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 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.

Chapter 72. Doctor Who – Logopolis (1982)

Synopsis: A sudden whimsy to reconfigure the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit leads the Doctor to confront a terrifying and certain future. The Master has returned and his new scheme puts the entire universe at risk. Surrounded by companions he didn’t choose and forced to enter a partnership with his oldest enemy, the Doctor has finally reached the end – and it really has been prepared for…

Chapter Titles

The chapters are simply numbered one to twelve. As Neil Corry suggested, Bidmead could have at least done them in binary!

Background: Christopher H. Bidmead adapts his own scripts from the 1981 story. Making good use of his past life as an actor, he also reads the audiobook, making him the first credited author to do so (although Barry Letts read The Daemons, the scripts were co-written and credited to ‘Guy Leopold).

Notes: The police officer killed by the Master is named Donald Seagrave. The police box he investigates is on the Barnet bypass (not specified on screen). Aunt Vanessa lives in ‘a cottage house in a quiet village-like street’ less than 50 miles from the Barnet bypass.  The Doctor recalls that Romana is ‘at the Gateway with Biroc and the Tharils’ (though we’re not told what this actually means for any reader who didn’t yet catch Warriors’ Gate). Adric is said to have a badge for mathematical excellence, but his ‘grasp of physics wasn’t very good’. As he inspects the real police box, he queries the wording on the telephone hatch:

Adric had seen identical wording on the outside of the TARDIS, and had taken it to be some sort of joke of the Doctor’s. Officers and Cars had never, to his knowledge, responded to Urgent Calls, although there were several occasions when he and the Doctor could have used a little extra help.

This is his first time on Earth, so it’s possible that the only encounters Adric has had with ‘officers’ is Proctor Neman on Traken – that pillar of the community who accepted bribes. The Doctor has cause to recall the recent events on Traken and is reassured that Tremas and his daughter are ‘happy’ but begins to worry that the Master might have escaped. Adric refers to the ‘console room’ (the first time this phrase has been used – it doesn’t even appear in the TV version). 

Tegan is ‘barely twenty years old’. When he sees Tegan on the TARDIS scanner, Adric has a feeling he has known her very well; he observes that her face ‘looked rather beautiful, framed by that dark red hair under the severe purple cap that matched her uniform.’ Tegan’s plane ‘back home’ is a Cesna. 

The TARDIS cloisters have a ceiling with an ’emulation of the sky, even as far as the suggestion of clouds’. The Doctor gives Adric a copy of The Complete Poetry of John Milton and the boy observes a similarity between a fallen angel and the Master. The Doctor hovers the TARDIS above Logopolis to give the Logopolitans advance notice of his arrival. As viewed from above, the City of Logopolis looks like ‘a giant brain’. 

The Master’s (unnamed) weapon is silver and leaves a whiff of ozone after discharge. The Doctor falls from the telescope when the cable he’s hanging from snaps. Adric realises the Doctor is ‘regenerating’, as he and Nyssa confirm their suspicions that the Watcher was the Doctor all along. The new Doctor has a ‘smoother, younger face’ and beams ‘somewhat vacuously’ at his friends. We’re presented with his first words::

‘Well, that’s the end of that,’ said a voice they had not heard before. ‘But it’s probably the beginning of something completely different.’ 

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a simple composition of the Master in front of the Pharos project. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover has the Doctor looking tired, Tegan and Nyssa grinning, leaving the Monitor and Adric to look at the shrinking TARDIS.

Final Analysis: The opening paragraph warns us that…

When some great circumstance, hovering somewhere in the future, is a catastrophe of incalculable consequence, you may not see the signs in the small happenings that go before.

Accordingly, Bidmead progresses to foreshadow events: Tegan is about to embark on a journey that ‘she would never forget for the rest of her life’; Adric hears the cloister bell for ‘the first but not the last time’;  … and so on.

As with The Visitation, there’s no introduction for or description of the Doctor or Adric, but there’s a palpable enthusiasm for showing off Bidmead’s knowledge of modern science, such as Maxwell’s Second Law of Thermodynamics and ‘Mr Heisenberg’. The assumption is that the reader already knows who the Doctor and Adric are (which I’ve grumbled about with other writers), but we at least get a clear idea of the new arrival, Tegan. The best bit is the conclusion of Chapter 5:

Tegan’s voice exploded like a shrapnel-bomb in the quiet of the console room. ‘I demand to see whoever is in charge of this ship.

Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

Synopsis: A new planet appears in Earth’s solar system. The Doctor seems to know what it is and what will happen next. The planet, which bears a striking similarity to Earth, is home to a race of plastic and metal beings called ‘Cybermen’. As Ben and Polly help the staff of an Antarctic tracking station to fight off the invaders, the Doctor prepares for his final adventure. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1 The Space Tracking Station
  • 2 Disaster in Space
  • 3 The New Planet
  • 4 Mondas!
  • 5 The Cyberman Invasion
  • 6 Ben into Action
  • 7 Battle in the Projection Room
  • 8 Two Hundred and Fifty Spaceships
  • 9 Z-Bomb Alert!
  • 10 Prepare to Blast Off
  • 11 Cybermen in Control
  • 12 Resistance in the Radiation Room
  • 13 The Destruction of Mondas!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the 1966 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: The book begins with a summary of the creation of the Cybermen, claiming they originated on the planet Telos before taking refuge on the ‘lost sister planet of Earth – Mondas’. An American called Tito is reading a Captain Marvel comic (presumably a vintage edition as the character didn’t have a comic of his / her own in either 1986 or 2000). Although this is only the third TV adventure for Ben and Polly, it’s suggested that they’ve been on many uneventful journeys since they joined the Doctor. Continuity from The Moonbase is preserved, as Ben and Polly are from the early 1970s, not the mid-60s, so Ben can recognise a Roger Moore Bond film that he saw for the first time a few weeks before he joined the Doctor’s travels (very possibly The Man with the Golden Gun, which would mean the Doctor’s young friends are from 1974). And yes, Polly discovers they’re in the more futuristic year 2000 (not 1986 as in the original. At the time of writing, the year 2000 is 20 years in my past!). The Cybermen use a ‘short silver baton-like object’ for a weapon, rather than the cumbersome lamps hooked onto their chest units as on screen. The Cyberleader from the second wave has a ‘black impassive mask’ (similar to Revenge of the Cybermen and Davis’s adaptation of The Moonbase [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen]), The regeneration scene is so different that it upset some fan reviewers at the time.

Cover: Chris Achilleos makes up for the monochrome Cybermen and snowy setting by placing them in front of a vivid aurora background that’s really thrilling. There’s also an illustration on the rear cover of a Cyberman firing a blast from its headlamp (something that doesn’t actually happen in the TV series for 51 years) and a defiant first Doctor inset. The 1993 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is almost symmetrical, with a saggy-looking Cyberman on each side, the first full-face shot of a Cyberman from the cliffhanger of episode 1 and a mid-length portrait of Hartnell from The Celestial Toymaker. It’s very tidy but not that dramatic, sadly.

Final Analysis: Davis handles the Doctor’s departure much better than circumstances allowed in the TV production (where Hartnell’s illness led to him missing episode 3 with just a few days’ notice). He seeds the Doctor’s illness and frailty beautifully. 

Was it Ben’s imagination, or had the Doctor’s hair gone a shade whiter and finer during the last few hours? His skin, which looked as transparent as old parchment, was stretched tightly over his prominent cheek bones.

I have to note the use of outdated terms to describe a couple of black characters (Williams is described as ‘a tall, handsome American negro of about thirty’), while also commending that the characters were there in the first place at a time where multicultural casting was still rare. Whether this was originally scripted or down to the casting by director Derek Martinus is another matter.

The slow, steady breakdown of Cutler as he struggles with the pressure of his son’s peril helps to elevate the later chapters from the absence of the Cybermen. But having built up the Doctor’s demise so subtly throughout the book, it’s surprising that the actual change happens out of sight of Ben and Polly. Emerging from a sarcophagus in the control room, the old Doctor has disappeared and in his place is a much younger man:

The stranger looked at him in slight surprise. ‘You ask me that, Ben? Don’t you recognise me?’
The Doctor’s two companions shook their heads.
‘I thought it was quite obvious,’ Again, he smiled his gently mocking smile and winked at them with his bluegreen eyes. ‘Allow me to introduce myself then. I am the new Doctor!’

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.