Chapter 43. Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks (1978)

Synopsis: The city of the Exxilons, one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. Somehow, the city is alive, draining the energy from any visiting spacecraft – including the TARDIS. Abandoning the time ship, the Doctor and Sarah find a similarly marooned expedition team in search of minerals needed to cure a deadly space plague. But a platoon of Daleks also intend on taking the minerals for themselves. The explorers form an uneasy truce as they decide to find answers inside the city – and the native Exxilons are determined not to let them.. 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Death of a TARDIS
  • 2. The Ambush
  • 3. Expedition from Earth
  • 4. The Deadly Arrivals
  • 5. A Truce with Terror
  • 6. The Sacrifice
  • 7. Escape to the Unknown
  • 8. Bellal
  • 9. The Pursuit
  • 10. The City Attacks
  • 11. The Trap
  • 12. The Nightmare
  • 13. The Antibodies
  • 14. The Last Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts from the 1974 story.

Notes: The prologue is an atmospheric retelling of the first scene – which was cut from the story’s first release on home video, so it’s kind of a deleted scene with a cracking first line: ‘He was a dead man running.’ Sarah has only known the Doctor for a brief time, as she recalls her trips to Medieval England and a London ‘infested with dinosaurs’. The fog on the planet Exxilon is (wait for it!) green. The Exxilons wear black robes and speak a form of ‘pidgin Galactic’ that Galloway can understand. Bellal is a ‘subterranean Exxilon’ and he introduces his friend as ‘Gotal’ (a name only revealed in the end credits on TV), while another subterranean Exxilon is called ‘Jebal’. 

Jill Tarrant is blonde, not red haired, Dan Galloway lost his entire family in the Dalek wars, grew up in poverty as a refugee and joined the Marine Space Corps as soon as he could, working his way up the ranks. The ‘hopscotch’ floor in the City lies in a wide hall, not a narrow corridor and there are many antibody creatures, not just the two on telly. Realising Jill has escaped, the Dalek sentry begins a frantic search but doesn’t self destruct. The Doctor offers to continue aiming for Florana but Sarah just wants to go home.

Chapter 7 is ‘Escape to the Unknown’ – another one so close to the lesser-sighted ‘Escape to Danger’ but… not quite.!

Cover: Roy Knipe paints this Target Doctor Who cover and creates an instant classic – a Dalek’s head explodes. Alister Pearson was onto a hiding for nothing with his 1991 reprint cover, which shows Bellal in front of a different blazing Dalek.

Final Analysis: It’s hard to go wrong with this and Dicks doesn’t put a foot out of place. He doesn’t add much either, to be fair, but it’s still a lot creepier than the over-lit, jazz-fused TV version. It’s peak-Terrance, where eyes are red and glowing, robes are black and Daleks glide.

Chapter 42. Doctor Who and the Time Warrior (1978)

Synopsis: Scientists have disappeared from across the country. In an attempt to keep them safe, the remaining experts have been brought to a research centre under the guard of UNIT – but still they continue to vanish. The Doctor identifies the cause must be someone with access to time travel. Following the trail in the TARDIS back to the Middle Ages, the Doctor discovers the time-hopping kidnapper is a Sontaran warrior – unaware that the TARDIS has brought alomg a 20th-Century stowaway aboard in the form of intrepid journalist Sarah Jane Smith. 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1.  Irongron’s Star
  • 2. Linx’s Bargain
  • 3. Sarah’s Bluff
  • 4. Irongron’s Captive
  • 5. The Doctor Disappears
  • 6. A Shock for Sarah
  • 7. Prisoner in the Past
  • 8. The Robot Knight
  • 9. Linx’s Slaves
  • 10. Irongron’s Wizard
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. The Doctor’s Magic
  • 13. Counter Attack
  • 14. The Robot’s Return
  • 15. Shooting Gallery
  • 16. Return to Danger
  • 17. Linx’s Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ scripts for the 1973-4 serial, except from the prologue, which Holmes wrote himself before handing the task over to Dicks.

Notes: Three years after the word ‘Sontaran’ first appeared in a Target book [see Terror of the Autons], we finally meet one – in the most exciting prologue ever, written by Robert Holmes! We join Sontaran Commander Jingo Linx as his ship faces certain obliteration after an unsuccessful battle against the Rutans in their third galactic war. We learn that the Sontarans come from the planet Sontara and he listens to the ‘sweet strains of the Sontaran Anthem’ (presumably the same one that accompanies Linx’s flag when he erects it in front of Bloodaxe) as his ship makes a last desperate escape from the black, dart-shaped Rutan pursuit ships. Sontarans are cyborgs, thanks to implants in the back of their neck that allow them to draw energy through a ‘probic vent’. The procedure that allows this is undergone on entry to the Space Corps and although it gives him a rush of energy, Linx always dreads taking a ‘power burn’.

