Synopsis: A supersonic aeroplane has disappeared. Retracing its last known flight path aboard another Concorde, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are as surprised as the crew when they touch down on a prehistoric plateau. Nearby is a huge temple, the home to a strange wizard called Kalid, who seems amused by the time travellers’ plight…
1. Flight to Infinity
2. An Unauthorised Police Box
3. The Doctor Goes Supersonic
4. The Coming of the Plasmatons
5. The Magic of Kalid
6. The Doctor and the Magician
7. The Enemy Unmasked
8. The Power in the Sanctum
9. On a Wing and a Prayer
10. In Transit
Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts for the 1982 serial.
Notes: The first TARDIS scene is, if anything, even briefer than the one on screen, although in the aftermath of Adric’s death, the companions at least acknowledge that the Doctor might be grieving too, in his own way – and they also realise they didn’t know the boy all that well at all. Does the Doctor’s mention of Adric’s brother Varsh come as news to them? Tegan identifies their landing site as ‘London Airport’ (so assumes they’ve arrived in 1966?). Kalid has a ‘thin, strangulated voice’ and a:
… yellow oriental face, bloated like the body of a drowned dog and gangrenous with age and excess, with broken teeth and rotting gums that contorted his mouth into a permanent leer. His height too, for a Chinaman – if that was his race – was remarkable, and his girth, concealed by a bright coat of damask, as monstrous as the force he invoked.
When he emerges from Kalid’s body like ‘a pupating beetle’, the Master is introduced without any further explanation or description (as is the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which makes its debut in the books here!). I’m beginning to suspect this is perhaps a new house style. Having stolen the Doctor’s TARDIS, the Master is indignant that it’s typical of the Doctor to ‘travel in a machine that was unserviced, unsafe, and light years out of date!’ As she helps to change the wheels of Concord, Tegan remembers the wheels on her Aunt Vanessa’s car.
Cover: A drab photo of Peter Davison next to a Concorde.
Final Analysis: Another original author steals food from Terrance Dicks’ plate.The opening chapter suggests that Grimwade is keen to show off all of the extra research into Concord that remained unused from his TV scripts and he has a fondness for bizarre similes that somehow work, such as ‘The Professor’s lips moved silently like an elderly goldfish that has just been fed’. I look forward to reading something from the author that’s based on something a little more substantial.
Synopsis: A stone circle in southern England, known locally as ‘The Nine Travellers’. Which is strange, as clearly there are more than nine stones. This is just one of many legends from the region. Another speaks of a woman who lives for centuries, who might have been a Celt goddess called ‘The Cailleach’. And then there’s the tale of two time travellers who expose a galactic criminal and discover a spaceship hidden in another dimension…
1. The Awakening of the Ogri
2. The Circle of Power
3. De Vries
4. The Sacrifice
5. The Ogri Attack
6. The Cailleach
7. The Vanished
8. The Prison Ship
9. The Victims
10. The Trial
11. Surprise Witness
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Fisher for a story from 1978.
Notes: As The Pirate Planet wasn’t scheduled to be novelised at this point (or indeed, at any point in the foreseeable future), the first chapter explains that the second segment of the Key to Time was found on the planet Calufrax, which is almost right. As on TV, Romana learns that she wasn’t assigned to the Doctor by the President of Gallifrey but by the White Guardian, which amends the alternative continuity established by Ian Marter in The Ribos Operation. The Key to Time pieces are kept in the TARDIS control room inside a ‘wall-locker’ that opens to the Doctor’s palm-print. Professor Amelia Rumford mistakes the Doctor for Doctor Cornish Fougous (rather than an academic who specialised in Cornish fogous). Martha had been a school teacher before she met De Vries and she joined the druid cult to liven up an otherwise dull life. The doomed campers are newly-weds. The Megara are floating silver spheres about the size of a football. The Doctor namedrops Tacitus and Julius Caesar, who he was particularly pally with even though he refused to accept advice and the Doctor had to dress up as a soothsayer to warn him about the ‘ides of March’.
