Chapter 47. Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor is unwell, fighting off an alien virus that is trying to possess him. Heading to a hospital in deep space, the Doctor meets Professor Marius and his robot dog K9, who eagerly assists Leela in fighting off an army of infected people. Realising they need to take the fight to the cause of the infection, the Doctor and Leela are cloned, miniaturized and injected inside the Doctor’s brain to find the nucleus of the virus before it can take hold permanently and use the Doctor to spread its swarm throughout the galaxy.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Contact
  • 2. The Host
  • 3. Death Sentence
  • 4. Foundation
  • 5. Counter-Attack
  • 6. The Clones
  • 7. Mind Hunt
  • 8. Interface
  • 9. Nucleus
  • 10. The Antidote
  • 11. The Hive
  • 12. Inferno

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the scripts for a 1977 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin; that’s three consecutive books to be based on their scripts.

Notes: Terrance Dicks was using the very latest information available, so the reference to Saturn having ten moons is based on the discovery of Janus in 1966. In 1978, it was suspected that Janus shared its orbit with another moon – named Epimetheus – a theory confirmed two years later by the Voyager probe, which also revealed three more moons. It’s now believed that Saturn has over 80 satellites, plus many others embedded within its rings. Considering the definitions of ‘Moon’ and ‘Planet’ have shifted repeatedly in the last 40 years, we can therefore accept that the narrator of this book is using a classification of a significant size of satellite that was common in the year 5000. Or that something terrible happened to Epimetheus or Janus. So there.

The Doctor has high regard for Leela, despite his teasing of her as a savage, and has apparently shown her the basics of TARDIS piloting – and she’s retained the training enough to input coordinates, despite otherwise struggling with general levels of technology. Professor Marius came to the BI-AL foundation from the New Heidelberg University. Growing bored waiting for news of the Doctor, Leela explores the station, bypassing the lifts because she doesn’t trust them and scaling numerous flights of stairs before she finds the Doctor’s ward.

We’re introduced to the legendary K-9, who is a ‘squat metallic creature’ that looks like ‘a kind of squared-off metal dog’, with a ‘computer display screen for eyes, and antennae for ears and tail’.

Dicks manages to work around the visuals of the nucleus of the swarm, which, at micro-scale has ‘waving antennae, glistening wet red flesh, and a bulbous black eye that seemed to swivel to and fro’, while the version in the macro-world is rather unpleasant:

A horrible, incredible shape [which] was filling the booth. It was blood-red in colour and was as big as a man with a bony glistening body and lashing tentacles. The huge black bulbous eyes swivelled malevolently around the ward.

… and definitely not a giant prawn.

The virus tries to reinfect the Doctor through Marius and when it fails, the Doctor is full of glee. Marius gains help from the entire surviving staff at the Foundation in preparing the antidote samples. Back on Titan, the nucleus swells to an enormous size while its hatching brood look like ‘huge, malevolent dragonflies’.

Cover: A rather lovely portrait of the Doctor with the nucleus of the swarm in the background, courtesy of Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: The opening scene adds a very subtle message that the people of the future are trained for their jobs, but then their environments are controlled so extensively by technology that they’re never required to put any of that training into practice. We also get a decent paragraph that explains the back-history behind Marius’s casual use of the term ‘spaceniks’. Once again though, it’s the little details added to give the monster of the week a greater sense of scale and menace than they could have achieved onscreen.

Chapter 46. Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear (1979)

Synopsis: Trapped under a rockfall after an explosion, Sarah Jane reaches out for help and grabs a hand-shaped object – but it is not the Doctor’s. While Sarah recovers at a nearby hospital, the Doctor discovers that the object Sarah found, though made of stone, appears to have once been ‘alive’. His theory is soon proven correct when Sarah, under a malevolent influence, breaks into a nuclear power station and places the hand inside the reactor – where it regenerates into the alien Eldrad. Free from Eldrad’s control, Sarah accompanies the Doctor as he returns the alien home to Kastria – unaware that this will be Sarah’s final trip…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Fossil
  • 2. The Ring of Power
  • 3. Power Source
  • 4. The Will of Eldrad
  • 5. Eldrad Must Live
  • 6. Countdown
  • 7. Blow-up
  • 8. Counterstrike
  • 9. The Return of Eldrad
  • 10. Return to Kastria
  • 11. The Caves of Kastria
  • 12. Eldrad Reborn
  • 13. Eldrad’s Destiny
  • 14. Sarah’s Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1976 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: Although the prologue covers much of the same ground as the TV story’s first scene, it’s actually possible to understand what’s being said by the characters here! There’s a lovely description of the captured Eldrad lying in the capsule, totally still except for a flexing hand with a ring on it. And of course, when the capsule explodes, it’s that hand that survives and gets embedded in primeval mud ‘for one hundred and fifty million years’. The Doctor sees an overhang in the cliff face, which is what protects them from the explosion. He uses his UNIT connections to regain access to the quarry, where the foreman, Tom Abbott, has moved his police box to a safe area.

