Chapter 112. Doctor Who – Black Orchid (1987)

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 84. Doctor Who – Snakedance (1984)

Synopsis: The Doctor allows Tegan to choose their next destination to cheer her up after a series of bad dreams. A seemingly random selection takes them to Manussa, which was once home to a great empire. Little of it survives, except in ritual, the true meaning of which has long been forgotten. As the Doctor and his friends explore, a realisation dawns on them. Their arrival at this time and place is no coincidence. Manussa was once home to the Mara – and through Tegan it will return.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Nightmare
  • 2. Cave of the Snake
  • 3. Voice of the Mara
  • 4. Hall of Mirrors
  • 5. The Sign of the Mara
  • 6. Dinner with Ambril
  • 7. Dojjen’s Journal
  • 8. The Origin of Evil
  • 9. Death Sentence
  • 10. The Escape
  • 11. Dojjen
  • 12. The Becoming of the Mara

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1983 by Christopher Bailey.

Notes: Nyssa claims she can’t remember who read out the coordinates to the Doctor, but she actually remembers very clearly that it was Tegan and doesn’t want to get her into trouble. The Fortune Teller is named ‘Zara’. On counting the Faces of Delusion, Chela realises the Doctor’s point before it’s spelled out to Ambril. Finding herself alone with Chela in Ambril’s study, Lady Tanha feels his presence is ‘very soothing’ and soon begins to confide in him in a way that is politically indiscrete and which makes Chela ‘petrified with fear and embarrassment’. She later chats with Ambril and learns that the scholar has no family of his own; ‘Children can be very disappointing,’ she confesses. Wanting to avoid explanations, the Doctor guides his friends back to the TARDIS and departs, while in his mind’s eye, he sees Dojjen waving goodbye to him.

Cover: A pearl-like planet hovers between the jaws of a snake, its tail tightly coiled. An eerie concept from Andrew Skilleter somewhat spoiled by the photo of a smiling Peter Davison that’s been shoved into the logo at the top of the frame, making it read ‘Do-or Who’. Hmm…

Final Analysis: Just a reminder that my mission here is to review the books, not the stories, and this is another difficult Terrance Dicks adaptation that leaves us with very little to examine that isn’t on TV. Again, I can’t help but wish that Christopher Bailey had written this one, just to give us more than the enticing myths and half-truths we learn about the old Manussan empire. Still, Terrance Dicks gives us the solid, steady approach and I know this is one of the stories he didn’t feel he wanted to embellish because it’s so very good. It’s the sign of a good yarn if we’re left wanting more.

Chapter 83. Doctor Who – Kinda (1984)

Synopsis: A small survey team has set up a base on a jungle planet to review it for possible colonisation. But when the Doctor and Adric are brought to the survey dome, they can already sense a tension in the air. Some of the survey team’s number have disappeared and another is clearly on the brink of a breakdown. Left alone in the jungle, Tegan falls into a deep sleep and finds herself trapped in a nightmare with a terrifying evil force. Her only chance of freedom will also release the Mara!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Paradise
  • 2. The Kinda
  • 3. Ghosts
  • 4. The Box of Jhana
  • 5. The Mara
  • 6. The Change
  • 7. The Vision
  • 8. The Dream Cave
  • 9. The Wheel Turns
  • 10. The Path of the Mara
  • 11. The Attack
  • 12. The Face of the Mara

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1983 by Christopher Bailey. Publication for this was delayed to give Dicks time to finish The Five Doctors.

