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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sara felt a sudden peace, and all was still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 135. Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen (1989)

Synopsis: An unexpected holiday for the Doctor and Mel sees them joining a race of shape-changing aliens at a holiday camp in 1950s Wales. Also in the party is a beautiful woman on the run from bloodthirsty killers – and a spy only too happy to betray her. Soon, the holiday camp is the scene for a massacre, retribution… and romance.

Chapter Titles

The chapters are numbered One to Thirty-Two. With additional prologue and epilogue, this steals the record from The Romans for most number of chapters in a novelisation.

Background: Malcolm Kohll adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This followed Paradise Towers on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A prologue reveals that the Doctor takes one sugar in his tea. The TARDIS is in need of a ‘major overhaul’. Now that he’s less burly than his previous incarnation, Mel has stopped forcing carrot juice upon him and is happy to offer him digestive biscuits (which he declines as he doesn’t like how they collapse into his drink – such a beautiful ‘Doctorish’ moment there that I don’t think has ever actually been noted anywhere else). The Doctor keeps a kitty for loose change, which baffles him as it’s always empty. The Tollmaster is ‘a scaly alien wearing a spangly jacket and party hat’; he has ‘a fine set of large white teeth’ (a lovely evocation of Ken Dodd, who played him so memorably on telly). Mel claims she hasn’t been to Earth in ‘ages’, though she’s previously visited the planet Zoth and recognises paintings at the tollgate of ‘Solterns, Giboks and those funny little creatures the Wormese, who, without the aid of appendages of any kind, propel themselves along by the sheer force of their exhalations’. The Navarinos from ‘the tri-polar moon Navarro’ are ‘squat hairy beings which resemble artichokes’; Murray, the Nostalgia Tours pilot, is ‘ a round, leafy, hairy creature’. 

The Chimeron homeworld is called Chumeria – also known as ‘the Garden Planet of the Universe’. Chimerons are ‘soft and pupa-like’ and have ‘silvery-green skin and vivid blue eyes’. The two American agents are Lex Hawk and Jerome P Weismuller; Weismuller’s wife is called May. The ‘soldier of fortune’, Keillor’, knows of ‘the traveller called the Doctor’ (on TV, he knows the Doctor is a ‘traveller in time’). The Doctor has heard of Gavrok and ‘his violent ways’ – is he really the acidental tourist he’s pretending to be?

Outside Delta’s cabin, Billy hears Mels’ scream and shoulders the door open to see the Chimeron baby emerging from its shell (the telly version has him arrive shortly afterwards). Burton was a major in the army twenty years ago, when Vinny had served as his batman; they’ve worked together ever since. Among the party of Navarinos are Adlon, Crovassi, Diptek, Ethnon, Frag, Gil and Herret. Two of the Bannermen are named Arrex and Callon. The Doctor once rode a vehicle similar to Ray’s motorbike on the planet Themlon that left him ‘TARDIS-bound for a week afterwards’. According to Weismuller, Gavrok is ‘about seven feet tall’, though this comes as part of his otherwise rather exaggerated summary of his role in the battle against the Bannermen. In Billy’s chalet is a record player with a copy of ‘Gamblin’ Man’ by Lonnie Donegan. By the time he leaves with Delta, Billy has become ‘pure Chimeron’.

In the epilogue, having safely installed Delta and her child on the Chimeron brood planet, Billy delivers the surviving Bannermen to a galactic court before returning to his new home. The Bannermen decide that, should they ever find themselves free, they’ll set up a weaving collective to make rugs they can sell across the galaxy. Ray takes the Vincent aboard a ferry intent on exploring the world, while, on board the TARDIS, Mel subjects the Doctor to an old recording of Rock Around the Clock.

Infamously, a typo on page 54 presents the Doctor as ‘peeing’ over a shelf. The credits at the front of the book list Michael Ferguson, not Chris Clough, as the director (a hint at the story coming up next). Worst of all though, the spine on the first edition presented the title of the story as ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ – singular. This is corrected for the reprint, which lists the book as number ‘153’ in the library.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s artwork has echoes of Jeff Cummins’ cover for The Face of Evil as the Doctor’s face appears inside a circular frame, with the Shangri-La sign arching above, a Bannerman bearing his gun and the Sputnik satellite and the Chimeron egg at the bottom. Wonderfully, the composition forms the inverted silhouette of Mickey Mouse (hinting at the intended destination of the Navarino bus).

