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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

… on TV, he just falls asleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 113. Doctor Who – The Ark (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS delivers the Doctor and Steven, with their new friend Dodo, to a huge space ark carrying the survivors of Earth to a new home. As most of humanity sleeps in miniaturised form, the ark is maintained by a small community of humans with the assistance of the alien Monoids, knowing that their journey will outlast them all. Then the humans and Monoids succumb to a terrible disease – the common cold, brought aboard by Dodo. The Doctor manages to find a cure and the trio leave – only to return to the space vessel almost immediately, but hundreds of years into the future for humanity, which is now enslaved by the Monoids…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Steel Sky
  • 2. Capture
  • 3. The Plague
  • 4. The Fight Back
  • 5. The Return
  • 6. Refusis
  • 7. Search
  • 8. The Final Conflict

Background: Adapted by Paul Erickson from the 1966 scripts he officially co-wrote with Lesley Scott.

Notes: We begin with a single word: ‘Jungle’. The opening scene provides us with a description of the Monoid that includes details not visible on telly:

But this creature was different from the snakes and lizards that were normally found in this jungle. In the first place it walked upright on two legs, two arms hanging at its sides. It made no sound, not even the hissing that other reptiles might make. And while its body was covered in scales, the head boasted a mop-like thatch of ginger hair.

Facially, it displayed three shrunken nostrils and a small, thin mouth from which a tongue occasionally flicked out.

But its most prominent feature was a large single eye that constantly swivelled as it looked around.

Later, we’re told that the Monoids have no vocal cords, but that they can ‘lip-read’ and understand sign language – which suggests that they are also deaf (or, more likely, that the author doesn’t understand the difference). 

The Doctor mentions a previous adventure that took place on the planet Venessia – or possibly Enlandia – where there was no landmasses, only water and a ‘peculiar form of crystal ice’. He also mentions events on the planet Sava, which he tells Steven he visited ‘some time ago,’:

Some time ago was right. No sense in telling the young man that it must have been three centuries in his terms, although in the Doctor’s own knowledge such a time span had little meaning. Places were places, creatures were creatures… and time was time. All in the now period. That was the only way he ever experienced it, the only way he knew it.

The Doctor has never been to Refusis, but he did pass by it with previous companions (presumably this is Ian and Barbara with either Susan or Vicki); on that occasion, the TARDIS was attacked by rockets and the Doctor had to steer his ship to make the missiles collide and destroy each other. The Doctor criticises Dodo’s use of the word ‘fab’, calling her English ‘Most… elastic’. The Guardian Commander has a similar reaction when Dodo claims she might have ‘an attack of the willies’ and uses the adjective ‘flipping’. The Doctor name-drops Houdini and tells his friends about the events that led to the escapologist’s death. Later, while teaching Rhos about vaccines, he compares their work to that of Marie and Pierre Curie. ‘a husband and wife team of scientists of the nineteenth century’. Dodo tells her new friends that it’s Friday the 13th, still failing to grasp that they’ve travelled in time.

The prisoner on trial at the beginning is called Niash and he is offered a choice of either death or miniaturisaton (on TV, he’s simply told he’ll be miniaturised). The Guardians measure their ship’s dimensions in leagues – it’s two thousand leagues long – but Mellium doesn’t know if a league is three miles or three kilometres (it’s three nautical miles). The ship has no name – although the Guardians adopt Dodo’s use of the term ‘ark’ – and it contains many different types of environment; in addition to the jungle, there are lakes, deserts and polar regions. 

The trial of the travellers is much more involved and fleshed out (the Doctor is concerned by Steven’s blunt defence, noting that ‘advocacy [is] a special art – one that often calls for delicacy rather than the heavy hammer’. The hunt for a vaccine involves an operation to take blood and saliva samples from all living things aboard the ark, including a goat. Dodo takes Manyak inside the TARDIS to fetch equipment for the Doctor’s experiments; Dodo compares some of the items to the kind used by dentists and Manyak reveals that they don’t have dentistry in their time. The perplexing size of the TARDIS interior to its external shell convinces Manyak of the truth at last. Dodo tells him that ‘Lots of people have been fooled by that’ and that the Doctor told her it’s all ‘an optical illusion’. [On TV, this is her first journey, but this does lend credence to the theory that she’s had a few offscreen adventures prior to this – or that Dodo feels confident in pretending to Manyak that she knows more than she really does, which – considering she takes a long time to accept that they’ve travelled in time – seems more credible].

The Doctor and his friends encounter a very tame tiger, which surprises them by licking Dodo’s hand with affection. They later learn that the humans removed aggression from their character to create their harmonious society – and then extended this gift to the predators among their livestock. Later though, a Guardian is attacked by a boa constrictor (observed by a curious Monoid) and in the polar region, the Doctor sees a polar bear and is told that not all animals were successfully converted away from aggression.

On inspecting a Guardian’s physical scan, the Doctor discovers that humans now have two hearts (though makes no reference to having two himself), two livers and a ‘greatly reduced intestinal system’, but have lost their vermiform appendix and tonsils, all the results of genetic manipulation many generations ago; the humans also have reduced musculature that makes them incapable of heavy lifting; in contrast, the Monoids have no heart, just a series of pulses, but they do have a nervous system. The Doctor applies the vaccine via pads, rather than needles (as on TV) and as he explains that the future humans are a ‘changed species’ from Steven and Dodo, he adds cryptically that he himself has ‘had more experience of adapting’ [this is the ‘first’ Doctor, but see some similarly confusing statements in Galaxy Four]. 

The Doctor’s quest to administer the vaccine takes him, Rhos and a Monoid via conveyor transport into the desert area, where they encounter a caravan of nomads, and to the ‘cultivated zone’ inhabited by farmers. An elderly woman tells the Doctor that not everyone on Earth came aboard the ship; some remained to live out their lives on the doomed Earth. The people of Earth abandoned country names ‘a long time ago’. Burial had been banned, replaced by mandatory cremation. Again, it’s noted that Guardians don’t do manual work, while Monoids accept it.

