Chapter 147. Doctor Who – The Space Pirates (1990)

Synopsis: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe are trapped aboard a disintegrating space beacon. They are rescued by eccentric space wanderer Milo Clancey, who is wanted for murder. The space police believe that Clancey is the leader of a band of space pirates, while he is also in the sights of Madeleine Issigri, head of a space mining company and daughter of the man Clancey is believed to have killed. When the time travellers explore a space mine, they find the man whose very existence is the key to a conspiracy… in space!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Spacejack
  • 2. The Intruders
  • 3. Trapped
  • 4. The Renegade
  • 5. The Survivors
  • 6. Pursuit
  • 7. Missile Attack
  • 8. The Fugitives
  • 9. The Prisoners
  • 10. Escape
  • 11. Betrayed
  • 12. Rocket Blast
  • 13. A Coffin in Space
  • 14. Countdown to Doom

Background: It’s a huge moment as Terrance Dicks writes his final Target book, an adaptation of scripts by Robert Holmes for a 1969 serial that also completes the run of stories from Season Six.

Notes: The beacon hangs ‘silently in the blackness of space’ [see The Ambassadors of Death for more on this phrase]. The construction and history of the beacon is explained in some detail to get the reader ahead of the explanations later on. General Nikolai Hermack is ‘a grim-faced man in his early fifties’ with close-cropped ‘iron grey’ hair. His subordinate, Ian Warne, is s ‘tall, pleasant-looking man’ who’s a brilliant fighter pilot and one of the youngest majors in the Space Corps. 

For the final time, Terrance gives us a form of his well-practised description of the second Doctor:

First came a rather scruffy little man in baggy chequered trousers and an ill-fitting frock coat, which he wore with a wide-collared white shirt and a straggly bow tie. His deeply-lined face, wise, gentle and funny all at once, was surmounted by a mop of untidy black hair. Known only as the Doctor, he was a Time Lord, a wanderer through space and time. 

Jamie is ‘a brawny, truculent young man in the kilt of a Scottish Highlander’ who had been ‘snatched from the eighteenth century to join the Doctor in his wanderings’; Zoe is ‘a small, pretty dark-haired girl in neatly tailored shorts and a crisp white jacket and blouse’ who had once been a ‘computer operator’ and is ‘a bit of a human computer herself’.

It’s a shame that we’re not told much about the crazy space fashions of Madeleine Issigri, ‘a ‘tall, dark-haired, strikingly beautiful young woman [who] had the kind of well-groomed aloof good looks that kept others at a respectful distance’. Zoe doesn’t know what argonite is (so there are some limits to her scientific knowledge), nor does she recognise ’tillium’ (on TV, it’s the Doctor who asks what this is). Jamie has ‘a natural talent with any kind of weapon’, which conveniently explains why he knows how to use a gun from hundreds of years in his / our future. An extra scene concludes the story as Hermack tries to summon Milo Clancey back to the planet Ta by communicator, only to receive a noise like ‘an old-fashioned raspberry’ in reply.

Chapter 10 is called ‘Escape’ – but not to danger…

Cover: Tony Clark’s second and last cover shows a space ship (I’m reliably informed it’s the Minnow Fighter variety) and a Space Pirate inspired by Caven (but without an identifiable likeness). The figure is based on publicity photos for the 1984 film Runaway, so technically, that’s Tom Selleck on the cover.

Final Analysis: So that’s it – Terrance Dicks’ final contribution to this immense library of books that elevated the reading age of a generation of avid fans. There are a few minor tweaks here and there, suggesting that Terrance worked from the scripts rather than the surviving soundtrack. Madeleine Issigri’s rather revealing boast on screen, that she knows Hermack is wrong to suspect Clancey of being the pirate leader, becomes a more ambiguous ‘are you sure you’re right?’ – but mostly, this is as it played out back in 1969.