Cover: A composition by Andrew Skilleter featuring the Doctor, the Cailleach and some cult members among the flame-lit stones.
Final Analysis: Possibly Dicks’ most straightforward adaptation of a TV story so far, though he does offer up an delightful description of Professor Rumford:
The woman was quite old, though her back was straight, her eyes clear and alert. Her straggly hair was a snowy white, her face a mass of lines and wrinkles. It was the face of a woman of formidable character.
He’s clearly more interested in her than Vivien Fay, who is ‘a tall, strikingly attractive dark-haired woman in her forties’ but doesn’t really receive much more attention. This is particularly odd when we consider that the last time she’s described at all in the book, she’s dressed as a bird-faced Celtic goddess and on TV she arrives on the space-ship in a silver gown with metallic skin to match.
Synopsis: A giant robot created by evil scientists stalks through the night, smashing everything in its path, while the Doctor recovers from changing his body. It’s the same plot as Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, but much, much faster!
Almost identical to the original novel, apart from an edit to chapter two.
1. Killer in the Night
2. More than Human
3. Trouble at Thinktank
5. The Killer Strikes Again
6. Trapped by the Robot
7. The World in Danger
8. In the Hands of the Enemy
9. The Battle at the Bunker
10. The Countdown Begins
11. The Kidnapping of Sarah
12. The Giant Terror
Background: Terrance Dicks rewrites his previous adaptation of the story for ages 5-8.
Notes: The whole story is streamlined down to very simple descriptions and dialogue. Harry’s entire James Bond subplot is reduced down to two lines before he’s knocked out (and he calls the Brigadier on a radio rather than finding a telephone). The story ends with the Doctor watching as the robot turns to rust and is blown away. He muses whether he can tempt Sarah off on another adventure – but there’s no mention of Harry joining them.
Cover & Illustrations: The cover by Harry Hants has a slightly caricatured Tom Baker with a very detailed side-on view of K1 and an army truck. Peter Edwards provides 46 line illustrations that aren’t exactly flattering to their subjects but are still better likenesses of the guest cast than most of the early Target books had (they’re reminiscent of the kind of illustrations Terrence Greer used to do for Penguin, or it might remind modern adult readers of the grotesque characters in BBC Three’s animated comedy Monkey Dust). There’s a joyful picture of the Doctor emerging with a beaming grin from the TARDIS in a Viking outfit, while the scene of the virus being flung at the robot is gleefully epic. Kettlewell is, surprisingly, more refined than on telly, a bespectacled bald man, lacking the TV version’s crazy hair.
Final Analysis: Writing for younger children, Dicks manages to get all the details lined up in the correct order and rushes through the story with lots of energy. As the original novel was also the first not to have any illustrations, Peter Edwards’ ink drawings are a real treat that really help to tell the story rather than just break up the text.
Synopsis: Time experiments in an old priory resurrect an ancient evil. The Doctor and Leela arrive just as the manifestations begin – an image of the Fendahl, a legend from the Doctor’s own people that brings with it death – but how can they kill death itself?
1 The Skull
2 Dead Man in the Wood
3 Time Scan
4 Horror at the Priory
5 The Fendahleen
6 The Coven
7 Stael’s Mutiny
8 The Missing Planet
9 Ceremony of Evil
10 The Priestess
11 Time Bomb
12 The End of the Fendahl
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1978 by Chris Boucher.
Notes: We start with an introduction to the fated walker, who recalls a rhyme about a ‘frightful fiend’ on a ‘lonely road’. It’s not exactly confirmed onscreen but Colby is a professor, while Professor Fendelman has become ‘Fendleman’. Thea Ransome is described as being ‘strikingly attractive’, while Max Stael has ‘stiff Germanic good looks’ and ‘rather woodenly handsome features’ (which feels like a dig at actor Scott Fredericks).
