Chapter 41. Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen (1978)

Synopsis: On the planet Telos, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join an expedition party as they uncover the doors to the legendary tombs of the Cybermen. Long believed to be dead, the silver giants are very much still active – and, as the explorers soon learn, they are keen to convert the intruders into Cybermen. 

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Victoria and Jamie
  • 2. An Expedition in Space
  • 3. The Entrance to the Tombs
  • 4. Cyberman Control Room
  • 5. The Recharging Room
  • 6. The Target Room
  • 7. The Finding of the Cybermat
  • 8. The Secret of the Hatch
  • 9. The Cyberman Controller
  • 10. Release the Cybermats
  • 11. The Controller is Revitalised
  • 12. Toberman Returns
  • 13. Closing the Tombs

Background: Adapted by Gerry Davis from the 1967 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: Here’s that ‘Creation of the Cybermen’ introduction agan, pushing its ‘Telos-origin’ agenda – maybe we should just believe the guy who created them? Actually, it’s not just a straight reprint of that chapter from the previous books; it’s slightly more involved, outlining the progress of the Cybermen since their first two appearances, chronologically. Davis restates that the arrival of Mondas came in 2000 [see Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet] and the attack on the Moonbase was in 2070 [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen], after which, the Cybermen disappeared, believed to be long dead. There’s an effective comparison to the pyramids of Egypt, while Davis describes the Cybermen as the Doctor’s ‘most dreaded adversaries’. Hmmm…

The Doctor and Jamie watch their approach to Telos on the scanner; it’s ‘a small, moon-like planet pitted and scarred by light-centuries of astral bombardment’ (yes, ‘light centuries – it’s been scarred by a unit of distance). The time travellers use ‘space-torches’ (or as we might call them… ‘torches’) to explore the tomb. Victoria receives a potted biography (dead dad, Daleks, orphan), as does Jamie (1746, Culloden, English Redcoat soldiers). When Victoria changes out of her huge dress, she selects a short skirt left behind by Polly, ‘the girl from the 1970s, now safely returned to England’. Victoria is very distressed by the choice of available fashions, complaining that they’ve made her look like ‘Alice In Wonderland’, a book published a year before she first meets the Doctor (and a role Deborah Watling had played in 1965 for a Dennis Potter play about Lewis Carroll). The comparison is more accurate than we might think as, according to Davis, Victoria has ‘long, fair hair’. The Doctor has ‘cat-like’ eyes that are green (!) and he is called ‘Doctor Who’ four times (and ‘Dr Who’ once, at the end).

Victoria recalls that her father used to discuss electricity with ‘Dr Faraday’ (presumably pioneering electrochemist Michael Faraday), who was a frequent dinner guest (Victoria remembers that he didn’t like carrots). In Evil of the Daleks, her father’s partner, Maxtible, mentions Faraday’s research into static electricity and those of James Clerk Maxwell twelve years earlier – so it’s likely Victoria was a child when these dinners took place. Later, she recalls her father reading a book by the fireside and affectionately calling her ‘Toria’, though this might just be a trick to help herself to cope with his still-recent death.

Haydon is Professor Parry’s assistant, a junior archaeologist who Parry knew as a ‘promising young student’ who had approached him with an interest in studying the Cybermen. The tombs have bas-relief sculptures on the walls, showing the history of the Cybermen, including their evolution from humans to plastic-and-metal giants, up to the final destruction of Mondas, their first planet. 

‘That was the last time we had the pleasure of their company,’ said the Doctor. ‘They lived on the “Tenth Planet”, Mondas, then.’

Except that wasn’t the last time, was it? The Cybermat that Jamie finds has ‘two red bulbs for eyes’. It can crawl like a centipede and curl ‘like a scorpion’ before it attacks. The Controller of the Cybermen is larger than the others – about seven feet – with a black helmet. The Controller recognises the Doctor and Jamie from the Moonbase. Toberman doesn’t just hit the converter machine, he throws it against a wall, smashing it.

