Chapter 157. Doctor Who – City of Death (2018)

Synopsis: An emergency take-off on a barren world sees a spaceship explode, wiping out the last of the Jagaroth. Millions of years later, the Doctor and Romana are enjoying a holiday in Paris when they bump into a detective investigating a group of art thieves. What appears to be a simple heist turns out to have implications that echo through Earth’s history – and which will ensure it has no future.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: Escapes to Dangers
  • 1. Decision for the Doctor
  • 2. The Deadly Arrivals
  • 3. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 4. Meeting with a Monster
  • 5. Sentenced to Death
  • 6. The Doctor Disappears
  • 7. The Face of the Enemy
  • 8. An Army of Monsters
  • 9. Return to Peril
  • 10. In the Power of Scaroth
  • 11. The Doctor Fights Back
  • 12. The World Destroyed
  • Epilogue: A Kind of Victory

Background: Despite the misleading credit on the cover, this is by James Goss, rewriting his longer novel, which was based on various drafts of scripts written by Douglas Adams, based on a storyline by David Fisher, as televised in 1979. All of the chapter titles are new to this edition, which is a slight shame as there were some corkers in the original.

Notes: The old ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ blurb is resurrected on the title page with the explanation that the Fourth Doctor’s appearance later changed ‘when he lost an argument with gravity’. We’re also told that the cover shows ‘the 12th incarnation of Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth’. The prologue has the glorious title ‘Escapes to Dangers’. Scaroth’s ship is called Sephiroth. Romana made use of the TARDIS food machine before reaching Paris. K9 chose not to accompany his Master and Mistress on their jaunt around Paris due to the many cobbled streets he detected. After 40 novels, it’s an utter joy to find an author creating a new way of describing the Fourth Doctor: ‘The overall impression was of someone who had been completely knitted’. 

The earliest Scaroth splinter –  the Primary Fragment – is a caveman who brings fire to a tribe of primitives who worship him as a God. The Primary Fragment is closer in time to the disaster, so is able to direct the course of his future selves; this becomes harder with those splinters that are further forward in time, which is why the final Scarlioni-Scaroth is initially ignorant of his real identity, blindly following his sense of purpose for a greater goal. It’s only when an itch leads him to peel away Scarlioni’s face in ribbons that he finally learns the truth. The face mask is self-repairing and is a ‘pan-polymeric protoplasm’, the product of alien technology that was recovered by Phidias, a previous incarnation of Scaroth. Phidias gave the material to a sculptor, who used his own face as a model. In addition to Tancredi, the other fragments are: A pope in the Vatican; a crusader in Jerusalem (whose resemblance to Richard the Lionheart must have been confusing – see The Crusades); an Irish martyr burned at the stake; a senator in a Byzantium court; an English nobleman in Venice; the architect of the Great Pyramid at Cheops; an astronomer in Babylon; and the inventor of the first wheel, living on the banks of the Euphrates. 

Countess Scarlioni’s first name is Heidi, while the tour guide at the Louvre is Madame Henriette. The Doctor namedrops Catherine de Medici and Oscar Wilde in addition to Shakespeare. It’s made explicit that the seven names in Duggan’s address book who are interested in buying the Mona Lisa were the same people who hired him to investigate Scarlioni. The TARDIS is parked in an art gallery owned by a Monsieur Bertrand (on TV, it’s not clear that this isn’t just another wing of the Louvre).

Romana is surprised by the Doctor’s fury as he rebukes her for helping Scarlioni build his time machine (he later apologises for his rudeness). She sees Scarlioni as a better class of villain than Davros, whom she struggles to imagine offering her a fruit platter. She counts among her achievements the triple-first she got from the Time Academy, her position as ‘favoured scion of the House of Heartshaven and her skills in the ‘trans-temporal debating society’ – but her only reaction when the Doctor explains the extent of Scaroth’s plans is ‘Huh?’

Trapped inside the time bubble, Kerenski lives out his life completely; from his perspective, it’s the other inhabitants of the cellar who are frozen in time and he eventually dies of boredom as much as old age. Romana sets the time bubble reset for three minutes, not two. Scaroth doesn’t die in the implosion, but is cast into the vortex, where he experiences the sensation of his past selves all turning their backs on him. The Doctor places the surviving Mona Lisa into Duggan’s hands for it to be returned to the Louvre. The detective waves the Doctor and Romana off and then sees them depart in the TARDIS.

Cover: Anthony Dry’s artwork shows the Doctor, Romana, Scaroth and the Jagaroth spaceship.

Final Analysis: For the first time since The Crusades, we have a Target book making its debut in a different imprint. As referenced in the ‘background’, Doctor Who novelisations took an interesting turn in the 21st Century; almost certainly inspired by the success of JK Rowling’s boy-wizard books, and with the added attraction of being based on scripts by Douglas Adams, Gareth Roberts’ novel of the great lost work Shada came out in hardback in 2012 to critical acclaim. The first edition of The City of Death, published in 2015, was a similarly weighty 320-page hardback volume. Three years later, James Goss condensed and rewrote his previous novel into a 185-page novel with a Target logo – at last!

The Target edition is less meandering, much more faithful adaptation of the TV story, Iosing some of the extended backstories (notably Heidi and Hermann, but also the entire subplot of the critics, which seemed to make little sense until the exact moment it slotted into the scene from the broadcast episode, at which point it became the Best Thing Ever). Luckily, it retains the sheer seductive joy of Goss immersed in a Douglas Adams mindset – as the opening paragraph of the prologue illustrates: 

It was Tuesday and life didn’t happen.

Wednesday would be quite a different matter.

Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, was in for a surprise. For one thing, he had no idea he was about to become the last of the Jagaroth

The destruction of the Jagaroth’ ship, Sephiroth, is presented as one of the universe’s little ironies – an entire species wiped out and leaving nothing behind of any significance except a trail of death. It’s a tiny observation, but it underlines the twist of fate that sees Scaroth fated to accumulate some of Earth’s greatest cultural artefacts while failing to appreciate their value, aside from how much they can be flogged on the black market to greedy collectors. 

At the beginning of the first chapter, the scene is set in such a knowing, cheeky way:

A man and a woman stood on top of the Eiffel Tower, every inch in love, if not with each other then certainly with life itself.

As in his previous version – and in the grand tradition of Terrance Dicks – James Goss smooths out some of the TV story’s plot wrinkles. The revelation of Scaroth’s true form, which is dramatic but slightly ludicrous on TV, is beautifully horrific here, as the artificial skin shreds away in ribbons to reveal a monstrous single eye set into a writhing mass of tentacles. The relationship of the Count and Countess Scarlioni is justified, making sense of exactly how an attractive wife can fail to be aware of her husband’s true nature – and in turn uncovering something altogether more unsettling about wealth, greed and human nature. Goss makes sure we never see the Countess as a victim – the truth is, she has a sickening taste for violence.

Admittedly, it helps that the story came from David Fisher and Douglas Adams – both fine minds with the skills to present the universe as basically absurd. While Goss captures the breathless energy of Adams especially, there’s never a sense that he’s showboating; he’s merely serving the story in an appropriate style. As a result, this may well be elbowing its way into my all-time top-five Target books. Just don’t tell Ghost Light.

Chapter 151. Doctor Who – The Curse of Fenric (1990)

Synopsis: A World War II military base in North Yorkshire becomes the site for a battle between good and evil. All the pieces have come together: A British officer obsessed with Nazi memorabilia; his chief adviser, the creator of a powerful code-breaking machine; a squad of Soviet soldiers led by a captain driven by destiny; a bereaved young mother, left with a baby; a race of vampiric mutants from the future; and an ancient evil waiting for the arrival of a Time Lord… and his young friend, Ace. Now, the game can begin again…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: Dusk
  • Chronicle I: Betrayal
  • Document I: The Wolf-time
  • Chronicle II: Dangerous Undercurrents
  • Document II: The Curse of the Flask
  • Chronicle III: Weapons within Weapons, Death within
  • Death
  • Document III: A Victorian Storyteller
  • Chronicle IV: Vampire City!
  • Document IV: The First Contest of Fenric
  • Chronicle V: Wind and Water, Earth and Fire
  • Epilogue: Dawn

Background: Ian Briggs adapts his own scripts from the 1989 serial, delivering the longest novelisation since Fury from the Deep.