The flood of power through his tissues was like a roaring madness, a chaotic maelstrom of colour and sound depriving him of all sentient knowledge of the outside world. He felt himself clinging like a limpet within some solitary crevice of consciousness, aware only that he still existed… still existed… still… 

His cruiser is destroyed, driven into a sun as a diversion to allow him to escape the Rutans in a small scout ship. As the ship heads towards a little blue planet orbiting the sun, Linx allows himself a smile usually reserved for the ‘ the death throes of an enemy’. Most of the details here have been forgotten by subsequent authors, even Holmes himself [see The Two Doctors], but it should be mandatory reading for any hopeful Sontaran scribes. 

Irongron and his band of men had once ‘roamed the forest like wolves’ before stumbling upon a castle abandoned by a lord away ‘at the wars’. His group attacked the castle at night, its inhabitants massacred, and the castle became his. His nearest neighbour, Sir Edward Fitzroy, is sickly, having returned from the Crusades with a fever. Sir Edward’s son and most of his soldiers are still fighting the king’s crusades overseas, leaving him with a depleted defence. His young squire, Eric, is given a splendid introduction, riding through the forest, wary of being too close to Irongron’s castle and falling victim to a simple trap laid by Bloodaxe.

When he first addresses Irongron, Linx speaks with ‘a booming metallic voice… strangely accented but clearly understandable English’ and the suggestion is that this is due to a translation device, not his natural voice.

The Brigadier brings the Doctor in to investigate the missing scientists and equipment to distract him as he’s missing Jo since she had got married and has refused a new assistant ever since. The Doctor is described as ‘a tall man with a lined young-old face and a shock of white hair’ (we’ll be seeing this description regularly from now on). He insists on having the TARDIS brought to the research centre in case there’s an alien influence he needs to trace. Sarah Jane Smith is introduced, ‘an attractive dark-haired girl’ who is a freelance journalist (the ‘freelance’ bit is new to the book) who has been ‘making her own way in a man’s world for some years now, and she strongly resented any suggestion that her sex doomed her to an inferior role’. The Doctor tells Rubeish that ‘Lavinia Smith’ is a woman in her ‘late sixties’ as well as being in America. The Brigadier reminds the Doctor about his failed attempts to reach Metabelis III (‘I got there eventually’, says the Doctor defensively). We get Sarah’s first reaction to the inside of the TARDIS and she hides inside a wardrobe when the Doctor enters. Realising that the wardrobe is bigger than the police box she entered – and the central control room even bigger again – she quickly forms a theory that the Doctor is an alien responsible for kidnapping the scientists. She also watches the switch the Doctor uses to open the door and uses the same switch to escape.

Linx rides on horseback for the attack on Sir Edward’s castle. The attack on Linx, the destruction of Irongron’s castle and the Doctor’s departure with Sarah all happen at night. Although Hal’s arrow kills Linx, the hand of the dead warrior hits the launch button and his ship escapes the burning castle to be returned with Linx’s corpse to the war in the stars. And hurrah for Hal as he rescues Squire Eric from the dungeon!

Oh and there’s a chapter title called ‘Return to Danger’ – so close!!

Cover: Linx the Sontaran strikes a dramatic pose before his globe-shaped craft, a superb photorealistic portrait by Roy Knipe. The cover for the 1993 reprint by Alister Pearson places the Doctor, Sarah and Irongron in square tiles behind Linx, who’s side on and holding his helmet by his side.

Final Analysis: It might be heresy but I’m not a fan of this story on TV and reading this story I can put it down to Alan Bromly’s static, leaden direction. But look at all the notes in this chapter and join me in wondering if Terrance Dicks was spurred on by his friend Holmes’ wonderful opening prologue – top three in the series so far*. Compare the two descriptions of Linx’s face – the first is by Holmes, the second by Dicks, picking up the baton:

… the heavy bones, the flat powerful muscles, the leathery, hairless epidermis, the calculating brain.… little, red eyes that were like fire-lit caves under the great green-brown dome of a skull…

The face beneath was something out of a nightmare. The head was huge and round, emerging directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greenish-brown in colour, the eyes small and red. The little nose was a pig-like snout, the mouth long and lipless. It was a face from one of Earth’s dark legends, the face of a goblin or a troll. 

This extends to the major and minor characters – how Sir Edward waits for his wife to ‘run out of words’ and on the very next line ‘It was a considerable wait.’ It’s clear Dicks enjoyed this. I know I did. 

* – See also Doctor Who and the Crusaders and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks.

Chapter 41. Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen (1978)

Synopsis: On the planet Telos, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join an expedition party as they uncover the doors to the legendary tombs of the Cybermen. Long believed to be dead, the silver giants are very much still active – and, as the explorers soon learn, they are keen to convert the intruders into Cybermen. 

