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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 133. Doctor Who – The Smugglers (1988)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 129. Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace (1988)

Synopsis: In an undersea base live the last survivors of Atlantis. It’s also home to Zaroff, a scientist believed dead. His experiments on the locals have resulted in strange fish-like people inhabiting the nearby ocean, but that’s not where Zaroff’s ambitions lie. His latest scheme could literally tear the Earth apart.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Under the Volcano
  • 2. Sacrifices to Amdo
  • 3. Professor Zaroff
  • 4. Escapees
  • 5. An Audience With the King
  • 6. The Voice Of Amdo
  • 7. Kidnap
  • 8. ‘Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Now!’
  • 9. Desperate Remedies
  • 10. The Prudence of Zaroff
  • 11. The Hidden Assassin
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts for a 1967 serial by Geoffrey Orme.

Notes: Jamie’s first sight of the inside of the TARDIS is told in the prologue; the ‘gleaming white walls’ are covered with ‘large circular indentations’ that emit an ‘eerie light, while the walls are lined with strange looking machines’. There’s also a large chest, a ‘splendid Louis XIV chair’, plus a mahogany hatstand upon which a ‘stove-pipe’ rests (though a popular description of the Doctor’s hat for many years, we now understand it to be a ‘Paris Beau’, unless the Target Doctor really does wear a top hat like Abraham Lincoln’s). The Doctor is ‘a little man dressed in baggy check trousers several sizes too big for him and a scruffy frock coat which had obviously seen better days’: he has ‘jade-green eyes’. Ben is, succinctly, a ‘wiry Cockney sailor’, while Polly is ‘a tall, long-legged blonde with long heavily-made-up eyelashes; her clothes – a ‘revealing multi-coloured mini-skirt and a white silk scarf’ – reveal that, like Ben, she comes from London, 1966 [once again contradicting Gerry Davis’s origins in the Target universe as shown in Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet]. The rather nice sequence from the telly episode of interior thoughts for the TARDIS team (‘Prehistoric monsters!’) is cut.

Professor Zaroff’s first name is ‘Hermann’. He disappeared 20 years ago and created the ‘Fish people’ by manipulating the genetic coding of the Atlaneans. His pet octopus is called Neptune. There is a Labour Controller who looks after the slaves (on TV, Damon fulfils this role too). Ara was the daughter of a councillor who spoke out against Zaroff and was killed. She keeps her former high status secret by hiding as a servant. Before he died, her father showed her the speaking grill behind Amdo’s statue. Zaroff and his high priest Lolem are left fighting to the death when they are caught in the flood and drown. The majority of the Atlanteans do survive the disaster (and possibly Zaroff’s pet octopus, Neptune, too). Unusually, the cliffhanger from TV of the TARDIS veering out of control is retained.

Cover: The Oliver Elmes logo is used here. The main artwork is a lovely evocative painting of the fish people, a great effort by artist Alister Pearson, making his debut here. 

Final Analysis: It’s a bit of a kindness on Nigel Robinson’s part that this unloved story gets such a decent treatment here. As the story was missing three of its four episodes at the time of writing, Robinson had to rely on the scripts, so some of the improvisations from the studio are missing; when episode two was discovered and screened at the BFI”s Missing Believed Wiped event, fans in the audience were charmed by such details as the Doctor knocking on his own head while discussing Zaroff’s madness, but that’s understandably absent from the book. What we do get is the now traditional tidying up of motivations and thought processes, such as the Doctor actively searching for Zaroff because he’s been told that he often strolls in the market (it’s much more coincidental on screen) or Zaroff failing to recognise Ben and Jamie because, when he first met them, his attentions were solely focused on the Doctor. The problems with the story are inherent in the original broadcast, but we get the sense that our heroes at least know how ridiculous it all is, which makes them just as determined to put a stop to the mad scientist. Extra points to Robinson for using the story’s most infamous line – ‘Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Now!’ as the title of Chapter 8, building up to it and giving it more context than we had when this was published.

