Chapter 131. Doctor Who – The Ultimate Foe (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s defence backfires and the situation looks bleak for his trial by the Time Lords. Unexpected witnesses arrive in the form of Mel and the scheming Glitz, brought to the court by the Master. The Doctor’s oldest enemy has come to his aid for one reason – to expose the Doctor’s prosecutor, the Valeyard. Soon, the Doctor is fighting for his life deep inside the Matrix, trapped by an adversary who knows him better than he knows himself…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Key of Rassilon
  • 2. An Unwelcome Intruder
  • 3. Evil Intent
  • 4. Twelve-and-a-half
  • 5. Treason
  • 6. A World Apart
  • 7. A Lethal Greeting
  • 8. Mr Popplewick
  • 9. A Sticky End
  • 10. To Be Or Not To Be
  • 11. Out of the Frying Pan
  • 12. The Baiter Bitten
  • 13. False Witness
  • 14. Off With His Head
  • 15. Mesmeric Riches
  • 16. Point and Counterpoint
  • 17. About-face
  • 18. Two-faced
  • 19. Double-faced
  • 20. Particles of Death
  • 21. The Price of Vanity
  • 22. The Keeper Vanishes
  • 23. Carrot Juice
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt one script by Robert Holmes and another by themselves for the concluding episodes of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord.

Notes: The prologue recaps the trial so far, the events on Ravalox, Sil’s experiments with brain transference and the attack on the Vervoids. The Doctor has been ‘plucked out of time’ and brought to the space station where the trial is being conducted, ‘a baroque cathedral with dozens of thrusting spires and straddled with porticoes’, a ‘gargantuan hulk’ where ‘all the processes of existence hitherto experienced are suspended’. Sabalom Glitz is a ‘thief, liar, and incorrigible rogue. A coward who would sell his grandmother to save his own skin. For whom profit was a god. A wheeler-dealer devoid of conscience.’ Despite her being ‘half his size, a quarter his weight’, Glitz is initially more afraid of Mel than she is of him. She pinches him to prove that he isn’t dead (he’s spooked by the coffin-shaped capsules that have brought them to the trial station). Mel was in the TARDIS – the future Doctor’s TARDIS – writing an ‘experimental programme for one of the TARDIS’s complex computers’ when she was plucked out of time and brought to the courtroom. Glitz is also standing closer to the Doctor than he was on screen – at one point, afraid that the guards might use their guns on him, he shields himself behind the Doctor’s ‘portly form’. As the revelations begin to flow, Mel stands next to the Doctor, close enough to grab his arm in surprise. The Doctor apparently gives his adventures titles, having christened his last encounter with the Master ‘The Mark Of The Rani’.

Though the contents of ‘the secrets’ that were the focus of Glitz’s attention in The Mysterious Planet were not revealed at that time, we discover in chapter 3 that they were stolen from the Matrix. The Inquisitor admonishes the Valeyard for his attempts to silence the Master. The Master claims that the Valeyard is the Doctor’s penultimate incarnation; on TV, this is slightly less clear. Glitz claims to see a resemblance between the Doctor and the Valeyard (‘Same shaped nose. And the mouth. He’s got your mouth’) , though this is challenged robustly by Mel. Having revealed the Valeyard’s true identity, the Master, aided by Glitz, then explains the  mystery behind Ravalox and the theft of the secrets by the Andromedan Sleepers – and only after the Doctor rebukes the Time Lords for their corruption does the Valeyard flee the court. The Master claims to know both the accused and the prosecutor ‘intimately’.

The Inquisitor had been selected from many candidates to oversee the trial; she felt the appointment to be the pinnacle of her career and likely to see her ascend to the High Council. One of the jurors is a two-thousand-year-old Time Lord called Xeroniam. Glitz wears pyjamas made of ‘Attack Repulsor PolyCreman pongee’ (!), fastened with ‘Batayn Radaral buttons’. The authors provide an explanation for how the Master acquired his access to the Matrix that is… wonderfully convoluted. The Time Lords have relegated maintenance of the Matrix to the Elzevirs, inhabitants of the Moon of Leptonica in the constellation of Daedalus and specialists in micro-technology. The Master hypnotised Nilex, an individual who supervised the Matrix repair team. Nilex duplicated the Key of Rassilon and gave the copy to the Master. 

