The mission for this blog was simply to read all of the Target books of the original range. Since 2018, BBC Books has continued the tradition of mixing reprints with new novelisations – some adapted from existing full-length novels, some specially commissioned to cover a selection of stories broadcast since 2005. Like the original intentions of the Target range right at the start, there doesn’t seem to be any desire to create an exhaustive library of novels covering every single story from the 21st Century. With that in mind, and having reached the final novel in a (now) unbroken run of adaptations, it seems that this is the appropriate place to bring this blog to a close.
Just for completion’s sake, as of 2021, there have been eight further volumes added to the Target range, covering the Doctors who we’ve met this century – all with covers by Anthony Dry.
163. Doctor Who – The Christmas Invasion
Jenny Colgan adaptes Russell T Davies’ scripts from 2005. Yes – scripts, as this novelisation spans three stories! The regeneration scene from Parting of the Ways leads into the Children in Need mini-episode – aka The Pudsey Cutaway – before launching into the feature presentation, an adaptation of Russell T Davies’ script for the 2005 Christmas special. It’s suggested that the Doctor’s Estuary accent may be due to Rose’s influence and that elements of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy other than Arthur Dent also exist in the Doctor’s universe. Aside from the Prologue and Epilogue, the chapter titles all come from Christmas songs.
164. Doctor Who – The Day of the Doctor
Steven Moffat very loosely adapts his scripts for the 2013 anniversary special and the mini-episode Night of the Doctor. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character with the overall story narrated by… the Curator! Apparently the first two Doctors were colour-blind, something they only discovered when he became the Third Doctor. The two 1960s Dalek movies exist as films within the Doctor’s universe. The Ninth Doctor smashed every mirror in his TARDIS as a reaction to his predecessor’s actions in the Time War. He also took aboard a therapy robot, which River Song later used to help the Eleventh Doctor forget how many children died on The Final Day. The Twelfth Doctor plays an active part in proceedings, installing himself in the War Room on Gallifrey.
165. Doctor Who – Twice Upon a Time
Paul Cornell adapts Steven Moffat’s script for the 2017 Christmas Special. We’re told a little more about Nardole’s life (and death), we learn that the Doctor has a collection of VHS tapes of his old adventures (he laments that The Daleks’ Master Plan is missing) and the first Doctor repels an attack of Dalek mutants by using a sonic screwdriver.
166. Doctor Who – Dalek
Robert Shearman adapts his own script for the 2005 episode, with sidesteps and chapter-long short stories inspired by the supporting characters. The torturer Simmons has adopted a new identity to escape his past crimes, while Goddard is an undercover security agent who arrests Van Statten at the end. The Dalek’s backstory is also explained, including an encounter with the War Doctor.
167. Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror
Mark Gatiss adapts his own story from 2013, narrated mainly by Jenny, with additional viewpoints from Strax, Jonas Thursday and the Doctor. We’re offered an ‘origin story’ for how Jenny and the Doctor first met (although this is at odds with what we’re told in The Name of the Doctor) and the Doctor gives perception filters to Strax and Vastra to help them pass unnoticed in London.
168. Doctor Who – The Witchfinders
Joy Wilkinson adapts her own script for the 2018 episode, beginning with a new sequence that explains how the Morax came to be imprisoned on Earth. There’s additional backstory for Becka and Willa, while Willa is revealed to have survived the later Pendle Witch trials thanks to the Doctor’s intervention, as well as an unexpected connection with Clara and Me / Ashildr.
169. Doctor Who – The Fires of Pompeii
James Moran adapts his own story from 2008. A prologue describes a race of beings who are trapped beneath the soil of a planet; though their bodies fragment into dust over thousands of years, their consciousnesses survive and they discover that they can influence the primitives of the planet, who worship them as gods. The chapter titles are not just in Latin, but they’re puns too – shades of The Myth Makers. On first sight of a Pyrovile soldier, the Doctor speculates it might be a Krarg [from Shada]. We’re told of just some of the escapades Donna experienced before reconnecting with the Doctor (including ‘KebabGate’). The Doctor takes issue with Donna’s misuse of the phrase ‘deus ex machina’.
170. Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light
Rona Munro adapts her own story from 2017, with the story divided into three ‘books’, each subdivided into chapters (eighteen in all, plus a prologue, epilogue and Author’s Note). Nardole is distressed by the bet between the Doctor and Bill; he’d hoped for ‘a day off’ and had lined up a box set and popcorn. Bill witnesses the creature slaughtering the prized bull of Kar’s tribe before fleeing the scene and meeting Simon. The second book tells the backstory of how Kar became the gatekeeper and when Lucius ran away from home to join his legion. The framing scenes of the girl discovering the music in the stones is missing, as is the final sequence involving Missy.
