Bonus chapter #7. Doctor Who – The Nightmare Fair (1989)

Synopsis: After surviving an encounter with The Nexus of the Primeval Cauldron of Space-Time, the Doctor and Peri arrive in Blackpool, where a visit to the famous Pleasure Beach sees them ensnared by the Celestial Toymaker. But why is the eternal villain there and what does he want with the Doctor? It can’t be anything as mundane as revenge, can it?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Nine.

Background: Graham Williams adapts his scripts for an unmade serial intended for broadcast in 1986 before the original Season 23 was cancelled.

Notes: The Doctor and Peri begin their adventure on the observation platform of the Blackpool Tower, just as the Doctor nearly promised at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. The young guest hero this time is called ‘Kevin Stoney’ [see The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen for why that’s funny] and he’s from Liverpool. The Toymaker – also referred to as The Mandarin – uses a crystal ball to observe the Doctor and other points of interest. The Doctor boasts that he has ‘shot through Black Holes’, ‘sailed through Supernovae and ‘eaten Vanarian Sun Seed Cake’ but has never experienced such a ‘magnificent’ thrill as the roller coaster; although there is a coaster in Blackpool called ‘The Roller Coaster, this one is most likely the Revolution, Europe’s first full-loup rollercoaster, which opened in 1979 and, like the Sixth Doctor, once featured in a memorable episode of a BBC wish-fulfilment entertainment show that we can’t really talk about any more. By the way, the Doctor’s also never had candy floss before; Peri pays for it with a £5 note she found in a sporran in the TARDIS wardrobe, prompting the Doctor to note that it must have been Jamie’s and he was always so careful with money [so putting aside offensive stereotypes for a second, Jamie having legal tender from the mid-1980s suggests an unseen adventure].

After hearing Kevin’s statement about seeing ‘red giants’, Detective Inspector Truscott suggests that if the lad sees any more that he directs them towards Preston North End, as they could do with the help; Preston North End’s kit at the time was white with blue piping, and the away kit was yellow and blue – but they did eventually adopt a red jersey as their main away kit for the 95-6 season. 

As in the Toymaker’s debut adventure, it’s suggested that he and the Doctor have sparred on many occasions. The Doctor took part in the Globus Wars of Independence. His pockets contain a single jelly baby and ‘the signet-ring of Rasillon’, which is ‘the most powerful single object in the known Universes. He tells Peri and Kevin that he doesn’t actually know who the Toymaker is:

‘Nobody knows. He existed before the start of Time Lord records. There was an attempt to track him back through his own continuum – trace his path through the fabric of time, but the researchers got bored with all the games, which was possibly what they were there for. As they do so often,’ he sighed, ‘my erstwhile colleagues met something they didn’t understand, and they ran away from it. If they’d been able to control him, they would have investigated further, I’m sure. But they couldn’t, so they didn’t.’ 

The Toymaker is known to be telepathic and telekinetic, ‘up to a point’, and he was once ‘observed playing with a supernova as though it was a kiddies’ paddling pool… and we know he’s old beyond imagining…’

If fact, the Doctor realises that the Toymaker is from another universe and that he carries his own matter with him – but not anti-matter – concluding that the Toymaker will live for millions of years; the Toymaker confirms that he already has done, having spent thousands of years creating and destroying civilisations until he came up with the idea of his games.  

Cover: Alister Pearson’s composition includes the Toymaker, the Blackpool Tower, a sign for Space Mountain, a miner and a fanged-and-clawed alien. The first edition featured a flash proclaiming ‘The Missing Episodes!’

Final Analysis: The whole concept of a ‘celestial’ toymaker is an archaic pun, ‘celestial’ meaning both ‘of the stars’ and ‘from China’ (a loose translation of ‘Tianchao’, the former name for the Chinese Empire). While the word might have been used to signify ‘exotic’ or mysterious qualities, it was also a racial descriptor that is now largely forgotten. As previously mentioned in (among other chapters) The Sensorites, the word ‘oriental’ can also be problematic for some. Meaning simply ‘from the East’, it’s a colonial view of the world map, positioning China solely in relation to how it appears on a British Empire map with the United Kingdom (well, let’s be honest, England) at its centre.

… and in Doctor Who, we then have the Celestial Toymaker as a Chinese-presenting character played by an English actor. While Michael Gough didn’t resort to the kind of theatrical make-up we saw in The Talons of Weng Chiang, it’s still an example of cultural appropriation – or at best cosplaying – based on a suspicion of the Chinese. How might that have seemed had this story made it to air in 1986? In a season where a story set in Singapore had a working title ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’…. you can draw your own conclusions as to how this might have played out at the time – and how it might have been received by young viewers discovering the era for themselves 36 years later. Despite spending two paragraphs discussing this issue, it’s not really something I dwell on, but it’s a handy distraction to ruminate on while trying to avoid thinking about the rest of the book.

What we have here is something that feels authentic to the period it might have been a part of had Michael Grade not stepped in and saved us. By which I mean, the Doctor is fairly unlikeable and while the adventure features a returning villain, he’s one that few of the viewers would have actually remembered and he doesn’t even act like the character as portrayed in his original appearance. The story is, like the original, a series of events rather than a plot and, sadly, it’s all a bit dull. The greatest joy comes from the Doctor’s two companions being called ‘Kevin and Peri’ in a book published a year before Harry Enfield’s teenage characters Kevin and Perry made their TV debut. All entirely coincidentally. 

To be fair, there is one scene though where Williams captures that alien quality that Colin Baker had so wanted to portray, able to comprehend the vastness of eternity:

‘The isolation of aeons,’ whispered the Doctor, overcome with compassion for the being he’d detested all his adult life. ‘The crushing loneliness of thousands of millennia… you poor, poor creature…’

Chapter 138. Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen (1989)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri follow a distress beacon only to discover it was sent by Commander Lytton, formerly of the Dalek taskforce. Lytton has now allied himself with the Cybermen in a bid to escape Earth. The Cybermen have a plan to change the web of time and it’s down to the Doctor to stop them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Day Begins
  • 2. The Perfect Crime
  • 3. The Peripatetic Doctor
  • 4. The Search Begins
  • 5. A Close Encounter of a Very Nasty Kind
  • 6. Telos
  • 7. The Tombs of the Cybermen
  • 8. The Great Escape
  • 9. Caught
  • 10. The Final Encounter

Background: Eric Saward adapts scripts for a 1985 story attributed to Paula Moore, but actually written by Saward and Ian Levine.

