Bonus chapter #11. Doctor Who – The Stones of Blood (2022)

Synopsis: Continuing their quest for the six segments of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on Earth near a stone circle. They learn that an ancient cult is performing blood sacrifices in honour of the Celtic goddess the Cailleach. The Cailleach is not what she seems. Then again, neither are the stones in the circle. And furthermore, neither is the space ship, hidden in hyperspace…

Chapter Titles

  • Forward by Nick Fisher
  • I. The Tor
  • II. Professor Rumford
  • III. The British Institute of Druidic Studies
  • IV. Inside the Circle
  • V The Manor
  • VI. Joselito
  • VII. A Theoretical Absurdity
  • Interlude: A Short Guide to Justice Machines
  • VIII. The Megara
  • IX. The Secret of Vivien Fay
  • X. Execution
  • XI. A Meeting on the Moor
  • Afterward by Michael Stevens

Background: Adapting scripts from the 1978 adventure, the book uses the text from the 2011 audiobook by David Fisher, with minor tweaks for the print edition by editor Steve Cole.

Notes: The book opens with the legend of a shaman tormented by visions of a demanding goddess who sent birds to pluck out his eyes. The shaman’s tribe erected six stones in a circle, which were then joined by three more stones that were said to drink the blood of the tribe’s sacrifices. The legends also tell of the inhabitants of Bodcombe Manor, built in the 18th century by Lord George Montcalm for his second wife, who was rumoured to be a witch. Lord Montcalm and his children died mysteriously from plague and his widow went on to marry three more times, each husband dying in suspicious circumstances. When it looked like she might be brought to justice, Lady Montcalm disappeared. The house then fell into the ownership of the reclusive Mrs Trefusis and, much later, her distant relative, Senhora Camara. The current owner, Anton de Vries, is ‘a gentleman of Anglo-Indian descent’.

The scene where the Doctor tells Romana the truth about their mission for the White Guardian is cut, replaced by a summary of events so far. The second segment was found on the planet Calufrax, and not Zanak (repeating the same mistake Terrance Dicks made in his version, misinterpreting a line from Fisher’s scripts that also seems to suggest the heroes visited Calufrax). Back on Gallifrey, Romana lived mostly indoors with almost no experience of wide open spaces. She had tried skating on the frozen moons of Platos and climbing the volcanoes of Ignos, which she’d found ‘moderately enjoyable’. In a later interlude about the justice machines, we learn of the cloud creatures of Neri as well as the giant amoebas of Amphitrite, whose identity keeps changing with a constant division of their cells 

De Vries is a ‘plump man sporting a wisp of a beard’ and Martha Vickers is, rather cruelly, described as ‘a middle-aged lady with the face of a discontented bulldog’. Martha was a member of the Women’s Institute in nearby Bodcombe Parva but grew bored of it. She joined the druid circle after meeting de Vries two years earlier. She was a hunter in her youth, encouraged by her game-hunting father, so is not worried by the sight of blood from animals sacrificed in the cult’s rituals.  There’s a suggestion that Martha’s Daddy issues might have prompted her attraction to de Vries; such is her infatuation, she’d once hoped in vain that he might one day choose her over his beliefs. She has a brother who has a flat ‘on the Hoe’ in Plymouth.

De Vries claims the portrait of Lady Montcalm might have been painted by Van Dyke. His house is home to the British Institute of Druidic Studies and the manor has been fitted out with numerous classrooms. De Vries mentions that he’s expecting a group from Liverpool to arrive next week:

The Doctor stopped in his tracks. ‘Not The Beatles?’ He grinned broadly. ‘Wouldn’t The Rolling Stones be more appropriate?

The Doctor’s mention of John Aubrey is more explicitly a memory from personal experience, the Doctor having met him several times. As she clings to the cliff face, Romana is attacked by a flock of seagulls. The birds, not the band. Fisher corrects Dicks’ mistake about the ‘Cornish fogous’ (Dicks mistook this for the name of a person, rather than the iron-age subterranean buildings particular to the region). The Doctor tells Emilia that robot pets are all the rage in the USA, where they also do cats, rabbits and peacocks.

