Synopsis: After the Black Guardian coerces Turlough into sabotaging the TARDIS, Nyssa escapes the craft via a temporary back door that leads directly onto a nearby spacecraft – but it’s a plague ship heading to the space station Terminus. Though Terminus promises a cure for Lazar Disease, this is a myth. Nyssa decides to help find a cure, while suspecting that she herself has already fallen victim to the disease. Meanwhile, the Doctor makes an interesting discovery – one that might threaten the existence of the entire universe.
Chapter Titles: No chapters again, just a steady flow of prose.
Background: Once more using the John Lydecker pseudonym, Steve Gallagher adapts his own scripts from the TV story that aired just short of four months earlier. The book was slightly longer than a normal Target book (159 pages) and the cover price was a little higher.
Notes: As she gives Turlough a tour of his new home, Tegan begins to suspect the TARDIS interior redesigns itself when nobody’s looking. She’s unhappy that their new arrival has been given Adric’s old room and is also unsettled by the way Turlough is completely unfazed by the TARDIS. Alone, Turlough practices an explanation for the Black Guardian’s crystal – here it’s a cube – considering it could be an heirloom from a great uncle and then realises he has no idea if he even has a great uncle. The crystal is keyed into Turlough’s ‘mindwave’, so only he can activate it. The Doctor identifies the problem caused by Turlough’s sabotage as a fault in the TARDIS matrix, which holds the ship together. Turlough uses the beads from Nyssa’s discarded abacus to plot a trail through the spaceship, only to learn that a maintenance robot has picked them all up. He also mulls over the idea of killing Tegan and blaming it on an accident.
Kari and Olvir spend hours in hypnosis to memorise their mission and this is Olvir’s first time in a landing party. Olvir told people he became a raider after his family lost everything after the ‘fire storms on Hagen’; in reality it was the cost of trying to find a cure for his sister’s Lazar infection and the shame of this that inspired his deception. The Garm comes from a planet with high radiation, so it’s protected against the effects of Terminus.
As Nyssa prepares to leave, the Doctor thinks about all his past companions:
It had happened before and it would happen again, and it seemed that the loss of every member of his ever-changing team took a little piece of him away with them. They were spread through time and through space, all of them reshaped and given new insights through their travels. Their loss wasn’t too bad a price to pay… not when they gave him a kind of immortality.
Cover: Another feeble photo montage, as the Doctor shows off his new jumper, the Black Guardian appears to be checking him out. This was the first of the novels to show its number in the Target Doctor Who library on the spine (the previous two releases had them inside on the title page, where this one… doesn’t). The earlier books were retroactively numbered in alphabetical order.
Final Analysis: This is a lot more straightforward than Gallagher’s first novelisation, but as before, he really captures the regular characters very well – particularly the cold pragmatism of Turlough versus the hot-headed brashness of Tegan; both know they’re playing a game, but only Turlough knows the true stakes. In a similar way to Terrance Dicks’ habit of tidying up lose ends, the conclusion suggests that the Doctor doesn’t simply dash off at the end. He’s already decided to leave decontamination equipment with the Vanir – he can’t reverse the radiation damage they’ve suffered but it might slow the effects. He also urges Valgard to use publicity to change perceptions about their work with the patients: ‘Forget the shame and the mystery, and emphasize the treatment.’ It all helps to cushion the blow of Nyssa’s departure, knowing that he and Tegan aren’t saying goodbye to her as abruptly as it might have appeared on TV.