Bonus chapter #7. Doctor Who – The Nightmare Fair (1989)

Synopsis: After surviving an encounter with The Nexus of the Primeval Cauldron of Space-Time, the Doctor and Peri arrive in Blackpool, where a visit to the famous Pleasure Beach sees them ensnared by the Celestial Toymaker. But why is the eternal villain there and what does he want with the Doctor? It can’t be anything as mundane as revenge, can it?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Nine.

Background: Graham Williams adapts his scripts for an unmade serial intended for broadcast in 1986 before the original Season 23 was cancelled.

Notes: The Doctor and Peri begin their adventure on the observation platform of the Blackpool Tower, just as the Doctor nearly promised at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. The young guest hero this time is called ‘Kevin Stoney’ [see The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen for why that’s funny] and he’s from Liverpool. The Toymaker – also referred to as The Mandarin – uses a crystal ball to observe the Doctor and other points of interest. The Doctor boasts that he has ‘shot through Black Holes’, ‘sailed through Supernovae and ‘eaten Vanarian Sun Seed Cake’ but has never experienced such a ‘magnificent’ thrill as the roller coaster; although there is a coaster in Blackpool called ‘The Roller Coaster, this one is most likely the Revolution, Europe’s first full-loup rollercoaster, which opened in 1979 and, like the Sixth Doctor, once featured in a memorable episode of a BBC wish-fulfilment entertainment show that we can’t really talk about any more. By the way, the Doctor’s also never had candy floss before; Peri pays for it with a £5 note she found in a sporran in the TARDIS wardrobe, prompting the Doctor to note that it must have been Jamie’s and he was always so careful with money [so putting aside offensive stereotypes for a second, Jamie having legal tender from the mid-1980s suggests an unseen adventure].

After hearing Kevin’s statement about seeing ‘red giants’, Detective Inspector Truscott suggests that if the lad sees any more that he directs them towards Preston North End, as they could do with the help; Preston North End’s kit at the time was white with blue piping, and the away kit was yellow and blue – but they did eventually adopt a red jersey as their main away kit for the 95-6 season. 

As in the Toymaker’s debut adventure, it’s suggested that he and the Doctor have sparred on many occasions. The Doctor took part in the Globus Wars of Independence. His pockets contain a single jelly baby and ‘the signet-ring of Rasillon’, which is ‘the most powerful single object in the known Universes. He tells Peri and Kevin that he doesn’t actually know who the Toymaker is:

‘Nobody knows. He existed before the start of Time Lord records. There was an attempt to track him back through his own continuum – trace his path through the fabric of time, but the researchers got bored with all the games, which was possibly what they were there for. As they do so often,’ he sighed, ‘my erstwhile colleagues met something they didn’t understand, and they ran away from it. If they’d been able to control him, they would have investigated further, I’m sure. But they couldn’t, so they didn’t.’ 

The Toymaker is known to be telepathic and telekinetic, ‘up to a point’, and he was once ‘observed playing with a supernova as though it was a kiddies’ paddling pool… and we know he’s old beyond imagining…’

If fact, the Doctor realises that the Toymaker is from another universe and that he carries his own matter with him – but not anti-matter – concluding that the Toymaker will live for millions of years; the Toymaker confirms that he already has done, having spent thousands of years creating and destroying civilisations until he came up with the idea of his games.  

Cover: Alister Pearson’s composition includes the Toymaker, the Blackpool Tower, a sign for Space Mountain, a miner and a fanged-and-clawed alien. The first edition featured a flash proclaiming ‘The Missing Episodes!’

Final Analysis: The whole concept of a ‘celestial’ toymaker is an archaic pun, ‘celestial’ meaning both ‘of the stars’ and ‘from China’ (a loose translation of ‘Tianchao’, the former name for the Chinese Empire). While the word might have been used to signify ‘exotic’ or mysterious qualities, it was also a racial descriptor that is now largely forgotten. As previously mentioned in (among other chapters) The Sensorites, the word ‘oriental’ can also be problematic for some. Meaning simply ‘from the East’, it’s a colonial view of the world map, positioning China solely in relation to how it appears on a British Empire map with the United Kingdom (well, let’s be honest, England) at its centre.

… and in Doctor Who, we then have the Celestial Toymaker as a Chinese-presenting character played by an English actor. While Michael Gough didn’t resort to the kind of theatrical make-up we saw in The Talons of Weng Chiang, it’s still an example of cultural appropriation – or at best cosplaying – based on a suspicion of the Chinese. How might that have seemed had this story made it to air in 1986? In a season where a story set in Singapore had a working title ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’…. you can draw your own conclusions as to how this might have played out at the time – and how it might have been received by young viewers discovering the era for themselves 36 years later. Despite spending two paragraphs discussing this issue, it’s not really something I dwell on, but it’s a handy distraction to ruminate on while trying to avoid thinking about the rest of the book.

What we have here is something that feels authentic to the period it might have been a part of had Michael Grade not stepped in and saved us. By which I mean, the Doctor is fairly unlikeable and while the adventure features a returning villain, he’s one that few of the viewers would have actually remembered and he doesn’t even act like the character as portrayed in his original appearance. The story is, like the original, a series of events rather than a plot and, sadly, it’s all a bit dull. The greatest joy comes from the Doctor’s two companions being called ‘Kevin and Peri’ in a book published a year before Harry Enfield’s teenage characters Kevin and Perry made their TV debut. All entirely coincidentally. 

To be fair, there is one scene though where Williams captures that alien quality that Colin Baker had so wanted to portray, able to comprehend the vastness of eternity:

‘The isolation of aeons,’ whispered the Doctor, overcome with compassion for the being he’d detested all his adult life. ‘The crushing loneliness of thousands of millennia… you poor, poor creature…’

Chapter 138. Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen (1989)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri follow a distress beacon only to discover it was sent by Commander Lytton, formerly of the Dalek taskforce. Lytton has now allied himself with the Cybermen in a bid to escape Earth. The Cybermen have a plan to change the web of time and it’s down to the Doctor to stop them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Day Begins
  • 2. The Perfect Crime
  • 3. The Peripatetic Doctor
  • 4. The Search Begins
  • 5. A Close Encounter of a Very Nasty Kind
  • 6. Telos
  • 7. The Tombs of the Cybermen
  • 8. The Great Escape
  • 9. Caught
  • 10. The Final Encounter

Background: Eric Saward adapts scripts for a 1985 story attributed to Paula Moore, but actually written by Saward and Ian Levine.