We learn about Emilia’s two brothers: Hector was a colonel in ‘the Sappers’ (the Royal Engineers) before being blown up by a bomb in Northern Ireland: Jasper was ‘the fool of the family’ so, rejected by Sandhurst, he entered the clergy. On the hyperspace ship, Romana is incarcerated in a cell with the dead body of an ‘octopoidal creature’ with horns. The two campers are here named Pat Blount and Zac Hardcastle. The stones completely absorb the couple before ejecting their bones and shoes ‘like pellets from an owl’. The Megara are shining silver globes that float in mid air. The Doctor ends the adventure by setting up a chess set – which leads nicely into the next story….

Cover: Anthony Dry, once again taking inspiration from Chris Achilleos, places the Cailleach, the Doctor, the TARDIS and a segment of the Key to Time within a right-angle formed by a bolt of electricity.

Final Analysis: So the story goes, David Fisher was never that happy about Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of The Stones of Blood. BBC Audio producer Michael Stevens commissioned Fisher to revisit his TV scripts for a new adaptation as an audiobook, which was subsequently released in 2011, narrated by actress Susan Engels, who played Vivien Fay on telly. BBC Books range editor Steve Cole made minor tweaks to the audiobook script for both this novelisation and The Androids of Tara, but it’s essentially Fisher’s work. The book benefits from a delightful forward by David’s son, Nick, which reveals some of the author’s influences and interests. Of particular note is Nick’s belief that his father regretted that he hadn’t been an academic, something that we might bear in mind when we come to Professor Emilia Rumford later in the tale. 

While Fisher delivers a faithful adaptation of his original work, he also fulfils the mission of improving on Terrance Dicks’ rather skimpy version. The first chapter is a joyfully bloodthirsty history of Bodcombe, while an interlude brings us a summary of the development of the Justice Machines, both of which have a gossipy style that inevitably remind us of Douglas Adams. It’s a comparison I made in discussing both of Fisher’s previous Target books, but there’s a maturity to the writing this time, with less of the manic over-explaining of The Leisure Hive. Much as I usually love Dicks’ straightforward approach, this now usurps his novelisation as the definitive adaptation.

Chapter 158. Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet (2021)

Synopsis: When the Doctor and Romana land on the planet Zanak, apparently by mistake, they discover a world where young men are tormented by haunting visions and where the people are so wealthy that they leave rare gems lying in the street. High up in the mountains sits their ruler, the Captain, half-man, half machine. The Doctor is appalled to discover that the Captain has found a way to pilot the entire planet around the galaxy, absorbing other worlds. But that’s nothing to how outraged he becomes when he finds out why…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sky with Diamonds
  • 2. Right Place, Wrong Planet
  • 3. Meeting with Unusual Minds
  • 4. Late to the Party
  • 5. The Normally Delicious Smell of Pork
  • 6. Dark Satanic Mills
  • 7. The Death of Calufrax
  • 8. The Trophy Room
  • 9. Life’s Fleeting, but Plank’s Constant
  • 10. An Immortal Queen
  • 11. Dinner with Newton
  • 12. The Captain’s Plan

Background: James Goss rewrites his earlier, longer novel, adapting scripts by Douglas Adams for a story broadcast in 1977. At 43 years and six months, this once and for all is the story with the longest gap between broadcast of the original story on TV and eventual novelisation as a ‘Target’ book.

Notes: For the first time since Doctor Who and the Sunmakers, we have a ‘Doctor Who and the…’ title! The Doctor is still concerned about Romana’s lack of experience (in fact, he’s slightly afraid of her). Their quest to find the second segment of the Key to Time is officially ‘Day Two’ and only Romana’s second trip in the TARDIS. At the start, Romana’s gown flows behind her ‘with a slithering grace that tended to scare furniture’

The Captain is an impressive giant of a former man:

It was hard to tell where the chair ended and the Captain began. Nestled amongst it all were the remains of a very large man. Half of his face was covered with a metallic plate,. A green eye patch glowed dangerously, metal lips sneered and even half of his beard was iron. Things got worse beneath the neck. A vast robotic arm, two artificial legs, synthetic lungs that hissed with effort, and, at the end of a velvet-covered sleeve, the rather pathetic remains of a human hand twitched.

His parrot is more birdlike than on TV, with metallic feathers and a habit of hopping from foot to foot. The Nurse wears a pale green dress rather than a white one. Calufrax has two suns. K9 plugs himself into a streetlamp to access Zanak’s information network. The planets in the Captain’s trophy room float inside their glass cabinets. Romana tells Kimus that there is a ‘vast space’ on Gallifrey ‘where the memories of dead Time Lords gathered to grumble’ [which could be either something inside the Matrix, or the Cloister Wraiths seen in Hell Bent].

