Chapter 148. Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)

Synopsis: The Hand of Omega – a powerful weapon from the dark times of Gallifrey. In 1963, an old man living in a junkyard hid the weapon on Earth. Then the Daleks came looking for it, hoping it could be used to end a civil war between Dalek factions. The Doctor now returns with his new friend Ace to find the Hand of Omega – and give it to the Daleks! But which side gets it, the Renegades led by the Supreme Dalek, or those loyal to the Dalek Emperor? Time will tell…

Chapter Titles

A prologue and 23 numbered chapters, although each chapter also begins with a time, such as ‘Friday, 15:30’.

Background: Ben Aaronovich adapts his own scripts for the 1988 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 25.

Notes: The book opens with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III and a prologue that once again adapts the Doctor’s arrival at the junkyard from An Unearthly Child. Ace has destroyed the TARDIS ‘food synthesiser’ by mistaking it for a microwave and accidentally pouring plutonium into it, thinking it was soup. When the Doctor gives her currency appropriate for the time, Ace recalls the savings coupons on Iceworld [see Dragonfire]. This Doctor has ‘intense grey eyes’ and an unnerving gaze.

We’re introduced to more of Gilmore’s squad: There’s a 26-year-old Private John Lewis Abbot; Bellos, a big man from Yorkshire; Sergeant Embery; Quartermaster-Sergeant Kaufman; MacBrewer (a career soldier, ‘Catholic, married, four children’), who is killed by the Dalek at Totter’s Lane; Faringdon, who is decapitated by Dalek fire during the battle at the school; and Corporal Grant, who is the soldier attacked by Mike Smith in the cellar of Coal Hill School.

The Doctor recalls his first visit to Skaro and the death of Temmosus, plus events from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks. Thanks to an excerpt from The Zen Military – A History of UNIT by Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart (2006), we learn that UNIT emerged out of an earlier operation, the Intrusion Counter Measures Group, a Royal Air Force Regiment established in 1961 under the command of Group Captain Ian Gilmore. The official files refer to the events of this story as ‘the Shoreditch Incident’. Gilmore’s headquarters are at Maybury Hall in Hendon but, recognising he needed a base closer to the centre of the current operation, he asked Sergeant Mike Smith to make enquiries – and Smith brought in Ratcliffe from the Shoreditch Association. Ratcliffe’s men attack Gilmore’s officers at Foreman’s Yard and steal the Dalek remains (an assault missing from the transmitted episode, which cuts straight to the removal of the Dalek remains on the back of Ratcliffe’s truck).

In one of the novel’s most far-reaching additions, we encounter a triumvirate of Time Lords from Gallifrey’s legends: Omega is ‘a huge man with wide shoulders and muscular arms, a definite drift from the regenerative norm’ who is seen by some as a genetic throwback from the dark time; he addresses Rassilon as ‘cousin’ and Omega believes himself and Rassilon to be equally responsible for their varied Time Lord creations; and the unnamed ‘other’, who urges caution, reminding them of Minyos [see Underworld – or, y’know, don’t] and warning that Omega’s ‘magnificent achievement’ might also serve as a weapon. 

The Doctor suspects that the Daleks that invaded Earth in the 22nd Century uncovered information that led them to the Hand of Omega in 1963 [perhaps during the Doctor’s aborted robotisation]. We also learn that the Daleks (or at least the renegade faction) call the Doctor ‘the Ka Faraq Gatri’ and the Imperial Faction are known as ‘the Ven-Katri Davrett’. The Imperial Dalek transmat operator bursts through a wall in the school cellar, behind which it has lain dormant for some time.

The Doctor stops at a roadside tea-stall in the docklands, run by John (it’s not the cafe we saw earlier, as it was on TV). Rachel Jensen is also staying at the boarding house run by Mike’s mum. In a dream, Rachel finds herself inside the synagogue in Golders Green that she attended with her mum as a child, where the familiar Rabbi is replaced by the Doctor. While they’re recovering from the events at Foreman’s Yard, Rachel is surprised to hear Gilmore call her by her first name and we learn that, 23 years earlier, she and Gilmore had enjoyed a night of passion on a beach, before she was dispatched to other manoeuvres in Scotland (neither of them married). She worked with Alan Turing and his description of the human brain put her off porridge for life. When tying the rope for their escape from the school, she recalls her time as a girl guide. According to The Women That Science Forgot by Rowan Sesay (1983), Rachel retired in 1964 and published her autobiography, The Electric Dreamer.

