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.
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: 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: 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 this blog’s 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…
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?
1. Secret Mission
2. Prisoners of War
3. The Secret Weapon
4. Rocket of Doom
5. Escape to Danger
7. Countdown to Destruction
8. Captives of Davros
10. Decision for the Doctor
11. Triumph of the Daleks
12. A Kind of Victory
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts. In 1991, it was revealed that Genesis of the Daleks was the best seller of the entire range, having shifted over 100,000 copies to that point.
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!
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.
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
6. Attack of the Cybermen
7. The Living Bombs
8. Journey into Peril
9. Countdown on Voga
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 Gerry Davies’ 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 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.
Synopsis: As everyone comes to terms with the appearance and behaviour of a brand new Doctor, a robot with conflicting orders is stealing parts for a super-weapon. Sarah Jane Smith investigates an elite scientific research group while new arrival Harry Sullivan tries his hand at playing James Bond.
1. Killer in the Night
2. Something 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 adapts his own scripts for the 1974-5 story Robot (snatching the record from The Sea Devils for the shortest gap between broadcast and novelisation publication, at one month and three weeks).
Notes: The regeneration is a lot more involved and emotional than the simple cross-fade seen on telly. It’s told in flashback from the Brigadier’s point of view and it enables Dicks to give us a very brief history of the Brigadier’s relationships with his two previous Doctors.
Suddenly it had been all over. A new man with a new face was lying on the laboratory floor. Like, and yet unlike. Still tall and thin, still with the same rather beaky nose. But a younger man, the face far less lined, a tangle of curly brown hair replacing the flowing white locks.
The Doctor’s recovery takes much longer than on screen. The Doctor’s car, Bessie, is described as ‘an old Edwardian roadster’ (and we’ll see variations of this again over the years). On first seeing the robot, Sarah faints (no, she doesn’t, Terrance! No!). There’s a new scene where UNIT raids Thinktank only to discover they’ve already abandoned their base, while the K1 robot is attacked by RAF jets (as shown on the first cover). And at last, we experience Harry’s first reaction to being inside the Tardis!
Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes ushers in a more comic-book style for this cover, which shows the K1 robot attacked by fighter planes on three sides while an inset shows the robot’s giant hand clasped around a screaming Sarah Jane – it’s very reminiscent of King Kong, of course. The logo on the cover now reflects the logo used on screen for the first time, using a version of Bernard Lodge’s design, and for this cover only, the Doctor’s face peers from the ‘O’. No internal illustrations this time, but there’s a two-panel illustration on the rear of the cover depicting the giant robot booting a UNIT jeep into the air. My first edition was the 1979 reprint with the portrait of K1 by Jeff Cummins, which dropped the rear illustration. The 1992 version used Alister Pearson’s painting for the VHS cover, with the K1 robot changing size against a lovely portrait of the Doctor.
Final Analysis: Is this the beginning of the more simplified novelisations? Not much is changed from screen to page but it all flows along nicely without expanding the story to any great degree.