Notes: Deva Loka is a planet of ‘rich sub-tropical jungles, and warm blue seas’. Tegan has close cropped hair and her stewardess uniform, so a combination of her looks from Seasons 19 and 20. Sanders notes that falling asleep on duty usually carries a death sentence but as Hindle’s overnight watch is voluntary, he can’t be punished. The TSS machine looks like ‘a kind of squared-off parody of the human form’. Todd is referred to as ‘Doctor Todd’ throughout. Hearing the names of the inhabitants of the dome, the Doctor identifies the expedition as being of Earth origin (as in many novels set during Earth’s expansion across the universe, the homeworld is said to be overcrowded). Only one of the missing survey team – Roberts – is named on screen, but here we learn that the other two were Stone and Carter. The three people in Tegan’s dream are not named. Doctor Todd identifies the Kinda jester as ‘Trickster’, a ‘symbolic figure from Kinda ritual’. 

Cover: A slight step up in the photographic covers as there are two elements from the story that aren’t the most boring they could possibly be (the Doctor and a TSS Machine) – they finally learn how to do a decent montage just as the photographic covers are dropped for good [but see Time and the Rani]. We’ll have to wait until the 1991 reprint for Alister Pearson’s composition showing the bleached-out features of Dukkha, the Doctor, the Mara wrapped around a Kinda necklace and a sinister leering Tegan.

Final Analysis: I love Terrance Dicks – really I do – but this is a story that really needed to have been novelised by the original author. I’d have adored that extra insight into Christopher Bailey’s vision because, like many fans, I didn’t appreciate just how majestic this story was on first viewing (incredibly, it came bottom of the Doctor Who Magazine season poll, in a season that contains Four to Doomsday and Time Flight!). As ever, Dicks kindly improves on elements that didn’t quite work on TV: As the Mara detaches itself from Aris he ‘seize[s] it in a passion of hatred, as if determined to throttle it with his bare hands’ (as opposed to wiggling a rubber snake to make it look animated); while the Mara itself is larger than ‘any natural animal, it lashed about the clearing in a furious writhing coil. Its markings were red and black and white, and the fierce yellow eyes glowed with hatred’.

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 80. Doctor Who – Arc of Infinity (1983)

Synopsis: Aided by a traitor, a being from an anti-matter dimension breaks into the Time Lord databanks to steal the Doctor’s bio-data. When the Doctor is then attacked by the being, the Time Lords step in and he is summoned to return home to Gallifrey. There, he learns that the the anti-matter being is trying to create a foothold in this dimension, something that could destabilise the universe. Seeing no other solution, the Time Lords sentence the Doctor to death, but at the last minute he is rescued by the mysterious entity. The Doctor flees Gallifrey for a reunion in Amsterdam…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Deadly Meeting
  • 2. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 3. Recall
  • 4. Death Sentence
  • 5. The Prisoner
  • 6. Termination
  • 7. The Matrix
  • 8. The Traitor
  • 9. Unmasked
  • 10. Hunt for Omega
  • 11. Transference
  • 12. Omega’s Freedom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for a serial that was broadcast just over six months earlier.

Notes: The appearance of Omega in negative is more than just a nifty special effect; it’s a result of him being projected from another universe! Colin’s passport was stolen (not just lost) while he and Robin had been in a crowded cafe; though it’s never stated explicitly, and despite certain ‘speciality’ cafes and their wares being fully legal in Amsterdam, this might be the real reason Colin’s so reluctant to go to the police. There are reminders of the events of The Three Doctors when Omega first attempted a return, and that the Doctor was once the President of the Time Lords. Connecting to the Matrix via the Crown is both ‘dangerous and stressful’ and is only attempted in grave emergencies. When Nyssa breaks into the termination room, she sets her staser to stun before shooting the guards – then sets it to kill before entering the chamber to confront the High Council (it’s especially chilling that the meek and mild Traken princess has been driven to contemplate murder).

The Ergon is ‘a hideous lizard-like creature with a long thin skull, ending in a mouthful of fangs’, though it’s also described as ‘insectoid’; when it dies, Omega shrieks and twists convulsively as his link to the creature is severed. In the story’s final scene, we learn that Robin was able to get a new passport after all. Yay!