Notes: There’s some major restructuring in play here. The original opening scene with the sewer workmen is removed and scenes on the surface of Telos are bumped to the second half, which makes so much more sense. The opening chapter is reminiscent of the scenes with Shughie McPherson in Malcolm Hulke’s Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, as we’re introduced to Lytton’s gang members. We meet Charles ‘Charlie’ Windsor Griffiths, whose poor, single-parent childhood inspired a life of petty crime. Now at the age of 35 (15 years younger than Brian Glover, who played the role on TV), he’s already spent a total of eight years and seven months in prison, though he currently lives with his mother at 35 Milton Avenue (a real address, so probably Highgate, North London). He’s been a part of Lytton’s gang for some time now. The driver, Joe Payne, is a very heavy smoker who runs a garage. He’s never been in prison, despite his business being a front for numerous illegal activities. Joe had sourced the getaway car for a recent job from his own pool of vehicles, which had then been caught on camera and traced back to him – hence why, for the first time in two years, the gang is now being investigated by Special Branch. Joe lies about seeing someone lurking in the sewers, so he can sneak away for a cigarette – and is then killed by something lurking in the sewers. Charlie Griffiths doesn’t like Vincent Russell; he reminds him of a policemen he once knew, which is unusually perceptive of him: Russell is an undercover police office – something Lytton is aware of and is exploiting for his own means. 

Commander Gustave Lytton is an alien Charnel mercenary from Vita Fifteen, in the star system Tempest Dine, though on TV he tells the Cyber Leader that it’s called ‘six-nine-zero’ and the planet (not the ‘satellite’ as on TV) is ‘Riften five’. He has been trapped on Earth for two years [so either he’s counting his service to the Daleks as part of this, or Resurrection of the Daleks took place in 1983]. The site of his audacious robbery is Hatton Garden, the famous ‘Diamond District’ of London that was also the location of a 2015 safe deposit robbery that involved tunnelling (tempting to ponder if any of the perpetrators were fans of this story). 

The sentinel in the sewers ‘looks like ‘a huge black suit of medieval plate armour’. Lytton introduces the aliens to Griffiths as ‘‘Cybermen! Undisputed masters of the galaxy!’ The Cybermen have rasping respirators on their chests (reminiscent of the oily creatures depicted by Ian Marter in his Cybermen stories). The creature later looms through the darkness towards Lytton and his gang:

Where there should have been eyes and a mouth, there were slits. Instead of ears, there were what appeared to be inverted horns that continued parallel with the side of the head, until turning ninety degrees and joining some sort of bosslike device situated at its crown.

Consistent with The Twin Dilemma, Saward once again claims that Time Lord regeneration is made possible by the release of a hormone called ‘lindos’. The corruption of the Time Lords – and the inability of the propaganda to cover up various scandals – is what prompted the Doctor to leave behind both his home planet and his original name when he stole a TARDIS to explore the universe. While at college, Peri dated a ‘first-year engineering student’ called ‘Chuck’. The Doctor recognises the two policemen who he encounters at Joe’s garage, but can’t remember who they worked for, due to the effects of his regeneration. The time travellers find Lytton’s ‘well-polished shoes… fashionable grey suit, a crisp white shirt and a silk tie’

Cybermen convert human bodies by covering them in a substance called ‘arnickleton’, which smothers and eventually replaces body parts, all except for the processed brain. A strict hierarchy governs the Cybermen, led from the top by the Controller, then Senior Leaders who command a Major Phalanx; these are assisted by Leaders and Junior Leaders – and below them are the army troopers (and we encounter more than just the one Cyber Leader once the Doctor reaches Telos). Later, when Lytton is captured, we learn that the Cyber Controller has been fighting to cure a poison released by the Cryons that has resulted in ‘only a few hundred surviving Cybermen’. It’s this imminent threat of extinction that has motivated the Controller’s plan to change the timelines.

The bodies of Russell and a Cyberman are dumped in a corridor off from the main TARDIS console room. The Doctor remembers the ‘last time’ he’d encountered the Cybermen, when Adric had been killed [is his regenerative amnesia making him forget The Five Doctors?]. The Doctor thinks that he’d rather trust a wounded speelsnape [see Slipback] than trust Lytton.

The two partly Cybernised men are Flight Leader Lintus Stratton and Time Navigator Eregous Bates. They come from the planet Hatre Sedtry in ‘the star system known as Repton’s Cluster’ – and they were the original crew of the time ship now possessed by the Cybermen. The TARDIS’s arrival in the tombs on Telos (instead of Cyber Control) seems to concern the Cyber Leader, prompting the Doctor to wonder if these Cybermen have been programmed with ‘limited emotional response’. He could be right there, as the Cyber Controller chooses to have the Doctor thrown into a refrigerated cell with the express purpose of humiliating him before they can meet again.

The Cryon Thrast is renamed Thrust here (really, Eric…). The physiques of the Cryons resemble those of Earth women, but their faces are covered in a ‘translucent membrane’ with ‘large bulbous eyes’ and ‘coarse white hair’ on their jaws. Flast is ‘grotesquely disfigured’ with a gouge that runs the length of her face, the result of Cyber-torture. The rogue Cybermen’s condition is explicitly stated as a side effect of the Cryon toxin; it poisons the Cyberman’s brain and sends it insane before it eventually dies. After being stabbed in the arm by Lytton, the Cyber Controller strikes a blow to his neck, killing him outright. The surviving Cryons take refuge deep within the caves, watching the destruction of the tombs and planning to rebuild their planet.

Cover: The first cover was by Colin Howard, showing a Cyberman and a Cryon, a soaring comet and the frozen planet Telos. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover presents the Doctor, holding a tracking device, and a Cyberman with the black handles of the Leader (something Pearson had wanted to do for the original cover, before it was awarded to Colin Howard). The figures are presented within frames against the backdrop of a dark, foreboding planet.

Final Analysis: Many years ago, before Doctor Who’s 21st-Century return to our screens, I did my first ever pilgrimage with a friend through every episode of Doctor Who, in order. We managed to get through over 600 episodes in less than a year and then we reached episode one of Attack of the Cybermen. About four months later, we picked up with episode two and it was a struggle. So obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to this novelisation, especially because Eric Saward’s track record after his initial volume hasn’t been the most encouraging.

