Bonus chapter #7. Doctor Who – The Nightmare Fair (1989)

Synopsis: After surviving an encounter with The Nexus of the Primeval Cauldron of Space-Time, the Doctor and Peri arrive in Blackpool, where a visit to the famous Pleasure Beach sees them ensnared by the Celestial Toymaker. But why is the eternal villain there and what does he want with the Doctor? It can’t be anything as mundane as revenge, can it?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Nine.

Background: Graham Williams adapts his scripts for an unmade serial intended for broadcast in 1986 before the original Season 23 was cancelled.

Notes: The Doctor and Peri begin their adventure on the observation platform of the Blackpool Tower, just as the Doctor nearly promised at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. The young guest hero this time is called ‘Kevin Stoney’ [see The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen for why that’s funny] and he’s from Liverpool. The Toymaker – also referred to as The Mandarin – uses a crystal ball to observe the Doctor and other points of interest. The Doctor boasts that he has ‘shot through Black Holes’, ‘sailed through Supernovae and ‘eaten Vanarian Sun Seed Cake’ but has never experienced such a ‘magnificent’ thrill as the roller coaster; although there is a coaster in Blackpool called ‘The Roller Coaster, this one is most likely the Revolution, Europe’s first full-loup rollercoaster, which opened in 1979 and, like the Sixth Doctor, once featured in a memorable episode of a BBC wish-fulfilment entertainment show that we can’t really talk about any more. By the way, the Doctor’s also never had candy floss before; Peri pays for it with a £5 note she found in a sporran in the TARDIS wardrobe, prompting the Doctor to note that it must have been Jamie’s and he was always so careful with money [so putting aside offensive stereotypes for a second, Jamie having legal tender from the mid-1980s suggests an unseen adventure].

After hearing Kevin’s statement about seeing ‘red giants’, Detective Inspector Truscott suggests that if the lad sees any more that he directs them towards Preston North End, as they could do with the help; Preston North End’s kit at the time was white with blue piping, and the away kit was yellow and blue – but they did eventually adopt a red jersey as their main away kit for the 95-6 season. 

As in the Toymaker’s debut adventure, it’s suggested that he and the Doctor have sparred on many occasions. The Doctor took part in the Globus Wars of Independence. His pockets contain a single jelly baby and ‘the signet-ring of Rasillon’, which is ‘the most powerful single object in the known Universes. He tells Peri and Kevin that he doesn’t actually know who the Toymaker is:

‘Nobody knows. He existed before the start of Time Lord records. There was an attempt to track him back through his own continuum – trace his path through the fabric of time, but the researchers got bored with all the games, which was possibly what they were there for. As they do so often,’ he sighed, ‘my erstwhile colleagues met something they didn’t understand, and they ran away from it. If they’d been able to control him, they would have investigated further, I’m sure. But they couldn’t, so they didn’t.’ 

The Toymaker is known to be telepathic and telekinetic, ‘up to a point’, and he was once ‘observed playing with a supernova as though it was a kiddies’ paddling pool… and we know he’s old beyond imagining…’

If fact, the Doctor realises that the Toymaker is from another universe and that he carries his own matter with him – but not anti-matter – concluding that the Toymaker will live for millions of years; the Toymaker confirms that he already has done, having spent thousands of years creating and destroying civilisations until he came up with the idea of his games.  

Cover: Alister Pearson’s composition includes the Toymaker, the Blackpool Tower, a sign for Space Mountain, a miner and a fanged-and-clawed alien. The first edition featured a flash proclaiming ‘The Missing Episodes!’

Final Analysis: The whole concept of a ‘celestial’ toymaker is an archaic pun, ‘celestial’ meaning both ‘of the stars’ and ‘from China’ (a loose translation of ‘Tianchao’, the former name for the Chinese Empire). While the word might have been used to signify ‘exotic’ or mysterious qualities, it was also a racial descriptor that is now largely forgotten. As previously mentioned in (among other chapters) The Sensorites, the word ‘oriental’ can also be problematic for some. Meaning simply ‘from the East’, it’s a colonial view of the world map, positioning China solely in relation to how it appears on a British Empire map with the United Kingdom (well, let’s be honest, England) at its centre.

… and in Doctor Who, we then have the Celestial Toymaker as a Chinese-presenting character played by an English actor. While Michael Gough didn’t resort to the kind of theatrical make-up we saw in The Talons of Weng Chiang, it’s still an example of cultural appropriation – or at best cosplaying – based on a suspicion of the Chinese. How might that have seemed had this story made it to air in 1986? In a season where a story set in Singapore had a working title ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’…. you can draw your own conclusions as to how this might have played out at the time – and how it might have been received by young viewers discovering the era for themselves 36 years later. Despite spending two paragraphs discussing this issue, it’s not really something I dwell on, but it’s a handy distraction to ruminate on while trying to avoid thinking about the rest of the book.

What we have here is something that feels authentic to the period it might have been a part of had Michael Grade not stepped in and saved us. By which I mean, the Doctor is fairly unlikeable and while the adventure features a returning villain, he’s one that few of the viewers would have actually remembered and he doesn’t even act like the character as portrayed in his original appearance. The story is, like the original, a series of events rather than a plot and, sadly, it’s all a bit dull. The greatest joy comes from the Doctor’s two companions being called ‘Kevin and Peri’ in a book published a year before Harry Enfield’s teenage characters Kevin and Perry made their TV debut. All entirely coincidentally. 

To be fair, there is one scene though where Williams captures that alien quality that Colin Baker had so wanted to portray, able to comprehend the vastness of eternity:

‘The isolation of aeons,’ whispered the Doctor, overcome with compassion for the being he’d detested all his adult life. ‘The crushing loneliness of thousands of millennia… you poor, poor creature…’

Chapter 138. Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen (1989)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri follow a distress beacon only to discover it was sent by Commander Lytton, formerly of the Dalek taskforce. Lytton has now allied himself with the Cybermen in a bid to escape Earth. The Cybermen have a plan to change the web of time and it’s down to the Doctor to stop them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Day Begins
  • 2. The Perfect Crime
  • 3. The Peripatetic Doctor
  • 4. The Search Begins
  • 5. A Close Encounter of a Very Nasty Kind
  • 6. Telos
  • 7. The Tombs of the Cybermen
  • 8. The Great Escape
  • 9. Caught
  • 10. The Final Encounter

Background: Eric Saward adapts scripts for a 1985 story attributed to Paula Moore, but actually written by Saward and Ian Levine.

Notes: There’s some major restructuring in play here. The original opening scene with the sewer workmen is removed and scenes on the surface of Telos are bumped to the second half, which makes so much more sense. The opening chapter is reminiscent of the scenes with Shughie McPherson in Malcolm Hulke’s Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, as we’re introduced to Lytton’s gang members. We meet Charles ‘Charlie’ Windsor Griffiths, whose poor, single-parent childhood inspired a life of petty crime. Now at the age of 35 (15 years younger than Brian Glover, who played the role on TV), he’s already spent a total of eight years and seven months in prison, though he currently lives with his mother at 35 Milton Avenue (a real address, so probably Highgate, North London). He’s been a part of Lytton’s gang for some time now. The driver, Joe Payne, is a very heavy smoker who runs a garage. He’s never been in prison, despite his business being a front for numerous illegal activities. Joe had sourced the getaway car for a recent job from his own pool of vehicles, which had then been caught on camera and traced back to him – hence why, for the first time in two years, the gang is now being investigated by Special Branch. Joe lies about seeing someone lurking in the sewers, so he can sneak away for a cigarette – and is then killed by something lurking in the sewers. Charlie Griffiths doesn’t like Vincent Russell; he reminds him of a policemen he once knew, which is unusually perceptive of him: Russell is an undercover police office – something Lytton is aware of and is exploiting for his own means. 

