent of King Kong, of course. The logo on the cover now reflects the logo used on screen for the first time, using a version of Bernard Lodge’s design, and for this cover only, the Doctor’s face peers from the ‘O’. No internal illustrations this time, but there’s a two-panel illustration on the rear of the cover depicting the giant robot booting a UNIT jeep into the air. My first edition was the 1979 reprint with the portrait of K1 by Jeff Cummins, which dropped the rear illustration. The 1992 version used Alister Pearson’s painting for the VHS cover, with the K1 robot changing size against a lovely portrait of the Doctor.

Final Analysis: Is this the beginning of the more simplified novelisations? Not much is changed from screen to page but it all flows along nicely without expanding the story to any great degree.

Chapter 12. Doctor Who and the Cybermen (1975)

Synopsis: The Cybermen tried to invade the Earth once but were ‘humiliatingly defeated’. Their second attempt comes via the Moon, where they are already lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack. As the personnel of the Moonbase fall ill one by one, the Doctor and his friends scramble to find the cause.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 2. The Landing on the Moon
  • 3. The Moon Base
  • 4. Attack in the Medical Unit
  • 5. The Space-plague
  • 6. The Doctor Investigates
  • 7. The Cybermen’s Plot
  • 8. The Battle with the Cybermen
  • 9. Victory, perhaps…
  • 10. The March of the Cybermen
  • 11. Into Battle with the Gravitron!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedlar for the 1967 serial The Moonbase.

Notes: We begin with a prologue that’s a potted history of the Cybermen that (in line with later stories but contradicting The Tenth Planet) states that the Cybermen come from Telos. Later on, when discussing Mondas, the Cybermen say they come from ‘the other Cyberman planet, TELOS’. Ben and Polly are from the 1970s now, so they’re familiar with the Apollo Moon landings, although Davis seems to think Ben is still wearing his sailor’s uniform and Polly is in a mini-skirt and tee-shirt. Oh and Jamie is tagged as ‘a little thick, even by 1745 standards’, which seems hugely unfair. There’s a Cyberman with a red line down the front of his chest unit, which Davis draws attention to but doesn’t elaborate on, and a couple of others with black helmets similar to those seen in Revenge of the Cybermen, who have names (as in The Tenth Planet).

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos painted the original cover using a Troughton pic from The Three Doctors and a Cybermen from The Invasion. I had the 1981 reprint with the cover by Bill Donohoe that appears to depict the Cyber-space walk from the end of The Wheel in Space. Illustrations by Alan Willow show the correct Moonbase Cybermen, and the best pic is of Ralph, the Moonbase crewman, staring in horror as (the caption explains) ‘the shadow of a large figure’ looms over him.

Final Analysis: It’s nice when the originators of a story get to give us their version. Davis largely sticks to the story as televised, but he really goes to town with a nautical theme with chapter two’s description of the TARDIS’s dramatic journey to the Moon (‘Like a ship in a heavy sea,’)  including a reference to the TARDIS ‘cabin’, ‘bulkheads’ and ‘deck’. In the prologue there’s a line that ‘although revenge was not a part of their mental makeup any more than the other emotions,’ which I suspect was pushing against Davis’s recent experience with Robert Holmes changing his title (and most of the script) for Tom Baker’s Cyberman adventure.

Chapter 11. Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon (1975)

Synopsis: Alien delegates assemble on the eve of the planet Peladon’s acceptance into a galactic federation. King Peladon balances the superstition of his people and the promises of advancement, but his High Priest, Hepesh, wishes to preserve the Old Ways. The old priest plots to sabotage the King’s ambitions with help from an alien with selfish plans of their own. As the Doctor becomes entwined in the political future of this primitive planet, King Peladon of Peladon makes a proposal to Jo – an allegiance bonded in marriage…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Deadly Guardian
  • 2. Into the Chasm
  • 3. An Enemy from the Past
  • 4. The Doctor Must Die
  • 5. The Attack on Arcturus
  • 6. The Temple of Aggedor
  • 7. Escape to Danger
  • 8. Trial by Combat
  • 9. A Conspiracy of Terror
  • 10. The Battle for the Palace
  • 11. The King’s Avenger

Background: Bryan Hayles adapts his own 1972 scripts. 

