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.

Chapter 31. Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos (1977)

Synopsis: A strange object from space lands on Earth near a nuclear power station. Inside are Axons, a family of golden beings who offer unlimited power in return for help with their damaged spacecraft. While the Doctor tries to keep an open mind, an ambitious politician rushes to seize the Axon’s power for his own interests. Deep inside the alien craft, the Master is being held captive – and as Jo Grant discovers, that’s not the only secret the Axons are keeping…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Invader from Space
  • 2. The Landing
  • 3. The Voice of Axos
  • 4. Enter the Master
  • 5. The Doctor Makes a Plan
  • 6. Escape from Axos
  • 7. The Axons Attack
  • 8. The Power Robbers
  • 9. The Sacrifice
  • 10. Brainstorm
  • 11. The Feast of Axos
  • 12. Trapped in Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin from the 1971 production.

Notes: As it soars towards Earth, the Axos ship has a ‘constantly changing’ shape and glows with a ‘myriad of colours’ – its intention is to be noticed. The first scene with the two radio operators is expanded here; they’re not UNIT operators here, but personnel at the tracking station – Ransome and his assistant, Harry – who work down the list of people they need to contact and find ‘something called UNIT’. The first interaction between the Brigadier and Chinn also provides background information – the minister in overall charge of Chinn’s department cannot stand him, and as the Brigadier is also a problem, he decides to set the two men against each other in the hope that the winner will eliminate one or the other. Although UNIT is governed from Geneva, the Brigadier’s operations are part-funded by the British Government. Corporal Bell is not part of this story, her role is given to a nameless male technician.

We get an introductory scene where Bill Filer is on the hunt for a man called ‘Joe Grant’ – and Jo corrects him. Bill is described as having ‘closely trimmed brown hair and a pleasantly ugly face’ – wow, that’s a pretty mean swipe at the reasonably handsome Paul Grist who played him.

The Doctor and Jo drive to the landing site in Bessie (yay!). 

The Axon who first frightens Jo subsequently appears as a male identical to the Axon leader. The Axon leader does not assume that the toad is livestock, but spells out the potential, had it been a ‘food animal’. The process transforms the toad into a huge form that overwhelms Chinn and makes him scream. Later, as Axos reacts to the Doctor’s experiment, the Eye of Axos is said to be ‘lashing wildly to and fro on its stalk’, which is much more fluid a movement than the TV prop could manage.

Jo overhears the Doctor speculating about Axonite’s potential for time travel and suspects he has selfish intentions early on. The Doctor spots straight away that the Axon-Filer is a fake thanks to his experience of the Autons replicating humans. He also baffles a sentry to gain access to the arrested Brigadier: ‘Good heavens, man, I know the Brigadier’s incommunicado. I’m incommunicado myself. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other.’ Delightful!

The Master enters the Nuton complex disguised as a visitings scientist and recalls the time he broke into UNIT HQ dressed as a ‘humble telephone engineer’. The Master’s TARDIS is a white dome, not a filing cabinet.

To the Eye of Axos’s surprise, the Doctor reveals that he’s deduced that Axos already has some limited ability for time travel; he realised that Axos reached Earth before the missiles were fired and Axos confesses that they can ‘move only moments in Time.’ Hardiman’s assistant (credited on screen as ‘Technician’) is named ‘Ericson’.

Cover: Achilleos gives us an eerie female Axon with rays of light coming from her eyes while an Axon monster looms behind her and the Doctor (taken from a photo from Frontier in Space) is pictured inset looking concerned. A 1979 edition had a cover by John Geary showing the adult male Axon and two very green Axon monsters.

Final Analysis: I’m hugely fond of The Claws of Axos TV episodes, one of those comfort stories I can bung on while I decide what I’d sooner be watching and then settle down and enjoy it. Terrance Dicks captures all of the conflicted loyalties that the Axons draw out of our heroes – are they victims in need, or should they have been blasted into bits from the start? –  but he enhances the suspicion that the Doctor is solely interested in using Axos to escape Earth and relishes in making Chinn hated by absolutely everyone he encounters. The Master once again enjoys the thrill of the adventure, deciding on a whim to jump from a bridge onto a UNIT truck and then exploiting his good fortune when it turns out to be going where he wants to be. The ending is also less rushed than on TV, as Bill Filer says his goodbyes and jokes that he’d thought England would be ‘dull’, Chinn scampers back to the Minister to try framing the success as his own, while the operation to rescue the TARDIS and get it onto the back of a UNIT truck turns into a huge argument, which Jo welcomes as things getting ‘back to normal’. 

