Bonus Chapter #3. The Companions of Doctor Who: Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Having left the Doctor behind, Turlough returns to find his home planet changed by revolution and a despotic leader called Rehctaht. Expectations are high for this returning hero – but the young man seems more interested in visiting the planet’s many museums. Only one old friend knows the truth – that Turlough is attempting to build a time machine of his own.

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 00: Prologue
  • 01: Ace
  • 02: Duo
  • 03: Trio
  • 04: 4d
  • 05: Magic
  • 06: Mobile?
  • 07: Transport!
  • 08: New Trion On Trion
  • 09: Juras?
  • 10: Pharix
  • 11: Knave
  • 12: Queen
  • 13: King

Background: Tony Attwood writes an original novel based on the character of Turlough.

Notes: Our first original story for the range and our first introduction from an actor who played a role in the programme. Mark Strickson displays his typical modesty as he compares the character he played on TV with the more rounded version available to the reader here. We’re told a lot of the recent history of Turlough’s home planet, Trion, which had focused on the development of science and technology until their society was torn apart by revolution. A new leader emerged, in the form of Rehctaht, ‘the most dominant unforgiving woman Trion had ever known’, whose reign lasted for seven years (this was published in 1986 and the hideous despot’s name is, of course, ‘Thatcher’ backwards).

Our introduction to Turlough comes through the eyes of a tour guide and – yes! – he’s been able to ditch that school uniform at last:

He was young, barely more than a boy, perhaps twenty years old, no more; taller than average but not excessively so, and dressed more casually than was the current style, fading green trousers, a grubby white T shirt and white running shoes. There was a lean hungry look about him that reminded the guide of an ancient legend she had been read by her mother as a child. It was something about men being dangerous when they have that look…

It’s confirmed that Turlough travelled with the Doctor for two years. His family went into exile after Rehctaht came to power and many of the people who endured her reign see him, a member of one of the old ruling clans, as something of a celebrity. One time trip brings Turlough and his old friend Juras Maateh back to his old school; there’s mention of the obelisk on the hill and of the events of Mawdryn Undead that saw one of his teachers meeting his future self. He tells Juras that he never explored the Doctor’s TARDIS: ‘Why spend time running around inside a machine rather than real worlds?’

Cover: David McAllister provides a fine moody likeness of Turlough, whose head is floating above a space station (that might be very familiar to fans of the Star Trek movies) near a system of planets.

Final Analysis: Turlough was far and away the most under-written companion ever and the character relied hugely on actor Mark Strickson to make him interesting. As the first novel in a proposed new series of original novels, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma manages to capture some of the character’s moral ambiguity but sadly fails to make us care about him or his adventure. It doesn’t help that, free to emerge from the Doctor’s shadow, Turlough is paired with another eccentric Time Lord (‘the Magician’). As with Timelash, so much is told in reportage rather than illustrated through dialogue and I’m afraid the story just didn’t engage my interest at any point. We encounter a race of sentient slugs that aren’t the same sentient slugs we met in The Twin Dilemma but have a position in Trion history that seems to occupy the same space the Tractators might have done. It might appear that Tony Attwood watched one story for research – Mawdryn Undead – but there’s no mention of Turlough’s brother here, no acknowledgement of any of his life beyond his first TV adventure. 

It was, Turlough thought, like watching one of those dreadful adventures so beloved of people on Earth. Everyone knew that the hero would survive and the evil one would at least get caught, if not die. Yet despite this preknowledge the people of Earth still found it enjoyable to share in the game of watching.

Not this time, sadly.

Incidentally, in the introduction, Mark Strickson claims not to have much use for modern technology, though at this point in his life, Mark was still an actor; he retrained, becoming a hugely successful producer of nature documentaries and along the way he discovered the phenomenon that was naturalist Steve Irwin. At a two-day Doctor Who convention in Manchester in the 1990s, Mark was inundated with questions about his travels around the world. He was quite taken aback by the enthusiasm of the audience, bursting with questions about all the deadly species he’d encountered, prompting Mark to reassure the fans rather bashfully that he was more than happy to discuss Doctor Who as well. Sadly, when your guest has encountered real-life sharks, crocodiles and poisonous spiders, the Tractators lose much of their appeal.

2 thoughts on “Bonus Chapter #3. The Companions of Doctor Who: Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986)

  1. I had the honour of interviewing Mark at Icon 2 in 1998. He was a great interviewee and so much fun. I also interviewed him for radio.
    He was a great down to earth guy.
    I haven’t read this book, but it’s interesting to read your review of it. These companions books eluded me my whole life (to date…..)

    Like

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