Cover: Worst cover ever? Could be – the Doctor and Hedin crudely cut out of the same photo and slapped onto an orange background. Meh… Thankfully, in 1992, Alister Pearson gave us a splendid piece of art for the reprint, depicting the Doctor and Omega (fading from negative to positive) against a background of the Matrix, framed in a double-diamond shape and an orange universe. Controversially, the diamond motif and a very similar layout were used by Pete Wallbank for the VHS cover.

Final Analysis: It’s fitting that co-creator of the Time Lords Terrence Dicks has novelised the majority of Gallifrey stories so far (though the other creator, Malcolm Hulke, covered two stories with brief Time Lord scenes); he knows them better than anyone and it’s reassuring to have him here on quite a continuity-heavy tale, explaining the relevant or subtext where appropriate. He tries his best to make things dramatic for the main villain – who effectively sits in a chair until the final chapter – and the image of Omega like a snake ‘sloughing off its old skin’ is much more effective than the deflating rubber mask on screen. 

We might also note that Colin Baker’s casting as the next Doctor had already been revealed around the time Terrance was writing this, and the character he plays here, Maxil, is described as ‘burly’ and ‘square-jawed’. I wonder if we’ll see that pop up as a description for the Sixth Doctor? We’ll have a long wait to find out…

Chapter 79. Doctor Who – Terminus (1983)

Synopsis: After the Black Guardian coerces Turlough into sabotaging the TARDIS, Nyssa escapes the craft via a temporary back door that leads directly onto a nearby spacecraft – but it’s a plague ship heading to the space station Terminus. Though Terminus promises a cure for Lazar Disease, this is a myth. Nyssa decides to help find a cure, while suspecting that she herself has already fallen victim to the disease. Meanwhile, the Doctor makes an interesting discovery – one that might threaten the existence of the entire universe.

Chapter Titles: No chapters again, just a steady flow of prose.

Background: Once more using the John Lydecker pseudonym, Steve Gallagher adapts his own scripts from the TV story that aired just short of four months earlier. The book was slightly longer than a normal Target book (159 pages) and the cover price was a little higher.

Notes: As she gives Turlough a tour of his new home, Tegan begins to suspect the TARDIS interior redesigns itself when nobody’s looking. She’s unhappy that their new arrival has been given Adric’s old room and is also unsettled by the way Turlough is completely unfazed by the TARDIS. Alone, Turlough practices an explanation for the Black Guardian’s crystal – here it’s a cube – considering it could be an heirloom from a great uncle and then realises he has no idea if he even has a great uncle. The crystal is keyed into Turlough’s ‘mindwave’, so only he can activate it. The Doctor identifies the problem caused by Turlough’s sabotage as a fault in the TARDIS matrix, which holds the ship together. Turlough uses the beads from Nyssa’s discarded abacus to plot a trail through the spaceship, only to learn that a maintenance robot has picked them all up. He also mulls over the idea of killing Tegan and blaming it on an accident.

Kari and Olvir spend hours in hypnosis to memorise their mission and this is Olvir’s first time in a landing party. Olvir told people he became a raider after his family lost everything after the ‘fire storms on Hagen’; in reality it was the cost of trying to find a cure for his sister’s Lazar infection and the shame of this that inspired his deception. The Garm comes from a planet with high radiation, so it’s protected against the effects of Terminus.

As Nyssa prepares to leave, the Doctor thinks about all his past companions:

It had happened before and it would happen again, and it seemed that the loss of every member of his ever-changing team took a little piece of him away with them. They were spread through time and through space, all of them reshaped and given new insights through their travels. Their loss wasn’t too bad a price to pay… not when they gave him a kind of immortality.

Cover: Another feeble photo montage, as the Doctor shows off his new jumper, the Black Guardian appears to be checking him out. This was the first of the novels to show its number in the Target Doctor Who library on the spine (the previous two releases had them inside on the title page, where this one… doesn’t). The earlier books were retroactively numbered in alphabetical order.