Chapter 122. Doctor Who – The Macra Terror (1987)

Synopsis: When the Doctor and his three friends visit a colony on a distant world, they find a community of cheerful, contented people who are free to enjoy life. There are machines for pampering and relaxation and nobody is unhappy or scared. Especially Medok, who is ill and needs to be taken care of, because he is shouting nonsense and disturbing the peace. The Doctor and Polly aren’t convinced, but Ben and Jamie know the truth – there is no such thing as Macra men! No such thing as Macra men!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Interference on the Scanner
  • 2. A Wash and Brush-up
  • 3. The Man Who Suffered from Delusions
  • 4. There’s Really Nothing There
  • 5. A Voice in the Night
  • 6. The Colony by Night
  • 7. Down the Pit
  • 8. Escape
  • 9. A Breath of Fresh Air
  • 10. One of the Dancers
  • 11. Forbidden Territory
  • 12. Four Minutes to Countdown

Background: Ian Stuart Black adapts his own scripts for the 1967 story.

Notes: The time travellers have seen something on the TARDIS scanner. The Doctor tries to pass it off as mere ‘atmospherics’:

‘Atmospherics cause interference. A build-up of forces. Electrical discharges. A thunderstorm. A number of things can cause the normal pattern to be broken, and then a radio signal or a television picture suddenly is broken into, and you get an alien signal. We have checks and balances on board the TARDIS to counteract such interference, but every now and again a message or picture breaks through from another point in space and we pick it up.’

He fails to convince his young friends and while Polly refuses to discuss it any further, Jamie makes sure to grab a big branch as he leaves the TARDIS (as he did on TV). The TARDIS scanner has ‘vision control’, an automatic program that scans for items of importance and allows the travellers to see into the colony before they arrive. The Controller initially orders that ‘There is no such thing as Macra men’, though Medok hears ‘There is no such thing as Macra’ during his later programming and Ben chants ‘There is no such thing as the Macra’.

Medok says the Macra are ‘horrible to look at… like insects…. like huge crabs’, while Jamie notes its ‘scaly flanks’, ‘long feelers’ and a ‘rope-like tentacle’. The creature has heavy eyelids (so not like an insect) and it moves at ‘the speed of a tortoise’. The Doctor gives a multi-sensory observation:

It was more horrible than he had visualised, more nauseating – giving off a suffocating odour – a very alien creature; moonlight glinting on its hard shell, a skin that glistened, prehistoric, giving the Doctor a feeling it was already dead… Yet moving slowly, with the speed of a gigantic slug, towards them.

He speculates to Polly that the Macra lived on the unnamed planet for millions of years, but that maybe the atmosphere changed, the natural gases that the creatures thrive on dried up, or ‘some other factor altered’, so they had to bury underground where the gases were available. There’s no direct correlation between the changing atmosphere and the arrival of the colonists, which is something we’d instantly assume nowadays [and see Gridlock for how that played out].

Medok survives his encounter with the Macra and is present to witness the departure of the four strangers in the TARDIS but decides on not ‘pushing his luck’ by telling anyone about it. Strangely, Medok doesn’t recall ever seeing the TARDIS before, even though he ran past it at the start of the book (presumably he was too distracted or distressed to remember it).

Cover: Tony Masero takes great artistic license in creating a slavering, oozing Macra that still bears a strong resemblance to what was seen on screen. 

Final Analysis: Another solid novelisation from Ian Stuart Black with very little changed from what we can gather from the surviving footage and audio tracks (although apparently the author worked solely from the scripts, so any changes made by the actors and director during rehearsals would have been absent anyway). The nature of the Macra remains non-specific – even the Doctor can’t be drawn as to whether they’re crabs, insects or overgrown bacteria – and they’re often described as being ‘alien’ despite the likelihood that they’re an indigenous lifeform. In 2021, we’re a little more sensitive to post-colonial views and this does stand out as an unresolved gap in the text, from a time when monsters were fought and destroyed, rather than understood and accommodated – and perhaps not even thought of as ‘monsters’.

