Chapter 120. Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death (1987)

Synopsis: As a tracking station on Earth awaits the return of a Mars capsule and its crew, the rocket’s inhabitants are kidnapped and hidden away. Liz Shaw discovers that the astronauts are not the ones that left Earth but alien ambassadors. Someone is conspiring to use the aliens for their own means – and start a war in the process…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Something Took Off From Mars…’
  • 2. ‘That Sound – It Was Some Kind Of Message…’
  • 3. ‘They’ll Never Survive…’
  • 4. ‘Recovery Seven – It’s On The Way Back!’
  • 5. ‘The Capsule Has Landed.’
  • 6. ‘They’ve Started To Crack The Code…’
  • 7. ‘You Must Feed Them Radiation – Or They’ll Die!’
  • 8. ‘We’ve Got To Get That Rocket Up!’
  • 9. ‘Someone’s Threatening To Kill Miss Shaw!’
  • 10. ‘An Attack On The Space Centre?’
  • 11. ‘Do You Really Think They’re Not Human?’
  • 12. ‘Large Unidentified Object Approaching On Collision Course…’
  • 13. ‘The Capsule Will Be Smashed To Fragments…’
  • 14. ‘Your Doctor Friend Is As Dead As A Doornail…’
  • 15. ‘We May Not Have Much More Time!’
  • 16. ‘We’re Being Invaded!’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1970 story credited to David Whitaker (but which also included passes by Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray), completing the run of Season 7 stories – and the Third Doctor’s era as a whole – that began with Target’s first original adaptations back in 1974.

Notes: The TV reporter’s name is given on screen as ‘John Wakefield’, but here it’s now ‘Michael’, while astronaut Charles Van Lyden becomes ‘Van Leyden’. Ralph Cornish at Mission Control is said to be ‘quite literally tall, dark and handsome’. Dicks is not as snide as he was about Chorley in Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, but he still makes a few sly digs at the TV reporter; he’s small, neat and bearded with a ‘low, throbbing, earnest voice that seems to be the exclusive property of a certain kind of TV journalist’. 

It was a voice that conveyed expertise, sympathy, concern and a sort of muted reproach. The implication was that somehow Michael Wakefield already knew all the answers. Luckily for him, he never had to provide them. He only asked the questions, and passed along the background information assembled for him by an expert team of researchers, all kept firmly behind the camera.

For the final time, we have Dicks’ standard description of the third Doctor, with a face that is ‘neither young nor old’, and that Bessie is ‘an Edwardian roadster’ (and I’ve waiting until now to point out that it’s not actually a Roadster, it’s a four-seater Tourer, but Roadster is such a fun word). It’s still early days for the Doctor and Liz, having only had ‘two dangerous adventures’, and we’re reminded of the incident with the Silurians. 

In the assault on the ‘enemy’ in the warehouse, the Brigadier notices that they are ‘simply better than his own men, better shots, better trained in this kind of house-to-house fighting’. It’s the fact that none of his troops has been shot that draws the Brigadier’s suspicions – accurate shots knock the guns away but nobody is actually hit, and he notes that there’s ‘something rather humiliating about fighting an enemy who weren’t even trying to hit back’. The Doctor’s trick with the disappearing tape is ‘a Time Lord technique somewhere between telekinesis and conjuring’. 

The scientist Heldorf had been a refugee and still had a trace of an accent. Reegan was born in Ireland but spent most of his life in America, among other countries, evading the law. He’d been a bank robber for the IRA until they’d discovered he’d been stealing from them. He set himself up as a professional, specialising in ‘kidnapping, extortion and murder for hire’.  

Cover: The Doctor smiles as two ambassadors in space suits approach him from behind. Tony Masero’s original cover had a much more shadowy depiction of Jon Pertwee, but this was changed in response to a request from the actor. This is the first cover to feature the Third Doctor prominently on the initial cover since The Claws of Axos (1977), or on any cover since the 1978 Three Doctors reprint (aside from a small profile as part of a montage on The Five Doctors).

Final Analysis: We begin with a deceptively simple opening line: ‘Far above the Earth, in the infinite blackness of space, two metal capsules were converging.’ That ‘infinite blackness of space’ leapt out at me as a quote from something and a quick survey on Twitter led to Paul Rhodes supplying a flurry of suggestions for a possible source. Nasa’s own public information office LB Taylor Jr appears to have coined the phrase in his commentary around the Apollo 11 moon landings, which is appropriate considering the subject of The Ambassadors of Death. An earlier reference can be found in The Transcendent Man, a 1953 novel by future Star Trek and Twilight Zone writer Jerry Sohl, while the earliest I’ve found is a 1920 edition of the handbook of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s a phrase that crops up across science fiction from Star Trek to Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer but as yet, I’ve not found an origin. Any suggestions?

There are some other lovely turns of phrase here: The warehouse where Carrington’s crew are hiding out has ‘row upon row of arched windows, every one methodically broken by the industrious local vandals’. The little extra biographical details for Heldorf and Reegan feel like something Malcolm Hulke would have added (appropriate considering he wrote a substantial amount of the scripts). We’ve come a long way from the days where Terrance was bashing these out one a month and as we reach the end of the third Doctor’s TV adventures, this stands out as one of the author’s very best.

Bonus chapter #5. The Companions of Doctor Who: Harry Sullivan’s War (1986)

Synopsis: It’s been ten years since Harry Sullivan left UNIT. Reluctantly awaiting a new posting to a weapons division in the outer Hebrides, Harry decides to use some leave and visit friends. Within days, he survives numerous violent attacks – someone is trying to kill him. But why? A chance meeting with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leaves Harry wondering if their reunion is just a coincidence or if he’s accidentally stumbled into something very worrying indeed…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Brush With Death
  • 2. Happy Birthday!
  • 3. The Castle 
  • 4. Persuasion 
  • 5. An Odd Weekend 
  • 6. Unexplained Mysteries
  • 7. The Amateur Investigator 
  • 8. A Human Guinea Pig 
  • 9. More Clues 
  • 10. The Chase 
  • 11. Trapped 
  • 12. The Prisoner 
  • 13. Double Bluff 
  • 14. Secrets of the Burial Mound
  • 15. Ambush
  • 16. Out On A Limb 
  • Epilogue 

Background: Ian Marter writes an original novel inspired by the character he played in the series in 1975.

