Bonus chapter #7. Doctor Who – The Nightmare Fair (1989)

Synopsis: After surviving an encounter with The Nexus of the Primeval Cauldron of Space-Time, the Doctor and Peri arrive in Blackpool, where a visit to the famous Pleasure Beach sees them ensnared by the Celestial Toymaker. But why is the eternal villain there and what does he want with the Doctor? It can’t be anything as mundane as revenge, can it?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Nine.

Background: Graham Williams adapts his scripts for an unmade serial intended for broadcast in 1986 before the original Season 23 was cancelled.

Notes: The Doctor and Peri begin their adventure on the observation platform of the Blackpool Tower, just as the Doctor nearly promised at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. The young guest hero this time is called ‘Kevin Stoney’ [see The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen for why that’s funny] and he’s from Liverpool. The Toymaker – also referred to as The Mandarin – uses a crystal ball to observe the Doctor and other points of interest. The Doctor boasts that he has ‘shot through Black Holes’, ‘sailed through Supernovae and ‘eaten Vanarian Sun Seed Cake’ but has never experienced such a ‘magnificent’ thrill as the roller coaster; although there is a coaster in Blackpool called ‘The Roller Coaster, this one is most likely the Revolution, Europe’s first full-loup rollercoaster, which opened in 1979 and, like the Sixth Doctor, once featured in a memorable episode of a BBC wish-fulfilment entertainment show that we can’t really talk about any more. By the way, the Doctor’s also never had candy floss before; Peri pays for it with a £5 note she found in a sporran in the TARDIS wardrobe, prompting the Doctor to note that it must have been Jamie’s and he was always so careful with money [so putting aside offensive stereotypes for a second, Jamie having legal tender from the mid-1980s suggests an unseen adventure].

After hearing Kevin’s statement about seeing ‘red giants’, Detective Inspector Truscott suggests that if the lad sees any more that he directs them towards Preston North End, as they could do with the help; Preston North End’s kit at the time was white with blue piping, and the away kit was yellow and blue – but they did eventually adopt a red jersey as their main away kit for the 95-6 season. 

As in the Toymaker’s debut adventure, it’s suggested that he and the Doctor have sparred on many occasions. The Doctor took part in the Globus Wars of Independence. His pockets contain a single jelly baby and ‘the signet-ring of Rasillon’, which is ‘the most powerful single object in the known Universes. He tells Peri and Kevin that he doesn’t actually know who the Toymaker is:

‘Nobody knows. He existed before the start of Time Lord records. There was an attempt to track him back through his own continuum – trace his path through the fabric of time, but the researchers got bored with all the games, which was possibly what they were there for. As they do so often,’ he sighed, ‘my erstwhile colleagues met something they didn’t understand, and they ran away from it. If they’d been able to control him, they would have investigated further, I’m sure. But they couldn’t, so they didn’t.’ 

The Toymaker is known to be telepathic and telekinetic, ‘up to a point’, and he was once ‘observed playing with a supernova as though it was a kiddies’ paddling pool… and we know he’s old beyond imagining…’

If fact, the Doctor realises that the Toymaker is from another universe and that he carries his own matter with him – but not anti-matter – concluding that the Toymaker will live for millions of years; the Toymaker confirms that he already has done, having spent thousands of years creating and destroying civilisations until he came up with the idea of his games.  

Cover: Alister Pearson’s composition includes the Toymaker, the Blackpool Tower, a sign for Space Mountain, a miner and a fanged-and-clawed alien. The first edition featured a flash proclaiming ‘The Missing Episodes!’

Final Analysis: The whole concept of a ‘celestial’ toymaker is an archaic pun, ‘celestial’ meaning both ‘of the stars’ and ‘from China’ (a loose translation of ‘Tianchao’, the former name for the Chinese Empire). While the word might have been used to signify ‘exotic’ or mysterious qualities, it was also a racial descriptor that is now largely forgotten. As previously mentioned in (among other chapters) The Sensorites, the word ‘oriental’ can also be problematic for some. Meaning simply ‘from the East’, it’s a colonial view of the world map, positioning China solely in relation to how it appears on a British Empire map with the United Kingdom (well, let’s be honest, England) at its centre.

… and in Doctor Who, we then have the Celestial Toymaker as a Chinese-presenting character played by an English actor. While Michael Gough didn’t resort to the kind of theatrical make-up we saw in The Talons of Weng Chiang, it’s still an example of cultural appropriation – or at best cosplaying – based on a suspicion of the Chinese. How might that have seemed had this story made it to air in 1986? In a season where a story set in Singapore had a working title ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’…. you can draw your own conclusions as to how this might have played out at the time – and how it might have been received by young viewers discovering the era for themselves 36 years later. Despite spending two paragraphs discussing this issue, it’s not really something I dwell on, but it’s a handy distraction to ruminate on while trying to avoid thinking about the rest of the book.

