Chapter 120. Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death (1987)

Synopsis: As a tracking station on Earth awaits the return of a Mars capsule and its crew, the rocket’s inhabitants are kidnapped and hidden away. Liz Shaw discovers that the astronauts are not the ones that left Earth but alien ambassadors. Someone is conspiring to use the aliens for their own means – and start a war in the process…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Something Took Off From Mars…’
  • 2. ‘That Sound – It Was Some Kind Of Message…’
  • 3. ‘They’ll Never Survive…’
  • 4. ‘Recovery Seven – It’s On The Way Back!’
  • 5. ‘The Capsule Has Landed.’
  • 6. ‘They’ve Started To Crack The Code…’
  • 7. ‘You Must Feed Them Radiation – Or They’ll Die!’
  • 8. ‘We’ve Got To Get That Rocket Up!’
  • 9. ‘Someone’s Threatening To Kill Miss Shaw!’
  • 10. ‘An Attack On The Space Centre?’
  • 11. ‘Do You Really Think They’re Not Human?’
  • 12. ‘Large Unidentified Object Approaching On Collision Course…’
  • 13. ‘The Capsule Will Be Smashed To Fragments…’
  • 14. ‘Your Doctor Friend Is As Dead As A Doornail…’
  • 15. ‘We May Not Have Much More Time!’
  • 16. ‘We’re Being Invaded!’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1970 story credited to David Whitaker (but which also included passes by Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray), completing the run of Season 7 stories – and the Third Doctor’s era as a whole – that began with Target’s first original adaptations back in 1974.

Notes: The TV reporter’s name is given on screen as ‘John Wakefield’, but here it’s now ‘Michael’, while astronaut Charles Van Lyden becomes ‘Van Leyden’. Ralph Cornish at Mission Control is said to be ‘quite literally tall, dark and handsome’. Dicks is not as snide as he was about Chorley in Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, but he still makes a few sly digs at the TV reporter; he’s small, neat and bearded with a ‘low, throbbing, earnest voice that seems to be the exclusive property of a certain kind of TV journalist’. 

It was a voice that conveyed expertise, sympathy, concern and a sort of muted reproach. The implication was that somehow Michael Wakefield already knew all the answers. Luckily for him, he never had to provide them. He only asked the questions, and passed along the background information assembled for him by an expert team of researchers, all kept firmly behind the camera.

For the final time, we have Dicks’ standard description of the third Doctor, with a face that is ‘neither young nor old’, and that Bessie is ‘an Edwardian roadster’ (and I’ve waiting until now to point out that it’s not actually a Roadster, it’s a four-seater Tourer, but Roadster is such a fun word). It’s still early days for the Doctor and Liz, having only had ‘two dangerous adventures’, and we’re reminded of the incident with the Silurians. 

In the assault on the ‘enemy’ in the warehouse, the Brigadier notices that they are ‘simply better than his own men, better shots, better trained in this kind of house-to-house fighting’. It’s the fact that none of his troops has been shot that draws the Brigadier’s suspicions – accurate shots knock the guns away but nobody is actually hit, and he notes that there’s ‘something rather humiliating about fighting an enemy who weren’t even trying to hit back’. The Doctor’s trick with the disappearing tape is ‘a Time Lord technique somewhere between telekinesis and conjuring’. 

The scientist Heldorf had been a refugee and still had a trace of an accent. Reegan was born in Ireland but spent most of his life in America, among other countries, evading the law. He’d been a bank robber for the IRA until they’d discovered he’d been stealing from them. He set himself up as a professional, specialising in ‘kidnapping, extortion and murder for hire’.  

Cover: The Doctor smiles as two ambassadors in space suits approach him from behind. Tony Masero’s original cover had a much more shadowy depiction of Jon Pertwee, but this was changed in response to a request from the actor. This is the first cover to feature the Third Doctor prominently on the initial cover since The Claws of Axos (1977), or on any cover since the 1978 Three Doctors reprint (aside from a small profile as part of a montage on The Five Doctors).

Final Analysis: We begin with a deceptively simple opening line: ‘Far above the Earth, in the infinite blackness of space, two metal capsules were converging.’ That ‘infinite blackness of space’ leapt out at me as a quote from something and a quick survey on Twitter led to Paul Rhodes supplying a flurry of suggestions for a possible source. Nasa’s own public information office LB Taylor Jr appears to have coined the phrase in his commentary around the Apollo 11 moon landings, which is appropriate considering the subject of The Ambassadors of Death. An earlier reference can be found in The Transcendent Man, a 1953 novel by future Star Trek and Twilight Zone writer Jerry Sohl, while the earliest I’ve found is a 1920 edition of the handbook of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s a phrase that crops up across science fiction from Star Trek to Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer but as yet, I’ve not found an origin. Any suggestions?