Notes: The author bares the method in a prologue where he dwells on how to start the story. An unidentified woman stands on the beach signalling the Soviet submarine (we find out later who that might be). Sorin is a captain in the Red Army’s Special Missions Brigade and his mission is called ‘Operation Sea-Wolf’ (an echo of the story’s working title, The Wolves of Fenric). When the Soviet commandos reach the beach, it’s Trofimov who acts as look-out; he sees the evacuees and is reminded of his wife, Irene, who he sees dead in a vision. Sorin believes another young soldier, Petrossian, has special gifts that alert him to sounds and danger before everybody else.  

On arriving at the camp, the Doctor berates young Perkins: ‘What would happen if the Germans attacked now? We’d have to write to your mother and tell her you died in filthy boots!’ The Doctor’s forged authorisation documents from the War Office give his name as ‘Dr-‘ but the second name is smudged, while ‘Ace’ is listed as the code-name of his assistant. One of the evacuees, Jean, has cool blue eyes and blonde, tightly wound hair, while Phyllis has ‘a round, smiling face’, and her eyes are ‘a rich chestnut brown’. Ace complains that the Doctor doesn’t pay any attention to her because she’s ‘only the waitress’ (as opposed to ‘a mere mortal’ on TV). Ace goes rock climbing with the evacuees (using ropes instead of the usual ladder) and tells them she ‘gave up’ smoking after her Mum found out. Kathleen is initially nervous when the Doctor and Ace discover her baby. She tries to explain, but the Doctor reassures her: ‘Just as long as you can promise me she’s isn’t a German spy, sent to discover the secret of British nappies.’ 

The chapters are punctuated by four supporting documents, the first of which is an essay about the Viking gods, written by Millington when he was a schoolboy. A teacher’s comment at the end of the essay reads: 

Very good. An extraordinarily vivid piece of writing for a boy of only 12. It is almost as though young Millington really believes that these myths will come true one day.

The essay represents a lifelong obsession with Norse mythology that Millington carries into adulthood, unaware that this is part of Fenric’s curse. On learning from Judson about the new arrivals from ‘the War Office’, Millington assumes that they must be from Bletchley and orders that they should be killed as ‘the enemy’. He recalls an incident on the rugby pitch more than 20 years earlier:

The cold mud of a rugby pitch. The shouts and calls of adolescent young men as they ran and chased. The expression Millington saw on Judson’s face as Judson smiled across to one of the other players, a tall, blond boy with clear blue eyes and a strong body. The sharp, stabbing jealousy that surged through Millington. The black anger that filled him as he ran towards Judson. The hatred, as he drove his shoulder hard in Judson’s back. The cracking sound – the awful cracking sound – as Judson’s body bent backwards and his spine fractured. The expression in Judson’s face, an expression from hell, as he lay paralysed in the mud.

The second document tells of how a traveller from Sweden called Oslaf obtained the flask. He and his party journeyed from Constantinople, through Transylvania, their voyage blighted by black fog and mysterious deaths, before they reached the Baltic sea and were slain by pirates. The pirate leader, Hemming, seized the flask as part of their spoils, but his band of men experienced sudden and grisly deaths just like those of Oslaf’s party. Abandoning his wife, Hemming captured a beautiful villager called Ingelda, with whom he sired a daughter called Wulf-aga as she had shining eyes like a wolf. As his crew were killed off one by one, Hemming concluded that the flask he stole from Oslaf was to blame; he sent his mistress and their daughter to safety and hid the flask, before he and the last of his men were slain by the black fog.

Wainwright visits the graves of his parents and grandparents in the churchyard. His mother died the day after he was born and her gravestone has the wrong date on it; his father died two years ago. Unlike on TV, Wainwright is a young man in his twenties. Millington reveals to the Doctor and Ace his plan to use chemical weapons to bring the war to an end: ‘A few thousand will die. But hundreds of thousands will be saved.’

The Doctor and Ace speak to an agitated Miss Hardaker about her missing evacuees and they try to persuade her not to involve the Home Guard; as soon as they leave, she calls the Home Guard anyway. The six Home Guard soldiers find the girls on the beach but fail to persuade them to go home. When their patrol strays too close to the Soviet hideout, they are killed by Sorin’s men, as witnessed from the clifftops by Sergeant Leigh (a young soldier of just 20, but already ‘hard as stone’)… and Miss Hardaker, who the young sergeant orders to return home. There, she confronts the girls, blaming them for the deaths of the men. Sorin tries to comfort Trofimov, unaware that, having himself become a father back home recently, his sergeant’s trauma comes from killing men who were someone’s sons. 

The third Document is a letter from Bram Stoker to his wife, detailing a story he heard while visiting the area about Maiden’s Point, a murdered girl and vampires living in the waters nearby. He tells his wife ‘I begin to believe that the seeds of some greater story may lie in this tragic incident.’

Miss Hardaker has her own reason for fearing the wider reputation of Maiden’s Point: When she was just 19, she became pregnant out of wedlock. Though the child died aged just two, Miss Hardaker was shunned by her neighbours and she carried the shame with her throughout her life.

The Doctor calls the monstrous army that emerges from the sea ‘homo haemovorax’ and claims that the salt water in the area is similar to human blood plasma:

Their bodies were horrifying mutations of the humans they had once been. Their skin was slimy and slightly wrinkled, like huge white slugs with legs and arms. Their eyes were swollen and bulbous, closed like a foetus in its uterus. And their mouths had turned into large suckers for draining blood. 

Some of them still had traces of human origins – vestigial ears, or a skeleton that was vaguely humanoid – and these creatures still had scraps of recent human clothing hanging off them. But those that had been waiting for a century or more were now completely changed. Instead of clothing, they had thin strands of glistening filament that hung about their bodies. Among the filaments and linked with them were old metal objects – objects that had either been discarded in the waters down the centuries or taken from the creatures’ victims. Keys, locks, coins, scissor-blades were now welded by an iridescent coral into a kind of chain mail.

The assault on the church is a lot more dramatic than was possible on telly. Ace uses her rock-climbing ropes (rather than the ladder) to scale down the church tower. Haemovores scale down the side of the tower after her and Sorin stakes one of them to death. The Doctor remembers his travelling companions as a testament of faith to repel the haemovore attack: Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki and Stephen [sic], Jo and Sarah-Jane. He’s surprised that Ace can hear the sound of his faith and surmises that she is slightly telepathic.

The fourth of the quoted documents is a translation by Sir William Judson, recounting the tale-within-a-tale of a game of chess between another traveller, El-DokTar, and an evil dictator called Aboo-Fenran. After 40 days of stalemate, the traveller challenged the dictator to find a solution that could defeat him. Another 40 days and nights passed and, unable to solve the impasse, Aboo-Fenrir surrendered and was trapped inside a flask. A prince mentioned in this story is said to haved journeyed ‘along the Central Way from the Furthest Island of Dhógs to the White City’, which might hold additional meaning if you consider how a person might travel via the Central Line of the London Underground from East London to BBC Television Centre.

The eyes of the bodies that Fenric possesses glow red, not green. Fenric reveals that Nurse Crane is a Soviet agent reporting to Moscow (suggesting she was the figure signalling from the beach to the Russian submarine). The Ancient One is named Ingiger and its voice is said to be part female. Vershinin and Bates both die from being shot by Millington (they survived on TV); Millington allows himself to be engulfed in flames while holding the body of Judson.

In the epilogue, having departed the TARDIS some time before, ‘Dorothée’ is reunited with the Doctor in 1887, where she reveals she has fallen in love with Sorin’s grandfather.

Cover & Illustration: Against a chessboard background, Alister Pearson brings together a Doctor with a sickly green tinge, a haemovore, Ace in her 1940s costume and various symbols – a logic diagram, some ancient runes, a Soviet red star, a Nazi Swastika and a skull-and-crossbones poison label. Inside, for the first time in years, there’s an illustration – a map, captioned ‘The Journey of the Flask’.

