Synopsis: A giant robot created by evil scientists stalks through the night, smashing everything in its path, while the Doctor recovers from changing his body. It’s the same plot as Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, but much, much faster!
Almost identical to the original novel, apart from an edit to chapter two.
1. Killer in the Night
2. More than Human
3. Trouble at Thinktank
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 rewrites his previous adaptation of the story for ages 5-8.
Notes: The whole story is streamlined down to very simple descriptions and dialogue. Harry’s entire James Bond subplot is reduced down to two lines before he’s knocked out (and he calls the Brigadier on a radio rather than finding a telephone). The story ends with the Doctor watching as the robot turns to rust and is blown away. He muses whether he can tempt Sarah off on another adventure – but there’s no mention of Harry joining them.
Cover & Illustrations: The cover by Harry Hants has a slightly caricatured Tom Baker with a very detailed side-on view of K1 and an army truck. Peter Edwards provides 46 line illustrations that aren’t exactly flattering to their subjects but are still better likenesses of the guest cast than most of the early Target books had (they’re reminiscent of the kind of illustrations Terrence Greer used to do for Penguin, or it might remind modern adult readers of the grotesque characters in BBC Three’s animated comedy Monkey Dust). There’s a joyful picture of the Doctor emerging with a beaming grin from the TARDIS in a Viking outfit, while the scene of the virus being flung at the robot is gleefully epic. Kettlewell is, surprisingly, more refined than on telly, a bespectacled bald man, lacking the TV version’s crazy hair.
Final Analysis: Writing for younger children, Dicks manages to get all the details lined up in the correct order and rushes through the story with lots of energy. As the original novel was also the first not to have any illustrations, Peter Edwards’ ink drawings are a real treat that really help to tell the story rather than just break up the text.
Synopsis: Trapped under a rockfall after an explosion, Sarah Jane reaches out for help and grabs a hand-shaped object – but it is not the Doctor’s. While Sarah recovers at a nearby hospital, the Doctor discovers that the object Sarah found, though made of stone, appears to have once been ‘alive’. His theory is soon proven correct when Sarah, under a malevolent influence, breaks into a nuclear power station and places the hand inside the reactor – where it regenerates into the alien Eldrad. Free from Eldrad’s control, Sarah accompanies the Doctor as he returns the alien home to Kastria – unaware that this will be Sarah’s final trip…
1. The Fossil
2. The Ring of Power
3. Power Source
4. The Will of Eldrad
5. Eldrad Must Live
9. The Return of Eldrad
10. Return to Kastria
11. The Caves of Kastria
12. Eldrad Reborn
13. Eldrad’s Destiny
14. Sarah’s Farewell
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1976 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
Notes: Although the prologue covers much of the same ground as the TV story’s first scene, it’s actually possible to understand what’s being said by the characters here! There’s a lovely description of the captured Eldrad lying in the capsule, totally still except for a flexing hand with a ring on it. And of course, when the capsule explodes, it’s that hand that survives and gets embedded in primeval mud ‘for one hundred and fifty million years’. The Doctor sees an overhang in the cliff face, which is what protects them from the explosion. He uses his UNIT connections to regain access to the quarry, where the foreman, Tom Abbott, has moved his police box to a safe area.
According to Dr Carter, Sarah is wearing ‘a striped overall dress’, not the ‘Andy Pandy’ suit. Professor Watson’s first name is Owen and he has a handgun in case of terrorist attacks, for which he’s had half-an-hour’s training (reminder to American readers: Someone having access to a gun is extremely unusual in the UK). He decides to patiently listen to his daughter’s story on the phone, in case her last memory of her father might be his shouting at her. The disembodied hand tries repeatedly to leap up and grab the handle to the reactor but eventually gives up to gather its strength. Watson gives Sarah and the Doctor a lift in his Jag away from the complex towards a hill several miles away (so, not in the car park like on telly). When the Doctor drives off in Watson’s car with Sarah and Eldrad, Watson is left behind to explain the situation on the phone to a government minister. The Doctor pretends to be hurt to trick Sarah into crossing the ravine on Kastria – twice!
Cover: Roy Knipe rejigs a publicity photo from Planet of Evil to show the Doctor and Sarah cowering under the huge shadow of a clawed hand.
Final Analysis: Aside from a few lines of clarification, this is a simple retelling of the story, but it still manages to draw the reader in. It helps to be a fan of the transmitted version, so we can imagine the actors in position, and perhaps because of familiarity, I still got choked up by the final scene.