There are some other lovely turns of phrase here: The warehouse where Carrington’s crew are hiding out has ‘row upon row of arched windows, every one methodically broken by the industrious local vandals’. The little extra biographical details for Heldorf and Reegan feel like something Malcolm Hulke would have added (appropriate considering he wrote a substantial amount of the scripts). We’ve come a long way from the days where Terrance was bashing these out one a month and as we reach the end of the third Doctor’s TV adventures, this stands out as one of the author’s very best.

Chapter 102. Doctor Who – The Time Monster (1986)

Synopsis: Experiments in a Cambridge laboratory have created instability in the web of time. The Master is using a trident-shaped crystal to summon Kronos, a creature from legend that ‘eats’ time itself. Recognising the origin of the crystal, the Doctor and Jo travel back to the time of Atlantis with the hope of stopping the Master but instead find themselves caught in his trap. When Kronos finally arrives, however, it is the Master who has to plead for his life…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare
  • 2. The Test
  • 3. The Summoning
  • 4. The Ageing
  • 5. The Legend
  • 6. The Ambush
  • 7. The High Priest
  • 8. The Secret
  • 9. Time Attack
  • 10. Take-Off
  • 11. The Time-Eater
  • 12. Atlantis
  • 13. The Guardian
  • 14. The Captives
  • 15. The Return of Kronos

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Sloman’s scripts for the 1972 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 9 in Target’s library.

Notes: Professor Thascalos (not ‘Thascales’) is…:

… a medium-sized, compactly but powerfully built man, this Professor Thascalos, with sallow skin and a neatly-trimmed pointed beard. His dark burning eyes radiated energy and power.

A familiar description, but it’s not until he hypnotises Doctor Charles Perceval (not ‘Percival’) that Thascalos is revealed to be the Master. Percival’s predecessor was ‘over-fond of the bottle’ and so ‘an easy man [for the Master] to impress and to deceive’. The Master’s TOMTIT apparatus recreates ‘the powers of the legendary Timescoop of the Time Lords, forbidden by Rassilon in the Dark Time’, something only revealed eleven years later (or three years ago in book terms) in The Five Doctors.

The Doctor’s TARDIS sniffer-outer’ is ‘rather like a table tennis bat’ (it looks a lot ruder on telly!). Young Atlantean councillor Miseus is renamed ‘Myseus’. Perceval is accidentally confused with Humphrey Cook when he’s called ‘Humphrey Perceval’ seconds before his final moments. Weirdly, Dicks references the new TARDIS control room design and why we don’t see it again, as Jo notes that ‘from time to time, the Doctor altered some detail of the TARDIS interior. More often than not he decided he didn’t like what he’d done and reverted to the original.’ After the Master has captured Jo and disappeared in his TARDIS, Queen Galleia frees the Doctor and admits that she was wrong to trust the Master, just as she accepts that the people of Atlantis cannot be saved.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a multilayered piece depicting the female eyes of Kronos, the winged Kronos creature and the trident crystal. It might be my favourite Skilleter cover.

Final Analysis: In the 1990s, when the Pertwee backlash was in full swing in some fanzines, The Time Monster came in for a particularly hard time. Compared to the Master’s previous exploits, it feels a little lightweight and it suffers from wading in the same pool as The Daemons, which concluded the previous season. There are ancient myths, the Master posing as a member of a community and resurrecting a godlike being. Sadly, we also get a load of nonsense with the Doctor balancing house-hold rubbish on a wine bottle before playing matador with a real, live minotaur, while the whole narrative purpose of UNIT seems a long way from its origins as an organisation investigating serious alien threats to Earth. The Brigadier is particularly dim while Benton’s reward for being the only member of UNIT with any brains is to be left standing before his peers in a nappy.

I’m not here to review the TV stories of course, but it’s difficult to avoid doing so when the book sticks so closely to the transmitted version. All of these excesses are present and correct in this book and, for once, Terrance Dicks’ methodical approach doesn’t work quite so well. It can be summed up by this underwhelming description of the final destruction of the TOMTIT machine:

… the result was nothing more serious than a loud bang, a shower of sparks and a lot of smoke.

