Chapter 48. Doctor Who and the Robots of Death (1979)

Synopsis: Aboard a mining vessel, the crew consists of indolent humans who allow robotic servants to do all the work. When one of the crew is found murdered just as the Doctor and Leela arrive, suspicion naturally falls upon the strangers. But as the murders continue, the crewmembers begin to suspect each other. Leela wonders why the killer couldn’t be the mechanical men, but it’s against their programming – robots cannot kill… can they?

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Sandminer
  • 2 Murder
  • 3 Corpse Marker
  • 4 Death Trap
  • 5 Captives
  • 6 Suspicion
  • 7 The Hunter
  • 8 Sabotage
  • 9 Pressure
  • 10 Robot Detective
  • 11 Killer Robot
  • 12 Robot Rebellion
  • 13 The Face of Taren Capel
  • 14 Brainstorm

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Chris Boucher’s scripts from 1977, completing Target’s adaptations of Season 14 stories and the first three seasons of the Fourth Doctor.

Notes: The vessel is called ‘The Sandminer’ (it’s ‘Storm Mine 4’ on TV) and Dicks describes it as ‘a massive metal crab on an immense, multi-coloured sea of sand’. Cass is said to be ‘young and muscular, dark-skinned like Zilda’ (he’s also rather difficult to kill as he’s accidentally included in the assembled crew scene in Chapter 6 that takes place after his death. Oops!).

The robots are all silver (not shades of green as the onscreen versions), have ‘high, polished boots’ (not bacofoil moccasins) and their numbers are denoted on a collar around the neck, rather than on the chest. When Uvanov says it’s some consolation that the murders have increased their own share of the takings, it’s Toos, not Zilda who corrects him that it’s ‘no consolation’. ‘Lucanol’ is the rarest mineral of all. Poul clarifies that Chub’s weather balloons contained helium, which sets up the trap that catches Dask at the end.

As the ore threatens to drown him, the Doctor goes full-on Sherlock Holmes to work out a solution to the problem:

In any kind of emergency, the first thing to do is think. Wrong action can be worse than no action at all. 

… and dismisses a number of options before settling on breathing through the tube. 

There were 20 families who came from Earth to colonise the planet and it’s their descendants who are known as ‘Founding Families’.  Poul reveals that many of the crewmembers on this tour were working for Uvanov on the tour that featured the death of Zilda’s brother. Robophobia is known as Grimwold’s syndrome (not ‘Grimwade’ as on TV). Dask’s ‘robot upbringing’ is expanded upon, laying the blame for his madness on the ‘lack of parental love’. The Doctor and Leela stay long enough for the survivors to send a distress satellite and request a rescue ship.

Cover: John Geary joins the family of target artists with a surprisingly golden Voc and a lovely illustration of the Doctor holding a Laserson probe. The 1994 reprint was one of the very last Target publications and it had a painting by Alister Pearson showing the Doctor, a Voc face (as well as a full-length Voc) and the Sandmine, with a background inspired by the sandminer decor.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks continues to provide us with a pre-home-video copy of the broadcast story, but he doesn’t get anywhere near enough recognition for the way he paints each scene, not just what we might have seen, but how it should have made us feel, as in this paragraph where the Doctor meets the mine crew for the first time:

He studied the people around him, the elaborate robes and head-dresses, the complex designs of the face paint. It was a form of dress typical of a robot-dependent society, in which no human needed to perform any manual labour.

Efficient, precise and slightly critical. And then he turns his attentions to Uvanov:

There was something pathetic about Uvanov. A middle-aged man pretending to be young, a weak man trying to be strong.

Yet just a few pages later, we’re told:

At times like this, there was something curiously impressive about Uvanov. Whatever his other faults, he was the complete professional when it came to his job.

Chris Boucher’s scripts were already among the best of the series up to this point (and, dare I say it, beyond), but it’s down to Dicks that this opportunity isn’t wasted. 

Even if he does accidentally resurrect one of the murder victims…

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 25. Doctor Who and the Space War (1976)

Synopsis: In the year 2540, an uneasy peace exists between the empires of Earth and Draconia. When the Doctor and Jo are mistaken for space raiders, only they recognise the true culprits as the Ogrons, who have been employed to shatter the truce between the two worlds. At the centre of the conspiracy is the Master, but the Doctor’s old enemy is also working for an equally familiar foe…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Link-up in Space
  • 2. The Draconian Prince
  • 3. Stowaways
  • 4. The Mind Probe
  • 5. Kidnap
  • 6. Prison on the Moon
  • 7. The Master
  • 8. Space Walk
  • 9. Frontier in Space
  • 10. The Verge of War
  • 11. Planet of the Ogrons
  • 12. The Trap

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his own scripts for the 1973 serial, Frontier in Space.