Final Analysis: Back in the mid-1960s, the joke behind the Meddling Monk was that he was the sort of character who would deposit a small sum into a bank and then travel forward in time to collect the interest. In 1979 we had Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, trying to pull off a similar stunt by influencing history to fund his time travel experiments in the 20th century. It was also the driving force behind this story on TV, an ancient evil manipulating individual family lines to ensure they all converge at one point in space and time. In retelling his adventure as a novel, Ian Briggs creates a multi-faceted tale that slowly pushes all the pieces onto the board and shows how they came to be part of Fenric’s trap. That the backstory is presented as a series of documents allows the reader to decide if any of them might be a reliable source: The Doctor really did trap an ancient evil in a flask because it couldn’t grasp that he was cheating at chess, or the scene is just symbolic of whatever it was that happened; Millington’s childhood obsession with Norse mythology was symptomatic of the curse, or just another facet of his obsessive guilt over the crippling attack on Judson; maybe the flask caused the deaths that followed the parties of Oslaf and Hemming, or perhaps they just lived in bloody times; and maybe Bram Stoker was driven by the legends that fuel this story to write one of his own, rather than Ian Briggs taking his inspiration from Stoker…

In the entire history of the Target books, few could be described as being sexually charged. Companions arrive and depart with dispassionate regularity and even the ones tempted by a promise of romance remain largely chaste. The first hints of sexual desires introduced by Ben Aaronovich in Remembrance of the Daleks are continued here. The subtlety of a bay called ‘Maiden’s Point’ is underlined when Ace appears to admit to her new evacuee friends that, like them, she’s not a virgin (even if it’s just a case of teenage bragging to fit in), but then there’s the revelation that Miss Hardaker also has a secret past. The undercurrents that engulf Ace at the end are said to represent ‘laughter, lechery and animal passion. A whorehouse of enjoyment’. Despite this, Ace’s seduction of young Sergeant Leigh is about as awkward as it was on TV and, frankly, the resolution is unpleasant:

‘Too hot,’ murmured Ace. ‘Clothes sticking to me, sticking to my skin, hot, damp…’

‘If they’re too sticky, you know what to do.’

… his cries of ‘You promised’ suggest he feels led on, more than just led away.

There’s also a subtext of sexual tension from Millington towards Judson, who he clearly found compelling when they were schoolboys; as an adult, Millington has no love for women, complaining that they even ‘smelled different’, which adds a little to his dismissal of Ace with ‘no girls’!

Sexual subtexts are all part and parcel of the horror genre, and while this remains teen-friendly, it’s clearly aimed at an older audience than, say, Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius. Infamously, the disintegration of the Haemovore Jean and Phyllis was shown on children’s TV in a behind-the-scenes feature but cut from the actual broadcast episode. Here, we can enjoy the moment in all its gory glory. The most graphic passage, however, comes during the assault on the church, when Sorin employs a stake to destroy one of the monstrous attackers:

The haemovore gave out a terrible, tortured cry that seemed to tear through the universe. Sorin pushed down on the stake with all his strength, driving it through the haemovore’s body until he felt it hit the slates beneath. The horrible, bloated face of the creature began to twist and change. The skin started to wrinkle and pull back on to the bones as though the creature were growing older by a hundred years every minute. The fleshy lips turned thin and dry and began to crack; the haemovore’s whole skeleton began to show through the thin membrane. Then the skin started to smoke and peel away. The creature’s cry slowly died away as all its flesh disappeared in smoke. Soon, all that was left was a smoking skeleton lying in a pool of slime and a charred wooden stake planted between two ribs.

As I noted just a few chapters ago, Remembrance of the Daleks is often cited by fans as the moment of conception for the New Adventures, but this story informs the tone of that range just as much. It’s a story as much about the companion as the villain, where sex and sexuality are acknowledged as something that actually exists and where the Doctor is manipulating people and events like a Grand Master chessplayer.

Chapter 149. Doctor Who – Ghost Light (1990)

Synopsis: When the Doctor sets an initiative test, Ace is initially suspicious and then alarmed to discover it involves a spooky old house. It contains a menagerie of strange creatures, a crazed explorer, a lost policeman and a ruthlessly ambitious man who appears to be evolving into… what? Worst of all, the house is in Perivale – the exact same one that emotionally scarred Ace all those years ago…

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Tropic of Perivale
  • 2 Gabriel Chase
  • 3 Uncharted Territory
  • 4 Gaslight Boogie
  • 5 Josiah’s Web
  • 6 That’s the Way to the Zoo
  • 7 Ace’s Adventures Underground
  • 8 Creature Comforts
  • 9 Out of Control
  • 10 Twice upon a Time
  • 11 Trick of the Light
  • 12 Beautiful Soup

Background: Marc Platt adapts his own scripts from the 1989 serial.

Notes: The first chapter presents Ace’s first steps into the derelict Gabriel Chase in 1983 when she was 13 (about a year earlier than Remembrance of the Daleks suggests, although here, Ace herself says she was 14). The house is near Western Avenue (also known as the A40, which becomes The Westway, where it passes within sight of BBC Television Centre, fact fans!) Ace’s friend’s full name was Manisha Purkayastha and her sister also survived the devastating fire. Ace was a fan of Michael Jackson when she was younger and her mum called her ‘Dory’. Back in Ace’s present day, aboard the TARDIS, she is now 17 years old. The Doctor is struggling to get accurate data from the TARDIS – and there’s an elegant description of his relationship with friends past and present:

Anyone who travelled in the TARDIS had a price to pay. However willingly any new companion walked through its doors, leaving their own world behind, and however determinedly they tried to assert control over the bizarre events in which the Doctor’s travels might embroil them, one fact was inescapable: throughout time and space their lives were in the Time Lord’s hands. Even the slickest of jugglers, however, could drop a skittle at one time or another.

…. Call him showman, conjuror, great detective, mentor or tormentor, his speciality was to juggle the past, the present and the possible. No one was safe from that; anyone could be a potential skittle. 

The Doctor rarely bothered with a safety net either; he never considered he needed one. But he didn’t always ask the skittles.

The Reverend Ernest Matthews makes his final approach to Gabriel Chase via a dog-cart that he’s hired from Ealing Station. He is Dean of Mortarhouse College, Oxford (not Merton College as on TV). He has learned that Josiah Samuel Smith has endorsed the theories of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in papers written with ‘scant grasp of literary or scientific style, or even the basic rules of grammar’. While this is his primary concern, he is also worried about Smith’s ward, Gwendoline, after seeing them together at the Royal Opera House in London. As he approaches the front door of the house, he hears ‘the distant grating and wheezing of some large mechanical device’ and sees a flashing light in the observatory turret.

The Doctor heavily implies to Ace that he met Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle. He believes they should follow proper etiquette and leave the house so that they can knock on the front door and be invited in. According to Redvers Fenn-Cooper’s journal, the events take place across the nights of 19-20 September, 1883 – although as at least one entry for this was ‘written’ while he was in a strait-jacket, we might assume the journal itself is a delusion. 

The weary, weather-beaten face that returned his stare belonged to a man apparently in his late thirties. He had a haggard look to him. His thick, fair hair was greying and ruffled and his jacket looked slept in. Along with his bushy moustache, he had several days growth of stubble and accompanying bags under his eyes. Even so, Ace decided there was something dashing about him, despite the spear and being at least twice her age.

Smith insists that the occupant of the cell in the basement is supplied with a copy of The Times every day as a form of mockery, aware that his prisoner cannot read and will use it to build a nest. The Doctor plays some boogie-woogie on the piano, but sensing the outrage from the Rev Matthews, he switches to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which is interrupted by the arrival of Josiah, our first indication that it is not what it seems:

Its hair was white and long; its skin pale and leech-like. It wore a night-blue, velvet dinner-jacket and black, pebble-lensed spectacles that looked like tiny craters on its wizened, wicked face. As it groped its way into the halflight, grasping at the back of a chair for support, the Doctor saw that the creature’s clothes were covered in strands of cobwebs.