This is such a surprise. It still has all the clunky backstory and references to the past that made the TV version such a chore, but right from the start, Saward puts the effort in to make sense of the story he helped to create. He’s hugely sympathetic towards Charlie Griffiths (always ‘Charlie’ here), who might be a petty criminal hired for his muscle, but we’re shown how he feels happy seeing someone catch a bus and still worries about the risk of a local shopkeeper being mugged. Later, as he tries to take in the new information about Cybermen having ‘no emotions’, Charlie reviews the things that he feels give his life purpose, like walking in the park, eating one of his mother’s breakfasts, stroking his cat, drinking with his friends, or snuggling under his duvet; it’s a rather sweet encapsulation of the Doctor’s similar speech in Earthshock, but made a bit more tangible thanks to our privileged insight into Charlie’s mundane life in the first chapter.

This eagerness to make the characters more sympathetic extends to the Doctor himself. Saward always had a difficult relationship with this incarnation, yet this shows just how little needed to be changed to make him much more likeable. After an early outburst about his being ‘unstable’, the Doctor apologises to Peri:

‘Listen, Peri..’ The Doctor was now calmer. ‘Inside, I am a peaceful person… Perhaps on occasion,’ he demurred, ‘I can be all noise and bluster.’ Gently he took her arm. ‘But it is only bluster… You’ve nothing to fear. You’re quite safe.’ The Doctor looked baleful. ‘You will stay?’

Saward makes a real attempt to ‘fix’ this Doctor, removing a lot of the rough edges and bullying traits we saw on telly. Of course, the greatest effort of all goes into making us like – or at least respect – Lytton. In tone, he’s a lot closer to Kline, the character Maurice Colbourne played in the TV show Gangsters; he’s pragmatic and a little cold, but his claim to the Doctor that he’s a ‘reformed character’ is a lot more credible here, reinforced by a few peeks into his psyche and how Charlie notices changes in his behaviour, including the addition of a few jokes here and there.

The main plus point here is that the whole story is structured much more coherently. Without the need (if there really ever was one) to keep cutting frantically from location to location, Saward is able to introduce locations and characters when they become relevant. So, Stratton and Bates only appear once we’re on our way to Telos, while the Cyber Controller is foreshadowed but not actually seen until Lytton is presented to him. One of the few joyful moments we had with this story during our pilgrimage was a scene where, realising they’re in a room about to explode, two Cybermen push each other away in a panic, as if saying to each other, ‘Save yerself, Margaret!’ It’s a glorious moment of two under-directed performers improvising their motivations and turning it into farce. While that particular scene is played here strictly for drama, we’re treated to something almost as ridiculous when we finally encounter the Cyber Controller:

Dwarfing all around him, the Cyber Controller stood well over two metres high. With legs slightly apart and hands on hips he appeared like a mighty Colossus dominating the middle of the room. Surrounded by counsellors and guards, who fussed and responded to his every need, he made an impressive and terrifying sight.

Christopher Robbie made the same mistake in Revenge of the Cybermen: Cybermen do not look ‘impressive and terrifying’ with their hands on their hips.

Chapter 131. Doctor Who – The Ultimate Foe (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s defence backfires and the situation looks bleak for his trial by the Time Lords. Unexpected witnesses arrive in the form of Mel and the scheming Glitz, brought to the court by the Master. The Doctor’s oldest enemy has come to his aid for one reason – to expose the Doctor’s prosecutor, the Valeyard. Soon, the Doctor is fighting for his life deep inside the Matrix, trapped by an adversary who knows him better than he knows himself…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Key of Rassilon
  • 2. An Unwelcome Intruder
  • 3. Evil Intent
  • 4. Twelve-and-a-half
  • 5. Treason
  • 6. A World Apart
  • 7. A Lethal Greeting
  • 8. Mr Popplewick
  • 9. A Sticky End
  • 10. To Be Or Not To Be
  • 11. Out of the Frying Pan
  • 12. The Baiter Bitten
  • 13. False Witness
  • 14. Off With His Head
  • 15. Mesmeric Riches
  • 16. Point and Counterpoint
  • 17. About-face
  • 18. Two-faced
  • 19. Double-faced
  • 20. Particles of Death
  • 21. The Price of Vanity
  • 22. The Keeper Vanishes
  • 23. Carrot Juice
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt one script by Robert Holmes and another by themselves for the concluding episodes of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord.

Notes: The prologue recaps the trial so far, the events on Ravalox, Sil’s experiments with brain transference and the attack on the Vervoids. The Doctor has been ‘plucked out of time’ and brought to the space station where the trial is being conducted, ‘a baroque cathedral with dozens of thrusting spires and straddled with porticoes’, a ‘gargantuan hulk’ where ‘all the processes of existence hitherto experienced are suspended’. Sabalom Glitz is a ‘thief, liar, and incorrigible rogue. A coward who would sell his grandmother to save his own skin. For whom profit was a god. A wheeler-dealer devoid of conscience.’ Despite her being ‘half his size, a quarter his weight’, Glitz is initially more afraid of Mel than she is of him. She pinches him to prove that he isn’t dead (he’s spooked by the coffin-shaped capsules that have brought them to the trial station). Mel was in the TARDIS – the future Doctor’s TARDIS – writing an ‘experimental programme for one of the TARDIS’s complex computers’ when she was plucked out of time and brought to the courtroom. Glitz is also standing closer to the Doctor than he was on screen – at one point, afraid that the guards might use their guns on him, he shields himself behind the Doctor’s ‘portly form’. As the revelations begin to flow, Mel stands next to the Doctor, close enough to grab his arm in surprise. The Doctor apparently gives his adventures titles, having christened his last encounter with the Master ‘The Mark Of The Rani’.

Though the contents of ‘the secrets’ that were the focus of Glitz’s attention in The Mysterious Planet were not revealed at that time, we discover in chapter 3 that they were stolen from the Matrix. The Inquisitor admonishes the Valeyard for his attempts to silence the Master. The Master claims that the Valeyard is the Doctor’s penultimate incarnation; on TV, this is slightly less clear. Glitz claims to see a resemblance between the Doctor and the Valeyard (‘Same shaped nose. And the mouth. He’s got your mouth’) , though this is challenged robustly by Mel. Having revealed the Valeyard’s true identity, the Master, aided by Glitz, then explains the  mystery behind Ravalox and the theft of the secrets by the Andromedan Sleepers – and only after the Doctor rebukes the Time Lords for their corruption does the Valeyard flee the court. The Master claims to know both the accused and the prosecutor ‘intimately’.