Ace got her first taste for explosives at the age of 12, when she discovered the effects of mixing nitrate fertilizer with a two-pound packet of sugar. As a teenager, Ace attended a modern ‘concrete’ school covered in multicultural murals, where her friends were Manisha, Judy and Claire. Manisha had long black hair – until she was in a fire, which Ace tries to forget. Ace also has a dream while at Mike’s mum’s, in which she remembers visiting Manisha in hospital after she and a sibling escaped the fire that killed her parents and three younger children; Manisha left Perivale to stay with relatives in Birmingham:

It was Dorothy who stared at the burnt house, the burnt face, the burnt life, the racist graffiti. And it was Dorothy who stared at the words ‘Pakis out’ on the wall of the playground. 

It was Ace who blew away the wall with two and a half kilograms of nitro-nine. 

Fireball in the darkness. 

Fire fighting fire.

This attack happened when Ace was 14, two years prior to what the Doctor calls Ace’s ‘adjustment’, which saw her catapulted across time and space to Iceworld.

The junior undertaker is called Martin. As a young captain, the Reverend Parkinson had fought in the Great War in Verdun, where he lost his sight, but found his vocation. Mike’s dad had been in the Navy during World War II and was lost with his ship in 1943 while running weapons to the Russians in the Arctic Sea; a photograph of his father, in uniform, is still on Mike’s mum’s wall in the boarding house. Mike first met Ratcliffe as a child, when the older man had given him some German chocolate. Mike served in Malaya for 18 months and spent some time in Singapore, but stayed in touch with Ratcliffe, who only days before this operation had warned the young soldier that the United States would be getting ‘a new president’.

Allison refers to the situation with ‘Miss Keeler’ that has affected the current government (ie, the ‘Profumo Affair’). Ace sees Muffin the Mule on TV. Her behaviour at the school alerts the Imperial Dalek commander that she must either be from a different planet or a different time period and instructs the Dalek squad to target her. As recounted in The Children of Davros, a Short History of the Dalek Race by Njeri Ngugi (4065), the Daleks suffered 83% casualties in the Movellan war and the remnants factionalised across the galaxy. The arrival of Davros’s new Daleks propelled the Dalek race into civil war. The Dalek mothership is called Eret-mensaiki Ska, or ‘Destiny of Stars’ and it was constructed in orbit around Skaro. It contains hatcheries that nurture Dalek embryos. There are tiny servo-robots providing maintenance across the Dalek mothership and the Doctor sees one aboard the shuttle. Also aboard the shuttle is the special weapons Dalek, also known as ‘the Abomination’, the presence of which unsettles the Imperial Commander. Its past history seems to contain the first reference in Doctor Who to a Time War:

It served in many campaigns: Pa Jass-Gutrik, the war of vengeance against the Movellans; Pa Jaski-Thal, the liquidation war against the Thals; and PaJass-Vortan, the time campaign – the war to end all wars.

The radiation from its gun has sent it insane and it only survives by order of the Emperor. The Dalek Emperor remembers when he was a man – and we might pick up the clues that this man was Davros in a description that is pure body-horror:

He remembered the smell of his own blood, pulsing slowly from severed arteries, the taste of concrete dust in his mouth, and the crackling of his own skin. He hurtled blindly into darkness.

And then resurrection. 

An age of pain and humiliation. He was reconstructed with chrome and plastic, held together by tungsten wire. They drilled sockets through his skull and threaded fibreoptics into his forebrain. 

Ratcliffe had marched on Cable Street with Oswald Mosley, ‘proud to be English, proud to fight against the jew and the Bolshevik, proud to stand up for their race’; he served a prison sentence during World War II, but managed to spend the 1950s setting up a construction company, profiting on the rebuilding of London. Ratcliffe walked into his office one day to find the Renegade Dalek battle computer installed in the shadows; it began to feed him secrets and use his business to install electronic devices – Electronic countermeasures pods, or ECMs – hidden around the rooftops of London and which scramble the circuits of the Imperial forces. The Supreme Dalek and its renegade troops lie dormant, hidden away in Ratcliffe’s warehouse until the Imperial Shuttle lands.

