Chapter 103. Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Peri has just witnessed her new friend die and be replaced by a completely different man. Unstable after the trauma of regeneration, this new Doctor is loud, violent and self-obsessed – and Peri is terrified of him. Deciding to become a hermit on a barren moon, the Doctor instead becomes entangled in a policeman’s investigation into the kidnapping of hyper-intelligent twins. The culprit is someone the Doctor once knew, but is now enslaved by a megalomaniacal slug with mind-boggling ambitions.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Home Time
  • 2. The Maladjusted Time Lord
  • 3. Enter Professor Edgeworth
  • 4. Mestor the Magnificent
  • 5. Titan Three
  • 6. An Unsafe Safe House
  • 7. The Reunion
  • 8. Jaconda, the Beautiful!
  • 9. End Game, Part One
  • 10. End Game, Part Two

Background: Eric Saward adapts the scripts by Anthony Steven for a 1984 serial.

Notes: Professor Archie Sylvest is a university lecturer who lives with his wife, Nimo, and their 12-year-old twin sons live at 25 Lydall Street, the only Georgian terrace left standing in a metropolis of ‘mirror-smooth’ and ‘flameproof, plastic buildings’. He has an android babysitter for the boys, which he knows they hate. Sylvest is scared of his children, something the boys exploit. He takes solace in harbouring murderous thoughts towards them (a strategy suggested by his therapist to help suppress his fears) while drinking too much Voxnic in the company of an attractive computer programmer called Vestal Smith. When Sylvest returns home drunk and discovers his sons’ disappearance, his concern is less that they might have been hurt and more that they might be used in some nefarious scheme or other.

The Time Lord process of regeneration is the work of a hormone called ‘lindos’, which works at lightning speed to repair every cell in the Time Lord body. An illustration of regeneration’s random nature comes in the story of Councillor Verne, whose stunning beauty distracted his peers from his unsuitability to office; his subsequent regenerations saw him grow increasingly unattractive until he became a ‘hideous monster’ who so distressed the then-Lord President that he ordered the Verne creature to be destroyed.

The new Doctor initially misunderstands Peri’s distress, but then apologises to her as he realises how terrified she must be. Peri is relieved and reassured – until she sees his new costume:

… each panel of the coat was quite different in texture, design and colour. This wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if the colours had blended, but they seemed to be cruelly, harshly, viciously at odds with each other. In fact, the coat was so gawdy it would have looked out of place on the back of a circus clown…. The whole ensemble was finished off with a waistcoast which looked as though someone had been sick on. (For all Peri knew, someone had.) The final touch was a livid green watch chain that at some time must have been stolen from a public lavatory.

Delightful! As she fights off the Doctor’s frenzied attack, Peri grabs the mirror in the hope of smashing it to use as a weapon against him.

The personal history of Professor Bernard Edgeworth – aka the Time Lord Azmael – is recounted: Like the Doctor, Azmael grew tired of life among the Time Lords and chose to retire; unlike the Doctor, the High Council decided Azmael was too dangerous to be allowed to escape their control and chose instead to kill him; they despatched ‘Seedle Warriors’ to assassinate him, only for the bloodthirsty squad to massacre the inhabitants of Vitrol Minor, where Azmael was hiding; Azmael brought legal proceedings against the High Council, who retaliated by framing him for their own crimes; Azmael’s last course of action was to gun down the High Council in their chambers and flee to the planet Jaconda. The specific species of gastropod that lays waste to Jaconda is the Sectoms. We also learn of the history of Titan Three, formerly home to the Mastons of Maston Viva, who fell victim to the generally bleak atmosphere of the planet and committed mass suicide, leaving behind their research equipment for Azmael to find.

‘Mestor the Magnificent’ is nearly two metres tall and considered ugly even by other gastropods. To allow him to stand upright, Mestor has grown two small legs that make him wobble as he walks, and two tiny arms, which serve ‘no particular function’ except to gesticulate as he speaks. 

His face, what there was of it, was humanoid in form. As he did not have a neck, head or shoulders, the features had grown where what would have been the underside of a normal slug’s jaw. As though to add to the peculiarity of a gastropod with a human face, the features were covered in a thin membrane.