The Inquisitor had been selected from many candidates to oversee the trial; she felt the appointment to be the pinnacle of her career and likely to see her ascend to the High Council. One of the jurors is a two-thousand-year-old Time Lord called Xeroniam. Glitz wears pyjamas made of ‘Attack Repulsor PolyCreman pongee’ (!), fastened with ‘Batayn Radaral buttons’. The authors provide an explanation for how the Master acquired his access to the Matrix that is… wonderfully convoluted. The Time Lords have relegated maintenance of the Matrix to the Elzevirs, inhabitants of the Moon of Leptonica in the constellation of Daedalus and specialists in micro-technology. The Master hypnotised Nilex, an individual who supervised the Matrix repair team. Nilex duplicated the Key of Rassilon and gave the copy to the Master. 

Mel’s spirited defence of the Doctor is revealed to be a ploy to get close enough to the Keeper of the Matrix to be able to steal his key. A crowd of people await the Doctor’s execution within the Matrix. The Doctor is aware of Mr Popplewick’s secret identity before the revelation. There’s a reminder of the Master’s previous exploits, including his final scene in Mark of the Rani, where he and the Rani were trapped in the Rani’s TARDIS with an ever-expanding tyrannosaurus rex, until the creature grew so big that its spine snapped (as previously recounted in the Time and the Rani novelisation). The Inquisitor lightly rebukes the Doctor for his comments about the corruption in Gallifrey society, before she invites him to become president. In the epilogue, the Doctor explains to Mel that she has to return to her own timeline and leave him to travel alone until they meet properly.

Cover: The Oliver Elms logo settles into place from now on, as Alister Pearson paints two capsules descending down a trial-ship beam of light, with Mr Popplewick standing proudly (a stunning likeness). Pearson had painted a beautiful duo of the Inquisitor and the Valeyard in the courtroom, but the final illustration is a lot more dramatic. Consistent with the two other books published so far, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe’).

Final Analysis: Pip and Jane Baker deliver their final novelisation and it’s like a distillation of their stories so far. They’re as exuberant with their verbosity as ever, capturing the sesquipedalian nonsense of the original TV story and turning it up a notch (a particularly nice line is the Valeyard saying to Glitz ‘I really cannot countenance such exoteric improbity’). Their intention all along was to ignite a passion for language in the viewer and we might ponder just how invested in this flowery language a young reader might be, but I have to confess… it worked for me! I scampered to the dictionary to look up every new word. They were always the best writers for the Sixth Doctor, matching his pomposity with a kindness that was sadly lacking with other writers. Here, they’re equally successful in bringing Glitz to life, creating a character whose every move is either cowardly or conniving. Even Mel is portrayed as an independent, fiery and determined individual with an unwavering loyalty and admiration for the Doctor.

While the resolution to the trial was a mess, there were extenuating circumstances. The Bakers here resist the temptation to rewrite the story from scratch; they fulfil the remit of adapting what happened on screen admirably. But, as all the greats do, they tweak along the way, adding extra motivations or backstory (some of which is bonkers!). Unlike in Terror of the Vervoids however (where they tended to infodump right before the information was required), they manage to foreshadow their additions and build upon what we saw on telly. Even if their explanation for the Master’s acquisition of the Matrix key is, er… no it’s actually insane, but all the more entertaining for it. They were inconsistent, but I’ll really miss them.

Chapter 128. Doctor Who – Vengeance on Varos (1988)

Synopsis: A former prison planet is now the home to a broken society, where the Governor faces disintegration on the turn of a public vote, where the citizens are tortured for entertainment and where an unscrupulous alien financier can hold the planet to ransom for its minerals. The Doctor could help, but the Doctor is dead – dead as death…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Dome of Death
  • 2. The Vital Vote
  • 3. Execution
  • 4. Escape into Danger
  • 5. The Purple Zone
  • 6. Capture
  • 7. Death in the Desert
  • 8. Night and Silence
  • 9. Interrogation
  • 10. Quillam
  • 11. Condemned
  • 12. The Changelings
  • 13. Realm of Chaos
  • 14. The Final Vote
  • 15. Into the End Zone
  • 16. Goodbye to Varos

Background: Philip Martin adapts his own scripts from the 1985 serial. This is the missing book ‘106’, published 23 volumes late.

Notes: Bax wears the orange uniform of the Comm Tech Division. Etta fills in viewer reports about both the content broadcast to her screen and the reactions of her husband Arak, who works in the ‘Zeiton Ore division of Mine Tech’. Peri tells the Doctor she wants to go back home to America to continue her studies (this is probably just a reaction to the Doctor’s new personality, which the Doctor takes at face value and agrees to take her back). Sil is leaf-green in colour with ‘deep-set yellow eyes’ and he sits in a moveable water tank (into which he falls, during his first negotiations with the Governor); he is a mutant native of the planet Thoros Beta and representative of Galatron Consolidated (also known as  the Galatron Mining Corporation, as on screen). The Chief Officer holds more power than the Governor, something Sil tries to exploit with his alliances. The anthem of Varos is a march (not the ‘BBC Video jingle’ we hear on telly).

Chapter 4 is a familiar ‘Escape into Danger’. The Doctor has ‘steel blue eyes’. The Governor travels by private monorail car from the administration dome to his own residence, which he shares with the rest of the officer class. He has a trustee, called ‘Sevrin’ (reinforcing the suggestion that the ‘former prison planet’ still runs along prison lines, if the governor has a trustee). This governor was born into the officer class and while enjoying some blue wine from the vineyards of the planet Emsidium, he simply accepts that he should enjoy a life of luxury that is kept secret from the rest of the population. He recalls how he became the 45th Governor of Varos when the Chief Officer drew lots as a form of election. The Chief Officer and Quillam, the designer of Dome technology, are of equal rank and are apparently old enemies. The Governor is interrupted while bathing by a visit from the Chief Officer, which annoys the Governor as he was hoping to review some recordings from Taza, ‘the entertainment capital’ of his galaxy. 