Notes: Chapter 2 takes place on Harry’s 41st birthday (which, based on later information, is in May). Since leaving UNIT ten years ago, he’s been employed by the Biological Defence Establishment at Tooth Tor on Dartmoor, developing antidotes to nerve toxins. He’s unhappy that he’s being transferred to work on weapons development so decides to spend his birthday at the National Gallery, where he sees a self portrait by Van Gogh (this becomes a recurring image, for plot reasons). Introducing himself to Samantha, Harry adopts the pseudonym ‘Laury L Varnish’ – an anagram of his real name. Samantha has a ‘husky voice’, pale blue eyes, a ‘strong but pretty oval face’ and ‘curly straw-coloured hair’. She claims that her father is American and a doctor, and that she’s a member of ACHES, the ‘Anti-Chemical Hazard Environment Society’. 

Harry is six feet tall. He has a ‘spacious flat’ on the fifth floor of a 1930s apartment block in St John’s Wood (which we’re told is at the Regent’s Park end). He displays his many rugby and rowing trophies and we’re told later that he was a ‘stroke oar in the Dartmouth College Ace Eight’; this would be from the Britannia Royal Naval College – aka ‘Dartmouth’ – and not the New Hampshire, USA, college of the same name. He receives a birthday card from an old friend, Teddy Bland, who has a sister, Esther, who Harry was once very close to; he nearly proposed, but a secondment to UNIT put paid to that. Esther is ‘buxom’ and ‘red-headed’ and during his trip to Yarra, Harry learns that Esther has only ever loved him. Harry drives a red MG sportscar (mid-life crisis?). Harry’s new position sees him promoted to Surgeon-Commander. Esther notes that he no longer has the sideburns he had while with UNIT. In his early naval career, Harry was stationed on the Ark Royal. 

Brigadier ‘Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’ is said to have a ‘deep and resonant […]  precise military voice’. The Brigadier is still teaching (Senior Mathematics Master at ‘a private school in Sussex’), but his business card mentions his ‘DSO’ (Distinguished Service Order) and ‘MC’ (Military Cross). The Brigadier shares old stories with Harry of his own experiences in UNIT, not just of Sarah Jane Smith, but of ‘Jo and Sergeant Benton, about Jamie and Zoe and about the Daleks and the Cybermen and all manner of old friends and enemies’. On his flight through Scotland, Harry meets a small child who offers him a jelly baby. The sweet makes him wish the Doctor would appear to put everything right.

Harry is arrested in Trafalgar Square by an Inspector Spode (possibly a reference to the fictional publisher Erwin Spode in the Gervase Fen detective novels by Edmund Crispin). Placed in a cell in Wormwood Scrubs, his window affords him a view of the playing fields and, beyond, the church in Harrow-on-the-Hill where he was christened as a baby (not that this is mentioned at any point, but had his cell faced the opposite direction, he’d have had a lovely view of BBC Television Centre). Harry asks if ‘Sir Algernon’ might take up his case and is told he is holidaying in Bermuda; it’s a short sentence but it might bear unpacking. Sir Algernon Usborne Willis KCB DSO (17 May 1889 – 12 April 1976) was a former Admiral of the Fleet, while Bermuda was where Sir William Stephenson retired to – long believed to have been the real-life inspiration for 007. Except we later discover that this Sir Algernon has the surname ‘Flowers’, so his name is surely a nod to the Daniel Keys science fiction story Flowers for Algernon, about a laboratory mouse.

When Sarah Jane Smith visits Harry in prison, she’s said to be:

… a young woman of about thirty […] wearing a fashionable pink boiler-suit outfit with green boots, and a rainbow-coloured plastic shoulder bag [….] Her hair was brown and wavy, held back by a pair of sunglasses perched on her forehead. Her figure looked petite under her billowy clothes.

Harry and Sarah haven’t seen each other since the Zygon business (though a short story I later wrote for a Big Finish Short Trips anthology proudly contradicts this). He affectionately calls Sarah ‘old thing’; and quickly realises his mistake. Sarah is no longer living with her aunt in Croydon, having moved to Camberwell, South London. Harry confesses that he’s told many stories about Sarah to his elderly neighbour.

When Harry drops the name ‘Davros’, both Major Sawyer and George Fawcett-Smith of the Home office react with surprise that Harry knows the name. Conrad Gold’s money envelope consists of bundles of £100-notes – which means he was paying Harry with notes issues by the Royal Bank of Scotland (the highest denomination issued by the Bank of England is £50, though Fawcett-Smith asks Spode to ‘find out where these were printed’. The story concludes in September, which makes this possibly the story with the longest timespan since Marco Polo! 

Cover: David McAllister goes full Bond with an appropriately dramatic illustration of a car being chased by a helicopter while Harry Sullivan looks every bit the heroic action-movie star. It’s only the second cover to feature blood and the first to depict the author in the illustration!

Final Analysis: Let’s pretend that Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma never happened, eh? This is a stunning novel that wears its influences shamelessly (Terrance Dicks always said that greatness always steals from the best). The opening chapter lifts cheekily from the James Bond film Thunderball (and its more recent remake, Never Say Never Again), though 007 fends off the attack more successfully; a later sequence is reminiscent of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps and the three different movie adaptations (particularly the Hitchcock one); and as Gary Russell noted in his review for Doctor Who Magazine, the final chapter owes a lot to the film version of A View to a Kill – even down to Harry wearing a tuxedo – which was released the year before this was published.. It’s by no means a criticism; Harry Sullivan always wanted to play at James Bond and Marter throws his hero into an espionage story without allowing him any of the innate skills of the most celebrated spies. Right from the start, he suffers a savage attack that leaves him vulnerable and confused – and it barely lets up as he careers from one escapade to another, barely escaping alive on each occasion.