And there’s the problem. We might look forward to a day when The Space Pirates once again exists in full in the archives, perhaps out of a sense of completion or just a hope that it has hidden depths that we can’t discern from the audio track and the single surviving episode. I’m not convinced this would be the case. It’s only the second script by Robert Holmes, whose greatest work was yet to come, and while he became a favourite author for his ability to deliver workable scripts on time, this lacks the flair we’d come to know and love. Also, although Terrance Dicks was the principal (uncredited) script editor by this point, he was busy wrangling The Seeds of Death into shape, leaving producer Derrick Sherwin to rewrite Holmes’ scripts to accommodate production changes so that the principal cast could start work on the next story (they only appear in the final episode in filmed inserts). All of which is to say that Terrance Dicks becomes the third person to attempt to breathe life into this story and it’s a bit of a thankless task – even Patrick Troughton himself complained about how boring the story was, predicting viewers would be tuning out (which indeed they did!). 

As on TV, the most entertaining element is Milo Clancey, largely because he’s the first of a series of Holmes-created avatars who parody the Doctor – an eccentric wanderer with a battered old vehicle and a willingness to pick up strays along the way. We’ll see his type again in Carnival of Monsters, The Ribos Operation and The Mysterious Planet. But Holmes isn’t quite there yet – and while it’s appropriate that Dicks’ last Target novel is an adaptation of scripts by his old friend and colleague, Dicks’ straight-forward approach leads to rather a dull runaround with little jeopardy and a lot of padding.

Terrance Dicks wrote 64 novels for the Target range (plus two Junior Doctor Who editions) and continued to contribute novels and short stories for Virgin Books and BBC Books, as well as many other works outside of the worlds of Doctor Who.  I met him a few times in the 1990s, when I worked on a number of conventions. On one occasion, I had the honour of escorting him from our Green Room to the main stage and I decided that would be the perfect moment to thank him for doubling my reading age when I was seven years old. He grinned and said ‘You’re not the first person to tell me that, but it’s nice to hear all the same’. He asked me what I did for a living and when I replied ‘I’m a copywriter’, he beamed proudly: ‘So was I, once!’

Terrance Dicks died on 29 August, 2019. His final prose, ‘Save Yourself’, was a short second-Doctor adventure commissioned for The Target Storybook, published posthumously. In 2021, a two-volume compendium of some of his most popular Doctor Who books, as voted for by fans, was released under the Target banner.

Chapter 145. Doctor Who – Planet of Giants (1990)

Synopsis: When a government inspector fails to approve a new pesticide, the chemical’s inventor takes drastic action. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally succeeds in getting his schoolteacher friends back to their own time and place – but at the wrong scale! Shrunk to the size of an ant, the travellers suddenly face danger at every turn, from running water and the attentions of a curious cat to the very same pesticide that has just driven a man to murder…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Landfall
  • 2. The Unknown
  • 3. The Terrible Truth
  • 4. The Destroyer
  • 5. Death in a Country Garden
  • 6. Getting Away with Murder
  • 7. Dangerous Rescue
  • 8. Whirlpool
  • 9. Suspicion
  • 10. The Doctor’s Plan
  • 11. Barbara’s Peril
  • 12. Plan of Action
  • 13. Fire!
  • 14. A Question of Size

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Louis Marks for the 1964 serial (inspired by an idea from CE Webber), completing the run of stories from the second season and the first Doctor’s era as a whole! At 25 years and two months, this is now the holder of the record for biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation. It’s also the first novel to be released after the end of Doctor Who as an on-going TV series – not that we knew this for certain at the time.

Notes: The opening chapter summarises each of the stories of Season One, from the teachers’ first meeting with the Doctor through to the Daleks, Sensorites and the Reign of Terror (and they’ve just left 18th-century France. There’s also a curious sentence: ‘Her name was Susan Foreman and she called the Doctor “grandfather.”‘ – as opposed to ‘she was the Doctor’s granddaughter’. Apparently, one of the Doctor’s favourite sayings is ‘all the savage species in the galaxy, few were more dangerous and bloodthirsty than man’.

The Doctor tries to explain the complexities of time-travel to Ian and Barbara by comparing the action of moving a chair from one room to another to that of moving the chair from a house in 1796 to a house in 1964 – ‘a different matter altogether’. Susan elaborates:

‘If you put a dish in a bowl of water, the water rises, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes of course, that’s simple,’ said Barbara impatiently.

‘But, suppose the water was filling the bowl to the very top and there was a tight lid on as well? There’d be no room for displacement. Well, it’s rather like that when the weight of the TARDIS suddenly enters the atmosphere. Something has to give way.’

