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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 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 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 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 78. Doctor Who – Earthshock (1983)

Synopsis: After a brief encounter in a cave on Earth, the Doctor and his friends explore a freighter in space. When a crewmember of the freighter is found murdered, the Doctor becomes an obvious suspect. The captain of the ship, a stern woman called Briggs, remains unconvinced by the Doctor’s explanations but is more concerned with getting her cargo to Earth, unaware that each of her fifteen thousand silos contains a dormant Cybermen – and they’re about to wake up!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Shadows
  • 2. Labyrinth of Death
  • 3. Uneasy Allies
  • 4. A Crisis Defused
  • 5. Stowaways
  • 6. Monstrous Awakenings
  • 7. A Siege
  • 8. War of Nerves
  • 9. Accidents Happen
  • 10. Triumph and Tragedy

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts by Eric Saward for the 1982 serial.

Notes: All of the TARDIS crew receives a very good quick-sketch description in line with those of Terrance Dicks, so Adric is ‘snub-nosed’ and sullen and Nyssa is ‘aristocratic-looking’, while Tegan has an ‘efficient and determined air’. The new Doctor gets his best description so far: With his ‘long and tanned’ face and open collar with two embroidered question marks (their first mention!), he looks like he’s ‘dressed for a summer garden party or a regatta’. References to their failed attempt to get to Heathrow (The Visitation) and the book the Doctor is reading (Black Orchid) are missing.

The Doctor theorises that the bomb in the caves might be strong enough to blow the Earth apart if it were placed in a strategic position such as an ancient fault line. Without identifying them yet, Marter introduces two silver figures, one larger than the other, and it’s the most detailed descriptions of Cybermen so far:

The rigid mask-like faces had eyeless sockets and immobile mouth-like apertures, but no noses. They had no ears, but a network of wires and pipes connecting a bulging section on each side of their heads to a similar bulge on the top. The limbs were jointed like human ones, but were much thicker and more powerfully tubular, and the arms terminated in enormous hands like steel gauntlets. Tubes ran snaking over the hard metallic surfaces of their bodies from flat, box-like units protected by gratings which were fitted onto their chests…

The beings make hissing noises ‘like human breathing’ (so, just like Darth Vader) and their guns are clipped to their belts (utility belts like Batman? The Cyberleader pulls a key from his later). The Cyberleader is accompanied by a Deputy (which neatly avoids confusion with Lieutenant Scott) and their scanner is called a ‘holovisor disc’. The Cybermen are much more resilient than the TV versions toward the firepower of the troopers and freighter crew, until the Doctor suggests they focus their guns on the chest gratings. A mocking Ringway suggests that the Doctor and his friends should give in and the Doctor replies: ‘I never surrender, it’s too embarrassing.’

Berger is described as ‘a lean hard woman of about fifty’, while Captain Briggs is rather generously said to be about Berger’s age (rather than a decade older). As the Cybermen march him towards the TARDIS, the Doctor stumbles across their hidden control room; the entry hatch slams shut, accidentally sets the reactivation sequence running on the dormant Cybermen.

Nyssa removes the dead bodies of Professor Kyle and the trooper from the TARDIS Console room, which is possibly the single bravest thing a companion has ever had to do. Adric’s badge is used to attack both the Cyberleader and the Deputy; Tegan stands in wait as the Deputy returns to the console room and attacks him from behind, before the Doctor (not Nyssa) blasts him with the Leader’s gun. The Doctor picks up a surviving fragment of Adric’s badge and places it in his pocket.

Cover: A misleading photo of the Doctor pointing a gun. Davison looks rather heroic and dashing, and the cover at least maintains the surprise of the returning enemy. This even extends to the back cover blurb – for the first edition at least – which skillfully avoids spelling anything out. The 1992 edition states that the book ‘features the long awaited return of the Cybermen, the Doctor’s most lethal enemies.’ Alister Pearson’s cover has a half-length painting of a Cyberman with the Doctor, Adric and the Earth beautifully sketched in shades of blue in the background.

Final Analysis: Oh I’ve missed Ian Marter’s writing. I often wish he could have been published as a horror author, maybe with a selection of original short stories. The book begins with an evocative image of the landscape:

The towering cliffside resembled a gigantic human skull with the dark openings of caves gaping like empty eye-sockets and nostrils. 

