Chapter 34. Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil (1977)

Synopsis: An expedition party on the remote planet Zeta Minor has been devastated by unexplained deaths and a rescue mission finds only one survivor. The arrival of the Doctor and Sarah provides convenient suspects for the murders, but the Doctor realises there’s another possible culprit – the planet itself…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Killer Planet
  • 2. The Probe
  • 3. Meeting with a Monster
  • 4. Tracked by the Oculoid
  • 5. The Lair of the Monster
  • 6. The Battle for the Spaceship
  • 7. The Creature in the Corridor
  • 8. Marooned in Space
  • 9. Sentenced to Death
  • 10. The Monster Runs Amok
  • 11. An Army of Monsters

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Louis Marks’ 1975 scripts.

Notes: The plaque marking the grave reads ‘Edgar Lumb’ (not Egard as on TV). We’re reminded that this follows on from The Loch Ness Monster and on leaving the TARDIS, Sarah is not ‘in the least surprised to find that they’d arrived in the middle of a particularly sinister-looking alien jungle’, which might just be a comment on Sod’s Law, but this is the first alien jungle she’s ever visited – and, on TV at least, she doesn’t visit any others!

Ponti is said to be ‘tall and dark’ (played onscreen by Gambian actor Louis Mahoney) and De Haan is a ‘stocky fair-haired’ chap (unlike the dark-haired Graham Weston on TV). The Morestran advance party are transported to Zeta Minor by ‘force beam’, disintegrated in a capsule and reassembled on the planet’s surface. The Doctor’s descent into the Black Pool is surrounded by ‘many coloured swirling currents’, while the anti-matter beast appears to resemble a dragon at many points. We learn that Vishinsky returns home to a hero’s welcome and a much-deserved promotion, while Sorenson becomes ‘the most famous scientist in the Morestran Empire’. 

Cover: The first edition has a cover by Mike Little, which again lacks the sophistication of the previous artists, showing the Doctor (inset) cowering from a fanged, snarling Anti-Man in the jungle. Andrew Skilleter uses the same photo reference of the Anti-Man for the 1982 reprint but to a much higher standard.

Final Analysis: Continuing the horror theme of this period is a mash-up of The Tempest and Stephenson’s perennial Jekyll and Hyde. Dicks takes the time to create backstories for Vishinsky (overlooked for promotion but very experienced) and Salamar (ambitious with friends in high places, but under-qualified) that really enhance the characterisation. Other than this though, it’s a fairly consistent adaptation from screen to page.

Chapter 33. Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius (1977)

Synopsis: The planet Karn is home to a secret Sisterhood who administer a sacred flame that can provide the secret to everlasting life. It’s also home to Dr Solon, a scientist with a very singular purpose – the resurrection of a Time Lord war criminal called Morbius. Only his brain survives, but Solon, with the help of his brutish servant Condo, has fashioned a monstrous new body to house the brain. All it needs is a compatible head – and the Doctor and Sarah have just dropped in for a visit…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Graveyard of Spaceships
  • 2. The Keepers of the Flame
  • 3. The Horror Behind the Curtain
  • 4. Captive of the Flame
  • 5. Sarah to the Rescue
  • 6. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 7. Solon’s Trap
  • 8. The Doctor Makes a Bargain
  • 9. The Monster Walks
  • 10. Monster on the Rampage
  • 11. Deathlock!
  • 12. A Time Lord Spell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts, which were hurried rewrites of scripts by Robert Holmes and broadcast in 1976 under the name ‘Robin Bland’.

Notes: The alien in the first scene is not specifically a ‘Mutt’ from The Mutants, but is identified as Kriz, a member of ‘The Race’, who are six-limbed mutant insects who ‘colonise, not conquer’ as they are a moral species, led by a ‘Great Mother, Goddess and Queen in one’. 

The sisterhood are dressed in black, not various shades of red as on screen. Maren uses a crystal ball. She enjoys immortality like the rest of the Sisterhood, but when they first discovered the secret of the flame, she was already old – hence why she looks ancient. Solon has made many clay busts of Morbius, destroying each one for not being right (yet he feels enthusiastic about his body for Morbius; maybe he just can’t draw fingers…).

