Chapter 114. Doctor Who – The Mind Robber (1987)

Synopsis: Forcing the TARDIS to make an emergency flight, the Doctor catapults his time machine into a strange realm inhabited by characters from myths and stories – a Land of Fiction. In the centre of the realm sits the Master of the Land and he guides the travellers slowly and carefully into his trap.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Doctor Abhors a Vacuum
  • 2. The Power of Thought
  • 3. Boys and Girls Come Out to Play
  • 4. Dangerous Games
  • 5. Into the Labyrinth
  • 6. The Facts of Fiction
  • 7. ‘I Am the Karkus’
  • 8. A Meeting of Masters
  • 9. Lives in the Balance
  • 10. The Doctor Has the Last Word

Background: Peter Ling adapts his own scripts for the 1968 story.

Notes: The opening chapter breaks continuity with The Dominators without necessarily contradicting it; initially, the Doctor awakes with no memory of how he came to be sitting under a tree on a stony floor, but he later remembers that he, Jamie and Zoe were exploring Vesuvius and it was from that eruption, not the Dulcian island, that they were escaping at the start. There’s a more dramatic approach to the way the Doctor is drawn into the land of fiction:

His eyes bulged, and the veins stood out at his throat and temples – he looked as if a multiple G force was clawing at him; his skin stretched tight, showing every muscle and sinew.

… on TV, he just falls asleep.

Zoe is ‘a highly intelligent young scientist from the twenty-first century’ with a ‘permanent expression of wide-eyed curiosity’ who is ‘fascinated by anything and everything’; she’s ‘a brilliant mathematician, capable of dealing with any abstract formulae faster than the most advanced computer’. She’s compared to Alice in Wonderland, mainly for narrative reasons that pop up later. Jamie has a ‘freckled face and tousled hair’ and he’s wearing an ‘open-necked shirt and sturdy plaid kilt’ (so Peter Ling may have been supplied a photo of Jamie from The Wheel in Space, as on TV he’s wearing a polar-neck jumper). He used to go rock climbing when he was ‘a wee lad in the Scottish highlands’. The TARDIS Power Chamber is said to be the time machine’s ‘heart’ like ‘the boiler room of an ocean liner’, where ‘shining generators gleamed and purred, building up a vast reserve of energy’. When she sees the vision of her home city on the TARDIS scanner, Zoe hears the ‘Top Tunes’ of electronic music from her own time. She also sees her mother beckoning to her. 

The ‘Master’ of the Land of Fiction is said to share the same name as someone from the Doctor’s own race [that character wasn’t introduced on TV until 1971, so it’s handy to have it spelled out here that they are not the same person]. Gulliver is controlled as a pawn by the Master, making him more of an adversary than on TV (where he’s oblivious to the strangeness of the world in which he finds himself). Zoe finds herself transformed into Alice in Wonderland, complete with a blue dress and a hair-band, but she has no literary education, so doesn’t recognise the allusion. She also doesn’t recognise a reference to Miss Haversham’s wedding cake from Dickens’ Great Expectations, but does know of the legends of the unicorn (which freezes into a statue) – and of the Minotaur, which is one of two monsters that are improved upon within the novel:

From the shoulders down it appeared to be a man – a man with strong, muscular forearms and a barrel-like chest. Two massive legs like tree trunks supported this brawny torso, and it moved into the dancing torchlight with a deliberate, heavy tread.

But above the shoulders it was a bloodthirsty animal. A bull’s square-browed head, with two red eyes, and wickedly-curving horns which sprang from a tangle of dense, matted hair…

It’s not altogether clear if Zoe is familiar with the myth of the Gorgon, Medusa, but as on screen, she struggles to deny the reality of being confronted by her. Understandably, Jamie doesn’t recognise text from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. He also finds copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Left alone in the tunnel, Jamie whistles a tune that he remembers his ‘brothers and sisters’ dancing to back home.

The Karkus is accompanied by comic-style sound effect captions that appear in the air. He’s much more colourful than he appears on TV:

… a giant of a man: a towering Hercules, with bulging muscles, which looked all the more remarkable since they were outlined upon his torso in a spider’s web of deep purple lines… And his skin was bright green.

By way of clothing, he wore a pair of shining purple tights and thigh-length silver boots: around his naked, massive shoulders there swirled a black silk cape, and on his bullet head he wore a black skull cap and a half-mask. And in his hands he carried a very extraordinary ray gun, made of’ glittering plastic and metal.

As usual, the story doesn’t lead into the next televised adventure (even though Ian Marter’s adaptation of The Invasion has the TARDIS reassemble). As he switches on the  ‘powerful drive-motor’ of the TARDIS, the Doctor concludes their adventure in the land of fiction by adding a final word to the story: ‘Finis’.

Cover: Against a pink background, David McAllister assembles a unicorn, Ivanhoe, D’Artagnan and a stylised Medusa around the TARDIS. The 1992 reprint used Alister Pearson’s cover for the VHS tape, in monochrome with very slight colouring on Rapunzel, who is accompanied by a more screen-accurate Medusa, a unicorn, white robot and a clockwork soldier circling around the Doctor.

Final Analysis: In keeping with the fairy-tale feel of the story, Peter Ling’s novel is perhaps aimed at a younger audience than more recent releases. Strangely, it also feels like it’s written for much older children, ones who grew up in the 1940s or earlier where the cultural references might have meant more to boys steeped in stories of Ivanhoe and Gulliver. There’s no concession to readers in 1987, aside from a couple of Dickens references that would have been familiar to school-age students of English Literature. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation as, in keeping with the televised adventure, it’s quite unlike any of the stories around it, and it brings a welcome sense of fun to the Target range, just as the TV series was rediscovering its own. 

Chapter 111. Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death (1986)

Synopsis: The T-Mat system, a form of instantaneous transport across the planet Earth, is controlled by a crew based on the Moon. Invaders bring operations to a halt, leaving Earth in chaos.T-Mat is so all-encompassing that the only rocket is in a museum – and the only person with enough training to fly one is the Doctor. Taking Jamie and Zoe along for the ride, the Doctor heads to the Moon, where he finds a party of Ice Warriors with a plan to destroy all humanity.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Trouble with T-Mat
  • 2. Enter the Doctor
  • 3. Radnor’s Offer
  • 4. Countdown
  • 5. Blast-Off
  • 6. Crashdown
  • 7. The Genius
  • 8. The Pods
  • 9. The Blight
  • 10. The Invader
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. The Renegade
  • 13. The Sacrifice
  • 14. Trapped!
  • 15. Signal of Doom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1969 story.

