Chapter 71. Doctor Who – Full Circle (1982)

Synopsis: The TARDIS falls into another universe – Espace – and lands on Alzarius, a planet with the exact same coordinates as Gallifrey, except in negative. They meet a young boy called Adric and discover a small and terrified community housed in an ancient spaceship. The people of Alzarius are preparing for a cataclysmic event called ‘Mistfall’ when the air becomes unbreathable and strange creatures emerge from the marshes. The marsh creatures lead the Doctor to uncover a secret that has been hidden for generations.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. ‘I Have Lost Control of the TARDIS’
  • 2. ‘I’m an Elite’
  • 3. ‘Master – Alert’
  • 4. ‘We’re Taking Over Your Ship’
  • 5. ‘We Don’t Know What’s Out There’
  • 6. ‘You Will Answer the Questions, Doctor’
  • 7. ‘A Little Patience Goes a Long Way’
  • 8. ‘I Am Beginning Surgery’
  • 9. ‘One Secret Our Ancestors Kept for Themselves’
  • 10. ‘We’ve Come Full Circle’
  • 11. ‘We Cannot Return to Teradon’
  • 12. ‘We’re Trapped’

Background: Andrew Smith adapts his own scripts from the 1980 story. At just 20 years old at the time, Andrew remains the youngest author of a Target novel.

Notes: A prologue tells of the arrival to Alzarius of the original inhabitants of the Terradon starliner, the demise of Commander Yakob Lorenzil and the hostile environment that greets the survivors of the crash, led by Sub-Commander Damyen Fenrik. This might feel like a spoiler until the exact moment that we realise it’s a clever deception. There’s an interlude with the full verses of a poem by First Decider Yanek Pitrus, a ‘tenth generation starliner’, setting out the legends of mistfall. 

First Decider Exmon Draith is accompanied by Decider Ragen Nefred and Decider Jaynis Garif. After Draith dies, Halrin Login is elevated to Decider level. As he takes on the role of First Decider, Nefred connects his brain to the System Files, which monitor the well-being of all Deciders; this is how Nefred confirms that Draith has died, as well as becoming exposed to the starliner’s darkest secret.

Adric and Varsh lost their parents when they were young; they were killed in a forest fire and the boys were taken in by family friends. Varsh is three-and-a-half years Adric’s senior. As this is Adric’s introduction (despite featuring in four novels by now), his creator gives us the best insight yet into who he is:

Adric’s diminutive stature and his youth belied the fact that he had one of the keenest intelligences on the starliner, an intelligence marred only by the occasional lapse into the naive mannerisms of the juvenile. 

Adric only lets go of Draith because he panics after a hand clasps his ankle underneath the marsh water. The other Outlers are here named Refnal, Gulner, Hektir and Yenik. 

As with all authors showing off their creations, Andrew Smith presents the giant Marshmen as much more impressive than TV would allow:

They flexed their scaly arms, allowed their mouths, dribbling with hungry saliva, to gape. Scaly, metallic-looking eyelids slid back over black evil eyeballs, which then scanned the surroundings. They started climbing from the marsh, mud slithering down their tall, horrible frames, heavy clawed feet finding a secure hold in the soil by the marsh. 

The Marshchild follows the Doctor onto the starliner and the Doctor takes it under his wing when he protects it from a frightened mob (on TV, he’s knocked out and the child is taken away screaming). The Doctor recalls once failing to save a young girl from a ‘witch trial’ in 17th-Century England and vows not to allow the Marshchild to suffer a similar fate. 

There is a pitch-black ‘spatio-temporal void’ between the TARDIS’s inner and outer doors! Romana utters a mild swearword (‘damn’, which is still the naughtiest word a series regular has said so far!). The Doctor’s mission to collect Romana and the broken K9 is interrupted by clusters of spiders swarming over him (shudder!). The Marshmen enjoy a level of shared minds and the brief involvement of Romana allows them insight into the starliner citizens. The ‘people of the marsh’ see themselves as guardians of the planet, ‘to serve and to protect nature’ from the alien technology of the starliners, who they consider ‘non-people; but the Marsh leader still pauses to lament the deaths they have caused: as they return to the marsh, he asks his brethren ‘… why does the maintaining of beauty always have to require the taking of lives? It is so very sad.’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a trio of Marshmen emerging from the mists. Unkind observers have noted that there appear to be pockets on the creature’s chest.