We’re reminded where K9 came from, although this story doesn’t necessarily follow on immediately from The Invisible Enemy, as K9 has ‘developed some mysterious ailment’. Leela (or maybe just the narrator) wonders if the Doctor’s love of Earth wore off when he was exiled there by the Time Lords (let’s hope it’s the narrator as Leela wouldn’t know this) and Leela recalls her trip to a music hall [See The Talons of Weng Chiang]. Dicks explains the joke behind calling Colby’s dog ‘Leakey’, a tribute to ‘the famous anthropologist’.
Security Team leader Mitchell’s first name is Harry. By the way, in both the TV serial and this book, Stael is ordered to call ‘Hartman’ in London to send a security team to the priory; I’m calling this now with zero evidence – Hartman works for Torchwood.
Cover: John Geary paints the Doctor being menaced by a fendahleen in front of a grandfather clock in a wooden-panelled room.
Final Analysis: I remember reading this accompanied by a fan-made audio recording of the TV episodes and I managed to pretty much keep time with the programme. It’s a slim volume, possibly the slimmest, and it’s by no means as gory as Ian Marter might have made it, but Dicks maintains the horror levels rather nicely for a children’s book: The Doctor considers his first view of an adult fendahleen to be ‘the nastiest looking life-form he had ever seen’.
In shape it was vaguely like an immensely thick snake, though the segmented front gave a suggestion of a caterpillar. It was green, and glistening, and it seemed to move on a trail of slime, like a shell-less snail.
Later, the ‘green slimy skin’ of a dead fendahleen is said to have ‘burst in several places like rotting fruit’ – nice!
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…
1. The Fossil
2. The Ring of Power
3. Power Source
4. The Will of Eldrad
5. Eldrad Must Live
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.
Synopsis: The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Sarah to an English village where something is wrong. The locals seem cold and machine-like, while a group of blank-faced astronauts patrol the area and shoot at the new arrivals. The Doctor tries to piece together the clues around him, but it’s Sarah who reveals the truth; the village isn’t a real village, this isn’t really Earth – and Sarah is not the real Sarah! The whole thing is an elaborate copy created by Styggron – chief scientist of the Kraals. And the real invasion has already begun…
1. Strange Arrival
2. Village of Terror
3. The Watcher
6. The Test
7. The Countdown
10. Hero’s Return
12. Death of a Doctor
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts, completing the run of Season 13 stories for Target.
Notes: Sarah wears ‘casual late-twentieth-century clothes, with a brightly coloured scarf at her throat’. The army soldier who throws himself off the cliff isn’t from UNIT and the android Sarah finds inside the capsule by the TARDIS is an old lady. Chased by patrol dogs, the Doctor has a curious thought that anyone who thinks foxes enjoy being hunted should try being chased across country by dogs themselves. Styggron is described thusly:
The face hovering over her was broad and flat with leathery greenish skin. It was heavily jowled with a squashed pig-like snout, underhung jaw, and enormous ears set flat against a massive skull. Huge eyes glowed in cavernous sockets beneath the jutting brows.
The calendar in the Fleur de Lys only shows the month of September (on TV, it’s a day-by-day calendar with solely ‘Friday July 6th’ pages). The entrance to the Kraal bunker is hidden inside an empty barn. When Styggron says ‘There is no time for pleasantries’, the Doctor asks rudely: ‘How about unpleasantries, pig face?’ Haha!
Benton has promised to take his sister to the village dance (not The Palais). It’s not exactly clear on TV, but the android Benton is found leaning over Benton’s body. Here’s the paragraph:
The kneeling man turned and looked up at him and Adams gave a gasp of astonishment. The soldier leaning over Benton, was Benton… He opened his mouth to shout an alarm, and a savage blow struck him down from behind. The android technician caught the falling body and laid it down beside the body of the real Benton. The android Benton got to its feet, and gave a nod of satisfaction. ‘Good. Have them taken away…’
That’s not just ‘the unconscious Benton’, it’s ‘Benton’s body’. Eek!
