Synopsis: Count Grendel has ambitions to rule Tara. He possesses the greatest android technician in the land, he holds Princess Strella captive in his castle and his personal army outnumbers that of his rival, Prince Reynart. Soon, the sickly prince will die and Grendel will take his place. Just so long as an itinerant Time Lord doesn’t arrive and interfere…
Prologue – The Rhino Bear
I. The Doctor Goes Fishing
II. Princess Strella
III. The Pavillion of the Summer Wind
IV. The Duel
A Note on the Text(s) – by Steve Cole
Background: This novelisation is again taken from David Fisher’s audiobook adaptation, released in 2012, and based on his scripts for the 1978 TV serial.
Notes: Fisher provides plenty of back-story for the families of Tara, in particular the lineage of Count Grendel of Gracht, beginning with Zagreus Gracht, who married into a noble family then poisoned them all and stole their land and castle. The Gracht family motto is ‘All Shall Fear’.
Madame Lamia was a peasant who was bought by the Gracht family at a market. She eventually became the property of Grendel, who later took her as his mistress. Thanks to her skills as an engineer, she now holds the highest position a woman could achieve in Tara ‘where “the gentle sex” had always been subservient to the male’. Divorce is frowned upon in Tara – they prefer to wall up their ex-wives in the catacombs.
A century earlier, a plague wiped out much of the peasant population which also devastated the agricultural economy. A peasant called Septimus Hornland invented a kind of tractor, which was how peasants developed skills as robot builders. Inevitably, the ingenuity of the peasants merely inspired the aristocracy to seize their assets as their own.
The Taran Wood Beast becomes a ‘rhino-bear’, which we first see in the form of one of Madame Lamia’s robots, which Grendel uses to practice hunting. Fisher matches Dicks’ temptation to improve upon the rather sorry creature we see on telly:
The creature stood at least eight feet tall on its hind legs, but seemed taller still because both forepaws were upraised to strike. The paws were four times the size of Romana’s hands and equipped with razor-sharp claws. Set within the animal’s massive head was a huge jaw with the teeth of a large carnivore and tusks like those of a wild boar. The creature was covered in short black fur, and in all was like nothing she had ever seen before.
The robot has been programmed to react to the safe word ‘excelsior’; the fact that the one attacking Romana doesn’t halt to Grendel’s command alerts him to the fact that it’s not a robot but the real thing.
The TARDIS has clothes from the planet Aardo and Zoguna, the latter of which once presented a fish-related problem for the Doctor. There are few animals of any kind on Gallifrey. The Doctor claims that his scarves are knitted for him by an arachnoid on Altair Three’, though we’re also warned that this might be a lie. Romana is a ‘Time Lady’. The Doctor boasts that he was taught how to fence by ‘Chevalier d’Éon’. When Zadek and Farrah first encounter the Doctor, they charge him with fishing without a license; Farrah repeatedly asks Zadek if he can kill the stranger (on TV, it happens just the once).
Tara has three moons [which would account for the unconvincing ‘day-for-night’ scenes in the TV version, at least]. The spear that Gracht propels at the robot Reynart has an explosive tip that rips the android to pieces. Grendel and Strella played together as children – Grendel tied Strella up and tried to burn her as a witch. There’s a useful flashback to the moment when Grendel kidnapped Strella immediately prior to this adventure.
A huge bell in a tower of Castle Gracht is introduced early on as the traditional signal that the current master of Castle Gracht has died; the Doctor later uses it as a distraction to help the Prince’s forces to storm the castle. As revealed in the wedding ceremony, Taran myth states that Kong the Creator made man, then the animals, then, ‘as an afterthought, he created Woman’.
Grendel swims across the moat, is confronted by K-9 and flees to the pavilion, where he finds a clean set of clothes,money and weapons. He vows to make his return, enact revenge on Reynart and retake his castle. As thanks for the Doctor’s efforts, Zadek awards him a fishing license.
Cover: Anthony Dry gives us the Fourth Doctor, Count Grendel and a segment of the Key to Time with Romana’s / Strella’s face reflected in it.
Final Analysis: Fisher really gets his teeth into the family of Gracht, teasing us with tales of generations of rogues, thieves and murderers. While Grendel is every bit the nasty piece of work we had on TV, this novel is critical of the whole notion of an aristocracy that survived a great plague by locking the doors of their castles and waiting for the peasants to die out. The survivors faced starvation as the agricultural economy floundered until they discovered a talent for technology – a neat explanation for why android maintenance is considered a ‘peasant skill’.
The critique of the supposed noble class extends to the Prince and Princess who, on TV at least, we’re supposed to be rooting for. Prince Reynart is a rather unsympathetic aristocrat who believes peasants to be incapable of finer feelings such as love and picks fault in Romana’s suggestion to offer free pardons to Gracht’s men because it would be ‘irregular’ and ‘demeaning’; Princess Strella is equally beastly. Far from battling to maintain the status quo, the Doctor and Romana merely wish to extricate themselves from the problems of Tara as swiftly as possible. The final chapter suggests that Grendel plans on returning to take Reynart’s castle – and the Doctor speculates, without much sense of regret, that this is exactly what will happen.
Steve Cole provides a note on editing the novel, providing examples from the audiobook of some of Fisher’s improvements on both the original script and how it turned out on screen once it had been filtered through Tom Baker. Overall, this is so much richer than Terrance Dicks’ previous effort, it’s the novelisation this much loved story deserves.
David Fisher died in 2018, aged 88.
I’ve cheated a bit, as there’s one more novel I want to cover. So let’s meet back next time, just for fun, to bring this project to a close.
