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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

… on TV, he just falls asleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 99. Doctor Who – The Krotons (1985)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 98. Doctor Who – The Invasion (1985)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 86. Doctor Who – The Dominators (1984)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 50. Doctor Who and the War Games (1979)

Synopsis: The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe between the trenches of the worst war in Earth’s history – World War I. Yet just a few miles away, the war is against Roman soldiers – and here it’s the American Civil War. As the time travellers make their way to the centre of the warzones, they discover a group of aliens controlling the battles as part of a hideous game. All too soon, the situation becomes too great even for the Doctor to handle. With no other choice, he is forced to confront his greatest challenge yet – his own people, the Time Lords…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Sentence of Death
  • 2. Escape
  • 3. The Time Mist
  • 4. Back to the Château
  • 5. The War Room
  • 6. The Process
  • 7. The Security Chief
  • 8. Battle for the Château
  • 9. The Trap
  • 10. Fall of the War Chief
  • 11. Trial of Doctor Who

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts the 1969 scripts he co-wrote with Terrance Dicks.

Notes: The prologue is a mission statement from the ‘Chief War Lord’ (so the aliens are the War Lords, who aren’t named on TV; the War Lord is the leader of the aliens). They identify Earth as ‘the most war-like planet known to us’ and their project is called ‘The War Games’. Off the back of their last (unseen?) adventure, the Doctor has promised to take Jamie for a visit to his own time. On their arrival, he explains to his young friends the origins of barbed wire (the invention of ‘an American’ for the purpose of penning in cattle). He goes into detail about the purpose of trenches during World War I, in a time before the tank was invented, and the great loss of life involved in trying to capture ground from the enemy. ‘That’s a daft way to run a war,’ says Jamie, rather pertinently. The Doctor also explains the causes of the American Civil War to Zoe who, coming from the far future, has never heard of the United States.

General Smythe is ‘a huge man with a square jaw and cheeks like cliffs’. Captain Ransom reports to him that they have lost ‘twenty-nine thousand men in the past month’ and Smythe tells him that they’re fighting a ‘war of attrition’. Alone in his room, Smythe uses the hidden video monitor to report to a ‘fellow War Lord’ and request ‘five thousand more specimens’. 

Carstairs’ first name is Jeremy and his father is a factory owner in Yorkshire (but he chooses not to admit this to Lady Jenifer). Head of the military prison, General Gorton, can’t remember if he was born in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire or Berkshire. Two deserters, Willi Müller from Berlin and George Brown from London, witness the shelling of the ambulance and the vehicle’s sudden disappearance in the mist. In the Roman zone, Drusus Gracchus and Brutus Sullas also see the ‘square elephant’ vanish and assume it’s a ‘Gaulish trick’. Drusus vows that he’ll sacrifice ‘three goats, two pigs and a human slave’ in honour of the God of War. 

The War Chief is tall, with a uniform of ‘black with gold and red piping’. His fellow War Lords use a transport device called a ‘Space and Inter-time Directional Robot Allpurpose Transporter’, or ‘SIDRAT’ – a ‘tall black box similar in shape and size to the TARDIS’ (it’s mentioned only once on screen, by the War Chief, who pronounces it ‘Side-Rat’). The machines can deliver hundreds of soldiers to the various timezones and they are powered by green crystals that come from the ‘planet of the Time Lords’ (which the War Chief doesn’t name), but as these have worn out, the War Lord has used other materials that lead to a decreased lifespan. The Alien soldiers wear silver uniforms. The Security Chief does not like people to see how short he is, so he usually stands; he wears a ‘simple black uniform without braid or piping’ that makes him look ‘very sinister’. Foreshadowed before his arrival, the War Lord suddenly appears in the war room alongside the Security Chief and the War Chief and is not described at any point.

At one point, Lieutenant Carstairs wonders ‘just how many wars they have going on in this place’ – and it’s a fair few, as well as his own 1917 Zone: There’s an English Redcoat, taken from the battles of the Jacobite Rebellion of Jamie’s time; we learn of a ‘French Deserter’ from Napoleon’s army in Gorton’s prison; General Smythe references zones from the Dakota War / Sioux Uprising (from 1862), the Korean War (from 1951), the American War of Independence (from 1776), the ‘Punic Wars’ between Rome and Carthage and the ‘Mongolian Invasion’ of the 13th Century; the War Lord known as Count Vladimir Chainikof oversees the Russian side of the Crimean zone (at some point between 1853-56); there’s a zone from 1936 with Chinese and Japanese combatants, though this predates the second Sino-Japanese war by a year and would possibly have been the tail-end of the Chinese Civil War; in the Central Zone, the Doctor and Zoe see a mix of soldiers, including Aztec warriors, a Roundhead from ‘Oliver Cromwell’s time’, soldiers from the Franco-Prussian War (1870),, an Austro-Hungarian officer from the Boxer Rebellion (from where we later meet a Chinese soldier who joins the resistance), two women soldiers from the Spanish Civil War zone, a soldier from Catherine the Great’s army (presumably the The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74), a Japanese Samurai warrior and a soldier in a suit of armour from an undisclosed period; Jamie joins soldiers from the Boer War from 1899 and a Chinese revolutionary from 1911. The zone for the American Civil War (or the ‘War Between the States’) is from 1862 and Hulke uses the term ‘Negro’ to describe an unnamed resistance soldier, which is period-appropriate but which may jolt the attention of modern readers (also, the role of Harper is absorbed into that of Russell). Arturo Villar claims that all of Mexico is ‘all war’, but he’s probably from the Mexico-American War of 1846-48. Another resistance soldier, Boris Ivanovich Petrovich, is from the Russian Revolution of 1812. 