Notes: According to Dicks, gender equality in the 21st Century is ‘still more theoretical than practical’ and that to gain high rank, ‘a woman had to be not simply as good as, but measurably better than, her male colleagues.’ The base on the moon was intended as the start of a huge city, but the creation of T-Mat saw an instant lack of interest in space travel and the project was abandoned.

The Doctor is ‘a smallish man with a mop of untidy black hair and a deeply-lined face that looked wise and gentle and funny all at once’. He wears ‘baggy check trousers, supported by wide, elaborately patterned braces, a wide-collared white shirt and a scruffy bow tie’. Jamie is a ‘brawny young man’ wearing ‘a dark shirt and a battle-dress tunic over the kilt of a Scottish Highlander’. We’re reminded that Zoe first met the Doctor and Jamie on the space wheel. She’s a ‘very small, very neat, very precise young woman with a fringe of short dark hair looked on with an air of equal scepticism’. She’s dressed in ‘a short skirt, a short-sleeved, high-necked blouse with a waistcoat over it, and high boots, all in shining, colourful plasti-cloth’ and we’re told that her clothes, like Jamie’s, are ‘an indication of the time from which she had been taken. Zoe is said to be ‘highly intelligent and with a great deal of advanced scientific training [with…] a precise and orderly scientific mind’.

There are some splendid descriptions of the Martian invaders: Slaar’s voice is ‘harsh and sibilant, a sort of throaty hissing whisper that seemed to put extra s’s in all the sibilants’; one of his lumbering warriors has a:

… massive body [that] was covered in scaly green hide, ridged and plated like that of a crocodile. The head was huge, helmetlike, ridged at the crown, with large insectoid eyes and a lipless lower jaw. The alien leader shared the same terrifying form, though its build was slimmer, the movements somehow less clumsy. The jaw too was differently made, less of a piece with the helmet-like head.

As a description, it does seem to be a closer fit for the ‘big-head’ versions like Isbur from The Ice Warriors, as the ones in this TV story don’t have especially huge heads. The Grand Marshal who appears on the videolink has a helmet that’s ‘differently shaped from that of Slaar… studded with gleaming jewels’ and his voice ‘although aged, was filled with power and authority’.

Osgood’s first name is ‘Harry’, though Radnor’s first name (Julian on TV) is not mentioned. The Doctor is referred to anachronistically as a Time Lord a couple of times.

Cover: Tony Masero’s debut cover for a first edition shows an Ice Warrior on the surface of the Moon.

Final Analysis: Welcome back, Terrance Dicks! We’re treated to a rather special adaptation here; while he follows the scripts methodically, as we’d expect, Dicks also provides insight into the characters that might not be obvious from their portrayal on TV. Of particular note is the Minister who’s responsible for T-Mat, Sir John Gregson, who – we’re told – ‘could turn a difficulty into a disaster in record time’. Not since Chinn in The Claws of Axos have we seen the character of a politician so completely assassinated. It’s a joyful subtlety.

It’s worth remembering that Bryan Hayles’s scripts were written in the lead-up to the first successful moon landing; just over four months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin boldly went where the Doctor and his chums had gone before. The book, however, came 11 months after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off, a disaster which led to a three-year grounding of the space shuttle fleet. While the people of this 21st Century might have forgotten the thrill of the space program, we get a real sense of it through the characters as they rediscover their lost skills – especially the inventor of the all-important space rocket, Professor Eldred:

Eldred stood looking at a monitor, watching the rocket streaking steadily upwards. On his face was the incredulous delight of a man who sees his lifelong dream come true.

Then a shadow of sadness crossed his face. For him, the dream had become reality too late. From now on, he could only watch…

The Seeds of Death was one of the earliest stories to be made available by BBC Home Video, making this the first novel to be released after its VHS release. The point I’m making here is that Terrance Dicks’s usual approach was to recreate a story pretty much exactly, as readers wouldn’t be able to rewatch it. But slowly, things were changing.

Chapter 109. Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep (1986)

Synopsis: Playing on a beach near a gas refinery in the English Channel, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are arrested for trespassing. Head of the base Robson would rather accuse the Doctor and his friends of sabotage than accept that there might be something in the gas pipes. But there is – a steady heartbeat of… something. Down there… in the dark…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Deadly Sound
  • 2. Something in the Pipeline
  • 3. A Pair of White Gloves
  • 4. Mr Oak and Mr Quill
  • 5. Waiting in the Dark
  • 6. The Specimen
  • 7. The Figure on the Beach
  • 8. The Impeller Shaft
  • 9. The Battle of the Giants
  • 10. The Spy Within
  • 11. The Nerve Centre
  • 12. ‘Scream, Victoria! Scream!’

Background: Victor Pemberton adapts scripts from his own 1968 serial. At 189 pages, it’s by far and away the biggest novelisation so far (and the original cover price reflected this!).

Notes: The Doctor is said to have ‘never really liked the sea. In fact, it was the only thing he really feared. It made him feel insecure, restless’ (contradicting the opening scenes of Enemy of the World – and in contrast to Patrick Troughton, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during WWII). Jamie has a bizarre sneezing reaction when he comes into contact with the foam in the sea, something that later becomes an early warning of an impending weed attack. We’re reminded that Jamie grew up in ‘the Scotland of the Jacobean age’ and that Victoria misses ‘the love and protection of her dear father back in the Victorian age’; later, it’s said that she considers Jamie to be ‘a very special person, the sort of brother everyone should have’, which is just adorable. The Doctor uses ‘his own version of a screwdriver’ but it’s not specifically ‘sonic’ [Pemberton had apparently resented that he’d never received credit for inventing the Doctor’s signature device, so this is a little surprising]. When the Doctor is shot on the beach, Jamie struggles to accept that his friend might be dead:

The Doctor had survived so many attacks on his life during their travels through time and space. The Doctor was as indestructible as time itself.

Controller Robson is said to be ‘a burly-looking man, probably in his early fifties, with greying hair, a jutting jaw, and vacant grey eyes.’ The nametag on his uniform says his name is ‘ROBSON. S’, though we’re later told his name is ‘John’ so the ‘S’ name is a mystery; while it’s common for people to be addressed by a middle name, it’s a little confusing that we have that little mystery unexplained (maybe his birth name is St John?!). 