What we have here is something that feels authentic to the period it might have been a part of had Michael Grade not stepped in and saved us. By which I mean, the Doctor is fairly unlikeable and while the adventure features a returning villain, he’s one that few of the viewers would have actually remembered and he doesn’t even act like the character as portrayed in his original appearance. The story is, like the original, a series of events rather than a plot and, sadly, it’s all a bit dull. The greatest joy comes from the Doctor’s two companions being called ‘Kevin and Peri’ in a book published a year before Harry Enfield’s teenage characters Kevin and Perry made their TV debut. All entirely coincidentally. 

To be fair, there is one scene though where Williams captures that alien quality that Colin Baker had so wanted to portray, able to comprehend the vastness of eternity:

‘The isolation of aeons,’ whispered the Doctor, overcome with compassion for the being he’d detested all his adult life. ‘The crushing loneliness of thousands of millennia… you poor, poor creature…’

Bonus chapter #5. The Companions of Doctor Who: Harry Sullivan’s War (1986)

Synopsis: It’s been ten years since Harry Sullivan left UNIT. Reluctantly awaiting a new posting to a weapons division in the outer Hebrides, Harry decides to use some leave and visit friends. Within days, he survives numerous violent attacks – someone is trying to kill him. But why? A chance meeting with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leaves Harry wondering if their reunion is just a coincidence or if he’s accidentally stumbled into something very worrying indeed…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Brush With Death
  • 2. Happy Birthday!
  • 3. The Castle 
  • 4. Persuasion 
  • 5. An Odd Weekend 
  • 6. Unexplained Mysteries
  • 7. The Amateur Investigator 
  • 8. A Human Guinea Pig 
  • 9. More Clues 
  • 10. The Chase 
  • 11. Trapped 
  • 12. The Prisoner 
  • 13. Double Bluff 
  • 14. Secrets of the Burial Mound
  • 15. Ambush
  • 16. Out On A Limb 
  • Epilogue 

Background: Ian Marter writes an original novel inspired by the character he played in the series in 1975.

Notes: Chapter 2 takes place on Harry’s 41st birthday (which, based on later information, is in May). Since leaving UNIT ten years ago, he’s been employed by the Biological Defence Establishment at Tooth Tor on Dartmoor, developing antidotes to nerve toxins. He’s unhappy that he’s being transferred to work on weapons development so decides to spend his birthday at the National Gallery, where he sees a self portrait by Van Gogh (this becomes a recurring image, for plot reasons). Introducing himself to Samantha, Harry adopts the pseudonym ‘Laury L Varnish’ – an anagram of his real name. Samantha has a ‘husky voice’, pale blue eyes, a ‘strong but pretty oval face’ and ‘curly straw-coloured hair’. She claims that her father is American and a doctor, and that she’s a member of ACHES, the ‘Anti-Chemical Hazard Environment Society’. 

Harry is six feet tall. He has a ‘spacious flat’ on the fifth floor of a 1930s apartment block in St John’s Wood (which we’re told is at the Regent’s Park end). He displays his many rugby and rowing trophies and we’re told later that he was a ‘stroke oar in the Dartmouth College Ace Eight’; this would be from the Britannia Royal Naval College – aka ‘Dartmouth’ – and not the New Hampshire, USA, college of the same name. He receives a birthday card from an old friend, Teddy Bland, who has a sister, Esther, who Harry was once very close to; he nearly proposed, but a secondment to UNIT put paid to that. Esther is ‘buxom’ and ‘red-headed’ and during his trip to Yarra, Harry learns that Esther has only ever loved him. Harry drives a red MG sportscar (mid-life crisis?). Harry’s new position sees him promoted to Surgeon-Commander. Esther notes that he no longer has the sideburns he had while with UNIT. In his early naval career, Harry was stationed on the Ark Royal. 

Brigadier ‘Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’ is said to have a ‘deep and resonant […]  precise military voice’. The Brigadier is still teaching (Senior Mathematics Master at ‘a private school in Sussex’), but his business card mentions his ‘DSO’ (Distinguished Service Order) and ‘MC’ (Military Cross). The Brigadier shares old stories with Harry of his own experiences in UNIT, not just of Sarah Jane Smith, but of ‘Jo and Sergeant Benton, about Jamie and Zoe and about the Daleks and the Cybermen and all manner of old friends and enemies’. On his flight through Scotland, Harry meets a small child who offers him a jelly baby. The sweet makes him wish the Doctor would appear to put everything right.