Notes: There’s some major restructuring in play here. The original opening scene with the sewer workmen is removed and scenes on the surface of Telos are bumped to the second half, which makes so much more sense. The opening chapter is reminiscent of the scenes with Shughie McPherson in Malcolm Hulke’s Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, as we’re introduced to Lytton’s gang members. We meet Charles ‘Charlie’ Windsor Griffiths, whose poor, single-parent childhood inspired a life of petty crime. Now at the age of 35 (15 years younger than Brian Glover, who played the role on TV), he’s already spent a total of eight years and seven months in prison, though he currently lives with his mother at 35 Milton Avenue (a real address, so probably Highgate, North London). He’s been a part of Lytton’s gang for some time now. The driver, Joe Payne, is a very heavy smoker who runs a garage. He’s never been in prison, despite his business being a front for numerous illegal activities. Joe had sourced the getaway car for a recent job from his own pool of vehicles, which had then been caught on camera and traced back to him – hence why, for the first time in two years, the gang is now being investigated by Special Branch. Joe lies about seeing someone lurking in the sewers, so he can sneak away for a cigarette – and is then killed by something lurking in the sewers. Charlie Griffiths doesn’t like Vincent Russell; he reminds him of a policemen he once knew, which is unusually perceptive of him: Russell is an undercover police office – something Lytton is aware of and is exploiting for his own means. 

Commander Gustave Lytton is an alien Charnel mercenary from Vita Fifteen, in the star system Tempest Dine, though on TV he tells the Cyber Leader that it’s called ‘six-nine-zero’ and the planet (not the ‘satellite’ as on TV) is ‘Riften five’. He has been trapped on Earth for two years [so either he’s counting his service to the Daleks as part of this, or Resurrection of the Daleks took place in 1983]. The site of his audacious robbery is Hatton Garden, the famous ‘Diamond District’ of London that was also the location of a 2015 safe deposit robbery that involved tunnelling (tempting to ponder if any of the perpetrators were fans of this story). 

The sentinel in the sewers ‘looks like ‘a huge black suit of medieval plate armour’. Lytton introduces the aliens to Griffiths as ‘‘Cybermen! Undisputed masters of the galaxy!’ The Cybermen have rasping respirators on their chests (reminiscent of the oily creatures depicted by Ian Marter in his Cybermen stories). The creature later looms through the darkness towards Lytton and his gang:

Where there should have been eyes and a mouth, there were slits. Instead of ears, there were what appeared to be inverted horns that continued parallel with the side of the head, until turning ninety degrees and joining some sort of bosslike device situated at its crown.

Consistent with The Twin Dilemma, Saward once again claims that Time Lord regeneration is made possible by the release of a hormone called ‘lindos’. The corruption of the Time Lords – and the inability of the propaganda to cover up various scandals – is what prompted the Doctor to leave behind both his home planet and his original name when he stole a TARDIS to explore the universe. While at college, Peri dated a ‘first-year engineering student’ called ‘Chuck’. The Doctor recognises the two policemen who he encounters at Joe’s garage, but can’t remember who they worked for, due to the effects of his regeneration. The time travellers find Lytton’s ‘well-polished shoes… fashionable grey suit, a crisp white shirt and a silk tie’

Cybermen convert human bodies by covering them in a substance called ‘arnickleton’, which smothers and eventually replaces body parts, all except for the processed brain. A strict hierarchy governs the Cybermen, led from the top by the Controller, then Senior Leaders who command a Major Phalanx; these are assisted by Leaders and Junior Leaders – and below them are the army troopers (and we encounter more than just the one Cyber Leader once the Doctor reaches Telos). Later, when Lytton is captured, we learn that the Cyber Controller has been fighting to cure a poison released by the Cryons that has resulted in ‘only a few hundred surviving Cybermen’. It’s this imminent threat of extinction that has motivated the Controller’s plan to change the timelines.

The bodies of Russell and a Cyberman are dumped in a corridor off from the main TARDIS console room. The Doctor remembers the ‘last time’ he’d encountered the Cybermen, when Adric had been killed [is his regenerative amnesia making him forget The Five Doctors?]. The Doctor thinks that he’d rather trust a wounded speelsnape [see Slipback] than trust Lytton.

The two partly Cybernised men are Flight Leader Lintus Stratton and Time Navigator Eregous Bates. They come from the planet Hatre Sedtry in ‘the star system known as Repton’s Cluster’ – and they were the original crew of the time ship now possessed by the Cybermen. The TARDIS’s arrival in the tombs on Telos (instead of Cyber Control) seems to concern the Cyber Leader, prompting the Doctor to wonder if these Cybermen have been programmed with ‘limited emotional response’. He could be right there, as the Cyber Controller chooses to have the Doctor thrown into a refrigerated cell with the express purpose of humiliating him before they can meet again.

The Cryon Thrast is renamed Thrust here (really, Eric…). The physiques of the Cryons resemble those of Earth women, but their faces are covered in a ‘translucent membrane’ with ‘large bulbous eyes’ and ‘coarse white hair’ on their jaws. Flast is ‘grotesquely disfigured’ with a gouge that runs the length of her face, the result of Cyber-torture. The rogue Cybermen’s condition is explicitly stated as a side effect of the Cryon toxin; it poisons the Cyberman’s brain and sends it insane before it eventually dies. After being stabbed in the arm by Lytton, the Cyber Controller strikes a blow to his neck, killing him outright. The surviving Cryons take refuge deep within the caves, watching the destruction of the tombs and planning to rebuild their planet.

Cover: The first cover was by Colin Howard, showing a Cyberman and a Cryon, a soaring comet and the frozen planet Telos. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover presents the Doctor, holding a tracking device, and a Cyberman with the black handles of the Leader (something Pearson had wanted to do for the original cover, before it was awarded to Colin Howard). The figures are presented within frames against the backdrop of a dark, foreboding planet.

Final Analysis: Many years ago, before Doctor Who’s 21st-Century return to our screens, I did my first ever pilgrimage with a friend through every episode of Doctor Who, in order. We managed to get through over 600 episodes in less than a year and then we reached episode one of Attack of the Cybermen. About four months later, we picked up with episode two and it was a struggle. So obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to this novelisation, especially because Eric Saward’s track record after his initial volume hasn’t been the most encouraging.

This is such a surprise. It still has all the clunky backstory and references to the past that made the TV version such a chore, but right from the start, Saward puts the effort in to make sense of the story he helped to create. He’s hugely sympathetic towards Charlie Griffiths (always ‘Charlie’ here), who might be a petty criminal hired for his muscle, but we’re shown how he feels happy seeing someone catch a bus and still worries about the risk of a local shopkeeper being mugged. Later, as he tries to take in the new information about Cybermen having ‘no emotions’, Charlie reviews the things that he feels give his life purpose, like walking in the park, eating one of his mother’s breakfasts, stroking his cat, drinking with his friends, or snuggling under his duvet; it’s a rather sweet encapsulation of the Doctor’s similar speech in Earthshock, but made a bit more tangible thanks to our privileged insight into Charlie’s mundane life in the first chapter.

This eagerness to make the characters more sympathetic extends to the Doctor himself. Saward always had a difficult relationship with this incarnation, yet this shows just how little needed to be changed to make him much more likeable. After an early outburst about his being ‘unstable’, the Doctor apologises to Peri:

‘Listen, Peri..’ The Doctor was now calmer. ‘Inside, I am a peaceful person… Perhaps on occasion,’ he demurred, ‘I can be all noise and bluster.’ Gently he took her arm. ‘But it is only bluster… You’ve nothing to fear. You’re quite safe.’ The Doctor looked baleful. ‘You will stay?’