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Victoria and Jamie
  • 2. An Expedition in Space
  • 3. The Entrance to the Tombs
  • 4. Cyberman Control Room
  • 5. The Recharging Room
  • 6. The Target Room
  • 7. The Finding of the Cybermat
  • 8. The Secret of the Hatch
  • 9. The Cyberman Controller
  • 10. Release the Cybermats
  • 11. The Controller is Revitalised
  • 12. Toberman Returns
  • 13. Closing the Tombs

Background: Adapted by Gerry Davis from the 1967 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: Here’s that ‘Creation of the Cybermen’ introduction agan, pushing its ‘Telos-origin’ agenda – maybe we should just believe the guy who created them? Actually, it’s not just a straight reprint of that chapter from the previous books; it’s slightly more involved, outlining the progress of the Cybermen since their first two appearances, chronologically. Davis restates that the arrival of Mondas came in 2000 [see Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet] and the attack on the Moonbase was in 2070 [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen], after which, the Cybermen disappeared, believed to be long dead. There’s an effective comparison to the pyramids of Egypt, while Davis describes the Cybermen as the Doctor’s ‘most dreaded adversaries’. Hmmm…

The Doctor and Jamie watch their approach to Telos on the scanner; it’s ‘a small, moon-like planet pitted and scarred by light-centuries of astral bombardment’ (yes, ‘light centuries – it’s been scarred by a unit of distance). The time travellers use ‘space-torches’ (or as we might call them… ‘torches’) to explore the tomb. Victoria receives a potted biography (dead dad, Daleks, orphan), as does Jamie (1746, Culloden, English Redcoat soldiers). When Victoria changes out of her huge dress, she selects a short skirt left behind by Polly, ‘the girl from the 1970s, now safely returned to England’. Victoria is very distressed by the choice of available fashions, complaining that they’ve made her look like ‘Alice In Wonderland’, a book published a year before she first meets the Doctor (and a role Deborah Watling had played in 1965 for a Dennis Potter play about Lewis Carroll). The comparison is more accurate than we might think as, according to Davis, Victoria has ‘long, fair hair’. The Doctor has ‘cat-like’ eyes that are green (!) and he is called ‘Doctor Who’ four times (and ‘Dr Who’ once, at the end).

Victoria recalls that her father used to discuss electricity with ‘Dr Faraday’ (presumably pioneering electrochemist Michael Faraday), who was a frequent dinner guest (Victoria remembers that he didn’t like carrots). In Evil of the Daleks, her father’s partner, Maxtible, mentions Faraday’s research into static electricity and those of James Clerk Maxwell twelve years earlier – so it’s likely Victoria was a child when these dinners took place. Later, she recalls her father reading a book by the fireside and affectionately calling her ‘Toria’, though this might just be a trick to help herself to cope with his still-recent death.

Haydon is Professor Parry’s assistant, a junior archaeologist who Parry knew as a ‘promising young student’ who had approached him with an interest in studying the Cybermen. The tombs have bas-relief sculptures on the walls, showing the history of the Cybermen, including their evolution from humans to plastic-and-metal giants, up to the final destruction of Mondas, their first planet. 

‘That was the last time we had the pleasure of their company,’ said the Doctor. ‘They lived on the “Tenth Planet”, Mondas, then.’

Except that wasn’t the last time, was it? The Cybermat that Jamie finds has ‘two red bulbs for eyes’. It can crawl like a centipede and curl ‘like a scorpion’ before it attacks. The Controller of the Cybermen is larger than the others – about seven feet – with a black helmet. The Controller recognises the Doctor and Jamie from the Moonbase. Toberman doesn’t just hit the converter machine, he throws it against a wall, smashing it.

Cover: Jeff Cummins gives us a lovely Invasion-style Cyberman (but with those ridged tubes across the body like in Revenge of the Cybermen) with small beams of light cast across it. The 1992 reprint used Alister Pearson’s cover for the VHS with the Doctor looking pensive in front of the vast Cyber-tomb.

Final Analysis: At school, I had an English teacher who would mark essays in red ink with a note to the side – ‘repetition!’ I’m reminded of this as I read this novelfor the first time in many years. There are a few sections that I found very distracting due to either sloppy editing or an author resistant to correction:

‘The grey uniform of his space Orbiter Engineer Class uniform…’

‘… he took out of the baggy pockets of his coat a small pocket instrument…’

‘… a riot of colour, glittering with crimson, rose colour…’

Repetition!

It’s especially surprising considering this book is partly the reason the story was considered a classic for 20 years, before younger fans who missed it on transmission could see it (and why some were disappointed on its eventual home video release). In many ways, it’s a solid translation from script to novel, with Davis once again making the effort to tie the story into what’s gone before in the Target universe, but he gets confused between that well-worn introduction and later sections that state that Mondas was the first Cyberman planet. No wonder the debate raged on well into the 1980s. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes this a distracting read for this older fan and I can’t help wishing that this had been held back for Ian Marter to write instead.

