Chapter 158. Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet (2021)

Synopsis: When the Doctor and Romana land on the planet Zanak, apparently by mistake, they discover a world where young men are tormented by haunting visions and where the people are so wealthy that they leave rare gems lying in the street. High up in the mountains sits their ruler, the Captain, half-man, half machine. The Doctor is appalled to discover that the Captain has found a way to pilot the entire planet around the galaxy, absorbing other worlds. But that’s nothing to how outraged he becomes when he finds out why…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sky with Diamonds
  • 2. Right Place, Wrong Planet
  • 3. Meeting with Unusual Minds
  • 4. Late to the Party
  • 5. The Normally Delicious Smell of Pork
  • 6. Dark Satanic Mills
  • 7. The Death of Calufrax
  • 8. The Trophy Room
  • 9. Life’s Fleeting, but Plank’s Constant
  • 10. An Immortal Queen
  • 11. Dinner with Newton
  • 12. The Captain’s Plan

Background: James Goss rewrites his earlier, longer novel, adapting scripts by Douglas Adams for a story broadcast in 1977. At 43 years and six months, this once and for all is the story with the longest gap between broadcast of the original story on TV and eventual novelisation as a ‘Target’ book.

Notes: For the first time since Doctor Who and the Sunmakers, we have a ‘Doctor Who and the…’ title! The Doctor is still concerned about Romana’s lack of experience (in fact, he’s slightly afraid of her). Their quest to find the second segment of the Key to Time is officially ‘Day Two’ and only Romana’s second trip in the TARDIS. At the start, Romana’s gown flows behind her ‘with a slithering grace that tended to scare furniture’

The Captain is an impressive giant of a former man:

It was hard to tell where the chair ended and the Captain began. Nestled amongst it all were the remains of a very large man. Half of his face was covered with a metallic plate,. A green eye patch glowed dangerously, metal lips sneered and even half of his beard was iron. Things got worse beneath the neck. A vast robotic arm, two artificial legs, synthetic lungs that hissed with effort, and, at the end of a velvet-covered sleeve, the rather pathetic remains of a human hand twitched.

His parrot is more birdlike than on TV, with metallic feathers and a habit of hopping from foot to foot. The Nurse wears a pale green dress rather than a white one. Calufrax has two suns. K9 plugs himself into a streetlamp to access Zanak’s information network. The planets in the Captain’s trophy room float inside their glass cabinets. Romana tells Kimus that there is a ‘vast space’ on Gallifrey ‘where the memories of dead Time Lords gathered to grumble’ [which could be either something inside the Matrix, or the Cloister Wraiths seen in Hell Bent].

Cover: The Doctor, Romana and the Captain are dominated by an oversized Polyphase Avatron, courtesy of Anthony Dry.

Final Analysis: While this story was previously adapted as a hefty hardback novel, James Goss was working from Douglas Adams’ original scripts, so there were more diversions from what made it to screen. This is a leaner, more faithful adaptation of the TV episodes, but it’s still on the thicker end of the Target scale. As with City of Death, the main impression is one of joyful chaos as the Doctor comes to terms with having a new companion foisted upon him, while Romana is surprised to find herself placing a lot of trust in a man she’s only known for a day. As on TV, it’s the story of the rebellious kid from the wrong side of the time tracks trying to impress a woman of a different class and Goss adds little asides to show us how the relationship develops. By close of play, Romana seems to have got the measure of the Doctor.

Leaving the Doctor alone with the largest bomb in creation was like leaving a child with a toy and expecting them not to play with it.

One element retained from the fuller novel is the narrator’s suggestion that Kimus is a fraud, full of high ideals and hot air, but still just as timid as the rest of the citizens to prevent him from ever actually doing anything. It’s rare that a non-villainous character is shown such justifiable contempt, personifying the general apathy of an entire civilisation that has grown accustomed to obscene decadence and become tolerant of oppression in barely a generation. Little details like this really make the continuation of the Target novelisations worthwhile.

Chapter 157. Doctor Who – City of Death (2018)

Synopsis: An emergency take-off on a barren world sees a spaceship explode, wiping out the last of the Jagaroth. Millions of years later, the Doctor and Romana are enjoying a holiday in Paris when they bump into a detective investigating a group of art thieves. What appears to be a simple heist turns out to have implications that echo through Earth’s history – and which will ensure it has no future.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: Escapes to Dangers
  • 1. Decision for the Doctor
  • 2. The Deadly Arrivals
  • 3. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 4. Meeting with a Monster
  • 5. Sentenced to Death
  • 6. The Doctor Disappears
  • 7. The Face of the Enemy
  • 8. An Army of Monsters
  • 9. Return to Peril
  • 10. In the Power of Scaroth
  • 11. The Doctor Fights Back
  • 12. The World Destroyed
  • Epilogue: A Kind of Victory

Background: Despite the misleading credit on the cover, this is by James Goss, rewriting his longer novel, which was based on various drafts of scripts written by Douglas Adams, based on a storyline by David Fisher, as televised in 1979. All of the chapter titles are new to this edition, which is a slight shame as there were some corkers in the original.

Notes: The old ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ blurb is resurrected on the title page with the explanation that the Fourth Doctor’s appearance later changed ‘when he lost an argument with gravity’. We’re also told that the cover shows ‘the 12th incarnation of Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth’. The prologue has the glorious title ‘Escapes to Dangers’. Scaroth’s ship is called Sephiroth. Romana made use of the TARDIS food machine before reaching Paris. K9 chose not to accompany his Master and Mistress on their jaunt around Paris due to the many cobbled streets he detected. After 40 novels, it’s an utter joy to find an author creating a new way of describing the Fourth Doctor: ‘The overall impression was of someone who had been completely knitted’. 

