Chapter 150. Doctor Who – Survival (1990)

Synopsis: The Doctor brings Ace home to her own time and place. But the time is Sunday and the place is Perivale, the most boring place ever. Most of Ace’s friends have disappeared and the youth club has been taken over by a fanatical army type with a sadistic streak. On a distant planet, the Master waits for the Doctor’s arrival – only with the help of his oldest enemy can he hope to escape a world that is slowly turning him into a ferocious animal…

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eight, with a postscript.

Background: Rona Munro adapts her own scripts from the 1989 serial.

Notes: The man who’s abducted while washing his car is called Dave Aitken. His elderly neighbour who shoos away the cats is Mrs Bates. Ace and her gang used to listen to the music of ‘Guns and Roses’ [sic] and ‘Spondy Gee’. There’s a crack on the youth club door that was the result of a fight between Ace and Midge. They all used to hang around outside the local pub hoping they could persuade older kids to buy ‘cans’ for them. The Doctor puts a gold star-shaped coin from Psion B into Ange’s collection tin. Paterson is a police officer, not a sergeant in the territorial army as on TV (hence why he knows Ace was let off with a ‘warning’). After the sergeant criticises her for never phoning home, Ace recalls the events in 1945 that led to her meeting her mother as a baby. Still confused by the conflicting emotions the relationship with he rparents provokes, she feels distressed that the Doctor appears to be ignoring her in favour of his tins of cat food. This prompts her to walk off alone to gather her thoughts – watched by a kitling.

The kitlings (‘feline vultures’) can teleport from planet to planet in search of carrion and have been to Earth many times. They can ‘smell blood even across the vacuum of space’ – and the Cheetah People follow them in search of sport. Midge has posters for heavy metal bands in his room (on TV, he has a U2 album). 

Returning home in the early hours of Monday morning, Midge goes to the shop run by Len and Harvey and demands money. The Master releases a kitling in the shop, which transports the shopkeepers away. Midge kills both Paterson and Derek. After Karra is killed, Ace sees Shreela and tells her she won’t be staying in Perivale. Shreela helps her obtain some petrol and Ace lights a pyre for Karra and Midge, before walking off arm in arm with the Doctor (who does not deliver the speech we heard on TV). 

Cover: One of the most inventive covers ever, Alister Pearson paints a vista of the Cheetah people’s planet with portraits of a concerned Doctor, a possessed Ace and the Master’s black cat minion. The canvas has been slashed with four claw marks. An early pencil draft of this design also showed the Master’s face emerging from the cat’s torso, but this was dropped for the final painting.

Final Analysis: Another cracking novel, it’s largely what we saw on TV but with added violence and a generally more adult tone; as with Ghost Light, it’s beautifully written and visceral. The scene with Ange raising money for hunt saboteurs is enhanced by a shop window containing a dummy wearing a fur coat:

The Doctor pressed closer to the glass. Yellow fur, spotted fur, hung limp and soft on the dummy like the dead thing it was. There was no hint of the long muscles that had animated it, the bone, sinew, heart and lungs of the animal that had worn it as its own skin as it streaked across the dusty yellow savannah, the fastest creature on earth. There was only the barest reminder of the coat’s original owner, the animal that now reminded the Doctor so forcibly of the connection he had been looking for.

With just a couple of novels remaining, the Seventh Doctor era is shaping up to be the most consistent of the Target collection. At the back of this book, in a postscript, range editor Peter Darvill-Evans marked the fact that it appeared unlikely that Doctor Who was returning to our screens any time soon. He also revealed that as well as some remaining novelisations, plans were already underway to start publishing original novels – the continuing adventures of the Doctor and Ace.

Chapter 149. Doctor Who – Ghost Light (1990)

Synopsis: When the Doctor sets an initiative test, Ace is initially suspicious and then alarmed to discover it involves a spooky old house. It contains a menagerie of strange creatures, a crazed explorer, a lost policeman and a ruthlessly ambitious man who appears to be evolving into… what? Worst of all, the house is in Perivale – the exact same one that emotionally scarred Ace all those years ago…

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Tropic of Perivale
  • 2 Gabriel Chase
  • 3 Uncharted Territory
  • 4 Gaslight Boogie
  • 5 Josiah’s Web
  • 6 That’s the Way to the Zoo
  • 7 Ace’s Adventures Underground
  • 8 Creature Comforts
  • 9 Out of Control
  • 10 Twice upon a Time
  • 11 Trick of the Light
  • 12 Beautiful Soup

Background: Marc Platt adapts his own scripts from the 1989 serial.

Notes: The first chapter presents Ace’s first steps into the derelict Gabriel Chase in 1983 when she was 13 (about a year earlier than Remembrance of the Daleks suggests, although here, Ace herself says she was 14). The house is near Western Avenue (also known as the A40, which becomes The Westway, where it passes within sight of BBC Television Centre, fact fans!) Ace’s friend’s full name was Manisha Purkayastha and her sister also survived the devastating fire. Ace was a fan of Michael Jackson when she was younger and her mum called her ‘Dory’. Back in Ace’s present day, aboard the TARDIS, she is now 17 years old. The Doctor is struggling to get accurate data from the TARDIS – and there’s an elegant description of his relationship with friends past and present:

Anyone who travelled in the TARDIS had a price to pay. However willingly any new companion walked through its doors, leaving their own world behind, and however determinedly they tried to assert control over the bizarre events in which the Doctor’s travels might embroil them, one fact was inescapable: throughout time and space their lives were in the Time Lord’s hands. Even the slickest of jugglers, however, could drop a skittle at one time or another.

…. Call him showman, conjuror, great detective, mentor or tormentor, his speciality was to juggle the past, the present and the possible. No one was safe from that; anyone could be a potential skittle. 

The Doctor rarely bothered with a safety net either; he never considered he needed one. But he didn’t always ask the skittles.

The Reverend Ernest Matthews makes his final approach to Gabriel Chase via a dog-cart that he’s hired from Ealing Station. He is Dean of Mortarhouse College, Oxford (not Merton College as on TV). He has learned that Josiah Samuel Smith has endorsed the theories of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in papers written with ‘scant grasp of literary or scientific style, or even the basic rules of grammar’. While this is his primary concern, he is also worried about Smith’s ward, Gwendoline, after seeing them together at the Royal Opera House in London. As he approaches the front door of the house, he hears ‘the distant grating and wheezing of some large mechanical device’ and sees a flashing light in the observatory turret.

The Doctor heavily implies to Ace that he met Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle. He believes they should follow proper etiquette and leave the house so that they can knock on the front door and be invited in. According to Redvers Fenn-Cooper’s journal, the events take place across the nights of 19-20 September, 1883 – although as at least one entry for this was ‘written’ while he was in a strait-jacket, we might assume the journal itself is a delusion. 

The weary, weather-beaten face that returned his stare belonged to a man apparently in his late thirties. He had a haggard look to him. His thick, fair hair was greying and ruffled and his jacket looked slept in. Along with his bushy moustache, he had several days growth of stubble and accompanying bags under his eyes. Even so, Ace decided there was something dashing about him, despite the spear and being at least twice her age.

Smith insists that the occupant of the cell in the basement is supplied with a copy of The Times every day as a form of mockery, aware that his prisoner cannot read and will use it to build a nest. The Doctor plays some boogie-woogie on the piano, but sensing the outrage from the Rev Matthews, he switches to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which is interrupted by the arrival of Josiah, our first indication that it is not what it seems:

Its hair was white and long; its skin pale and leech-like. It wore a night-blue, velvet dinner-jacket and black, pebble-lensed spectacles that looked like tiny craters on its wizened, wicked face. As it groped its way into the halflight, grasping at the back of a chair for support, the Doctor saw that the creature’s clothes were covered in strands of cobwebs.

