The artist Chris Achilleos has died, aged 74. The early Target Doctor Who books were graced by his impactful style, combining monchrome pointillist portraits against lurid nebulous galaxies.
Synopsis: In the distant future, shielded from a long-past disaster, the entire population of Earth lies asleep in a wheel-shaped space-station. When the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive at the station, they discover that its inhabitants have overslept due to interference from an invading alien insect – a Wirrrn. As the parasite grows, it threatens not just the lives of the waking senior crew of the station, but the entire human race…
- Prologue: The Intruder
- 1. The Second Invasion
- 2. Sarah Vanishes
- 3. Sabotage!
- 4. A Fatal Wound
- 5. The Wirrrn
- 6. Time Running Out
- 7. A Tight Squeeze
- 8. A New Beginning
Background: Ian Marter adapts Robert Holmes’ 1975 scripts. He was the first and, to date, only actor to novelise a story he was in.
Notes: Yes – Wirrrn! Marter gives the Wirrrn an extra ‘r’ as well as much more flexibility than their TV counterparts; the first invader Wirrrn is able to arch ‘its segmented tail up over its head’ as it grips ‘ the cables in its huge claw and sever[s] them cleanly with a single slice.’ Later, the Doctor suggests the Wirrrn grub might be a ‘multi-nucleate organism’ to explain how it passed through a grill. When Harry and the Doctor find the dessicated husk of the Wirrrn Queen in the cupboard, Marter gives us an interesting description of the insect:
He stared at the enormous ‘insect’ which lay crumbling at his feet. The surface of its segmented body was a glossy indigo colour; here and there were patches of twisted and blackened tissue, like scorched plastic. The six tentacular legs bristled with razor-sharp ‘hairs’. The creature’s octopus head contained a huge globular eye on each side, and each eye was composed of thousands of cells in which Harry saw himself reflected over and over again. The creature was fully three metres long from the top of its domed head to the tip of the fearsome pincer in which its tail terminated.
On arrival, Sarah is wearing a denim trouser suit and woolly hat, similar to items she wore during Robot on TV. In the prologue, the Ark is not in orbit around the Earth but in the outer reaches of the solar system [as it also is in Revenge of the Cybermen]. The autoguard is renamed an ‘Organic Matter Detector Surveillance System’ – or OMDSS – and the space station is renamed ‘Terra Nova’ (was the Ark expected to reach New Earth??). The Ark includes full-sized blue whales, elephants and palm trees. The support struts contain moving walkways, leading to the outer ring. Vira is over two metres tall with short, dark hair, while Noah is ‘a tall, slim but powerful man with short black hair and a trim beard.’
The Doctor’s journey to the solar plasma cells reveals a multitude of tacky, silver trails across every surface. The gestating Wirrrn lie somewhere high up above the catwalks of the solar stacks in the form of ‘clusters of pustular matter’. On her tight-squeezed journey through the ducts of the space station, Sarah reaches a clear section where she’s attacked by a Wirrrn. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry depart in the TARDIS, not via the transmat booths.
Cover: Chris Achilleos’s final cover for the range is a simple design, with the Doctor looking worried inset while a Wirrrn dominates the frame (which is bordered in the same yellow as Carnival of Monsters). The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson has the same Nerva wireframe border motif as Revenge of the Cybermen, with a Wirrrn centre and a second, smaller Wirrrn in the foreground, making the perspectives look off. Perhaps this would have been better to have a semi-converted Noah, or a Wirrrn grub in the foreground instead? A 2012 BBC Books edition reuses an edited version of the original Achilleos cover, placing the Wirrrn and the Doctor on a white background to match the new house style.
Final Analysis: As mentioned in the introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. I might have seen it at the time (I was definitely watching the series by the time of the repeat of Planet of the Spiders) but my main memory comes from this novel – and then pirate videotapes that were circulating in the mid-1980s. Ian Marter brings a joyful flavour of pulp horror to this, which – considering this adaptation predates Alien, The Thing, The Fly etc – makes me wonder what his influences were: HP Lovecraft, is an obvious one; maybe R. Chetwynd-Hayes or Guy N Smith’s Night of the Crabs? It’s a definite conscious step towards horror fiction here though, and not even a child-friendly version either.
The prologue details the first intrusion by a Wirrrn with foreboding (while an announced ‘second invasion’ turns out to be the Doctor, Sarah and Harry) and the bubble-wrap grub from TV becomes an amorphous ‘glob’ that drips from the ceilings and sparks with energy. Noah’s transformation is particularly gruey:
… with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material.
