Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (1983)

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors  (1983)

Synopsis: The Death Zone on Gallifrey – once the location of cruel games in the old times of the Time Lords, before it was closed down. A sinister figure has reactivated it and the Doctor has been dragged out of time from different points in his life. Though one of his incarnations is trapped in a time eddy, four others work together, joined by old friends and obstructed by old enemies. Their joint quest points towards an imposing tower that legend says is also the tomb of the Time Lord founder, Rassilon. A deadly new game is afoot, and the prize is not what it seems…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Game Begins
  • 2. Pawns in the Game
  • 3. Death Zone
  • 4. Unexpected Meeting
  • 5. Two Doctors
  • 6. Above, Between, Below!
  • 7. The Doctor Disappears
  • 8. Condemned
  • 9. The Dark Tower
  • 10. Deadly Companions
  • 11. Rassilon’s Secret
  • 12. The Game of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own TV script in a novel that was published before it was broadcast in the UK – pushing the record for the gap between broadcast and publication into minus figures.

Notes: The book opens in ‘a place of ancient evil’ – the Game Room – where a black-clad Player is preparing for the game to begin. The Doctor has a fresh stalk of celery on his lapel. Tegan is still considered to be ‘an Australian air stewardess’ despite having been sacked by the time of Arc of Infinity. The Doctor has remodelled the TARDIS console room after ‘a recent Cybermen attack’ (is this Earthshock or an unseen adventure?). Turlough is introduced as a ‘thin-faced, sandy-haired young man in the blazer and flannels of his public school.’ He’s also ‘good-looking in a faintly untrustworthy sort of way’.

The First Doctor is said to have ‘blue eyes […] bright with intelligence’ (William Hartnell had brown eyes so this is definitely the Hurndall First Doctor) and a ‘haughty, imperious air’. He’s aware that he’s near the end of his first incarnation and is living in semi-retirement to prepare himself for the impending change. The Brigadier’s replacement is called ‘Charlie Crighton’ (Charles Crighton, as in the film director?). The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (not blue – or even green as previously) which appear ‘humourous and sad at the same time’. We find the Third Doctor test-driving Bessie on private roads, which is how he can drive so fast without fear of oncoming traffic. On leaving the TARDIS, Sarah-Jane Smith had felt ‘abandoned and more than a little resentful’; at first, she thinks the capture obelisk is a bus rounding a corner – until it’s too late. There’s a new scene depicting life on future Earth for Susan Campbell – formerly Foreman – whose husband David is part of the reconstruction government and they have three children together. 

Strangely, she calls her grandfather ‘Doctor’, which is what alerts the Dalek to the presence of its enemy  (this was fixed for the TV broadcast). The obelisk tries to capture the Fourth Doctor and Romana by lying in wait under a bridge. The Master recognises that the stolen body he inhabits will wear out, so the offer of a full regeneration cycle is especially appealing. The slight incline that Sarah tumbles down on TV becomes a bottomless ravine here. The First Doctor is much more receptive to Tegan’s suggestion that she accompanies him to the Tower. As the Castellan accuses the Doctor of ‘revenge’, we’re reminded of the events in Arc of Infinity, while there’s also a summary of the events with the Yeti in London that led to the Doctor and the Brigadier’s first meeting. The ‘between’ entrance to the tower has a bell on a rope, not an ‘entry coder’ and the First Doctor, realising the chess board has a hundred squares, applies the first hundred places of ‘Pi’ as coordinates (which explains how he translates the measurement of a circle to a square!).

Sarah Jane tries to launch a rock at a Cyberman to keep it away (‘I missed!’) and on meeting the Third Doctor, Tegan tells Sarah ‘My one’s no better’ and they compare notes – scenes that were reinstated for the special edition of the story on VHS and DVD. When the Brigadier helps to disarm the Master, the Doctors pile onto him. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are returned to the exact moment they left, still punting on the river Cam. Though the Second Doctor departs by calling his successor ‘Fancy pants’, the ‘Scarecrow’ response is cut. The Fifth Doctor tells a confused Flavia that Rassion ‘was – is – the greatest Time Lord of all’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter creates the central image of a diamond containing the five Doctors in profile, surrounded by the TARDIS, Cybermen, a Dalek and K9. All of this on a very swish-looking metallic-silver background with a flash in the bottom right-hand corner proclaiming the book ‘A Twentieth Anniversary First Edition’. Alister Pearson’s art for the 1991 reprint features the story’s five Doctors (Hurndall stepping in for Hartnell and an off-colour Tom Baker) against a backdrop of elements that evoke the interior decor of the Dark Tower with a suggestion of the hexagonal games table.