Synopsis: Rose Tyler works in a department store. Exploring the basement one evening after hours, her life changes forever as she meets a man who saves her life by telling her to ‘run!’ He tells her to forget him too, but she begins to investigate and learns that this man has appeared throughout history. He’s called the Doctor – and right now, he’s trying to protect Earth from an alien intelligence with a deadly control of anything plastic…
1. Descent into Terror
2. Enter the Doctor
3. Life at No.143
4. Plastic Attack
5. The Turn of the Earth
6. Life at No.90
7. The Mysteries of Juke Street
8. Shed of Secrets
9. The Pizza Surprise
10. Inside the Box
11 War Stories
12. The Living Statues
13. The Lair of the Beast
14. The Never-Ending War
15. The Army Awakes
16. The Battle of London
17. Rose Says No
18. Death Throes
20. The Journey Begins
Background: Russell T Davies adapts his own script from 2005.
Notes: The caretaker (not chief electrician) at Henrik’s Department Store is Bernie Wilson. He’s a short, creepy man who abuses his position to coordinate a mini-crime ring from the basement of the store. In recent years, he’s been running the lottery syndicate and pocketing the money. When a store employee wins the roll-over lottery, Bernie panics and decides to burn down the store to cover his tracks. He is killed by a shop window mannequin. Henrik’s is at ‘the western end of Oxford Street’, backing onto Cavendish Square (so it occupies the exact same space as the John Lewis department store in our world).
Rose Tyler looks back on the events of that day from the beach in another dimension [see Doomsday]. The story takes place between Friday 4th March (‘Chris Rea’s birthday’) and the early hours of Sunday 6th March. She attended Sweeney Street Comprehensive and when she was 16, she dumped her boyfriend Mickey, dropped out of sixth-form college and took up with Jimmy Stone, a flash lad (with a nice car) who turned out to be a disaster. She got back with Mickey and spent six months on the dole before finding work in the female clothing department of Henrik’s, which was a year ago. She remembers meeting a stranger on New Year’s Eve whose face she never saw and who had told her that 2005 was going to be ‘great’ [see The End of Time Part Two]. In the basement, Rose hears the voice of an Irish comedian on a radio somewhere (a beautiful reference to the accidental crashing of Graham Norton over the first TV broadcast of the episode). She thinks the man who rescues her looks like he’s tackling the situation with ‘glee’ and that the bomb he’s holding looks like something from the TV series 24:
He was about 40 years old, tough, hard as nails, she reckoned, lean and fit, with a brutal buzz-cut, dressed in a battered brown leather jacket, tight black clothes and big sturdy boots. And now he turned to face her, his blue eyes glistening with delight, strong cheekbones hollow in the steep fluorescent light, his head bracketed by two splendid ears.
Rose lives at flat 143 on the 14th floor of the ‘Enoch’ Tower on the Powell Estate. The estate was built in 1973 – two towers of 16 floors each with six flats per storey and looming over a selection of shops. ‘Enoch’ is a nickname for one of the towers, as residents wrongly assumed the estate was named after the Conservative MP Enoch Powell; in reality its name comes from the mother-in-law of the developer, who died in tragic circumstances.
Rose’s mum is introduced as ‘a little blonde missile’ in ‘double- denim’:
Jackie Tyler, 5 foot nothing, age not relevant, karaoke champion of the Spinning Wheel, life and soul of the party but a monumental lightning storm when angry, now sobbing and laughing and then, somehow, finding a reason to give Rose a punch on the arm.
On inspecting himself in the mirror, the Doctor is disappointed not to be ginger. Jackie walks in on her daughter straddling the Doctor and holding the (now inert and cracked) mannequin arm; misunderstanding the scene, she calls Rose a ‘tart’. When the Doctor leaves her for the second time, Rose hears a ‘grinding, heaving, aching sound, like some sort of ancient engine lurching into life’.
Mickey is three years older than Rose. His mother, Odessa, took her own life when he was five. His father, Jackson Moseley Smith, was an engineer and part-time singer who went away to sea, leaving Mickey with his Gran, Rita-Ann – and Jackson never returned. Once Mickey turned 18, his Gran arranged for him to rent a flat back on the Powell Estate; she died a few months after Mickey left [as explained in Age of Steel]. Though Mickey’s parents and Gran are now dead, Rose later remembers there’s still an uncle Cliff on the scene. Mickey now lives at flat 90 in the Powell Tower. His one-bedroom flat is a meeting place for his gang – Mook, Patrice and Sally – who have all taken turns sleeping in the living room. They are trying to form a band and are in the process of choosing a name when Sally suggests ‘Bad Wolf’. Later, Sally recalls that the phrase ‘Bad Wolf’ appears in the Jordan Street car park, the graffiti tag of some gang or other.