Peri observes that the Doctor’s delusions lead him to act like Sherlock Holmes, Hern the Hunter (a dig at Doctor Who’s ITV rival Robin of Sherwood?), an explorer called Musk and a country squire. She apparently ‘never even grasped the fundamentals of the microwave oven’. The issue of the time delay with the matter transporter is removed; although Peri dematerialises first, the pair return to the TARDIS at the same time.

The planets that form part of Mestor’s plans are called Muston and Seniel  The Doctor recalls his past companions, including a rather brutal summation of Adric and his ‘childish antics’, a desperation ‘to be loved and accepted for what he was’, which prevented the Doctor (or at least, this incarnation) of ‘ever being able to fully praise, help or ultimately like him’. The Doctor’s first meeting with Mestor is delayed until the climax – their prior conversations conveyed via a hologram link.

Cover: Due to a breakdown in negotiations, an earlier cover showing Colin Baker was rejected (the actor’s agent enquired how much his fee might be for using his likeness and the publisher, misunderstanding the enquiry as a demand for payment, panicked and cancelled the already completed artwork). Andrew Skilleter’s second painting offers up a very green cover featuring a Jacondan, Mestor and some gastropod eggs. The 1993 reprint used Andrew Skilleter’s art for the VHS, again showing a Jacondan and Mestor, but this time joined by the Doctor.

Final Analysis: This is more than just an adaptation; its position in the history of Doctor Who offers us a little insight into events behind the scenes. It was written and published before the increasingly public fall-out between Eric Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner, but the causes of Saward’s dissatisfaction can be seen here in his depiction of the lead character. Even though it’s the post-regenerative monster that he’s writing, and even though he turns the self-serving and cowardly acts into something more whimsical (thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes etc), some of Saward’s negativity is still very much evident. In the final confrontation with Mestor, he frames this Doctor as sounding ‘more like a street bully than a Time Lord negotiating with a creature capable of taking over the universe’ and his pleading with the despot is ‘foolish, almost childish’. The conclusion to the tale is much less confident and reassuring than on TV. Peri even tells the Doctor she just wants to go home.

‘… whatever else happens, I am the new Doctor. This is me whether people like it or not.’

The statement was as bland and as sterile as it sounded.

Peri hoped that she had caught a glimpse of a smile as he uttered it.

If she hadn’t, this particular incarnation of the Time Lord would prove to be a very difficult person indeed.

Hugo Lang is also subject to a character assassination, the dogged and determined police officer becoming a self-serving and ruthlessly opportunistic man who pursues the twins only for personal glory and who decides to stay on Jaconda to extort money from Mestor’s chamberlain.

This is still a diverting read though, as Saward tries hard to make it more entertaining than he managed to make it on screen. As with the fox in The Visitation, Saward once again uses the form of an animal to witness events; the arrival of Azmael’s ship and his kidnapping of the twins goes undetected by anyone on Earth except a ginger cat, who prides himself on knowing what is happening before anyone else and vows to tell nobody about what he’s seen. His telling of the circumstances of Hugo Lang’s crash on Titan Three make for a scene straight out of Star Wars and, as the quote above shows, he succeeds in making Mestor a horrifying and fearsome presence. 

We’re now in the period where authors were encouraged to attempt something other than a straight retelling of the TV show and for many readers, the episodes would still be fresh in the memory. Saward attempts something in the style of Douglas Adams as his narrative regularly drifts off to discuss various tangentially related topics: A mention of Azmael’s revitalising modulator leads to a detailed history of the life and convoluted death of the machine’s inventor, Professor James Zarn, as well as the results of his other great scientific success, involving the Social and Sexual Life of the Veedle Fly; the acid that the Doctor uses to attack Mestor is Moston acid, which ages its victims to death and which is a product of Professor Vinny Mosten, about whom we also discover more than we’d ever hoped; even the floor of Mestor’s chamber, decorated with a celebrated Jacondan mosaic, inspires a further condensed history lecture. Whether or not this is a successful approach is down to personal taste. Personally, I rather enjoyed it, even if I was slightly worried every time a new brand name or invention popped up. Stop trying to make ‘Voxnic’ happen, Eric. It’s not going to happen.