The earliest Scaroth splinter –  the Primary Fragment – is a caveman who brings fire to a tribe of primitives who worship him as a God. The Primary Fragment is closer in time to the disaster, so is able to direct the course of his future selves; this becomes harder with those splinters that are further forward in time, which is why the final Scarlioni-Scaroth is initially ignorant of his real identity, blindly following his sense of purpose for a greater goal. It’s only when an itch leads him to peel away Scarlioni’s face in ribbons that he finally learns the truth. The face mask is self-repairing and is a ‘pan-polymeric protoplasm’, the product of alien technology that was recovered by Phidias, a previous incarnation of Scaroth. Phidias gave the material to a sculptor, who used his own face as a model. In addition to Tancredi, the other fragments are: A pope in the Vatican; a crusader in Jerusalem (whose resemblance to Richard the Lionheart must have been confusing – see The Crusades); an Irish martyr burned at the stake; a senator in a Byzantium court; an English nobleman in Venice; the architect of the Great Pyramid at Cheops; an astronomer in Babylon; and the inventor of the first wheel, living on the banks of the Euphrates. 

Countess Scarlioni’s first name is Heidi, while the tour guide at the Louvre is Madame Henriette. The Doctor namedrops Catherine de Medici and Oscar Wilde in addition to Shakespeare. It’s made explicit that the seven names in Duggan’s address book who are interested in buying the Mona Lisa were the same people who hired him to investigate Scarlioni. The TARDIS is parked in an art gallery owned by a Monsieur Bertrand (on TV, it’s not clear that this isn’t just another wing of the Louvre).

Romana is surprised by the Doctor’s fury as he rebukes her for helping Scarlioni build his time machine (he later apologises for his rudeness). She sees Scarlioni as a better class of villain than Davros, whom she struggles to imagine offering her a fruit platter. She counts among her achievements the triple-first she got from the Time Academy, her position as ‘favoured scion of the House of Heartshaven and her skills in the ‘trans-temporal debating society’ – but her only reaction when the Doctor explains the extent of Scaroth’s plans is ‘Huh?’

Trapped inside the time bubble, Kerenski lives out his life completely; from his perspective, it’s the other inhabitants of the cellar who are frozen in time and he eventually dies of boredom as much as old age. Romana sets the time bubble reset for three minutes, not two. Scaroth doesn’t die in the implosion, but is cast into the vortex, where he experiences the sensation of his past selves all turning their backs on him. The Doctor places the surviving Mona Lisa into Duggan’s hands for it to be returned to the Louvre. The detective waves the Doctor and Romana off and then sees them depart in the TARDIS.

Cover: Anthony Dry’s artwork shows the Doctor, Romana, Scaroth and the Jagaroth spaceship.

Final Analysis: For the first time since The Crusades, we have a Target book making its debut in a different imprint. As referenced in the ‘background’, Doctor Who novelisations took an interesting turn in the 21st Century; almost certainly inspired by the success of JK Rowling’s boy-wizard books, and with the added attraction of being based on scripts by Douglas Adams, Gareth Roberts’ novel of the great lost work Shada came out in hardback in 2012 to critical acclaim. The first edition of The City of Death, published in 2015, was a similarly weighty 320-page hardback volume. Three years later, James Goss condensed and rewrote his previous novel into a 185-page novel with a Target logo – at last!

The Target edition is less meandering, much more faithful adaptation of the TV story, Iosing some of the extended backstories (notably Heidi and Hermann, but also the entire subplot of the critics, which seemed to make little sense until the exact moment it slotted into the scene from the broadcast episode, at which point it became the Best Thing Ever). Luckily, it retains the sheer seductive joy of Goss immersed in a Douglas Adams mindset – as the opening paragraph of the prologue illustrates: 

It was Tuesday and life didn’t happen.

Wednesday would be quite a different matter.

Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, was in for a surprise. For one thing, he had no idea he was about to become the last of the Jagaroth

The destruction of the Jagaroth’ ship, Sephiroth, is presented as one of the universe’s little ironies – an entire species wiped out and leaving nothing behind of any significance except a trail of death. It’s a tiny observation, but it underlines the twist of fate that sees Scaroth fated to accumulate some of Earth’s greatest cultural artefacts while failing to appreciate their value, aside from how much they can be flogged on the black market to greedy collectors. 

At the beginning of the first chapter, the scene is set in such a knowing, cheeky way:

A man and a woman stood on top of the Eiffel Tower, every inch in love, if not with each other then certainly with life itself.

As in his previous version – and in the grand tradition of Terrance Dicks – James Goss smooths out some of the TV story’s plot wrinkles. The revelation of Scaroth’s true form, which is dramatic but slightly ludicrous on TV, is beautifully horrific here, as the artificial skin shreds away in ribbons to reveal a monstrous single eye set into a writhing mass of tentacles. The relationship of the Count and Countess Scarlioni is justified, making sense of exactly how an attractive wife can fail to be aware of her husband’s true nature – and in turn uncovering something altogether more unsettling about wealth, greed and human nature. Goss makes sure we never see the Countess as a victim – the truth is, she has a sickening taste for violence.

Admittedly, it helps that the story came from David Fisher and Douglas Adams – both fine minds with the skills to present the universe as basically absurd. While Goss captures the breathless energy of Adams especially, there’s never a sense that he’s showboating; he’s merely serving the story in an appropriate style. As a result, this may well be elbowing its way into my all-time top-five Target books. Just don’t tell Ghost Light.