Final Analysis: This is how to do it! The third of four consecutive stories to be adapted by their original authors, Andrew Smith combines mythology and SF in an exercise in world-building that feels lived in and real. His version of the Doctor is, as with Warriors’ Gate, closer to the Fourth Doctor we recognise than the more sombre version of season 18, cracking jokes that reveal the Doctor as equally pompous and contemptuous towards assumed authority – but still with the righteous fury when confronted with the experiments on the Marshchild, or touching compassion for Tylos when he finds his body, killed during the Marshmen attack:

The Doctor knelt beside the boy. They had never spoken, yet he felt a sense of real loss. The taking of life was always to be mourned, the taking of a young life even more so.  

There are some solid horror elements – particularly the emergence of the Marshmen, the spiders hatching from the river fruit, Dexeter’s murder at the hands of the defiant Marshchild and Romana’s possession. Perhaps because he was a teenager himself when he wrote the TV scripts, Smith also presents Adric sympathetically, not blind to his awkward, precocious adolescence, but recognising how the boy feels he doesn’t fit in with either the inhabitants of the starliner or the Outlers; like many of the viewers, he identifies with the ‘otherness’ of the Doctor and Romana. We all love it when a novel presents new material or deeper insights into the characters, but this achieves a new high for the range.

Chapter 67. Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate (1982)

Synopsis: The Tharils were once a proud race, masters of the time winds with an empire forged on slavery. Then the robot Gundans came. Now the Tharils themselves are slaves, sold as mere components to be plugged into space ships as unwilling navigators. One such ship is the Privateer, fashioned from dwarf star alloy, captained by the dictatorial and stubborn Rorvik… and currently mired in a white void near a mysterious gateway. As the Doctor, Romana and Adric search for a way out of E-Space, their encounters at the gateway promise freedom at last for the Tharils… and Romana.

Chapter Titles

None! It’s just one big run of text. 

Background: Steve Gallagher adapts his own 1981 TV scripts under the pen-name of John Lydecker to avoid confusion with his other novels. This followed State of Decay on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: The opening scenes introduce a member of The Antonine Killer clan, a methodical, maverick Tharil in pursuit of Privateers trying to evade a blockage. The clan is part of the anti-slavery alliance and they’ve already targetted four privateer vessels. The actions of this Killer result in the Privateer being disabled and stranded outside of normal space. Early on, we’ve given an explanation of the Tharils’ time-sensitivity that really helps make sense of the entire story:

Time-sensitivity was the Tharils’ curse; from an infinite range of possible futures they could select one and visualise it in detail as if it had already happened. Sometimes in moments of extreme trance their bodies would shimmer and glow, dancing between those possible futures and only loosely anchored in the present. It took intense concentration to bring a Tharil back into phase with the Moment.

As K9’s health ails, we’re told that even though he could be rebuilt, ‘there was no way of reproducing its personality with any exactness… a copy would never be any more than just that’, so either the author has forgotten that this unit is the second model, or each K9 has its own individual personality that can’t be recaptured. Meanwhile, Romana departs with Lazlo, not Biroc, while we lose the final scene with Adric and the Doctor. There’s something of Brief Encounter or The Empire Strikes Back in the way the Doctor and Romana say goodbye:

‘I can only wish you good luck. It’s not likely we’ll meet again.’

‘I know,’ Romana said.

Cover: An ethereal composition by Andrew Skilleter showing the Tharil Biroc, the gateway and the Privateer in front of a blue hazy background.

