Chapter 89. Doctor Who – Inferno (1984)

Synopsis: UNIT has been invited to provide security for a top secret drilling project to find a new energy source from the Earth’s core. Hoping that the facility might help with his repairs to the TARDIS, the Doctor immediately becomes an irritation for the project’s director and instigator Professor Stahlman, who is determined to see the project to undoubted victory, whatever the risk. Then a freak accident sees the Doctor transported to a parallel world where Stahlman’s project is much further advanced – and the dangers more apparent. Can the Doctor save this world and make it back to his own in time?

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Project Inferno
  • 2. The Beast
  • 3. Mutant
  • 4. The Slime
  • 5. Dimension of Terror
  • 6. The Nightmare
  • 7. Death Sentence
  • 8. Countdown to Doom
  • 9. Penetration-Zero
  • 10. The Monsters
  • 11. Escape Plan
  • 12. Doomsday
  • 13. Return to Danger
  • 14. The Last Mutation
  • 15. The Doctor Takes a Trip

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for the 1970 serial by Don Houghton.

Notes: The Stahlman Project is ‘the greatest scientific project that England had ever known’; it’s predicted to be ‘more technologically advanced than nuclear power’ and, more importantly, ‘far more lucrative than North Sea Oil’, promising ‘limitless free energy for everyone’. We’re reminded that these are still the early days of the Doctor’s exile by the Time Lords to Earth. The complex that houses the project is in ‘a messy, unattractive-looking area’ – and this will be relevant later.

Professor Stahlman’s first name is Eric and he grew up ‘in the ruins of post-war Germany’ (which means he’s either only in his late twenties or he grew up in post-First-World-War Germany – unless Terrance Dicks is maintaining the idea of UNIT stories being set in a ‘near future’).  Sir Keith Gold observes Professor Stahlman’s ‘bulky broad-shouldered body and massive close-cropped head’, with a neat beard; in his mind, Sir Keith compares him to a gorilla in a lab coat – and immediately feels guilty for being so uncharitable. It’s an interesting choice to make Stahlman physically strong, ‘powerfully built man’, as this accentuates his early encounter with the Doctor, who restrains him with just two fingers and freezes him to the spot.

Liz Shaw is a ‘serious-looking girl with reddish-brown hair’ dressed in ‘a rather incongruously frivolous-looking mini-skirt’ – details which help to provide contrast with the parallel-world version. We’re reminded that Liz is ‘a scientist of some distinction in her own right’ and that she had been brought into UNIT from Cambridge ‘some time ago’. Petra Williams is ‘an attractive white-coated young woman, with a pleasant open face’ – yes, just like the Fifth Doctor – ‘framed by long fair hair’. Greg Sutton is said to be ‘a burly, broad-shouldered man’ and he has ‘a pleasantly ugly face’ (a bit unfair on Derek Newark there, Terrance!)  and ‘a sun-baked, wind-weathered complexion’. 

The Doctor witnesses Stahlman stealing the microcircuit and exclaims ‘Jumping Jehosophat’, as he does when he sees the Master in The Five Doctors. When he finally escapes limbo and lands in the parallel world, the Doctor is aware that he’s not where he’d previously been because the hut is tidy (the Doctor likes ‘a bit of clutter’). The neatness extends to the rest of the surrounding area, which has also been ‘tidied up’. Without the moustache of the Brigadier, the Brigade Leader’s mouth looks ‘thin-lipped and cruel’. The Doctor begins to speculate as to the cause of the parallel world and guesses that it might be down to a different outcome for the Second World War. The savage beasts are simply mutants (they’re called ‘Primords’ on the end titles of the TV episodes, but the word isn’t used in dialogue or in the novel). The novel retains the radio broadcasts that were cut from the original transmission (but retained for overseas broadcast). The Doctor checks his pulse and it’s ‘normal’ at 70 (it’s 170 on TV). The Doctor realises that he was so ‘haunted by that nightmarish vision of an exploding Earth’ that his violent outburst at Stahlman will have damaged his credibility.

Cover: Nick Spender’s fiery illustration shows a likeness of Ian Fairbairn as technician Bromley beginning to transform into an atavistic beast on the roof of a cooling tower beneath a burning sky. It’s quite the scariest cover since Alun Hood’s 1979 piece for the Terror of the Autons reprint.