Saward makes a real attempt to ‘fix’ this Doctor, removing a lot of the rough edges and bullying traits we saw on telly. Of course, the greatest effort of all goes into making us like – or at least respect – Lytton. In tone, he’s a lot closer to Kline, the character Maurice Colbourne played in the TV show Gangsters; he’s pragmatic and a little cold, but his claim to the Doctor that he’s a ‘reformed character’ is a lot more credible here, reinforced by a few peeks into his psyche and how Charlie notices changes in his behaviour, including the addition of a few jokes here and there.

The main plus point here is that the whole story is structured much more coherently. Without the need (if there really ever was one) to keep cutting frantically from location to location, Saward is able to introduce locations and characters when they become relevant. So, Stratton and Bates only appear once we’re on our way to Telos, while the Cyber Controller is foreshadowed but not actually seen until Lytton is presented to him. One of the few joyful moments we had with this story during our pilgrimage was a scene where, realising they’re in a room about to explode, two Cybermen push each other away in a panic, as if saying to each other, ‘Save yerself, Margaret!’ It’s a glorious moment of two under-directed performers improvising their motivations and turning it into farce. While that particular scene is played here strictly for drama, we’re treated to something almost as ridiculous when we finally encounter the Cyber Controller:

Dwarfing all around him, the Cyber Controller stood well over two metres high. With legs slightly apart and hands on hips he appeared like a mighty Colossus dominating the middle of the room. Surrounded by counsellors and guards, who fussed and responded to his every need, he made an impressive and terrifying sight.

Christopher Robbie made the same mistake in Revenge of the Cybermen: Cybermen do not look ‘impressive and terrifying’ with their hands on their hips.

Chapter 137. Doctor Who – Dragonfire (1989)

Synopsis: On a cold, distant planet lies the trading post known as Iceworld. Below the surface, the imprisoned criminal Kane hires mercenaries to find the key to his freedom. Deeper still, in the catacombs below Iceworld, lives a dragon, the guardian to a powerful crystal – the Dragonfire. While the Doctor joins his old acquaintance Glitz on a quest for the crystal, Mel makes a new friend called Ace – and gets a close encounter with the dragon!

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Sixteen.

Background: Ian Briggs adapts his own scripts from the 1987 serial, completing the stories from Season 24. This is the first (and indeed only) time that a season’s stories have been novelised in order of transmission. 

Notes: Glitz’s former crew consists of four men and two women (one of whom is called Winterbottom). Chapter Two sees the Doctor and Mel inside the TARDIS. Mel is exercising, standing on her head, and the Doctor deliberately steers the TARDIS to knock her off balance. The Doctor pays Glitz’s bill at the Refreshment Bar. Ace’s boss is named Eisenstein (not Anderson). The small furry creature is an ambassador called Erick. A deleted scene in which the Doctor frees Glitz from a collapsed tunnel is reinstated. Glitz then deliberately gives the Doctor the slip to hunt for the treasure alone. He finds the Ice Garden and realises it’s a very out-of-date planetarium, featuring slightly distorted constellations like ‘the Great Lever, the Old Man, and the Waterfall’. The Doctor sees a ledge after 15 feet down the ice cliff, which is why he ends up hanging from his brolly (it does make more sense than it did on telly). The ‘dragon’ is ‘tall and skeletal, with greyish-white membranes instead of skin’. It had a ‘large bony skull on top of a long neck’ and its skeleton is visible beneath its skin. 

Mel challenges Ace’s plan to scale the ice cliff using her compact ladder, forcing Ace to confess she’s never actually used it, but has seen people do the same thing on TV. As they climb down the ladder, one of the nitro-9 canisters leaks and nearly knocks Ace out. Glitz’s ship, The  Nosferatu is a Nightcruiser Pacific, a model of craft once popular with business types. The lost urchin is a ‘Star Child’ called Stellar. Her best friend is ‘Milli-mind’, her teddy bear is simply ‘Ted’  and she enjoys popular culture, being able to recognise some of the celebrities visiting Iceworld, including a TV personality, a pop star, a woman who’s a ‘brilliant scientist’ and a woman who looks like the one her father now lives with. Her mother has brought a number of outfit changes with her.

Glitz often has trouble with ‘feminists’ – usually because they’re right and he’s wrong. Five hundred other craft are destroyed along with the Nosferatu. Ace explains to Mel that the ‘Ace 4 Wayne’ graffiti on a wall near her quarters is a dedication to her toy dog. Kane waits in Ace’s quarters, hiding inside her fridge. Mel adds a few words of explanation to her out-of-the-blue decision to leave the TARDIS: ‘I don’t belong here. I’m not a traveller, like you. I need somewhere I feel I can belong.’

Cover & Illustration: Another amazing piece of work from Alister Pearson, who really pushes the boat out on these Seventh Doctor covers. Against a backdrop of the ice cliff we see Ace and the Doctor (holding his question-mark umbrella) either side of the Dragonfire crystal, within which is the melting face of Kane. Ian Briggs directed Pearson not to include the Biomechanoid from the TV episodes on the cover as he had described the creature differently in the text.

In the ice is carved a phrase from the book, ‘ACE 4 WAYNE’, which also appears inside as an illustration, our first for a very long time. Also etched into the ice is ‘AH’, a tribute to fan Andy Holding, and ‘TH’, who is his friend (and mine) Toby Hadoke.

Final Analysis: Another solid adaptation that enhances the TV original and even though this introduces Ace, Mel doesn’t get completely abandoned as has often been the case for departing companions. Briggs also seems to understand this Doctor very well indeed, as the introduction to the final chapter shows.

In the TARDIS Console Room, the Doctor was busy checking the stabiliser settings at the control console. Mel watched him. She liked this new incarnation. He was still a bit grumpy at times, and occasionally he behaved like a fool, but he cared deeply about people – all people, not just his friends. 

‘Well, I suppose it’s time,’ she said…

The Biomechanoid is elevated, as we might expect, into something a little more elegant than it appeared on TV, but what’s surprising is how our sympathies are diverted to the two ‘ANT hunters’; with Bazin injured after being attacked by the dragon, McLuhan takes care of him, determined to finish their mission before they both die. And of course, we meet Ace and here, her creator takes the opportunity to make her a little more fallible, very defensive and quick to jump to conclusions – and as Mel discovers, she’s rather too keen to rush into danger. It’s a shame they never got more stories together on TV as Ace’s youth also informs Mel’s character, the (slightly) older woman seeing something of herself in the brash teen.