Clive Finch is an estate agent living on Juke Street, Stoke Newington, North London. He is married to Caroline and they have two sons, Michael and Ben. His website shows photos of people he identifies as ‘the Doctor’, including the one Rose has met and a ‘curly-haired man in a long scarf’. In Clive’s shed, Rose sees his files on UNIT and what she thinks says ‘Touchwood’. Clive describes the Doctor as ‘he – or she’. There’s ‘an old man with white hair and a black cape’ standing in the street in front of a War Machine; ‘a little man with a Beatles mop of hair’ outside an antiques shop [possibly from Evil of the Daleks]; ‘a man with a fabulous grey bouffant standing next to a small silver hovercraft’; ‘that man in the long scarf again’, dwarfed by an unconvincing monster emerging out of the Thames [see Terror of the Zygons]; ‘a rather hot blond man at Heathrow Airport’ [Time-Flight]; ‘a curly-haired man clearly on his way to a fancy-dress party dressed as a picnic’; a photo from World War II of ‘a short man with an umbrella’ running with some soldiers [The Curse of Fenric perhaps]; ‘a dashing, Byronic man’ at the opening of an atomic clock [the TV Movie]; from a box-file labelled ’09’ comes an old photo of ‘her’ Doctor, shown wrestling with a pterodactyl and visible bruising that she saw him receive only that morning from the plastic hand; a man with two suits, ‘brown and blue’; ‘a man with a fantastic jaw, dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie’; ‘an older, angry man in a brown caretaker’s coat, holding a mop’ [The Caretaker]; ‘a blonde woman in braces running away from a giant frog in front of Buckingham Palace’ [an unseen adventure]; as well as ‘a tall, bald black woman wielding a flaming sword’ and ‘a young girl or boy in a hi-tech wheelchair with what looked like a robot dog at their side’.
Clive has no idea what the ‘blue box’ is, though it appears in many photos. His father – Second Lieutenant Gary Jonathan Finch – was a soldier who died while on manoeuvres ‘in Shoreditch’ [see Remembrance of the Daleks]. One of Clive’s most treasured photos shows a small tank-like machine, ‘a one-man vessel made of white and gold metal, its lower half studded with balls, odd prongs sticking out of its body’ – which Clive believes was responsible for his father’s death. Rose notices one photo of a ‘giant big tentacled thing’ wrapped around Westminster Abbey [probably a reference to the pioneering 1950s sci-fi drama TV The Quatermass Experiment, which you can’t see as it was never telerecorded, or The Quatermass Xperiment, the movie adaptation of the TV serial], while Clive mentions a theory about ‘a crack in time’ [see The Eleventh Hour and many more]. Desperate to meet the Doctor himself, Clive bursts into tears as Rose leaves.
Rose deliberately doesn’t tell Mickey about the Doctor because she wants something exciting of her own, so she tells him Clive is helping her with an insurance claim. At the restaurant, Fake-Mickey’s eye pops out of his face and into his soup; Rose realises he’s made of plastic just as the replica demands she tells it everything about the Doctor and threatens to kill the other diners. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver once on fake-Mickey’s head, but claims he can’t use it again because the plastic has ‘recalibrated’. The head accuses ‘you lot’ of bringing ‘a war crashing down on our civilisation’ before falling inert.
We see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, through Rose’s eyes:
She was standing on a metal ramp surrounded by curved walls arching upwards, studded with hexagons. What she’d thought was a dome was more of a sphere; she could look down, through the metal mesh at her feet, to see the curve completing far below in one vast circle. The whole interior was weathered, rusting, bruised, and yet humming with life, as though huge engines were brooding somewhere beyond the walls. The skin of the sphere was supported by weird buttresses, shaped like … coral? Yes, she could smell ozone, like the seaside, though this was a coral glowing with internal light.
The central console is ‘a coral mushroom out of which a glass pillar containing tubes of light soared up to the roof and down into the depths, like a linchpin holding the entire globe together’.
Rose notices that the cut on the Doctor’s cheek from her mother’s table has healed since this morning, only for the Doctor to tell her that, for him, that was weeks ago. He briefly explains the ‘war’ between his people and ‘another kind’, a ‘filthy stinking war that changed reality itself, corrupting everything it touched. Ripping life inside out and making it obscene’. The Nestene Consciousness was once flesh and blood with an ‘affinity with plastic’, but the war rewrote its DNA, turning it into ‘an actual living plastic creature’. Rose compares the Doctor to the famous environmental protestor ‘Swampie’, who the Doctor claims to have met. He also identifies the Nestene Consciousness’s foot-soldiers as ‘Autons’ (on telly, they’re only named in the end credits). Some of the ‘living statue’ entertainers on the South Bank of the Thames are revealed to be Autons: One is dressed as a tramp holding a plastic daffodil [see Terror of the Autons]; another takes the form of a ballerina; and a third is a knight in a suit of armour. The Doctor realises the Auton trio has been steering them towards the Nestene lair, a chamber that the creature has clearly chewed its way into from beneath. A second Mickey duplicate tricks Rose into revealing the existence of the anti-plastic. Rose slowly becomes able to understand some of the Nestene Consciousness’s words, such as ‘Time… Lord’ and ‘Doc…tor’..