The mind-wrestling battle skims over the other faces on the screen (you know the ones) without explanation, merely covered by Sarah having ‘a confused impression of even more faces on the screen’. Read after the events of The Timeless Children, it’s handy that Dicks saw not to lock down the identities of those other faces one way or the other. 

Cover: New artist Mike Little has a large portrait of the Fourth Doctor (using a photo reference from Robot) with Solon facing down the Morbius creature, all three outlined with a thick red line and electrical crackle (the red is dropped for later reprints). It’s a bit… basic compared to earlier efforts. The 1991 reprint cover used Alister Pearson’s gorgeously moody VHS cover, which shows the Doctor (as seen in Seeds of Doom) plus Solon, Maren, Sarah and the Morbius creature.

Final Analysis: It’s surely just a coincidence, or maybe just a product of the era being adapted, but Terrance Dicks follows Ian Marter’s debut with another horror novel. Considering the original script that Dicks wrote differed greatly from what became The Brain of Morbius, he resists the temptation to make sweeping changes to Robert Holmes’s transmitted version. What we get is a straightforward but sombre adaptation, not shying away from the more visceral descriptions, yet not quite reaching the levels of violence we enjoyed with Marter.

Chapter 32. Doctor Who and the Ark in Space (1977)

Synopsis: In the distant future, shielded from a long-past disaster, the entire population of Earth lies asleep in a wheel-shaped space-station. When the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive at the station, they discover that its inhabitants have overslept due to interference from an invading alien insect – a Wirrrn. As the parasite grows, it threatens not just the lives of the waking senior crew of the station, but the entire human race…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: The Intruder
  • 1. The Second Invasion
  • 2. Sarah Vanishes
  • 3. Sabotage!
  • 4. A Fatal Wound
  • 5. The Wirrrn
  • 6. Time Running Out
  • 7. A Tight Squeeze
  • 8. A New Beginning

Background: Ian Marter adapts Robert Holmes’ 1975 scripts. He was the first and, to date, only actor to novelise a story he was in. 

Notes: Yes – Wirrrn! Marter gives the Wirrrn an extra ‘r’ as well as much more flexibility than their TV counterparts; the first invader Wirrrn is able to arch ‘its segmented tail up over its head’ as it grips ‘ the cables in its huge claw and sever[s] them cleanly with a single slice.’ Later, the Doctor suggests the Wirrrn grub might be a ‘multi-nucleate organism’ to explain how it passed through a grill. When Harry and the Doctor find the dessicated husk of the Wirrrn Queen in the cupboard, Marter gives us an interesting description of the insect:

He stared at the enormous ‘insect’ which lay crumbling at his feet. The surface of its segmented body was a glossy indigo colour; here and there were patches of twisted and blackened tissue, like scorched plastic. The six tentacular legs bristled with razor-sharp ‘hairs’. The creature’s octopus head contained a huge globular eye on each side, and each eye was composed of thousands of cells in which Harry saw himself reflected over and over again. The creature was fully three metres long from the top of its domed head to the tip of the fearsome pincer in which its tail terminated.

On arrival, Sarah is wearing a denim trouser suit and woolly hat, similar to items she wore during Robot on TV. In the prologue, the Ark is not in orbit around the Earth but in the outer reaches of the solar system [as it also is in Revenge of the Cybermen]. The autoguard is renamed an ‘Organic Matter Detector Surveillance System’ – or OMDSS – and the space station is renamed ‘Terra Nova’ (was the Ark expected to reach New Earth??). The Ark includes full-sized blue whales, elephants and palm trees. The support struts contain moving walkways, leading to the outer ring. Vira is over two metres tall with short, dark hair, while Noah is ‘a tall, slim but powerful man with short black hair and a trim beard.’

The Doctor’s journey to the solar plasma cells reveals a multitude of tacky, silver trails across every surface. The gestating Wirrrn lie somewhere high up above the catwalks of the solar stacks in the form of ‘clusters of pustular matter’. On her tight-squeezed journey through the ducts of the space station, Sarah reaches a clear section where she’s attacked by a Wirrrn. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry depart in the TARDIS, not via the transmat booths.