Synopsis: Continuing their quest for the six segments of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on Earth near a stone circle. They learn that an ancient cult is performing blood sacrifices in honour of the Celtic goddess the Cailleach. The Cailleach is not what she seems. Then again, neither are the stones in the circle. And furthermore, neither is the space ship, hidden in hyperspace…
Forward by Nick Fisher
I. The Tor
II. Professor Rumford
III. The British Institute of Druidic Studies
IV. Inside the Circle
V The Manor
VII. A Theoretical Absurdity
Interlude: A Short Guide to Justice Machines
VIII. The Megara
IX. The Secret of Vivien Fay
XI. A Meeting on the Moor
Afterward by Michael Stevens
Background: Adapting scripts from the 1978 adventure, the book uses the text from the 2011 audiobook by David Fisher, with minor tweaks for the print edition by editor Steve Cole.
Notes: The book opens with the legend of a shaman tormented by visions of a demanding goddess who sent birds to pluck out his eyes. The shaman’s tribe erected six stones in a circle, which were then joined by three more stones that were said to drink the blood of the tribe’s sacrifices. The legends also tell of the inhabitants of Bodcombe Manor, built in the 18th century by Lord George Montcalm for his second wife, who was rumoured to be a witch. Lord Montcalm and his children died mysteriously from plague and his widow went on to marry three more times, each husband dying in suspicious circumstances. When it looked like she might be brought to justice, Lady Montcalm disappeared. The house then fell into the ownership of the reclusive Mrs Trefusis and, much later, her distant relative, Senhora Camara. The current owner, Anton de Vries, is ‘a gentleman of Anglo-Indian descent’.
The scene where the Doctor tells Romana the truth about their mission for the White Guardian is cut, replaced by a summary of events so far. The second segment was found on the planet Calufrax, and not Zanak (repeating the same mistake Terrance Dicks made in his version, misinterpreting a line from Fisher’s scripts that also seems to suggest the heroes visited Calufrax). Back on Gallifrey, Romana lived mostly indoors with almost no experience of wide open spaces. She had tried skating on the frozen moons of Platos and climbing the volcanoes of Ignos, which she’d found ‘moderately enjoyable’. In a later interlude about the justice machines, we learn of the cloud creatures of Neri as well as the giant amoebas of Amphitrite, whose identity keeps changing with a constant division of their cells
De Vries is a ‘plump man sporting a wisp of a beard’ and Martha Vickers is, rather cruelly, described as ‘a middle-aged lady with the face of a discontented bulldog’. Martha was a member of the Women’s Institute in nearby Bodcombe Parva but grew bored of it. She joined the druid circle after meeting de Vries two years earlier. She was a hunter in her youth, encouraged by her game-hunting father, so is not worried by the sight of blood from animals sacrificed in the cult’s rituals. There’s a suggestion that Martha’s Daddy issues might have prompted her attraction to de Vries; such is her infatuation, she’d once hoped in vain that he might one day choose her over his beliefs. She has a brother who has a flat ‘on the Hoe’ in Plymouth.
De Vries claims the portrait of Lady Montcalm might have been painted by Van Dyke. His house is home to the British Institute of Druidic Studies and the manor has been fitted out with numerous classrooms. De Vries mentions that he’s expecting a group from Liverpool to arrive next week:
The Doctor stopped in his tracks. ‘Not The Beatles?’ He grinned broadly. ‘Wouldn’t The Rolling Stones be more appropriate?‘
The Doctor’s mention of John Aubrey is more explicitly a memory from personal experience, the Doctor having met him several times. As she clings to the cliff face, Romana is attacked by a flock of seagulls. The birds, not the band. Fisher corrects Dicks’ mistake about the ‘Cornish fogous’ (Dicks mistook this for the name of a person, rather than the iron-age subterranean buildings particular to the region). The Doctor tells Emilia that robot pets are all the rage in the USA, where they also do cats, rabbits and peacocks.
We learn about Emilia’s two brothers: Hector was a colonel in ‘the Sappers’ (the Royal Engineers) before being blown up by a bomb in Northern Ireland: Jasper was ‘the fool of the family’ so, rejected by Sandhurst, he entered the clergy. On the hyperspace ship, Romana is incarcerated in a cell with the dead body of an ‘octopoidal creature’ with horns. The two campers are here named Pat Blount and Zac Hardcastle. The stones completely absorb the couple before ejecting their bones and shoes ‘like pellets from an owl’. The Megara are shining silver globes that float in mid air. The Doctor ends the adventure by setting up a chess set – which leads nicely into the next story….
Cover: Anthony Dry, once again taking inspiration from Chris Achilleos, places the Cailleach, the Doctor, the TARDIS and a segment of the Key to Time within a right-angle formed by a bolt of electricity.
Final Analysis: So the story goes, David Fisher was never that happy about Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of The Stones of Blood. BBC Audio producer Michael Stevens commissioned Fisher to revisit his TV scripts for a new adaptation as an audiobook, which was subsequently released in 2011, narrated by actress Susan Engels, who played Vivien Fay on telly. BBC Books range editor Steve Cole made minor tweaks to the audiobook script for both this novelisation and The Androids of Tara, but it’s essentially Fisher’s work. The book benefits from a delightful forward by David’s son, Nick, which reveals some of the author’s influences and interests. Of particular note is Nick’s belief that his father regretted that he hadn’t been an academic, something that we might bear in mind when we come to Professor Emilia Rumford later in the tale.
While Fisher delivers a faithful adaptation of his original work, he also fulfils the mission of improving on Terrance Dicks’ rather skimpy version. The first chapter is a joyfully bloodthirsty history of Bodcombe, while an interlude brings us a summary of the development of the Justice Machines, both of which have a gossipy style that inevitably remind us of Douglas Adams. It’s a comparison I made in discussing both of Fisher’s previous Target books, but there’s a maturity to the writing this time, with less of the manic over-explaining of The Leisure Hive. Much as I usually love Dicks’ straightforward approach, this now usurps his novelisation as the definitive adaptation.
Synopsis: Tranquil Repose offers a full care package for the nearly departed, where the terminally ill can be put on ice until a possible cure for their ailment is found. It’s one of a number of companies founded by a figure called The Great Healer, whose financial interests require careful accounting. Which is why his business partner, Kara, has hired an assassin to terminate him. Meanwhile, a determined daughter has broken into the Great Healer’s complex in search of her missing father – to whom the Doctor and Peri have come to pay their respects…
Numbered One to Nine.