Peri doesn’t witness the Doctor’s apparent death, but learns about it later when she’s taken by monorail to the Communications Dome, which houses the Governor’s office. The Governor tells Peri that he no longer has a name, now that he’s the Governor. The two mortuary attendants are called Az and Oza. When the Doctor dodges his charge, Az falls into the acid and then pulls his companion in too (there’s no battle where the Doctor might be said to have caused the death of at least one of the attendants). Quillam remains unseen until chapter 10 (though his voice is briefly heard issuing orders), which helps to build anticipation as the Chief and the Governor discuss him in his absence; the technology designer walks with a limp and swiftly replaces the mask the Doctor removes (rather than continuing with an exposed face as he does on TV). Arak watches the exploits of the Doctor and offers a running commentary, claiming Jondar’s torture is ‘fake’ and the Doctor’s acid-bath escape is ‘all fixed’.

Jondar used to maintain the shuttle cars that are reserved for the elite and he once managed to sneak inside the Governor’s dome, where he witnessed the luxury the Governor enjoys; this was the reason he was imprisoned and tortured. The savages who attack the Doctor’s party are ‘Wretches’, relatives of the condemned who are left without any means of support and who scavenge in the outer reaches of the Punishment Dome. The Governor, Maldak and Peri wear protective clothing with breathing equipment to cross the surface of Varos to reach the Punishment Dome.

As his negotiations with the Governor begin to fail, Sil becomes so enraged that he slips into a torrent of Thoros Betan curses which make his translator device explode under the strain. There are a fair few references to elements of Sil’s life that weren’t revealed in TV until Trial of a Time Lord: Sil has two bearers from Thoros Alpha – one of whom is called ‘Ber’ and who refers to Sil with due deference as ‘Mentor’; Sil receives confirmation of his failure aboard his star-ship, where the Governor informs Sil that he has been summoned back to his home world to appear before ‘Lord Kiv’. The news makes Sil’s green skin turn a few shades lighter. Aboard the TARDIS, as the Doctor sets the restored TARDIS on its way, Peri comes to terms with the horrific transformation she endured. The TARDIS leaves Varos, its dematerialisation witnessed by the Governor and his new ministers.

Cover: The Sid Sutton neon logo returns as David McAllister combines Sil, Quillam, a Varosian guard (probably Maldak), the ‘V’ icon of Varos and the planet’s dome-shaped dwellings. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover is simpler but very effective, showing just Sil, the Doctor and a Varosian ‘V’ logo against a background that evokes the mottled brown walls of the corridors. Chris Achilleos came out of retirement to provide a new illustration for a 2016 BBC Books rerelease, showing Sil, the Governor, a guard and the Doctor, but it’s just not up to the standards he set in the 1970s, sadly.

Final Analysis: It was worth the wait. Philip Martin might have delivered his manuscript later than expected, but he makes good use of the wider canvas offered by the printed page. He gives us a Varos that has a sense of scale, with monorails connecting the domes across the planet and patrol cars that soar, rather than trundle. The Governor, a vaguely sympathetic figure on TV, is as much a product of his time as the Controller in Day of the Daleks and we are shown a little of the privileges he enjoys while the rest of the population survives on basic rations. Of course, Martin’s greatest contribution to Doctor Who is his monstrous Sil and here, the author’s descriptions acknowledge the performance of actor Nabil Shaban, who brought the role alive so completely; Sil is every bit as slimy, as wet, as disgusting as he was on telly, gurgling and spitting as he thrashes about ‘like a trapped tuna’.

Chapter 126. Doctor Who – The Mysterious Planet (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor is on trial for his life and the prosecutor, the Valeyard, presents to a jury of Time Lords his first evidence, in which the Doctor and his friend Peri explore the planet Ravalox. There they meet the underground dwellers and their ruler, a robot called Drathro, the Tribe of the Free and their ruler, Queen Katryca, and a pair of intergalactic conmen called Glitz and Dibber, who confirm the Doctor’s suspicions, that the planet Ravalox has been moved across the universe from its original location – where it was known as ‘Earth’.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Trial Begins
  • 2. Underground
  • 3. Barbarian Queen
  • 4. The Stoning
  • 5. The Reprieve
  • 6. Meeting the Immortal
  • 7. Escape
  • 8. Captives of Queen Katryca
  • 9. The Attack of the Robot
  • 10. Hunt for the Doctor
  • 11. Secrets
  • 12. Tradesman’s Entrance
  • 13. The Big Bang
  • 14. End and Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for episodes 1-4 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. Holmes had been slated to adapt this himself, prior to his death in 1986.

Notes: The space station that houses the courtroom is hidden within a junkyard floating in space. The Doctor is ‘a tall, strongly built man with a slight tendency towards overweight’ (!) and beneath the ‘mop of curly hair, the face was round, full-lipped and sensual, with a hint of something catlike about the eyes’. The ups and downs of the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords are summarised, including his time as a fugitive, his exile to Earth for ‘five years’ (during which he was the scientific adviser to UNIT) and the couple of times he briefly occupied the position of President. Sabalom Glitz is ‘a burly thick-set fellow with a tendency towards fatness’, while his lackey, Dibber, is ‘taller and brawnier with a hard face and coarse bristly black hair’. The final chapter uses a title variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘End and Beginning’.

Cover: Queen Katryca is dwarfed by the L3 Robot, along with the planet Ravalox and a beam of black light, courtesy of Tony Masero. As before, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet’.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks returns and passes a few milestones’ as he adapts his friend Robert Holmes’ final complete story, tackles the sixth Doctor for his one and only time and it’s also his last novelisation for anything from outside of the 1960s. He matches the impressive opening model shot of the TV version with one of the best single pages of description he’s done for a while. 

Massive, arrogant, invincible, the great complex hovered in space, dwarfing the shattered hulks that drifted around it, dominating its section of space like some enormous baroque cathedral. There was an eerie, almost mystical quality about it. It seemed to be brooding… waiting. 

This enthusiasm to capture everything we might have felt on screen continues with the Doctor’s arrival; the insanity of his costume has never been described so thoroughly but in particular the ‘multi-coloured coat that might have made Joseph himself feel a pang of envy’. I can imagine Terrance chuckling as he wrote about ‘the jutting beak that was his nose [which] seemed to pursue the Doctor through most of his incarnations’. So cheeky!