Chapter 115. Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands at London Airport and when a startled Jamie flees from his first sighting of an aeroplane, his friends are soon separated. Polly hides from the airport police in a nearby hanger, where she witnesses a murder. Jamie befriends a young woman in search of her missing brother as the Doctor tries to explain his presence to the authorities. Somewhere in the airport, a very quiet invasion is taking place, organised through the travel agency Chameleon Tours…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Obstruction On Runway Five
  • 2. The Suspects
  • 3. Man Without A Face
  • 4. The Transfer
  • 5. The Missing
  • 6. The Trap
  • 7. The Abductors
  • 8. The Secret Of The Chameleons
  • 9. Death Ray
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Spaceship
  • 12. The Traitor
  • 13. Flight Into Peril
  • 14. The Bluff
  • 15. The Deal

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1967 story by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke.

Notes: We’re reminded of the origins of the three companions, beginning with ‘that terrifying business of the War Machines,’ including the one where Ben and Polly met Jamie, and we’re informed that Ben and Polly have asked the Doctor to bring them back home. 

The manager of the airport is called Charles Gordon: his title ‘Commandant’ is an unflattering ‘Gestapo’-inspired nickname given to him by his staff, not his actual rank. The first Chameleon is a little less gory than it appeared on TV:

There were no features, and except for the eyes nothing you could call a face. Nothing but a completely blank sphere, across which ran pulsating veins…

Samantha Briggs is introduced as ‘a round-faced, dark-haired girl who looked as if she might normally be a rather jolly, cheeky type’ and she has ‘a faint nasal twang to her voice’ that’s evidence of a Liverpool accent. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver in a couple of scenes [a device not introduced on screen until Fury from the Deep]. There’s a tiny additional scene after everything’s been resolved [see Final Analysis below] and Dicks corrects the date that Jamie longs for (he’s three years off his original time on TV).

Unusually, the story retains the cliffhanger from the original transmission, even though it’ll be a while before it’s resolved in print. Oh and chapter 13’s ‘Flight Into Peril’ is a neat reworking of the ‘Escape to Danger’ trope.

Cover: As an aeroplane takes off, the TARDIS materialises on the runway, painted by Tony Masero.

Final Analysis: I’m going to get misty-eyed every time we get to a Terrance Dicks story from now on, I suspect, even if it’s another fairly solid transcription of what happened in the original scripts. As on TV, Samantha is invested with so much personality that it’s still a shock when she doesn’t join the Doctor and Jamie on their adventures – just as it’s still a shock when Ben and Polly decide to stay on Earth. Dicks does make a few small changes, such as the addition of the sonic screwdriver, which just help to move things along, and then there’s the conclusion, where Jamie is less than satisfied, and Dicks perhaps suspects that the reader might be too:

‘You mean they’re just going to get away with it, Doctor?’ muttered Jamie. ‘Och, it doesna seem fair!’

‘It isn’t, Jamie. But we can’t undo the wrong they’ve done without their help.’ The Doctor smiled wearily. ‘You don’t always achieve perfect justice, you know. Sometimes you just have to do the best deal you can!’

Chapter 90. Doctor Who – The Highlanders (1984)

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the battle of Culloden in 1745, a group of Jacobite rebels try to evade capture by the English army. The Doctor, Ben and Polly help a wounded laird but are then captured by an incompetent English officer. The Doctor adopts a fun disguise as Polly uses guile to free her new friends and escape. One young Scot in particular impresses the time-travelling trio – a piper by the name of Jamie McCrimmon.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Where are We?
  • 2. The Cottage
  • 3. The Captives
  • 4. The Handsome Lieutenant
  • 5. Polly and Kirsty
  • 6. Polly’s Prisoner
  • 7. The Water Dungeon
  • 8. Blackmail!
  • 9. The Doctor’s New Clothes
  • 10. Aboard the Annabelle
  • 11. At the Sea Eagle
  • 12. The Little Auld Lady
  • 13. A Ducking for Ben
  • 14. Where is the Prince?
  • 15. The Fight for the Brig
  • 16. Algernon Again
  • 17. A Return to the Cottage

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Elwyn Jones for the 1967 serial.