Mel’s spirited defence of the Doctor is revealed to be a ploy to get close enough to the Keeper of the Matrix to be able to steal his key. A crowd of people await the Doctor’s execution within the Matrix. The Doctor is aware of Mr Popplewick’s secret identity before the revelation. There’s a reminder of the Master’s previous exploits, including his final scene in Mark of the Rani, where he and the Rani were trapped in the Rani’s TARDIS with an ever-expanding tyrannosaurus rex, until the creature grew so big that its spine snapped (as previously recounted in the Time and the Rani novelisation). The Inquisitor lightly rebukes the Doctor for his comments about the corruption in Gallifrey society, before she invites him to become president. In the epilogue, the Doctor explains to Mel that she has to return to her own timeline and leave him to travel alone until they meet properly.

Cover: The Oliver Elms logo settles into place from now on, as Alister Pearson paints two capsules descending down a trial-ship beam of light, with Mr Popplewick standing proudly (a stunning likeness). Pearson had painted a beautiful duo of the Inquisitor and the Valeyard in the courtroom, but the final illustration is a lot more dramatic. Consistent with the two other books published so far, 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 Ultimate Foe’).

Final Analysis: Pip and Jane Baker deliver their final novelisation and it’s like a distillation of their stories so far. They’re as exuberant with their verbosity as ever, capturing the sesquipedalian nonsense of the original TV story and turning it up a notch (a particularly nice line is the Valeyard saying to Glitz ‘I really cannot countenance such exoteric improbity’). Their intention all along was to ignite a passion for language in the viewer and we might ponder just how invested in this flowery language a young reader might be, but I have to confess… it worked for me! I scampered to the dictionary to look up every new word. They were always the best writers for the Sixth Doctor, matching his pomposity with a kindness that was sadly lacking with other writers. Here, they’re equally successful in bringing Glitz to life, creating a character whose every move is either cowardly or conniving. Even Mel is portrayed as an independent, fiery and determined individual with an unwavering loyalty and admiration for the Doctor.

While the resolution to the trial was a mess, there were extenuating circumstances. The Bakers here resist the temptation to rewrite the story from scratch; they fulfil the remit of adapting what happened on screen admirably. But, as all the greats do, they tweak along the way, adding extra motivations or backstory (some of which is bonkers!). Unlike in Terror of the Vervoids however (where they tended to infodump right before the information was required), they manage to foreshadow their additions and build upon what we saw on telly. Even if their explanation for the Master’s acquisition of the Matrix key is, er… no it’s actually insane, but all the more entertaining for it. They were inconsistent, but I’ll really miss them.

Chapter 127. Doctor Who – Time and the Rani (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor has regenerated after an accident in his TARDIS, and his enemy the Rani is exploiting his post-regenerative confusion to gain his assistance with one of her experiments. As Mel explores the planet Lakertya and encounters the bat-like Tetraps, the Doctor seems to have forgotten something… who is he?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Regeneration
  • 2. The New Doctor
  • 3. Death is Sprung
  • 4. Identity Crisis
  • 5. Collaborators All
  • 6. On With The Fray
  • 7. Haute Couture
  • 8. Visions of Greatness
  • 9. Face To Face
  • 10. A Kangaroo Never Forgets
  • 11. When Strangers Meet
  • 12. ‘You Know, Don’t You!’
  • 13. Rendezvous With a Tetrap
  • 14. The Centre of Leisure
  • 15. Exchange Is A Robbery
  • 16. The Twelfth Genius
  • 17. Selective Retribution
  • 18. Too Many Cooks
  • 19. Star Struck!
  • 20. Holy Grail
  • 21. A Dangerous Break
  • 22. Countdown
  • 23. Goodbye Lakertya

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt their own scripts for a story from 1987.

Notes: The opening chapter is a gift – the final scene featuring the sixth Doctor. As Mel is exercising, the Doctor finds he can’t control the TARDIS. There’s mention of the Hostile Action Displacement System [see The Krotons], which the Doctor has forgotten to set. His regeneration seems to be caused when he falls head first against the TARDIS console. Or ‘tumultuous buffering’ as the authors have it.

Lakertyans still have the remnants of tails under their clothes. They have yellow skin and patches of mother-of-pearl-like scales on their arms and face. The Rani is a ‘Time Lady’ who, we’re told, the Doctor considers to be ‘more brilliant than himself’. As well as Einstein, the Rani’s collection of genii includes Charles Darwin, the physicist Niels Bohr and Louis Pasteur as well as figures from other planets such as Za Panato and Ari Centos. While the previous Doctor was six feet tall, the new one has to get used to being five feet six, hence all the falling about. He studied thermodynamics at university while the Rani specialised in chemistry. Unlike the Doctor, the Rani has never regenerated, having led a life of extreme caution. She escaped the predicament of a Tyrannosaurus Rex rapidly growing to full size due to time spillage in her own TARDIS when the creature grew too big and its spine snapped against the ceiling of the TARDIS [see Mark of the Rani].

