Chapter 14. Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (1975)

Synopsis: A renegade Time Lord calling himself ‘The Master’ has followed the Doctor to Earth and as an introductory calling card he’s brought the Autons with him. The Doctor has even more trouble on his hands with a new assistant forced upon him by the Brigadier, the very keen and very newly qualified agent Jo Grant.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Terror Begins
  • 2. Sabotage at the Space Probe
  • 3. The Master Takes Over
  • 4..Death at the Plastics Factory
  • 5. The Killer Doll
  • 6. In the Hands of the Autons
  • 7. The Battle of the Forest
  • 8. The Killer Doll Attacks
  • 9. The Deadly Daffodils
  • 10. Prisoners of the Master
  • 11. The Final Assault
  • 12. The End of Round One

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ 1971 scripts.

Notes: Our introduction to Luigi Rossini (real name here is ‘Lew Ross’) presents a much more consciously obnoxious figure, employing labour of a mainly criminal type as they’re cheap and won’t risk complaining. This includes Tony the Strongman, who’s wanted by the police. Rossini manages to persuade his crew that the Doctor and Jo blew up Phillips as they were trying to steal the mob’s wages. The Auton meteorite device glows green as in The Auton Invasion, while the Master says that the plastic chair that kills McDermott is made of ‘polynestine’. The Doctor recognises the visiting Time Lord as being a member of the High Council who exiled the Doctor to Earth.

The Doctor recognises the device that the Master leaves in the cabin of the radio telescope is a ‘Volataliser’, a product of ‘The Xanthoids [who] use them for mining operations’, while the one that Jo tries to detonate in the UNIT lab is ‘a Saturnian Solar Bomb’. One of the best / nastiest additions is the revelation that the Master uses Professor Phillips to help him operate controls within his Tardis, but when he’s not on duty, he is both disguised as – and forced to work as – an actual clown, because it amuses the Master to ‘degrade a brilliant scientist into a mindless buffoon’. There’s a gap of a few days between Mr Farrel’s death and the Doctor’s visit to his wife, and the distribution of the daffodils spans a few more days too. Brownrose from the Ministry is completely removed and I didn’t even notice until just now. And of course, as the cover reveals, the description of the Nestene’s arrival is much more impressive than on TV.

Considering the Master’s crimes, the Doctor provides an insight into their race:

Once captured by the Time Lords, the Master’s life-stream would be thrown into reverse. Not only would he no longer exist, he would never have existed. It was the severest punishment in the Time Lords’ power.

The text refers to the ‘chameleon mechanism’ and ‘chameleon circuits’ for the first time in print (and ‘chameleon circuit’ won’t be said on screen until Logopolis!). There’s also a reference to a ‘Sontaran fragmentation grenade’ (the story came before their first appearance, but the novelisation was published a year after The Time Warrior aired). The Doctor makes good use of his sonic screwdriver, dismantling a bomb, opening the Auton-containing safe and trying to break into the Master’s Tardis. We’re party to the Master’s thought processes as he weighs up his options in turning against the Nestene, swayed by the Doctor’s persuasive argument – and the Brigadier’s pistol.

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes’ original cover depicts a scene that doesn’t actually happen on TV as the one-eyed crabtopus Nestene creature envelops the radio telescope and, inset, the Doctor makes a surprise entrance as the Master plays with a lever. The back cover again features an illustration, Captain Yates inspects a fallen auton carnival dummy while another soldier in silhouette takes on a horde of autons. The 1979 reprint boasts a cover by Alun Hood, again depicting the imagined Nestene but in a more photorealistic style more akin to a Pan horror book; this was the edition I first owned and I was convinced this was a photo of the prop they used (what a disappointment the TV version turned out to be!). Alan Willow provides six illustrations, all of which expand upon what we saw on TV. It’s hard to pick a favourite although I love the one of the radiotelescope technician working away as ‘A dark shape peered down at him’ – the Master, snooping through a skylight, is much more dramatic than him just stepping through a door. 

Final Analysis: Another good job by Dicks here, covering a lot of ground and adding nuance where appropriate. Jo’s previous ‘debut’ in The Doomsday Weapon is glossed over, but there’s some decent continuity between this and The Auton Invasion, including the Brigadier asking why they can’t just do what they did last time and the Doctor points out all the flaws in his previous attack plan.