Prompted by Ace’s tuxedo, the Doctor asks if he ever took her to see Georges Sand or Vesta Tilley. He pretends to be appalled by Josiah’s offer of Five thousand pounds, as ‘a gentleman only ever pays in guineas!’ Ace uses the lift in the hope of returning to the attic floor of the house, but Mrs Pritchard has set the lift to go to the basement to delay the prisoner’s escape and remove the problem of Ace in one go. The tunnel leading to the basement chamber is covered in cave paintings. 

Control is able to manipulate the empty husks of Josiah and Ace sees the creature inside the cell – a ‘half-lit shape covered in filthy rags’ – before Nimrod slams and bolts the door. Lady Pritchard’s first name is ‘Margaret’. Distressed at the sight of Control in her rags, Mrs Grose tells the Doctor she’ll be seeking employment elsewhere; the Doctor asks her to pass on his regards to ‘Peter Quint’ (the sinister but absent figure in Henry James’ The Turning of the Screw, which also features a domestic called Mrs Grose). Inspector Mackenzie witnesses ‘Lady Pritchard’, still dressed as a housekeeper, arranging the packing of a number of items away in trunks for despatch to the ‘lodgings in Whitmore Street’. Ace gives Control a book on etiquette, which she touches to her head and absorbs. Light tours the Earth to discover the total scale of evolution across the planet, where only the most basic bacteria in swamps remain unchanged.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s best cover ever, evoking the ‘window’ concepts used by Jeff Cummins, combining Gabriel Chase at night, Ace in her Victorian frock and the Doctor in close-up.  Underneath the house are some symbols, which include the artist’s initials alongside those of then-Doctor Who Magazine reviewer Gary Russell.

Final Analysis: I just had to pull out this line:

‘Professor! What’s going on?’ She almost felt like crying she was so confused.

As with Ben Aaronovich’s Remembrance of the Daleks, Ghost Light benefits immensely from being transferred to the page. The dialogue is easier to understand for one thing and the reader has time to work out the intent behind most of Control’s slowly improving grasp of English. The shifting relationship between Control and Josiah – previously the Survey Agent – is spelled out just a little more as Light begins to understand the change that has come over his former servants. 

One of the greatest disappointments of the final years of Doctor Who on TV is that Marc Platt only got one chance to write a story (he’s made up for it since with his novelisation of Ben Aaronovitch’s Battlefield, the novel Lungbarrow and some hugely popular audios for Big Finish). I’ve both praised and critiqued Terrance Dicks’ economical approach, and been dismissive of some of the more overwrought texts submitted to the range by first-time authors, but it’s genuinely surprising that this is Marc Platt’s debut novel – and the writing is exquisite. Here’s his introduction to Light:

Robed in liquid gold and silver, with skin shimmering, it had the noble and terrible beauty of a seraph, fallen to Earth from its place beside the Throne. It glided from the lift, energy humming from it like a generator and droning fiercely at any mortal it passed.

Slowly, the fans who grew up watching the series and reading the books are taking over and it’s rather exciting at this late stage to find a book where the writing excited me as much as David Whittaker’s did in Doctor Who and the Crusaders, published 25 years before.

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

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

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Fifteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 148. Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)

Synopsis: The Hand of Omega – a powerful weapon from the dark times of Gallifrey. In 1963, an old man living in a junkyard hid the weapon on Earth. Then the Daleks came looking for it, hoping it could be used to end a civil war between Dalek factions. The Doctor now returns with his new friend Ace to find the Hand of Omega – and give it to the Daleks! But which side gets it, the Renegades led by the Supreme Dalek, or those loyal to the Dalek Emperor? Time will tell…

Chapter Titles

A prologue and 23 numbered chapters, although each chapter also begins with a time, such as ‘Friday, 15:30’.

Background: Ben Aaronovich adapts his own scripts for the 1988 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 25.

Notes: The book opens with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III and a prologue that once again adapts the Doctor’s arrival at the junkyard from An Unearthly Child. Ace has destroyed the TARDIS ‘food synthesiser’ by mistaking it for a microwave and accidentally pouring plutonium into it, thinking it was soup. When the Doctor gives her currency appropriate for the time, Ace recalls the savings coupons on Iceworld [see Dragonfire]. This Doctor has ‘intense grey eyes’ and an unnerving gaze.

We’re introduced to more of Gilmore’s squad: There’s a 26-year-old Private John Lewis Abbot; Bellos, a big man from Yorkshire; Sergeant Embery; Quartermaster-Sergeant Kaufman; MacBrewer (a career soldier, ‘Catholic, married, four children’), who is killed by the Dalek at Totter’s Lane; Faringdon, who is decapitated by Dalek fire during the battle at the school; and Corporal Grant, who is the soldier attacked by Mike Smith in the cellar of Coal Hill School.

The Doctor recalls his first visit to Skaro and the death of Temmosus, plus events from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks. Thanks to an excerpt from The Zen Military – A History of UNIT by Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart (2006), we learn that UNIT emerged out of an earlier operation, the Intrusion Counter Measures Group, a Royal Air Force Regiment established in 1961 under the command of Group Captain Ian Gilmore. The official files refer to the events of this story as ‘the Shoreditch Incident’. Gilmore’s headquarters are at Maybury Hall in Hendon but, recognising he needed a base closer to the centre of the current operation, he asked Sergeant Mike Smith to make enquiries – and Smith brought in Ratcliffe from the Shoreditch Association. Ratcliffe’s men attack Gilmore’s officers at Foreman’s Yard and steal the Dalek remains (an assault missing from the transmitted episode, which cuts straight to the removal of the Dalek remains on the back of Ratcliffe’s truck).

In one of the novel’s most far-reaching additions, we encounter a triumvirate of Time Lords from Gallifrey’s legends: Omega is ‘a huge man with wide shoulders and muscular arms, a definite drift from the regenerative norm’ who is seen by some as a genetic throwback from the dark time; he addresses Rassilon as ‘cousin’ and Omega believes himself and Rassilon to be equally responsible for their varied Time Lord creations; and the unnamed ‘other’, who urges caution, reminding them of Minyos [see Underworld – or, y’know, don’t] and warning that Omega’s ‘magnificent achievement’ might also serve as a weapon. 

The Doctor suspects that the Daleks that invaded Earth in the 22nd Century uncovered information that led them to the Hand of Omega in 1963 [perhaps during the Doctor’s aborted robotisation]. We also learn that the Daleks (or at least the renegade faction) call the Doctor ‘the Ka Faraq Gatri’ and the Imperial Faction are known as ‘the Ven-Katri Davrett’. The Imperial Dalek transmat operator bursts through a wall in the school cellar, behind which it has lain dormant for some time.

The Doctor stops at a roadside tea-stall in the docklands, run by John (it’s not the cafe we saw earlier, as it was on TV). Rachel Jensen is also staying at the boarding house run by Mike’s mum. In a dream, Rachel finds herself inside the synagogue in Golders Green that she attended with her mum as a child, where the familiar Rabbi is replaced by the Doctor. While they’re recovering from the events at Foreman’s Yard, Rachel is surprised to hear Gilmore call her by her first name and we learn that, 23 years earlier, she and Gilmore had enjoyed a night of passion on a beach, before she was dispatched to other manoeuvres in Scotland (neither of them married). She worked with Alan Turing and his description of the human brain put her off porridge for life. When tying the rope for their escape from the school, she recalls her time as a girl guide. According to The Women That Science Forgot by Rowan Sesay (1983), Rachel retired in 1964 and published her autobiography, The Electric Dreamer.