Ian shrugged. ‘The air, presumably…’

The Doctor spoke without looking up from the fault indicator. ‘Exactly! And the atmospheric pressure on Earth is fourteen point seven pounds to the square inch. You’re getting the idea, Chesterton. It’s all right when the TARDIS is fully materialized, the envelope of air can always give way somewhere.’

‘Just as we’re entering the time dimension,’ said Susan. ‘That’s the danger point.

The Doctor admits to Barbara that he’s never visited Africa and Australasia, asking if gigantic earthworms might be common there (she confirms that they are not). 

The cat that continues to bring jeopardy for the time-travellers is a ginger tom. Farrow is a civil servant whose motto is ‘waste not, want not’, hence why he picks up the box of matches he finds in the garden. He recognises Mark Forester from his photo, which he’s seen in the newspaper. Forester is dark haired, thick-set and ‘beetle-browed’ with a ‘heavy jaw’ and a ‘deep authoritative voice’; he’s not a big man but in his expensive suit from Savile Row, he gives off ‘a feeling of power’, looking ‘every inch the tycoon’. The scientist, Smithers, worked on famine relief projects for the United Nations when he was a young man. He saw ‘hundreds’ of people die while locusts devoured their food; ‘the terrible sights of death by starvation were burned into his memory’.

The village where Smithers lives is so small that the village shop and the police station are in the same building. The exchange operator Hilda Rowse is married to the local police officer, Bert. Hilda has been curious about the cottage ever since it was bought by a London company who installed lots of scientific equipment and a man called Smithers moved in. She recognises that Forester is not Farrow, as she met the civil servant when he came into the shop for provisions for his boat. Smithers is distressed to find that the cat has died, which is what alerts him to the dangers of DN6.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover shows a friendly Doctor beckoning (a reworking of a photo reference from The Celestial Toymaker) as a giant fly approaches him from behind.

Final Analysis: The last novelisation of the first Doctor’s era and the penultimate book in the range by Terrance Dicks, Planet of Giants is another example of a rather sleight story being expanded just enough. Dicks fills in some of the details that were removed when the TV story was truncated from four episodes to three. He also adds explanations for things that might be alien to young readers in 1990, such as ‘reversing the charges’ and a telephone operator who manually connects the calls. There’s a final treat as the final chapter concludes with a huge tease into the next story (also novelised by Dicks back in 1977):

Outside in the ruins of London the Daleks were waiting…

Chapter 133. Doctor Who – The Smugglers (1988)

Synopsis: It was just a police box, but Ben and Polly are amazed to discover the truth when the Doctor’s TARDIS takes them to 17th-century Cornwall. Soon they are drawn into the machinations of a ring of murderous smugglers and a very sinister squire…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Shock for Polly and Ben
  • 2. The Frightened Man
  • 3. Longfoot’s Friends
  • 4. Pike
  • 5. Pirate Treasure
  • 6. Kewper’s Trade
  • 7. Captured
  • 8. The Squire’s Plan
  • 9. Pike’s Revenge
  • 10. Treasure Hunt
  • 11. Cherub’s Move
  • 12. The Treasure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1966 story, 21 years and just over eight months earlier.

Notes: Terrance Dicks explains what a police box is (the target readership is now far too young to have any memory of them). The events of The War Machines are summarised and we’re told that it was Dodo’s decision to remain behind and leave the TARDIS. The Doctor, though old, is ‘still alert and vigorous and the eyes in the heavily lined face blazed with fierce intelligence’. Polly is wearing a ‘fashionable denim trouser suit [with] her long blonde hair tucked beneath a denim cap’ while Ben is in his uniform, ‘bellbottomed trousers, blue raincoat and jersey… and a sailor’s hat with HMS Teazer on the ribbon’. 

 ‘Cherub’ is a nickname bestowed upon him because of his bald head with a little tuft of hair behind the ear.  The sailor who tells Pike that Cherub is no longer aboard the ship is given the name ‘Crow’. The Doctor tells Ben that he feels he has a ‘moral obligation’ to fix the situation as he’s become ‘involved in the affairs of this village’ and fears that ‘my interference may even have brought about the threat of destruction’ (a slight clarification of the words said on screen). The final scene sees the TARDIS materialise in its next destination, but it’s not specified where.

Cover: Beautiful – Alister Pearson paints the Doctor dwarfing two views of a Cornish village, the beach and a ship at night and the church, separated by the TARDIS.

