Chapter 58. Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor (1980)

Synopsis: Two planets locked in war, Atrios and Zeos. A princess tries to help her people while her zealous Marshal fights to win the war. Unseen, a shadowy figure is manipulating events as he awaits the final pawns in his game. The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on Atrios in search of the final segment of the Key to Time, and help comes from an unexpected source as the Doctor is reunited with an old friend. Soon, the Key to Time will be assembled – and the hidden enemy will be revealed. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Vanishing Planet
  • 2. Missile Strike
  • 3. Kidnapped
  • 4. A Trap for K9
  • 5. The Furnace
  • 6. Behind the Mirror
  • 7. The Shadow
  • 8. Lost on Zeos
  • 9. The Armageddon Factor
  • 10. The Planet of Evil
  • 11. Drax
  • 12. The Bargain
  • 13. Small World
  • 14. The Key to Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This is now four stories to be released consecutively in the order they were broadcast on TV.

Notes: The first TARDIS scenes are condensed and moved to the beginning of the first chapter, with an additional explanation of the on-going mission to find the Key to Time. The Marshall’s description is a love-letter to actor John Woodvine:

Tall and broad shouldered, straight-backed with iron-grey hair, he wore a magnificent scarlet tunic with gold epaulettes, the eagle of Atrios emblazoned in silver on the breast. His stern face was rugged and handsome, his voice deep and commanding. 

Merak is apparently the son of one of Atrios’ oldest families and has secretly been in love with Astra since they were both children. They are both members of an underground peace party.  Drax is from the ‘Class of Ninety-Three’ (not Ninety-Two) and has heard that the Doctor ‘got done by the High Court’ for stealing a TARDIS and ‘served a stretch’ on Earth – Drax himself bought a TARDIS second hand and he agrees to stop calling the Doctor ‘Thete’ (short for Theta Sigma, which we’re told was a ‘Time Lord coding’), though he’s sensitive that, unlike the Doctor, he didn’t get his degree. Once exposed, the Black Guardian contorts into a demonic creature and it’s both his callousness about Princess Astra and his inability to set things right with the Key already assembled that alerts the Doctor to his true identity.

Cover: Bill Donohoe paints the Doctor (using a surprising photo reference from The Seeds of Doom) and Romana with the Key to Time locator core in her hand, with the red bird motif from the War Room on Atrios in the background. Apparently producer John Nathan-Turner didn’t like this cover – he was wrong though.

Final Analysis: Yet another fairly straightforward adaptation, with the only major omissions being those scenes with the Marshall preparing to fire on Zeos that are repeated on TV, which don’t need to be replayed here.

And so ends a long, long journey towards this point. There have been trials, tribulations and many disappointments on this quest, but finally we’re done… we’re out of the worst run of books in the series so far – perhaps ever. A combination of poor original stories and a very lacklustre approach to adapting them makes me so glad we’ve got a treat coming up next.

I hope…

Chapter 56. Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor has gone fishing, leaving Romana to hunt down the next segment of the Key to Time. She completes her hunt with surprising ease, but just as quickly she becomes a prisoner of the scheming Count Grendel. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s holiday is interrupted by guards who serve Prince Reynart, a sickly monarch-in-waiting, whose reign is about to be cut short by Grendel. The Prince has an android duplicate of himself, which he hopes to use as a decoy long enough to ascend the throne. The android, however, doesn’t work. Separately, the Doctor and Romana work from opposite sides to fix the state of Tara. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Doctor Goes Fishing
  • 2. Count Grendel
  • 3. The Double
  • 4. The Princess
  • 5. The Prisoner of Gracht
  • 6. The Android King
  • 7. Invitation to an Ambush
  • 8. The Android Killer
  • 9. Flag of Truce
  • 10. Count Grendel plans a Wedding
  • 11. Attack by Night
  • 12. Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Fisher for his second story from 1978. This followed The Stones of Blood on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: The statue that transforms into the Key to Time segment depicts ‘a vaguely dragon-like heraldic beast, thrusting time-blunted claws towards the blue summer sky’. The very-much-alive creature that attacks Romana is a very generous evolution of the short, comedic beast seen on telly:

The monster was a good eight feet tall – and it walked upright like a man. It had coarse black fur, slavering jaws filled with yellow, pointed teeth and a stubby horn projecting from the centre of its forehead. A mixture of bear, ape and boar, with the nastiest features of all three. 