Cover: The Doctor, Romana and the Captain are dominated by an oversized Polyphase Avatron, courtesy of Anthony Dry.

Final Analysis: While this story was previously adapted as a hefty hardback novel, James Goss was working from Douglas Adams’ original scripts, so there were more diversions from what made it to screen. This is a leaner, more faithful adaptation of the TV episodes, but it’s still on the thicker end of the Target scale. As with City of Death, the main impression is one of joyful chaos as the Doctor comes to terms with having a new companion foisted upon him, while Romana is surprised to find herself placing a lot of trust in a man she’s only known for a day. As on TV, it’s the story of the rebellious kid from the wrong side of the time tracks trying to impress a woman of a different class and Goss adds little asides to show us how the relationship develops. By close of play, Romana seems to have got the measure of the Doctor.

Leaving the Doctor alone with the largest bomb in creation was like leaving a child with a toy and expecting them not to play with it.

One element retained from the fuller novel is the narrator’s suggestion that Kimus is a fraud, full of high ideals and hot air, but still just as timid as the rest of the citizens to prevent him from ever actually doing anything. It’s rare that a non-villainous character is shown such justifiable contempt, personifying the general apathy of an entire civilisation that has grown accustomed to obscene decadence and become tolerant of oppression in barely a generation. Little details like this really make the continuation of the Target novelisations worthwhile.

Chapter 58. Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor (1980)

Synopsis: Two planets locked in war, Atrios and Zeos. A princess tries to help her people while her zealous Marshal fights to win the war. Unseen, a shadowy figure is manipulating events as he awaits the final pawns in his game. The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on Atrios in search of the final segment of the Key to Time, and help comes from an unexpected source as the Doctor is reunited with an old friend. Soon, the Key to Time will be assembled – and the hidden enemy will be revealed. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Vanishing Planet
  • 2. Missile Strike
  • 3. Kidnapped
  • 4. A Trap for K9
  • 5. The Furnace
  • 6. Behind the Mirror
  • 7. The Shadow
  • 8. Lost on Zeos
  • 9. The Armageddon Factor
  • 10. The Planet of Evil
  • 11. Drax
  • 12. The Bargain
  • 13. Small World
  • 14. The Key to Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This is now four stories to be released consecutively in the order they were broadcast on TV.

Notes: The first TARDIS scenes are condensed and moved to the beginning of the first chapter, with an additional explanation of the on-going mission to find the Key to Time. The Marshall’s description is a love-letter to actor John Woodvine:

Tall and broad shouldered, straight-backed with iron-grey hair, he wore a magnificent scarlet tunic with gold epaulettes, the eagle of Atrios emblazoned in silver on the breast. His stern face was rugged and handsome, his voice deep and commanding. 

Merak is apparently the son of one of Atrios’ oldest families and has secretly been in love with Astra since they were both children. They are both members of an underground peace party.  Drax is from the ‘Class of Ninety-Three’ (not Ninety-Two) and has heard that the Doctor ‘got done by the High Court’ for stealing a TARDIS and ‘served a stretch’ on Earth – Drax himself bought a TARDIS second hand and he agrees to stop calling the Doctor ‘Thete’ (short for Theta Sigma, which we’re told was a ‘Time Lord coding’), though he’s sensitive that, unlike the Doctor, he didn’t get his degree. Once exposed, the Black Guardian contorts into a demonic creature and it’s both his callousness about Princess Astra and his inability to set things right with the Key already assembled that alerts the Doctor to his true identity.

Cover: Bill Donohoe paints the Doctor (using a surprising photo reference from The Seeds of Doom) and Romana with the Key to Time locator core in her hand, with the red bird motif from the War Room on Atrios in the background. Apparently producer John Nathan-Turner didn’t like this cover – he was wrong though.

Final Analysis: Yet another fairly straightforward adaptation, with the only major omissions being those scenes with the Marshall preparing to fire on Zeos that are repeated on TV, which don’t need to be replayed here.

And so ends a long, long journey towards this point. There have been trials, tribulations and many disappointments on this quest, but finally we’re done… we’re out of the worst run of books in the series so far – perhaps ever. A combination of poor original stories and a very lacklustre approach to adapting them makes me so glad we’ve got a treat coming up next.

I hope…

Chapter 57. Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll (1980)

Synopsis: On the marshy moon of Delta Three, a methane refinery plant squats in the murky swamp. The small service staff have only minimal contact with the Swampies – primitive green natives whose village is nearby. The arrival of gun-runner Rohm Dutt on the planetoid coincides with that of the Doctor and Romana, still hunting for the Key to Time. Soon, the new arrivals will be forced into an uneasy partnership as they face the terrifying power of the Swampies’ god, Kroll.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Swamp
  • 2. The Gun-Runner
  • 3. The Sacrifice
  • 4. The Tunnel
  • 5. The Thing in the Lake
  • 6. The Attack
  • 7. The End of Harg
  • 8. The Storm
  • 9. Escape Through the Swamps
  • 10. The Rocket
  • 11. Countdown
  • 12. The Power of Kroll
  • Epilogue

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s scripts from 1978. This followed The Androids of Tara on TV, so this is the first time that three stories are released consecutively.

Notes: In the prologue (and with a lovely opening line: ‘Deep beneath the waters of the immense lagoon, Kroll slept’), we learn that Kroll has slept for hundreds of years, drawing power and growing in size due to swallowing whatever it was that the Key to Time had been disguised as. Then the men in rockets land on the planet and set up their rigs, which awakens the beast below the lagoon. In chapter 1, we’re told more about the Sons of Earth, an environmental pressure group concerned that the overpopulation of Earth is happening again on Delta Magna, and also regret over the displacement of the Swampies from their original home on Delta Magna to this moon (named here as Delta Three). Romana is again called a Time Lady and she’s wearing a bright orange tunic as well as boots to guard against the mud. We’re once more reminded of the mission to find the segments of the Key to Time.

Unusually for this kind of story, we’re told that Thawn’s crew are ‘all expert at their jobs and they worked well together, an efficient team’. Thawn tells Fenner that he’s seen Rohm Dutt on Delta Magna many times, which is how he knows the Doctor isn’t him. The roles of the named Swampies are clarified, so in addition to the chief, Ranquin, we have the war-chief, Varlik, and Skart is the High Priest, rather than just a part-time rubbish Kroll impersonator. Rohm Dutt thinks Romana might be a government spy. When the deception over the monster in the sacrifice is exposed, Romana is ‘disgusted with herself for being so terrified by such a simple device’. Significantly, when Thawn calls the Sons of Earth ‘fanatics’, Dugeen says ‘We are not fanatics’ (on TV, it’s ‘they’), so he’s not just sympathetic to the Sons of Earth’s cause, he is one of them. After he’s salvaged the Key to Time segment and saved the day, the Doctor suggests to Fenner that he should share his food stocks with the Swampie survivors.

Cover: It’s not immediately obvious but this is a game-changing cover by Andrew Skilleter. A bemused Doctor smirks as Kroll thrashes behind him in the swamp, but it’s believed that this is the first cover to take reference from a screenshot from the episode itself instead of a publicity still (it’s the frame where the Doctor escapes Kroll’s tentacles and grabs the Key to Time segment). The back-of-book text included another promotional block: ‘THE POWER OF KROLL is a novel in the Key To Time Sequence. Also available THE RIBOS OPERATION, THE STONES OF BLOOD and THE ANDROIDS OF TARA. Coming soon: THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR’. Hmm – one story is conspicuous by its absence (and will be for over thirty years!).

Final Analysis: We’re so very close to the end of this rather dry period for the books. Dicks once again translates the TV story onto the pages and makes it look easy, but he’s working from one of Robert Holmes’ worst scripts so there’s very little to work with. Dicks manages to add a little socio-economic commentary, but I can’t help feeling Malcolm Hulke would have done something more with this, had he still been around. We only have to wait a few years to see Holmes’ second attempt at the same story, for the fifth Doctor’s finale, and wait to see what Terrance Dicks does with that. Until then, we just have that final segment to find in the next book…