When the travellers first return to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Dodo grab some sleep while Steven is left ‘on duty’, but Steven falls asleep too and accidentally knocks a switch, which is why they return to the Ark in its future. They emerge aboard the Ark to discover that the previously placid predators have now reverted to type, as they see a tiger hunting gazelle. Monoid One is actually the 17th One, a descendant of the Monoid who assumed power after the war that resulted in the subjugation of the humans. Monoid Four comes from a long line of individuals who question decisions – and he feels that the treatment of the humans is wrong.

Dodo meets a second Refusian, a female who tells her they don’t have individual names, but decides that they should adopt some and chooses ‘Mary’ for herself and ‘Charles’ for her brother. Dodo tells Mary that the Refusis castle reminds her of a similar building she once visited in Wales, then the two new friends play a game of tennis. After the launcher is destroyed, Dodo panics that she might be stranded and suddenly realises that she’s millions of miles and years away from home. She speculates that back home she’d be shopping and preparing for a night out – but is quick to appease Mary when she inadvertently causes offense at being ungrateful for the Refusian hospitality. The time travellers stay to witness the arrival of the Ark’s population and revival of the miniaturised beings on the surface of Refusis, which is ‘a model of efficient organisation’ thanks to the cooperation of Monoids and humans alike. Among the revived people is Niash, the prisoner from the trial at the start of the story. As usual, the tag scene leading into the next story [The Celestial Toymaker] is not included here; instead, the Doctor attempts to give Dodo elocution lessons (‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the Plain’, made famous by My Fair Lady). The old man promises his young friends a journey – but ‘no guaranteed destination!’

Cover: For the first edition, David McAllister shows the Doctor and a Monoid in a triangular motif as animals break the frame and run into space. For the 1993 reprint, Alister Pearson uses a border that’s reminiscent of the one he used on The Ark in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen, with Dodo and the Doctor either side of an attacking Monoid.

Final Analysis: This is a pretty solid adaptation, telling the story as seen on TV but with the kind of nuances and subtle enhancements that make these books all the more worthwhile. Paul Erickson provides a more rational explanation for how the Monoids managed to overthrow the human rulers (humanity having slowly removed aggression and physical strength from its genetic makeup, making them vulnerable to revolt) and really adds to the scale of the Ark and its many geographical simulations. Something he really excels with is Dodo, perfectly capturing her carefree and cheeky attitude. She’s an absolute hoot, annoying the Doctor with her never-ending supply of 60s slang. The book still contains two of the less credible elements too – the security kitchen (!) and the ‘galactic accident’ that led to the Refusians becoming invisible – which would have been a shame to lose.

Chapter 109. Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep (1986)

Synopsis: Playing on a beach near a gas refinery in the English Channel, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are arrested for trespassing. Head of the base Robson would rather accuse the Doctor and his friends of sabotage than accept that there might be something in the gas pipes. But there is – a steady heartbeat of… something. Down there… in the dark…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Deadly Sound
  • 2. Something in the Pipeline
  • 3. A Pair of White Gloves
  • 4. Mr Oak and Mr Quill
  • 5. Waiting in the Dark
  • 6. The Specimen
  • 7. The Figure on the Beach
  • 8. The Impeller Shaft
  • 9. The Battle of the Giants
  • 10. The Spy Within
  • 11. The Nerve Centre
  • 12. ‘Scream, Victoria! Scream!’

Background: Victor Pemberton adapts scripts from his own 1968 serial. At 189 pages, it’s by far and away the biggest novelisation so far (and the original cover price reflected this!).

Notes: The Doctor is said to have ‘never really liked the sea. In fact, it was the only thing he really feared. It made him feel insecure, restless’ (contradicting the opening scenes of Enemy of the World – and in contrast to Patrick Troughton, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during WWII). Jamie has a bizarre sneezing reaction when he comes into contact with the foam in the sea, something that later becomes an early warning of an impending weed attack. We’re reminded that Jamie grew up in ‘the Scotland of the Jacobean age’ and that Victoria misses ‘the love and protection of her dear father back in the Victorian age’; later, it’s said that she considers Jamie to be ‘a very special person, the sort of brother everyone should have’, which is just adorable. The Doctor uses ‘his own version of a screwdriver’ but it’s not specifically ‘sonic’ [Pemberton had apparently resented that he’d never received credit for inventing the Doctor’s signature device, so this is a little surprising]. When the Doctor is shot on the beach, Jamie struggles to accept that his friend might be dead:

The Doctor had survived so many attacks on his life during their travels through time and space. The Doctor was as indestructible as time itself.

Controller Robson is said to be ‘a burly-looking man, probably in his early fifties, with greying hair, a jutting jaw, and vacant grey eyes.’ The nametag on his uniform says his name is ‘ROBSON. S’, though we’re later told his name is ‘John’ so the ‘S’ name is a mystery; while it’s common for people to be addressed by a middle name, it’s a little confusing that we have that little mystery unexplained (maybe his birth name is St John?!). 

Frank Harris is a skinny young man in his late twenties, ‘weak-looking’ with ‘blue eyes, a pale face and gaunt expression, and a mop of blond, unruly hair that constantly flopped carelessly over his right eye’. Robson resents Harris for being young and educated in a ‘red-brick university’. Pieter Van Lutyens is ‘a likeable little man, dumpy, balding’ and speaks English ‘with no trace of an accent’ (so not a match for John Abineri or his performance on TV); he’s been a member of the team at the refinery since being appointed by the government two years previously. Chief Baxter is in his late-fifties and ‘one of the most experienced drilling engineers in the North Sea gas fields’. He was once in line for the role that eventually went to Robson, but was considered too important to the offshore drilling programme. All of the background details really help to explain why Robson is so paranoid and defensive towards the experts who surround him. A reflective scene reveals that Robson’s wife, Angie, died 22 years earlier in a car accident where Robson was the driver. Megan Jones is ‘an attractive middle-aged woman’ with ‘vivid red hair’; she comes from the Rhondda Valley, the daughter of a coal-miner. Megan’s secretary, Ronald Perkins, is ‘an effete young man, a devoted, ambitious civil servant, who would sooner die than contradict his superiors’. The video operator Price’s first name is ‘David’, while the chief operator of Rig D is Mick Carney.

The Doctor believes that Victoria has ‘the loudest, most terrifying scream he had ever heard’. He also surmises that Maggie Jones was transported to the rig in a cocoon created by the weed creature. The TARDIS makes a ‘grinding and grunting sound’ as it dematerialises. The seabirds return to the area now that the weed parasite has been defeated.