Ace got her first taste for explosives at the age of 12, when she discovered the effects of mixing nitrate fertilizer with a two-pound packet of sugar. As a teenager, Ace attended a modern ‘concrete’ school covered in multicultural murals, where her friends were Manisha, Judy and Claire. Manisha had long black hair – until she was in a fire, which Ace tries to forget. Ace also has a dream while at Mike’s mum’s, in which she remembers visiting Manisha in hospital after she and a sibling escaped the fire that killed her parents and three younger children; Manisha left Perivale to stay with relatives in Birmingham:

It was Dorothy who stared at the burnt house, the burnt face, the burnt life, the racist graffiti. And it was Dorothy who stared at the words ‘Pakis out’ on the wall of the playground. 

It was Ace who blew away the wall with two and a half kilograms of nitro-nine. 

Fireball in the darkness. 

Fire fighting fire.

This attack happened when Ace was 14, two years prior to what the Doctor calls Ace’s ‘adjustment’, which saw her catapulted across time and space to Iceworld.

The junior undertaker is called Martin. As a young captain, the Reverend Parkinson had fought in the Great War in Verdun, where he lost his sight, but found his vocation. Mike’s dad had been in the Navy during World War II and was lost with his ship in 1943 while running weapons to the Russians in the Arctic Sea; a photograph of his father, in uniform, is still on Mike’s mum’s wall in the boarding house. Mike first met Ratcliffe as a child, when the older man had given him some German chocolate. Mike served in Malaya for 18 months and spent some time in Singapore, but stayed in touch with Ratcliffe, who only days before this operation had warned the young soldier that the United States would be getting ‘a new president’.

Allison refers to the situation with ‘Miss Keeler’ that has affected the current government (ie, the ‘Profumo Affair’). Ace sees Muffin the Mule on TV. Her behaviour at the school alerts the Imperial Dalek commander that she must either be from a different planet or a different time period and instructs the Dalek squad to target her. As recounted in The Children of Davros, a Short History of the Dalek Race by Njeri Ngugi (4065), the Daleks suffered 83% casualties in the Movellan war and the remnants factionalised across the galaxy. The arrival of Davros’s new Daleks propelled the Dalek race into civil war. The Dalek mothership is called Eret-mensaiki Ska, or ‘Destiny of Stars’ and it was constructed in orbit around Skaro. It contains hatcheries that nurture Dalek embryos. There are tiny servo-robots providing maintenance across the Dalek mothership and the Doctor sees one aboard the shuttle. Also aboard the shuttle is the special weapons Dalek, also known as ‘the Abomination’, the presence of which unsettles the Imperial Commander. Its past history seems to contain the first reference in Doctor Who to a Time War:

It served in many campaigns: Pa Jass-Gutrik, the war of vengeance against the Movellans; Pa Jaski-Thal, the liquidation war against the Thals; and PaJass-Vortan, the time campaign – the war to end all wars.

The radiation from its gun has sent it insane and it only survives by order of the Emperor. The Dalek Emperor remembers when he was a man – and we might pick up the clues that this man was Davros in a description that is pure body-horror:

He remembered the smell of his own blood, pulsing slowly from severed arteries, the taste of concrete dust in his mouth, and the crackling of his own skin. He hurtled blindly into darkness.

And then resurrection. 

An age of pain and humiliation. He was reconstructed with chrome and plastic, held together by tungsten wire. They drilled sockets through his skull and threaded fibreoptics into his forebrain. 

Ratcliffe had marched on Cable Street with Oswald Mosley, ‘proud to be English, proud to fight against the jew and the Bolshevik, proud to stand up for their race’; he served a prison sentence during World War II, but managed to spend the 1950s setting up a construction company, profiting on the rebuilding of London. Ratcliffe walked into his office one day to find the Renegade Dalek battle computer installed in the shadows; it began to feed him secrets and use his business to install electronic devices – Electronic countermeasures pods, or ECMs – hidden around the rooftops of London and which scramble the circuits of the Imperial forces. The Supreme Dalek and its renegade troops lie dormant, hidden away in Ratcliffe’s warehouse until the Imperial Shuttle lands.

On Skaro, Vekis Nar-Kangli (the Plain of Swords) is where the final Kaled-Thal war ended and where the Dalek city, Mensvat Esc-Dalek, was built. The Hand of Omega destroys one thousand million Daleks along with Skaro, its sun and its other surrounding planets. Ace sprays graffiti on the rear of the Imperial Dalek shuttle: ‘Ace woz ‘ere in 63’. The Doctor befriends a dog – an Alsation [see more of this in Survival]. Allison writes to ‘Julian’ to share some gossip about a possible relationship between Rachel Jensen and Ian Gilmore and reveals that they’re trying to find the parents of the ‘creepy girl’.

Cover: Alister Pearson combines Davros, a gravestone with an ‘omega’ symbol, a smirking Doctor and three types of Dalek in a cover that also draws him equal with Andrew Skilleter in painting all of the covers for a single season of stories.

Final Analysis: Remembrance of the Daleks is seen by many fans as a high-point in the final years of the series. When he took on the role of Target range editor in February 1989, Peter Darvill Evans began to develop plans to publish original novels once the novelisations were complete. His first steps were to encourage the writers of this final run of stories to expand upon the TV scripts, writing the novels for an older audience. Target authors had often tried to expand the depth of their original stories, but here Ben Aaronovich delivers an altogether more cohesive work. We find out why Ratcliffe is more than just a useful fascist for the Daleks – his construction company has been used to create a network of Dalek devices across London. We learn much more about Ace (who is only in her second story, chronologically) and Aaronovich plays with the conflicts burning through a teenage girl who is also wise beyond her years, experiencing her first love and first betrayal. We’re teased with a smattering of Dalek history and allowed inside the minds of various Daleks and even the Emperor himself – to a depth unseen in even the novels of John Peel. The renegade Dalek Supreme in particular is fascinating, experiencing feelings and sensations by proxy through the girl who is the battle computer and an extension of the Supreme.

Aaronovich doesn’t flinch away from the brutality of war and it’s definitely the most er, mature novel since the heady days of Ian Marter: There’s mention of an incident in Gilmore’s wartime past that involved ‘two German soldiers his men had scraped off the interior of a pillbox’ and the gut-wrenching fate of a soldier called Faringdon. Also, while we’ve had passing mentions of orgies and alien reproduction, a flashback to a ‘brief encounter’ between Gilmore and Rachel on a beach – where he calls out her name and then doesn’t say it again for 23 years – is the closest we ever get in the pages of a Target book to an actual sex scene – which I definitely didn’t pick up on during any of the previous times I read this. And of course, Aaronovich’s own heritage enriches the backstory of Rachel.

There are many books in the volumes 100-156 that I’ve read for the first time for this project, Remembrance of the Daleks is one that I’ve come back to repeatedly since it was first published. It’s no exaggeration that it was a game-changer. At this point, we were still a year away from the release of Timewyrm: Genesis but here is where the New Adventures truly begin; it’s a story ‘too broad and too deep’ for the small screen, featuring the Doctor as a mythic figure and with revelations that hint at a history that predates the TV series. Right at the very end of the series, we begin a ‘new golden age’.

Chapter 147. Doctor Who – The Space Pirates (1990)

Synopsis: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe are trapped aboard a disintegrating space beacon. They are rescued by eccentric space wanderer Milo Clancey, who is wanted for murder. The space police believe that Clancey is the leader of a band of space pirates, while he is also in the sights of Madeleine Issigri, head of a space mining company and daughter of the man Clancey is believed to have killed. When the time travellers explore a space mine, they find the man whose very existence is the key to a conspiracy… in space!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Spacejack
  • 2. The Intruders
  • 3. Trapped
  • 4. The Renegade
  • 5. The Survivors
  • 6. Pursuit
  • 7. Missile Attack
  • 8. The Fugitives
  • 9. The Prisoners
  • 10. Escape
  • 11. Betrayed
  • 12. Rocket Blast
  • 13. A Coffin in Space
  • 14. Countdown to Doom

Background: It’s a huge moment as Terrance Dicks writes his final Target book, an adaptation of scripts by Robert Holmes for a 1969 serial that also completes the run of stories from Season Six.