Commander Gustave Lytton is an alien Charnel mercenary from Vita Fifteen, in the star system Tempest Dine, though on TV he tells the Cyber Leader that it’s called ‘six-nine-zero’ and the planet (not the ‘satellite’ as on TV) is ‘Riften five’. He has been trapped on Earth for two years [so either he’s counting his service to the Daleks as part of this, or Resurrection of the Daleks took place in 1983]. The site of his audacious robbery is Hatton Garden, the famous ‘Diamond District’ of London that was also the location of a 2015 safe deposit robbery that involved tunnelling (tempting to ponder if any of the perpetrators were fans of this story). 

The sentinel in the sewers ‘looks like ‘a huge black suit of medieval plate armour’. Lytton introduces the aliens to Griffiths as ‘‘Cybermen! Undisputed masters of the galaxy!’ The Cybermen have rasping respirators on their chests (reminiscent of the oily creatures depicted by Ian Marter in his Cybermen stories). The creature later looms through the darkness towards Lytton and his gang:

Where there should have been eyes and a mouth, there were slits. Instead of ears, there were what appeared to be inverted horns that continued parallel with the side of the head, until turning ninety degrees and joining some sort of bosslike device situated at its crown.

Consistent with The Twin Dilemma, Saward once again claims that Time Lord regeneration is made possible by the release of a hormone called ‘lindos’. The corruption of the Time Lords – and the inability of the propaganda to cover up various scandals – is what prompted the Doctor to leave behind both his home planet and his original name when he stole a TARDIS to explore the universe. While at college, Peri dated a ‘first-year engineering student’ called ‘Chuck’. The Doctor recognises the two policemen who he encounters at Joe’s garage, but can’t remember who they worked for, due to the effects of his regeneration. The time travellers find Lytton’s ‘well-polished shoes… fashionable grey suit, a crisp white shirt and a silk tie’

Cybermen convert human bodies by covering them in a substance called ‘arnickleton’, which smothers and eventually replaces body parts, all except for the processed brain. A strict hierarchy governs the Cybermen, led from the top by the Controller, then Senior Leaders who command a Major Phalanx; these are assisted by Leaders and Junior Leaders – and below them are the army troopers (and we encounter more than just the one Cyber Leader once the Doctor reaches Telos). Later, when Lytton is captured, we learn that the Cyber Controller has been fighting to cure a poison released by the Cryons that has resulted in ‘only a few hundred surviving Cybermen’. It’s this imminent threat of extinction that has motivated the Controller’s plan to change the timelines.

The bodies of Russell and a Cyberman are dumped in a corridor off from the main TARDIS console room. The Doctor remembers the ‘last time’ he’d encountered the Cybermen, when Adric had been killed [is his regenerative amnesia making him forget The Five Doctors?]. The Doctor thinks that he’d rather trust a wounded speelsnape [see Slipback] than trust Lytton.

The two partly Cybernised men are Flight Leader Lintus Stratton and Time Navigator Eregous Bates. They come from the planet Hatre Sedtry in ‘the star system known as Repton’s Cluster’ – and they were the original crew of the time ship now possessed by the Cybermen. The TARDIS’s arrival in the tombs on Telos (instead of Cyber Control) seems to concern the Cyber Leader, prompting the Doctor to wonder if these Cybermen have been programmed with ‘limited emotional response’. He could be right there, as the Cyber Controller chooses to have the Doctor thrown into a refrigerated cell with the express purpose of humiliating him before they can meet again.

The Cryon Thrast is renamed Thrust here (really, Eric…). The physiques of the Cryons resemble those of Earth women, but their faces are covered in a ‘translucent membrane’ with ‘large bulbous eyes’ and ‘coarse white hair’ on their jaws. Flast is ‘grotesquely disfigured’ with a gouge that runs the length of her face, the result of Cyber-torture. The rogue Cybermen’s condition is explicitly stated as a side effect of the Cryon toxin; it poisons the Cyberman’s brain and sends it insane before it eventually dies. After being stabbed in the arm by Lytton, the Cyber Controller strikes a blow to his neck, killing him outright. The surviving Cryons take refuge deep within the caves, watching the destruction of the tombs and planning to rebuild their planet.

Cover: The first cover was by Colin Howard, showing a Cyberman and a Cryon, a soaring comet and the frozen planet Telos. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover presents the Doctor, holding a tracking device, and a Cyberman with the black handles of the Leader (something Pearson had wanted to do for the original cover, before it was awarded to Colin Howard). The figures are presented within frames against the backdrop of a dark, foreboding planet.

Final Analysis: Many years ago, before Doctor Who’s 21st-Century return to our screens, I did my first ever pilgrimage with a friend through every episode of Doctor Who, in order. We managed to get through over 600 episodes in less than a year and then we reached episode one of Attack of the Cybermen. About four months later, we picked up with episode two and it was a struggle. So obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to this novelisation, especially because Eric Saward’s track record after his initial volume hasn’t been the most encouraging.

This is such a surprise. It still has all the clunky backstory and references to the past that made the TV version such a chore, but right from the start, Saward puts the effort in to make sense of the story he helped to create. He’s hugely sympathetic towards Charlie Griffiths (always ‘Charlie’ here), who might be a petty criminal hired for his muscle, but we’re shown how he feels happy seeing someone catch a bus and still worries about the risk of a local shopkeeper being mugged. Later, as he tries to take in the new information about Cybermen having ‘no emotions’, Charlie reviews the things that he feels give his life purpose, like walking in the park, eating one of his mother’s breakfasts, stroking his cat, drinking with his friends, or snuggling under his duvet; it’s a rather sweet encapsulation of the Doctor’s similar speech in Earthshock, but made a bit more tangible thanks to our privileged insight into Charlie’s mundane life in the first chapter.

This eagerness to make the characters more sympathetic extends to the Doctor himself. Saward always had a difficult relationship with this incarnation, yet this shows just how little needed to be changed to make him much more likeable. After an early outburst about his being ‘unstable’, the Doctor apologises to Peri:

‘Listen, Peri..’ The Doctor was now calmer. ‘Inside, I am a peaceful person… Perhaps on occasion,’ he demurred, ‘I can be all noise and bluster.’ Gently he took her arm. ‘But it is only bluster… You’ve nothing to fear. You’re quite safe.’ The Doctor looked baleful. ‘You will stay?’

Saward makes a real attempt to ‘fix’ this Doctor, removing a lot of the rough edges and bullying traits we saw on telly. Of course, the greatest effort of all goes into making us like – or at least respect – Lytton. In tone, he’s a lot closer to Kline, the character Maurice Colbourne played in the TV show Gangsters; he’s pragmatic and a little cold, but his claim to the Doctor that he’s a ‘reformed character’ is a lot more credible here, reinforced by a few peeks into his psyche and how Charlie notices changes in his behaviour, including the addition of a few jokes here and there.