Background: Reprinting the text of the hardback from 2019, Eric Saward adapts his scripts from the 1985 serial, completing the stories for Season 22, the Sixth Doctor and the entire Target books range for the 20th-century series.
Notes: A scene inside the TARDIS shows Peri exploring the ‘cathedral-like’ wardrobe while the Doctor, newly convered to vegetarianism [see The Two Doctors], makes nut roast. The Doctor’s regeneration is still ‘recent’ and he’s decided to adopt a new ‘belt and braces’ approach – literally putting on a new belt and braces to reflect his sudden determination to be more cautious. Peri apparently has a ‘New York’ accent. The TARDIS lands with a ‘muffled scraping sound, not unlike a scrapyard being turned over by a massive earthmover’.
Necros is about the size of Mars but with an atmosphere like that of Earth. It has three moons and its ocean waters are not salty. Speelsnapes are native to Necros and they have a habit of hiding their heads under rocks in the belief they cannot be seen. It leaves them vulnerable to voltrox, creatures like large domestic Earth cats with the ability to fly [see Slipback for more on the lifecycle of the speelsnape].
Tranquil Repose – or ‘TR’ – has existed in some form or other for at least a thousand years. Its lower catacombs have been redesigned and built over many times, its architecture reflecting many different styles practiced across the ‘Twelve Galaxies’. The current complex on the surface was erected soon after the arrival of The Great Healer. The gates to Tranquil Repose are fashioned from Eradian steel. The planet’s other great industry is a food production plant called ‘Kara’s Kitchen’, owned by Kara Seddle, a 40-year-old businesswoman. She’s fond of eating chocolate-covered locusts while bathing in Lindosian’s milk. Like everyone else in the Saward universe, she and Vogel are partial to the alcoholic drink Voxnik.
Joshua Jobel is 51 years old. He was born in the star system Sifton 31, his parents were a ‘purveyor of meats’ and a stage make-up artist. Considering himself a great lover (to a degree that nobody else seems willing to support), he tends to target married women as they offer less risk of commitment. His newly qualified assistant is Tasembeker Brown. Head of security Lancelot Takis was a sergeant in the Peninsula Wars on plant JJ33, where he met August Lilt, then a corporal. Lilt was born on Earth in Ealing, London, in ‘the Democracy of England’. Stowing away on a space freighter, he served five years in the Tinclavic mines of Raaga [see The Visitation and The Awakening] for ‘minor larceny’. He’s a keen ornithologist. During the war, Takis and Lilt used to entertain the troops with impressions of Laurel and Hardy. One of the other living inhabitants of TR is a cat called Lord Plunkett.
The DJ’s name is Derek Johnson. He became a disc jockey while studying at the Lowwrie Institute of Technology in ‘the star system Sygma 18’ and by the age of 19, he was playing all the clubs in the Third Zone [see The Two Doctors on TV for a little more on the Third Zone]. He was later kidnapped by pirates and, because they didn’t like his musical tastes, they abandoned him on a small planetoid in the Delta JJ sector of the Sixth Zone of the galaxy. After a couple of years, he found his way onto a freighter heading for Kara’s Kitchen and thanks to Takis and an unnamed wealthy benefactor, he accepted a permanent residency at TR. The benefactor subsequently died of a heart attack and, now very much aware that the Great Healer is not a fan, the DJ feels that he’s living on borrowed time. Though he adopts various accents from around America, they all have a flavour of Liverpool in them (just like actor Alexei Sayle, who played the role on screen), even though he’s never been to Earth and all of his knowledge comes from old recordings.
The Great Healer’s attendants perform operations on his behalf in the hope of strengthening his body with transplants. Davros’s (decoy) head is suspended in a glass tank filled with clear liquid. The Daleks move around freely in TR, but nobody there knows the true identity of the Great Healer. He arrived at Tranquil Repose after months floating in space on the brink of death (so this story is set a year or two after the future timescale of Resurrection of the Daleks). His new ‘gold sphere’ Daleks are ‘supposedly more intuitive, better skilled at reading emotional situations and equipped with the potential to levitate’. Despite the modifications, they’re still in need of ‘further fine tuning’; Davros begins to accept that his new Daleks are not quite as superior as he had hoped. The Doctor later wryly observes that despite Davros’s extensive work on their intellectual capacity, the new Daleks behave ‘just the same as all his previous models’. They’re also no match for the firepower of the grey Daleks.
Natasha Stengos has a rose tattoo on her arm. Seeing the tattoo reminds Takis of the time he and his wife got matching rose tattoos; they were together for three years and had a young child but his family died in a tragic shuttle crash. His grief propelled him to join up for the army. The Garden of Fond Memories reminds the Doctor of the Roman town of Ephesus, which he once visited two thousand years in the past. Peri greatly enjoys the garden, which the Doctor attributes to ‘negative ions’ combined with the artful architecture and the garden’s natural beauty. Peri doesn’t recognise a Dalek on sight but thinks it looks ‘cute’. While listening to Tasambeker’s sales pitch for TR’s services, the Doctor steals her metal propelling pencil; he later uses this to escape from his chains in the prison cell and gain access to various security sections.
Orcini has a medallion made from Tinclavic and inscribed in Terileptil script. He met Bostock at the Battle of Vavetron. Kara has timed Orcini’s assassination attempt to coincide with President Varga’s arrival for his wife’s funeral; the President has been investigating Kara’s business affairs and she hopes to remove two obstacles at once. The Doctor knew the President’s ‘Principal wife’ Sontana (or ‘Sonnie’) before they were married. Orcini and Bostock find the corpse of the mutant who attacked the Doctor; Orcini has to dissuade Botsock from stealing a ‘trophy’ of the cadaver’s ear.