Final Analysis: We’re nearing the end in more ways than one and Terrance Dicks manages to imbue the Doctor with much more vitality than William Hartnell was sadly able to in his final months on the show. We have a Doctor who is alert and analytical at all times, bad tempered with his new young friends but still with a sense of responsibility for their well-being (how far we’ve come since his first stories!). Dicks sticks to the story as usual, so there’s really not much more to report here, but we should still savour every word – there are only two more Dicks novelisations to come!

Chapter 130. Doctor Who – The Wheel in Space (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Jamie have little time to come to terms with Victoria’s departure before they’re forced to make an emergency landing aboard a deserted spaceship. Soon, they are brought to ‘The Wheel’, a space station, where Jamie’s lack of basic awareness of life in space draws suspicion, in particular from the very brilliant and very young Zoe. Elsewhere on the Wheel, someone – or something – is wrecking equipment and resources. The Doctor identifies the culprit as a Cybermat, which means its masters the Cybermen must be close by.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Goodbye to Victoria
  • 2. The Unseen Enemy
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. Command Decision
  • 5. Under Suspicion
  • 6. Birth of Terror
  • 7. Menace
  • 8. The First Death
  • 9. The Trap
  • 10. Trojan Horse
  • 11. Takeover
  • 12. Into Danger
  • 13. Cybermat Attack
  • 14. Meteor Storm
  • 15. Poison in the Air
  • 16. Perilous Journey
  • 17. The Invasion
  • 18. An End and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Whitaker, based on a story by Kit Pedler, for a production broadcast from 1968. With only 23,000 copies circulated (due, it’s believed, to a warehouse fire), this novel is the rarest of all and tends to be the one book that completists struggle to find without paying huge amounts of money.

Notes: The book begins as on TV with Victoria waving off Jamie and the Doctor from the shore as the TARDIS departs. Jamie is ‘stripped to the waist’ for his medical examination by Gemma Corwyn (on TV, he just unbuttons his shirt). Gemma already suspects Jarvis is becoming paranoid very early on, thinking that he ‘was a man for procedures, routines’ and that ‘the unknown would always be his greatest fear’. Zoe is ‘a very small girl, or rather young woman’ with an ‘appealing rather pixie-like face’ and ‘shortish black hair’.

Here’s how the Cybermen are introduced:

Two massive silver figures now sat at the rocket controls. Approximately man-shaped, they were much bigger than any man, a good seven feet tall, perhaps more. They seemed to be formed of some uniform silvery material, something with the qualities of both metal and plastic. Faces, bodies, arms and legs and the complex apparatus that formed the chest-unit, all seemed to be of a piece, made from the same gleaming silvery material. Their faces were blank, terrifying parodies of the human visage, with small circles for eyes and a thin letter-box slit for a mouth. The heads rose to a sort of crest into which was set what looked like a kind of lamp. Two strange handle-like projections grew out from the head in place of ears. 

The Doctor, had he been there would have recognised them instantly. They were Cybermen. 

The Cyber Planner is ‘a creature of pure thought’ with ‘no physical functions as such, and was, in fact, no more than a vast living brain’. The eyes of the Cybermats glow red [consistent with Gerry Davis’s description in Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen]. As on TV, the Cybermen are originally from Mondas (so much for the Telos conspiracy theories – Terrance gets the last word!). As the Doctor shows Zoe the kind of adventure they might face and Jamie recognises it as the one they had when they first met Victoria. He wonders how his old friend is doing but struggles to remember her face as he watches Zoe become enthralled by the Doctor’s retelling of a story that we won’t be seeing as a novel for a little while yet.

Chapter 12 is a near miss with ‘Into Danger’ while the final chapter sees another outing for a Dicks’ favourite ‘An End and a Beginning’ – hurrah!

Cover: Back to the Sid Sutton neon logo again, for the final time, as Ian Burgess gives us a Wheel in Space-styled Cyberman with a backdrop of the wheel (an original design by Burgess, not based on the station as seen on telly). It’s so nice to get the proper Cyberman helmet on a cover, even if, on closer inspection of the body, the photo reference is actually from Tomb of the Cybermen!