The main plus point here is that the whole story is structured much more coherently. Without the need (if there really ever was one) to keep cutting frantically from location to location, Saward is able to introduce locations and characters when they become relevant. So, Stratton and Bates only appear once we’re on our way to Telos, while the Cyber Controller is foreshadowed but not actually seen until Lytton is presented to him. One of the few joyful moments we had with this story during our pilgrimage was a scene where, realising they’re in a room about to explode, two Cybermen push each other away in a panic, as if saying to each other, ‘Save yerself, Margaret!’ It’s a glorious moment of two under-directed performers improvising their motivations and turning it into farce. While that particular scene is played here strictly for drama, we’re treated to something almost as ridiculous when we finally encounter the Cyber Controller:

Dwarfing all around him, the Cyber Controller stood well over two metres high. With legs slightly apart and hands on hips he appeared like a mighty Colossus dominating the middle of the room. Surrounded by counsellors and guards, who fussed and responded to his every need, he made an impressive and terrifying sight.

Christopher Robbie made the same mistake in Revenge of the Cybermen: Cybermen do not look ‘impressive and terrifying’ with their hands on their hips.

Chapter 128. Doctor Who – Vengeance on Varos (1988)

Synopsis: A former prison planet is now the home to a broken society, where the Governor faces disintegration on the turn of a public vote, where the citizens are tortured for entertainment and where an unscrupulous alien financier can hold the planet to ransom for its minerals. The Doctor could help, but the Doctor is dead – dead as death…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Dome of Death
  • 2. The Vital Vote
  • 3. Execution
  • 4. Escape into Danger
  • 5. The Purple Zone
  • 6. Capture
  • 7. Death in the Desert
  • 8. Night and Silence
  • 9. Interrogation
  • 10. Quillam
  • 11. Condemned
  • 12. The Changelings
  • 13. Realm of Chaos
  • 14. The Final Vote
  • 15. Into the End Zone
  • 16. Goodbye to Varos

Background: Philip Martin adapts his own scripts from the 1985 serial. This is the missing book ‘106’, published 23 volumes late.

Notes: Bax wears the orange uniform of the Comm Tech Division. Etta fills in viewer reports about both the content broadcast to her screen and the reactions of her husband Arak, who works in the ‘Zeiton Ore division of Mine Tech’. Peri tells the Doctor she wants to go back home to America to continue her studies (this is probably just a reaction to the Doctor’s new personality, which the Doctor takes at face value and agrees to take her back). Sil is leaf-green in colour with ‘deep-set yellow eyes’ and he sits in a moveable water tank (into which he falls, during his first negotiations with the Governor); he is a mutant native of the planet Thoros Beta and representative of Galatron Consolidated (also known as  the Galatron Mining Corporation, as on screen). The Chief Officer holds more power than the Governor, something Sil tries to exploit with his alliances. The anthem of Varos is a march (not the ‘BBC Video jingle’ we hear on telly).

Chapter 4 is a familiar ‘Escape into Danger’. The Doctor has ‘steel blue eyes’. The Governor travels by private monorail car from the administration dome to his own residence, which he shares with the rest of the officer class. He has a trustee, called ‘Sevrin’ (reinforcing the suggestion that the ‘former prison planet’ still runs along prison lines, if the governor has a trustee). This governor was born into the officer class and while enjoying some blue wine from the vineyards of the planet Emsidium, he simply accepts that he should enjoy a life of luxury that is kept secret from the rest of the population. He recalls how he became the 45th Governor of Varos when the Chief Officer drew lots as a form of election. The Chief Officer and Quillam, the designer of Dome technology, are of equal rank and are apparently old enemies. The Governor is interrupted while bathing by a visit from the Chief Officer, which annoys the Governor as he was hoping to review some recordings from Taza, ‘the entertainment capital’ of his galaxy. 

Peri doesn’t witness the Doctor’s apparent death, but learns about it later when she’s taken by monorail to the Communications Dome, which houses the Governor’s office. The Governor tells Peri that he no longer has a name, now that he’s the Governor. The two mortuary attendants are called Az and Oza. When the Doctor dodges his charge, Az falls into the acid and then pulls his companion in too (there’s no battle where the Doctor might be said to have caused the death of at least one of the attendants). Quillam remains unseen until chapter 10 (though his voice is briefly heard issuing orders), which helps to build anticipation as the Chief and the Governor discuss him in his absence; the technology designer walks with a limp and swiftly replaces the mask the Doctor removes (rather than continuing with an exposed face as he does on TV). Arak watches the exploits of the Doctor and offers a running commentary, claiming Jondar’s torture is ‘fake’ and the Doctor’s acid-bath escape is ‘all fixed’.

Jondar used to maintain the shuttle cars that are reserved for the elite and he once managed to sneak inside the Governor’s dome, where he witnessed the luxury the Governor enjoys; this was the reason he was imprisoned and tortured. The savages who attack the Doctor’s party are ‘Wretches’, relatives of the condemned who are left without any means of support and who scavenge in the outer reaches of the Punishment Dome. The Governor, Maldak and Peri wear protective clothing with breathing equipment to cross the surface of Varos to reach the Punishment Dome.

As his negotiations with the Governor begin to fail, Sil becomes so enraged that he slips into a torrent of Thoros Betan curses which make his translator device explode under the strain. There are a fair few references to elements of Sil’s life that weren’t revealed in TV until Trial of a Time Lord: Sil has two bearers from Thoros Alpha – one of whom is called ‘Ber’ and who refers to Sil with due deference as ‘Mentor’; Sil receives confirmation of his failure aboard his star-ship, where the Governor informs Sil that he has been summoned back to his home world to appear before ‘Lord Kiv’. The news makes Sil’s green skin turn a few shades lighter. Aboard the TARDIS, as the Doctor sets the restored TARDIS on its way, Peri comes to terms with the horrific transformation she endured. The TARDIS leaves Varos, its dematerialisation witnessed by the Governor and his new ministers.

Cover: The Sid Sutton neon logo returns as David McAllister combines Sil, Quillam, a Varosian guard (probably Maldak), the ‘V’ icon of Varos and the planet’s dome-shaped dwellings. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover is simpler but very effective, showing just Sil, the Doctor and a Varosian ‘V’ logo against a background that evokes the mottled brown walls of the corridors. Chris Achilleos came out of retirement to provide a new illustration for a 2016 BBC Books rerelease, showing Sil, the Governor, a guard and the Doctor, but it’s just not up to the standards he set in the 1970s, sadly.

Final Analysis: It was worth the wait. Philip Martin might have delivered his manuscript later than expected, but he makes good use of the wider canvas offered by the printed page. He gives us a Varos that has a sense of scale, with monorails connecting the domes across the planet and patrol cars that soar, rather than trundle. The Governor, a vaguely sympathetic figure on TV, is as much a product of his time as the Controller in Day of the Daleks and we are shown a little of the privileges he enjoys while the rest of the population survives on basic rations. Of course, Martin’s greatest contribution to Doctor Who is his monstrous Sil and here, the author’s descriptions acknowledge the performance of actor Nabil Shaban, who brought the role alive so completely; Sil is every bit as slimy, as wet, as disgusting as he was on telly, gurgling and spitting as he thrashes about ‘like a trapped tuna’.