Just one other observation: In the descriptions, the Brigadier’s number two is ‘Captain Yates’ or ‘Mike Yates’, but never ‘Mike’. Always the full name.

Chapter 96. Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil (1985)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo attend a presentation at Stangmoor Prison, where a pioneering new machine for treating violent criminals is being tested. UNIT is providing security at an international conference while also overseeing the transportation of a missile. A series of seemingly unconnected deaths at the prison and among the peace conference are further complicated by a riot breaking out at the prison. The chaos is another scheme by the Master and the Doctor has it in his power to bring it all to an end – but is the price too high even for him?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sentence
  • 2. The Terror
  • 3. The Inferno
  • 4. The Listener
  • 5. The Pistol
  • 6. The Dragon
  • 7. The Hostage
  • 8. The Mutiny
  • 9. The Test
  • 10. The Mind Parasite
  • 11. Hijack
  • 12. The Escape
  • 13. The Attack
  • 14. The Reunion
  • 15. The Mind of Evil
  • 16. The Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Don Houghton for the 1971 serial, completing Target’s run of stories from Season 8.

Notes: A few characters gain additional back-stories. The governor of Stangmore is named ‘Victor Camford’; he’s ‘a massive, heavy-featured man with dark hair and bushy eyebrows’. Professor Kettering is revealed to be completely out of his depth, adept at politics but completely ignorant of the workings of the Keller machine. He was hired personally by Emil Keller and it’s clear the eminent scientist (who is the Master of course) was exploiting Kettering’s personality flaws. Barnham ‘choked the life out of a security guard’ who disturbed him during a robbery. Harry Mailer has ‘a weathered, corrugated look, as if made of leather rather than normal skin’. A gang leader who organised a ‘highly successful’ protection racket in London, Mailer was arrested and convicted after killing someone within sight of witnesses. It’s suggested that he might have been responsible for many other murders, bodies that have never been found as they’re ’embedded in the foundations of bridges and motorways all over England’ (see also Meglos for another example of hiding bodies in motorway constructions). 

Captain Yates is ‘a thin, sensitive-looking young man, a good deal tougher than he looked’. Benton relishes the opportunity for some plain-clothes work and imagines himself as ‘James Bond’. We’re treated to the best description of him so far:

The Sergeant had many excellent qualities. He was a burly, handsome young man, a fine figure in his military uniform. He was completely fearless and utterly loyal. But he wouldn’t have been the Brigadier’s first choice for an undercover assignment. For one thing, he was just too big. Benton lurking in a doorway with his raincoat collar turned up, was about as inconspicuous as an elephant at a tea party. 

The Brigadier nods off at his desk and he dreams he is a young subaltern again, with a young lady called Doris [see Planet of the Spiders and Battlefield]. The Doctor eventually recalls that the parasite inside the machine comes from a planet from which ‘no expedition had ever returned’. As it begins an attack on the Master, the Keller Machine is said to be ‘fully aroused’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a portrait of the Master with the missile.

Final Analysis: Considering how those mid-to-late Tom Baker books saw a surfeit of Dicks, it really is a treat to find one of his books is next on the list. Terrance dominated the first 100 releases, but there are few of them left by this point. We can rejoice in this one being the second and last of Don Houghton’s scripts to be novelised, from an era where, along with producer Barry Letts, Terrance was king of Doctor Who. There’s a sense that the story is made up largely of three ‘episode two’s sandwiched between an opening and closing episode; Terrance does little to change this, but it’s enjoyable to see a few additional bits of detail that sketch in the lives of our supporting characters.

On TV, Professor Kettering reacts against the Doctor at his most obnoxious, whereas here, we find out he is completely winging it and the Doctor is (unconsciously) correct to pick apart his claims. Barnham and Mailer are both revealed to be extremely violent thugs, so the contrast between them after Barnham has been processed is even more stark – and Mailer is immediately as threatening a presence as he is on screen. A surprise and disappointment comes with the arrival of the Chinese dragon, which kills the delegate. While it provides an appropriate point to conclude a chapter, Dicks doesn’t make much of it or make any attempt to make it more dramatic than the ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ that so failed to impress the production team as it waddled onto set. For once, he chooses just to say ‘it happened’ and move on. Whether this was down to word-count or he was just trying not to resurrect painful memories of the costume, we’ll never know.