Cover: Chris Achilleos’s final cover for the range is a simple design, with the Doctor looking worried inset while a Wirrrn dominates the frame (which is bordered in the same yellow as Carnival of Monsters). The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson has the same Nerva wireframe border motif as Revenge of the Cybermen, with a Wirrrn centre and a second, smaller Wirrrn in the foreground, making the perspectives look off. Perhaps this would have been better to have a semi-converted Noah, or a Wirrrn grub in the foreground instead? A 2012 BBC Books edition reuses an edited version of the original Achilleos cover, placing the Wirrrn and the Doctor on a white background to match the new house style.

Final Analysis: As mentioned in the introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. I might have seen it at the time (I was definitely watching the series by the time of the repeat of Planet of the Spiders) but my main memory comes from this novel – and then pirate videotapes that were circulating in the mid-1980s. Ian Marter brings a joyful flavour of pulp horror to this, which – considering this adaptation predates Alien, The Thing, The Fly etc – makes me wonder what his influences were: HP Lovecraft, is an obvious one; maybe R. Chetwynd-Hayes or Guy N Smith’s Night of the Crabs? It’s a definite conscious step towards horror fiction here though, and not even a child-friendly version either. 

The prologue details the first intrusion by a Wirrrn with foreboding (while an announced ‘second invasion’ turns out to be the Doctor, Sarah and Harry) and the bubble-wrap grub from TV becomes an amorphous ‘glob’ that drips from the ceilings and sparks with energy. Noah’s transformation is particularly gruey:

… with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material. 

I’m not giving stars or scores for these books, but this one really feels like it’s elevating an already excellent story. This Marter bloke is one to watch out for…

Chapter 29. Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom (1977)

Synopsis: Researchers in the Antarctic uncover two alien pods. One of them germinates, infecting one of the researchers and transforming him into a murderous plant-like creature. The other pod is stolen and transported to the home of an eccentric British millionaire – the amateur botanist Harrison Chase. When the second pod also finds a victim, the Doctor and Sarah must try to prevent the resulting creature from reaching maturity and destroying all animal life on Earth.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Mystery under the Ice
  • 2. Death Stalks the Camp
  • 3. Hunt in the Snow
  • 4. Sabotage!
  • 5. Betrayal
  • 6. A Visit to Harrison Chase
  • 7. Condemned to Die
  • 8. The Krynoid Strikes
  • 9. Siege
  • 10. The Plants Attack
  • 11. Trapped!
  • 12. The Final Assault

Background: Philp Hinchcliffe adapts the 1976 serial by Robert Banks Stewart.

Notes: The Doctor wears his red velvet coat (his first one, the one many people assume is corduroy – don’t @ me) rather than the grey tweed from TV. Sarah has been the Doctor’s ‘special assistant’ for two years.

The Krynoid pod’s tendril snakes up ‘a few feet in the air’ before finding Winlett. The Krynoid in the Antarctic turns quickly into the large, shapeless blob of vegetable matter (on screen it remains human shaped). Chase has ‘a considerable private army’ and a large staff of botanists, not just Keeler. Amela Ducat’s involvement beyond her first scene is completely removed. The final scene sees Sarah (not the Doctor) invite Sir Colin for a trip and the civil servant watches from a window as the pair enters the TARDIS and disappears. We don’t see them return to Antarctic as on TV.

Cover: Achilles gives us the Doctor and Sarah in monochrome, flinching as the giant adult krynoid absorbs Harrison Chase’s mansion while under fire from an explosive airstrike.

Final Analysis: It’s difficult to know whether Terrance Dicks would have retained Amelia Ducat’s involvement in the main story, but I’d like to think so. Hinchcliffe opts to cut this and while it’s one of the easiest threads to dispose of, it’s a shame as Ducat is such a lovely character. That one crime aside, he pares down the six-part story really well, maintaining the growing level of crisis throughout. There’s a particularly strong moment where we gain an insight into Chase’s state of mind even before the Krynoid takes hold: 

Chase was physically repelled by people. He reduced contact with them to the bare minimum; hence the black gloves to avoid touching them, and the elaborate safety precautions surrounding the house to stop them getting in. Apart from his immediate entourage he was a recluse, known only by name to the outside world. But within the high walls of his own domain Chase had created a different world—a luxuriant, peaceful world of green – a world in which, for moments at least, he could pretend to shed his human guise and commune with his beloved plants.