Mel went to school in Pease Pottage, Sussex (it’s not just where she lived when she met the Doctor, she grew up there) and she once played the third witch in a production of Macbeth. As she confronts the stranger who is the new Doctor, she improvises a weapon with an acetylene torch; the Doctor uses a stool as a shield, until the seat catches fire. Later, the Doctor steps aside as a Tetrap falls into a bubble trap (on TV, he actively pushes it). He uses a penknife to release himself from the Rani’s cabinet. A Tetrap steps on a phial that Mel has dropped, accidentally smashing it and releasing a rapid-action fungus that engulfs the creature and suffocates it. At university, the Doctor and the Rani had enjoyed ‘many an academic battle of wits’ in debates. Instead of dismantling an ornamental decoration, Ikona pulls some cable from a videogame and hands it to Mel to strip for wire. When she’s finally captured by the Tetraps, the Rani is suspended upside down from the ceiling of her TARDIS.

Cover: A final photographic cover and it’s one that actually shows something interesting from the story – namely the Tetraps hanging upside down (a publicity release with an early rejected cover used the neon logo and artwork by Tony Masero of the Tetrap lair, but printed the wrong way up, to show the Tetraps, er, not upside-down). We have the introduction of the Oliver Elms logo. Alister Pearson painted a much more traditional cover for the 1991 reprint, with the Rani, a Tetrap, the new Doctor, the planet Lakertya, the space brain and a lump of strange matter all jostling for space. 

Final Analysis: A huge improvement from Terror of the Vervoids, this novelisation is less giddy and much less overwritten. A good job, as it has one of the most insane plots of any Who adventure (and I have always utterly adored it). While the Bakers used lots of words to create their Vervoids on the page, the description still didn’t successfully build a mental picture of what it was supposed to look like (a difficult task without saying ‘a mash of genitals’!). The summary of the Tetrap follows the slow build to what we saw on TV – multiple points of vision, the odd claw or foot – before the final reveal as Urak jumps out and surprises Mel:

The vulpine, rodent-like face was covered with a gangrenous, oily down. Splayed, moist nostrils and thin sucking lips were dominated by a single luminous eye that glared unblinkingly from beneath a cockscomb of bristle. The veined, bloodshot orb had an enlarged pupil with a green halo.

As if this did not create an ugly enough apparition, above each delicately pointed pink ear, a similar eye bulged.

A fourth eye adorned the back of the Tetrap’s skull. These four eyes were the reason for the three hundred and sixty degree perspective: the quadview.

A predatory grimace exposed razor-sharp cuspids as the repulsive half-ape-half-rat leered at Mel. Then a venomous forked tongue spat at her!

That isn’t to say the authors are not at their verbose best, just that it’s a lot more easy to take in this time. The decision to make the alien language of Tetrapyriarban just… English backwards is hilariously dumb though. Especially when, having come up with this idea, they then explain it. Madness! Similarly, the miraculous substance the Rani seeks is called ‘Loyhargil’, a fact revealed in a chapter called ‘Holy Grail’. Haha – marvellous.

Chapter 124. Doctor Who – Terror of the Vervoids (1988)

Synopsis: As the Time Lords conclude their case for the prosecution, the Doctor takes his place to deliver a defence using evidence from his own future. It concerns his response to a distress call from the Hyperion III, a luxury liner travelling from Mogar to Earth. Among the passengers are a trio of Mogarians and a group of scientists specialising in the propagation of plants. Down in the hold, in a secure area, is a collection of large pods containing… what? As the Doctor and his friend Mel discover on arrival, the ship also contains a murderer.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Defence Begins
  • 2 Identity Crisis
  • 3 Welcome Aboard
  • 4 Limbering Up
  • 5 Tiger Trap
  • 6 The Booby Trap
  • 7 The Fateful Harvest
  • 8 The Demeter Seeds
  • 9 A Change of Course
  • 10 Death Of An Impostor
  • 11 A Plethora of Suspects
  • 12 The Isolation Room
  • 13 Quirky Phenomena
  • 14 The Enemy Within
  • 15 Deadly Disposal
  • 16 A Heinous Crime
  • 17 The Black Hole of Tartarus
  • 18 A Deadly Intruder
  • 19 A Whiff of Death
  • 20 Hijack
  • 21 A Sacrificial Goat
  • 22 Dénouement
  • 23 Philosophy of a Vervoid
  • 24 The Life Cycle
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip & Jane Baker adapt their scripts for episodes 9-12 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. This is the first ‘modern’ story in 19 books and the Sixth Doctor is no longer the incumbent.