Frank Harris is a skinny young man in his late twenties, ‘weak-looking’ with ‘blue eyes, a pale face and gaunt expression, and a mop of blond, unruly hair that constantly flopped carelessly over his right eye’. Robson resents Harris for being young and educated in a ‘red-brick university’. Pieter Van Lutyens is ‘a likeable little man, dumpy, balding’ and speaks English ‘with no trace of an accent’ (so not a match for John Abineri or his performance on TV); he’s been a member of the team at the refinery since being appointed by the government two years previously. Chief Baxter is in his late-fifties and ‘one of the most experienced drilling engineers in the North Sea gas fields’. He was once in line for the role that eventually went to Robson, but was considered too important to the offshore drilling programme. All of the background details really help to explain why Robson is so paranoid and defensive towards the experts who surround him. A reflective scene reveals that Robson’s wife, Angie, died 22 years earlier in a car accident where Robson was the driver. Megan Jones is ‘an attractive middle-aged woman’ with ‘vivid red hair’; she comes from the Rhondda Valley, the daughter of a coal-miner. Megan’s secretary, Ronald Perkins, is ‘an effete young man, a devoted, ambitious civil servant, who would sooner die than contradict his superiors’. The video operator Price’s first name is ‘David’, while the chief operator of Rig D is Mick Carney.

The Doctor believes that Victoria has ‘the loudest, most terrifying scream he had ever heard’. He also surmises that Maggie Jones was transported to the rig in a cocoon created by the weed creature. The TARDIS makes a ‘grinding and grunting sound’ as it dematerialises. The seabirds return to the area now that the weed parasite has been defeated.

Cover: In front of a North Sea gas platform, a frond of seaweed emerges from the water, as realised by David McAllister.

Final Analysis: The novelisation of Fury from the Deep won the Doctor Who Magazine 25th Anniversary Poll for best Target novel ever. This shouldn’t be a surprise. As one of the infamously completely missing stories, it’s one that the Old Guard lauded as being among the very best without any evidence that younger viewers could point to for a counter-argument. By the close of 1986, many fans only knew the story from this book. It also features the departure of a companion that, for once, is ceded through the entire adventure and the novel makes great use of the space to tell a character-driven story where each individual has clear motivations, strengths and weaknesses. 

This also feels rather traditional. While he isn’t afraid of adding a little extra biographical detail to his characters or polishing a scene to heighten the tension, Pemberton largely sticks to his original plot and doesn’t try to be experimental with the narrative. He also employs an old Terrance Dicks trick of repeating descriptions to establish characters (Harris’s lock of hair, Oak and Quill’s white gloves) and especially to announce the presence of his monster, in this case ‘bubbling white foam’ – later evolving into ‘a mass of white foam’. Pemberton also gets extra points for sneaking a namecheck for the tile into the final chapter:

Down below, the mud-coloured sea was pitted with undulating swells of white spray and bubbling blobs of foam, soon to become a slave of the fury from the deep…

Robson’s transformation into a weed creature is, predictably, more horrific on the page, not quite to the degree that Ian Marter might have offered, but the slowly engulfing menace is beautifully realised, making assets out of elements that might have been weaknesses on TV (we don’t know, we can’t see it, but we can assume that a studio-bound scene involving foam during the second Doctor’s era might look like – there are a fair few of them!):

The Doctor and Jamie stared in horror as the room was flooded with light. They were in a large crew cabin, at the far end of which was a seething mass of bubbling white foam. And in the midst of that foam was a sight that would chill the blood of even the strongest of mortals. The figure of a man was standing there, half demented, his neck and hands sprouting frond-like weed formations. And out of the foam that had almost completely engulfed him, the curling tentacles of the giant Weed Creature were snaking around his lifeless body.

The deafening heartbeat sound stopped abruptly. There was a deathly silence, then the man who had become a creature himself, began to emerge from the foam, arms out-stretched, walking slowly, jerkily, straight towards the Doctor and Jamie.

‘Come in, Doctor,’ whispered the human creature. ‘We’ve been waiting for you…’

It was Robson.

Yes, it’s a much bigger book than we’re used to, but unlike a few other examples published in the same year, this never feels padded and it doesn’t add unnecessary details for the sake of it. 

So is this the best of the Target range so far?

Could be…

Chapter 100. Doctor Who – The Two Doctors (1985)

Synopsis: When the Doctor and Peri land on a space station filled with a stench of death, they find a sole survivor – the Doctor’s old companion, the Highlander Jamie! The Doctor follows a trail across time and space to find his former self, Jamie’s Doctor, who is being held captive in a Spanish villa by a fanatical scientist, his Androgum servants and a pair of Sontarans. This unlikely team has ambitions to unlock the secrets of time travel – and their experiments on the Doctor’s past incarnation threaten his future self and the safety of the universe…

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Countdown to Death
  • 2. Massacre on J7
  • 3. Tomb in Space
  • 4. Adios, Doña Arana
  • 5. Creature of the Darkness
  • 6. The Bell Tolls
  • 7. The Doctor’s Dilemma
  • 8. Company of Madmen
  • 9. A Song for Supper
  • 10. Shockeye the Donor
  • 11. Ice Passage Ambush
  • 12. Alas, Poor Oscar

Background: Robert Holmes adapts his own scripts for the serial broadcast five months earlier. This is the 100th Target novelisation, so it comes with a congratulatory introduction from producer John Nathan-Turner.

Notes: The J7 station was designed by ‘architneers’ who exploited zero gravity to create ‘an ethereal tracery of loops and whorls and cusps that formed a constantly changing pattern as the station rotated slowly upon its axis’. Jamie recalls that he and the Doctor had been in a garden, where the Doctor had greeted ‘chieftains’ who wore yellow cloaks with high collars’ (clearly Time Lords) – and then remembers nothing else prior to their arrival in space near the J7 station. The Doctor hopes that undertaking this mission might improve his relations with ‘the High Council’. There’s no mention of Victoria’s whereabouts here. Jamie provides our viewpoint in the early chapters, so it’s through his eyes that we first see an Androgum: 

Shockeye’s sparse thatch of ginger hair topped a heavily boned face that sloped down into his body without any apparent necessity for a neck. His skin was grey and rugose, thickly blotched with the warty excrescences common to denizens of high-radiation planets…. every line of [his body], from the mastodon shoulders and over the gross belly to the tree-trunk legs, spoke of a frightening physical strength.

The Second Doctor quotes The Book of Job before telling Jamie to run. Chessene has a ‘cap of short, jet-black hair’ and wears ‘a long, dark dress’; she’s later described as a ‘well-built, dark-haired woman’ who is ‘tall and dark with a broad, heavy forehead’ (suggesting she looks closer to the intended casting of Elizabeth Spriggs, rather than the more elegant Jacqueline Pearce, who eventually played the role on telly). Before departing the station, she has a brief meeting with Sontaran Group Marshal Stike, who has gold braiding on his shoulders. Studying Stike next to his underling, Varl, Chessene wonders how Sontarans tell each other apart.