Final Analysis: The first of two Don Houghton stories adapted by Terrance Dicks and it’s a real treat. It benefits from the increased page-count that’s gradually crept in since Terrance’s middle-period, plus it’s the sort of story that really plays to Terrance’s strengths as his economic thumbnail-sketch descriptions help us remember who’s who and what’s different about them in the other world. We also get an insight into the Doctor’s thought process, initially fascinated by the opportunity to explore a parallel world until he begins to treat the people he encounters as real, and not just disposable alternatives of the ones he knew on the other Earth. His horror at realising he has to give up on the alt-world to gain the chance to save his own Earth stays with him, even down to him accepting his desperation has alienated the very people he’s trying to save. And as we’ll discover, it’s a devastating decision that will haunt him for… well, at least as long as Don Houghton’s other story.

Chapter 14. Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (1975)

Synopsis: A renegade Time Lord calling himself ‘The Master’ has followed the Doctor to Earth and as an introductory calling card he’s brought the Autons with him. The Doctor has even more trouble on his hands with a new assistant forced upon him by the Brigadier, the very keen and very newly qualified agent Jo Grant.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Terror Begins
  • 2. Sabotage at the Space Probe
  • 3. The Master Takes Over
  • 4..Death at the Plastics Factory
  • 5. The Killer Doll
  • 6. In the Hands of the Autons
  • 7. The Battle of the Forest
  • 8. The Killer Doll Attacks
  • 9. The Deadly Daffodils
  • 10. Prisoners of the Master
  • 11. The Final Assault
  • 12. The End of Round One

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ 1971 scripts.

Notes: Our introduction to Luigi Rossini (real name here is ‘Lew Ross’) presents a much more consciously obnoxious figure, employing labour of a mainly criminal type as they’re cheap and won’t risk complaining. This includes Tony the Strongman, who’s wanted by the police. Rossini manages to persuade his crew that the Doctor and Jo blew up Phillips as they were trying to steal the mob’s wages. The Auton meteorite device glows green as in The Auton Invasion, while the Master says that the plastic chair that kills McDermott is made of ‘polynestine’. The Doctor recognises the visiting Time Lord as being a member of the High Council who exiled the Doctor to Earth.

The Doctor recognises the device that the Master leaves in the cabin of the radio telescope is a ‘Volataliser’, a product of ‘The Xanthoids [who] use them for mining operations’, while the one that Jo tries to detonate in the UNIT lab is ‘a Saturnian Solar Bomb’. One of the best / nastiest additions is the revelation that the Master uses Professor Phillips to help him operate controls within his Tardis, but when he’s not on duty, he is both disguised as – and forced to work as – an actual clown, because it amuses the Master to ‘degrade a brilliant scientist into a mindless buffoon’. There’s a gap of a few days between Mr Farrel’s death and the Doctor’s visit to his wife, and the distribution of the daffodils spans a few more days too. Brownrose from the Ministry is completely removed and I didn’t even notice until just now. And of course, as the cover reveals, the description of the Nestene’s arrival is much more impressive than on TV.

Considering the Master’s crimes, the Doctor provides an insight into their race:

Once captured by the Time Lords, the Master’s life-stream would be thrown into reverse. Not only would he no longer exist, he would never have existed. It was the severest punishment in the Time Lords’ power.

The text refers to the ‘chameleon mechanism’ and ‘chameleon circuits’ for the first time in print (and ‘chameleon circuit’ won’t be said on screen until Logopolis!). There’s also a reference to a ‘Sontaran fragmentation grenade’ (the story came before their first appearance, but the novelisation was published a year after The Time Warrior aired). The Doctor makes good use of his sonic screwdriver, dismantling a bomb, opening the Auton-containing safe and trying to break into the Master’s Tardis. We’re party to the Master’s thought processes as he weighs up his options in turning against the Nestene, swayed by the Doctor’s persuasive argument – and the Brigadier’s pistol.

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes’ original cover depicts a scene that doesn’t actually happen on TV as the one-eyed crabtopus Nestene creature envelops the radio telescope and, inset, the Doctor makes a surprise entrance as the Master plays with a lever. The back cover again features an illustration, Captain Yates inspects a fallen auton carnival dummy while another soldier in silhouette takes on a horde of autons. The 1979 reprint boasts a cover by Alun Hood, again depicting the imagined Nestene but in a more photorealistic style more akin to a Pan horror book; this was the edition I first owned and I was convinced this was a photo of the prop they used (what a disappointment the TV version turned out to be!). Alan Willow provides six illustrations, all of which expand upon what we saw on TV. It’s hard to pick a favourite although I love the one of the radiotelescope technician working away as ‘A dark shape peered down at him’ – the Master, snooping through a skylight, is much more dramatic than him just stepping through a door. 

