Chapter 142. Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II: The Mutation of Time (1989)

Synopsis: Joined by Sara, who now accepts Chen’s treachery, the Doctor and Steven continue to evade the Daleks. A stop-off in ancient Egypt leads to a reunion and a bloody massacre, before a return to Kembel and a final confrontation with Chen and the Daleks’ Time Destructor.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare Continues
  • 2. The Feast of Steven
  • 3. The Toast of Christmas Past
  • 4. Failure
  • 5. Volcano
  • 6. Land of the Pharaohs
  • 7. Golden Death
  • 8. Into the Pyramid
  • 9. Hostages
  • 10. Escape Switch
  • 11. The Abandoned Planet
  • 12. The Secret of Kembel
  • 13. Beginning of the End
  • 14. The Destruction of Time
  • 15. The Nightmare is Ended

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from episodes 7-12 of the 1965 serial known collectively as The Daleks’ Master Plan, by Dennis Spooner and Terry Nation. This is the first time since The Space War that a novelisation has had a different title to the one used on the TV episodes (although see ‘Cover’ below for more). This book completes the run of stories from season 3.

Notes: The back cover blurb on the original release mentions a ‘Time Destroyer’. The opening chapter reveals that Sara has been having nightmares about Bret’s death and she sleeps with a light on. She’s been aboard the TARDIS for ‘several months’ and considers it her home now (Peel clearly a supporter of the ‘Sara as companion’ fan myth). The Doctor has read the American novelist Peter S Beagle and quotes from The Last Unicorn. Trying to provide some comfort to Sara, the Doctor reveals a personal philosophy:

…if you found out that the Daleks had killed Chen, then you’d want to find out something else, and then something else after that. There are no endings – everything continues to grow and to progress. One of the reasons that I never learned how to control this old ship of mine was to prevent myself from falling into that trap of yours – wanting to see happy endings.

He then tells her about his own granddaughter and the two schoolteachers, who he likes to imagine married and surrounded by their own ‘noisy children’. The reason for the Doctor’s original stay on Earth is revealed! A ‘catastrophic malfunction had forced him to rebuild part of the main console’. 

Peel’s description of Liverpool is very accurate – the red bricks were indeed blacked by pollution in 1965 and well into the following decade (as seen on the opening titles of the Liverpool-set sitcom The Liver Birds). The police officers in Liverpool are (altogether now) named after actors from the popular BBC drama Z Cars – (Colin) Welland, (Brian) Blessed, (James) Ellis and (Frank) Windsor; three of whom had appeared in Doctor Who on TV by the time this book was released. The joke about the Doctor recognising a man from a market in Jaffa is retained (unusual as Peel tends to cut a lot of the sillier elements from stories). Steven decides to copy the sergeant’s accent, as on screen, but this needs a little unpicking. We’re told that Steven sounds ‘like a bad actor’s version of North Country speech’. On TV, despite being in Liverpool, only Peter Purves manages to effect a decent Scouse accent (he does very well!) but everyone else does ‘generic Northern’. In Z Cars, which was also set in Liverpool, none of the characters who pop up here actually had the local accent: James Ellis was from Belfast; Brian Blessed from South Yorkshire; Frank Windsor from Walsall, West Midlands; and Colin Welland from Leigh. So even if these had been the actual characters from Z Cars (as the production team had hoped), Steven would still have been the only one with a Liverpool accent! Just to continue the nitpicking, in 1965, the sergeant in Z Cars was played by Bob Keegan, who was the only one of the regular characters to have a genuine Liverpool accent (he appeared in Doctor Who many years later, as Sholakh in The Ribos Operation).

Steven has a serious crush on Sara and wishes she found him attractive. The clown figure who the Doctor helps in Hollywood is clearly Charlie Chaplin (he’s specifically not him on TV). 

New arrival to the Dalek cause is Celation, a ‘tall creature, which breathed the oxygen-rich air with difficulty, giving his speech a throaty, disjointed effect’ (it’s a close match for the description of the alien ‘Warrien’ in the previous volume and there is a theory that Warrien was actually a mis-named Celation!). The Dalek force includes a ‘chief’ or first scientist along with a second scientist and ‘monitor Daleks’ who keep an eye on computer banks. The Time Destructor looks like ‘a large, glass-encased cannon’ (as opposed to a globe made of tubular spokes as on telly). The Dalek time ship is ‘a featureless silver-grey cube’ (‘some ten feet to a side’, Steven notes when it lands in Egypt) and its commander is the Red Dalek seen on the book’s cover. Chen is disturbed to learn that the Daleks have their own stash of Taranium and they claim they used him to obtain more merely out of expedience; they have sufficient to power their time-machine but not enough for the Time Destructor too, so this would appear to be a lie just to undermine Chen’s over-confidence. There’s reference to the Dalek Prime back on Skaro. 

The TARDISes of both the Doctor and the Monk are said to have ‘chameleon circuits’ (a phrase that wouldn’t be used on telly until Logopolis – but see Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon and Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons). Working away on the TARDIS lock, the Doctor has a bit of a rant:

The Doctor worked away on the lock, muttering to himself. ‘I think it’s about time that some people remembered that these journeys of mine are for the purpose of scientific discovery! I’m not in the business of giving sight-seeing tours of the Universe, with everyone behaving like a bunch of rowdy tourists and rushing off to look at whatever they wish! I thought that Barbara and that Chesterton fellow were bad enough, but it’s getting worse! Much worse’ The Doctor continued muttering under his breath as he laboured on, unaware that he was alone, at least for the moment.

The Monk ‘never paid attention in class’ so is aware that his knowledge of history is hazy and doesn’t actually know which year he’s landed in, having followed the Doctor. He does, however, recognise a Dalek, having ‘paid attention to a few things in class’ [so the Time Lords of the Monk’s time study Dalek history!]. The Doctor doesn’t actually dislike the Monk, and feels that  ‘with the proper guidance, the man might make himself useful instead of troublesome’. The massacre of the Egyptians is much more even-handed with the Red Dalek destroyed by an onslaught of heavy rocks. Inspired by his warriors fending off the alien invaders, the Egyptian Khephren decides to commission a monument of the Sphinx to guard the Pharaoh’s pyramid. 

