Chapter 152. Doctor Who – Battlefield (1991)

Synopsis: Warriors from another dimension bring their fight to a lake reputed to be the last resting place of King Arthur. Nearby, a convoy of UNIT troops is transporting a nuclear weapon. The Doctor and Ace recover Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, observed by the witch Morgaine and the chained beast The Destroyer. But the invaders haven’t reckoned on an old soldier coming out of retirement for one final mission. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has arrived! 

Chapter Titles

Divided into Part One, Two, Three and Four, and subdivided by numbered chapters – eighteen in total.

Background: Marc Platt adapts scripts by Ben Aaronovitch for the 1989 serial, completing the run of stories for Season 26 and the seventh Doctor. This is also the last Doctor Who TV story to be novelised under the original Target banner.

Notes: The prologue details the final hours of Arthur as he and Bedivere leap across dimensions to flee from the war with Morgaine and Mordred. Bedivere casts Excalibur into a lake, before Mordred slits his throat. Arthur is taken to safety, where he’s reunited with Merlin, a man with an ‘avuncular face’ and ‘twin hearts’. He has ‘unruly red hair’ (is this why future Doctors are so excited by the prospect of being ‘ginger’?) and wears a ‘tatty embroidered Afghan coat’ and a floppy, brown felt hat with a saffron Katmandu bandana around the brim. Receiving Excalibur, he places it in the exact position that he remembers finding it in (so ‘Merlin’ is definitely a future Doctor).

Brigadier Bambera is lifted out of a mission in the Zambezi region to command operation ‘Dull Sword’, the name for the removal of ‘Salamander Six-Zero’, a ‘ground-launched cruise missile system, in breach of the Berlin Convention’. She arrives at UNIT HQ, a former ‘finishing school’ located ‘six klicks’ from Geneva; the base itself is 200 metres below ground. Her callsign is ‘Seabird One’. The signal sent by Excalibur to the TARDIS is much more powerful than on TV; it’s responsible for an electronics blackout that hits the south of England – and the TARDIS itself. Inside the darkened main control room, the Doctor has a lectern in the shape of an eagle (the one he had on TV in the 1960s). The electronics blackout is followed by a violent storm greater than the ones in ‘1987 and 1995’. The Doctor finds a copy of Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century work Le Morte D’arthur and pops it in his pocket. Mordred has a disappointing night of drinking at a tavern in a place called Gore; he leaves the inn at dawn and is taken by an ornithopter to meet with his mother, the Queen. All of the suits of armour from this other dimension are equipped with display screens in the visor and the ability to leap across the dimensions.

The events in England take place in the spring of 1999 (the tax disc of Peter Warmsly’s car is due to expire on 30 June ’99). Peter has a ‘northern accent’ (the actor who played him, James Ellis, did his best to disguise his Belfast accent, so that accent would be ‘Northern Irish’) and his companion is a large Irish wolfhound called Cerberus. Bambera attended lectures at Sandhurst (the military academy that trains all British officers) delivered by ‘Chunky Gilmore [see Remembrance of the Daleks] and she also remembers that UNIT’s ‘Zen Brigade’ at Aylesbury had been led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. 

Doris is an economist and she inherited her mock-Tudor home from an aunt. She became reacquainted with Lethbridge-Stewart after seeing him in a TV documentary that insinuated he was keeping secrets from the British public:

‘We may never know what happened at the atomic installation at Wenley Moor, the fate of Mars Probe 7, the Styles Conference on disarmament or the terrible ecological accident at Llanfairfach. But we do know that Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart was a leading agent in the Government’s response to these crises.’

Doris arranged to visit Lethbridge-Stewart at his home in the grounds of the school where he taught Mathematics [see Mawdryn Undead] and, reminded of a previous encounter at a Brighton hotel, she suggested they get married. 