Just while we’re here – Vincent Van Goch’s art is referenced repeatedly here. There are many possible ways to pronounce his name, such as ‘van Goff’, ‘van Gock’ – and most Dutch people would say ‘Vun Goch’ – to rhyme with the Scottish ‘loch’. However, it does not rhyme with ‘Toe’ (‘Van Goe’). Ever.

Ian Marter had originally intended to kill Harry off, but was persuaded to let him survive, so instead he plays a cruel trick on us in the finale. He claimed in interviews prior to the book’s release that he hoped to write a sequel. Harry Sullivan’s War was published on 11 September 1986; Ian Marter died on 28 October the same year, on his 42nd birthday. Your humble blogger was due to interview him at a convention four days later and was stunned to hear his close friend Nicholas Courtney announce his passing at the event. I was sat on the front row of the main hall, dressed (for charity reasons) in a Sea Devil costume at the time; It hid the tears.

There were still a few of Ian’s books yet to be published, so we’ve not quite said a final goodbye to him yet, but I thought it’d be appropriate to pay tribute here. There are plenty of Target novels I’ve not read prior to this project, but this is one I return to regularly. It’s not an official one, so ‘doesn’t count’, but it’s by far and away my favourite novel by one of my absolute favourite Target authors.

Chapter 102. Doctor Who – The Time Monster (1986)

Synopsis: Experiments in a Cambridge laboratory have created instability in the web of time. The Master is using a trident-shaped crystal to summon Kronos, a creature from legend that ‘eats’ time itself. Recognising the origin of the crystal, the Doctor and Jo travel back to the time of Atlantis with the hope of stopping the Master but instead find themselves caught in his trap. When Kronos finally arrives, however, it is the Master who has to plead for his life…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare
  • 2. The Test
  • 3. The Summoning
  • 4. The Ageing
  • 5. The Legend
  • 6. The Ambush
  • 7. The High Priest
  • 8. The Secret
  • 9. Time Attack
  • 10. Take-Off
  • 11. The Time-Eater
  • 12. Atlantis
  • 13. The Guardian
  • 14. The Captives
  • 15. The Return of Kronos

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Sloman’s scripts for the 1972 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 9 in Target’s library.

Notes: Professor Thascalos (not ‘Thascales’) is…:

… a medium-sized, compactly but powerfully built man, this Professor Thascalos, with sallow skin and a neatly-trimmed pointed beard. His dark burning eyes radiated energy and power.

A familiar description, but it’s not until he hypnotises Doctor Charles Perceval (not ‘Percival’) that Thascalos is revealed to be the Master. Percival’s predecessor was ‘over-fond of the bottle’ and so ‘an easy man [for the Master] to impress and to deceive’. The Master’s TOMTIT apparatus recreates ‘the powers of the legendary Timescoop of the Time Lords, forbidden by Rassilon in the Dark Time’, something only revealed eleven years later (or three years ago in book terms) in The Five Doctors.

The Doctor’s TARDIS sniffer-outer’ is ‘rather like a table tennis bat’ (it looks a lot ruder on telly!). Young Atlantean councillor Miseus is renamed ‘Myseus’. Perceval is accidentally confused with Humphrey Cook when he’s called ‘Humphrey Perceval’ seconds before his final moments. Weirdly, Dicks references the new TARDIS control room design and why we don’t see it again, as Jo notes that ‘from time to time, the Doctor altered some detail of the TARDIS interior. More often than not he decided he didn’t like what he’d done and reverted to the original.’ After the Master has captured Jo and disappeared in his TARDIS, Queen Galleia frees the Doctor and admits that she was wrong to trust the Master, just as she accepts that the people of Atlantis cannot be saved.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a multilayered piece depicting the female eyes of Kronos, the winged Kronos creature and the trident crystal. It might be my favourite Skilleter cover.

Final Analysis: In the 1990s, when the Pertwee backlash was in full swing in some fanzines, The Time Monster came in for a particularly hard time. Compared to the Master’s previous exploits, it feels a little lightweight and it suffers from wading in the same pool as The Daemons, which concluded the previous season. There are ancient myths, the Master posing as a member of a community and resurrecting a godlike being. Sadly, we also get a load of nonsense with the Doctor balancing house-hold rubbish on a wine bottle before playing matador with a real, live minotaur, while the whole narrative purpose of UNIT seems a long way from its origins as an organisation investigating serious alien threats to Earth. The Brigadier is particularly dim while Benton’s reward for being the only member of UNIT with any brains is to be left standing before his peers in a nappy.

I’m not here to review the TV stories of course, but it’s difficult to avoid doing so when the book sticks so closely to the transmitted version. All of these excesses are present and correct in this book and, for once, Terrance Dicks’ methodical approach doesn’t work quite so well. It can be summed up by this underwhelming description of the final destruction of the TOMTIT machine:

… the result was nothing more serious than a loud bang, a shower of sparks and a lot of smoke.

Just one other observation: In the descriptions, the Brigadier’s number two is ‘Captain Yates’ or ‘Mike Yates’, but never ‘Mike’. Always the full name.

Chapter 98. Doctor Who – The Invasion (1985)

Synopsis: International Electromatix is a world leader in developing popular electrical devices. The head of the company is the charming and persuasive Tobias Vaughn. But Vaughn’s company is merely a front for a much grander scheme. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe accidentally find themselves party to an investigation into Vaughn by an organisation called UNIT. Soon, friends old and new help the Doctor uncover the secret behind Vaughn and his partners, who also know the Doctor of old…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Home Sweet Home?
  • 2. Old Friends
  • 3. Cat and Mouse
  • 4. Hitching Lifts
  • 5. Skeletons and Cupboards
  • 6. Secret Weapons
  • 7. Underground Operations
  • 8. Invasion
  • 9. Counter Measures
  • 10. The Nick of Time

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts from the 1968 serial by Kit Pedler and Derrick Sherwin.