Notes: We get a single use of the name ‘Doctor Who’ very early on. There’s another brief recap of Jo’s entry into UNIT thanks to her uncle, a high-ranking civil servant who pulled strings to help her, and how the Brigadier’s decision to dump her onto the Doctor has led to her exploring the universe. There’s a particularly breathless exchange with the Doctor where Jo spells out her position at UNIT: 

Some people think intelligence work is all very romantic, all glamorous dinner parties with James Bond types. Instead, I’m either filing letters at UNIT Headquarters or I’m off with you in some ghastly place being chased by monsters…

The President and General Williams had a relationship when they were younger, but politics saw them as opponents in the last election. The President selected Williams as her military adviser in the hope that it would unite the voters behind her policy of peace. The President is respectful towards the Draconians, even noting that Willliams’ accusations of espionage have caused them offence and Hulke adds a rather florid form of etiquette between the Draconian Prince and the Earth President: The Draconian says ‘May you live a long life and may energy shine on you from a million suns,’ to which the President responds ‘And may water, oxygen and plutonium be found in abundance wherever you land’ (and the Master uses the same greeting to the President later on).

We’re shown Williams’ first interrogation of the Doctor and Jo and presented with a lot more detail about the journey to their first prison cell, as well as the jailor’s sadistic enthusiasm at the thought of starving his prisoners a little (and later it’s said that he’s been ‘conditioned to have no feelings for prisoners’).

In a detailed flashback, the President recalls how the previous war with Draconia began, when she was a young aide to a diplomat en route to a meeting with Draconians. Williams was a communications lieutenant on the ship and when their ship was caught in a ‘neutron storm’, the ‘inexperienced’ Williams was left as the sole surviving officer. Hulke tries to provide a version of events sympathetic to Williams’ point of view – before revealing that after Williams blasted the Draconian diplomatic vessel to pieces, the resulting war led to the deaths of 500 million Draconians and Earthmen (combined figures!) in just three days. 

The Master’s disguise is a commissioner from Alderberan Four, not Sirius 4. He specifically references the time the Doctor visited him in prison and laments that his partnership with the Sea-Devils wasn’t a success. He also reveals to the reader halfway through the book that he’s in league with the Daleks and is much more callous than the Delgado performance suggests, telling Jo that, unlike the Doctor, she is ‘totally useless’ to him.

‘There are men with an eye for a girl with a pretty face, adventurers with a touch of pity for the innocent victim of a situation. I am not one of those men.’

Jo gets particularly affronted by being told females cannot speak in the presence of the Emperor, much more than on telly (she refuses to let it go – quite right too!).

The beast that terrorises the Ogrons is a giant lizard, replacing the whatever-that-was in the TV version, and Jo finds an Ogron chained up, awaiting sacrifice to the lizard. The ending, which is a bit of a mess on screen, is simplified, but it also loses the Doctor being shot and sending a message to the Time Lords – which is a shame, considering the next release in the range. 

Cover: Another classic from Chris Achilleos as an Ogron dominates a starfield, with a Draconian inset and the Master’s prison ship blasting off. The ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ note on the title page tells us that the cover ‘portrays the third DOCTOR WHO’… except it doesn’t show the Doctor at all!

Final Analysis: We might be used to Malcolm Hulke’s personal politics influencing his writing but there’s something here that I’ve only just picked up on. Hulke draws attention to the pilot of a spacecraft fastening his seat belts; seat belts in cars were a recurring theme in the 1970s, with TV adverts recommending them with a ‘clunk click every trip’ slogan while the issue was debated in Parliament – while it was UK law to have a seat belt fitted in a car from 1968, it wasn’t mandatory for all occupants of a car to wear the things until 1991. After his escape from the Draconian Embassy, the Doctor is recaptured by a driverless car, so er… is this Hulke pushing a road safety agenda?

As we’d expect from Hulke, he treats his characters with respect, their motivations guiding their actions. Hardy’s blind adherence to the claim of the ‘Dragon attack’ is driven by preexisting racism, which he casually reveals with his frequent use of the slur ‘Dragon’, even in front of the President. The President herself is idealistic but also politically aware enough to know her best chance of success is with alliances and compromise, while the bullish Williams is shown to have been placed in an impossible position at a relatively young age, the burden of which he carries into middle-age. Even the Draconian Emperor is shown as a pragmatist, pushing aside protocol in allowing Jo to speak and forcing his wayward son to join forces with the apologetic Williams in chasing down the Master. In fact, it’s really only the Master who appears more shallow than he does on the telly. It shows just how much Roger Delgado brought to the role, adding a layer of charm that the script alone didn’t offer.