Final Analysis: There are people who don’t love Delta and the Bannermen (I know, right?) and they should be pitied. For the rest of us, we can also enjoy Malcolm Kohll’s sole entry in the Target library. All the joyful craziness of the TV episodes is present and correct, but like all the best authors for the range, Kohll enhances little details as he goes and the epilogue is delicious. In particular, the rather unconvincing romance at the heart of the story is boosted and Billy in particular is shown to be a young man of integrity and decency (especially in his pleading for a little mercy on behalf of the Bannermen at the Galactic Court).

Just a sidenote – back in The Two Doctors we were presented with, er, two Doctors who were resolute in their belief that Androgums cannot be augmented and will always revert to their baser qualities. It’s a rather worrying colonial view of an entire race, though there are actually few examples of aliens having much nuance generally in Doctor Who (the Ice Warriors are a notable exception). Here, while he offers a note of caution towards Billy’s decision to become a Chimeron, ultimately he wishes him well. We have a much more liberal interpretaton of the Doctor here, which feels much more like a ‘modern’ version, willing to be more compassionate and making allowance for personal choices. Delta and the Bannermen might be a little light as Doctor Who stories go, but it’s also an utter gem. I’d have liked to have seen Kohll’s approach to someone else’s scripts.

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 125. Doctor Who – The Time Meddler (1988)

Synopsis: New arrival in the TARDIS Steven Taylor cannot accept that he’s travelled in time, even when confronted with a Viking helmet in the year 1066. Landing on a beach, the Doctor and his friends explore the coastline and find themselves in a village near a monastery where the only inhabitant is a very furtive, very secretive monk. The Doctor immediately recognises him as one of his own people, but unlike the Doctor, he has no concerns about changing history, in fact, that’s what the Monk is determined to do.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Watcher
  • 2 The Saxons
  • 3 The Monastery
  • 4 Prisoners of the Saxons
  • 5 The Vikings
  • 6 An Empty Cell
  • 7 Unwelcome Visitors
  • 8 The Secret of the Monastery
  • 9 The Monk’s Master Plan
  • 10 A Threat to the Future
  • 11 A Parting Gift
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts by Dennis Spooner for a story from 1965.

Notes: A prologue offers a scene from The Chase not shown on TV as Steven Taylor flees the burning City of the Mechonoids and the ‘strange alien creatures who had come to this planet in search of four mysterious space travellers’. Clutching his stuffed panda and avoiding the Fungoid plants, he runs for hours in pursuit of the four travellers, who had helped him escape. Eventually, he finds a blue box in the jungle and makes his way inside before passing out. And a generation of fans cheer!

The Doctor has ‘sharp blue eyes’ [as we’ve established, the actor who played him had brown eyes]. Vicki is ‘little more than five feet tall’ and she has ‘elfin good looks and a mischievous little-girl smile’. The TARDIS control room contains a Louis Quatorze chair and an ormolu clock, which has stopped. We’re reminded that Vicki came from the 25th Century and that she is an orphan. She had assumed that Steven had died in the flames. 

Edith and Wulnoth have been married for 15 years, though it’s said that she has aged considerably more than her thirty years (a little harsh on actress Alethea Charlton there!). The Monk’s carefully prepared breakfast for the Doctor is a masterpiece in time-trolling: Using a ‘Baby Belling stove’, a non-stick frying pan and a steel spatula, he cooks bacon, sausage and fried eggs; charred toast is delivered from a rusty toaster, served up on a plate with a bottle of tomato ketchup and a mug of instant coffee; and as he approaches the Doctor’s cell, he whistles a tune that won’t be written for nine hundred years (so, around 1965; later, he returns to the monastery whistling a Beatles song, so maybe it’s Ticket to Ride, which had appeared in the previous story, although reading this after 1988, Yesterday would be funnier).

The Doctor spells out for Steven and Vicki the consequences of the Monk’s ‘master plan’ – that as they are both English (new information, by the way!), the chances are that somewhere in their lineage is someone of Norman blood, someone who might die because of the Monk’s interference, thereby wiping out their descendants. It’s a tidy way of making the Doctor’s role much clearer to his young friends and to the reader. After taking the dimensional stabiliser from the Monk’s TARDIS, the Doctor also ensures that the atomic cannon is removed from the clifftop (and Steven has to lug it back to the TARDIS). The Doctor’s line about not being a ‘mountain goat’ (which he so beautifully fluffs on TV) is moved to the end of the book. In the epilogue, we discover the ridiculous effort the Monk puts into messing up time: Fearing some kind of reprisals from his ever-growing list of enemies, the Monk decides to leave his TARDIS in the chapel and cross England on a stolen horse to keep his plan on track; he reaches the infamous battle too late and sees William of Normandy declared the victor; the Monk heads north again to find the Doctor has stranded him in 1066 with a broken TARDIS.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his final contribution to the series with a haunting portrait of the Monk lighting beacons on the cliff tops. The image was flipped for the 1992 reprint, for some reason, accompanied by a ‘NOW BACK ON TELEVISION’ exclamation to tie in with the repeats on BBC 2.