Shou Yuing is a student at Exeter University and is surprised by the sight of Ace’s 80s-style clothes. Her family name is ‘Li’ (she introduces herself to the Brigadier as ‘Li Shou Yuing’) and her grandmother, a great story-teller, spoke only Mandarin all her life, despite having been a British subject for 53 years (we might speculate that she was a refugee from the Chinese Civil War, which resumed in 1946). Her brother appears to be a mechanic and he gave her car a respray only a week before she came to the area. Her parents wait for her outside of the exclusion zone and she feels she’ll be in a lot of trouble when they find her (which is possibly why she sticks around long enough to be invited home with the Lethbridge-Stewarts at the end).

At the Gore Crow Hotel, Pat sells four flavours of crisps, ‘plain, roasted peanut, onion gravy or cauliflower cheese’. The Doctor has various units of currency in his pockets, including ‘Pallistratum Gromits’, ‘seven-and-three-eighth Rlarix Sovereigns’ and ‘something shaped like a small mechanoid crab’, but pays for the drinks with a ‘1998 five pound ecucoin’. It might be ten years into Ace’s future, but it’s more than 20 years in our past and £4.95 for half a cider, a lemonade and a packet of crisps is still extortionate in 2022.

Ace is still wearing the same shoes she had in Iceworld and they’re letting in water (even before she gets ejected into the lake!). She tells Bambera to ‘piss off’. Suspecting that his future self might have been ‘too clever for his own good’, the Doctor considers that ‘so many regenerations in so short a span could not be good for the brain.’ The knowledge of the future Merlin makes him suddenly and uncomfortably aware of the mortality of his current form. Morbid thoughts turn to a memory of the Time Lord academy. 

The Doctor and Ace discuss Clark’s Law – ‘Any advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic’; The Brigadier tactlessly addresses Ace as ‘the latest one’, which makes her immediately very snarky towards him; and Ace and Shou Yuing deduce that the legend of King Arthur came from the ‘real’ Arthur, and that Excalibur wasn’t inserted into the stone, it was plugged into the console of the ship in the lake – all of which were scenes deleted from original broadcast but restored for a Special Edition edit on the DVD release.

Elizabeth Rowlinson has been blind for 22 years. Her husband, Pat, goes to the crashed helicopter with a first aid kit and helps Lavel to escape; he was in the police force for 23 years before becoming the landlord of the Gore Crow (and Noel Collins, who played him on TV, played a police officer in Juliet Bravo for five years). Morgaine takes control of the UNIT officer and learns that she is ‘Francoise Eloise Lavel’ and that she grew up in Brittany. Morgaine enters Lavel’s mind to see a young Lavel running through a field, watching the birds and telling her mother she wants to fly ‘like a great arrow’. The Witch Queen says to her in French, ‘goodbye my little one. Now you are with me’, before turning her to ash.

Ancelyn was once a general in Morgaine’s army, but an ancient family oath compelled him to answer Arthur’s call and Morgaine branded him a traitor. Despite the switch in allegiances, Ancelyn refuses to share secrets with UNIT that might help them defeat Morgaine with dishonour.

The Doctor uses a dog whistle to summon Warmsly’s dog (recalling that the whistle would have once summoned K9). The Brigadier has never been allowed to use Bessie’s ‘superdrive facility’ before now. He recognises the Doctor’s term ‘interstitial’ from his encounter with ‘The Master with a Greek accent’ (the Doctor jokes ‘You should hear his French One!’, references to The Time Monster and The King’s Demons). Bambera is disappointed to discover ‘armour-piercing’ bullets have no effect on Mordred’s army, which is why she goes into battle with a sword. 

The Destroyer arrives in a different form to how we see it on telly:

Out of the great shadow stepped a figure. A man of aristocratic bearing, impeccably attired in a twentieth-century business suit. He was handsome; so handsome, he was almost ugly. Every beautiful feature on his face was slightly exaggerated, like a near-perfect mask, to conceal something very terrible beneath. His skin had a metallic blue sheen. He moved with a casual, predatory grace and was over seven feet tall. Behind him, the horned shadow traced his every movement.

