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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 23. Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks (1976)

Synopsis: The planet Skaro has been a battleground for generations as two races fight for supremacy. Deep beneath the planet’s surface, the chief scientist of the Kaleds, Davros, has determined the final outcome of his race and has planned for their future – as Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are sent by the Time Lords to avert the creation of the Daleks – but do they really have the right to commit genocide?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Secret Mission
  • 2. Prisoners of War
  • 3. The Secret Weapon
  • 4. Rocket of Doom
  • 5. Escape to Danger
  • 6. Betrayal
  • 7. Countdown to Destruction
  • 8. Captives of Davros
  • 9. Rebellion!
  • 10. Decision for the Doctor
  • 11. Triumph of the Daleks
  • 12. A Kind of Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts.

Notes: The story follows on from The Sontaran Experiment with the time travellers expecting to be back at Space Station Nerva [but see The Ark in Space and The Sontaran Experiment for how that doesn’t match the book universe]. Sarah recalls her first encounter with the Daleks on the planet of the Exxilons [See Death to the Daleks in 20 books’ time]  The Doctor  has time to explain the Time Lords’ mission to Sarah and Harry before they’re attacked and endure a more protracted battle on their first approach to the Kaled dome. There’s a little extra information about how Davros came to look the way he does:

Harry Sullivan looked at Davros in horror. ‘What happened to the poor devil?’

‘An atomic shell struck his laboratory during a Thal bombardment,’ whispered Ronson. ‘His body was shattered, but he refused to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.’

A group of Thal soldiers are noted to be blond (as in the earlier stories, even though that was a product of their full cycle of mutation). Sevrin is a giant with agility like an ape, while Bettan has ‘an important official position’ and is responsible for the victory celebrations planned after the end of the war. Davros’s office looks down onto the laboratory, which gives the Doctor and his chums a better view of events than the small monitor they had on TV. As Davros is exterminated by the Daleks, his chair explodes into flames. The new Dalek leader, while announcing their mission statement, decrees that they shall build their own city [a reference to the first Dalek story?]. Sevrin sees the time travellers disappear (and Sarah waves him goodbye before the trio vanishes).

Cover: Achilleos gives the first edition a deceptively simple design as Davros (in a brown tunic) owns the centre while a Dalek lurks at the rear and the Doctor is inset and sepia as if on a screen. Alister Pearson gives the 1991 reprint a similarly plain cover, with the Doctor emerging through the fog as Davros enters, stage left.

Final Analysis: Matching the TV story, the tone of this adaptation is a leap away from the rompy fun of its predecessors. This is grim from the first scene and there’s barely any concession to a younger audience. Maybe it’s the quality of Terry Nation’s scripts (or Dicks’s friendship with the script editor who oversaw then), but considering the TV version has possibly the highest number of exterminations in a story up to this point, Dicks doesn’t shy away from any of it, and even goes into detail and singles out a few individuals for their personal experience of ‘Death by Dalek’. Even the Dalek incubation room benefits from a little extra groo, as Dicks paints a picture of glass tanks containing ‘ghastly-shaped creatures twisted and writhed in agitation, while in the darker corners of the room other monstrosities cowered away timidly’.

As if this couldn’t be more perfect, we get another chapter called ‘Escape to Danger’. Yay!

Chapter 22. Doctor Who – The Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

aka Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

Synopsis: A new asteroid has arrived in the solar system and the Nerva Station has been positioned in its orbit to warn spacefarers and examine its geological makeup. The majority of the beacon’s crew has been struck down with a lethal plague, clues to the cause of which appear to focus on one man. He knows that the nearby asteroid is really the remains of the lost planet of Voga, one of the casualties of the last Cyber-War. He also knows that the Cybermen have come to hunt down and destroy the Vogans and anyone who stands in their way. Including three new arrivals to the beacon called the Doctor, Sarah and Harry. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1. Return to Peril
  • 2. The Cybermat Strikes
  • 3. A Hot Spot for the Doctor
  • 4. A Visit to Voga
  • 5. Rebellion!
  • 6. Attack of the Cybermen
  • 7. The Living Bombs
  • 8. Journey into Peril
  • 9. Countdown on Voga
  • 10. Explosion!
  • 11. Skystriker!
  • 12. ‘The Biggest Bang in History’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Gerry Davis’s scripts for the 1975 serial. The first edition cover was just titled ‘The Revenge of the Cybermen’, switching to the familiar ‘Doctor Who and the…’ formula for the reprint.