Final Analysis: Apparently Terrance Dicks completed this in record time, so understandably there are a couple of mistakes (Susan calling her grandfather ‘Doctor’, Zoe and Jamie labelled as companions of the ‘third Doctor’), but otherwise he juggles the elements of his already convoluted tale very well, even resorting to his trick from the previous multi-Doctor story of calling them ‘Doctor One’, ‘Doctor Two’ and ‘Doctor Three’. It’s not just nostalgia working here, Terrance Dicks does such a good job with the shopping list he was given and makes something that both celebrates the past and catapults the series into the future.

Chapter 80. Doctor Who – Arc of Infinity (1983)

Synopsis: Aided by a traitor, a being from an anti-matter dimension breaks into the Time Lord databanks to steal the Doctor’s bio-data. When the Doctor is later attacked by the being, the Time Lords step in and he is summoned to return home to Gallifrey. There, he learns that the the anti-matter being is trying to create a foothold in this dimension, something that could destabilise the universe. Seeing no other solution, the Time Lords sentence the Doctor to death, but at the last minute he is rescued by the mysterious entity. The Doctor flees Gallifrey for a reunion in Amsterdam…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Deadly Meeting
  • 2. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 3. Recall
  • 4. Death Sentence
  • 5. The Prisoner
  • 6. Termination
  • 7. The Matrix
  • 8. The Traitor
  • 9. Unmasked
  • 10. Hunt for Omega
  • 11. Transference
  • 12. Omega’s Freedom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for a serial that was broadcast just over six months earlier.

Notes: The appearance of Omega in negative is more than just a nifty special effect; it’s a result of him being projected from another universe! Colin’s passport was stolen (not just lost) while he and Robin had been in a crowded cafe; though it’s never stated explicitly, and despite certain ‘speciality’ cafes and their wares being fully legal in Amsterdam, this might be the real reason Colin’s so reluctant to go to the police. There are reminders of the events of The Three Doctors when Omega first attempted a return, and that the Doctor was once the President of the Time Lords. Connecting to the Matrix via the Crown is both ‘dangerous and stressful’ and is only attempted in grave emergencies. When Nyssa breaks into the termination room, she sets her staser to stun before shooting the guards – then sets it to kill before entering the chamber to confront the High Council (it’s especially chilling that the meek and mild Traken princess has been driven to contemplate murder).

The Ergon is ‘a hideous lizard-like creature with a long thin skull, ending in a mouthful of fangs’, though it’s also described as ‘insectoid’; when it dies, Omega shrieks and twists convulsively as his link to the creature is severed. In the story’s final scene, we learn that Robin was able to get a new passport after all. Yay!

Cover: Worst cover ever? Could be – the Doctor and Hedin crudely cut out of the same photo and slapped onto an orange background. Meh… Thankfully, in 1992, Alister Pearson gave us a splendid piece of art for the reprint, depicting the Doctor and Omega (fading from negative to positive) against a background of the Matrix, framed in a double-diamond shape and an orange universe. Controversially, the diamond motif and a very similar layout were used by Pete Wallbank for the VHS cover.

Final Analysis: It’s fitting that co-creator of the Time Lords Terrence Dicks has novelised the majority of Gallifrey stories so far (though the other creator, Malcolm Hulke, covered two stories with brief Time Lord scenes); he knows them better than anyone and it’s reassuring to have him here on quite a continuity-heavy tale, explaining the relevant or subtext where appropriate. He tries his best to make things dramatic for the main villain – who effectively sits in a chair until the final chapter – and the image of Omega like a snake ‘sloughing off its old skin’ is much more effective than the deflating rubber mask on screen. 