A solid first effort from Hinchcliffe though, looking forward to more from him.

Chapter 27. Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars (1976)

Synopsis: A vision of a monstrous face in the time vortex leads the Doctor and Sarah to the home of Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist. Scarman has disappeared and his brother has come to the house looking for answers. But Marcus Scarman is dead, his body now used like some cruel toy by an ancient evil – the god of Death known as Sutekh.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Terror is Unleashed
  • 2. The Mummy Awakes
  • 3. The Servents of Sutekh
  • 4. The Return of Marcus Scarman
  • 5. The World Destroyed…
  • 6. The Mummies Attack
  • 7. The Doctor Fights Back
  • 8. ‘I am Sutekh!’
  • 9. In the Power of Sutekh
  • 10. A Journey to Mars
  • 11. The Guardians of Horus
  • 12. The Weapon of the Time Lords
  • Epilogue

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1975 serial attributed to Stephen Harris, but which was rewritten by Robert Holmes from an original submission by Lewis Greifer.

Notes: Yes! A prologue that lays out the history of Sutekh’s battle with 740 Osirians (not Osirans) and his imprisonment for thousands of years. Marcus Scarman’s discovery of Sutekh’s tomb is also a little more detailed (when Ahmed flees the tomb, Scarman dismisses him as a ‘Superstitious savage’!).  Ibrahim Namin is the High Priest of the Cult of the Black Pyramid and his knowledge of the great writings of his people, which warn that the Great Pyramid must never be opened, but when he finds the pyramid desecrated by Scarman, Namin encounters Sutekh, who convinces him that it is part of the plan. We’re then presented with Namin’s journey to England and the reactions of the locals, including Dr Warlock and Scarman’s brother, to his arrival at the manor house.

The Doctor remembers Victoria and Dicks provides a little context there, as we’re given a potted history of the Doctor’s involvement with UNIT and Sarah’s recognition that he’s had other companions before her. Later on, Sarah tells Lawrence Scarman that she’s from ‘the future’ – so none of the ‘1980’ stuff that’s caused nightmares for fans and Peter Grimwade ever since. As Sarah sees the image of Sutekh, it’s accompanied by ‘a deep discordant organ-note’ – foreshadowing Namin’s playing in the next scene. How cool is that? Sarah can hear Dudley Simpson’s music just as clearly as we can!

The epilogue reveals that Sarah (presumably after she has left the TARDIS for the last time) has managed to find a local newspaper report of the blaze that destroyed the priory. The article details the huge loss of life, simultaneously explaining away the coincidence of the Scarman brothers, their friend Dr Warlock, the local poacher and Ibrahim Namin, a guest at the house, together in one place. The report concludes that Lawrence Scarman’s many technological devices installed throughout the house may have been the cause of the fire. Sarah recognises that somehow a natural explanation was found to explain away the disaster, but that the sacrifices of so many people there had ensured that she could be safe in her own time, at the end of the Twentieth Century.

Cover: A fairly simple Achilleos cover for the first edition, featuring portraits of the Doctor and a fierce-looking Sarah (wielding a rifle) as a servo-Mummy fills the centre of the frame. Andrew Skilleter’s 1982 cover shows three Mummies in front of an enlarged generic Egyptian death mask. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover is the best of the lot as the Doctor is framed within a triangle, flanked by the black-garbed servant of Sutekh and a Mummy, while Sutekh himself dominates the lower half of the cover, all against a background of Mars emanating some weird slit-scan-like rays.

Final Analysis: A very tidy adaptation as Dicks adds minimal details at the beginning and end to help things along. One particular neat addition is that he explains Sarah’s unnerving ability to recall details that the Doctor (and the audience) might need to know; in this case, she researched an article on Egyptology some years before and some of the details have stayed with her. Thanks, Terrance!