Cover: In front of a North Sea gas platform, a frond of seaweed emerges from the water, as realised by David McAllister.

Final Analysis: The novelisation of Fury from the Deep won the Doctor Who Magazine 25th Anniversary Poll for best Target novel ever. This shouldn’t be a surprise. As one of the infamously completely missing stories, it’s one that the Old Guard lauded as being among the very best without any evidence that younger viewers could point to for a counter-argument. By the close of 1986, many fans only knew the story from this book. It also features the departure of a companion that, for once, is ceded through the entire adventure and the novel makes great use of the space to tell a character-driven story where each individual has clear motivations, strengths and weaknesses. 

This also feels rather traditional. While he isn’t afraid of adding a little extra biographical detail to his characters or polishing a scene to heighten the tension, Pemberton largely sticks to his original plot and doesn’t try to be experimental with the narrative. He also employs an old Terrance Dicks trick of repeating descriptions to establish characters (Harris’s lock of hair, Oak and Quill’s white gloves) and especially to announce the presence of his monster, in this case ‘bubbling white foam’ – later evolving into ‘a mass of white foam’. Pemberton also gets extra points for sneaking a namecheck for the tile into the final chapter:

Down below, the mud-coloured sea was pitted with undulating swells of white spray and bubbling blobs of foam, soon to become a slave of the fury from the deep…

Robson’s transformation into a weed creature is, predictably, more horrific on the page, not quite to the degree that Ian Marter might have offered, but the slowly engulfing menace is beautifully realised, making assets out of elements that might have been weaknesses on TV (we don’t know, we can’t see it, but we can assume that a studio-bound scene involving foam during the second Doctor’s era might look like – there are a fair few of them!):

The Doctor and Jamie stared in horror as the room was flooded with light. They were in a large crew cabin, at the far end of which was a seething mass of bubbling white foam. And in the midst of that foam was a sight that would chill the blood of even the strongest of mortals. The figure of a man was standing there, half demented, his neck and hands sprouting frond-like weed formations. And out of the foam that had almost completely engulfed him, the curling tentacles of the giant Weed Creature were snaking around his lifeless body.

The deafening heartbeat sound stopped abruptly. There was a deathly silence, then the man who had become a creature himself, began to emerge from the foam, arms out-stretched, walking slowly, jerkily, straight towards the Doctor and Jamie.

‘Come in, Doctor,’ whispered the human creature. ‘We’ve been waiting for you…’

It was Robson.

Yes, it’s a much bigger book than we’re used to, but unlike a few other examples published in the same year, this never feels padded and it doesn’t add unnecessary details for the sake of it. 

So is this the best of the Target range so far?

Could be…

Bonus chapter #5. The Companions of Doctor Who: Harry Sullivan’s War (1986)

Synopsis: It’s been ten years since Harry Sullivan left UNIT. Reluctantly awaiting a new posting to a weapons division in the outer Hebrides, Harry decides to use some leave and visit friends. Within days, he survives numerous violent attacks – someone is trying to kill him. But why? A chance meeting with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leaves Harry wondering if their reunion is just a coincidence or if he’s accidentally stumbled into something very worrying indeed…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Brush With Death
  • 2. Happy Birthday!
  • 3. The Castle 
  • 4. Persuasion 
  • 5. An Odd Weekend 
  • 6. Unexplained Mysteries
  • 7. The Amateur Investigator 
  • 8. A Human Guinea Pig 
  • 9. More Clues 
  • 10. The Chase 
  • 11. Trapped 
  • 12. The Prisoner 
  • 13. Double Bluff 
  • 14. Secrets of the Burial Mound
  • 15. Ambush
  • 16. Out On A Limb 
  • Epilogue 

Background: Ian Marter writes an original novel inspired by the character he played in the series in 1975.

Notes: Chapter 2 takes place on Harry’s 41st birthday (which, based on later information, is in May). Since leaving UNIT ten years ago, he’s been employed by the Biological Defence Establishment at Tooth Tor on Dartmoor, developing antidotes to nerve toxins. He’s unhappy that he’s being transferred to work on weapons development so decides to spend his birthday at the National Gallery, where he sees a self portrait by Van Gogh (this becomes a recurring image, for plot reasons). Introducing himself to Samantha, Harry adopts the pseudonym ‘Laury L Varnish’ – an anagram of his real name. Samantha has a ‘husky voice’, pale blue eyes, a ‘strong but pretty oval face’ and ‘curly straw-coloured hair’. She claims that her father is American and a doctor, and that she’s a member of ACHES, the ‘Anti-Chemical Hazard Environment Society’. 

Harry is six feet tall. He has a ‘spacious flat’ on the fifth floor of a 1930s apartment block in St John’s Wood (which we’re told is at the Regent’s Park end). He displays his many rugby and rowing trophies and we’re told later that he was a ‘stroke oar in the Dartmouth College Ace Eight’; this would be from the Britannia Royal Naval College – aka ‘Dartmouth’ – and not the New Hampshire, USA, college of the same name. He receives a birthday card from an old friend, Teddy Bland, who has a sister, Esther, who Harry was once very close to; he nearly proposed, but a secondment to UNIT put paid to that. Esther is ‘buxom’ and ‘red-headed’ and during his trip to Yarra, Harry learns that Esther has only ever loved him. Harry drives a red MG sportscar (mid-life crisis?). Harry’s new position sees him promoted to Surgeon-Commander. Esther notes that he no longer has the sideburns he had while with UNIT. In his early naval career, Harry was stationed on the Ark Royal. 

Brigadier ‘Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’ is said to have a ‘deep and resonant […]  precise military voice’. The Brigadier is still teaching (Senior Mathematics Master at ‘a private school in Sussex’), but his business card mentions his ‘DSO’ (Distinguished Service Order) and ‘MC’ (Military Cross). The Brigadier shares old stories with Harry of his own experiences in UNIT, not just of Sarah Jane Smith, but of ‘Jo and Sergeant Benton, about Jamie and Zoe and about the Daleks and the Cybermen and all manner of old friends and enemies’. On his flight through Scotland, Harry meets a small child who offers him a jelly baby. The sweet makes him wish the Doctor would appear to put everything right.