Count Grendel is said to possess a ‘darkly handsome face’ which is ‘marred only slightly by a fiercely jutting beak of a nose’ – an unflattering description of actor Peter Jeffrey. At the end, the Doctor rescues the adrift K9 – and Romana jokes that he ‘managed to catch a fish on Tara after all’ – before the time travellers depart in the TARDIS.

Cover: A scene painted by Andrew Skilleter shows the Doctor inspecting a segment of the Key to Time, watched by Romana (in her Ribos costume), appearing on a cover for the first time. In the background, K9 makes his first appearance on a book cover too, looking up at the Prince on his throne. The back cover announces ‘THE ANDROIDS OF TARA is a novel in the Key To Time Sequence. Read THE RIBOS OPERATION and THE STONES OF BLOOD available now.’ (said books didn’t carry this linking text).

Final Analysis: Around the time that this book was published, Shredded Wheat had an advertisement campaign that boasted that the product had ‘nothing added, nothing taken away’. Aside from the exaggerated details of the beast in the woods, this is all we get here. I still think it’s not fair to dismiss Dicks’ writing simply as just adding ‘he said / she said’ to the script, as he paints a vivid picture of the castles and woodlands of Tara, but this is a great example of Dicks at his most perfunctory. Everything that we might like about this came from David Fisher.

Chapter 55. Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood (1980)

Synopsis: A stone circle in southern England, known locally as ‘The Nine Travellers’. Which is strange, as clearly there are more than nine stones. This is just one of many legends from the region. Another speaks of a woman who lives for centuries, who might have been a Celt goddess called ‘The Cailleach’. And then there’s the tale of two time travellers who expose a galactic criminal and discover a spaceship hidden in another dimension… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Awakening of the Ogri
  • 2. The Circle of Power
  • 3. De Vries
  • 4. The Sacrifice
  • 5. The Ogri Attack
  • 6. The Cailleach
  • 7. The Vanished
  • 8. The Prison Ship
  • 9. The Victims
  • 10. The Trial
  • 11. Surprise Witness
  • 12. Verdict

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by David Fisher for a story from 1978.

Notes: As The Pirate Planet wasn’t scheduled to be novelised at this point (or indeed, at any point in the foreseeable future), the first chapter explains that the second segment of the Key to Time was found on the planet Calufrax, which is almost right. As on TV, Romana learns that she wasn’t assigned to the Doctor by the President of Gallifrey but by the White Guardian, which amends the alternative continuity established by Ian Marter in The Ribos Operation. The Key to Time pieces are kept in the TARDIS control room inside a ‘wall-locker’ that opens to the Doctor’s palm-print. Professor Amelia Rumford mistakes the Doctor for Doctor Cornish Fougous (rather than an academic who specialised in Cornish fogous). Martha had been a school teacher before she met De Vries and she joined the druid cult to liven up an otherwise dull life. The doomed campers are newly-weds. The Megara are floating silver spheres about the size of a football. The Doctor namedrops Tacitus and Julius Caesar, who he was particularly pally with even though he refused to accept advice and the Doctor had to dress up as a soothsayer to warn him about the ‘ides of March’.

Cover: A composition by Andrew Skilleter featuring the Doctor, the Cailleach and some cult members among the flame-lit stones.

Final Analysis: Possibly Dicks’ most straightforward adaptation of a TV story so far, though he does offer up an delightful description of Professor Rumford: 

The woman was quite old, though her back was straight, her eyes clear and alert. Her straggly hair was a snowy white, her face a mass of lines and wrinkles. It was the face of a woman of formidable character.

He’s clearly more interested in her than Vivien Fay, who is ‘a tall, strikingly attractive dark-haired woman in her forties’ but doesn’t really receive much more attention. This is particularly odd when we consider that the last time she’s described at all in the book, she’s dressed as a bird-faced Celtic goddess and on TV she arrives on the space-ship in a silver gown with metallic skin to match.