Notes: The TARDIS pulls itself together and the Doctor’s companions reappear after the ‘disintegration of the TARDIS in their previous adventure [which] had been a horrifying experience’ [we might assume this follows on from The Mind Robber, but it could also be from some unseen adventure]. Jamie is ‘a robust young Highlander clad in faded kilt and sporran, tattered sleeveless sheepskin waistcoat and sturdy boots’, while Zoe is ‘a bright-eyed teenager with a large face, wide mouth and short black hair and she was wearing a tomboyish trouser-suit’ (not the sparkly catsuit seen on screen or the gaudy mini-skirt and stockings she picks up at Isobel’s apartment). The Doctor has ‘small hands’ apparently, and he looks like ‘an old-fashioned fairground showman’. Later, he’s said to chew the ‘frayed edge of his cravat’.

International ‘Electromatics’ becomes ‘Electromatix’ and its logo is a ‘zig-zag of lightning in the grip of a clenched glove’ rather than the letters ‘IE’ on screen. The introduction of Tobias Vaughn is extraordinarily precise:

The combination of swept-back silver hair and thick black eyebrows gave the older man a disturbing appearance. His right eye was permanently half closed, but his left gazed wide open with chilling pale blue iris and huge black pupil. His clothes were coldly elegant: a plain suit with collarless jacket, round-necked shirt and gleaming black shoes with chrome buckles.

(The detail of his half-closed eye is that of the actor, Kevin Stoney, not the character!)

When Vaughn asks ‘whom I have had the pleasure..?’ the Doctor replies, ‘Not Whom… Who…’ – the closest reminder we’ve had in a while of his proper, official, no-arguments surname. Vaughn  opens the hidden panel in his office with a control disguised as a pen. The machine behind the panel – referred to as the Cyber Unit or Cyber Module – claims to recognise the Doctor and Jamie from ‘Planet Sigma Gamma 14’. The Module is about two metres high, resembling ‘a gigantic radio valve’. 

Bristling electrodes sprouted from a revolving central crystal suspended within a delicate cage of sparking, fizzing filaments. Cathode tubes were arranged like a belt of glass ammunition around the base of the cage and the whole sparkling mechanism was supported in a lattice of shimmering wires and tubes. The planes of the crystal flickered with millions of tiny points of intense blue light and the apparatus possessed a sinister beauty as it hovered in the darkness.

The Brigadier is introduced as a ‘tall officer’ with a ‘strong square-jawed face and neatly clipped moustache suggesting calm and confident authority.’ The communications device he gives to the Doctor is a ‘Polyvox’ with a range of 100km – slightly more powerful than the onscreen ‘TM-45’, which could cover 50 miles (about 80km). He becomes increasingly irritated by the Doctor’s insistence of signing off a radio transmission with a cheery ‘Under and off” and later ‘Down and out’! Jamie writes ‘Kilroy was here’ in the dust on the top of a lift; it’s a nice reference to a bit of graffiti that Frazer Hines wrote on the lift shaft wall on TV, but it’s odd that Jamie even knows the phrase, while the Doctor doesn’t recognise it. Two of the workmen in the IE complex are named ‘Sangster and Graves’ (as far as I know, this is the only time my surname appears in a Target book, but I suspect it’s more a reference to the Hammer horror writer-director than a teenage me). Major-General Rutlidge becomes ‘Routledge’; he addresses the Brigadier as ‘Alistair’ (the Brig’s first name wasn’t revealed on screen until Planet of the Spiders).

Marter’s description of an emerging Cyberman matches that of the ones he himself saw in Revenge of the Cybermen:

It stood about two metres high, with a square head from which right-angled loops of hydraulic tubing protruded on either side. Its rudimentary face comprised two blank viewing lenses for eyes and a rectangular slit for a mouth. The broad chest contained a grilled ventilator unit which hissed nightmarishly. Thick flexible tubing ran along the arms and down each leg and was connected into a flattened humplike unit on the creature’s back. Faint gasping and whirring noises inside the silvery body accompanied every movement.

It’s a ‘young constable’ who follows the crazy kids down into the sewers to his death (he’s a little older on TV). Gregory is shot dead during the rescue of Professor Watkins, rather than by a rogue Cyberman in the sewers. When Vaughn dies, his screams sound like a Cyberman. There are a few name changes along the way: Watkins’ machine is called the ‘Cerebration Mentor’ (not ‘Cerebraton’); ‘Henlow Downs’ becomes ‘Henlow Flats’ (echoes of Quatermass II there); Major Branwell and Sergeant Peters become ‘Squadron Leader Branwell’ and flight lieutenant Peters; and, famously, the Russian missile base is called ‘Nykortny’ after Ian Marter’s good friend Nicholas Courtney (and I suspect the final chapter title is a tribute to him as well). The missiles target a single Cyber-mothership, rather than an entire fleet. Jamie spends two days in hospital before the time travellers depart – and the Brigadier joins Isobel and Captain Turner in waving them off.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s original cover has a Cyberman holding a flaming gun in front of a red UNIT emblem. For the 1993 reprint, Alister Pearson paints the Doctor musing in front of two symmetrically positioned Cybermen.