The shop-window Autons in the ‘Battle of London’ include a plastic dog and a boy made out of small plastic bricks, as well as display models from Soho’s adult shops, dressed in leather harnesses and speedos. Some of the Autons turn their hands into blades and hack their way through the crowd, while others morph their hands into gun barrels. Clive recalls stories of ‘monsters from Loch Ness, and wizards in Cornwall, and robots in the North Pole’ [neatly looping in Terror of the Zygons, The Tenth Planet and Russell’s CBBC TV show, Wizards Vs Aliens] before he pushes his family to safety and is killed.
Rudi Henrik, heir to the Henrik family fortune, comes to inspect the damage to the Henrik’s store, accompanied by his wife and his boyfriend; all three are killed in the Auton massacre. A ‘posh boy’ is knocked over by one of the Auton Living Statues and he and his family are later caught in the Millennium Wheel when it tips over. Rose’s dodgy ex Jimmy Stone has recently moved in with a Ghanaian student, not for love but for her money; he decides to leave her, after stealing some of her valuables, and is hacked to pieces in the street by a gang of Autons. In Chiswick, Donna Noble has been nursing a hangover all day. Put to bed by her grandfather, she sleeps through the whole thing.
Cover: Anthony Dry’s cover shows the Doctor pointing his sonic screwdriver (its first ever appearance on a Target cover!) along with Rose and a pair of Autons.
Final Analysis: This is a perfect example of what a Target book should always be – telling the story we loved on TV, adding insights into the lives of the supporting characters that might not be possible to reveal within a TV schedule timeslot, add a few extra characters and background detail and throw in a couple of scenes too ambitious for even a generous TV budget. Russell is confident enough in the character of Rose to allow her to be selfish, demanding and aware of her own faults, because she’s also determined, brave and compassionate. All of these things made her such a strong, fully rounded woman on TV but here we get to understand more of who she was before we met her.
This is only Russell’s third novel (he wrote Damaged Goods for the Virgin New Adventures and adapted his first CBBC serial, Dark Season, for BBC Books) and as we’d expect, he brings a more adult approach than we might have seen before in a Target adaptation – even though it’s entirely family friendly. So there are characters who are gay, one in transition, and even just the acknowledgement that people might be sexual beings feels like a brave new world. Jackie Tyler may have photos of her late husband and find herself still mourning him, but she still has ‘understandings’ with various friends around the estate. She’s grown up with nothing and isn’t afraid to take what she feels is owed to her, whether it’s a favour from Rodrigo or a premature spending spree in anticipation of her share of Rose’s compensation. There are a few mild swear words, a couple of uses of ‘bloody’, a ‘sod that’, plus something that wasn’t an issue for British viewers on transmission of the TV episode, but turned out to be controversial elsewhere. The phrase ‘leave the domestics outside’ is retained here. It’s a term commonly used by the police in the UK, meaning ‘domestic abuse’ – threatening or violent behaviour between partners or family members. Unfortunately, some North American viewers incorrectly interpreted this as ‘domestic servant’, suggesting a racially insensitive description of Mickey. This led to a few heated and (for British fans) rather baffling conversations at conventions in the year after Rose was first broadcast.
I’ve cheated slightly in how I’ve ordered these final chapters as, officially, Rose entered the Target library before The Pirate Planet, the TV Movie, the two Saward Dalek stories and the two Fisher rewrites – but this is the right way to end. At the time of writing, Russell T Davies has not indicated that he’ll be writing any more Targets, happy to leave those adaptations to other writers. It’s a shame, because I’d love to see him tackle some more. But if you’re going to write just one Target book, let it be this one. Marvellous!
Thank you for following this quest to the very end. Although I’m not covering the rest of the 21st century stories, you can find a quick guide to them in this chapter. As a reward / punishment for sticking with me this far, come back on 17th November, when I’ll be releasing something new, one chapter a day, leading up to Doctor Who’s birthday.
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!