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 53. Doctor Who and the Underworld (1980)

Synopsis: A group of space travellers seek the lost gene banks of the Minyans, a race of beings with tragic connections to the Time Lords. When their space craft becomes surrounded by a planet, the Minyan travellers discover a subjugated race – the Trogs – who live in underground tunnels as the slaves of the Seers and the god-like Oracle. Could these slaves be the descendants of the lost Minyans? The answers rest with the Oracle – and the quest is the quest…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Nebula
  • 2. The Minyans
  • 3. The Intruders
  • 4. The Quest
  • 5. Buried Alive
  • 6. The Trogs
  • 7. Skyfall on Nine
  • 8. The Smoke
  • 9. The Mouth of the Dragon
  • 10. The Sword of Sacrifice
  • 11. The Crusher
  • 12. The Battle
  • 13. Doomsday
  • 14. The Legend

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts by by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes:  We begin with a prologue (how I love a prologue!) that details the events that led to the loss of Minyos and the isolation policy of the Time Lords. Back in The Invisible Enemy, the Doctor complained that the TARDIS control room is such a boring colour – ‘No aquamarines, no blues. No imagination!’ – and here, he’s trying to paint the control room aquamarine and getting paint everywhere (but in the final scene, he’s painting it white again). On learning of the sword ritual, the Doctor reminds Leela that her own tribe had a similar trial by ordeal. Leela suggests that they return to the TARDIS and leave the Minyans to their fate but the Doctor wants to solve the mystery of the P7E.

Cover: Bill Donohoe combines two photo reference from this story to create something rather like a pulp sex book you’d find in the saucy rack in a 1970s newsagent – the Doctor looks pensive  while Herrick carries a near-death Tala – as if we’ve just walked in on a scene we don’t really want to be a part of.

Final Analysis: This would always be a tricky one, a real clunker from Bob Baker and Dave Martin (the kings of overambition) and it’s one that’s always been unpopular for good reason. Devoid of the visibly low budget of the TV version, we’re left with a story with no recognisable human interaction, just mythology that gets a bit repetitive. It’s a relief that Terrance Dicks finds a way to highlight that humanity: The father who grieves for his lost wife and daughter after they’re killed in a landfall is a rare highlight. Something I’ve noticed though is that the Fourth Doctor in this period is brash and often his overconfidence borders on bullying, which makes it hard to like him. The real highlight is that Dicks makes great use of K9 for his comedy potential, the wilfully over-literal explanations are hilarious.

Chapter 52. Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation (1979)

Synopsis: The White Guardian compels the Doctor (on pain of nothing… ever) to undertake a mission to find the six segments of the Key to Time. As part of the mission, the Doctor is given a new companion in the form of Romana. On the planet Ribos, a pair of grifters called Garron and Unstoffe are setting up an elaborate con, assuming the locals are too primitive to see through their scheme. Unfortunately, they have underestimated a visiting despot by the name of the Graff Vynda Ka .

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Unwelcome Strangers
  • 2. The Beast in the Citadel
  • 3. A Shaky Start
  • 4. Double Dealings
  • 5. Arrest and Capture
  • 6. Unlikely Allies
  • 7. Escape Into the Unknown
  • 8. The Doctor Changes Sides
  • 9 .Lost and Found
  • 10. Conjuring Tricks

Background: Ian Marter adapts the 1978 scripts by Robert Holmes.

Notes: The opening scene has the Doctor and K9 being rather snarky with each other. The Doctor suggests ‘Occhinos’ as a holiday destination.The TARDIS doors are opened from the inside by a brass handle. The Guardian sits within an exotic garden that features huge orchids and fountains. The garden disappears along with the Guardian, leaving the Doctor teetering on the edge of space and he has to propel himself backwards into the TARDIS. The Guardian makes no mention of a new companion for the Doctor; it’s left to Romana to introduce herself. Her tracer device is presented as the ‘Locatormutor Core’ and she knows of the existence of the Guardian (on TV, she’s left under the belief that she was selected for the mission by the President of the Time Lords). She graduated from the Academy with a ‘Triple Alpha’ and claims the Doctor achieved a ‘Double Gamma… on [his] third attempt’. The initial destination is Cyrrhenis Minimis (not ‘Minima’). 

We learn that, while he was away fighting campaigns alongside his Cyrrhenic allies, the Graff Vynda Ka (‘not ‘K’) was deposed by his half-brother on the Levithian throne; his alliance forgotten, he received no help from his former allies and he now lives in exile (we lose the rest of his back story from the TV episodes). Thanks to its elliptical orbit, Ribos’s summer (the ‘Sun Time’) lasts 11 years. The Doctor refers to Garron and Unstoffe as ‘Laurel and Hardy’ before apologising to Romana for the reference. When the Doctor is searched, Sholakh finds ‘an ear trumpet. a corkscrew, string, marbles, a magnifying glass, a paper bag with a few jelly babies melted into a lump…’ – some of which have been referenced by Marter in his previous books. There are many Shrivenzales living in the catacombs under the city. The Seeker is…:

… a scrawny hag dressed in long strips of crudely dyed remnants. Her frizzled grey hair was parted on the crown of her domed head, and it reached almost to her feet in a thickly tangled cascade.