On Skaro, Vekis Nar-Kangli (the Plain of Swords) is where the final Kaled-Thal war ended and where the Dalek city, Mensvat Esc-Dalek, was built. The Hand of Omega destroys one thousand million Daleks along with Skaro, its sun and its other surrounding planets. Ace sprays graffiti on the rear of the Imperial Dalek shuttle: ‘Ace woz ‘ere in 63’. The Doctor befriends a dog – an Alsation [see more of this in Survival]. Allison writes to ‘Julian’ to share some gossip about a possible relationship between Rachel Jensen and Ian Gilmore and reveals that they’re trying to find the parents of the ‘creepy girl’.

Cover: Alister Pearson combines Davros, a gravestone with an ‘omega’ symbol, a smirking Doctor and three types of Dalek in a cover that also draws him equal with Andrew Skilleter in painting all of the covers for a single season of stories.

Final Analysis: Remembrance of the Daleks is seen by many fans as a high-point in the final years of the series. When he took on the role of Target range editor in February 1989, Peter Darvill Evans began to develop plans to publish original novels once the novelisations were complete. His first steps were to encourage the writers of this final run of stories to expand upon the TV scripts, writing the novels for an older audience. Target authors had often tried to expand the depth of their original stories, but here Ben Aaronovich delivers an altogether more cohesive work. We find out why Ratcliffe is more than just a useful fascist for the Daleks – his construction company has been used to create a network of Dalek devices across London. We learn much more about Ace (who is only in her second story, chronologically) and Aaronovich plays with the conflicts burning through a teenage girl who is also wise beyond her years, experiencing her first love and first betrayal. We’re teased with a smattering of Dalek history and allowed inside the minds of various Daleks and even the Emperor himself – to a depth unseen in even the novels of John Peel. The renegade Dalek Supreme in particular is fascinating, experiencing feelings and sensations by proxy through the girl who is the battle computer and an extension of the Supreme.

Aaronovich doesn’t flinch away from the brutality of war and it’s definitely the most er, mature novel since the heady days of Ian Marter: There’s mention of an incident in Gilmore’s wartime past that involved ‘two German soldiers his men had scraped off the interior of a pillbox’ and the gut-wrenching fate of a soldier called Faringdon. Also, while we’ve had passing mentions of orgies and alien reproduction, a flashback to a ‘brief encounter’ between Gilmore and Rachel on a beach – where he calls out her name and then doesn’t say it again for 23 years – is the closest we ever get in the pages of a Target book to an actual sex scene – which I definitely didn’t pick up on during any of the previous times I read this. And of course, Aaronovich’s own heritage enriches the backstory of Rachel.

There are many books in the volumes 100-156 that I’ve read for the first time for this project, Remembrance of the Daleks is one that I’ve come back to repeatedly since it was first published. It’s no exaggeration that it was a game-changer. At this point, we were still a year away from the release of Timewyrm: Genesis but here is where the New Adventures truly begin; it’s a story ‘too broad and too deep’ for the small screen, featuring the Doctor as a mythic figure and with revelations that hint at a history that predates the TV series. Right at the very end of the series, we begin a ‘new golden age’.

Chapter 146. Doctor Who – The Happiness Patrol (1990)

Synopsis: Helen A presides over the colony of Terra Alpha to ensure her citizens are happy. She even has a squad of enforcers to guarantee that everyone complies and her factories create sugary treats created by her chief scientist, the mysterious Kandyman. Yet some people – killjoys – will insist on being miserable! Helen A has very clear policies for such behaviour. The killjoys must not spoil things for the majority. Happiness will prevail.

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Fifteen.

Background: Graeme Curry adapts earlier drafts of the scripts from his own 1988 serial.

Notes: The killjoy at the start of the story has lost her husband and son to the ‘disappearances’; she responds to Silas P’s approaches after he gives her hope of joining the resistance. It’s the Doctor who suggests a triceratops in his discussion about dinosaurs – Ace can’t remember their names. Conversely, the Doctor doesn’t appear to know what ‘lift music’ is. They discover the Kandy Kitchen, attracted by sweet smells in the air, and briefly explore. Ace went to a pantomime with her parents when she was a child and had been disappointed when she saw backstage to see the artifice that Terra Alpha now reminds her of.