We might also note that Colin Baker’s casting as the next Doctor had already been revealed around the time Terrance was writing this, and the character he plays here, Maxil, is described as ‘burly’ and ‘square-jawed’. I wonder if we’ll see that pop up as a description for the Sixth Doctor? We’ll have a long wait to find out…

Chapter 54. Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor has returned home to claim the Presidency of the Time Lords. As the Gallifreyan elite is driven to panic by this shocking development, this is just the first in a chain of horrific events as the new President banishes senior figures to the barren wastelands of Gallifrey – including his friend Leela. And then the Vardans arrive. This is all part of a trap created by the Doctor to defeat the invaders, but the trap backfires when the Vardans are vanquished and in their place arrive the Sontarans!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Treaty for Treason
  • 2. The President-Elect
  • 3. Attack from the Matrix
  • 4. The Fugitive
  • 5. The Betrayal
  • 6. The Invasion
  • 7. The Outcasts
  • 8. The Assassin
  • 9. The Vardans
  • 10. False Victory
  • 11. The Sontarans
  • 12. The Key of Rassilon
  • 13. Failsafe
  • 14. The Chase
  • 15. The Wisdom of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts attributed to David Agnew (Anthony Read and Graham Williams). This followed Underworld on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Leela has brown eyes again [see The Horror of Fang Rock]. There are many references back to The Deadly Assassin that provide clarification or other information that wasn’t revealed in the onscreen Invasion of Time. There’s a summary of the events that led to the Doctor assuming the position of President by default, including the Doctor’s previous encounter with the Matrix, as well as an explanation that as there was no other candidate available, and the Doctor was absent, Borusa took on the role of acting President as well as Chancellor, making him extremely powerful. Castellan Spandrel has retired and his very recent replacement, Kelner, quickly established a Bodyguard Squad to protect himself; Kelner took possession of a suite of offices that are… :

… of transparent plastic and gleaming metal, with complex control consoles and brightly flickering vision screens everywhere. It was over-technological even by Time Lord standards, but Kelner, the new Castellan felt it helped to maintain his image. 

Kelner is ‘thin-faced, nervous, rather insecure Time Lord’ who gained his position thanks to ‘good birth and political intrigue’. He has a bodyguard who is ‘very big, very brave, and very stupid’. Terrance Dicks maintains the impression given in The Deadly Assassin of the ceremonial chamber at the centre of the Panopticon and the scale of the Time Lord ensemble, which could never be achieved on TV:

The grand hall of the Panopticon is an immense circular chamber used by the Time Lords for all their major ceremonies. It is one of the largest and most impressive chambers in the known universe. The immense marble floor is big enough to hold an army, the domed glass roof seems as high above as the sky itself. Row upon row of viewing galleries run around the walls, and on the far side of the hall an impressive staircase leads down to a raised circular dais. By now the hall was filled with rank upon rank of Time Lords, all wearing the different-coloured robes and insignia of the different Chapters, the complex social family and political organisations that dominated Time Lord Society. 

The Great Key of Rassilon is just a lost artefact on TV, but Dicks ties it to the one named in The Deadly Assassin; the one the Master stole was a replica and the real one is kept in the possession of the Chancellor; also unlike on TV, the Doctor deduces which one of Borusa’s keys is the correct one without Borusa first offering a decoy. The buildings on the edge of the Capitol have ‘sheer white walls’ and the gleaming towers can be seen many miles away. 

Rodan is described as a ‘Time Lady’. The Outsiders live in log huts. Nesbin was expelled from the Capitol for an unprecedented violent attack upon another Time Lord. Ablif is a ‘burly young man’ and is the Outsiders who first captures Leela and Rodan – and gains a scratch across his face for his troubles. Jasko is also a ‘burly young Outsider’ who isn’t ‘especially bright’ but is ‘brave and strong’ and obedient. While these two Outsiders appeared on TV, a third member of the assault party is called ‘Jablif’ and it’s he who is fatally wounded but manages to kill a Sontaran before he dies.

Dicks’ description of Stor echoes that from Robert Holmes’ prologue for The Time Warrior:

The head was huge and round and it seemed to emerge directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greeny-brown and small red eyes were set deep in cavernous sockets. The nose was a snubby snout, the wide mouth a lipless slit. 

Stor calls our hero ‘Dok-tor’ as if it’s his name, which is lovely.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a much-minicked design of the Doctor and Stor smothered by metal cogs.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks guides us through what was actually quite a complicated script and helps it make sense along the way. Even Leela’s sudden departure is given a little assistance (in Leela’s tribe, it turns out, the women choose the men and Andred’s fighting skills and bravery clearly impressed her). He also succeeds in making the Vardans seem impressive: 

The space ship was enormous, terrifying, a long, sleek killer-whale of space. Its hull-lines were sharp and predatory and it bristled with the weapon-ports of a variety of death dealing devices. Everything about it suggested devastating, murderous power. 