Chapter 95. Doctor Who – The Awakening (1985)

Synopsis: In an English village, a historical re-enactment of the civil war begins to take a threatening tone. Some of the players are taking things far too seriously, in particular Sir George, who seems particularly driven towards making the event as accurate as possible. When Tegan Jovanka comes looking for her grandfather, she learns that he has disappeared, while the Doctor joins forces with a local schoolteacher and a time-displaced boy to uncover something terrifying in the church crypt…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. An Unexpected Aura
  • 2. The Devil in the Church
  • 3. The Body in the Barn
  • 4. Of Psychic Things
  • 5. ‘A Particularly Nasty Game’
  • 6. The Awakening
  • 7. Tegan the Queen
  • 8. Stone Monkey
  • 9. Servant of the Malus
  • 10. Fulfillment

Background: Eric Pringle adapts his own scripts from the serial broadcast in 1984, the first novel based on a two-part story since The Sontaran Experiment.

Notes: Little Hodcombe is in Dorset (everyone on TV affects that ‘just outside of London’ accent that covers anywhere from Norfolk to Cornwall). Sir George’s ancestors have governed over the region since before the civil war; Will Chandler was in service to one of them and it’s that ancestor that he sees when he pushes Sir George into the Malus. The conclusion suggests that, as he promised to Tegan, the Doctor does indeed stay in the village for a holiday.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s original cover is a handsome portrait of the Malus, free of its crumbling wall frame. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover adds the Doctor and Tegan to a walled-up Malus.

Final Analysis: This is a fun one: Back when this was first published, I wrote a review for a local fanzine in which I moaned about the padding that was evident in the fact that it took ten pages just to get past the first scene. Impatient youth! So, 35 years later, Eric Pringle’s sole contribution to the range is indeed a slow build as he takes his time to describe every detail that we might have seen on screen… and that’s the issue really. Although made as a two-part story, it was commissioned as four episodes and one might have hoped for an expanded novel that featured loads of extra scenes. As it was, the reason the story was reduced in size was because there wasn’t enough to sustain 90 minutes of drama, so apparently very little incident was actually cut. There was one short scene with Kamelion in the TARDIS that was recorded but subsequently removed, but that doesn’t make it into the novel either. 

Of course, I didn’t know there was material missing in 1985 and what we have is a very thorough and accurate adaptation of the story as broadcast. Far from being padded, this novel makes good use of the increased page-count that’s been the standard since Frontios. The characterisation is strong, particularly for Will Chandler. 

Will had given up being surprised. When he had been bobbing and swinging about in the cart and feeling sure that his bones were splintering inside him, he had made up his mind that if he survived he would take everything in his stride from now on. He had discovered that when absolutely everything is extraordinary, nothing is astonishing any more. Running into a blue box, therefore, was simply another wonder to be accepted without demur, and he shrugged as he ran in through its door, as though this sort of thing happened to him every day. 

Oh why wasn’t he a companion?! There’s one thread that gives us a hint of WIll’s backstory, as he explores the Little Hodcombe of 1984 and is appalled that the events that he remembers from 1643 – which must be just a day or so ago in his own timeline – are happening again. He even notes that this current time has its own Squire Hutchinson, just as his own did. The Squire who pressed him into service and whose actions led Will to hide in the church. Come on, Big Finish, surely there’s a gap you could fill with a mini-series? The Will and Jane Adventures!

Chapter 93. Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani (1985)

Synopsis: Troops from Androzani Major are losing in a war against the android soldiers of Sharaz Jek, an arms trader who controls his operations from deep within the catacombs of the twin planet Androzani Minor. Driven by revenge, Jek has a stranglehold over the supply of spectrox, a substance that, when refined, is a much-valued elixir. In its raw state, however, it can be a deadly poison. And both the Doctor and Peri are already suffering from the effects of spectrox toxaemia. Can the Doctor hold off an impending regeneration long enough to rescue Peri and get them both to safety? 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Androzani Minor Revisited
  • 2. Spectrox War
  • 3. The Execution
  • 4. Sharaz Jek
  • 5. The Escape
  • 6. The Magma Beast
  • 7. Spy!
  • 8. The Boss
  • 9. Crash Down
  • 10. Mud Burst
  • 11. Takeover
  • 12. Change