Prompted by Ace’s tuxedo, the Doctor asks if he ever took her to see Georges Sand or Vesta Tilley. He pretends to be appalled by Josiah’s offer of Five thousand pounds, as ‘a gentleman only ever pays in guineas!’ Ace uses the lift in the hope of returning to the attic floor of the house, but Mrs Pritchard has set the lift to go to the basement to delay the prisoner’s escape and remove the problem of Ace in one go. The tunnel leading to the basement chamber is covered in cave paintings. 

Control is able to manipulate the empty husks of Josiah and Ace sees the creature inside the cell – a ‘half-lit shape covered in filthy rags’ – before Nimrod slams and bolts the door. Lady Pritchard’s first name is ‘Margaret’. Distressed at the sight of Control in her rags, Mrs Grose tells the Doctor she’ll be seeking employment elsewhere; the Doctor asks her to pass on his regards to ‘Peter Quint’ (the sinister but absent figure in Henry James’ The Turning of the Screw, which also features a domestic called Mrs Grose). Inspector Mackenzie witnesses ‘Lady Pritchard’, still dressed as a housekeeper, arranging the packing of a number of items away in trunks for despatch to the ‘lodgings in Whitmore Street’. Ace gives Control a book on etiquette, which she touches to her head and absorbs. Light tours the Earth to discover the total scale of evolution across the planet, where only the most basic bacteria in swamps remain unchanged.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s best cover ever, evoking the ‘window’ concepts used by Jeff Cummins, combining Gabriel Chase at night, Ace in her Victorian frock and the Doctor in close-up.  Underneath the house are some symbols, which include the artist’s initials alongside those of then-Doctor Who Magazine reviewer Gary Russell.

Final Analysis: I just had to pull out this line:

‘Professor! What’s going on?’ She almost felt like crying she was so confused.

As with Ben Aaronovich’s Remembrance of the Daleks, Ghost Light benefits immensely from being transferred to the page. The dialogue is easier to understand for one thing and the reader has time to work out the intent behind most of Control’s slowly improving grasp of English. The shifting relationship between Control and Josiah – previously the Survey Agent – is spelled out just a little more as Light begins to understand the change that has come over his former servants. 

One of the greatest disappointments of the final years of Doctor Who on TV is that Marc Platt only got one chance to write a story (he’s made up for it since with his novelisation of Ben Aaronovitch’s Battlefield, the novel Lungbarrow and some hugely popular audios for Big Finish). I’ve both praised and critiqued Terrance Dicks’ economical approach, and been dismissive of some of the more overwrought texts submitted to the range by first-time authors, but it’s genuinely surprising that this is Marc Platt’s debut novel – and the writing is exquisite. Here’s his introduction to Light:

Robed in liquid gold and silver, with skin shimmering, it had the noble and terrible beauty of a seraph, fallen to Earth from its place beside the Throne. It glided from the lift, energy humming from it like a generator and droning fiercely at any mortal it passed.

Slowly, the fans who grew up watching the series and reading the books are taking over and it’s rather exciting at this late stage to find a book where the writing excited me as much as David Whittaker’s did in Doctor Who and the Crusaders, published 25 years before.

Chapter 140. Doctor Who – The Chase (1989)

Synopsis: A brief holiday on the planet Aridius is interrupted when the Doctor gains advance warning that the Daleks are coming for him. So begins a frantic flight through time, each stop brings their pursuers ever closer. Their final battleground is Mechanus, home to killer plants, the robotic Mechanoids and their sole prisoner, a space pilot called Steven. As the Doctor prepares to confront his enemies at last, his friends have no idea that this will be their last adventure together in the TARDIS.

Chapter Titles

  • Author’s Note
  • 1. The Executioners
  • 2. A Speech in Time
  • 3. The Sands of Death
  • 4. The Victims
  • 5. Deadline
  • 6. Flight through Eternity
  • 7. Nightmare
  • 8. Journey into Terror
  • 9. Fallen Spirits
  • 10. Who’s Who?
  • 11. To the Death!
  • 12. The Mechanoids
  • 13. The End of the Hunt
  • 14. Home!

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from a 1965 serial by Terry Nation. As the author’s note explains, he worked mainly from early drafts, before they were rewritten by story editor Dennis Spooner, so he explains that the book is ‘not strictly an adaptation of the televised version of The Chase’ (ie, it’s not written as if by Terrance Dicks).

Notes: The opening chapter depicts a grand Dalek control room with ‘a background pulse, like an electronic heart slowly beating’. The Black Dalek looks down from a raised platform onto various other Dalek units, including a Chief Scientist. The Daleks know the Doctor by name. They’re also aware that his appearance ‘has changed many times over the years’ and they have tracked him through his ‘basic metabolic pattern’ [meaning these Daleks come from the Doctor’s own future]. 

The Doctor ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS and lost the operational notes while on prehistoric Earth. He is nearly 750 years old and has not yet experienced his first regeneration. We’re reminded of the introduction stories of Ian and Barbara, that Susan left the TARDIS after falling in love and that Vicki recently joined them after being rescued from the planet Dido. The space/time visualiser is just one of many trinkets that the Doctor has picked up over the years. Neither Ian nor Barbara recognise the Beatles song that appears on the visualiser. Vicki has not encountered a Dalek up to this point, but knows of them from her history books.

The Daleks are led by the Dalek Prime, which is ‘larger than most, and painted a uniform golden colour’ (similar to the Emperor from the comic strips). The TARDIS team have encountered the Daleks twice before. The Daleks use flying discs to survey the surface of Aridius. Aridians have blue skin and they wear the skins of mire beasts as cloaks. We’re party to the meeting of the Aridian elders with the Daleks where they’re given the ultimatum. Ian and Barbara had an unseen adventure on Cetus Alpha. The TARDIS dematerialises with a ‘customary groaning and wheezing’. The Dalek time ship is powered by Taranium, ‘both the rarest and most unstable element in the Universe’; one gram can power a time ship for centuries and it took the Daleks two decades to obtain that amount. 

It’s clear the author has done a little research into the crew of the Mary Celeste as the characters are named and fleshed out (he also has one of them exterminated by a Dalek – something that we don’t see on TV). The schoolteachers debate whether they were responsible for the death of the passengers and crew of the ship and Ian reminds Barbara of her attempts to change the history of the Aztecs; they take some comfort from the possibility that the Marie Celeste was always fated to become a mystery. Morton C. Dill is from Alabama. He encounters the TARDIS crew and a Dalek in 1967. The Dalek considers killing him, but then decides to let him live, considering it ‘far worse for the human race to allow this fool to live on’. Ever since that day. Dill has been a resident of the Newman Rehabilitation Clinic for the bewildered (a reference to a routine by American humourist Tom Lehrer). The haunted house is a part of Battersea Funfair, London, and is closed for repair. Vicki uses her months of experience of operating the radio on the crashed spaceship on Dido to use the Dalek radio. After the robot Doctor is destroyed, the real Doctor proves his credentials by reminding his companions of their past adventures, how Ian was knighted by Richard Coeur de Lion, Vicki, led a ‘revolution on the planet Xeros’ and Barbara ‘escaped with the Menoptera from the Crater of Needles’.

Steven Taylor explains that the Earth’s plans for expansion were brought to an end by the Draconian conflict, followed by the Third Dalek War. Realising that the execution squad is outnumbered by Mechonoids and facing defeat, the Dalek squad leader separates from the battle to hack into a computer and trigger the city’s destruction in a final attempt to trap the TARDIS crew. 

Steven manages to escape, makes his way through the jungle and reaches the TARDIS, where he collapses. The Doctor is initially very dismissive of the unstable and brutish Dalek technology of their time ship, but quickly becomes more tactful to avoid frightening Ian and Barbara. He’s pragmatic enough to help the schoolteachers to use the Dalek time ship to return home, but he deliberately sets the time of their destination a couple of years in their future to offset the three years they’ve spent travelling with him. They return to the TARDIS to collect their belongings, including souvenirs of their travels. Barbara wonders if she owes back-rent on her flat, while teasing Ian about the amount of dust that will have settled in the house that he owns. They stow their belongings at King’s Cross Station before enjoying a visit to a pub by the Thames and exploring their home city anew.