Chapter 13. Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (1975)

aka Doctor Who – Robot (1992)

Synopsis: As everyone comes to terms with the appearance and behaviour of a brand new Doctor, a robot with conflicting orders is stealing parts for a super-weapon. Sarah Jane Smith investigates an elite scientific research group while new arrival Harry Sullivan tries his hand at playing James Bond.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Killer in the Night
  • 2. Something More than Human
  • 3. Trouble at Thinktank
  • 4. Robot!
  • 5. The Killer Strikes Again
  • 6. Trapped by the Robot
  • 7. The World in Danger
  • 8. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 9. The Battle at the Bunker
  • 10. The Countdown Begins
  • 11. The Kidnapping of Sarah
  • 12. The Giant Terror

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts for the 1974-5 story Robot (snatching the record from The Sea Devils for the shortest gap between broadcast and novelisation publication, at one month and three weeks).

Notes: The regeneration is a lot more involved and emotional than the simple cross-fade seen on telly. It’s told in flashback from the Brigadier’s point of view and it enables Dicks to give us a very brief history of the Brigadier’s relationships with his two previous Doctors.

Suddenly it had been all over. A new man with a new face was lying on the laboratory floor. Like, and yet unlike. Still tall and thin, still with the same rather beaky nose. But a younger man, the face far less lined, a tangle of curly brown hair replacing the flowing white locks.

The Doctor’s recovery takes much longer than on screen. The Doctor’s car, Bessie, is described as ‘an old Edwardian roadster’ (and we’ll see variations of this again over the years). On first seeing the robot, Sarah faints (no, she doesn’t, Terrance! No!). There’s a new scene where UNIT raids Thinktank only to discover they’ve already abandoned their base, while the K1 robot is attacked by RAF jets (as shown on the first cover). And at last, we experience Harry’s first reaction to being inside the Tardis!

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes ushers in a more comic-book style for this cover, which shows the K1 robot attacked by fighter planes on three sides while an inset shows the robot’s giant hand clasped around a screaming Sarah Jane – it’s very reminiscent of King Kong, of course. The logo on the cover now reflects the logo used on screen for the first time, using a version of Bernard Lodge’s design, and for this cover only, the Doctor’s face peers from the ‘O’. No internal illustrations this time, but there’s a two-panel illustration on the rear of the cover depicting the giant robot booting a UNIT jeep into the air. My first edition was the 1979 reprint with the portrait of K1 by Jeff Cummins, which dropped the rear illustration. The 1992 version used Alister Pearson’s painting for the VHS cover, with the K1 robot changing size against a lovely portrait of the Doctor.

Final Analysis: Is this the beginning of the more simplified novelisations? Not much is changed from screen to page but it all flows along nicely without expanding the story to any great degree.

Chapter 8. Doctor Who and the Daemons (1974)

Synopsis: The Master’s up to no good in an English village, posing as both a vicar and the leader of a satanic cult. The Doctor and Jo appear on TV and they take on the Master, a gargoyle and an ancient god – with the help of UNIT and a self-proclaimed white witch.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The White Witch
  • 2. The New Vicar
  • 3. The Opening of the Barrow
  • 4. The Appearance of the Beast
  • 5. The Heat Barrier
  • 6. Meetings
  • 7. Explanations
  • 8. The Second Appearance
  • 9. Into Danger
  • 10. The Third Appearance
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. Into the Cavern
  • 13. The Sacrifice
  • Epilogue

Background: Barry Letts adapts the 1971 scripts he co-wrote with Robert Sloman as ‘Guy Leopold’.

Notes: An early manifestation of Azal is much more dramatic, involving the death of the verger. Benton recalls earlier adventures with the cybermen, Axons and the daffodil-touting autons, none of which have been novelised by this point, while Jo recalls her first meeting with the Master as seen on TV but which flatly contradicts the books so far. We also get the first revelation that the Doctor and the Master were schoolfriends – and that the Doctor wasn’t a particularly keen student. The character of Stan Wilkins is new to the book, on TV he’s just a nameless acolyte in the coven who recognises that the Master is evil and tries to save Jo and the Doctor. His courage serves to make Jo’s attempted self-sacrifice all the braver.