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for a serial broadcast eight months earlier. This followed Planet of Fire on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Androzani Major and Minor are two of the five planets that make up the Sirius system. Peri gets her very own Terrance Dicks summary, she’s ‘an attractive American girl, her piquant features framed in short dark hair.’ She considers the Doctor’s interest in everything to be one of his ‘endearing and aggravating characteristics’, which might indicate that they’ve been together for some time, even though soon after she says that the mud of Androzani Major would make ‘a change from lava’, which would suggest this is her first trip since Sarn – or they’ve visited a lot of volcanic locations. We’re shown what happened to Trooper Boze (a scene only recounted on TV in reported speech by the android Salateen) and the reference to ‘Chacaws’ is explained; they’re a ‘fiercely-spiked fruit grown on the penal plantations of Androzani Major’, which leave the chacaw pickers covered in scars.

The Magma Beast is the recipient of this volume’s ‘let’s beef up the monster’ award:

The body resembled that of a giant tortoise, or perhaps an armadillo, though the creature stalked upright on two powerful back legs, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The massive fanged head was like that of a tyrannosaurus too, though it also bore two ferocious-looking horns. The powerful arms were short and stubby, ending in two enormous claws. As the monster stalked forwards, the massive carapace, at once protection and camouflage, covered the back of its body like an armoured cloak.

When the Doctor finds the beast dead, he surmises that it was caught in a mud burst and ‘either choked or boiled to death’. Sharaz Jek removes his mask to reveal ‘two mad eyes blazing from a face that was no more than a formless blob, a lump of peeling corrugated skin, devoid of all features’. He strangles Morgus until he’s dead (rather than shoving his head into the laser of one of his machines). 

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s cover shows Sharaz Jex clutching his mask forlornly while an explosion overhead has a blurred and very subtle approximation of the sixth Doctor’s face. A 1992 reprint uses the VHS cover, again by Skilleter, which shows the fifth Doctor, Sharaz Jek (inset), some androids and the twin Androzani planets.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks is back, working on his friend Robert Holmes’s most popular story – and doesn’t put a foot wrong. He adds little details to help build upon the societies Holmes created, puts in a few extra bits to bridge gaps – and unlike the omissions by Bidmead in Logopolis, he describes the onscreen visions of the Doctor’s past companions and the Master’s taunting. It’s the idea that the Master might literally get the last laugh that propels him towards choosing to survive. And so, once again, Terrance gets to describe the first moments of a new Doctor:

He had a broad, high forehead and a mop of curly light-brown hair. There was something cat-like about the eyes, a touch of arrogance in the mouth.

Chapter 92. Doctor Who – Planet of Fire (1985)

Synopsis: Peri Brown, a young American student, is rescued from drowning by Turlough. Among her belongings is a metallic object that the boy recognises as coming from his own world. The shape-changing robot Kamelion interferes with the TARDIS to take them all to a volcanic planet where a religious order revolves around a teenage boy who might be the key to Turlough’s secret past. A bewildered Peri discovers that Kamelion is being controlled by someone who knows the Doctor well, someone who calls himself ‘The Master’…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Mayday
  • 2. Message Received
  • 3. Destination Unknown
  • 4. Crisis on Sarn
  • 5. A Very Uncivil Servant
  • 6. Outsiders
  • 7. The Misos Triangle
  • 8. An Enemy in Disguise
  • 9. In the Heart of the Volcano
  • 10. The Blue Flame
  • 11. The Time of Fire

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts for the serial broadcast seven months earlier.