Notes: The beacon hangs ‘silently in the blackness of space’ [see The Ambassadors of Death for more on this phrase]. The construction and history of the beacon is explained in some detail to get the reader ahead of the explanations later on. General Nikolai Hermack is ‘a grim-faced man in his early fifties’ with close-cropped ‘iron grey’ hair. His subordinate, Ian Warne, is s ‘tall, pleasant-looking man’ who’s a brilliant fighter pilot and one of the youngest majors in the Space Corps. 

For the final time, Terrance gives us a form of his well-practised description of the second Doctor:

First came a rather scruffy little man in baggy chequered trousers and an ill-fitting frock coat, which he wore with a wide-collared white shirt and a straggly bow tie. His deeply-lined face, wise, gentle and funny all at once, was surmounted by a mop of untidy black hair. Known only as the Doctor, he was a Time Lord, a wanderer through space and time. 

Jamie is ‘a brawny, truculent young man in the kilt of a Scottish Highlander’ who had been ‘snatched from the eighteenth century to join the Doctor in his wanderings’; Zoe is ‘a small, pretty dark-haired girl in neatly tailored shorts and a crisp white jacket and blouse’ who had once been a ‘computer operator’ and is ‘a bit of a human computer herself’.

It’s a shame that we’re not told much about the crazy space fashions of Madeleine Issigri, ‘a ‘tall, dark-haired, strikingly beautiful young woman [who] had the kind of well-groomed aloof good looks that kept others at a respectful distance’. Zoe doesn’t know what argonite is (so there are some limits to her scientific knowledge), nor does she recognise ’tillium’ (on TV, it’s the Doctor who asks what this is). Jamie has ‘a natural talent with any kind of weapon’, which conveniently explains why he knows how to use a gun from hundreds of years in his / our future. An extra scene concludes the story as Hermack tries to summon Milo Clancey back to the planet Ta by communicator, only to receive a noise like ‘an old-fashioned raspberry’ in reply.

Chapter 10 is called ‘Escape’ – but not to danger…

Cover: Tony Clark’s second and last cover shows a space ship (I’m reliably informed it’s the Minnow Fighter variety) and a Space Pirate inspired by Caven (but without an identifiable likeness). The figure is based on publicity photos for the 1984 film Runaway, so technically, that’s Tom Selleck on the cover.

Final Analysis: So that’s it – Terrance Dicks’ final contribution to this immense library of books that elevated the reading age of a generation of avid fans. There are a few minor tweaks here and there, suggesting that Terrance worked from the scripts rather than the surviving soundtrack. Madeleine Issigri’s rather revealing boast on screen, that she knows Hermack is wrong to suspect Clancey of being the pirate leader, becomes a more ambiguous ‘are you sure you’re right?’ – but mostly, this is as it played out back in 1969.

And there’s the problem. We might look forward to a day when The Space Pirates once again exists in full in the archives, perhaps out of a sense of completion or just a hope that it has hidden depths that we can’t discern from the audio track and the single surviving episode. I’m not convinced this would be the case. It’s only the second script by Robert Holmes, whose greatest work was yet to come, and while he became a favourite author for his ability to deliver workable scripts on time, this lacks the flair we’d come to know and love. Also, although Terrance Dicks was the principal (uncredited) script editor by this point, he was busy wrangling The Seeds of Death into shape, leaving producer Derrick Sherwin to rewrite Holmes’ scripts to accommodate production changes so that the principal cast could start work on the next story (they only appear in the final episode in filmed inserts). All of which is to say that Terrance Dicks becomes the third person to attempt to breathe life into this story and it’s a bit of a thankless task – even Patrick Troughton himself complained about how boring the story was, predicting viewers would be tuning out (which indeed they did!). 

As on TV, the most entertaining element is Milo Clancey, largely because he’s the first of a series of Holmes-created avatars who parody the Doctor – an eccentric wanderer with a battered old vehicle and a willingness to pick up strays along the way. We’ll see his type again in Carnival of Monsters, The Ribos Operation and The Mysterious Planet. But Holmes isn’t quite there yet – and while it’s appropriate that Dicks’ last Target novel is an adaptation of scripts by his old friend and colleague, Dicks’ straight-forward approach leads to rather a dull runaround with little jeopardy and a lot of padding.

Terrance Dicks wrote 64 novels for the Target range (plus two Junior Doctor Who editions) and continued to contribute novels and short stories for Virgin Books and BBC Books, as well as many other works outside of the worlds of Doctor Who.  I met him a few times in the 1990s, when I worked on a number of conventions. On one occasion, I had the honour of escorting him from our Green Room to the main stage and I decided that would be the perfect moment to thank him for doubling my reading age when I was seven years old. He grinned and said ‘You’re not the first person to tell me that, but it’s nice to hear all the same’. He asked me what I did for a living and when I replied ‘I’m a copywriter’, he beamed proudly: ‘So was I, once!’

Terrance Dicks died on 29 August, 2019. His final prose, ‘Save Yourself’, was a short second-Doctor adventure commissioned for The Target Storybook, published posthumously. In 2021, a two-volume compendium of some of his most popular Doctor Who books, as voted for by fans, was released under the Target banner.

Chapter 146. Doctor Who – The Happiness Patrol (1990)

Synopsis: Helen A presides over the colony of Terra Alpha to ensure her citizens are happy. She even has a squad of enforcers to guarantee that everyone complies and her factories create sugary treats created by her chief scientist, the mysterious Kandyman. Yet some people – killjoys – will insist on being miserable! Helen A has very clear policies for such behaviour. The killjoys must not spoil things for the majority. Happiness will prevail.

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Fifteen.

Background: Graeme Curry adapts earlier drafts of the scripts from his own 1988 serial.

Notes: The killjoy at the start of the story has lost her husband and son to the ‘disappearances’; she responds to Silas P’s approaches after he gives her hope of joining the resistance. It’s the Doctor who suggests a triceratops in his discussion about dinosaurs – Ace can’t remember their names. Conversely, the Doctor doesn’t appear to know what ‘lift music’ is. They discover the Kandy Kitchen, attracted by sweet smells in the air, and briefly explore. Ace went to a pantomime with her parents when she was a child and had been disappointed when she saw backstage to see the artifice that Terra Alpha now reminds her of.

The Happiness Patrol use jeeps to travel through the city and they are each equipped with ‘fun guns’ and bomb detectors. Helen A is the governor of Terra Alpha. Once a year, on Liberation Day, she addresses the population from Forum Square, where she’ll ‘inspect the Happiness troops and lead the singing of the patriotic song’. Trevor Sigma met Gilbert M on a previous visit to the planet, where he failed to interview ‘a certain person’: The Kandy Man differs significantly from his appearance on telly:

He was tall and powerfully built, dressed in a white lab coat and white trousers. He wore red-framed spectacles and a red bow-tie. Several red and white striped pens protruded from the pocket of his coat. His skin was pale and was covered with a soft white powder. As he moved towards them there was a soft, sucking sound as his feet touched the floor.

Later, we’re told that his teeth are black. 