Final Analysis: I’m growing rather fond of Nigel Robinson. He’s taken Terrance Dicks’ approach of transferring the script faithfully to the novel format, just adding additional information and tidying as he goes. There’s a charming significance to the way he captures Vicki by pulling in a detail of Maureen O’Brien’s performance, in that she pacifies the Doctor the same way the actress had quelled the fractious temper of her co-star. That he’s also choosing to cover the less favoured stories himself really underlines the mission to create a complete library of adaptations.

Chapter 121. Doctor Who – The Massacre (1987)

Synopsis: The Doctor decides to explore 16th-Century Paris and leaves Steven to fend for himself. Steven soon befriends a group of men and a servant girl who are Protestant Huguenots persecuted by the ruling Catholics. A visiting abbot bears a striking facial resemblance to the Doctor, enough for Steven to believe he is really his friend in one of his disguises. But then the abbot is murdered and the public mood makes Paris a dangerous place for the Huguenots – and anyone who has been seen with them, like Steven… 

Chapter Titles

  • Author’s Note
  • Dramatis Personae
  • Prologue
  • 1. The Roman Bridge Auberge
  • 2. Echoes of Wassy
  • 3. The Apothecary
  • 4. Double Trouble
  • 5. The Proposition
  • 6. Beds for a Night
  • 7. Admiral de Coligny
  • 8. The Escape
  • 9. A Change of Clothes
  • 10. The Hotel Lutèce
  • 11. The Royal Audience
  • 12. Burnt at the Stake
  • 13. The Phoenix
  • 14. Talk of War
  • 15. Face to Face
  • 16. A Rescue
  • 17. Good Company All
  • Epilogue

Background: John Lucarotti adapts his own scripts for a story from 1966.

Notes: The book features a Dramatis Personae that is very useful for working out who everyone is. The novel deviates significantly from the TV version, being neither an adaptation of the broadcast story, nor the author’s original submitted storyline; instead, it’s a new story that uses the same characters and basic plot points, but making much more of the Doctor’s similarity to the Abbot of Amboise. The Prologue presents the Doctor, clutching a copy of the diary of Samuel Pepys, in a garden that reminds him of the Garden of Peace that he visited with Susan, Ian and Barbara in the time of the Aztecs. There, he meets with a group of Time Lords (with whom he has resolved his previous ‘differences’) to explain his actions in 16th-Century France. Other than the Doctor being male, there is no indication that this is the first Doctor, or indeed any specific incarnation. We only know that the Time Lords still exist and that the Doctor considers himself in semi-retirement, having brought his travels in the TARDIS to ‘a temporary halt’.

There’s no reference to the Doctor and Steven’s recent quest to defeat the Daleks [see Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan part II: The Mutation of Time]. Instead, the duo arrives in the TARDIS and they check a ‘time/place orientation print-out’ on the TARDIS console with a faulty yearometer reading. Neither of them elects to wear period clothing until much later (the Doctor while impersonating the Abbot, Steven after he steals clothing from Preslin’s empty house). While training to become an astronaut, Steven performed in plays, including Hamlet, which is how he understood the phrase ‘shriving time’, which he overhears being said by two clerics. The Doctor finds himself joining a band of rebellious Hugenots who at first mistake him for the Abbot of Amboise, but later they force him to pose as the Abbot for a meeting with Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother. 

The TARDIS is found and brought into the Bastille, where it becomes a talking piece among Parisian society (a locksmith receives an electric shock when he tries to gain entry). They inform the Doctor that the object is to be burned at the stake, which he finds hilarious – and the subsequent pyre leaves the TARDIS looking ‘ impeccably clean, even shiningly so’.

The Doctor and the Abbot meet and the Doctor has to stand by as the Abbot is killed by his loyal secretary Duval, believing him to be an imposter. The Doctor then usurps the Abbot to address the Royal Court and beseech them to stop their religious wars. Anne is sent to safety along with her brother and aunt. There is no surprise arrival of Dodo at the end. Instead, in the Epilogue, we return to the Doctor’s meeting with the Time Lords, where he rebuffs their charges that he interfered with established history, including their claim that his companion Dodo, who he met after this adventure, was proof that he had saved the life of Anne Chaplet. The Doctor recalls that Dodo had been ‘the spitting image of Anne’.