Cover: Against a backdrop of the time vortex, divided like a 16-hour clock, the Doctor looks across at a Mechanoid and the city of Mechanus, a Dalek, a mire beast and the Mary Celeste. A suitably busy composition from Alister Pearson.

Final Analysis: There was a lot of build-up to this, the first of the remaining Terry Nation Dalek stories to be novelised, courtesy of a deal struck with author John Peel. I’m a fan of the TV story – comical elements included – and the scattergun approach is the set-up for the next Dalek story, which is similarly meandering but on a grander scale. Glad to say, I’m also a fan of this novel. It’s determined to be grown-up about it all, so the jokey aspects are cut back massively, and some of the additional details appeal mainly to the fan gene in linking this story to ones broadcast later or told in other media. At this point in the history of Target, that’s who the readership was. Peel manages to make the Daleks menacing, scheming and not remotely comical (something their own creator chose not to do in the original TV version). His real success though is in capturing the TARDIS team, the growing relationship between the schoolteachers, Vicki’s resourcefulness and most of all the Doctor’s contrary nature, clearly lamenting the departure of two people who forced their way into his life and became good friends – but refusing to let this show. It’s rather wonderful to have another adventure with this particular crew, as this is the last of their adventures to be novelised. And there are only two more stories from this era left to come… 

Chapter 133. Doctor Who – The Smugglers (1988)

Synopsis: It was just a police box, but Ben and Polly are amazed to discover the truth when the Doctor’s TARDIS takes them to 17th-century Cornwall. Soon they are drawn into the machinations of a ring of murderous smugglers and a very sinister squire…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Shock for Polly and Ben
  • 2. The Frightened Man
  • 3. Longfoot’s Friends
  • 4. Pike
  • 5. Pirate Treasure
  • 6. Kewper’s Trade
  • 7. Captured
  • 8. The Squire’s Plan
  • 9. Pike’s Revenge
  • 10. Treasure Hunt
  • 11. Cherub’s Move
  • 12. The Treasure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Brian Hayles for the 1966 story, 21 years and just over eight months earlier.

Notes: Terrance Dicks explains what a police box is (the target readership is now far too young to have any memory of them). The events of The War Machines are summarised and we’re told that it was Dodo’s decision to remain behind and leave the TARDIS. The Doctor, though old, is ‘still alert and vigorous and the eyes in the heavily lined face blazed with fierce intelligence’. Polly is wearing a ‘fashionable denim trouser suit [with] her long blonde hair tucked beneath a denim cap’ while Ben is in his uniform, ‘bellbottomed trousers, blue raincoat and jersey… and a sailor’s hat with HMS Teazer on the ribbon’. 

 ‘Cherub’ is a nickname bestowed upon him because of his bald head with a little tuft of hair behind the ear.  The sailor who tells Pike that Cherub is no longer aboard the ship is given the name ‘Crow’. The Doctor tells Ben that he feels he has a ‘moral obligation’ to fix the situation as he’s become ‘involved in the affairs of this village’ and fears that ‘my interference may even have brought about the threat of destruction’ (a slight clarification of the words said on screen). The final scene sees the TARDIS materialise in its next destination, but it’s not specified where.

Cover: Beautiful – Alister Pearson paints the Doctor dwarfing two views of a Cornish village, the beach and a ship at night and the church, separated by the TARDIS.

Final Analysis: We’re nearing the end in more ways than one and Terrance Dicks manages to imbue the Doctor with much more vitality than William Hartnell was sadly able to in his final months on the show. We have a Doctor who is alert and analytical at all times, bad tempered with his new young friends but still with a sense of responsibility for their well-being (how far we’ve come since his first stories!). Dicks sticks to the story as usual, so there’s really not much more to report here, but we should still savour every word – there are only two more Dicks novelisations to come!

Chapter 121. Doctor Who – The Massacre (1987)

Synopsis: The Doctor decides to explore 16th-Century Paris and leaves Steven to fend for himself. Steven soon befriends a group of men and a servant girl who are Protestant Huguenots persecuted by the ruling Catholics. A visiting abbot bears a striking facial resemblance to the Doctor, enough for Steven to believe he is really his friend in one of his disguises. But then the abbot is murdered and the public mood makes Paris a dangerous place for the Huguenots – and anyone who has been seen with them, like Steven… 

Chapter Titles

  • Author’s Note
  • Dramatis Personae
  • Prologue
  • 1. The Roman Bridge Auberge
  • 2. Echoes of Wassy
  • 3. The Apothecary
  • 4. Double Trouble
  • 5. The Proposition
  • 6. Beds for a Night
  • 7. Admiral de Coligny
  • 8. The Escape
  • 9. A Change of Clothes
  • 10. The Hotel Lutèce
  • 11. The Royal Audience
  • 12. Burnt at the Stake
  • 13. The Phoenix
  • 14. Talk of War
  • 15. Face to Face
  • 16. A Rescue
  • 17. Good Company All
  • Epilogue

Background: John Lucarotti adapts his own scripts for a story from 1966.

Notes: The book features a Dramatis Personae that is very useful for working out who everyone is. The novel deviates significantly from the TV version, being neither an adaptation of the broadcast story, nor the author’s original submitted storyline; instead, it’s a new story that uses the same characters and basic plot points, but making much more of the Doctor’s similarity to the Abbot of Amboise. The Prologue presents the Doctor, clutching a copy of the diary of Samuel Pepys, in a garden that reminds him of the Garden of Peace that he visited with Susan, Ian and Barbara in the time of the Aztecs. There, he meets with a group of Time Lords (with whom he has resolved his previous ‘differences’) to explain his actions in 16th-Century France. Other than the Doctor being male, there is no indication that this is the first Doctor, or indeed any specific incarnation. We only know that the Time Lords still exist and that the Doctor considers himself in semi-retirement, having brought his travels in the TARDIS to ‘a temporary halt’.

There’s no reference to the Doctor and Steven’s recent quest to defeat the Daleks [see The Daleks’ Master Plan]. Instead, the duo arrives in the TARDIS and they check a ‘time/place orientation print-out’ on the TARDIS console with a faulty yearometer reading. Neither of them elects to wear period clothing until much later (the Doctor while impersonating the Abbot, Steven after he steals clothing from Preslin’s empty house). While training to become an astronaut, Steven performed in plays, including Hamlet, which is how he understood the phrase ‘shriving time’, which he overhears being said by two clerics. The Doctor finds himself joining a band of rebellious Hugenots who at first mistake him for the Abbot of Amboise, but later they force him to pose as the Abbot for a meeting with Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother. 

The TARDIS is found and brought into the Bastille, where it becomes a talking piece among Parisian society (a locksmith receives an electric shock when he tries to gain entry). They inform the Doctor that the object is to be burned at the stake, which he finds hilarious – and the subsequent pyre leaves the TARDIS looking ‘ impeccably clean, even shiningly so’.

The Doctor and the Abbot meet and the Doctor has to stand by as the Abbot is killed by his loyal secretary Duval, believing him to be an imposter. The Doctor then usurps the Abbot to address the Royal Court and beseech them to stop their religious wars. Anne is sent to safety along with her brother and aunt. There is no surprise arrival of Dodo at the end. Instead, in the Epilogue, we return to the Doctor’s meeting with the Time Lords, where he rebuffs their charges that he interfered with established history, including their claim that his companion Dodo, who he met after this adventure, was proof that he had saved the life of Anne Chaplet. The Doctor recalls that Dodo had been ‘the spitting image of Anne’.

Cover: Tony Masero paints the Abbot of Amboise standing in front of the TARDIS atop a burning pyre. Alister Pearson’s 1992 reprint cover shows two faces of William Hartnell (suggesting one is supposed to be the Abbot), plus Peter Purves as Steven, Joan Young as Catherine de Medici and David Weston as Nicholas Muss, all in front of a church in sunset. Weston previously appeared in character as Biroc on the cover of Warriors’ Gate.