Chapter 24. Doctor Who and the Web of Fear (1976)

Synopsis: London has been evacuated as a deadly web-like substance has flooded the underground. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are reunited with an old friend and soon realise the web is connected to an old enemy – the Yeti. The presence of the robot creatures also means someone is controlling them, but who? Could it be the neat-looking army officer they find in the underground tunnels? A man called Lethbridge-Stewart?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Return of Evil
  • 2. The Web in Space
  • 3. The Monster in the Tunnels
  • 4. Danger for the Doctor
  • 5. Battle with the Yeti
  • 6. The Terror of the Web
  • 7. Escape from the Web
  • 8. Return of the Yeti
  • 9. Kidnapped!
  • 10. Danger Above Ground
  • 11. ‘I want your mind’
  • 12. The Fall of the Fortress
  • 13. Captives of the Intelligence
  • 14. The Final Duel

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts 1967 scripts by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.

Notes: TV’s Julius Silverstein becomes a marginally less stereotypical Emil Julius, while Travers’ murdered companion from The Abominable Snowmen is here given the full name of ‘Angus Mackay’ (and the events of that earlier story are stated as having taken place in 1935). Although Travers was seen as a failure by his peers, his obsession with the Yeti control sphere led him towards electronics, which made him both rich and famous. The Yeti matches the description from its earlier appearance, with fangs and glowing red eyes, so there’s no mention of the transformation into a new version. There’s no resolution from the previous story (which won’t be published for some years yet), but we do get more details of what happened in the weeks after the first Yeti awakens, and how Central London became ‘gripped tight in a Web of Fear’ (extra points for crow-barring the title in there).

There’s a reminder at the start that Jamie was a Jacobean rebel; when Arnold asks for his help, Jamie’s reticent, as ‘although their coats were khaki rather than red, Jamie found it hard to forget that English soldiers were his traditional enemies’. We’re also told that Victoria had joined the TARDIS after an encounter with the Daleks, abandoning her usual big frocks for more practical clothing (Victoria is wearing ‘slacks’ rather than the mini-skirt she pops on in her first TV scene). As well as the summary of Travers’ first encounter with the time travellers, we also get a reminder of what the Great Intelligence is.

Dicks is both flattering and cutting when it comes to the reporter, Chorley:

He was an impressive looking man with a stern, handsome face, and a deep, melodious voice. He was also extremely photogenic. On television he gave the impression of a sincere, wise and responsible man. Unfortunately, his looks were deceptive. Chorley was weak, vain and in reality rather stupid. But appearances count for a great deal in public life. Chorley’s voice and his looks, together with a certain natural cunning, had enabled him to establish himself as one of television’s best-known interviewers and reporters.

Considering the TV version owed more than a little to Alan Whicker, this is surely a risky detail?

There’s the Doctor’s first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart, which without too much hyperbole is classed as ‘in its way as historic an encounter as that between Stanley and Doctor Livingstone’, followed by a brief history of what’s already happened for the reader but has yet to occur for the characters (Brigadier, UNIT, etc). Evans says to Jamie ‘Don’t stand there mooning, boyo. Let’s get out while we can!’ which accidentally paints the rather strange image of Jamie lifting the back of his kilt up to taunt the glowing web. Later, when Evans complains about his tobacco tin being taken from him, the Doctor reproaches him, saying ‘Smoking’s very bad for you’.

Corporal Blake is killed by a Yeti’s webgun rather than a vicious chop from its claw. The Intelligence speaks to Victoria through the underground public address system (as opposed to just being a disembodied voice) and when a possessed character speaks, they do so with the Intelligence’s voice, not a version of their own. The Colonel remains brave throughout and doesn’t have the brief wobble he had on telly. The story concludes with him musing about setting up some sort of ‘Intelligence Task Force’, while the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria make it safely back to the TARDIS.