When the Sixth Doctor tells Peri about the joys of the gumblejack, the narrator informs us that he’s making it all up. Peri believes the Doctor to be 760 years old and remembers the events of the Doctor’s regeneration on Androzani Minor [see The Caves of Androzani], while the Doctor confesses that his latest incarnation ‘isn’t 100% yet’. When the feral Jamie attacks Peri, she manages to fend him off as ‘her muscles had been honed by years as a campus sports star’. By the time the Doctor and Peri reach the J7 station, it’s a lot clearer that some time has passed for Jamie, whose mind has snapped due to the trauma of believing he’s witnessed the Doctor’s death. As he observes the hologram of his second self – a ‘rather scruffy person in an ill-fitting tailcoat and black string necktie’ – the Doctor notes that he might recognise the Brigadier or Leela but he had ‘scarcely any recollection of how he himself had appeared in past forms’. He recalls spending ‘a delightful afternoon’ with Archimedes, before quoting himself from The Ark in Space.

As Chessene’s craft, The Delta-Six, approaches Earth, it knocks out communications and radar equipment around the planet and nearly instigates World War III. Shockeye’s hunger pangs make him consider eating Varl, but he knows the flesh of clone species is ‘coarse and lacking in flavour’. We’ve told some of the 90-year-old Doña Arana’s past, her late husband Don Vincente and their three children, shortly before she is swiftly and brutally killed by Shockeye; Chessene commands that the old lady’s body be incinerated.

Jamie and Peri have to wake the Doctor from his temporal plain trance as a fire breaks out in Dastari’s office. The Second Doctor recalls a time when he attended a banquet in honour of a Dominator on Bellaphores, a planet where they don’t make wine, their delicacy is ‘a fermented slurry of clay and animal faeces’, which the locals suck through ‘colloidal membranes’; the experience made the Doctor sick for days after. Oscar Botcherby runs a restaurant called ‘La Piranella’ (not Las Cadenas), which he claims he’s doing as a favour while he’s ‘between roles’ (Anita notes to herself that Oscar has been working there for at least three years). As he gets dressed up in Don Arana’s old clothes, Shockeye sings an old Androgum lullaby that begins ‘Go to sleep my little grey lump of fun’ and later composes his own ditty about the joys of cooking a Tellurian (in the chapter ‘A Song for Supper’). 

On hearing Jamie call his new friend ‘Doctor’, Stike assumes it’s a common Time Lord title, rather than the same Time Lord; the Doctor mocks the Sontaran habit of having grand military ranks: ‘I’ve never met a Sontaran private yet,’ he goads. Revealing that she has acquired three canisters of coronic acid, Chessene states that the Rutans used coronic acid shells and ‘decimated’ [sic] the Sontarans at Vollotha (which the Doctor later confirms is a weapon that specifically targets cloned races); this revelation alerts Dastari to the fact that Chessene has secretly and  independently been in contact with the Sontarans’ greatest enemy. Varl flatters Stike with a discussion about his superior’s prospective military career, just as Chessene attacks them with the chronic acid. Varl takes the full blast, and Stike, crawling away to safety, vows to recommend Varl for inclusion in ‘the Golden Roll of Sontaran Heroes’.

The Androgum’s bill at Oscar’s restaurant tallies up a different selection to the items on TV, including quenelles, ortolon, crevettes, truffled goose with almonds, wild boar with Grand Veneur sauce, saddle of venison with chocolate, eight T-bone steaks and ‘an entire fieldfare pie’ for twelve. The Second Doctor tries to pay for the meal with a five-dollar bill in Confederate currency. Shockeye stabs Oscar, draws the knife up to the man’s breastbone and throws him across the restaurant. As he dies, Oscar asks Maria to take care of his teddy bear [possibly a reference to actor James Saxon’s teddy-bear-obsessed character in the popular ITV sitcom Brass]. When the Doctor prepares to kill Shockeye, he tears some of the lining from his coat (yes, he’s been wearing that through all that running about in the Spanish heat!). He dispatches the Androgum but doesn’t make his ‘just desserts’ quip; instead he considers the death to be ‘one back for Oscar’. His declaration for a life of vegetarianism is removed. The body of Doña Arana remains undiscovered for some time as her visiting priest has been ill; local police file her death and the destruction of her home next to the unsolved murder of Oscar Botcherby.

Cover: It’s a shame the trend at the time was to avoid paying for the likenesses of actors, but this is quite a clever cover as a Sontaran and the Spanish villa are interrupted by two TARDISes zooming off together in symmetry. To mark the book’s position as the 100th Target release, the neon logo is printed in gold foil.

Final Analysis: This is of course Robert Holmes’ only full novel for the range (having provided just the prologue for The Time Warrior, uncredited), so it’s appropriate that we’re also celebrating book 100 here. It contains all of the dark humour and relish for violence that we saw on telly and Holmes’ take is more graphic than even Ian Marter’s greatest excesses: The computer operator on the J7 station dies with ‘his tongue protruding thickly, like a bursting plum’; the scientist shot in front of the second Doctor ‘dance[s] into the room in a grisly pirouette, the tiny rheon shells ripping open sagging red holes in his body as though the flesh concealed a dozen zip-fasteners’; there’s a particularly nasty depiction of the Doña Arana’s final seconds (in a chapter called ‘Adios, Doña Arana’) as Shockeye snaps her neck, while the smell of her burning carcass merely makes her killer hungry; and there’s a particularly vivid description of how to prepare a cat for cooking.  This is definitely not one for the squeamish – and I love it.

There’s also poetry in some of the prose. When the Doctor is lost in reverie at the thought of the end of the universe, he considers all the innocent life forms that will be affected by his projected catastrophe and debates with himself whether the blame lies with ‘intelligent species, driven by the unquenchable fires of ambition’:

… it was the intelligent species who, by observation and deduction, pieced together the cosmic jigsaw, who saw the connection between a clod of mud and a moonbeam and could descry orderly patterns in the swirling sands of life…. Without intelligence, no chasms would have been bridged. There would have been no cathedrals, no symphonies, no sonnets, no equations. And the pathways to the stars would never have been traversed.

While appreciation of the story itself is of course a matter of personal taste, it can’t be denied that the level of additional detail and character insight is exactly what we might want from a Target novelisation. Just a shame Robert Holmes never wrote any more.

Chapter 99. Doctor Who – The Krotons (1985)

Synopsis: Educated by computers, the Gonds submit their best students to join the Krotons as their favoured companions inside their machine. The students are never seen again. When the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe witness the death of a student and rescue another from a similar fate, they try to convince the Gonds that their loyalty to the Krotons is based on a terrible lie. Then Zoe takes a test on the Krotons’ teaching computer and records their highest ever score. ‘Zoegond’ is duly summoned to join the Krotons. As Jamie tries to prevent the young students from rioting, the Doctor must take the same test to accompany Zoe as a companion of the Krotons.