Harry is arrested in Trafalgar Square by an Inspector Spode (possibly a reference to the fictional publisher Erwin Spode in the Gervase Fen detective novels by Edmund Crispin). Placed in a cell in Wormwood Scrubs, his window affords him a view of the playing fields and, beyond, the church in Harrow-on-the-Hill where he was christened as a baby (not that this is mentioned at any point, but had his cell faced the opposite direction, he’d have had a lovely view of BBC Television Centre). Harry asks if ‘Sir Algernon’ might take up his case and is told he is holidaying in Bermuda; it’s a short sentence but it might bear unpacking. Sir Algernon Usborne Willis KCB DSO (17 May 1889 – 12 April 1976) was a former Admiral of the Fleet, while Bermuda was where Sir William Stephenson retired to – long believed to have been the real-life inspiration for 007. Except we later discover that this Sir Algernon has the surname ‘Flowers’, so his name is surely a nod to the Daniel Keys science fiction story Flowers for Algernon, about a laboratory mouse.

When Sarah Jane Smith visits Harry in prison, she’s said to be:

… a young woman of about thirty […] wearing a fashionable pink boiler-suit outfit with green boots, and a rainbow-coloured plastic shoulder bag [….] Her hair was brown and wavy, held back by a pair of sunglasses perched on her forehead. Her figure looked petite under her billowy clothes.

Harry and Sarah haven’t seen each other since the Zygon business (though a short story I later wrote for a Big Finish Short Trips anthology proudly contradicts this). He affectionately calls Sarah ‘old thing’; and quickly realises his mistake. Sarah is no longer living with her aunt in Croydon, having moved to Camberwell, South London. Harry confesses that he’s told many stories about Sarah to his elderly neighbour.

When Harry drops the name ‘Davros’, both Major Sawyer and George Fawcett-Smith of the Home office react with surprise that Harry knows the name. Conrad Gold’s money envelope consists of bundles of £100-notes – which means he was paying Harry with notes issues by the Royal Bank of Scotland (the highest denomination issued by the Bank of England is £50, though Fawcett-Smith asks Spode to ‘find out where these were printed’. The story concludes in September, which makes this possibly the story with the longest timespan since Marco Polo! 

Cover: David McAllister goes full Bond with an appropriately dramatic illustration of a car being chased by a helicopter while Harry Sullivan looks every bit the heroic action-movie star. It’s only the second cover to feature blood and the first to depict the author in the illustration!

Final Analysis: Let’s pretend that Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma never happened, eh? This is a stunning novel that wears its influences shamelessly (Terrance Dicks always said that greatness always steals from the best). The opening chapter lifts cheekily from the James Bond film Thunderball (and its more recent remake, Never Say Never Again), though 007 fends off the attack more successfully; a later sequence is reminiscent of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps and the three different movie adaptations (particularly the Hitchcock one); and as Gary Russell noted in his review for Doctor Who Magazine, the final chapter owes a lot to the film version of A View to a Kill – even down to Harry wearing a tuxedo – which was released the year before this was published.. It’s by no means a criticism; Harry Sullivan always wanted to play at James Bond and Marter throws his hero into an espionage story without allowing him any of the innate skills of the most celebrated spies. Right from the start, he suffers a savage attack that leaves him vulnerable and confused – and it barely lets up as he careers from one escapade to another, barely escaping alive on each occasion.

Just while we’re here – Vincent Van Goch’s art is referenced repeatedly here. There are many possible ways to pronounce his name, such as ‘van Goff’, ‘van Gock’ – and most Dutch people would say ‘Vun Goch’ – to rhyme with the Scottish ‘loch’. However, it does not rhyme with ‘Toe’ (‘Van Goe’). Ever.

Ian Marter had originally intended to kill Harry off, but was persuaded to let him survive, so instead he plays a cruel trick on us in the finale. He claimed in interviews prior to the book’s release that he hoped to write a sequel. Harry Sullivan’s War was published on 11 September 1986; Ian Marter died on 28 October the same year, on his 42nd birthday. Your humble blogger was due to interview him at a convention four days later and was stunned to hear his close friend Nicholas Courtney announce his passing at the event. I was sat on the front row of the main hall, dressed (for charity reasons) in a Sea Devil costume at the time; It hid the tears.

There were still a few of Ian’s books yet to be published, so we’ve not quite said a final goodbye to him yet, but I thought it’d be appropriate to pay tribute here. There are plenty of Target novels I’ve not read prior to this project, but this is one I return to regularly. It’s not an official one, so ‘doesn’t count’, but it’s by far and away my favourite novel by one of my absolute favourite Target authors.

Chapter 108. Doctor Who – The Savages (1986)

Synopsis: The Doctor, Steven and Dodo are welcomed by Juno, leader of the elite Elders, who have followed the Doctor’s adventures throughout time. Their community seems to be a paradise, its people happy and relaxed. Outside in the barren wastelands live the savages and, as the Doctor soon discovers, this lower caste of people is more vital to the future of the community than any of them realise. All except Juno…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Are You Sure You Know Where We Are?’
  • 2. ‘You Have Made Me Look Very Grand’
  • 3. ‘A Remarkable Advance, Gentlemen. I’d Like To Know How’
  • 4. ‘I Don’t Know What’s Going On, But I Don’t Like It’
  • 5. ‘The Old Man Did Not Obey’
  • 6. ‘Not Exactly A Witness’
  • 7. ‘Come On, Soldier Boy. What Are You Frightened Of?’
  • 8. ‘The Trouble With You People On This Planet…’
  • 9. ‘I Don’t Trust Strangers’
  • 10. ‘All We Need Is One Good Friend’
  • 11. ‘Do You Think We Will Ever See Him Again?’

Background: Ian Stuart Black adapts his own scripts from the 1966 serial.

Notes: The Doctor consults some print-outs that presumably show the coordinates for their location. He is particularly fond of his calculating device – his own invention – having ‘always found it accurate, and it was giving him some most satisfactory readings’ (unlike on TV, he doesn’t name the device a ‘reacting vibrator’). Dodo is said to be more patient with the Doctor than Steven, accepting his ‘eccentric ways’ and having confidence in him. Honestly, that’s pretty much it.