The Happiness Patrol use jeeps to travel through the city and they are each equipped with ‘fun guns’ and bomb detectors. Helen A is the governor of Terra Alpha. Once a year, on Liberation Day, she addresses the population from Forum Square, where she’ll ‘inspect the Happiness troops and lead the singing of the patriotic song’. Trevor Sigma met Gilbert M on a previous visit to the planet, where he failed to interview ‘a certain person’: The Kandy Man differs significantly from his appearance on telly:

He was tall and powerfully built, dressed in a white lab coat and white trousers. He wore red-framed spectacles and a red bow-tie. Several red and white striped pens protruded from the pocket of his coat. His skin was pale and was covered with a soft white powder. As he moved towards them there was a soft, sucking sound as his feet touched the floor.

Later, we’re told that his teeth are black. 

Harold V’s brother, Andrew X, is the man we see on TV being executed. He’s a political writer who managed to get his work published under a pseudonym on nearby Terra Omega, where his nomme-de-plume became something of a celebrity. Terras Alpha and Omega had only ceased their long and bloody war relatively recently and an Alphan agent on Omega eventually uncovered Andrew X’s identity. He was imprisoned for six months prior to his execution, which is officiated by Joseph C while wearing a rainbow-coloured cap. A glowing skull on a shelf in the Kandy Kitchen signals to the Kandy Man to begin the execution. While chopping strawberries, the Kandy Man cuts off his own thumb, which he has to put back on himself. Helen A’s pet, Fifi, is a Stigorax, a species native to Terra Alpha that has been hunted to extinction; Fifi is the last survivor. Helen A captured the vicious creature on ‘the foothills of the mountains of Claffam’ and the pair ‘liked each other instantly’. The Doctor recognises the species and is surprised by the relationship between Helen A and her savage pet.

Susan Q tells Ace that she used to have a collection of old records, but now only one survives, ‘Lucille’ by Big Joe Turner (which does indeed contain the lyrics ‘I woke up this morning’). When this disc was discovered, she was demoted. Young girls are press-ganged from remote areas of the planet into auditioning for the Happiness Patrol. Susan Q had been a singer and dancer before she was press-ganged and had scored the highest ever marks in her audition. It’s now one of her duties to coach audition hopefuls. The noise made by the Kandy Man’s feet sticking to the kitchen floor reminds the Doctor of a visit to Peru where he heard the sound of leeches being removed from human skin. After being captured by Daisy K, Ace is presented to Helen A, where she encounters Fifi and discovers that Susan Q has been arrested. 

Sugar beets grow naturally on Terra Alpha, which makes it a valuable resource for exporting as none of the other colony planets have natural sugar. Generations ago, huge processing factories were built, with a labour force consisting of dissidents, who became known as drones. As the drones became more politically aware, one of their leaders began to speak out against conditions, a charismatic poet called Edward Z; when he ‘disappeared’, the drones began to organise protest marches that slowly came closer to the main city. The indigenous Terra Alphans are the Alpidae; Wences is an Alpida who, like Wulfric and the rest of their people, was forced underground to live off the sugar deposits in their pipes (hence why Helen A calls them ‘pipe people’). The Doctor apparently taught ‘a youthful Houdini’ how to escape from being tied up.

There are only two small groups of males in the Happiness Patrol, one team who are unarmed and physically strong, another consisting of snipers – two of whom are David S and Alex S. The snipers do not get along with each other and are fighting when the Doctor arrives. The Doorman at the Forum is called Ernest P. Susan Q and Ace both appear together on the poster outside the Forum. Priscilla P knows one joke, involving the word ‘polygon’ and the phrase ‘a dead parrot’ – she mangles the delivery deliberately to entrap Forum attendees into becoming drones in a remote sugar refinery. Helen A watches an old Earth sitcom involving a middle-aged woman, a man with no trousers and a vicar. Susan Q urges Ace to ‘look cute’ for their act at the Forum, but en route and under Happiness Patrol guard, they come under fire by a drone who’s taken control of the sniper’s discarded gun; Daisy K shouts directions to ‘Lucy O’ and ‘Jane M’ to provide covering fire. 