Chapter 23. Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks (1976)

Synopsis: The planet Skaro has been a battleground for generations as two races fight for supremacy. Deep beneath the planet’s surface, the chief scientist of the Kaleds, Davros, has determined the final outcome of his race and has planned for their future – as Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are sent by the Time Lords to avert the creation of the Daleks – but do they really have the right to commit genocide?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Secret Mission
  • 2. Prisoners of War
  • 3. The Secret Weapon
  • 4. Rocket of Doom
  • 5. Escape to Danger
  • 6. Betrayal
  • 7. Countdown to Destruction
  • 8. Captives of Davros
  • 9. Rebellion!
  • 10. Decision for the Doctor
  • 11. Triumph of the Daleks
  • 12. A Kind of Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts.

Notes: The story follows on from The Sontaran Experiment with the time travellers expecting to be back at Space Station Nerva [but see The Ark in Space and The Sontaran Experiment for how that doesn’t match the book universe]. Sarah recalls her first encounter with the Daleks on the planet of the Exxilons [See Death to the Daleks in 20 books’ time]  The Doctor  has time to explain the Time Lords’ mission to Sarah and Harry before they’re attacked and endure a more protracted battle on their first approach to the Kaled dome. There’s a little extra information about how Davros came to look the way he does:

Harry Sullivan looked at Davros in horror. ‘What happened to the poor devil?’

‘An atomic shell struck his laboratory during a Thal bombardment,’ whispered Ronson. ‘His body was shattered, but he refused to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.’

A group of Thal soldiers are noted to be blond (as in the earlier stories, even though that was a product of their full cycle of mutation). Sevrin is a giant with agility like an ape, while Bettan has ‘an important official position’ and is responsible for the victory celebrations planned after the end of the war. Davros’s office looks down onto the laboratory, which gives the Doctor and his chums a better view of events than the small monitor they had on TV. As Davros is exterminated by the Daleks, his chair explodes into flames. The new Dalek leader, while announcing their mission statement, decrees that they shall build their own city [a reference to the first Dalek story?]. Sevrin sees the time travellers disappear (and Sarah waves him goodbye before the trio vanishes).

Cover: Achilleos gives the first edition a deceptively simple design as Davros (in a brown tunic) owns the centre while a Dalek lurks at the rear and the Doctor is inset and sepia as if on a screen. Alister Pearson gives the 1991 reprint a similarly plain cover, with the Doctor emerging through the fog as Davros enters, stage left.

Final Analysis: Matching the TV story, the tone of this adaptation is a leap away from the rompy fun of its predecessors. This is grim from the first scene and there’s barely any concession to a younger audience. Maybe it’s the quality of Terry Nation’s scripts (or Dicks’s friendship with the script editor who oversaw then), but considering the TV version has possibly the highest number of exterminations in a story up to this point, Dicks doesn’t shy away from any of it, and even goes into detail and singles out a few individuals for their personal experience of ‘Death by Dalek’. Even the Dalek incubation room benefits from a little extra groo, as Dicks paints a picture of glass tanks containing ‘ghastly-shaped creatures twisted and writhed in agitation, while in the darker corners of the room other monstrosities cowered away timidly’.

As if this couldn’t be more perfect, we get another chapter called ‘Escape to Danger’. Yay!

Chapter 22. Doctor Who – The Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

aka Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

Synopsis: A new asteroid has arrived in the solar system and the Nerva Station has been positioned in its orbit to warn spacefarers and examine its geological makeup. The majority of the beacon’s crew has been struck down with a lethal plague, clues to the cause of which appear to focus on one man. He knows that the nearby asteroid is really the remains of the lost planet of Voga, one of the casualties of the last Cyber-War. He also knows that the Cybermen have come to hunt down and destroy the Vogans and anyone who stands in their way. Including three new arrivals to the beacon called the Doctor, Sarah and Harry. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1. Return to Peril
  • 2. The Cybermat Strikes
  • 3. A Hot Spot for the Doctor
  • 4. A Visit to Voga
  • 5. Rebellion!
  • 6. Attack of the Cybermen
  • 7. The Living Bombs
  • 8. Journey into Peril
  • 9. Countdown on Voga
  • 10. Explosion!
  • 11. Skystriker!
  • 12. ‘The Biggest Bang in History’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Gerry Davis’s scripts for the 1975 serial. The first edition cover was just titled ‘The Revenge of the Cybermen’, switching to the familiar ‘Doctor Who and the…’ formula for the reprint.