Notes: Melanie, ‘known as Mel’, was a computer programmer when she joined the Doctor three months ago, her time; her background in computers is hinted at, but not specifically stated on screen until Time and the Rani (and her given surname, Bush, is never actually said onscreen or in print, only in character outlines from the production office). She is 22 years old, 4 feet 10 inches tall and has a 22″ waist. The Doctor has blue eyes. The authors draw our attention to the fact that, like the other two Mogarians, Enzu has a vowel at each end of his name and a ‘z’ in the middle.

The ‘waxy, olive, leaf-veined hands’ of the Vervoids are tipped with thorns, they have ‘vermillion features’ and their skeletons are formed from vines.

Walking upright, the biped’s head was sculpted like a closed ivory brown bud. It had sunken cheeks that projected forward an o-shaped, rubbery mouth. Curling, transparent sepals shielded ear-slits. Neither eyebrows nor lashes framed the lidless, staring eyes in the grotesque, noseless face. Noseless because, like plants, it breathed through its waxy leaves.

Defending himself from a Vervoid attack through a ventilation grill, Bruchner severs the creature’s brittle arm, which independently continues to attack him. After hijacking the bridge of the Hyperion III, Bruchner imagines an Earth ruled by Vervoids, where humanity Is driven to the deserts – and even there he suspects the creatures might somehow thrive. As one Vervoid falls victim to the garbage disposal, another Vervoid learns how to use a gun and shoots a guard dead. There are a few additional scenes of the Valeyard back in the courtroom, taunting the Doctor and leading the jury towards a guilty verdict. It’s clarified that the Mogarians are killed by acid that corrodes their suits and exposes them to the air that is toxic to them. As he borrows a gun, the Doctor slips a note to the Commodore warning him of his suspicions about Doland.

Mr Kimber wears a wristwatch given to him by his son, Peter; he’s travelling back to Earth to visit his son and four grandchildren, looking forward to spending time in the Yorkshire Dales. Lasky’s father, Hubert, was a celebrated scientist but she was closer to her mother, who died when Lasky was a child; her mother used to talk to house plants and it’s this that convinces the thrematologist to attempt mediation with the Vervoids – in vain. 

Cover: Tony Masero’s Vervoid is very stylised but not up to his usual work. It’s rather flat. The cover also features a flash on the bottom right explaining that this is part of The Trial of a Time Lord series. Or will be, when the other books are published (the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids’).

Final Analysis: I was full of praise for Pip ‘n’ Jane’s first novel. Ah well…

I didn’t read this one at the time of publication, but I heard some wry comments about their writing style. One friend took great pleasure in telling me that they make a point of telling us that Mogarian names have vowels at either end and a ‘z’ in the middle. Certainly, though their tone of voice is very much for younger children than we’ve grown used to, their use of language veers towards the ridiculous, like a teenager armed with their first thesaurus. Why say ‘they were as stubborn as each other’ when you could come up with this?:

Obduracy was hardly a characteristic Mel could reasonably object to, being amply endowed with the same quality herself. She withdrew temporarily to the vionesium sunbed to await the granting of an audience with the autocratic academic.

There are a couple of attempts to provide additional backstory for their characters, but there’s less forward planning than we might have had from Hulke or Dicks; the details are placed immediately before their payoff (information about Kimber’s family is revealed on the page before he’s killed, and likewise Lasky’s). While this is a fairly straightforward transcription from screen to page, even down to how the scenes transitioned on TV, the enjoyment comes from the Bakers’ rather florid style as they strain to make every sentence as complicated as possible. It’s hard not to love them though, trying as hard as they can to inspire a passion for literature (as on telly, there are plenty of opportunities for eager readers to look up their cultural references if the desire grabs them). I have a suspicion though that this, rather than Mark of the Rani, will be more representative of their style going forward. It’s giddy, vibrant and eager to make even the dullest of elements exciting… but it still makes one yearn for the elegant simplicity of a Terrance Dicks.

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…