I’m not giving stars or scores for these books, but this one really feels like it’s elevating an already excellent story. This Marter bloke is one to watch out for…
Synopsis: A strange object from space lands on Earth near a nuclear power station. Inside are Axons, a family of golden beings who offer unlimited power in return for help with their damaged spacecraft. While the Doctor tries to keep an open mind, an ambitious politician rushes to seize the Axon’s power for his own interests. Deep inside the alien craft, the Master is being held captive – and as Jo Grant discovers, that’s not the only secret the Axons are keeping…
- 1. Invader from Space
- 2. The Landing
- 3. The Voice of Axos
- 4. Enter the Master
- 5. The Doctor Makes a Plan
- 6. Escape from Axos
- 7. The Axons Attack
- 8. The Power Robbers
- 9. The Sacrifice
- 10. Brainstorm
- 11. The Feast of Axos
- 12. Trapped in Time
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin from the 1971 production.
Notes: As it soars towards Earth, the Axos ship has a ‘constantly changing’ shape and glows with a ‘myriad of colours’ – its intention is to be noticed. The first scene with the two radio operators is expanded here; they’re not UNIT operators here, but personnel at the tracking station – Ransome and his assistant, Harry – who work down the list of people they need to contact and find ‘something called UNIT’. The first interaction between the Brigadier and Chinn also provides background information – the minister in overall charge of Chinn’s department cannot stand him, and as the Brigadier is also a problem, he decides to set the two men against each other in the hope that the winner will eliminate one or the other. Although UNIT is governed from Geneva, the Brigadier’s operations are part-funded by the British Government. Corporal Bell is not part of this story, her role is given to a nameless male technician.
We get an introductory scene where Bill Filer is on the hunt for a man called ‘Joe Grant’ – and Jo corrects him. Bill is described as having ‘closely trimmed brown hair and a pleasantly ugly face’ – wow, that’s a pretty mean swipe at the reasonably handsome Paul Grist who played him.
The Doctor and Jo drive to the landing site in Bessie (yay!).
The Axon who first frightens Jo subsequently appears as a male identical to the Axon leader. The Axon leader does not assume that the toad is livestock, but spells out the potential, had it been a ‘food animal’. The process transforms the toad into a huge form that overwhelms Chinn and makes him scream. Later, as Axos reacts to the Doctor’s experiment, the Eye of Axos is said to be ‘lashing wildly to and fro on its stalk’, which is much more fluid a movement than the TV prop could manage.
Jo overhears the Doctor speculating about Axonite’s potential for time travel and suspects he has selfish intentions early on. The Doctor spots straight away that the Axon-Filer is a fake thanks to his experience of the Autons replicating humans. He also baffles a sentry to gain access to the arrested Brigadier: ‘Good heavens, man, I know the Brigadier’s incommunicado. I’m incommunicado myself. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other.’ Delightful!
The Master enters the Nuton complex disguised as a visitings scientist and recalls the time he broke into UNIT HQ dressed as a ‘humble telephone engineer’. The Master’s TARDIS is a white dome, not a filing cabinet.
To the Eye of Axos’s surprise, the Doctor reveals that he’s deduced that Axos already has some limited ability for time travel; he realised that Axos reached Earth before the missiles were fired and Axos confesses that they can ‘move only moments in Time.’ Hardiman’s assistant (credited on screen as ‘Technician’) is named ‘Ericson’.
Cover: Achilleos gives us an eerie female Axon with rays of light coming from her eyes while an Axon monster looms behind her and the Doctor (taken from a photo from Frontier in Space) is pictured inset looking concerned. A 1979 edition had a cover by John Geary showing the adult male Axon and two very green Axon monsters.
Final Analysis: I’m hugely fond of The Claws of Axos TV episodes, one of those comfort stories I can bung on while I decide what I’d sooner be watching and then settle down and enjoy it. Terrance Dicks captures all of the conflicted loyalties that the Axons draw out of our heroes – are they victims in need, or should they have been blasted into bits from the start? – but he enhances the suspicion that the Doctor is solely interested in using Axos to escape Earth and relishes in making Chinn hated by absolutely everyone he encounters. The Master once again enjoys the thrill of the adventure, deciding on a whim to jump from a bridge onto a UNIT truck and then exploiting his good fortune when it turns out to be going where he wants to be. The ending is also less rushed than on TV, as Bill Filer says his goodbyes and jokes that he’d thought England would be ‘dull’, Chinn scampers back to the Minister to try framing the success as his own, while the operation to rescue the TARDIS and get it onto the back of a UNIT truck turns into a huge argument, which Jo welcomes as things getting ‘back to normal’.
Synopsis: The Doctor finally brings Ian and Barbara back to London but celebrations are short-lived when they realise they are two hundred years in the future and Earth is under the occupation of the Daleks. Separated and befriended by various groups of resistance fighters, the time travellers all come to the same conclusion – they must find out what the Daleks are doing and defeat them. But for one of them, life will never be the same again.