Seeing the peeling and cracked paintwork on the Forum, the Doctor is reminded of Venice at the end of the 20th century, ‘before it slid slowly into the sea’. Gilbert M leads the patrol that intercepts Daisy K’s miserable squad, who declares ‘Weltschmerz!’ – clearly happy to witness Daisy K’s misery. Back on his home planet Vasilip, Gilbert M had enjoyed a ‘friendly rivalry’ with another scientist, Seivad. When the pair were sentenced to death, they fled their home but were traced down by a vigilante who left Seivad for dead. Seeking refuge on Terra Alpha, Gilbert M’s true identity had been uncovered by Helen A, who forced him to build her a ‘monster’. He used the only resources available, which was how the mind of his old friend Seivad ended up encased in the sickly body of the Kandy Man, ‘his mind twisted with anger and injustice’. In the morning light, Helen A’s regime at an end, Ace suggests they pursue Gilbert M and Joseph C, but Susan tells her it’s not worth it as the Kandy Man had been the real danger. 

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover positions a stern Doctor at the top of a textured triangle (possibly a letter ‘A’), with Fifi underneath. The texture of the triangle is the same as the Kandy Man’s face on TV. Very clever.

Final Analysis: Sylvester McCoy has often said that he’d wished The Happiness Patrol had been made as a film noir and coincidentally, that’s how I saw it on transmission, consigned to a portable black-and-white TV. In the novelisation, without the distraction of the slightly too artificial sets and gaudy costumes on telly, Graeme Curry successfully builds a believable world, where decisions made generations in the past have led to the present situation. The flawed logic of Helen A’s obsessions seem much more credible, where the paranoia in the aftermath of war has turned already restrictive politics into a terrifyingly oppressive regime that’s ripe for toppling. Curry doesn’t dwell on describing our central heroes, assuming the reader already knows who Ace and this Doctor are, but it’s the focus on smaller details, like this depiction of Helen A’s palace, that help to create a sense of the scale of an entire civilisation on the brink of collapse:

In common with most Alphan buildings, from the outside it looked as if it had seen better days. The Doctor could see that once it would have been most imposing, as it was a large building set back from the street. But now the garden wall was crumbling and the whole edifice needed a coat of paint. A couple of the attic windows were broken. 

All of the enforcers of this corrupt regime are shown to be grumpy, frustrated and angry – a far cry / smile from the mandatory happiness they try to inflict on the general populace. 

I do have to wonder why The Kandy Man is so radically different to his TV counterpart; is it just a case of the author reinstating his original scripted intentions or if he were dodging the issues about the similarity of the TV version with the mascot of a disgruntled confectioner. Alister Pearson’s pencil sketch for the cover had originally included a portrait of the Kandy Man but the finished artwork represents him merely as a bubbled background detail, so clearly someone was mindful of Bassetts’ complaints. Even so, Ace calls him a ‘pimplehead’, an insult that doesn’t match the book version of the Kandy Man.

Chapter 144. Doctor Who – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1989)

Synopsis: The Psychic Circus has travelled the universe and amassed many fans over the years. Now, it has settled on the planet Segonax, where it has fallen on hard times while under the influence of a malign power. As visitors compete for the approval of the audience, the Doctor has to overcome a major obstacle – Ace’s deep hatred of clowns…

Chapter Titles

  • Overture
  • 1. Beginners
  • 2. Welcome to Segonax
  • 3. Captain Cook
  • 4. The Hippy Bus
  • 5. The Psychic Circus
  • 6. Nord’s Finest Hour
  • 7. The Well
  • 8. The End of Bellboy’s Dream
  • 9. That Old Devil Moon
  • 10. Kingpin
  • 11. The Gods of Ragnarok
  • 12. Positively Last Performance
  • Coda

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial. This followed Silver Nemesis on TV, so this was the last time that a pair of stories was released consecutively.

Notes: The approach of the advertising satellite is written in the present tense. Ace is hunting for a new batch of nitro-9 that she recently concocted but is now missing from her rucksack. The Doctor monitors the approaching satellite on the ‘observation screen’ and tells Ace that the TARDIS has a few levels of defence – all of which the satellite bypasses. The satellite lands in the Control Room (hurrah – Wyatt uses the proper name!) and sprouts eight legs to position itself nearer the console. The view of Segonax projected onto the screen shows the circus tent in the middle of a ‘beautiful, lush, green meadow’. The Doctor believes that the founders of the Psychic Circus originally came from Earth. 