Synopsis: Arriving on the surface of the Earth, thousands of years since the planet was abandoned, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find a small party of explorers hiding in terror from a mechanical hunter. The machine has captured other members of the party and taken them off across the rocky terrain. Hidden among the rocks is a Sontaran with a sinister mission – and Sarah is about to become his next victim.
2. Unknown Enemies
4. The Experiment
5. Mistaken Identities
6. The Challenge
7. Duel to the Death
8. A Surprise and a Triumph
Background: Adapted by Ian Marter, based on the 1975 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This completes the run of stories for Season 12.
Notes: Consistent with his new ending to The Ark in Space, Ian Marter has our heroes arrive in the TARDIS – which lands before toppling over. As soon as the three travellers have emerged, it vanishes for no clear reason. As in that earlier book, the space station is referred to as Terra Nova. The robot kills Zake with a vicious whip of its tentacle, rather than pushing him over a ravine.As viewed by Harry, Styr (not Styre) is an imposing being:
… an enormous figure – like the statue of a huge, thick-limbed man somehow brought to life – was gradually silhouetted against the circle of daylight. As it lumbered out of the far end of the tunnel into the open, Harry glimpsed its coarse greyish hide – like pumice stone -shuddering at each step.
Sarah recognises him and her point of view gives us even more vivid detail:
… the gaping oval panel was filled by a squat, lumbering shape like a monstrous puppet. Its domed, reptilian head grew neckless out of massive, hunched shoulders. Each trunk-like arm ended in three sheathed talons and was raised in anticipation towards her. The creature began to lurch down the ramp on thick, stumpy legs, the rubbery folds of its body vibrating with each step. Mean eyes burned like two red-hot coals amid the gnarled, tortoise-like features, and puffs of oily vapour issued from the flared nostrils.
….The wobbling folds of its lipless jaws were suddenly drawn back, baring hooked, metallic teeth. Sarah stared transfixed at the ghastly smile while the creature slowly shook its domed head…. The shrivelled, tortoise face thrust forward, its red piercing eyes boring into her.
The ‘three sheathed talons’ on each hand neatly fixes the continuity error of the TV episodes. According to the Doctor, Sontaran brains are like seaweed and their lungs are made from ‘a kind of spongy steel-wool’. Styr’s ship is the size of a large house, like ‘a giant Golf-ball’, consisting of a ‘honeycomb of modules’, small, interconnected spherical rooms arranged around a central control chamber. Styr’s robot – called ‘the Scavenger’ here – is a bell-shaped hovering dome with probing tentacles and there are a few of them, including one on guard inside the ship and a spider-like one that Harry dodges. Inside the ship, there are also two other Sontarans, lying dormant in recharging pods.
Styr reports to a ‘Controller’, not a ‘Marshal’, who tells him that a rendezvous with the ‘Allied Squadrons from Hyperion Sigma’ is overdue (is this a squadron of various Sontaran factions or are the Sontarans allied to another race? There’s no mention of the Rutans at all). Styr has a weapon secreted in the arm of his suit.
While unconscious, the Doctor has a vivid nightmare about the TARDIS, wrecked and heading towards a black hole, being overrun with rats while a giant cat emerges from the console and sleeps on his chest. He speculates that the Sontarans might be prospecting for a mineral not known in this galaxy – Terullian – and he keeps many objects in his pockets, including:
… marbles, pieces of twisted wire, shrivelled jelly babies, weird keys, a pirate’s eye-patch, strange coins, sea shells, a dead beetle…
… but not his ‘Liquid Crystal Instant Recall Diary,’ in which he thinks he wrote some notes about Sontarans in the past. Harry hallucinates Sarah as a vicious, snarling beast and is attacked by an illusionary giant spider-like creature.
The Doctor and Sarah each destroy a Scavenger robot with the sonic screwdriver. Styr sends Vural to his death over a ravine. The Doctor pours a flash of Glenlivet whisky into Styr’s probic vent and Styr swells to over three times his normal size before he and his ship deflate like balloons into congealed heaps. The Doctor remembers he set the TARDIS ‘Boomerang Orientators’ so assumes it’ll be back on Terra Nova. He, Sarah and Harry depart via the transmat field, thereby making the story fit with the previously published Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen.
Cover: The Doctor holds a log as a weapon in front of a background of a supersized Sontaran helmet. Another strong illustration from Roy Knipe.