It’s the Benton android, not the Doctor Android, that points out that there’s ‘much to do’. Once the Doctor has bluffed his way past Android Benton, the scene is not repeated with the android Doctor. We don’t get the final scene of the Doctor and Sarah leaving in the TARDIS; instead, the Doctor plans to collect up all the androids and dismantle them before the scanner beam can be switched off. Marshal Chedaki, meanwhile, waits in vain for Styggron’s signal to begin the invasion. ‘With Styggron dead, his master plan had come to nothing. The android invasion was over.’
Cover: Another brilliant cover by Roy Knipe, it’s just the Doctor being tied to the village memorial by spacemen while Styggron looks off into middle distance, but it’s so effective.
Final Analysis: Often dismissed as lightweight because of the grittier stories that surround it, I’m very fond of The Android Invasion. Here, Dicks adds a little to the playfulness between Sarah and the Doctor where, in the past, that might have been trimmed. Chedaki is more of an antagonist to Styggron, as a disgruntled leader of the military wing, and he’s more threatening a presence than the subservient TV version. Dicks then tidies up all the loose ends in a final section that unfortunately stresses just how rushed the conclusion was on telly.
And just in case we’re in any doubt – it’s Benton’s BODY! Not so lightweight now, eh?
Synopsis: Scientists have disappeared from across the country. In an attempt to keep them safe, the remaining experts have been brought to a research centre under the guard of UNIT – but still they continue to vanish. The Doctor identifies the cause must be someone with access to time travel. Following the trail in the TARDIS back to the Middle Ages, the Doctor discovers the time-hopping kidnapper is a Sontaran warrior – unaware that the TARDIS has brought alomg a 20th-Century stowaway aboard in the form of intrepid journalist Sarah Jane Smith.
1. Irongron’s Star
2. Linx’s Bargain
3. Sarah’s Bluff
4. Irongron’s Captive
5. The Doctor Disappears
6. A Shock for Sarah
7. Prisoner in the Past
8. The Robot Knight
9. Linx’s Slaves
10. Irongron’s Wizard
11. The Rescue
12. The Doctor’s Magic
13. Counter Attack
14. The Robot’s Return
15. Shooting Gallery
16. Return to Danger
17. Linx’s Departure
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ scripts for the 1973-4 serial, except from the prologue, which Holmes wrote himself before handing the task over to Dicks.
Notes: Three years after the word ‘Sontaran’ first appeared in a Target book [see Terror of the Autons], we finally meet one – in the most exciting prologue ever, written by Robert Holmes! We join Sontaran Commander Jingo Linx as his ship faces certain obliteration after an unsuccessful battle against the Rutans in their third galactic war. We learn that the Sontarans come from the planet Sontara and he listens to the ‘sweet strains of the Sontaran Anthem’ (presumably the same one that accompanies Linx’s flag when he erects it in front of Bloodaxe) as his ship makes a last desperate escape from the black, dart-shaped Rutan pursuit ships. Sontarans are cyborgs, thanks to implants in the back of their neck that allow them to draw energy through a ‘probic vent’. The procedure that allows this is undergone on entry to the Space Corps and although it gives him a rush of energy, Linx always dreads taking a ‘power burn’.
The flood of power through his tissues was like a roaring madness, a chaotic maelstrom of colour and sound depriving him of all sentient knowledge of the outside world. He felt himself clinging like a limpet within some solitary crevice of consciousness, aware only that he still existed… still existed… still…
His cruiser is destroyed, driven into a sun as a diversion to allow him to escape the Rutans in a small scout ship. As the ship heads towards a little blue planet orbiting the sun, Linx allows himself a smile usually reserved for the ‘ the death throes of an enemy’. Most of the details here have been forgotten by subsequent authors, even Holmes himself [see The Two Doctors], but it should be mandatory reading for any hopeful Sontaran scribes.