Final Analysis: So the legend goes, John Lucarotti’s first submission to the Doctor Who production office was said to lack historical detail. He more than makes amends here (as his author’s note attests), and as with The Aztecs, he creates a sense of being immersed in a real, lived-in world. Unlike, say, Time Flight, where Peter Grimwade wastes no opportunity to show off his Concord-related research, Lucarotti threads his fact-finding to improve the narrative. The Doctor and Steven explore Paris at the start, prior to making their way to the tavern, and the Doctor’s guided tour serves to help them pin down the approximate year in which they find themselves but also to sketch in the world around them. When we reach the catacombs where the rebels are hiding, we’re shown their peculiar mode of transport around the city – dog carts! I’d have loved to have seen William Hartnell zooming off stage left in one of those! One other addition from Lucarotti is Raoul, Anne’s 14-year-old brother. While the author might have felt that his addition would provide a little more logic to the revelation that future companion Dodo might have inherited the family name, the fact that she is said to be identical to Anne leaves some rather uncomfortable incestuous conotations that we’re best not to unravel.

Chapter 119. Doctor Who – The Romans (1987)

Synopsis: The time travellers enjoy a relaxing time in a villa just outside Rome. As the Doctor and Vicki head off on a trip to the city, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by slave traders. Barbara is bought by a slave-master working for the Emperor Nero, but Ian’s fate is to be placed at the oars of a slave ship. Can the Doctor solve some of the mysteries surrounding Nero without affecting established history?

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • I First Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • II First Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • III First Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • IV Second Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • V Second Extract from the journal of Ian Chesterton
  • VI Second Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • VII Third Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • VIII Third Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • IX Third Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • X Fourth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XI First Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XII Fourth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XIII First Selection of jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XIV Fourth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XV Fifth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XVI Fifth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XVII Second Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XVIII A Poisoner Remembers
  • XIX Letter from Barbara Wright
  • XX Second Selection of Jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XXI Sixth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XXII Third Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XXIII Fifth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XXIV Sixth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XXV Seventh Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XXVI Seventh Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XXVII Sixth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XXVIII Third Selection of Jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XXIX Eighth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • Epilogue

That ‘most number of chapters in a novelisation’ record (previously held by The Myth Makers) gets smashed here with 29, plus a prologue and epilogue.

Background: Donald Cotton’s adaptation of scripts by Dennis Spooner for a story from 1965 arrives 22 years and two months after it was broadcast on TV. It’s the only time Cotton approaches scripts originally written by someone other than himself.

Notes: Consistent with his previous novels, this version of The Romans is narrated by Tacitus, the great Roman historian. Here though, Tacitus’s role is that of a framing narrative, within which appear certain documents that have fallen into his hands – diaries and letters written by Ian, the Doctor and Barbara, among others (as the chapter listing above shows). As a consequence, this is the first novel to be narrated in part by Ian Chesterton since the very first one. His chapters are addressed to his headmaster (who might or might not be the same one we’ll actually meet in a later story) and he fears his employer assumes that he and Barbara have eloped, which might affect their pensions. In the Doctor’s journal, he confesses that he intends to leave the school teachers behind when he visits Rome, due to his concerns that Ian’s politics might get him into trouble in the heart of an Empire, while Barbara is being punished for spending their money so freely on ‘feminine fal-lals’. He learns from his companions of a passing scholar who they encountered in a nearby town, and who performed ‘a rambling iambic account of the Rape of Lucretia’, which he considers to be inappropriate for ‘a mixed audience’ (a view with which Vicki later agrees). 

We learn more of the scholar in a legionary’s letter to his mother, in which he reveals that he has been ordered to kill said scholar, who is ‘in the running for the Golden Rose Bowl at the Senate Song Contest’, an accolade his employer wishes for himself. Ian learns from the home invaders that Barbara carelessly asked about the conversion rate from pounds to lira in the market, alerting the locals that she and Vicki must be Britons. Ian recalls he’d once contemplated a sailing holiday that would have been roughly the same stretch of water on which he now finds himself after being press-ganged into the rowing crew of a ship. He played rugby as an ‘Old Boy’, which once again suggests he’s a former pupil of Coal Hill School. He also reminds his headmaster that he was deputised as games master after Farthingale ‘lost an ear during a hockey scrimmage’. Ian references the hugely successful American comedian Jack Benny.

Nero sketches out an ode to Barbara – it’s terrible – and he uses the word ‘anapaest’ (incorrectly). There’s an unfortunate scene in the Doctor’s diary where he refers to a character as ‘deaf and dumb’ (very much frowned upon nowadays, but a common enough term even when the book was written); he claims to be ‘well acquainted with the rudiments of sign language’, but as he also calls it ‘mime’, we can take from this that the Doctor knows nothing about sign language (as we later see on TV in Before the Flood), least of all that there is not one universal sign language – not even in English-speaking territories. Let’s hope his efforts are more effective than we see on telly with the Zarbi!

The lions, which the Doctor accidentally frees during the gladiatorial games, find their way into Nero’s suite, where they settle down for a nap. Having embarked upon his adventure solely to disprove the legend that Nero ‘fiddled while Rome burned’, the Doctor leaves with Nero’s lyre and his plans for a new Rome in his hands; he sets fire to the plans, which then causes a major fire in the city and, happy that he has not made any effect on established history, departs while playing the lyre. In the epilogue, Tacitus lays the blame for the fire squarely on the Doctor’s shoulders. He names the tale ‘The Quo Vadis TARDIS Affair’ and also reveals that the failed assassin Ascaris eventually ended up in Britain, causing mayhem and disruption during the construction of Hadrian’s Wall.

Cover: As Nero looks out to a burning Rome, the Doctor stands dressed in a toga. Tony Masero coincidentally uses the same photo reference of Hartnell that Andrew Skilleter used on The Gunfighters.

Final Analysis: Where to start with this? It’s likely that Donald Cotton has seen the BBC’s I Claudius. He might even have read Robert Graves’ original Claudius novels, too; as with Graves’ notation of the events of the Roman Empire, there’s a sly nod to the modern reader in the way Cotton suggests that his work is too contentious and should be left unpublished until… say, 1987. He definitely watched the historical farce Up Pompeii! though. His Tacitus straddles the centuries, just like Frankie Howerd did as Lurcio, with puns and sly winks that would make little or no sense to the Romans. Indeed, there’s one sequence where the Doctor, in his diary, observes that his would-be assassin was ‘getting away with the lute’, a joke that clearly gives him great satisfaction, until the character (and writer) begin to dissect it and he realises that the musical ‘lute’ wouldn’t be invented for four centuries and the word ‘loot’ wasn’t popularised until the 1920s. 

While the story remains largely the same, Cotton’s use of multiple epistolary narrators leads to some deviations in the telling. The assassin Ascaris becomes a recurring narrator and adds greatly to the sense that the Doctor is in fact a bloody nuisance. The poor Legionary accidentally kills his own superior, is set upon by lions and eventually emerges from his hiding place when the Doctor throws burning documents into the sewers, setting Ascaris alight. This is Cotton’s final novel for the range and it’s a shame. Each of his novels provides an education, not so much in the history, which is wilfully unreliable, but in the sheer unlimited joy of writing. I’ve loved every unbelievable word of these.

Chapter 118. Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on Earth and the Doctor is keen to rid himself of the schoolteachers at last. Ian, however, wants assurance that the time is correct as well as the location. He’s right to be cautious as the travellers soon learn they have arrived in France in the 18th Century, when a bloody revolution is sweeping through the country. Separated from the Doctor, his fellow travellers Ian, Susan and Barbara are arrested and face execution, before they receive a surprising offer of help – and face betrayal from a new acquaintance.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. So Near And So Far
  • 2. Under Siege
  • 3. Prisoners Of The People
  • 4. The Diggers
  • 5. Liberty
  • 6. Sanctuary
  • 7. The Tyrant Of France
  • 8. Betrayal Everywhere
  • 9. Illusions Shattered
  • 10. A Hard Bargain
  • 11. A Glimpse Of Things To Come
  • 12. Escaping From History

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts from a 1964 story by Dennis Spooner. The book was published 10 months after Marter’s death and 22 years and six months after the story originally aired, narrowly missing out on the record for biggest gap between transmission and novelisation by just two weeks. This followed The Sensorites on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: The Doctor apparently has ‘sharp grey eyes’ (and is described as being a ‘Time Lord’!) while Susan is said (rather wonderfully) to have ‘Joan of Arc features’. The TARDIS scanner has a ‘telephoto’ setting. The Doctor has a normal body temperature of ‘sixty degrees fahrenheit’ (which is about 15 degrees celsius). Ian can speak basic, halting French, Barbara is a little better but of course the Doctor is fluent (so, no ‘Time Lord gift’ in play here). On hearing that the French Revolution is the Doctor’s favourite period of Earth history, Barbara realises that this was why Susan had wanted to borrow the book on that particular topic on the night that the two teachers were abducted. We’re reminded repeatedly of the teacher-pupil relationship between Barbara and Susan. Confronted by the innkeeper of The Sinking Ship Inn, Ian pretends that he and Barbara are a married couple (and a generation of fans experience a momentary glow of emotion). It’s Barbara, not Ian, who tells James Stirling about Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power as ‘one of three Consuls’, despite assuring Ian that she learned how impossible it is to change history during their encounter with the Aztecs. Once the travellers have made it safely back to the TARDIS, the Doctor tells the two teachers that their involvement in this period of history will have no effect:

‘The mainstream of history is fixed and immutable,’ he reminded them. ‘I think you’re all rather belittling the subject. Our own lives are important in themselves. To us, at present. As we experience things, so we learn.’