Cover: Jeff Cummins gives us a lovely Invasion-style Cyberman (but with those ridged tubes across the body like in Revenge of the Cybermen) with small beams of light cast across it. The 1992 reprint used Alister Pearson’s cover for the VHS with the Doctor looking pensive in front of the vast Cyber-tomb.

Final Analysis: At school, I had an English teacher who would mark essays in red ink with a note to the side – ‘repetition!’ I’m reminded of this as I read this novelfor the first time in many years. There are a few sections that I found very distracting due to either sloppy editing or an author resistant to correction:

‘The grey uniform of his space Orbiter Engineer Class uniform…’

‘… he took out of the baggy pockets of his coat a small pocket instrument…’

‘… a riot of colour, glittering with crimson, rose colour…’

Repetition!

It’s especially surprising considering this book is partly the reason the story was considered a classic for 20 years, before younger fans who missed it on transmission could see it (and why some were disappointed on its eventual home video release). In many ways, it’s a solid translation from script to novel, with Davis once again making the effort to tie the story into what’s gone before in the Target universe, but he gets confused between that well-worn introduction and later sections that state that Mondas was the first Cyberman planet. No wonder the debate raged on well into the 1980s. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes this a distracting read for this older fan and I can’t help wishing that this had been held back for Ian Marter to write instead.

Chapter 24. Doctor Who and the Web of Fear (1976)

Synopsis: London has been evacuated as a deadly web-like substance has flooded the underground. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are reunited with an old friend and soon realise the web is connected to an old enemy – the Yeti. The presence of the robot creatures also means someone is controlling them, but who? Could it be the neat-looking army officer they find in the underground tunnels? A man called Lethbridge-Stewart?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Return of Evil
  • 2. The Web in Space
  • 3. The Monster in the Tunnels
  • 4. Danger for the Doctor
  • 5. Battle with the Yeti
  • 6. The Terror of the Web
  • 7. Escape from the Web
  • 8. Return of the Yeti
  • 9. Kidnapped!
  • 10. Danger Above Ground
  • 11. ‘I want your mind’
  • 12. The Fall of the Fortress
  • 13. Captives of the Intelligence
  • 14. The Final Duel

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts 1967 scripts by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.

Notes: TV’s Julius Silverstein becomes a marginally less stereotypical Emil Julius, while Travers’ murdered companion from The Abominable Snowmen is here given the full name of ‘Angus Mackay’ (and the events of that earlier story are stated as having taken place in 1935). Although Travers was seen as a failure by his peers, his obsession with the Yeti control sphere led him towards electronics, which made him both rich and famous. The Yeti matches the description from its earlier appearance, with fangs and glowing red eyes, so there’s no mention of the transformation into a new version. There’s no resolution from the previous story (which won’t be published for some years yet), but we do get more details of what happened in the weeks after the first Yeti awakens, and how Central London became ‘gripped tight in a Web of Fear’ (extra points for crow-barring the title in there).

There’s a reminder at the start that Jamie was a Jacobean rebel; when Arnold asks for his help, Jamie’s reticent, as ‘although their coats were khaki rather than red, Jamie found it hard to forget that English soldiers were his traditional enemies’. We’re also told that Victoria had joined the TARDIS after an encounter with the Daleks, abandoning her usual big frocks for more practical clothing (Victoria is wearing ‘slacks’ rather than the mini-skirt she pops on in her first TV scene). As well as the summary of Travers’ first encounter with the time travellers, we also get a reminder of what the Great Intelligence is.

Dicks is both flattering and cutting when it comes to the reporter, Chorley:

He was an impressive looking man with a stern, handsome face, and a deep, melodious voice. He was also extremely photogenic. On television he gave the impression of a sincere, wise and responsible man. Unfortunately, his looks were deceptive. Chorley was weak, vain and in reality rather stupid. But appearances count for a great deal in public life. Chorley’s voice and his looks, together with a certain natural cunning, had enabled him to establish himself as one of television’s best-known interviewers and reporters.

Considering the TV version owed more than a little to Alan Whicker, this is surely a risky detail?