Chapter 56. Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor has gone fishing, leaving Romana to hunt down the next segment of the Key to Time. She completes her hunt with surprising ease, but just as quickly she becomes a prisoner of the scheming Count Grendel. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s holiday is interrupted by guards who serve Prince Reynart, a sickly monarch-in-waiting, whose reign is about to be cut short by Grendel. The Prince has an android duplicate of himself, which he hopes to use as a decoy long enough to ascend the throne. The android, however, doesn’t work. Separately, the Doctor and Romana work from opposite sides to fix the state of Tara. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Doctor Goes Fishing
  • 2. Count Grendel
  • 3. The Double
  • 4. The Princess
  • 5. The Prisoner of Gracht
  • 6. The Android King
  • 7. Invitation to an Ambush
  • 8. The Android Killer
  • 9. Flag of Truce
  • 10. Count Grendel plans a Wedding
  • 11. Attack by Night
  • 12. Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Fisher for his second story from 1978. This followed The Stones of Blood on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: The statue that transforms into the Key to Time segment depicts ‘a vaguely dragon-like heraldic beast, thrusting time-blunted claws towards the blue summer sky’. The very-much-alive creature that attacks Romana is a very generous evolution of the short, comedic beast seen on telly:

The monster was a good eight feet tall – and it walked upright like a man. It had coarse black fur, slavering jaws filled with yellow, pointed teeth and a stubby horn projecting from the centre of its forehead. A mixture of bear, ape and boar, with the nastiest features of all three. 

Count Grendel is said to possess a ‘darkly handsome face’ which is ‘marred only slightly by a fiercely jutting beak of a nose’ – an unflattering description of actor Peter Jeffrey. At the end, the Doctor rescues the adrift K9 – and Romana jokes that he ‘managed to catch a fish on Tara after all’ – before the time travellers depart in the TARDIS.

Cover: A scene painted by Andrew Skilleter shows the Doctor inspecting a segment of the Key to Time, watched by Romana (in her Ribos costume), appearing on a cover for the first time. In the background, K9 makes his first appearance on a book cover too, looking up at the Prince on his throne. The back cover announces ‘THE ANDROIDS OF TARA is a novel in the Key To Time Sequence. Read THE RIBOS OPERATION and THE STONES OF BLOOD available now.’ (said books didn’t carry this linking text).

Final Analysis: Around the time that this book was published, Shredded Wheat had an advertisement campaign that boasted that the product had ‘nothing added, nothing taken away’. Aside from the exaggerated details of the beast in the woods, this is all we get here. I still think it’s not fair to dismiss Dicks’ writing simply as just adding ‘he said / she said’ to the script, as he paints a vivid picture of the castles and woodlands of Tara, but this is a great example of Dicks at his most perfunctory. Everything that we might like about this came from David Fisher.

Chapter 55. Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood (1980)

Synopsis: A stone circle in southern England, known locally as ‘The Nine Travellers’. Which is strange, as clearly there are more than nine stones. This is just one of many legends from the region. Another speaks of a woman who lives for centuries, who might have been a Celt goddess called ‘The Cailleach’. And then there’s the tale of two time travellers who expose a galactic criminal and discover a spaceship hidden in another dimension… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Awakening of the Ogri
  • 2. The Circle of Power
  • 3. De Vries
  • 4. The Sacrifice
  • 5. The Ogri Attack
  • 6. The Cailleach
  • 7. The Vanished
  • 8. The Prison Ship
  • 9. The Victims
  • 10. The Trial
  • 11. Surprise Witness
  • 12. Verdict

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Fisher for a story from 1978.

Notes: As The Pirate Planet wasn’t scheduled to be novelised at this point (or indeed, at any point in the foreseeable future), the first chapter explains that the second segment of the Key to Time was found on the planet Calufrax, which is almost right. As on TV, Romana learns that she wasn’t assigned to the Doctor by the President of Gallifrey but by the White Guardian, which amends the alternative continuity established by Ian Marter in The Ribos Operation. The Key to Time pieces are kept in the TARDIS control room inside a ‘wall-locker’ that opens to the Doctor’s palm-print. Professor Amelia Rumford mistakes the Doctor for Doctor Cornish Fougous (rather than an academic who specialised in Cornish fogous). Martha had been a school teacher before she met De Vries and she joined the druid cult to liven up an otherwise dull life. The doomed campers are newly-weds. The Megara are floating silver spheres about the size of a football. The Doctor namedrops Tacitus and Julius Caesar, who he was particularly pally with even though he refused to accept advice and the Doctor had to dress up as a soothsayer to warn him about the ‘ides of March’.

Cover: A composition by Andrew Skilleter featuring the Doctor, the Cailleach and some cult members among the flame-lit stones.

Final Analysis: Possibly Dicks’ most straightforward adaptation of a TV story so far, though he does offer up an delightful description of Professor Rumford: 

The woman was quite old, though her back was straight, her eyes clear and alert. Her straggly hair was a snowy white, her face a mass of lines and wrinkles. It was the face of a woman of formidable character.