The Doctor’s final line on TV is removed here, replaced by an exchange where Ian asks where they’re heading next and the Doctor replied ‘Who knows? Because I certainly don’t!’

Cover: The Doctor in that famous tricolor-adorned outfit stands in front of citizens and a guillotine, in a painting by Tony Masero.

Final Analysis: Everyone expected Ian Marter to approach the French Revolution as if it were a Roger Corman adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe story. While there is a particularly graphic depiction of Robespierre being shot (‘blood, teeth and fragments of jawbone spurted out between his clawing fingers’), Marter is otherwise remarkably restrained. Here, without oily Cybemen to provide the gore, he instead dwells upon the expectorations of the characters: The roadside foreman spits into a hedge; the gaoler spits before wiping his nose on a sleeve; during the fire in the farmhouse, even the Doctor succumbs to ‘bubbling acid mucus’, which he spits out during ‘a spasm of nauseous coughing’. Marter spares us none of the squalid details of life in the past, where food is poor, medicine involves leeches and everyone’s rather smelly. Our regulars really suffer too, with abrasions to their hands and wrists from all the digging and being chained up. You have to wonder though – why would the Doctor consider a time of mass public executions his favourite period of Earth history? Maybe if Susan had actually brought back that book from school he might have known better…

Chapter 112. Doctor Who – Black Orchid (1987)

Synopsis: A case of mistaken identity leads to the Doctor playing for Lord Cranleigh’s cricket team. Invited for a post-match party at Cranleigh Hall, the TARDIS team are startled to meet Lord Cranleigh’s fiancee Ann, a young woman who appears to be an exact double of Nyssa. The party comes to a sudden halt as a murder is announced – and Ann has conclusive proof that the killer is the mysterious Doctor.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. A Doctor to the Rescue
  • 2. Nyssa Times Two
  • 3. The Doctor Loses his Way
  • 4. The Doctor Makes a Find
  • 5. The Pierrot Unmasked
  • 6. The Pierrot Reappears
  • 7. The Doctor Stands Accused
  • 8. Under Arrest
  • 9. The Secret of Cranleigh Hall
  • Epilogue

Background: Terence Dudley adapts his own scripts from the 1982 serial. This completes the run of stories from Season 19 for Target.

Notes: In the prologue, the servant, Digby, is given a first name – Raymond – and his family don’t know where he’s working (as revealed in a letter from home found on his person by the Doctor); he survives the attack by ‘the creature’, only to be murdered a little later on (but still within the prologue), when ‘the creature’ uses the secret passage to spy on a sleeping Ann and then attacks Digby silently and fatally. There’s a very telling paragraph within Ann Talbot’s introduction, that suggests she’s engaged to Charles purely out of a sense of duty:

She had loved George as she knew she could never love his brother, but this was something Charles did understand, or said he did. She would come to love him in time, he said. He would make her love him.

Lord Cranleigh’s formal name is ‘Charles Percival Beauchamp, tenth Marquess of Cranleigh’, inheriting the title from his elder brother George, the ninth Marquess’. Charles’s friend at Guy’s Hospital is Smutty Handicombe (not Thomas as on TV) and he’s both a celebrated cricket player and one of the top brain surgeons in the country. The captain of the opposing cricket team suggests Cranleigh’s team bats first, to allow his last-minute guest to arrive.

The Doctor shamelessly name-drops Don Bradman, which impresses Tegan for once; making his first-class debut two years after this story is set (1925), Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman is widely recognised as the greatest batsman of all time. Tegan is a huge cricket fan, and tries to explain the game to her friends at length – but refuses to elaborate on the finer details of the Oxford-Cambridge boat-race. During the match, Tegan sees Latoni from a distance.

A new scene shows Charles and Ann choosing the costumes for their guests together, so Charles also knows there is only one pierrot costume, which he selects for the Doctor. Adric’s insatiable gluttony is introduced early on, when he longs for pie and gravy that he sees illustrated in a poster advertising Bisto at the station. Adric is treated with great empathy here. His appetite for food is actually one of curiosity, not greed, as there are so many foodstuffs he’s never encountered before and he wants to try them all. Then there’s the matter of dancing.

The last thing he wanted to be was conspicuous; more conspicuous than he felt in this ridiculous costume, that is. He’d suffered the last straw when a young man, dressed as what he discovered later was an eighteenth-century pirate, had approached him and asked him to dance. All he’d done was to open his mouth to say ‘thank you’ and the pirate had blushed, cleared his throat, muttered something about being sorry and beat a hasty retreat. It really was the limit. 

Adric does eventually join in with the dancing and enjoys himself immensely. He’s confident that he can spot Nyssa by the look in her eyes; he is wrong and completely fails to recognise that he’s talking to Ann. He has slightly more luck elsewhere though, and he feels uncomfortable when he first sees the figure dressed as the Pierrot.

When Ann is abducted, she sees the disfigured man and is distressed by his appearance, but does not connect him to the attacker in the Pierrot costume, especially after Lady Cranleigh tells her a blatant lie, claiming that the inhabitant of the attic room is an explorer who suffered a similar fate to George and was brought to England as a penance to make up for the loss of George.

Tegan tells Adric that the penalty for a murder convition in 1925 is a hanging. The Doctor is permitted by Sir Robert to change back into his normal clothes prior to being taken to the police station. He ponders whether he has been sent to this time by the Time Lords (though it would seem a trivial case for their attention) and he recalls the events of The King’s Demons, even though they happened in his future (but the book of that story was published first). He makes his way to the roof of the house by retracing his steps through the secret passage.

Latoni’s role is expanded; he’s a tender companion to George and believes his agitations to be connected to the coming of the full moon (much to Lady Cranleigh’s irritation). Though badly injured after he’s attacked by George, Latoni survives the story, helped to safety from the fire by Charles. George realises that the woman in his grasp is not Ann when he sees that Nyssa does not have a mole on her shoulder. He falls to his death after reaching out to Ann and losing his balance. The epilogue tells us that the news of the terrible treatment endured by the famous explorer at the hands of South American natives and his subsequent death is received with some sympathy by the public. The Doctor and his friends leave after George’s funeral, which takes place just three days after his death. It’s not stated that they get to keep their costumes, though the Doctor does receive a copy of George’s book.

Cover: On the lawn of Cranleigh Hall, a harlequin juggles balls in front of a parked police box – an eye-catching piece by Tony Masero..

Final Analysis: It’s a fairly small-scale story on television, where the story would pretty much play out as it does with or without the Doctor’s involvement. This adaptation provides background to the family secret and to Latoni’s motivations for helping George to get back home and Dudley tries to make the cricket scene as engaging as possible by contrasting Tegan’s enthusiasm with her friends’ utter bewilderment, highlighting how ridiculous the activity really is. There is an unfortunate element though, in the way the mystery is maintained: The victim of torture and violent abuse is labelled ‘the creature’, initially from Ann’s point of view but the description persists. We’re back in the realms of exploitative body horror here.