Final Analysis: Another good job by Dicks here, covering a lot of ground and adding nuance where appropriate. Jo’s previous ‘debut’ in The Doomsday Weapon is glossed over, but there’s some decent continuity between this and The Auton Invasion, including the Brigadier asking why they can’t just do what they did last time and the Doctor points out all the flaws in his previous attack plan.

Chapter 5. Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters (1974)

aka Doctor Who – The Silurians (1992)

Synopsis: Long before mankind evolved to take over the Earth, it was inhabited by a race of technologically advanced reptiles. An oncoming catastrophe drove them into hibernation for millions of years. Now they’ve awakened and they want the planet back.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: The Little Planet
  • 2. The Doctor Gets a Message
  • 3. The Traitor
  • 4. Power Loss
  • 5. The Fighting Monster
  • 6. Into the Caves
  • 7. Quinn Visits His Friends
  • 8. Into an Alien World
  • 9. The Search
  • 10. Man Trap
  • 11. The Doctor Makes a Visit
  • 12. Goodbye, Dr Quinn
  • 13. The Prisoner
  • 14. Man from the Ministry
  • 15. Attack and Counter-Attack
  • 16. The Itch
  • 17. Epidemic
  • 18.  A Hot World
  • 19. The Lie

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from the 1970 serial Doctor Who and the Silurians. As this followed Spearhead from Space on TV, this is another pair of stories to be adapted as consecutive releases.

Notes: The prologue introduces us to Okdel, a reptile, who sees the rest of his race entering the shelters in preparation for catastrophe. He wonders if there’s life on this new object in the sky and K’to, a scientist, tells him it’s unlikely as it’s been travelling across space. It’s such a kind, considerate question – is this going to be a cataclysm for them too? The prologue explains the basic idea behind the reptile hibernation and shows us division among their ranks as Okdel keeps mammals as pets but his colleague Morka considers them ‘vermin’ and K’to is concerned by the mammal raids on reptile-grown crops. Okdel also notes how scientists often get things wrong – a handy excuse for some of the scientific liberties Hulke will be taking in his story. While it robs the reader of the surprise of who the ‘cave monsters’ are, it prepares us for a tale that tries to see things from multiple perspectives.

Once we join the Doctor and Liz, it’s clearly been some time since the Auton Invasion as Liz recognises a Corporal, who in turn knows the Doctor well enough to know the name of his new car, and Liz has also formed an opinion of the Doctor as ‘the most thoughtful and considerate scientist I have ever worked with’ (though this might be sarcasm as he’s being unconsciously patronising to her). The opening scenes of the potholers have been cut, condensed into a reported summary from Dr Quinn, and in fact, we meet almost all the core human cast in the space of a few pages and learn much more about their background and motivations than we do across seven episodes of TV: Dr Quinn and Miss Dawson gain first names (Matthew and Phyllis); Quinn’s wife was killed in a car crash and he wants to gain fame for discovering the reptile men (they’re not called Silurians, but the word is used as the password to gain entry to the base); Phyllis Dawson is excited by the prospect of doing actual research now that she’s free from being held back by her recently deceased mother; Major Baker is now ‘Barker’ and is shown to be insensitive (calling one patient ‘looney’) and generally paranoid and bigoted against ‘communists… fascists… Americans’, basically anyone who isn’t English.

The outbreak of the reptile virus is depicted differently: Instead of Masters arriving at St Pancras Station and collapsing , we see him aboard the train (infecting a ticket inspector who later dies) and then he leaves the train, catches a taxi and dies before reaching London. Dr Lawrence’s given a different exit too, killed by a reptile heat ray as a warning to the other humans, rather than falling victim to the virus.

Cover & Illustrations:  The first release had a cover by Chris Achilleos. The cover showed the Doctor from Day of the Daleks with a green Silurian (without a third eye!), a T-rex-like dinosaur and a volcano. I’m very fond of the 1992 Alister Pearson reprint cover (when the book was retitled) with the ‘windows’ over the Earth and photorealistic versions of the T-rex and Silurian, but the Achilleos one is truly epic. The illustrations, also by Achilleos, include a horizontal section showing the cave system beneath Wenley Moor. My favourite shows Dr Quinn chatting with a Silurian that looks like he’s a guest on a chat show.