Chapter 40. Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock (1978)

Synopsis: A lighthouse off the coast of England at the start of the 20th Century. A light in the sky heralds the arrival of an alien warrior separated from its fleet, far from the battlefield. It explores the lighthouse, examines and dismembers one of its staff – and takes his form. The Doctor and Leela arrive shortly before they are joined by the survivors of a shipwreck. When the body of the lighthouse crewman is discovered, the Doctor realises they are locked inside the lighthouse with a murderer…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Terror Begins
  • 2. Strange Visitors
  • 3. Shipwreck
  • 4. The Survivors
  • 5. Return of the Dead
  • 6. Attack from the Unknown
  • 7. The Enemy Within
  • 8. The Bribe
  • 9. The Chameleon Factor
  • 10. The Rutan
  • 11. Ambush
  • 12. The Last Battle

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts from the 1977 serial.

Notes: A prologue! Dicks sets up the location, a craggy rock in a furious sea, upon which stands a lighthouse. He tells of the legends of Fang Rock, the historic deaths and the glowing beast said to inhabit the waters that surround it. The Doctor wears a soft floppy hat and not the bowler hat he sports on the cover. Reuben, Vince and the Doctor help the survivors of the shipwreck from their lifeboat onto the shore of the east crag. As Leela ponders Reuben’s tale about the ‘Beast of Fang Rock’, the Doctor tries to rationalise the story, surmising that two men fought, one was killed, the other jumped into the sea, full of remorse, the third man was sent ‘out of his mind’ after spending weeks with a corpse for company. When Skinsale mocks Leela for sensing the temperature drop, Adelaide enters the room and complains about suddenly feeling cold. After Palmerdale’s death, Vince realises that he has his Lordship’s money and coded message in his pocket. Worried that it might incriminate himself in Palmerdale’s death, Vince sets fire to the evidence. There’s a detailed description of the Rutan that’s not quite what we see on screen.

In place of Reuben’s form there was a huge, dimly glowing gelatinous mass, internal organs pulsing gently inside the semi-transparent body. Somewhere near the centre were huge many-faceted eyes, and a shapeless orifice that could have been a mouth.

The Rutan’s habit of speaking in the first-person plural isn’t an affectation; Rutans don’t have individual identity, but are just one element of the whole race. It can move with ‘appalling speed’. The Doctor’s improvised rocket launcher is backed with ‘nuts and bolts, nails, cogs and other engineering debris’, as opposed to coins from various pockets. 

Cover: For the first edition, Jeff Cummins paints a superbly creepy scene of the Doctor standing in front of the lighthouse (which Clayton Hickman later mimicked for the DVD cover). Such a shame that the reprints were canceled, as we lost Alister Pearson’s cover, featuring a lesser-seen Doctor pic with a Rutan and the lighthouse.

Final Analysis: The legend goes that Robert Holmes insisted Terrance Dicks researched lighthouses for this one and it’s possible some of his studies ended up in the novelisation (such as the description of each room on each level in the tower). I suspect that Terrance Dicks might have been working from an earlier script version for this, with a couple of scenes that feel like they might have been abandoned for the final TV edit. Vince’s disposal of Palmerdale’s bribe and message is a welcome addition, especially how it conveys Vince’s conflict, not just in doing the right thing but also in protecting himself from accusation:

It was more money than he’d ever see again in his lifetime – but there was nothing but relief in Vince’s heart as he watched it burn.

One thing that’s missing is a sense of the Rutans point of view – literally how we see many scenes on TV – Dicks creates a sense of menace through a ‘faint crackling sound’ that denotes the Rutan’s presence, but we get little sense of how it feels, how it considers the humans and their environment.

Chapter 39. Doctor Who and the Face of Evil (1978)

Synopsis: In the village of the Sevateem, the great god Xoanon speaks through his High Priest, Neeva, and his word is law. When he uncovers a lack of faith in a young huntress called Leela, Neeva banishes her under threat of death. In the jungle that surrounds the village, Leela encounters a stranger called The Doctor. She shows him a nearby mountain into which is carved a huge bust of Xoanon – and it bears the face of the Doctor…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Outcast
  • 2. The Invisible Terror
  • 3. Captured
  • 4. The Face on the Mountain
  • 5. Attack
  • 6. Danger for Leela
  • 7. The Test of the Horda
  • 8. Beyond the Wall
  • 9. The Tesh
  • 10. The Summons
  • 11. Xoanon
  • 12. The Trap
  • 13. The Last Battle
  • 14. Recovery
  • 15. Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts 1977 scripts by Chris Boucher.

Notes: Tomas is in love with Leela and it’s expected that he will father many children with her, but after the verdict of her trial, he consoles himself that there are ‘other women’ in the tribe (you might spot the other one in film sequences in the original series). The Doctor arrives fresh from his adventure on Gallifrey fighting the Master [See The Deadly Assassin] and immediately misses having Sarah Jane Smith by his side; he recalls that he chose not to bring her to Gallifrey in respect for Time Lord law, and that she’s now back on Earth with Harry Sullivan and the Brigadier. The Doctor’s heading for Earth when the TARDIS brings him to the unnamed jungle planet. Leela is introduced on the first page and it’s a handsome description unlike that for any other companion, capturing her distinctive appearance and overall character in just three lines:

She was tall, with brown hair and dark eyes, a broad clear forehead and a firm chin. Her arms and legs, exposed by her brief skin costume, were brown and smoothly muscular. She stood before her accusers wary but unafraid, like a captured wild animal.