Harry is arrested in Trafalgar Square by an Inspector Spode (possibly a reference to the fictional publisher Erwin Spode in the Gervase Fen detective novels by Edmund Crispin). Placed in a cell in Wormwood Scrubs, his window affords him a view of the playing fields and, beyond, the church in Harrow-on-the-Hill where he was christened as a baby (not that this is mentioned at any point, but had his cell faced the opposite direction, he’d have had a lovely view of BBC Television Centre). Harry asks if ‘Sir Algernon’ might take up his case and is told he is holidaying in Bermuda; it’s a short sentence but it might bear unpacking. Sir Algernon Usborne Willis KCB DSO (17 May 1889 – 12 April 1976) was a former Admiral of the Fleet, while Bermuda was where Sir William Stephenson retired to – long believed to have been the real-life inspiration for 007. Except we later discover that this Sir Algernon has the surname ‘Flowers’, so his name is surely a nod to the Daniel Keys science fiction story Flowers for Algernon, about a laboratory mouse.

When Sarah Jane Smith visits Harry in prison, she’s said to be:

… a young woman of about thirty […] wearing a fashionable pink boiler-suit outfit with green boots, and a rainbow-coloured plastic shoulder bag [….] Her hair was brown and wavy, held back by a pair of sunglasses perched on her forehead. Her figure looked petite under her billowy clothes.

Harry and Sarah haven’t seen each other since the Zygon business (though a short story I later wrote for a Big Finish Short Trips anthology proudly contradicts this). He affectionately calls Sarah ‘old thing’; and quickly realises his mistake. Sarah is no longer living with her aunt in Croydon, having moved to Camberwell, South London. Harry confesses that he’s told many stories about Sarah to his elderly neighbour.

When Harry drops the name ‘Davros’, both Major Sawyer and George Fawcett-Smith of the Home office react with surprise that Harry knows the name. Conrad Gold’s money envelope consists of bundles of £100-notes – which means he was paying Harry with notes issues by the Royal Bank of Scotland (the highest denomination issued by the Bank of England is £50, though Fawcett-Smith asks Spode to ‘find out where these were printed’. The story concludes in September, which makes this possibly the story with the longest timespan since Marco Polo! 

Cover: David McAllister goes full Bond with an appropriately dramatic illustration of a car being chased by a helicopter while Harry Sullivan looks every bit the heroic action-movie star. It’s only the second cover to feature blood and the first to depict the author in the illustration!

Final Analysis: Let’s pretend that Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma never happened, eh? This is a stunning novel that wears its influences shamelessly (Terrance Dicks always said that greatness always steals from the best). The opening chapter lifts cheekily from the James Bond film Thunderball (and its more recent remake, Never Say Never Again), though 007 fends off the attack more successfully; a later sequence is reminiscent of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps and the three different movie adaptations (particularly the Hitchcock one); and as Gary Russell noted in his review for Doctor Who Magazine, the final chapter owes a lot to the film version of A View to a Kill – even down to Harry wearing a tuxedo – which was released the year before this was published.. It’s by no means a criticism; Harry Sullivan always wanted to play at James Bond and Marter throws his hero into an espionage story without allowing him any of the innate skills of the most celebrated spies. Right from the start, he suffers a savage attack that leaves him vulnerable and confused – and it barely lets up as he careers from one escapade to another, barely escaping alive on each occasion.

Just while we’re here – Vincent Van Goch’s art is referenced repeatedly here. There are many possible ways to pronounce his name, such as ‘van Goff’, ‘van Gock’ – and most Dutch people would say ‘Vun Goch’ – to rhyme with the Scottish ‘loch’. However, it does not rhyme with ‘Toe’ (‘Van Goe’). Ever.

Ian Marter had originally intended to kill Harry off, but was persuaded to let him survive, so instead he plays a cruel trick on us in the finale. He claimed in interviews prior to the book’s release that he hoped to write a sequel. Harry Sullivan’s War was published on 11 September 1986; Ian Marter died on 28 October the same year, on his 42nd birthday. Your humble blogger was due to interview him at a convention four days later and was stunned to hear his close friend Nicholas Courtney announce his passing at the event. I was sat on the front row of the main hall, dressed (for charity reasons) in a Sea Devil costume at the time; It hid the tears.

