Synopsis: Troops from Androzani Major are losing in a war against the android soldiers of Sharaz Jek, an arms trader who controls his operations from deep within the catacombs of the twin planet Androzani Minor. Driven by revenge, Jek has a stranglehold over the supply of spectrox, a substance that, when refined, is a much-valued elixir. In its raw state, however, it can be a deadly poison. And both the Doctor and Peri are already suffering from the effects of spectrox toxaemia. Can the Doctor hold off an impending regeneration long enough to rescue Peri and get them both to safety?
- 1. Androzani Minor Revisited
- 2. Spectrox War
- 3. The Execution
- 4. Sharaz Jek
- 5. The Escape
- 6. The Magma Beast
- 7. Spy!
- 8. The Boss
- 9. Crash Down
- 10. Mud Burst
- 11. Takeover
- 12. Change
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for a serial broadcast eight months earlier. This followed Planet of Fire on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.
Notes: Androzani Major and Minor are two of the five planets that make up the Sirius system. Peri gets her very own Terrance Dicks summary, she’s ‘an attractive American girl, her piquant features framed in short dark hair.’ She considers the Doctor’s interest in everything to be one of his ‘endearing and aggravating characteristics’, which might indicate that they’ve been together for some time, even though soon after she says that the mud of Androzani Major would make ‘a change from lava’, which would suggest this is her first trip since Sarn – or they’ve visited a lot of volcanic locations. We’re shown what happened to Trooper Boze (a scene only recounted on TV in reported speech by the android Salateen) and the reference to ‘Chacaws’ is explained; they’re a ‘fiercely-spiked fruit grown on the penal plantations of Androzani Major’, which leave the chacaw pickers covered in scars.
The Magma Beast is the recipient of this volume’s ‘let’s beef up the monster’ award:
The body resembled that of a giant tortoise, or perhaps an armadillo, though the creature stalked upright on two powerful back legs, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The massive fanged head was like that of a tyrannosaurus too, though it also bore two ferocious-looking horns. The powerful arms were short and stubby, ending in two enormous claws. As the monster stalked forwards, the massive carapace, at once protection and camouflage, covered the back of its body like an armoured cloak.
When the Doctor finds the beast dead, he surmises that it was caught in a mud burst and ‘either choked or boiled to death’. Sharaz Jek removes his mask to reveal ‘two mad eyes blazing from a face that was no more than a formless blob, a lump of peeling corrugated skin, devoid of all features’. He strangles Morgus until he’s dead (rather than shoving his head into the laser of one of his machines).
Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s cover shows Sharaz Jex clutching his mask forlornly while an explosion overhead has a blurred and very subtle approximation of the sixth Doctor’s face. A 1992 reprint uses the VHS cover, again by Skilleter, which shows the fifth Doctor, Sharaz Jek (inset), some androids and the twin Androzani planets.
Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks is back, working on his friend Robert Holmes’s most popular story – and doesn’t put a foot wrong. He adds little details to help build upon the societies Holmes created, puts in a few extra bits to bridge gaps – and unlike the omissions by Bidmead in Logopolis, he describes the onscreen visions of the Doctor’s past companions and the Master’s taunting. It’s the idea that the Master might literally get the last laugh that propels him towards choosing to survive. And so, once again, Terrance gets to describe the first moments of a new Doctor:
He had a broad, high forehead and a mop of curly light-brown hair. There was something cat-like about the eyes, a touch of arrogance in the mouth.