She survives the knives of the Graff Vynda Ka and crawls off towards the Hall of the Dead, only to be caught in the blast of the Shrieve’s cannon. Despondent after the cave-in, Garron wonders if it would be possible to commit suicide with the Locatormutor Core. 

Chapter 7 brings Ian Marter’s take on a popular title, ‘Escape into the Unknown’, almost the same one Terrance Dicks used in Death to the Daleks. 

Cover: John Geary created an atmospheric shot of the Doctor, a shrivensale and some moody candles.

Final Analysis: It wasn’t one of Robert Holmes’ greatest scripts and sadly it’s not one of Ian Marter’s best books either. There’s little room for Marter’s violent imagery here and it’s all a bit flat. Without the performances to help sell the characters, Garron and Unstoffe lack any depth beyond their grift, while the Doctor is a horrific bully to Romana (something that was thankfully phased out on screen within a couple of stories, but which comes across as much more savage here). Marter is able to make the lumbering TV shrivenzale into a fearsome beast with claws that make sparks against the catacomb walls and he takes on the death of Sholakh and makes it a little bloodier, but… no, this is largely as dull as I’d expected.

I’ve got to be honest, this is the beginning of a run of books I’ve been dreading.

Chapter 51. Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana explore a dead world, unaware that one of them has been there before. A spaceship arrives containing the beautiful Movellans who inform the Doctor that the planet is Skaro – home of the Daleks – and their mission is to find the Dalek creator, Davros. But Davros is dead… and coincidentally, so is Romana!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Dead City
  • 2. Underground Evil
  • 3. The Daleks
  • 4. The Movellans
  • 5. Slaves of the Daleks
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Secret of the Daleks
  • 8. The Prisoner
  • 9. The Hostages
  • 10. The Bait
  • 11. Stalemate
  • 12. Suicide Squad
  • 13. Blow-up
  • 14. Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts for a story that aired just two months earlier.

Notes: Dicks calls Romana a ‘Time Lady’ and summarises the events from the climax of The Armageddon Factor, which hasn’t been novelised yet. The Doctor surmises that Romana’s higher score at the academy accounts for her greater control over how she regenerates, unlike his own traumatic experiences. They arrive on the strange dead world at night during a storm (it’s a bright, sunny day on TV). The slaves bury their dead under rocks because the foundations of the city ruins are too thick to dig up. The dead body that the Doctor investigates was a ‘Space Major Dal Garrant’ (so close to that familiar ‘Tarrant’ that Nation often used). While pinned under the fallen masonry, the Doctor reads ‘The Origins of the Tenth Galaxy’,  written by a ‘particularly pompous Time Lord historian’ who he has never liked. He’s interrupted by the arrival of just two Movellans (Lan and Agella) and they’re wearing ‘simple, military-type space coveralls’, rather than the beautifully distinctive space-dreadlocks and Top of the Pops dance-troop suits. On the Movellan spaceship, Commander Sharrell’s rank is denoted by an insignia on his uniform. 

Sharrel does not identify the planet they’re on beyond the serial number. Only later does the Doctor discover that it’s Skaro, when Tyssan tells him. As Davros revives, his eyes open [see The Witch’s Familiar in 2015]. The journey to the surface with Davros involves a long, steep, spiralling ramp. The Daleks cheat and make their way to Davros’s level using ‘eerily silent anti-grav discs’ as seen in Planet of the Daleks. Disappointingly, the Doctor doesn’t tell the Daleks to ‘spack off’. The Dalek mutant that he encounters in the sand dunes is more active than the blob of Slime-with-Worms from TV. It’s a ‘pulsating green blob, a kind of land-jellyfish’ that crawls up his arm. There’s a fair bit of gender-swapping here: Veldan and Jall’s genders are reversed, the Daleks’ sacrificial victims are both male and the Movellan that captures the Doctor and Tyssan is also male. Romana doesn’t dismember Sharrel during their fight, she merely kicks away his power tube.

Cover: Welcome Andrew Skilleter, who surrounds an image of the Doctor (based on a pic from The Pirate Planet) with very TV Century 21-style Daleks moving around in fog, as if at a disco. Alister Pearson’s 1990 reprint cover puts the Doctor and Romana alongside a moody Davros in profile, a Dalek and Agella against a salmon background.