Synopsis: When the Doctor and Romana land on the planet Zanak, apparently by mistake, they discover a world where young men are tormented by haunting visions and where the people are so wealthy that they leave rare gems lying in the street. High up in the mountains sits their ruler, the Captain, half-man, half machine. The Doctor is appalled to discover that the Captain has found a way to pilot the entire planet around the galaxy, absorbing other worlds. But that’s nothing to how outraged he becomes when he finds out why…
1. The Sky with Diamonds
2. Right Place, Wrong Planet
3. Meeting with Unusual Minds
4. Late to the Party
5. The Normally Delicious Smell of Pork
6. Dark Satanic Mills
7. The Death of Calufrax
8. The Trophy Room
9. Life’s Fleeting, but Plank’s Constant
10. An Immortal Queen
11. Dinner with Newton
12. The Captain’s Plan
Background: James Goss rewrites his earlier, longer novel, adapting scripts by Douglas Adams for a story broadcast in 1977. At 43 years and six months, this once and for all is the story with the longest gap between broadcast of the original story on TV and eventual novelisation as a ‘Target’ book.
Notes: For the first time since Doctor Who and the Sunmakers, we have a ‘Doctor Who and the…’ title! The Doctor is still concerned about Romana’s lack of experience (in fact, he’s slightly afraid of her). Their quest to find the second segment of the Key to Time is officially ‘Day Two’ and only Romana’s second trip in the TARDIS. At the start, Romana’s gown flows behind her ‘with a slithering grace that tended to scare furniture’
The Captain is an impressive giant of a former man:
It was hard to tell where the chair ended and the Captain began. Nestled amongst it all were the remains of a very large man. Half of his face was covered with a metallic plate,. A green eye patch glowed dangerously, metal lips sneered and even half of his beard was iron. Things got worse beneath the neck. A vast robotic arm, two artificial legs, synthetic lungs that hissed with effort, and, at the end of a velvet-covered sleeve, the rather pathetic remains of a human hand twitched.
His parrot is more birdlike than on TV, with metallic feathers and a habit of hopping from foot to foot. The Nurse wears a pale green dress rather than a white one. Calufrax has two suns. K9 plugs himself into a streetlamp to access Zanak’s information network. The planets in the Captain’s trophy room float inside their glass cabinets. Romana tells Kimus that there is a ‘vast space’ on Gallifrey ‘where the memories of dead Time Lords gathered to grumble’ [which could be either something inside the Matrix, or the Cloister Wraiths seen in Hell Bent].
Cover: The Doctor, Romana and the Captain are dominated by an oversized Polyphase Avatron, courtesy of Anthony Dry.
Final Analysis: While this story was previously adapted as a hefty hardback novel, James Goss was working from Douglas Adams’ original scripts, so there were more diversions from what made it to screen. This is a leaner, more faithful adaptation of the TV episodes, but it’s still on the thicker end of the Target scale. As with City of Death, the main impression is one of joyful chaos as the Doctor comes to terms with having a new companion foisted upon him, while Romana is surprised to find herself placing a lot of trust in a man she’s only known for a day. As on TV, it’s the story of the rebellious kid from the wrong side of the time tracks trying to impress a woman of a different class and Goss adds little asides to show us how the relationship develops. By close of play, Romana seems to have got the measure of the Doctor.
Leaving the Doctor alone with the largest bomb in creation was like leaving a child with a toy and expecting them not to play with it.
One element retained from the fuller novel is the narrator’s suggestion that Kimus is a fraud, full of high ideals and hot air, but still just as timid as the rest of the citizens to prevent him from ever actually doing anything. It’s rare that a non-villainous character is shown such justifiable contempt, personifying the general apathy of an entire civilisation that has grown accustomed to obscene decadence and become tolerant of oppression in barely a generation. Little details like this really make the continuation of the Target novelisations worthwhile.
Synopsis: An emergency take-off on a barren world sees a spaceship explode, wiping out the last of the Jagaroth. Millions of years later, the Doctor and Romana are enjoying a holiday in Paris when they bump into a detective investigating a group of art thieves. What appears to be a simple heist turns out to have implications that echo through Earth’s history – and which will ensure it has no future.
Prologue: Escapes to Dangers
1. Decision for the Doctor
2. The Deadly Arrivals
3. In the Hands of the Enemy
4. Meeting with a Monster
5. Sentenced to Death
6. The Doctor Disappears
7. The Face of the Enemy
8. An Army of Monsters
9. Return to Peril
10. In the Power of Scaroth
11. The Doctor Fights Back
12. The World Destroyed
Epilogue: A Kind of Victory
Background: Despite the misleading credit on the cover, this is by James Goss, rewriting his longer novel, which was based on various drafts of scripts written by Douglas Adams, based on a storyline by David Fisher, as televised in 1979. All of the chapter titles are new to this edition, which is a slight shame as there were some corkers in the original.
Notes: The old ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ blurb is resurrected on the title page with the explanation that the Fourth Doctor’s appearance later changed ‘when he lost an argument with gravity’. We’re also told that the cover shows ‘the 12th incarnation of Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth’. The prologue has the glorious title ‘Escapes to Dangers’. Scaroth’s ship is called Sephiroth. Romana made use of the TARDIS food machine before reaching Paris. K9 chose not to accompany his Master and Mistress on their jaunt around Paris due to the many cobbled streets he detected. After 40 novels, it’s an utter joy to find an author creating a new way of describing the Fourth Doctor: ‘The overall impression was of someone who had been completely knitted’.