Harold V’s brother, Andrew X, is the man we see on TV being executed. He’s a political writer who managed to get his work published under a pseudonym on nearby Terra Omega, where his nomme-de-plume became something of a celebrity. Terras Alpha and Omega had only ceased their long and bloody war relatively recently and an Alphan agent on Omega eventually uncovered Andrew X’s identity. He was imprisoned for six months prior to his execution, which is officiated by Joseph C while wearing a rainbow-coloured cap. A glowing skull on a shelf in the Kandy Kitchen signals to the Kandy Man to begin the execution. While chopping strawberries, the Kandy Man cuts off his own thumb, which he has to put back on himself. Helen A’s pet, Fifi, is a Stigorax, a species native to Terra Alpha that has been hunted to extinction; Fifi is the last survivor. Helen A captured the vicious creature on ‘the foothills of the mountains of Claffam’ and the pair ‘liked each other instantly’. The Doctor recognises the species and is surprised by the relationship between Helen A and her savage pet.

Susan Q tells Ace that she used to have a collection of old records, but now only one survives, ‘Lucille’ by Big Joe Turner (which does indeed contain the lyrics ‘I woke up this morning’). When this disc was discovered, she was demoted. Young girls are press-ganged from remote areas of the planet into auditioning for the Happiness Patrol. Susan Q had been a singer and dancer before she was press-ganged and had scored the highest ever marks in her audition. It’s now one of her duties to coach audition hopefuls. The noise made by the Kandy Man’s feet sticking to the kitchen floor reminds the Doctor of a visit to Peru where he heard the sound of leeches being removed from human skin. After being captured by Daisy K, Ace is presented to Helen A, where she encounters Fifi and discovers that Susan Q has been arrested. 

Sugar beets grow naturally on Terra Alpha, which makes it a valuable resource for exporting as none of the other colony planets have natural sugar. Generations ago, huge processing factories were built, with a labour force consisting of dissidents, who became known as drones. As the drones became more politically aware, one of their leaders began to speak out against conditions, a charismatic poet called Edward Z; when he ‘disappeared’, the drones began to organise protest marches that slowly came closer to the main city. The indigenous Terra Alphans are the Alpidae; Wences is an Alpida who, like Wulfric and the rest of their people, was forced underground to live off the sugar deposits in their pipes (hence why Helen A calls them ‘pipe people’). The Doctor apparently taught ‘a youthful Houdini’ how to escape from being tied up.

There are only two small groups of males in the Happiness Patrol, one team who are unarmed and physically strong, another consisting of snipers – two of whom are David S and Alex S. The snipers do not get along with each other and are fighting when the Doctor arrives. The Doorman at the Forum is called Ernest P. Susan Q and Ace both appear together on the poster outside the Forum. Priscilla P knows one joke, involving the word ‘polygon’ and the phrase ‘a dead parrot’ – she mangles the delivery deliberately to entrap Forum attendees into becoming drones in a remote sugar refinery. Helen A watches an old Earth sitcom involving a middle-aged woman, a man with no trousers and a vicar. Susan Q urges Ace to ‘look cute’ for their act at the Forum, but en route and under Happiness Patrol guard, they come under fire by a drone who’s taken control of the sniper’s discarded gun; Daisy K shouts directions to ‘Lucy O’ and ‘Jane M’ to provide covering fire. 

Seeing the peeling and cracked paintwork on the Forum, the Doctor is reminded of Venice at the end of the 20th century, ‘before it slid slowly into the sea’. Gilbert M leads the patrol that intercepts Daisy K’s miserable squad, who declares ‘Weltschmerz!’ – clearly happy to witness Daisy K’s misery. Back on his home planet Vasilip, Gilbert M had enjoyed a ‘friendly rivalry’ with another scientist, Seivad. When the pair were sentenced to death, they fled their home but were traced down by a vigilante who left Seivad for dead. Seeking refuge on Terra Alpha, Gilbert M’s true identity had been uncovered by Helen A, who forced him to build her a ‘monster’. He used the only resources available, which was how the mind of his old friend Seivad ended up encased in the sickly body of the Kandy Man, ‘his mind twisted with anger and injustice’. In the morning light, Helen A’s regime at an end, Ace suggests they pursue Gilbert M and Joseph C, but Susan tells her it’s not worth it as the Kandy Man had been the real danger. 

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover positions a stern Doctor at the top of a textured triangle (possibly a letter ‘A’), with Fifi underneath. The texture of the triangle is the same as the Kandy Man’s face on TV. Very clever.

Final Analysis: Sylvester McCoy has often said that he’d wished The Happiness Patrol had been made as a film noir and coincidentally, that’s how I saw it on transmission, consigned to a portable black-and-white TV. In the novelisation, without the distraction of the slightly too artificial sets and gaudy costumes on telly, Graeme Curry successfully builds a believable world, where decisions made generations in the past have led to the present situation. The flawed logic of Helen A’s obsessions seem much more credible, where the paranoia in the aftermath of war has turned already restrictive politics into a terrifyingly oppressive regime that’s ripe for toppling. Curry doesn’t dwell on describing our central heroes, assuming the reader already knows who Ace and this Doctor are, but it’s the focus on smaller details, like this depiction of Helen A’s palace, that help to create a sense of the scale of an entire civilisation on the brink of collapse:

In common with most Alphan buildings, from the outside it looked as if it had seen better days. The Doctor could see that once it would have been most imposing, as it was a large building set back from the street. But now the garden wall was crumbling and the whole edifice needed a coat of paint. A couple of the attic windows were broken. 

All of the enforcers of this corrupt regime are shown to be grumpy, frustrated and angry – a far cry / smile from the mandatory happiness they try to inflict on the general populace. 

I do have to wonder why The Kandy Man is so radically different to his TV counterpart; is it just a case of the author reinstating his original scripted intentions or if he were dodging the issues about the similarity of the TV version with the mascot of a disgruntled confectioner. Alister Pearson’s pencil sketch for the cover had originally included a portrait of the Kandy Man but the finished artwork represents him merely as a bubbled background detail, so clearly someone was mindful of Bassetts’ complaints. Even so, Ace calls him a ‘pimplehead’, an insult that doesn’t match the book version of the Kandy Man.

Chapter 145. Doctor Who – Planet of Giants (1990)

Synopsis: When a government inspector fails to approve a new pesticide, the chemical’s inventor takes drastic action. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally succeeds in getting his schoolteacher friends back to their own time and place – but at the wrong scale! Shrunk to the size of an ant, the travellers suddenly face danger at every turn, from running water and the attentions of a curious cat to the very same pesticide that has just driven a man to murder…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Landfall
  • 2. The Unknown
  • 3. The Terrible Truth
  • 4. The Destroyer
  • 5. Death in a Country Garden
  • 6. Getting Away with Murder
  • 7. Dangerous Rescue
  • 8. Whirlpool
  • 9. Suspicion
  • 10. The Doctor’s Plan
  • 11. Barbara’s Peril
  • 12. Plan of Action
  • 13. Fire!
  • 14. A Question of Size

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Louis Marks for the 1964 serial (inspired by an idea from CE Webber), completing the run of stories from the second season and the first Doctor’s era as a whole! At 25 years and two months, this is now the holder of the record for biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation. It’s also the first novel to be released after the end of Doctor Who as an on-going TV series – not that we knew this for certain at the time.

Notes: The opening chapter summarises each of the stories of Season One, from the teachers’ first meeting with the Doctor through to the Daleks, Sensorites and the Reign of Terror (and they’ve just left 18th-century France. There’s also a curious sentence: ‘Her name was Susan Foreman and she called the Doctor “grandfather.”‘ – as opposed to ‘she was the Doctor’s granddaughter’. Apparently, one of the Doctor’s favourite sayings is ‘all the savage species in the galaxy, few were more dangerous and bloodthirsty than man’.