- 1. Return to Terror
- 2. The Roboman
- 3. The Freedom Fighters
- 4. Inside the Saucer
- 5. Attack the Daleks!
- 6. The Fugitives
- 7. Reunion with the Doctor
- 8. The Mine of the Daleks
- 9. Dangerous Journey
- 10. Trapped in the Depths
- 11. Action Underground
- 12. Rebellion!
- 13. Explosion!
- 14. The Farewell
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1964 scripts for the second Dalek serial. The title page says it’s adapted from Doctor Who and the World’s End, presumably taking the story title from the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary special, which used the titles of each first episode to represent the serial as a whole.
Notes: The first chapter features a recap of the schoolteachers and their first meeting with the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS. The Doctor is a lot more tetchy than he was on telly; when Susan describes the TARDIS readings as ‘normal’, the Doctor corrects her with irritation: ‘Normal for where?’ Later, Susan tells David that she left her own planet when she was ‘very young’ – is this comparative for a teenager, or was she a young child?
Tyler’s first name is Jim, not Carl, and Jack Craddock becomes Bill, but David’s name is still Campbell [see The Crusaders for why this is interesting]. The events of the time travellers’ first meeting with the Daleks is put into perspective when the Doctor surmises that the city they attacked was just one on the planet Skaro (in the TV version, he guesses that their first meeting took place a million years in the future). The Black Dalek (also called the Dalek Supreme) is said to be larger than normal Daleks – maybe the standard Daleks don’t have the enlarged bumper in this version? There’s also a ‘second in command’, a ‘commander of the ground forces’ and an engineer without any descriptions – are these based on the movie Daleks?
The Doctor is dazed after escaping the robotisation process, but not unconscious as on TV. David calls the Dalek fire bomb a ‘blockbuster bomb’ – it destroys whole blocks in one go. Dortmun is buried under rubble (like in the movie), rather than just being exterminated, while Larry and his brother Phil don’t kill each other in combat; the rewrite is much more tragic: Roboman-Phil’s helmet comes off in the struggle, killing him and as Larry holds his brother’s body another Roboman guns him down. There are a few dialogue swaps, such as Barbara getting a second go at making the Robomen attack the Daleks – the Doctor merely adds that the slaves should join in. The Doctor’s party is celebrated for their part in overthrowing the Daleks, so there are a lot more people willing to help free the TARDIS (and Tyler says he doesn’t need to know why they want the police box). Ian doesn’t wedge the Dalek bomb to stop it, but diverts it off course (just like Tom does in the movie!). The Doctor’s goodbye to Susan is a little simpler than on TV, but it’s almost more emotional as a consequence. We then join the Doctor inside the TARDIS as he turns from the scanner and sniffs, daring the teachers to comment, before smiling and promising to get them home (and the schoolteachers agreeing he probably won’t).
Cover: Chris Achilleos presents one of my favourite covers ever, and it’s so weird. It depicts a scene that’s threatened but not actually delivered on screen – the burning of London to flush out the rebels, with a Dalek and roboman patrolling as Dalek spaceships set fire to the Houses of parliament. But the spaceships are from the second Dalek movie, the roboman is a mashup of a movie version and a Genesis of the Daleks soldier, while the Dalek looks like it’s from the first Dalek movie, but it’s red all over with black spots. Its gun is from one of the original TV props but that and its sucker arm are the wrong way round. However, it’s utterly stunning. The 1990 reprint cover by Alister Pearson also uses the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop but it’s much more understated, showing portraits of the Doctor and Susan alongside an accurate TV version of a silver and blue Dalek.
Final Analysis: There’s surely no better start to any of these books than the first page of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, particularly that opening line: ‘Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.’ It sets up the tone of the book, which is a war story with Daleks, where each character has something to say about the life they’ve led up to this point. Of course, Dicks is working off the back of three other writers – Terry Nation, David Whittaker and Milton Subotsky – but it’s the stuff he adds to meld the work of the others together that makes this so perfect.
One strange thing is that I recall Terrance Dicks claiming that he’d been sent the wrong photo for the Slyther, and what he described was the Mire Beast from The Chase, yet what he writes is pretty spot on and actually adds to the menace of the creature:
Ian saw a vast lumpy blob of a body, powerful flailing tentacles, two tiny deep-set eyes shining with malice… Moving incredibly fast, the creature lurched towards them.
They heaved and kicked and punched at the Slyther’s flabby bulk, shoving it out of the bucket with maniacal fury, dodging the flailing blows from its enormous tentacles.
That the Slyther survives its fall at the end and crawls off means that even after the Daleks are defeated, there’s the problem of pest control still to deal with – unless the volcano sorted it out. Although, for all the little tweaks Dicks makes to improve on the scripts, he still has the Doctor leaving Susan behind with just one shoe!