Final Analysis: Destiny of the Daleks seems to polarise opinion, but as it was the first Dalek story where I was old enough to follow the plot in full, I didn’t care about how tatty the props looked or that the central point about a robotic impasse shouldn’t have worked because Daleks aren’t robots. I just enjoyed it for being Daleks on my telly. This novelisation is, for me, the first point in this project where Terrance Dicks’ straightforward script-to-page approach feels a little lacking. Racing to get this story novelised meant that Romana v2 is introduced before V1 – we’ve leapt past a season and a half of stories, which is quite confusing – but there’s no real explanation as to who Romana is, only that she’s changed and she’s from Gallifrey. The Movellan costumes are described in such generic terms that they lose some of their onscreen glamour, and it’s all a little… thin. However, there is this lovely harkback to Genesis of the Daleks, which highlights a decision the Doctor has returned to time and time again:

The Doctor sighed. He had hesitated once before, at a time when he could have destroyed the Daleks before their creation, simply by touching the two wires that would complete an explosive circuit. Who knows what horrors he had unleashed upon the Universe? The Daleks were stronger now and more numerous, and with Davros to help them… He must not hesitate again. The Doctor pressed the switch. 

Chapter 47. Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor is unwell, fighting off an alien virus that is trying to possess him. Heading to a hospital in deep space, the Doctor meets Professor Marius and his robot dog K9, who eagerly assists Leela in fighting off an army of infected people. Realising they need to take the fight to the cause of the infection, the Doctor and Leela are cloned, miniaturized and injected inside the Doctor’s brain to find the nucleus of the virus before it can take hold permanently and use the Doctor to spread its swarm throughout the galaxy.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Contact
  • 2. The Host
  • 3. Death Sentence
  • 4. Foundation
  • 5. Counter-Attack
  • 6. The Clones
  • 7. Mind Hunt
  • 8. Interface
  • 9. Nucleus
  • 10. The Antidote
  • 11. The Hive
  • 12. Inferno

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the scripts for a 1977 story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin; that’s three consecutive books to be based on their scripts.

Notes: Terrance Dicks was using the very latest information available, so the reference to Saturn having ten moons is based on the discovery of Janus in 1966. In 1978, it was suspected that Janus shared its orbit with another moon – named Epimetheus – a theory confirmed two years later by the Voyager probe, which also revealed three more moons. It’s now believed that Saturn has over 80 satellites, plus many others embedded within its rings. Considering the definitions of ‘Moon’ and ‘Planet’ have shifted repeatedly in the last 40 years, we can therefore accept that the narrator of this book is using a classification of a significant size of satellite that was common in the year 5000. Or that something terrible happened to Epimetheus or Janus. So there.

The Doctor has high regard for Leela, despite his teasing of her as a savage, and has apparently shown her the basics of TARDIS piloting – and she’s retained the training enough to input coordinates, despite otherwise struggling with general levels of technology. Professor Marius came to the BI-AL foundation from the New Heidelberg University. Growing bored waiting for news of the Doctor, Leela explores the station, bypassing the lifts because she doesn’t trust them and scaling numerous flights of stairs before she finds the Doctor’s ward.

We’re introduced to the legendary K-9, who is a ‘squat metallic creature’ that looks like ‘a kind of squared-off metal dog’, with a ‘computer display screen for eyes, and antennae for ears and tail’.

Dicks manages to work around the visuals of the nucleus of the swarm, which, at micro-scale has ‘waving antennae, glistening wet red flesh, and a bulbous black eye that seemed to swivel to and fro’, while the version in the macro-world is rather unpleasant:

A horrible, incredible shape [which] was filling the booth. It was blood-red in colour and was as big as a man with a bony glistening body and lashing tentacles. The huge black bulbous eyes swivelled malevolently around the ward.

… and definitely not a giant prawn.

The virus tries to reinfect the Doctor through Marius and when it fails, the Doctor is full of glee. Marius gains help from the entire surviving staff at the Foundation in preparing the antidote samples. Back on Titan, the nucleus swells to an enormous size while its hatching brood look like ‘huge, malevolent dragonflies’.

Cover: A rather lovely portrait of the Doctor with the nucleus of the swarm in the background, courtesy of Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: The opening scene adds a very subtle message that the people of the future are trained for their jobs, but then their environments are controlled so extensively by technology that they’re never required to put any of that training into practice. We also get a decent paragraph that explains the back-history behind Marius’s casual use of the term ‘spaceniks’. Once again though, it’s the little details added to give the monster of the week a greater sense of scale and menace than they could have achieved onscreen.