Notes: The book begins aboard the ship of Captain Antigonas struggling in a storm. The vessel is weighed down by the treasures of Dimitrios, a fat merchant from Rhodes who is more concerned with the welfare of a marble statue of a boy than for his own life (or those of the crew). He’s last seen clinging to the statue  ‘as if it were a lover’, plummeting to the depths of the ocean. The ancient ways of the doomed mariners are contrasted with the similar fate of the crew of a Trion vessel caught in the gravitational pull of Sarn. Another captain, Grulen, eagerly awaits landing on the planet as several generations of his family once lived there before the volcanoes became overactive. A sudden surge of volcanic activity causes a magnetic storm. Realising they won’t be able to guarantee a safe landing, Grulen opens the security quarters of the ship so that his prisoners might have equal chance of survival as the rest of the crew. Having faced the threat of execution daily, two of the prisoners are resigned to their deaths and as the couple cradle their sleeping child, the father’s thoughts turn to Turlough.

There’s a shuffling of scenes at the start, with all of the scenes on Sarn shifted to chapter 4, and it all makes a lot more sense. We join the TARDIS in the immediate aftermath of Tegan’s departure. Turlough considered the Australian ‘argumentative, tactless, interfering, brainless and with a voice that could strip paint’; he also misses her terribly and so does the Doctor. Turlough suggests a holiday, and while the Doctor isn’t enthused with the idea, remembering the chaos that ensued after a trip to Brighton, Turlough recalls a holiday with his school chum Ibbotson and his family to Weston-super-Mare – and so is determined that they should find a ‘paradise island’ instead. Kamelion’s screams force the Doctor to realise he’d forgotten all about the robot shapeshifter and notes that he had ‘none of the cheerful loyalty of K9’. His voice is like a speak-your-weight machine. Turlough suspects Kamelion of working with the Custodians on Trion and when the robot advises him to take care under the hot sun (‘with your fair skin you will easily burn’) it sounds to Turlough more like a threat than advice.

Howard Foster speculates that the mysterious metal object might be debris from a Russian satellite. His assistant is Karl, not Curt. Peri mentions a ‘Doc Corfield’ and notes that she would ‘never trust a man with a toupee!!’ Howard is 41 next birthday. He says that Peri has travelled all her life but Peri moans that it’s mainly been a succession of Hilton hotels. She has a trust fund, left to her by her (presumably deceased) father, which will be released to her when she turns 21. The English guys she hopes to go travelling with are called ‘Trevor’ and ‘Kevin’. Peri acknowledges that she’s not a strong swimmer but it’s leg cramp that causes her to come into difficulty as she heads to the shore. Incidentally, Lanzarote is not mentioned at any point in the story; the story begins with the shipwreck off the coast of North Africa (‘the headland’) so Howard’s archeological excavation might take place in Gibraltar, which has easier access to Athens. But it’s probably still Lanzarote in anything but name.

Turlough has a more physical altercation with Kamelion before disabling the robot with a bombardment of waves and dumping him in a spare room. Sarn is a city, not the name of the planet, believed to be the last surviving community after the last earthquakes and firestorms a generation ago. Turlough appears to tell the Doctor the name of his home planet, Trion, for the first time, despite having asked to go there in previous stories. The Doctor quotes Paradise Lost and admonishes Turlough for not studying Milton at school. Misunderstanding Turlough’s intentions, the Doctor calls him a ‘little racialist’: ‘As Tegan had never been slow to point out, Turlough could be a rather nasty piece of work.’ There’s a summary of the Master’s exploits that led to his predicament, during which it’s confirmed that this is his fourteenth incarnation. Turlough and Malkon find a poorly tended grave near the wreck of the Trion ship, which confirms Turlough’s suspicions that Malkon is the only survivor of the crash. The Master’s final teasing line asking the Doctor to ‘show mercy to your own-‘ is cut, as is the final scene on TV where Peri received her proper invitation to join the Doctor.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s illustration depicts the Master and Kamelion in waves of blue flame.