Chapter 89. Doctor Who – Inferno (1984)

Synopsis: UNIT has been invited to provide security for a top secret drilling project in search of a new energy source from the Earth’s core. Hoping that the facility might help with his repairs to the TARDIS, the Doctor immediately becomes an irritation for the project’s director and instigator, Professor Stahlman, who is determined to lead the project to undoubted victory, whatever the risk. Afreak accident sees the Doctor transported to a parallel world where Stahlman’s project is much further advanced – and the dangers more apparent. Can the Doctor save this world and make it back to his own in time?

Chapter Titles

  • 1 Project Inferno
  • 2. The Beast
  • 3. Mutant
  • 4. The Slime
  • 5. Dimension of Terror
  • 6. The Nightmare
  • 7. Death Sentence
  • 8. Countdown to Doom
  • 9. Penetration-Zero
  • 10. The Monsters
  • 11. Escape Plan
  • 12. Doomsday
  • 13. Return to Danger
  • 14. The Last Mutation
  • 15. The Doctor Takes a Trip

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts for the 1970 serial by Don Houghton.

Notes: The Stahlman Project is ‘the greatest scientific project that England had ever known’; it’s predicted to be ‘more technologically advanced than nuclear power’ and, more importantly, ‘far more lucrative than North Sea Oil’, promising ‘limitless free energy for everyone’. We’re reminded that these are still the early days of the Doctor’s exile by the Time Lords to Earth. The complex that houses the project is in ‘a messy, unattractive-looking area’ – and this will be relevant later.

Professor Stahlman’s first name is Eric and he grew up ‘in the ruins of post-war Germany’ (which means he’s either only in his late twenties or he grew up in post-First-World-War Germany – unless Terrance Dicks is maintaining the idea of UNIT stories being set in a ‘near future’).  Sir Keith Gold observes Professor Stahlman’s ‘bulky broad-shouldered body and massive close-cropped head’, with a neat beard; in his mind, Sir Keith compares him to a gorilla in a lab coat – and immediately feels guilty for being so uncharitable. It’s an interesting choice to make Stahlman physically strong, ‘powerfully built man’, as this accentuates his early encounter with the Doctor, who restrains him with just two fingers and freezes him to the spot.

Liz Shaw is a ‘serious-looking girl with reddish-brown hair’ dressed in ‘a rather incongruously frivolous-looking mini-skirt’ – details which help to provide contrast with the parallel-world version. We’re reminded that Liz is ‘a scientist of some distinction in her own right’ and that she had been brought into UNIT from Cambridge ‘some time ago’. Petra Williams is ‘an attractive white-coated young woman, with a pleasant open face’ – yes, just like the Fifth Doctor – ‘framed by long fair hair’. Greg Sutton is said to be ‘a burly, broad-shouldered man’ and he has ‘a pleasantly ugly face’ (a bit unfair on Derek Newark there, Terrance!)  and ‘a sun-baked, wind-weathered complexion’. 

The Doctor witnesses Stahlman stealing the microcircuit and exclaims ‘Jumping Jehosophat’, as he does when he sees the Master in The Five Doctors. When he finally escapes limbo and lands in the parallel world, the Doctor is aware that he’s not where he’d previously been because the hut is tidy (the Doctor likes ‘a bit of clutter’). The neatness extends to the rest of the surrounding area, which has also been ‘tidied up’. Without the moustache of the Brigadier, the Brigade Leader’s mouth looks ‘thin-lipped and cruel’. The Doctor begins to speculate as to the cause of the parallel world and guesses that it might be down to a different outcome for the Second World War. The savage beasts are simply mutants (they’re called ‘Primords’ on the end titles of the TV episodes, but the word isn’t used in dialogue or in the novel). The novel retains the radio broadcasts that were cut from the original transmission (but retained for overseas broadcast). The Doctor checks his pulse and it’s ‘normal’ at 70 (it’s 170 on TV). The Doctor realises that he was so ‘haunted by that nightmarish vision of an exploding Earth’ that his violent outburst at Stahlman will have damaged his credibility.

Cover: Nick Spender’s fiery illustration shows a likeness of Ian Fairbairn as technician Bromley beginning to transform into an atavistic beast on the roof of a cooling tower beneath a burning sky. It’s quite the scariest cover since Alun Hood’s 1979 piece for the Terror of the Autons reprint.