Irongron and his band of men had once ‘roamed the forest like wolves’ before stumbling upon a castle abandoned by a lord away ‘at the wars’. His group attacked the castle at night, its inhabitants massacred, and the castle became his. His nearest neighbour, Sir Edward Fitzroy, is sickly, having returned from the Crusades with a fever. Sir Edward’s son and most of his soldiers are still fighting the king’s crusades overseas, leaving him with a depleted defence. His young squire, Eric, is given a splendid introduction, riding through the forest, wary of being too close to Irongron’s castle and falling victim to a simple trap laid by Bloodaxe.
When he first addresses Irongron, Linx speaks with ‘a booming metallic voice… strangely accented but clearly understandable English’ and the suggestion is that this is due to a translation device, not his natural voice.
The Brigadier brings the Doctor in to investigate the missing scientists and equipment to distract him as he’s missing Jo since she had got married and has refused a new assistant ever since. The Doctor is described as ‘a tall man with a lined young-old face and a shock of white hair’ (we’ll be seeing this description regularly from now on). He insists on having the TARDIS brought to the research centre in case there’s an alien influence he needs to trace. Sarah Jane Smith is introduced, ‘an attractive dark-haired girl’ who is a freelance journalist (the ‘freelance’ bit is new to the book) who has been ‘making her own way in a man’s world for some years now, and she strongly resented any suggestion that her sex doomed her to an inferior role’. The Doctor tells Rubeish that ‘Lavinia Smith’ is a woman in her ‘late sixties’ as well as being in America. The Brigadier reminds the Doctor about his failed attempts to reach Metabelis III (‘I got there eventually’, says the Doctor defensively). We get Sarah’s first reaction to the inside of the TARDIS and she hides inside a wardrobe when the Doctor enters. Realising that the wardrobe is bigger than the police box she entered – and the central control room even bigger again – she quickly forms a theory that the Doctor is an alien responsible for kidnapping the scientists. She also watches the switch the Doctor uses to open the door and uses the same switch to escape.
Linx rides on horseback for the attack on Sir Edward’s castle. The attack on Linx, the destruction of Irongron’s castle and the Doctor’s departure with Sarah all happen at night. Although Hal’s arrow kills Linx, the hand of the dead warrior hits the launch button and his ship escapes the burning castle to be returned with Linx’s corpse to the war in the stars. And hurrah for Hal as he rescues Squire Eric from the dungeon!
Oh and there’s a chapter title called ‘Return to Danger’ – so close!!
Cover: Linx the Sontaran strikes a dramatic pose before his globe-shaped craft, a superb photorealistic portrait by Roy Knipe. The cover for the 1993 reprint by Alister Pearson places the Doctor, Sarah and Irongron in square tiles behind Linx, who’s side on and holding his helmet by his side.
Final Analysis: It might be heresy but I’m not a fan of this story on TV and reading this story I can put it down to Alan Bromly’s static, leaden direction. But look at all the notes in this chapter and join me in wondering if Terrance Dicks was spurred on by his friend Holmes’ wonderful opening prologue – top three in the series so far*. Compare the two descriptions of Linx’s face – the first is by Holmes, the second by Dicks, picking up the baton:
… the heavy bones, the flat powerful muscles, the leathery, hairless epidermis, the calculating brain.… little, red eyes that were like fire-lit caves under the great green-brown dome of a skull…
The face beneath was something out of a nightmare. The head was huge and round, emerging directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greenish-brown in colour, the eyes small and red. The little nose was a pig-like snout, the mouth long and lipless. It was a face from one of Earth’s dark legends, the face of a goblin or a troll.
This extends to the major and minor characters – how Sir Edward waits for his wife to ‘run out of words’ and on the very next line ‘It was a considerable wait.’ It’s clear Dicks enjoyed this. I know I did.
* – See also Doctor Who and the Crusaders and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks.