Chapter 136. Doctor Who – The War Machines (1989)

Synopsis: The white heat of British technology is evident in the impressive new tower in the heart of London. At the top sits a powerful super-computer – WOTAN – enabling rapid communication across the world. The computer’s inventor, Professor Brett, is in fact a servant of WOTAN, helping the machine to build a fleet of mobile battle-tanks. Soon, the War Machines appear on the streets of London – and the Doctor is required…

Chapter Titles

  • 1 The Home-Coming
  • 2 The Super-Computer
  • 3 A Night Out
  • 4 Servant turned Master
  • 5 Putting the Team Together
  • 6 Working for the Cause
  • 7 A Demonstration of Power
  • 8 The One Who Got Away
  • 9 Attack and Defence
  • 10 Taking to the Streets
  • 11 Setting the Trap
  • 12 The Showdown
  • 13 We Can’t Stay Long

Background: Ian Stuart Black adapts his own scripts for the 1966 story, 22 years and seven months after it aired. On transmission, Kit Pedler was credited as having been responsible for the idea of the story, though it’s still not clear how much of this was just a PR exercise from the production team to highlight their science-based aspirations; if the idea was no more than ‘a computer at the top of the new Post Office Tower’, this wouldn’t be sufficient to lay a claim to a share of the copyright, which might also explain the lack of a credit for Pedler at the front of this book.

Notes: The opening chapter sees Dodo helping the Doctor to steer the TARDIS to its next destination (a task she’s inherited from the recently departed Steven). The Doctor can apparently ‘predict exactly where they would materialise’ [we can look to the start of The Savages for why this might now be the case, as he has time to calculate their exact position in the universe for possibly the first time in a while]. Seeing the name ‘Carnaby Street’ on the TARDIS monitor, Dodo reacts as if the street is brand new; it first appeared on documentation in the 1680s and it had been a destination for jazz fans since 1934, slowly transforming into a string of boutiques by about the time Dodo absconded aboard the TARDIS (as a schoolgirl, she was probably too young for it to have appeared on her radar). 

It’s the Doctor, not Dodo, who realises that the new construction in the centre of London is ‘finished’ and he observes that it’s called the ‘Post Office Tower’, though ‘in all probability they would change that name’; opened to the public in May 1966, just two months before the broadcast of the first episode of The War Machines on TV, the building became the ‘British Telecom Tower’ in the mid-1980s before settling on ‘The BT Tower’ in the 90s. William Hartnell’s fluff of the word ‘sense’ to ‘scent’ becomes the Doctor’s intention all along, prompting Dodo to make a joke about London fog. Curiously, Dodo doesn’t know what a milk bar is (they existed in her time and a girl from London would know, but she’s acting as an agent for the reader here). The Doctor is said to be wearing a ‘velvet jacket’.

The duo head to a nearby cafe, where the Doctor speculates that his former companion Ian Chesterton will have become something of note in the world of science and in all probability had something to do with training the staff at the new Tower – and it turns out he’s entirely correct! The Doctor fakes documents that provide him with an introduction, a minor act of subterfuge that then enables him and Dodo to investigate the operations at the top of the Tower – and his credentials are checked and verified by Major Green. Professor Brett has heard Ian Chesterton speak of the Doctor often.

Polly is ‘an attractive girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes’ and she wears a very short skirt that shows off ‘her long and shapely legs’. Dodo thinks that she and Polly might be ‘about the same age – not that Dodo was too sure what her own age was nowadays’ (Dodo was a schoolgirl of about 15 when she first entered the TARDIS and Polly is at least 18 – she’ll have had to attend secretarial school – so that’s a sizeable age gap of Dodo’s for Big Finish to cover there). Polly offers to take Dodo to a new club, The Inferno, which is in Long Acre (that’s a swift 20-minute walk there – and 20 minutes back – so she apparently wangles an early finish on the Friday before the project’s big launch (miraculous in itself!). WOTAN says that ‘The Doctor is required’, not ‘Doctor Who’ as on telly. Spoilsport.

The War Machines have names, not numbers, and the one captured by the Doctor is called Valk. It has no weapons, so the Doctor installs an automatic rifle. Polly and Ben force their way aboard the TARDIS because they feel he’s trying to get rid of them – and not because they’re returning his key.

Cover: You really wouldn’t want much more from this cover – a lovely shot of the Doctor, a War Machine and the Post Office Tower, with a close-up of WOTAN’s control panel in the background, broadcasting concentric circles of radio waves. Alister Pearson had help from Graeme Way with the concentric circles.

Final Analysis: Another author delivers his final novel and as with the TV story it’s based on, it’s Ian Stuart Black’s best one. There’s some lovely foreshadowing in Chapter 1 of both the Doctor and Dodo realising this will mark the end of their travels together. That chapter also boasts an introduction to the idea of time travel, and indeed what time itself actually is:

Of course he knew that in one sense Time was a fiction – an attempt by man to measure duration with reference to the sun and stars. But he also knew that although such measurements were based on an impressive formula, all man’s concepts were fraught with error. Time was not as it was supposed to be, for here they were, he and his single crew-member, Dodo, travelling fortuitously across space, splitting Time into fragments – or more exactly, ignoring the passage of time, the rising and setting of the sun, the ebb and flow of tides, the coming and going of the galaxy in which they voyaged. 

While Dodo’s departure is only slightly less abrupt than it was in the original, this very swiftly becomes the story of Ben and Polly, who we first met in Doctor Who and the Cybermen (1975). We’ve long forgotten Gerry Davis’s fudging of their origins in those early Target books and they feel as much a part of ‘Swinging Sixties London’ as a story set in the very heart of the ‘white heat of technology’ can possibly allow.

Chapter 135. Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen (1989)

Synopsis: An unexpected holiday for the Doctor and Mel sees them joining a race of shape-changing aliens at a holiday camp in 1950s Wales. Also in the party is a beautiful woman on the run from bloodthirsty killers – and a spy only too happy to betray her. Soon, the holiday camp is the scene for a massacre, retribution… and romance.

Chapter Titles

The chapters are numbered One to Thirty-Two. With additional prologue and epilogue, this steals the record from The Romans for most number of chapters in a novelisation.

Background: Malcolm Kohll adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This followed Paradise Towers on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A prologue reveals that the Doctor takes one sugar in his tea. The TARDIS is in need of a ‘major overhaul’. Now that he’s less burly than his previous incarnation, Mel has stopped forcing carrot juice upon him and is happy to offer him digestive biscuits (which he declines as he doesn’t like how they collapse into his drink – such a beautiful ‘Doctorish’ moment there that I don’t think has ever actually been noted anywhere else). The Doctor keeps a kitty for loose change, which baffles him as it’s always empty. The Tollmaster is ‘a scaly alien wearing a spangly jacket and party hat’; he has ‘a fine set of large white teeth’ (a lovely evocation of Ken Dodd, who played him so memorably on telly). Mel claims she hasn’t been to Earth in ‘ages’, though she’s previously visited the planet Zoth and recognises paintings at the tollgate of ‘Solterns, Giboks and those funny little creatures the Wormese, who, without the aid of appendages of any kind, propel themselves along by the sheer force of their exhalations’. The Navarinos from ‘the tri-polar moon Navarro’ are ‘squat hairy beings which resemble artichokes’; Murray, the Nostalgia Tours pilot, is ‘ a round, leafy, hairy creature’. 