Cover: Tony Masero paints the Abbot of Amboise standing in front of the TARDIS atop a burning pyre. Alister Pearson’s 1992 reprint cover shows two faces of William Hartnell (suggesting one is supposed to be the Abbot), plus Peter Purves as Steven, Joan Young as Catherine de Medici and David Weston as Nicholas Muss, all in front of a church in sunset. Weston previously appeared in character as Biroc on the cover of Warriors’ Gate.

Final Analysis: So the legend goes, John Lucarotti’s first submission to the Doctor Who production office was said to lack historical detail. He more than makes amends here (as his author’s note attests), and as with The Aztecs, he creates a sense of being immersed in a real, lived-in world. Unlike, say, Time Flight, where Peter Grimwade wastes no opportunity to show off his Concord-related research, Lucarotti threads his fact-finding to improve the narrative. The Doctor and Steven explore Paris at the start, prior to making their way to the tavern, and the Doctor’s guided tour serves to help them pin down the approximate year in which they find themselves but also to sketch in the world around them. When we reach the catacombs where the rebels are hiding, we’re shown their peculiar mode of transport around the city – dog carts! I’d have loved to have seen William Hartnell zooming off stage left in one of those! One other addition from Lucarotti is Raoul, Anne’s 14-year-old brother. While the author might have felt that his addition would provide a little more logic to the revelation that future companion Dodo might have inherited the family name, the fact that she is said to be identical to Anne leaves some rather uncomfortable incestuous conotations that we’re best not to unravel.

Chapter 101. Doctor Who – The Gunfighters (1986)

Synopsis: In the old town of Tombstone, the Doc’s name’s in doubt / He wanted a dentist but his luck ran out / Now the Clantons are coming – they’ll all be here soon / There’ll be blood on the piano at the Last Chance Saloon…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Landfall in Tombstone
  • 2. The Last Chance
  • 3. The Brief Career of Dead-shot Steve
  • 4. A Funeral is Arranged
  • 5. Notice to Quit
  • 6. Identity Parade
  • 7. Open Mouth Surgery
  • 8. An Offer Refused
  • 9. A Pardonable Error
  • 10. A Little Night Music
  • 11. And Some Durn Tootin’
  • 12. Arrest Is As Good As A Change
  • 13. The Red Hand of Tradition
  • 14. The Law and Doc Holliday
  • 15. A Very Nasty Little Incident
  • 16. Wyatt Plays It By The Book
  • 17. Pa Clanton Keeps a Welcome
  • 18. Ringo in the Morning
  • 19. Post Mortem
  • 20. Thought For Feud
  • 21. Dodo Draws a Bead
  • 22. The Entry of the Gladiators
  • 23. Come Sun-Up…
  • Epilogue

Background: Donald Cotton loosely adapts his own scripts from 1966.

Notes: You know I love a prologue! We open with a journalist called Ned Buntline, who made his name writing biographies of notable Wild West legends. Having previously spoken to Wyatt Earp, who refused to be drawn on certain inconsistencies in the myths surrounding the OK Corral, Buntine now comes to a sanatorium at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to meet an elderly Doc Holliday, who is in his last days with tuberculosis. Holliday speaks freely about the TARDIS, ‘a kind of four-wheel buggy designed for ridin’ every sort of direction through eternity, without much decent respect for the laws of physics’.

Aboard the TARDIS, Steven reminds the Doctor of the time when they encountered ‘great, nebulous jelly-fish things… with poisonous what-nots’. Dodo claims she took a first-aid course, but didn’t do very well. When the TARDIS lands in Tombstone, it’s raining heavily. Behind the bar of the Last Chance Saloon is a, er, well as Buntine tells it, it’s…

…a shot-up oil-painting of a fat blonde in her birthday rig. Sitting on a cloud, she was being molested by a bunch of tear-away cherubs, who looked as if they’d been up several nights round a stud-game, and passing the nectar pretty free, at that.

… and then he gives us two verses of that song (only one of which was heard on TV). 

Dodo is wearing ‘a little number made up of scarlet furbelows and flounces trimmed with black lace’ with an oversized hat (or as Buntine claims, like ‘the proprietress of a broken-down cat-house in one of the less select quarters of New Orleans’). Steven has, according to the Doctor, ‘disguise[d] himself as Billy the Kid’. He took his advanced astronaut course at Cape Canaveral, where he learned to play ‘America the Brave’ on the piano. Dodo sees a poster for real-life star of the stage Eddie Foy – who makes a brief cameo towards the end of the story (and whose son, Eddie Foy, was a Hollywood movie star who Dodo might conceivably have seen). Kate’s surname is ‘Elder’, not ‘Fisher’ as on TV (and in the 1957 movie); the real-life Kate was formally ‘Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings’, but she was also known by the deeply unflattering ‘Big Nose Kate’. 