Chapter Titles

  • 1 A Candidate for Death
  • 2 The Rescue
  • 3 The Rebels
  • 4 The Genius
  • 5 The Companions
  • 6 The Krotons Awake
  • 7 The Militants
  • 8 The Attack
  • 9 The Second Attack
  • 10 Battle Plans
  • 11 Eelek’s Bargain
  • 12 Acid

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s scripts for the 1968 serial. This is the first time we’ve had two second Doctor stories released in succession (and, technically, the next book makes it three!) – and it’s the only time we’ll get two Second Doctor stories published in broadcast order (not that they follow on from one another in any way).

Notes: A new description for this Doctor, who is ‘on the small side, with a thatch of untidy black hair and a gentle, rather humorous face’. When the Doctor tells Zoe that he’s not a ‘doctor of medicine’, we’re reminded by Dicks that this is a little unfair ‘since he was in fact a doctor of almost everything’. Zoe’s surname is spelled ‘Herriot’ here.

The creatures were enormous, almost twice the size of a man. They had huge barrel shaped torsos, high ridged shoulders and a solid base on which they seemed to slide like hovercraft. The massive arms ended in giant clamps. The most terrifying of all were the heads, blank, many faceted and rising to a point in a shape like that of a giant crystal.

I’m not sure anyone ever felt that the Krotons were ‘terrifying’, but it’s lovely that Terrance tries to convince us. Dicks labels the aliens ‘Commander’ and ‘Kroton two’. When Beta orders Vana to escape to the hills, she reminds Beta that she’s ‘a scientist too’, though it’s still the threat of her fainting that persuades Vana to let her stay. When Eelek confronts a Kroton in the Learning Hall, he has to fight back ‘an impulse to fall down and worship’. 

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a gleaming Kroton against a simple honeycomb-patterned background. The 1991 edition uses Alister Pearson’s VHS cover art, showing Jamie, Zoe and the Doctor behind a Kroton wielding its cumbersome gun.

Final Analysis: Apparently, Vana’s ‘outstanding beauty made it hard to believe that she was among the most gifted of her generation of students’. Really, Terrance? Or is this a sly dig at actress Madeleine Mills? This is an adaptation of Robert Holmes’ first script for the series and it was a bit of a rush after other scripts fell through. It lacks much of Holmes’ wit and it’s a bit of a generic SF trope really, but many fans have a lot of fondness for it as it was the first chance they got to see a Second Doctor story, thanks to the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeats. It’s worth remembering all this, as Terrance Dicks does his usual workmanlike job of pulling everything together, but he doesn’t take the opportunity to give us anything more.

Chapter 98. Doctor Who – The Invasion (1985)

Synopsis: International Electromatix is a world leader in developing popular electrical devices. The head of the company is the charming and persuasive Tobias Vaughn. But Vaughn’s company is merely a front for a much grander scheme. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe accidentally find themselves party to an investigation into Vaughn by an organisation called UNIT. Soon, friends old and new help the Doctor uncover the secret behind Vaughn and his partners, who also know the Doctor of old…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Home Sweet Home?
  • 2. Old Friends
  • 3. Cat and Mouse
  • 4. Hitching Lifts
  • 5. Skeletons and Cupboards
  • 6. Secret Weapons
  • 7. Underground Operations
  • 8. Invasion
  • 9. Counter Measures
  • 10. The Nick of Time

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts from the 1968 serial by Kit Pedler and Derrick Sherwin.

Notes: The TARDIS pulls itself together and the Doctor’s companions reappear after the ‘disintegration of the TARDIS in their previous adventure [which] had been a horrifying experience’ [we might assume this follows on from The Mind Robber, but it could also be from some unseen adventure]. Jamie is ‘a robust young Highlander clad in faded kilt and sporran, tattered sleeveless sheepskin waistcoat and sturdy boots’, while Zoe is ‘a bright-eyed teenager with a large face, wide mouth and short black hair and she was wearing a tomboyish trouser-suit’ (not the sparkly catsuit seen on screen or the gaudy mini-skirt and stockings she picks up at Isobel’s apartment). The Doctor has ‘small hands’ apparently, and he looks like ‘an old-fashioned fairground showman’. Later, he’s said to chew the ‘frayed edge of his cravat’.

International ‘Electromatics’ becomes ‘Electromatix’ and its logo is a ‘zig-zag of lightning in the grip of a clenched glove’ rather than the letters ‘IE’ on screen. The introduction of Tobias Vaughn is extraordinarily precise:

The combination of swept-back silver hair and thick black eyebrows gave the older man a disturbing appearance. His right eye was permanently half closed, but his left gazed wide open with chilling pale blue iris and huge black pupil. His clothes were coldly elegant: a plain suit with collarless jacket, round-necked shirt and gleaming black shoes with chrome buckles.

(The detail of his half-closed eye is that of the actor, Kevin Stoney, not the character!)

When Vaughn asks ‘whom I have had the pleasure..?’ the Doctor replies, ‘Not Whom… Who…’ – the closest reminder we’ve had in a while of his proper, official, no-arguments surname. Vaughn  opens the hidden panel in his office with a control disguised as a pen. The machine behind the panel – referred to as the Cyber Unit or Cyber Module – claims to recognise the Doctor and Jamie from ‘Planet Sigma Gamma 14’. The Module is about two metres high, resembling ‘a gigantic radio valve’. 

Bristling electrodes sprouted from a revolving central crystal suspended within a delicate cage of sparking, fizzing filaments. Cathode tubes were arranged like a belt of glass ammunition around the base of the cage and the whole sparkling mechanism was supported in a lattice of shimmering wires and tubes. The planes of the crystal flickered with millions of tiny points of intense blue light and the apparatus possessed a sinister beauty as it hovered in the darkness.

The Brigadier is introduced as a ‘tall officer’ with a ‘strong square-jawed face and neatly clipped moustache suggesting calm and confident authority.’ The communications device he gives to the Doctor is a ‘Polyvox’ with a range of 100km – slightly more powerful than the onscreen ‘TM-45’, which could cover 50 miles (about 80km). He becomes increasingly irritated by the Doctor’s insistence of signing off a radio transmission with a cheery ‘Under and off” and later ‘Down and out’! Jamie writes ‘Kilroy was here’ in the dust on the top of a lift; it’s a nice reference to a bit of graffiti that Frazer Hines wrote on the lift shaft wall on TV, but it’s odd that Jamie even knows the phrase, while the Doctor doesn’t recognise it. Two of the workmen in the IE complex are named ‘Sangster and Graves’ (as far as I know, this is the only time my surname appears in a Target book, but I suspect it’s more a reference to the Hammer horror writer-director than a teenage me). Major-General Rutlidge becomes ‘Routledge’; he addresses the Brigadier as ‘Alistair’ (the Brig’s first name wasn’t revealed on screen until Planet of the Spiders).