Final Analysis: I’m running out of ways to say ‘Terrance Dicks is as reliable as ever’. His methodical approach provides decent descriptions for each character as they’re introduced: ‘a big, handsome fair-haired giant of a man, cheerful and confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance’; ‘a slim attractive young woman with a bell of fair hair framing her sensitive face’; ‘a pleasant-looking sensible woman in her mid-thirties’; ‘olive-skinned, brown-eyed and curly-haired’; … and so on. As ever, he provides elegant foreshadowing and explains the motivations and feelings of the characters, covering things that might have been conveyed on screen with a facial expression (though as two-thirds of the telly episodes are missing, it’s hard to know for sure). This even extends to the servo-robot:

The robot abandoned the problem of the TARDIS’s presence on board. Since it was impossible it could not have happened so it was not a problem.

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 120. Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death (1987)

Synopsis: As a tracking station on Earth awaits the return of a Mars capsule and its crew, the rocket’s inhabitants are kidnapped and hidden away. Liz Shaw discovers that the astronauts are not the ones that left Earth but alien ambassadors. Someone is conspiring to use the aliens for their own means – and start a war in the process…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Something Took Off From Mars…’
  • 2. ‘That Sound – It Was Some Kind Of Message…’
  • 3. ‘They’ll Never Survive…’
  • 4. ‘Recovery Seven – It’s On The Way Back!’
  • 5. ‘The Capsule Has Landed.’
  • 6. ‘They’ve Started To Crack The Code…’
  • 7. ‘You Must Feed Them Radiation – Or They’ll Die!’
  • 8. ‘We’ve Got To Get That Rocket Up!’
  • 9. ‘Someone’s Threatening To Kill Miss Shaw!’
  • 10. ‘An Attack On The Space Centre?’
  • 11. ‘Do You Really Think They’re Not Human?’
  • 12. ‘Large Unidentified Object Approaching On Collision Course…’
  • 13. ‘The Capsule Will Be Smashed To Fragments…’
  • 14. ‘Your Doctor Friend Is As Dead As A Doornail…’
  • 15. ‘We May Not Have Much More Time!’
  • 16. ‘We’re Being Invaded!’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1970 story credited to David Whitaker (but which also included passes by Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray), completing the run of Season 7 stories – and the Third Doctor’s era as a whole – that began with Target’s first original adaptations back in 1974.

Notes: The TV reporter’s name is given on screen as ‘John Wakefield’, but here it’s now ‘Michael’, while astronaut Charles Van Lyden becomes ‘Van Leyden’. Ralph Cornish at Mission Control is said to be ‘quite literally tall, dark and handsome’. Dicks is not as snide as he was about Chorley in Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, but he still makes a few sly digs at the TV reporter; he’s small, neat and bearded with a ‘low, throbbing, earnest voice that seems to be the exclusive property of a certain kind of TV journalist’. 

It was a voice that conveyed expertise, sympathy, concern and a sort of muted reproach. The implication was that somehow Michael Wakefield already knew all the answers. Luckily for him, he never had to provide them. He only asked the questions, and passed along the background information assembled for him by an expert team of researchers, all kept firmly behind the camera.

For the final time, we have Dicks’ standard description of the third Doctor, with a face that is ‘neither young nor old’, and that Bessie is ‘an Edwardian roadster’ (and I’ve waiting until now to point out that it’s not actually a Roadster, it’s a four-seater Tourer, but Roadster is such a fun word). It’s still early days for the Doctor and Liz, having only had ‘two dangerous adventures’, and we’re reminded of the incident with the Silurians. 

In the assault on the ‘enemy’ in the warehouse, the Brigadier notices that they are ‘simply better than his own men, better shots, better trained in this kind of house-to-house fighting’. It’s the fact that none of his troops has been shot that draws the Brigadier’s suspicions – accurate shots knock the guns away but nobody is actually hit, and he notes that there’s ‘something rather humiliating about fighting an enemy who weren’t even trying to hit back’. The Doctor’s trick with the disappearing tape is ‘a Time Lord technique somewhere between telekinesis and conjuring’. 

The scientist Heldorf had been a refugee and still had a trace of an accent. Reegan was born in Ireland but spent most of his life in America, among other countries, evading the law. He’d been a bank robber for the IRA until they’d discovered he’d been stealing from them. He set himself up as a professional, specialising in ‘kidnapping, extortion and murder for hire’.  