The Destroyer’s appearance changes slowly as its power builds; small bumps appear at its temples and Ace sees a ‘reptilian eye’ beneath its mask. Finally released from Morgaine’s control, it grows to a monstrous size:

Its shape altered and grew. The tailored suit split as great thorns spiked out across its body like the armour of all Hell’s legions. Its head lost all human features; its skin hardened into scales of metallic blue; its goat horns twisted and blackened in thick murderous spires. As it rose up, its eyes narrowed and darkened into green pits of burning evil.

It finishes up so large that the Brigadier is dwarfed by its hooves.

At the missile camp, Bambera shouts for Zbrigniev to bring her coffee and discovers he has been killed, just as Mordred captures her. Ancelyn finds two more UNIT soldiers slain on his return to the camp. His battle with Mordred is brought to an end by Bambera knocking Mordred unconscious with a rifle butt. 

The Doctor taunts Morgaine by looping his umbrella over the blade of Excalibur. The material of the umbrella is shredded but by story end he fetches himself a new one (he also replaces his hat at one point). It will now be down to the Earth authorities to negotiate with Ancelyn’s world to decide the fate of Morgaine and Mordred. Back home, Doris asks the Doctor for help in arranging a reunion of old friends for Alistair; the Doctor suggests they meet at Christmas to give him time to collect everybody. Ace finds a bag of crusty jelly babies in Bessie’s glove compartment. Ancelyn presents Bambera with a crystal ring ‘inlaid with twining silver leaves, emblem of the House of Garde-Joyeuse’. The story concludes with the Brigadier telling the Doctor that he’s been offered a new job that he can’t turn down.

Cover: Alister Pearson combines the Brigadier, Morgaine, the Doctor and the Destroyer with deceptive simplicity. With this cover, he also steals a title from Andrew Skilleter as he becomes the only cover artist to provide the artwork for two complete seasons of stories. Including art for a reissue of Time and the Rani, he also painted artwork for every single Seventh Doctor story. A 2016 rerelease of Battlefield had cover art by Chris Achilleos that tried to mimic the style of his own 70s classics. A disappointing composition, it featured a fair likeness of Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, plus Morgaine, Excalibur and a strange, side-on pose for the Destroyer. The audiobook invited Alister Pearson back to create a revised version of his original art with new portraits of the principal elements.

Final Analysis: Full disclosure, I’ve never been a fan of Arthurian mythology, even less a fan of Arthurian science fiction. That this managed to keep my interest from beginning to end is a real credit to Marc Platt’s skill as a writer. It’s impossible to know how close this novel is to how Ben Aaronovich might have approached it, as Ben abandoned work on his version and handed everything over to Marc Platt. What we have though is a novel that immerses us in the legend and explains the backstory while drawing us towards the final confrontation in a war that has lasted for thousands of years. And the book makes it much clearer that none of this is actually what the story is about. 

Once again, this is a beautifully executed adaptation, from the introduction to the Old King and his war with Morgaine to the quieter moments where the supporting characters get time to reflect on the various life-changing revelations they’ve been forced to accept: Warmsly is overwhelmed by the discovery that the mythology that he has spent his life researching is real, teary-eyed while saying to Ancelyn ‘I keep thinking you’re true, young man. I think I’d like that. It’s better than reality, isn’t it?’ The same for the Rawlinsons, having to deal with the inexplicable return of Elizabeth’s sight:

Pat squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. He was looking the other way. She had seen something he had missed. Now she had her own secrets again, not just what she was told.

It was too much to take in. She closed her eyes.

