Chapter 87. Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep (1984)

Synopsis: The Earth was once home to a race of intelligent reptiles who dominated the land and the sea. Having spent millions of years in hibernation, they are now preparing to awake and reclaim their planet. As the personnel of a nearby underwater military base run tests in preparation for a potential war, their paranoia and stress is being exploited from within by agents secretly working for a foreign power. The Doctor has failed to broker peace with the reptiles before, but now the Sea Devils and Silurians are working together to trigger a war that could eradicate humanity entirely.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Intruder
  • 2. The Traitors
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. The Sea Devils Awake
  • 5. The Attack
  • 6. The Myrka
  • 7. The Breakthrough
  • 8. Sabotage
  • 9. The Hostage
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Counterattack
  • 12. Sacrifice

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for the serial broadcast just four months earlier.

Notes: By 2084, Earth is divided into two power blocs, East and West (suggested on screen but not spelled out) and after space stations proved vulnerable to ‘spy-satellites and the searing blast of laser beams’, many of Earth’s defence systems are now housed under the sea. Commander Vorshak has ‘the rugged good looks of a recruiting-poster hero, much to his own embarrassment’. The hull of the Silurian vessel has an irregular surface, as if it were ‘grown rather than manufactured’. The Silurians are ‘immensely tall, robed figures’…:

… brown-skinned with great crested heads and huge bulging eyes. Their slow, almost stately movements, their coldly measured speech-tones gave evidence of their reptilian origin.

Icthar is confirmed as the sole survivor of the ‘Silurian Triad’ and it’s made clear that the Doctor specifically remembers him as one of three Silurians from their origin story [see The Cave Monsters for Okdel, K’to and Morka – thought he could be one of the other bystanders who survives the end of the story only to be entombed]. He led the return to hibernation and awoke over a hundred years later. The Sea Devil warriors are in suspended animation in a chamber in the bowels of the Silurian ship (not in their own base as on TV), which is where Icthar found them, frozen under a polar ice cap (so Sea Devils and Silurians presumably had an alliance at some earlier point, considering the Sea Devils are piloting a craft that the Doctor recognises as specifically Silurian). There’s a handy addition to the backstory of the Earth Reptiles, summarising their two previous appearances. Apparently, many of them had developed’ almost mystic powers, the Silurian ‘third eye’ being ‘the source of psychic energy that enabled some Silurians to dominate lesser races by sheer mental force’.

Terrance Dicks still considers Tegan to be an ‘air-hostess’; she hasn’t been one for some time now, after she was sacked, and hadn’t actually started work prior to Time Flight, so it might be time to accept that she’s ex-flight crew now and let her move on, eh?

Doctor Solow was recruited by Nilson to the cause of the Eastern Bloc. She was ‘disappointed in her career, left alone by the death of her husband and her parents’ so she fell ‘an easy prey to Nilson’s arguments’. Icthar found the Myrka along with Sauvix’s ship and revived it. The beast is ‘like a kind of pocket dinosaur’ with a ‘hideous dragon-like head’ and ‘a long tail’ that is agile enough to use as a weapon against its attackers.

The Doctor climbs out of his stolen sea base uniform as soon as he’s handed the gun over to Vorshak. The charred bulkhead door reminds Turlough of toast, which triggers a memory of ‘study teas’ at his public school, ‘with a terrified fag to make the toast’; for non-English readers, this isn’t quite as offensive as it sounds, referring to the public-school practice of forcing the younger boys to work as servants (or fags) for older boys. The fact that he finds himself running towards the sound of battle with a gun in his hand strikes Turlough as odd. Later, he and Preston shoot down two Sea Devils to rescue the Doctor and Tegan; Turlough reminds Preston to ‘Aim for the head’. Tegan is surprised by Turlough’s change of heart but decides to give him the benefit of the doubt. As the Doctor laments that there ‘should have been another way’, he also recognises that Bulic won’t be the sole survivor and maybe he can lead the others and get the base running again.

Cover: The first release boasts a straightforward portrait of a Sea Devil warrior by Andrew Skilleter. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover is really classy, with the sea base and the Doctor between a Silurian and a Sea Devil. There’s also a new brand logo, the colourful target is dropped in favour of a hollow, white line drawing.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks has form for improving on the limitations of what could be achieved in a studio: Adapting a story that was famously overlit because of external pressures, he tells us here that the whiteness of the sea base is intentional, a design choice to counter the blackness of the deep sea; while the Silurians walk and speak slowly not because of restrictive costumes but because it’s dignified to do so; the heavy bulkhead door lands on Tegan, whose foot is ‘only trapped, not mangled’; and the Myrka is a horrific beast with a lithe and deadly tail! In truth, I’ve always loved this story, so it’s gratifying to see Terrance do it justice, even if some of the enhancements are tongue in cheek, it at least allows him to pay tribute to his friend Malcolm Hulke in reminding new readers of the origins of the Sea Devils and Silurians.