Final Analysis: This is a lot more straightforward than Gallagher’s first novelisation, but as before, he really captures the regular characters very well – particularly the cold pragmatism of Turlough versus the hot-headed brashness of Tegan; both know they’re playing a game, but only Turlough knows the true stakes. In a similar way to Terrance Dicks’ habit of tidying up lose ends, the conclusion suggests that the Doctor doesn’t simply dash off at the end. He’s already decided to leave decontamination equipment with the Vanir – he can’t reverse the radiation damage they’ve suffered but it might slow the effects. He also urges Valgard to use publicity to change perceptions about their work with the patients: ‘Forget the shame and the mystery, and emphasize the treatment.’ It all helps to cushion the blow of Nyssa’s departure, knowing that he and Tegan aren’t saying goodbye to her as abruptly as it might have appeared on TV.

Chapter 78. Doctor Who – Earthshock (1983)

Synopsis: After a brief encounter in a cave on Earth, the Doctor and his friends explore a freighter in space. When a crewmember of the freighter is found murdered, the Doctor becomes an obvious suspect. The captain of the ship, a stern woman called Briggs, remains unconvinced by the Doctor’s explanations but is more concerned with getting her cargo to Earth, unaware that each of her fifteen thousand silos contains a dormant Cybermen – and they’re about to wake up!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Shadows
  • 2. Labyrinth of Death
  • 3. Uneasy Allies
  • 4. A Crisis Defused
  • 5. Stowaways
  • 6. Monstrous Awakenings
  • 7. A Siege
  • 8. War of Nerves
  • 9. Accidents Happen
  • 10. Triumph and Tragedy

Background: Ian Marter adapts scripts by Eric Saward for the 1982 serial.

Notes: All of the TARDIS crew receives a very good quick-sketch description in line with those of Terrance Dicks, so Adric is ‘snub-nosed’ and sullen and Nyssa is ‘aristocratic-looking’, while Tegan has an ‘efficient and determined air’. The new Doctor gets his best description so far: With his ‘long and tanned’ face and open collar with two embroidered question marks (their first mention!), he looks like he’s ‘dressed for a summer garden party or a regatta’. References to their failed attempt to get to Heathrow (The Visitation) and the book the Doctor is reading (Black Orchid) are missing.

The Doctor theorises that the bomb in the caves might be strong enough to blow the Earth apart if it were placed in a strategic position such as an ancient fault line. Without identifying them yet, Marter introduces two silver figures, one larger than the other, and it’s the most detailed descriptions of Cybermen so far:

The rigid mask-like faces had eyeless sockets and immobile mouth-like apertures, but no noses. They had no ears, but a network of wires and pipes connecting a bulging section on each side of their heads to a similar bulge on the top. The limbs were jointed like human ones, but were much thicker and more powerfully tubular, and the arms terminated in enormous hands like steel gauntlets. Tubes ran snaking over the hard metallic surfaces of their bodies from flat, box-like units protected by gratings which were fitted onto their chests…

The beings make hissing noises ‘like human breathing’ (so, just like Darth Vader) and their guns are clipped to their belts (utility belts like Batman? The Cyberleader pulls a key from his later). The Cyberleader is accompanied by a Deputy (which neatly avoids confusion with Lieutenant Scott) and their scanner is called a ‘holovisor disc’. The Cybermen are much more resilient than the TV versions toward the firepower of the troopers and freighter crew, until the Doctor suggests they focus their guns on the chest gratings. A mocking Ringway suggests that the Doctor and his friends should give in and the Doctor replies: ‘I never surrender, it’s too embarrassing.’

Berger is described as ‘a lean hard woman of about fifty’, while Captain Briggs is rather generously said to be about Berger’s age (rather than a decade older). As the Cybermen march him towards the TARDIS, the Doctor stumbles across their hidden control room; the entry hatch slams shut, accidentally sets the reactivation sequence running on the dormant Cybermen.