Arthur Stengos was reported to have contracted Waugh’s Disease (referencing Evelyn Waugh, author of The Loved Ones, which inspired this) and placed into Tranquil Repose moments before his death; this was a lie concocted by Davros to cover up Stengos’s conversion into a Dalek, with the additional aim of luring the Doctor to Necros. The Doctor and Stengos used to meet at agricultural conventions and Stengos spoke fondly of him to his daughter.
The corridors in the TR pyramid are constructed from Tinclavic. Inside the pyramid, the Doctor, Natasha and Grigory find a thousand Daleks in storage, awaiting activation. They meet an imprisoned and badly mutated clinical psychiatrist called Alex Sagovski. Sagovski is just one of many experts in their respective fields lured to Necros by the Great Healer’s promises – and then experimented on for the purpose of advancing the new strain of Daleks. While Natasha and Grigory sabotage the electrical systems, the Doctor and Alex break into the hydro-stabilization system of the Pyramid, where the Doctor uses his new belt to pull open a valve as part of the disruption to the pyramid structures. Alex takes up the DJ’s rock ‘n’ roll weapon and defends the studio from Daleks while issuing calls to arms for the new rebellion (he’s said to have a voice like an old-fashioned BBC radio announcer).
By the time Kara reaches Davros’s chamber, her dress is torn and one of her incisors is missing after a ‘consultation’ with Lilt. Natasha and Grigory are cornered by three Daleks. Grigory is killed outright and rather than face conversion into a Dalek, Natasha turns the last charge in her gun on herself. Reactivated too early, some of the Daleks tumble from their storage palettes with explosive and messy results.
The Doctor has a box of matches from the Match Girls’ strike of 1888. He recalls pushing a Dalek out of a warehouse window in 1985 and the explosion it made. He vows to return the Greek statues lining the entrance to Davros’s chamber to ‘his old friend Peracles’. Takis and Lilt await the arrival of the Dalek shuttle on the landing pad outside Tranquil Repose. The Dalek squad is led by Daleks Alpha and Beta [see Resurrection of the Daleks] and they are accompanied by a corp of humanoid troopers. The Doctor sticks his propelling pencil into Davros’s chariot, fusing it and preventing the Daleks’ creator from being able to move by his own volition. The Doctor hopes that Davros might face a trial in the High Courts of Gallifrey (somewhere we’d see in his very next TV adventure, but with someone else in the defendant role), yet he knows that his old enemy will only be tried for crimes against the Supreme Dalek. He offers to shelter the survivors of the tragedy inside the TARDIS with promises of food cooked by his robot chef [see Resurrection of the Daleks]. He agrees to stay around for a while to help tidy up and establish a new weed plant cultivation. As on TV, his next destination remains unresolved.
Cover: Anthony Dry’s composition shows the Doctor, Davros and two cream-and-gold Daleks.
Final Analysis: There’s a certain amount of closure reading the final novelisation of a 20th-century story that features a glass Dalek, just as the very first one did 57 years earlier. Saward clearly enjoys this adventure much more than his previous novel. He even makes amends for the production difficulties that forced him to sideline the Doctor back in 1985, by adding a new sub-plot that gives the Doctor something more heroic and action-packed than we saw on telly. A welcome shift in Saward’s writing comes in the way he introduces his usual random elements – the type of metal used to build the complex or the Doctor’s adoption of new braces – but then dovetails them into the plot to make their presence more than just decorative.
Like Tegan in the last novel, Peri is distressed by the sheer scale of death and destruction around her, but she’s not yet been overwhelmed by it all, remaining determined and optimistic. We also have a new character, Alex the mutant, who becomes a temporary companion to the Doctor and takes up the DJ’s role to lead a revolution. With so many supporting characters killed off by the end, his survival is unexpected and very welcome.
As in Resurrection of the Daleks, Saward brings a world-weary resignation to the violence, as if it’s merely the route to a rather bleak joke, but his irreverence also means we get to see Davros in a new light; he’s desperate to prove his worth after 90 years in suspended animation and months left abandoned in an escape shuttle, yet his new, ‘improved’ Daleks are a bit of a disappointment – and he knows it. For all his manipulation and betrayal, he’s a bit pathetic. Thanks to the Doctor’s immobilising of Davros’s chariot, the final indignity for the creator of the Daleks is having to be pushed along corridors by his Dalek captors. He rants and raves, but ‘no one was listening’.
I keep getting to a point where it looks like this project has reached its end, only for new stories to be adapted. This is the very last of the original run of TV stories to bear the Target branding, so – mission accomplished! However, tune in next time as we still have two more classic Targets to go. How??
Synopsis: A dilapidated prison in space comes under attack as the Daleks try to recapture the prison’s sole inmate – their creator, Davros. On Earth in 1984, soldiers investigate strange objects found in an old warehouse. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough are nearby and as they help the army with their search, the Doctor is slowly drawn into a trap…
Numbered one to Eleven, plus a Coda.
Background: This is a reprint of Eric Saward’s novel from 2019 with minimal corrections (though to be honest, I’m hard-pushed to spot exactly what), based on his scripts for a serial from 1984. This edition has the smallest type of any Target novel so far.
Notes: The old tramp’s name is Jones. We’re told a little of the history of Shad Thames. Raymond Arthur Stien is a quartermaster sergeant ‘although in charge of distributing the apparatus of war, he himself had always managed to avoid armed confrontation’. Tegan recognises the Cloister Bell – the ‘Campana Magna’.
The ship is called the Vipod Mor. It used to be a battlecruiser and it fought in the Hexicon Delta Zone Wars, when it was called the Fighting Brigand and captained by Andrew Smyth, known for his ability to drink vast quantities of Voxnik. Then it was sold to ‘the poet, explorer, scientist and lover, Fellion, Vipod Mor’ who, after being caught in a compromising position with his android assistant, was imprisoned in the ship for 97 years. After Fellion’s death, his ship was reclaimed and converted into an actual prison ship [and see the novelisation of Slipback for why this is interesting].