Doc Holliday’s new dentist’s chair had previously seen service at ‘the Death House in San Quentin’. Pa Clanton is standing for mayoral election and hopes taking up said office will result in free drinks for life at the Last Chance Saloon. Johnny Ringo is a keen student of the Classics and is, at the time of the gunfight, partway through the ten-volume edition of Caesar’s Gallic Wars. The Doctor’s discomfort with a gun results in him accidentally shooting two bystanders, though eventually he is said to have begun to ‘enjoy himself’. The Doctor and his friends leave in the TARDIS, its dematerialisation witnessed by Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and a few others. In the epilogue, Holliday concludes telling his story to Buntine, necks a bottle of whisky … and dies.

Doc Holliday did indeed die in 1887, staying at Glenwood Hotel, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He was 36 years old (Anthony Jacobs, who played him on TV, was 48 at the time of broadcast).

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints the Doctor with a stetson while Wyatt Earp walks down the street of Tombstone with smoking guns. 

Final Analysis: There are people who’ll still tell you that The Gunfighters is a ‘bad story’ or that it was the lowest-rated story ever (it really wasn’t). There’s even a sly dig at the production in the text of this book, where a passage begins ‘Meanwhile, at the Last Chance Saloon, the stage was already set – as if by an incompetent director.’ Fan elders have shaped opinion to the point where many people who haven’t even seen it know what they think of it. And they’re wrong. Utterly. They’re very quick to remind us that Doctor Who can tell ‘any kind of story’, but seem to bristle when the genre isn’t one they personally like or – worst of all – if the story veers into the realm of comedy!

While the historical adventures did tend to be outperformed on original transmission by the often less ambitious efforts featuring silver sets on alien worlds, as we’ve seen with these novelisations, the writers tried much harder to engage the brain with their characters, perhaps mindful that they’d be representing figures who’s actually lived, or possibly just because they preferred history to SF. In the best Reithian tradition, Donald Cotton clearly realised that the best way to ‘educate and inform’ was to entertain. In this adaptation, he once again relies upon a narrator who casts doubt upon the factual accuracy of other versions of the legend; in other words, he’s excusing and exploiting any historical mistakes in both the TV serial and all other conflicting adaptations. We’re presented with a further myth rather than a text-book account of the real events, yet Cotton’s characters feel like they might have actually lived and breathed. More importantly though, Cotton’s retelling of the tale is very, very funny. My favourite joke in the whole thing is where he describes the drunk Ike Clanton as speaking ‘blotto voce’. There’s also a lovely description of the Doctor operating the TARDIS controls: 

… clutching at an apparently haphazard selection of levers with the air of a demented xylophonist, who finds he’s brought along the wine list instead of the score.

There are some instances of swearing – two uses of ‘bastard’, eight ‘goddam(ned)’ and sixteen uses of ‘damn’. As the notes above illustrate, there’s also a degree of bawdiness to this not seen before (mainly involving Kate’s profession). 

Finally, it’s become a popular game in modern stories (including The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp) to crowbar in as many metatextual references as possible, but we can trace this back directly to Donald Cotton. While some of these might have reasonable claims to be accurate contemporary phrases, the modern reader can play ‘Spot the Film Title’ throughout the text. To start you off, here are just a few: For a Few Dollars More (1965); The Wild Bunch (1969); Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949); Terror of the Plains (1934); Death Valley (1946); The Golden West, (1932); … and The Right Stuff (1983). 

Chapter 97. Doctor Who – The Myth Makers (1985)

Synopsis: The beauty of a woman is the spark that fires up a bloody and lengthy war between Greece and Troy. Though many of the figures in the battle have entered into legend, a version of the story as recounted by the great poet Homer reveals the involvement of three travellers who emerged from a blue box and changed the course of the war. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Homer Remembers
  • 2. Zeus Ex Machina
  • 3. Hector Forgets
  • 4. Enter Odysseus
  • 5. Exit the Doctor
  • 6. A Rather High Tea
  • 7. Agamemnon Arbitrates
  • 8. An Execution is Arranged
  • 9. Temple Fugit
  • 10. The Doctor Draws a Graph
  • 11. Paris Draws the Line
  • 12. Small Prophet, Quick Return
  • 13. War Games Compulsory
  • 14. Single Combat
  • 15. Speech! Speech!
  • 16. The Trojans at Home
  • 17. Cassandra Claims a Kill
  • 18. The Ultimate Weapon
  • 19. A Council of War
  • 20. Paris Stands on Ceremony
  • 21. Dungeon Party
  • 22. Hull Low, Young Lovers
  • 23. A Victory Celebration
  • 24. Doctor in the Horse
  • 25. A Little Touch of Hubris
  • 26. Abandon Ship!
  • 27. Armageddon and After
  • Epilogue

This now nabs the record from Marco Polo for the most number of chapters in a novelisaton, with 27 chapters and an epilogue.