We should remember also that this novel, like the story it retells, was released in 1984, the year that Ultravox released Dancing with Tears in My Eyes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood topped the charts with Two Tribes. While the TV episodes and the novel both predate the harrowing drama Threads this was the peak year for anxiety of mutual annihilation from a nuclear attack, the most ‘1984’ story we could have got, short of a celebrity historical where the Doctor meets George Orwell.

Chapter 78. Doctor Who – Earthshock (1983)

Synopsis: After a brief encounter in a cave on Earth, the Doctor and his friends explore a freighter in space. When a crewmember of the freighter is found murdered, the Doctor becomes an obvious suspect. The captain of the ship, a stern woman called Briggs, remains unconvinced by the Doctor’s explanations but is more concerned with getting her cargo to Earth, unaware that each of her fifteen thousand silos contains a dormant Cybermen – and they’re about to wake up!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Shadows
  • 2. Labyrinth of Death
  • 3. Uneasy Allies
  • 4. A Crisis Defused
  • 5. Stowaways
  • 6. Monstrous Awakenings
  • 7. A Siege
  • 8. War of Nerves
  • 9. Accidents Happen
  • 10. Triumph and Tragedy

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts by Eric Saward for the 1982 serial.

Notes: All of the TARDIS crew receives a very good quick-sketch description in line with those of Terrance Dicks, so Adric is ‘snub-nosed’ and sullen and Nyssa is ‘aristocratic-looking’, while Tegan has an ‘efficient and determined air’. The new Doctor gets his best description so far: With his ‘long and tanned’ face and open collar with two embroidered question marks (their first mention!), he looks like he’s ‘dressed for a summer garden party or a regatta’. References to their failed attempt to get to Heathrow (The Visitation) and the book the Doctor is reading (Black Orchid) are missing.

The Doctor theorises that the bomb in the caves might be strong enough to blow the Earth apart if it were placed in a strategic position such as an ancient fault line. Without identifying them yet, Marter introduces two silver figures, one larger than the other, and it’s the most detailed descriptions of Cybermen so far:

The rigid mask-like faces had eyeless sockets and immobile mouth-like apertures, but no noses. They had no ears, but a network of wires and pipes connecting a bulging section on each side of their heads to a similar bulge on the top. The limbs were jointed like human ones, but were much thicker and more powerfully tubular, and the arms terminated in enormous hands like steel gauntlets. Tubes ran snaking over the hard metallic surfaces of their bodies from flat, box-like units protected by gratings which were fitted onto their chests…

The beings make hissing noises ‘like human breathing’ (so, just like Darth Vader) and their guns are clipped to their belts (utility belts like Batman? The Cyberleader pulls a key from his later). The Cyberleader is accompanied by a Deputy (which neatly avoids confusion with Lieutenant Scott) and their scanner is called a ‘holovisor disc’. The Cybermen are much more resilient than the TV versions toward the firepower of the troopers and freighter crew, until the Doctor suggests they focus their guns on the chest gratings. A mocking Ringway suggests that the Doctor and his friends should give in and the Doctor replies: ‘I never surrender, it’s too embarrassing.’

Berger is described as ‘a lean hard woman of about fifty’, while Captain Briggs is rather generously said to be about Berger’s age (rather than a decade older). As the Cybermen march him towards the TARDIS, the Doctor stumbles across their hidden control room; the entry hatch slams shut, accidentally sets the reactivation sequence running on the dormant Cybermen.

Nyssa removes the dead bodies of Professor Kyle and the trooper from the TARDIS Console room, which is possibly the single bravest thing a companion has ever had to do. Adric’s badge is used to attack both the Cyberleader and the Deputy; Tegan stands in wait as the Deputy returns to the console room and attacks him from behind, before the Doctor (not Nyssa) blasts him with the Leader’s gun. The Doctor picks up a surviving fragment of Adric’s badge and places it in his pocket.

Cover: A misleading photo of the Doctor pointing a gun. Davison looks rather heroic and dashing, and the cover at least maintains the surprise of the returning enemy. This even extends to the back cover blurb – for the first edition at least – which skillfully avoids spelling anything out. The 1992 edition states that the book ‘features the long awaited return of the Cybermen, the Doctor’s most lethal enemies.’ Alister Pearson’s cover has a half-length painting of a Cyberman with the Doctor, Adric and the Earth beautifully sketched in shades of blue in the background.