As we might often hope for a novelisation, this is far and away the best version of Battlefield. But the sword-and-sorcery aspect is just a distraction from where Platt really wants to go. Confronted with the possibility that a future Doctor is playing the role of Merlin, our current Doctor is reluctant to accept the evidence that at some future point, his own time as the Doctor will end. To build on the inevitability, Part 4, Chapter 1 is told partly from Mordred’s point of view, where his adversary is very clearly ‘Merlin’. Coming in between this incarnation’s last regular TV appearance and his consignment to the pages of the New Adventures novels (the first of which was published the month before this volume), it’s all rather poignant – and nicely foreshadows a later Doctor’s reluctance to let go. There are other changes coming behind the scenes; although there are some novelisations still to come, this is the last televised story to be novelised under WH Allen’s Target banner.

… but it’s not the last entry for this blog. We still have a few more to come, including a couple of surprises! 

Chapter 151. Doctor Who – The Curse of Fenric (1990)

Synopsis: A World War II military base in North Yorkshire becomes the site for a battle between good and evil. All the pieces have come together: A British officer obsessed with Nazi memorabilia; his chief adviser, the creator of a powerful code-breaking machine; a squad of Soviet soldiers led by a captain driven by destiny; a bereaved young mother, left with a baby; a race of vampiric mutants from the future; and an ancient evil waiting for the arrival of a Time Lord… and his young friend, Ace. Now, the game can begin again…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: Dusk
  • Chronicle I: Betrayal
  • Document I: The Wolf-time
  • Chronicle II: Dangerous Undercurrents
  • Document II: The Curse of the Flask
  • Chronicle III: Weapons within Weapons, Death within
  • Death
  • Document III: A Victorian Storyteller
  • Chronicle IV: Vampire City!
  • Document IV: The First Contest of Fenric
  • Chronicle V: Wind and Water, Earth and Fire
  • Epilogue: Dawn

Background: Ian Briggs adapts his own scripts from the 1989 serial, delivering the longest novelisation since Fury from the Deep.

Notes: The author bares the method in a prologue where he dwells on how to start the story. An unidentified woman stands on the beach signalling the Soviet submarine (we find out later who that might be). Sorin is a captain in the Red Army’s Special Missions Brigade and his mission is called ‘Operation Sea-Wolf’ (an echo of the story’s working title, The Wolves of Fenric). When the Soviet commandos reach the beach, it’s Trofimov who acts as look-out; he sees the evacuees and is reminded of his wife, Irene, who he sees dead in a vision. Sorin believes another young soldier, Petrossian, has special gifts that alert him to sounds and danger before everybody else.  

On arriving at the camp, the Doctor berates young Perkins: ‘What would happen if the Germans attacked now? We’d have to write to your mother and tell her you died in filthy boots!’ The Doctor’s forged authorisation documents from the War Office give his name as ‘Dr-‘ but the second name is smudged, while ‘Ace’ is listed as the code-name of his assistant. One of the evacuees, Jean, has cool blue eyes and blonde, tightly wound hair, while Phyllis has ‘a round, smiling face’, and her eyes are ‘a rich chestnut brown’. Ace complains that the Doctor doesn’t pay any attention to her because she’s ‘only the waitress’ (as opposed to ‘a mere mortal’ on TV). Ace goes rock climbing with the evacuees (using ropes instead of the usual ladder) and tells them she ‘gave up’ smoking after her Mum found out. Kathleen is initially nervous when the Doctor and Ace discover her baby. She tries to explain, but the Doctor reassures her: ‘Just as long as you can promise me she’s isn’t a German spy, sent to discover the secret of British nappies.’ 

The chapters are punctuated by four supporting documents, the first of which is an essay about the Viking gods, written by Millington when he was a schoolboy. A teacher’s comment at the end of the essay reads: 

Very good. An extraordinarily vivid piece of writing for a boy of only 12. It is almost as though young Millington really believes that these myths will come true one day.