Chapter 153. Doctor Who – The Pescatons (1991)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith witness the appearance of a hideous creature on the banks of the Thames. Seeking help at a nearby research station, they discover that a recent meteorite hidden underwater is actually a crashed spaceship. Its inhabitant, a Pescaton, heads for central London on the rampage before it eventually dies. But this is just the first, as soon hundreds of spaceships disguised as meteorites enter the atmosphere of Earth. The Pescaton invasion has begun!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Darkest Night
  • 2. Into the Depths
  • 3. Panic!
  • 4. A Premonition
  • 5. While the City Sleeps
  • 6. The Terror Begins
  • 7. Pesca
  • 8. Creatures of the Night
  • 9. ‘Find Zor!’
  • 10. The Deadly Encounter

Background: Victor Pemberton adapts his scripts for a story released on LP in 1976. Although the range continues under Virgin Books and is later resurrected by BBC Books, this is the last of the original run of Target books. Just to be annoyingly inconsistent, while Slipback was treated as an extra novel outside of the numbered library, The Pescatons is given a number. 

Notes: The Doctor has a poor sense of smell but heightened hearing. Sarah Jane has ‘lovely’, ‘large brown eyes’. The travellers land a couple of miles down the coast from Westcliff, Essex, later confirmed to be  Shoeburyness. The Doctor guesses that they’re in the mid-1970s and while we’re later told that they’re reached ‘the seventh decade of the twentieth century’ (which is, er, the 1960s), Sarah Jane also notes that they’re about ten years or so from ‘the period in time she left behind’ – which would suggest the mid-1980s or an unseen adventure.

The first clue of the Pescaton’s approach is a strong smell of fish, then a hissing sound like ‘a jungle cat stalking its prey’.

… eyes glaring like giant emeralds. It was a huge, towering creature, over twelve feet tall, half-human, half fish, with shining silvery scales covering its sticky body, and hands like talons with sharp nails, and webbed feet which were veined in red, heavy and clumsy. Its face was weird, almost gothic; it was like a gremlin, a manifestation of the Devil itself.

A sticky green stuff blocks the route to the TARDIS so the travellers visit the Essex Coastal Protection Unit (ECPU) where they meet 28-year-old head of research Mike Ridgewell and his colleague and longtime girlfriend Helen Briggs. While Mike accepts the Doctor’s claims about an alien creature. Helen doesn’t trust him and is confused by his relationship with Sarah, wondering if she’s his daughter. Mike does the ‘Doctor who?’ joke (first time we’ve had that in a while) and the Doctor replies ‘if you insist’ and introduces Sarah Jane as his ‘assistant’. Mike is a little sharp with Sarah Jane and snaps at her (mild swear-word warning) ‘don’t talk crap!’

The Doctor is ‘not a good swimmer at the best of times’ but he finds the experience of diving to the depths of the estuary ‘awesome’ and reminiscent of walking in space. The Pescaton spaceship is made of a metal he doesn’t recognise. As he leaps from his recovery bed in the First Aid unit of the ECPU, we discover that the Doctor wears ‘long-leg underpants’! When Sarah Jane asks him how old he is, he replies ‘Trade secret’. The Doctor met Professor Bud Emmerson in a ‘previous generation’. Emmerson is in his mid-sixties, with almost white hair, cropped short, and he’s ‘just as fat as he always had been’, which makes his ‘tall, massive body’ look out of proportion with his ‘really quite small’ head. He was a comedy actor in the 1950s but fell into astronomy. He gained widespread recognition for his discovery of a cluster of planets and invested funding from global astronomical organisations and donations from fans to build the North London Observatory on Highgate Hill. The Doctor helped him identify Pesca and the Professor has been studying the planet ever since. Pesca has hardly any ‘ozone protection’ (a major environmental concern at the time of publication).

Mike and a young member of the team called Pete Conway find a beach hut covered in the green substance which has hardened into a shroud shape. Believing a teenage boy is trapped inside, they use a drill to crack open the cocoon, only to discover that Pescatons can mimic human voices – and from the cocoon emerge small, shrieking Pescaton hatchlings, each about eight inches long and instinctively vicious. Seeing a police presence on the banks of the Thames, Sarah gets through a cordon by flashing a press pass (that’s ten years out of date), then the Doctor claims to be from the Department of the Environment. The Doctor recognises a large cone containing thousands of Pescaton eggs, having seen something similar on a past visit to Pesca. The Doctor carries a mini-telescope, a dynameter for ‘tracing sonic direction’ and a flute (replacing the piccolo from the album).

We first encounter Zor in a flashback to the Doctor’s previous visit to Pesca:

A massive creature, with slanting, luminous green eyes bulging out of an oval head covered with shining, metallic scales. Its teeth were sharp and pointed, like needles, and the gills behind its head pulsated as it breathed. And the body! The fins of a killer shark, hands with sharp claws, and the legs of a human stretching down to veined webbed feet. The creature’s tail, which was long and tough, like that of a crocodile, stretched out behind its body but never seemed to move.

…. through those eyes the Doctor could see right inside the creature’s brain, a hideous mass of living energy, a great beehive shape, crawling with minuscule ‘thought worms’. 

The creature mimics the Doctor’s speech patterns (so, unlike on the record, it doesn’t have a gravelly North American accent that should be selling us aftershave or narrating movie trailers). Back on Earth, Zor is tracked down to an underground tunnel near Aldwych Station and is destroyed by bright arc lights (on the record, it’s found in a sewer and defeated by high-frequency sound).

