Synopsis: A plague-ridden England leaves its people wary of strangers, so the Doctor and his friends receive a hostile welcome from a group of villagers. Help arrives in the form of Richard Mace, an out-of-work actor. Together they explore a nearby house, its inhabitants nowhere to be found. But hidden behind a secret wall, a wounded Terileptil and his android servant are about to put into motion a plan that could lead to the deaths of millions…
Numbered One to Eleven.
Background: Eric Saward adapts his own scripts just six months after they aired.
Notes: The introduction follows the nocturnal explorations of a fox (and later on, a badger watches events). The chapter expands upon the ill-fated family of the Squire, who is named here ‘Sir John’. Preparing for her return home, Tegan remembers how her favourite aunt was murdered by the Master, but there’s no mention of her possession by the Mara on Kinda, so this doesn’t necessarily follow on from the previous televised story (and while she apologises to Nyssa for being maudlin about her own Aunt, she seems to forget that Nyssa has lost her father, stepmother and every other person she’s ever known, so…).
The Doctor deduces that the aliens are Terileptils thanks to an insignia on the wreck of their craft. The Terileptil leader is over seven feet tall with a head like a small Tyrannosaurus Rex. It has ‘lively, intelligent, magenta eyes’. Yes, plural – the disfigurement is ‘on the left side, a large carbuncle-like growth and heavy scarring that covered his whole cheek’. That’s left as you look at it, not his left, and doesn’t include a missing eye. When the android enters her bedroom, Nyssa plays dead to avoid it from shooting her. As the Doctor and his friends catch up with the Terileptil leader, he is ‘seated at a desk… pen in hand, writing’.
Cover: The first of the photo covers and it’s pretty bland, just a standard portrait of Peter Davison in costume outside the TARDIS, with a flash announcing ‘A BBC TV PROGRAMME WITH PETER DAVISON AS THE DOCTOR’. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover has an unusually cheerful Doctor accompanied by the android (holding his death mask), the Terileptil leader and a soliton gas device against a backdrop of a burning London skyline. In a reversal of fortune, a 2016 BBC Books reprint gave us Chris Achilleos replacing Alister Pearson, with an illustration of the android as Death, the Terileptil and a disappointing likeness of the Doctor. It tries to recapture the glory of Achilleos’ earlier works but it doesn’t really work, sadly.
Final Analysis: This is a curious warning of things to come: Saward puts a lot of effort into depicting some scenes, perhaps through the viewpoint of an owl or fox, but when we reach the regular cast there’s no attempt to describe them. The author seems to be unconcerned that some readers might not have seen the TV episodes yet, so although followers of the book range might know Adric, they won’t know how Nyssa or Tegan came to join the TARDIS. This is especially criminal when it comes to the Doctor – this is the first story to feature the fifth incarnation. In the early chapters, Saward has a lot of fun building the setting, but this peters out towards the end and it becomes very Dicks-like in its straightforward transcription of onscreen events. It’s a solid enough adaptation though and the Terileptil leader is an imposing presence.