Cover & Illustrations:  The original cover was by Chris Achilleos following the now-familiar formula of the Doctor’s face with a head-shot of Azal and a teeny Bok. Internal illustrations are by Alan Willow. There’s a lovely drawing of Jo back against an ivy-covered wall (that’s based on a photo from The Sea Devils), but Azal and Bok are both faithfully reproduced. My first cover was the 1980 reprint with a portrait by Andrew Skilleter of Azal in the cavern, while the 1993 reprint used Alister Pearson’s VHS cover, with an almost-Celtic cross that shows the Doctor and Master both in half-portrait, Azal at the top and Bok at the bottom against a sunburn-pink background.

Final Analysis: Barry Letts adapts the scripts well, so it’s surprising this is his only novelisation of a TV story (though it’s not his only entry in this blog – as you’ll find out in about 146 chapters). It enhances what was possible on telly but doesn’t elaborate vastly; the prologue is just everything that happens on TV before the Doctor appears, where Mac Hulke might have given us an insight into Azal’s arrival on Earth. Azal gets a better motivation to implode though – being both confused by Jo’s illogical actions and about to die anyway. And the lead character is referred to as ‘Doctor Who’, right at the start of the first chapter.

Chapter 7. Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks (1974)

Synopsis: A British diplomat is the target of a group of fanatical time-travelling assassins trying to change the course of their own history. An accident sees Jo catapulted into the fututre and when the Doctor follows her, he finds an Earth under the control of the Daleks.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Terror in the Twenty-Second Century
  • 2. The Man Who Saw a Ghost
  • 3. The Vanishing Guerilla
  • 4. The Ghost Hunters
  • 5. Condemned to Death!
  • 6. Prisoner of the Daleks
  • 7. Attack of the Ogrons
  • 8. A Fugitive in the Future
  • 9. Escape from the Ogrons
  • 10. Interrogation by the Daleks
  • 11. The Raid on Dalek Headquarters
  • 12. Return to Danger
  • 13. The Day of the Daleks
  • 14. All Kinds of Futures

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Louis Marx’s scripts from the 1972 serial. It’s the first novelisation to have a title the same as used on TV (although ‘The Crusaders’ comes close, the story title wasn’t used on screen). 

Notes: One of the best prologues in the range introduces the brutalised humans attempting to form a resistance. We encounter the Ogrons in a description that draws closer comparison to the gorillas from Planet of the Apes, then meet the Controller of Earth and the Black Dalek (the more senior-ranking gold leader seen on screen is introduced later). We have a solid idea of the Earth of the 22nd Century before the first frame of the televised story hits the page. When the Doctor emerges from underground in the 22nd Century, this future Earth matches how Malcolm Hulke had described it in The Doomsday Weapon: ‘Every inch of the countryside, as far as he could see, seemed to have been built up till not an inch was left…’

It’s possibly a conscious decision to only allude to those adventures of Jo that have been novelised, so we get a reference to the Doomsday Weapon and Jo’s trip to an alien world in the far future, but Jo’s relationship with the Doctor and the three main UNIT characters is much more familiar, as if she’s been with them for some time by this point. The Daleks also reference the first two Doctors, including the original visit to Skaro, even though at this point none of the second Doctor’s stories have been novelised (and his Dalek adventures wouldn’t see print for another 20 years). There are some other minor tweaks (Monia becomes Moni, Auderly House is now Austerly House and some of the minor resistance characters are given names), but the other main addition comes with the reprise of the double Doctor and Jo scene at the end, told from the vantage point of the doorway this time, which ties up the earlier scene neatly but also reminds us that the defeated Daleks were but a small unit of a much larger force, which reduces the scale of the ending somewhat.

Cover & Illustrations: The original and best cover, once again, is by Chris Achilleos – one of his all-time most dramatic, even with those weird Daleks inspired by the Sixties comics again. Neither of the reprints come close; the 80s one by Andrew Skilleter makes much of the Ogrons, while Alister Pearson’s 1991 version is fairly bland and the photo references combine the Pertwee one from the first cover and the Dalek from the second. The illustrations are some of my very favourites and include a map showing the ‘grounds and environs of Austerly House’. One of them is captioned ‘A shimmering effect filled the air around Jo’s body’ but it looks just like everyone’s impression of the Tales of the Unexpected title sequence.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks’ second novel and it continues the approach of tweaking and enhancing where possible, but that opening prologue aside, it’s otherwise a basic retelling of the TV story. Which still means it’s brilliant. In fact, even as a fan of the televised original, I have to admit I prefer the book.