Mavic Chen and the surviving Daleks return to Kembel in the time-machine and are greeted by the Dalek city administrator (the idea of a Dalek whose role involves admin is reassuringly comical). The Doctor assumes that the absence of Varga plants is a sign that they’ve been allowed to die off as the Daleks no longer need to use them as guards. Chen shoots Beaus dead (on TV, Gearon is Chen’s victim). The Doctor accompanies Sara and Steven when they release the delegates from the locked room – and he persuades Sara to spare Chen’s life, reminding her of the political chaos on Earth that might result from his death. 

Chapter 13 is a reworking of a recurring Terrance Dicks title, ‘Beginning of the End’. The heart of the complex contains a vast hanger that houses hundreds of Dalek saucers, maintained by Daleks on ‘flying discs’. The Doctor uses his cloak to break the circuit on a Dalek door and he recalls the first such doorway he encountered in the Dalek city on Skaro. Caught in the winds of the Time Destructor, Sara begins to hallucinate the ghost of her brother:

Sara collapsed, and felt dust and sand on her face. She hardly had the strength to open her eyes, but somehow she managed it. The twig-like fragility of her arm shocked her, as she clawed towards the fallen Time Destructor. It was no use, no use… she was too weak, too old now… Her dying vision blurred, and in the glow of the Destructor, she felt certain that she could see the smiling face and beckoning finger of her brother’s spirit.

Sara felt a sudden peace, and all was still.

Affected by the reversal of the Time Destructor, the Daleks become embryos and then briefly humanoid before turning to dust. Back on Skaro, the Dalek Prime realises that the fleet on Kembel has been destroyed and it is filled with a desire for revenge. On Earth, Karlton is arrested by Senator Diksen for his part in Chen’s treachery. He reveals that Marc Cory’s lost tape was found on the body of Bret Vyon (and it contained a recording that was not part of the one he makes in Mission to the Unknown). The story concludes with the scene where the Monk discovers he is stranded on a frozen world.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover is much more understated than for Mission to the Unknown. A severe-looking Doctor (referencing a photo fromThe Space Museum) is formed in the stars of a nebula as a very grand Dalek with a red casing and blue spots dominates the frame (based on a Madame Tussauds Dalek that appeared on the back page of the 1983 Radio Times 20th Anniversary Doctor Who special). The livery is an invention of John Peel, but it really works and it’s a shame it never appeared on telly. The title as shown on the front cover is ‘The Mutation of Time’ (a new title not taken from the episodes), but a circular flash states that this is ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II’, while on the spine it’s ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II’ (‘Masterplan’ is one word). The title page inside gives the title ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II The Mutation of Time’.

Final Analysis: As he moves into the second half of The Daleks’ Master Plan, which was authored mainly by Dennis Spooner, it’s a relief that John Peel allows himself room for a little fun in a way that he tactfully avoided with The Chase. Whether it’s the farce of the Hollywood scenes or the triviality of the Monk’s side-quest, the first half of this volume is a hoot. It’s only when the action returns to Kembel that the mood changes to something more sombre.

Officially, Sara Kingdom was not a companion (something Jean Marsh herself stressed at her first ever convention in 1996, to the shock of many), but fandom has always included her in the lists and here, John Peel makes sure she counts by giving her several months as a passenger aboard the TARDIS. The opening chapter delves into her fractured psyche, tortured by her guilt over killing her brother and wanting absolution through the certainty that Chen will pay for his manipulation of her. Whatever the original intentions of the production team, these two books ensure that for the fans – she counts!

Over the course of his first three books, Peel manages to capture William Hartnell’s performance better than any other writer. The tetchiness is present in the works of other authors (including Terrance Dicks), but it’s his lightness and sense of humour that really lands here – where it’s appropriate, Peel remembers to make the Doctor funny. In this volume, the Doctor is said to ‘steeple’ his hands together, which conjures up a perfect mental image of the kind of pose this Doctor often adopted. I’m a huge fan of The Daleks’ Master Plan, both in what we’re still able to experience on video and audio, plus all the mysteries that surround it (who are all those delegates?!) – but I’m now a fan of John Peel too. It was an ambitious risk to take on this epic adventure, but in Peel’s hands, it’s a huge success. Who couldn’t love the way he disposes of his main villain (with echoes of Caligula in I Claudius)?:

The Daleks opened fire, and several of the bursts of rays caught him squarely. Mavic Chen staggered slightly, staring at them as the wave of energy washed over him. As it ceased, Chen suddenly realized that he had been terribly, terribly wrong. He was not immortal after all…

Chapter 141. Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan Part I: Mission to the Unknown (1989)

Synopsis: On the planet Kembel, delegates assemble for a conference led by the Daleks. Among the attendees is the Guardian of the Solar System, Mavic Chen, who has betrayed the planet Earth by providing a vital element for the Daleks’ latest weapon, the Time Destructor. The Doctor steals the element but, cut off from the TARDIS, he and his friends take Mavic Chen’s ship in a bid to warn Earth of his treachery. Chen alerts the Space Security Service and identifies the Doctor as the traitor. Now, Space Agent Sara Kingdom has Chen’s enemies in her sights…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Toppled Towers of Ilium
  • 2. The Screaming Jungle
  • 3. Extermination!
  • 4. The Nightmare Begins…
  • 5. No Ordinary Ship
  • 6. The Day of Armageddon
  • 7. The Face of the Enemy
  • 8. Devil’s Planet
  • 9. Dangers in the Night
  • 10. The Sacrifice
  • 11. The Traitors
  • 12. Counter-plot
  • 13. Allies
  • 14. Desperate Measures
  • 15. Out of Time
  • 16. Interlude

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from Mission to the Unknown, by Terry Nation, and episodes 1-6 of the 1965 serial known collectively as The Daleks’ Master Plan, by Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner.

Notes: The opening chapter dramatises the events that were missing from Donald Cotton’s jolly adaptation of The Myth Makers. Katarina struggles to comprehend much that she witnesses, so we have to assume a lot of terminology is translated for our benefit. Nevertheless, she considers the TARDIS control room to be about thirty metres across, with walls that look like polished stone. She compares the sound of the TARDIS dematerialising to ‘Cerberus, guardian hound of the Underworld’ (have we had it compared to a growling dog before?). The wound in Steven’s shoulder on TV has become a gash to his side; while the attacking blade didn’t strike anything vital, Steven has lost a lot of blood and the Doctor also worries that the sword was unlikely to have been sterile, exposing Steven to germs from way before his own time [and see The Ark for how something similar plays out to humans from Earth’s future].  