Chapter 6. Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (1974)

Synopsis: The Master has stolen information from the Time Lords regarding a mythical weapon, which can be found on a planet recently occupied by Earth colonists. The desperate people are caught between hostile attacks from the indigenous natives and a mining corporation intent on taking the planet’s resources for their own ends. All this awaits Jo in her first trip in the Tardis.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Missing Secret
  • 2. Into Time and Space
  • 3. The Planet
  • 4. The Monster
  • 5. Starvation
  • 6. The Survivor
  • 7. The Robot
  • 8. The Men from IMC
  • 9. The Spy
  • 10. The Claw
  • 11. Face-to-face
  • 12. The Bomb
  • 13. The Attack
  • 14. The Adjudicator
  • 15. Primitive City
  • 16. The Ambush
  • 17. Captain Dent Thinks Twice
  • 18. The Master’s TARDIS
  • 19. The Return of Captain Dent
  • 20. The Doomsday Weapon

At twenty, this book sets a record for the most number of chapters in a novelisation, which will remain unbroken until 1985.

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from 1971 for Colony in Space.

Notes: Another prologue of a scene that never happened, as an old Time Lord shares stories with an apprentice, revealing the history of early TARDISes and his own personal involvement in the resolution of The War Games returning the kidnapped soldiers to their rightful times. He refers to the Doctor’s TARDIS and the fact that it’s lost its ‘chameleon-like quality’. There’s also another cheeky ‘Who’ reference as the old Time Lord explains the Doctor’s inability to pilot his TARDIS: ‘‘Who? No, Who can’t control it… not always.’

Newly qualified security agent Jo Grant is introduced, having come top of her year in spy school before getting her uncle to pull some strings to arrange a posting to UNIT, where she’s ignored by everyone except Sergeant Benton and attempts to reprimand the Doctor before she finds herself whisked off to an alien world as her very first adventure. A lovely if inconsistent flashback. Meanwhile, Jane Lesson recalls being aware of other ‘terrifying space creatures’ ‘Monoids, Drahvins, some small metallic creatures called Daleks’ before referencing Hulke’s own creations, the ‘reptile men’.

The story’s set a bit further forward in time, 2972, and there’s a grim but casual detail in the Doctor realising that the colonists describe a creature ‘like a big lizard… from the picture books’ because the Earth animals were ‘exterminated by Mankind by the year 2500’ and not because, for example, they were describing dinosaurs. The Doctor speculates on the size of an attacking creature as ‘about twenty feet high’ and then corrects himself to ‘six metres’ as he remembers that all of Earth went metric a thousand years before. Surprisingly, the IMC robot is described as humanoid – a much more achievable look on TV than the bulky robot we ended up with (and the illustrations don’t quite match this new design either).

There’s a hint of the first pioneers across America here as the colonists have never done physical work (‘on Earth machines did everything’) so they’re even more badly equipped to found a new civilisation than it might appear. But when they have to consider how to bury their dead, Ashe recalls an ‘audiobook’ from back when Earth ‘still had open land’; it seems that even the disposal of dead bodies on Earth is automated as the Doctor has to explain to the colonists the rituals of graves, religious services and the importance of ‘a time for tears, and then a time to rejoice in the continuation of life. Hence the tea.’ 

The leader of the primitives is described as the size of a doll, explaining the earlier foreshadowing of the primitives reaction to a child’s doll, while the primitive priests have the faces of otters – and the rest of the primitives are stark naked!

Cover & Illustrations: The original cover and illustrations were by Chris Achilleos (though my first edition was the 1979 reprint with Jeff Cummins’ impressive portrait of Roger Delgado as the Master). I’m really not keen on the illustrations here, they’re a bit scrappy – some are clearly working from set photos while others show people who we don’t see in the TV version (Caldwell could just be an Auton!). I love the pic of the Doctor and the Master at the controls of the Doomsday machine though, as it looks like the Master is washing his hands.

Final Analysis: We’re only three books into Target’s own run of books and there’s still no guarantee that every story will be novelised, so we get a new introduction to Jo Grant that ignores all of her adventures prior to this, but gives her a marvellous backstory too. Some of the supporting characters benefit from an expanded biography too, specifically Ashe and Dent. Hulke’s second novel for the range hints at the author’s politics in the way it describes Earth in the far future as a desperate place: The entire surface of Earth in this time is covered in tiny cube apartments within huge buildings; IMC arranges marriages based on computer-decided compatibility (though strangely Dent’s marriage seems happy while Caldwell’s has ended in separation); food is sourced solely from the sea; even when IMC chief Dent offers his team champagne, it’s from a can. IMC represents the worst excesses of capitalism, dictating a person’s quality of life by how much debt they owe to the company and all minimal perks can be removed at the say-so of a cruel boss like Dent. Hulke doesn’t make the colonists too perfect either, as they’re more than happy to kill to survive (there’s none of the Thal’s pacifism here, and Smedley’s disposal of Norton, however justified, is quite callous. It seems the new (unnamed) world offers new hope to the colonists; as the Doctor and Jo leave, the entire landscape has already begun to sprout with grass and shrubs.

As Doctor Who Magazine writer Alan Barnes points out, the original title, Colony in Space, might have been exciting for viewers who’d become used to the Doctor’s Earthbound adventures, but as part of the mix-and-match releases of Target, it’s less of a draw. The Doomsday Weapon’ is a much better title anyway.