Marter’s description of an emerging Cyberman matches that of the ones he himself saw in Revenge of the Cybermen:

It stood about two metres high, with a square head from which right-angled loops of hydraulic tubing protruded on either side. Its rudimentary face comprised two blank viewing lenses for eyes and a rectangular slit for a mouth. The broad chest contained a grilled ventilator unit which hissed nightmarishly. Thick flexible tubing ran along the arms and down each leg and was connected into a flattened humplike unit on the creature’s back. Faint gasping and whirring noises inside the silvery body accompanied every movement.

It’s a ‘young constable’ who follows the crazy kids down into the sewers to his death (he’s a little older on TV). Gregory is shot dead during the rescue of Professor Watkins, rather than by a rogue Cyberman in the sewers. When Vaughn dies, his screams sound like a Cyberman. There are a few name changes along the way: Watkins’ machine is called the ‘Cerebration Mentor’ (not ‘Cerebraton’); ‘Henlow Downs’ becomes ‘Henlow Flats’ (echoes of Quatermass II there); Major Branwell and Sergeant Peters become ‘Squadron Leader Branwell’ and flight lieutenant Peters; and, famously, the Russian missile base is called ‘Nykortny’ after Ian Marter’s good friend Nicholas Courtney (and I suspect the final chapter title is a tribute to him as well). The missiles target a single Cyber-mothership, rather than an entire fleet. Jamie spends two days in hospital before the time travellers depart – and the Brigadier joins Isobel and Captain Turner in waving them off.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s original cover has a Cyberman holding a flaming gun in front of a red UNIT emblem. For the 1993 reprint, Alister Pearson paints the Doctor musing in front of two symmetrically positioned Cybermen.

Final Analysis: We reach peak Marter here, as the author goes all out with gruey violence: Having been compelled to shoot himself, Routledge ‘vomited a stream of blood and pitched forward onto his face at Vaughn’s feet’ while the Cybermen are destroyed by the Cerebration Mentor ‘with smoke and black fluid-like pus oozing from their joints and grilles’. There’s also the return of a singular swearword, as Packer vows ‘We’ll kill the bastard this time’. On publication, this more adult approach was received with some concern, but it does at least make the stakes feel really high. Weirdly, it also makes the Cybermen feel more of a threat, even though they’re possibly even less of a physical presence here than on TV. As in Marter’s Earthshock, the horror of the Cybermen is a sensual experience, from the electric fizzing of the Module to the ‘nightmarish mechanical rasp’ of their breath, ‘rubbery’ with ‘sickly, oily exhalations’. When one of them is struck in the chest unit by an exploding grenade, ‘thick black fluid pump[s] copiously out of the severed tubes’. And, having made Packer even more violent and sadistic than his TV counterpart, it’s satisfying that he gets a particularly gruesome exit:

The Cyberman’s laser unit emitted a series of blinding flashes and Packer’s body seemed to alternate from positive to negative in the blistering discharge. His uniform erupted into flames and his exposed skin crinkled and fused like melted toffee papers. 

Chapter 90. Doctor Who – The Highlanders (1984)

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the battle of Culloden in 1745, a group of Jacobite rebels try to evade capture by the English army. The Doctor, Ben and Polly help a wounded laird but are then captured by an incompetent English officer. The Doctor adopts a fun disguise as Polly uses guile to free her new friends and escape. One young Scot in particular impresses the time-travelling trio – a piper by the name of Jamie McCrimmon.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Where are We?
  • 2. The Cottage
  • 3. The Captives
  • 4. The Handsome Lieutenant
  • 5. Polly and Kirsty
  • 6. Polly’s Prisoner
  • 7. The Water Dungeon
  • 8. Blackmail!
  • 9. The Doctor’s New Clothes
  • 10. Aboard the Annabelle
  • 11. At the Sea Eagle
  • 12. The Little Auld Lady
  • 13. A Ducking for Ben
  • 14. Where is the Prince?
  • 15. The Fight for the Brig
  • 16. Algernon Again
  • 17. A Return to the Cottage

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Elwyn Jones for the 1967 serial.

Notes: The bonhomie of TV’s Ben and Polly is replaced by something closer to the bickering of 1980s companions; Ben insists on calling Polly ‘Princess’ (not ‘Duchess’) and thinks she is ‘uppity and toffee-nosed’. He also thinks the sounds of battle drifting over the moor are just celebrations from ‘the Spurs Supporters Club’ (ahem, a reference to the er, London-based football team Tottenham Hotspurs) or a historical society. Polly resents Ben’s ‘big brother’ protectiveness, especially as she is ‘about a head taller than he was’; later, it’s confirmed she’s an ‘independent girl from the sixties’ – so her ‘seventies’ origins have been properly reset from previous Gerry Davis novels. The Doctor admits to Polly that the discovery of a cannon ball makes him afraid. There’s a dump of history at the start too, as we’re told of the battle for the British monarchy between the Scottish Stuarts and the ‘Hanoverian German Georges’. The Scots had been booted out 40 years ago and we join the story in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden Moor. As this wasn’t taught in English schools in my day, this is especially welcome and helpful.

As the Doctor inspects a tam-o’-shanter, we’re told it’s a ‘standing joke in the TARDIS that he could never resist trying on any new hat he came across’; as this is the first TV story where his hat fetish became a regular thing, this suggests the trio have had a fair few offscreen adventures since the Doctor’s regeneration. He adopts the pseudonym ‘Doctor von Verner’ (not the more obvious meta-joke ‘von Wer’ on telly). Algernon Ffinch stammers ‘in a way approved by the London dandies of the time’, which could mean it’s an affectation for fashionable purposes. The Sergeant’s name is spelled ‘Klegg’, not ‘Clegg’. While in the prison, Jamie plays a mournful tune on his bagpipes before the Doctor creates a disruption in the gaol by playing the Jacobite ‘Lillibulero’ on his recorder. The name of the pub where Solicitor Grey has installed himself is called the Sea Eagle Inn. As Jamie boots Trask overboard during the final battle, Ben tries to regain some composure as he claims he was about to use karate to save himself. There’s a more pressing reason for Jamie to join the travellers; having escorted them to the TARDIS, Jamie boasts that he’ll be fine on his own as they hear the sound of muskets being fired nearby. We then join Jamie as he sees the inside of the TARDIS for the first time (see below).

Cover: A smashing portrait by Nick Spender of Jamie, accompanied by Alexander, a Saltire flag and the TARDIS. Unusually for this period, there are likenesses of recognisable actors here!