Synopsis: A London music hall in the late 19th Century is the setting for murder. Its proprietor, Mr Henry Gordon Jago, has just secured the services of a master magician of Chinese origin while a mortician called Litefoot examines a body fished from the Thames and covered in huge bite marks. The Doctor and Leela follow the clues that lead them into the lair of a Chinese God…
1. Terror in the Fog
2. The Horror in the River
3. Death of a Prisoner
4. The Monster in the Tunnel
5. The Quest of Greel
6. The Tong Attacks
7. The Lair of Weng-Chiang
8. The Sacrifice
9. In the Jaws of the Rat
10. A Plan to Kill the Doctor
11. Death on Stage
12. The Hunt for Greel
13. The House of the Dragon
14. The Prisoners of Greel
15. The Firebomb
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1977 scripts by Robert Holmes, just seven months after they were broadcast.
Notes: The ghoulish woman on the dockside who (on telly) discovers the body of the cabby, Alf Buller, becomes an old man who wants his reward – until he sees the state of the mutilated body. The young woman who Leela saves from becoming a victim of Magnus Greel is named Teresa Hart and Dicks explains that she’s up in the small hours of the morning because she’s employed as a waitress in a gambling club across London in Mayfair – just in case there’s any possibility of some other reason why a woman might be walking the streets alone at that time of night.
As he did with the cuddly Yeti in The Abominable Snowmen, Dicks also solves the basic failure of the giant rat on TV, too clean and plodding in its original form, but now ‘huge and savage’ with red eyes’, a ‘trumpeting scream’ and ‘yellow fangs bared in fury’.
The Doctor taunts Greel by offering him a jelly baby (although North American editions change this for a jelly bean – utter sacrilege!). On TV, the Doctor recalls that Mr Sin – aka ‘the Peking Homunculus’ – was given to the Icelandic Commissioner’s children as a toy, but ‘something went wrong’ and the thing was ‘almost’ the cause of World War Six, but here there’s a little more more detail: the homunculus was really a programmed assassin, which ‘massacred the Commissioner and all his family’, which then ‘set off’ the World War. We later learn that Magnus Greel was the inventor of Mr Sin and that he triggered the war intentionally. As part of a ‘Supreme Alliance’ of dictators, he was defeated at the Battle of Reykjavik and, branded a war criminal, used the time cabinet to flee with Mr Sin to 19th-Century China.
There’s a slight addition to the last scene, as Jago invites Litefoot to a ‘little tavern’ for a ‘celebratory libation’. And it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Cover: Jeff Cummins provides a wonderful composition of the Doctor in his Holmesian gear, holding a shotgun, while behind him are Mr Sin, a giant rat and a circular design evoking the sewer. This is his first cover for Target, even though The Mutants was published earlier – and apparently it was later stolen from his portfolio, never to return. The 1994 reprint boasted Alister Pearson’s final reprint cover (as this was also the final release of the original Target books run), featuring the Doctor, Greel, Mr Sin and the head of the ornate dragon-shaped ray gun.
Final Analysis: Recently, this story has come under attack for the unsettling undertones inherent in the very racist genre it takes its inspiration from. While much of the problems are still here – an assumption that all the Chinese population of Limehouse are opium addicts, Irish Casey having ‘a weakness for the bottle’ as well as the general racism of characters from the time – there’s one section that suggests Dicks was at least aware of certain ironies; as Jago appraises the great magician Chang, Dicks makes a dig at the casting in the TV serial:
Perhaps he really was from China as he claimed. After all he really was Chinese, unlike most Oriental magicians who were usually English enough once the makeup was off.
But Dicks also spells out that Chang’s own stage persona, speaking in pidgin English, is an artifice he employs solely to appease his English audience’s expectations; in this version, it’s the audience who are very much at fault.
The opening chapter feels like Malcolm Hulke has stepped in to provide some social context by focusing on the different strata within the audience of the Palace Theatre:
The body of the theatre and the Grand Circle above were filled with local people, tradesmen and their wives and families, bank clerks and shop assistants. High above in the top-most balcony, known as the ‘Gods,’ the poorer people were crowded onto hard wooden benches. Labourers, dock workers, soldiers and sailors, even some of the half starved unemployed – they’d all managed to scrape together a few coppers for the big night of the week.
