Chapter 36. Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin (1977)

Synopsis: The Time Lords of Gallifrey enjoy immense power, living in isolation from the rest of the universe. On the day that the President of the Time Lords is expected to announce his successor, security is tight! Yet somehow, an obsolete and unauthorised time capsule – a TARDIS – has landed right in the heart of the Capitol. Its owner, a criminal called the Doctor, is nowhere to be found. Then the President is assassinated – and the Doctor is found holding the gun. But could there really be two rogue Time Lords at play? Soon, the future of the Time Lords will depend on a battle of wits between two bitter rivals – and it will be a fight to the death.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Vision of Death
  • 2. The Secret Enemy
  • 3. Death of a Time Lord
  • 4. Trapped
  • 5. The Horror in the Gallery
  • 6. Into the Matrix
  • 7. Death by Terror
  • 8. Duel to the Death
  • 9. The End of the Evil
  • 10. The Doomsday Plan
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The End – and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s 1976 scripts.

Notes: That epic crawl from the start of the TV version is dropped, though its main details are absorbed into the rest of the book. In his youth, the Doctor trained for a seat on the High Council on Gallifrey, but he grew frustrated at the ‘never-ending ceremonials and elaborately costumed rituals’ and the ‘endless accumulation of second-hand knowledge that would never be used’. The Doctor recalls ‘boyhood memories of forbidden games, of hide-and-seek’, while the spark that sent him to flee Gallifrey is described as ‘a final crisis’. Dicks builds in vague gaps in the story deliberately, as none of this completely contradicts other explanations for why he left Gallifrey, but it does add to his possible reasons. There are a few references to ‘the Omega crisis’ and the ‘Omega file’ [see The Three Doctors]. The Doctor’s TARDIS control room is in the more traditional configuration, with a console that has a column at the centre (the one on telly is the wooden one without a central column).

The large dome at the heart of the Capitol (not actually seen on TV until 2007) houses the Panopticon. Spandrell is ‘unusually broad and muscular for a Time Lord’ and Goth is ‘tall, handsome, immensely impressive in his elaborate robes’. Goth is now head of the Prydonians, with Borusa elevated to the status of ‘High Cardinal’. The captain of the Guard is Hildred (not Hilred). Runcible and the Doctor had been at school together, where Runcible had been ‘utterly fascinated by rituals and traditions’. Now, he’s a ‘small plump figure’ unlike his onscreen depiction. When the hypnotised guard, Solis, tries to wreck the APN cables, Spandrell shoots him repeatedly. 

The villain at the heart of the tale was revealed in the end credits but it wasn’t spelled out until the Doctor saw the shrunken corpse of the cameraman and realised who he was up against. For the reader, Dicks teases the identity and after his accomplice calls him ‘Master’, he starts to use this as the villain’s title, but it’d still be fairly easy for a new reader to wonder if this is the Master, or just a master, especially as this Master is even more gruesome than on telly:

The cracked, wizened skin, stretched tight over the skull, one eye almost closed, the other wide open and glaring madly. It was like the face of death itself.

Later, the Master’s ‘bloodless lips [draw] back in a smile of hatred. The Doctor describes his enemy to Borusa thus:

He was always a criminal, sir, throughout all his lives. Constant pressure, constant danger. Accelerated regenerations used as disguise… He was simply burnt out.

During the trial, the Doctor interjects to confirm that the witness, an elderly Time Lord, can hear loud voices, thereby disputing the prosecution’s claim that he misheard the Doctor’s cries of ‘They’ll kill him’.

Cover: The decaying Master leers from the top of the cover, while a stern-looking Doctor, flanked by two Time Lords in ceremonial robes and collars, looks off to the side. I can scarcely believe this is by Mike Little, it’s a huge step up from his previous efforts. 

Final Analysis: Not much to add to this, to be honest; it’s a straightforward adaptation, which is going to be the norm for a while now. Dick adds a few little details here and there, so as is often the case, it’s just a matter of scale – the Panopticon houses many more Time Lords from many other chapters than we could see on telly – but doesn’t change anything too much. When he’s working from scripts by his pal Robert Holmes, perhaps he doesn’t feel the need or the inclination.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s