The essay represents a lifelong obsession with Norse mythology that Millington carries into adulthood, unaware that this is part of Fenric’s curse. On learning from Judson about the new arrivals from ‘the War Office’, Millington assumes that they must be from Bletchley and orders that they should be killed as ‘the enemy’. He recalls an incident on the rugby pitch more than 20 years earlier:

The cold mud of a rugby pitch. The shouts and calls of adolescent young men as they ran and chased. The expression Millington saw on Judson’s face as Judson smiled across to one of the other players, a tall, blond boy with clear blue eyes and a strong body. The sharp, stabbing jealousy that surged through Millington. The black anger that filled him as he ran towards Judson. The hatred, as he drove his shoulder hard in Judson’s back. The cracking sound – the awful cracking sound – as Judson’s body bent backwards and his spine fractured. The expression in Judson’s face, an expression from hell, as he lay paralysed in the mud.

The second document tells of how a traveller from Sweden called Oslaf obtained the flask. He and his party journeyed from Constantinople, through Transylvania, their voyage blighted by black fog and mysterious deaths, before they reached the Baltic sea and were slain by pirates. The pirate leader, Hemming, seized the flask as part of their spoils, but his band of men experienced sudden and grisly deaths just like those of Oslaf’s party. Abandoning his wife, Hemming captured a beautiful villager called Ingelda, with whom he sired a daughter called Wulf-aga as she had shining eyes like a wolf. As his crew were killed off one by one, Hemming concluded that the flask he stole from Oslaf was to blame; he sent his mistress and their daughter to safety and hid the flask, before he and the last of his men were slain by the black fog.

Wainwright visits the graves of his parents and grandparents in the churchyard. His mother died the day after he was born and her gravestone has the wrong date on it; his father died two years ago. Unlike on TV, Wainwright is a young man in his twenties. Millington reveals to the Doctor and Ace his plan to use chemical weapons to bring the war to an end: ‘A few thousand will die. But hundreds of thousands will be saved.’

The Doctor and Ace speak to an agitated Miss Hardaker about her missing evacuees and they try to persuade her not to involve the Home Guard; as soon as they leave, she calls the Home Guard anyway. The six Home Guard soldiers find the girls on the beach but fail to persuade them to go home. When their patrol strays too close to the Soviet hideout, they are killed by Sorin’s men, as witnessed from the clifftops by Sergeant Leigh (a young soldier of just 20, but already ‘hard as stone’)… and Miss Hardaker, who the young sergeant orders to return home. There, she confronts the girls, blaming them for the deaths of the men. Sorin tries to comfort Trofimov, unaware that, having himself become a father back home recently, his sergeant’s trauma comes from killing men who were someone’s sons. 

The third Document is a letter from Bram Stoker to his wife, detailing a story he heard while visiting the area about Maiden’s Point, a murdered girl and vampires living in the waters nearby. He tells his wife ‘I begin to believe that the seeds of some greater story may lie in this tragic incident.’

Miss Hardaker has her own reason for fearing the wider reputation of Maiden’s Point: When she was just 19, she became pregnant out of wedlock. Though the child died aged just two, Miss Hardaker was shunned by her neighbours and she carried the shame with her throughout her life.

The Doctor calls the monstrous army that emerges from the sea ‘homo haemovorax’ and claims that the salt water in the area is similar to human blood plasma:

Their bodies were horrifying mutations of the humans they had once been. Their skin was slimy and slightly wrinkled, like huge white slugs with legs and arms. Their eyes were swollen and bulbous, closed like a foetus in its uterus. And their mouths had turned into large suckers for draining blood. 

Some of them still had traces of human origins – vestigial ears, or a skeleton that was vaguely humanoid – and these creatures still had scraps of recent human clothing hanging off them. But those that had been waiting for a century or more were now completely changed. Instead of clothing, they had thin strands of glistening filament that hung about their bodies. Among the filaments and linked with them were old metal objects – objects that had either been discarded in the waters down the centuries or taken from the creatures’ victims. Keys, locks, coins, scissor-blades were now welded by an iridescent coral into a kind of chain mail.

