Chapter 31. Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos (1977)

Synopsis: A strange object from space lands on Earth near a nuclear power station. Inside are Axons, a family of golden beings who offer unlimited power in return for help with their damaged spacecraft. While the Doctor tries to keep an open mind, an ambitious politician rushes to seize the Axon’s power for his own interests. Deep inside the alien craft, the Master is being held captive – and as Jo Grant discovers, that’s not the only secret the Axons are keeping…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Invader from Space
  • 2. The Landing
  • 3. The Voice of Axos
  • 4. Enter the Master
  • 5. The Doctor Makes a Plan
  • 6. Escape from Axos
  • 7. The Axons Attack
  • 8. The Power Robbers
  • 9. The Sacrifice
  • 10. Brainstorm
  • 11. The Feast of Axos
  • 12. Trapped in Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin from the 1971 production.

Notes: As it soars towards Earth, the Axos ship has a ‘constantly changing’ shape and glows with a ‘myriad of colours’ – its intention is to be noticed. The first scene with the two radio operators is expanded here; they’re not UNIT operators here, but personnel at the tracking station – Ransome and his assistant, Harry – who work down the list of people they need to contact and find ‘something called UNIT’. The first interaction between the Brigadier and Chinn also provides background information – the minister in overall charge of Chinn’s department cannot stand him, and as the Brigadier is also a problem, he decides to set the two men against each other in the hope that the winner will eliminate one or the other. Although UNIT is governed from Geneva, the Brigadier’s operations are part-funded by the British Government. Corporal Bell is not part of this story, her role is given to a nameless male technician.

We get an introductory scene where Bill Filer is on the hunt for a man called ‘Joe Grant’ – and Jo corrects him. Bill is described as having ‘closely trimmed brown hair and a pleasantly ugly face’ – wow, that’s a pretty mean swipe at the reasonably handsome Paul Grist who played him.

The Doctor and Jo drive to the landing site in Bessie (yay!). 

The Axon who first frightens Jo subsequently appears as a male identical to the Axon leader. The Axon leader does not assume that the toad is livestock, but spells out the potential, had it been a ‘food animal’. The process transforms the toad into a huge form that overwhelms Chinn and makes him scream. Later, as Axos reacts to the Doctor’s experiment, the Eye of Axos is said to be ‘lashing wildly to and fro on its stalk’, which is much more fluid a movement than the TV prop could manage.

Jo overhears the Doctor speculating about Axonite’s potential for time travel and suspects he has selfish intentions early on. The Doctor spots straight away that the Axon-Filer is a fake thanks to his experience of the Autons replicating humans. He also baffles a sentry to gain access to the arrested Brigadier: ‘Good heavens, man, I know the Brigadier’s incommunicado. I’m incommunicado myself. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other.’ Delightful!

The Master enters the Nuton complex disguised as a visitings scientist and recalls the time he broke into UNIT HQ dressed as a ‘humble telephone engineer’. The Master’s TARDIS is a white dome, not a filing cabinet.

To the Eye of Axos’s surprise, the Doctor reveals that he’s deduced that Axos already has some limited ability for time travel; he realised that Axos reached Earth before the missiles were fired and Axos confesses that they can ‘move only moments in Time.’ Hardiman’s assistant (credited on screen as ‘Technician’) is named ‘Ericson’.

Cover: Achilleos gives us an eerie female Axon with rays of light coming from her eyes while an Axon monster looms behind her and the Doctor (taken from a photo from Frontier in Space) is pictured inset looking concerned. A 1979 edition had a cover by John Geary showing the adult male Axon and two very green Axon monsters.

Final Analysis: I’m hugely fond of The Claws of Axos TV episodes, one of those comfort stories I can bung on while I decide what I’d sooner be watching and then settle down and enjoy it. Terrance Dicks captures all of the conflicted loyalties that the Axons draw out of our heroes – are they victims in need, or should they have been blasted into bits from the start? –  but he enhances the suspicion that the Doctor is solely interested in using Axos to escape Earth and relishes in making Chinn hated by absolutely everyone he encounters. The Master once again enjoys the thrill of the adventure, deciding on a whim to jump from a bridge onto a UNIT truck and then exploiting his good fortune when it turns out to be going where he wants to be. The ending is also less rushed than on TV, as Bill Filer says his goodbyes and jokes that he’d thought England would be ‘dull’, Chinn scampers back to the Minister to try framing the success as his own, while the operation to rescue the TARDIS and get it onto the back of a UNIT truck turns into a huge argument, which Jo welcomes as things getting ‘back to normal’. 