Final Analysis: Oh I’ve missed Ian Marter’s writing. I often wish he could have been published as a horror author, maybe with a selection of original short stories. The book begins with an evocative image of the landscape:

The towering cliffside resembled a gigantic human skull with the dark openings of caves gaping like empty eye-sockets and nostrils. 

… and it continues with the same dripping nastiness that made Ark in Space such fun. Marter’s violence is sensuous: Bodies shot by the androids collapse into a ‘gluey pool’ of ‘steaming, viscous liquid’; a ‘sickly smell’ hangs in the air, sizzling ‘like hot fat’; a Cyberman slices a trooper’s skull ‘like an egg’; when the Cybermen die, they leak ‘black oily pus’ and their ventilator units emit ‘thick black smoke’, ‘brown fluid’ or  ‘evil yellow and black bubbles’… the idea that Cybermen smell of anything makes them even more disgusting and repellent.

I recently criticised Christopher Bidmead for wilfully choosing to ignore the kind of stories the target / Target audience actually wants; Ian Marter’s approach might not be the literature their teachers or parents would chose for them, but this is exactly the kind of gloopy thriller a macabre teenage boy with a love of reading deserves. Earthshock was already the best Cyberman story (no really!) but Marter’s adaptation converts the familiar-but-generic invaders into something more disturbing than they’ve been. Best Cybermen ever!

Chapter 45. Doctor Who and the Sontaran Experiment (1978)

Synopsis: Arriving on the surface of the Earth, thousands of years since the planet was abandoned, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find a small party of explorers hiding in terror from a mechanical hunter. The machine has captured other members of the party and taken them off across the rocky terrain. Hidden among the rocks is a Sontaran with a sinister mission – and Sarah is about to become his next victim.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Stranded
  • 2. Unknown Enemies
  • 3. Capture
  • 4. The Experiment
  • 5. Mistaken Identities
  • 6. The Challenge
  • 7. Duel to the Death
  • 8. A Surprise and a Triumph

Background: Adapted by Ian Marter, based on the 1975 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This completes the run of stories for Season 12.

Notes: Consistent with his new ending to The Ark in Space, Ian Marter has our heroes arrive in the TARDIS – which lands before toppling over. As soon as the three travellers have emerged, it vanishes for no clear reason. As in that earlier book, the space station is referred to as Terra Nova. The robot kills Zake with a vicious whip of its tentacle, rather than pushing him over a ravine.As viewed by Harry, Styr (not Styre) is an imposing being:

… an enormous figure – like the statue of a huge, thick-limbed man somehow brought to life – was gradually silhouetted against the circle of daylight. As it lumbered out of the far end of the tunnel into the open, Harry glimpsed its coarse greyish hide – like pumice stone -shuddering at each step. 

Sarah recognises him and her point of view gives us even more vivid detail:

… the gaping oval panel was filled by a squat, lumbering shape like a monstrous puppet. Its domed, reptilian head grew neckless out of massive, hunched shoulders. Each trunk-like arm ended in three sheathed talons and was raised in anticipation towards her. The creature began to lurch down the ramp on thick, stumpy legs, the rubbery folds of its body vibrating with each step. Mean eyes burned like two red-hot coals amid the gnarled, tortoise-like features, and puffs of oily vapour issued from the flared nostrils.

….The wobbling folds of its lipless jaws were suddenly drawn back, baring hooked, metallic teeth. Sarah stared transfixed at the ghastly smile while the creature slowly shook its domed head…. The shrivelled, tortoise face thrust forward, its red piercing eyes boring into her.

The ‘three sheathed talons’ on each hand neatly fixes the continuity error of the TV episodes. According to the Doctor, Sontaran brains are like seaweed and their lungs are made from ‘a kind of spongy steel-wool’. Styr’s ship is the size of a large house, like ‘a giant Golf-ball’, consisting of a ‘honeycomb of modules’, small, interconnected spherical rooms arranged around a central control chamber. Styr’s robot – called ‘the Scavenger’ here – is a bell-shaped hovering dome with probing tentacles and there are a few of them, including one on guard inside the ship and a spider-like one that Harry dodges. Inside the ship, there are also two other Sontarans, lying dormant in recharging pods.

Styr reports to a ‘Controller’, not a ‘Marshal’, who tells him that a rendezvous with the ‘Allied Squadrons from Hyperion Sigma’ is overdue (is this a squadron of various Sontaran factions or are the Sontarans allied to another race? There’s no mention of the Rutans at all). Styr has a weapon secreted in the arm of his suit.