The assault on the church is a lot more dramatic than was possible on telly. Ace uses her rock-climbing ropes (rather than the ladder) to scale down the church tower. Haemovores scale down the side of the tower after her and Sorin stakes one of them to death. The Doctor remembers his travelling companions as a testament of faith to repel the haemovore attack: Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki and Stephen [sic], Jo and Sarah-Jane. He’s surprised that Ace can hear the sound of his faith and surmises that she is slightly telepathic.

The fourth of the quoted documents is a translation by Sir William Judson, recounting the tale-within-a-tale of a game of chess between another traveller, El-DokTar, and an evil dictator called Aboo-Fenran. After 40 days of stalemate, the traveller challenged the dictator to find a solution that could defeat him. Another 40 days and nights passed and, unable to solve the impasse, Aboo-Fenrir surrendered and was trapped inside a flask. A prince mentioned in this story is said to haved journeyed ‘along the Central Way from the Furthest Island of Dhógs to the White City’, which might hold additional meaning if you consider how a person might travel via the Central Line of the London Underground from East London to BBC Television Centre.

The eyes of the bodies that Fenric possesses glow red, not green. Fenric reveals that Nurse Crane is a Soviet agent reporting to Moscow (suggesting she was the figure signalling from the beach to the Russian submarine). The Ancient One is named Ingiger and its voice is said to be part female. Vershinin and Bates both die from being shot by Millington (they survived on TV); Millington allows himself to be engulfed in flames while holding the body of Judson.

In the epilogue, having departed the TARDIS some time before, ‘Dorothée’ is reunited with the Doctor in 1887, where she reveals she has fallen in love with Sorin’s grandfather.

Cover & Illustration: Against a chessboard background, Alister Pearson brings together a Doctor with a sickly green tinge, a haemovore, Ace in her 1940s costume and various symbols – a logic diagram, some ancient runes, a Soviet red star, a Nazi Swastika and a skull-and-crossbones poison label. Inside, for the first time in years, there’s an illustration – a map, captioned ‘The Journey of the Flask’.

Final Analysis: Back in the mid-1960s, the joke behind the Meddling Monk was that he was the sort of character who would deposit a small sum into a bank and then travel forward in time to collect the interest. In 1979 we had Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, trying to pull off a similar stunt by influencing history to fund his time travel experiments in the 20th century. It was also the driving force behind this story on TV, an ancient evil manipulating individual family lines to ensure they all converge at one point in space and time. In retelling his adventure as a novel, Ian Briggs creates a multi-faceted tale that slowly pushes all the pieces onto the board and shows how they came to be part of Fenric’s trap. That the backstory is presented as a series of documents allows the reader to decide if any of them might be a reliable source: The Doctor really did trap an ancient evil in a flask because it couldn’t grasp that he was cheating at chess, or the scene is just symbolic of whatever it was that happened; Millington’s childhood obsession with Norse mythology was symptomatic of the curse, or just another facet of his obsessive guilt over the crippling attack on Judson; maybe the flask caused the deaths that followed the parties of Oslaf and Hemming, or perhaps they just lived in bloody times; and maybe Bram Stoker was driven by the legends that fuel this story to write one of his own, rather than Ian Briggs taking his inspiration from Stoker…

In the entire history of the Target books, few could be described as being sexually charged. Companions arrive and depart with dispassionate regularity and even the ones tempted by a promise of romance remain largely chaste. The first hints of sexual desires introduced by Ben Aaronovich in Remembrance of the Daleks are continued here. The subtlety of a bay called ‘Maiden’s Point’ is underlined when Ace appears to admit to her new evacuee friends that, like them, she’s not a virgin (even if it’s just a case of teenage bragging to fit in), but then there’s the revelation that Miss Hardaker also has a secret past. The undercurrents that engulf Ace at the end are said to represent ‘laughter, lechery and animal passion. A whorehouse of enjoyment’. Despite this, Ace’s seduction of young Sergeant Leigh is about as awkward as it was on TV and, frankly, the resolution is unpleasant:

‘Too hot,’ murmured Ace. ‘Clothes sticking to me, sticking to my skin, hot, damp…’

‘If they’re too sticky, you know what to do.’