Lieutenant Tyler Mercer has been in space intelligence for eight years and is the youngest head of security in the intergalactic penitentiary service. He’s been in deep-space stasis for two weeks for his journey to the Vipod Mor. The current captain is another one fond of the Voxnik, hence why he’s already drunk when the crisis begins. The ship’s medical officer is Dr Elizabeth Styles. Her assistant is a beautiful android called Monda who is learning German and hopes to learn Terileptil [see The Visitation]. The ship has a cat called Sir Runcible. Ensign Fabian Osborn spends her spare time translating Terileptil poetry into Northern Hemisphere Earth English. She warns Mercer that most of what he learned at the academy doesn’t apply aboard the Vipod Mor. Senior Ensign Baz Seaton was thought to be the dimmest crew member until a computer glitch revealed he had the highest IQ of all. Later, we learn that Seaton is secretly in the employ of the Daleks and is also behind a minor subplot concerning Osborn’s stolen tools. Seaton shoots Osborn but is then shot by Lytton; the mercenary uses a Browning 9mm automatic, which he prefers to modern laser weapons.
The strange objects that (we later learn) contain the Movellan virus samples are hidden in the basement of the warehouse. The Doctor identifies a computer code running through the time corridor and eventually pins it down as Ciskinady, used by the Daleks (Turlough comes to the same conclusion and is sufficiently aware of the Daleks – and, it turns out, Davros! – to recognise their computer code). The Doctor schools Tegan in the basics of Dalek history and, while he believes they were all destroyed, he feels it’s his duty to hunt them down and eradicate them if they’ve returned. The Doctor still uses his half-moon spectacles and in his pockets he carries a wooden HB pencil, some jelly babies and a device to project maps onto surfaces.
The opposite end of the Dalek corridor emerges on board a Dalek battle cruiser in 4590 (though as the craft travels through the time continuum, this might just be when it arrived, rather than when it’s from originally). The cruiser is presumably stolen as the Daleks have modified it extensively. Most of the non-Dalek crew of the battle cruiser are Tellurian – ie human [a subtle nod to Robert Holmes – see Carnival of Monsters]. The station has two starfighters at its disposal; engaging with the approaching battle cruiser, they are destroyed in seconds.
According to Tegan, she and the Doctor met Sir Christopher Wren during the Great Fire of London when ‘those Terileptil things were around’. The Doctor reminds her that they met William Shakespeare. She isn’t much of a tea drinker and doesn’t ‘do colonial history’. Turlough is familiar enough with English literature to reference Christopher Robin and recognise a play by Oscar Wilde. He regards his old school as a place for ‘modern-day thuggery’ and abuse. Despite hating his old school, Turlough still wears the uniform as he hopes it will convince the Doctor’s enemies to underestimate a child; he knows this won’t work with Daleks. The Doctor runs like ‘a two-headed sangorstyk being chased by a hungry speelsnape’ (a creature that Saward references in many of his novels).
The Dalek Supreme looks larger than a normal Dalek and has a black body and white ‘nodules’. Gustav Lytton (not ‘Gustave’ as seen in Attack of the Cybermen) has worked with Daleks before and accepts their commissions because they improve his market rates. He finds them ‘noisy, aggressive and highly repetitive’, but this Supreme is quieter and – Lytton’s surprised to learn – a bit sarcastic, telling him ‘only a fool would expect an answer’ to his questions. The Alpha Dalek – the second in command – considers the Supreme ‘effete’.
The station is bombarded by Low-Impact Torpedoes that take out power substations and flood the corridors with acrid smoke before the gas canisters are released. When the mines in the airlock are detonated, 15 Daleks are destroyed (slightly more than the two on telly). The narrator tells us that ‘by now, almost everyone [the prisoner] had known would doubtless be dead’. Considering this is Davros, and he was in suspended animation for thousands of years before he was frozen, this might seem a little obvious, so we must assume that this is a viewpoint generally held by the crew and that they don’t necessarily know the details of his extended timeline:
His lower half, liveried much as a Dalek, was not only his transport but his life support system. On his top half, with its missing left arm, Davros was dressed in the inevitable leather jacket. With blind eyes he observed the world through a single, blue electronic eyeball set into his forehead.
The bomb disposal squad includes metallurgist Professor Sarah Laird, Sergeant Graham Calder, who is an explosives expert and also very good at making a decent pot of tea, and the group leader, Colonel Patrick Archer, who is an academic without much active field experience. The soldier killed by the Dalek in the warehouse is the first to die under Archer’s command, which unnerves the Colonel more than he expects. The soldier attacked by the Dalek mutant is Lance Corporal Miller.
Turlough has a compass given to him by the Doctor, which he regrets leaving behind in the TARDIS as he gets hopelessly lost aboard the Dalek ship. The Doctor feels uncomfortable killing the Dalek mutant with a handgun. A second Dalek arrives unnoticed at the warehouse, fails to find its fallen comrade and disappears via the time corridor.
Davros enlists help from Trooper engineer Dente Kiston (considering the character was played by future EastEnders star Leslie Grantham, should we wonder if his nickname among the crew was ‘Dirty Dente’?). It’s Lytton, not Kiston who suggests Davros must be ‘equally humane’ in his revenge. The Supreme and Alpha Daleks are aware of Davros’s betrayal from the very start, but the Supreme allows it to play out. Davros is compared to Florence Foster Jenkins attempting a high-C as he rants. A cultural reference for the kids there, Eric.
The TARDIS is said to be from the ‘Type 40 TT series’ but the Doctor has modified it extensively: There’s an art gallery where visitors can gain an insight into artworks by walking around in them; a cavernous wardrobe containing ‘oceans of conflicting garments’; the Explosion Emotion Chamber allows a person to relive sensations and memories; the library contains all of literature from throughout Earth’s history; the robot chef, Ooba-Doa, can conjure up any number of delectable dishes; and the gym, cinema, concert room, private allotment (with its own shed), rock collection and workshops are similarly beyond the realms of a TV budget. The Doctor’s favourite films include Chimes at Midnight (1965, Orson Welles), The Sea Hawk (1940, Michael Curtis) and The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed).