At the end, Professor Emmerson watches ‘a small object rising up into space through his telescope’ as the TARDIS departs [in the manner it left in Fury from the Deep on TV]. 

Cover: Pete Wallbank uses a photo reference of the Doctor and Sarah from The Seeds of Doom for a composition that includes the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and a strange scaly creature that appears to be emerging from the Doctor’s coat.

Final Analysis: Slipback – a radio serial produced by the BBC and broadcast on Radio 4 – was novelised as part of the Target range but not part of the numbered library, putting it alongside the Missing Episodes and Companions of Doctor Who as an interesting side-step that’s not part of the official canon. As the programme itself ceased production in 1989 – and thanks to Nigel Robinson’s determination to fill in all those 1960s gaps – the number of TV stories available for novelisation had reached single figures by this point. Two of those stories were about to be ticked off and the rest would eventually join the Target range 25 years later. While Virgin Books editor Peter Darvill-Evans had successfully launched the New Adventures, starring the seventh Doctor, his past-Doctor range of Missing Adventures wouldn’t hit bookshelves until 1994. Aside from a stage play by Terrance Dicks, there was only one other full story that could be novelised.

Argo Records, a subsidiary of British Decca, released Doctor Who and the Pescatons on LP and cassette in 1976, hitting record stores between the TV broadcasts of Seasons 13 and 14. Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen recreated the Doctor and Sarah and it all felt rather like an official mini-episode (the duration for the entire story was just 46 minutes, so akin to a modern single-episode story). And while I listened to the cassette many times, this was the first time I’d read the novel.

Returning to Target after his poll-winning adaptation of Fury from the Deep, Victor Pemberton fleshes out what was quite a thinly sketched story into a full novel. In many ways, it’s a little old-fashioned compared to the later Target volumes. There are some over-familiar SF tropes here: The green, parasitical substance that carpets the south-east of England is straight out of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, while we can look to John Wyndham for sinister meteor showers and a London devastated by monstrous alien beings. Also, possibly a result of adapting the largely narrated album, so much of the novel summarises events, rather than dramatising them – for instance, the Doctor’s previous trip to the planet Pesca and the very accurate and detailed locations around central London (which would make for an unusual walking tour). His approximation of Sarah Jane misses the mark somewhat, casting her mainly as a feed for the Doctor, although she does get to use her journalistic credentials to bluff her way through a police cordon. His depiction of the fourth Doctor is surprisingly accurate though, with a combination of abruptness and other-worldly strangeness.

Where Pemberton succeeds is in creating wholly new characters to populate his world. Mike and Helen take on some of the responsibilities of Professor Emmerson from the record and they have their own dangerous journey of discovery. Then there are the various victims of the Pescatons, who are given distinct personalities and motivations: An obstinate civil servant who ignores the Doctor and comes to a nasty end; the Scottish father and son whose barge is torn apart in a tragic vignette lifted from the pages of Peter Benchley’s Jaws; and a brave young boy and his remote control boat, who is part of a twist that elevates the Pescatons from merely being savage beasts into something much more Stephen King – monsters with sadistic intent. 

There’s also a trio of homeless people: Old Ben, who has been a familiar figure in the West End for over a decade; and two teenage boys who have been living rough for about a year. Jess is from Newcastle and he ran away from home because of disputes with his father about being ‘allowed to make his own decisions about how he wants to live‘ and Tommy had heard ‘what a great time teenage kids like himself could have if they moved into the big city’. The italics in both cases are mine and it strikes me that Pemberton uses coded language here to hint at a relationship between the boys that would have been impossible to suggest on TV but would become more overt in the New Adventures. Old Ben is immediately uncooperative with the police, but is more forthcoming with the Doctor and Sarah, which is how they learn of the fates of the missing teens. These three people represent the generational shift in the homeless that, along with ‘the ozone layer’, was becoming a notable social concern at the time Pemberton was writing this (the charitable magazine The Big Issue began publication in September 1991 as a means of both funding support for – and raising awareness of – the rising homeless population in the UK).

In the course of researching this, I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole looking into Canadian actor Bill Mitchell, who voiced Zor on the record. I particularly wanted to know how the man who was the promotional voice of Carlsberg beer, Denim aftershave and hundreds of movie trailers came to play a giant alien fish on a licensed Doctor Who record. This was actually Mitchell’s second role in Doctor Who; he had recorded a scene for Frontier in Space playing a newsreader, but his role was cut from the final edit due to the episode overrunning. As a voice-over artist in much demand in the mid-70s, he spent most of his days in London’s Soho at John Wood Studios and between jobs he could often be found at the Coach and Horses public house – which was also a regular haunt of such notable names as writer Jeffrey Bernard, the artist Francis Bacon – and an actor called Tom Baker…

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (1983)

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors  (1983)

Synopsis: The Death Zone on Gallifrey – once the location of cruel games in the old times of the Time Lords, before it was closed down. A sinister figure has reactivated it and the Doctor has been dragged out of time from different points in his life. Though one of his incarnations is trapped in a time eddy, four others work together, joined by old friends and obstructed by old enemies. Their joint quest points towards an imposing tower that legend says is also the tomb of the Time Lord founder, Rassilon. A deadly new game is afoot, and the prize is not what it seems…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Game Begins
  • 2. Pawns in the Game
  • 3. Death Zone
  • 4. Unexpected Meeting
  • 5. Two Doctors
  • 6. Above, Between, Below!
  • 7. The Doctor Disappears
  • 8. Condemned
  • 9. The Dark Tower
  • 10. Deadly Companions
  • 11. Rassilon’s Secret
  • 12. The Game of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own TV script in a novel that was published before it was broadcast in the UK – pushing the record for the gap between broadcast and publication into minus figures.