… his cries of ‘You promised’ suggest he feels led on, more than just led away.

There’s also a subtext of sexual tension from Millington towards Judson, who he clearly found compelling when they were schoolboys; as an adult, Millington has no love for women, complaining that they even ‘smelled different’, which adds a little to his dismissal of Ace with ‘no girls’!

Sexual subtexts are all part and parcel of the horror genre, and while this remains teen-friendly, it’s clearly aimed at an older audience than, say, Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius. Infamously, the disintegration of the Haemovore Jean and Phyllis was shown on children’s TV in a behind-the-scenes feature but cut from the actual broadcast episode. Here, we can enjoy the moment in all its gory glory. The most graphic passage, however, comes during the assault on the church, when Sorin employs a stake to destroy one of the monstrous attackers:

The haemovore gave out a terrible, tortured cry that seemed to tear through the universe. Sorin pushed down on the stake with all his strength, driving it through the haemovore’s body until he felt it hit the slates beneath. The horrible, bloated face of the creature began to twist and change. The skin started to wrinkle and pull back on to the bones as though the creature were growing older by a hundred years every minute. The fleshy lips turned thin and dry and began to crack; the haemovore’s whole skeleton began to show through the thin membrane. Then the skin started to smoke and peel away. The creature’s cry slowly died away as all its flesh disappeared in smoke. Soon, all that was left was a smoking skeleton lying in a pool of slime and a charred wooden stake planted between two ribs.

As I noted just a few chapters ago, Remembrance of the Daleks is often cited by fans as the moment of conception for the New Adventures, but this story informs the tone of that range just as much. It’s a story as much about the companion as the villain, where sex and sexuality are acknowledged as something that actually exists and where the Doctor is manipulating people and events like a Grand Master chessplayer.

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.

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 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 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 137. Doctor Who – Dragonfire (1989)

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

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Sixteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 71. Doctor Who – Full Circle (1982)

Synopsis: The TARDIS falls into another universe – Espace – and lands on Alzarius, a planet with the exact same coordinates as Gallifrey, except in negative. They meet a young boy called Adric and discover a small and terrified community housed in an ancient spaceship. The people of Alzarius are preparing for a cataclysmic event called ‘Mistfall’ when the air becomes unbreathable and strange creatures emerge from the marshes. The marsh creatures lead the Doctor to uncover a secret that has been hidden for generations.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. ‘I Have Lost Control of the TARDIS’
  • 2. ‘I’m an Elite’
  • 3. ‘Master – Alert’
  • 4. ‘We’re Taking Over Your Ship’
  • 5. ‘We Don’t Know What’s Out There’
  • 6. ‘You Will Answer the Questions, Doctor’
  • 7. ‘A Little Patience Goes a Long Way’
  • 8. ‘I Am Beginning Surgery’
  • 9. ‘One Secret Our Ancestors Kept for Themselves’
  • 10. ‘We’ve Come Full Circle’
  • 11. ‘We Cannot Return to Teradon’
  • 12. ‘We’re Trapped’

Background: Andrew Smith adapts his own scripts from the 1980 story. At just 20 years old at the time, Andrew remains the youngest author of a Target novel.

Notes: A prologue tells of the arrival to Alzarius of the original inhabitants of the Terradon starliner, the demise of Commander Yakob Lorenzil and the hostile environment that greets the survivors of the crash, led by Sub-Commander Damyen Fenrik. This might feel like a spoiler until the exact moment that we realise it’s a clever deception. There’s an interlude with the full verses of a poem by First Decider Yanek Pitrus, a ‘tenth generation starliner’, setting out the legends of mistfall. 