There’s a cheeky namecheck for the story title as Leela explains that the Tesh ‘set the Face of Evil on the mountain’ with their ‘magic’. A Horda is a ‘white, snake-like creature, rather like a giant slow-worm’, (unlike the purple bug / fish-like creature on telly).

Dicks places the Doctor’s first meeting with Xoanon within the haze of his last regeneration, a trip from some point in between his first and second appearances in The Giant Robot. It’s an unseen adventure that his recuperating mind has forgotten until now. Xoanon speaks in three voices – the Doctor’s, that of a woman and a ‘young man’ (so not a child). The Sevateen village is wrecked by the invisible monsters, forcing the villagers to seek refuge in the jungle, explaining why Calib’s assault force is so depleted. The Doctor and Leela work their way through a foil tray of concentrated food cubes (not chocolates). The final scene takes place inside the TARDIS as Leela willfully ignores the Doctor and pulls a ‘large important-looking lever’ that closes the doors and sets them off on their next adventure together.

Cover: The original release has one of the very best covers ever, thanks to Jeff Cummins, with Leela stepping out of the jungle through a circular frame, while the face of the Doctor looms large in the background, all against a blue background. The 1993 reprint has a very jolly-looking Leela in front of two faces of the Doctor.

Final Analysis: Another basic adaptation and, around this time, Terrance Dicks was beginning to receive criticism from fans for his ‘script-to-book’ approach, but I think this is unjustified – at least here. While the prose lacks some of the depth we might expect from Malcolm Hulke or even newcomer Ian Marter, there’s still a lot of subtlety at play. The simple scene where Leela knocks out a Tesh guard gains a little from being told from the guard’s point of view, getting excited by the thought of capturing the aliens and the expectation that ‘he would win great praise from Jabel if he destroyed them’. We get a much better sense of Calib’s ambitions and of course Leela is well served in the way she begins to trust the strange Doctor precisely because his actions are at odds with her understanding of what Xoanon should be like. Readers had already met Leela just two books earlier, but as the text on the back of the 1993 edition states proudly, this is ‘the creation of one of the TV Series’ most memorable teams’.

Chapter 38. Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora (1977)

Synopsis: A chance encounter with the Mandragora Helix results in the Doctor unwittingly transporting sentient and malevolent energy to 15th-Century San Martino. The energy quickly takes hold of Hieronymous, an influential astrologer and leader of a sinister cult. As the Doctor and Sarah try to limit the damage their arrival has caused, they find themselves snared in the fraught politics of San Martino. Can they help a young prince evade the murderous ambitions of his uncle, Count Federico? Will Hieronymous’s new-found power bring a dark and bloody end to the Renaissance?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Mandragora Helix
  • 2. The Brethren of Demnos
  • 3. Execution!
  • 4. Sacrifice
  • 5. The Prince Must Die
  • 6. The Secret of the Temple
  • 7. The Spell of Evil
  • 8. Torture!
  • 9. The Invasion Begins
  • 10. Siege
  • 11. Duel to the Death
  • 12. The Final Eclipse

Background: Philip Hinchcliffe adapts scripts from 1976 by Louis Marks.

Notes: Sarah has now been travelling with the Doctor for ‘several years’ but this is the first time she’s been allowed to explore deeper within the TARDIS. She is ‘Five feet five and a quarter’ – so an inch and a quarter taller than she is on telly, unless she’s counting the heel of her boots.  She apparently finds Giuliano attractive. Swit swoo!

Hinchcliffe tells us that it’s been a long time since the Doctor rode a horse (which might make you wonder when the last time might have been). As he finds the altar within the catacombs, he experiences a vision of the ‘Ghostly Temple of Demnos’:

He was filled with an unaccountable urge to escape, but as he ran towards the tunnel exit a large wall materialised in front of him with a deafening crash. Blindly he stumbled towards the other side of the cavern and a second wall blocked his path. The ghostly Temple of Demnos had sprung up before his very eyes! Panic-stricken he turned this way and that seeking escape but all around him thick stone walls seemed to be hemming him in. He was trapped.

Cover: Mike Little gives us a rather spooky composition for the first edition cover – the Doctor’s face is surrounded by darkness (as with The Deadly Assassin) and four faces of Hieronymous’s mask. A 1991 reprint had a cover by Alister Pearson showing Hieronymous sat on a throne alongside a rather cheery-looking Doctor.