Lance Corporal Miller, controlled by the Dalek poison in his blood, runs off through Shad Thames until he finds a white lorry; he climbs into the back – where he joins his deceased colleagues. A squad of Daleks materialises inside the warehouse to send a high-frequency signal that activates the duplication process (the high-pitched whine that affects Laird on TV). The duplicates then emerge from the back of the white lorry. It’s the Alpha Dalek that intercepts the Doctor on his arrival (‘that’s a new title’, he notes). An officious Gamma Dalek is assigned to guard Davros. A Beta Dalek oversees the duplication room. The two Daleks who are conditioned to obey Davros are Delta and Epsilon.
Stien loses his stammer when his true identity is revealed and he calls everyone ‘dear boy’ (something Lytton finds especially annoying). The Doctor reveals that he previously met Lytton when he was running a ‘high-class jazz club in Old Compton Street’ (a part of London’s Soho district where Tom Baker spent a lot of the late 70s and early 80s and – presumably – inspired by the similar set-up of Philip Martin’s TV series Gangsters, which starred Lytton actor Maurice Colbourne). Styles is accompanied in the self-destruct chamber by crew member Zena. The Doctor has a lovely little rant at Beta Dalek.
Here we go again, thought the Doctor. ‘Trying to build empires on the back of the dead never works. Kill the Time Lords and you make war on Time itself – all you will get us chaos. And when there is chaos, disaster follows. Have you not learned that?’
The metal detectorist, PJ, was friends with Mr Jones, the tramp shot by the same fake policemen earlier that morning. Tegan is profoundly affected by his murder, a feeling that only increases as she finds the bodies of Colonel Archer and his men. It’s the moment when the Doctor announces his decision to kill Davros when it all becomes too much for her.
The duplication process triggers memories for the Doctor, regret at having been unable to save Adric and regret at not finding a way of halting the Terileptils in 17th Century London without letting them burn to death. He doesn’t appear to remember other companions although he does recall his fourth and second selves. Lytton tells the Supreme Dalek that the duplicates are failing because they keep remembering their past lives; he’s also aware that the Supreme is concerned by the depleted numbers of the Daleks after their defeat in the war. Davros is aware that the Doctor is a Time Lord and that he is capable of regeneration. As Davros’ Daleks assert that they are not traitors, Alpha accuses them of blasphemy as ‘the Supreme Dalek is your ruler’. Gamma and Alpha destroy each other in a blast of simultaneous gunfire. The Doctor moves the TARDIS up a level in the warehouse ‘like a lift in Henrik’s’ – yes, the same store Rose Tyler would work in 21 years later.
The Doctor vows to go after Lytton. Turlough also seems to know who Lytton is (and that he’s an alien too). Tegan wonders if she was too rash in leaving the Doctor. She has been with him for three years and saw many exciting places. She begins to feel strange, as if in possession of new powers. Followed to Tower Bridge by the two policemen, she evades them by dropping down from the bridge edge onto a passing barge. She decides to track down Lytton herself, ‘on her own terms’.
Cover: Anthony Dry’s artwork shows the Doctor with two grey-and-black Daleks.
Final Analysis: There’s something frustrating about Saward’s writing. He often surprises with an odd viewpoint or character insight that really lifts a scene but he also seems easily distracted. Like so many writers in SF, he succumbs too easily to the temptation of trying to make the most mundane, everyday things sound exotic and alien (watch Star Trek for some really bad examples of this), so it’s ‘Terileptil wine’ or ‘Siddion Quartz batteries’ or ‘Tellurian’ whatever, when we really shouldn’t be so focused on such details just as an alien horde is about to burst in. The historical detail about Shad Thames is a lovely piece of background detail that spotlights the history to the location, but when Stien enters the TARDIS and discovers its many rooms, Saward lacks any sense of discipline as he pads the job with giddy abandon to sketch out a hidden dimension of madness that has absolutely no bearing on the plot and adds nothing whatsoever to the characters. Such mind-blowing discoveries could have been the trigger that unlocks Stien’s conditioning, for example, but it just goes nowhere. Also, the tagged-on final sequence with Tegan might have struck Saward as empowerment, but it’s really rather silly.
That’s the negative critique out of the way. This really is the ‘expanded universe’ version of an already popular tale. The crew of the prison station (here named the Vipod Mor, for reasons that apparently completely escaped Saward) are even more disheartened and dejected than they appear on screen, but we’re shown why and how this comes about. The bomb squad are a keen group of experts with likeable personalities but a significant lack of experience in battle situations, so we feel Archer’s discomfort and sense of responsibility as the killings begin. Tegan’s growing distress at the violence that surrounds her is a subtle slow burn, which contrasts her memories of many otherwise uneventful trips to fantastical worlds that we never got to see, while Turlough’s alien nature is illustrated by his love of skulking, his casual knowledge of extra-terrestrial politics and the rather marvellous revelation that he only maintains his school uniform because he believes it will make him seem less of a threat to the Doctor’s enemies if they consider him to be just a mere schoolboy.
Like Robert Holmes, Saward loves using violence as a means to tap the blackly comic cruelty of the universe:
Enveloped by the gas, people started to die. Internal organs atrophied or erupted like massive boils, causing bodies to rapidly decompose. The truly unlucky developed a form of accelerated leprosy where flesh and sinew instantly started to rot. Whoever had designed the gas seemed to possess a highly warped obsession with reducing organic living beings too little more than puddles of acrid slime.