First Decider Exmon Draith is accompanied by Decider Ragen Nefred and Decider Jaynis Garif. After Draith dies, Halrin Login is elevated to Decider level. As he takes on the role of First Decider, Nefred connects his brain to the System Files, which monitor the well-being of all Deciders; this is how Nefred confirms that Draith has died, as well as becoming exposed to the starliner’s darkest secret.

Adric and Varsh lost their parents when they were young; they were killed in a forest fire and the boys were taken in by family friends. Varsh is three-and-a-half years Adric’s senior. As this is Adric’s introduction (despite featuring in four novels by now), his creator gives us the best insight yet into who he is:

Adric’s diminutive stature and his youth belied the fact that he had one of the keenest intelligences on the starliner, an intelligence marred only by the occasional lapse into the naive mannerisms of the juvenile. 

Adric only lets go of Draith because he panics after a hand clasps his ankle underneath the marsh water. The other Outlers are here named Refnal, Gulner, Hektir and Yenik. 

As with all authors showing off their creations, Andrew Smith presents the giant Marshmen as much more impressive than TV would allow:

They flexed their scaly arms, allowed their mouths, dribbling with hungry saliva, to gape. Scaly, metallic-looking eyelids slid back over black evil eyeballs, which then scanned the surroundings. They started climbing from the marsh, mud slithering down their tall, horrible frames, heavy clawed feet finding a secure hold in the soil by the marsh. 

The Marshchild follows the Doctor onto the starliner and the Doctor takes it under his wing when he protects it from a frightened mob (on TV, he’s knocked out and the child is taken away screaming). The Doctor recalls once failing to save a young girl from a ‘witch trial’ in 17th-Century England and vows not to allow the Marshchild to suffer a similar fate. 

There is a pitch-black ‘spatio-temporal void’ between the TARDIS’s inner and outer doors! Romana utters a mild swearword (‘damn’, which is still the naughtiest word a series regular has said so far!). The Doctor’s mission to collect Romana and the broken K9 is interrupted by clusters of spiders swarming over him (shudder!). The Marshmen enjoy a level of shared minds and the brief involvement of Romana allows them insight into the starliner citizens. The ‘people of the marsh’ see themselves as guardians of the planet, ‘to serve and to protect nature’ from the alien technology of the starliners, who they consider ‘non-people; but the Marsh leader still pauses to lament the deaths they have caused: as they return to the marsh, he asks his brethren ‘… why does the maintaining of beauty always have to require the taking of lives? It is so very sad.’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a trio of Marshmen emerging from the mists. Unkind observers have noted that there appear to be pockets on the creature’s chest.

Final Analysis: This is how to do it! The third of four consecutive stories to be adapted by their original authors, Andrew Smith combines mythology and SF in an exercise in world-building that feels lived in and real. His version of the Doctor is, as with Warriors’ Gate, closer to the Fourth Doctor we recognise than the more sombre version of season 18, cracking jokes that reveal the Doctor as equally pompous and contemptuous towards assumed authority – but still with the righteous fury when confronted with the experiments on the Marshchild, or touching compassion for Tylos when he finds his body, killed during the Marshmen attack:

The Doctor knelt beside the boy. They had never spoken, yet he felt a sense of real loss. The taking of life was always to be mourned, the taking of a young life even more so.  

There are some solid horror elements – particularly the emergence of the Marshmen, the spiders hatching from the river fruit, Dexeter’s murder at the hands of the defiant Marshchild and Romana’s possession. Perhaps because he was a teenager himself when he wrote the TV scripts, Smith also presents Adric sympathetically, not blind to his awkward, precocious adolescence, but recognising how the boy feels he doesn’t fit in with either the inhabitants of the starliner or the Outlers; like many of the viewers, he identifies with the ‘otherness’ of the Doctor and Romana. We all love it when a novel presents new material or deeper insights into the characters, but this achieves a new high for the range.