Never mind – I might go as far as to say that it’s Dicks’s best adaptation, so I’ll be interested to see if anything can top this.
Synopsis: Researchers in the Antarctic uncover two alien pods. One of them germinates, infecting one of the researchers and transforming him into a murderous plant-like creature. The other pod is stolen and transported to the home of an eccentric British millionaire – the amateur botanist Harrison Chase. When the second pod also finds a victim, the Doctor and Sarah must try to prevent the resulting creature from reaching maturity and destroying all animal life on Earth.
- 1. Mystery under the Ice
- 2. Death Stalks the Camp
- 3. Hunt in the Snow
- 4. Sabotage!
- 5. Betrayal
- 6. A Visit to Harrison Chase
- 7. Condemned to Die
- 8. The Krynoid Strikes
- 9. Siege
- 10. The Plants Attack
- 11. Trapped!
- 12. The Final Assault
Background: Philp Hinchcliffe adapts the 1976 serial by Robert Banks Stewart.
Notes: The Doctor wears his red velvet coat (his first one, the one many people assume is corduroy – don’t @ me) rather than the grey tweed from TV. Sarah has been the Doctor’s ‘special assistant’ for two years.
The Krynoid pod’s tendril snakes up ‘a few feet in the air’ before finding Winlett. The Krynoid in the Antarctic turns quickly into the large, shapeless blob of vegetable matter (on screen it remains human shaped). Chase has ‘a considerable private army’ and a large staff of botanists, not just Keeler. Amela Ducat’s involvement beyond her first scene is completely removed. The final scene sees Sarah (not the Doctor) invite Sir Colin for a trip and the civil servant watches from a window as the pair enters the TARDIS and disappears. We don’t see them return to Antarctic as on TV.
Cover: Achilles gives us the Doctor and Sarah in monochrome, flinching as the giant adult krynoid absorbs Harrison Chase’s mansion while under fire from an explosive airstrike.
Final Analysis: It’s difficult to know whether Terrance Dicks would have retained Amelia Ducat’s involvement in the main story, but I’d like to think so. Hinchcliffe opts to cut this and while it’s one of the easiest threads to dispose of, it’s a shame as Ducat is such a lovely character. Don’t go looking for your favourite lines either – ‘I could play all day in my green cathedral’, ‘she’s my best friend’, ‘Scorby – get Dunbar!’ are all missing. These minor crimes aside, Hinchcliffe pares down the six-part story really well, maintaining the growing level of crisis throughout. There’s a particularly strong moment where we gain an insight into Chase’s state of mind even before the Krynoid takes hold:
Chase was physically repelled by people. He reduced contact with them to the bare minimum; hence the black gloves to avoid touching them, and the elaborate safety precautions surrounding the house to stop them getting in. Apart from his immediate entourage he was a recluse, known only by name to the outside world. But within the high walls of his own domain Chase had created a different world—a luxuriant, peaceful world of green – a world in which, for moments at least, he could pretend to shed his human guise and commune with his beloved plants.
A solid first effort from Hinchcliffe though, looking forward to more from him.
Synopsis: Aiming for the planet Metabelis III, the Doctor and Jo arrive on board a ship in the Indian Ocean. Something strange is going on as the crew and inhabitants of the vessel appear to be trapped in a time loop, repeating the same actions and conversations in a cycle. And then the ship is attacked by a prehistoric monster that has been extinct for millions of years. Meanwhile, the planet Inter Minor welcomes its first ever off-world visitors, including a travelling showman and his assistant who possess a rather unusual device that contains wonders from around the universe. Purely for entertainment, strictly non-political – and highly illegal.
- 1. Dangerous Arrivals
- 2. The Monster from the Sea
- 3. The Giant Hand
- 4. Trapped!
- 5. Inside the Machine
- 6. The Monster in the Swamp
- 7. ‘Nothing Escapes the Drashigs’
- 8. The Battle on the Ship
- 9. Kalik Plans Rebellion
- 10. The Doctor Takes Over
- 11. Return to Peril
- 12. The End of the Scope
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1973 scripts by Robert Holmes, which also makes season 10 the first complete season available in Target form.
Notes: The story follows on immediately from The Three Doctors, published two years before. The Scope draws in its audience, creating ‘a mild hypnotic effect, making the viewer feel part of the scene he was witnessing’. As well as environments containing humans, drashigs, Cybermen and Ogrons, we’re told that the Scope also has a collection of Ice Warriors. The Doctor uses a flare gun that he pocketed from the SS Bernice to ignite the marsh gas on the drashig’s planet (he uses his sonic screwdriver on TV). The drashig differs significantly from the beast seen onscreen; lacking the six eyes and gaining limbs, it’s less worm-like and a lot closer to the plesiosaur on the original front cover:
… something between a dinosaur and a dragon with squat body, powerful clawed legs, a sinuous neck and a mouth that seemed to contain not two but at least a dozen rows of enormous razor-edged teeth. The eyes were small and blinking, the nostrils huge and flared.