The head was hairless with exposed and alternative livid and puce puckered skin. Human facial features were barely acknowledged. There were no recognisable ears. The eyes were hideously shot with blood, the right one almost submerged in folds of livid morbid flesh. A fleshless ridge with two perforations and a lipless gash beneath it was small evidence of a nose and mouth. The obscenely puckered forearms supported hands, the fingers of which were welded together, giving a grotesque prominence to the thumbs.

Doctor Who doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to portraying disability and mental illness, but at least here we might make an excuse for what is effectively a literary pastiche, blending Jane Eyre and Agatha Christie. Putting the politics aside though, it’s a beautifully crafted novel that does a satisfying job of expanding on the original source without introducing huge amounts of padding or waffle. Dudley goes to some lengths to provide a sympathetic approach to each of his characters – even Lady Cranleigh, whose ruthless pragmatism could place her in the role of genuine monster were it not for the way the Doctor justifies her more callous actions in the pursuit of protecting her eldest son. For once, Adric is shown some kindness too, even if (as mentioned above) he’s too obsessed with grazing through the buffet to notice how close he comes to being given a romantic subplot with a clumsy pirate.

Chapter 107. Doctor Who – The King’s Demons (1986)

Synopsis: King John is an honoured guest at the home of Ranulph and his wife Isabella. When the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough unexpectedly drop in, the King welcomes them and dubs him his ‘Demons’. The King’s champion Sir Gilles views the intrusion with irritation – unsurprisingly, as he is the Master in disguise. But the Master is not the only one pretending to be something he’s not.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Challenge
  • 2. The Demons
  • 3. The King Takes A Hostage
  • 4. The Iron Maiden
  • 5. Command Performance
  • 6. An Old Enemy
  • 7. Doctor Captures King’s Knight
  • 8. ‘Find These Demons!’
  • 9. Kamelion
  • 10. A Battle of Wills

Background: Terence Dudley adapts his own scripts from the 1983 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 20.

Notes: Ranulf Fitzwilliam has been a loyal servant and friend of King John for twelve years [since the French Wars that saw the King lose his hold on the Duchy of Normandy]. He is immediately suspicious of the ‘King’ who sits next to him now, identical to the one he knows, but his manner is vastly different – the way he consumes food ‘like a starving Flemish mercenary’. The King’s eyes are – metaphorically – described as ‘metallic’ and ‘ferrous’. 

Turlough is aware of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate, or as he calls it cheekily, ‘a refit’, and later tells the incredulous Hugh that the Doctor has two hearts and is ‘getting on for eight hundred years old’. He manages to escape from Hugh in the dungeon and is about to flee the cell when Sir Gilles returns with his prisoner, Isabella. Sir Gilles questions Turlough about the Doctor’s ‘blue engine’ and Turlough accidentally reveals that it can only be opened by a key in the Doctor’s possession. The Doctor tells Tegan that Shakespeare did not write history, so cannot be trusted as a factual source. He also shows off knowledge of the King’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitane, and claims that she had told her son, the future King, about the legends of Melusine, the alleged daughter of Satan, which might explain King John’s insistence that the travellers are demons. Tegan recalls her aunt’s murder at the hands of the Master [see Logopolis].

The Doctor and Tegan both recognise the Tissue Compression Eliminator weapon and realise too late that Sir Gilles is the Master; he doesn’t remove his disguise here. He accuses the Doctor of being ‘obtuse’, not naive’. as on telly Tegan tries to disarm him with a cricket ball, not a knife. Despite never having met him, Turlough recognises the Master by the Doctor’s description from some previous point (‘Listen here, Turlough, I know we’ve just had that unpleasant business with the Black Guardian, but the one you really have to watch out for is another black-garbed chap with a pointy beard – calls himself the Master. He’s a Time Lord like me and…’). Tegan is 22 years old (and would very much like to celebrate her 23rd birthday). At one point, the Doctor recalls that he once spent time with the real King John’s brother Richard and helped him in negotiations with Saladin [see The Crusade].

Taking up the role of King’s Champion, the Doctor is dressed in full chain-mail armour and he persuades Sir Geoffrey to head to the dungeon by pretending that his demonic powers can be used to torture Lady Isabella. The gaoler is called ‘Cedric’. The castle is said to be located at Wallingford, near Oxford, which Sir Geoffrey says is five hours away from London by horse. When Sir Geoffrey is shot by the Master, Turlough helps the merely-wounded knight to safety. Ranulf manages to enter the TARDIS and is so disturbed by the confusion of what lies within that he is convinced the Doctor and his friends are demons. Tegan is aware that to set the TARDIS in motion requires the use of one of two switches, ‘the metastasis switch or the transit switch’. After a frustrating first attempt, she uses the transit switch, followed by the input bar. Kamelion’s lute is apparently part of his illusion, as it transforms into a cricket bat when he takes the form of the Doctor. Once back in control of his ship, the Doctor makes an additional hop to both assure Lady Isabella that only the Master is their enemy and to give her some medicine to help Sir Geoffrey recover from his wounds. The Master manages to evade being shrunk by the trap with the TCE left by the Doctor, but it has somehow sent his TARDIS out of control.

Cover: David McAllister paints a jousting competition outside Ranulph Castle as Kameleon dominates the skyline while playing the lute.

Final Analysis: I’ve always felt rather dismissive of Terence Dudley, largely because of Four to Doomsday (where his rather dreary story was adapted without frills / thrills by Terrance Dicks), but his approach to his own novelisation is surprisingly entertaining. As Sir Gilles, the Master outlines his plan to discredit the King through the means of a lengthy tour around some of the King’s most loyal supporters. Once his true identity is revealed and he faces execution inside the Iron Maiden, he orchestrates a display of fear and pleading so over the top that it makes the Doctor think he’s finally succumbed to madness. So distressing is the performance that even Tegan is distressed at the prospect of his grisly death – until the villain escapes in his torture cabinet-disguised TARDIS. 

Turlough is particularly vividly described, even though he spends most of the story in a prison, as on TV; his various attempts to escape and his increasing indignation at being left chained up is hilarious. When he’s finally rescued, Turlough lets out a huge rant that builds to a revelation:

‘Just a minute! Just a minute!’ interrupted Turlough indignantly. ‘Get on with what? What about my trust? What about my enemies? Who’s doing what to whom and why? I’m dragged down into this hole by that young ruffian whose life you saved this morning. Then he’s going to put me into that thing.’ He flicked a hand at the Iron Maiden. ‘Then I’m hung up on the wall by that hairy Frenchman … Estram. Then the other two get rescued by the Master but I’m left there… hanging… and not a sign on my …’ He stopped short, overcome by the suddenness of thought and his mouth and eyes wide in realisation. ‘It’s an anagram! Estram! It’s an anagram!’

The whole anagram thing works so much better in print, but the fact that the Doctor had only just made the same realisation a few pages earlier makes the scene all the funnier.

It’s not all cause for celebration though. As great as he is at capturing Turlough, Dudley’s depiction of Tegan is pretty patronising: The Doctor is profoundly irritated by Tegan’s ‘feminine superficiality’ and her general habit of moaning, which he’d hoped she’d have grown out of, while there’s a lengthy passage mocking her for her ‘practical feminine mind’ prompting her to ask the castle has ‘a back way’. The Doctor also grows exasperated by Tegan’s inability to grasp that the Master didn’t need to drag the TARDIS through narrow doorways when he could dematerialise it; on TV the exchange is swift, but here it takes two pages before Tegan finally understands and calls herself ‘stupid’. It might have been a funnier scene if the author hadn’t spent the entire book having Tegan constantly and repeatedly moan about being cold. And then, to add insult to injury, he has Tegan sink into ‘a swoon’ when she’s surprised by Hugh. Dudley also has the Doctor refer to ‘a marooned stewardess from an Antipodean airline’, while the book ends with the Doctor expecting Tegan to say that he knows she wants him to take her to London airport, which of course was her main goal in the previous season [Terrance Dicks made the same mistake in The Five Doctors]. Considering she spent her first year aboard the TARDIS trying to get back to a job she was swiftly sacked from, it must be particularly jarring for her to still be thought of as flight crew when she can’t have actually done the job for more than a few months.