Some years ago, I was hired as a ‘talking head’ contributor for the Doctor Who DVD range (subsequently released on Blu-Ray). My role there was to represent the views of the contributors who were no longer with us, so my interjections were deliberately on the side of the producer and less supportive of his more vocal critics, who I knew would also be interviewed. My own opinions were put aside, partly so that I didn’t stand in the way of the people I was representing, but also because my feelings towards the overall story – and this segment in particular – are very conflicted. The huge disappointment I felt on first viewing was replaced at first by mockery (a friend used to act out a hilarious ‘Trial in 14 minutes’ routine that had us guffawing for months) and then a desperation to ‘fix’ the story in our minds – a process fans now call ‘head-canon’. I didn’t read this novelisation at the time and it’s rewarding after all these years to find Terrance Dicks trying his best to nudge the narrative a little, hinting at things the reader might discover later or enhancing the mood with a well-chosen description; that thing on the Valeyard’s head might well be a ‘skull-cap’, but coming between the ‘all in black’ ensemble and the ‘gaunt-faced’ description, it just adds to the idea that the Time Lord prosecutor is Death personified. He’s not breaking any new ground here, but Dicks is definitely putting the effort where it’s needed most.

Chapter 124. Doctor Who – Terror of the Vervoids (1988)

Synopsis: As the Time Lords conclude their case for the prosecution, the Doctor takes his place to deliver a defence using evidence from his own future. It concerns his response to a distress call from the Hyperion III, a luxury liner travelling from Mogar to Earth. Among the passengers are a trio of Mogarians and a group of scientists specialising in the propagation of plants. Down in the hold, in a secure area, is a collection of large pods containing… what? As the Doctor and his friend Mel discover on arrival, the ship also contains a murderer.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Defence Begins
  • 2 Identity Crisis
  • 3 Welcome Aboard
  • 4 Limbering Up
  • 5 Tiger Trap
  • 6 The Booby Trap
  • 7 The Fateful Harvest
  • 8 The Demeter Seeds
  • 9 A Change of Course
  • 10 Death Of An Impostor
  • 11 A Plethora of Suspects
  • 12 The Isolation Room
  • 13 Quirky Phenomena
  • 14 The Enemy Within
  • 15 Deadly Disposal
  • 16 A Heinous Crime
  • 17 The Black Hole of Tartarus
  • 18 A Deadly Intruder
  • 19 A Whiff of Death
  • 20 Hijack
  • 21 A Sacrificial Goat
  • 22 Dénouement
  • 23 Philosophy of a Vervoid
  • 24 The Life Cycle
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip & Jane Baker adapt their scripts for episodes 9-12 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. This is the first ‘modern’ story in 19 books and the Sixth Doctor is no longer the incumbent.

Notes: Melanie, ‘known as Mel’, was a computer programmer when she joined the Doctor three months ago, her time; her background in computers is hinted at, but not specifically stated on screen until Time and the Rani (and her given surname, Bush, is never actually said onscreen or in print, only in character outlines from the production office). She is 22 years old, 4 feet 10 inches tall and has a 22″ waist. The Doctor has blue eyes. The authors draw our attention to the fact that, like the other two Mogarians, Enzu has a vowel at each end of his name and a ‘z’ in the middle.

The ‘waxy, olive, leaf-veined hands’ of the Vervoids are tipped with thorns, they have ‘vermillion features’ and their skeletons are formed from vines.

Walking upright, the biped’s head was sculpted like a closed ivory brown bud. It had sunken cheeks that projected forward an o-shaped, rubbery mouth. Curling, transparent sepals shielded ear-slits. Neither eyebrows nor lashes framed the lidless, staring eyes in the grotesque, noseless face. Noseless because, like plants, it breathed through its waxy leaves.

Defending himself from a Vervoid attack through a ventilation grill, Bruchner severs the creature’s brittle arm, which independently continues to attack him. After hijacking the bridge of the Hyperion III, Bruchner imagines an Earth ruled by Vervoids, where humanity Is driven to the deserts – and even there he suspects the creatures might somehow thrive. As one Vervoid falls victim to the garbage disposal, another Vervoid learns how to use a gun and shoots a guard dead. There are a few additional scenes of the Valeyard back in the courtroom, taunting the Doctor and leading the jury towards a guilty verdict. It’s clarified that the Mogarians are killed by acid that corrodes their suits and exposes them to the air that is toxic to them. As he borrows a gun, the Doctor slips a note to the Commodore warning him of his suspicions about Doland.

Mr Kimber wears a wristwatch given to him by his son, Peter; he’s travelling back to Earth to visit his son and four grandchildren, looking forward to spending time in the Yorkshire Dales. Lasky’s father, Hubert, was a celebrated scientist but she was closer to her mother, who died when Lasky was a child; her mother used to talk to house plants and it’s this that convinces the thrematologist to attempt mediation with the Vervoids – in vain. 

Cover: Tony Masero’s Vervoid is very stylised but not up to his usual work. It’s rather flat. The cover also features a flash on the bottom right explaining that this is part of The Trial of a Time Lord series. Or will be, when the other books are published (the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids’).

Final Analysis: I was full of praise for Pip ‘n’ Jane’s first novel. Ah well…

I didn’t read this one at the time of publication, but I heard some wry comments about their writing style. One friend took great pleasure in telling me that they make a point of telling us that Mogarian names have vowels at either end and a ‘z’ in the middle. Certainly, though their tone of voice is very much for younger children than we’ve grown used to, their use of language veers towards the ridiculous, like a teenager armed with their first thesaurus. Why say ‘they were as stubborn as each other’ when you could come up with this?:

Obduracy was hardly a characteristic Mel could reasonably object to, being amply endowed with the same quality herself. She withdrew temporarily to the vionesium sunbed to await the granting of an audience with the autocratic academic.