Cover: The Doctor smiles as two ambassadors in space suits approach him from behind. Tony Masero’s original cover had a much more shadowy depiction of Jon Pertwee, but this was changed in response to a request from the actor. This is the first cover to feature the Third Doctor prominently on the initial cover since The Claws of Axos (1977), or on any cover since the 1978 Three Doctors reprint (aside from a small profile as part of a montage on The Five Doctors).

Final Analysis: We begin with a deceptively simple opening line: ‘Far above the Earth, in the infinite blackness of space, two metal capsules were converging.’ That ‘infinite blackness of space’ leapt out at me as a quote from something and a quick survey on Twitter led to Paul Rhodes supplying a flurry of suggestions for a possible source. Nasa’s own public information office LB Taylor Jr appears to have coined the phrase in his commentary around the Apollo 11 moon landings, which is appropriate considering the subject of The Ambassadors of Death. An earlier reference can be found in The Transcendent Man, a 1953 novel by future Star Trek and Twilight Zone writer Jerry Sohl, while the earliest I’ve found is a 1920 edition of the handbook of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s a phrase that crops up across science fiction from Star Trek to Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer but as yet, I’ve not found an origin. Any suggestions?

There are some other lovely turns of phrase here: The warehouse where Carrington’s crew are hiding out has ‘row upon row of arched windows, every one methodically broken by the industrious local vandals’. The little extra biographical details for Heldorf and Reegan feel like something Malcolm Hulke would have added (appropriate considering he wrote a substantial amount of the scripts). We’ve come a long way from the days where Terrance was bashing these out one a month and as we reach the end of the third Doctor’s TV adventures, this stands out as one of the author’s very best.

Chapter 115. Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands at London Airport and when a startled Jamie flees from his first sighting of an aeroplane, his friends are soon separated. Polly hides from the airport police in a nearby hanger, where she witnesses a murder. Jamie befriends a young woman in search of her missing brother as the Doctor tries to explain his presence to the authorities. Somewhere in the airport, a very quiet invasion is taking place, organised through the travel agency Chameleon Tours…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Obstruction On Runway Five
  • 2. The Suspects
  • 3. Man Without A Face
  • 4. The Transfer
  • 5. The Missing
  • 6. The Trap
  • 7. The Abductors
  • 8. The Secret Of The Chameleons
  • 9. Death Ray
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Spaceship
  • 12. The Traitor
  • 13. Flight Into Peril
  • 14. The Bluff
  • 15. The Deal

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1967 story by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke.

Notes: We’re reminded of the origins of the three companions, beginning with ‘that terrifying business of the War Machines,’ including the one where Ben and Polly met Jamie, and we’re informed that Ben and Polly have asked the Doctor to bring them back home. 

The manager of the airport is called Charles Gordon: his title ‘Commandant’ is an unflattering ‘Gestapo’-inspired nickname given to him by his staff, not his actual rank. The first Chameleon is a little less gory than it appeared on TV:

There were no features, and except for the eyes nothing you could call a face. Nothing but a completely blank sphere, across which ran pulsating veins…

Samantha Briggs is introduced as ‘a round-faced, dark-haired girl who looked as if she might normally be a rather jolly, cheeky type’ and she has ‘a faint nasal twang to her voice’ that’s evidence of a Liverpool accent. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver in a couple of scenes [a device not introduced on screen until Fury from the Deep]. There’s a tiny additional scene after everything’s been resolved [see Final Analysis below] and Dicks corrects the date that Jamie longs for (he’s three years off his original time on TV).

Unusually, the story retains the cliffhanger from the original transmission, even though it’ll be a while before it’s resolved in print. Oh and chapter 13’s ‘Flight Into Peril’ is a neat reworking of the ‘Escape to Danger’ trope.

Cover: As an aeroplane takes off, the TARDIS materialises on the runway, painted by Tony Masero.

Final Analysis: I’m going to get misty-eyed every time we get to a Terrance Dicks story from now on, I suspect, even if it’s another fairly solid transcription of what happened in the original scripts. As on TV, Samantha is invested with so much personality that it’s still a shock when she doesn’t join the Doctor and Jamie on their adventures – just as it’s still a shock when Ben and Polly decide to stay on Earth. Dicks does make a few small changes, such as the addition of the sonic screwdriver, which just help to move things along, and then there’s the conclusion, where Jamie is less than satisfied, and Dicks perhaps suspects that the reader might be too:

‘You mean they’re just going to get away with it, Doctor?’ muttered Jamie. ‘Och, it doesna seem fair!’