Final Analysis: We reach peak Marter here, as the author goes all out with gruey violence: Having been compelled to shoot himself, Routledge ‘vomited a stream of blood and pitched forward onto his face at Vaughn’s feet’ while the Cybermen are destroyed by the Cerebration Mentor ‘with smoke and black fluid-like pus oozing from their joints and grilles’. There’s also the return of a singular swearword, as Packer vows ‘We’ll kill the bastard this time’. On publication, this more adult approach was received with some concern, but it does at least make the stakes feel really high. Weirdly, it also makes the Cybermen feel more of a threat, even though they’re possibly even less of a physical presence here than on TV. As in Marter’s Earthshock, the horror of the Cybermen is a sensual experience, from the electric fizzing of the Module to the ‘nightmarish mechanical rasp’ of their breath, ‘rubbery’ with ‘sickly, oily exhalations’. When one of them is struck in the chest unit by an exploding grenade, ‘thick black fluid pump[s] copiously out of the severed tubes’. And, having made Packer even more violent and sadistic than his TV counterpart, it’s satisfying that he gets a particularly gruesome exit:

The Cyberman’s laser unit emitted a series of blinding flashes and Packer’s body seemed to alternate from positive to negative in the blistering discharge. His uniform erupted into flames and his exposed skin crinkled and fused like melted toffee papers. 

Chapter 96. Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil (1985)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo attend a presentation at Stangmoor Prison, where a pioneering new machine for treating violent criminals is being tested. UNIT is providing security at an international conference while also overseeing the transportation of a missile. A series of seemingly unconnected deaths at the prison and among the peace conference are further complicated by a riot breaking out at the prison. The chaos is another scheme by the Master and the Doctor has it in his power to bring it all to an end – but is the price too high even for him?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sentence
  • 2. The Terror
  • 3. The Inferno
  • 4. The Listener
  • 5. The Pistol
  • 6. The Dragon
  • 7. The Hostage
  • 8. The Mutiny
  • 9. The Test
  • 10. The Mind Parasite
  • 11. Hijack
  • 12. The Escape
  • 13. The Attack
  • 14. The Reunion
  • 15. The Mind of Evil
  • 16. The Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Don Houghton for the 1971 serial, completing Target’s run of stories from Season 8.

Notes: A few characters gain additional back-stories. The governor of Stangmore is named ‘Victor Camford’; he’s ‘a massive, heavy-featured man with dark hair and bushy eyebrows’. Professor Kettering is revealed to be completely out of his depth, adept at politics but completely ignorant of the workings of the Keller machine. He was hired personally by Emil Keller and it’s clear the eminent scientist (who is the Master of course) was exploiting Kettering’s personality flaws. Barnham ‘choked the life out of a security guard’ who disturbed him during a robbery. Harry Mailer has ‘a weathered, corrugated look, as if made of leather rather than normal skin’. A gang leader who organised a ‘highly successful’ protection racket in London, Mailer was arrested and convicted after killing someone within sight of witnesses. It’s suggested that he might have been responsible for many other murders, bodies that have never been found as they’re ’embedded in the foundations of bridges and motorways all over England’ (see also Meglos for another example of hiding bodies in motorway constructions). 

Captain Yates is ‘a thin, sensitive-looking young man, a good deal tougher than he looked’. Benton relishes the opportunity for some plain-clothes work and imagines himself as ‘James Bond’. We’re treated to the best description of him so far:

The Sergeant had many excellent qualities. He was a burly, handsome young man, a fine figure in his military uniform. He was completely fearless and utterly loyal. But he wouldn’t have been the Brigadier’s first choice for an undercover assignment. For one thing, he was just too big. Benton lurking in a doorway with his raincoat collar turned up, was about as inconspicuous as an elephant at a tea party. 

The Brigadier nods off at his desk and he dreams he is a young subaltern again, with a young lady called Doris [see Planet of the Spiders and Battlefield]. The Doctor eventually recalls that the parasite inside the machine comes from a planet from which ‘no expedition had ever returned’. As it begins an attack on the Master, the Keller Machine is said to be ‘fully aroused’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a portrait of the Master with the missile.

Final Analysis: Considering how those mid-to-late Tom Baker books saw a surfeit of Dicks, it really is a treat to find one of his books is next on the list. Terrance dominated the first 100 releases, but there are few of them left by this point. We can rejoice in this one being the second and last of Don Houghton’s scripts to be novelised, from an era where, along with producer Barry Letts, Terrance was king of Doctor Who. There’s a sense that the story is made up largely of three ‘episode two’s sandwiched between an opening and closing episode; Terrance does little to change this, but it’s enjoyable to see a few additional bits of detail that sketch in the lives of our supporting characters.

On TV, Professor Kettering reacts against the Doctor at his most obnoxious, whereas here, we find out he is completely winging it and the Doctor is (unconsciously) correct to pick apart his claims. Barnham and Mailer are both revealed to be extremely violent thugs, so the contrast between them after Barnham has been processed is even more stark – and Mailer is immediately as threatening a presence as he is on screen. A surprise and disappointment comes with the arrival of the Chinese dragon, which kills the delegate. While it provides an appropriate point to conclude a chapter, Dicks doesn’t make much of it or make any attempt to make it more dramatic than the ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ that so failed to impress the production team as it waddled onto set. For once, he chooses just to say ‘it happened’ and move on. Whether this was down to word-count or he was just trying not to resurrect painful memories of the costume, we’ll never know.

Chapter 89. Doctor Who – Inferno (1984)

Synopsis: UNIT has been invited to provide security for a top secret drilling project to find a new energy source from the Earth’s core. Hoping that the facility might help with his repairs to the TARDIS, the Doctor immediately becomes an irritation for the project’s director and instigator Professor Stahlman, who is determined to see the project to undoubted victory, whatever the risk. Then a freak accident sees the Doctor transported to a parallel world where Stahlman’s project is much further advanced – and the dangers more apparent. Can the Doctor save this world and make it back to his own in time?

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Project Inferno
  • 2. The Beast
  • 3. Mutant
  • 4. The Slime
  • 5. Dimension of Terror
  • 6. The Nightmare
  • 7. Death Sentence
  • 8. Countdown to Doom
  • 9. Penetration-Zero
  • 10. The Monsters
  • 11. Escape Plan
  • 12. Doomsday
  • 13. Return to Danger
  • 14. The Last Mutation
  • 15. The Doctor Takes a Trip

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for the 1970 serial by Don Houghton.