Chapter 126. Doctor Who – The Mysterious Planet (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor is on trial for his life and the prosecutor, the Valeyard, presents to a jury of Time Lords his first evidence, in which the Doctor and his friend Peri explore the planet Ravalox. There they meet the underground dwellers and their ruler, a robot called Drathro, the Tribe of the Free and their ruler, Queen Katryca, and a pair of intergalactic conmen called Glitz and Dibber, who confirm the Doctor’s suspicions, that the planet Ravalox has been moved across the universe from its original location – where it was known as ‘Earth’.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Trial Begins
  • 2. Underground
  • 3. Barbarian Queen
  • 4. The Stoning
  • 5. The Reprieve
  • 6. Meeting the Immortal
  • 7. Escape
  • 8. Captives of Queen Katryca
  • 9. The Attack of the Robot
  • 10. Hunt for the Doctor
  • 11. Secrets
  • 12. Tradesman’s Entrance
  • 13. The Big Bang
  • 14. End and Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for episodes 1-4 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. Holmes had been slated to adapt this himself, prior to his death in 1986.

Notes: The space station that houses the courtroom is hidden within a junkyard floating in space. The Doctor is ‘a tall, strongly built man with a slight tendency towards overweight’ (!) and beneath the ‘mop of curly hair, the face was round, full-lipped and sensual, with a hint of something catlike about the eyes’. The ups and downs of the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords are summarised, including his time as a fugitive, his exile to Earth for ‘five years’ (during which he was the scientific adviser to UNIT) and the couple of times he briefly occupied the position of President. Sabalom Glitz is ‘a burly thick-set fellow with a tendency towards fatness’, while his lackey, Dibber, is ‘taller and brawnier with a hard face and coarse bristly black hair’. The final chapter uses a title variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘End and Beginning’.

Cover: Queen Katryca is dwarfed by the L3 Robot, along with the planet Ravalox and a beam of black light, courtesy of Tony Masero. As before, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet’.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks returns and passes a few milestones’ as he adapts his friend Robert Holmes’ final complete story, tackles the sixth Doctor for his one and only time and it’s also his last novelisation for anything from outside of the 1960s. He matches the impressive opening model shot of the TV version with one of the best single pages of description he’s done for a while. 

Massive, arrogant, invincible, the great complex hovered in space, dwarfing the shattered hulks that drifted around it, dominating its section of space like some enormous baroque cathedral. There was an eerie, almost mystical quality about it. It seemed to be brooding… waiting. 

This enthusiasm to capture everything we might have felt on screen continues with the Doctor’s arrival; the insanity of his costume has never been described so thoroughly but in particular the ‘multi-coloured coat that might have made Joseph himself feel a pang of envy’. I can imagine Terrance chuckling as he wrote about ‘the jutting beak that was his nose [which] seemed to pursue the Doctor through most of his incarnations’. So cheeky!

Some years ago, I was hired as a ‘talking head’ contributor for the Doctor Who DVD range (subsequently released on Blu-Ray). My role there was to represent the views of the contributors who were no longer with us, so my interjections were deliberately on the side of the producer and less supportive of his more vocal critics, who I knew would also be interviewed. My own opinions were put aside, partly so that I didn’t stand in the way of the people I was representing, but also because my feelings towards the overall story – and this segment in particular – are very conflicted. The huge disappointment I felt on first viewing was replaced at first by mockery (a friend used to act out a hilarious ‘Trial in 14 minutes’ routine that had us guffawing for months) and then a desperation to ‘fix’ the story in our minds – a process fans now call ‘head-canon’. I didn’t read this novelisation at the time and it’s rewarding after all these years to find Terrance Dicks trying his best to nudge the narrative a little, hinting at things the reader might discover later or enhancing the mood with a well-chosen description; that thing on the Valeyard’s head might well be a ‘skull-cap’, but coming between the ‘all in black’ ensemble and the ‘gaunt-faced’ description, it just adds to the idea that the Time Lord prosecutor is Death personified. He’s not breaking any new ground here, but Dicks is definitely putting the effort where it’s needed most.

Bonus Chapter #4. Doctor Who – Slipback (1986)

Synopsis: On board the survey ship Vipod Moor, Captain Slarn is losing patience with his crew, a murderer is on the loose and the ship’s computer seems to be on the verge of insanity. As the Doctor and Peri explore the ship, they have no idea of the danger they are in, nor of the threat Slarn and his vessel pose to the entire universe.

Chapter Titles

  • Part One: In the Beginning…
  • 1. The Vipod Mor
  • 2. The Life and Times of Shellingborne Grant
  • 3. Something Nasty in the Ducting
  • 4. ‘This Is the Captain of Your Ship…’
  • Part Two: … Goodnight and Amen
  • 5. The Dissolute Time Lord
  • 6. Bath Time
  • 7. The Voice Within
  • 8. ‘Mr’ Seedle and ‘Mr’ Snatch
  • 9. The Search Begins
  • 10. The Meeting of the Minds
  • 11. The Search Ends

Background: Eric Saward adapts his scripts from the 1985 Radio 4 serial.

Notes: The first chapter boldly claims that only two planets in the Milky Way can boast of intelligent life, while the galaxy of Setna Streen had seventeen. While this does clash with much of galactic lore as established in Doctor Who, the chapter also claims that civilisation is impossible without the discovery and production of wine, which is so indisputable as to make everything else in the opening section easy to accept as fact. There’s also mention of a creature called a Voltrox [see Revelation of the Daleks] and the revelation that the ship Vipod Mor was named after a visiting Time Lord, who spoke portentously about the dangers of time travel. In a lengthy biography for Shellingborne Grant, we learn that he’s partial to Voxnic [see The Twin Dilemma]. We also learn more of the speelsnape [Revelation of the Daleks again]; it weighs ‘approximately fifty-five kilos… a little bigger than a large dog’, but with ‘the speed of a cheetah,the temperament of a psychopathic crocodile on a bad day’. It has razor-sharp teeth and can tear through anything. They live to eat and reproduce – and can mate with any species of its own size. Once born, a baby speelsnape always devours his mother (they are always male). They are also very beautiful and the pelt of a speelsnape is a highly prized fashion item, often used on seat covers.

We learn of the reason why the Doctor rarely sleeps:

As a rule, Time Lords require far less sleep than most humanoid life forms, usually managing to survive quite happily on three hours a day. What’s more, they also have the advantage of not requiring to take their rest in bulk. A ten minute doze here, a half hour snooze there, is a valid contribution to their three hour quota. 

While trying to cope with a drunken Doctor, Peri’s helped by a nearby Terileptil [see The Visitation] and there’s mention of the tinclavic mines on Raaga [see The Awakening]. The Doctor once again references the explorer Rudolph Musk [see the novelisation of The Twin Dilemma], who it turns out was swallowed whole by a splay-footed sceeg (though he survived, by reciting poetry, which made the sceeg vomit him back up). This story’s featured creature is the Maston, which apparently has a very distinctive scent, like rotting flesh (a smell that becomes deadly during the act of mating). They have sharp claws and a hairy, bulky body. 

Peri spent one term studying Kafka. Apparently the Doctor has never met ‘a computer with a thriving dual personality’ [but see The Face of Evil]. Captain Slarn is shot by his steward, Velsper, who then throws himself into a fire to prevent the crew from contracting mors immedicabilis. The public voice of the computer also allows the crew to abandon ship. The Time Lord who stops the Doctor is revealed to be the renegade Vipod Mor (in the radio production, he is not named).