Chapter 2 takes its title from an earlier Nation-scripted episode. Gordon Lowery is the captain-pilot of a crashed ship. The ship’s passenger, Marc Cory, is ‘lean, tall and dark, in a good-looking way’ and ‘just a shade on the right side of thirty’. Cory and Lowery discuss the Dalek-Movellan wars a thousand years before and the Dalek expansion across the Andromeda galaxy and the region of Miros. The Black Dalek has been despatched to Kembel by the Dalek Prime on Skaro (mentioned in Peel’s novelisation of The Chase). The Black Dalek is second in the Dalek hierarchy and rarely leaves Skaro.

The descriptions of each representative of the alliance seem to match the (later revised and debunked) best guesses available in 1989: Gearon, ‘a somewhat faceless creature with an egg-shaped head’, wears a thick visor as his world is ‘almost perpetually in darkness’; Trantis has tendrils on his face and is vaguely telepathic; Beaus is from the Miron systems and is a tall creature, half-vegetable, half animal, ‘like an animated tree’ [and] possessing two burning eyes’; Warrien wears a ‘cowled hood and a pressure suit that contains an atmosphere other than oxygen; also wearing a spacesuit, Sentreal has a ‘dark face… wreathed in the chlorine fumes that he breathed, and a small radio antenna on his head [that] kept him in constant contact with his fellow beings still on their ship (his people share a communal mind, and Isolation from the others would apparently kill him); Malpha, the last of the members, is ‘tall and colourless’ with a white suit and skin, aside from ‘the thick, dark network of veins that created a patchwork of his face’. Later, we meet Zephon, who dresses all in black with just his eyes visible through the hood of his cloak.

On TV, the terms Space Security Service and Special Security Service appear interchangeable, but here only the back cover uses ‘Space Security’. Lizan had joined the SSS with ambitions to work in an embassy on Draconia or Alpha Centauri; instead, she was allocated as section leader in Communications Central, a post that comes with a lime-green uniform. The Communications map shows Earth territories in blue, with Dalek space marked in red. Mavic Chen is over six feet tall with a ‘trim, muscular body’. His face showed signs of an ‘oriental ancestry, but much mixed with other races’. His white hair is closely cropped and his eyes are deep blue and ‘hypnotic’, while his voice is ‘deep, clear and precise’ and displays ‘no signs of age’. In his broadcast interview, he discusses ‘mineral agreements with the Draconian Empire’. 

When the Doctor returns to the TARDIS on Kembel, he sees a Dalek emerging from inside it! Before fleeing the TARDIS, Bret manages to select some suitable clothes for Steven, which he changes into only after the Doctor has led Katarina away to give Steven some privacy (this solves a mystery that is unresolved from the TV episode, where as far as we can tell we never learn when Steven changes out of his armour). The Doctor observes that the Daleks now have solar panels on their bodies to enable them to move about without static electricity – but their city is still built from pure metal, like the one he saw on Skaro. He also remembers that the Dalek time ship that chased him, Ian, Barbara and Vicki through time was powered by taranium, like the Time Destructor.  Realising that the Daleks will pursue them for the taranium core, the Doctor tells Bret Vyon ‘We haven’t escaped from danger – in fact, the danger has barely begun!’ … there’s a chapter title desperate to be used here…

According to Bret, Earth is three days away from Kembel, but he points out that their diversion to Desperus will have allowed Chen to reach Earth before them. Chen’s deputy, Karlton, differs from his bald and smooth-faced appearance on telly: ‘His craggy features were lined with care, and his hair was thick and grey.’ Chen views Sara Kingdom as ‘a born warrior’.

She reminded him of a tightly coiled spring – ready to leap in any direction at an instant’s notice. She was dressed in the inevitable black catsuit that all SSS agents wore, accentuating her perfect figure. She was beautiful, but it was the beauty of ice or steel. Her hair was shoulder-length, and curled inwards. Her face was somewhat elfin. If she smiled, Chen knew she would be considered very desirable. He could not imagine her smiling. Her blue-grey eyes gave back no warmth. She looked every inch the perfect killing machine that her record had informed him she was.

Chen has never ‘felt the attraction of women himself’, believing they’d want a share of his power. The Doctor is similarly unswayed, irritated by Sara’s crying, as he feels pained by ‘overt displays of sentimentality’. 

The machine that brings the Doctor, Steven and Sara to Mira does not contain mice. There’s a more energetic battle with the Visians – and they can talk! Surrounding the Doctor, they chant ‘Kill it!’ in ‘wet, reedy’ voices. Although they’re invisible, one of them is pushed into a pool and emerges swathed in mud, revealing ‘thin, bony, with two long, clawed arms, feet like birds’ claws, and a narrow head with a beak’. Later, fearing the metallic invaders seek to take over their foraging areas and wipe out the whole tribe, the Visians stage a huge attack against the Daleks. The Doctor has ‘examined a number of Dalek installations and craft during his numerous encounters with them’, and is fairly familiar with the design that he faced now [suggesting either that he and Steven have had multiple unseen adventures involving Daleks since The Chase, unless the Doctor is counting multiple ships during the Dalek invasion of Earth too]. Some of the Daleks aboard the ship have mechanical claws instead of suction cups on their arms.

While walking towards the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Chen the name of his ship and introduces himself – thereby solving a minor continuity issue later on from the TV version. The TARDIS door is still open from when Steven and Katarina left it (so the Doctor doesn’t need to give Sara the key). With the real Taranium Core still in his possession, the Doctor speculates that Chen will get his comeuppance when the Daleks inevitably turn on him. Sara is invited to stay in Vicki’s old room and freshen up with a bath. The three fugitives await their next encounter with the Daleks…

Cover: Alister Pearson gives us another appropriately energetic composition similar to The Chase, It showcases the black Dalek leader (cleverly repurposed from a photo of a Dalek from Resurrection of the Daleks!), surrounded by Mavic Chen and his spaceship, the Doctor and a selection of delegates. The title as shown on the front cover is ‘Mission to the Unknown’ but a circular flash states that this is ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan Part I’, while on the spine it’s ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part I’ (‘Masterplan’ is one word). The title page inside gives the title ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part I Mission to the Unknown’.