Final Analysis: While this is based on a two-episode adventure, it’s by no means the shortest novel; indeed, it feels like it takes up the same page-count as, say, the six-part Genesis of the Daleks, without becoming padded or over-written. It’s another Ian Marter ‘movie version’, with everything turned up to eleven. Predictably, the horror elements are more grotesque – the terrifying hallucinations of faces emerging from rocks, soaring monster-infested wave, burning desert sands or giant ants. Marter’s real skill is in the characterisation: He makes Styr a much more terrifying presence than the TV version as the huge, hulking ‘golem’ is wheezing and gurgling, but also flawed as his sadism makes him forget the real purpose of his mission; Sarah’s ability to be both terrified and brave, as in the way she responds defiantly to Styr’s interrogation by pointing out that it’s not her fault if her mere presence doesn’t match his data; and Harry is still as bewildered by the technology, particularly the Doctor’s description of Sontaran biology, but he’s still got a great way of summing things up – calling Styr ‘the Humpty Dumpty thing’. What was merely a side dish on TV has been reimagined as a macabre banquet.
Synopsis: The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Sarah to an English village where something is wrong. The locals seem cold and machine-like, while a group of blank-faced astronauts patrol the area and shoot at the new arrivals. The Doctor tries to piece together the clues around him, but it’s Sarah who reveals the truth; the village isn’t a real village, this isn’t really Earth – and Sarah is not the real Sarah! The whole thing is an elaborate copy created by Styggron – chief scientist of the Kraals. And the real invasion has already begun…
1. Strange Arrival
2. Village of Terror
3. The Watcher
6. The Test
7. The Countdown
10. Hero’s Return
12. Death of a Doctor
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts, completing the run of Season 13 stories for Target.
Notes: Sarah wears ‘casual late-twentieth-century clothes, with a brightly coloured scarf at her throat’. The army soldier who throws himself off the cliff isn’t from UNIT and the android Sarah finds inside the capsule by the TARDIS is an old lady. Chased by patrol dogs, the Doctor has a curious thought that anyone who thinks foxes enjoy being hunted should try being chased across country by dogs themselves. Styggron is described thusly:
The face hovering over her was broad and flat with leathery greenish skin. It was heavily jowled with a squashed pig-like snout, underhung jaw, and enormous ears set flat against a massive skull. Huge eyes glowed in cavernous sockets beneath the jutting brows.
The calendar in the Fleur de Lys only shows the month of September (on TV, it’s a day-by-day calendar with solely ‘Friday July 6th’ pages). The entrance to the Kraal bunker is hidden inside an empty barn. When Styggron says ‘There is no time for pleasantries’, the Doctor asks rudely: ‘How about unpleasantries, pig face?’ Haha!
Benton has promised to take his sister to the village dance (not The Palais). It’s not exactly clear on TV, but the android Benton is found leaning over Benton’s body. Here’s the paragraph:
The kneeling man turned and looked up at him and Adams gave a gasp of astonishment. The soldier leaning over Benton, was Benton… He opened his mouth to shout an alarm, and a savage blow struck him down from behind. The android technician caught the falling body and laid it down beside the body of the real Benton. The android Benton got to its feet, and gave a nod of satisfaction. ‘Good. Have them taken away…’
That’s not just ‘the unconscious Benton’, it’s ‘Benton’s body’. Eek!
It’s the Benton android, not the Doctor Android, that points out that there’s ‘much to do’. Once the Doctor has bluffed his way past Android Benton, the scene is not repeated with the android Doctor. We don’t get the final scene of the Doctor and Sarah leaving in the TARDIS; instead, the Doctor plans to collect up all the androids and dismantle them before the scanner beam can be switched off. Marshal Chedaki, meanwhile, waits in vain for Styggron’s signal to begin the invasion. ‘With Styggron dead, his master plan had come to nothing. The android invasion was over.’
Cover: Another brilliant cover by Roy Knipe, it’s just the Doctor being tied to the village memorial by spacemen while Styggron looks off into middle distance, but it’s so effective.
Final Analysis: Often dismissed as lightweight because of the grittier stories that surround it, I’m very fond of The Android Invasion. Here, Dicks adds a little to the playfulness between Sarah and the Doctor where, in the past, that might have been trimmed. Chedaki is more of an antagonist to Styggron, as a disgruntled leader of the military wing, and he’s more threatening a presence than the subservient TV version. Dicks then tidies up all the loose ends in a final section that unfortunately stresses just how rushed the conclusion was on telly.
