Chapter 63. Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit (1981)

Synopsis: The Lady Adrasta is used to being obeyed and her word is law. If you disobey her, if you displease her in any way, you’ll be thrown into a pit that they call… The Pit. If you’re lucky, you’ll break your neck as soon as you reach the bottom. If not, you’ll encounter a terrifying creature they call… The Creature. With the help of a forgotten astrologer, the Doctor uncovers the truth about the creature – and Lady Adrasta.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Pit
  • 2. Wolfweeds
  • 3. The Doctor’s Leap to Death
  • 4. The Creature
  • 5. Organon
  • 6. The Web
  • 7. The Meeting
  • 8. The Shield
  • 9. Erato
  • 10. Complications
  • 11. Wrapping Up 

Background: David Fisher adapts his own scripts from the 1979 story.

Notes: Madam Karela secretly thinks the whole business with The Pit is a waste of time and would prefer to use her knife to cut the accused’s throat. Romana discovers a multi-dimensional store cupboard that contains a box labelled ‘Toys from Hamleys’, a lone ‘patent-leather dancing pump, signed on the sole “Love from Fred”’; an animal jawbone, an object that might be a musical instrument, a ball of string and a blonde chest-wig! The box containing the transceiver is stamped with the Seal of Gallifrey and the device should have been installed 12 years ago. Romana has clearly been with the Doctor for a long time now, as she reminds herself of her own travels through ‘umpteen galaxies’ and ‘hundreds of thousands of years’, which presumably also included an encounter with the ‘Mudmen of Epsilon Eridani’, which she cites in a moment of exasperation.

The bandits are rubbish because they’re really miners who were forced out of the mines when the creature arrived 15 years ago. Adrasta’s engineer Doran is a ‘not unattractive young man’. When the Doctor lands at the bottom of the pit, Doran’s crushed body breaks his fall. As the creature approaches, the Doctor notices a ‘strange metallic odour, like silver polish or a run-down battery’. 

Yes, this is the novel where sex is introduced for the first time as we are treated to a lengthy section on the life cycle of the Tythonians, including steamy, graphic descriptions of their sexual reproduction (no spoilers but at one point it involves two things about six inches long). Tythonians can live for around 40,000 years or more:

… longer, if they avoided any physical activity, like movement or worry, and devoted themselves exclusively to music and poetry.

The story ends with the Doctor’s joke about the lucky number, rather than with the goodbyes with Organon.

Cover: A final submission from Steve Kyte and it’s a cracker as the Doctor looks up fearfully at a sword while Adrasta lurks in the background. I have a strong suspicion that Kyte’s photo reference is the same one used for the cover of The Human League’s track Tom Baker.

Final Analysis: I admit, reading through this, I forgot that this wasn’t Terrance Dicks – which is a good sign for a first entry in the range. Terrance repeatedly said that he stopped writing quite so many books when the scriptwriters slowly realised that they could make all of the money if they also did the novelisation, and this is the beginning of that trend (Fisher having already missed out on his first two stories). Season 19’s script editor Douglas Adams, who commissioned the original serial, had just enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame thanks to the novelisation of his Hitch-Hikers radio serial and it’s clear that Fisher has read it (the section on the life cycle of the Tythonian and the asides about various flora and fauna on Chloris are hard to read without hearing Peter Jones’ voice) but Fisher at least has the common sense not to try to blindly copy everything Tom Baker brought to the screen (the sequence where the Doctor hangs onto the edge of the Pit loses the ‘Teach Yourself Tibetan’ jokes and instead involves him recalling the lessons of Sherpa Tensing).

Chapter 62. Doctor Who and the Monster of Peladon (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor returns to Peladon with his new friend Sarah Jane Smith. Though membership of the Federation has brought some benefits to the planet, there is growing discontent among its people. The young Queen Peladon rules with kindness, but the old ways of superstition still have influence and when manifestations of the great beast Aggedor disrupt the mining of minerals, a force of Ice Warriors arrives to ensure that mining continues. But Sarah Jane saw an Ice Warrior in the mines before they officially arrived – and the Doctor’s old friend Alpha Centauri begins to suspect that these Ice Warriors aren’t even part of the Federation, but are traitors intent on gaining the minerals for themselves.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Return to Peladon
  • 2. Aggedor Strikes Again
  • 3. The Fugitives
  • 4. The Hostage
  • 5. The Wrath of Aggedor
  • 6. The Intruder
  • 7. The Ice Warriors
  • 8. The Madman
  • 9. The Return of Aggedor
  • 10. Trapped in the Refinery
  • 11. The Threat
  • 12. Aggedor’s Sacrifice

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1974 scripts by Brian Hayles (who had started work on the novel before his death in 1978). This completes the Target run of adaptations of stories from Season 11.

Notes: Peladon has three moons. We’re told this as part of an introductory chapter that summarises both the events of The Curse of Peladon and the intervening years up to this point, during which a war with Galaxy Five has made Peladon a key resource for the Federation. Apparently, Sarah Jane Smith has been the Doctor’s ‘more or less unwilling companion on a number of adventures’ and she instantly regrets allowing herself to be persuaded by the Doctor’s stories of a ‘picturesque and primitive planet, just making the transition from feudal savagery to technological civilisation’.