Unsurprisingly, Saward does Davros rather well. We might think of the character as a dry husk, but Saward depicts him as very wet – coughing, spluttering, gurgling and spitting throughout, ‘like a man with a sudden, intense bout of malaria’. He also achieves a minor miracle by giving each of his Daleks subtle characteristics and personalities. The Supreme is pompous and ‘effete’, Alpha is impetuous and full of scorn for the Supreme’s leadership and the conditioned Daleks genuinely don’t understand what the fuss is all about when all they want to do is serve their creator. Our narrator points out that this teetering on the brink of civil war is a recurring issue with Daleks (and having Daleks called Alpha and Beta might also remind us of a previous period of inter-factional hostility in Dalek history). They might not be strictly adhering to Terry Nation’s vision of a unified and logical race, but this is a very welcome addition to the Dalek DNA.
Synopsis: En route to Gallifrey with the remains of his enemy, the Master, the Doctor lands in San Francisco and is promptly shot by a gang of youths. Grace, a talented surgeon, tries to save his life, but is confused by the Doctor’s alien biology and he dies. Put on suspension by her superiors, Grace tries to come to terms with her mistake, only for a strange man to come into her life, a man who claims to be the reincarnation of her lost patient. The Master has also found a way to cheat death and his plans threaten the stability of the entire planet. It’s New Year’s Eve, 1999 – and it’s about time…
Out with the old
… in with the new
One for sorrow, two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Background: Gary Russell amends his own novelisation, first published in 1996, based on scripts from the film broadcast the same year. It’s the 2021 version I’m reviewing here.
Notes: Bored from travelling alone, the Doctor has reconfigured the TARDIS many times in the last few months. The side-rooms around the console room match the specific panels of the console: Opposite the ‘data-bank switches’ is the TARDIS library containing shelves crammed with both antique and modern books; the space/time destination panel faces a wall with ‘every conceivable form of timepiece’; the panel that measures external atmospheric conditions is opposite a garden containing a tiny fish pond full of ‘rainbow gumblejacks’ [see The Two Doctors]; another wall contains a huge a filing cabinet with references in 843 different languages and drawers full memorabilia collected on his travels. The garden also features a pipe organ that he borrowed at some point from the church in his favourite English village, Cheldon Bonniface [see the New Adventure novel Timewyrm: Revelation]. Although he’s denied his heritage for most of his life, he feels he should at least acknowledge it, which is why the TARDIS now has seals of Rassilon everywhere
He thinks of Ace, imagining her in various possible scenarios that were depicted in the Virgin novels: Becoming a space mercenary; hanging out in a 19th-Century royal court in France; he remembers offering her the chance to enrol at the Time Lord Academy but instead she returned to her own time to set up an organisation called A Charitable Earth [see The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Death of the Doctor]. He also remembers the Cybermen and the Lobri [from the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip Ground Zero, which offered a further alternative conclusion to Ace’s adventures].
The Time Lord president contacts the Doctor to bring him the Master’s Last Will and Testament and although it’s not spelled out, this is Romana, as established in the Big Finish audios produced by Gary Russell. The Doctor and the Master grew up together and attended the Time Lord Academy at the same time. The Master has prolonged his life by adding ‘alien genes’ to his body. The Master’s execution is overseen by the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor sneaks into the Dalek city on Skaro to retrieve the Master’s ashes. Inside the casket, the Master’s remains are crystalline, the vague suggestion of his eyes preserved. The Doctor realises that his enemy has cheated death by becoming a completely alien lifeform, which buries itself deep in the TARDIS’s systems, and by now the Master must be ‘completely insane’. We’re later told that the Master’s survival is thanks to a ‘Morphic DNA carrier’ that he ingested prior to his extermination and which carries his essence while hunting for an appropriate humanoid form to possess.
Chang Lee first handled a gun eight years ago, when he was nine years old. He lives with his parents, who used to run a shop in the Bay area of San Francisco, and his elder brother, Ho. When the Triads took over their neighbourhood, Chang Ho fell under their influence and began using the shop as a front for money laundering and drug distribution. His parents were killed by a rival gang and Chang Lee found himself drawn into his brother’s activities; Chang Ho was stabbed to death three years ago. A couple of days before the Millennium celebrations, Lee and his two gangmates, a girl called Pik Sim and an older boy called Lin Wang, are being chased by a rival gang. Chang Lee’s companions are shot dead before the TARDIS arrives [which might be news to anyone who has only ever seen the original, censored UK broadcast]. The new arrival is a ‘Westerner’ wearing a straw hat and ‘checkerboard pants’, with a tweed sports jacket that has leather patches on the elbows, an ‘expensive white silk shirt’ with felt tie, and a ‘burgundy vest’ from which hangs a gold fob-watch; he is carrying a red handled umbrella when he emerges from the TARDIS. The amorphous form of the Master discounts Chang Lee as a potential host as he needs something more ‘mature’ – preferably the Doctor! As a temporary measure, the Master takes control of an ambulance Driver called Bruce Gerhardt.
Grace Holloway has to explain the plot of Madame Butterfly to Brian. She’s said to resemble the actress Grace Kelly, has a ‘luscious cascade of strawberry-blonde hair’ and a figure that ‘most modern actresses would have had to pay a small fortune to have implanted’:
… her face might well have been carved from a marble statue of a Greek goddess. Although not in any way harsh, she had a defined bone structure along with a generous mouth and piercing blue eyes which appeared to be laughing, no matter how serious she was being.
Grace recognises the Scottish accent of her patient and guesses that he might not have insurance – but the presence of the hospital administrator with potential investors drives her to push on with the exploratory procedure that ends up killing the Doctor. On the TV in the mortuary is a ‘cheesy’ Frankenstein movie (but as the scene is told from the point of view of Pete, this is less a damning review of the 1931 James Whale version than a critique of Pete).
Bruce and Miranda Gerhardt have been married for five years. Bruce had been recovering from a recent divorce when he first met Miranda, who he’d accompanied to hospital after a car accident. After her recovery, they struck up a friendship and Miranda discovered he was ‘kind, sincere and attentive… the perfect man’. The new Doctor is ‘much taller’ than his predecessor [continuing a suggestion that ran in the New Adventures that the Eighth Doctor is tall, even if the actor who played him is not]. He finds his old clothes (recognising that they’ll no longer fit him) and experiences a sensation of memory when he picks up the straw hat. He steals items from various lockers to create his new outfit, comprising a wing-collared shirt and grey velvet cravat with a gold pin, a silvery vest, grey trousers and a long tailed ‘forest green’ frock coat that comes from the ‘Wild Bill Hickock’ costume that Pete’s colleague Ted has hired for the New Year’s Eve fancy dress party.