Notes: The opening chapter is a word-for-word repeat of the Creation of the Cybermen passage, minus the bit about them settling on Mondas. As the Doctor and his chums arrive on the beacon, Harry reflects on his adventures since meeting the Doctor, from their first meeting [in The Giant Robot] to their most recent destination [in Genesis of the Daleks, which is, strangely, scheduled to be published next]. The cybermat’s description is closer to a Tomb or Wheel in Space version than the killer slipper from Revenge. The Vogans are described as having ‘dark-furred faces’ with’ large and luminous’ eyes, as if someone slipped Dicks a photo of Vega Nexos by mistake. Vorus is apparently tall and physically imposing in comparison to other Vogans (unlike the sleight David Collings who played him on TV). The Vogan radio operator works in a communications room, rather than in a cavern. Lester and Stevenson carry sci-fi-sounding ‘blasters’ instead of standard-issue machine guns. When Harry triggers the rockfall, the Doctor calls him an ‘idiot’, not an ‘imbecile’.

The Cybermen are apparently over seven feet tall. The description matches the look of the Cybermen in The Invasion; mounted in their helmets they have a lamp, which glows when receiving instructions, rather than a gun, and they carry rod-shaped weapons [as in The Tenth Planet novel]. A ‘second-in command’ refers to one of their number as a ‘Cyberwarrior’ (is this where that class comes from in Ascension of the Cybermen?). Magrik survives to the end. Finally, there’s an extra scene on board the TARDIS where the Doctor, Sarah and Harry see the exact point on Earth where the Brigadier’s summons is coming from – Loch Ness!

Cover: Nice, simple cover here for the first edition as Achilleos combines a photo reference of Tom Baker from The Sontaran Experiment with a quite passive-looking Cyberman and Vogan and a familiar Achilleos blobby nebula. The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is more simple, reusing a Nerva Beacon wireframe motif he used on his cover for The Ark in Space, with portraits of the Cyberleader and Vorus.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks falls into the trap that so many writers do when describing the thought processes of ’emotionless’ creatures, in forgetting they, er, don’t have emotions; ‘The Cyberleader paused to savour the horror on Sarah’s face’, he writes, and later ‘The Cyberleader looked with satisfaction on his scanner’ and ‘Confidently the Cyberleader intoned…’ which seem to capture Christopher Robbie’s performance more than the concept of emotionless cybernetic beings. Despite this (and it’s an easy temptation), Dicks gives us a fairly unembellished adaptation, capturing Sarah and Harry very well.

Chapter 19. Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1993)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Sarah return to Earth to discover that London has been evacuated due to a spate of dinosaurs appearing and disappearing across the city. While the Doctor goes monster hunting, Sarah uncovers a conspiracy that implicates some very surprising people.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. London Alert!
  • 2. ‘Shoot to Kill!’
  • 3. The Time Eddy
  • 4. The Timescoop
  • 5. Monster in Chains
  • 6. The Spaceship
  • 7. The Reminder Room
  • 8. Escape!
  • 9. Operation Golden Age
  • 10. The Final Countdown

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his 1974 scripts for Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Notes: An opening scene is added, introducing Shughie McPherson, a football fan from Glasgow who wakes up in an evacuated London and is killed by a dinosaur. The Doctor and Sarah find a cafe and discover the food’s rotten, while the Doctor is aghast that he’s taken Sarah around time and space but she gets really excited by the sight of a Woolworths (and later he points out a Wimpy’s too); this hints that they’ve had adventures since The Time Warrior but this is their first time together back on modern-day Earth. 

Infamously, Butler has a ‘livid scar’ on his face, so that Hulke can make him easy to identify without spelling out who he is – very inventive (he could hardly say ‘a man who looked just like Martin Jarvis’, although that would have added a little extra fun to the audiobook). It also serves to humanise him when Sarah cruelly attacks him for choosing to be ‘ugly’ only to learn that he got the scar while serving as a fire officer saving the life of a child (and Sarah quickly apologises for being so callous). There’s no weird new car for the Doctor; instead, he borrows a motorcycle as the best way to get around London (which all feels much more logical and in keeping for this Doctor).