Ettis is said to be ‘a thin, wiry young man’ (so the casting for the TV version clearly shows what a hard life it is, being a miner, because he’s not ‘young’). Sarah observes a number of differences between Commander Azaxyr and his subordinates: 

Although equally large, Azaxyr was built on slenderer, more graceful lines than his tank-like troops. He moved more easily, and in particular his mouth and jaw were differently made, less of a piece with the helmet-like head. While the other Ice Warriors grunted and hissed in monosyllables, Azaxyr spoke clearly and fluently, though there was still the characteristic Martian sibilance in his voice.

The Doctor notes that, as a member of an aristocratic Martian line, Azaxyr is ‘almost a different species from the ordinary warriors’. 

Cover: Steve Kyte’s design shows an Ice Warrior and the hulking form of a roaring Aggedor. Simple but effective. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover shows the Aggedor statue and the Doctor as the background to a cluster of Sarah, Azaxyr, Alpha Centauri and Eckersley.

Final Analysis: It’s a welcome return for the Third Doctor, our first story to feature him since Death to the Daleks 19 books ago. Terrance Dicks might not attribute the colourful cuttlefish properties to Alpha Centauri that Bryan Hayles did in Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon, but instead Alpha’s tentacles are the indication of his moods. Aggedor is said to be even bigger than he was the last time the Doctor saw him (and considering the illustrations of him in the previous novelisation, that must make him really huge now) and Dicks adjusts the Martian Commander to be as imposing as his warriors.

Chapter 61. Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon (1980)

Synopsis: Romana and the Doctor land aboard a stricken ship heading for Skonnos with a group of terrified Anethans. The youngsters are intended as tributes to the fearsome Nimon. As soon as the Doctor has repaired the ship, its captain absconds, leaving the Doctor stranded. By the time the TARDIS gets him to Skonnos, Romana has discovered that the Nimon, a bull-headed alien, is just the first arrival, a spearhead for a race of parasites that intend to lay waste to Skonnos…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Ship of Sacrifice
  • 2. The Skonnons
  • 3. Sardor in Command
  • 4. Asteroid
  • 5. The Nimon
  • 6. The Maze
  • 7. Sardor’s Bluff
  • 8. K9 in Trouble
  • 9. The Journey of the Nimon
  • 10. Journey to Crinoth
  • 11. Time Bomb
  • 12. The Legend

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Anthony Read’s scripts from 1979. This followed Nightmare of Eden on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A brilliant prologue sketches the events of the rise and fall of the First Skonnan Empire in which we’re told ‘No enemy had ever defeated the Skonnans. They destroyed themselves.’ In-fighting led to civil war and the collapse of a once-proud race – and then came the Nimon, a god-like being who promised the restoration of the Empire in return for tributes, which the Skonnans, led by Soldeed, acquired on the peaceful neighbouring planet of Aneth. The ship we see in the first proper scene is the last surviving vessel of the former empire.

The Captain is here named Sekkoth and his co-pilot, Sardor, is younger, ‘plump-faced and overweight’. Sardor was too young to have fought in the wars, which accounts for his being ‘even more fiercely militaristic than his superior.’ The Doctor is curious as to why Romana has decided to dress like a fox-hunter. When Romana flees the Nimon’s chamber with Seth and Teka, it’s left to an unnamed Anethan girl to explain the plot so far to the Nimon. After the Complex is destroyed, we’re told what happened next: The Doctor takes Sorak aside and persuades him to enter into a peace treaty with the people of Aneth and lay the blame for previous enmity on the Nimon.

Cover: Steve Kyte’s first of three covers for the range, with the Doctor looking over his shoulder at a blue Nimon.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks often said that his favourite novels were the ones where the scripts were already good, so he had little to do, or the ones that were bad, where he got to fix them. Few fans would say Horns of Nimon is their favourite story, but the opening prologue suggests Terrance approached this with determination and a willingness to polish as he progressed. We might lose some of Tom Baker’s onscreen excesses here, but Terrance also takes things much more seriously than anyone in the TV version seems to have done: The opening prologue is as portentous as any other scene-setting chapter we’ve had, as a civilisation rises and falls; the comic trouser-splitting co-pilot is given a zealous determination that makes his ultimate demise a relief; Teka tells Romana that her fellow sacrifices are ‘too frightened even to talk’, which explains why only two of them are given any dialogue (genius!); Soldeed’s rise to power is shown to be a fluke and he clings to power knowing he’s ill-equipped to rule – something that Sorak seems to recognise and hopes to exploit; and of course, it’s the dreaded Nimon who Terrance really beefs up with customary relish – just have a look at this:

It was a fearsome, extraordinary creature, not unlike the great buffalo of Earth. Presumably on the Nimon’s planet some similar creature had developed intelligence and become the dominant life form. The Nimon was like a great black bull that had learned to talk and walk upon its hind legs like a man. The massive head merged directly into the enormous torso, with no suggestion of a neck. Great golden eyes blazed with a fierce intelligence and two amber-coloured horns jutted from the broad flat forehead. The creature wore only a wide jewelled belt and a kind of metallic kilt. 

The most terrifying thing about the Nimon was that it was never still. It was as if so much energy was packed into the enormous body that it throbbed with continual power, pacing restlessly to and fro like a great caged beast. Even when it was not speaking it gave off a constant series of low, rumbling growls. 

That is how to polish a cow-pat, even making the bizarre choreography something to fear. Right in the middle of his infamous ‘script-to-page’ period, Terrance gives us a surprising little gem.