According to Dr Carter, Sarah is wearing ‘a striped overall dress’, not the ‘Andy Pandy’ suit. Professor Watson’s first name is Owen and he has a handgun in case of terrorist attacks, for which he’s had half-an-hour’s training (reminder to American readers: Someone having access to a gun is extremely unusual in the UK). He decides to patiently listen to his daughter’s story on the phone, in case her last memory of her father might be his shouting at her. The disembodied hand tries repeatedly to leap up and grab the handle to the reactor but eventually gives up to gather its strength. Watson gives Sarah and the Doctor a lift in his Jag away from the complex towards a hill several miles away (so, not in the car park like on telly). When the Doctor drives off in Watson’s car with Sarah and Eldrad, Watson is left behind to explain the situation on the phone to a government minister. The Doctor pretends to be hurt to trick Sarah into crossing the ravine on Kastria – twice!

Cover: Roy Knipe rejigs a publicity photo from Planet of Evil to show the Doctor and Sarah cowering under the huge shadow of a clawed hand. 

Final Analysis: Aside from a few lines of clarification, this is a simple retelling of the story, but it still manages to draw the reader in. It helps to be a fan of the transmitted version, so we can imagine the actors in position, and perhaps because of familiarity, I still got choked up by the final scene.

Chapter 45. Doctor Who and the Sontaran Experiment (1978)

Synopsis: Arriving on the surface of the Earth, thousands of years since the planet was abandoned, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find a small party of explorers hiding in terror from a mechanical hunter. The machine has captured other members of the party and taken them off across the rocky terrain. Hidden among the rocks is a Sontaran with a sinister mission – and Sarah is about to become his next victim.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Stranded
  • 2. Unknown Enemies
  • 3. Capture
  • 4. The Experiment
  • 5. Mistaken Identities
  • 6. The Challenge
  • 7. Duel to the Death
  • 8. A Surprise and a Triumph

Background: Adapted by Ian Marter, based on the 1975 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This completes the run of stories for Season 12.

Notes: Consistent with his new ending to The Ark in Space, Ian Marter has our heroes arrive in the TARDIS – which lands before toppling over. As soon as the three travellers have emerged, it vanishes for no clear reason. As in that earlier book, the space station is referred to as Terra Nova. The robot kills Zake with a vicious whip of its tentacle, rather than pushing him over a ravine.As viewed by Harry, Styr (not Styre) is an imposing being:

… an enormous figure – like the statue of a huge, thick-limbed man somehow brought to life – was gradually silhouetted against the circle of daylight. As it lumbered out of the far end of the tunnel into the open, Harry glimpsed its coarse greyish hide – like pumice stone -shuddering at each step. 

Sarah recognises him and her point of view gives us even more vivid detail:

… the gaping oval panel was filled by a squat, lumbering shape like a monstrous puppet. Its domed, reptilian head grew neckless out of massive, hunched shoulders. Each trunk-like arm ended in three sheathed talons and was raised in anticipation towards her. The creature began to lurch down the ramp on thick, stumpy legs, the rubbery folds of its body vibrating with each step. Mean eyes burned like two red-hot coals amid the gnarled, tortoise-like features, and puffs of oily vapour issued from the flared nostrils.

….The wobbling folds of its lipless jaws were suddenly drawn back, baring hooked, metallic teeth. Sarah stared transfixed at the ghastly smile while the creature slowly shook its domed head…. The shrivelled, tortoise face thrust forward, its red piercing eyes boring into her.

The ‘three sheathed talons’ on each hand neatly fixes the continuity error of the TV episodes. According to the Doctor, Sontaran brains are like seaweed and their lungs are made from ‘a kind of spongy steel-wool’. Styr’s ship is the size of a large house, like ‘a giant Golf-ball’, consisting of a ‘honeycomb of modules’, small, interconnected spherical rooms arranged around a central control chamber. Styr’s robot – called ‘the Scavenger’ here – is a bell-shaped hovering dome with probing tentacles and there are a few of them, including one on guard inside the ship and a spider-like one that Harry dodges. Inside the ship, there are also two other Sontarans, lying dormant in recharging pods.

Styr reports to a ‘Controller’, not a ‘Marshal’, who tells him that a rendezvous with the ‘Allied Squadrons from Hyperion Sigma’ is overdue (is this a squadron of various Sontaran factions or are the Sontarans allied to another race? There’s no mention of the Rutans at all). Styr has a weapon secreted in the arm of his suit.