The Chimeron homeworld is called Chumeria – also known as ‘the Garden Planet of the Universe’. Chimerons are ‘soft and pupa-like’ and have ‘silvery-green skin and vivid blue eyes’. The two American agents are Lex Hawk and Jerome P Weismuller; Weismuller’s wife is called May. The ‘soldier of fortune’, Keillor’, knows of ‘the traveller called the Doctor’ (on TV, he knows the Doctor is a ‘traveller in time’). The Doctor has heard of Gavrok and ‘his violent ways’ – is he really the acidental tourist he’s pretending to be?

Outside Delta’s cabin, Billy hears Mels’ scream and shoulders the door open to see the Chimeron baby emerging from its shell (the telly version has him arrive shortly afterwards). Burton was a major in the army twenty years ago, when Vinny had served as his batman; they’ve worked together ever since. Among the party of Navarinos are Adlon, Crovassi, Diptek, Ethnon, Frag, Gil and Herret. Two of the Bannermen are named Arrex and Callon. The Doctor once rode a vehicle similar to Ray’s motorbike on the planet Themlon that left him ‘TARDIS-bound for a week afterwards’. According to Weismuller, Gavrok is ‘about seven feet tall’, though this comes as part of his otherwise rather exaggerated summary of his role in the battle against the Bannermen. In Billy’s chalet is a record player with a copy of ‘Gamblin’ Man’ by Lonnie Donegan. By the time he leaves with Delta, Billy has become ‘pure Chimeron’.

In the epilogue, having safely installed Delta and her child on the Chimeron brood planet, Billy delivers the surviving Bannermen to a galactic court before returning to his new home. The Bannermen decide that, should they ever find themselves free, they’ll set up a weaving collective to make rugs they can sell across the galaxy. Ray takes the Vincent aboard a ferry intent on exploring the world, while, on board the TARDIS, Mel subjects the Doctor to an old recording of Rock Around the Clock.

Infamously, a typo on page 54 presents the Doctor as ‘peeing’ over a shelf. The credits at the front of the book list Michael Ferguson, not Chris Clough, as the director (a hint at the story coming up next). Worst of all though, the spine on the first edition presented the title of the story as ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ – singular. This is corrected for the reprint, which lists the book as number ‘153’ in the library.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s artwork has echoes of Jeff Cummins’ cover for The Face of Evil as the Doctor’s face appears inside a circular frame, with the Shangri-La sign arching above, a Bannerman bearing his gun and the Sputnik satellite and the Chimeron egg at the bottom. Wonderfully, the composition forms the inverted silhouette of Mickey Mouse (hinting at the intended destination of the Navarino bus).

Final Analysis: There are people who don’t love Delta and the Bannermen (I know, right?) and they should be pitied. For the rest of us, we can also enjoy Malcolm Kohll’s sole entry in the Target library. All the joyful craziness of the TV episodes is present and correct, but like all the best authors for the range, Kohll enhances little details as he goes and the epilogue is delicious. In particular, the rather unconvincing romance at the heart of the story is boosted and Billy in particular is shown to be a young man of integrity and decency (especially in his pleading for a little mercy on behalf of the Bannermen at the Galactic Court).

Just a sidenote – back in The Two Doctors we were presented with, er, two Doctors who were resolute in their belief that Androgums cannot be augmented and will always revert to their baser qualities. It’s a rather worrying colonial view of an entire race, though there are actually few examples of aliens having much nuance generally in Doctor Who (the Ice Warriors are a notable exception). Here, while he offers a note of caution towards Billy’s decision to become a Chimeron, ultimately he wishes him well. We have a much more liberal interpretaton of the Doctor here, which feels much more like a ‘modern’ version, willing to be more compassionate and making allowance for personal choices. Delta and the Bannermen might be a little light as Doctor Who stories go, but it’s also an utter gem. I’d have liked to have seen Kohll’s approach to someone else’s scripts.

Chapter 134. Doctor Who – Paradise Towers (1988)

Synopsis: The residents of Paradise Towers have divided into factions: The caretakers tackle their duties with strict adherence to an insanely restrictive rulebook; the youngsters have formed warring gangs vying for supremacy; the oldsters are supplementing their diets with unspeakable things; … and then there’s Pex, a lonely, frightened boy trapped in the body of a brave hero. But Pex isn’t brave – he’s a cowardly cutlet.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Last of the Yellow Kangs
  • 2. No Visitors
  • 3. Tea and Cakes
  • 4. The Chief
  • 5. This Way and That
  • 6. Brainquarters
  • 7. Come into My Parlour
  • 8. The Illustrated Prospectus
  • 9. The Basement
  • 10. The Pool in the Sky
  • 11. Kroagnon
  • 12. Farewells

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This is the first book not to be published as a hardback – the ‘library editions’ were dropped due to falling sales.

Notes: Paradise Towers is, as the back cover first confirms, a man-made planet, accessible via space-faring ships. The Doctor also refers to ‘Mel’s Earth’, and Mel compares Pex’s performance to Karate experts ‘back on Earth’, spelling out that this isn’t her world – although it’s still unclear whether or not the inhabitants originally came from there. The Yellow Kang confirms something that’s fudged on TV, that the Kang wars are not to be taken seriously, they are just games. She’s alone now, after a period of returning to the Yellow Kang Brainquarters to depreciating numbers of her fellow Kangmates. Streets named in the story are Sodium Street, Potassium Street, Nitrate Street, Sunrise Square and Fountain of Happiness Square. 

The young caretaker has only recently taken on his patrol beat, replacing an older caretaker who was (according to the Chief Caretaker) ‘assigned to other duties’ and never seen again. The Kangs are around 15 or 16 years old and they remind Mel of Samurai warriors. The Rezzies are dressed in clothes made up of colourful patchwork (and Mel notes that Tabby has very sharp teeth like a rat). Pex is much more the traditional action hero than we get on screen. He’s not tall, but ‘an imposing figure with a rugged jaw, piercing eyes and a powerful, muscular body’. He has a tattoo on his neck, he wears a ‘commando-style outfit’ and his voice is ‘deep and strong’. Despite all this, Mel still recognises that he’s putting on a show and is an outsider from all of the sub-groups in the Towers.

The Chief is of ‘middle height’ and his uniform was once grand but is now ‘somewhat faded and dusty’. He’s not a vain man and considers his looks to be unimportant. He has a  ‘sallow complexion and drooping black moustache’, and ‘ bloodshot but alert eyes’. The Chief isn’t keen on fresh air or exercise, regarding such activities as ‘futile, even actively harmful’. Pex tries to ward off the Blue Kangs with martial arts poses before they ridicule him. While watching the Paradise Towers prospectus on the videoscreen (or ‘Picturespout’, as the Kangs call it), the Doctor responds to the boasts of the prospectus narrator by thinking he’d rather spend a night locked in a hotel with the Daleks than live here. The Kangs are amazed to learn that there are other worlds without Rezzies or Kangs and are keen to hear about them from the Doctor. The Blue Kang leader is called ‘Drinking Fountain’. Viewed by Kroagnon on the Chief Caretaker’s screen, the Doctor’s face is said to look ‘strange’ and ‘intelligent’, but also ‘impish and insolent’.

