Chapter 46. Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear (1979)

Synopsis: Trapped under a rockfall after an explosion, Sarah Jane reaches out for help and grabs a hand-shaped object – but it is not the Doctor’s. While Sarah recovers at a nearby hospital, the Doctor discovers that the object Sarah found, though made of stone, appears to have once been ‘alive’. His theory is soon proven correct when Sarah, under a malevolent influence, breaks into a nuclear power station and places the hand inside the reactor – where it regenerates into the alien Eldrad. Free from Eldrad’s control, Sarah accompanies the Doctor as he returns the alien home to Kastria – unaware that this will be Sarah’s final trip…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Fossil
  • 2. The Ring of Power
  • 3. Power Source
  • 4. The Will of Eldrad
  • 5. Eldrad Must Live
  • 6. Countdown
  • 7. Blow-up
  • 8. Counterstrike
  • 9. The Return of Eldrad
  • 10. Return to Kastria
  • 11. The Caves of Kastria
  • 12. Eldrad Reborn
  • 13. Eldrad’s Destiny
  • 14. Sarah’s Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1976 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: Although the prologue covers much of the same ground as the TV story’s first scene, it’s actually possible to understand what’s being said by the characters here! There’s a lovely description of the captured Eldrad lying in the capsule, totally still except for a flexing hand with a ring on it. And of course, when the capsule explodes, it’s that hand that survives and gets embedded in primeval mud ‘for one hundred and fifty million years’. The Doctor sees an overhang in the cliff face, which is what protects them from the explosion. He uses his UNIT connections to regain access to the quarry, where the foreman, Tom Abbott, has moved his police box to a safe area.

According to Dr Carter, Sarah is wearing ‘a striped overall dress’, not the ‘Andy Pandy’ suit. Professor Watson’s first name is Owen and he has a handgun in case of terrorist attacks, for which he’s had half-an-hour’s training (reminder to American readers: Someone having access to a gun is extremely unusual in the UK). He decides to patiently listen to his daughter’s story on the phone, in case her last memory of her father might be his shouting at her. The disembodied hand tries repeatedly to leap up and grab the handle to the reactor but eventually gives up to gather its strength. Watson gives Sarah and the Doctor a lift in his Jag away from the complex towards a hill several miles away (so, not in the car park like on telly). When the Doctor drives off in Watson’s car with Sarah and Eldrad, Watson is left behind to explain the situation on the phone to a government minister. The Doctor pretends to be hurt to trick Sarah into crossing the ravine on Kastria – twice!

Cover: Roy Knipe rejigs a publicity photo from Planet of Evil to show the Doctor and Sarah cowering under the huge shadow of a clawed hand. 

Final Analysis: Aside from a few lines of clarification, this is a simple retelling of the story, but it still manages to draw the reader in. It helps to be a fan of the transmitted version, so we can imagine the actors in position, and perhaps because of familiarity, I still got choked up by the final scene.

Chapter 45. Doctor Who and the Sontaran Experiment (1978)

Synopsis: Arriving on the surface of the Earth, thousands of years since the planet was abandoned, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find a small party of explorers hiding in terror from a mechanical hunter. The machine has captured other members of the party and taken them off across the rocky terrain. Hidden among the rocks is a Sontaran with a sinister mission – and Sarah is about to become his next victim.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Stranded
  • 2. Unknown Enemies
  • 3. Capture
  • 4. The Experiment
  • 5. Mistaken Identities
  • 6. The Challenge
  • 7. Duel to the Death
  • 8. A Surprise and a Triumph

Background: Adapted by Ian Marter, based on the 1975 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This completes the run of stories for Season 12.

Notes: Consistent with his new ending to The Ark in Space, Ian Marter has our heroes arrive in the TARDIS – which lands before toppling over. As soon as the three travellers have emerged, it vanishes for no clear reason. As in that earlier book, the space station is referred to as Terra Nova. The robot kills Zake with a vicious whip of its tentacle, rather than pushing him over a ravine.As viewed by Harry, Styr (not Styre) is an imposing being:

… an enormous figure – like the statue of a huge, thick-limbed man somehow brought to life – was gradually silhouetted against the circle of daylight. As it lumbered out of the far end of the tunnel into the open, Harry glimpsed its coarse greyish hide – like pumice stone -shuddering at each step. 

Sarah recognises him and her point of view gives us even more vivid detail:

… the gaping oval panel was filled by a squat, lumbering shape like a monstrous puppet. Its domed, reptilian head grew neckless out of massive, hunched shoulders. Each trunk-like arm ended in three sheathed talons and was raised in anticipation towards her. The creature began to lurch down the ramp on thick, stumpy legs, the rubbery folds of its body vibrating with each step. Mean eyes burned like two red-hot coals amid the gnarled, tortoise-like features, and puffs of oily vapour issued from the flared nostrils.

….The wobbling folds of its lipless jaws were suddenly drawn back, baring hooked, metallic teeth. Sarah stared transfixed at the ghastly smile while the creature slowly shook its domed head…. The shrivelled, tortoise face thrust forward, its red piercing eyes boring into her.

The ‘three sheathed talons’ on each hand neatly fixes the continuity error of the TV episodes. According to the Doctor, Sontaran brains are like seaweed and their lungs are made from ‘a kind of spongy steel-wool’. Styr’s ship is the size of a large house, like ‘a giant Golf-ball’, consisting of a ‘honeycomb of modules’, small, interconnected spherical rooms arranged around a central control chamber. Styr’s robot – called ‘the Scavenger’ here – is a bell-shaped hovering dome with probing tentacles and there are a few of them, including one on guard inside the ship and a spider-like one that Harry dodges. Inside the ship, there are also two other Sontarans, lying dormant in recharging pods.