Final Analysis: Poor Katarina. While we might accept that a person can’t change ‘one line’ of history, this is usually because a character wants to overthrow an entire regime or culture, but this is all tied to the destiny of a single otherwise unimportant handmaiden. The Doctor chastises Steven for asking too many questions and praises Katarina for the way she ‘simply looks and learns’, but it’s this quality that seals her fate; having learned of the importance of the Spar’s outer door, she realises that she can save her new friends by opening it and allow her destiny to be fulfilled. Steven has a personal reason for being patient with Katarina, aware that her kindness probably saved his life: his justification that ‘she’s from Troy’ is enough for him. Bret Vyon lacks Steven’s experience with time travel and simply thinks there’s something wrong with the girl, while the Doctor is irritated by her stupidity and vows to never accept a companion from a pre-technological age. This shows just how impractical Katarina is as a character. While we might empathise with her bewilderment at being transported in a space vessel, her confusion over something as simple as a key makes her much more alien to the reader than any of the delegates in the Dalek conference room. And Bret is right – the mission to inform Earth of the Dalek plan is greater than any one individual… and with Steven restored to full health, their own success is enabled by the sacrifice of the most disposable of the team. 

All of this is present in the televised episodes, but John Peel foreshadows the tragic event throughout the early chapters. It also gives credence to the ‘primitive’ beliefs of Troy and the prophecies of Cassandra. From what we can tell from the surviving episodes and audio recording, The Daleks’ Master Plan is a bit of a ‘best of’ compilation – the most impressive space ships up to that point, the best jungle – and the Daleks are at their most sinister and scheming. Peel doesn’t miss a beat in conveying this on the page. Chen is every bit as pompous and self-aggrandising as in Kevin Stoney’s TV performance and this might also be the most accurate depiction of the first Doctor in over 140 books; he’s every bit as irascible as he is in Terrance Dicks’ Dalek Invasion of Earth or The Smugglers, but Peel also remembers to make him funny, with that self-congratulatory chuckle. For any inattentive fan who didn’t know how long this story is (and missed the ‘part 1’ on the cover), this book also ends as if we’re done with the Master Plan. But as someone would later say in another episode, ‘It’s far from being all over…’

Chapter 129. Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace (1988)

Synopsis: In an undersea base live the last survivors of Atlantis. It’s also home to Zaroff, a scientist believed dead. His experiments on the locals have resulted in strange fish-like people inhabiting the nearby ocean, but that’s not where Zaroff’s ambitions lie. His latest scheme could literally tear the Earth apart.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Under the Volcano
  • 2. Sacrifices to Amdo
  • 3. Professor Zaroff
  • 4. Escapees
  • 5. An Audience With the King
  • 6. The Voice Of Amdo
  • 7. Kidnap
  • 8. ‘Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Now!’
  • 9. Desperate Remedies
  • 10. The Prudence of Zaroff
  • 11. The Hidden Assassin
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts for a 1967 serial by Geoffrey Orme.

Notes: Jamie’s first sight of the inside of the TARDIS is told in the prologue; the ‘gleaming white walls’ are covered with ‘large circular indentations’ that emit an ‘eerie light, while the walls are lined with strange looking machines’. There’s also a large chest, a ‘splendid Louis XIV chair’, plus a mahogany hatstand upon which a ‘stove-pipe’ rests (though a popular description of the Doctor’s hat for many years, we now understand it to be a ‘Paris Beau’, unless the Target Doctor really does wear a top hat like Abraham Lincoln’s). The Doctor is ‘a little man dressed in baggy check trousers several sizes too big for him and a scruffy frock coat which had obviously seen better days’: he has ‘jade-green eyes’. Ben is, succinctly, a ‘wiry Cockney sailor’, while Polly is ‘a tall, long-legged blonde with long heavily-made-up eyelashes; her clothes – a ‘revealing multi-coloured mini-skirt and a white silk scarf’ – reveal that, like Ben, she comes from London, 1966 [once again contradicting Gerry Davis’s origins for them in the Target universe as shown in Doctor Who and the Cybermen]. The rather nice sequence from the telly episode of interior thoughts for the TARDIS team (‘Prehistoric monsters!’) is cut.

Professor Zaroff’s first name is ‘Hermann’. He disappeared 20 years ago and created the ‘Fish people’ by manipulating the genetic coding of the Atlaneans. His pet octopus is called Neptune. There is a Labour Controller who looks after the slaves (on TV, Damon fulfils this role too). Ara was the daughter of a councillor who spoke out against Zaroff and was killed. She keeps her former high status secret by hiding as a servant. Before he died, her father showed her the speaking grill behind Amdo’s statue. Zaroff and his high priest Lolem are left fighting to the death when they are caught in the flood and drown. The majority of the Atlanteans do survive the disaster (and possibly Zaroff’s pet octopus, Neptune, too). Unusually, the cliffhanger from TV of the TARDIS veering out of control is retained.

Cover: The Oliver Elmes logo is used here. The main artwork is a lovely evocative painting of the fish people, a great effort by artist Alister Pearson, making his debut here. 

Final Analysis: It’s a bit of a kindness on Nigel Robinson’s part that this unloved story gets such a decent treatment here. As the story was missing three of its four episodes at the time of writing, Robinson had to rely on the scripts, so some of the improvisations from the studio are missing; when episode two was discovered and screened at the BFI”s Missing Believed Wiped event, fans in the audience were charmed by such details as the Doctor knocking on his own head while discussing Zaroff’s madness, but that’s understandably absent from the book. What we do get is the now traditional tidying up of motivations and thought processes, such as the Doctor actively searching for Zaroff because he’s been told that he often strolls in the market (it’s much more coincidental on screen) or Zaroff failing to recognise Ben and Jamie because, when he first met them, his attentions were solely focused on the Doctor. The problems with the story are inherent in the original broadcast, but we get the sense that our heroes at least know how ridiculous it all is, which makes them just as determined to put a stop to the mad scientist. Extra points to Robinson for using the story’s most infamous line – ‘Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Now!’ as the title of Chapter 8, building up to it and giving it more context than we had when this was published.