Cover: The Doctor looms large as a robot cleaner passes walls strewn with graffiti. It’s a bold composition from Alister Pearson that has a similar basic layout to some of Achilleos’ greats, but with a more photorealistic approach.  For those that are counting, this is the first cover to feature the ‘current’ Doctor prominently in the artwork since Creature from the Pit in 1981 (aside from the photographic covers, the Fifth Doctor appeared within a montage for The Five Doctors and there’s a smudge in the sky representing the regeneration on The Caves of Androzani). This would appear to be down to McCoy himself being impressed by Pearson’s artwork and the way he captured the actor’s likeness. We’ll be seeing a lot of his work from now on…

Final Analysis: This really does the job very well, creating an entire literal world out of the limited sets we saw in the televised episodes. Scenes have been moved around or joined together, avoiding the more frenetic chopping about on telly. It also helps to be able to read the dialogue and make better sense of the sometimes quite convoluted mixed-up phrases of the Kangs. Wyatt also delves a little deeper into the strange relationship between the Chief Caretaker and his pet, making it more explicit that the Chief is being controlled by Kroagnon without his knowledge. He has been ever since he discovered his ‘pet’ in the basement of the Towers. While this explains the ‘how’, it doesn’t seek to justify the ‘why’. The Chief Caretaker was simply a weak man from the start, obsessive and callous, which just made him an easy vassal for the Great Architect to steer and manipulate. Paradise Towers is the perfect proper introduction to this Doctor, toppling an entire society in just a few hours, and Wyatt presents him as almost Holmesian, piecing together clues and improvising effective escapes and solutions from items he finds lying around him.

Chapter 133. Doctor Who – The Smugglers (1988)

Synopsis: It was just a police box, but Ben and Polly are amazed to discover the truth when the Doctor takes them to 17th-century Cornwall. Soon they are drawn into the machinations of a ring of murderous smugglers and a very sinister squire…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Shock for Polly and Ben
  • 2. The Frightened Man
  • 3. Longfoot’s Friends
  • 4. Pike
  • 5. Pirate Treasure
  • 6. Kewper’s Trade
  • 7. Captured
  • 8. The Squire’s Plan
  • 9. Pike’s Revenge
  • 10. Treasure Hunt
  • 11. Cherub’s Move
  • 12. The Treasure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1966 story, 21 years and just over eight months earlier.

Notes: Terrance Dicks explains what a police box is (the target readership is now far too young to have any memory of them). The events of The War Machines are summarised and we’re told that it was Dodo’s decision to remain behind and leave the TARDIS. The Doctor, though old, is ‘still alert and vigorous and the eyes in the heavily lined face blazed with fierce intelligence’. Polly is wearing a ‘fashionable denim trouser suit [with] her long blonde hair tucked beneath a denim cap’ while Ben is in his uniform, ‘bellbottomed trousers, blue raincoat and jersey… and a sailor’s hat with HMS Teazer on the ribbon’. 

 ‘Cherub’ is a nickname bestowed upon him because of his bald head with a little tuft of hair behind the ear.  The sailor who tells Pike that Cherub is no longer aboard the ship is given the name ‘Crow’. The Doctor tells Ben that he feels he has a ‘moral obligation’ to fix the situation as he’s become ‘involved in the affairs of this village’ and fears that ‘my interference may even have brought about the threat of destruction’ (a slight clarification of the words said on screen). The final scene sees the TARDIS materialise in its next destination, but it’s not specified where.

Cover: Beautiful – Alister Pearson paints the Doctor dwarfing two views of a Cornish village, the beach and a ship at night and the church, separated by the TARDIS.

Final Analysis: We’re nearing the end in more ways than one and Terrance Dicks manages to imbue the Doctor with much more vitality than William Hartnell was sadly able to in his final months on the show. We have a Doctor who is alert and analytical at all times, bad tempered with his new young friends but still with a sense of responsibility for their well-being (how far we’ve come since his first stories!). Dicks sticks to the story as usual, so there’s really not much more to report here, but we should still savour every word – there are only two more Dicks novelisations to come!

Chapter 132. Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction (1988)

Synopsis: Trapped inside the TARDIS, Ian and Barbara are confronted by a disturbed Susan and an increasingly hostile Doctor as paranoia and anxiety swell. What has happened to bring on this switch? Can things return to normal, or are they stuck fast?

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • Prologue
  • 1. Aftershock
  • 2. The Seeds of Suspicion
  • 3. Inside the Machine
  • 4. Trapped
  • 5. ‘Like a Person Possessed’
  • 6. The End of Time
  • 7. The Haunting
  • 8. Accusations
  • 9. The Brink of Disaster
  • 10. A Race Against Time
  • Epilogue
  • Conclusion

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts David Whitaker’s scripts for the 1964 two-part story, 24 years and three months after it was broadcast, making this the new record holder for biggest gap between transmission and publication. This also completes the run of adaptations from the first season.

Notes: The introduction provides Target’s third go at telling the ‘first’ story, bringing new readers up to scratch (and padding the book out a bit too). Miss Johnson, the secretary at Coal Hill School, had grown frustrated by the 15-year-old Susan Foreman’s inability to provide any official documentation for her identification. Barbara had been inclined to believe Susan’s claim that she and her grandfather had been abroad a lot. She also appreciated the girl’s passion for history, which was why she’d offered to provide her with extra tuition at home. The girl was ‘extraordinarily good at science and history’ but very poor at geography and English literature (she could quote huge passages of Shakespeare, but had never heard of Charles Dickens). She was also fluent in French, Latin and ancient Greek. The Doctor is said to be ‘a tall imperious septuagenarian with a flowing mane of white hair and a haughty demeanour’ (William Hartnell was 5’7″, so not exactly tall, and only 54). Later, the Doctor is said to have ‘steel-blue eyes’ (again, not matching the brown eyes of Hartnell). We’re also reminded of the group’s encounter with the Daleks (which also serves as a prompt that this is still very new to Ian and Barbara!) and that the Doctor had considered leaving the planet without Barbara, until Ian intervened.

In the prologue, Barbara wakes up in the darkened TARDIS control room but she thinks she’s back in the staff room of Coal Hill School. In the TARDIS ‘rest room’ is a bookshelf that contains ‘the great classics of Earth literature’:

... the Complete Works of Shakespeare (some of which were personally signed); Le Contrat Social of Rousseau; Plato’s The Republic; and a peculiar work by a French philosopher called Fontenelle on the possibility of life on other planets (that one had always made the Doctor chuckle). Susan’s English teacher at Coal Hill would have been interested to note that there was nothing by Charles Dickens in the Doctor’s library.