Nyssa removes the dead bodies of Professor Kyle and the trooper from the TARDIS Console room, which is possibly the single bravest thing a companion has ever had to do. Adric’s badge is used to attack both the Cyberleader and the Deputy; Tegan stands in wait as the Deputy returns to the console room and attacks him from behind, before the Doctor (not Nyssa) blasts him with the Leader’s gun. The Doctor picks up a surviving fragment of Adric’s badge and places it in his pocket.

Cover: A misleading photo of the Doctor pointing a gun. Davison looks rather heroic and dashing, and the cover at least maintains the surprise of the returning enemy. This even extends to the back cover blurb – for the first edition at least – which skillfully avoids spelling anything out. The 1992 edition states that the book ‘features the long awaited return of the Cybermen, the Doctor’s most lethal enemies.’ Alister Pearson’s cover has a half-length painting of a Cyberman with the Doctor, Adric and the Earth beautifully sketched in shades of blue in the background.

Final Analysis: Oh I’ve missed Ian Marter’s writing. I often wish he could have been published as a horror author, maybe with a selection of original short stories. The book begins with an evocative image of the landscape:

The towering cliffside resembled a gigantic human skull with the dark openings of caves gaping like empty eye-sockets and nostrils. 

… and it continues with the same dripping nastiness that made Ark in Space such fun. Marter’s violence is sensuous: Bodies shot by the androids collapse into a ‘gluey pool’ of ‘steaming, viscous liquid’; a ‘sickly smell’ hangs in the air, sizzling ‘like hot fat’; a Cyberman slices a trooper’s skull ‘like an egg’; when the Cybermen die, they leak ‘black oily pus’ and their ventilator units emit ‘thick black smoke’, ‘brown fluid’ or  ‘evil yellow and black bubbles’… the idea that Cybermen smell of anything makes them even more disgusting and repellent.

I recently criticised Christopher Bidmead for wilfully choosing to ignore the kind of stories the target / Target audience actually wants; Ian Marter’s approach might not be the literature their teachers or parents would chose for them, but this is exactly the kind of gloopy thriller a macabre teenage boy with a love of reading deserves. Earthshock was already the best Cyberman story (no really!) but Marter’s adaptation converts the familiar-but-generic invaders into something more disturbing than they’ve been. Best Cybermen ever!

Chapter 77. Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday (1983)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a huge spaceship heading towards Earth. The inhabitants appear to come from different periods in Earth’s history, providing entertainment for three amphibious Urbankans called Enlightenment, Persuasion and the imperious Monarch. Given the freedom to explore the ship, the Doctor and his friends begin to understand the terrifying scale of Monarch’s ambitions…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Ship of Mystery
  • 2. A Meeting with Monarch
  • 3. The Transformation
  • 4. The Invaders
  • 5. The Explorers
  • 6. The Android
  • 7. The Convert
  • 8. Tegan’s Gamble
  • 9. Death Warrant
  • 10. Reprieved
  • 11. Riot!
  • 12. Spacewalk

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terence Dudley’s scripts for the 1982 serial. This followed Castrovalva on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Terrance gets his first go at this TARDIS crew, so we get decent descriptions of them all – at last!: Nyssa is ‘an attractive-looking girl with brown hair and an aristocratic, somewhat haughty air’; once again, Adric is ‘a smallish, round-faced youth wearing a yellow tunic’; the Doctor’s ‘third, least willing companion [is] an ‘Australian air-hostess called Tegan Jovanka’ who is said to be ‘exceptionally forceful, even for an Australian’; and the new Doctor, who we’re told is now in his fifth incarnation, is a ‘rather slight, fair-haired young man with a pleasant, open face’ (entirely coincidentally a cricket pun there – Dicks had no idea  it was a term for how a cricketer grips the bat!). Each of the companions gets a one-line origin summary.

