Chapter 47. Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor is unwell, fighting off an alien virus that is trying to possess him. Heading to a hospital in deep space, the Doctor meets Professor Marius and his robot dog K9, who eagerly assists Leela in fighting off an army of infected people. Realising they need to take the fight to the cause of the infection, the Doctor and Leela are cloned, miniaturized and injected inside the Doctor’s brain to find the nucleus of the virus before it can take hold permanently and use the Doctor to spread its swarm throughout the galaxy.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Contact
  • 2. The Host
  • 3. Death Sentence
  • 4. Foundation
  • 5. Counter-Attack
  • 6. The Clones
  • 7. Mind Hunt
  • 8. Interface
  • 9. Nucleus
  • 10. The Antidote
  • 11. The Hive
  • 12. Inferno

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the scripts for a 1977 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin; that’s three consecutive books to be based on their scripts.

Notes: Terrance Dicks was using the very latest information available, so the reference to Saturn having ten moons is based on the discovery of Janus in 1966. In 1978, it was suspected that Janus shared its orbit with another moon – named Epimetheus – a theory confirmed two years later by the Voyager probe, which also revealed three more moons. It’s now believed that Saturn has over 80 satellites, plus many others embedded within its rings. Considering the definitions of ‘Moon’ and ‘Planet’ have shifted repeatedly in the last 40 years, we can therefore accept that the narrator of this book is using a classification of a significant size of satellite that was common in the year 5000. Or that something terrible happened to Epimetheus or Janus. So there.

The Doctor has high regard for Leela, despite his teasing of her as a savage, and has apparently shown her the basics of TARDIS piloting – and she’s retained the training enough to input coordinates, despite otherwise struggling with general levels of technology. Professor Marius came to the BI-AL foundation from the New Heidelberg University. Growing bored waiting for news of the Doctor, Leela explores the station, bypassing the lifts because she doesn’t trust them and scaling numerous flights of stairs before she finds the Doctor’s ward.

We’re introduced to the legendary K-9, who is a ‘squat metallic creature’ that looks like ‘a kind of squared-off metal dog’, with a ‘computer display screen for eyes, and antennae for ears and tail’.

Dicks manages to work around the visuals of the nucleus of the swarm, which, at micro-scale has ‘waving antennae, glistening wet red flesh, and a bulbous black eye that seemed to swivel to and fro’, while the version in the macro-world is rather unpleasant:

A horrible, incredible shape [which] was filling the booth. It was blood-red in colour and was as big as a man with a bony glistening body and lashing tentacles. The huge black bulbous eyes swivelled malevolently around the ward.

… and definitely not a giant prawn.

The virus tries to reinfect the Doctor through Marius and when it fails, the Doctor is full of glee. Marius gains help from the entire surviving staff at the Foundation in preparing the antidote samples. Back on Titan, the nucleus swells to an enormous size while its hatching brood look like ‘huge, malevolent dragonflies’.

Cover: A rather lovely portrait of the Doctor with the nucleus of the swarm in the background, courtesy of Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: The opening scene adds a very subtle message that the people of the future are trained for their jobs, but then their environments are controlled so extensively by technology that they’re never required to put any of that training into practice. We also get a decent paragraph that explains the back-history behind Marius’s casual use of the term ‘spaceniks’. Once again though, it’s the little details added to give the monster of the week a greater sense of scale and menace than they could have achieved onscreen.

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