There are a couple of attempts to provide additional backstory for their characters, but there’s less forward planning than we might have had from Hulke or Dicks; the details are placed immediately before their payoff (information about Kimber’s family is revealed on the page before he’s killed, and likewise Lasky’s). While this is a fairly straightforward transcription from screen to page, even down to how the scenes transitioned on TV, the enjoyment comes from the Bakers’ rather florid style as they strain to make every sentence as complicated as possible. It’s hard not to love them though, trying as hard as they can to inspire a passion for literature (as on telly, there are plenty of opportunities for eager readers to look up their cultural references if the desire grabs them). I have a suspicion though that this, rather than Mark of the Rani, will be more representative of their style going forward. It’s giddy, vibrant and eager to make even the dullest of elements exciting… but it still makes one yearn for the elegant simplicity of a Terrance Dicks.

Bonus Chapter #4. Doctor Who – Slipback (1986)

Synopsis: On board the survey ship Vipod Moor, Captain Slarn is losing patience with his crew, a murderer is on the loose and the ship’s computer seems to be on the verge of insanity. As the Doctor and Peri explore the ship, they have no idea of the danger they are in, nor of the threat Slarn and his vessel pose to the entire universe.

Chapter Titles

  • Part One: In the Beginning…
  • 1. The Vipod Mor
  • 2. The Life and Times of Shellingborne Grant
  • 3. Something Nasty in the Ducting
  • 4. ‘This Is the Captain of Your Ship…’
  • Part Two: … Goodnight and Amen
  • 5. The Dissolute Time Lord
  • 6. Bath Time
  • 7. The Voice Within
  • 8. ‘Mr’ Seedle and ‘Mr’ Snatch
  • 9. The Search Begins
  • 10. The Meeting of the Minds
  • 11. The Search Ends

Background: Eric Saward adapts his scripts from the 1985 Radio 4 serial.

Notes: The first chapter boldly claims that only two planets in the Milky Way can boast of intelligent life, while the galaxy of Setna Streen had seventeen. While this does clash with much of galactic lore as established in Doctor Who, the chapter also claims that civilisation is impossible without the discovery and production of wine, which is so indisputable as to make everything else in the opening section easy to accept as fact. There’s also mention of a creature called a Voltrox [see Revelation of the Daleks] and the revelation that the ship Vipod Mor was named after a visiting Time Lord, who spoke portentously about the dangers of time travel. In a lengthy biography for Shellingborne Grant, we learn that he’s partial to Voxnic [see The Twin Dilemma]. We also learn more of the speelsnape [Revelation of the Daleks again]; it weighs ‘approximately fifty-five kilos… a little bigger than a large dog’, but with ‘the speed of a cheetah,the temperament of a psychopathic crocodile on a bad day’. It has razor-sharp teeth and can tear through anything. They live to eat and reproduce – and can mate with any species of its own size. Once born, a baby speelsnape always devours his mother (they are always male). They are also very beautiful and the pelt of a speelsnape is a highly prized fashion item, often used on seat covers.

We learn of the reason why the Doctor rarely sleeps:

As a rule, Time Lords require far less sleep than most humanoid life forms, usually managing to survive quite happily on three hours a day. What’s more, they also have the advantage of not requiring to take their rest in bulk. A ten minute doze here, a half hour snooze there, is a valid contribution to their three hour quota. 

While trying to cope with a drunken Doctor, Peri’s helped by a nearby Terileptil [see The Visitation] and there’s mention of the tinclavic mines on Raaga [see The Awakening]. The Doctor once again references the explorer Rudolph Musk [see the novelisation of The Twin Dilemma], who it turns out was swallowed whole by a splay-footed sceeg (though he survived, by reciting poetry, which made the sceeg vomit him back up). This story’s featured creature is the Maston, which apparently has a very distinctive scent, like rotting flesh (a smell that becomes deadly during the act of mating). They have sharp claws and a hairy, bulky body. 

Peri spent one term studying Kafka. Apparently the Doctor has never met ‘a computer with a thriving dual personality’ [but see The Face of Evil]. Captain Slarn is shot by his steward, Velsper, who then throws himself into a fire to prevent the crew from contracting mors immedicabilis. The public voice of the computer also allows the crew to abandon ship. The Time Lord who stops the Doctor is revealed to be the renegade Vipod Mor (in the radio production, he is not named).

Cover: Paul Mark Tams imagines a repulsive green face for Slarn as the TARDIS hovers nearby.

Final Analysis: Does this count? Well, it isn’t a numbered volume in the Target Doctor Who library (hence why this is a bonus chapter), but it was broadcast on a BBC channel and adapted as a novelisation, so here I am. Taking the tone of The Twin Dilemma to the next level, Eric Saward continues his Douglas Adams-esque meandering around his own universe – no, really, there’s a whole section about people who are followed around by rain, which will be familiar to Adams fans. We might also compare this to Tony Attwood’s Turlough spinoff, in that Saward cannot pass a character, location or beast without providing a potted biography, history or reproductive cycle for each one. Unlike Attwood though, each of the elements are at least quite funny or whimsical enough to be entertaining in their own right. However, this is a Doctor Who book and it’s painfully obvious that Saward is reluctant to introduce the lead characters and has little interest in them once they appear. You’ll have to wade through four chapters of backstory, diversion and, well, waffle, before you get sight or sound of the TARDIS. Still, well done on bulking the slight radio scripts into something approaching a novel.

Chapter 106. Doctor Who – Mark of the Rani (1986)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri meet the revolutionary engineer George Stephenson, still some years before he achieved fame. Stephenson has organised a meeting of some of the greatest minds of the age, but the event is threatened by a series of attacks from Luddites intent on wrecking any chance of progress. In reality, the attackers are victims of the Rani, an amoral Time Lord. Wanting to be left alone to her experiments, the Rani is instead coerced into joining forces with the Master against the Doctor…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. House Of Evil
  • 2. The Scarecrow
  • 3. The Old Crone
  • 4. Death Fall
  • 5. Enter The Rani
  • 6. Miasimia Goria
  • 7. A Deadly Signature
  • 8. Face To Face
  • 9. Triumph Of The Master
  • 10. A Change Of Loyalty
  • 11. Fools Rush In
  • 12. An Unpleasant Surprise
  • 13. Taken For A Ride
  • 14. The Bait
  • 15. Metamorphosis
  • 16. Life In The Balance
  • 17. More Macabre Memorials
  • 18. Cave-In
  • 19. Birth Of A Carnivore
  • 20. The Final Question
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt their own scripts from 1985. Jane Baker becomes only the second woman to have her name on the front of a Target novel. Due to Vengeance on Varos being delayed, the book numbering skips from 105 to 107; it’ll be a couple of years before 106 makes an appearance.