Cover: Paul Mark Tams imagines a repulsive green face for Slarn as the TARDIS hovers nearby.

Final Analysis: Does this count? Well, it isn’t a numbered volume in the Target Doctor Who library (hence why this is a bonus chapter), but it was broadcast on a BBC channel and adapted as a novelisation, so here I am. Taking the tone of The Twin Dilemma to the next level, Eric Saward continues his Douglas Adams-esque meandering around his own universe – no, really, there’s a whole section about people who are followed around by rain, which will be familiar to Adams fans. We might also compare this to Tony Attwood’s Turlough spinoff, in that Saward cannot pass a character, location or beast without providing a potted biography, history or reproductive cycle for each one. Unlike Attwood though, each of the elements are at least quite funny or whimsical enough to be entertaining in their own right. However, this is a Doctor Who book and it’s painfully obvious that Saward is reluctant to introduce the lead characters and has little interest in them once they appear. You’ll have to wade through four chapters of backstory, diversion and, well, waffle, before you get sight or sound of the TARDIS. Still, well done on bulking the slight radio scripts into something approaching a novel.

Chapter 106. Doctor Who – Mark of the Rani (1986)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri meet the revolutionary engineer George Stephenson, still some years before he achieved fame. Stephenson has organised a meeting of some of the greatest minds of the age, but the event is threatened by a series of attacks from Luddites intent on wrecking any chance of progress. In reality, the attackers are victims of the Rani, an amoral Time Lord. Wanting to be left alone to her experiments, the Rani is instead coerced into joining forces with the Master against the Doctor…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. House Of Evil
  • 2. The Scarecrow
  • 3. The Old Crone
  • 4. Death Fall
  • 5. Enter The Rani
  • 6. Miasimia Goria
  • 7. A Deadly Signature
  • 8. Face To Face
  • 9. Triumph Of The Master
  • 10. A Change Of Loyalty
  • 11. Fools Rush In
  • 12. An Unpleasant Surprise
  • 13. Taken For A Ride
  • 14. The Bait
  • 15. Metamorphosis
  • 16. Life In The Balance
  • 17. More Macabre Memorials
  • 18. Cave-In
  • 19. Birth Of A Carnivore
  • 20. The Final Question
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt their own scripts from 1985. Jane Baker becomes only the second woman to have her name on the front of a Target novel. Due to Vengeance on Varos being delayed, the book numbering skips from 105 to 107; it’ll be a couple of years before 106 makes an appearance.

Notes: A prologue full of foreboding and an added TARDIS scene where the Doctor is said to possess an ‘unruly mop of fair curls’ and considers visiting Napoleon while Peri tries to avoid a debate with her travelling companion about English grammar. It’s honestly much funnier than that might sound. It’s Peri who speculates the Daleks might be behind the TARDIS veering off course, despite not having met them at this point (it’s the Doctor on TV). Peri has apparently proven in the past that she’s an expert ‘marksman’. In the Epilogue, we learn that the Doctor finally manages to take Peri to Kew Gardens, but the botany student is distracted, after her experience in Redfern Dell, every flower she looks at appears to have a human face…

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us the Rani disguised as an unidentifiable old crone, accompanied by the Rani’s TARDIS flying through the vortex and in the distance a coal mine. Apparently the unused cover, which used a likeness of Kate O’Mara, was also the one Skilleter was paid the most for. This is the last book to feature his original artwork, although his covers for the VHS releases were also on a selection of Target reprints.

Final Analysis: What a way to start a book: ‘Evil cannot be tasted, seen, or touched.’ Glorious hyperbole from the traditionally understated (!) Pip and Jane as they make the bold claim that the small mining community is so saturated in evil that ‘[if] allowed to flourish, the poisonous epidemic could reduce humankind to a harrowing role that would give a dung beetle superior status.’ Right from the off, P&J’s depiction of the Sixth Doctor is the most likeable and charming we’ve seen so far; his relationship with Peri is teasing but affectionate – he wants to make sure they reach Kew Gardens because it’s somewhere Peri really wants to visit. Knowing the writers’ propensity for sesquipedalian language, we might expect an exuberance for prose of a purple hue. Joking aside, this is refreshingly elegant, neither as florid as some of its recent predecessors nor as basic as a traditional Terrance Dicks. We also know that the Bakers, like Malcolm Hulke, were left-wing and they take great pains to disillusion the reader from imagining this historical trip as a jolly fantasy. Facing the prospect of being abandoned by the Doctor, Peri takes a morose turn:

Sooty eight year old urchins, scavenging for coal, tottered past with heavy baskets. Why weren’t they at school, she wondered, then remembered George Stephenson saying he was working down the mine at the age of nine. How romantic the prospect of this visit had been only a short while ago! Now she thought of the mean streets, cramped dwellings and the lack of hygiene. Hygiene? What if she were ill? Medical science didn’t exist. Depression making her morbid, she gazed at her leg. Suppose she had an accident and it had to be amputated? Anaesthetics hadn’t even been dreamt of! She’d just have to – what was the phrase? – bite on the bullet…

Chapter 105. Doctor Who – Timelash (1986)

Synopsis: The people of Karfel live under the rule of the Borad and his sole point of contact, an official known as the Maylin. When the ruthless Tekker assumes the role of Maylin, he takes the opportunity to remove all political opponents by casting them into the Timelash, a gateway directly into the time vortex. When the Doctor returns to Karfel after many years, he is appalled by the actions of Tekker and this ‘Borad’. He allies himself with the underground rebellion, determined to bring an end to the dictator and his lackey – but the Borad is not so easily defeated… 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. No Escape
  • 2. The Time Vortex
  • 3. Whirlpool
  • 4. Return of the Time Lord
  • 5. Negotiating the Timelash
  • 6. Stirring Embers
  • 7. Fight or Perish
  • 8. Battle Stations
  • 9. Regrouping
  • 10. Legacy of the Borad
  • 11. The Bandrils’ Bomb
  • 12. Double Trouble

Background: Glen McCoy adapts his own scripts from the 1985 serial.

Notes: Sezon and Katz were the leaders of separate rebel cells until recently, when they decided to combine their resources into a single unit. Katzin Makrif was the daughter of the Maylin who ‘died mysteriously’ when the Borad took control in a ‘so-called bloodless coup’. Katz was 16 at the time and lived in ‘servile submission and indignity’ for ten years before joining the rebellion. The rebels have lived a nomadic life, moving from place to place, and are now hiding in a disused mine that’s lain empty since the great famine that nearly wiped out the planet’s civilisation almost a century ago. While hunting for food, the pair are trapped in a cave by the arrival of a family of Morlox, only able to escape when the mother Morlox protects her brood against attack from another Morlox. Later, we’re told that both Katz and Sezon were once respected scientists and had suffered the Borad’s tyranny for six years before choosing to rebel.

The Doctor knowingly goads Peri purely to remain in control of their relationship. The Borad’s ageing device reduces the victim to dust, rather than the bouncy skeleton we saw on telly. Peri doesn’t encounter a rebel with a note for Sezon, nor does she throw a potentially deadly plant into the face of a guardollier. Her pendant, which is snatched from her neck by an android, is specifically a St Christopher, which suggests she’s either a Catholic or she’s still trying to rid herself of a Madonna obsession from her teens. Her flight from the Karfel dome takes her outside onto the planet’s surface, where she sees the twin suns of Rearbus and Selynx in the crimson sky. Eventually, she finds her way into the cave system (on screen, the caves connect directly to the city).