Final Analysis: An elegant adaptation here. I particularly like the way Grimwade makes sure we know when we’re with the Kamelion version of any character as he undermines the illusion in every line: ‘the duplicate professor’; ‘the man in the dark suit who everyone believed to be Professor Foster’; ‘Kamelion in the guise of the American archaeologist’; ‘The robotic Master’. He also has a nice line in similes: The Doctor’s device squeaks ‘like an old lady who has turned her hearing aid up too high’; the volcano grumbled ‘like a sleeping giant with a touch of indigestion’; the Master announces himself to Peri ‘as if he were the Tsar of all Abe Russias’; the Doctor’s party works its way through the streets of Sarn ‘like rodents navigating the secret byways of the skirting board’; the Doctor arrives at the portico ‘like a royal bride’; Kamelion glitters ‘like a Maltese tinfoil Saint at Festa Time,’ and later the robot appears ‘blustered like an actor unsure of his lines’. It’s so much fun seeing which ridiculous comparison he’ll submit next. Though what we’re supposed to make of Peri delivering ‘a sharp kick at the Master’s shins that would have repulsed a Globetrotter’, I’m not so sure.

Chapter 91. Doctor Who – Frontios (1984)

Synopsis: In the far future, the TARDIS suffers a forced landing on the planet Frontios, where the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough find a colony of humans struggling to survive against the elements and the continual bombardments from an unknown aggressor. Then there are the strange unaccountable deaths and the threat of insurrection from citizens tired of rations and restrictions. But Turlough knows the truth. A distant memory from his own people that reveals the attacks are not coming from above, but below.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Refugees of Mankind
  • 2. The Unknown Invaders
  • 3. The Deadly Hail
  • 4. The Power of the Hat-Stand
  • 5. Downwardness
  • 6. Beneath the Rocks
  • 7. The Force Takes Hold
  • 8. Eaten by the Earth
  • 9. The Excavating Machine
  • 10. Prisoners of the Gravis
  • 11. The Price of Rescue
  • 12. Greed Sets the Trap

Background: Christopher H. Bidmead adapts his own scripts for a serial broadcast seven months earlier.

Notes: While Tegan tries in vain to read an unhelpful handbook, Turlough expresses his boredom by tying viciously tight knots into one of the Doctor’s scarves, which the Doctor later fails to unravel. There’s no follow-on from the previous story, so we’re just told that the Doctor has become ‘mysteriously reclusive’ since whatever time and place they last visited. Turlough sees a large portrait on a wall in the medical shelter and Mr Range tells him it’s of their recently deceased leader, Captain Revere (information that I’m sure will come in use later!).

When Norna describes the circumstances of the colony ship’s crash on Frontios, we’re told her grandparents died among many other casualties, but this was many years before she herself was born. Plantagenet is about the same age as Turlough with a ‘thin physique’ and a ‘head of thick, white hair’. There’s a useful paragraph that explains the scale of the crashed ship:

The propulsion chamber led them through into Causeway 8 that ran the length of the ship – a half hour’s brisk walk in the days Brazen was a boy and the ship was whole. Now most of the structure except the stern end was buckled and filled with silt, and only the part of the ship they walked in now was usable for the business of state and the storage of the precious resource reserves.

The Tractators are ‘silver creatures, each larger than a man. Their insect-like bodies were scaled like fish, and from their underbellies a pale luminescence emanated’. They have ‘two bulbous eyes on either side of the shrimp-like head’ with ‘glossy black mouths’. Their leader, the Gravis, rises up on ‘innumerable rear legs’ and he’s said to be larger than the other Tractators. As the creatures notice Norna, she experiences the sensation of them ‘threatening to drag her flesh from her bones’. Later, we’re told ‘her hair stood up on her head in spikes’… well, it was the 80s…

Norna and her father find a plaque, not a map, which tells them that Revere found no valuable minerals as of the year ‘Alpha 14404’. Brazen’s Deputy is introduced early on, accompanying him as he discovers the blue Police Box in the colony. It’s only when Mr Range faces the inquiry that we learn the Deputy is a woman. The Gravis has a translation machine and an excavation machine that utilise human body parts in very grizzly ways; the excavator is also vaguely the same shape as a Tractator. There are two colonists called ‘Kernighan’ and ‘Ritchie’, named after Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, computer scientists who literally wrote the book on the subject of the programming language ‘C’.