While unconscious, the Doctor has a vivid nightmare about the TARDIS, wrecked and heading towards a black hole, being overrun with rats while a giant cat emerges from the console and sleeps on his chest. He speculates that the Sontarans might be prospecting for a mineral not known in this galaxy – Terullian – and he keeps many objects in his pockets, including:

… marbles, pieces of twisted wire, shrivelled jelly babies, weird keys, a pirate’s eye-patch, strange coins, sea shells, a dead beetle…

… but not his ‘Liquid Crystal Instant Recall Diary,’ in which he thinks he wrote some notes about Sontarans in the past. Harry hallucinates Sarah as a vicious, snarling beast and is attacked by an illusionary giant spider-like creature.

The Doctor and Sarah each destroy a Scavenger robot with the sonic screwdriver. Styr sends Vural to his death over a ravine. The Doctor pours a flash of Glenlivet whisky into Styr’s probic vent and Styr swells to over three times his normal size before he and his ship deflate like balloons into congealed heaps. The Doctor remembers he set the TARDIS ‘Boomerang Orientators’ so assumes it’ll be back on Terra Nova. He, Sarah and Harry depart via the transmat field, thereby making the story fit with the previously published Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen.

Cover: The Doctor holds a log as a weapon in front of a background of a supersized Sontaran helmet. Another strong illustration from Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: While this is based on a two-episode adventure, it’s by no means the shortest novel; indeed, it feels like it takes up the same page-count as, say, the six-part Genesis of the Daleks, without becoming padded or over-written. It’s another Ian Marter ‘movie version’, with everything turned up to eleven. Predictably, the horror elements are more grotesque – the terrifying hallucinations of faces emerging from rocks, soaring monster-infested wave, burning desert sands or giant ants. Marter’s real skill is in the characterisation: He makes Styr a much more terrifying presence than the TV version as the huge, hulking ‘golem’ is wheezing and gurgling, but also flawed as his sadism makes him forget the real purpose of his mission; Sarah’s ability to be both terrified and brave, as in the way she responds defiantly to Styr’s interrogation by pointing out that it’s not her fault if her mere presence doesn’t match his data; and Harry is still as bewildered by the technology, particularly the Doctor’s description of Sontaran biology, but he’s still got a great way of summing things up – calling Styr ‘the Humpty Dumpty thing’. What was merely a side dish on TV has been reimagined as a macabre banquet.

Chapter 35. Doctor Who and the Mutants (1977)

Synopsis: When the Doctor receives a mysterious object, it leads him and Jo to the planet Solos, a colony in Earth’s future empire ruled by a cruel and sadistic Marshal. The native Solonians are fighting for their rights to independence while also battling something far more puzzling – some of them are transforming into hideous insect-like creatures…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Hunters
  • 2. Mutant on the Loose!
  • 3. Assassination!
  • 4. Hunted on Solos
  • 5. The Experiment
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Attack
  • 8. The Trap
  • 9. The Fugitive
  • 10. The Crystal
  • 11. Condemned
  • 12. The Message
  • 13. The Investigator
  • 14. The Witness
  • 15. The Change

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1972 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: Solos is a ‘planet of jungles’, but still looks grey from orbit due to the mists. Varan’s son is called ‘Vorn’. Dicks writes that the Doctor was exiled by the Time Lords ‘for some unknown offence’; obviously Dicks himself knows why – he co-wrote the story that saw the Doctor exiled (and so do we), but Jo actually doesn’t – the closest she gets is in The Doomsday Weapon, where the Doctor explained that he used to roam the universe before the Time Lords caught him and trapped him on Earth – but he never explains to her precisely why!

Professor Jaeger is ‘a vain and unprincipled man, desperate for scientific recognition, but without the talent to attain it on his own’; he’s disgraced back on Earth after some scandal involving results stolen from a junior colleague. The Marshal, meanwhile, came to Solos as a security guard and slowly climbed his way up the ranks to his current position; he sees himself as the supreme power over Solos, which is why he is so desperate not to lose his position. Standing at the mouth of the caves, the Marshal uses a device with a ‘directional microphone’ to overhear Stubbs and Cotton talking to the Doctor to uncover their treachery. The Marshal has a secret exit behind the desk in his office, which Cotton knows about.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his first appearance with a splendid photorealistic cover. A mutant leers into frame just as the TARDIS materialises in a red-lit cavern. As with Doctor Who and the Space War, the title page in early editions of this book claimed that the front cover showed ‘the third DOCTOR WHO, whose physical appearance was altered by the Time Lords when they banished him to the planet Earth in the Twentieth Century’. Er…

Final Analysis: Despite being a huge fan of the Third Doctor, this has always been my least favourite of his stories, largely because the Marshal is such a relentless bully. He’s still that here, but it’s at least useful to get the perspective of every character working around him. Even Jaeger, who is enabling his ‘scorched Solos’ policy, is doing so for scientific glory, not for anything that might benefit the marshal politically. Dicks manages to edit down the six episodes in a tidy fashion, so even though some speeches are summarised or cut back, all the beats are there in the right order.