Final Analysis: There can’t have been a fan in any of the libraries of the UK who didn’t mispronounce the title of this until they saw it on VHS or DVD, just as readers will have done when the same word ‘Mandragora’ appeared in the Harry Potter books (‘Man-DRA-gora’, not ‘MAN-dra-GOR-a’). It’s Philip Hinchclcffe’s second novel and another from his ‘golden era’, but it’s not one that allows for showboating. What we get is a straightforward retelling of the script with a few lines to explain the thought processes of the characters. We share the experience of Sarah’s falling under Hieronymous’s spell as her mind tries to make sense of the twisted logic it’s presented with, while her total lack of reaction to the possibility of meeting Leonardo Da Vinci is what first alerts the Doctor that something is wrong. Giuliano reacts beautifully to witnessing the departure of the TARDIS, inspecting the ground where it once stood, ‘puzzled but not afraid’:

‘There is a reason for everything,’ he said to himself. ‘Even this. One day science will explain it all.’

Chapter 37. Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng Chiang (1977)

Synopsis: A London music hall in the late 19th Century is the setting for murder. Its proprietor, Mr Henry Gordon Jago, has just secured the services of a master magician of Chinese origin while a mortician called Litefoot examines a body fished from the Thames and covered in huge bite marks. The Doctor and Leela follow the clues that lead them into the lair of a Chinese God…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Terror in the Fog
  • 2. The Horror in the River
  • 3. Death of a Prisoner
  • 4. The Monster in the Tunnel
  • 5. The Quest of Greel
  • 6. The Tong Attacks
  • 7. The Lair of Weng-Chiang
  • 8. The Sacrifice
  • 9. In the Jaws of the Rat
  • 10. A Plan to Kill the Doctor
  • 11. Death on Stage
  • 12. The Hunt for Greel
  • 13. The House of the Dragon
  • 14. The Prisoners of Greel
  • 15. The Firebomb

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1977 scripts by Robert Holmes, just seven months after they were broadcast.

Notes: The ghoulish woman on the dockside who (on telly) discovers the body of the cabby, Alf Buller, becomes an old man who wants his reward – until he sees the state of the mutilated body. The young woman who Leela saves from becoming a victim of Magnus Greel is named Teresa Hart and Dicks explains that she’s up in the small hours of the morning because she’s employed as a waitress in a gambling club across London in Mayfair – just in case there’s any possibility of some other reason why a woman might be walking the streets alone at that time of night.

As he did with the cuddly Yeti in The Abominable Snowmen, Dicks also solves the basic failure of the giant rat on TV, too clean and plodding in its original form, but now ‘huge and savage’ with red eyes’, a ‘trumpeting scream’ and ‘yellow fangs bared in fury’. 

The Doctor taunts Greel by offering him a jelly baby (although North American editions change this for a jelly bean – utter sacrilege!). On TV, the Doctor recalls that Mr Sin – aka ‘the Peking Homunculus’ – was given to the Icelandic Commissioner’s children as a toy, but ‘something went wrong’ and the thing was ‘almost’ the cause of World War Six, but here there’s a little more more detail: the homunculus was really a programmed assassin, which ‘massacred the Commissioner and all his family’, which then ‘set off’ the World War. We later learn that Magnus Greel was the inventor of Mr Sin and that he triggered the war intentionally. As part of a ‘Supreme Alliance’ of dictators, he was defeated at the Battle of Reykjavik and, branded a war criminal, used the time cabinet to flee with Mr Sin to 19th-Century China.

There’s a slight addition to the last scene, as Jago invites Litefoot to a ‘little tavern’ for a ‘celebratory libation’. And it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Cover: Jeff Cummins provides a wonderful composition of the Doctor in his Holmesian gear, holding a shotgun, while behind him are Mr Sin, a giant rat and a circular design evoking the sewer. This is his first cover for Target, even though The Mutants was published earlier – and apparently it was later stolen from his portfolio, never to return. The 1994 reprint boasted Alister Pearson’s final reprint cover (as this was also the final release of the original Target books run), featuring the Doctor, Greel, Mr Sin and the head of the ornate dragon-shaped ray gun.

Final Analysis: Recently, this story has come under attack for the unsettling undertones inherent in the very racist genre it takes its inspiration from. While much of the problems are still here – an assumption that all the Chinese population of Limehouse are opium addicts, Irish Casey having ‘a weakness for the bottle’ as well as the general racism of characters from the time – there’s one section that suggests Dicks was at least aware of certain ironies; as Jago appraises the great magician Chang, Dicks makes a dig at the casting in the TV serial:

Perhaps he really was from China as he claimed. After all he really was Chinese, unlike most Oriental magicians who were usually English enough once the makeup was off. 

But Dicks also spells out that Chang’s own stage persona, speaking in pidgin English, is an artifice he employs solely to appease his English audience’s expectations; in this version, it’s the audience who are very much at fault. 

The opening chapter feels like Malcolm Hulke has stepped in to provide some social context by focusing on the different strata within the audience of the Palace Theatre:

The body of the theatre and the Grand Circle above were filled with local people, tradesmen and their wives and families, bank clerks and shop assistants. High above in the top-most balcony, known as the ‘Gods,’ the poorer people were crowded onto hard wooden benches. Labourers, dock workers, soldiers and sailors, even some of the half starved unemployed – they’d all managed to scrape together a few coppers for the big night of the week.