Describing his part in vanquishing the drashigs, Vorg claims he is an ‘old soldier’. After the death of Kalik, Orum confesses to his part in the conspiracy, but Plectrac assures Jo that an inquiry must still take place for the sake of procedure – and it’s this that prompts the Doctor and Jo to depart..
Cover: Within a bright yellow frame, Chris Achilleos shows a plesiosaurus as it curves around a ship in the ocean and a monochrome Doctor looks sternly at the reader. The 1993 reprint cover art by Alister Pearson is a lot busier (in a good way!), incorporating a dramatic portrait of Jon Pertwee, two face-pics of Shirna and Vorg in a moody blue, while an Inter Minor administrator inspects the mini-scope and two drashigs loom up from the bottom of the page.
Final Analysis: Adapting Robert Holmes’ satire on bureaucracy, Dicks seems to tap into some of Malcolm Hulke’s influence. HIs description of the splitting of the ruling and functionary castes into two different species seems vaguely more political than usual. By the story’s conclusion, Officials and Functionaries alike congregate to congratulate Vorg and there’s no sign of the lower caste being ushered away. Maybe that’s wishful thinking but the suggestion is there. As mentioned in the introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. This was a year before I saw the story repeated as part of the ‘Five Faces of Doctor Who’ season, so it was a favourite even before I saw what a Drashig looked like, which for once was much more creative and fearsome on TV than the book had led me to believe.
Synopsis: A vision of a monstrous face in the time vortex leads the Doctor and Sarah to the home of Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist. Scarman has disappeared and his brother has come to the house looking for answers. But Marcus Scarman is dead, his body now used like some cruel toy by an ancient evil – the god of Death known as Sutekh.
- 1. The Terror is Unleashed
- 2. The Mummy Awakes
- 3. The Servents of Sutekh
- 4. The Return of Marcus Scarman
- 5. The World Destroyed…
- 6. The Mummies Attack
- 7. The Doctor Fights Back
- 8. ‘I am Sutekh!’
- 9. In the Power of Sutekh
- 10. A Journey to Mars
- 11. The Guardians of Horus
- 12. The Weapon of the Time Lords
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1975 serial attributed to Stephen Harris, but which was rewritten by Robert Holmes from an original submission by Lewis Greifer.
Notes: Yes! A prologue that lays out the history of Sutekh’s battle with 740 Osirians (not Osirans) and his imprisonment for thousands of years. Marcus Scarman’s discovery of Sutekh’s tomb is also a little more detailed (when Ahmed flees the tomb, Scarman dismisses him as a ‘Superstitious savage’!). Ibrahim Namin is the High Priest of the Cult of the Black Pyramid and his knowledge of the great writings of his people, which warn that the Great Pyramid must never be opened, but when he finds the pyramid desecrated by Scarman, Namin encounters Sutekh, who convinces him that it is part of the plan. We’re then presented with Namin’s journey to England and the reactions of the locals, including Dr Warlock and Scarman’s brother, to his arrival at the manor house.
The Doctor remembers Victoria and Dicks provides a little context there, as we’re given a potted history of the Doctor’s involvement with UNIT and Sarah’s recognition that he’s had other companions before her. Later on, Sarah tells Lawrence Scarman that she’s from ‘the future’ – so none of the ‘1980’ stuff that’s caused nightmares for fans and Peter Grimwade ever since. As Sarah sees the image of Sutekh, it’s accompanied by ‘a deep discordant organ-note’ – foreshadowing Namin’s playing in the next scene. How cool is that? Sarah can hear Dudley Simpson’s music just as clearly as we can!
The epilogue reveals that Sarah (presumably after she has left the TARDIS for the last time) has managed to find a local newspaper report of the blaze that destroyed the priory. The article details the huge loss of life, simultaneously explaining away the coincidence of the Scarman brothers, their friend Dr Warlock, the local poacher and Ibrahim Namin, a guest at the house, together in one place. The report concludes that Lawrence Scarman’s many technological devices installed throughout the house may have been the cause of the fire. Sarah recognises that somehow a natural explanation was found to explain away the disaster, but that the sacrifices of so many people there had ensured that she could be safe in her own time, at the end of the Twentieth Century.