Among the Doctor’s accumulated bric-a-brac are a Chippendale chaise longue, a collection of Ming vases from China and a lost portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. The TARDIS ‘power room’ is a series of ‘fifteen interconnected rooms containing all the machinery and power sources which operated the TARDIS’. Susan tells the schoolteachers that the alien world seen on the scanner is called ‘Quinnius’ (it’s ‘Quinnis’ on telly). Barbara recognises the English countryside shown on the scanner as the Malvern Hills Both Ian and Barbara separately explore the long corridors within the TARDIS and Susan admits that there are still rooms within her grandfather’s ship that she is yet to explore. Barbara discovers a laboratory, but an unseen force starts throwing objects at her to drive her away and only when she explains this to Susan does she learn that the laboratory contains radioactive isotopes that could have killed her without a protective suit. 

    Susan tries to placate the schoolteachers, asking them to be patient with her grandfather. 

… you don’t know the terrible sort of life he’s had. He’s never had any reason to trust strangers before when even old friends have turned against him in the past; it’s so difficult for him to start now… But you and Ian are both good people; please, try and forgive him.

Barbara noticed that Susan has started to call them by their first names (something that occurs gradually on screen during the events of The Daleks). The Doctor’s thought processes are revealed as he sits alone in the TARDIS control room, realising that Barbara’s words are the key to the solution.

The TARDIS ‘danger signal’ sounds like the tolling of ‘a huge bronze bell’, which reminds Barbara of the John Donne line, ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’ [a subtle retconning of the weird noise heard in the TV episodes to bring it in line with the Cloister bell heard for the first time in Logopolis, and many times after]. While on TV, the event that threatens the TARDIS is the birth of a new solar system, here it’s the formation of a galaxy (and not, as Ian suggests, the Big Bang). The Doctor’s big speech is more detailed than on TV (suggesting it might have been edited on the fly by William Hartnell). The conclusion leads neatly into the next adventure (Marco Polo) and specifically states that the schoolteachers’ first meeting with the Doctor took place on a November night.

Cover: Deceptively simple-looking, Alister Pearson’s wonderfully stark cover combines the whiteness of the TARDIS control room with the Doctor’s flowing locks. 

Final Analysis: Such a difficult story to dramatise, as it relies so much on general weirdness and vamping for two episodes until the rather flimsy solution is revealed. While adding to the general layout of the TARDIS, Robinson takes the opportunity to create areas to explore that still key into the general idea that the TARDIS is trying to guide them all to safety (if only they’d stop wandering off!). It’s not an easy read – it really does lack a tangible threat – but in his final book for the range, Robinson does the absolute best he can with the material available.

Chapter 131. Doctor Who – The Ultimate Foe (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s defence backfires and the situation looks bleak for his trial by the Time Lords. Unexpected witnesses arrive in the form of Mel and the scheming Glitz, brought to the court by the Master. The Doctor’s oldest enemy has come to his aid for one reason – to expose the Doctor’s prosecutor, the Valeyard. Soon, the Doctor is fighting for his life deep inside the Matrix, trapped by an adversary who knows him better than he knows himself…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Key of Rassilon
  • 2. An Unwelcome Intruder
  • 3. Evil Intent
  • 4. Twelve-and-a-half
  • 5. Treason
  • 6. A World Apart
  • 7. A Lethal Greeting
  • 8. Mr Popplewick
  • 9. A Sticky End
  • 10. To Be Or Not To Be
  • 11. Out of the Frying Pan
  • 12. The Baiter Bitten
  • 13. False Witness
  • 14. Off With His Head
  • 15. Mesmeric Riches
  • 16. Point and Counterpoint
  • 17. About-face
  • 18. Two-faced
  • 19. Double-faced
  • 20. Particles of Death
  • 21. The Price of Vanity
  • 22. The Keeper Vanishes
  • 23. Carrot Juice
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt one script by Robert Holmes and another by themselves for the concluding episodes of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord.

Notes: The prologue recaps the trial so far, the events on Ravalox, Sil’s experiments with brain transference and the attack on the Vervoids. The Doctor has been ‘plucked out of time’ and brought to the space station where the trial is being conducted, ‘a baroque cathedral with dozens of thrusting spires and straddled with porticoes’, a ‘gargantuan hulk’ where ‘all the processes of existence hitherto experienced are suspended’. Sabalom Glitz is a ‘thief, liar, and incorrigible rogue. A coward who would sell his grandmother to save his own skin. For whom profit was a god. A wheeler-dealer devoid of conscience.’ Despite her being ‘half his size, a quarter his weight’, Glitz is initially more afraid of Mel than she is of him. She pinches him to prove that he isn’t dead (he’s spooked by the coffin-shaped capsules that have brought them to the trial station). Mel was in the TARDIS – the future Doctor’s TARDIS – writing an ‘experimental programme for one of the TARDIS’s complex computers’ when she was plucked out of time and brought to the courtroom. Glitz is also standing closer to the Doctor than he was on screen – at one point, afraid that the guards might use their guns on him, he shields himself behind the Doctor’s ‘portly form’. As the revelations begin to flow, Mel stands next to the Doctor, close enough to grab his arm in surprise. The Doctor apparently gives his adventures titles, having christened his last encounter with the Master ‘The Mark Of The Rani’.

Though the contents of ‘the secrets’ that were the focus of Glitz’s attention in The Mysterious Planet were not revealed at that time, we discover in chapter 3 that they were stolen from the Matrix. The Inquisitor admonishes the Valeyard for his attempts to silence the Master. The Master claims that the Valeyard is the Doctor’s penultimate incarnation; on TV, this is slightly less clear. Glitz claims to see a resemblance between the Doctor and the Valeyard (‘Same shaped nose. And the mouth. He’s got your mouth’) , though this is challenged robustly by Mel. Having revealed the Valeyard’s true identity, the Master, aided by Glitz, then explains the  mystery behind Ravalox and the theft of the secrets by the Andromedan Sleepers – and only after the Doctor rebukes the Time Lords for their corruption does the Valeyard flee the court. The Master claims to know both the accused and the prosecutor ‘intimately’.

The Inquisitor had been selected from many candidates to oversee the trial; she felt the appointment to be the pinnacle of her career and likely to see her ascend to the High Council. One of the jurors is a two-thousand-year-old Time Lord called Xeroniam. Glitz wears pyjamas made of ‘Attack Repulsor PolyCreman pongee’ (!), fastened with ‘Batayn Radaral buttons’. The authors provide an explanation for how the Master acquired his access to the Matrix that is… wonderfully convoluted. The Time Lords have relegated maintenance of the Matrix to the Elzevirs, inhabitants of the Moon of Leptonica in the constellation of Daedalus and specialists in micro-technology. The Master hypnotised Nilex, an individual who supervised the Matrix repair team. Nilex duplicated the Key of Rassilon and gave the copy to the Master. 