It’s an atypical observation for Dicks, but there’s plenty of social commentary throughout the story. Professor Litefoot is from a ‘wealthy upper-class family’ and his ‘aristocratic relations’ have ceased trying to get him to relinquish his calling to do proper work in the East End, instead of pampering ‘silly women’ in Harley Street. Chang considers the workers of London as ‘peasants’ – but presumably this is a description that places himself on an equal level to them – all subjects to higher powers.

Chapter 36. Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin (1977)

Synopsis: The Time Lords of Gallifrey enjoy immense power, living in isolation from the rest of the universe. On the day that the President of the Time Lords is expected to announce his successor, security is tight! Yet somehow, an obsolete and unauthorised time capsule – a TARDIS – has landed right in the heart of the Capitol. Its owner, a criminal called the Doctor, is nowhere to be found. Then the President is assassinated – and the Doctor is found holding the gun. But could there really be two rogue Time Lords at play? Soon, the future of the Time Lords will depend on a battle of wits between two bitter rivals – and it will be a fight to the death.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Vision of Death
  • 2. The Secret Enemy
  • 3. Death of a Time Lord
  • 4. Trapped
  • 5. The Horror in the Gallery
  • 6. Into the Matrix
  • 7. Death by Terror
  • 8. Duel to the Death
  • 9. The End of the Evil
  • 10. The Doomsday Plan
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The End – and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s 1976 scripts.

Notes: That epic crawl from the start of the TV version is dropped, though its main details are absorbed into the rest of the book. In his youth, the Doctor trained for a seat on the High Council on Gallifrey, but he grew frustrated at the ‘never-ending ceremonials and elaborately costumed rituals’ and the ‘endless accumulation of second-hand knowledge that would never be used’. The Doctor recalls ‘boyhood memories of forbidden games, of hide-and-seek’, while the spark that sent him to flee Gallifrey is described as ‘a final crisis’. Dicks builds in vague gaps in the story deliberately, as none of this completely contradicts other explanations for why he left Gallifrey, but it does add to his possible reasons. There are a few references to ‘the Omega crisis’ and the ‘Omega file’ [see The Three Doctors]. The Doctor’s TARDIS control room is in the more traditional configuration, with a console that has a column at the centre (the one on telly is the wooden one without a central column).

The large dome at the heart of the Capitol (not actually seen on TV until 2007) houses the Panopticon. Spandrell is ‘unusually broad and muscular for a Time Lord’ and Goth is ‘tall, handsome, immensely impressive in his elaborate robes’. Goth is now head of the Prydonians, with Borusa elevated to the status of ‘High Cardinal’. The captain of the Guard is Hildred (not Hilred). Runcible and the Doctor had been at school together, where Runcible had been ‘utterly fascinated by rituals and traditions’. Now, he’s a ‘small plump figure’ unlike his onscreen depiction. When the hypnotised guard, Solis, tries to wreck the APN cables, Spandrell shoots him repeatedly. 

The villain at the heart of the tale was revealed in the end credits but it wasn’t spelled out until the Doctor saw the shrunken corpse of the cameraman and realised who he was up against. For the reader, Dicks teases the identity and after his accomplice calls him ‘Master’, he starts to use this as the villain’s title, but it’d still be fairly easy for a new reader to wonder if this is the Master, or just a master, especially as this Master is even more gruesome than on telly:

The cracked, wizened skin, stretched tight over the skull, one eye almost closed, the other wide open and glaring madly. It was like the face of death itself.

Later, the Master’s ‘bloodless lips [draw] back in a smile of hatred. The Doctor describes his enemy to Borusa thus:

He was always a criminal, sir, throughout all his lives. Constant pressure, constant danger. Accelerated regenerations used as disguise… He was simply burnt out.

During the trial, the Doctor interjects to confirm that the witness, an elderly Time Lord, can hear loud voices, thereby disputing the prosecution’s claim that he misheard the Doctor’s cries of ‘They’ll kill him’.

Cover: The decaying Master leers from the top of the cover, while a stern-looking Doctor, flanked by two Time Lords in ceremonial robes and collars, looks off to the side. I can scarcely believe this is by Mike Little, it’s a huge step up from his previous efforts. 

Final Analysis: Not much to add to this, to be honest; it’s a straightforward adaptation, which is going to be the norm for a while now. Dick adds a few little details here and there, so as is often the case, it’s just a matter of scale – the Panopticon houses many more Time Lords from many other chapters than we could see on telly – but doesn’t change anything too much. When he’s working from scripts by his pal Robert Holmes, perhaps he doesn’t feel the need or the inclination.