Notes: The book opens in ‘a place of ancient evil’ – the Game Room – where a black-clad Player is preparing for the game to begin. The Doctor has a fresh stalk of celery on his lapel. Tegan is still considered to be ‘an Australian air stewardess’ despite having been sacked by the time of Arc of Infinity. The Doctor has remodelled the TARDIS console room after ‘a recent Cybermen attack’ (is this Earthshock or an unseen adventure?). Turlough is introduced as a ‘thin-faced, sandy-haired young man in the blazer and flannels of his public school.’ He’s also ‘good-looking in a faintly untrustworthy sort of way’.

The First Doctor is said to have ‘blue eyes […] bright with intelligence’ (William Hartnell had brown eyes so this is definitely the Hurndall First Doctor) and a ‘haughty, imperious air’. He’s aware that he’s near the end of his first incarnation and is living in semi-retirement to prepare himself for the impending change. The Brigadier’s replacement is called ‘Charlie Crighton’ [Charles Crighton, as in the film director?]. The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (not blue – or even green as previously) which appear ‘humourous and sad at the same time’. We find the Third Doctor test-driving Bessie on private roads, which is how he can drive so fast without fear of oncoming traffic. On leaving the TARDIS, Sarah-Jane Smith had felt ‘abandoned and more than a little resentful’; at first, she thinks the capture obelisk is a bus rounding a corner – until it’s too late. There’s a new scene depicting life on future Earth for Susan Campbell – formerly Foreman – whose husband David is part of the reconstruction government and they have three children together. 

Strangely, she calls her grandfather ‘Doctor’, which is what alerts the Dalek to the presence of its enemy  (this was fixed for the TV broadcast). The obelisk tries to capture the Fourth Doctor and Romana by lying in wait under a bridge. The Master recognises that the stolen body he inhabits will wear out, so the offer of a full regeneration cycle is especially appealing. The slight incline that Sarah tumbles down on TV becomes a bottomless ravine here. The First Doctor is much more receptive to Tegan’s suggestion that she accompanies him to the Tower. As the Castellan accuses the Doctor of ‘revenge’, we’re reminded of the events in Arc of Infinity, while there’s also a summary of the events with the Yeti in London that led to the Doctor and the Brigadier’s first meeting. The ‘between’ entrance to the tower has a bell on a rope, not an ‘entry coder’ and the First Doctor, realising the chess board has a hundred squares, applies the first hundred places of ‘Pi’ as coordinates (which explains how he translates the measurement of a circle to a square!).

Sarah Jane tries to launch a rock at a Cyberman to keep it away (‘I missed!’) and on meeting the Third Doctor, Tegan tells Sarah ‘My one’s no better’ and they compare notes – scenes that were reinstated for the special edition of the story on VHS and DVD. When the Brigadier helps to disarm the Master, the Doctors pile onto him. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are returned to the exact moment they left, still punting on the river Cam. Though the Second Doctor departs by calling his successor ‘Fancy pants’, the ‘Scarecrow’ response is cut. The Fifth Doctor tells a confused Flavia that Rassion ‘was – is – the greatest Time Lord of all’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter creates the central image of a diamond containing the five Doctors in profile, surrounded by the TARDIS, Cybermen, a Dalek and K9. All of this on a very swish-looking metallic-silver background with a flash in the bottom right-hand corner proclaiming the book ‘A Twentieth Anniversary First Edition’. Alister Pearson’s art for the 1991 reprint features the story’s five Doctors (Hurndall stepping in for Hartnell and an off-colour Tom Baker) against a backdrop of elements that evoke the interior decor of the Dark Tower with a suggestion of the hexagonal games table.

Final Analysis: Apparently Terrance Dicks completed this in record time, so understandably there are a couple of mistakes (Susan calling her grandfather ‘Doctor’, Zoe and Jamie labelled as companions of the ‘third Doctor’), but otherwise he juggles the elements of his already convoluted tale very well, even resorting to his trick from the previous multi-Doctor story of calling them ‘Doctor One’, ‘Doctor Two’ and ‘Doctor Three’. It’s not just nostalgia working here, Terrance Dicks does such a good job with the shopping list he was given and makes something that both celebrates the past and catapults the series into the future.

Chapter 75. Doctor Who – Meglos (1983)

Synopsis: Caught in a time trap, the Doctor, Romana and K9 have to find the key to break out of a repeating cycle of actions. When they eventually reach their destination, the jungle planet Tigella, the Doctor is immediately accused of stealing the Dodecahedron, the source of the Tigellans’ power and a holy relic to the religious Deons. It seems there’s a doppelganger on the loose and the Doctor must pay for the crimes of Meglos – the last Zolpha Thuran.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Abduction of an Earthling
  • 2. The Deons
  • 3. The Screens of Zolfa-Thura
  • 4. Time Loop
  • 5. The Double
  • 6. The Impossible
  • 7. Prisoner of the Gaztaks
  • 8. The Attack
  • 9. The Sacrifice
  • 10. The Reprieve
  • 11. The Ultimate Weapon
  • 12. Final Countdown

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for the 1980 serial by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch. This release completes the stories in Target’s library for Season 18, also making it the shortest gap between first and last stories to be novelised in a season (ten books). Furthermore, that’s the last novelisation of a Fourth Doctor TV story we’ll see this century.