And just in case we’re in any doubt – it’s Benton’s BODY! Not so lightweight now, eh?
Synopsis: The city of the Exxilons, one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. Somehow, the city is alive, draining the energy from any visiting spacecraft – including the TARDIS. Abandoning the time ship, the Doctor and Sarah find a similarly marooned expedition team in search of minerals needed to cure a deadly space plague. But a platoon of Daleks also intend on taking the minerals for themselves. The explorers form an uneasy truce as they decide to find answers inside the city – and the native Exxilons are determined not to let them..
1. Death of a TARDIS
2. The Ambush
3. Expedition from Earth
4. The Deadly Arrivals
5. A Truce with Terror
6. The Sacrifice
7. Escape to the Unknown
9. The Pursuit
10. The City Attacks
11. The Trap
12. The Nightmare
13. The Antibodies
14. The Last Victory
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts from the 1974 story.
Notes: The prologue is an atmospheric retelling of the first scene – which was cut from the story’s first release on home video, so it’s kind of a deleted scene with a cracking first line: ‘He was a dead man running.’ The Doctor is ‘a tall, white-haired man with a deeply-lined, young-old face’ (the first time we see this description and it won’t be the last). Sarah has only known the Doctor for a brief time, as she recalls her trips to Medieval England and a London ‘infested with dinosaurs’. The fog on the planet Exxilon is (wait for it!) green. The Exxilons wear black robes and speak a form of ‘pidgin Galactic’ that Galloway can understand. Bellal is a ‘subterranean Exxilon’ and he introduces his friend as ‘Gotal’ (a name only revealed in the end credits on TV), while another subterranean Exxilon is called ‘Jebal’.
Jill Tarrant is blonde, not red haired, Dan Galloway lost his entire family in the Dalek wars, grew up in poverty as a refugee and joined the Marine Space Corps as soon as he could, working his way up the ranks. The ‘hopscotch’ floor in the City lies in a wide hall, not a narrow corridor and there are many antibody creatures, not just the two on telly. Realising Jill has escaped, the Dalek sentry begins a frantic search but doesn’t self destruct. The Doctor offers to continue aiming for Florana but Sarah just wants to go home.
Chapter 7 is ‘Escape to the Unknown’ – another one so close to the lesser-sighted ‘Escape to Danger’ but… not quite.!
Cover: Roy Knipe paints this Target Doctor Who cover and creates an instant classic – a Dalek’s head explodes. Alister Pearson was onto a hiding for nothing with his 1991 reprint cover, which shows Bellal in front of a different blazing Dalek.
Final Analysis: It’s hard to go wrong with this and Dicks doesn’t put a foot out of place. He doesn’t add much either, to be fair, but it’s still a lot creepier than the over-lit, jazz-fused TV version. It’s peak-Terrance, where eyes are red and glowing, robes are black and Daleks glide.
Synopsis: Scientists have disappeared from across the country. In an attempt to keep them safe, the remaining experts have been brought to a research centre under the guard of UNIT – but still they continue to vanish. The Doctor identifies the cause must be someone with access to time travel. Following the trail in the TARDIS back to the Middle Ages, the Doctor discovers the time-hopping kidnapper is a Sontaran warrior – unaware that the TARDIS has brought alomg a 20th-Century stowaway aboard in the form of intrepid journalist Sarah Jane Smith.
1. Irongron’s Star
2. Linx’s Bargain
3. Sarah’s Bluff
4. Irongron’s Captive
5. The Doctor Disappears
6. A Shock for Sarah
7. Prisoner in the Past
8. The Robot Knight
9. Linx’s Slaves
10. Irongron’s Wizard
11. The Rescue
12. The Doctor’s Magic
13. Counter Attack
14. The Robot’s Return
15. Shooting Gallery
16. Return to Danger
17. Linx’s Departure
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ scripts for the 1973-4 serial, except from the prologue, which Holmes wrote himself before handing the task over to Dicks.
Notes: Three years after the word ‘Sontaran’ first appeared in a Target book [see Terror of the Autons], we finally meet one – in the most exciting prologue ever, written by Robert Holmes! We join Sontaran Commander Jingo Linx as his ship faces certain obliteration after an unsuccessful battle against the Rutans in their third galactic war. We learn that the Sontarans come from the planet Sontara and he listens to the ‘sweet strains of the Sontaran Anthem’ (presumably the same one that accompanies Linx’s flag when he erects it in front of Bloodaxe) as his ship makes a last desperate escape from the black, dart-shaped Rutan pursuit ships. Sontarans are cyborgs, thanks to implants in the back of their neck that allow them to draw energy through a ‘probic vent’. The procedure that allows this is undergone on entry to the Space Corps and although it gives him a rush of energy, Linx always dreads taking a ‘power burn’.