… and it continues with the same dripping nastiness that made Ark in Space such fun. Marter’s violence is sensuous: Bodies shot by the androids collapse into a ‘gluey pool’ of ‘steaming, viscous liquid’; a ‘sickly smell’ hangs in the air, sizzling ‘like hot fat’; a Cyberman slices a trooper’s skull ‘like an egg’; when the Cybermen die, they leak ‘black oily pus’ and their ventilator units emit ‘thick black smoke’, ‘brown fluid’ or  ‘evil yellow and black bubbles’… the idea that Cybermen smell of anything makes them even more disgusting and repellent.

I recently criticised Christopher Bidmead for wilfully choosing to ignore the kind of stories the target / Target audience actually wants; Ian Marter’s approach might not be the literature their teachers or parents would chose for them, but this is exactly the kind of gloopy thriller a macabre teenage boy with a love of reading deserves. Earthshock was already the best Cyberman story (no really!) but Marter’s adaptation converts the familiar-but-generic invaders into something more disturbing than they’ve been. Best Cybermen ever!

Chapter 41. Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen (1978)

Synopsis: On the planet Telos, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join an expedition party as they uncover the doors to the legendary tombs of the Cybermen. Long believed to be dead, the silver giants are very much still active – and, as the explorers soon learn, they are keen to convert the intruders into Cybermen. 

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Victoria and Jamie
  • 2. An Expedition in Space
  • 3. The Entrance to the Tombs
  • 4. Cyberman Control Room
  • 5. The Recharging Room
  • 6. The Target Room
  • 7. The Finding of the Cybermat
  • 8. The Secret of the Hatch
  • 9. The Cyberman Controller
  • 10. Release the Cybermats
  • 11. The Controller is Revitalised
  • 12. Toberman Returns
  • 13. Closing the Tombs

Background: Adapted by Gerry Davis from the 1967 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: Here’s that ‘Creation of the Cybermen’ introduction agan, pushing its ‘Telos-origin’ agenda – maybe we should just believe the guy who created them? Actually, it’s not just a straight reprint of that chapter from the previous books; it’s slightly more involved, outlining the progress of the Cybermen since their first two appearances, chronologically. Davis restates that the arrival of Mondas came in 2000 [see Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet] and the attack on the Moonbase was in 2070 [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen], after which, the Cybermen disappeared, believed to be long dead. There’s an effective comparison to the pyramids of Egypt, while Davis describes the Cybermen as the Doctor’s ‘most dreaded adversaries’. Hmmm…

The Doctor and Jamie watch their approach to Telos on the scanner; it’s ‘a small, moon-like planet pitted and scarred by light-centuries of astral bombardment’ (yes, ‘light centuries – it’s been scarred by a unit of distance). The time travellers use ‘space-torches’ (or as we might call them… ‘torches’) to explore the tomb. Victoria receives a potted biography (dead dad, Daleks, orphan), as does Jamie (1746, Culloden, English Redcoat soldiers). When Victoria changes out of her huge dress, she selects a short skirt left behind by Polly, ‘the girl from the 1970s, now safely returned to England’. Victoria is very distressed by the choice of available fashions, complaining that they’ve made her look like ‘Alice In Wonderland’, a book published a year before she first meets the Doctor (and a role Deborah Watling had played in 1965 for a Dennis Potter play about Lewis Carroll). The comparison is more accurate than we might think as, according to Davis, Victoria has ‘long, fair hair’. The Doctor has ‘cat-like’ eyes that are green (!) and he is called ‘Doctor Who’ four times (and ‘Dr Who’ once, at the end).

Victoria recalls that her father used to discuss electricity with ‘Dr Faraday’ (presumably pioneering electrochemist Michael Faraday), who was a frequent dinner guest (Victoria remembers that he didn’t like carrots). In Evil of the Daleks, her father’s partner, Maxtible, mentions Faraday’s research into static electricity and those of James Clerk Maxwell twelve years earlier – so it’s likely Victoria was a child when these dinners took place. Later, she recalls her father reading a book by the fireside and affectionately calling her ‘Toria’, though this might just be a trick to help herself to cope with his still-recent death.

Haydon is Professor Parry’s assistant, a junior archaeologist who Parry knew as a ‘promising young student’ who had approached him with an interest in studying the Cybermen. The tombs have bas-relief sculptures on the walls, showing the history of the Cybermen, including their evolution from humans to plastic-and-metal giants, up to the final destruction of Mondas, their first planet. 

‘That was the last time we had the pleasure of their company,’ said the Doctor. ‘They lived on the “Tenth Planet”, Mondas, then.’

Except that wasn’t the last time, was it? The Cybermat that Jamie finds has ‘two red bulbs for eyes’. It can crawl like a centipede and curl ‘like a scorpion’ before it attacks. The Controller of the Cybermen is larger than the others – about seven feet – with a black helmet. The Controller recognises the Doctor and Jamie from the Moonbase. Toberman doesn’t just hit the converter machine, he throws it against a wall, smashing it.