The earliest Scaroth splinter – the Primary Fragment – is a caveman who brings fire to a tribe of primitives who worship him as a God. The Primary Fragment is closer in time to the disaster, so is able to direct the course of his future selves; this becomes harder with those splinters that are further forward in time, which is why the final Scarlioni-Scaroth is initially ignorant of his real identity, blindly following his sense of purpose for a greater goal. It’s only when an itch leads him to peel away Scarlioni’s face in ribbons that he finally learns the truth. The face mask is self-repairing and is a ‘pan-polymeric protoplasm’, the product of alien technology that was recovered by Phidias, a previous incarnation of Scaroth. Phidias gave the material to a sculptor, who used his own face as a model. In addition to Tancredi, the other fragments are: A pope in the Vatican; a crusader in Jerusalem (whose resemblance to Richard the Lionheart must have been confusing – see The Crusades); an Irish martyr burned at the stake; a senator in a Byzantium court; an English nobleman in Venice; the architect of the Great Pyramid at Cheops; an astronomer in Babylon; and the inventor of the first wheel, living on the banks of the Euphrates.
Countess Scarlioni’s first name is Heidi, while the tour guide at the Louvre is Madame Henriette. The Doctor namedrops Catherine de Medici and Oscar Wilde in addition to Shakespeare. It’s made explicit that the seven names in Duggan’s address book who are interested in buying the Mona Lisa were the same people who hired him to investigate Scarlioni. The TARDIS is parked in an art gallery owned by a Monsieur Bertrand (on TV, it’s not clear that this isn’t just another wing of the Louvre).
Romana is surprised by the Doctor’s fury as he rebukes her for helping Scarlioni build his time machine (he later apologises for his rudeness). She sees Scarlioni as a better class of villain than Davros, whom she struggles to imagine offering her a fruit platter. She counts among her achievements the triple-first she got from the Time Academy, her position as ‘favoured scion of the House of Heartshaven and her skills in the ‘trans-temporal debating society’ – but her only reaction when the Doctor explains the extent of Scaroth’s plans is ‘Huh?’
Trapped inside the time bubble, Kerenski lives out his life completely; from his perspective, it’s the other inhabitants of the cellar who are frozen in time and he eventually dies of boredom as much as old age. Romana sets the time bubble reset for three minutes, not two. Scaroth doesn’t die in the implosion, but is cast into the vortex, where he experiences the sensation of his past selves all turning their backs on him. The Doctor places the surviving Mona Lisa into Duggan’s hands for it to be returned to the Louvre. The detective waves the Doctor and Romana off and then sees them depart in the TARDIS.
Cover: Anthony Dry’s artwork shows the Doctor, Romana, Scaroth and the Jagaroth spaceship.
Final Analysis: For the first time since The Crusades, we have a Target book making its debut in a different imprint. As referenced in the ‘background’, Doctor Who novelisations took an interesting turn in the 21st Century; almost certainly inspired by the success of JK Rowling’s boy-wizard books, and with the added attraction of being based on scripts by Douglas Adams, Gareth Roberts’ novel of the great lost work Shada came out in hardback in 2012 to critical acclaim. The first edition of The City of Death, published in 2015, was a similarly weighty 320-page hardback volume. Three years later, James Goss condensed and rewrote his previous novel into a 185-page novel with a Target logo – at last!
The Target edition is less meandering, much more faithful adaptation of the TV story, Iosing some of the extended backstories (notably Heidi and Hermann, but also the entire subplot of the critics, which seemed to make little sense until the exact moment it slotted into the scene from the broadcast episode, at which point it became the Best Thing Ever). Luckily, it retains the sheer seductive joy of Goss immersed in a Douglas Adams mindset – as the opening paragraph of the prologue illustrates:
It was Tuesday and life didn’t happen.
Wednesday would be quite a different matter.
Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, was in for a surprise. For one thing, he had no idea he was about to become the last of the Jagaroth
The destruction of the Jagaroth’ ship, Sephiroth, is presented as one of the universe’s little ironies – an entire species wiped out and leaving nothing behind of any significance except a trail of death. It’s a tiny observation, but it underlines the twist of fate that sees Scaroth fated to accumulate some of Earth’s greatest cultural artefacts while failing to appreciate their value, aside from how much they can be flogged on the black market to greedy collectors.
At the beginning of the first chapter, the scene is set in such a knowing, cheeky way:
A man and a woman stood on top of the Eiffel Tower, every inch in love, if not with each other then certainly with life itself.