‘Nord the Vandal of the Roads’ is a thick-set man, with ‘big muscles, large tattoos, masses of black leather clothing, a brutal unshaven face and a fearsome Viking-style crash-helmet’. When we first meet Captain Cook, he’s delivering a lecture to Mags about the planets Treops and Neogorgon; the latter was where he encountered ‘a whole valley full of electronic dogs’ heads submerged in mud’, which he assumes was a ‘primitive burglar alarm system’. The buried robot begs to be released in a sweet voice, until Ace and Mags get close, when it turns nasty, shouting threats, gnashing its teeth and firing lasers in all directions. Captain Cook, with Mags in tow, drives off and briefly abandons the Doctor and Ace, until they are reunited at the site of the abandoned bus. The bus reminds Ace of when she was a child, when her Aunt Rosemary used to tell her about the Beatles and the Swinging Sixties. 

Nord is given a strongman costume to wear for his act. Whizzkid asks for autographs from the Chief Clown, Morgana and the Ringmaster – which is what propels them into submitting him as a contestant.

By the time Ace first sees Bellboy, his hair is almost white and she suspects he might have received an electric shock. Ace is said to be unable to cope with ‘deep emotion in other people’ and Bellboy’s trauma over Flowerchild makes her feel uncomfortable. She’s ‘never been so close to such naked grief before’. She briefly considers stealing Nord’s bike to help her escape from the circus, but realises it’s useless as Nord didn’t fix the valve properly.

There is a small team of ‘makeup clowns’ who prepare each contestant for the stage – though they allow the Doctor, Mags and the Captain to enter the ring without making them change their costumes. The robot clowns seal Morgana and the Ringmaster into boxes and then when they’re opened, they contain smaller boxes, which contain even smaller boxes until the final two boxes are opened and revealed to be empty. The chief caretaker’s hearse crashes into the Stallholder’s cart, which gets entangled in the limousine’s wheels (on TV, it merely comes to an abrupt halt as she blocks the way). The Doctor has apparently ‘always enjoyed juggling’. His act for the Gods of Ragnarok includes fire eating and a bed of nails. The stallholder claims to have seen the final end of the Psychic Circus, as did everyone else on Segonax as a huge wind scattered leaflets for the circus for miles around.

Cover: Alister Pearson paints a smiling Doctor in the blue sky above the Circus marquee as the three Gods of Ragnarok sit in judgement.

Final Analysis: Stephen Wyatt approaches the TV scripts methodically, delivering a straightforward adaptation with a few minor changes to scene order. The value he brings to the text is a deeper insight into the regular characters: it’s quite a brave thing to show Ace as emotionally under-developed, unable to react appropriately to Bellboy’s grief ; and we get a greater sense of the Doctor’s frustration at being tricked twice because he’s focusing all his attention on the mystery that’s at the heart of the Psychic Circus. The highlight of the TV episodes was the transformation of Mags into a feral beast and it’s beautifully realised here:

The moonlight was working its awful transformation. The hands had grown longer and hairier. The nails had turned to claws. The eyes were becoming blood-shot and savage, the face darker and more bestial, the hair like fur. And, worst of all, the mouth. Mags was slavering now. Huge teeth sprouted in her gums. Her tongue lolled hungrily. Then she snarled, baring her terrible fangs. This was no longer Mags: this was a werewolf. And if the Captain had his way, the werewolf would kill the Doctor.

It’s also interesting that, while she’s under the effects of the moonlight, Mags is described as ‘the werewolf’ except where the Doctor tries to connect with Mags to calm her atavism. A solid story well told.

Chapter 143. Doctor Who – Silver Nemesis (1989)

Synopsis: Three different groups await the arrival of a meteor as it passes the Earth for the first time in 25 years: A 17th-Century witch and her servant; an army of fanatics led by an elderly war criminal; and a unit of tall, silver, cybernetic men. The Doctor has also expected the meteor’s arrival, for it contains a terrible weapon – the Nemesis. The Doctor must influence events to make sure the Nemesis falls into the right hands – but even with an Ace up his sleeve, can he defeat a player who has decided to change the rules of the game?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eleven.

