Chapter 79. Doctor Who – Terminus (1983)

Synopsis: After the Black Guardian coerces Turlough into sabotaging the TARDIS, Nyssa escapes the craft via a temporary back door that leads directly onto a nearby space liner – a plague ship heading to the space station Terminus. Though Terminus promises a cure for Lazar Disease, this is a myth. Nyssa decides to help find a cure, while suspecting that she herself has already fallen victim to the disease. Meanwhile, the Doctor makes an interesting discovery – one that might threaten the existence of the entire universe.

Chapter Titles: No chapters again, just a steady flow of prose.

Background: Once more using the John Lydecker pseudonym, Steve Gallagher adapts his own scripts from the TV story that aired just short of four months earlier. The book was slightly longer than a normal Target book (159 pages) and the cover price was a little higher.

Notes: As she gives Turlough a tour of his new home, Tegan begins to suspect the TARDIS interior redesigns itself when nobody’s looking. She’s unhappy that their new arrival has been given Adric’s old room and is also unsettled by the way Turlough is completely unfazed by the TARDIS. Alone, Turlough practices an explanation for the Black Guardian’s crystal – here it’s a cube – considering it could be an heirloom from a great uncle and then realises he has no idea if he even has a great uncle. The crystal is keyed into Turlough’s ‘mindwave’, so only he can activate it. The Doctor identifies the problem caused by Turlough’s sabotage as a fault in the TARDIS matrix, which holds the ship together. Turlough uses the beads from Nyssa’s discarded abacus to plot a trail through the spaceship, only to learn that a maintenance robot has picked them all up. He also mulls over the idea of killing Tegan and blaming it on an accident.

Kari and Olvir spend hours in hypnosis to memorise their mission and this is Olvir’s first time in a landing party. Olvir told people he became a raider after his family lost everything after the ‘fire storms on Hagen’; in reality it was the cost of trying to find a cure for his sister’s Lazar infection and the shame of this that inspired his deception. The Garm comes from a planet with high radiation, so it’s protected against the effects of Terminus.

As Nyssa prepares to leave, the Doctor thinks about all his past companions:

It had happened before and it would happen again, and it seemed that the loss of every member of his ever-changing team took a little piece of him away with them. They were spread through time and through space, all of them reshaped and given new insights through their travels. Their loss wasn’t too bad a price to pay… not when they gave him a kind of immortality.

Cover: Another feeble photo montage, as the Doctor shows off his new jumper, the Black Guardian appears to be checking him out. This was the first of the novels to show its number in the Target Doctor Who library on the spine (the previous two releases had them inside on the title page, where this one… doesn’t). The earlier books were retroactively numbered in alphabetical order.

Final Analysis: This is a lot more straightforward than Gallagher’s first novelisation, but as before, he really captures the regular characters very well – particularly the cold pragmatism of Turlough versus the hot-headed brashness of Tegan; both know they’re playing a game, but only Turlough knows the true stakes. In a similar way to Terrance Dicks’ habit of tidying up lose ends, the conclusion suggests that the Doctor doesn’t simply dash off at the end. He’s already decided to leave decontamination equipment with the Vanir – he can’t reverse the radiation damage they’ve suffered but it might slow the effects. He also urges Valgard to use publicity to change perceptions about their work with the patients: ‘Forget the shame and the mystery, and emphasize the treatment.’ It all helps to cushion the blow of Nyssa’s departure, knowing that he and Tegan aren’t saying goodbye quite as abruptly as it might have appeared on TV.

Chapter 67. Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate (1982)

Synopsis: The Tharils were once a proud race, masters of the time winds with an empire forged on slavery. Then the robot Gundans came. Now the Tharils themselves are slaves, sold as mere components to be plugged into space ships as unwilling navigators. One such ship is the Privateer, fashioned from dwarf star alloy, captained by the dictatorial and stubborn Rorvik… and currently mired in a white void near a mysterious gateway. As the Doctor, Romana and Adric search for a way out of E-Space, their encounters at the gateway promise freedom at last for the Tharils… and Romana.

Chapter Titles

None! It’s just one big run of text. 

Background: Steve Gallagher adapts his own 1981 TV scripts under the pen-name of John Lydecker to avoid confusion with his other novels. This followed State of Decay on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: The opening scenes introduce a member of The Antonine Killer clan, a methodical, maverick Tharil in pursuit of Privateers trying to evade a blockage. The clan is part of the anti-slavery alliance and they’ve already targetted four privateer vessels. The actions of this Killer result in the Privateer being disabled and stranded outside of normal space. Early on, we’ve given an explanation of the Tharils’ time-sensitivity that really helps make sense of the entire story:

Time-sensitivity was the Tharils’ curse; from an infinite range of possible futures they could select one and visualise it in detail as if it had already happened. Sometimes in moments of extreme trance their bodies would shimmer and glow, dancing between those possible futures and only loosely anchored in the present. It took intense concentration to bring a Tharil back into phase with the Moment.

As K9’s health ails, we’re told that even though he could be rebuilt, ‘there was no way of reproducing its personality with any exactness… a copy would never be any more than just that’, so either the author has forgotten that this unit is the second model, or each K9 has its own individual personality that can’t be recaptured. Meanwhile, Romana departs with Lazlo, not Biroc, while we lose the final scene with Adric and the Doctor. There’s something of Brief Encounter or The Empire Strikes Back in the way the Doctor and Romana say goodbye:

‘I can only wish you good luck. It’s not likely we’ll meet again.’

‘I know,’ Romana said.

Cover: An ethereal composition by Andrew Skilleter showing the Tharil Biroc, the gateway and the Privateer in front of a blue hazy background.

Final Analysis: The most radical departure from the Target house style so far, Gallagher really dives deep into the story and his characters. It’s all the more impressive considering his first delivered version was much longer and had to be condensed (that longer version was later released as an audiobook). It’s a complete rewrite of the TV episodes and Gallagher’s style is more mature than we’re used to – and that doesn’t mean the kind of violence or language that Ian Marter employs, but in Rorvik we get a much more sadistic character than Saturday tea-time TV could allow. Surprisingly for someone writing for Season 18 setting, Gallagher also adds a lot of comic sequences – actually capturing the Fourth Doctor that we know, rather than the muted version we got that season (I’m reliably informed the jokes were in the original scripts, so we can work out what happened there!).

Rorvik cut across the diffident denial with another blast into the ceiling, another snowfall of plaster. 

‘This could be a listed building for all you know,’ the Doctor warned, but Rorvik’s sense of humour seemed to have been suspended. 

‘You’ll be listed as a former human being if you don’t play straight.”Human being? Are we descending to cheap insults now?’

And just a couple of pages later:

‘Can you hear me, Doctor? I’ve got a message for you. I hate you. Did you get that? Of everybody I’ve ever met, you’re my least favourite!’ And he hammered his fists on the mirror’s surface in frustration. 

On the page, Rorvik is one of the most sadistic monsters we’ve encountered so far – we’re told of the atrocities he’s committed to other Tharils even during Biroc’s short time on the Priveteer and Rorvik himself admits to others – yet Gallagher remembers that pomposity can actually be hilarious when the subject isn’t in on the joke. One tiny criticism, but it’s an obvious one, is that this is a very dense, detailed story with some very heavy SF themes and motifs; it would have really helped to have had chapter titles. I’m a traditionalist at heart.