… even if it’s slightly spoiled by someone pointing out to me that there’s a typo on the last page that I’ve failed to notice for over 30 years!

Chapter 4. Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (1974)

Synopsis: An alien intelligence lands on Earth and begins to establish a bridgehead for an invasion by creating an army of plastic dummies. The Doctor arrives in a new body, disoriented and without the ability to operate his TARDIS – but finds a job with the Brig’s UNIT (and usurps Liz Shaw as UNIT’s scientific adviser in the process).

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: Exiled to Earth
  • 2. The Mystery of the Meteorites
  • 3. The Man from Space
  • 4. The Faceless Kidnappers
  • 5. The Hunting Auton
  • 6. The Doctor Disappears
  • 7. The Horror in the Factory
  • 8. The Auton Attacks
  • 9. The Creatures in the Waxworks
  • 10. The Final Battle

Background: The first book written for Target and the first by Terrance Dicks, adapting Robert Holmes’ scripts for Spearhead from Space (1970). The book also introduces the Third Doctor (after a prologue recounting the final minutes of the second Doctor’s trial in The War Games), along with Liz Shaw – and reintroduces Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as a regular (even down to having him appear on the cover!).

Notes: It’s Terrance Dicks’ first novel and straight off, he describes the materialisation noise of the TARDIS (which is now in full caps and no italics!) as ‘wheezing and groaning’, a description we’ll see again. The Brigadier is given the first name ‘Alastair’ (a detail not revealed on TV until Planet of the Spiders but it appeared in print in Piccolo’s 1972 edition of The Making of Doctor Who). A few characters gain a little extra detail (Dr Henderson and his colleague at the hospital are fierce rivals, Captain Munro is called Jimmy, Seeley and his wife play a bigger part) and a few details are changed (the Auton devices are green, not pink, Channing accompanies the facsimile to kidnap General Scobie). Channing acquires a repeated description of possessing ‘handsome, regular features’ (which is better than ‘a middle-aged man with an ill-fitting wig and one huge hair poking out of his left ear’, I suppose). We’re told by Captain Munro that Corporal Forbes is an expert driver, so it’s right that he survives the car crash – but is then chopped down and flung brutally into a ditch by the Auton. There’s also a lovely flashback as Hibbert recalls how he first found the glowing green sphere and felt it possess him and build the machine that created Channing.The biggest change is the final depiction of the Nestene, which improves upon the original’s wriggling rubber tentacles somewhat:

‘A huge, many tentacled monster something between spider, crab and octopus. The nutrient fluids from the tank were still streaming down its sides. At the front of its glistening body a single huge eye glared at them, blazing with alien intelligence and hatred.’

The Doctor considers ‘reversing the polarity of the neutron flow in the dematerialisation circuit’ – two phrases that we’ll see a lot of in the future, but that ‘neutron flow’ term popped up a lot less often on TV than we might think.

Cover & Illustrations: The first Target edition had a cover and illustrations by Chris Achilleos. The cover shows the Doctor and the Brigadier with a green octopus, but the final illustration has a go at capturing that lurid description of the Nestene creature. My first edition of this was the 1982 Andrew Skilleter cover with a colourful cuttlefish, while Alister Pearson’s 1991 reprint cover is a vision in pink, with the Doctor and an auton mannequin amid a meteor shower.

Final Analysis: Terrance hits the ground running with the efficiency he’ll become famous for. Episode one spans four chapters, but the rest are covered in two chapters each. It’s all the more impressiove considering this is Dicks’ first book ever and he takes the opportunity to tweak a few things here and there, solving problems from the broadcast episodes, such as making Hibbert explain that the shop window dummies they make are called Autons, after his company, Auto Plastics (as opposed to the Doctor somehow just knowing what they’re called in a later scene in the TV version). It’s a great start to this new range.