The Gravis claims that they know of the Doctor ‘by reputation’ and explicitly states his belief that the Doctor has been sent by the Time Lords of Gallifrey to prevent their plans (and of course, he also knows what a TARDIS is, though not what it looks like). Much more is made of the Doctor’s ruse that Tegan is an android and as she recalls how she accidentally stumbled aboard the TARDIS and how she cared for the Doctor after his regeneration, she is outraged and not quite realising what the Doctor is doing until he gives her ‘a swift, barely perceptible wink’. He later claims to need his spectacles just to buy him enough time to explain his deception to Tegan. He uses the half-frame spectacles ‘when the print was very small, or the book unusually dull’, though he tells the Gravis that they have ‘poly-directrix lenses with circular polarising filters [to] reduce spectral reflection as much as seventy-five percent, without any perceptible deterioration of resolution’, which is ‘Gallifreyan technology – like the TARDIS’. Observing the wrecked excavation machine, the Doctor utters ‘a Gallifreyan word that is said in these circumstances’.

Cockerill appears to assume the post left vacant by Brazen as Plantagenet’s second in command, taking on an official uniform, giving tasks to the survivors and tempting the Retrogrades back into the community. The final scene where the TARDIS is caught in a plot device from the next story is omitted, though it’s hinted at by the closing line: ‘More serious trouble was on the way for the Doctor, nevertheless. But that was only to be expected.’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s illustration shows a rather dignified profile of the Gravis, with Frontios in the background during a bombardment.

Final Analysis: I’ve been gently critical of Christopher Bidmead’s arrogance leaking into his previous novels, so it’s a relief to see that aspect missing here. Instead, we get a slow-burning horror story that gives Ian Marter a serious challenge with some genuinely unsettling body horror. The Gravis’s translation device consists of ‘a tall narrow trolley that floated a foot or so above the ground… mounted on it was the head and one arm of a dead Colonist, connected by improvised metalwork to a swinging pendulum’. As it speaks, ‘its dead mouth moving to the click of the pendulum’. Then there’s ‘the machine’ – the excavator – which ‘needs a captive human mind to drive it’ and uses human hands to smooth the walls of their tunnels:

White bones tipped with metal cutters scraped against the rock, while rotting hands polished the surface smooth. Through illuminated windows in the body Tegan glimpsed more mechanically gesticulating human arms and legs in an advanced state of decay. It was a machine built from the dead.

While Marter likes his violence wet and gooey, this is more mechanical, playing on castration anxiety and the ‘vagina dentata’ folklore as much as Jaws, where the ground devours people and then the Tractators’ machines chew them up and reconstitute the parts as required. Just look at Bidmead’s description of the Doctor’s reaction here:

The Doctor was not very fond of tunnels at the best of times. They were frequently damp, dark, deep and dangerous, and as a method of transport ranked only a little higher than sitting absolutely still under water waiting for the right current. The best place to be in a tunnel was outside, and if you had to be inside, the less inside you were the better.

We don’t even need Dr Freud to explain this one, do we boys? No wonder 80s producer John Nathan-Turner kept reassuring his audience of quivering adolescents that there’d be ‘no hanky panky aboard the TARDIS’…

Chapter 87. Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep (1984)

Synopsis: The Earth was once home to a race of intelligent reptiles who dominated the land and the sea. Having spent millions of years in hibernation, they are now preparing to awake and reclaim their planet. As the personnel of a nearby underwater military base run tests in preparation for a potential war, their paranoia and stress is being exploited from within by agents secretly working for a foreign power. The Doctor has failed to broker peace with the reptiles before, but now the Sea Devils and Silurians are working together to trigger a war that could eradicate humanity entirely.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Intruder
  • 2. The Traitors
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. The Sea Devils Awake
  • 5. The Attack
  • 6. The Myrka
  • 7. The Breakthrough
  • 8. Sabotage
  • 9. The Hostage
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Counterattack
  • 12. Sacrifice

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for the serial broadcast just four months earlier.

Notes: By 2084, Earth is divided into two power blocs, East and West (suggested on screen but not spelled out) and after space stations proved vulnerable to ‘spy-satellites and the searing blast of laser beams’, many of Earth’s defence systems are now housed under the sea. Commander Vorshak has ‘the rugged good looks of a recruiting-poster hero, much to his own embarrassment’. The hull of the Silurian vessel has an irregular surface, as if it were ‘grown rather than manufactured’. The Silurians are ‘immensely tall, robed figures’…:

… brown-skinned with great crested heads and huge bulging eyes. Their slow, almost stately movements, their coldly measured speech-tones gave evidence of their reptilian origin.