Notes: The first chapter takes a disturbing turn as it speculates that the results of numerous gangland killings have been buried underneath various newly built motorways. It also introduces ‘the Earthling’, who’s named George Morris; a predictable, mild-mannered assistant bank manager of a country branch who finds himself kidnapped by a band of aliens. For (almost) the final time [see The Five Doctors], Terrance Dicks gives us a lovely little description of this Doctor:

At this time in his lives, he was a very tall man with wide staring eyes and a mop of curly hair. Much of the time he wore a long elegant coat, something between overcoat and smoking jacket, made of some reddish, velvety material and cut in a vaguely Edwardian style.

Romana is ‘a fair-haired, classically good-looking young woman with an impressively high forehead and an air of aristocratic hauteur’. At the start, K9 is still out of action after his ‘rash dip in the sea’ in The Leisure Hive.

Oops! Terrance Dicks describes the dodecahedron as ‘five-sided’ (the clue’s in the name) so that it correlates with the five screens of Zolpha Thura – each face has five edges, which isn’t the same thing. Zolpha Thurans were ‘scientists of a particularly brilliant kind’ who developed the ability to take control of other beings and disguise their own vegetable forms and explore the universe. For once, the Doctor is able to steer the TARDIS successfully, so George Morris makes it home on time and decides not to tell his wife what happened. As she started hitting the sherry 20 minutes before he stepped through the door, this is probably a good idea.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us another very straightforward but moody composition of Bill Fraser as General Grugger and Tom Baker as a thorny Meglos; it’s rather beautiful in its simplicity. There have been a few close calls with Chris Achilleos, but Andrew Skilleter here grabs a record as the first artist to provide a first-edition cover for every story in a single season. Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 reprint is a much brighter affair, with Meglos and the Doctor hovering above the Dodecahedron.

Final Analysis: So farewell then, Fourth Doctor, as we reach the end of your Target library [but see book 153]. Terrance makes a few adjustments and explains the bigger gulfs in logic to make this a rather jolly adventure; even the threat of being crushed under huge rocks seems rather mild. It successfully maintains the feeling of mild jeopardy where the main threat comes not from the malignant cactus but the blind obedience to dogma and plain stupidity. Dicks’ depiction of Brotodac as almost childlike is a particular highlight, though sadly he omits the scene where Grugger gives K9 a savage kick.

Chapter 73. Doctor Who and the Sunmakers (1982)

Synopsis: The planet Pluto has been colonised and made habitable by the addition of artificial suns. But life for the citizens is hard with astronomically high taxes that keep everyone in constant debt to the Company. When the Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive in the city Megropolis One, they quickly fall in with a band of inept rebels. Soon, they come up against the Gatherer, who controls the city’s finances, and the head of the Company, the slimy Collector.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Cost of the Golden Death
  • 2. The Fugitive
  • 3. The Others
  • 4. The Collector
  • 5. The Reprieve
  • 6. The Trap
  • 7. The Rebels
  • 8. The Prisoner
  • 9. The Steaming
  • 10. Revolt
  • 11. The Confrontation
  • 12. Liquidation

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for Robert Holmes’ 1977 serial The Sun Makers (slight change of title there), completing the run of Season 15 stories for Target. This is also Leela’s final adventure to be novelised and they’ve all been written by Terrance!

Notes: Leela is unsettled when she discovers three people awaiting erasure on their ‘death day’; Condo tells her it’s called ‘business economy’ and Leela says ‘I call it murder’. When Mandrel threatens him with a poker, the Doctor responds: 

‘You’re really not very good at this sort of thing, are you Mandrel? I don’t think you’re really nasty enough at heart. I can see it in the eyes – no conviction.’

Although they’re named in the TV episodes, Terrance makes sure we pick up on the names of two technicians – ‘Synge and Hakit’ – surely a reference to the popular drag performers ‘Hinge and Bracket’, who were emerging radio stars around the time of the TV broadcasts.  On screen, Hade is thrown from the top of a building with a cheer; here, it’s with shame and disgust:

There was a general feeling things had got out of hand, gone a bit too far. But there wasn’t very much that they could do about it now. From the top of a thousand-metre building, it’s a very long way down.

Cover: The last novelisation to have ‘and the’ in the title. Andrew Skilleter’s cover art is an effective portrait of the Collector. It’s very subtle, but the spotlights behind him represent Pluto’s six suns.

Final Analysis: There’s almost a reworking of The Dalek Invasion of Earth with the opening line: ‘In a drab and featureless corridor, a drab and featureless man stood waiting before a shuttered hatch.’ It’s otherwise a predictably solid adaptation from Terrance, which is becoming a rare thing around this time, though as the above quote about Gatherer Hade’s demise shows, he still has room to add a tinge of dark humour that’s very much in the spirit of his friend Robert Holmes’ original scripts.

Chapter 72. Doctor Who – Logopolis (1982)

Synopsis: A sudden whimsy to reconfigure the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit leads the Doctor to confront a terrifying and certain future. The Master has returned and his new scheme puts the entire universe at risk. Surrounded by companions he didn’t choose and forced to enter a partnership with his oldest enemy, the Doctor has finally reached the end – and it really has been prepared for…

Chapter Titles

The chapters are simply numbered one to twelve. Bidmead could have at least done them in binary!

