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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 14. Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (1975)

Synopsis: A renegade Time Lord calling himself ‘The Master’ has followed the Doctor to Earth and as an introductory calling card he’s brought the Autons with him. The Doctor has even more trouble on his hands with a new assistant forced upon him by the Brigadier, the very keen and very newly qualified agent Jo Grant.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Terror Begins
  • 2. Sabotage at the Space Probe
  • 3. The Master Takes Over
  • 4..Death at the Plastics Factory
  • 5. The Killer Doll
  • 6. In the Hands of the Autons
  • 7. The Battle of the Forest
  • 8. The Killer Doll Attacks
  • 9. The Deadly Daffodils
  • 10. Prisoners of the Master
  • 11. The Final Assault
  • 12. The End of Round One

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ 1971 scripts.

Notes: Our introduction to Luigi Rossini (real name here is ‘Lew Ross’) presents a much more consciously obnoxious figure, employing labour of a mainly criminal type as they’re cheap and won’t risk complaining. This includes Tony the Strongman, who’s wanted by the police. Rossini manages to persuade his crew that the Doctor and Jo blew up Phillips as they were trying to steal the mob’s wages. The Auton meteorite device glows green as in The Auton Invasion, while the Master says that the plastic chair that kills McDermott is made of ‘polynestine’. The Doctor recognises the visiting Time Lord as being a member of the High Council who exiled the Doctor to Earth.

The Doctor recognises the device that the Master leaves in the cabin of the radio telescope is a ‘Volataliser’, a product of ‘The Xanthoids [who] use them for mining operations’, while the one that Jo tries to detonate in the UNIT lab is ‘a Saturnian Solar Bomb’. One of the best / nastiest additions is the revelation that the Master uses Professor Phillips to help him operate controls within his Tardis, but when he’s not on duty, he is both disguised as – and forced to work as – an actual clown, because it amuses the Master to ‘degrade a brilliant scientist into a mindless buffoon’. There’s a gap of a few days between Mr Farrel’s death and the Doctor’s visit to his wife, and the distribution of the daffodils spans a few more days too. Brownrose from the Ministry is completely removed and I didn’t even notice until just now. And of course, as the cover reveals, the description of the Nestene’s arrival is much more impressive than on TV.

Considering the Master’s crimes, the Doctor provides an insight into their race:

Once captured by the Time Lords, the Master’s life-stream would be thrown into reverse. Not only would he no longer exist, he would never have existed. It was the severest punishment in the Time Lords’ power.

The text refers to the ‘chameleon mechanism’ and ‘chameleon circuits’ for the first time in print (and ‘chameleon circuit’ won’t be said on screen until Logopolis!). There’s also a reference to a ‘Sontaran fragmentation grenade’ (the story came before their first appearance, but the novelisation was published a year after The Time Warrior aired). The Doctor makes good use of his sonic screwdriver, dismantling a bomb, opening the Auton-containing safe and trying to break into the Master’s Tardis. We’re party to the Master’s thought processes as he weighs up his options in turning against the Nestene, swayed by the Doctor’s persuasive argument – and the Brigadier’s pistol.

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes’ original cover depicts a scene that doesn’t actually happen on TV as the one-eyed crabtopus Nestene creature envelops the radio telescope and, inset, the Doctor makes a surprise entrance as the Master plays with a lever. The back cover again features an illustration, Captain Yates inspects a fallen auton carnival dummy while another soldier in silhouette takes on a horde of autons. The 1979 reprint boasts a cover by Alun Hood, again depicting the imagined Nestene but in a more photorealistic style more akin to a Pan horror book; this was the edition I first owned and I was convinced this was a photo of the prop they used (what a disappointment the TV version turned out to be!). Alan Willow provides six illustrations, all of which expand upon what we saw on TV. It’s hard to pick a favourite although I love the one of the radiotelescope technician working away as ‘A dark shape peered down at him’ – the Master, snooping through a skylight, is much more dramatic than him just stepping through a door. 

Final Analysis: Another good job by Dicks here, covering a lot of ground and adding nuance where appropriate. Jo’s previous ‘debut’ in The Doomsday Weapon is glossed over, but there’s some decent continuity between this and The Auton Invasion, including the Brigadier asking why they can’t just do what they did last time and the Doctor points out all the flaws in his previous attack plan.

Chapter 13. Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (1975)

aka Doctor Who – Robot (1992)

Synopsis: As everyone comes to terms with the appearance and behaviour of a brand new Doctor, a robot with conflicting orders is stealing parts for a super-weapon. Sarah Jane Smith investigates an elite scientific research group while new arrival Harry Sullivan tries his hand at playing James Bond.

Chapter Titles

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

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own scripts for the 1974-5 story Robot (snatching the record from The Sea Devils for the shortest gap between broadcast and novelisation publication, at one month and three weeks).

Notes: The regeneration is a lot more involved and emotional than the simple cross-fade seen on telly. It’s told in flashback from the Brigadier’s point of view and it enables Dicks to give us a very brief history of the Brigadier’s relationships with his two previous Doctors.

Suddenly it had been all over. A new man with a new face was lying on the laboratory floor. Like, and yet unlike. Still tall and thin, still with the same rather beaky nose. But a younger man, the face far less lined, a tangle of curly brown hair replacing the flowing white locks.

The Doctor’s recovery takes much longer than on screen. The Doctor’s car, Bessie, is described as ‘an old Edwardian roadster’ (and we’ll see variations of this again over the years). On first seeing the robot, Sarah faints (no, she doesn’t, Terrance! No!). There’s a new scene where UNIT raids Thinktank only to discover they’ve already abandoned their base, while the K1 robot is attacked by RAF jets (as shown on the first cover). And at last, we experience Harry’s first reaction to being inside the Tardis!

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes ushers in a more comic-book style for this cover, which shows the K1 robot attacked by fighter planes on three sides while an inset shows the robot’s giant hand clasped around a screaming Sarah Jane – it’s very reminiscent of King Kong, of course. The logo on the cover now reflects the logo used on screen for the first time, using a version of Bernard Lodge’s design, and for this cover only, the Doctor’s face peers from the ‘O’. No internal illustrations this time, but there’s a two-panel illustration on the rear of the cover depicting the giant robot booting a UNIT jeep into the air. My first edition was the 1979 reprint with the portrait of K1 by Jeff Cummins, which dropped the rear illustration. The 1992 version used Alister Pearson’s painting for the VHS cover, with the K1 robot changing size against a lovely portrait of the Doctor.

Final Analysis: Is this the beginning of the more simplified novelisations? Not much is changed from screen to page but it all flows along nicely without expanding the story to any great degree.