Cover: For the first edition, David McAllister illustrates the Doctor, the TARDIS and Jano. This is the first book cover to illustrate a guest actor  who has previously appeared in a different role on another cover (Frederick Jaegar was also Sorenson / Anti-Man on Planet of Evil, not that he’s all that recognisable on any of the covers for that). For the 1992 reprint, Alister Pearson gives us Chal (as played by Ewen Solon) and the Doctor, with a design motif that evokes the ends of the Doctor’s ribbon tie, forming a cross. 

Final Analysis: It’s a treat to have another 1960s writer taking on his own work even if it’s a fairly straightforward novelisation, largely following the flow of the original scripts. The TV production was one of a number of experiments with trying to replace William Hartnell in 1966 and consequently it’s the third of the 1986 releases to have a noticeably absent Doctor. Yet it doesn’t feel like he’s missing as Jano effectively represents him for a good portion of the book and Ian Stuart Black captures the change in his personality perfectly:

Jano looked at him sharply, and for a moment Senta thought he reminded him of someone else. He had adopted an unusual mannerism, tucking his thumbs into his jacket and peering down his nose, like an old schoolteacher.

Due to the order in which books have been released, it’s strange to have Steven leave when we’ve barely got to know him yet, but we still have a fair few of his adventures to come, which I’m only mentioning because, while it’s a very efficient retelling of the TV episodes, there’s not really much more to report on. Oh – one of the characters mentions it’s a Tuesday, which is an odd thing to note on an alien world. A good debut for Ian Stuart Black though.

Chapter 107. Doctor Who – The King’s Demons (1986)

Synopsis: King John is an honoured guest at the home of Ranulph and his wife Isabella. When the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough unexpectedly drop in, the King welcomes them and dubs him his ‘Demons’. The King’s champion Sir Gilles views the intrusion with irritation – unsurprisingly, as he is the Master in disguise. But the Master is not the only one pretending to be something he’s not.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Challenge
  • 2. The Demons
  • 3. The King Takes A Hostage
  • 4. The Iron Maiden
  • 5. Command Performance
  • 6. An Old Enemy
  • 7. Doctor Captures King’s Knight
  • 8. ‘Find These Demons!’
  • 9. Kamelion
  • 10. A Battle of Wills

Background: Terence Dudley adapts his own scripts from the 1983 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 20.

Notes: Ranulf Fitzwilliam has been a loyal servant and friend of King John for twelve years [since the French Wars that saw the King lose his hold on the Duchy of Normandy]. He is immediately suspicious of the ‘King’ who sits next to him now, identical to the one he knows, but his manner is vastly different – the way he consumes food ‘like a starving Flemish mercenary’. The King’s eyes are – metaphorically – described as ‘metallic’ and ‘ferrous’. 

Turlough is aware of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate, or as he calls it cheekily, ‘a refit’, and later tells the incredulous Hugh that the Doctor has two hearts and is ‘getting on for eight hundred years old’. He manages to escape from Hugh in the dungeon and is about to flee the cell when Sir Gilles returns with his prisoner, Isabella. Sir Gilles questions Turlough about the Doctor’s ‘blue engine’ and Turlough accidentally reveals that it can only be opened by a key in the Doctor’s possession. The Doctor tells Tegan that Shakespeare did not write history, so cannot be trusted as a factual source. He also shows off knowledge of the King’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitane, and claims that she had told her son, the future King, about the legends of Melusine, the alleged daughter of Satan, which might explain King John’s insistence that the travellers are demons. Tegan recalls her aunt’s murder at the hands of the Master [see Logopolis].

The Doctor and Tegan both recognise the Tissue Compression Eliminator weapon and realise too late that Sir Gilles is the Master; he doesn’t remove his disguise here. He accuses the Doctor of being ‘obtuse’, not naive’. as on telly Tegan tries to disarm him with a cricket ball, not a knife. Despite never having met him, Turlough recognises the Master by the Doctor’s description from some previous point (‘Listen here, Turlough, I know we’ve just had that unpleasant business with the Black Guardian, but the one you really have to watch out for is another black-garbed chap with a pointy beard – calls himself the Master. He’s a Time Lord like me and…’). Tegan is 22 years old (and would very much like to celebrate her 23rd birthday). At one point, the Doctor recalls that he once spent time with the real King John’s brother Richard and helped him in negotiations with Saladin [see The Crusade].

Taking up the role of King’s Champion, the Doctor is dressed in full chain-mail armour and he persuades Sir Geoffrey to head to the dungeon by pretending that his demonic powers can be used to torture Lady Isabella. The gaoler is called ‘Cedric’. The castle is said to be located at Wallingford, near Oxford, which Sir Geoffrey says is five hours away from London by horse. When Sir Geoffrey is shot by the Master, Turlough helps the merely-wounded knight to safety. Ranulf manages to enter the TARDIS and is so disturbed by the confusion of what lies within that he is convinced the Doctor and his friends are demons. Tegan is aware that to set the TARDIS in motion requires the use of one of two switches, ‘the metastasis switch or the transit switch’. After a frustrating first attempt, she uses the transit switch, followed by the input bar. Kamelion’s lute is apparently part of his illusion, as it transforms into a cricket bat when he takes the form of the Doctor. Once back in control of his ship, the Doctor makes an additional hop to both assure Lady Isabella that only the Master is their enemy and to give her some medicine to help Sir Geoffrey recover from his wounds. The Master manages to evade being shrunk by the trap with the TCE left by the Doctor, but it has somehow sent his TARDIS out of control.

Cover: David McAllister paints a jousting competition outside Ranulph Castle as Kameleon dominates the skyline while playing the lute.

Final Analysis: I’ve always felt rather dismissive of Terence Dudley, largely because of Four to Doomsday (where his rather dreary story was adapted without frills / thrills by Terrance Dicks), but his approach to his own novelisation is surprisingly entertaining. As Sir Gilles, the Master outlines his plan to discredit the King through the means of a lengthy tour around some of the King’s most loyal supporters. Once his true identity is revealed and he faces execution inside the Iron Maiden, he orchestrates a display of fear and pleading so over the top that it makes the Doctor think he’s finally succumbed to madness. So distressing is the performance that even Tegan is distressed at the prospect of his grisly death – until the villain escapes in his torture cabinet-disguised TARDIS. 

