Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

Synopsis: A new planet appears in Earth’s solar system. The Doctor seems to know what it is and what will happen next. The planet, which bears a striking similarity to Earth, is home to a race of plastic and metal beings called ‘Cybermen’. As Ben and Polly help the staff of an Antarctic tracking station to fight off the invaders, the Doctor prepares for his final adventure. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1 The Space Tracking Station
  • 2 Disaster in Space
  • 3 The New Planet
  • 4 Mondas!
  • 5 The Cyberman Invasion
  • 6 Ben into Action
  • 7 Battle in the Projection Room
  • 8 Two Hundred and Fifty Spaceships
  • 9 Z-Bomb Alert!
  • 10 Prepare to Blast Off
  • 11 Cybermen in Control
  • 12 Resistance in the Radiation Room
  • 13 The Destruction of Mondas!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the 1966 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: The book begins with a summary of the creation of the Cybermen, claiming they originated on the planet Telos before taking refuge on the ‘lost sister planet of Earth – Mondas’. An American called Tito is reading a Captain Marvel comic (presumably a vintage edition as the character didn’t have a comic of his / her own in either 1986 or 2000). Although this is only the third TV adventure for Ben and Polly, it’s suggested that they’ve been on many uneventful journeys since they joined the Doctor. Continuity from Davis’s Doctor Who and the Cybermen is preserved, as Ben and Polly are from the early 1970s, not the mid-60s, so Ben can recognise a Roger Moore Bond film that he saw for the first time a few weeks before he joined the Doctor’s travels (very possibly The Man with the Golden Gun, which would mean the Doctor’s young friends are from 1974). And yes, Polly discovers they’re in the more futuristic year 2000 (not 1986 as in the original. At the time of writing, the year 2000 is over 20 years in my past!). The Cybermen use a ‘short silver baton-like object’ for a weapon, rather than the cumbersome lamps hooked onto their chest units as on screen. The Cyberleader from the second wave has a ‘black impassive mask’ (similar to Revenge of the Cybermen and Doctor Who and the Cybermen), The regeneration scene is so different that it upset some fan reviewers at the time.

Cover: Chris Achilleos makes up for the monochrome Cybermen and snowy setting by placing them in front of a vivid aurora background that’s really thrilling. There’s also an illustration on the rear cover of a Cyberman firing a blast from its headlamp (something that doesn’t actually happen in the TV series for 51 years) and a defiant first Doctor inset. The 1993 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is almost symmetrical, with a saggy-looking Cyberman on each side, the first full-face shot of a Cyberman from the cliffhanger of episode 1 and a mid-length portrait of Hartnell from The Celestial Toymaker. It’s very tidy but not that dramatic, sadly.

Final Analysis: Davis handles the Doctor’s departure much better than circumstances allowed in the TV production (where Hartnell’s illness led to him missing episode 3 with just a few days’ notice). He seeds the Doctor’s illness and frailty beautifully. 

Was it Ben’s imagination, or had the Doctor’s hair gone a shade whiter and finer during the last few hours? His skin, which looked as transparent as old parchment, was stretched tightly over his prominent cheek bones.

I have to note the use of outdated terms to describe a couple of black characters (Williams is described as ‘a tall, handsome American negro of about thirty’), while also commending that the characters were there in the first place at a time where multicultural casting was still rare. Whether this was originally scripted or down to the casting by director Derek Martinus is another matter.

The slow, steady breakdown of Cutler as he struggles with the pressure of his son’s peril helps to elevate the later chapters from the absence of the Cybermen. But having built up the Doctor’s demise so subtly throughout the book, it’s surprising that the actual change happens out of sight of Ben and Polly. Emerging from a sarcophagus in the control room, the old Doctor has disappeared and in his place is a much younger man:

The stranger looked at him in slight surprise. ‘You ask me that, Ben? Don’t you recognise me?’
The Doctor’s two companions shook their heads.
‘I thought it was quite obvious,’ Again, he smiled his gently mocking smile and winked at them with his bluegreen eyes. ‘Allow me to introduce myself then. I am the new Doctor!’

6 thoughts on “Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

  1. Given its first published in 1976, there had been 3 on screen regenerations, the way this one is carried out seems very peculiar. We had already had 2 physical transformations on screen yet this one takes place in a box!
    Never mind it’s still a good book, I remember as a kid feeling special reading it as mine was a 1984 edition with no back illustration, and The Last Thrilling Adventure of the First Doctor on the back.

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    1. I get the impression that Davis wanted it to be clearer why Ben thought this Doctor might be an imposter, even an invader of the TARDIS, since Ben didn’t see the Doctor’s face change before Ben’s very eyes. But as Power of the Daleks wasn’t novelised until a long time afterwards, there’s not really much point in it (bar letting us remember Ben as a bit less stupid!).

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  2. When I read this as a 14 year-old in 1984 (or rather read the ending in the bookshop… I don’t think I actually read the novelization for another couple of years! I bought The War Games instead.) I concluded “That must have been how they did it in the 1960s so they didn’t have to show an onscreen regeneration.”. Imagine my surprise to see the telesnaps for Power of the Daleks and discover, no it actually happened more or less like it did for all the other Doctors!

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  3. Don’t the Cybermen fire shots from their “headlamps” in Revenge of the Cybermen, stunning Tom’s Doctor when they first appear through the airlock? And later at the Vogans in the caves. Though these are more like muzzle-flashes than rays, of course.

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  4. Just reading this for the first time!

    There’s a lot to love, and some confusing stuff.

    Not sure about a Z -Bomb turning another planet into a sun that’s gonna supernova.

    However what I do love is how gleefully brutal the descriptions of the first victims of the Cybermen are. All cracked skulls and blood soaked snow, glorious!

    There’s a really cracking pace to this story as is with a lot of the books it’s quite a bit tighter than it’s tv cousin.

    Liked by 1 person

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