As he watches the Doctor on a TV monitor, Professor Whitaker comments that the intruder is ‘terribly handsome’, which seems to be an addition inspired by the casting of the role onscreen, but it does add an extra dimension to him (on paper, he’s extra-arrogant and driven by the glory of proving wrong a load of people who might not ever exist if he succeeds!). The story has a new conclusion where the Doctor shows Sarah a passage in Ezekiel that describes where Professor Whitaker and Grover might have ended up.

Cover: Best cover artwork ever. It’s just so lurid and melodramatic and sums up the vast differences between the TV version and the imagination of a child who’s read the book (and I do love both). The cheeky “KKLAK!” really makes it. Having stood in the living room of the person who owns the original art, I marvelled at the beauty of it and had criminal thoughts. The first edition I read was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing a dinosaur standing on the lower steps at St Pauls (those ones we remember the Cybermen descending in The Invasion). Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 rerelease (as Invasion of the Dinosaurs) shows the Doctor with his weird device and a tyrannosaurus rex, with a very subtle incorporation of the London Underground logo in a manner that might be familiar to fans of Jurassic Park. It also solidifies Pearson’s record as the only artist to provide cover art for all of the novelisations in three entire seasons of stories.

Final Analysis: This has long been one of my favourites, ever since I picked up on a character having ‘badly bitten fingernails’, while Professor Whitaker’s are ‘well-polished’. That kind of subtle detail really jumped out at me at aged eight and it still does many years later. Hulke’s eagerness to give a balanced view of his worlds extends to showing us how a stegosaurus reacts to being shot at on Hampstead Heath and I’m not even going to make a joke about that or point out that dinosaurs and mammals didn’t really hang out together in the past.

Just a few additional lines to Mark and Adam on the ‘spaceship’ also help to flesh them out a bit and make them more rounded. Adam concludes that Grover is ‘a raving lunatic’ but Sarah counters that the politician knows exactly what he’s doing. Mark rounds on Ruth because, confronted with the evidence against Grover, she still supports him because she ‘can’t stand being made a fool of! You must never be wrong!’

it all helps to sell the underlying message: As with The Cave Monsters, the title has a double meaning as there’s more than one kind of dinosaur in Westminster; there’s also the type who can’t let go of ancient history and wants to drag us all back with them to a time that never really existed. Thanks in part to the actual dinosaurs being much more realistic and thrilling on the page than on screen, plus some deeper characterisation that helps us understand who these people are, this really might be the best Target novel so far. Trust me.

Chapter 18. Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons (1993)

Synopsis: Oil rigs are being attacked off the coast of Scotland and the Brigadier summons the Doctor to help out. As the Doctor goes on a monster hunt, Harry and Sarah find something sinister under Loch Ness.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Death from the Sea
  • 2. Murder on the Shore
  • 3. The Zygons Attack
  • 4. A Trap for the Doctor
  • 5. The Sleeping Village
  • 6. The Monster on the Moor
  • 7. Hunt for a Zygon
  • 8. A Visit to the Duke
  • 9. The Secret of Forgill Castle
  • 10. Plan for Conquest
  • 11. Escape!
  • 12. Monster in the Thames

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Banks Stewart’s scripts for the 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons.

Notes: During the attack on the Bonnie Prince Charlie rig, we’re told that the radio operator’s name is ‘Jock Munro’. We get the deleted scene of the TARDIS outer shell disappearing after it lands and a brief bit of chat with the Duke where Sarah, sat in the back of his landrover, discovers a stuffed stag’s head under a tarpaulin. UNIT Corporal Palmer makes a reappearance (he’s an unnamed corporal in the TV episodes). The Zygon that Sarah first encounters is ‘a squat, powerful figure about the size of a small man:

Orange-green in colour, it had small, claw-like hands and feet. There was no neck: the big high-domed head seemed to grow directly from the bulbous torso. The face was terrifyingly alien, with huge, malevolent green eyes and a small, puckered mouth. A row of protuberances ran down its back. The really horrible thing about the creature was that it seemed to be a parody of the human form. It looked like a grotesque, evil baby.