Background: Donald Cotton adapts his own scripts for the 1965 serial.

Notes: Yep, the story is narrated in the first person by the great author Homer, who apparently was just out of shot in every scene.

The Doctor had promised his young companions a trip to London in the 1960s. Homer claims that he has met the Doctor on many occasions (and that he is now younger than he was the first time they met), knows that the TARDIS is a time machine – and that the Doctor is specifically a ‘Time Lord’! Vicki has a very loose grasp of Earth history, much to Steven’s despair, but knows enough to recognise the importance of the Trojan Horse. Steven is concerned about his absence from the ‘Space-Research Project’, where he had been an amateur athlete during his training and it’s suggested he might have played football (he compares the prospect of fighting Odysseus with ‘the second eleven on a Saturday knock-about’, so that’s definitely football and not the completely different ‘American Football’). We discover how ‘Cyclops’ lost his eye and gained his name [but see Final Analysis below]. There’s no explanation for how Steven is wounded by the start of the next story. Instead, we learn that Vicki – as Cressida – remained with Troilus and the pair took care of their blind friend Homer. The epilogue reveals that the elderly poet has been telling his story to the Doctor, who, it turns out, has popped back to look in on Homer on many occasions throughout his eventful life.

Cover: The TARDIS materialises in front of the wooden horse, painted by Andrew Skilleter.

Final Analysis: Donald Cotton tore up the rule book for his TV stories and he revolutionises the Doctor Who novel here. Cotton’s habit of using witty episode titles continues with the novel’s chapter titles ‘Zeus Ex Machina’ ‘Temple Fugit’ and of course ‘Doctor in the Horse’, which was his original title of episode 4. He really strains with chapter 22’s ‘Hull Low, Young Lovers’; I wonder how many eager readers would know the song ‘Hello, Young Lovers’ from the 1951 musical (or 1956 film) The King and I, so might this be a reference pitched at a prospective parent reading this for a young fan a chapter a night at bedtime?

Casting Homer as the narrator gives us insight into the politics of the time, while also contriving increasingly outlandish reasons for him to be party to private conversations, ‘concealed in a clump of cactus I wasn’t too fond of’, accompanying the TARDIS into Troy and, after being jabbed in the eye and being dubbed ‘Cyclops’, he passed out and wakes up ‘covered in fish-scales and crabs’ legs’. Homer is aware that the Doctor is a time traveller too, making much merriment with details he shouldn’t know anything about:

… how do you describe a time-machine to a man who has never even heard of Euclid, never mind Einstein? Of course, up till then, I’d never heard of them myself, but I must say I found the whole concept fascinating. 

Cotton – through Homer – has a delightfully waspish style. We’re told that Cassandra is a fearsome woman who looks like ‘her brother Hector in drag’, while Achilles ‘had that look of Narcissistic petulance one so often sees on the faces of health fanatics, or on male models who pose for morally suspect sculptors’, adding ‘I believe the Greeks have a word for it nowadays’. It’s when he comes to explain the causes of the siege of Troy that we might feel certain attitudes from the mid-1980s are guiding his hand. His description of Paris appears to be a commentary on more modern Royal events that resonate just as much in 2021 as 1985:

… the second sons of Royal Houses – especially if they are handsome as the devil – have a lot of temptation to cope with. And then, the unlikelihood of their ever achieving the throne does seem to induce irresponsibility which – combined, of course, with an inflated income – how shall I put it? – well, it aggravates any amorous propensities they may have…. Well, we all know about princes and their libidinous ways: their little frolics below stairs – their engaging stagedoor haunting jaunting? 

Trigger warning here: Among many anachronistic terms Homer uses, the phrase ‘a coon’s age’, which dates from the early 19th-century and referred to racoons, but for many readers this may have racial connotations.