Chapter 6. Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (1974)

Synopsis: The Master has stolen information from the Time Lords regarding a mythical weapon, which can be found on a planet recently occupied by Earth colonists. The desperate people are caught between hostile attacks from the indigenous natives and a mining corporation intent on taking the planet’s resources for their own ends. All this awaits Jo in her first trip in the Tardis.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Missing Secret
  • 2. Into Time and Space
  • 3. The Planet
  • 4. The Monster
  • 5. Starvation
  • 6. The Survivor
  • 7. The Robot
  • 8. The Men from IMC
  • 9. The Spy
  • 10. The Claw
  • 11. Face-to-face
  • 12. The Bomb
  • 13. The Attack
  • 14. The Adjudicator
  • 15. Primitive City
  • 16. The Ambush
  • 17. Captain Dent Thinks Twice
  • 18. The Master’s TARDIS
  • 19. The Return of Captain Dent
  • 20. The Doomsday Weapon

At twenty, this book sets a record for the most number of chapters in a novelisation, which will remain unbroken until 1985.

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from 1971 for Colony in Space.

Notes: Another prologue of a scene that never happened, as an old Time Lord shares stories with an apprentice, revealing the history of early TARDISes and his own personal involvement in the resolution of The War Games returning the kidnapped soldiers to their rightful times. He refers to the Doctor’s TARDIS and the fact that it’s lost its ‘chameleon-like quality’. There’s also another cheeky ‘Who’ reference as the old Time Lord explains the Doctor’s inability to pilot his TARDIS: ‘‘Who? No, Who can’t control it… not always.’

Newly qualified security agent Jo Grant is introduced, having come top of her year in spy school before getting her uncle to pull some strings to arrange a posting to UNIT, where she’s ignored by everyone except Sergeant Benton and attempts to reprimand the Doctor before she finds herself whisked off to an alien world as her very first adventure. A lovely if inconsistent flashback. Meanwhile, Jane Lesson recalls being aware of other ‘terrifying space creatures’ ‘Monoids, Drahvins, some small metallic creatures called Daleks’ before referencing Hulke’s own creations, the ‘reptile men’.

The story’s set a bit further forward in time, 2972, and there’s a grim but casual detail in the Doctor realising that the colonists describe a creature ‘like a big lizard… from the picture books’ because the Earth animals were ‘exterminated by Mankind by the year 2500’ and not because, for example, they were describing dinosaurs. The Doctor speculates on the size of an attacking creature as ‘about twenty feet high’ and then corrects himself to ‘six metres’ as he remembers that all of Earth went metric a thousand years before. Surprisingly, the IMC robot is described as humanoid – a much more achievable look on TV than the bulky robot we ended up with (and the illustrations don’t quite match this new design either).

There’s a hint of the first pioneers across America here as the colonists have never done physical work (‘on Earth machines did everything’) so they’re even more badly equipped to found a new civilisation than it might appear. But when they have to consider how to bury their dead, Ashe recalls an ‘audiobook’ from back when Earth ‘still had open land’; it seems that even the disposal of dead bodies on Earth is automated as the Doctor has to explain to the colonists the rituals of graves, religious services and the importance of ‘a time for tears, and then a time to rejoice in the continuation of life. Hence the tea.’ 

The leader of the primitives is described as the size of a doll, explaining the earlier foreshadowing of the primitives reaction to a child’s doll, while the primitive priests have the faces of otters – and the rest of the primitives are stark naked!

Cover & Illustrations: The original cover and illustrations were by Chris Achilleos (though my first edition was the 1979 reprint with Jeff Cummins’ impressive portrait of Roger Delgado as the Master). I’m really not keen on the illustrations here, they’re a bit scrappy – some are clearly working from set photos while others show people who we don’t see in the TV version (Caldwell could just be an Auton!). I love the pic of the Doctor and the Master at the controls of the Doomsday machine though, as it looks like the Master is washing his hands.

Final Analysis: We’re only three books into Target’s own run of books and there’s still no guarantee that every story will be novelised, so we get a new introduction to Jo Grant that ignores all of her adventures prior to this, but gives her a marvellous backstory too. Some of the supporting characters benefit from an expanded biography too, specifically Ashe and Dent. Hulke’s second novel for the range hints at the author’s politics in the way it describes Earth in the far future as a desperate place: The entire surface of Earth in this time is covered in tiny cube apartments within huge buildings; IMC arranges marriages based on computer-decided compatibility (though strangely Dent’s marriage seems happy while Caldwell’s has ended in separation); food is sourced solely from the sea; even when IMC chief Dent offers his team champagne, it’s from a can. IMC represents the worst excesses of capitalism, dictating a person’s quality of life by how much debt they owe to the company and all minimal perks can be removed at the say-so of a cruel boss like Dent. Hulke doesn’t make the colonists too perfect either, as they’re more than happy to kill to survive (there’s none of the Thal’s pacifism here, and Smedley’s disposal of Norton, however justified, is quite callous. It seems the new (unnamed) world offers new hope to the colonists; as the Doctor and Jo leave, the entire landscape has already begun to sprout with grass and shrubs.

As Doctor Who Magazine writer Alan Barnes points out, the original title, Colony in Space, might have been exciting for viewers who’d become used to the Doctor’s Earthbound adventures, but as part of the mix-and-match releases of Target, it’s less of a draw. The Doomsday Weapon’ is a much better title anyway.