Icthar is confirmed as the sole survivor of the ‘Silurian Triad’ and it’s made clear that the Doctor specifically remembers him as one of three Silurians from their origin story [see The Cave Monsters for Okdel, K’to and Morka – thought he could be one of the other bystanders who survives the end of the story only to be entombed]. He led the return to hibernation and awoke over a hundred years later. The Sea Devil warriors are in suspended animation in a chamber in the bowels of the Silurian ship (not in their own base as on TV), which is where Icthar found them, frozen under a polar ice cap (so Sea Devils and Silurians presumably had an alliance at some earlier point, considering the Sea Devils are piloting a craft that the Doctor recognises as specifically Silurian). There’s a handy addition to the backstory of the Earth Reptiles, summarising their two previous appearances. Apparently, many of them had developed’ almost mystic powers, the Silurian ‘third eye’ being ‘the source of psychic energy that enabled some Silurians to dominate lesser races by sheer mental force’.

Terrance Dicks still considers Tegan to be an ‘air-hostess’; she hasn’t been one for some time now, after she was sacked, and hadn’t actually started work prior to Time Flight, so it might be time to accept that she’s ex-flight crew now and let her move on, eh?

Doctor Solow was recruited by Nilson to the cause of the Eastern Bloc. She was ‘disappointed in her career, left alone by the death of her husband and her parents’ so she fell ‘an easy prey to Nilson’s arguments’. Icthar found the Myrka along with Sauvix’s ship and revived it. The beast is ‘like a kind of pocket dinosaur’ with a ‘hideous dragon-like head’ and ‘a long tail’ that is agile enough to use as a weapon against its attackers.

The Doctor climbs out of his stolen sea base uniform as soon as he’s handed the gun over to Vorshak. The charred bulkhead door reminds Turlough of toast, which triggers a memory of ‘study teas’ at his public school, ‘with a terrified fag to make the toast’; for non-English readers, this isn’t quite as offensive as it sounds, referring to the public-school practice of forcing the younger boys to work as servants (or fags) for older boys. The fact that he finds himself running towards the sound of battle with a gun in his hand strikes Turlough as odd. Later, he and Preston shoot down two Sea Devils to rescue the Doctor and Tegan; Turlough reminds Preston to ‘Aim for the head’. Tegan is surprised by Turlough’s change of heart but decides to give him the benefit of the doubt. As the Doctor laments that there ‘should have been another way’, he also recognises that Bulic won’t be the sole survivor and maybe he can lead the others and get the base running again.

Cover: The first release boasts a straightforward portrait of a Sea Devil warrior by Andrew Skilleter. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover is really classy, with the sea base and the Doctor between a Silurian and a Sea Devil. There’s also a new brand logo, the colourful target is dropped in favour of a hollow, white line drawing.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks has form for improving on the limitations of what could be achieved in a studio: Adapting a story that was famously overlit because of external pressures, he tells us here that the whiteness of the sea base is intentional, a design choice to counter the blackness of the deep sea; while the Silurians walk and speak slowly not because of restrictive costumes but because it’s dignified to do so; the heavy bulkhead door lands on Tegan, whose foot is ‘only trapped, not mangled’; and the Myrka is a horrific beast with a lithe and deadly tail! In truth, I’ve always loved this story, so it’s gratifying to see Terrance do it justice, even if some of the enhancements are tongue in cheek, it at least allows him to pay tribute to his friend Malcolm Hulke in reminding new readers of the origins of the Sea Devils and Silurians.

We should remember also that this novel, like the story it retells, was released in 1984, the year that Ultravox released Dancing with Tears in My Eyes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood topped the charts with Two Tribes. While the TV episodes and the novel both predate the harrowing drama Threads this was the peak year for anxiety of mutual annihilation from a nuclear attack, the most ‘1984’ story we could have got, short of a celebrity historical where the Doctor meets George Orwell.