Chapter 126. Doctor Who – The Mysterious Planet (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor is on trial for his life and the prosecutor, the Valeyard, presents to a jury of Time Lords his first evidence, in which the Doctor and his friend Peri explore the planet Ravalox. There they meet the underground dwellers and their ruler, a robot called Drathro, the Tribe of the Free and their ruler, Queen Katryca, and a pair of intergalactic conmen called Glitz and Dibber, who confirm the Doctor’s suspicions, that the planet Ravalox has been moved across the universe from its original location – where it was known as ‘Earth’.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Trial Begins
  • 2. Underground
  • 3. Barbarian Queen
  • 4. The Stoning
  • 5. The Reprieve
  • 6. Meeting the Immortal
  • 7. Escape
  • 8. Captives of Queen Katryca
  • 9. The Attack of the Robot
  • 10. Hunt for the Doctor
  • 11. Secrets
  • 12. Tradesman’s Entrance
  • 13. The Big Bang
  • 14. End and Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for episodes 1-4 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. Holmes had been slated to adapt this himself, prior to his death in 1986.

Notes: The space station that houses the courtroom is hidden within a junkyard floating in space. The Doctor is ‘a tall, strongly built man with a slight tendency towards overweight’ (!) and beneath the ‘mop of curly hair, the face was round, full-lipped and sensual, with a hint of something catlike about the eyes’. The ups and downs of the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords are summarised, including his time as a fugitive, his exile to Earth for ‘five years’ (during which he was the scientific adviser to UNIT) and the couple of times he briefly occupied the position of President. Sabalom Glitz is ‘a burly thick-set fellow with a tendency towards fatness’, while his lackey, Dibber, is ‘taller and brawnier with a hard face and coarse bristly black hair’. The final chapter uses a title variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘End and Beginning’.

Cover: Queen Katryca is dwarfed by the L3 Robot, along with the planet Ravalox and a beam of black light, courtesy of Tony Masero. As before, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet’.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks returns and passes a few milestones’ as he adapts his friend Robert Holmes’ final complete story, tackles the sixth Doctor for his one and only time and it’s also his last novelisation for anything from outside of the 1960s. He matches the impressive opening model shot of the TV version with one of the best single pages of description he’s done for a while. 

Massive, arrogant, invincible, the great complex hovered in space, dwarfing the shattered hulks that drifted around it, dominating its section of space like some enormous baroque cathedral. There was an eerie, almost mystical quality about it. It seemed to be brooding… waiting. 

This enthusiasm to capture everything we might have felt on screen continues with the Doctor’s arrival; the insanity of his costume has never been described so thoroughly but in particular the ‘multi-coloured coat that might have made Joseph himself feel a pang of envy’. I can imagine Terrance chuckling as he wrote about ‘the jutting beak that was his nose [which] seemed to pursue the Doctor through most of his incarnations’. So cheeky!

Some years ago, I was hired as a ‘talking head’ contributor for the Doctor Who DVD range (subsequently released on Blu-Ray). My role there was to represent the views of the contributors who were no longer with us, so my interjections were deliberately on the side of the producer and less supportive of his more vocal critics, who I knew would also be interviewed. My own opinions were put aside, partly so that I didn’t stand in the way of the people I was representing, but also because my feelings towards the overall story – and this segment in particular – are very conflicted. The huge disappointment I felt on first viewing was replaced at first by mockery (a friend used to act out a hilarious ‘Trial in 14 minutes’ routine that had us guffawing for months) and then a desperation to ‘fix’ the story in our minds – a process fans now call ‘head-canon’. I didn’t read this novelisation at the time and it’s rewarding after all these years to find Terrance Dicks trying his best to nudge the narrative a little, hinting at things the reader might discover later or enhancing the mood with a well-chosen description; that thing on the Valeyard’s head might well be a ‘skull-cap’, but coming between the ‘all in black’ ensemble and the ‘gaunt-faced’ description, it just adds to the idea that the Time Lord prosecutor is Death personified. He’s not breaking any new ground here, but Dicks is definitely putting the effort where it’s needed most.

Chapter 113. Doctor Who – The Ark (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS delivers the Doctor and Steven, with their new friend Dodo, aboard a huge space ark carrying the survivors of Earth to a new home. As most of humanity sleeps in miniaturised form, the ark is maintained by a small community of humans with the assistance of the alien Monoids, knowing that their journey will outlast them all. Then the humans and Monoids succumb to a terrible disease – the common cold, brought aboard by Dodo. The Doctor manages to find a cure and the trio leave – only to return to the space vessel almost immediately, but hundreds of years into the future for humanity, which is now enslaved by the Monoids…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Steel Sky
  • 2. Capture
  • 3. The Plague
  • 4. The Fight Back
  • 5. The Return
  • 6. Refusis
  • 7. Search
  • 8. The Final Conflict

Background: Adapted by Paul Erickson from the 1966 scripts he officially co-wrote with Lesley Scott.

Notes: We begin with a single word: ‘Jungle’. The opening scene provides us with a description of the Monoid that includes details not visible on telly:

But this creature was different from the snakes and lizards that were normally found in this jungle. In the first place it walked upright on two legs, two arms hanging at its sides. It made no sound, not even the hissing that other reptiles might make. And while its body was covered in scales, the head boasted a mop-like thatch of ginger hair.

Facially, it displayed three shrunken nostrils and a small, thin mouth from which a tongue occasionally flicked out.

But its most prominent feature was a large single eye that constantly swivelled as it looked around.

Later, we’re told that the Monoids have no vocal cords, but that they can ‘lip-read’ and understand sign language – which suggests that they are also deaf (or, more likely, that the author doesn’t understand the difference). 

The Doctor mentions a previous adventure that took place on the planet Venessia – or possibly Enlandia – where there was no landmasses, only water and a ‘peculiar form of crystal ice’. He also mentions events on the planet Sava, which he tells Steven he visited ‘some time ago,’:

Some time ago was right. No sense in telling the young man that it must have been three centuries in his terms, although in the Doctor’s own knowledge such a time span had little meaning. Places were places, creatures were creatures… and time was time. All in the now period. That was the only way he ever experienced it, the only way he knew it.

The Doctor has never been to Refusis, but he did pass by it with previous companions (presumably this is Ian and Barbara with either Susan or Vicki); on that occasion, the TARDIS was attacked by rockets and the Doctor had to steer his ship to make the missiles collide and destroy each other. The Doctor criticises Dodo’s use of the word ‘fab’, calling her English ‘Most… elastic’. The Guardian Commander has a similar reaction when Dodo claims she might have ‘an attack of the willies’ and uses the adjective ‘flipping’. The Doctor name-drops Houdini and tells his friends about the events that led to the escapologist’s death. Later, while teaching Rhos about vaccines, he compares their work to that of Marie and Pierre Curie. ‘a husband and wife team of scientists of the nineteenth century’. Dodo tells her new friends that it’s Friday the 13th, still failing to grasp that they’ve travelled in time.