As one of the missing TV historicals, it’s not a story I know that well, having only heard the soundtrack and watched a telesnap reconstruction. Cotton pulls out all the stops to bring the period alive and make it like a gossip between old friends, a tale told with tongue firmly in cheek and a knowing wink at the reader (this is especially evident in the audiobook with a delicious reading by Stephen Thorne). Even in providing us with what must be the first celebrity historical featuring an author (something modern fans might be more likely to expect), he’s smart enough to leave himself plenty of escape routes. Homer himself tells us the effect of adopting many guises to avoid being trapped into supporting one side or the other. Like the Doctor, his name lives on in legend:

I’ve always found it a very good rule to be a bit cautious about handing out the label unless unavoidable – which is why, I’m told, to this day, nobody is entirely convinced that Homer ever existed […]

Chapter 94. Doctor Who – Marco Polo (1985)

Synopsis: The Venetian explorer Marco Polo meets four travellers stranded with their strange blue caravan – a box that that he immediately realises will make a splendid gift for the great Kublai Khan. On their long journey, the strangers become friends as they share stories of many cultures, but their journey is fraught with danger, not only from a hostile environment but also from within the party as a traitor schemes against them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Roof of the World
  • 2. Emissary of Peace
  • 3. Down to Earth
  • 4. Singing Sands
  • 5. Desert of Death
  • 6. A Tale of Hashashins
  • 7. Five Hundred Eyes
  • 8. Wall of Lies
  • 9. Too Many Kan-Chow Cooks
  • 10. Bamboozled
  • 11. Rider from Shang-Tu
  • 12. Runaway
  • 13. Road to Karakorum
  • 14. Mighty Kublai Khan
  • 15. Gambler
  • 16. Best-Laid Schemes
  • 17. Key to the World

Background: John Lucarotti adapts his own scripts for the series broadcast in 1964, so stealing the record from himself and The Aztecs for the biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation at 20 years, eight months and a week.

Notes: A new opening scene sees Susan give a temperature in centigrade and Ian calculates the fahrenheit equivalent. Ian opens the TARDIS door, then shuts it quickly (suggesting that the doors are the same as those on the exterior of the ship) and jokes that they can’t be in the Alps because there’s no yodelling. The Doctor also gives a clearer reason for staying outside of the ship (it will act like a ‘cold storage room’ and kill them). He introduces his granddaughter as ‘Susan Foreman’ (!) and both she and Ping-Cho are 15 years old (not 16 like on TV). Once again, the Doctor uses a pen torch [see The Aztecs]. Susan mentions the TARDIS ‘water producer’. Surprisingly, the device of Marco’s journal is not used; instead, some of the events he describes are expanded upon. 

Ping-Cho learns of the death of her husband-to-be as soon as she arrives at the Imperial Palace. The Empress notices exchanged glances between Ping-Cho and the Captain, Ling-Tau; she urges Kublai Khan to promote the captain so he might be of sufficient rank to be a husband to Ping-Cho. Tegana doesn’t get to commit suicide; he’s shot dead by Ling-Tau with an arrow that kills him instantly. There’s no swift escape to the TARDIS at the end either. Kublai Khan invites the Doctor to stay as his personal secretary, but he declines and says a relaxed goodbye to him, Marco and Ping-Cho before leaving in the TARDIS. Kublai Khan dubs the key to the TARDIS the ‘Key to the World’ and has it placed on a gold chain (unaware that it’s the Doctor’s spare). The Key is said to lie in a museum that was once the imperial palace.

Cover: David McAllister returns with a painted composition of Marco Polo, Tegana, Pingo Cho and Kublai Khan, along with some other elements that apparently come from an entirely different production called Marco Polo from the 1980s. It’s nice to see accurate resemblences to actors Mark Eden, Zienia Merton and Derren Nesbitt here.

Final Analysis: John Lucarroti’s second novel and it’s as much of a jolly history lesson as the first, with additional highly detailed descriptions of various menus. Obviously, each of the locations is grander than the sets in Lime Grove could have allowed and also we get a real sense of the time passing, as each chapter adds days onto the journey, which lasts around 40 days in all. It might lack the fun and melodrama of monsters of robots, but it’s a rare story that truly allows us to step into a culture and enjoy various aspects of it.