There were still a few of Ian’s books yet to be published, so we’ve not quite said a final goodbye to him yet, but I thought it’d be appropriate to pay tribute here. There are plenty of Target novels I’ve not read prior to this project, but this is one I return to regularly. It’s not an official one, so ‘doesn’t count’, but it’s by far and away my favourite novel by one of my absolute favourite Target authors.

Bonus Chapter #3. The Companions of Doctor Who: Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Having left the Doctor behind, Turlough returns to find his home planet changed by revolution and a despotic leader called Rehctaht. Expectations are high for this returning hero – but the young man seems more interested in visiting the planet’s many museums. Only one old friend knows the truth – that Turlough is attempting to build a time machine of his own.

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 00: Prologue
  • 01: Ace
  • 02: Duo
  • 03: Trio
  • 04: 4d
  • 05: Magic
  • 06: Mobile?
  • 07: Transport!
  • 08: New Trion On Trion
  • 09: Juras?
  • 10: Pharix
  • 11: Knave
  • 12: Queen
  • 13: King

Background: Tony Attwood writes an original novel based on the character of Turlough.

Notes: Our first original story for the range and our first introduction from an actor who played a role in the programme. Mark Strickson displays his typical modesty as he compares the character he played on TV with the more rounded version available to the reader here. We’re told a lot of the recent history of Turlough’s home planet, Trion, which had focused on the development of science and technology until their society was torn apart by revolution. A new leader emerged, in the form of Rehctaht, ‘the most dominant unforgiving woman Trion had ever known’, whose reign lasted for seven years (this was published in 1986 and the hideous despot’s name is, of course, ‘Thatcher’ backwards).

Our introduction to Turlough comes through the eyes of a tour guide and – yes! – he’s been able to ditch that school uniform at last:

He was young, barely more than a boy, perhaps twenty years old, no more; taller than average but not excessively so, and dressed more casually than was the current style, fading green trousers, a grubby white T shirt and white running shoes. There was a lean hungry look about him that reminded the guide of an ancient legend she had been read by her mother as a child. It was something about men being dangerous when they have that look…

It’s confirmed that Turlough travelled with the Doctor for two years. His family went into exile after Rehctaht came to power and many of the people who endured her reign see him, a member of one of the old ruling clans, as something of a celebrity. One time trip brings Turlough and his old friend Juras Maateh back to his old school; there’s mention of the obelisk on the hill and of the events of Mawdryn Undead that saw one of his teachers meeting his future self. He tells Juras that he never explored the Doctor’s TARDIS: ‘Why spend time running around inside a machine rather than real worlds?’

Cover: David McAllister provides a fine moody likeness of Turlough, whose head is floating above a space station (that might be very familiar to fans of the Star Trek movies) near a system of planets.

Final Analysis: Turlough was far and away the most under-written companion ever and the character relied hugely on actor Mark Strickson to make him interesting. As the first novel in a proposed new series of original novels, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma manages to capture some of the character’s moral ambiguity but sadly fails to make us care about him or his adventure. It doesn’t help that, free to emerge from the Doctor’s shadow, Turlough is paired with another eccentric Time Lord (‘the Magician’). As with Timelash, so much is told in reportage rather than illustrated through dialogue and I’m afraid the story just didn’t engage my interest at any point. We encounter a race of sentient slugs that aren’t the same sentient slugs we met in The Twin Dilemma but have a position in Trion history that seems to occupy the same space the Tractators might have done. It might appear that Tony Attwood watched one story for research – Mawdryn Undead – but there’s no mention of Turlough’s brother here, no acknowledgement of any of his life beyond his first TV adventure. 

It was, Turlough thought, like watching one of those dreadful adventures so beloved of people on Earth. Everyone knew that the hero would survive and the evil one would at least get caught, if not die. Yet despite this preknowledge the people of Earth still found it enjoyable to share in the game of watching.

Not this time, sadly.

Incidentally, in the introduction, Mark Strickson claims not to have much use for modern technology, though at this point in his life, Mark was still an actor; he retrained, becoming a hugely successful producer of nature documentaries and along the way he discovered the phenomenon that was naturalist Steve Irwin. At a two-day Doctor Who convention in Manchester in the 1990s, Mark was inundated with questions about his travels around the world. He was quite taken aback by the enthusiasm of the audience, bursting with questions about all the deadly species he’d encountered, prompting Mark to reassure the fans rather bashfully that he was more than happy to discuss Doctor Who as well. Sadly, when your guest has encountered real-life sharks, crocodiles and poisonous spiders, the Tractators lose much of their appeal.