While unconscious, the Doctor has a vivid nightmare about the TARDIS, wrecked and heading towards a black hole, being overrun with rats while a giant cat emerges from the console and sleeps on his chest. He speculates that the Sontarans might be prospecting for a mineral not known in this galaxy – Terullian – and he keeps many objects in his pockets, including:

… marbles, pieces of twisted wire, shrivelled jelly babies, weird keys, a pirate’s eye-patch, strange coins, sea shells, a dead beetle…

… but not his ‘Liquid Crystal Instant Recall Diary,’ in which he thinks he wrote some notes about Sontarans in the past. Harry hallucinates Sarah as a vicious, snarling beast and is attacked by an illusionary giant spider-like creature.

The Doctor and Sarah each destroy a Scavenger robot with the sonic screwdriver. Styr sends Vural to his death over a ravine. The Doctor pours a flash of Glenlivet whisky into Styr’s probic vent and Styr swells to over three times his normal size before he and his ship deflate like balloons into congealed heaps. The Doctor remembers he set the TARDIS ‘Boomerang Orientators’ so assumes it’ll be back on Terra Nova. He, Sarah and Harry depart via the transmat field, thereby making the story fit with the previously published Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen.

Cover: The Doctor holds a log as a weapon in front of a background of a supersized Sontaran helmet. Another strong illustration from Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: While this is based on a two-episode adventure, it’s by no means the shortest novel; indeed, it feels like it takes up the same page-count as, say, the six-part Genesis of the Daleks, without becoming padded or over-written. It’s another Ian Marter ‘movie version’, with everything turned up to eleven. Predictably, the horror elements are more grotesque – the terrifying hallucinations of faces emerging from rocks, soaring monster-infested wave, burning desert sands or giant ants. Marter’s real skill is in the characterisation: He makes Styr a much more terrifying presence than the TV version as the huge, hulking ‘golem’ is wheezing and gurgling, but also flawed as his sadism makes him forget the real purpose of his mission; Sarah’s ability to be both terrified and brave, as in the way she responds defiantly to Styr’s interrogation by pointing out that it’s not her fault if her mere presence doesn’t match his data; and Harry is still as bewildered by the technology, particularly the Doctor’s description of Sontaran biology, but he’s still got a great way of summing things up – calling Styr ‘the Humpty Dumpty thing’. What was merely a side dish on TV has been reimagined as a macabre banquet.

Chapter 35. Doctor Who and the Mutants (1977)

Synopsis: When the Doctor receives a mysterious object, it leads him and Jo to the planet Solos, a colony in Earth’s future empire ruled by a cruel and sadistic Marshal. The native Solonians are fighting for their rights to independence while also battling something far more puzzling – some of them are transforming into hideous insect-like creatures…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Hunters
  • 2. Mutant on the Loose!
  • 3. Assassination!
  • 4. Hunted on Solos
  • 5. The Experiment
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Attack
  • 8. The Trap
  • 9. The Fugitive
  • 10. The Crystal
  • 11. Condemned
  • 12. The Message
  • 13. The Investigator
  • 14. The Witness
  • 15. The Change

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1972 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: Solos is a ‘planet of jungles’, but still looks grey from orbit due to the mists. Varan’s son is called ‘Vorn’. Dicks writes that the Doctor was exiled by the Time Lords ‘for some unknown offence’; obviously Dicks himself knows why – he co-wrote the story that saw the Doctor exiled (and so do we), but Jo actually doesn’t – the closest she gets is in The Doomsday Weapon, where the Doctor explained that he used to roam the universe before the Time Lords caught him and trapped him on Earth – but he never explains to her precisely why!

Professor Jaeger is ‘a vain and unprincipled man, desperate for scientific recognition, but without the talent to attain it on his own’; he’s disgraced back on Earth after some scandal involving results stolen from a junior colleague. The Marshal, meanwhile, came to Solos as a security guard and slowly climbed his way up the ranks to his current position; he sees himself as the supreme power over Solos, which is why he is so desperate not to lose his position. Standing at the mouth of the caves, the Marshal uses a device with a ‘directional microphone’ to overhear Stubbs and Cotton talking to the Doctor to uncover their treachery. The Marshal has a secret exit behind the desk in his office, which Cotton knows about.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his first appearance with a splendid photorealistic cover. A mutant leers into frame just as the TARDIS materialises in a red-lit cavern. As with Doctor Who and the Space War, the title page in early editions of this book claimed that the front cover showed ‘the third DOCTOR WHO, whose physical appearance was altered by the Time Lords when they banished him to the planet Earth in the Twentieth Century’. Er…

Final Analysis: Despite being a huge fan of the Third Doctor, this has always been my least favourite of his stories, largely because the Marshal is such a relentless bully. He’s still that here, but it’s at least useful to get the perspective of every character working around him. Even Jaeger, who is enabling his ‘scorched Solos’ policy, is doing so for scientific glory, not for anything that might benefit the marshal politically. Dicks manages to edit down the six episodes in a tidy fashion, so even though some speeches are summarised or cut back, all the beats are there in the right order.

Chapter 31. Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos (1977)

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…

Chapter Titles

  • 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’.