Cover: A fairly simple Achilleos cover for the first edition, featuring portraits of the Doctor and a fierce-looking Sarah (wielding a rifle) as a servo-Mummy fills the centre of the frame. Andrew Skilleter’s 1982 cover shows three Mummies in front of an enlarged generic Egyptian death mask. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover is the best of the lot as the Doctor is framed within a triangle, flanked by the black-garbed servant of Sutekh and a Mummy, while Sutekh himself dominates the lower half of the cover, all against a background of Mars emanating some weird slit-scan-like rays.
Final Analysis: A very tidy adaptation as Dicks adds minimal details at the beginning and end to help things along. One particular neat addition is that he explains Sarah’s unnerving ability to recall details that the Doctor (and the audience) might need to know; in this case, she researched an article on Egyptology some years before and some of the details have stayed with her. Thanks, Terrance!
Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on the planet Spiridon, populated by killer plants, monstrous beasts and hostile invisible natives. The Doctor and Jo encounter a small group of space travellers, Thals from the planet Skaro. The Thals are tracking a small Dalek unit, hoping to destroy them. Then a second group of Thals arrives with grave news – deep beneath the planet’s surface awaits an army of thousands of Daleks.
- 1. Jo Alone
- 2. The Invisible Menace
- 3. The Deadly Trap
- 4. In the Power of the Daleks
- 5. The Escape
- 6. Danger on Level Zero
- 7. Ascent to Peril
- 8. The Enemy Within
- 9. Vaber’s Sacrifice
- 10. Return to the City
- 11. An Army Awakes
- 12. The Last Gamble
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Terry Nation for the 1973 serial. Conveniently, this followed Frontier in Space on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.
Notes: Despite being published a month after The Space War, the beginning doesn’t match up with how that ended, but with how the TV episodes played out – the Doctor has been wounded after being ambushed by the Daleks. Which means there’s a potential unseen adventure in the Target universe between the two stories in which the Doctor is injured in a battle with Daleks.
The tentacle that snakes towards Vaber belongs to a huge carnivorous bell-plant 20 feet across and the eye plants open their ‘eye’ only when something comes near. We’re offered a little more detail about the Spiridons, a once-great race who developed invisibility as a survival technique against the hostile environment, but all that remains of their civilisation are the ruins. The Daleks ‘saturated the jungles with killer rays’ to guarantee the Spiridons’ subjugation.
The Dalek hierarchy includes an expedition commander, patrol leaders, technicians and a chief scientist as well as the Dalek Supreme. The Supreme is head of the Supreme Council (not just a member of the council) and ‘second only to the Emperor himself’ – and it is described as ‘not the usual silver’ (so the Dalek troopers might match those in Death to the Daleks?).
Rebec operates the decoy Dalek because she can tell Jo was too afraid. Wester destroys the Dalek immunisation device before releasing the virus. Taron gives the Doctor and Jo anti-jungle coverings and spray to get them safely back to the TARDIS.
Cover: Utterly perfect pulp excellence from Chris Achilleos as the Doctor and the Thal Taron wrestle with a Dalek, which blasts away the side of the frame, all against a crazy lurid background of meteors soaring past a green planet. The 1992 reprint art from Alister Pearson is much more low-key, the Doctor shows off his Spiridon cloak and a patrol of Daleks, like, totally snub him as they glide by.
Final Analysis: How lovely to have this follow on from The Space War, just as it followed Frontier in Space on telly. It’s still an epic adventure, still every bit the remake of the very first Dalek adventure, but improved on the page by Dicks’s subtle additions to make the alien world feel much more expansive and more terrifying than BBC Television Centre could realise. The Daleks themselves have a little more personality than their TV counterparts too and at the climax to the story, there’s a gorgeous summation of the Dalek expedition, just before the Supreme delivers that curt motivation speech:
The Dalek Supreme turned arrogantly to his aides. It had been a day of total catastrophe, the army buried, the Spiridon expedition wiped out, the city destroyed. Any other life-form would have been crushed by despair. But Daleks do not recognise defeat. They ignore it and carry on their chosen path of conquest and destruction.
Synopsis: In the year 2540, an uneasy peace exists between the empires of Earth and Draconia. When the Doctor and Jo are mistaken for space raiders, only they recognise the true culprits as the Ogrons, who have been employed to shatter the truce between the two worlds. At the centre of the conspiracy is the Master, but the Doctor’s old enemy is also working for an equally familiar foe…
- 1. Link-up in Space
- 2. The Draconian Prince
- 3. Stowaways
- 4. The Mind Probe
- 5. Kidnap
- 6. Prison on the Moon
- 7. The Master
- 8. Space Walk
- 9. Frontier in Space
- 10. The Verge of War
- 11. Planet of the Ogrons
- 12. The Trap
Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his own scripts for the 1973 serial, Frontier in Space. This is the last novelisation to have a significantly different title to its TV original (unless we’re counting ‘The Mutation of Time’ or ‘The TV Movie’).