It’s an atypical observation for Dicks, but there’s plenty of social commentary throughout the story. Professor Litefoot is from a ‘wealthy upper-class family’ and his ‘aristocratic relations’ have ceased trying to get him to relinquish his calling to do proper work in the East End, instead of pampering ‘silly women’ in Harley Street. Chang considers the workers of London as ‘peasants’ – but presumably this is a description that places himself on an equal level to them – all subjects to higher powers.
Synopsis: A strange object from space lands on Earth near a nuclear power station. Inside are Axons, a family of golden beings who offer unlimited power in return for help with their damaged spacecraft. While the Doctor tries to keep an open mind, an ambitious politician rushes to seize the Axon’s power for his own interests. Deep inside the alien craft, the Master is being held captive – and as Jo Grant discovers, that’s not the only secret the Axons are keeping…
1. Invader from Space
2. The Landing
3. The Voice of Axos
4. Enter the Master
5. The Doctor Makes a Plan
6. Escape from Axos
7. The Axons Attack
8. The Power Robbers
9. The Sacrifice
11. The Feast of Axos
12. Trapped in Time
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin from the 1971 production.
Notes: As it soars towards Earth, the Axos ship has a ‘constantly changing’ shape and glows with a ‘myriad of colours’ – its intention is to be noticed. The first scene with the two radio operators is expanded here; they’re not UNIT operators here, but personnel at the tracking station – Ransome and his assistant, Harry – who work down the list of people they need to contact and find ‘something called UNIT’. The first interaction between the Brigadier and Chinn also provides background information – the minister in overall charge of Chinn’s department cannot stand him, and as the Brigadier is also a problem, he decides to set the two men against each other in the hope that the winner will eliminate one or the other. Although UNIT is governed from Geneva, the Brigadier’s operations are part-funded by the British Government. Corporal Bell is not part of this story, her role is given to a nameless male technician.
We get an introductory scene where Bill Filer is on the hunt for a man called ‘Joe Grant’ – and Jo corrects him. Bill is described as having ‘closely trimmed brown hair and a pleasantly ugly face’ – wow, that’s a pretty mean swipe at the reasonably handsome Paul Grist who played him.
The Doctor and Jo drive to the landing site in Bessie (yay!).
The Axon who first frightens Jo subsequently appears as a male identical to the Axon leader. The Axon leader does not assume that the toad is livestock, but spells out the potential, had it been a ‘food animal’. The process transforms the toad into a huge form that overwhelms Chinn and makes him scream. Later, as Axos reacts to the Doctor’s experiment, the Eye of Axos is said to be ‘lashing wildly to and fro on its stalk’, which is much more fluid a movement than the TV prop could manage.
Jo overhears the Doctor speculating about Axonite’s potential for time travel and suspects he has selfish intentions early on. The Doctor spots straight away that the Axon-Filer is a fake thanks to his experience of the Autons replicating humans. He also baffles a sentry to gain access to the arrested Brigadier: ‘Good heavens, man, I know the Brigadier’s incommunicado. I’m incommunicado myself. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other.’ Delightful!
The Master enters the Nuton complex disguised as a visitings scientist and recalls the time he broke into UNIT HQ dressed as a ‘humble telephone engineer’. The Master’s TARDIS is a white dome, not a filing cabinet.
To the Eye of Axos’s surprise, the Doctor reveals that he’s deduced that Axos already has some limited ability for time travel; he realised that Axos reached Earth before the missiles were fired and Axos confesses that they can ‘move only moments in Time.’ Hardiman’s assistant (credited on screen as ‘Technician’) is named ‘Ericson’.