Final Analysis: The first of two Don Houghton stories adapted by Terrance Dicks and it’s a real treat. It benefits from the increased page-count that’s gradually crept in since Terrance’s middle-period, plus it’s the sort of story that really plays to Terrance’s strengths as his economic thumbnail-sketch descriptions help us remember who’s who and what’s different about them in the other world. We also get an insight into the Doctor’s thought process, initially fascinated by the opportunity to explore a parallel world until he begins to treat the people he encounters as real, and not just disposable alternatives of the ones he knew on the other Earth. His horror at realising he has to give up on the alt-world to gain the chance to save his own Earth stays with him, even down to him accepting his desperation has alienated the very people he’s trying to save. And as we’ll discover, it’s a devastating decision that will haunt him for… well, at least as long as Don Houghton’s other story.

Chapter 31. Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos (1977)

Synopsis: A strange object from space lands on Earth near a nuclear power station. Inside are Axons, a family of golden beings who offer unlimited power in return for help with their damaged spacecraft. While the Doctor tries to keep an open mind, an ambitious politician rushes to seize the Axon’s power for his own interests. Deep inside the alien craft, the Master is being held captive – and as Jo Grant discovers, that’s not the only secret the Axons are keeping…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Invader from Space
  • 2. The Landing
  • 3. The Voice of Axos
  • 4. Enter the Master
  • 5. The Doctor Makes a Plan
  • 6. Escape from Axos
  • 7. The Axons Attack
  • 8. The Power Robbers
  • 9. The Sacrifice
  • 10. Brainstorm
  • 11. The Feast of Axos
  • 12. Trapped in Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin from the 1971 production.

Notes: As it soars towards Earth, the Axos ship has a ‘constantly changing’ shape and glows with a ‘myriad of colours’ – its intention is to be noticed. The first scene with the two radio operators is expanded here; they’re not UNIT operators here, but personnel at the tracking station – Ransome and his assistant, Harry – who work down the list of people they need to contact and find ‘something called UNIT’. The first interaction between the Brigadier and Chinn also provides background information – the minister in overall charge of Chinn’s department cannot stand him, and as the Brigadier is also a problem, he decides to set the two men against each other in the hope that the winner will eliminate one or the other. Although UNIT is governed from Geneva, the Brigadier’s operations are part-funded by the British Government. Corporal Bell is not part of this story, her role is given to a nameless male technician.

We get an introductory scene (cut from the TV version but included as an extra on DVD) where Bill Filer is on the hunt for a man called ‘Joe Grant’ – and Jo corrects him. Bill is described as having ‘closely trimmed brown hair and a pleasantly ugly face’ – wow, that’s a pretty mean swipe at the reasonably handsome Paul Grist who played him.

The Doctor and Jo drive to the landing site in Bessie (yay!). The Axon who first frightens Jo subsequently appears as a male identical to the Axon leader. The Axon leader does not assume that the toad is livestock, but spells out the potential, had it been a ‘food animal’. The process transforms the toad into a huge form that overwhelms Chinn and makes him scream. Later, as Axos reacts to the Doctor’s experiment, the Eye of Axos is said to be ‘lashing wildly to and fro on its stalk’, which is much more fluid a movement than the TV prop could manage.

Jo overhears the Doctor speculating about Axonite’s potential for time travel and suspects he has selfish intentions early on. The Doctor spots straight away that the Axon-Filer is a fake thanks to his experience of the Autons replicating humans. He also baffles a sentry to gain access to the arrested Brigadier: ‘Good heavens, man, I know the Brigadier’s incommunicado. I’m incommunicado myself. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other.’ Delightful!

The Master enters the Nuton complex disguised as a visitings scientist and recalls the time he broke into UNIT HQ dressed as a ‘humble telephone engineer’. The Master’s TARDIS is a white dome, not a filing cabinet.

To the Eye of Axos’s surprise, the Doctor reveals that he’s deduced that Axos already has some limited ability for time travel; he realised that Axos reached Earth before the missiles were fired and Axos confesses that they can ‘move only moments in Time.’ Hardiman’s assistant (credited on screen as ‘Technician’) is named ‘Ericson’.

Cover: Achilleos gives us an eerie female Axon with rays of light coming from her eyes while an Axon monster looms behind her and the Doctor (taken from a photo from Frontier in Space) is pictured inset looking concerned. A 1979 edition had a cover by John Geary showing the adult male Axon and two very green Axon monsters.