Cover: Achilleos’s original cover art is gorgeous – a huge Troughton looks down as a Yeti (a hybrid of an Abominable one and parts of a Web of Fear one) holds Staff Sgt. Arnold in a blast of golden energy with its eyes. The 1983 reprint had a cover by Andrew Skilleter showing the TARDIS caught in misty space-fog while another Abominable / Web of Fear hybrid-Yeti once again shows off its glowing and similarly inaccurate eye-beams. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover has an adorably terrified Troughton recoiling from a proper Web-version Yeti while the background shows an underground tunnel that creates a frame around the TARDIS trapped in space inside the space web. Lovely job.

Final Analysis: ‘The huge, furry monster reared up, as if to strike.’ This is Doctor Who-as-action-movie from the tease of the very first line. My childhood library buddy used to claim Troughton was his favourite Doctor based solely on this book and it’s easy to see why. Long considered a classic even before it was rediscovered in 2013, The Web of Fear has all the classic elements of the era. It’s almost the opposite of The Ice Warriors, in that the original scripts are so solid and full of suspense that it’s hard to lose that energy in adapting them for the page.

Chapter 19. Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1993)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Sarah return to Earth to discover that London has been evacuated due to a spate of dinosaurs appearing and disappearing across the city. While the Doctor goes monster hunting, Sarah uncovers a conspiracy that implicates some very surprising people.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. London Alert!
  • 2. ‘Shoot to Kill!’
  • 3. The Time Eddy
  • 4. The Timescoop
  • 5. Monster in Chains
  • 6. The Spaceship
  • 7. The Reminder Room
  • 8. Escape!
  • 9. Operation Golden Age
  • 10. The Final Countdown

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his 1974 scripts for Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Notes: An opening scene is added, introducing Shughie McPherson, a football fan from Glasgow who wakes up in an evacuated London and is killed by a dinosaur. The Doctor and Sarah find a cafe and discover the food’s rotten, while the Doctor is aghast that he’s taken Sarah around time and space but she gets really excited by the sight of a Woolworths (and later he points out a Wimpy’s too); this hints that they’ve had adventures since The Time Warrior but this is their first time together back on modern-day Earth. 

Infamously, Butler has a ‘livid scar’ on his face, so that Hulke can make him easy to identify without spelling out who he is – very inventive (he could hardly say ‘a man who looked just like Martin Jarvis’, although that would have added a little extra fun to the audiobook). It also serves to humanise him when Sarah cruelly attacks him for choosing to be ‘ugly’ only to learn that he got the scar while serving as a fire officer saving the life of a child (and Sarah quickly apologises for being so callous). There’s no weird new car for the Doctor; instead, he borrows a motorcycle as the best way to get around London (which all feels much more logical and in keeping for this Doctor).

As he watches the Doctor on a TV monitor, Professor Whitaker comments that the intruder is ‘terribly handsome’, which seems to be an addition inspired by the casting of the role onscreen, but it does add an extra dimension to him (on paper, he’s extra-arrogant and driven by the glory of proving wrong a load of people who might not ever exist if he succeeds!). The story has a new conclusion where the Doctor shows Sarah a passage in Ezekiel that describes where Professor Whitaker and Grover might have ended up.

Cover: Best cover artwork ever. It’s just so lurid and melodramatic and sums up the vast differences between the TV version and the imagination of a child who’s read the book (and I do love both). The cheeky “KKLAK!” really makes it. Having stood in the living room of the person who owns the original art, I marvelled at the beauty of it and had criminal thoughts. The first edition I read was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing a dinosaur standing on the lower steps at St Pauls (those ones we remember the Cybermen descending in The Invasion). Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 rerelease (as Invasion of the Dinosaurs) shows the Doctor with his weird device and a tyrannosaurus rex, with a very subtle incorporation of the London Underground logo in a manner that might be familiar to fans of Jurassic Park. It also solidifies Pearson’s record as the only artist to provide cover art for all of the novelisations in three entire seasons of stories.

