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 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 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.