Notes: The Stahlman Project is ‘the greatest scientific project that England had ever known’; it’s predicted to be ‘more technologically advanced than nuclear power’ and, more importantly, ‘far more lucrative than North Sea Oil’, promising ‘limitless free energy for everyone’. We’re reminded that these are still the early days of the Doctor’s exile by the Time Lords to Earth. The complex that houses the project is in ‘a messy, unattractive-looking area’ – and this will be relevant later.

Professor Stahlman’s first name is Eric and he grew up ‘in the ruins of post-war Germany’ (which means he’s either only in his late twenties or he grew up in post-First-World-War Germany – unless Terrance Dicks is maintaining the idea of UNIT stories being set in a ‘near future’).  Sir Keith Gold observes Professor Stahlman’s ‘bulky broad-shouldered body and massive close-cropped head’, with a neat beard; in his mind, Sir Keith compares him to a gorilla in a lab coat – and immediately feels guilty for being so uncharitable. It’s an interesting choice to make Stahlman physically strong, ‘powerfully built man’, as this accentuates his early encounter with the Doctor, who restrains him with just two fingers and freezes him to the spot.

Liz Shaw is a ‘serious-looking girl with reddish-brown hair’ dressed in ‘a rather incongruously frivolous-looking mini-skirt’ – details which help to provide contrast with the parallel-world version. We’re reminded that Liz is ‘a scientist of some distinction in her own right’ and that she had been brought into UNIT from Cambridge ‘some time ago’. Petra Williams is ‘an attractive white-coated young woman, with a pleasant open face’ – yes, just like the Fifth Doctor – ‘framed by long fair hair’. Greg Sutton is said to be ‘a burly, broad-shouldered man’ and he has ‘a pleasantly ugly face’ (a bit unfair on Derek Newark there, Terrance!)  and ‘a sun-baked, wind-weathered complexion’. 

The Doctor witnesses Stahlman stealing the microcircuit and exclaims ‘Jumping Jehosophat’, as he does when he sees the Master in The Five Doctors. When he finally escapes limbo and lands in the parallel world, the Doctor is aware that he’s not where he’d previously been because the hut is tidy (the Doctor likes ‘a bit of clutter’). The neatness extends to the rest of the surrounding area, which has also been ‘tidied up’. Without the moustache of the Brigadier, the Brigade Leader’s mouth looks ‘thin-lipped and cruel’. The Doctor begins to speculate as to the cause of the parallel world and guesses that it might be down to a different outcome for the Second World War. The savage beasts are simply mutants (they’re called ‘Primords’ on the end titles of the TV episodes, but the word isn’t used in dialogue or in the novel). The novel retains the radio broadcasts that were cut from the original transmission (but retained for overseas broadcast). The Doctor checks his pulse and it’s ‘normal’ at 70 (it’s 170 on TV). The Doctor realises that he was so ‘haunted by that nightmarish vision of an exploding Earth’ that his violent outburst at Stahlman will have damaged his credibility.

Cover: Nick Spender’s fiery illustration shows a likeness of Ian Fairbairn as technician Bromley beginning to transform into an atavistic beast on the roof of a cooling tower beneath a burning sky. It’s quite the scariest cover since Alun Hood’s 1979 piece for the Terror of the Autons reprint.

Final Analysis: The first of two Don Houghton stories adapted by Terrance Dicks and it’s a real treat. It benefits from the increased page-count that’s gradually crept in since Terrance’s middle-period, plus it’s the sort of story that really plays to Terrance’s strengths as his economic thumbnail-sketch descriptions help us remember who’s who and what’s different about them in the other world. We also get an insight into the Doctor’s thought process, initially fascinated by the opportunity to explore a parallel world until he begins to treat the people he encounters as real, and not just disposable alternatives of the ones he knew on the other Earth. His horror at realising he has to give up on the alt-world to gain the chance to save his own Earth stays with him, even down to him accepting his desperation has alienated the very people he’s trying to save. And as we’ll discover, it’s a devastating decision that will haunt him for… well, at least as long as Don Houghton’s other story.

Chapter 82. Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead (1984)

Synopsis: A chance reunion with the Brigadier at a boys’ school is just the beginning of the Doctor’s troubles. An alien seeks a cure for himself and his colleagues who are trapped in an eternal mutation. Tegan is lost in another time. And Turlough, one of the Brigadier’s pupils, has just made a terrible promise to a powerful being – the Black Guardian has returned. With Turlough’s help, the Guardian will have his revenge on the Doctor!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. An Accidental Meeting
  • 2. A New Enemy
  • 3. An Old Friend
  • 4. The Alien in the Tardis
  • 5. Return to the Ship
  • 6. Rising of the Undead
  • 7. Double Danger of the Brigadier
  • 8. All Present and Correct

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts from the serial broadcast six months earlier.

Notes: The building that is now Brendan School was once the country seat of the Mulle-Heskith family. The school was founded in 1922 and the obelisk on the brow of the hill is a tribute to a late member of the former occupants, General Rufus Mulle-Heskith. By 1983, the headmaster of the school is a Mr Sellick, who owns a ‘smelly doberman’. The school medic, Dr Peter Runciman, is aided by the matron, Miss Cassidy. Turlough joined Brendan School at sixth-form level, so is at least 16 years old; as the story begins in summer, he can’t be more than 17, or else he’d be looking forward to being free of the school forever in just a month or so, so he must be in the lower-sixth with a full year to go before freedom – or his next enforced prison. He is ‘thin as a willow, his auburn hair, blue eyes and sharp-boned face investing him with an unworldly, pre-Raphaelite appearance’. His friend Ibbotson is ‘a lump’ and ‘a bore’. 