Notes: We get a single use of the name ‘Doctor Who’ very early on. There’s another brief recap of Jo’s entry into UNIT thanks to her uncle, a high-ranking civil servant who pulled strings to help her, and how the Brigadier’s decision to dump her onto the Doctor has led to her exploring the universe. There’s a particularly breathless exchange with the Doctor where Jo spells out her position at UNIT:
Some people think intelligence work is all very romantic, all glamorous dinner parties with James Bond types. Instead, I’m either filing letters at UNIT Headquarters or I’m off with you in some ghastly place being chased by monsters…
The President and General Williams had a relationship when they were younger, but politics saw them as opponents in the last election. The President selected Williams as her military adviser in the hope that it would unite the voters behind her policy of peace. The President is respectful towards the Draconians, even noting that Willliams’ accusations of espionage have caused them offence and Hulke adds a rather florid form of etiquette between the Draconian Prince and the Earth President: The Draconian says ‘May you live a long life and may energy shine on you from a million suns,’ to which the President responds ‘And may water, oxygen and plutonium be found in abundance wherever you land’ (and the Master uses the same greeting to the President later on).
We’re shown Williams’ first interrogation of the Doctor and Jo and presented with a lot more detail about the journey to their first prison cell, as well as the jailor’s sadistic enthusiasm at the thought of starving his prisoners a little (and later it’s said that he’s been ‘conditioned to have no feelings for prisoners’).
In a detailed flashback, the President recalls how the previous war with Draconia began, when she was a young aide to a diplomat en route to a meeting with Draconians. Williams was a communications lieutenant on the ship and when their ship was caught in a ‘neutron storm’, the ‘inexperienced’ Williams was left as the sole surviving officer. Hulke tries to provide a version of events sympathetic to Williams’ point of view – before revealing that after Williams blasted the Draconian diplomatic vessel to pieces, the resulting war led to the deaths of 500 million Draconians and Earthmen (combined figures!) in just three days.
The Master’s disguise is a commissioner from Alderberan Four, not Sirius 4. He specifically references the time the Doctor visited him in prison and laments that his partnership with the Sea-Devils wasn’t a success. He also reveals to the reader halfway through the book that he’s in league with the Daleks and is much more callous than the Delgado performance suggests, telling Jo that, unlike the Doctor, she is ‘totally useless’ to him.
‘There are men with an eye for a girl with a pretty face, adventurers with a touch of pity for the innocent victim of a situation. I am not one of those men.’
Jo gets particularly affronted by being told females cannot speak in the presence of the Emperor, much more than on telly (she refuses to let it go – quite right too!).
The beast that terrorises the Ogrons is a giant lizard, replacing the whatever-that-was in the TV version, and Jo finds an Ogron chained up, awaiting sacrifice to the lizard. The ending, which is a bit of a mess on screen, is simplified, but it also loses the Doctor being shot and sending a message to the Time Lords – which is a shame, considering the next release in the range.
Cover: Another classic from Chris Achilleos as an Ogron dominates a starfield, with a Draconian inset and the Master’s prison ship blasting off. The ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ note on the title page tells us that the cover ‘portrays the third DOCTOR WHO’… except it doesn’t show the Doctor at all!
Final Analysis: We might be used to Malcolm Hulke’s personal politics influencing his writing but there’s something here that I’ve only just picked up on. Hulke draws attention to the pilot of a spacecraft fastening his seat belts; seat belts in cars were a recurring theme in the 1970s, with TV adverts recommending them with a ‘clunk click every trip’ slogan while the issue was debated in Parliament – while it was UK law to have a seat belt fitted in a car from 1968, it wasn’t mandatory for all occupants of a car to wear the things until 1991. After his escape from the Draconian Embassy, the Doctor is recaptured by a driverless car, so er… is this Hulke pushing a road safety agenda?
As we’d expect from Hulke, he treats his characters with respect, their motivations guiding their actions. Hardy’s blind adherence to the claim of the ‘Dragon attack’ is driven by preexisting racism, which he casually reveals with his frequent use of the slur ‘Dragon’, even in front of the President. The President herself is idealistic but also politically aware enough to know her best chance of success is with alliances and compromise, while the bullish Williams is shown to have been placed in an impossible position at a relatively young age, the burden of which he carries into middle-age. Even the Draconian Emperor is shown as a pragmatist, pushing aside protocol in allowing Jo to speak and forcing his wayward son to join forces with the apologetic Williams in chasing down the Master. In fact, it’s really only the Master who appears more shallow than he does on the telly. It shows just how much Roger Delgado brought to the role, adding a layer of charm that the script alone didn’t offer.