Cover: Jeff Cummins gives us a lovely Invasion-style Cyberman (but with those ridged tubes across the body like in Revenge of the Cybermen) with small beams of light cast across it. The 1992 reprint used Alister Pearson’s cover for the VHS with the Doctor looking pensive in front of the vast Cyber-tomb.

Final Analysis: At school, I had an English teacher who would mark essays in red ink with a note to the side – ‘repetition!’ I’m reminded of this as I read this novelfor the first time in many years. There are a few sections that I found very distracting due to either sloppy editing or an author resistant to correction:

‘The grey uniform of his space Orbiter Engineer Class uniform…’

‘… he took out of the baggy pockets of his coat a small pocket instrument…’

‘… a riot of colour, glittering with crimson, rose colour…’

Repetition!

It’s especially surprising considering this book is partly the reason the story was considered a classic for 20 years, before younger fans who missed it on transmission could see it (and why some were disappointed on its eventual home video release). In many ways, it’s a solid translation from script to novel, with Davis once again making the effort to tie the story into what’s gone before in the Target universe, but he gets confused between that well-worn introduction and later sections that state that Mondas was the first Cyberman planet. No wonder the debate raged on well into the 1980s. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes this a distracting read for this older fan and I can’t help wishing that this had been held back for Ian Marter to write instead.

Chapter 22. Doctor Who – The Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

aka Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

Synopsis: A new asteroid has arrived in the solar system and the Nerva Station has been positioned in its orbit to warn spacefarers and examine its geological makeup. The majority of the beacon’s crew has been struck down with a lethal plague, clues to the cause of which appear to focus on one man. He knows that the nearby asteroid is really the remains of the lost planet of Voga, one of the casualties of the last Cyber-War. He also knows that the Cybermen have come to hunt down and destroy the Vogans and anyone who stands in their way. Including three new arrivals to the beacon called the Doctor, Sarah and Harry. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1. Return to Peril
  • 2. The Cybermat Strikes
  • 3. A Hot Spot for the Doctor
  • 4. A Visit to Voga
  • 5. Rebellion!
  • 6. Attack of the Cybermen
  • 7. The Living Bombs
  • 8. Journey into Peril
  • 9. Countdown on Voga
  • 10. Explosion!
  • 11. Skystriker!
  • 12. ‘The Biggest Bang in History’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Gerry Davis’s scripts for the 1975 serial. The first edition cover was just titled ‘The Revenge of the Cybermen’, switching to the familiar ‘Doctor Who and the…’ formula for the reprint.

Notes: The opening chapter is a word-for-word repeat of the Creation of the Cybermen passage, minus the bit about them settling on Mondas. As the Doctor and his chums arrive on the beacon, Harry reflects on his adventures since meeting the Doctor, from their first meeting [in The Giant Robot] to their most recent destination [in Genesis of the Daleks, which is, strangely, scheduled to be published next]. The cybermat’s description is closer to a Tomb or Wheel in Space version than the killer slipper from Revenge. The Vogans are described as having ‘dark-furred faces’ with’ large and luminous’ eyes, as if someone slipped Dicks a photo of Vega Nexos by mistake. Vorus is apparently tall and physically imposing in comparison to other Vogans (unlike the sleight David Collings who played him on TV). The Vogan radio operator works in a communications room, rather than in a cavern. Lester and Stevenson carry sci-fi-sounding ‘blasters’ instead of standard-issue machine guns. When Harry triggers the rockfall, the Doctor calls him an ‘idiot’, not an ‘imbecile’.

The Cybermen are apparently over seven feet tall. The description matches the look of the Cybermen in The Invasion; mounted in their helmets they have a lamp, which glows when receiving instructions, rather than a gun, and they carry rod-shaped weapons [as in The Tenth Planet novel]. A ‘second-in command’ refers to one of their number as a ‘Cyberwarrior’ (is this where that class comes from in Ascension of the Cybermen?). Magrik survives to the end. Finally, there’s an extra scene on board the TARDIS where the Doctor, Sarah and Harry see the exact point on Earth where the Brigadier’s summons is coming from – Loch Ness!