… so that when their human forms are revealed, it’s more dramatic and less underwhelming as they’d already been fairly disappointing before the reveal. We’re still in this dry period where the books largely transcribe what happened on TV, but here, this at least prevents everything from feeling as cheap and improvised as it does on home video.

Chapter 36. Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin (1977)

Synopsis: The Time Lords of Gallifrey enjoy immense power, living in isolation from the rest of the universe. On the day that the President of the Time Lords is expected to announce his successor, security is tight! Yet somehow, an obsolete and unauthorised time capsule – a TARDIS – has landed right in the heart of the Capitol. Its owner, a criminal called the Doctor, is nowhere to be found. Then the President is assassinated – and the Doctor is found holding the gun. But could there really be two rogue Time Lords at play? Soon, the future of the Time Lords will depend on a battle of wits between two bitter rivals – and it will be a fight to the death.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Vision of Death
  • 2. The Secret Enemy
  • 3. Death of a Time Lord
  • 4. Trapped
  • 5. The Horror in the Gallery
  • 6. Into the Matrix
  • 7. Death by Terror
  • 8. Duel to the Death
  • 9. The End of the Evil
  • 10. The Doomsday Plan
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The End – and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s 1976 scripts.

Notes: That epic crawl from the start of the TV version is dropped, though its main details are absorbed into the rest of the book. In his youth, the Doctor trained for a seat on the High Council on Gallifrey, but he grew frustrated at the ‘never-ending ceremonials and elaborately costumed rituals’ and the ‘endless accumulation of second-hand knowledge that would never be used’. The Doctor recalls ‘boyhood memories of forbidden games, of hide-and-seek’, while the spark that sent him to flee Gallifrey is described as ‘a final crisis’. Dicks builds in vague gaps in the story deliberately, as none of this completely contradicts other explanations for why he left Gallifrey, but it does add to his possible reasons. There are a few references to ‘the Omega crisis’ and the ‘Omega file’ [see The Three Doctors]. The Doctor’s TARDIS control room is in the more traditional configuration, with a console that has a column at the centre (the one on telly is the wooden one without a central column).

The large dome at the heart of the Capitol (not actually seen on TV until 2007) houses the Panopticon. Spandrell is ‘unusually broad and muscular for a Time Lord’ and Goth is ‘tall, handsome, immensely impressive in his elaborate robes’. Goth is now head of the Prydonians, with Borusa elevated to the status of ‘High Cardinal’. The captain of the Guard is Hildred (not Hilred). Runcible and the Doctor had been at school together, where Runcible had been ‘utterly fascinated by rituals and traditions’. Now, he’s a ‘small plump figure’ unlike his onscreen depiction. When the hypnotised guard, Solis, tries to wreck the APN cables, Spandrell shoots him repeatedly. 

The villain at the heart of the tale was revealed in the end credits but it wasn’t spelled out until the Doctor saw the shrunken corpse of the cameraman and realised who he was up against. For the reader, Dicks teases the identity and after his accomplice calls him ‘Master’, he starts to use this as the villain’s title, but it’d still be fairly easy for a new reader to wonder if this is the Master, or just a master, especially as this Master is even more gruesome than on telly:

The cracked, wizened skin, stretched tight over the skull, one eye almost closed, the other wide open and glaring madly. It was like the face of death itself.

Later, the Master’s ‘bloodless lips [draw] back in a smile of hatred. The Doctor describes his enemy to Borusa thus:

He was always a criminal, sir, throughout all his lives. Constant pressure, constant danger. Accelerated regenerations used as disguise… He was simply burnt out.

During the trial, the Doctor interjects to confirm that the witness, an elderly Time Lord, can hear loud voices, thereby disputing the prosecution’s claim that he misheard the Doctor’s cries of ‘They’ll kill him’.

The final chapter uses a variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘The End – and a Beginning’.

Cover: The decaying Master leers from the top of the cover, while a stern-looking Doctor, flanked by two Time Lords in ceremonial robes and collars, looks off to the side. I can scarcely believe this is by Mike Little, it’s a huge step up from his previous efforts. 

Final Analysis: Not much to add to this, to be honest; it’s a straightforward adaptation, which is going to be the norm for a while now. Dick adds a few little details here and there, so as is often the case, it’s just a matter of scale – the Panopticon houses many more Time Lords from many other chapters than we could see on telly – but doesn’t change anything too much. When he’s working from scripts by his pal Robert Holmes, perhaps he doesn’t feel the need or the inclination.