Notes: The opening chapter is a word-for-word repeat of the Creation of the Cybermen passage, minus the bit about them settling on Mondas. As the Doctor and his chums arrive on the beacon, Harry reflects on his adventures since meeting the Doctor, from their first meeting [in The Giant Robot] to their most recent destination [in Genesis of the Daleks, which is, strangely, scheduled to be published next]. The cybermat’s description is closer to a Tomb or Wheel in Space version than the killer slipper from Revenge. The Vogans are described as having ‘dark-furred faces’ with’ large and luminous’ eyes, as if someone slipped Dicks a photo of Vega Nexos by mistake. Vorus is apparently tall and physically imposing in comparison to other Vogans (unlike the sleight David Collings who played him on TV). The Vogan radio operator works in a communications room, rather than in a cavern. Lester and Stevenson carry sci-fi-sounding ‘blasters’ instead of standard-issue machine guns. When Harry triggers the rockfall, the Doctor calls him an ‘idiot’, not an ‘imbecile’.

The Cybermen are apparently over seven feet tall. The description matches the look of the Cybermen in The Invasion; mounted in their helmets they have a lamp, which glows when receiving instructions, rather than a gun, and they carry rod-shaped weapons [as in The Tenth Planet novel]. A ‘second-in command’ refers to one of their number as a ‘Cyberwarrior’ (is this where that class comes from in Ascension of the Cybermen?). Magrik survives to the end. Finally, there’s an extra scene on board the TARDIS where the Doctor, Sarah and Harry see the exact point on Earth where the Brigadier’s summons is coming from – Loch Ness!

Cover: Nice, simple cover here for the first edition as Achilleos combines a photo reference of Tom Baker from The Sontaran Experiment with a quite passive-looking Cyberman and Vogan and a familiar Achilleos blobby nebula. The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is more simple, reusing a Nerva Beacon wireframe motif he used on his cover for The Ark in Space, with portraits of the Cyberleader and Vorus.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks falls into the trap that so many writers do when describing the thought processes of ’emotionless’ creatures, in forgetting they, er, don’t have emotions; ‘The Cyberleader paused to savour the horror on Sarah’s face’, he writes, and later ‘The Cyberleader looked with satisfaction on his scanner’ and ‘Confidently the Cyberleader intoned…’ which seem to capture Christopher Robbie’s performance more than the concept of emotionless cybernetic beings. Despite this (and it’s an easy temptation), Dicks gives us a fairly unembellished adaptation, capturing Sarah and Harry very well.

Chapter 18. Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons (1993)

Synopsis: Oil rigs are being attacked off the coast of Scotland and the Brigadier summons the Doctor to help out. As the Doctor goes on a monster hunt, Harry and Sarah find something sinister under Loch Ness.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Death from the Sea
  • 2. Murder on the Shore
  • 3. The Zygons Attack
  • 4. A Trap for the Doctor
  • 5. The Sleeping Village
  • 6. The Monster on the Moor
  • 7. Hunt for a Zygon
  • 8. A Visit to the Duke
  • 9. The Secret of Forgill Castle
  • 10. Plan for Conquest
  • 11. Escape!
  • 12. Monster in the Thames

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Banks Stewart’s scripts for the 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons.

Notes: During the attack on the Bonnie Prince Charlie rig, we’re told that the radio operator’s name is ‘Jock Munro’. We get the deleted scene of the TARDIS outer shell disappearing after it lands and a brief bit of chat with the Duke where Sarah, sat in the back of his landrover, discovers a stuffed stag’s head under a tarpaulin. UNIT Corporal Palmer makes a reappearance (he’s an unnamed corporal in the TV episodes). The Zygon that Sarah first encounters is ‘a squat, powerful figure about the size of a small man:

Orange-green in colour, it had small, claw-like hands and feet. There was no neck: the big high-domed head seemed to grow directly from the bulbous torso. The face was terrifyingly alien, with huge, malevolent green eyes and a small, puckered mouth. A row of protuberances ran down its back. The really horrible thing about the creature was that it seemed to be a parody of the human form. It looked like a grotesque, evil baby.