For the first time, Jamie begins to wonder who the Doctor really is and when he finally raises the question, the Doctor is about to tell him when they’re interrupted. It’s the Security Chief, and not the Chief Scientist, who first uses the term ‘Time Lords’. The War Chief reveals that the Doctor stole his TARDIS (The War Chief also has a TARDIS of his own, stolen like the Doctor’s and hidden somewhere). When the Doctor confirms this to Zoe, he admits that ‘it’s not one of the best models. The chameleon effect doesn’t work’ (Hulke previously referred to the TARDIS’s chameleon feature in The Doomsday Weapon and its use here still predates it being said on screen). During his trial, the Doctor mentions the Daleks, Cybermen, Quarks, Yeti and the Krotons. The Time Lords wear long white robes and they tack on an additional charge to the Doctor’s crimes of stealing a TARDIS, which is consistent with the version told in The Auton Invasion. Back on the Wheel, Zoe meets an unnamed man (not Tanya Lernvov as on telly). After the Doctor disappears, the prosecuting Time Lord admits that the Doctor ‘would never have fitted in back here.’ His colleague agrees, but laments: ‘It’s a pity. He would have brightened the place up no end.’ 

Cover: John Geary creates a mishmash of eras as the TARDIS stands in a battlefield where a Roman centurion approaches a British army officer. The 1990 reprint used Alister Pearson’s elegant monochromatic VHS cover with Troughton, the War Lord and a Time Lord in a grid of warzone triangles, accompanied by an American Civil War soldier, a Roman chariot and Lieutenant Carstairs.

Final Analysis: This is the longest novel since Doctor Who and the Cybermen, four years earlier. In condensing the ten-part epic from 1969, by necessity, Hulke makes it less of a Terrance-Dicks-style scene-by-scene adaptation, more a top-to-toe rewrite of the story with each chapter roughly covering a single episode. Although a lot of the beats are the same, Hulke is more concerned with creating the world for the reader than recapturing exact memories of a programme broadcast once a decade earlier. 

Hulke’s human characters are, as ever, multi-faceted and they reveal much about the societietal attitudes of their respective times: Carstairs is a loyal and patriotic officer who struggles to accept the deception of his superior officer, but also unpicks the inconsistencies of the Doctor’s Court Martial (and considering the horrific injustices he must have witnessed already, this is saying a lot); he also reveals a degree of inverted snobbery, choosing not to reveal much about his background to Lady Jennifer; Zoe reveals a fierce feminist conviction, stating her opinion that things would be better if women were in charge. Lady Jennifer disagrees, saying that, aside from periods of war, a woman’s place is in the home, a view that seems to be introduced to undermine her belief that ‘new socialists… believe in a lot of nonsense’ (though she later tells Russell that she believes that women should have the vote, so she’s quite complex too).

Hulke sums up the brutality of the First World War effectively through a combination of the Doctor’s mini-lectures and the reactions of the soldiers to newcomers, immediately accusing them of being spies and threatening them with being shot. Lieutenant Carstairs observes that the average lifespan of a British officer on the front line is only three weeks. As they part company on No Man’s Land, he asks the Doctor ‘Did my side win?’

‘Was all the death and misery for nothing?

‘You have answered your own question, Lieutenant. War is always death and misery, and both sides lose. I hope that one day you humans will find another way to settle your arguments.

This adaptation covers so much ground that in some ways it damaged the reputation of the TV episodes it was based on. Terrence Dicks’ natural modesty (and the pressures under which he and Hulke wrote the story) always led him to underplay its success, but some readers were entertained enough by the novel to assume that all the stuff cut from the TV episodes must have been needless padding. The DVD release restored its reputation as one of the best stories of that decade, but this novelisation is also a magnificent undertaking. Some characters are missing, some scenes truncated, but none of this leaves us feeling short-changed. We’re lucky enough to have both the TV and novel versions and both of them stand among the very best of their respective genres.

Malcolm Hulke died in July 1979, aged 54. This book was published two months later.