The Doctor tries to explain the complexities of time-travel to Ian and Barbara by comparing the action of moving a chair from one room to another to that of moving the chair from a house in 1796 to a house in 1964 – ‘a different matter altogether’. Susan elaborates:

‘If you put a dish in a bowl of water, the water rises, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes of course, that’s simple,’ said Barbara impatiently.

‘But, suppose the water was filling the bowl to the very top and there was a tight lid on as well? There’d be no room for displacement. Well, it’s rather like that when the weight of the TARDIS suddenly enters the atmosphere. Something has to give way.’

Ian shrugged. ‘The air, presumably…’

The Doctor spoke without looking up from the fault indicator. ‘Exactly! And the atmospheric pressure on Earth is fourteen point seven pounds to the square inch. You’re getting the idea, Chesterton. It’s all right when the TARDIS is fully materialized, the envelope of air can always give way somewhere.’

‘Just as we’re entering the time dimension,’ said Susan. ‘That’s the danger point.

The Doctor admits to Barbara that he’s never visited Africa and Australasia, asking if gigantic earthworms might be common there (she confirms that they are not). 

The cat that continues to bring jeopardy for the time-travellers is a ginger tom. Farrow is a civil servant whose motto is ‘waste not, want not’, hence why he picks up the box of matches he finds in the garden. He recognises Mark Forester from his photo, which he’s seen in the newspaper. Forester is dark haired, thick-set and ‘beetle-browed’ with a ‘heavy jaw’ and a ‘deep authoritative voice’; he’s not a big man but in his expensive suit from Savile Row, he gives off ‘a feeling of power’, looking ‘every inch the tycoon’. The scientist, Smithers, worked on famine relief projects for the United Nations when he was a young man. He saw ‘hundreds’ of people die while locusts devoured their food; ‘the terrible sights of death by starvation were burned into his memory’.

The village where Smithers lives is so small that the village shop and the police station are in the same building. The exchange operator Hilda Rowse is married to the local police officer, Bert. Hilda has been curious about the cottage ever since it was bought by a London company who installed lots of scientific equipment and a man called Smithers moved in. She recognises that Forester is not Farrow, as she met the civil servant when he came into the shop for provisions for his boat. Smithers is distressed to find that the cat has died, which is what alerts him to the dangers of DN6.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover shows a friendly Doctor beckoning (a reworking of a photo reference from The Celestial Toymaker) as a giant fly approaches him from behind.

Final Analysis: The last novelisation of the first Doctor’s era and the penultimate book in the range by Terrance Dicks, Planet of Giants is another example of a rather sleight story being expanded just enough. Dicks fills in some of the details that were removed when the TV story was truncated from four episodes to three. He also adds explanations for things that might be alien to young readers in 1990, such as ‘reversing the charges’ and a telephone operator who manually connects the calls. There’s a final treat as the final chapter concludes with a huge tease into the next story (also novelised by Dicks back in 1977):

Outside in the ruins of London the Daleks were waiting…

Chapter 144. Doctor Who – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1989)

Synopsis: The Psychic Circus has travelled the universe and amassed many fans over the years. Now, it has settled on the planet Segonax, where it has fallen on hard times while under the influence of a malign power. As visitors compete for the approval of the audience, the Doctor has to overcome a major obstacle – Ace’s deep hatred of clowns…

Chapter Titles

  • Overture
  • 1. Beginners
  • 2. Welcome to Segonax
  • 3. Captain Cook
  • 4. The Hippy Bus
  • 5. The Psychic Circus
  • 6. Nord’s Finest Hour
  • 7. The Well
  • 8. The End of Bellboy’s Dream
  • 9. That Old Devil Moon
  • 10. Kingpin
  • 11. The Gods of Ragnarok
  • 12. Positively Last Performance
  • Coda

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial. This followed Silver Nemesis on TV, so this was the last time that a pair of stories was released consecutively.

Notes: The approach of the advertising satellite is written in the present tense. Ace is hunting for a new batch of nitro-9 that she recently concocted but is now missing from her rucksack. The Doctor monitors the approaching satellite on the ‘observation screen’ and tells Ace that the TARDIS has a few levels of defence – all of which the satellite bypasses. The satellite lands in the Control Room (hurrah – Wyatt uses the proper name!) and sprouts eight legs to position itself nearer the console. The view of Segonax projected onto the screen shows the circus tent in the middle of a ‘beautiful, lush, green meadow’. The Doctor believes that the founders of the Psychic Circus originally came from Earth. 

‘Nord the Vandal of the Roads’ is a thick-set man, with ‘big muscles, large tattoos, masses of black leather clothing, a brutal unshaven face and a fearsome Viking-style crash-helmet’. When we first meet Captain Cook, he’s delivering a lecture to Mags about the planets Treops and Neogorgon; the latter was where he encountered ‘a whole valley full of electronic dogs’ heads submerged in mud’, which he assumes was a ‘primitive burglar alarm system’. The buried robot begs to be released in a sweet voice, until Ace and Mags get close, when it turns nasty, shouting threats, gnashing its teeth and firing lasers in all directions. Captain Cook, with Mags in tow, drives off and briefly abandons the Doctor and Ace, until they are reunited at the site of the abandoned bus. The bus reminds Ace of when she was a child, when her Aunt Rosemary used to tell her about the Beatles and the Swinging Sixties. 

Nord is given a strongman costume to wear for his act. Whizzkid asks for autographs from the Chief Clown, Morgana and the Ringmaster – which is what propels them into submitting him as a contestant.

By the time Ace first sees Bellboy, his hair is almost white and she suspects he might have received an electric shock. Ace is said to be unable to cope with ‘deep emotion in other people’ and Bellboy’s trauma over Flowerchild makes her feel uncomfortable. She’s ‘never been so close to such naked grief before’. She briefly considers stealing Nord’s bike to help her escape from the circus, but realises it’s useless as Nord didn’t fix the valve properly.

There is a small team of ‘makeup clowns’ who prepare each contestant for the stage – though they allow the Doctor, Mags and the Captain to enter the ring without making them change their costumes. The robot clowns seal Morgana and the Ringmaster into boxes and then when they’re opened, they contain smaller boxes, which contain even smaller boxes until the final two boxes are opened and revealed to be empty. The chief caretaker’s hearse crashes into the Stallholder’s cart, which gets entangled in the limousine’s wheels (on TV, it merely comes to an abrupt halt as she blocks the way). The Doctor has apparently ‘always enjoyed juggling’. His act for the Gods of Ragnarok includes fire eating and a bed of nails. The stallholder claims to have seen the final end of the Psychic Circus, as did everyone else on Segonax as a huge wind scattered leaflets for the circus for miles around.

Cover: Alister Pearson paints a smiling Doctor in the blue sky above the Circus marquee as the three Gods of Ragnarok sit in judgement.

Final Analysis: Stephen Wyatt approaches the TV scripts methodically, delivering a straightforward adaptation with a few minor changes to scene order. The value he brings to the text is a deeper insight into the regular characters: it’s quite a brave thing to show Ace as emotionally under-developed, unable to react appropriately to Bellboy’s grief ; and we get a greater sense of the Doctor’s frustration at being tricked twice because he’s focusing all his attention on the mystery that’s at the heart of the Psychic Circus. The highlight of the TV episodes was the transformation of Mags into a feral beast and it’s beautifully realised here:

The moonlight was working its awful transformation. The hands had grown longer and hairier. The nails had turned to claws. The eyes were becoming blood-shot and savage, the face darker and more bestial, the hair like fur. And, worst of all, the mouth. Mags was slavering now. Huge teeth sprouted in her gums. Her tongue lolled hungrily. Then she snarled, baring her terrible fangs. This was no longer Mags: this was a werewolf. And if the Captain had his way, the werewolf would kill the Doctor.