Grace looked at him. He was in his mid-thirties, at a guess. He had rather sad-looking eyes, yet they were bright blue and quite attractive – she was sure the left eye was a darker shade than the right. He had a nice bone structure and a wonderful smile, showing a full set of good teeth. He was about her height, but with swept back hair that looked as if he’d licked his fingers and jammed them into a light socket.
Grace thinks he looks like he’s stepped out of a ‘Victorian movie’. This volume’s mild swear-count includes Grace saying ‘damn’ and ‘crap’. Grace decided to become a doctor when she was a child, after her mother died from ALS and she experiences a flashback to that day thanks to the Doctor. After showering, she changes into blue Levi jeans, a ‘cerise Versace Profuni blouse’ and a pair of Doc Martens shoes. The Doctor remembers spending a ‘warm Gallifreyan night’; with his father; they lived on the south side of Gallifrey (a place that sounds Celtic to Grace, and later to Dr Sullivan, who both assume it’s in Ireland), near a mountain that was ‘covered with the most beautiful daisies’ and ‘the sky was burnt orange, rich and beautiful and the moonlight made all the leaves glow silver’. [referencing details from The Sensorites, The Time Monster and a recurring joke that spans from The Hand of Fear through to the Irish illusions in The Timeless Children’]. Chang Lee notices that the Master is ‘over six feet tall and quite muscular’ (Chang Li is ‘five foot eight and wiry’). The Master tells Chang Lee that the bearded old man whose face is carved into various decorations around the cloister room is ‘Rassilon’, the founder of the Time Lords and (he claims) his ‘mentor’; he also spells out that the ornate decoration around the TARDIS is ‘the seal of Rassilon’ and explains that the TARDIS is powered by ‘artron energy’ [see The Deadly Assassin]. The Eye of Harmony shows Chang Lee images of all the past Doctors with descriptions that might be familiar to fans of the Target books: ‘Long silver hair’, ‘a mop of black hair’, a ‘shock of white hair’, ‘beaky nose’, ‘brown curls and a toothy grin’, ‘a pleasant, open countenance’, and eyes that are ‘cat-like’ with an ‘insatiable curiosity’.
When he impulsively kisses Grace, the Doctor feels a little embarrassed while Grace feels confused and, caught up in the moment, suggests they do it again but (as in the original novel) the Doctor tells her they don’t have time and Grace is left wondering what prompted her to kiss a man who she doesn’t know. Returning to Grace’s apartment, the Doctor meets one of her neighbours, a cat-owner called Mrs Trattorio. Bruce’s paramedic partner is called ‘Joey Sneller’. One of the reporters for San Francisco’s KKBE news station is ‘Sean Ley’ (a tribute to ‘Shaun Ley’, who acted in the fan-produced audio dramas that Gary Russell used to make, but later became a journalist and news anchor on BBC News). One of the security guards at the New Year’s Eve party is David Bailey – named after the Big Finish author, not the famous photographer. The officers called to investigate Miranda Gerhardt’s death are named after Rona Selby and Nuala Buffini from BBC Books.
The Doctor tells Grace that he has a granddaughter who he intends to get back to one day [see The Dalek Invasion of Earth and then The Five Doctors for how that played out]. The Master explains that the Time Lords added a security element to the Eye of Harmony, requiring it to be unlocked by a human retina to prevent it from being opened, as they assumed none of their number would ever travel with a human. The Doctor points out that the Master cannot use Grace to open the Eye of Harmony when her own eyes are in a possessed state
During the climax, throughout the TARDIS, Grace can hear the peeling of a bell, which is identified as the Cloister Bell [see Logopolis]. The violent lurching of the TARDIS results in one significant casualty – the eagle on the lectern that has been a feature of the TARDIS since before An Unearthly Child, is snapped off.
As the Master begins to absorb the Doctor’s life energy, both his clothes and the body of Bruce fall away from him, leaving him in the form of a silhouette glowing with the energy of the universe, ‘a brilliant white figure of a man, but with no defined edges within its shape’. The face is ‘lumpy, unmade’ with ‘half-closed eyes and a snarling mouth’.
Having kept his old straw hat rolled up in his pocket since he escaped from the hospital, he presents the hat to Grace as a gift.
Cover: Anthony Dry’s cover brings together the Doctor, the Master and the TARDIS.
Final Analysis: As he explains in his forward, Gary’s original novel, released to tie in with the movie’s broadcast, was written solely from the scripts and before Gary had either seen the movie or visited San Francisco. Many details were removed from his manuscript for space, or because they referenced the Doctor’s past lives (earlier drafts of the script had included a sequence where all of the past Doctors were shown in the Eye of Harmony, not just the Seventh). Rewritten and published under the Target banner 25 years later, we can enjoy those many ‘kisses to the past’, including acknowledgements of the Virgin Books, which came to an end soon after the TV Movie was broadcast, after which the original novels were brought in house to BBC Books. In the Terrance Dicks tradition, Gary tidies up a few lose strands, such as making it explicit that Chang Lee was ‘mesmerised’, working under the Master’s hypnosis. Most importantly though, he fixes that ending, which was always a little unsatisfying and a bit of a cheat on TV.
There’s one extra detail that’s of a personal interest. Although she knows she’s made the right decision at the end, Grace wonders if she’s now the founder member of the ‘Grace Holloway is Stupid Club’; she’s not – that would be novelist Jacqueline Rayner, who founded that particular group soon after the TV Movie first aired. A good-natured and light-hearted affair, Its members (who all had actual membership cards) included Gary Russell and er… me!