After Turlough’s antics with his new car, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart tells Dr Runciman that longs for the return of capital punishmen: As we discussed in the chapter about The Sea Devils, the death penalty was repealed in the UK for murder in 1965 (and for most other offenses except treason in 1969); while the Brigadier’s reaction is extreme (and not to be taken seriously), most schools in the UK still practiced corporal punishment (the entirely less terminal practice of beating or otherwise physically abusing children as punishment) until it was banned (thanks to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights) in 1986. However, at private schools such as Brendan, which possibly had no financial support from the government, corporal punishment was still permitted in England and Wales until 1998. So when Turlough and Ibbotson talk about a ‘beating’, it’s likely to have involved being hit repeatedly by either a length of wooden cane or a leather strap.

The identity of the main villain is revealed gradually; as on screen he introduces himself as Turlough’s ‘guardian’ and then ‘the voice of the man in black’ (a subtle nod for older readers to Valentine Dyall’s most famous radio persona) before finally being confirmed as the Black Guardian. Turlough’s bargain with his ‘guardian’ is left vague, as the boy can’t quite remember what he agreed to, and his various attempts to kill the Doctor are defined more clearly as being down to the Black Guardian’s possession of Turlough than conscious acts on the boy’s part. As in Terminus, the Black Guardian’s controlling device is a crystal ‘cube’. Very early on, he’s identified as the Doctor’s ‘new companion’ – if there were any doubt, having already met the character in two previous novels by this point. Turlough reveals his extra-terrestrial knowledge very swiftly too, which both makes Tegan suspicious and sends a very deliberate message to the Doctor that the boy is not from Earth without having to spell it out for him.

To distinguish the sunny 1983 setting, in 1977 it’s raining. The spherical capsule is said to be ‘dimensionally transcendental’ like the TARDIS – a further clue to the source of Mawdryn’s people’s curse. Tegan recalls the smell of ‘slaughtered cattle’ on her uncle’s farm when she was a child. Mawdryn is much more alien in his natural form, with ‘bulging reptilian eyes, his high domed forehead and slimy flesh that crept and quivered like a stranded fish’. Seeing the misery of Mawdryn reminds the Brigadier of an incident 35 years earlier when he was a lieutenant in Palestine, when a badly wounded young conscript begged him to ‘take his rifle and kill him’.

On his return to the school, the Brigadier reassures the headmaster that there will be no request to return Turlough’s fees; the headmaster is unperturbed by Turlough’s disappearance as such things are a regular occurrence. A mechanic from a nearby village has fallen in love with the Brigadier’s car and has offered to help make it roadworthy again, so to celebrate, the Brig goes to the pub.

Cover: Another really dull photo cover of the Doctor in the TARDIS. Alister Pearson’s 1991 reprint cover is so much better, another “floating heads’ design incorporating The Doctor, Mawdryn, the Black Guardian, the transmat pod and Turlough, all around a 1977 Queen’s Silver jubilee pin. 

Final Analysis: I said I was looking forward to Peter Grimwade’s next effort and this is a huge step up from Time Flight. The author attended a similar school to Brendan in the 1950s and he deftly captures the casual brutality of public-school life. Obligatory note for American readers: ‘Public school’ means it’s a private school with fees to be paid; the equivalent of the US ‘public school’ is a state school like Coal Hill. Grimwade depicts the Brigadier’s ‘flashback’ montage from TV in a beautiful way, with quotes of the Doctor from past adventures that start to swim into sharp focus as the Brigadier’s memory returns. He also explores the abject misery of Mawdryn and his people in a way that affects the Doctor’s friends in different ways. Turlough is shown to be sly and self-serving but with a glimmer of hope that he isn’t completely under the influence of the Black Guardian, and just in case there’s any doubt, Tegan’s intuition is proven to be right at every single stage of the story, from her suspicion of Turlough to her incredulity that the disfigured Mawdryn is the Doctor.

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

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Chapter #1. Junior Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (May 1979)

Synopsis: A giant robot created by evil scientists stalks through the night, smashing everything in its path, while the Doctor recovers from changing his body. It’s the same plot as Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, but much, much faster!

Chapter Titles

Almost identical to the original novel, apart from an edit to chapter two.

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

Background: Terrance Dicks rewrites his previous adaptation of the story for ages 5-8.

Notes: The whole story is streamlined down to very simple descriptions and dialogue. Harry’s entire James Bond subplot is reduced down to two lines before he’s knocked out (and he calls the Brigadier on a radio rather than finding a telephone). The story ends with the Doctor watching as the robot turns to rust and is blown away. He muses whether he can tempt Sarah off on another adventure – but there’s no mention of Harry joining them.

Cover & Illustrations: The cover by Harry Hants has a slightly caricatured Tom Baker with a very detailed side-on view of K1 and an army truck. Peter Edwards provides 46 line illustrations that aren’t exactly flattering to their subjects but are still better likenesses of the guest cast than most of the early Target books had (they’re reminiscent of the kind of illustrations Terrence Greer used to do for Penguin, or it might remind modern adult readers of the grotesque characters in BBC Three’s animated comedy Monkey Dust). There’s a joyful picture of the Doctor emerging with a beaming grin from the TARDIS in a Viking outfit, while the scene of the virus being flung at the robot is gleefully epic. Kettlewell is, surprisingly, more refined than on telly, a bespectacled bald man, lacking the TV version’s crazy hair.

Final Analysis: Writing for younger children, Dicks manages to get all the details lined up in the correct order and rushes through the story with lots of energy. As the original novel was also the first not to have any illustrations, Peter Edwards’ ink drawings are a real treat that really help to tell the story rather than just break up the text.

Chapter 42. Doctor Who and the Time Warrior (1978)

Synopsis: Scientists have disappeared from across the country. In an attempt to keep them safe, the remaining experts have been brought to a research centre under the guard of UNIT – but still they continue to vanish. The Doctor identifies the cause must be someone with access to time travel. Following the trail in the TARDIS back to the Middle Ages, the Doctor discovers the time-hopping kidnapper is a Sontaran warrior – unaware that the TARDIS has brought alomg a 20th-Century stowaway aboard in the form of intrepid journalist Sarah Jane Smith. 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1.  Irongron’s Star
  • 2. Linx’s Bargain
  • 3. Sarah’s Bluff
  • 4. Irongron’s Captive
  • 5. The Doctor Disappears
  • 6. A Shock for Sarah
  • 7. Prisoner in the Past
  • 8. The Robot Knight
  • 9. Linx’s Slaves
  • 10. Irongron’s Wizard
  • 11. The Rescue
  • 12. The Doctor’s Magic
  • 13. Counter Attack
  • 14. The Robot’s Return
  • 15. Shooting Gallery
  • 16. Return to Danger
  • 17. Linx’s Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ scripts for the 1973-4 serial, except from the prologue, which Holmes wrote himself before handing the task over to Dicks.