Turlough is particularly vividly described, even though he spends most of the story in a prison, as on TV; his various attempts to escape and his increasing indignation at being left chained up is hilarious. When he’s finally rescued, Turlough lets out a huge rant that builds to a revelation:

‘Just a minute! Just a minute!’ interrupted Turlough indignantly. ‘Get on with what? What about my trust? What about my enemies? Who’s doing what to whom and why? I’m dragged down into this hole by that young ruffian whose life you saved this morning. Then he’s going to put me into that thing.’ He flicked a hand at the Iron Maiden. ‘Then I’m hung up on the wall by that hairy Frenchman … Estram. Then the other two get rescued by the Master but I’m left there… hanging… and not a sign on my …’ He stopped short, overcome by the suddenness of thought and his mouth and eyes wide in realisation. ‘It’s an anagram! Estram! It’s an anagram!’

The whole anagram thing works so much better in print, but the fact that the Doctor had only just made the same realisation a few pages earlier makes the scene all the funnier.

It’s not all cause for celebration though. As great as he is at capturing Turlough, Dudley’s depiction of Tegan is pretty patronising: The Doctor is profoundly irritated by Tegan’s ‘feminine superficiality’ and her general habit of moaning, which he’d hoped she’d have grown out of, while there’s a lengthy passage mocking her for her ‘practical feminine mind’ prompting her to ask the castle has ‘a back way’. The Doctor also grows exasperated by Tegan’s inability to grasp that the Master didn’t need to drag the TARDIS through narrow doorways when he could dematerialise it; on TV the exchange is swift, but here it takes two pages before Tegan finally understands and calls herself ‘stupid’. It might have been a funnier scene if the author hadn’t spent the entire book having Tegan constantly and repeatedly moan about being cold. And then, to add insult to injury, he has Tegan sink into ‘a swoon’ when she’s surprised by Hugh. Dudley also has the Doctor refer to ‘a marooned stewardess from an Antipodean airline’, while the book ends with the Doctor expecting Tegan to say that he knows she wants him to take her to London airport, which of course was her main goal in the previous season [Terrance Dicks made the same mistake in The Five Doctors]. Considering she spent her first year aboard the TARDIS trying to get back to a job she was swiftly sacked from, it must be particularly jarring for her to still be thought of as flight crew when she can’t have actually done the job for more than a few months.

Bonus Chapter #3. The Companions of Doctor Who: Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Having left the Doctor behind, Turlough returns to find his home planet changed by revolution and a despotic leader called Rehctaht. Expectations are high for this returning hero – but the young man seems more interested in visiting the planet’s many museums. Only one old friend knows the truth – that Turlough is attempting to build a time machine of his own.

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 00: Prologue
  • 01: Ace
  • 02: Duo
  • 03: Trio
  • 04: 4d
  • 05: Magic
  • 06: Mobile?
  • 07: Transport!
  • 08: New Trion On Trion
  • 09: Juras?
  • 10: Pharix
  • 11: Knave
  • 12: Queen
  • 13: King

Background: Tony Attwood writes an original novel based on the character of Turlough.

Notes: Our first original story for the range and our first introduction from an actor who played a role in the programme. Mark Strickson displays his typical modesty as he compares the character he played on TV with the more rounded version available to the reader here. We’re told a lot of the recent history of Turlough’s home planet, Trion, which had focused on the development of science and technology until their society was torn apart by revolution. A new leader emerged, in the form of Rehctaht, ‘the most dominant unforgiving woman Trion had ever known’, whose reign lasted for seven years (this was published in 1986 and the hideous despot’s name is, of course, ‘Thatcher’ backwards).

Our introduction to Turlough comes through the eyes of a tour guide and – yes! – he’s been able to ditch that school uniform at last:

He was young, barely more than a boy, perhaps twenty years old, no more; taller than average but not excessively so, and dressed more casually than was the current style, fading green trousers, a grubby white T shirt and white running shoes. There was a lean hungry look about him that reminded the guide of an ancient legend she had been read by her mother as a child. It was something about men being dangerous when they have that look…

It’s confirmed that Turlough travelled with the Doctor for two years. His family went into exile after Rehctaht came to power and many of the people who endured her reign see him, a member of one of the old ruling clans, as something of a celebrity. One time trip brings Turlough and his old friend Juras Maateh back to his old school; there’s mention of the obelisk on the hill and of the events of Mawdryn Undead that saw one of his teachers meeting his future self. He tells Juras that he never explored the Doctor’s TARDIS: ‘Why spend time running around inside a machine rather than real worlds?’

Cover: David McAllister provides a fine moody likeness of Turlough, whose head is floating above a space station (that might be very familiar to fans of the Star Trek movies) near a system of planets.

Final Analysis: Turlough was far and away the most under-written companion ever and the character relied hugely on actor Mark Strickson to make him interesting. As the first novel in a proposed new series of original novels, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma manages to capture some of the character’s moral ambiguity but sadly fails to make us care about him or his adventure. It doesn’t help that, free to emerge from the Doctor’s shadow, Turlough is paired with another eccentric Time Lord (‘the Magician’). As with Timelash, so much is told in reportage rather than illustrated through dialogue and I’m afraid the story just didn’t engage my interest at any point. We encounter a race of sentient slugs that aren’t the same sentient slugs we met in The Twin Dilemma but have a position in Trion history that seems to occupy the same space the Tractators might have done. It might appear that Tony Attwood watched one story for research – Mawdryn Undead – but there’s no mention of Turlough’s brother here, no acknowledgement of any of his life beyond his first TV adventure. 

It was, Turlough thought, like watching one of those dreadful adventures so beloved of people on Earth. Everyone knew that the hero would survive and the evil one would at least get caught, if not die. Yet despite this preknowledge the people of Earth still found it enjoyable to share in the game of watching.

Not this time, sadly.