As in his previous version – and in the grand tradition of Terrance Dicks – James Goss smooths out some of the TV story’s plot wrinkles. The revelation of Scaroth’s true form, which is dramatic but slightly ludicrous on TV, is beautifully horrific here, as the artificial skin shreds away in ribbons to reveal a monstrous single eye set into a writhing mass of tentacles. The relationship of the Count and Countess Scarlioni is justified, making sense of exactly how an attractive wife can fail to be aware of her husband’s true nature – and in turn uncovering something altogether more unsettling about wealth, greed and human nature. Goss makes sure we never see the Countess as a victim – the truth is, she has a sickening taste for violence.
Admittedly, it helps that the story came from David Fisher and Douglas Adams – both fine minds with the skills to present the universe as basically absurd. While Goss captures the breathless energy of Adams especially, there’s never a sense that he’s showboating; he’s merely serving the story in an appropriate style. As a result, this may well be elbowing its way into my all-time top-five Target books. Just don’t tell Ghost Light.
Synopsis: While Sarah Jane and her colleague Jeremy enjoy a holiday in Italy, they’re surprised to find the Brigadier is also in the region. He’s offering support to a distant relative who’s being threatened by an American gangster determined to acquire the family home by any means. When the Doctor arrives to investigate a haunting, the old team comes together to solve a mystery that spans centuries.
Numbered One to Twenty-Eight
Background: A number of firsts here, as Barry Letts adapts scripts for a BBC Radio drama that, at the time of publication, had yet to be broadcast. The old novelisation imprint having expired, this was released as the seventh book in Virgin’s Missing Adventures line.
Notes: The back cover tells us that the story is set between Death to the Daleks and The Monster of Peladon; Sarah recalls her tangle with a Sontaran, there are various references to Paradise of Death and the Doctor and Sarah discuss their escapades in the Exxilon city. An opening scene helps to set up our new villain in a confrontation between Max Vilmio and head of a ruling family, Don Fabrizzio, which results in the brutal death of the Don.
As was common in the Virgin books, there’s some mild swearing – the Don’s henchmen are said to have been disrespected as if they were ‘the chicken‐shit bully‐boys of a Main Street Boss from the Mid‐West’, the Don considers Vilmio to be a ‘pezzo di merda’ (thank you Google Translate) and Vilmio later calls Fabrizzio a ‘two‐bit Godfather with cowshit between his toes’ (as in the radio serial!). Sarah mentally bestows Jeremy with the name ‘Tail‐Arse‐Charlie’ as he’s always last in line when the action starts. Letts outdoes Ian Marter for one specific expletive: Vilmio threatens Jeremy, ‘I’ll ask you once more, you little bastard’ and Jeremy recalls a boxing lesson at school where he cowered in the corner of the ring surrounded by cries of ‘You’ve got him now, boy, kill the bastard!’. After Max calls Maggie ‘an ignorant broad from Brooklyn’, she agrees, before adding ‘Great tits, though’; later, she’s said to stand ‘silent, hand on tilted hip, chin up, tits out, letting her body do its work’. Least offensive of all is Sarah asking herself ‘Why am I so knackered?’ – it’s an entirely appropriate phrase for someone who grew up in Liverpool, but any readers from the East of England may have another interpretation of the word, where ‘knackered’ can mean ‘sexually exhausted’. The book retains the use of the word ‘catamite’ from the radio scripts and refrains from explaining it. Max’s use of the term ‘dumb Polack hooker’ is, however, excised.
As a child, Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart had visited his uncle Mario and brought with him a set of story books (which his uncle kept to help him with his English) as well as a comforting teddy bear. Listening to the Doctor and the Brigadier talk, Sarah Jane thinks of them as ‘the grown‐ups’. The Doctor’s voice reminds Sarah of a childhood trip with her parents to stay at a caravan on the Gower coast.
We’re treated to a number of ghastly animal combinations from the N-dimension: One is a ‘glowing creature half ape, half carrion bird, reaching out with impossibly extended scaly arms [and] vulture claws’; later, the Doctor provides the gang with a peek into N-space:
Sarah saw again a flash of the chimera of her living nightmare. She saw glimpses of creatures even more horrific: inside out creatures gnawing at their own entrails; gaping heads, all mouth and fangs, with a maw large enough to swallow a full‐grown pig – or a human; monstrous jellyfish with a hundred human eyes, staring, staring, staring; and more; and more; a menagerie of evil.
The three creatures they encounter in the past resemble a thirty-feet-long whale with shark’s teeth and legs with ‘dinner‐plate‐sized hooves’, a ‘nimble slug a mere twelve feet in length’ and a ‘spiny sea urchin, a ball of yard‐long spikes’, with ‘blood-red eyes on stalks’.