Chapter 35. Doctor Who and the Mutants (1977)

Synopsis: When the Doctor receives a mysterious object, it leads him and Jo to the planet Solos, a colony in Earth’s future empire ruled by a cruel and sadistic Marshal. The native Solonians are fighting for their rights to independence while also battling something far more puzzling – some of them are transforming into hideous insect-like creatures…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Hunters
  • 2. Mutant on the Loose!
  • 3. Assassination!
  • 4. Hunted on Solos
  • 5. The Experiment
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Attack
  • 8. The Trap
  • 9. The Fugitive
  • 10. The Crystal
  • 11. Condemned
  • 12. The Message
  • 13. The Investigator
  • 14. The Witness
  • 15. The Change

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1972 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: Solos is a ‘planet of jungles’, but still looks grey from orbit due to the mists. Varan’s son is called ‘Vorn’. Dicks writes that the Doctor was exiled by the Time Lords ‘for some unknown offence’; obviously Dicks himself knows why – he co-wrote the story that saw the Doctor exiled (and so do we), but Jo actually doesn’t – the closest she gets is in The Doomsday Weapon, where the Doctor explained that he used to roam the universe before the Time Lords caught him and trapped him on Earth – but he never explains to her precisely why!

Professor Jaeger is ‘a vain and unprincipled man, desperate for scientific recognition, but without the talent to attain it on his own’; he’s disgraced back on Earth after some scandal involving results stolen from a junior colleague. The Marshal, meanwhile, came to Solos as a security guard and slowly climbed his way up the ranks to his current position; he sees himself as the supreme power over Solos, which is why he is so desperate not to lose his position. Standing at the mouth of the caves, the Marshal uses a device with a ‘directional microphone’ to overhear Stubbs and Cotton talking to the Doctor to uncover their treachery. The Marshal has a secret exit behind the desk in his office, which Cotton knows about.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his first appearance with a splendid photorealistic cover. A mutant leers into frame just as the TARDIS materialises in a red-lit cavern. As with Doctor Who and the Space War, the title page in early editions of this book claimed that the front cover showed ‘the third DOCTOR WHO, whose physical appearance was altered by the Time Lords when they banished him to the planet Earth in the Twentieth Century’. Er…

Final Analysis: Despite being a huge fan of the Third Doctor, this has always been my least favourite of his stories, largely because the Marshal is such a relentless bully. He’s still that here, but it’s at least useful to get the perspective of every character working around him. Even Jaeger, who is enabling his ‘scorched Solos’ policy, is doing so for scientific glory, not for anything that might benefit the marshal politically. Dicks manages to edit down the six episodes in a tidy fashion, so even though some speeches are summarised or cut back, all the beats are there in the right order.

Chapter 34. Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil (1977)

Synopsis: An expedition party on the remote planet Zeta Minor has been devastated by unexplained deaths and a rescue mission finds only one survivor. The arrival of the Doctor and Sarah provides convenient suspects for the murders, but the Doctor realises there’s another possible culprit – the planet itself…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Killer Planet
  • 2. The Probe
  • 3. Meeting with a Monster
  • 4. Tracked by the Oculoid
  • 5. The Lair of the Monster
  • 6. The Battle for the Spaceship
  • 7. The Creature in the Corridor
  • 8. Marooned in Space
  • 9. Sentenced to Death
  • 10. The Monster Runs Amok
  • 11. An Army of Monsters

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Louis Marks’ 1975 scripts.

Notes: The plaque marking the grave reads ‘Edgar Lumb’ (not Egard as on TV). We’re reminded that this follows on from The Loch Ness Monster and on leaving the TARDIS, Sarah is not ‘in the least surprised to find that they’d arrived in the middle of a particularly sinister-looking alien jungle’, which might just be a comment on Sod’s Law, but this is the first alien jungle she’s ever visited – and, on TV at least, she doesn’t visit any others!

Ponti is said to be ‘tall and dark’ (played onscreen by Gambian actor Louis Mahoney) and De Haan is a ‘stocky fair-haired’ chap (unlike the dark-haired Graham Weston on TV). The Morestran advance party are transported to Zeta Minor by ‘force beam’, disintegrated in a capsule and reassembled on the planet’s surface. The Doctor’s descent into the Black Pool is surrounded by ‘many coloured swirling currents’, while the anti-matter beast appears to resemble a dragon at many points. We learn that Vishinsky returns home to a hero’s welcome and a much-deserved promotion, while Sorenson becomes ‘the most famous scientist in the Morestran Empire’. 

Cover: The first edition has a cover by Mike Little, which again lacks the sophistication of the previous artists, showing the Doctor (inset) cowering from a fanged, snarling Anti-Man in the jungle. Andrew Skilleter uses the same photo reference of the Anti-Man for the 1982 reprint but to a much higher standard.

Final Analysis: Continuing the horror theme of this period is a mash-up of The Tempest and Stephenson’s perennial Jekyll and Hyde. Dicks takes the time to create backstories for Vishinsky (overlooked for promotion but very experienced) and Salamar (ambitious with friends in high places, but under-qualified) that really enhance the characterisation. Other than this though, it’s a fairly consistent adaptation from screen to page.