Cover: Achilleos gives us an eerie female Axon with rays of light coming from her eyes while an Axon monster looms behind her and the Doctor (taken from a photo from Frontier in Space) is pictured inset looking concerned. A 1979 edition had a cover by John Geary showing the adult male Axon and two very green Axon monsters.
Final Analysis: I’m hugely fond of The Claws of Axos TV episodes, one of those comfort stories I can bung on while I decide what I’d sooner be watching and then settle down and enjoy it. Terrance Dicks captures all of the conflicted loyalties that the Axons draw out of our heroes – are they victims in need, or should they have been blasted into bits from the start? – but he enhances the suspicion that the Doctor is solely interested in using Axos to escape Earth and relishes in making Chinn hated by absolutely everyone he encounters. The Master once again enjoys the thrill of the adventure, deciding on a whim to jump from a bridge onto a UNIT truck and then exploiting his good fortune when it turns out to be going where he wants to be. The ending is also less rushed than on TV, as Bill Filer says his goodbyes and jokes that he’d thought England would be ‘dull’, Chinn scampers back to the Minister to try framing the success as his own, while the operation to rescue the TARDIS and get it onto the back of a UNIT truck turns into a huge argument, which Jo welcomes as things getting ‘back to normal’.
Synopsis: Researchers in the Antarctic uncover two alien pods. One of them germinates, infecting one of the researchers and transforming him into a murderous plant-like creature. The other pod is stolen and transported to the home of an eccentric British millionaire – the amateur botanist Harrison Chase. When the second pod also finds a victim, the Doctor and Sarah must try to prevent the resulting creature from reaching maturity and destroying all animal life on Earth.
1. Mystery under the Ice
2. Death Stalks the Camp
3. Hunt in the Snow
6. A Visit to Harrison Chase
7. Condemned to Die
8. The Krynoid Strikes
10. The Plants Attack
12. The Final Assault
Background: Philp Hinchcliffe adapts the 1976 serial by Robert Banks Stewart.
Notes: The Doctor wears his red velvet coat (his first one, the one many people assume is corduroy – don’t @ me) rather than the grey tweed from TV. Sarah has been the Doctor’s ‘special assistant’ for two years.
The Krynoid pod’s tendril snakes up ‘a few feet in the air’ before finding Winlett. The Krynoid in the Antarctic turns quickly into the large, shapeless blob of vegetable matter (on screen it remains human shaped). Chase has ‘a considerable private army’ and a large staff of botanists, not just Keeler. Amela Ducat’s involvement beyond her first scene is completely removed. The final scene sees Sarah (not the Doctor) invite Sir Colin for a trip and the civil servant watches from a window as the pair enters the TARDIS and disappears. We don’t see them return to Antarctic as on TV.
Cover: Achilles gives us the Doctor and Sarah in monochrome, flinching as the giant adult krynoid absorbs Harrison Chase’s mansion while under fire from an explosive airstrike.
Final Analysis: It’s difficult to know whether Terrance Dicks would have retained Amelia Ducat’s involvement in the main story, but I’d like to think so. Hinchcliffe opts to cut this and while it’s one of the easiest threads to dispose of, it’s a shame as Ducat is such a lovely character. Don’t go looking for your favourite lines either – ‘I could play all day in my green cathedral’, ‘she’s my best friend’, ‘Scorby – get Dunbar!’ are all missing. These minor crimes aside, Hinchcliffe pares down the six-part story really well, maintaining the growing level of crisis throughout. There’s a particularly strong moment where we gain an insight into Chase’s state of mind even before the Krynoid takes hold:
Chase was physically repelled by people. He reduced contact with them to the bare minimum; hence the black gloves to avoid touching them, and the elaborate safety precautions surrounding the house to stop them getting in. Apart from his immediate entourage he was a recluse, known only by name to the outside world. But within the high walls of his own domain Chase had created a different world—a luxuriant, peaceful world of green – a world in which, for moments at least, he could pretend to shed his human guise and commune with his beloved plants.
A solid first effort from Hinchcliffe though, looking forward to more from him.