Mel’s spirited defence of the Doctor is revealed to be a ploy to get close enough to the Keeper of the Matrix to be able to steal his key. A crowd of people await the Doctor’s execution within the Matrix. The Doctor is aware of Mr Popplewick’s secret identity before the revelation. There’s a reminder of the Master’s previous exploits, including his final scene in Mark of the Rani, where he and the Rani were trapped in the Rani’s TARDIS with an ever-expanding tyrannosaurus rex, until the creature grew so big that its spine snapped (as previously recounted in the Time and the Rani novelisation). The Inquisitor lightly rebukes the Doctor for his comments about the corruption in Gallifrey society, before she invites him to become president. In the epilogue, the Doctor explains to Mel that she has to return to her own timeline and leave him to travel alone until they meet properly.

Cover: The Oliver Elms logo settles into place from now on, as Alister Pearson paints two capsules descending down a trial-ship beam of light, with Mr Popplewick standing proudly (a stunning likeness). Pearson had painted a beautiful duo of the Inquisitor and the Valeyard in the courtroom, but the final illustration is a lot more dramatic. Consistent with the two other books published so far, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe’).

Final Analysis: Pip and Jane Baker deliver their final novelisation and it’s like a distillation of their stories so far. They’re as exuberant with their verbosity as ever, capturing the sesquipedalian nonsense of the original TV story and turning it up a notch (a particularly nice line is the Valeyard saying to Glitz ‘I really cannot countenance such exoteric improbity’). Their intention all along was to ignite a passion for language in the viewer and we might ponder just how invested in this flowery language a young reader might be, but I have to confess… it worked for me! I scampered to the dictionary to look up every new word. They were always the best writers for the Sixth Doctor, matching his pomposity with a kindness that was sadly lacking with other writers. Here, they’re equally successful in bringing Glitz to life, creating a character whose every move is either cowardly or conniving. Even Mel is portrayed as an independent, fiery and determined individual with an unwavering loyalty and admiration for the Doctor.

While the resolution to the trial was a mess, there were extenuating circumstances. The Bakers here resist the temptation to rewrite the story from scratch; they fulfil the remit of adapting what happened on screen admirably. But, as all the greats do, they tweak along the way, adding extra motivations or backstory (some of which is bonkers!). Unlike in Terror of the Vervoids however (where they tended to infodump right before the information was required), they manage to foreshadow their additions and build upon what we saw on telly. Even if their explanation for the Master’s acquisition of the Matrix key is, er… no it’s actually insane, but all the more entertaining for it. They were inconsistent, but I’ll really miss them.

Chapter 130. Doctor Who – The Wheel in Space (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Jamie have little time to come to terms with Victoria’s departure before they’re forced to make an emergency landing aboard a deserted spaceship. Soon, they are brought to ‘The Wheel’, a space station, where Jamie’s lack of basic awareness of life in space draws suspicion, in particular from the very brilliant and very young Zoe. Elsewhere on the Wheel, someone – or something – is wrecking equipment and resources. The Doctor identifies the culprit as a Cybermat, which means its masters the Cybermen must be close by.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Goodbye to Victoria
  • 2. The Unseen Enemy
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. Command Decision
  • 5. Under Suspicion
  • 6. Birth of Terror
  • 7. Menace
  • 8. The First Death
  • 9. The Trap
  • 10. Trojan Horse
  • 11. Takeover
  • 12. Into Danger
  • 13. Cybermat Attack
  • 14. Meteor Storm
  • 15. Poison in the Air
  • 16. Perilous Journey
  • 17. The Invasion
  • 18. An End and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Whitaker, based on a story by Kit Pedler, for a production broadcast from 1968. With only 23,000 copies circulated (due, it’s believed, to a warehouse fire), this novel is the rarest of all and tends to be the one book that completists struggle to find without paying huge amounts of money.

Notes: The book begins as on TV with Victoria waving off Jamie and the Doctor from the shore as the TARDIS departs. Jamie is ‘stripped to the waist’ for his medical examination by Gemma Corwyn (on TV, he just unbuttons his shirt). Gemma already suspects Jarvis is becoming paranoid very early on, thinking that he ‘was a man for procedures, routines’ and that ‘the unknown would always be his greatest fear’. Zoe is ‘a very small girl, or rather young woman’ with an ‘appealing rather pixie-like face’ and ‘shortish black hair’.

Here’s how the Cybermen are introduced:

Two massive silver figures now sat at the rocket controls. Approximately man-shaped, they were much bigger than any man, a good seven feet tall, perhaps more. They seemed to be formed of some uniform silvery material, something with the qualities of both metal and plastic. Faces, bodies, arms and legs and the complex apparatus that formed the chest-unit, all seemed to be of a piece, made from the same gleaming silvery material. Their faces were blank, terrifying parodies of the human visage, with small circles for eyes and a thin letter-box slit for a mouth. The heads rose to a sort of crest into which was set what looked like a kind of lamp. Two strange handle-like projections grew out from the head in place of ears. 

The Doctor, had he been there would have recognised them instantly. They were Cybermen. 

The Cyber Planner is ‘a creature of pure thought’ with ‘no physical functions as such, and was, in fact, no more than a vast living brain’. The eyes of the Cybermats glow red [consistent with Gerry Davis’s description in Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen]. As on TV, the Cybermen are originally from Mondas (so much for the Telos conspiracy theories – Terrance gets the last word!). As the Doctor shows Zoe the kind of adventure they might face and Jamie recognises it as the one they had when they first met Victoria. He wonders how his old friend is doing but struggles to remember her face as he watches Zoe become enthralled by the Doctor’s retelling of a story that we won’t be seeing as a novel for a little while yet.

Chapter 12 is a near miss with ‘Into Danger’ while the final chapter sees another outing for a Dicks’ favourite ‘An End and a Beginning’ – hurrah!

Cover: Back to the Sid Sutton neon logo again, for the final time, as Ian Burgess gives us a Wheel in Space-styled Cyberman with a backdrop of the wheel (an original design by Burgess, not based on the station as seen on telly). It’s so nice to get the proper Cyberman helmet on a cover, even if, on closer inspection of the body, the photo reference is actually from Tomb of the Cybermen!

Final Analysis: I’m running out of ways to say ‘Terrance Dicks is as reliable as ever’. His methodical approach provides decent descriptions for each character as they’re introduced: ‘a big, handsome fair-haired giant of a man, cheerful and confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance’; ‘a slim attractive young woman with a bell of fair hair framing her sensitive face’; ‘a pleasant-looking sensible woman in her mid-thirties’; ‘olive-skinned, brown-eyed and curly-haired’; … and so on. As ever, he provides elegant foreshadowing and explains the motivations and feelings of the characters, covering things that might have been conveyed on screen with a facial expression (though as two-thirds of the telly episodes are missing, it’s hard to know for sure). This even extends to the servo-robot:

The robot abandoned the problem of the TARDIS’s presence on board. Since it was impossible it could not have happened so it was not a problem.