Incidentally, in the introduction, Mark Strickson claims not to have much use for modern technology, though at this point in his life, Mark was still an actor; he retrained, becoming a hugely successful producer of nature documentaries and along the way he discovered the phenomenon that was naturalist Steve Irwin. At a two-day Doctor Who convention in Manchester in the 1990s, Mark was inundated with questions about his travels around the world. He was quite taken aback by the enthusiasm of the audience, bursting with questions about all the deadly species he’d encountered, prompting Mark to reassure the fans rather bashfully that he was more than happy to discuss Doctor Who as well. Sadly, when your guest has encountered real-life sharks, crocodiles and poisonous spiders, the Tractators lose much of their appeal.

Chapter 105. Doctor Who – Timelash (1986)

Synopsis: The people of Karfel live under the rule of the Borad and his sole point of contact, an official known as the Maylin. When the ruthless Tekker assumes the role of Maylin, he takes the opportunity to remove all political opponents by casting them into the Timelash, a gateway directly into the time vortex. When the Doctor returns to Karfel after many years, he is appalled by the actions of Tekker and this ‘Borad’. He allies himself with the underground rebellion, determined to bring an end to the dictator and his lackey – but the Borad is not so easily defeated… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. No Escape
  • 2. The Time Vortex
  • 3. Whirlpool
  • 4. Return of the Time Lord
  • 5. Negotiating the Timelash
  • 6. Stirring Embers
  • 7. Fight or Perish
  • 8. Battle Stations
  • 9. Regrouping
  • 10. Legacy of the Borad
  • 11. The Bandrils’ Bomb
  • 12. Double Trouble

Background: Glen McCoy adapts his own scripts from the 1985 serial.

Notes: Sezon and Katz were the leaders of separate rebel cells until recently, when they decided to combine their resources into a single unit. Katzin Makrif was the daughter of the Maylin who ‘died mysteriously’ when the Borad took control in a ‘so-called bloodless coup’. Katz was 16 at the time and lived in ‘servile submission and indignity’ for ten years before joining the rebellion. The rebels have lived a nomadic life, moving from place to place, and are now hiding in a disused mine that’s lain empty since the great famine that nearly wiped out the planet’s civilisation almost a century ago. While hunting for food, the pair are trapped in a cave by the arrival of a family of Morlox, only able to escape when the mother Morlox protects her brood against attack from another Morlox. Later, we’re told that both Katz and Sezon were once respected scientists and had suffered the Borad’s tyranny for six years before choosing to rebel.

The Doctor knowingly goads Peri purely to remain in control of their relationship. The Borad’s ageing device reduces the victim to dust, rather than the bouncy skeleton we saw on telly. Peri doesn’t encounter a rebel with a note for Sezon, nor does she throw a potentially deadly plant into the face of a guardollier. Her pendant, which is snatched from her neck by an android, is specifically a St Christopher, which suggests she’s either a Catholic or she’s still trying to rid herself of a Madonna obsession from her teens. Her flight from the Karfel dome takes her outside onto the planet’s surface, where she sees the twin suns of Rearbus and Selynx in the crimson sky. Eventually, she finds her way into the cave system (on screen, the caves connect directly to the city).

The Doctor fends off a Morlox with a wooden stake, which has been sprayed with Mustakozene 80. The chemical reacts with the creature, spearing it with sharp wooden spines that instantly grow through its body. The Borad sends a command to his androids to destroy all life in the citadel, resulting in a pitch-battle between the mechanical servants and the terrified citizens. Prior to the Borad’s reappearance, the Doctor and Mykros discover a chamber of capsules containing numerous Borad clones. The Doctor’s escape from the Bandril missiles is explained slightly more clearly than it was on screen.

Cover: A fine composition by David McAllister of the Borad, a blue-faced android and someone about to fall into the timelash.

Final Analysis: So the legend goes, Glen McCoy offered his services to novelise his TV scripts before the story was even on Target editor Nigel Robinson’s radar. His resulting novel presents us with a few extra scenes and the scale of the story is much greater than on TV, but there’s also a sense of McCoy telling rather than showing, with a lot of action reported rather dispassionately. At the time of release, Doctor Who Magazine praised the characterisation of the Doctor bursting into rooms and taking control, but his willingness here to gaslight his companion for the fun of it is as distasteful and difficult to accept as it was back in 1986.

Chapter 94. Doctor Who – Marco Polo (1985)

Synopsis: The Venetian explorer Marco Polo meets four travellers stranded with their strange blue caravan – a box that that he immediately realises will make a splendid gift for the great Kublai Khan. On their long journey, the strangers become friends as they share stories of many cultures, but their journey is fraught with danger, not only from a hostile environment but also from within the party as a traitor schemes against them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Roof of the World
  • 2. Emissary of Peace
  • 3. Down to Earth
  • 4. Singing Sands
  • 5. Desert of Death
  • 6. A Tale of Hashashins
  • 7. Five Hundred Eyes
  • 8. Wall of Lies
  • 9. Too Many Kan-Chow Cooks
  • 10. Bamboozled
  • 11. Rider from Shang-Tu
  • 12. Runaway
  • 13. Road to Karakorum
  • 14. Mighty Kublai Khan
  • 15. Gambler
  • 16. Best-Laid Schemes
  • 17. Key to the World

Background: John Lucarotti adapts his own scripts for the series broadcast in 1964, so stealing the record from himself and The Aztecs for the biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation at 20 years, eight months and a week.

Notes: A new opening scene sees Susan give a temperature in centigrade and Ian calculates the fahrenheit equivalent. Ian opens the TARDIS door, then shuts it quickly (suggesting that the doors are the same as those on the exterior of the ship) and jokes that they can’t be in the Alps because there’s no yodelling. The Doctor also gives a clearer reason for staying outside of the ship (it will act like a ‘cold storage room’ and kill them). He introduces his granddaughter as ‘Susan Foreman’ (!) and both she and Ping-Cho are 15 years old (not 16 like on TV). Once again, the Doctor uses a pen torch [see The Aztecs]. Susan mentions the TARDIS ‘water producer’. Surprisingly, the device of Marco’s journal is not used; instead, some of the events he describes are expanded upon. 