Chapter 32. Doctor Who and the Ark in Space (1977)

Synopsis: In the distant future, shielded from a long-past disaster, the entire population of Earth lies asleep in a wheel-shaped space-station. When the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive at the station, they discover that its inhabitants have overslept due to interference from an invading alien insect – a Wirrrn. As the parasite grows, it threatens not just the lives of the waking senior crew of the station, but the entire human race…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: The Intruder
  • 1. The Second Invasion
  • 2. Sarah Vanishes
  • 3. Sabotage!
  • 4. A Fatal Wound
  • 5. The Wirrrn
  • 6. Time Running Out
  • 7. A Tight Squeeze
  • 8. A New Beginning

Background: Ian Marter adapts Robert Holmes’ 1975 scripts. He was the first and, to date, only actor to novelise a story he was in. 

Notes: Yes – Wirrrn! Marter gives the Wirrrn an extra ‘r’ as well as much more flexibility than their TV counterparts; the first invader Wirrrn is able to arch ‘its segmented tail up over its head’ as it grips ‘ the cables in its huge claw and sever[s] them cleanly with a single slice.’ Later, the Doctor suggests the Wirrrn grub might be a ‘multi-nucleate organism’ to explain how it passed through a grill. When Harry and the Doctor find the dessicated husk of the Wirrrn Queen in the cupboard, Marter gives us an interesting description of the insect:

He stared at the enormous ‘insect’ which lay crumbling at his feet. The surface of its segmented body was a glossy indigo colour; here and there were patches of twisted and blackened tissue, like scorched plastic. The six tentacular legs bristled with razor-sharp ‘hairs’. The creature’s octopus head contained a huge globular eye on each side, and each eye was composed of thousands of cells in which Harry saw himself reflected over and over again. The creature was fully three metres long from the top of its domed head to the tip of the fearsome pincer in which its tail terminated.

On arrival, Sarah is wearing a denim trouser suit and woolly hat, similar to items she wore during Robot on TV. In the prologue, the Ark is not in orbit around the Earth but in the outer reaches of the solar system [as it also is in Revenge of the Cybermen]. The autoguard is renamed an ‘Organic Matter Detector Surveillance System’ – or OMDSS – and the space station is renamed ‘Terra Nova’ (was the Ark expected to reach New Earth??). The Ark includes full-sized blue whales, elephants and palm trees. The support struts contain moving walkways, leading to the outer ring. Vira is over two metres tall with short, dark hair, while Noah is ‘a tall, slim but powerful man with short black hair and a trim beard.’

The Doctor’s journey to the solar plasma cells reveals a multitude of tacky, silver trails across every surface. The gestating Wirrrn lie somewhere high up above the catwalks of the solar stacks in the form of ‘clusters of pustular matter’. On her tight-squeezed journey through the ducts of the space station, Sarah reaches a clear section where she’s attacked by a Wirrrn. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry depart in the TARDIS, not via the transmat booths.

Cover: Chris Achilleos’s final cover for the range is a simple design, with the Doctor looking worried inset while a Wirrrn dominates the frame (which is bordered in the same yellow as Carnival of Monsters). The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson has the same Nerva wireframe border motif as Revenge of the Cybermen, with a Wirrrn centre and a second, smaller Wirrrn in the foreground, making the perspectives look off. Perhaps this would have been better to have a semi-converted Noah, or a Wirrrn grub in the foreground instead? A 2012 BBC Books edition reuses an edited version of the original Achilleos cover, placing the Wirrrn and the Doctor on a white background to match the new house style.

Final Analysis: As mentioned in the introduction, 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. I might have seen it at the time (I was definitely watching the series by the time of the repeat of Planet of the Spiders) but my main memory comes from this novel – and then pirate videotapes that were circulating in the mid-1980s. Ian Marter brings a joyful flavour of pulp horror to this, which – considering this adaptation predates Alien, The Thing, The Fly etc – makes me wonder what his influences were: HP Lovecraft, is an obvious one; maybe R. Chetwynd-Hayes or Guy N Smith’s Night of the Crabs? It’s a definite conscious step towards horror fiction here though, and not even a child-friendly version either. 