‘It isn’t, Jamie. But we can’t undo the wrong they’ve done without their help.’ The Doctor smiled wearily. ‘You don’t always achieve perfect justice, you know. Sometimes you just have to do the best deal you can!’

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 anachronistically referred to 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 reputation 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 some 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 102. Doctor Who – The Time Monster (1986)

Synopsis: Experiments in a Cambridge laboratory have created instability in the web of time. The Master is using a trident-shaped crystal to summon Kronos, a creature from legend that ‘eats’ time itself. Recognising the origin of the crystal, the Doctor and Jo travel back to the time of Atlantis with the hope of stopping the Master but instead find themselves caught in his trap. When Kronos finally arrives, however, it is the Master who has to plead for his life…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare
  • 2. The Test
  • 3. The Summoning
  • 4. The Ageing
  • 5. The Legend
  • 6. The Ambush
  • 7. The High Priest
  • 8. The Secret
  • 9. Time Attack
  • 10. Take-Off
  • 11. The Time-Eater
  • 12. Atlantis
  • 13. The Guardian
  • 14. The Captives
  • 15. The Return of Kronos

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Sloman’s scripts for the 1972 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 9 in Target’s library.

Notes: Professor Thascalos (not ‘Thascales’) is…:

… a medium-sized, compactly but powerfully built man, this Professor Thascalos, with sallow skin and a neatly-trimmed pointed beard. His dark burning eyes radiated energy and power.

A familiar description, but it’s not until he hypnotises Doctor Charles Perceval (not ‘Percival’) that Thascalos is revealed to be the Master. Percival’s predecessor was ‘over-fond of the bottle’ and so ‘an easy man [for the Master] to impress and to deceive’. The Master’s TOMTIT apparatus recreates ‘the powers of the legendary Timescoop of the Time Lords, forbidden by Rassilon in the Dark Time’, something only revealed eleven years later (or three years ago in book terms) in The Five Doctors.

The Doctor’s TARDIS sniffer-outer’ is ‘rather like a table tennis bat’ (it looks a lot ruder on telly!). Young Atlantean councillor Miseus is renamed ‘Myseus’. Perceval is accidentally confused with Humphrey Cook when he’s called ‘Humphrey Perceval’ seconds before his final moments. Weirdly, Dicks references the new TARDIS control room design and why we don’t see it again, as Jo notes that ‘from time to time, the Doctor altered some detail of the TARDIS interior. More often than not he decided he didn’t like what he’d done and reverted to the original.’ After the Master has captured Jo and disappeared in his TARDIS, Queen Galleia frees the Doctor and admits that she was wrong to trust the Master, just as she accepts that the people of Atlantis cannot be saved.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a multilayered piece depicting the female eyes of Kronos, the winged Kronos creature and the trident crystal. It might be my favourite Skilleter cover.

Final Analysis: In the 1990s, when the Pertwee backlash was in full swing in some fanzines, The Time Monster came in for a particularly hard time. Compared to the Master’s previous exploits, it feels a little lightweight and it suffers from wading in the same pool as The Daemons, which concluded the previous season. There are ancient myths, the Master posing as a member of a community and resurrecting a godlike being. Sadly, we also get a load of nonsense with the Doctor balancing house-hold rubbish on a wine bottle before playing matador with a real, live minotaur, while the whole narrative purpose of UNIT seems a long way from its origins as an organisation investigating serious alien threats to Earth. The Brigadier is particularly dim while Benton’s reward for being the only member of UNIT with any brains is to be left standing before his peers in a nappy.

I’m not here to review the TV stories of course, but it’s difficult to avoid doing so when the book sticks so closely to the transmitted version. All of these excesses are present and correct in this book and, for once, Terrance Dicks’ methodical approach doesn’t work quite so well. It can be summed up by this underwhelming description of the final destruction of the TOMTIT machine:

… the result was nothing more serious than a loud bang, a shower of sparks and a lot of smoke.

Just one other observation: In the descriptions, the Brigadier’s number two is ‘Captain Yates’ or ‘Mike Yates’, but never ‘Mike’. Always the full name.

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.