Once Sarah and the Doctor are trapped in the decompresison chamber, the Zygon formerly known as Sister Lamont uses a comunications device to inform Broton (with ‘a note of gloating triumph in its voice’) that ‘The Doctor and the human female will soon be dead’. The Doctor’s encounter with the Skarasen on Tulloch Moor takes place at night. Although this is almost seen on telly, it’s made much clearer that zygons can sting when in their ‘proper form’, either to hurt or fatally wound (and they do both here – Angus is kiled while Harry and the Doctor are only stunned). The Brigadier and Sarah add sugar and milk to The Fox Inn’s porridge but the Doctor has it with salt, a taste he acquired ‘during the Jacobite rebellion’. Although Madra, the Zygon who impersonates Harry, is named, the one who poses as Sister lamont is not (she’s something that sounds like ‘Orla’ on TV). Oh and the Prime Minister who the Brigadier speaks to is identified as male.

Cover & Illustrations: It’s frustrating because in my mind, the artwork I want to see was that Radio Times piece by Frank Bellamy. This one’s okay, with the Skarasen looking fierce and the Zygon leaning into the centre, but the Doctor likeness reminds me too much of Eric Idle and the background is a little Looney Tunes.  Might be heresy but I much prefer the Alister Pearson 1993 reprint where Broton’s face merges with the background, a sombre Doctor looks very smart in his Scottish get-up and the Sister Lamont Zygon (going on the publicity photo it references) stands full-length.

Final Analysis: Broton appears more of a frustrated administrator in this version, furious at his subordinates. Dicks’s description of a Zygon as ‘a grotesque, evil baby’ is spot on although he insists on describing a ‘claw-shaped hand’ that’s a lot less enticing than what we actually see on TV. Bonus points for explaining that zygons have stings, which is not really clear on screen.

The Zygons are among my earliest memories of the TV show and, as mentioned in the introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. 

Chapter 13. Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (1975)

aka Doctor Who – Robot (1992)

Synopsis: As everyone comes to terms with the appearance and behaviour of a brand new Doctor, a robot with conflicting orders is stealing parts for a super-weapon. Sarah Jane Smith investigates an elite scientific research group while new arrival Harry Sullivan tries his hand at playing James Bond.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Killer in the Night
  • 2. Something More than Human
  • 3. Trouble at Thinktank
  • 4. Robot!
  • 5. The Killer Strikes Again
  • 6. Trapped by the Robot
  • 7. The World in Danger
  • 8. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 9. The Battle at the Bunker
  • 10. The Countdown Begins
  • 11. The Kidnapping of Sarah
  • 12. The Giant Terror

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts for the 1974-5 story Robot (snatching the record from The Sea Devils for the shortest gap between broadcast and novelisation publication, at one month and three weeks).

Notes: The regeneration is a lot more involved and emotional than the simple cross-fade seen on telly. It’s told in flashback from the Brigadier’s point of view and it enables Dicks to give us a very brief history of the Brigadier’s relationships with his two previous Doctors.

Suddenly it had been all over. A new man with a new face was lying on the laboratory floor. Like, and yet unlike. Still tall and thin, still with the same rather beaky nose. But a younger man, the face far less lined, a tangle of curly brown hair replacing the flowing white locks.

The Doctor’s recovery takes much longer than on screen. On first seeing the robot, Sarah faints (no, she doesn’t, Terrance! No!). There’s a new scene where UNIT raids Thinktank only to discover they’ve already abandoned their base, while the K1 robot is attacked by RAF jets (as shown on the first cover). And at last, we experience Harry’s first reaction to being inside the Tardis!

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes ushers in a more comic-book style for this cover, which shows the K1 robot attacked by fighter planes on three sides while an inset shows the robot’s giant hand clasped around a screaming Sarah Jane – it’s very reminiscent of King Kong, of course. The logo on the cover now reflects the logo used on screen for the first time, using a version of Bernard Lodge’s design, and for this cover only, the Doctor’s face peers from the ‘O’. No internal illustrations this time, but there’s a two-panel illustration on the rear of the cover depicting the giant robot booting a UNIT jeep into the air. My first edition was the 1979 reprint with the portrait of K1 by Jeff Cummins, which dropped the rear illustration. The 1992 version used Alister Pearson’s painting for the VHS cover, with the K1 robot changing size against a lovely portrait of the Doctor.

Final Analysis: Is this the beginning of the more simplified novelisations? Not much is changed from screen to page but it all flows along nicely without expanding the story to any great degree.