Bonus chapter #9. Doctor Who – Mission to Magnus (1990)

Synopsis: The TARDIS is drawn off course and when the culprit is revealed to be a terrifying figure from the Doctor’s past, the Time Lord suddenly starts to act like a frightened child – much to Peri’s surprise. The setting for this unwelcome reunion is the planet Magnus, which is ruled by a female elite. Soon, the Doctor’s woes are increased as Magnus becomes the target for a plot hatched by more of his enemies – the repellant Sil and the Ice Warriors!

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Fifteen.

Background: Philip Martin writes an original novel based on scripts intended for the original season 23 before it was cancelled.

Notes: Anzor is a Time Lord, the son of a former ‘council leader’ and a notorious bully while at the Academy. His TARDIS is a Gallifreyan Council ship, which has an ’emergency compulsion facility’ that allows it to swap places in time and space with another TARDIS. He has a weapon he calls a ‘galvanizer’, which is a ‘short blue rod with a glowing orange tip’. He is said to resemble a ‘cadaverous yellow skull’:

… the screen cleared to reveal the image of a gloomy looking face with a long nose, the eyes of an angry ferret and wearing a top hat whose brim was encircled with a purple band of cloth once much favoured by Victorian undertakers. The yellow hued skin wrinkled, as thin lips spread into a sneering grimace. 

The Doctor tells Peri about a pupil at school called Cheevah, who Anzor sealed in a block of crystal and then dropped from a great height into the school yard. When Anzor’s TARDIS lands on the planet Magnus Epsilon, it takes the form of a gnarled tree. The Doctor claims that Anzor is ‘the worst navigator imaginable’ and reminds him that allowing Rana and her attendants inside a TARDIS is ‘forbidden’ [is this ban specific to Council ships, to parties who are under investigation or to any non-Time Lord?]. The Doctor has ‘steel blue eyes’.

Sil once again bathes in swamp water. He has fallen out of favour with Lord Kiv and was demoted after his failure on Varos, so he hopes to secure a significant fortune before he returns to Thoros Beta. He claims to have met Anzor before and is aware that TARDISes are notoriously difficult to enter unauthorised. The Doctor refuses to help the Sisterhood acquire time travel to prevent a perceived threat from their neighbours on Salvak. When they break into his mind, they try to persuade him to break ‘the one rule of Gallifrey you have always obeyed’. He tells Rana that all of Sil’s past associates have ‘ended up dead’, which might suggest he’s met Sil again lots of times, or has researched him – or is just using insults to further undermine him. 

On his expedition with Peri and Vion, the Doctor recognises the flagship of the Ice Warrior Grand Marshal – just a little too late for the information to be of any use to them. He’d assumed the Ice Warriors were extinct [presumably by this time period]. The Grand Marshal has a ‘speckled head’ (as seen in the TV version of The Seeds of Death, but not the novelisation, and the suggestion is this is the same Grand Marshal). One of the Ice Warriors, Craag, is said to be ‘massive’ at eight feet in height. Vedikael is the commander, described by the Doctor as an ‘Ice Lord’ (the first time this phrase has been used, by the way) and he has glowing red eyes.

Cover: Alister Pearson illustrates the lost story with a portrait of Sil, an Ice Warrior and an emblem that’s reminiscent of the logo on Varos.

Final Analysis: Like the other two ‘Missing Stories’, Mission to Magnus might make us reluctantly thankful for what we actually got as Season 23, instead of another low-key adventure trading on past glories. It’s a strange mix of previous Ice Warrior plots – a planned invasion, skulking around ice caverns and exploiting a divided society – and it just serves to underline how generic an alien race they really were away from the politics of Peladon. We also have a planet dominated by women – a presumably unintentional hark-back to that other lost story, The Prison in Space, which had been commissioned and then dropped for Season Six. We have another villainous Time Lord in Anzor too, and at least he’s actually working for the Time Lords (albeit for his own ends) and not just a renegade, but he’s removed from the story halfway through and is little more than an excuse to draw the Doctor into the story. And we have Sil – who is separated from the main action for too long and left merely to speculate on the opportunities time travel might bring (the idea of him with all this power and choosing to use it just to fiddle the galactic lottery is fun though). For all its flaws, Mindwarp turned out to be a better story than Mission to Magnus and a much stronger showcase for the regulars and Sil. I’m more than a little thankful that this is the last of the ‘missing story’ releases. The scant details we have for Robert Holmes’ proposed contribution suggest it’d be cancelled in more ways than one.

3 thoughts on “Bonus chapter #9. Doctor Who – Mission to Magnus (1990)

  1. Yes it would’ve been a shame if Holmes was accused of Sinophobia, people give him a hard enough time for Talons. If he’d have lived, I can’t imagine it would’ve been as mundane as the three novelisations we have from this lost season. Though I do at least remember the Celestial Toymaker one – I’ve read Magnus, but can barely recall any of the details you mention. Sil and Dwarf Mordant are both too similar, and both are retreads of the Usurian Collector from The Sun Makers anyway (Holmes casts a long shadow).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve tried to read this on several occasions, but it’s so bad I get bored. There are characters called The Doctor and Peri, but it’s written like someone had never watched the show.

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  3. It’s strange looking at these novelisations with knowledge of ‘The Lost Stories’ range from Big Finish. In isolation, without having read the books themselves, ‘The Missing Episodes’ is a terribly exciting idea. The recovery of scripts lost to the television series opens so many potential doors for a now deactivated show. It’s fresh and new. Just what it needs.

    And yet, rather sadly… “Mission to Magnus” and its book-based peers are weird testimony to how self-cannibalising the show had become in the mid-1980s. The ideas here are regrettably neither fresh, nor new, and Philip Martin would certainly do better elsewhere. Even the Ice Warriors will get another chance to fascinate (albeit via proxy) in Ben Aaronovitch’s “Transit” for the NAs, just two years later.

    Still, I can’t help but wonder what a sub-range of novelisations, headed up by stories like “The First Sontarans”, “Paradise 5”, “Leviathan”, “Point of Entry” and “The Song of Megaptera”, would’ve looked like. Perhaps ‘The Missing Episodes’ was the right idea at just the wrong moment in the series’ history. They walked, so later adaptations could fly.

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