Notes: Three years after the word ‘Sontaran’ first appeared in a Target book [see Terror of the Autons], we finally meet one – in the most exciting prologue ever, written by Robert Holmes! We join Sontaran Commander Jingo Linx as his ship faces certain obliteration after an unsuccessful battle against the Rutans in their third galactic war. We learn that the Sontarans come from the planet Sontara and he listens to the ‘sweet strains of the Sontaran Anthem’ (presumably the same one that accompanies Linx’s flag when he erects it in front of Bloodaxe) as his ship makes a last desperate escape from the black, dart-shaped Rutan pursuit ships. Sontarans are cyborgs, thanks to implants in the back of their neck that allow them to draw energy through a ‘probic vent’. The procedure that allows this is undergone on entry to the Space Corps and although it gives him a rush of energy, Linx always dreads taking a ‘power burn’.

The flood of power through his tissues was like a roaring madness, a chaotic maelstrom of colour and sound depriving him of all sentient knowledge of the outside world. He felt himself clinging like a limpet within some solitary crevice of consciousness, aware only that he still existed… still existed… still… 

His cruiser is destroyed, driven into a sun as a diversion to allow him to escape the Rutans in a small scout ship. As the ship heads towards a little blue planet orbiting the sun, Linx allows himself a smile usually reserved for the ‘ the death throes of an enemy’. Most of the details here have been forgotten by subsequent authors, even Holmes himself [see The Two Doctors], but it should be mandatory reading for any hopeful Sontaran scribes. 

Irongron and his band of men had once ‘roamed the forest like wolves’ before stumbling upon a castle abandoned by a lord away ‘at the wars’. His group attacked the castle at night, its inhabitants massacred, and the castle became his. His nearest neighbour, Sir Edward Fitzroy, is sickly, having returned from the Crusades with a fever. Sir Edward’s son and most of his soldiers are still fighting the king’s crusades overseas, leaving him with a depleted defence. His young squire, Eric, is given a splendid introduction, riding through the forest, wary of being too close to Irongron’s castle and falling victim to a simple trap laid by Bloodaxe.

When he first addresses Irongron, Linx speaks with ‘a booming metallic voice… strangely accented but clearly understandable English’ and the suggestion is that this is due to a translation device, not his natural voice.

The Brigadier brings the Doctor in to investigate the missing scientists and equipment to distract him as he’s missing Jo since she had got married and has refused a new assistant ever since. The Doctor is described as ‘a tall man with a lined young-old face and a shock of white hair’ (we’ll be seeing this description regularly from now on). He insists on having the TARDIS brought to the research centre in case there’s an alien influence he needs to trace. Sarah Jane Smith is introduced, ‘an attractive dark-haired girl’ who is a freelance journalist (the ‘freelance’ bit is new to the book) who has been ‘making her own way in a man’s world for some years now, and she strongly resented any suggestion that her sex doomed her to an inferior role’. The Doctor tells Rubeish that ‘Lavinia Smith’ is a woman in her ‘late sixties’ as well as being in America. The Brigadier reminds the Doctor about his failed attempts to reach Metabelis III (‘I got there eventually’, says the Doctor defensively). We get Sarah’s first reaction to the inside of the TARDIS and she hides inside a wardrobe when the Doctor enters. Realising that the wardrobe is bigger than the police box she entered – and the central control room even bigger again – she quickly forms a theory that the Doctor is an alien responsible for kidnapping the scientists. She also watches the switch the Doctor uses to open the door and uses the same switch to escape.

Linx rides on horseback for the attack on Sir Edward’s castle. The attack on Linx, the destruction of Irongron’s castle and the Doctor’s departure with Sarah all happen at night. Although Hal’s arrow kills Linx, the hand of the dead warrior hits the launch button and his ship escapes the burning castle to be returned with Linx’s corpse to the war in the stars. And hurrah for Hal as he rescues Squire Eric from the dungeon!

Oh and there’s a chapter title called ‘Return to Danger’ – so close!!

Cover: Linx the Sontaran strikes a dramatic pose before his globe-shaped craft, a superb photorealistic portrait by Roy Knipe. The cover for the 1993 reprint by Alister Pearson places the Doctor, Sarah and Irongron in square tiles behind Linx, who’s side on and holding his helmet by his side.

Final Analysis: It might be heresy but I’m not a fan of this story on TV and reading this story I can put it down to Alan Bromly’s static, leaden direction. But look at all the notes in this chapter and join me in wondering if Terrance Dicks was spurred on by his friend Holmes’ wonderful opening prologue – top three in the series so far*. Compare the two descriptions of Linx’s face – the first is by Holmes, the second by Dicks, picking up the baton:

… the heavy bones, the flat powerful muscles, the leathery, hairless epidermis, the calculating brain.… little, red eyes that were like fire-lit caves under the great green-brown dome of a skull…

The face beneath was something out of a nightmare. The head was huge and round, emerging directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greenish-brown in colour, the eyes small and red. The little nose was a pig-like snout, the mouth long and lipless. It was a face from one of Earth’s dark legends, the face of a goblin or a troll. 

This extends to the major and minor characters – how Sir Edward waits for his wife to ‘run out of words’ and on the very next line ‘It was a considerable wait.’ It’s clear Dicks enjoyed this. I know I did. 

* – See also Doctor Who and the Crusaders and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks.