Chapter 63. Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit (1981)

Synopsis: The Lady Adrasta is used to being obeyed and her word is law. If you disobey her, if you displease her in any way, you’ll be thrown into a pit that they call… The Pit. If you’re lucky, you’ll break your neck as soon as you reach the bottom. If not, you’ll encounter a terrifying creature they call… The Creature. With the help of a forgotten astrologer, the Doctor uncovers the truth about the creature – and Lady Adrasta.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Pit
  • 2. Wolfweeds
  • 3. The Doctor’s Leap to Death
  • 4. The Creature
  • 5. Organon
  • 6. The Web
  • 7. The Meeting
  • 8. The Shield
  • 9. Erato
  • 10. Complications
  • 11. Wrapping Up 

Background: David Fisher adapts his own scripts from the 1979 story.

Notes: Madam Karela secretly thinks the whole business with The Pit is a waste of time and would prefer to use her knife to cut the accused’s throat. Romana discovers a multi-dimensional store cupboard that contains a box labelled ‘Toys from Hamleys’, a lone ‘patent-leather dancing pump, signed on the sole “Love from Fred”’; an animal jawbone, an object that might be a musical instrument, a ball of string and a blonde chest-wig! The box containing the transceiver is stamped with the Seal of Gallifrey and the device should have been installed 12 years ago. Romana has clearly been with the Doctor for a long time now, as she reminds herself of her own travels through ‘umpteen galaxies’ and ‘hundreds of thousands of years’, which presumably also included an encounter with the ‘Mudmen of Epsilon Eridani’, which she cites in a moment of exasperation.

The bandits are rubbish because they’re really miners who were forced out of the mines when the creature arrived 15 years ago. Adrasta’s engineer Doran is a ‘not unattractive young man’. When the Doctor lands at the bottom of the pit, Doran’s crushed body breaks his fall. As the creature approaches, the Doctor notices a ‘strange metallic odour, like silver polish or a run-down battery’. 

Yes, this is the novel where sex is introduced for the first time as we are treated to a lengthy section on the life cycle of the Tythonians, including steamy, graphic descriptions of their sexual reproduction (no spoilers but at one point it involves two things about six inches long). Tythonians can live for around 40,000 years or more:

… longer, if they avoided any physical activity, like movement or worry, and devoted themselves exclusively to music and poetry.

The story ends with the Doctor’s joke about the lucky number, rather than with the goodbyes with Organon.

Cover: A final submission from Steve Kyte and it’s a cracker as the Doctor looks up fearfully at a sword while Adrasta lurks in the background. I have a strong suspicion that Kyte’s photo reference is the same one used for the cover of The Human League’s track Tom Baker.

Final Analysis: I admit, reading through this, I forgot that this wasn’t Terrance Dicks – which is a good sign for a first entry in the range. Terrance repeatedly said that he stopped writing quite so many books when the scriptwriters slowly realised that they could make all of the money if they also did the novelisation, and this is the beginning of that trend (Fisher having already missed out on his first two stories). Season 19’s script editor Douglas Adams, who commissioned the original serial, had just enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame thanks to the novelisation of his Hitch-Hikers radio serial and it’s clear that Fisher has read it (the section on the life cycle of the Tythonian and the asides about various flora and fauna on Chloris are hard to read without hearing Peter Jones’ voice) but Fisher at least has the common sense not to try to blindly copy everything Tom Baker brought to the screen (the sequence where the Doctor hangs onto the edge of the Pit loses the ‘Teach Yourself Tibetan’ jokes and instead involves him recalling the lessons of Sherpa Tensing).

Chapter 61. Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon (1980)

Synopsis: Romana and the Doctor land aboard a stricken ship heading for Skonnos with a group of terrified Anethans. The youngsters are intended as tributes to the fearsome Nimon. As soon as the Doctor has repaired the ship, its captain absconds, leaving the Doctor stranded. By the time the TARDIS gets him to Skonnos, Romana has discovered that the Nimon, a bull-headed alien, is just the first arrival, a spearhead for a race of parasites that intend to lay waste to Skonnos…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Ship of Sacrifice
  • 2. The Skonnons
  • 3. Sardor in Command
  • 4. Asteroid
  • 5. The Nimon
  • 6. The Maze
  • 7. Sardor’s Bluff
  • 8. K9 in Trouble
  • 9. The Journey of the Nimon
  • 10. Journey to Crinoth
  • 11. Time Bomb
  • 12. The Legend

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Anthony Read’s scripts from 1979. This followed Nightmare of Eden on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A brilliant prologue sketches the events of the rise and fall of the First Skonnan Empire in which we’re told ‘No enemy had ever defeated the Skonnans. They destroyed themselves.’ In-fighting led to civil war and the collapse of a once-proud race – and then came the Nimon, a god-like being who promised the restoration of the Empire in return for tributes, which the Skonnans, led by Soldeed, acquired on the peaceful neighbouring planet of Aneth. The ship we see in the first proper scene is the last surviving vessel of the former empire.

The Captain is here named Sekkoth and his co-pilot, Sardor, is younger, ‘plump-faced and overweight’. Sardor was too young to have fought in the wars, which accounts for his being ‘even more fiercely militaristic than his superior.’ The Doctor is curious as to why Romana has decided to dress like a fox-hunter. When Romana flees the Nimon’s chamber with Seth and Teka, it’s left to an unnamed Anethan girl to explain the plot so far to the Nimon. After the Complex is destroyed, we’re told what happened next: The Doctor takes Sorak aside and persuades him to enter into a peace treaty with the people of Aneth and lay the blame for previous enmity on the Nimon.

Cover: Steve Kyte’s first of three covers for the range, with the Doctor looking over his shoulder at a blue Nimon.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks often said that his favourite novels were the ones where the scripts were already good, so he had little to do, or the ones that were bad, where he got to fix them. Few fans would say Horns of Nimon is their favourite story, but the opening prologue suggests Terrance approached this with determination and a willingness to polish as he progressed. We might lose some of Tom Baker’s onscreen excesses here, but Terrance also takes things much more seriously than anyone in the TV version seems to have done: The opening prologue is as portentous as any other scene-setting chapter we’ve had, as a civilisation rises and falls; the comic trouser-splitting co-pilot is given a zealous determination that makes his ultimate demise a relief; Teka tells Romana that her fellow sacrifices are ‘too frightened even to talk’, which explains why only two of them are given any dialogue (genius!); Soldeed’s rise to power is shown to be a fluke and he clings to power knowing he’s ill-equipped to rule – something that Sorak seems to recognise and hopes to exploit; and of course, it’s the dreaded Nimon who Terrance really beefs up with customary relish – just have a look at this:

It was a fearsome, extraordinary creature, not unlike the great buffalo of Earth. Presumably on the Nimon’s planet some similar creature had developed intelligence and become the dominant life form. The Nimon was like a great black bull that had learned to talk and walk upon its hind legs like a man. The massive head merged directly into the enormous torso, with no suggestion of a neck. Great golden eyes blazed with a fierce intelligence and two amber-coloured horns jutted from the broad flat forehead. The creature wore only a wide jewelled belt and a kind of metallic kilt. 

The most terrifying thing about the Nimon was that it was never still. It was as if so much energy was packed into the enormous body that it throbbed with continual power, pacing restlessly to and fro like a great caged beast. Even when it was not speaking it gave off a constant series of low, rumbling growls. 

That is how to polish a cow-pat, even making the bizarre choreography something to fear. Right in the middle of his infamous ‘script-to-page’ period, Terrance gives us a surprising little gem.

Chapter 60. Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden (1980)

Synopsis: Two spacecraft collide and are fused together. An investigator suspects that one of the pilots was under the effect of a terrifying drug called Vraxoin. But how did it get aboard? The Doctor and Romana get involved and their attention is drawn to a device that stores snapshots of alien worlds. But these aren’t just photographs, that’s a real jungle from the planet Eden. That’s a real Mandrel from the jungle. Now that’s a real Mandrel leaving the jungle and marauding around the ship, killing real passengers. And more of them. And more…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Warp Smash
  • 2. The Collector
  • 3. The Attack
  • 4. Monster in the Fog
  • 5. Drugged
  • 6. The Fugitive
  • 7. The Rescuer
  • 8. Man-eater
  • 9. Monster Attack
  • 10. The Plotters
  • 11. The Secret of the Hecate
  • 12. The Smugglers
  • 13. Round-up
  • 14. Electronic Zoo

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Bob Baker’s scripts for the 1979 story.

Notes: The Doctor and Rigg discuss the history of Vraxoin, which the Doctor says keeps cropping up on various planets but its source has never been found as it was smuggled in from somewhere else. Scientists tried to create it artificially while trying to find a cure for vraxoin addiction, and the drug is ‘a mixture of animal and vegetable elements combined in some unique way’. Secker’s body is too frail after the attack as his system has been weakened by the drug. As ever, the version of the Mandrels from TV is enhanced in Dicks’ description:

The boar-like head had a curiously flattened nose-structure; the huge bulging eyes were a luminous green; and the creature was covered with thick, shaggy fur. Most terrifying of all were the rows of drooling fangs and the massive paws ending in razor-sharp claws. 