Background: Christopher H. Bidmead adapts his own scripts from the 1981 story. Making good use of his past life as an actor, he also reads the audiobook, making him the first credited author to do so (although Barry Letts read The Daemons, the scripts were co-written and credited to ‘Guy Leopold).

Notes: The police officer killed by the Master is named Donald Seagrave. The police box he investigates is on the Barnet bypass (not specified on screen). Aunt Vanessa lives in ‘a cottage house in a quiet village-like street’ less than 50 miles from the Barnet bypass.  The Doctor recalls that Romana is ‘at the Gateway with Biroc and the Tharils’ (though we’re not told what this actually means for any reader who didn’t yet catch Warriors’ Gate). Adric is said to have a badge for mathematical excellence, but his ‘grasp of physics wasn’t very good’. As he inspects the real police box, he queries the wording on the telephone hatch:

Adric had seen identical wording on the outside of the TARDIS, and had taken it to be some sort of joke of the Doctor’s. Officers and Cars had never, to his knowledge, responded to Urgent Calls, although there were several occasions when he and the Doctor could have used a little extra help.

This is his first time on Earth, so it’s possible that the only encounters Adric has had with ‘officers’ is Proctor Neman on Traken – that pillar of the community who accepted bribes. The Doctor has cause to recall the recent events on Traken and is reassured that Tremas and his daughter are ‘happy’ but begins to worry that the Master might have escaped. Adric refers to the ‘console room’ (the first time this phrase has been used – it doesn’t even appear in the TV version). 

Tegan is ‘barely twenty years old’. When he sees Tegan on the TARDIS scanner, Adric has a feeling he has known her very well; he observes that her face ‘looked rather beautiful, framed by that dark red hair under the severe purple cap that matched her uniform.’ Tegan’s plane ‘back home’ is a Cesna. 

The TARDIS cloisters have a ceiling with an ’emulation of the sky, even as far as the suggestion of clouds’. The Doctor gives Adric a copy of The Complete Poetry of John Milton and the boy observes a similarity between a fallen angel and the Master. The Doctor hovers the TARDIS above Logopolis to give the Logopolitans advance notice of his arrival. As viewed from above, the City of Logopolis looks like ‘a giant brain’. 

The Master’s (unnamed) weapon is silver and leaves a whiff of ozone after discharge. The Doctor falls from the telescope when the cable he’s hanging from snaps. Adric realises the Doctor is ‘regenerating’, as he and Nyssa confirm their suspicions that the Watcher was the Doctor all along. The new Doctor has a ‘smoother, younger face’ and beams ‘somewhat vacuously’ at his friends. We’re presented with his first words::

‘Well, that’s the end of that,’ said a voice they had not heard before. ‘But it’s probably the beginning of something completely different.’ 

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a simple composition of the Master in front of the Pharos project. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover has the Doctor looking tired, Tegan and Nyssa grinning, leaving the Monitor and Adric to look at the shrinking TARDIS.

Final Analysis: The opening paragraph warns us that…

When some great circumstance, hovering somewhere in the future, is a catastrophe of incalculable consequence, you may not see the signs in the small happenings that go before.

Accordingly, Bidmead progresses to foreshadow events: Tegan is about to embark on a journey that ‘she would never forget for the rest of her life’; Adric hears the cloister bell for ‘the first but not the last time’;  … and so on.

As with The Visitation, there’s no introduction for or description of the Doctor or Adric, but there’s a palpable enthusiasm for showing off Bidmead’s knowledge of modern science, such as Maxwell’s Second Law of Thermodynamics and ‘Mr Heisenberg’. The assumption is that the reader already knows who the Doctor and Adric are (which I’ve grumbled about with other writers), but we at least get a clear idea of the new arrival, Tegan. The best bit is the conclusion of Chapter 5:

Tegan’s voice exploded like a shrapnel-bomb in the quiet of the console room. ‘I demand to see whoever is in charge of this ship.

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.

Chapter 69. Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive (1982)

Synopsis: The people of Argolis are survivors of a terrible war. Dedicating themselves to the technology of Tachyonics, their home is a destination for pleasure seekers keen to try out the latest trends in entertainment. The Argolins are dying, the last child born on the planet was Pangol. While his mother only wishes for peace with their former enemies, the Foamasi, Pangol believes it is his birthright to lead his people towards a new dawn with an army created from tachyons to eradicate the Foamasi once and for all… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Brighton
  • 2. Argolis
  • 3. Brock
  • 4. The Generator
  • 5. Intruders
  • 6. Hardin
  • 7. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
  • 8. The Foamasi
  • 9. Rebirth

Background: David Fisher adapts his own scripts for the 1980 serial.

Notes: The opening sequence of the Doctor and Romana on the frozen beach is observed by a deckchair attendant and a candy-floss seller. Chapter 2 is a detailed history of the wartorn history of Argolis and their brief battle with a race of reptiles from the planet Foamas. The third chapter is introduced by a discussion between two journalists observing Mena and Hardin at the spaceport. Mena is the ‘consort’ of the ‘Heresiarch’, Morix. It’s heavily implied that Hardin and Mena had an affair back on Earth, a relationship that they both know cannot continue now. The Captain and second-officer on the Earth-to-Argolis shuttle discuss more Argolin history, specifically the first and second Precepts of Theron the Terrible: ‘Sorrow, pain and fear are weaknesses in a warrior… eliminate them’ and ‘War is the right and duty of every Argolin’. Later on, as Pangol seizes the Helmet of Theron, we learn three more Precepts of Theron: The Tenth is ‘An Argolin knight never refuses an order’; the Eleventh is ‘An Argolin knight obeys his leader without question’; while the final Precept declares that ‘To die gloriously in battle against the enemies of Argolis is the greatest joy an Argolin knight can hope to experience’.