Final Analysis: This has long been one of my favourites, ever since I picked up on a character having ‘badly bitten fingernails’, while Professor Whitaker’s are ‘well-polished’. That kind of subtle detail really jumped out at me at aged eight and it still does many years later. Hulke’s eagerness to give a balanced view of his worlds extends to showing us how a stegosaurus reacts to being shot at on Hampstead Heath and I’m not even going to make a joke about that or point out that dinosaurs and mammals didn’t really hang out together in the past.

Just a few additional lines to Mark and Adam on the ‘spaceship’ also help to flesh them out a bit and make them more rounded. Adam concludes that Grover is ‘a raving lunatic’ but Sarah counters that the politician knows exactly what he’s doing. Mark rounds on Ruth because, confronted with the evidence against Grover, she still supports him because she ‘can’t stand being made a fool of! You must never be wrong!’

it all helps to sell the underlying message: As with The Cave Monsters, the title has a double meaning as there’s more than one kind of dinosaur in Westminster; there’s also the type who can’t let go of ancient history and wants to drag us all back with them to a time that never really existed. Thanks in part to the actual dinosaurs being much more realistic and thrilling on the page than on screen, plus some deeper characterisation that helps us understand who these people are, this really might be the best Target novel so far. Trust me.

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

aka Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons (1993)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 17. Doctor Who – The Three Doctors (1975)

Synopsis: A strange blob of jelly invades UNIT HQ while the Time Lords are being drained of energy. The answer to the mystery lies on the other side of a black hole, where a Time Lord legend waits to enact his revenge. As the Time Lords break one of their strictest rules to allow three of the Doctor’s incarnations to work together, Jo Grant worries they might only end up bickering…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Lightning from Space
  • 2. Attack from the Unknown
  • 3. The Menace of the Black Hole
  • 4. Beyond the Unknown
  • 5. A Shock for the Brigadier
  • 6. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 7. Door to Freedom
  • 8. Escape from Omega
  • 9 .’All things shall be destroyed’
  • 10. Return through the Flame
  • 11. Three Doctors Minus Two

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1973 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (which doesn’t match Patrick Troughton) that are ‘at once humorous and sad’. Omega’s servants are only called ‘Jelly creatures’ and ‘blob-men’ – not ‘Gellguards’ as we’ve come to know them. The First Doctor asks ‘what’s a bridge for?’ and it’s Jo who suggests ‘crossing?’, prompting the old Doctor to note ‘Gel’s got more sense than the two of you put together!’ (it’s the Third Doctor who grabs the glory on TV). The battle with Omega’s monster takes place in an open-air arena and the beast itself is still humanoid but eight feet tall and muscular (rather than a short avante-garde dance performer). There’s a hilarious pitch battle in chapter 10 where Jo is ‘staggering under the weight of an anti-tank rifle’ before she fires at the blob men and falls backwards, deciding instead to be an ‘observer’.

Cover: A Chris Achilleos classic, using references from the familiar Three Doctors photoshoot and merging them with a classic Jack Kirby Fantastic Four cover (depicting Galactus where Omega would be). It’s a vision in orange and gold. The first edition also has a rear illustration by Achilleos showing the second Doctor being led away by two blob-men. My first copy was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing the three Doctors in front of a black hole in space (it’s the one a reader of Doctor Who Magazine criticised for making the Doctors look too old, too evil and ‘too Welsh’!). The Pertwee is from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the Hartnell from An Unearthly Child and the Troughton isn’t the Doctor, but Salamander – hence why he’s ‘too evil’. A 1991 edition with a cover by Alister Pearson is a little more stylised, with a photorealistic Omega ranting before a backdrop of burnt-out Doctors as banners in front of a black circle.

Final Analysis: Dicks makes Jo our point-of-view character, so to her, the other Doctor that Benton knows is her ‘Doctor Two’, while the one on the scanner screen is ‘the old man’ and ‘the old Doctor’, which works so well. Dicks also has Doctor Two correctly identify his instrument as a recorder – then refer to it as a ‘flute’ for the rest of the book!