Notes: A prologue full of foreboding and an added TARDIS scene where the Doctor is said to possess an ‘unruly mop of fair curls’ and considers visiting Napoleon while Peri tries to avoid a debate with her travelling companion about English grammar. It’s honestly much funnier than that might sound. It’s Peri who speculates the Daleks might be behind the TARDIS veering off course, despite not having met them at this point (it’s the Doctor on TV). Peri has apparently proven in the past that she’s an expert ‘marksman’. In the Epilogue, we learn that the Doctor finally manages to take Peri to Kew Gardens, but the botany student is distracted, after her experience in Redfern Dell, every flower she looks at appears to have a human face…

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us the Rani disguised as an unidentifiable old crone, accompanied by the Rani’s TARDIS flying through the vortex and in the distance a coal mine. Apparently the unused cover, which used a likeness of Kate O’Mara, was also the one Skilleter was paid the most for. This is the last book to feature his original artwork, although his covers for the VHS releases were also on a selection of Target reprints.

Final Analysis: What a way to start a book: ‘Evil cannot be tasted, seen, or touched.’ Glorious hyperbole from the traditionally understated (!) Pip and Jane as they make the bold claim that the small mining community is so saturated in evil that ‘[if] allowed to flourish, the poisonous epidemic could reduce humankind to a harrowing role that would give a dung beetle superior status.’ Right from the off, P&J’s depiction of the Sixth Doctor is the most likeable and charming we’ve seen so far; his relationship with Peri is teasing but affectionate – he wants to make sure they reach Kew Gardens because it’s somewhere Peri really wants to visit. Knowing the writers’ propensity for sesquipedalian language, we might expect an exuberance for prose of a purple hue. Joking aside, this is refreshingly elegant, neither as florid as some of its recent predecessors nor as basic as a traditional Terrance Dicks. We also know that the Bakers, like Malcolm Hulke, were left-wing and they take great pains to disillusion the reader from imagining this historical trip as a jolly fantasy. Facing the prospect of being abandoned by the Doctor, Peri takes a morose turn:

Sooty eight year old urchins, scavenging for coal, tottered past with heavy baskets. Why weren’t they at school, she wondered, then remembered George Stephenson saying he was working down the mine at the age of nine. How romantic the prospect of this visit had been only a short while ago! Now she thought of the mean streets, cramped dwellings and the lack of hygiene. Hygiene? What if she were ill? Medical science didn’t exist. Depression making her morbid, she gazed at her leg. Suppose she had an accident and it had to be amputated? Anaesthetics hadn’t even been dreamt of! She’d just have to – what was the phrase? – bite on the bullet…

Chapter 105. Doctor Who – Timelash (1986)

Synopsis: The people of Karfel live under the rule of the Borad and his sole point of contact, an official known as the Maylin. When the ruthless Tekker assumes the role of Maylin, he takes the opportunity to remove all political opponents by casting them into the Timelash, a gateway directly into the time vortex. When the Doctor returns to Karfel after many years, he is appalled by the actions of Tekker and this ‘Borad’. He allies himself with the underground rebellion, determined to bring an end to the dictator and his lackey – but the Borad is not so easily defeated… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. No Escape
  • 2. The Time Vortex
  • 3. Whirlpool
  • 4. Return of the Time Lord
  • 5. Negotiating the Timelash
  • 6. Stirring Embers
  • 7. Fight or Perish
  • 8. Battle Stations
  • 9. Regrouping
  • 10. Legacy of the Borad
  • 11. The Bandrils’ Bomb
  • 12. Double Trouble

Background: Glen McCoy adapts his own scripts from the 1985 serial.

Notes: Sezon and Katz were the leaders of separate rebel cells until recently, when they decided to combine their resources into a single unit. Katzin Makrif was the daughter of the Maylin who ‘died mysteriously’ when the Borad took control in a ‘so-called bloodless coup’. Katz was 16 at the time and lived in ‘servile submission and indignity’ for ten years before joining the rebellion. The rebels have lived a nomadic life, moving from place to place, and are now hiding in a disused mine that’s lain empty since the great famine that nearly wiped out the planet’s civilisation almost a century ago. While hunting for food, the pair are trapped in a cave by the arrival of a family of Morlox, only able to escape when the mother Morlox protects her brood against attack from another Morlox. Later, we’re told that both Katz and Sezon were once respected scientists and had suffered the Borad’s tyranny for six years before choosing to rebel.

The Doctor knowingly goads Peri purely to remain in control of their relationship. The Borad’s ageing device reduces the victim to dust, rather than the bouncy skeleton we saw on telly. Peri doesn’t encounter a rebel with a note for Sezon, nor does she throw a potentially deadly plant into the face of a guardollier. Her pendant, which is snatched from her neck by an android, is specifically a St Christopher, which suggests she’s either a Catholic or she’s still trying to rid herself of a Madonna obsession from her teens. Her flight from the Karfel dome takes her outside onto the planet’s surface, where she sees the twin suns of Rearbus and Selynx in the crimson sky. Eventually, she finds her way into the cave system (on screen, the caves connect directly to the city).

The Doctor fends off a Morlox with a wooden stake, which has been sprayed with Mustakozene 80. The chemical reacts with the creature, spearing it with sharp wooden spines that instantly grow through its body. The Borad sends a command to his androids to destroy all life in the citadel, resulting in a pitch-battle between the mechanical servants and the terrified citizens. Prior to the Borad’s reappearance, the Doctor and Mykros discover a chamber of capsules containing numerous Borad clones. The Doctor’s escape from the Bandril missiles is explained slightly more clearly than it was on screen.

Cover: A fine composition by David McAllister of the Borad, a blue-faced android and someone about to fall into the timelash.

Final Analysis: So the legend goes, Glen McCoy offered his services to novelise his TV scripts before the story was even on Target editor Nigel Robinson’s radar. His resulting novel presents us with a few extra scenes and the scale of the story is much greater than on TV, but there’s also a sense of McCoy telling rather than showing, with a lot of action reported rather dispassionately. At the time of release, Doctor Who Magazine praised the characterisation of the Doctor bursting into rooms and taking control, but his willingness here to gaslight his companion for the fun of it is as distasteful and difficult to accept as it was back in 1986.

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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