Final Analysis: Gerry Davis returns to adapt a script that he originally oversaw to production. It was the last of the pure historicals on TV, yet it’s the second one we’ve had in novel form in the space of a year. The Highlanders is often overlooked in favour of the more monster-focused stories of the era and, perhaps it won’t come as a surprise to learn that this is the first time I’ve read this particular book. Davis keeps things light, even with the threat of violence and a very sudden death early on. The stakes are high, but so’s the sense of adventure and Polly in particular has a rare old time running rings around every man she encounters. Effectively, she gets her own companion in the form of Kirsty and it’s easy to forget that this is the debut of Jamie, even though his future role as a companion isn’t foreshadowed at all, he’s just one of a number of likeable characters that we meet. Poor Ben’s experience in Scotland isn’t quite so thrilling. Despite having spent very little time with Jamie, Polly takes an immediate shine to him and the final scene sees him adopted as a fully-fledged TARDIS member at last:

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ she said, ‘it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.’

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time-machine.

Chapter 86. Doctor Who – The Dominators (1984)

Synopsis: An island in an ocean on the planet Dulkis. Survivors of war, the Dulcians are now complete pacifists. They have no concept of aggression, no understanding of what it takes to defend themselves. They are ill equipped to deal with the Dominators. Accompanied by their murderous robot servants the Quarks, the invaders see Dulkis merely as a resource to be exploited. And the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe must stop them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Island of Death
  • 2. The Radiation Mystery
  • 3. The Assessment
  • 4. Heads in the Sand
  • 5. Slavery
  • 6. Fighting Back
  • 7. Buried Alive
  • 8. Clues
  • 9. Last Chances
  • 10. Desperate Remedies

Background: Ian Marter adapts the 1968 scripts credited to Norman Ashby (a pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln).

Notes: Dulkis is immediately diminished in importance; it’s  ‘pale, ochre-coloured’, and ‘an insignificant little planet which orbited an isolated minor star’. In contrast, everything about the Dominators is heightened to make them appear impressive:

They were human in form but towered more than two and a half metres in height. Their leathery features were starkly chiselled, with thin bloodless lips and deeply set red-rimmed eyes which burned with a cold green light beneath heavy brows. Their short hair was black and sleeked back, like a skullcap, from their shallow foreheads.The creatures were clad in protective suits consisting of black quilted material like rubber, armoured with small overlapping plates and built up around the shoulders so that they appeared to have no necks.

The Quarks too are much taller than the schoolboy-sized ones we see on telly, about two metres tall. The surface of their ball-shaped heads is covered with ‘a network of eyes and sensors’, while their arms have hand-like endings ‘bristling with sensors, sockets and implements’. They’re also a little bit more talkative.

Inside the War Museum, Jamie inspects a laser gun and it accidentally discharges, punching a hole into a door . There are four figures sat around a circular table (not two at a desk as on screen):

… their bodies frozen into grotesquely contorted positions. Their clothing was charred and rotten, here and there fused into a glassy lump with their roasted and flayed flesh. The eyeless faces were burned beyond recognition.

The Dulcians measure years in ‘annos’ and months in ‘lunars’. ‘Cully’ becomes ‘Kully’; at one point, he attempts to impersonate Jamie’s accent.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a Dominator and a Quark operating drilling equipment, while a huge oversized Quark fills the skyline. The 1991 reprint cover reuses Alister Pearson’s VHS artwork, with the Doctor flanked by pairs of Dominators and Quarks.

Final Analysis: It’s surprising that one of the most unsettling visual effects of its time – the fiery bubbling of Tolata’s skin as she’s blasted by a Quark – is reduced to an energy burst and a bloodless murder. I’d have expected Ian Marter to go all out on this, considering the gruesome description he gives to the dummies in the war room in a later scene. But this is a subtle work: Marter’s introduction places the impressive Dominator battleships soaring across space in formation near to quite the most boring-looking planet ever. In Chapter 4, we finally reach the Dulcian Capitol, where its citizens enjoy warmth from the planet’s ‘modest yellow sun’, there are galleries filled with ‘lush green vegetation’, small fountains that cast ‘fine shimmering sprays of purified water in myriad colours’. The Council Chambers are pastel shades, the elderly Councillors lounge in ‘padded reclining chairs’ with cushions, everything is soft, soothing and entirely non-threatening. In the space of a couple of paragraphs, we’re shown that Dukis has absolutely no defence against the trigger-happy invaders. It’s so much better than the story deserves, being a little one-note and thin on TV.

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (1983)

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors  (1983)

Synopsis: The Death Zone on Gallifrey – once the location of cruel games in the old times of the Time Lords, before it was closed down. A sinister figure has reactivated it and the Doctor has been dragged out of time from different points in his life. Though one of his incarnations is trapped in a time eddy, four others work together, joined by old friends and obstructed by old enemies. Their joint quest points towards an imposing tower that legend says is also the tomb of the Time Lord founder, Rassilon. A deadly new game is afoot, and the prize is not what it seems…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Game Begins
  • 2. Pawns in the Game
  • 3. Death Zone
  • 4. Unexpected Meeting
  • 5. Two Doctors
  • 6. Above, Between, Below!
  • 7. The Doctor Disappears
  • 8. Condemned
  • 9. The Dark Tower
  • 10. Deadly Companions
  • 11. Rassilon’s Secret
  • 12. The Game of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own TV script in a novel that was published before it was broadcast in the UK – pushing the record for the gap between broadcast and publication into minus figures.

Notes: The book opens in ‘a place of ancient evil’ – the Game Room – where a black-clad Player is preparing for the game to begin. The Doctor has a fresh stalk of celery on his lapel. Tegan is still considered to be ‘an Australian air stewardess’ despite having been sacked by the time of Arc of Infinity. The Doctor has remodelled the TARDIS console room after ‘a recent Cybermen attack’ (is this Earthshock or an unseen adventure?). Turlough is introduced as a ‘thin-faced, sandy-haired young man in the blazer and flannels of his public school.’ He’s also ‘good-looking in a faintly untrustworthy sort of way’.

The First Doctor is said to have ‘blue eyes […] bright with intelligence’ (William Hartnell had brown eyes so this is definitely the Hurndall First Doctor) and a ‘haughty, imperious air’. He’s aware that he’s near the end of his first incarnation and is living in semi-retirement to prepare himself for the impending change. The Brigadier’s replacement is called ‘Charlie Crighton’ (Charles Crighton, as in the film director?). The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (not blue – or even green as previously) which appear ‘humourous and sad at the same time’. We find the Third Doctor test-driving Bessie on private roads, which is how he can drive so fast without fear of oncoming traffic. On leaving the TARDIS, Sarah-Jane Smith had felt ‘abandoned and more than a little resentful’; at first, she thinks the capture obelisk is a bus rounding a corner – until it’s too late. There’s a new scene depicting life on future Earth for Susan Campbell – formerly Foreman – whose husband David is part of the reconstruction government and they have three children together. 