Notes: King Peladon’s mother is named (Ellua) and she may have had a passing resemblance to Jo. Alpha Centauri changes colour, like a cuttlefish, to reflect moods. There are a few extra scenes, such as a chat between the Doctor and Ssorg, and another between Jo and Grun, just before the duel. Peladon saves Jo’s life by making sure Jo is not overheard by Hepesh when she criticises him about the Doctor’s trial (Hepesh would certainly call for Jo’s death too) and later, before a statue of Aggedor, Peladon vows to rid his land of all iconography of the beast if the Doctor is killed in the duel.The Doctor is specific about his encounters with the Ice Warriors, telling Jo he’s ‘met them twice so far’.

Cover & Illustrations: The first cover was again by Chris Achileos, a nice montage of the Doctor, Alpha, Aggedor (with smoking nostrils) and Ssorg. Alister Pearson’s 1992 reprint cover shows the Doctor in weirdly beautiful blue-red lighting, the citadel, Arcturus, Ssorg and Aggedor. Alan Willow provides internal illustration again and it’s taken me way too long to realise that he wouldn’t have had access to the tapes, only of selected publicity photos, which is why the likenesses of the guest cast are often so unlike their TV counterparts (here, King Peladon looks suspiciously like Christopher Lee!). His Aggedor is more monstrous and huge than on screen and the arena for the duel between the Doctor and Grun looks like a traditional medieval pageant.

Final Analysis: Bryan Hayles’ first novelisation and the ‘Escape to Danger’ chapter title from The Daleks makes its first appearance in a Target original (though we’ve been close a few times). This is largely a straightforward summary of the TV episode with just a few deviations and elaborations (noted above), but what he does change is for the benefit of the characters, in particular the Martians and Alpha Centauri.

Chapter 10. Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (1974)

Synopsis: Landing the Tardis in Tibet near the Det-sen monastery, the Doctor decides to return a holy relic, which he took receipt of three hundred years before. He’s quickly accused of murder by a zealous explorer called Travers, who’s hunting the legendary Yeti. But the Yeti that are roaming these hills are the real killers – and they’re robots controlled by someone within the monastery. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Secret of the Snows
  • 2. The Creature in the Cave
  • 3. Live Bait to Catch a Monster
  • 4. Jamie Traps a Yeti
  • 5. The Secret of the Inner Sanctum
  • 6. A Yeti Comes to Life!
  • 7. A Plan to Conquer Earth
  • 8. Revolt in the Monastery
  • 9. Attack of the Yeti
  • 10. Peril on the Mountain
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The Abominable Snowman

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the first Second Doctor novelisation based on the scripts by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln.

Notes: Terrance Dicks gets his first go at the Second Doctor, who has ‘a gentle, rather comical face, and a shock of untidy black hair’, while Jamie is ‘a brawny youth in highland dress, complete with kilt’ and Victoria is ‘a small, dark girl dressed in the style of Earth’s Victorian age’. There’s also harkbacks to the origin stories for the companions. He tweaks the Yeti here to make them more like the ferocious ones seen in The Web of Fear, with glowing red eyes and a terrifying roar. He also adjusts a few of the character names, in deference to his Buddhist producer on the TV show, Barry Letts, to avoid using the names of real historical figures, and he expands the backstory of Travers: His nemesis is a Professor Walters); and Travers’ fated friend who’s killed early on (called simply ‘John’ onscreen) is here identified as his best / only friend, known as ‘Mackay’.

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos’s original cover showed a lovely Second Doctor head-shot (taken for The Three Doctors) with a small Jamie and Victoria cowering from a roaring Yeti and the Earth creating a lovely circular frame in the background. I had the 1983 edition with a roaring Yeti in the moonlight up a mountain and both covers used the same photo reference. The illustrations are again by Allan Willow and the standout one is where Jamie and Thomni smash the glowing spheres in the control room; there’s a lovely depth to it with the Doctor and Victoria just visible through the doorway. And that’s the only (tiny) illustration of the Doctor in the entire book.

Final Analysis: This is much more fun than the TV series. It’s largely helped by Dicks choosing to make the Yeti more like they were in the sequel, so they roar and claw and attack, rather than amble about and wiggle a bit. Padmasambvha is a less terrifying creation than on TV, we never forget that he is still a human struggling against the possession of the Great Intelligence, described here as having been ‘exiled’ from ‘another dimension’ (so who kicked him out?!). His final end is rather heartbreaking.