It’s also interesting that, while she’s under the effects of the moonlight, Mags is described as ‘the werewolf’ except where the Doctor tries to connect with Mags to calm her atavism. A solid story well told.

Chapter 143. Doctor Who – Silver Nemesis (1989)

Synopsis: Three different groups await the arrival of a meteor as it passes the Earth for the first time in 25 years: A 17th-Century witch and her servant; an army of fanatics led by an elderly war criminal; and a unit of tall, silver, cybernetic men. The Doctor has also expected the meteor’s arrival, for it contains a terrible weapon – the Nemesis. The Doctor must influence events to make sure the Nemesis falls into the right hands – but even with an Ace up his sleeve, can he defeat a player who has decided to change the rules of the game?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eleven.

Background: Kevin Clarke adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial.

Notes: Kevin Clarke dedicated the book to ‘DHF Somerset’, the then-chief cashier of the Bank of England, whose signature appeared on bank notes at the time. The first chapter opens with a very cheeky line:

The closer one travels towards it from the cold silent darkness of infinite space, the more the planet Earth appears as a backcloth to some small theatrical performance taking place on a limited budget. 

[See The Ambassadors of Death for more on the ‘darkness of infinite space’]. The scene at the jazz gig takes place in late summer. The musician whose gig the Doctor and Ace attend is, in the Doctor’s opinion, ‘the most exciting musical discovery since John Coltrane’ (and on screen was played by Courtney Pine). The Doctor claims to have met and influenced Louis Armstrong. The Cybermen’s henchmen are ‘twins’. By 1988, Lady Peinforte’s house has been converted into the Princess of Wales Burger Bar. The Doctor and Ace travel by TARDIS from an afternoon in late summer to the early hours of 23 November the same year, at the same point that Lady Peinforte and Richard arrive and the Nemesis statue lands. The meteorite lands inside a building site. The Cyberman’s ship is ‘disc-shaped’.

The previous time the Doctor was with the Nemesis, he was under attack by Lady Peinforte and ‘agents of the Inquisition’ (on TV he says it was the Roundheads). Peinforte doesn’t initially recognise the Doctor but quickly deduces that his face has changed – ‘The wench’s too’ (so the original Doctor had a female companion). One of the police officers who was knocked out by the nerve gas survives the attack and witnesses the Cybermen, their two controlled thugs and the statue disappear (they walk up into the space ship, which is camouflaged).

One of the skinheads wields a ‘ninja fighting stick’, which ends up being used to tie his feet to suspend him from a tree branch. The American tourist who offers Lady Peinforte a lift is called Lavinia P Hackensack of Connecticut, not Mrs. Remington of Virginia. Ace’s battle with the Cybermen takes place back at the building site where the Nemesis meteorite landed; she spends some time keeping the Cybermen distracted while the Doctor does his calculations using an abacus. The Doctor tells the Cyber Leader that he cannot hand the Nemesis statue over to him and when the Leader becomes riled, the Doctor mocks him for showing emotions and being ‘defective’. The final scene takes place in a pub garden in 1988, not Richard’s time; Ace has taught Richard how to get served at the bar and he returns laden with drinks.

Cover: The back cover text on the first edition stated: ‘This story celebrates 25 years of Doctor Who on television’. Alister Pearson painted the original and reprint versions of the cover, both of which feature a subtle swastika in the design (Pearson claimed in an interview for DWB that he started work on the original cover on Hitler’s birthday, but the interview was full of exaggerations and apocryphal tales largely for Pearson’s own amusement so this might not be true). The first cover shows the Doctor with a smirk on his face, the Cyberleader, Ace and the Nemesis encased in rock. For the 1993 reprint, Ace is in attack mode with her catapult (really impressive, this pose) on the opposite side to the Cyberleader, while a more sombre Doctor holds up his question-mark umbrella in front of Lady Peinforte’s tomb.

Final Analysis: We often find that authors who have just the one entry in the Doctor Who library tend to throw everything they have at their text. In places, Kevin Clarke gets a little purple with his prose (as the excerpt from the opening chapter above shows). It’s a shame then to reach the climax and have to reread the paragraph where Lady Peinforte joins with the Nemesis statue, as it feels like a summary of what happens on screen without any real explanation as to why it’s happening.

There was a blinding flash of radiant light as Lady Peinforte and the statue shimmered and then coalesced. The rockets fired and the statue of Nemesis was launched once again to return into space.

Seriously – what?

We realised with the TV version that the mystery surrounding the Doctor wouldn’t be answered and it was largely just one huge tease, but here it’s almost glossed over as Clarke rushes to get to the final page. There’s no additional insight into what any of the interested parties want to do with the Nemesis and as a consequence the story merely fizzles out. In some aspects, it’s a very traditional novelisation, transposing the script to prose, but without any of the additional nuances we might have gained from Terrance Dicks or any other author.

Chapter 142. Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II: The Mutation of Time (1989)

Synopsis: Joined by Sara, who now accepts Chen’s treachery, the Doctor and Steven continue to evade the Daleks. A stop-off in ancient Egypt leads to a reunion and a bloody massacre, before a return to Kembel and a final confrontation with Chen and the Daleks’ Time Destructor.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare Continues
  • 2. The Feast of Steven
  • 3. The Toast of Christmas Past
  • 4. Failure
  • 5. Volcano
  • 6. Land of the Pharaohs
  • 7. Golden Death
  • 8. Into the Pyramid
  • 9. Hostages
  • 10. Escape Switch
  • 11. The Abandoned Planet
  • 12. The Secret of Kembel
  • 13. Beginning of the End
  • 14. The Destruction of Time
  • 15. The Nightmare is Ended

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from episodes 7-12 of the 1965 serial known collectively as The Daleks’ Master Plan, by Dennis Spooner and Terry Nation. This is the first time since The Space War that a novelisation has had a different title to the one used on the TV episodes (although see ‘Cover’ below for more). This book completes the run of stories from season 3.

Notes: The back cover blurb on the original release mentions a ‘Time Destroyer’. The opening chapter reveals that Sara has been having nightmares about Bret’s death and she sleeps with a light on. She’s been aboard the TARDIS for ‘several months’ and considers it her home now (Peel clearly a supporter of the ‘Sara as companion’ fan myth). The Doctor has read the American novelist Peter S Beagle and quotes from The Last Unicorn. Trying to provide some comfort to Sara, the Doctor reveals a personal philosophy:

…if you found out that the Daleks had killed Chen, then you’d want to find out something else, and then something else after that. There are no endings – everything continues to grow and to progress. One of the reasons that I never learned how to control this old ship of mine was to prevent myself from falling into that trap of yours – wanting to see happy endings.

He then tells her about his own granddaughter and the two schoolteachers, who he likes to imagine married and surrounded by their own ‘noisy children’. The reason for the Doctor’s original stay on Earth is revealed! A ‘catastrophic malfunction had forced him to rebuild part of the main console’. 

Peel’s description of Liverpool is very accurate – the red bricks were indeed blacked by pollution in 1965 and well into the following decade (as seen on the opening titles of the Liverpool-set sitcom The Liver Birds). The police officers in Liverpool are (altogether now) named after actors from the popular BBC drama Z Cars – (Colin) Welland, (Brian) Blessed, (James) Ellis and (Frank) Windsor; three of whom had appeared in Doctor Who on TV by the time this book was released. The joke about the Doctor recognising a man from a market in Jaffa is retained (unusual as Peel tends to cut a lot of the sillier elements from stories). Steven decides to copy the sergeant’s accent, as on screen, but this needs a little unpicking. We’re told that Steven sounds ‘like a bad actor’s version of North Country speech’. On TV, despite being in Liverpool, only Peter Purves manages to effect a decent Scouse accent (he does very well!) but everyone else does ‘generic Northern’. In Z Cars, which was also set in Liverpool, none of the characters who pop up here actually had the local accent: James Ellis was from Belfast; Brian Blessed from South Yorkshire; Frank Windsor from Walsall, West Midlands; and Colin Welland from Leigh. So even if these had been the actual characters from Z Cars (as the production team had hoped), Steven would still have been the only one with a Liverpool accent! Just to continue the nitpicking, in 1965, the sergeant in Z Cars was played by Bob Keegan, who was the only one of the regular characters to have a genuine Liverpool accent (he appeared in Doctor Who many years later, as Sholakh in The Ribos Operation).