Final Analysis: I’m hugely fond of The Claws of Axos TV episodes, one of those comfort stories I can bung on while I decide what I’d sooner be watching and then settle down and enjoy it. Terrance Dicks captures all of the conflicted loyalties that the Axons draw out of our heroes – are they victims in need, or should they have been blasted into bits from the start? –  but he enhances the suspicion that the Doctor is solely interested in using Axos to escape Earth and relishes in making Chinn hated by absolutely everyone he encounters. The Master once again enjoys the thrill of the adventure, deciding on a whim to jump from a bridge onto a UNIT truck and then exploiting his good fortune when it turns out to be going where he wants to be. The ending is also less rushed than on TV, as Bill Filer says his goodbyes and jokes that he’d thought England would be ‘dull’, Chinn scampers back to the Minister to try framing the success as his own, while the operation to rescue the TARDIS and get it onto the back of a UNIT truck turns into a huge argument, which Jo welcomes as things getting ‘back to normal’. 

Chapter 19. Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1993)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Sarah return to Earth to discover that London has been evacuated due to a spate of dinosaurs appearing and disappearing across the city. While the Doctor goes on the hunt for monsters, Sarah uncovers a conspiracy that implicates some very surprising people.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. London Alert!
  • 2. ‘Shoot to Kill!’
  • 3. The Time Eddy
  • 4. The Timescoop
  • 5. Monster in Chains
  • 6. The Spaceship
  • 7. The Reminder Room
  • 8. Escape!
  • 9. Operation Golden Age
  • 10. The Final Countdown

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his 1974 scripts for Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Notes: An opening scene is added, introducing Shughie McPherson, a football fan from Glasgow who wakes up in an evacuated London and is killed by a dinosaur. The Doctor and Sarah find a cafe and discover the food’s rotten, while the Doctor is aghast that he’s taken Sarah around time and space but she gets really excited by the sight of a Woolworths (and later he points out a Wimpy’s too); this hints that they’ve had adventures since The Time Warrior but this is their first time together back on modern-day Earth. 

Infamously, Butler has a ‘livid scar’ on his face, so that Hulke can make him easy to identify without spelling out who he is – very inventive (he could hardly say ‘a man who looked just like Martin Jarvis’, although that would have added a little extra fun to the audiobook). It also serves to humanise him when Sarah cruelly attacks him for choosing to be ‘ugly’ only to learn that he got the scar while serving as a fire officer saving the life of a child (and Sarah quickly apologises for being so callous). There’s no weird new car for the Doctor; instead, he borrows a motorcycle as the best way to get around London (which all feels much more logical and in keeping for this Doctor).

As he watches the Doctor on a TV monitor, Professor Whitaker comments that the intruder is ‘terribly handsome’, which seems to be an addition perhaps inspired by the casting of the Professor onscreen, but it does add an extra dimension to him (on paper, he’s also extra-arrogant and driven by the glory of proving wrong a load of people who might not ever exist if he succeeds!). The story has a new conclusion where the Doctor shows Sarah a passage in Ezekiel that describes where Professor Whitaker and Grover might have ended up.

Cover: Best cover artwork ever. It’s just so lurid and melodramatic and sums up the vast differences between the TV version and the imagination of a child who’s read the book (and I do love both). The cheeky “KKLAK!” really makes it. Having stood in the living room of the person who owns the original art, I marvelled at the beauty of it and had criminal thoughts. The first edition I read was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing a dinosaur standing on the lower steps at St Pauls (those ones we remember the Cybermen descending in The Invasion). Alister Pearson’s cover for the 1993 rerelease (as Invasion of the Dinosaurs) shows the Doctor with his weird device and a tyrannosaurus rex, with a very subtle incorporation of the London Underground logo in a manner that might be familiar to fans of Jurassic Park. It also solidifies Pearson’s record as the only artist to provide cover art for all of the novelisations in three entire seasons of stories.

Final Analysis: This has long been one of my favourites, ever since I picked up on a character having ‘badly bitten fingernails’, while Professor Whitaker’s are ‘well-polished’. That kind of subtle detail really jumped out at me at aged eight and it still does many years later. Hulke’s eagerness to give a balanced view of his worlds extends to showing us how a stegosaurus reacts to being shot at on Hampstead Heath and I’m not even going to make a joke about that or point out that dinosaurs and mammals didn’t really hang out together in the past.