The prologue details the first intrusion by a Wirrrn with foreboding (while an announced ‘second invasion’ turns out to be the Doctor, Sarah and Harry) and the bubble-wrap grub from TV becomes an amorphous ‘glob’ that drips from the ceilings and sparks with energy. Noah’s transformation is particularly gruey:

… with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material. 

I’m not giving stars or scores for these books, but this one really feels like it’s elevating an already excellent story. This Marter bloke is one to watch out for…

Chapter 30. Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth (1977)

Synopsis: The Doctor finally brings Ian and Barbara back to London but celebrations are short-lived when they realise they are two hundred years in the future and Earth is under the occupation of the Daleks. Separated and befriended by various groups of resistance fighters, the time travellers all come to the same conclusion – they must find out what the Daleks are doing and defeat them. But for one of them, life will never be the same again.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Return to Terror
  • 2. The Roboman
  • 3. The Freedom Fighters
  • 4. Inside the Saucer
  • 5. Attack the Daleks!
  • 6. The Fugitives
  • 7. Reunion with the Doctor
  • 8. The Mine of the Daleks
  • 9. Dangerous Journey
  • 10. Trapped in the Depths
  • 11. Action Underground
  • 12. Rebellion!
  • 13. Explosion!
  • 14. The Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1964 scripts for the second Dalek serial. The title page says it’s adapted from Doctor Who and the World’s End, presumably taking the story title from the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary special, which used the titles of each first episode to represent the serial as a whole.

Notes: The first chapter features a recap of the schoolteachers and their first meeting with the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS. The Doctor is a lot more tetchy than he was on telly; when Susan describes the TARDIS readings as ‘normal’, the Doctor corrects her with irritation: ‘Normal for where?’ Later, Susan tells David that she left her own planet when she was ‘very young’ – is this comparative for a teenager, or was she a young child?

Tyler’s first name is Jim, not Carl, and Jack Craddock becomes Bill, but David’s name is still Campbell [see The Crusaders for why this is interesting]. The events of the time travellers’ first meeting with the Daleks is put into perspective when the Doctor surmises that the city they attacked was just one on the planet Skaro (in the TV version, he guesses that their first meeting took place a million years in the future). The Black Dalek (also called the Dalek Supreme) is said to be larger than normal Daleks – maybe the standard Daleks don’t have the enlarged bumper in this version? There’s also a ‘second in command’, a ‘commander of the ground forces’ and an engineer without any descriptions – are these based on the movie Daleks?

The Doctor is dazed after escaping the robotisation process, but not unconscious as on TV. David calls the Dalek fire bomb a ‘blockbuster bomb’ – it destroys whole blocks in one go. Dortmun is buried under rubble (like in the movie), rather than just being exterminated, while Larry and his brother Phil don’t kill each other in combat; the rewrite is much more tragic: Roboman-Phil’s helmet comes off in the struggle, killing him and as Larry holds his brother’s body another Roboman guns him down. There are a few dialogue swaps, such as Barbara getting a second go at making the Robomen attack the Daleks – the Doctor merely adds that the slaves should join in. The Doctor’s party is celebrated for their part in overthrowing the Daleks, so there are a lot more people willing to help free the TARDIS (and Tyler says he doesn’t need to know why they want the police box). Ian doesn’t wedge the Dalek bomb to stop it, but diverts it off course (just like Tom does in the movie!). The Doctor’s goodbye to Susan is a little simpler than on TV, but it’s almost more emotional as a consequence. We then join the Doctor inside the TARDIS as he turns from the scanner and sniffs, daring the teachers to comment, before smiling and promising to get them home (and the schoolteachers agreeing he probably won’t).

Cover: Chris Achilleos presents one of my favourite covers ever, and it’s so weird. It depicts a scene that’s threatened but not actually delivered on screen – the burning of London to flush out the rebels, with a Dalek and roboman patrolling as Dalek spaceships set fire to the Houses of parliament. But the spaceships are from the second Dalek movie, the roboman is a mashup of a movie version and a Genesis of the Daleks soldier, while the Dalek looks like it’s from the first Dalek movie, but it’s red all over with black spots. Its gun is from one of the original TV props but that and its sucker arm are the wrong way round. However, it’s utterly stunning. The 1990 reprint cover by Alister Pearson also uses the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop but it’s much more understated, showing portraits of the Doctor and Susan alongside an accurate TV version of a silver and blue Dalek.

Final Analysis: There’s surely no better start to any of these books than the first page of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, particularly that opening line: ‘Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.’ It sets up the tone of the book, which is a war story with Daleks, where each character has something to say about the life they’ve led up to this point. Of course, Dicks is working off the back of three other writers – Terry Nation, David Whittaker and Milton Subotsky – but it’s the stuff he adds to meld the work of the others together that makes this so perfect. 

