Synopsis: Three different groups await the arrival of a meteor as it passes the Earth for the first time in 25 years: A 17th-Century witch and her servant; an army of fanatics led by an elderly war criminal; and a unit of tall, silver, cybernetic men. The Doctor has also expected the meteor’s arrival, for it contains a terrible weapon – the Nemesis. The Doctor must influence events to make sure the Nemesis falls into the right hands – but even with an Ace up his sleeve, can he defeat a player who has decided to change the rules of the game?
Numbered One to Eleven.
Background: Kevin Clarke adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial.
Notes: Kevin Clarke dedicated the book to ‘DHF Somerset’, the then-chief cashier of the Bank of England, whose signature appeared on bank notes at the time. The first chapter opens with a very cheeky line:
The closer one travels towards it from the cold silent darkness of infinite space, the more the planet Earth appears as a backcloth to some small theatrical performance taking place on a limited budget.
[See The Ambassadors of Death for more on the ‘darkness of infinite space’]. The scene at the jazz gig takes place in late summer. The musician whose gig the Doctor and Ace attend is, in the Doctor’s opinion, ‘the most exciting musical discovery since John Coltrane’ (and on screen was played by Courtney Pine). The Doctor claims to have met and influenced Louis Armstrong. The Cybermen’s henchmen are ‘twins’. By 1988, Lady Peinforte’s house has been converted into the Princess of Wales Burger Bar. The Doctor and Ace travel by TARDIS from an afternoon in late summer to the early hours of 23 November the same year, at the same point that Lady Peinforte and Richard arrive and the Nemesis statue lands. The meteorite lands inside a building site. The Cyberman’s ship is ‘disc-shaped’.
The previous time the Doctor was with the Nemesis, he was under attack by Lady Peinforte and ‘agents of the Inquisition’ (on TV he says it was the Roundheads). Peinforte doesn’t initially recognise the Doctor but quickly deduces that his face has changed – ‘The wench’s too’ (so the original Doctor had a female companion). One of the police officers who was knocked out by the nerve gas survives the attack and witnesses the Cybermen, their two controlled thugs and the statue disappear (they walk up into the space ship, which is camouflaged).
One of the skinheads wields a ‘ninja fighting stick’, which ends up being used to tie his feet to suspend him from a tree branch. The American tourist who offers Lady Peinforte a lift is called Lavinia P Hackensack of Connecticut, not Mrs. Remington of Virginia. Ace’s battle with the Cybermen takes place back at the building site where the Nemesis meteorite landed; she spends some time keeping the Cybermen distracted while the Doctor does his calculations using an abacus. The Doctor tells the Cyber Leader that he cannot hand the Nemesis statue over to him and when the Leader becomes riled, the Doctor mocks him for showing emotions and being ‘defective’. The final scene takes place in a pub garden in 1988, not Richard’s time; Ace has taught Richard how to get served at the bar and he returns laden with drinks.
Cover: The back cover text on the first edition stated: ‘This story celebrates 25 years of Doctor Who on television’. Alister Pearson painted the original and reprint versions of the cover, both of which feature a subtle swastika in the design (Pearson claimed in an interview for DWB that he started work on the original cover on Hitler’s birthday, but the interview was full of exaggerations and apocryphal tales largely for Pearson’s own amusement so this might not be true). The first cover shows the Doctor with a smirk on his face, the Cyberleader, Ace and the Nemesis encased in rock. For the 1993 reprint, Ace is in attack mode with her catapult (really impressive, this pose) on the opposite side to the Cyberleader, while a more sombre Doctor holds up his question-mark umbrella in front of Lady Peinforte’s tomb.
Final Analysis: We often find that authors who have just the one entry in the Doctor Who library tend to throw everything they have at their text. In places, Kevin Clarke gets a little purple with his prose (as the excerpt from the opening chapter above shows). It’s a shame then to reach the climax and have to reread the paragraph where Lady Peinforte joins with the Nemesis statue, as it feels like a summary of what happens on screen without any real explanation as to why it’s happening.
There was a blinding flash of radiant light as Lady Peinforte and the statue shimmered and then coalesced. The rockets fired and the statue of Nemesis was launched once again to return into space.
Seriously – what?
We realised with the TV version that the mystery surrounding the Doctor wouldn’t be answered and it was largely just one huge tease, but here it’s almost glossed over as Clarke rushes to get to the final page. There’s no additional insight into what any of the interested parties want to do with the Nemesis and as a consequence the story merely fizzles out. In some aspects, it’s a very traditional novelisation, transposing the script to prose, but without any of the additional nuances we might have gained from Terrance Dicks or any other author.