Observing a device that can reduce matter, Nyssa recalls that it’s a favoured method of the Master and was the way he murdered Tegan’s aunt. As the Doctor tells Monarch that only he can operate the TARDIS, it dematerialises under Tegan’s control, rather undermining his boast. Nyssa’s fainting cliffhanger that leads into the next story is omitted. 

Cover: An almost competent photo montage of Stratford Johns as Monarch with Peter Davison as the Doctor. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover is just a noble portrait of Monarch with a suggestion of his chamber lightly etched into the background. 

Final Analysis: By this point in time, TARDIS companions exist solely to bicker and Terrance Dicks relishes the opportunity to show the previously impish Adric as an utter brat. Tegan’s brashness is accentuated too, which rather underlines how empty and bland Nyssa is. We’re even told that she manages to save the Doctor from execution because she’s ‘ standing unnoticed in the background, ignored because nobody considered her a threat’. Four to Doomsday is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite story, or indeed anyone’s favourite book; it does the job, nothing more.

Chapter 76. Doctor Who – Castrovalva (1983)

Synopsis: The Doctor is struggling after a particularly distressing regeneration. He seeks rest deep within the TARDIS, but an external force sends the time machine racing towards the Big Bang. A narrow escape brings the travellers to the quiet town of Castrovalva. The locals are friendly and offer the Doctor room to recuperate. But there’s something strange about the town; how can the local chemist be in four places at once? Who is exploiting the Doctor’s weakened state and for what purpose? And where is Adric?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Escape from Earth
  • 2. Towards Zero
  • 3. Destination: Event One
  • 4. Russian Roulette
  • 5. Jettisoned
  • 6. The Quest for Castrovalva
  • 7. Within the Walls
  • 8. The Dark Reflection
  • 9. The Occlusion Closes In
  • 10. The Clue of the Chronicle
  • 11. The World through the Eyes of Shardovan
  • 12. The Web is Broken

Background: Christopher H.Bidmead adapts his own scripts for the 1982 serial.

Notes: We’re told that the ‘apocalyptic events’ of Logopilis led to the previous and future Doctors overlapping in the form of the Watcher. We’re drawn to consider the new Doctor’s ‘strangely smooth and vacant face’, while  Adric has a ‘strange smile and wicked black button eyes’ and Nyssa possesses ‘a remote, aristocratic quality that was somehow unEarthly’. Based on the scant hours he’s spent there, Adric considers Earth to be a ‘planet of fools and bullies’. We’re reminded of Adric’s former home on the starliner on Alzarius. Tegan is said to have ‘once been lost in that maze of white corridors during her involuntary first trip in the TARDIS’… which took place… yesterday? She also utters the mild expletive ‘strewth’ a couple of times.

Nyssa tries to explain recursion to Tegan by discussing family trees (and Tegan feels awkward as she realises Nyssa’s family and everyone she knows has been wiped out by the Master). The Doctor’s new coat is ‘a cream coloured garment that was too summery to be a morning coat but too long to be a sports jacket’. As Tegan and Nyssa look at the scanner to see the Master waving at them, they can see Adric behind him, trapped in the electronic web. The TARDIS has a surgery and a trolley laden with medical supplies rolls out of it towards the Doctor during the Event One incident.

Apparently, ‘the Gallifreyan temperament tends to see the world from the other person’s point of view’, so the Doctor feels empathy for a roast pig. There’s also an ‘official Time-Lord strategy’ that’s taught to small children that… :

… in circumstances of near-defeat you take stock of the forces that are working on your behalf, your assets, and then separately assess the forces working against you, your liabilities. This leads directly to the next stage: devising a logical plan that will increase the former and diminish the latter. 