Steven has a serious crush on Sara and wishes she found him attractive. The clown figure who the Doctor helps in Hollywood is clearly Charlie Chaplin (he’s specifically not him on TV). 

New arrival to the Dalek cause is Celation, a ‘tall creature, which breathed the oxygen-rich air with difficulty, giving his speech a throaty, disjointed effect’ (it’s a close match for the description of the alien ‘Warrien’ in the previous volume and there is a theory that Warrien was actually a mis-named Celation!). The Dalek force includes a ‘chief’ or first scientist along with a second scientist and ‘monitor Daleks’ who keep an eye on computer banks. The Time Destructor looks like ‘a large, glass-encased cannon’ (as opposed to a globe made of tubular spokes as on telly). The Dalek time ship is ‘a featureless silver-grey cube’ (‘some ten feet to a side’, Steven notes when it lands in Egypt) and its commander is the Red Dalek seen on the book’s cover. Chen is disturbed to learn that the Daleks have their own stash of Taranium and they claim they used him to obtain more merely out of expedience; they have sufficient to power their time-machine but not enough for the Time Destructor too, so this would appear to be a lie just to undermine Chen’s over-confidence. There’s reference to the Dalek Prime back on Skaro. 

The TARDISes of both the Doctor and the Monk are said to have ‘chameleon circuits’ (a phrase that wouldn’t be used on telly until Logopolis – but see Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon and Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons). Working away on the TARDIS lock, the Doctor has a bit of a rant:

The Doctor worked away on the lock, muttering to himself. ‘I think it’s about time that some people remembered that these journeys of mine are for the purpose of scientific discovery! I’m not in the business of giving sight-seeing tours of the Universe, with everyone behaving like a bunch of rowdy tourists and rushing off to look at whatever they wish! I thought that Barbara and that Chesterton fellow were bad enough, but it’s getting worse! Much worse’ The Doctor continued muttering under his breath as he laboured on, unaware that he was alone, at least for the moment.

The Monk ‘never paid attention in class’ so is aware that his knowledge of history is hazy and doesn’t actually know which year he’s landed in, having followed the Doctor. He does, however, recognise a Dalek, having ‘paid attention to a few things in class’ [so the Time Lords of the Monk’s time study Dalek history!]. The Doctor doesn’t actually dislike the Monk, and feels that  ‘with the proper guidance, the man might make himself useful instead of troublesome’. The massacre of the Egyptians is much more even-handed with the Red Dalek destroyed by an onslaught of heavy rocks. Inspired by his warriors fending off the alien invaders, the Egyptian Khephren decides to commission a monument of the Sphinx to guard the Pharaoh’s pyramid. 

Mavic Chen and the surviving Daleks return to Kembel in the time-machine and are greeted by the Dalek city administrator (the idea of a Dalek whose role involves admin is reassuringly comical). The Doctor assumes that the absence of Varga plants is a sign that they’ve been allowed to die off as the Daleks no longer need to use them as guards. Chen shoots Beaus dead (on TV, Gearon is Chen’s victim). The Doctor accompanies Sara and Steven when they release the delegates from the locked room – and he persuades Sara to spare Chen’s life, reminding her of the political chaos on Earth that might result from his death. 

Chapter 13 is a reworking of a recurring Terrance Dicks title, ‘Beginning of the End’. The heart of the complex contains a vast hanger that houses hundreds of Dalek saucers, maintained by Daleks on ‘flying discs’. The Doctor uses his cloak to break the circuit on a Dalek door and he recalls the first such doorway he encountered in the Dalek city on Skaro. Caught in the winds of the Time Destructor, Sara begins to hallucinate the ghost of her brother:

Sara collapsed, and felt dust and sand on her face. She hardly had the strength to open her eyes, but somehow she managed it. The twig-like fragility of her arm shocked her, as she clawed towards the fallen Time Destructor. It was no use, no use… she was too weak, too old now… Her dying vision blurred, and in the glow of the Destructor, she felt certain that she could see the smiling face and beckoning finger of her brother’s spirit.

Sara felt a sudden peace, and all was still.

Affected by the reversal of the Time Destructor, the Daleks become embryos and then briefly humanoid before turning to dust. Back on Skaro, the Dalek Prime realises that the fleet on Kembel has been destroyed and it is filled with a desire for revenge. On Earth, Karlton is arrested by Senator Diksen for his part in Chen’s treachery. He reveals that Marc Cory’s lost tape was found on the body of Bret Vyon (and it contained a recording that was not part of the one he makes in Mission to the Unknown). The story concludes with the scene where the Monk discovers he is stranded on a frozen world.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover is much more understated than for Mission to the Unknown. A severe-looking Doctor (referencing a photo fromThe Space Museum) is formed in the stars of a nebula as a very grand Dalek with a red casing and blue spots dominates the frame (based on a Madame Tussauds Dalek that appeared on the back page of the 1983 Radio Times 20th Anniversary Doctor Who special). The livery is an invention of John Peel, but it really works and it’s a shame it never appeared on telly. The title as shown on the front cover is ‘The Mutation of Time’ (a new title not taken from the episodes), but a circular flash states that this is ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II’, while on the spine it’s ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II’ (‘Masterplan’ is one word). The title page inside gives the title ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II The Mutation of Time’.

Final Analysis: As he moves into the second half of The Daleks’ Master Plan, which was authored mainly by Dennis Spooner, it’s a relief that John Peel allows himself room for a little fun in a way that he tactfully avoided with The Chase. Whether it’s the farce of the Hollywood scenes or the triviality of the Monk’s side-quest, the first half of this volume is a hoot. It’s only when the action returns to Kembel that the mood changes to something more sombre.

Officially, Sara Kingdom was not a companion (something Jean Marsh herself stressed at her first ever convention in 1996, to the shock of many), but fandom has always included her in the lists and here, John Peel makes sure she counts by giving her several months as a passenger aboard the TARDIS. The opening chapter delves into her fractured psyche, tortured by her guilt over killing her brother and wanting absolution through the certainty that Chen will pay for his manipulation of her. Whatever the original intentions of the production team, these two books ensure that for the fans – she counts!

Over the course of his first three books, Peel manages to capture William Hartnell’s performance better than any other writer. The tetchiness is present in the works of other authors (including Terrance Dicks), but it’s his lightness and sense of humour that really lands here – where it’s appropriate, Peel remembers to make the Doctor funny. In this volume, the Doctor is said to ‘steeple’ his hands together, which conjures up a perfect mental image of the kind of pose this Doctor often adopted. I’m a huge fan of The Daleks’ Master Plan, both in what we’re still able to experience on video and audio, plus all the mysteries that surround it (who are all those delegates?!) – but I’m now a fan of John Peel too. It was an ambitious risk to take on this epic adventure, but in Peel’s hands, it’s a huge success. Who couldn’t love the way he disposes of his main villain (with echoes of Caligula in I Claudius)?:

The Daleks opened fire, and several of the bursts of rays caught him squarely. Mavic Chen staggered slightly, staring at them as the wave of energy washed over him. As it ceased, Chen suddenly realized that he had been terribly, terribly wrong. He was not immortal after all…