Synopsis: London has been evacuated as a deadly web-like substance has flooded the underground. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are reunited with an old friend and soon realise the web is connected to an old enemy – the Yeti. The presence of the robot creatures also means someone is controlling them, but who? Could it be the neat-looking army officer they find in the underground tunnels? A man called Lethbridge-Stewart?
- 1. Return of Evil
- 2. The Web in Space
- 3. The Monster in the Tunnels
- 4. Danger for the Doctor
- 5. Battle with the Yeti
- 6. The Terror of the Web
- 7. Escape from the Web
- 8. Return of the Yeti
- 9. Kidnapped!
- 10. Danger Above Ground
- 11. ‘I want your mind’
- 12. The Fall of the Fortress
- 13. Captives of the Intelligence
- 14. The Final Duel
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts 1967 scripts by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.
Notes: TV’s Julius Silverstein becomes a marginally less stereotypical Emil Julius, while Travers’ murdered companion from The Abominable Snowmen is here given the full name of ‘Angus Mackay’ (and the events of that earlier story are stated as having taken place in 1935). Although Travers was seen as a failure by his peers, his obsession with the Yeti control sphere led him towards electronics, which made him both rich and famous. The Yeti matches the description from its earlier appearance, with fangs and glowing red eyes, so there’s no mention of the transformation into a new version. There’s no resolution from the previous story (which won’t be published for some years yet), but we do get more details of what happened in the weeks after the first Yeti awakens, and how Central London became ‘gripped tight in a Web of Fear’ (extra points for crow-barring the title in there).
There’s a reminder at the start that Jamie was a Jacobean rebel; when Arnold asks for his help, Jamie’s reticent, as ‘although their coats were khaki rather than red, Jamie found it hard to forget that English soldiers were his traditional enemies’. We’re also told that Victoria had joined the TARDIS after an encounter with the Daleks, abandoning her usual big frocks for more practical clothing (Victoria is wearing ‘slacks’ rather than the mini-skirt she pops on in her first TV scene). As well as the summary of Travers’ first encounter with the time travellers, we also get a reminder of what the Great Intelligence is.
Dicks is both flattering and cutting when it comes to the reporter, Chorley:
He was an impressive looking man with a stern, handsome face, and a deep, melodious voice. He was also extremely photogenic. On television he gave the impression of a sincere, wise and responsible man. Unfortunately, his looks were deceptive. Chorley was weak, vain and in reality rather stupid. But appearances count for a great deal in public life. Chorley’s voice and his looks, together with a certain natural cunning, had enabled him to establish himself as one of television’s best-known interviewers and reporters.
Considering the TV version owed more than a little to Alan Whicker, this is surely a risky detail?
There’s the Doctor’s first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart, which without too much hyperbole is classed as ‘in its way as historic an encounter as that between Stanley and Doctor Livingstone’, followed by a brief history of what’s already happened for the reader but has yet to occur for the characters (Brigadier, UNIT, etc). Evans says to Jamie ‘Don’t stand there mooning, boyo. Let’s get out while we can!’ which accidentally paints the rather strange image of Jamie lifting the back of his kilt up to taunt the glowing web. Later, when Evans complains about his tobacco tin being taken from him, the Doctor reproaches him, saying ‘Smoking’s very bad for you’.
Corporal Blake is killed by a Yeti’s webgun rather than a vicious chop from its claw. The Intelligence speaks to Victoria through the underground public address system (as opposed to just being a disembodied voice) and when a possessed character speaks, they do so with the Intelligence’s voice, not a version of their own. The Colonel remains brave throughout and doesn’t have the brief wobble he had on telly. The story concludes with him musing about setting up some sort of ‘Intelligence Task Force’, while the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria make it safely back to the TARDIS.
Cover: Achilleos’s original cover art is gorgeous – a huge Troughton looks down as a Yeti (a hybrid of an Abominable one and parts of a Web of Fear one) holds Staff Sgt. Arnold in a blast of golden energy with its eyes. The 1983 reprint had a cover by Andrew Skilleter showing the TARDIS caught in misty space-fog while another Abominable / Web of Fear hybrid-Yeti once again shows off its glowing and similarly inaccurate eye-beams. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover has an adorably terrified Troughton recoiling from a proper Web-version Yeti while the background shows an underground tunnel that creates a frame around the TARDIS trapped in space inside the space web. Lovely job.
Final Analysis: ‘The huge, furry monster reared up, as if to strike.’ This is Doctor Who-as-action-movie from the tease of the very first line. My childhood library buddy used to claim Troughton was his favourite Doctor based solely on this book and it’s easy to see why. Long considered a classic even before it was rediscovered in 2013, The Web of Fear has all the classic elements of the era. It’s almost the opposite of The Ice Warriors, in that the original scripts are so solid and full of suspense that it’s hard to lose that energy in adapting them for the page.