The flood of power through his tissues was like a roaring madness, a chaotic maelstrom of colour and sound depriving him of all sentient knowledge of the outside world. He felt himself clinging like a limpet within some solitary crevice of consciousness, aware only that he still existed… still existed… still…
His cruiser is destroyed, driven into a sun as a diversion to allow him to escape the Rutans in a small scout ship. As the ship heads towards a little blue planet orbiting the sun, Linx allows himself a smile usually reserved for the ‘ the death throes of an enemy’. Most of the details here have been forgotten by subsequent authors, even Holmes himself [see The Two Doctors], but it should be mandatory reading for any hopeful Sontaran scribes.
Irongron and his band of men had once ‘roamed the forest like wolves’ before stumbling upon a castle abandoned by a lord away ‘at the wars’. His group attacked the castle at night, its inhabitants massacred, and the castle became his. His nearest neighbour, Sir Edward Fitzroy, is sickly, having returned from the Crusades with a fever. Sir Edward’s son and most of his soldiers are still fighting the king’s crusades overseas, leaving him with a depleted defence. His young squire, Eric, is given a splendid introduction, riding through the forest, wary of being too close to Irongron’s castle and falling victim to a simple trap laid by Bloodaxe.
When he first addresses Irongron, Linx speaks with ‘a booming metallic voice… strangely accented but clearly understandable English’ and the suggestion is that this is due to a translation device, not his natural voice.
The Brigadier brings the Doctor in to investigate the missing scientists and equipment to distract him as he’s missing Jo since she had got married and has refused a new assistant ever since. The Doctor is described as ‘a tall man with a lined young-old face and a shock of white hair’ (we’ll be seeing this description regularly from now on). He insists on having the TARDIS brought to the research centre in case there’s an alien influence he needs to trace. Sarah Jane Smith is introduced, ‘an attractive dark-haired girl’ who is a freelance journalist (the ‘freelance’ bit is new to the book) who has been ‘making her own way in a man’s world for some years now, and she strongly resented any suggestion that her sex doomed her to an inferior role’. The Doctor tells Rubeish that ‘Lavinia Smith’ is a woman in her ‘late sixties’ as well as being in America. The Brigadier reminds the Doctor about his failed attempts to reach Metabelis III (‘I got there eventually’, says the Doctor defensively). We get Sarah’s first reaction to the inside of the TARDIS and she hides inside a wardrobe when the Doctor enters. Realising that the wardrobe is bigger than the police box she entered – and the central control room even bigger again – she quickly forms a theory that the Doctor is an alien responsible for kidnapping the scientists. She also watches the switch the Doctor uses to open the door and uses the same switch to escape.
Linx rides on horseback for the attack on Sir Edward’s castle. The attack on Linx, the destruction of Irongron’s castle and the Doctor’s departure with Sarah all happen at night. Although Hal’s arrow kills Linx, the hand of the dead warrior hits the launch button and his ship escapes the burning castle to be returned with Linx’s corpse to the war in the stars. And hurrah for Hal as he rescues Squire Eric from the dungeon!
Oh and there’s a chapter title called ‘Return to Danger’ – so close!!
Cover: Linx the Sontaran strikes a dramatic pose before his globe-shaped craft, a superb photorealistic portrait by Roy Knipe. The cover for the 1993 reprint by Alister Pearson places the Doctor, Sarah and Irongron in square tiles behind Linx, who’s side on and holding his helmet by his side.
Final Analysis: It might be heresy but I’m not a fan of this story on TV and reading this story I can put it down to Alan Bromly’s static, leaden direction. But look at all the notes in this chapter and join me in wondering if Terrance Dicks was spurred on by his friend Holmes’ wonderful opening prologue – top three in the series so far*. Compare the two descriptions of Linx’s face – the first is by Holmes, the second by Dicks, picking up the baton:
… the heavy bones, the flat powerful muscles, the leathery, hairless epidermis, the calculating brain.… little, red eyes that were like fire-lit caves under the great green-brown dome of a skull…
The face beneath was something out of a nightmare. The head was huge and round, emerging directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greenish-brown in colour, the eyes small and red. The little nose was a pig-like snout, the mouth long and lipless. It was a face from one of Earth’s dark legends, the face of a goblin or a troll.