One strange thing is that I recall Terrance Dicks claiming that he’d been sent the wrong photo for the Slyther, and what he described was the Mire Beast from The Chase, yet what he writes is pretty spot on and actually adds to the menace of the creature:

Ian saw a vast lumpy blob of a body, powerful flailing tentacles, two tiny deep-set eyes shining with malice… Moving incredibly fast, the creature lurched towards them.

and:

They heaved and kicked and punched at the Slyther’s flabby bulk, shoving it out of the bucket with maniacal fury, dodging the flailing blows from its enormous tentacles.

That the Slyther survives its fall at the end and crawls off means that even after the Daleks are defeated, there’s the problem of pest control still to deal with – unless the volcano sorted it out. Although, for all the little tweaks Dicks makes to improve on the scripts, he still has the Doctor leaving Susan behind with just one shoe!

Never mind – I might go as far as to say that it’s Dicks’s best adaptation, so I’ll be interested to see if anything can top this.

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. This is the last novelisation to have a significantly different title to its TV original (unless we’re counting ‘The Mutation of Time’ or ‘The TV Movie’).

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 21. Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors (1976)

Synopsis: As mainland Britain is plunged into a new ice age, researchers at the Britannica scientific base uncover a giant man refrigerated in the frozen landscape. The figure thaws and emerges from suspended animation, announcing himself as Varga, a warrior from Mars. He aims to uncover his spaceship and crew, which have lain dormant all this time. And doing so could risk the destruction of the Britannica Base…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Battle Against the Glaciers
  • 2. Two Minutes to Doomsday
  • 3. Creature from the Red Planet
  • 4. Back from the Dead
  • 5. The Omega Factor
  • 6. Under the Moving Mountain
  • 7. Diplomat in Danger
  • 8. The Martian Ultimatum
  • 9. Counter-Attack
  • 10. On the Brink of Destruction!

Background: Bryan Hayles adapts his own scripts for the 1967 serial.

Notes: Jamie is described as a ‘rugged-faced lad’ and Victoria as ‘a pretty, doll-like girl’. Zondal is a lieutenant and Jamie says there are six warriors although only five are named (as per the TV show). The escapade with the bear is missing. The Britannica Base computer is named here, ECCO. The Doctor threatens Varga with a sonic blast set to ‘Frequency Seven’, which will affect the Martian as his body has a higher fluid content than humans (a detail mentioned on TV and then forgotten). Varga notes that Frequency Seven is used ‘in the prisons of his home planet as a form of aversion punishment, continuous doses of it could destroy the brain, leaving the body a living vegetable’.

Cover: Chris Achilleos recreates a couple of publicity photos – Victoria screams and Varga looms behind her with sparks flying from his clamp-hands; it’s a simple but very effective design – and the first not to feature the Doctor!

Final Analysis: While the Ice Warriors themselves are an inventive creation that just about manage to avoid being totally generic aliens, much of the dialogue among the Britanica Base staff has a degree of technowaffle that feels fake and artificially hysterical for no real reason. Hayles follows the main flow of the TV episodes faithfully, with just the odd tweak here and there, but despite the story’s revered status, it’s deathly dull and the book doesn’t really salvage that.

Bryan Hayles died in 1978, aged 47.

Chapter 12. Doctor Who and the Cybermen (1975)

Synopsis: The Cybermen tried to invade the Earth once but were ‘humiliatingly defeated’. Their second attempt comes via the Moon, where they are already lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack. As the personnel of the Moonbase fall ill one by one, the Doctor and his friends scramble to find the cause.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 2. The Landing on the Moon
  • 3. The Moon Base
  • 4. Attack in the Medical Unit
  • 5. The Space-plague
  • 6. The Doctor Investigates
  • 7. The Cybermen’s Plot
  • 8. The Battle with the Cybermen
  • 9. Victory, perhaps…
  • 10. The March of the Cybermen
  • 11. Into Battle with the Gravitron!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedlar for the 1967 serial The Moonbase.

Notes: We begin with a prologue that’s a potted history of the Cybermen that (in line with later stories but contradicting The Tenth Planet) states that the Cybermen come from Telos. Later on, when discussing Mondas, the Cybermen say they come from ‘the other Cyberman planet, TELOS’. Ben and Polly are from the 1970s now, so they’re familiar with the Apollo Moon landings, although Davis seems to think Ben is still wearing his sailor’s uniform and Polly is in a mini-skirt and tee-shirt. Oh and Jamie is tagged as ‘a little thick, even by 1745 standards’, which seems hugely unfair. There’s a Cyberman with a red line down the front of his chest unit, which Davis draws attention to but doesn’t elaborate on, and a couple of others with black helmets similar to those seen in Revenge of the Cybermen, who have names (as in The Tenth Planet).