Cover: Nice, simple cover here for the first edition as Achilleos combines a photo reference of Tom Baker from The Sontaran Experiment with a quite passive-looking Cyberman and Vogan and a familiar Achilleos blobby nebula. The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is more simple, reusing a Nerva Beacon wireframe motif he used on his cover for The Ark in Space, with portraits of the Cyberleader and Vorus.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks falls into the trap that so many writers do when describing the thought processes of ’emotionless’ creatures, in forgetting they, er, don’t have emotions; ‘The Cyberleader paused to savour the horror on Sarah’s face’, he writes, and later ‘The Cyberleader looked with satisfaction on his scanner’ and ‘Confidently the Cyberleader intoned…’ which seem to capture Christopher Robbie’s performance more than the concept of emotionless cybernetic beings. Despite this (and it’s an easy temptation), Dicks gives us a fairly unembellished adaptation, capturing Sarah and Harry very well.

Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

Synopsis: A new planet appears in Earth’s solar system. The Doctor seems to know what it is and what will happen next. The planet, which bears a striking similarity to Earth, is home to a race of plastic and metal beings called ‘Cybermen’. As Ben and Polly help the staff of an Antarctic tracking station to fight off the invaders, the Doctor prepares for his final adventure. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1 The Space Tracking Station
  • 2 Disaster in Space
  • 3 The New Planet
  • 4 Mondas!
  • 5 The Cyberman Invasion
  • 6 Ben into Action
  • 7 Battle in the Projection Room
  • 8 Two Hundred and Fifty Spaceships
  • 9 Z-Bomb Alert!
  • 10 Prepare to Blast Off
  • 11 Cybermen in Control
  • 12 Resistance in the Radiation Room
  • 13 The Destruction of Mondas!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the 1966 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: The book begins with a summary of the creation of the Cybermen, claiming they originated on the planet Telos before taking refuge on the ‘lost sister planet of Earth – Mondas’. An American called Tito is reading a Captain Marvel comic (presumably a vintage edition as the character didn’t have a comic of his / her own in either 1986 or 2000). Although this is only the third TV adventure for Ben and Polly, it’s suggested that they’ve been on many uneventful journeys since they joined the Doctor. Continuity from The Moonbase is preserved, as Ben and Polly are from the early 1970s, not the mid-60s, so Ben can recognise a Roger Moore Bond film that he saw for the first time a few weeks before he joined the Doctor’s travels (very possibly The Man with the Golden Gun, which would mean the Doctor’s young friends are from 1974). And yes, Polly discovers they’re in the more futuristic year 2000 (not 1986 as in the original. At the time of writing, the year 2000 is 20 years in my past!). The Cybermen use a ‘short silver baton-like object’ for a weapon, rather than the cumbersome lamps hooked onto their chest units as on screen. The Cyberleader from the second wave has a ‘black impassive mask’ (similar to Revenge of the Cybermen and Davis’s adaptation of The Moonbase [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen]), The regeneration scene is so different that it upset some fan reviewers at the time.

Cover: Chris Achilleos makes up for the monochrome Cybermen and snowy setting by placing them in front of a vivid aurora background that’s really thrilling. There’s also an illustration on the rear cover of a Cyberman firing a blast from its headlamp (something that doesn’t actually happen in the TV series for 51 years) and a defiant first Doctor inset. The 1993 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is almost symmetrical, with a saggy-looking Cyberman on each side, the first full-face shot of a Cyberman from the cliffhanger of episode 1 and a mid-length portrait of Hartnell from The Celestial Toymaker. It’s very tidy but not that dramatic, sadly.

Final Analysis: Davis handles the Doctor’s departure much better than circumstances allowed in the TV production (where Hartnell’s illness led to him missing episode 3 with just a few days’ notice). He seeds the Doctor’s illness and frailty beautifully. 

Was it Ben’s imagination, or had the Doctor’s hair gone a shade whiter and finer during the last few hours? His skin, which looked as transparent as old parchment, was stretched tightly over his prominent cheek bones.

I have to note the use of outdated terms to describe a couple of black characters (Williams is described as ‘a tall, handsome American negro of about thirty’), while also commending that the characters were there in the first place at a time where multicultural casting was still rare. Whether this was originally scripted or down to the casting by director Derek Martinus is another matter.

The slow, steady breakdown of Cutler as he struggles with the pressure of his son’s peril helps to elevate the later chapters from the absence of the Cybermen. But having built up the Doctor’s demise so subtly throughout the book, it’s surprising that the actual change happens out of sight of Ben and Polly. Emerging from a sarcophagus in the control room, the old Doctor has disappeared and in his place is a much younger man:

The stranger looked at him in slight surprise. ‘You ask me that, Ben? Don’t you recognise me?’
The Doctor’s two companions shook their heads.
‘I thought it was quite obvious,’ Again, he smiled his gently mocking smile and winked at them with his bluegreen eyes. ‘Allow me to introduce myself then. I am the new Doctor!’