The Doctor fends off a Morlox with a wooden stake, which has been sprayed with Mustakozene 80. The chemical reacts with the creature, spearing it with sharp wooden spines that instantly grow through its body. The Borad sends a command to his androids to destroy all life in the citadel, resulting in a pitch-battle between the mechanical servants and the terrified citizens. Prior to the Borad’s reappearance, the Doctor and Mykros discover a chamber of capsules containing numerous Borad clones. The Doctor’s escape from the Bandril missiles is explained slightly more clearly than it was on screen.

Cover: A fine composition by David McAllister of the Borad, a blue-faced android and someone about to fall into the timelash.

Final Analysis: So the legend goes, Glen McCoy offered his services to novelise his TV scripts before the story was even on Target editor Nigel Robinson’s radar. His resulting novel presents us with a few extra scenes and the scale of the story is much greater than on TV, but there’s also a sense of McCoy telling rather than showing, with a lot of action reported rather dispassionately. At the time of release, Doctor Who Magazine praised the characterisation of the Doctor bursting into rooms and taking control, but his willingness here to gaslight his companion for the fun of it is as distasteful and difficult to accept as it was back in 1986.

Chapter 103. Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Peri has just witnessed her new friend die and be replaced by a completely different man. Unstable after the trauma of regeneration, this new Doctor is loud, violent and self-obsessed – and Peri is terrified of him. Deciding to become a hermit on a barren moon, the Doctor instead becomes entangled in a policeman’s investigation into the kidnapping of hyper-intelligent twins. The culprit is someone the Doctor once knew, but is now enslaved by a megalomaniacal slug with mind-boggling ambitions.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Home Time
  • 2. The Maladjusted Time Lord
  • 3. Enter Professor Edgeworth
  • 4. Mestor the Magnificent
  • 5. Titan Three
  • 6. An Unsafe Safe House
  • 7. The Reunion
  • 8. Jaconda, the Beautiful!
  • 9. End Game, Part One
  • 10. End Game, Part Two

Background: Eric Saward adapts the scripts by Anthony Steven for a 1984 serial.

Notes: Professor Archie Sylvest is a university lecturer who lives with his wife, Nimo, and their 12-year-old twin sons live at 25 Lydall Street, the only Georgian terrace left standing in a metropolis of ‘mirror-smooth’ and ‘flameproof, plastic buildings’. He has an android babysitter for the boys, which he knows they hate. Sylvest is scared of his children, something the boys exploit. He takes solace in harbouring murderous thoughts towards them (a strategy suggested by his therapist to help suppress his fears) while drinking too much Voxnic in the company of an attractive computer programmer called Vestal Smith. When Sylvest returns home drunk and discovers his sons’ disappearance, his concern is less that they might have been hurt and more that they might be used in some nefarious scheme or other.

The Time Lord process of regeneration is the work of a hormone called ‘lindos’, which works at lightning speed to repair every cell in the Time Lord body. An illustration of regeneration’s random nature comes in the story of Councillor Verne, whose stunning beauty distracted his peers from his unsuitability to office; his subsequent regenerations saw him grow increasingly unattractive until he became a ‘hideous monster’ who so distressed the then-Lord President that he ordered the Verne creature to be destroyed.

The new Doctor initially misunderstands Peri’s distress, but then apologises to her as he realises how terrified she must be. Peri is relieved and reassured – until she sees his new costume:

… each panel of the coat was quite different in texture, design and colour. This wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if the colours had blended, but they seemed to be cruelly, harshly, viciously at odds with each other. In fact, the coat was so gawdy it would have looked out of place on the back of a circus clown…. The whole ensemble was finished off with a waistcoast which looked as though someone had been sick on. (For all Peri knew, someone had.) The final touch was a livid green watch chain that at some time must have been stolen from a public lavatory.

Delightful! As she fights off the Doctor’s frenzied attack, Peri grabs the mirror in the hope of smashing it to use as a weapon against him.

The personal history of Professor Bernard Edgeworth – aka the Time Lord Azmael – is recounted: Like the Doctor, Azmael grew tired of life among the Time Lords and chose to retire; unlike the Doctor, the High Council decided Azmael was too dangerous to be allowed to escape their control and chose instead to kill him; they despatched ‘Seedle Warriors’ to assassinate him, only for the bloodthirsty squad to massacre the inhabitants of Vitrol Minor, where Azmael was hiding; Azmael brought legal proceedings against the High Council, who retaliated by framing him for their own crimes; Azmael’s last course of action was to gun down the High Council in their chambers and flee to the planet Jaconda. The specific species of gastropod that lays waste to Jaconda is the Sectoms. We also learn of the history of Titan Three, formerly home to the Mastons of Maston Viva, who fell victim to the generally bleak atmosphere of the planet and committed mass suicide, leaving behind their research equipment for Azmael to find.

‘Mestor the Magnificent’ is nearly two metres tall and considered ugly even by other gastropods. To allow him to stand upright, Mestor has grown two small legs that make him wobble as he walks, and two tiny arms, which serve ‘no particular function’ except to gesticulate as he speaks. 

His face, what there was of it, was humanoid in form. As he did not have a neck, head or shoulders, the features had grown where what would have been the underside of a normal slug’s jaw. As though to add to the peculiarity of a gastropod with a human face, the features were covered in a thin membrane.

Peri observes that the Doctor’s delusions lead him to act like Sherlock Holmes, Hern the Hunter (a dig at Doctor Who’s ITV rival Robin of Sherwood?), an explorer called Musk and a country squire. She apparently ‘never even grasped the fundamentals of the microwave oven’. The issue of the time delay with the matter transporter is removed; although Peri dematerialises first, the pair return to the TARDIS at the same time.

The planets that form part of Mestor’s plans are called Muston and Seniel  The Doctor recalls his past companions, including a rather brutal summation of Adric and his ‘childish antics’, a desperation ‘to be loved and accepted for what he was’, which prevented the Doctor (or at least, this incarnation) of ‘ever being able to fully praise, help or ultimately like him’. The Doctor’s first meeting with Mestor is delayed until the climax – their prior conversations conveyed via a hologram link.

Cover: Due to a breakdown in negotiations, an earlier cover showing Colin Baker was rejected (the actor’s agent enquired how much his fee might be for using his likeness and the publisher, misunderstanding the enquiry as a demand for payment, panicked and cancelled the already completed artwork). Andrew Skilleter’s second painting offers up a very green cover featuring a Jacondan, Mestor and some gastropod eggs. The 1993 reprint used Andrew Skilleter’s art for the VHS, again showing a Jacondan and Mestor, but this time joined by the Doctor.

Final Analysis: This is more than just an adaptation; its position in the history of Doctor Who offers us a little insight into events behind the scenes. It was written and published before the increasingly public fall-out between Eric Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner, but the causes of Saward’s dissatisfaction can be seen here in his depiction of the lead character. Even though it’s the post-regenerative monster that he’s writing, and even though he turns the self-serving and cowardly acts into something more whimsical (thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes etc), some of Saward’s negativity is still very much evident. In the final confrontation with Mestor, he frames this Doctor as sounding ‘more like a street bully than a Time Lord negotiating with a creature capable of taking over the universe’ and his pleading with the despot is ‘foolish, almost childish’. The conclusion to the tale is much less confident and reassuring than on TV. Peri even tells the Doctor she just wants to go home.