The Doctor’s leaping to avoid the beast is compared to ‘Nureyev or Nijinsky’, which seems odd to think back to a time where there even was a ‘world-famous ballet dancer’ who everyone knew by name, let alone two.
We discover that Maggie’s backstory is even more grim than on radio: After the death of her mother, her violent and abusive father revealed that he expected Maggie to take her mother’s place ‘in every sense’. When she fought against his advances, her father beat her savagely and though he subsequently left her alone, he continued to violently terrorise her siblings. Despite this, we’re told that Maggie usually gets a ‘buzz’ from violence – ‘Bruised, cut cheeks and split lips could be quite a turn‐on’ – but even she finds Max’s beating of Jeremy distressing – hence why she helps him.
Uncle Mario has had a loaded gun on the premises ever since World War II (we’re told that he has been ‘indomitably anti‐fascist’ since the 1920s. Jeremy had an Uncle Teddy, with whom he used to go wild-fowling on trips to Norfolk. Having repeatedly compared his adventures with those of James Bond, Jeremy takes inspiration for his final assault from one of Uncle Mario’s books – one of the volumes that used to belong to young Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart.
Cover: Using the Slatter-Anderson design for the Missing Adventures range, Alister Pearson presents us with a Doctor in his costume first seen in The Green Death, with a Brigadier in what looks like his Mawdryn Undead civvies, while the main panel shows a ghostly monk passing through a brick wall.
Final Analysis: Commissioned as a sequel to The Paradise of Death, The Ghosts of N-Space fell foul of changes at Radio 5 as the station’s remit evolved towards solely news and sport, with no room for fiction. It shifted across a number of potential options before eventually airing on Radio 2 (not normally the home of drama, but Radio 4 had already passed) some two years after it had been produced. In the meantime, Virgin books decided to capitalise upon the success of their New Adventures range by commissioning a second strand of original fiction starring past Doctors and companions. Barry Letts had a ready-made script ripe for novelisation, so was invited to contribute to the Missing Adventures range with The Ghosts of N-Space with no confirmed airdate for the serial in sight. This book is the only Doctor Who adaptation to be presented as an original novel first rather than as part of the ongoing series of novelisations. It’s a distinction that initially led me to decide not to review it here as it, er, didn’t count. However, a last-minute Twitter poll forced my hand. So here we are!
As with the novel of The Paradise of Death, while I don’t wish to review the radio play, this is another instance where I hadn’t actually heard the original episodes before. For the novel, Barry Letts rejigs the order of some scenes and expands others. Mainly, it benefits hugely from the rewriting of scenes that were originally created through breathless dialogue (such as Sarah Jane or Jeremy explaining what they can see and the listener can only hear). The backstories of the various Italian families through the ages are fleshed out and the whole thing just makes a lot more sense than it does as an audio drama. Otherwise, it’s a fairly logical progression through the scripts, even down to a very conveniently jolly ending.
At the time, there was a suspicion in some quarters that the BBC kept shunting the play around because nobody actually wanted it. Whether that was because of its quality, or just because no commissioner ever wants to inherit someone else’s stone-cold project is up for debate. Eventually, both the novel and the eventual broadcast received a lukewarm response from fans.
The adventure itself isn’t that bad. It’s a complicated tale set across multiple points in time that might easily have been produced on TV during the Steven Moffat years. The main problem is one that blighted both Paradise of Death and almost all of the Missing Adventures at the time, a split in the readership between those who wanted the new stories to feel authentic to the productions they were supposed to slot between and others who wanted the kind of stories that could never have been achieved in a BBC Television Centre studio. The Ghosts of N-Space sits uncomfortably between the two. Like most early 1970s six-part adventures, it’s rather flabby in the middle and it all gets a little moralistic in its conclusion. But it’s also extremely atypical of the era it’s trying to recreate, so it feels like one of those feature films in the 1970s where the cast of a popular TV sitcom leave their familiar surroundings for a foreign holiday – with hilarious consequences.
In this case, the consequences aren’t that hilarious as Letts takes advantage of being able to write for an older audience: The Lovecraftian monsters are genuinely horrific; there’s the strong language and mild sexual terms mentioned earlier,; and he reveals an enthusiasm for particularly nasty death scenes:
With one last choking gasp, the wretched man was still. His eyes were popping from his head and his tongue extruded from his mouth, blood streaming from it. His jaw, clamped tight, had bitten it right through. He was, without a doubt, quite dead.
By no means as ropey as I’d been led to believe, it’s still not quite authentic enough to satisfy traditionalists, nor revolutionary to appease the radicals. Even so, it’s disappointing that this is Barry Letts’ final novelisation. He later wrote two original Doctor Who novels for BBC Books, one co-written with Terrance Dicks, as well as contributing to Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith series of audio plays. He died on 9 October 2009, aged 84. His autobiography, Who and Me, was published posthumously the following month.