Synopsis: Caught in a time trap, the Doctor, Romana and K9 have to find the key to break out of a repeating cycle of actions. When they eventually reach their destination, the jungle planet Tigella, the Doctor is immediately accused of stealing the Dodecahedron, the source of the Tigellans’ power and a holy relic to the religious Deons. It seems there’s a doppelganger on the loose and the Doctor must pay for the crimes of Meglos – the last Zolpha Thuran.
- 1. Abduction of an Earthling
- 2. The Deons
- 3. The Screens of Zolfa-Thura
- 4. Time Loop
- 5. The Double
- 6. The Impossible
- 7. Prisoner of the Gaztaks
- 8. The Attack
- 9. The Sacrifice
- 10. The Reprieve
- 11. The Ultimate Weapon
- 12. Final Countdown
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for the 1980 serial by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch. This release completes the stories in Target’s library for Season 18, also making it the shortest gap between first and last stories to be novelised in a season (ten books). Furthermore, that’s the last novelisation of a Fourth Doctor TV story we’ll see this century.
Notes: The first chapter takes a disturbing turn as it speculates that the results of numerous gangland killings have been buried underneath various newly built motorways. It also introduces ‘the Earthling’, who’s named George Morris; a predictable, mild-mannered assistant bank manager of a country branch who finds himself kidnapped by a band of aliens. For (almost) the final time [see The Five Doctors], Terrance Dicks gives us a lovely little description of this Doctor:
At this time in his lives, he was a very tall man with wide staring eyes and a mop of curly hair. Much of the time he wore a long elegant coat, something between overcoat and smoking jacket, made of some reddish, velvety material and cut in a vaguely Edwardian style.
Romana is ‘a fair-haired, classically good-looking young woman with an impressively high forehead and an air of aristocratic hauteur’. At the start, K9 is still out of action after his ‘rash dip in the sea’ in The Leisure Hive.
Oops! Terrance Dicks describes the dodecahedron as ‘five-sided’ (the clue’s in the name) so that it correlates with the five screens of Zolpha Thura – each face has five edges, which isn’t the same thing. Zolpha Thurans were ‘scientists of a particularly brilliant kind’ who developed the ability to take control of other beings and disguise their own vegetable forms and explore the universe. For once, the Doctor is able to steer the TARDIS successfully, so George Morris makes it home on time and decides not to tell his wife what happened. As she started hitting the sherry 20 minutes before he stepped through the door, this is probably a good idea.
Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us another very straightforward but moody composition of Bill Fraser as General Grugger and Tom Baker as a thorny Meglos; it’s rather beautiful in its simplicity. There have been a few close calls with Chris Achilleos, but Andrew Skilleter here grabs a record as the first artist to provide a first-edition cover for every story in a single season. Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 reprint is a much brighter affair, with Meglos and the Doctor hovering above the Dodecahedron.
Final Analysis: So farewell then, Fourth Doctor, as we reach the end of your Target library [but see book 153]. Terrance makes a few adjustments and explains the bigger gulfs in logic to make this a rather jolly adventure; even the threat of being crushed under huge rocks seems rather mild. It successfully maintains the feeling of mild jeopardy where the main threat comes not from the malignant cactus but the blind obedience to dogma and plain stupidity. Dicks’ depiction of Brotodac as almost childlike is a particular highlight, though sadly he omits the scene where Grugger gives K9 a savage kick.