Final Analysis: The most radical departure from the Target house style so far, Gallagher really dives deep into the story and his characters. It’s all the more impressive considering his first delivered version was much longer and had to be condensed (that longer version was later released as an audiobook). It’s a complete rewrite of the TV episodes and Gallagher’s style is more mature than we’re used to – and that doesn’t mean the kind of violence or language that Ian Marter employs, but in Rorvik we get a much more sadistic character than Saturday tea-time TV could allow. Surprisingly for someone writing for Season 18 setting, Gallagher also adds a lot of comic sequences – actually capturing the Fourth Doctor that we know, rather than the muted version we got that season (I’m reliably informed the jokes were in the original scripts, so we can work out what happened there!).

Rorvik cut across the diffident denial with another blast into the ceiling, another snowfall of plaster. 

‘This could be a listed building for all you know,’ the Doctor warned, but Rorvik’s sense of humour seemed to have been suspended. 

‘You’ll be listed as a former human being if you don’t play straight.”Human being? Are we descending to cheap insults now?’

And just a couple of pages later:

‘Can you hear me, Doctor? I’ve got a message for you. I hate you. Did you get that? Of everybody I’ve ever met, you’re my least favourite!’ And he hammered his fists on the mirror’s surface in frustration. 

On the page, Rorvik is one of the most sadistic monsters we’ve encountered so far – we’re told of the atrocities he’s committed to other Tharils even during Biroc’s short time on the Priveteer and Rorvik himself admits to others – yet Gallagher remembers that pomposity can actually be hilarious when the subject isn’t in on the joke. One tiny criticism, but it’s an obvious one, is that this is a very dense, detailed story with some very heavy SF themes and motifs; it would have really helped to have had chapter titles. I’m a traditionalist at heart.

Chapter 66. Doctor Who and the State of Decay (1982)

Synopsis: Exploring more of E-Space, the Doctor and Romana land on a planet where a small village lies in the shadow of a huge, sinister-looking tower, home to The Three Who Rule. A growing suspicion leads the Doctor to realise that the rulers are vampires, the mortal enemies of the Time Lords. As the pair try to form a plan to defeat them, they are unaware of a complication. A boy called Adric stowed aboard the TARDIS during their last landing and now he is about to become a servant of the Great Vampire…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Selection
  • 2. The Strangers
  • 3. The Stowaway
  • 4. The Messengers of Aukon
  • 5. The Tower
  • 6. Tarak’s Plan
  • 7. The Secret Horror
  • 8. The Resting Place
  • 9. Escape
  • 10. The Vampires
  • 11. The Traitor
  • 12. Attack on the Tower
  • 13. The Arising
  • 14. Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts from the 1980 serial, which in turn were adapted from scripts he originally wrote for the series in 1977 before they were cancelled. This is a completely separate adaptation to the one he scripted for an audiobook published by Pickwick the previous year.

Notes: Habris introduces us to this world, the village, the tower and the Lords who ‘weren’t quite human’. There’s no trace of the original title, ‘The Wasting’, which had survived to the broadcast version. Adric is introduced as ‘a small, round-faced, dark-haired youth’. The Doctor sticks around ‘well into the next day’ to help with explanations and clearing everything up. Ivo and Kalmar jointly agree to set up a new government, using the old rebel headquarters as its base.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter creates a composition of the Doctor, Aukon, a bat and more bats flying across a moonlit sky.

Final Analysis: This is the fourth complete version of the story that Terrance Dicks wrote – preceded by the abandoned one for Season 15, the broadcast one for Season 18 and that Pickwick audiocassette version from 1981. The Pickwick edit was significantly abridged, so this is a much more faithful adaptation and Terrance even borders on Ian Marter-style violence towards the end. The desiccation of the vampire Lords is particularly effective:

Grouped in front of him in a semi-circle, the three vampires paused for a moment, as if to savour their final triumph. Eyes flaring red, teeth gleaming, hands outstretched like claws, they lunged forwards in unison — and then froze. 

Their faces seemed to dry up, to wither and crack, like sun-baked earth. 

The dessicated flesh crumbled from their bodies and for one horrible moment, three gorgeously robed skeletons stood leering at the Doctor, bony fingers reaching out, as if to rend him. Then the skeletons, too, crumbled, leaving three huddled heaps of clothes resting on scattered dust piles on the floor of the cave.