The Doctor views this ‘arid, abstract and artificial’ edict as ‘typically Gallifreyan’ – he prefers ‘blind panic’. He is said to be ‘nearly eight hundred’ years old, while Castrovalva was created by the Master as a trap 500 years ago. So was this created in the Master’s distant past and he’s only just come back to it? Did he set it up and then jump forward 500 years? Did he play at Portreeve for half a millennium while Adric was held in stasis in the electronic web?! (Or is this just not actually true and he knocked it up yesterday in between wrestling with the Doctor on a gantry and choosing a nice hat for his Portreeve cosplay?). On the jog back to the TARDIS, Adric is ‘still a little pallid after his long ordeal’ – a real-world cheeky dig at actor Matthew Waterhouse’s overindulgence in the bar the night before the filming of that sequence for TV. The Doctor opts not to dampen Tegan’s enthusiasm by telling her she didn’t land the TARDIS after all and it was all Adric’s doing.

Cover: Somebody clearly resents being made to work on these as the cover design is woefully lazy – a photo of a smiling Peter Davison against a starfield backdrop. Alister Pearson’s reprint cover from 1991 is predictably better, to be fair, with an almost identical picture of Davison (which makes him look old) next to a beautifully realised, geometrically impossible walkway from the Castrovalva town square.

Final Analysis: ‘Euclidian topology’? Really, Bidmead? We’ve come a long way since the days of writing these books for eager seven-year-olds, but there really is no concession for the child reader here. It all fits together rather neatly, especially the way so much of the dialogue is there to underline the theme of recursion, but as with Logopolis, there’s also the suspicion that the author’s making himself a little too visible in the text by showing off.

Chapter 74. Doctor Who – Time Flight (1983)

Synopsis: A supersonic aeroplane has disappeared. Retracing its last known flight path aboard another Concorde, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are as surprised as the crew when they touch down on a prehistoric plateau. Nearby is a huge temple, the home to a strange wizard called Kalid, who seems amused by the time travellers’ plight…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Flight to Infinity
  • 2. An Unauthorised Police Box
  • 3. The Doctor Goes Supersonic
  • 4. The Coming of the Plasmatons
  • 5. The Magic of Kalid
  • 6. The Doctor and the Magician
  • 7. The Enemy Unmasked
  • 8. The Power in the Sanctum
  • 9. On a Wing and a Prayer
  • 10. In Transit

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts for the 1982 serial.

Notes: The first TARDIS scene is, if anything, even briefer than the one on screen, although in the aftermath of Adric’s death, the companions at least acknowledge that the Doctor might be grieving too, in his own way – and they also realise they didn’t know the boy all that well at all. Does the Doctor’s mention of Adric’s brother Varsh come as news to them? Tegan identifies their landing site as ‘London Airport’ (so assumes they’ve arrived in 1966?). Kalid has a ‘thin, strangulated voice’ and a:

… yellow oriental face, bloated like the body of a drowned dog and gangrenous with age and excess, with broken teeth and rotting gums that contorted his mouth into a permanent leer. His height too, for a Chinaman – if that was his race – was remarkable, and his girth, concealed by a bright coat of damask, as monstrous as the force he invoked.

When he emerges from Kalid’s body like ‘a pupating beetle’, the Master is introduced without any further explanation or description (as is the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which makes its debut in the books here!). I’m beginning to suspect this is perhaps a new house style. Having stolen the Doctor’s TARDIS, the Master is indignant that it’s typical of the Doctor to ‘travel in a machine that was unserviced, unsafe, and light years out of date!’ As she helps to change the wheels of Concord, Tegan remembers the wheels on her Aunt Vanessa’s car.

Cover: A drab photo of Peter Davison next to a Concorde.

Final Analysis: Another original author steals food from Terrance Dicks’ plate.The opening chapter suggests that Grimwade is keen to show off all of the extra research into Concord that remained unused from his TV scripts and he has a fondness for bizarre similes that somehow work, such as ‘The Professor’s lips moved silently like an elderly goldfish that has just been fed’. I look forward to reading something from the author that’s based on something a little more substantial.