The prisoner on trial at the beginning is called Niash and he is offered a choice of either death or miniaturisaton (on TV, he’s simply told he’ll be miniaturised). The Guardians measure their ship’s dimensions in leagues – it’s two thousand leagues long – but Mellium doesn’t know if a league is three miles or three kilometres (it’s three nautical miles). The ship has no name – although the Guardians adopt Dodo’s use of the term ‘ark’ – and it contains many different types of environment; in addition to the jungle, there are lakes, deserts and polar regions. 

The trial of the travellers is much more involved and fleshed out (the Doctor is concerned by Steven’s blunt defence, noting that ‘advocacy [is] a special art – one that often calls for delicacy rather than the heavy hammer’. The hunt for a vaccine involves an operation to take blood and saliva samples from all living things aboard the ark, including a goat. Dodo takes Manyak inside the TARDIS to fetch equipment for the Doctor’s experiments; Dodo compares some of the items to the kind used by dentists and Manyak reveals that they don’t have dentistry in their time. The perplexing size of the TARDIS interior to its external shell convinces Manyak of the truth at last. Dodo tells him that ‘Lots of people have been fooled by that’ and that the Doctor told her it’s all ‘an optical illusion’. [On TV, this is her first journey, but this does lend credence to the theory that she’s had a few offscreen adventures prior to this – or that Dodo feels confident in pretending to Manyak that she knows more than she really does, which – considering she takes a long time to accept that they’ve travelled in time – seems more credible].

The Doctor and his friends encounter a very tame tiger, which surprises them by licking Dodo’s hand with affection. They later learn that the humans removed aggression from their character to create their harmonious society – and then extended this gift to the predators among their livestock. Later though, a Guardian is attacked by a boa constrictor (observed by a curious Monoid) and in the polar region, the Doctor sees a polar bear and is told that not all animals were successfully converted away from aggression.

On inspecting a Guardian’s physical scan, the Doctor discovers that humans now have two hearts (though makes no reference to having two himself), two livers and a ‘greatly reduced intestinal system’, but have lost their vermiform appendix and tonsils, all the results of genetic manipulation many generations ago; the humans also have reduced musculature that makes them incapable of heavy lifting; in contrast, the Monoids have no heart, just a series of pulses, but they do have a nervous system. The Doctor applies the vaccine via pads, rather than needles (as on TV) and as he explains that the future humans are a ‘changed species’ from Steven and Dodo, he adds cryptically that he himself has ‘had more experience of adapting’ [this is the ‘first’ Doctor, but see some similarly confusing statements in Galaxy Four]. 

The Doctor’s quest to administer the vaccine takes him, Rhos and a Monoid via conveyor transport into the desert area, where they encounter a caravan of nomads, and to the ‘cultivated zone’ inhabited by farmers. An elderly woman tells the Doctor that not everyone on Earth came aboard the ship; some remained to live out their lives on the doomed Earth. The people of Earth abandoned country names ‘a long time ago’. Burial had been banned, replaced by mandatory cremation. Again, it’s noted that Guardians don’t do manual work, while Monoids accept it.

When the travellers first return to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Dodo grab some sleep while Steven is left ‘on duty’, but Steven falls asleep too and accidentally knocks a switch, which is why they return to the Ark in its future. They emerge aboard the Ark to discover that the previously placid predators have now reverted to type, as they see a tiger hunting gazelle. Monoid One is actually the 17th One, a descendant of the Monoid who assumed power after the war that resulted in the subjugation of the humans. Monoid Four comes from a long line of individuals who question decisions – and he feels that the treatment of the humans is wrong.

Dodo meets a second Refusian, a female who tells her they don’t have individual names, but decides that they should adopt some and chooses ‘Mary’ for herself and ‘Charles’ for her brother. Dodo tells Mary that the Refusis castle reminds her of a similar building she once visited in Wales, then the two new friends play a game of tennis. After the launcher is destroyed, Dodo panics that she might be stranded and suddenly realises that she’s millions of miles and years away from home. She speculates that back home she’d be shopping and preparing for a night out – but is quick to appease Mary when she inadvertently causes offense at being ungrateful for the Refusian hospitality. The time travellers stay to witness the arrival of the Ark’s population and revival of the miniaturised beings on the surface of Refusis, which is ‘a model of efficient organisation’ thanks to the cooperation of Monoids and humans alike. Among the revived people is Niash, the prisoner from the trial at the start of the story. As usual, the tag scene leading into the next story [The Celestial Toymaker] is not included here; instead, the Doctor attempts to give Dodo elocution lessons (‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the Plain’, made famous by My Fair Lady). The old man promises his young friends a journey – but ‘no guaranteed destination!’

Cover: For the first edition, David McAllister shows the Doctor and a Monoid in a triangular motif as animals break the frame and run into space. For the 1993 reprint, Alister Pearson uses a border that’s reminiscent of the one he used on The Ark in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen, with Dodo and the Doctor either side of an attacking Monoid.

Final Analysis: This is a pretty solid adaptation, telling the story as seen on TV but with the kind of nuances and subtle enhancements that make these books all the more worthwhile. Paul Erickson provides a more rational explanation for how the Monoids managed to overthrow the human rulers (humanity having slowly removed aggression and physical strength from its genetic makeup, making them vulnerable to revolt) and really adds to the scale of the Ark and its many geographical simulations. Something he really excels with is Dodo, perfectly capturing her carefree and cheeky attitude. She’s an absolute hoot, annoying the Doctor with her never-ending supply of 60s slang. The book still contains two of the less credible elements too – the security kitchen (!) and the ‘galactic accident’ that led to the Refusians becoming invisible – which would have been a shame to lose.