Just a few additional lines to Mark and Adam on the ‘spaceship’ also help to flesh them out a bit and make them more rounded. Adam concludes that Grover is ‘a raving lunatic’ but Sarah counters that the politician knows exactly what he’s doing. Mark rounds on Ruth because, confronted with the evidence against Grover, she still supports him because she ‘can’t stand being made a fool of! You must never be wrong!’

It all helps to sell the underlying message: As with The Cave Monsters, the title has a double meaning as there’s more than one kind of dinosaur in Westminster; there’s also the type who can’t let go of ancient history and wants to drag us all back with them to a time that never really existed. Thanks in part to the actual dinosaurs being much more realistic and thrilling on the page than on screen, plus some deeper characterisation that helps us understand who these people are, this really might be the best Target novel so far. Trust me.

Chapter 18. Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster (1976)

aka Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons (1993)

Synopsis: Oil rigs are being attacked off the coast of Scotland and the Brigadier summons the Doctor to help out. As the Doctor goes on a monster hunt, Harry and Sarah find something sinister under Loch Ness.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Death from the Sea
  • 2. Murder on the Shore
  • 3. The Zygons Attack
  • 4. A Trap for the Doctor
  • 5. The Sleeping Village
  • 6. The Monster on the Moor
  • 7. Hunt for a Zygon
  • 8. A Visit to the Duke
  • 9. The Secret of Forgill Castle
  • 10. Plan for Conquest
  • 11. Escape!
  • 12. Monster in the Thames

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Banks Stewart’s scripts for the 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons.

Notes: During the attack on the Bonnie Prince Charlie rig, we’re told that the radio operator’s name is ‘Jock Munro’. We get the scene deleted from the TV broadcast of the TARDIS outer shell disappearing after it lands and a brief bit of chatter with the Duke where Sarah, sat in the back of his landrover, discovers a stuffed stag’s head under a tarpaulin. UNIT Corporal Palmer makes a reappearance (he’s an unnamed corporal in the TV episodes). The Zygon that Sarah first encounters is ‘a squat, powerful figure about the size of a small man:

Orange-green in colour, it had small, claw-like hands and feet. There was no neck: the big high-domed head seemed to grow directly from the bulbous torso. The face was terrifyingly alien, with huge, malevolent green eyes and a small, puckered mouth. A row of protuberances ran down its back. The really horrible thing about the creature was that it seemed to be a parody of the human form. It looked like a grotesque, evil baby.

Once Sarah and the Doctor are trapped in the decompresison chamber, the Zygon formerly known as Sister Lamont uses a comunications device to inform Broton (with ‘a note of gloating triumph in its voice’) that ‘The Doctor and the human female will soon be dead’. The Doctor’s encounter with the Skarasen on Tulloch Moor takes place at night. Although this is almost seen on telly, it’s made much clearer that zygons can sting when in their ‘proper form’, either to hurt or fatally wound (and they do both here – Angus is kiled while Harry and the Doctor are only stunned). The Brigadier and Sarah add sugar and milk to The Fox Inn’s porridge but the Doctor has it with salt, a taste he acquired ‘during the Jacobite rebellion’. Although Madra, the Zygon who impersonates Harry, is named, the one who poses as Sister Lamont is not (she’s something that sounds like ‘Orla’ on TV). Oh and the Prime Minister who the Brigadier speaks to is identified as male.

Cover & Illustrations: It’s frustrating because in my mind, the artwork I want to see was that Radio Times piece by Frank Bellamy. This one’s okay, with the Skarasen looking fierce and the Zygon leaning into the centre, but the Doctor likeness reminds me too much of Eric Idle and the background is a little Looney Tunes. I much prefer the Alister Pearson 1993 reprint where Broton’s face merges with the background, a sombre Doctor looks very smart in his Scottish get-up and the Sister Lamont Zygon (going on the publicity photo it references) stands full-length.

Final Analysis: Broton appears more of a frustrated administrator in this version, furious at his subordinates. Dicks’s description of a Zygon as ‘a grotesque, evil baby’ is spot on although he insists on describing a ‘claw-shaped hand’ that’s a lot less enticing than what we actually see on TV. Bonus points for explaining that Zygons have stings, which is not really clear on screen.

The Zygons are among my earliest memories of the TV show and, as mentioned in this blog’s introduction, this was one of four books I received as a Christmas present in 1980, the first Target books I owned, rather than loaning from the library. 

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 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.