Ping-Cho learns of the death of her husband-to-be as soon as she arrives at the Imperial Palace. The Empress notices exchanged glances between Ping-Cho and the Captain, Ling-Tau; she urges Kublai Khan to promote the captain so he might be of sufficient rank to be a husband to Ping-Cho. Tegana doesn’t get to commit suicide; he’s shot dead by Ling-Tau with an arrow that kills him instantly. There’s no swift escape to the TARDIS at the end either. Kublai Khan invites the Doctor to stay as his personal secretary, but he declines and says a relaxed goodbye to him, Marco and Ping-Cho before leaving in the TARDIS. Kublai Khan dubs the key to the TARDIS the ‘Key to the World’ and has it placed on a gold chain (unaware that it’s the Doctor’s spare). The Key is said to lie in a museum that was once the imperial palace.

Cover: David McAllister returns with a painted composition of Marco Polo, Tegana, Pingo Cho and Kublai Khan, along with some other elements that apparently come from an entirely different production called Marco Polo from the 1980s. It’s nice to see accurate resemblences to actors Mark Eden, Zienia Merton and Derren Nesbitt here.

Final Analysis: John Lucarroti’s second novel and it’s as much of a jolly history lesson as the first, with additional highly detailed descriptions of various menus. Obviously, each of the locations is grander than the sets in Lime Grove could have allowed and also we get a real sense of the time passing, as each chapter adds days onto the journey, which lasts around 40 days in all. It might lack the fun and melodrama of monsters of robots, but it’s a rare story that truly allows us to step into a culture and enjoy various aspects of it.

Chapter 59. Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus (1980)

Synopsis: A huge pyramid surrounded by a sea of acid. Inside is Arbitan, sole protector of the Conscience of Marinus, a powerful computer that can control minds. The Doctor and his fellow travellers agree to help Arbitan locate a set of keys for the machine, which have been hidden in different locations across the planet. So begins a deadly quest for the time travellers that will involve mind-controlling brains in jars, killer plants, a frozen tundra and a trial for murder. All the while, they are unaware that Arbitan’s enemy, Yartek, leader of the Voord, has captured the pyramid and now lies in wait for their return with the keys…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sea of Death
  • 2. The Marble City
  • 3. The Velvet Web
  • 4. The Brains of Morphoton
  • 5. The Screaming Jungle
  • 6. The Whispering Darkness
  • 7. The Snows of Terror
  • 8. The Demons
  • 9. Sentenced!
  • 10. The Mystery of the Locked Room
  • 11. The Missing Key
  • 12. Arbitan’s Revenge
  • 13. Final Goodbyes

Background: Philip Hinchcliffe adapts Terry Nation’s 1964 scripts, during a period when the story titles for Hartnell’s stories had not been agreed on by consensus, so the title page states that this is an adaptation of Terry Nation’s ‘The Sea of Death’.  So far, this is the biggest gap between the broadcast of a story and its release as a novel, at 16 years, three months and one week. It’s also been three years and 29 books since the publication of a First Doctor story under the Target banner.

Notes: Time is measured in zeniths in inter-galactic time. The Voord submersible pods are BXV sub-oceanic assault craft. Apparently, Barbara suffers from space-time travel sickness and she believes human bodies are not built for time travel – or at least hers isn’t. Hinchcliffe describes the inside of the TARDIS thus:

They were inside a large hexagonal-shaped control room with white hexagonal-patterned walls. A hexagonal console in the middle of the room supported a transparent cylindrical column which moved slowly up and down when the ship was in flight. 

The Doctor has ‘mischievous blue eyes’ (unlike Harnell’s own, which were brown). Barbara and Ian’s first meeting with the Doctor and Susan is summarised and we’re told that the TARDIS can ‘change its appearance like a chameleon’. Ian is still wearing a ‘Chinese jacket’ that he picked up ‘the court of Kublai Kahn’ [sic], which we’re told ‘undermined his air of schoolmasterly interest’. 

The Voord have webbed hands and feet, they’re the same shape as a man, but stronger and more agile:

Its skin was dark and rubbery, its bulletshaped head smooth and devoid of features except for two frog-like eyes and a snoutish protuberance like corrugated piping. The head was flanked by two flat, pointed lugs. The face as a whole faintly resembled that of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of Egyptian mythology. The creature, however, was far from being any sort of god. It was, in fact, a Class I Voord Assault Trooper, programmed to kill enemy life-forms on sight!

The word ‘programmed’ suggests at least some degree of robotic or artificial intelligence. Yartek developed an immuniser that enabled the Voord to ‘rob and cheat, kill and exploit’; Arbitan’s people were helpless as the Conscience made them incapable of violent resistance. Susan calculates that Arbitan’s temple is a couple of miles all round, while Barbara’s comparison from the TV version of the temple to those of the Egyptians and South Americans is given to Ian for some reason. Vasor is said to be like a ‘Breughel peasant’, which suggests he should have been down an alley, puking. Yartek is said to smile and his face has ‘bulbous eyes’, so he doesn’t quite look like his TV counterpart.

Cover: David McAllister’s first contribution to the range is both beautifully painted and disappointingly bland – the TARDIS hovers in space above a generic planet. Were they too squeamish to attempt one of the Brains of Morphoton for this? As the policy of the time was to avoid having older Doctors on the cover, this might have limited their options, so having the iconic TARDIS might have seemed more marketable, but it’s a shame as we could have had something rivalling Alun Hood’s Terror of the Autons cover for sheer horror.

Final Analysis: 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. Aside from maybe an episode at a convention in the mid-1980s, I’m not sure if I saw the TV story for more than a decade later, so it’s Hinchcliffe’s version that was imprinted on my mind, alongside The Daleks, as what Hartnell’s Doctor was really like. Good going, considering the Doctor himself is missing for half of the story and Ian is, as on TV, very much the lead character. This is Hinchcliffe’s final novel for the range and it’s such a weird choice for him, but it’s every bit the Boy’s Own adventure that was at the heart of his time as producer (including what feels very much like the belittling of Barbara to elevate Ian more), so it’s perhaps not as surprising as it first appears. It faithfully adapts Terry Nation’s scripts, which acted as a template for what the series would quickly become. It has a quest (although after all those Key to Time novels, that’s not necessarily a positive); four alien lands with hostile environments; repulsive monsters; selfish antagonists who are more than a bit rapey; and a trial! At the end, the Big Bad Wolf-style villain is revealed to be rather disappointing, but as this is Hinchcliffe, the description of Yartek’s demise is much, much nastier than the fade-to-white we saw on TV.