Background: Kevin Clarke adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial.

Notes: Kevin Clarke dedicated the book to ‘DHF Somerset’, the then-chief cashier of the Bank of England, whose signature appeared on bank notes at the time. The first chapter opens with a very cheeky line:

The closer one travels towards it from the cold silent darkness of infinite space, the more the planet Earth appears as a backcloth to some small theatrical performance taking place on a limited budget. 

[See The Ambassadors of Death for more on the ‘darkness of infinite space’]. The scene at the jazz gig takes place in late summer. The musician whose gig the Doctor and Ace attend is, in the Doctor’s opinion, ‘the most exciting musical discovery since John Coltrane’ (and on screen was played by Courtney Pine). The Doctor claims to have met and influenced Louis Armstrong. The Cybermen’s henchmen are ‘twins’. By 1988, Lady Peinforte’s house has been converted into the Princess of Wales Burger Bar. The Doctor and Ace travel by TARDIS from an afternoon in late summer to the early hours of 23 November the same year, at the same point that Lady Peinforte and Richard arrive and the Nemesis statue lands. The meteorite lands inside a building site. The Cyberman’s ship is ‘disc-shaped’.

The previous time the Doctor was with the Nemesis, he was under attack by Lady Peinforte and ‘agents of the Inquisition’ (on TV he says it was the Roundheads). Peinforte doesn’t initially recognise the Doctor but quickly deduces that his face has changed – ‘The wench’s too’ (so the original Doctor had a female companion). One of the police officers who was knocked out by the nerve gas survives the attack and witnesses the Cybermen, their two controlled thugs and the statue disappear (they walk up into the space ship, which is camouflaged).

One of the skinheads wields a ‘ninja fighting stick’, which ends up being used to tie his feet to suspend him from a tree branch. The American tourist who offers Lady Peinforte a lift is called Lavinia P Hackensack of Connecticut, not Mrs. Remington of Virginia. Ace’s battle with the Cybermen takes place back at the building site where the Nemesis meteorite landed; she spends some time keeping the Cybermen distracted while the Doctor does his calculations using an abacus. The Doctor tells the Cyber Leader that he cannot hand the Nemesis statue over to him and when the Leader becomes riled, the Doctor mocks him for showing emotions and being ‘defective’. The final scene takes place in a pub garden in 1988, not Richard’s time; Ace has taught Richard how to get served at the bar and he returns laden with drinks.

Cover: The back cover text on the first edition stated: ‘This story celebrates 25 years of Doctor Who on television’. Alister Pearson painted the original and reprint versions of the cover, both of which feature a subtle swastika in the design (Pearson claimed in an interview for DWB that he started work on the original cover on Hitler’s birthday, but the interview was full of exaggerations and apocryphal tales largely for Pearson’s own amusement so this might not be true). The first cover shows the Doctor with a smirk on his face, the Cyberleader, Ace and the Nemesis encased in rock. For the 1993 reprint, Ace is in attack mode with her catapult (really impressive, this pose) on the opposite side to the Cyberleader, while a more sombre Doctor holds up his question-mark umbrella in front of Lady Peinforte’s tomb.

Final Analysis: We often find that authors who have just the one entry in the Doctor Who library tend to throw everything they have at their text. In places, Kevin Clarke gets a little purple with his prose (as the excerpt from the opening chapter above shows). It’s a shame then to reach the climax and have to reread the paragraph where Lady Peinforte joins with the Nemesis statue, as it feels like a summary of what happens on screen without any real explanation as to why it’s happening.

There was a blinding flash of radiant light as Lady Peinforte and the statue shimmered and then coalesced. The rockets fired and the statue of Nemesis was launched once again to return into space.

Seriously – what?

We realised with the TV version that the mystery surrounding the Doctor wouldn’t be answered and it was largely just one huge tease, but here it’s almost glossed over as Clarke rushes to get to the final page. There’s no additional insight into what any of the interested parties want to do with the Nemesis and as a consequence the story merely fizzles out. In some aspects, it’s a very traditional novelisation, transposing the script to prose, but without any of the additional nuances we might have gained from Terrance Dicks or any other author.