There’s the Doctor’s first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart, which without too much hyperbole is classed as ‘in its way as historic an encounter as that between Stanley and Doctor Livingstone’, followed by a brief history of what’s already happened for the reader but has yet to occur for the characters (Brigadier, UNIT, etc). Evans says to Jamie ‘Don’t stand there mooning, boyo. Let’s get out while we can!’ which accidentally paints the rather strange image of Jamie lifting the back of his kilt up to taunt the glowing web. Later, when Evans complains about his tobacco tin being taken from him, the Doctor reproaches him, saying ‘Smoking’s very bad for you’.

Corporal Blake is killed by a Yeti’s webgun rather than a vicious chop from its claw. The Intelligence speaks to Victoria through the underground public address system (as opposed to just being a disembodied voice) and when a possessed character speaks, they do so with the Intelligence’s voice, not a version of their own. The Colonel remains brave throughout and doesn’t have the brief wobble he had on telly. The story concludes with him musing about setting up some sort of ‘Intelligence Task Force’, while the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria make it safely back to the TARDIS.

Cover: Achilleos’s original cover art is gorgeous – a huge Troughton looks down as a Yeti (a hybrid of an Abominable one and parts of a Web of Fear one) holds Staff Sgt. Arnold in a blast of golden energy with its eyes. The 1983 reprint had a cover by Andrew Skilleter showing the TARDIS caught in misty space-fog while another Abominable / Web of Fear hybrid-Yeti once again shows off its glowing and similarly inaccurate eye-beams. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover has an adorably terrified Troughton recoiling from a proper Web-version Yeti while the background shows an underground tunnel that creates a frame around the TARDIS trapped in space inside the space web. Lovely job.

Final Analysis: My childhood library buddy used to claim Troughton was his favourite Doctor based solely on this book and it’s easy to see why. Long considered a classic even before it was rediscovered in 2013, The Web of Fear has all the classic elements of the era. It’s almost the opposite of The Ice Warriors, in that the original scripts are so solid and full of suspense that it’s hard to lose that energy in adapting them for the page.

Chapter 21. Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors (1976)

Synopsis: As mainland Britain is plunged into a new ice age, researchers at the Britannica scientific base uncover a giant man refrigerated in the frozen landscape. The figure thaws and emerges from suspended animation, announcing himself as Varga, a warrior from Mars. He aims to uncover his spaceship and crew, which have lain dormant all this time. And doing so could risk the destruction of the Britannica Base…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Battle Against the Glaciers
  • 2. Two Minutes to Doomsday
  • 3. Creature from the Red Planet
  • 4. Back from the Dead
  • 5. The Omega Factor
  • 6. Under the Moving Mountain
  • 7. Diplomat in Danger
  • 8. The Martian Ultimatum
  • 9. Counter-Attack
  • 10. On the Brink of Destruction!

Background: Bryan Hayles adapts his own scripts for the 1967 serial.

Notes: Jamie is described as a ‘rugged-faced lad’ and Victoria as ‘a pretty, doll-like girl’. Zondal is a lieutenant and Jamie says there are six warriors although only five are named (as per the TV show). The escapade with the bear is missing. The Britannica Base computer is named here, ECCO. The Doctor threatens Varga with a sonic blast set to ‘Frequency Seven’, which will affect the Martian as his body has a higher fluid content than humans (a detail mentioned on TV and then forgotten). Varga notes that Frequency Seven is used ‘in the prisons of his home planet as a form of aversion punishment, continuous doses of it could destroy the brain, leaving the body a living vegetable’.

Cover: Chris Achilleos recreates a couple of publicity photos – Victoria screams and Varga looms behind her with sparks flying from his clamp-hands; it’s a simple but very effective design – and the first not to feature the Doctor!

Final Analysis: While the Ice Warriors themselves are an inventive creation that just about manage to avoid being totally generic aliens, much of the dialogue among the Britanica Base staff has a degree of technowaffle that feels fake and artificially hysterical for no real reason. Hayles follows the main flow of the TV episodes faithfully, with just the odd tweak here and there, but despite the story’s revered status, it’s deathly dull and the book doesn’t really salvage that.