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 88. Doctor Who – The Aztecs (1984)

Synopsis: Emerging from a hidden doorway in a temple, Barbara is mistaken for the Aztec God Yetaxa and finds it difficult to refuse the role. As the Doctor tries to regain access to the temple and return to the TARDIS, Barbara learns the difficult lesson that she cannot change history. Not one line of it!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Coiled Serpent
  • 2. Yetaxa the God
  • 3. Chosen Warriors
  • 4. Sacrifice to Tlaloc
  • 5. Perfect Victim
  • 6. Thorn of Doom
  • 7. No Holds Barred
  • 8. Cups of Cocoa
  • 9. Bride of Sacrifice
  • 10. Offence and Retribution
  • 11. Crawl, Swim, Climb
  • 12. Wall of Deception
  • 13. False God
  • 14. Day of Darkness
  • 15. Eclipse

Background: John Lucarotti adapts his own scripts for the series broadcast in 1964. Published a week after its 20th anniversary, The Aztecs now holds the crown for the biggest gap between first transmission and novelisation. It’s also the first historical story to be adapted since The Crusaders, some 19 years earlier.

Notes: We begin with a new scene inside the TARDIS with little explanation of who the characters are or what the TARDIS is. Susan is said to be still 15 years old, while Ian is 28 and a ‘scientist’ (not a science teacher’). When the Doctor asks for a screwdriver (a normal screwdriver!) to fix a panel on the TARDIS ‘control desk’, Ian jokes that they might land on Earth in the 1980s and get help form an aerospace factory; it’s a curiously specific reference for a man from 1963. Barbara specialised in Aztec history at university and her brief summary for Susan of Mexican civilisation is a lot more heavy-handed than it is on screen. She guesses that they’re at some point in history between 1430 and 1519, and the Doctor is able to confirm it’s 17 May, 1507. We might pause to ponder how the TARDIS can produce a date so accurate when it’s 75 years before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, but this story’s already threatening us with a huge history lesson, so let’s just ignore the issue and move on. 

Cameca is ‘a grey-haired, pleasant-faced, plumpish woman in her mid fifties’. The architect of the temple, Topau, is renamed ‘Chapal’. On the night that he meets the Doctor in the garden, Ian wears ‘only a warrior’s loin-cloth and sandals’. Ixta is startled by the Doctor’s electronic torch when he sees Ian use it, wondering if it’s ‘magic’. It was Ixta’s ‘father’s father’ who originally built the secret tunnel that is used to irrigate the garden (it’s his father on TV – and see later). Ian has a much more arduous trek through the secret tunnel, including a climb up a vertical shaft using crumbling footholds. He finds the remains of a body – which he correctly assumes is that of Ixta’s father – in the tunnel and soon discovers that the man must have fallen to his death when a foothold in the shaft gave way beneath his foot; Ian also correctly deduces that he himself was at risk of drowning because of Ixta deliberately opening the sluice. The Doctor tells Barbara of his suspicion that Ian has drowned, shortly before Ian finds them both (on telly, Barbara already knows Ian is safe by the time the Doctor reaches her). 

It’s a lot clearer that the Doctor feels utterly wretched for exploiting Cameca’s affection purely to gain access to the temple. As Cameca offers to help restore Autloc’s faith in Barbara, the Doctor is moved by her devotion and muses ‘in another world, in another time’ – but it’s definitely not the romantic relationships some fans imagine. Barbara has a long discussion with Autloc about the ‘schizophrenic’ nature of the Aztecs and her words remind him of a legend he has heard of a man from a foreign land who spoke of a ‘gentleness and love’ who was crucified, as the Aztecs do with their criminals. The climactic fight scene between Ixta and Ian is replaced by something wittier but also just as brutal, as Ian reflects light into his opponent’s eyes, which makes Ixta topple backwards and fall to his death. The scene leading into The Sensorites is, unsurprisingly, cut.

Cover: Featuring the last appearance of the coloured Target logo, Nick Spender’s first cover depicts a man with a dagger (Tlotoxl possibly?), a temple and a giant golden mask, as the TARDIS materialises. A 1992 reprint cover uses Andrew Skilleter’s VHS cover art, showing Tlotoxyl and the Doctor amid some Aztec pyramids.

Final Analysis: John Lucarotti provides a fairly loose adaptation of his own story, clearly written from the original scripts but with a relaxed approach to sticking rigidly to the text. He’s also done a lot of research and is happy to let us know it, but unlike some of the authors from the early 80s, there’s no showboating here; we’re just exposed to the history of an ancient and brutal culture – even the cuisine – of a time in Earth’s history that’s as alien to the modern reader as that of Peladon or Skaro. The descriptions of torture are particularly graphic; at one point, Tlotoxyl tells Barbara that Susan will have her eyes gouged out. I might lament that the original TV version didn’t give us the chance to hear how WIlliam Hartnell might have approached a name like ‘Huitzilipochtli’ but Lucarotti’s undiluted approach makes the story all the richer. I read this novel for the first time here and we’re now entering a period where I suspect there are more books I’ve not previously read than I have.