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos painted the original cover using a Troughton pic from The Three Doctors and a Cybermen from The Invasion. I had the 1981 reprint with the cover by Bill Donohoe that appears to depict the Cyber-space walk from the end of The Wheel in Space. Illustrations by Alan Willow show the correct Moonbase Cybermen, and the best pic is of Ralph, the Moonbase crewman, staring in horror as (the caption explains) ‘the shadow of a large figure’ looms over him.

Final Analysis: It’s nice when the originators of a story get to give us their version. Davis largely sticks to the story as televised, but he really goes to town with a nautical theme with chapter two’s description of the TARDIS’s dramatic journey to the Moon (‘Like a ship in a heavy sea,’)  including a reference to the TARDIS ‘cabin’, ‘bulkheads’ and ‘deck’. In the prologue there’s a line that ‘although revenge was not a part of their mental makeup any more than the other emotions,’ which I suspect was pushing against Davis’s recent experience with Robert Holmes changing his title (and most of the script) for Tom Baker’s Cyberman adventure.

Chapter 7. Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks (1974)

Synopsis: A British diplomat is the target of a group of fanatical time-travelling assassins trying to change the course of their own history. An accident sees Jo catapulted into the fututre and when the Doctor follows her, he finds an Earth under the control of the Daleks.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Terror in the Twenty-Second Century
  • 2. The Man Who Saw a Ghost
  • 3. The Vanishing Guerilla
  • 4. The Ghost Hunters
  • 5. Condemned to Death!
  • 6. Prisoner of the Daleks
  • 7. Attack of the Ogrons
  • 8. A Fugitive in the Future
  • 9. Escape from the Ogrons
  • 10. Interrogation by the Daleks
  • 11. The Raid on Dalek Headquarters
  • 12. Return to Danger
  • 13. The Day of the Daleks
  • 14. All Kinds of Futures

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Louis Marx’s scripts from the 1972 serial. It’s the first novelisation to have a title the same as used on TV (although ‘The Crusaders’ comes close, the story title wasn’t used on screen). 

Notes: One of the best prologues in the range introduces the brutalised humans attempting to form a resistance. We encounter the Ogrons in a description that draws closer comparison to the gorillas from Planet of the Apes, then meet the Controller of Earth and the Black Dalek (the more senior-ranking gold leader seen on screen is introduced later). We have a solid idea of the Earth of the 22nd Century before the first frame of the televised story hits the page. When the Doctor emerges from underground in the 22nd Century, this future Earth matches how Malcolm Hulke had described it in The Doomsday Weapon: ‘Every inch of the countryside, as far as he could see, seemed to have been built up till not an inch was left…’

It’s possibly a conscious decision to only allude to those adventures of Jo that have been novelised, so we get a reference to the Doomsday Weapon and Jo’s trip to an alien world in the far future, but Jo’s relationship with the Doctor and the three main UNIT characters is much more familiar, as if she’s been with them for some time by this point. The Daleks also reference the first two Doctors, including the original visit to Skaro, even though at this point none of the second Doctor’s stories have been novelised (and his Dalek adventures wouldn’t see print for another 20 years). There are some other minor tweaks (Monia becomes Moni, Auderly House is now Austerly House and some of the minor resistance characters are given names), but the other main addition comes with the reprise of the double Doctor and Jo scene at the end, told from the vantage point of the doorway this time, which ties up the earlier scene neatly but also reminds us that the defeated Daleks were but a small unit of a much larger force, which reduces the scale of the ending somewhat.

Cover & Illustrations: The original and best cover, once again, is by Chris Achilleos – one of his all-time most dramatic, even with those weird Daleks inspired by the Sixties comics again. Neither of the reprints come close; the 80s one by Andrew Skilleter makes much of the Ogrons, while Alister Pearson’s 1991 version is fairly bland and the photo references combine the Pertwee one from the first cover and the Dalek from the second. The illustrations are some of my very favourites and include a map showing the ‘grounds and environs of Austerly House’. One of them is captioned ‘A shimmering effect filled the air around Jo’s body’ but it looks just like everyone’s impression of the Tales of the Unexpected title sequence.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks’ second novel and it continues the approach of tweaking and enhancing where possible, but that opening prologue aside, it’s otherwise a basic retelling of the TV story. Which still means it’s brilliant. In fact, even as a fan of the televised original, I have to admit prefer the book.

… even if it’s slightly spoiled by someone pointing out to me that there’s a typo on the last page that I’ve failed to notice for over 30 years!