Once Sarah and the Doctor are trapped in the decompresison chamber, the Zygon formerly known as Sister Lamont uses a comunications device to inform Broton (with ‘a note of gloating triumph in its voice’) that ‘The Doctor and the human female will soon be dead’. The Doctor’s encounter with the Skarasen on Tulloch Moor takes place at night. Although this is almost seen on telly, it’s made much clearer that zygons can sting when in their ‘proper form’, either to hurt or fatally wound (and they do both here – Angus is kiled while Harry and the Doctor are only stunned). The Brigadier and Sarah add sugar and milk to The Fox Inn’s porridge but the Doctor has it with salt, a taste he acquired ‘during the Jacobite rebellion’. Although Madra, the Zygon who impersonates Harry, is named, the one who poses as Sister lamont is not (she’s something that sounds like ‘Orla’ on TV). Oh and the Prime Minister who the Brigadier speaks to is identified as male.

Cover & Illustrations: It’s frustrating because in my mind, the artwork I want to see was that Radio Times piece by Frank Bellamy. This one’s okay, with the Skarasen looking fierce and the Zygon leaning into the centre, but the Doctor likeness reminds me too much of Eric Idle and the background is a little Looney Tunes.  Might be heresy but I much prefer the Alister Pearson 1993 reprint where Broton’s face merges with the background, a sombre Doctor looks very smart in his Scottish get-up and the Sister Lamont Zygon (going on the publicity photo it references) stands full-length.

Final Analysis: Broton appears more of a frustrated administrator in this version, furious at his subordinates. Dicks’s description of a Zygon as ‘a grotesque, evil baby’ is spot on although he insists on describing a ‘claw-shaped hand’ that’s a lot less enticing than what we actually see on TV. Bonus points for explaining that zygons have stings, which is not really clear on screen.

The Zygons are among my earliest memories of the TV show and, as mentioned in the introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. 

Chapter 16. Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders (1975)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s adventures come back to haunt him as a stolen gem from Metebelis Three triggers ‘the most dangerous adventure of his life’. The Doctor’s greed for adventure and knowledge is matched by the greed for power of the Eight-Legs and their leader, the Great One. And none of them will survive this one… 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: The Mystery of the Crystal
  • 1. The Menace at the Monastery
  • 2. The Deadly Experiment
  • 3. The Coming of the Spider
  • 4. The Chase for the Crystal
  • 5. The Council of the Spiders
  • 6. Arrival on Metebelis Three
  • 7. Prisoner of the Spiders
  • 8. The Doctor Hits Back
  • 9. In the Lair of the Great One
  • 10. Return to Earth
  • 11. The Battle with the Spiders
  • 12. The Last Enemy
  • Epilogue: An End and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Sloman (and Barry Letts, uncredited) from 1974.

Notes: Another lovely prologue that I wish we’d seen on TV as Professor Jones and his new bride encounter resistance in their trek across the Amazon forests. Jo Jones, formerly Jo Grant of UNIT, has to ditch a huge blue crystal that the Doctor gave her as a wedding present. There’s a Dr Sweetman working as UNIT’s medical officer today [but see The Giant Robot]. The soldier on guard at UNIT HQ gets a name (Corporal Hodges). We also find out that four of Lupton’s gang were hospitalised with nervous breakdowns, while the Brigadier helps Sarah to get Tommy into university.

Cover: ‘Read the last exciting adventure of DR WHO’s 3rd Incarnation!’ screams the back cover. On the front, Peter Brookes gives us the Doctor reacting to Sarah with the Queen Spider on her back, along with a montage of the Doctor changing face that’s much more dramatic than we get on telly. There are no illustrations inside but there’s one on the back cover of a spider crawling across a mandala. I had the 1978 reprint with an Alun Hood cover depicting a blue crystal and a red-backed tarantula clambering over some rocks. The 1991 reprint with art by Alister Pearson shows a haunted portrait of Pertwee reflected in the blue crystal and another tarantula-like arachnid reared to attack.

Final Analysis: My earliest memory is of Planet of the Spiders, where a spider appearing on a carpet after some men chant ‘Um Andy Pandy Um’ (I know what they chant now, of course!), so this holds a special relevance for me. This is a decent adaptation with some lovely additions to the thought processes of the characters. Dicks captures Sarah’s voice particularly well (although once again, he has her fainting!) and he adds greatly to our understanding of Lupton and his bitterness. We also benefit from a much more thrilling – and logical – version of the very padded chase sequence.