Notes: The bonhomie of TV’s Ben and Polly is replaced by something closer to the bickering of 1980s companions; Ben insists on calling Polly ‘Princess’ (not ‘Duchess’) and thinks she is ‘uppity and toffee-nosed’. He also thinks the sounds of battle drifting over the moor are just celebrations from ‘the Spurs Supporters Club’ (ahem, a reference to the er, London-based football team Tottenham Hotspurs) or a historical society. Polly resents Ben’s ‘big brother’ protectiveness, especially as she is ‘about a head taller than he was’; later, it’s confirmed she’s an ‘independent girl from the sixties’ – so her ‘seventies’ origins have been properly reset from previous Gerry Davis novels. The Doctor admits to Polly that the discovery of a cannon ball makes him afraid. There’s a dump of history at the start too, as we’re told of the battle for the British monarchy between the Scottish Stuarts and the ‘Hanoverian German Georges’. The Scots had been booted out 40 years ago and we join the story in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden Moor. As this wasn’t taught in English schools in my day, this is especially welcome and helpful.

As the Doctor inspects a tam-o’-shanter, we’re told it’s a ‘standing joke in the TARDIS that he could never resist trying on any new hat he came across’; as this is the first TV story where his hat fetish became a regular thing, this suggests the trio have had a fair few offscreen adventures since the Doctor’s regeneration. He adopts the pseudonym ‘Doctor von Verner’ (not the more obvious meta-joke ‘von Wer’ on telly). Algernon Ffinch stammers ‘in a way approved by the London dandies of the time’, which could mean it’s an affectation for fashionable purposes. The Sergeant’s name is spelled ‘Klegg’, not ‘Clegg’. While in the prison, Jamie plays a mournful tune on his bagpipes before the Doctor creates a disruption in the gaol by playing the Jacobite ‘Lillibulero’ on his recorder. The name of the pub where Solicitor Grey has installed himself is called the Sea Eagle Inn. As Jamie boots Trask overboard during the final battle, Ben tries to regain some composure as he claims he was about to use karate to save himself. There’s a more pressing reason for Jamie to join the travellers; having escorted them to the TARDIS, Jamie boasts that he’ll be fine on his own as they hear the sound of muskets being fired nearby. We then join Jamie as he sees the inside of the TARDIS for the first time (see below).

Cover: A smashing portrait by Nick Spender of Jamie, accompanied by Alexander, a Saltire flag and the TARDIS. Unusually for this period, there are likenesses of recognisable actors here!

Final Analysis: Gerry Davis returns to adapt a script that he originally oversaw to production. It was the last of the pure historicals on TV, yet it’s the second one we’ve had in novel form in the space of a year. The Highlanders is often overlooked in favour of the more monster-focused stories of the era and, perhaps it won’t come as a surprise to learn that this is the first time I’ve read this particular book. Davis keeps things light, even with the threat of violence and a very sudden death early on. The stakes are high, but so’s the sense of adventure and Polly in particular has a rare old time running rings around every man she encounters. Effectively, she gets her own companion in the form of Kirsty and it’s easy to forget that this is the debut of Jamie, even though his future role as a companion isn’t foreshadowed at all, he’s just one of a number of likeable characters that we meet. Poor Ben’s experience in Scotland isn’t quite so thrilling. Despite having spent very little time with Jamie, Polly takes an immediate shine to him and the final scene sees him adopted as a fully-fledged TARDIS member at last:

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ she said, ‘it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.’

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time-machine.

Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

Synopsis: A new planet appears in Earth’s solar system. The Doctor seems to know what it is and what will happen next. The planet, which bears a striking similarity to Earth, is home to a race of plastic and metal beings called ‘Cybermen’. As Ben and Polly help the staff of an Antarctic tracking station to fight off the invaders, the Doctor prepares for his final adventure. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1 The Space Tracking Station
  • 2 Disaster in Space
  • 3 The New Planet
  • 4 Mondas!
  • 5 The Cyberman Invasion
  • 6 Ben into Action
  • 7 Battle in the Projection Room
  • 8 Two Hundred and Fifty Spaceships
  • 9 Z-Bomb Alert!
  • 10 Prepare to Blast Off
  • 11 Cybermen in Control
  • 12 Resistance in the Radiation Room
  • 13 The Destruction of Mondas!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the 1966 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: The book begins with a summary of the creation of the Cybermen, claiming they originated on the planet Telos before taking refuge on the ‘lost sister planet of Earth – Mondas’. An American called Tito is reading a Captain Marvel comic (presumably a vintage edition as the character didn’t have a comic of his / her own in either 1986 or 2000). Although this is only the third TV adventure for Ben and Polly, it’s suggested that they’ve been on many uneventful journeys since they joined the Doctor. Continuity from The Moonbase is preserved, as Ben and Polly are from the early 1970s, not the mid-60s, so Ben can recognise a Roger Moore Bond film that he saw for the first time a few weeks before he joined the Doctor’s travels (very possibly The Man with the Golden Gun, which would mean the Doctor’s young friends are from 1974). And yes, Polly discovers they’re in the more futuristic year 2000 (not 1986 as in the original. At the time of writing, the year 2000 is 20 years in my past!). The Cybermen use a ‘short silver baton-like object’ for a weapon, rather than the cumbersome lamps hooked onto their chest units as on screen. The Cyberleader from the second wave has a ‘black impassive mask’ (similar to Revenge of the Cybermen and Davis’s adaptation of The Moonbase [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen]), The regeneration scene is so different that it upset some fan reviewers at the time.

Cover: Chris Achilleos makes up for the monochrome Cybermen and snowy setting by placing them in front of a vivid aurora background that’s really thrilling. There’s also an illustration on the rear cover of a Cyberman firing a blast from its headlamp (something that doesn’t actually happen in the TV series for 51 years) and a defiant first Doctor inset. The 1993 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is almost symmetrical, with a saggy-looking Cyberman on each side, the first full-face shot of a Cyberman from the cliffhanger of episode 1 and a mid-length portrait of Hartnell from The Celestial Toymaker. It’s very tidy but not that dramatic, sadly.

Final Analysis: Davis handles the Doctor’s departure much better than circumstances allowed in the TV production (where Hartnell’s illness led to him missing episode 3 with just a few days’ notice). He seeds the Doctor’s illness and frailty beautifully. 

Was it Ben’s imagination, or had the Doctor’s hair gone a shade whiter and finer during the last few hours? His skin, which looked as transparent as old parchment, was stretched tightly over his prominent cheek bones.

I have to note the use of outdated terms to describe a couple of black characters (Williams is described as ‘a tall, handsome American negro of about thirty’), while also commending that the characters were there in the first place at a time where multicultural casting was still rare. Whether this was originally scripted or down to the casting by director Derek Martinus is another matter.

The slow, steady breakdown of Cutler as he struggles with the pressure of his son’s peril helps to elevate the later chapters from the absence of the Cybermen. But having built up the Doctor’s demise so subtly throughout the book, it’s surprising that the actual change happens out of sight of Ben and Polly. Emerging from a sarcophagus in the control room, the old Doctor has disappeared and in his place is a much younger man:

The stranger looked at him in slight surprise. ‘You ask me that, Ben? Don’t you recognise me?’
The Doctor’s two companions shook their heads.
‘I thought it was quite obvious,’ Again, he smiled his gently mocking smile and winked at them with his bluegreen eyes. ‘Allow me to introduce myself then. I am the new Doctor!’