The Doctor urges Stott to quarantine Eden to enable the Mandrels to live in peace, their secret safe.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints the Doctor and a rather drab Mandrel (aside from its glowing green eyes).

Final Analysis: Another no-frills adaptation, a couple of small scenes are missing – the search among the passenger lounge when the Doctor and Romana have leapt through into Eden – and a few scenes are reordered, but otherwise it’s another basic tome.

Chapter 51. Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana explore a dead world, unaware that one of them has been there before. A spaceship arrives containing the beautiful Movellans who inform the Doctor that the planet is Skaro – home of the Daleks – and their mission is to find the Dalek creator, Davros. But Davros is dead… and coincidentally, so is Romana!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Dead City
  • 2. Underground Evil
  • 3. The Daleks
  • 4. The Movellans
  • 5. Slaves of the Daleks
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Secret of the Daleks
  • 8. The Prisoner
  • 9. The Hostages
  • 10. The Bait
  • 11. Stalemate
  • 12. Suicide Squad
  • 13. Blow-up
  • 14. Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts for a story that aired just two months earlier.

Notes: Dicks calls Romana a ‘Time Lady’ and summarises the events from the climax of The Armageddon Factor, which hasn’t been novelised yet. The Doctor surmises that Romana’s higher score at the academy accounts for her greater control over how she regenerates, unlike his own traumatic experiences. They arrive on the strange dead world at night during a storm (it’s a bright, sunny day on TV). The slaves bury their dead under rocks because the foundations of the city ruins are too thick to dig up. The dead body that the Doctor investigates was a ‘Space Major Dal Garrant’ (so close to that familiar ‘Tarrant’ that Nation often used). While pinned under the fallen masonry, the Doctor reads ‘The Origins of the Tenth Galaxy’,  written by a ‘particularly pompous Time Lord historian’ who he has never liked. He’s interrupted by the arrival of just two Movellans (Lan and Agella) and they’re wearing ‘simple, military-type space coveralls’, rather than the beautifully distinctive space-dreadlocks and Top of the Pops dance-troop suits. On the Movellan spaceship, Commander Sharrell’s rank is denoted by an insignia on his uniform. 

Sharrel does not identify the planet they’re on beyond the serial number. Only later does the Doctor discover that it’s Skaro, when Tyssan tells him. As Davros revives, his eyes open [see The Witch’s Familiar in 2015]. The journey to the surface with Davros involves a long, steep, spiralling ramp. The Daleks cheat and make their way to Davros’s level using ‘eerily silent anti-grav discs’ as seen in Planet of the Daleks. Disappointingly, the Doctor doesn’t tell the Daleks to ‘spack off’. The Dalek mutant that he encounters in the sand dunes is more active than the blob of Slime-with-Worms from TV. It’s a ‘pulsating green blob, a kind of land-jellyfish’ that crawls up his arm. There’s a fair bit of gender-swapping here: Veldan and Jall’s genders are reversed, the Daleks’ sacrificial victims are both male and the Movellan that captures the Doctor and Tyssan is also male. Romana doesn’t dismember Sharrel during their fight, she merely kicks away his power tube.

Cover: Welcome Andrew Skilleter, who surrounds an image of the Doctor (based on a pic from The Pirate Planet) with very TV Century 21-style Daleks moving around in fog, as if at a disco. Alister Pearson’s 1990 reprint cover puts the Doctor and Romana alongside a moody Davros in profile, a Dalek and Agella against a salmon background.

Final Analysis: Destiny of the Daleks seems to polarise opinion, but as it was the first Dalek story where I was old enough to follow the plot in full, I didn’t care about how tatty the props looked or that the central point about a robotic impasse shouldn’t have worked because Daleks aren’t robots. I just enjoyed it for being Daleks on my telly. This novelisation is, for me, the first point in this project where Terrance Dicks’ straightforward script-to-page approach feels a little lacking. Racing to get this story novelised meant that Romana v2 is introduced before V1 – we’ve leapt past a season and a half of stories, which is quite confusing – but there’s no real explanation as to who Romana is, only that she’s changed and she’s from Gallifrey. The Movellan costumes are described in such generic terms that they lose some of their onscreen glamour, and it’s all a little… thin. However, there is this lovely harkback to Genesis of the Daleks, which highlights a decision the Doctor has returned to time and time again:

The Doctor sighed. He had hesitated once before, at a time when he could have destroyed the Daleks before their creation, simply by touching the two wires that would complete an explosive circuit. Who knows what horrors he had unleashed upon the Universe? The Daleks were stronger now and more numerous, and with Davros to help them… He must not hesitate again. The Doctor pressed the switch.