Chapter 17. Doctor Who – The Three Doctors (1975)

Synopsis: A strange blob of jelly invades UNIT HQ while the Time Lords are being drained of energy. The answer to the mystery lies on the other side of a black hole, where a Time Lord legend waits to enact his revenge. As the Time Lords break one of their strictest rules to allow three of the Doctor’s incarnations to work together, Jo Grant worries they might only end up bickering…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Lightning from Space
  • 2. Attack from the Unknown
  • 3. The Menace of the Black Hole
  • 4. Beyond the Unknown
  • 5. A Shock for the Brigadier
  • 6. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 7. Door to Freedom
  • 8. Escape from Omega
  • 9 .’All things shall be destroyed’
  • 10. Return through the Flame
  • 11. Three Doctors Minus Two

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1973 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (which doesn’t match Patrick Troughton) that are ‘at once humorous and sad’. Omega’s servants are only called ‘Jelly creatures’ and ‘blob-men’ – not ‘Gellguards’ as we’ve come to know them. The First Doctor asks ‘what’s a bridge for?’ and it’s Jo who suggests ‘crossing?’, prompting the old Doctor to note ‘Gel’s got more sense than the two of you put together!’ (it’s the Third Doctor who grabs the glory on TV). The battle with Omega’s monster takes place in an open-air arena and the beast itself is still humanoid but eight feet tall and muscular (rather than a short avante-garde dance performer). There’s a hilarious pitch battle in chapter 10 where Jo is ‘staggering under the weight of an anti-tank rifle’ before she fires at the blob men and falls backwards, deciding instead to be an ‘observer’.

Cover: A Chris Achilleos classic, using references from the familiar Three Doctors photoshoot and merging them with a classic Jack Kirby Fantastic Four cover (depicting Galactus where Omega would be). It’s a vision in orange and gold. The first edition also has a rear illustration by Achilleos showing the second Doctor being led away by two blob-men. My first copy was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing the three Doctors in front of a black hole in space (it’s the one a reader of Doctor Who Magazine criticised for making the Doctors look too old, too evil and ‘too Welsh’!). The Pertwee is from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the Hartnell from An Unearthly Child and the Troughton isn’t the Doctor, but Salamander – hence why he’s ‘too evil’. A 1991 edition with a cover by Alister Pearson is a little more stylised, with a photorealistic Omega ranting before a backdrop of burnt-out Doctors as banners in front of a black circle.

Final Analysis: Dicks makes Jo our point-of-view character, so to her, the other Doctor that Benton knows is her ‘Doctor Two’, while the one on the scanner screen is ‘the old man’ and ‘the old Doctor’, which works so well. Dicks also has Doctor Two correctly identify his instrument as a recorder – then refer to it as a ‘flute’ for the rest of the book!

Chapter 12. Doctor Who and the Cybermen (1975)

Synopsis: The Cybermen tried to invade the Earth once but were ‘humiliatingly defeated’. Their second attempt comes via the Moon, where they are already lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack. As the personnel of the Moonbase fall ill one by one, the Doctor and his friends scramble to find the cause.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 2. The Landing on the Moon
  • 3. The Moon Base
  • 4. Attack in the Medical Unit
  • 5. The Space-plague
  • 6. The Doctor Investigates
  • 7. The Cybermen’s Plot
  • 8. The Battle with the Cybermen
  • 9. Victory, perhaps…
  • 10. The March of the Cybermen
  • 11. Into Battle with the Gravitron!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedlar for the 1967 serial The Moonbase.

Notes: We begin with a prologue that’s a potted history of the Cybermen that (in line with later stories but contradicting The Tenth Planet) states that the Cybermen come from Telos. Later on, when discussing Mondas, the Cybermen say they come from ‘the other Cyberman planet, TELOS’. Ben and Polly are from the 1970s now, so they’re familiar with the Apollo Moon landings, although Davis seems to think Ben is still wearing his sailor’s uniform and Polly is in a mini-skirt and tee-shirt. Oh and Jamie is tagged as ‘a little thick, even by 1745 standards’, which seems hugely unfair. There’s a Cyberman with a red line down the front of his chest unit, which Davis draws attention to but doesn’t elaborate on, and a couple of others with black helmets similar to those seen in Revenge of the Cybermen, who have names (as in The Tenth Planet).