The Doctor immediately irritates Pangol by interrupting his presentation with inconvenient questions. The incriminating statue that carries the Doctor’s scarf represents the great Argolin hero ‘Lismar the Champion’. Much more is made of the elderly Doctor’s senility. ‘Flesh suits’ – a standard piece of equipment for assassins – are banned on Foamas, though it’s possible to pay huge amounts for one. 

No Foamasi has ever actually met an Argolin before, their war was fought remotely. Most of the Argolin survivors were members of Morix’s crew (Mena was the communications officer). After the Argolin War (which the Argolin call the ‘Foamasi War’), the survivors on Foamas were split into ‘White’ and ‘Black’ clans. While the White families were small, they were united, whereas the Black clans splintered further, allowing the White families to pick them off until only two Black houses remained – the ‘Twin Suns’ and the ‘West Lodge’, a group of embezzlers who have successfully scammed the inhabitants of other planets prior to this. While Brock is arrested as shown on screen, Klout is captured separately, caught in the act of setting an explosive charge; he throws an unprimed grenade and then draws an electric stiletto (presumably the knife, not a shoe) before he’s tied up by the Foamasi agent’s instant-cocoon device.

As in Creature from the Pit, Romana is described as ‘an experienced Time traveller [who] had journeyed vast distances through Time and Space’, so there are definitely unseen adventures prior to this (cue Big Finish!). When the Doctor leaves the Randomiser behind on Argolis, Romana is concerned that it means they’ll never know where they’re going next – which is surely the point of the Randomiser…

Cover: Andrew Skilleter shows us the Leisure Hive merging on the horizon with Pangol and a Foamasi. Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 reprint is of a similar desert hue, with the Hive accompanied by a Foamasi and the elderly Doctor. 

Final Analysis: David Fisher returns and writes a densely packed adaptation that feels in earlier chapters like a less manic Douglas Adams script. It soon settles down though and the historical asides occur only where they fall naturally in the plot. It’s a shame Fisher never chose to do a Terrance Dicks and take on anyone else’s stories, I was starting to like him.

True fact, when the elderly Tom Baker was revealed in the TV episode, my library buddy was hugely disappointed, thinking Baker was going to play the next Doctor too. And this was about a month before it was announced he was leaving!

Chapter 68. Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken (1982)

Synopsis: The Keeper of Traken presides over a union of harmony. Nearing the end of his very long life, he visits the Doctor and invites him to visit Traken. Instead of being honoured guests, the Doctor and Adric find themselves mistaken for the evil that the Keeper has warned about. In a nearby grove, Kassia, the wife of a consul bares her soul to a lonely statue, fearful that her loving husband will be taken from her if he is nominated to be the new Keeper. But then the statue speaks – and promises everything will be okay, so long as she obeys without question. Within the statue, in an impossibly large chamber, a decaying figure observes his plan coming together, a plan that will find him power to regenerate his husk of a body – and enact revenge on his nemesis, the Doctor!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Escape to Danger
  • 2. Melkur Awakes
  • 3. Intruders
  • 4. The Voice of Melkur
  • 5. Melkur’s Secret
  • 6. The Net
  • 7. Prisoners of Melkur
  • 8. A Place to Hide
  • 9. Death of a Keeper
  • 10. The Rule of Melkur
  • 11. The Last Resort
  • 12. The Enemy

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Johnny Byrne’s 1981 scripts, which followed Warriors’ Gate on TV, making this the second time that three consecutive stories have been released together.

Notes: The first chapter is called ‘Escape to Danger’ (yay!) and it directly follows on from Warriors’ Gate, explaining the disappearance of Romana and K9. Adric’s standard description now tells us he’s ‘a smallish, round-faced, snub-nosed lad with an expression of cheerful impudence’. We’re also told he ‘usually eats enough for two’ and Adric observes that ‘practically everyone on Traken was old, eminent, and bearded’, which is a brilliant line. We only discover the identity of Melkur at the same time as the Doctor. The description of the Master matches that from The Deadly Assassin:

The figure in the chair was both wizened and decayed, the body as worn out as the tattered robes. One eye glared madly from the crumbling ruin of a face and blackened lips drew back in a ghastly chuckle.

As he confronts the Master in his TARDIS, The Doctor recalls his nemesis back in his prime:

The stocky, powerful figure, the darkly handsome face with its pointed beard and burning eyes, the deep, hypnotic voice. All of that was gone, decayed, so that all that was left was a walking corpse.

The new Master’s first words are ‘Now begins my new life!’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a simple scene of Nyssa and Melkur. Alister Pearson’s 1993 reprint cover is another montage of faces, depicting the Doctor, the Keeper and Melkur, along with the screaming, decaying face of the Master.

Final Analysis: A lot more effort with this, even though it’s largely a straight translation from screen to page, as Terrance provides points of view and character insights throughout. One slightly odd thing is that it’s not exactly clear in the TV episodes when exactly the Keeper reveals that Tremas is to be his successor, as this is merely reported by the Keeper after he shows the Doctor and Adric the wedding scene. Here, the appointment is very much part of the wedding, meaning Tremas and Kassia are married for less than two days before they’re both killed.  As on TV, Nyssa is not signposted as the new companion and if anything her role is minimal, even though Terrance makes sure to tell us that she and Adric quickly become friends.