Chapter 111. Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death (1986)

Synopsis: The T-Mat system, a form of instantaneous transport across the planet Earth, is controlled by a crew based on the Moon. Invaders bring operations to a halt, leaving Earth in chaos.T-Mat is so all-encompassing that the only rocket is in a museum – and the only person with enough training to fly one is the Doctor. Taking Jamie and Zoe along for the ride, the Doctor heads to the Moon, where he finds a party of Ice Warriors with a plan to destroy all humanity.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Trouble with T-Mat
  • 2. Enter the Doctor
  • 3. Radnor’s Offer
  • 4. Countdown
  • 5. Blast-Off
  • 6. Crashdown
  • 7. The Genius
  • 8. The Pods
  • 9. The Blight
  • 10. The Invader
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. The Renegade
  • 13. The Sacrifice
  • 14. Trapped!
  • 15. Signal of Doom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1969 story.

Notes: According to Dicks, gender equality in the 21st Century is ‘still more theoretical than practical’ and that to gain high rank, ‘a woman had to be not simply as good as, but measurably better than, her male colleagues.’ The base on the moon was intended as the start of a huge city, but the creation of T-Mat saw an instant lack of interest in space travel and the project was abandoned.

The Doctor is ‘a smallish man with a mop of untidy black hair and a deeply-lined face that looked wise and gentle and funny all at once’. He wears ‘baggy check trousers, supported by wide, elaborately patterned braces, a wide-collared white shirt and a scruffy bow tie’. Jamie is a ‘brawny young man’ wearing ‘a dark shirt and a battle-dress tunic over the kilt of a Scottish Highlander’. We’re reminded that Zoe first met the Doctor and Jamie on the space wheel. She’s a ‘very small, very neat, very precise young woman with a fringe of short dark hair looked on with an air of equal scepticism’. She’s dressed in ‘a short skirt, a short-sleeved, high-necked blouse with a waistcoat over it, and high boots, all in shining, colourful plasti-cloth’ and we’re told that her clothes, like Jamie’s, are ‘an indication of the time from which she had been taken. Zoe is said to be ‘highly intelligent and with a great deal of advanced scientific training [with…] a precise and orderly scientific mind’.

There are some splendid descriptions of the Martian invaders: Slaar’s voice is ‘harsh and sibilant, a sort of throaty hissing whisper that seemed to put extra s’s in all the sibilants’; one of his lumbering warriors has a:

… massive body [that] was covered in scaly green hide, ridged and plated like that of a crocodile. The head was huge, helmetlike, ridged at the crown, with large insectoid eyes and a lipless lower jaw. The alien leader shared the same terrifying form, though its build was slimmer, the movements somehow less clumsy. The jaw too was differently made, less of a piece with the helmet-like head.

As a description, it does seem to be a closer fit for the ‘big-head’ versions like Isbur from The Ice Warriors, as the ones in this TV story don’t have especially huge heads. The Grand Marshal who appears on the videolink has a helmet that’s ‘differently shaped from that of Slaar… studded with gleaming jewels’ and his voice ‘although aged, was filled with power and authority’.

Osgood’s first name is ‘Harry’, though Radnor’s first name (Julian on TV) is not mentioned. The Doctor is anachronistically referred to as a Time Lord a couple of times.

Cover: Tony Masero’s debut cover for a first edition shows an Ice Warrior on the surface of the Moon.

Final Analysis: Welcome back, Terrance Dicks! We’re treated to a rather special adaptation here; while he follows the scripts methodically, as we’d expect, Dicks also provides insight into the characters that might not be obvious from their portrayal on TV. Of particular note is the Minister who’s responsible for T-Mat, Sir John Gregson, who – we’re told – ‘could turn a difficulty into a disaster in record time’. Not since Chinn in The Claws of Axos have we seen the reputation of a politician so completely assassinated. It’s a joyful subtlety.

It’s worth remembering that Bryan Hayles’s scripts were written in the lead-up to the first successful moon landing; just over four months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin boldly went where the Doctor and his chums had gone before. The book, however, came 11 months after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off, a disaster which led to a three-year grounding of the space shuttle fleet. While the people of this 21st Century might have forgotten the thrill of the space program, we get some sense of it through the characters as they rediscover their lost skills – especially the inventor of the all-important space rocket, Professor Eldred:

Eldred stood looking at a monitor, watching the rocket streaking steadily upwards. On his face was the incredulous delight of a man who sees his lifelong dream come true.

Then a shadow of sadness crossed his face. For him, the dream had become reality too late. From now on, he could only watch…

The Seeds of Death was one of the earliest stories to be made available by BBC Home Video, making this the first novel to be released after its VHS release. The point I’m making here is that Terrance Dicks’s usual approach was to recreate a story pretty much exactly, as readers wouldn’t be able to rewatch it. But slowly, things were changing.

Chapter 103. Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Peri has just witnessed her new friend die and be replaced by a completely different man. Unstable after the trauma of regeneration, this new Doctor is loud, violent and self-obsessed – and Peri is terrified of him. Deciding to become a hermit on a barren moon, the Doctor instead becomes entangled in a policeman’s investigation into the kidnapping of hyper-intelligent twins. The culprit is someone the Doctor once knew, but is now enslaved by a megalomaniacal slug with mind-boggling ambitions.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Home Time
  • 2. The Maladjusted Time Lord
  • 3. Enter Professor Edgeworth
  • 4. Mestor the Magnificent
  • 5. Titan Three
  • 6. An Unsafe Safe House
  • 7. The Reunion
  • 8. Jaconda, the Beautiful!
  • 9. End Game, Part One
  • 10. End Game, Part Two

Background: Eric Saward adapts the scripts by Anthony Steven for a 1984 serial.

Notes: Professor Archie Sylvest is a university lecturer who lives with his wife, Nimo, and their 12-year-old twin sons live at 25 Lydall Street, the only Georgian terrace left standing in a metropolis of ‘mirror-smooth’ and ‘flameproof, plastic buildings’. He has an android babysitter for the boys, which he knows they hate. Sylvest is scared of his children, something the boys exploit. He takes solace in harbouring murderous thoughts towards them (a strategy suggested by his therapist to help suppress his fears) while drinking too much Voxnic in the company of an attractive computer programmer called Vestal Smith. When Sylvest returns home drunk and discovers his sons’ disappearance, his concern is less that they might have been hurt and more that they might be used in some nefarious scheme or other.

The Time Lord process of regeneration is the work of a hormone called ‘lindos’, which works at lightning speed to repair every cell in the Time Lord body. An illustration of regeneration’s random nature comes in the story of Councillor Verne, whose stunning beauty distracted his peers from his unsuitability to office; his subsequent regenerations saw him grow increasingly unattractive until he became a ‘hideous monster’ who so distressed the then-Lord President that he ordered the Verne creature to be destroyed.