Final Analysis: I always assumed this was renamed ‘The Cave Monsters’ to simplify the idea of ‘Silurians’ make the title easier for younger readers to understand, but reading this again, I suspect it might also have been Hulke making a point; as Whitaker did in The Crusaders, Hulke works hard to show balance, there are progressive reptile men (though no women) as shown with Oktel, as well as the paranoid and bigotted Morka, plus the pragmatic K’po – and their emotions are mirrored by the Doctor, Barker and Quinn (and later Lawrence) – and the various actions of the humans make then equally monstrous cave dwellers as the members of the much older race. Aside from that cheeky password the Doctor uses to gain entry to the base, the word ‘Silurian’ doesn’t appear in the book – and as it was written a couple of years after the sequel to this story, Hulke manages to fix his original geological errors and establish the race as simply ‘Reptiles’.

And just one little namecheck for ‘Doctor Who’ in the text as well.

Chapter 4. Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (1974)

Synopsis: An alien intelligence lands on Earth and begins to establish a bridgehead for an invasion by creating an army of plastic dummies. The Doctor arrives in a new body, disoriented and without the ability to operate his Tardis – but finds a job with the Brig’s UNIT (and usurps Liz Shaw as UNIT’s scientific adviser in the process).

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: Exiled to Earth
  • 2. The Mystery of the Meteorites
  • 3. The Man from Space
  • 4. The Faceless Kidnappers
  • 5. The Hunting Auton
  • 6. The Doctor Disappears
  • 7. The Horror in the Factory
  • 8. The Auton Attacks
  • 9. The Creatures in the Waxworks
  • 10. The Final Battle

Background: The first book written for Target and the first by Terrance Dicks, adapting Robert Holmes’ scripts for Spearhead from Space (1970). The book also introduces the Third Doctor (after a prologue recounting the final minutes of the second Doctor’s trial in The War Games), along with Liz Shaw – and reintroduces Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as a regular (even down to having him appear on the cover!).

Notes: It’s Terrance Dicks’ first novel and straight off, he describes the materialisation noise of the TARDIS (which is now in full caps and no italics!) as ‘wheezing and groaning’, a description we’ll see again. The Brigadier is given the first name ‘Alastair’ (a detail not revealed on TV until Planet of the Spiders but revealed in print in Piccolo’s 1972 edition of The Making of Doctor Who). A few characters gain a little extra detail (Dr Henderson and his colleague at the hospital are fierce rivals, Captain Munro is called Jimmy, Seeley and his wife play a bigger part) and a few details are changed (the auton devices are green, not pink, Channing accompanies the facsimile to kidnap General Scobie). Channing acquires a repeated description of possessing ‘handsome, regular features’ (which is better than ‘a middle-aged man with an ill-fitting wig and one huge hair poking out of his left ear’, I suppose). We’re told by Captain Munro that Corporal Forbes is an expert driver, so it’s right that he survives the car crash – but is then chopped down and flung brutally into a ditch by the Auton. There’s also a lovely flashback as Hibbert recalls how he first found the glowing green sphere and felt it possess him and build the machine that created Channing.The biggest change is the final depiction of the Nestene, which improves upon the original’s wriggling rubber tentacles somewhat:

‘A huge, many tentacled monster something between spider, crab and octopus. The nutrient fluids from the tank were still streaming down its sides. At the front of its glistening body a single huge eye glared at them, blazing with alien intelligence and hatred.’

The Doctor considers ‘reversing the polarity of the neutron flow in the dematerialisation circuit’ – two phrases that we’ll see a lot of in the future, but that ‘neutron flow’ term popped up a lot less often on TV than we might think.

Cover & Illustrations: The first Target edition had a cover and illustrations by Chris Achilleos. The cover shows the Doctor and the Brigadier with a green octopus, but the final illustration has a go at capturing that lurid description of the Nestene creature. My first edition of this was the 1982 Andrew Skilleter cover with a colourful cuttlefish, while Alister Pearson’s 1991 reprint cover is a vision in pink, with the Doctor and an auton mannequin amid a meteor shower.

Final Analysis: Terrance hits the ground running with the efficiency he’ll become famous for. Episode one spans four chapters, but the rest are covered in two chapters each. It’s all the more impressiove considering this is Dicks’ first book ever and he takes the opportunity to tweak a few things here and there, solving problems from the broadcast episodes, such as making Hibbert explain that the shop window dummies they make are called Autons, after his company, Auto Plastics (as opposed to the Doctor somehow just knowing what they’re called in a later scene in the TV version). It’s a great start to this new range.