‘… whatever else happens, I am the new Doctor. This is me whether people like it or not.’

The statement was as bland and as sterile as it sounded.

Peri hoped that she had caught a glimpse of a smile as he uttered it.

If she hadn’t, this particular incarnation of the Time Lord would prove to be a very difficult person indeed.

Hugo Lang is also subject to a character assassination, the dogged and determined police officer becoming a self-serving and ruthlessly opportunistic man who pursues the twins only for personal glory and who decides to stay on Jaconda to extort money from Mestor’s chamberlain.

This is still a diverting read though, as Saward tries hard to make it more entertaining than he managed to make it on screen. As with the fox in The Visitation, Saward once again uses the form of an animal to witness events; the arrival of Azmael’s ship and his kidnapping of the twins goes undetected by anyone on Earth except a ginger cat, who prides himself on knowing what is happening before anyone else and vows to tell nobody about what he’s seen. His telling of the circumstances of Hugo Lang’s crash on Titan Three make for a scene straight out of Star Wars and, as the quote above shows, he succeeds in making Mestor a horrifying and fearsome presence. 

We’re now in the period where authors were encouraged to attempt something other than a straight retelling of the TV show and for many readers, the episodes would still be fresh in the memory. Saward attempts something in the style of Douglas Adams as his narrative regularly drifts off to discuss various tangentially related topics: A mention of Azmael’s revitalising modulator leads to a detailed history of the life and convoluted death of the machine’s inventor, Professor James Zarn, as well as the results of his other great scientific success, involving the Social and Sexual Life of the Veedle Fly; the acid that the Doctor uses to attack Mestor is Moston acid, which ages its victims to death and which is a product of Professor Vinny Mosten, about whom we also discover more than we’d ever hoped; even the floor of Mestor’s chamber, decorated with a celebrated Jacondan mosaic, inspires a further condensed history lecture. Whether or not this is a successful approach is down to personal taste. Personally, I rather enjoyed it, even if I was slightly worried every time a new brand name or invention popped up. Stop trying to make ‘Voxnic’ happen, Eric. It’s not going to happen.

Chapter 100. Doctor Who – The Two Doctors (1985)

Synopsis: When the Doctor and Peri land on a space station filled with a stench of death, they find a sole survivor – the Doctor’s old companion, the Highlander Jamie! The Doctor follows a trail across time and space to find his former self, Jamie’s Doctor, who is being held captive in a Spanish villa by a fanatical scientist, his Androgum servants and a pair of Sontarans. This unlikely team has ambitions to unlock the secrets of time travel – and their experiments on the Doctor’s past incarnation threaten his future self and the safety of the universe…

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Countdown to Death
  • 2. Massacre on J7
  • 3. Tomb in Space
  • 4. Adios, Doña Arana
  • 5. Creature of the Darkness
  • 6. The Bell Tolls
  • 7. The Doctor’s Dilemma
  • 8. Company of Madmen
  • 9. A Song for Supper
  • 10. Shockeye the Donor
  • 11. Ice Passage Ambush
  • 12. Alas, Poor Oscar

Background: Robert Holmes adapts his own scripts for the serial broadcast five months earlier. This is the 100th Target novelisation, so it comes with a congratulatory introduction from producer John Nathan-Turner.

Notes: The J7 station was designed by ‘architneers’ who exploited zero gravity to create ‘an ethereal tracery of loops and whorls and cusps that formed a constantly changing pattern as the station rotated slowly upon its axis’. Jamie recalls that he and the Doctor had been in a garden, where the Doctor had greeted ‘chieftains’ who wore yellow cloaks with high collars’ (clearly Time Lords) – and then remembers nothing else prior to their arrival in space near the J7 station. The Doctor hopes that undertaking this mission might improve his relations with ‘the High Council’. There’s no mention of Victoria’s whereabouts here. Jamie provides our viewpoint in the early chapters, so it’s through his eyes that we first see an Androgum: 

Shockeye’s sparse thatch of ginger hair topped a heavily boned face that sloped down into his body without any apparent necessity for a neck. His skin was grey and rugose, thickly blotched with the warty excrescences common to denizens of high-radiation planets…. every line of [his body], from the mastodon shoulders and over the gross belly to the tree-trunk legs, spoke of a frightening physical strength.

The Second Doctor quotes The Book of Job before telling Jamie to run. Chessene has a ‘cap of short, jet-black hair’ and wears ‘a long, dark dress’; she’s later described as a ‘well-built, dark-haired woman’ who is ‘tall and dark with a broad, heavy forehead’ (suggesting she looks closer to the intended casting of Elizabeth Spriggs, rather than the more elegant Jacqueline Pearce, who eventually played the role on telly). Before departing the station, she has a brief meeting with Sontaran Group Marshal Stike, who has gold braiding on his shoulders. Studying Stike next to his underling, Varl, Chessene wonders how Sontarans tell each other apart.

When the Sixth Doctor tells Peri about the joys of the gumblejack, the narrator informs us that he’s making it all up. Peri believes the Doctor to be 760 years old and remembers the events of the Doctor’s regeneration on Androzani Minor [see The Caves of Androzani], while the Doctor confesses that his latest incarnation ‘isn’t 100% yet’. When the feral Jamie attacks Peri, she manages to fend him off as ‘her muscles had been honed by years as a campus sports star’. By the time the Doctor and Peri reach the J7 station, it’s a lot clearer that some time has passed for Jamie, whose mind has snapped due to the trauma of believing he’s witnessed the Doctor’s death. As he observes the hologram of his second self – a ‘rather scruffy person in an ill-fitting tailcoat and black string necktie’ – the Doctor notes that he might recognise the Brigadier or Leela but he had ‘scarcely any recollection of how he himself had appeared in past forms’. He recalls spending ‘a delightful afternoon’ with Archimedes, before quoting himself from The Ark in Space.

As Chessene’s craft, The Delta-Six, approaches Earth, it knocks out communications and radar equipment around the planet and nearly instigates World War III. Shockeye’s hunger pangs make him consider eating Varl, but he knows the flesh of clone species is ‘coarse and lacking in flavour’. We’ve told some of the 90-year-old Doña Arana’s past, her late husband Don Vincente and their three children, shortly before she is swiftly and brutally killed by Shockeye; Chessene commands that the old lady’s body be incinerated.

Jamie and Peri have to wake the Doctor from his temporal plain trance as a fire breaks out in Dastari’s office. The Second Doctor recalls a time when he attended a banquet in honour of a Dominator on Bellaphores, a planet where they don’t make wine, their delicacy is ‘a fermented slurry of clay and animal faeces’, which the locals suck through ‘colloidal membranes’; the experience made the Doctor sick for days after. Oscar Botcherby runs a restaurant called ‘La Piranella’ (not Las Cadenas), which he claims he’s doing as a favour while he’s ‘between roles’ (Anita notes to herself that Oscar has been working there for at least three years). As he gets dressed up in Don Arana’s old clothes, Shockeye sings an old Androgum lullaby that begins ‘Go to sleep my little grey lump of fun’ and later composes his own ditty about the joys of cooking a Tellurian (in the chapter ‘A Song for Supper’). 