He’s clearly more interested in her than Vivien Fay, who is ‘a tall, strikingly attractive dark-haired woman in her forties’ but doesn’t really receive much more attention. This is particularly odd when we consider that the last time she’s described at all in the book, she’s dressed as a bird-faced Celtic goddess and on TV she arrives on the space-ship in a silver gown with metallic skin to match.

Chapter 52. Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation (1979)

Synopsis: The White Guardian compels the Doctor (on pain of nothing… ever) to undertake a mission to find the six segments of the Key to Time. As part of the mission, the Doctor is given a new companion in the form of Romana. On the planet Ribos, a pair of grifters called Garron and Unstoffe are setting up an elaborate con, assuming the locals are too primitive to see through their scheme. Unfortunately, they have underestimated a visiting despot by the name of the Graff Vynda Ka .

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Unwelcome Strangers
  • 2. The Beast in the Citadel
  • 3. A Shaky Start
  • 4. Double Dealings
  • 5. Arrest and Capture
  • 6. Unlikely Allies
  • 7. Escape Into the Unknown
  • 8. The Doctor Changes Sides
  • 9 .Lost and Found
  • 10. Conjuring Tricks

Background: Ian Marter adapts the 1978 scripts by Robert Holmes.

Notes: The opening scene has the Doctor and K9 being rather snarky with each other. The Doctor suggests ‘Occhinos’ as a holiday destination.The TARDIS doors are opened from the inside by a brass handle. The Guardian sits within an exotic garden that features huge orchids and fountains. The garden disappears along with the Guardian, leaving the Doctor teetering on the edge of space and he has to propel himself backwards into the TARDIS. The Guardian makes no mention of a new companion for the Doctor; it’s left to Romana to introduce herself. Her tracer device is presented as the ‘Locatormutor Core’ and she knows of the existence of the Guardian (on TV, she’s left under the belief that she was selected for the mission by the President of the Time Lords). She graduated from the Academy with a ‘Triple Alpha’ and claims the Doctor achieved a ‘Double Gamma… on [his] third attempt’. The initial destination is Cyrrhenis Minimis (not ‘Minima’). 

We learn that, while he was away fighting campaigns alongside his Cyrrhenic allies, the Graff Vynda Ka (‘not ‘K’) was deposed by his half-brother on the Levithian throne; his alliance forgotten, he received no help from his former allies and he now lives in exile (we lose the rest of his back story from the TV episodes). Thanks to its elliptical orbit, Ribos’s summer (the ‘Sun Time’) lasts 11 years. The Doctor refers to Garron and Unstoffe as ‘Laurel and Hardy’ before apologising to Romana for the reference. When the Doctor is searched, Sholakh finds ‘an ear trumpet. a corkscrew, string, marbles, a magnifying glass, a paper bag with a few jelly babies melted into a lump…’ – some of which have been referenced by Marter in his previous books. There are many Shrivenzales living in the catacombs under the city. The Seeker is…:

… a scrawny hag dressed in long strips of crudely dyed remnants. Her frizzled grey hair was parted on the crown of her domed head, and it reached almost to her feet in a thickly tangled cascade.

She survives the knives of the Graff Vynda Ka and crawls off towards the Hall of the Dead, only to be caught in the blast of the Shrieve’s cannon. Despondent after the cave-in, Garron wonders if it would be possible to commit suicide with the Locatormutor Core. 

Chapter 7 brings Ian Marter’s take on a popular title, ‘Escape into the Unknown’, almost the same one Terrance Dicks used in Death to the Daleks. 

Cover: John Geary created an atmospheric shot of the Doctor, a shrivensale and some moody candles.

Final Analysis: It wasn’t one of Robert Holmes’ greatest scripts and sadly it’s not one of Ian Marter’s best books either. There’s little room for Marter’s violent imagery here and it’s all a bit flat. Without the performances to help sell the characters, Garron and Unstoffe lack any depth beyond their grift, while the Doctor is a horrific bully to Romana (something that was thankfully phased out on screen within a couple of stories, but which comes across as much more savage here). Marter is able to make the lumbering TV shrivenzale into a fearsome beast with claws that make sparks against the catacomb walls and he takes on the death of Sholakh and makes it a little bloodier, but… no, this is largely as dull as I’d expected.

I’ve got to be honest, this is the beginning of a run of books I’ve been dreading.