Chapter 77. Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday (1983)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a huge spaceship heading towards Earth. The inhabitants appear to come from different periods in Earth’s history, providing entertainment for three amphibious Urbankans called Enlightenment, Persuasion and the imperious Monarch. Given the freedom to explore the ship, the Doctor and his friends begin to understand the terrifying scale of Monarch’s ambitions…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Ship of Mystery
  • 2. A Meeting with Monarch
  • 3. The Transformation
  • 4. The Invaders
  • 5. The Explorers
  • 6. The Android
  • 7. The Convert
  • 8. Tegan’s Gamble
  • 9. Death Warrant
  • 10. Reprieved
  • 11. Riot!
  • 12. Spacewalk

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terence Dudley’s scripts for the 1982 serial. When Dicks said that scriptwriters cottoned on that they could write the books and get all the money, I suspect this is who he was specifically referring to – see The King’s Demons. This followed Castrovalva on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Terrance gets his first go at this TARDIS crew, so we get decent descriptions of them all: Nyssa is ‘an attractive-looking girl with brown hair and an aristocratic, somewhat haughty air’; once again, Adric is ‘a smallish, round-faced youth wearing a yellow tunic’; the Doctor’s ‘third, least willing companion [is] an ‘Australian air-hostess called Tegan Jovanka’ who is said to be ‘exceptionally forceful, even for an Australian’; and the new Doctor, who we’re told is now in his fifth incarnation, is a ‘rather slight, fair-haired young man with a pleasant, open face’ (entirely coincidentally a cricket pun there – Dicks had no idea  it was a term for how a cricketer grips the bat!). Each of the companions gets a one-line origin summary.

Observing a device that can reduce matter, Nyssa recalls that it’s a favoured method of the Master and was the way he murdered Tegan’s aunt. As the Doctor tells Monarch that only he can operate the TARDIS, it dematerialises under Tegan’s control, rather undermining his boast. Nyssa’s fainting cliffhanger that leads into the next story is omitted. 

Cover: An almost competent photo montage of Stratford Johns as Monarch with Peter Davison as the Doctor. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover is just a noble portrait of Monarch with a suggestion of his chamber lightly etched into the background. 

Final Analysis: By this point in time, TARDIS companions exist solely to bicker and Terrance Dicks relishes the opportunity to show the previously impish Adric as an utter brat. Tegan’s brashness is accentuated too, which rather underlines how empty and bland Nyssa is. We’re even told that she manages to save the Doctor from execution because she’s ‘ standing unnoticed in the background, ignored because nobody considered her a threat’. Four to Doomsday is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite story, or indeed anyone’s favourite book; it does the job, nothing more.

Chapter 76. Doctor Who – Castrovalva (1983)

Synopsis: The Doctor is struggling after a particularly distressing regeneration. He seeks rest deep within the TARDIS, but an external force sends the time machine racing towards the Big Bang. A narrow escape brings the travellers to the quiet town of Castrovalva. The locals are friendly and offer the Doctor room to recuperate. But there’s something strange about the town; how can the local chemist be in four places at once? Who is exploiting the Doctor’s weakened state and for what purpose? And where is Adric?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Escape from Earth
  • 2. Towards Zero
  • 3. Destination: Event One
  • 4. Russian Roulette
  • 5.. Jettisoned
  • 6. The Quest for Castrovalva
  • 7. Within the Walls
  • 8. The Dark Reflection
  • 9. The Occlusion Closes In
  • 10. The Clue of the Chronicle
  • 11. The World through the Eyes of Shardovan
  • 12. The Web is Broken

Background: Christopher H.Bidmead adapts his own scripts for the 1982 serial.

Notes: We’re told that the ‘apocalyptic events’ of Logopilis led to the previous and future Doctors overlapping in the form of the Watcher. We’re drawn to consider the new Doctor’s ‘strangely smooth and vacant face’, while  Adric has a ‘strange smile and wicked black button eyes’ and Nyssa possesses ‘a remote, aristocratic quality that was somehow unEarthly’. Based on the scant hours he’s spent there, Adric considers Earth to be a ‘planet of fools and bullies’. We’re reminded of Adric’s former home on the starliner on Alzarius. Tegan is said to have ‘once been lost in that maze of white corridors during her involuntary first trip in the TARDIS’… which took place… yesterday? She also utters the mild expletive ‘strewth’ a couple of times.

Nyssa tries to explain recursion to Tegan by discussing family trees (and Tegan feels awkward as she realises Nyssa’s family and everyone she knows has been wiped out by the Master). The Doctor’s new coat is ‘a cream coloured garment that was too summery to be a morning coat but too long to be a sports jacket’. As Tegan and Nyssa look at the scanner to see the Master waving at them, they can see Adric behind him, trapped in the electronic web. The TARDIS has a surgery and a trolley laden with medical supplies rolls out of it towards the Doctor during the Event One incident.