On hearing Jamie call his new friend ‘Doctor’, Stike assumes it’s a common Time Lord title, rather than the same Time Lord; the Doctor mocks the Sontaran habit of having grand military ranks: ‘I’ve never met a Sontaran private yet,’ he goads. Revealing that she has acquired three canisters of coronic acid, Chessene states that the Rutans used coronic acid shells and ‘decimated’ [sic] the Sontarans at Vollotha (which the Doctor later confirms is a weapon that specifically targets cloned races); this revelation alerts Dastari to the fact that Chessene has secretly and  independently been in contact with the Sontarans’ greatest enemy. Varl flatters Stike with a discussion about his superior’s prospective military career, just as Chessene attacks them with the chronic acid. Varl takes the full blast, and Stike, crawling away to safety, vows to recommend Varl for inclusion in ‘the Golden Roll of Sontaran Heroes’.

The Androgum’s bill at Oscar’s restaurant tallies up a different selection to the items on TV, including quenelles, ortolon, crevettes, truffled goose with almonds, wild boar with Grand Veneur sauce, saddle of venison with chocolate, eight T-bone steaks and ‘an entire fieldfare pie’ for twelve. The Second Doctor tries to pay for the meal with a five-dollar bill in Confederate currency. Shockeye stabs Oscar, draws the knife up to the man’s breastbone and throws him across the restaurant. As he dies, Oscar asks Maria to take care of his teddy bear [possibly a reference to actor James Saxon’s teddy-bear-obsessed character in the popular ITV sitcom Brass]. When the Doctor prepares to kill Shockeye, he tears some of the lining from his coat (yes, he’s been wearing that through all that running about in the Spanish heat!). He dispatches the Androgum but doesn’t make his ‘just desserts’ quip; instead he considers the death to be ‘one back for Oscar’. His declaration for a life of vegetarianism is removed. The body of Doña Arana remains undiscovered for some time as her visiting priest has been ill; local police file her death and the destruction of her home next to the unsolved murder of Oscar Botcherby.

Cover: It’s a shame the trend at the time was to avoid paying for the likenesses of actors, but this is quite a clever cover as a Sontaran and the Spanish villa are interrupted by two TARDISes zooming off together in symmetry. To mark the book’s position as the 100th Target release, the neon logo is printed in gold foil.

Final Analysis: This is of course Robert Holmes’ only full novel for the range (having provided just the prologue for The Time Warrior, uncredited), so it’s appropriate that we’re also celebrating book 100 here. It contains all of the dark humour and relish for violence that we saw on telly and Holmes’ take is more graphic than even Ian Marter’s greatest excesses: The computer operator on the J7 station dies with ‘his tongue protruding thickly, like a bursting plum’; the scientist shot in front of the second Doctor ‘dance[s] into the room in a grisly pirouette, the tiny rheon shells ripping open sagging red holes in his body as though the flesh concealed a dozen zip-fasteners’; there’s a particularly nasty depiction of the Doña Arana’s final seconds (in a chapter called ‘Adios, Doña Arana’) as Shockeye snaps her neck, while the smell of her burning carcass merely makes her killer hungry; and there’s a particularly vivid description of how to prepare a cat for cooking.  This is definitely not one for the squeamish – and I love it.

There’s also poetry in some of the prose. When the Doctor is lost in reverie at the thought of the end of the universe, he considers all the innocent life forms that will be affected by his projected catastrophe and debates with himself whether the blame lies with ‘intelligent species, driven by the unquenchable fires of ambition’:

… it was the intelligent species who, by observation and deduction, pieced together the cosmic jigsaw, who saw the connection between a clod of mud and a moonbeam and could descry orderly patterns in the swirling sands of life…. Without intelligence, no chasms would have been bridged. There would have been no cathedrals, no symphonies, no sonnets, no equations. And the pathways to the stars would never have been traversed.

While appreciation of the story itself is of course a matter of personal taste, it can’t be denied that the level of additional detail and character insight is exactly what we might want from a Target novelisation. Just a shame Robert Holmes never wrote any more.

Chapter 93. Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani (1985)

Synopsis: Troops from Androzani Major are losing in a war against the android soldiers of Sharaz Jek, an arms trader who controls his operations from deep within the catacombs of the twin planet Androzani Minor. Driven by revenge, Jek has a stranglehold over the supply of spectrox, a substance that, when refined, is a much-valued elixir. In its raw state, however, it can be a deadly poison. And both the Doctor and Peri are already suffering from the effects of spectrox toxaemia. Can the Doctor hold off an impending regeneration long enough to rescue Peri and get them both to safety? 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Androzani Minor Revisited
  • 2. Spectrox War
  • 3. The Execution
  • 4. Sharaz Jek
  • 5. The Escape
  • 6. The Magma Beast
  • 7. Spy!
  • 8. The Boss
  • 9. Crash Down
  • 10. Mud Burst
  • 11. Takeover
  • 12. Change

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for a serial broadcast eight months earlier. This followed Planet of Fire on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Androzani Major and Minor are two of the five planets that make up the Sirius system. Peri gets her very own Terrance Dicks summary, she’s ‘an attractive American girl, her piquant features framed in short dark hair.’ She considers the Doctor’s interest in everything to be one of his ‘endearing and aggravating characteristics’, which might indicate that they’ve been together for some time, even though soon after she says that the mud of Androzani Major would make ‘a change from lava’, which would suggest this is her first trip since Sarn – or they’ve visited a lot of volcanic locations. We’re shown what happened to Trooper Boze (a scene only recounted on TV in reported speech by the android Salateen) and the reference to ‘Chacaws’ is explained; they’re a ‘fiercely-spiked fruit grown on the penal plantations of Androzani Major’, which leave the chacaw pickers covered in scars.

The Magma Beast is the recipient of this volume’s ‘let’s beef up the monster’ award:

The body resembled that of a giant tortoise, or perhaps an armadillo, though the creature stalked upright on two powerful back legs, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The massive fanged head was like that of a tyrannosaurus too, though it also bore two ferocious-looking horns. The powerful arms were short and stubby, ending in two enormous claws. As the monster stalked forwards, the massive carapace, at once protection and camouflage, covered the back of its body like an armoured cloak.

When the Doctor finds the beast dead, he surmises that it was caught in a mud burst and ‘either choked or boiled to death’. Sharaz Jek removes his mask to reveal ‘two mad eyes blazing from a face that was no more than a formless blob, a lump of peeling corrugated skin, devoid of all features’. He strangles Morgus until he’s dead (rather than shoving his head into the laser of one of his machines). 

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s cover shows Sharaz Jex clutching his mask forlornly while an explosion overhead has a blurred and very subtle approximation of the sixth Doctor’s face. A 1992 reprint uses the VHS cover, again by Skilleter, which shows the fifth Doctor, Sharaz Jek (inset), some androids and the twin Androzani planets.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks is back, working on his friend Robert Holmes’s most popular story – and doesn’t put a foot wrong. He adds little details to help build upon the societies Holmes created, puts in a few extra bits to bridge gaps – and unlike the omissions by Bidmead in Logopolis, he describes the onscreen visions of the Doctor’s past companions and the Master’s taunting. It’s the idea that the Master might literally get the last laugh that propels him towards choosing to survive. And so, once again, Terrance gets to describe the first moments of a new Doctor:

He had a broad, high forehead and a mop of curly light-brown hair. There was something cat-like about the eyes, a touch of arrogance in the mouth.