Strangely, she calls her grandfather ‘Doctor’, which is what alerts the Dalek to the presence of its enemy  (this was fixed for the TV broadcast). The obelisk tries to capture the Fourth Doctor and Romana by lying in wait under a bridge. The Master recognises that the stolen body he inhabits will wear out, so the offer of a full regeneration cycle is especially appealing. The slight incline that Sarah tumbles down on TV becomes a bottomless ravine here. The First Doctor is much more receptive to Tegan’s suggestion that she accompanies him to the Tower. As the Castellan accuses the Doctor of ‘revenge’, we’re reminded of the events in Arc of Infinity, while there’s also a summary of the events with the Yeti in London that led to the Doctor and the Brigadier’s first meeting. The ‘between’ entrance to the tower has a bell on a rope, not an ‘entry coder’ and the First Doctor, realising the chess board has a hundred squares, applies the first hundred places of ‘Pi’ as coordinates (which explains how he translates the measurement of a circle to a square!).

Sarah Jane tries to launch a rock at a Cyberman to keep it away (‘I missed!’) and on meeting the Third Doctor, Tegan tells Sarah ‘My one’s no better’ and they compare notes – scenes that were reinstated for the special edition of the story on VHS and DVD. When the Brigadier helps to disarm the Master, the Doctors pile onto him. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are returned to the exact moment they left, still punting on the river Cam. Though the Second Doctor departs by calling his successor ‘Fancy pants’, the ‘Scarecrow’ response is cut. The Fifth Doctor tells a confused Flavia that Rassion ‘was – is – the greatest Time Lord of all’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter creates the central image of a diamond containing the five Doctors in profile, surrounded by the TARDIS, Cybermen, a Dalek and K9. All of this on a very swish-looking metallic-silver background with a flash in the bottom right-hand corner proclaiming the book ‘A Twentieth Anniversary First Edition’. Alister Pearson’s art for the 1991 reprint features the story’s five Doctors (Hurndall stepping in for Hartnell and an off-colour Tom Baker) against a backdrop of elements that evoke the interior decor of the Dark Tower with a suggestion of the hexagonal games table.

Final Analysis: Apparently Terrance Dicks completed this in record time, so understandably there are a couple of mistakes (Susan calling her grandfather ‘Doctor’, Zoe and Jamie labelled as companions of the ‘third Doctor’), but otherwise he juggles the elements of his already convoluted tale very well, even resorting to his trick from the previous multi-Doctor story of calling them ‘Doctor One’, ‘Doctor Two’ and ‘Doctor Three’. It’s not just nostalgia working here, Terrance Dicks does such a good job with the shopping list he was given and makes something that both celebrates the past and catapults the series into the future.

Chapter 64. Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World (1981)

Synopsis: Salamander is a peacemaker. Salamander is a hero. And to some, Salamander is their saviour. But to all, he is a very dangerous man. The Doctor tries very hard not to get involved in politics, but the inconvenient truth is that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Salamander. With the help of Jamie and Victoria, he uncovers the man’s insane plans.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Day by the Sea
  • 2. The Doctor Takes a Risk
  • 3. Volcanoes
  • 4. Too Many Cooks
  • 5. Seeds of Suspicion
  • 6. The Secret Empire
  • 7. A Scrap of Truth
  • 8. Deceptions
  • 9. Unexpected Evidence
  • 10. The Doctor Not Himself

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts by David Whitaker from 1968. Whitaker had begun work on the novel before his death in 1980 and had stated in his planned synopsis for the book that he would give himself a ‘free hand’ to adapt the story within the allotted word-count and also provided Salamander with a first name – Ramon!

Notes: The cover tells us that the story is set in 2030 – 50 years in the future of the book’s publication. The TARDIS materialises with ‘an unearthly grinding and howling sound’, which is as good a description as we’ll ever get. Victoria emerges from the time machine wearing a ‘faded Victorian dress’. The Doctor enthusiastically accepts the opportunity to impersonate Salamander (he’s much more reluctant on TV). Kent’s list of Salamander’s alleged political assassinations includes Jean Ferrier, Astrid’s father. The dossier Salamander has on Fedorin contains evidence that Fedorin has been involved in ‘elaborate interzonal fraud’ (which is the same charge he denies on screen). A few characters gain full names: Theodore Benik; Nicholas Fedorin; Fariah Neguib; and the survivors in the bunker are Colin Redmayne and Mary Smith. We lose the cute-but-unnecessary ‘disused Yeti?’ joke.

This volume’s ‘savage description of a living actor’ targets the amazing Milton Johns, who played Benik on TV. While the character is an utter monster, Marter takes every opportunity to describe him as physically repellent too:

He was shorter than Bruce, with a thin body and a face like the front of a skull. Short black hair straggled across his forehead in a ragged fringe and his large red ears stuck out slightly. Huge eyes burned in deep sockets and the small mouth was drawn tightly over the teeth.

He’s also said to have ‘mean eyes’ and a ‘malicious smile’ which spreads ‘gradually over his emaciated features’. When Benik is arrested, he is taken under armed guard to Geneva. The story ends with the time travellers safe and in anticipation of their next adventure (unlike the TV version, which ended on a cliffhanger).

Cover: Goodbye to the Bernard Lodge logo as it makes its last appearance here. Bill Donohoe’s cover shows Astrid and Kent at a set of controls in front of an exploding volcano. Alister Pearson’s 1993 reprint cover focuses on Salamander. Or is it the Doctor pretending to be Salamander? There’s a small initial in the composition, underneath the author’s own – SPS – which was fan Simon Sadler (I’m not tracking all of these by the way as even Alister himself doesn’t remember all of them but this came courtesy of mutual friend Gary Russell). Thanks to David J Howe’s book on the Target range, we can see some of the unused designs planned for this story, including a lovely one by Steve Kyte of Astrid and an exploding volcano.

Final Analysis: As ever, there’s no concession to younger readers here as Ian Marter relishes the opportunity to write up a political thriller. There’s the infamous use of adult language (‘That bastard Kent…’), and while it foregoes some of Marter’s usual violent descriptions, it also loses some of the joy from the serial – the Doctor paddles in the sea at the beginning rather than stripping down to long-johns and throwing himself in with gusto, while Victoria’s exchanges with the pompous chef are cut. I have to concede that this very straight-faced approach almost certainly played its part in Enemy of the World being brutally undervalued before it was rediscovered in 2013. At a guess, either the target audience were just too young for a political drama like this. Possibly those who dismissed this in favour of the more monster-focused stories of that era were swayed more by the dramatic cover of The Ice Warriors than its tedious contents. Whatever, this is still a solid adaptation of one of the best second Doctor stories.