Apparently, ‘the Gallifreyan temperament tends to see the world from the other person’s point of view’, so the Doctor feels empathy for a roast pig. There’s also an ‘official Time-Lord strategy’ that’s taught to small children that… :

… in circumstances of near-defeat you take stock of the forces that are working on your behalf, your assets, and then separately assess the forces working against you, your liabilities. This leads directly to the next stage: devising a logical plan that will increase the former and diminish the latter. 

The Doctor views this ‘arid, abstract and artificial’ edict as ‘typically Gallifreyan’ – he prefers ‘blind panic’. He is said to be ‘nearly eight hundred’ years old, while Castrovalva was created by the Master as a trap 500 years ago. So was this created in the Master’s distant past and he’s only just come back to it? Did he set it up and then jump forward 500 years? Did he play at Portreeve for half a millennium while Adric was held in stasis in the electronic web?! (Or is this just not actually true and he knocked it up yesterday in between wrestling with the Doctor on a gantry and choosing a nice hat for his Portreeve cosplay?). On the jog back to the TARDIS, Adric is ‘still a little pallid after his long ordeal’ – a real-world cheeky dig at actor Matthew Waterhouse’s overindulgence in the bar the night before the filming of that sequence for TV. The Doctor opts not to dampen Tegan’s enthusiasm by telling her she didn’t land the TARDIS after all and it was all Adric’s doing.

Cover: Somebody clearly resents being made to work on these as the cover design is woefully lazy – a photo of a smiling Peter Davison against a starfield backdrop. Alister Pearson’s reprint cover from 1991 is predictably better, to be fair, with an almost identical picture of Davison (which makes him look old) next to a beautifully realised, geometrically impossible walkway from the Castrovalva town square.

Final Analysis: ‘Euclidian topology’? Really, Bidmead? We’ve come a long way since the days of writing these books for eager seven-year-olds, but there really is no concession for the child reader here. It all fits together rather neatly, especially the way so much of the dialogue is there to underline the theme of recursion, but as with Logopolis, there’s also the suspicion that the author’s making himself a little too visible in the text by showing off.

Chapter 74. Doctor Who – Time Flight (1983)

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…

Chapter Titles

  • 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.

Chapter 70. Doctor Who and the Visitation (1982)

Synopsis: A plague-ridden England leaves its people wary of strangers, so the Doctor and his friends receive a hostile welcome from a group of villagers. Help arrives in the form of Richard Mace, an out-of-work actor. Together they explore a nearby house, its inhabitants nowhere to be found. But hidden behind a secret wall, a wounded Terileptil and his android servant are about to put into motion a plan that could lead to the deaths of millions…

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eleven.

Background: Eric Saward adapts his own scripts just six months after they aired.

Notes: The introduction follows the nocturnal explorations of a fox (and later on, a badger watches events). The chapter expands upon the ill-fated family of the Squire, who is named here ‘Sir John’. Preparing for her return home, Tegan remembers how her favourite aunt was murdered by the Master, but there’s no mention of her possession by the Mara on Kinda, so this doesn’t necessarily follow on from the previous televised story (and while she apologises to Nyssa for being maudlin about her own Aunt, she seems to forget that Nyssa has lost her father, stepmother and every other person she’s ever known, so…). 

The Doctor deduces that the aliens are Terileptils thanks to an insignia on the wreck of their craft. The Terileptil leader is over seven feet tall with a head like a small Tyrannosaurus Rex. It has ‘lively, intelligent, magenta eyes’. Yes, plural – the disfigurement is ‘on the left side, a large carbuncle-like growth and heavy scarring that covered his whole cheek’. That’s left as you look at it, not his left, and doesn’t include a missing eye. When the android enters her bedroom, Nyssa plays dead to avoid it from shooting her. As the Doctor and his friends catch up with the Terileptil leader, he is ‘seated at a desk… pen in hand, writing’. 

Cover: The first of the photo covers and it’s pretty bland, just a standard portrait of Peter Davison in costume outside the TARDIS, with a flash announcing ‘A BBC TV PROGRAMME WITH PETER DAVISON AS THE DOCTOR’. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover has an unusually cheerful Doctor accompanied by the android (holding his death mask), the Terileptil leader and a soliton gas device against a backdrop of a burning London skyline. In a reversal of fortune, a 2016 BBC Books reprint gave us Chris Achilleos replacing Alister Pearson, with an illustration of the android as Death, the Terileptil and a disappointing likeness of the Doctor. It tries to recapture the glory of Achilleos’ earlier works but it doesn’t really work, sadly.

Final Analysis: This is a curious warning of things to come: Saward puts a lot of effort into depicting some scenes, perhaps through the viewpoint of an owl or fox, but when we reach the regular cast there’s no attempt to describe them. The author seems to be unconcerned that some readers might not have seen the TV episodes yet, so although followers of the book range might know Adric, they won’t know how Nyssa or Tegan came to join the TARDIS. This is especially criminal when it comes to the Doctor – this is the first story to feature the fifth incarnation. In the early chapters, Saward has a lot of fun building the setting, but this peters out towards the end and it becomes very Dicks-like in its straightforward transcription of onscreen events. It’s a solid enough adaptation though and the Terileptil leader is an imposing presence.