Styr reports to a ‘Controller’, not a ‘Marshal’, who tells him that a rendezvous with the ‘Allied Squadrons from Hyperion Sigma’ is overdue (is this a squadron of various Sontaran factions or are the Sontarans allied to another race? There’s no mention of the Rutans at all). Styr has a weapon secreted in the arm of his suit.

While unconscious, the Doctor has a vivid nightmare about the TARDIS, wrecked and heading towards a black hole, being overrun with rats while a giant cat emerges from the console and sleeps on his chest. He speculates that the Sontarans might be prospecting for a mineral not known in this galaxy – Terullian – and he keeps many objects in his pockets, including:

… marbles, pieces of twisted wire, shrivelled jelly babies, weird keys, a pirate’s eye-patch, strange coins, sea shells, a dead beetle…

… but not his ‘Liquid Crystal Instant Recall Diary,’ in which he thinks he wrote some notes about Sontarans in the past. Harry hallucinates Sarah as a vicious, snarling beast and is attacked by an illusionary giant spider-like creature.

The Doctor and Sarah each destroy a Scavenger robot with the sonic screwdriver. Styr sends Vural to his death over a ravine. The Doctor pours a flash of Glenlivet whisky into Styr’s probic vent and Styr swells to over three times his normal size before he and his ship deflate like balloons into congealed heaps. The Doctor remembers he set the TARDIS ‘Boomerang Orientators’ so assumes it’ll be back on Terra Nova. He, Sarah and Harry depart via the transmat field, thereby making the story fit with the previously published Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen.

Cover: The Doctor holds a log as a weapon in front of a background of a supersized Sontaran helmet. Another strong illustration from Roy Knipe.

Final Analysis: While this is based on a two-episode adventure, it’s by no means the shortest novel; indeed, it feels like it takes up the same page-count as, say, the six-part Genesis of the Daleks, without becoming padded or over-written. It’s another Ian Marter ‘movie version’, with everything turned up to eleven. Predictably, the horror elements are more grotesque – the terrifying hallucinations of faces emerging from rocks, soaring monster-infested wave, burning desert sands or giant ants. Marter’s real skill is in the characterisation: He makes Styr a much more terrifying presence than the TV version as the huge, hulking ‘golem’ is wheezing and gurgling, but also flawed as his sadism makes him forget the real purpose of his mission; Sarah’s ability to be both terrified and brave, as in the way she responds defiantly to Styr’s interrogation by pointing out that it’s not her fault if her mere presence doesn’t match his data; and Harry is still as bewildered by the technology, particularly the Doctor’s description of Sontaran biology, but he’s still got a great way of summing things up – calling Styr ‘the Humpty Dumpty thing’. What was merely a side dish on TV has been reimagined as a macabre banquet.

Chapter 43. Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks (1978)

Synopsis: The city of the Exxilons, one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. Somehow, the city is alive, draining the energy from any visiting spacecraft – including the TARDIS. Abandoning the time ship, the Doctor and Sarah find a similarly marooned expedition team in search of minerals needed to cure a deadly space plague. But a platoon of Daleks also intend on taking the minerals for themselves. The explorers form an uneasy truce as they decide to find answers inside the city – and the native Exxilons are determined not to let them.. 

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Death of a TARDIS
  • 2. The Ambush
  • 3. Expedition from Earth
  • 4. The Deadly Arrivals
  • 5. A Truce with Terror
  • 6. The Sacrifice
  • 7. Escape to the Unknown
  • 8. Bellal
  • 9. The Pursuit
  • 10. The City Attacks
  • 11. The Trap
  • 12. The Nightmare
  • 13. The Antibodies
  • 14. The Last Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts from the 1974 story.

Notes: The prologue is an atmospheric retelling of the first scene – which was cut from the story’s first release on home video, so it’s kind of a deleted scene with a cracking first line: ‘He was a dead man running.’ The Doctor is ‘a tall, white-haired man with a deeply-lined, young-old face’ (the first time we see this description and it won’t be the last). Sarah has only known the Doctor for a brief time, as she recalls her trips to Medieval England and a London ‘infested with dinosaurs’. The fog on the planet Exxilon is (wait for it!) green. The Exxilons wear black robes and speak a form of ‘pidgin Galactic’ that Galloway can understand. Bellal is a ‘subterranean Exxilon’ and he introduces his friend as ‘Gotal’ (a name only revealed in the end credits on TV), while another subterranean Exxilon is called ‘Jebal’. 

Jill Tarrant is blonde, not red haired, Dan Galloway lost his entire family in the Dalek wars, grew up in poverty as a refugee and joined the Marine Space Corps as soon as he could, working his way up the ranks. The ‘hopscotch’ floor in the City lies in a wide hall, not a narrow corridor and there are many antibody creatures, not just the two on telly. Realising Jill has escaped, the Dalek sentry begins a frantic search but doesn’t self destruct. The Doctor offers to continue aiming for Florana but Sarah just wants to go home.

Chapter 7 is ‘Escape to the Unknown’ – another one so close to the lesser-sighted ‘Escape to Danger’ but… not quite.!

Cover: Roy Knipe paints this Target Doctor Who cover and creates an instant classic – a Dalek’s head explodes. Alister Pearson was onto a hiding for nothing with his 1991 reprint cover, which shows Bellal in front of a different blazing Dalek.

Final Analysis: It’s hard to go wrong with this and Dicks doesn’t put a foot out of place. He doesn’t add much either, to be fair, but it’s still a lot creepier than the over-lit, jazz-fused TV version. It’s peak-Terrance, where eyes are red and glowing, robes are black and Daleks glide.