Chapter 16. Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders (1975)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s adventures come back to haunt him as a stolen gem from Metebelis Three triggers ‘the most dangerous adventure of his life’. The Doctor’s greed for adventure and knowledge is matched by the greed for power of the Eight-Legs and their leader, the Great One. And none of them will survive this one… 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue: The Mystery of the Crystal
  • 1. The Menace at the Monastery
  • 2. The Deadly Experiment
  • 3. The Coming of the Spider
  • 4. The Chase for the Crystal
  • 5. The Council of the Spiders
  • 6. Arrival on Metebelis Three
  • 7. Prisoner of the Spiders
  • 8. The Doctor Hits Back
  • 9. In the Lair of the Great One
  • 10. Return to Earth
  • 11. The Battle with the Spiders
  • 12. The Last Enemy
  • Epilogue: An End and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Sloman (and Barry Letts, uncredited) from 1974.

Notes: Another lovely prologue that I wish we’d seen on TV as Professor Jones and his new bride encounter resistance in their trek across the Amazon forests. Jo Jones, formerly Jo Grant of UNIT, has to ditch a huge blue crystal that the Doctor gave her as a wedding present. There’s a Dr Sweetman working as UNIT’s medical officer today [but see The Giant Robot]. The soldier on guard at UNIT HQ gets a name (Corporal Hodges). We also find out that four of Lupton’s gang were hospitalised with nervous breakdowns, while the Brigadier helps Sarah to get Tommy into university.

Cover: ‘Read the last exciting adventure of DR WHO’s 3rd Incarnation!’ screams the back cover. On the front, Peter Brookes gives us the Doctor reacting to Sarah with the Queen Spider on her back, along with a montage of the Doctor changing face that’s much more dramatic than we get on telly. There are no illustrations inside but there’s one on the back cover of a spider crawling across a mandala. I had the 1978 reprint with an Alun Hood cover depicting a blue crystal and a red-backed tarantula clambering over some rocks. The 1991 reprint with art by Alister Pearson shows a haunted portrait of Pertwee reflected in the blue crystal and another tarantula-like arachnid reared to attack.

The epilogue is called ‘An End and a Beginning’; we’ll be seeing variations on this a lot over the next few years.

Final Analysis: My earliest memory is of Planet of the Spiders, where a spider appearing on a carpet after some men chant ‘Um Andy Pandy Um’ (I know what they chant now, of course!), so this holds a special relevance for me. This is a decent adaptation with some lovely additions to the thought processes of the characters. Dicks captures Sarah’s voice particularly well (although once again, he has her fainting!) and he adds greatly to our understanding of Lupton and his bitterness. We also benefit from a much more thrilling – and logical – version of the very padded chase sequence.

Chapter 15. Doctor Who and the Green Death (1975)

Synopsis: Deep beneath the hills of a Welsh town, pollutants from a chemical factory have caused the deaths of local miners. Worse, the chemicals have transformed maggots into deadly monsters. Fighting the chemical company is an idealistic young professor, who’s unimpressed by a clumsy fool of a girl from UNIT who wants to join his cause. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally lands the TARDIS on Metebelis Three…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Wealth in our time!’
  • 2. The Doctor Plans a Holiday
  • 3. Land of My Fathers
  • 4. Into the Mine
  • 5. Escape!
  • 6. The Sluice Pipe
  • 7. The Egg
  • 8. The Maggots
  • 9. The Swarm
  • 10. The Green Death
  • 11. The Chrysalis
  • 12. One World, One People, One BOSS!

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts scripts from the 1974 serial by Robert Sloman and (uncredited) Barry Letts. 

Notes: The Global Chemicals of the TV show is now Panorama Chemicals. Elgin gets a first name (Mark) and a job title (public relations), and he doesn’t disappear as in the TV version, so his TV replacement, Mr James, doesn’t appear. Hulke has a lot of fun with Metebelis Three, constructing a bit of a legend around it involving a lone Time Lord and then giving us an insane escapade involving unicorns and giant eagles. The Doctor keeps the Professor’s gang amused with stories of his journey to Metebelis Three, rather than that wonderfully incomprehensible nonsense about the perigosto stick from the telly. Jo speculates why the Doctor never married, or even if there are Lady Time Lords, while stating on the very last page that the Doctor is 725 years old. In the TV story, the actual term ‘Green Death’ is never mentioned; in the book it appears in descriptions and dialogue eleven times.

Cover & Illustrations: The first edition cover, by Peter Brookes, shows a giant green fly raining acid down onto the Doctor and Bessie while in inset, Jo recoils from a huge maggot. On the back cover, there’s another two-panel illustration, depicting Ted Hughes discovering the deadly green goo in the mine. There’s a similar illustration of that scene inside, one of six by Alan Willow, the best of which shows the Doctor and Jo in a mine-cart surrounded by maggots. I had Alun Hood’s 1979 reprint cover, which has a beautiful dragonfly stretching its wings across the bleak murky landscape of the mine, surrounded by maggots. This is the final Target book to have illustrations.

Final Analysis: The opening chapter explains why the coal mines are being closed (and how the miners feel about this), how Elgin views the locals (being university educated, he considers himself superior to them) and what Stevens thinks of everyone else. And Professor Jones and Dai Evans discuss the forces of production in relation to the mining industry and the people of Llanfairfach – before they’re interrupted by the first tragic event. Even in the climax, the Doctor worries about whether any of BOSS’s ‘slaves or semi-slaves died’ in the aftermath. It’s not too heavy-handed, but it leaves us no uncertainty as to where Hulke’s politics might lean.

How strange that Jo Grant’s final story follows her first in publication order. And is followed by the Third Doctor’s last.