This extends to the major and minor characters – how Sir Edward waits for his wife to ‘run out of words’ and on the very next line ‘It was a considerable wait.’ It’s clear Dicks enjoyed this. I know I did.
* – See also Doctor Who and the Crusaders and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks.
Synopsis: A chance encounter with the Mandragora Helix results in the Doctor unwittingly transporting sentient and malevolent energy to 15th-Century San Martino. The energy quickly takes hold of Hieronymous, an influential astrologer and leader of a sinister cult. As the Doctor and Sarah try to limit the damage their arrival has caused, they find themselves snared in the fraught politics of San Martino. Can they help a young prince evade the murderous ambitions of his uncle, Count Federico? Will Hieronymous’s new-found power bring a dark and bloody end to the Renaissance?
1. The Mandragora Helix
2. The Brethren of Demnos
5. The Prince Must Die
6. The Secret of the Temple
7. The Spell of Evil
9. The Invasion Begins
11. Duel to the Death
12. The Final Eclipse
Background: Philip Hinchcliffe adapts scripts from 1976 by Louis Marks.
Notes: Sarah has now been travelling with the Doctor for ‘several years’ but this is the first time she’s been allowed to explore deeper within the TARDIS. She is ‘Five feet five and a quarter’ – so an inch and a quarter taller than she is on telly, unless she’s counting the heel of her boots. She apparently finds Giuliano attractive. Swit swoo!
Hinchcliffe tells us that it’s been a long time since the Doctor rode a horse (which might make you wonder when the last time might have been). As he finds the altar within the catacombs, he experiences a vision of the ‘Ghostly Temple of Demnos’:
He was filled with an unaccountable urge to escape, but as he ran towards the tunnel exit a large wall materialised in front of him with a deafening crash. Blindly he stumbled towards the other side of the cavern and a second wall blocked his path. The ghostly Temple of Demnos had sprung up before his very eyes! Panic-stricken he turned this way and that seeking escape but all around him thick stone walls seemed to be hemming him in. He was trapped.
Cover: Mike Little gives us a rather spooky composition for the first edition cover – the Doctor’s face is surrounded by darkness (as with The Deadly Assassin) and four faces of Hieronymous’s mask. A 1991 reprint had a cover by Alister Pearson showing Hieronymous sat on a throne alongside a rather cheery-looking Doctor.
Final Analysis: There can’t have been a fan in any of the libraries of the UK who didn’t mispronounce the title of this until they saw it on VHS or DVD, just as readers will have done when the same word ‘Mandragora’ appeared in the Harry Potter books (‘Man-DRA-gora’, not ‘MAN-dra-GOR-a’). It’s Philip Hinchclcffe’s second novel and another from his ‘golden era’, but it’s not one that allows for showboating. What we get is a straightforward retelling of the script with a few lines to explain the thought processes of the characters. We share the experience of Sarah’s falling under Hieronymous’s spell as her mind tries to make sense of the twisted logic it’s presented with, while her total lack of reaction to the possibility of meeting Leonardo Da Vinci is what first alerts the Doctor that something is wrong. Giuliano reacts beautifully to witnessing the departure of the TARDIS, inspecting the ground where it once stood, ‘puzzled but not afraid’:
‘There is a reason for everything,’ he said to himself. ‘Even this. One day science will explain it all.’
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…
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.
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…
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
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.
Although it’s purely transferring the TV characters to the page, we can note here that this story boasts by far the largest number of roles for women in this era (a period of three years where the ratio of female to male is roughly 1:6, excluding Sarah Jane, but where six entire stories feature no women guest characters at all). This is especially relevant as a reworking of the Frankenstein story, where the underlying subtext, created by a woman writer, was a man trying to create life by completely removing women from the process. Here, we have a man failing to create an authentic lifeform, hiding out mere feet from a community of women who have survived for centuries entirely without men. Our leading lady runs around literally blind to the horrors around her but the hero only survives thanks to a sacrifice on the part of the main female guest character.
Solon’s laboratory lacks the traditional lightning converters and sparks we might expect, the Sisterhood’s own future is assured thanks to a ‘spark’ (in the form of a firework that clears a blockage in the flue of the sacred flame). All of this is present in the book too, but we’ll have to wait a while for the best adaptation of this. Clue: It’s aimed at much younger readers…
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…
Prologue: The Intruder
1. The Second Invasion
2. Sarah Vanishes
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…