The new Doctor initially misunderstands Peri’s distress, but then apologises to her as he realises how terrified she must be. Peri is relieved and reassured – until she sees his new costume:

… each panel of the coat was quite different in texture, design and colour. This wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if the colours had blended, but they seemed to be cruelly, harshly, viciously at odds with each other. In fact, the coat was so gawdy it would have looked out of place on the back of a circus clown…. The whole ensemble was finished off with a waistcoast which looked as though someone had been sick on. (For all Peri knew, someone had.) The final touch was a livid green watch chain that at some time must have been stolen from a public lavatory.

Delightful! As she fights off the Doctor’s frenzied attack, Peri grabs the mirror in the hope of smashing it to use as a weapon against him.

The personal history of Professor Bernard Edgeworth – aka the Time Lord Azmael – is recounted: Like the Doctor, Azmael grew tired of life among the Time Lords and chose to retire; unlike the Doctor, the High Council decided Azmael was too dangerous to be allowed to escape their control and chose instead to kill him; they despatched ‘Seedle Warriors’ to assassinate him, only for the bloodthirsty squad to massacre the inhabitants of Vitrol Minor, where Azmael was hiding; Azmael brought legal proceedings against the High Council, who retaliated by framing him for their own crimes; Azmael’s last course of action was to gun down the High Council in their chambers and flee to the planet Jaconda. The specific species of gastropod that lays waste to Jaconda is the Sectoms. We also learn of the history of Titan Three, formerly home to the Mastons of Maston Viva, who fell victim to the generally bleak atmosphere of the planet and committed mass suicide, leaving behind their research equipment for Azmael to find.

‘Mestor the Magnificent’ is nearly two metres tall and considered ugly even by other gastropods. To allow him to stand upright, Mestor has grown two small legs that make him wobble as he walks, and two tiny arms, which serve ‘no particular function’ except to gesticulate as he speaks. 

His face, what there was of it, was humanoid in form. As he did not have a neck, head or shoulders, the features had grown where what would have been the underside of a normal slug’s jaw. As though to add to the peculiarity of a gastropod with a human face, the features were covered in a thin membrane.

Peri observes that the Doctor’s delusions lead him to act like Sherlock Holmes, Hern the Hunter (a dig at Doctor Who’s ITV rival Robin of Sherwood?), an explorer called Musk and a country squire. She apparently ‘never even grasped the fundamentals of the microwave oven’. The issue of the time delay with the matter transporter is removed; although Peri dematerialises first, the pair return to the TARDIS at the same time.

The planets that form part of Mestor’s plans are called Muston and Seniel  The Doctor recalls his past companions, including a rather brutal summation of Adric and his ‘childish antics’, a desperation ‘to be loved and accepted for what he was’, which prevented the Doctor (or at least, this incarnation) of ‘ever being able to fully praise, help or ultimately like him’. The Doctor’s first meeting with Mestor is delayed until the climax – their prior conversations conveyed via a hologram link.

Cover: Due to a breakdown in negotiations, an earlier cover showing Colin Baker was rejected (the actor’s agent enquired how much his fee might be for using his likeness and the publisher, misunderstanding the enquiry as a demand for payment, panicked and cancelled the already completed artwork). Andrew Skilleter’s second painting offers up a very green cover featuring a Jacondan, Mestor and some gastropod eggs. The 1993 reprint used Andrew Skilleter’s art for the VHS, again showing a Jacondan and Mestor, but this time joined by the Doctor.

Final Analysis: This is more than just an adaptation; its position in the history of Doctor Who offers us a little insight into events behind the scenes. It was written and published before the increasingly public fall-out between Eric Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner, but the causes of Saward’s dissatisfaction can be seen here in his depiction of the lead character. Even though it’s the post-regenerative monster that he’s writing, and even though he turns the self-serving and cowardly acts into something more whimsical (thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes etc), some of Saward’s negativity is still very much evident. In the final confrontation with Mestor, he frames this Doctor as sounding ‘more like a street bully than a Time Lord negotiating with a creature capable of taking over the universe’ and his pleading with the despot is ‘foolish, almost childish’. The conclusion to the tale is much less confident and reassuring than on TV. Peri even tells the Doctor she just wants to go home.

‘… whatever else happens, I am the new Doctor. This is me whether people like it or not.’

The statement was as bland and as sterile as it sounded.

Peri hoped that she had caught a glimpse of a smile as he uttered it.

If she hadn’t, this particular incarnation of the Time Lord would prove to be a very difficult person indeed.

Hugo Lang is also subject to a character assassination, the dogged and determined police officer becoming a self-serving and ruthlessly opportunistic man who pursues the twins only for personal glory and who decides to stay on Jaconda to extort money from Mestor’s chamberlain.

This is still a diverting read though, as Saward tries hard to make it more entertaining than he managed to make it on screen. As with the fox in The Visitation, Saward once again uses the form of an animal to witness events; the arrival of Azmael’s ship and his kidnapping of the twins goes undetected by anyone on Earth except a ginger cat, who prides himself on knowing what is happening before anyone else and vows to tell nobody about what he’s seen. His telling of the circumstances of Hugo Lang’s crash on Titan Three make for a scene straight out of Star Wars and, as the quote above shows, he succeeds in making Mestor a horrifying and fearsome presence. 

We’re now in the period where authors were encouraged to attempt something other than a straight retelling of the TV show and for many readers, the episodes would still be fresh in the memory. Saward attempts something in the style of Douglas Adams as his narrative regularly drifts off to discuss various tangentially related topics: A mention of Azmael’s revitalising modulator leads to a detailed history of the life and convoluted death of the machine’s inventor, Professor James Zarn, as well as the results of his other great scientific success, involving the Social and Sexual Life of the Veedle Fly; the acid that the Doctor uses to attack Mestor is Moston acid, which ages its victims to death and which is a product of Professor Vinny Mosten, about whom we also discover more than we’d ever hoped; even the floor of Mestor’s chamber, decorated with a celebrated Jacondan mosaic, inspires a further condensed history lecture. Whether or not this is a successful approach is down to personal taste. Personally, I rather enjoyed it, even if I was slightly worried every time a new brand name or invention popped up. Stop trying to make ‘Voxnic’ happen, Eric. It’s not going to happen.

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 hands 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.