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos painted the original cover using a Troughton pic from The Three Doctors and a Cybermen from The Invasion. I had the 1981 reprint with the cover by Bill Donohoe that appears to depict the Cyber-space walk from the end of The Wheel in Space. Illustrations by Alan Willow show the correct Moonbase Cybermen, and the best pic is of Ralph, the Moonbase crewman, staring in horror as (the caption explains) ‘the shadow of a large figure’ looms over him.

Final Analysis: It’s nice when the originators of a story get to give us their version. Davis largely sticks to the story as televised, but he really goes to town with a nautical theme with chapter two’s description of the TARDIS’s dramatic journey to the Moon (‘Like a ship in a heavy sea,’)  including a reference to the TARDIS ‘cabin’, ‘bulkheads’ and ‘deck’. In the prologue there’s a line that ‘although revenge was not a part of their mental makeup any more than the other emotions,’ which I suspect was pushing against Davis’s recent experience with Robert Holmes changing his title (and most of the script) for Tom Baker’s Cyberman adventure.

Chapter 10. Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (1974)

Synopsis: Landing the Tardis in Tibet near the Det-sen monastery, the Doctor decides to return a holy relic, which he took receipt of three hundred years before. He’s quickly accused of murder by a zealous explorer called Travers, who’s hunting the legendary Yeti. But the Yeti that are roaming these hills are the real killers – and they’re robots controlled by someone within the monastery. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Secret of the Snows
  • 2. The Creature in the Cave
  • 3. Live Bait to Catch a Monster
  • 4. Jamie Traps a Yeti
  • 5. The Secret of the Inner Sanctum
  • 6. A Yeti Comes to Life!
  • 7. A Plan to Conquer Earth
  • 8. Revolt in the Monastery
  • 9. Attack of the Yeti
  • 10. Peril on the Mountain
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The Abominable Snowman

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the first Second Doctor novelisation based on the scripts by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln.

Notes: Terrance Dicks gets his first go at the Second Doctor, who has ‘a gentle, rather comical face, and a shock of untidy black hair’, while Jamie is ‘a brawny youth in highland dress, complete with kilt’ and Victoria is ‘a small, dark girl dressed in the style of Earth’s Victorian age’. There’s also harkbacks to the origin stories for the companions. He tweaks the Yeti here to make them more like the ferocious ones seen in The Web of Fear, with glowing red eyes and a terrifying roar. He also adjusts a few of the character names, in deference to his Buddhist producer on the TV show, Barry Letts, to avoid using the names of real historical figures, and he expands the backstory of Travers: His nemesis is a Professor Walters); and Travers’ fated friend who’s killed early on (called simply ‘John’ onscreen) is here identified as his best / only friend, known as ‘Mackay’.

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos’s original cover showed a lovely Second Doctor head-shot (taken for The Three Doctors) with a small Jamie and Victoria cowering from a roaring Yeti and the Earth creating a lovely circular frame in the background. I had the 1983 edition with a roaring Yeti in the moonlight up a mountain and both covers used the same photo reference. The illustrations are again by Allan Willow and the standout one is where Jamie and Thomni smash the glowing spheres in the control room; there’s a lovely depth to it with the Doctor and Victoria just visible through the doorway. And that’s the only (tiny) illustration of the Doctor in the entire book.

Final Analysis: This is much more fun than the TV series. It’s largely helped by Dicks choosing to make the Yeti more like they were in the sequel, so they roar and claw and attack, rather than amble about and wiggle a bit. Padmasambvha is a less terrifying creation than on TV, we never forget that he is still a human struggling against the possession of the Great Intelligence, described here as having been ‘exiled’ from ‘another dimension’ (so who kicked him out?!). His final end is rather heartbreaking.