Chapter 59. Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus (1980)

Synopsis: A huge pyramid surrounded by a sea of acid. Inside is Arbitan, sole protector of the Conscience of Marinus, a powerful computer that can control minds. The Doctor and his fellow travellers agree to help Arbitan locate a set of keys for the machine, which have been hidden in different locations across the planet. So begins a deadly quest for the time travellers that will involve mind-controlling brains in jars, killer plants, a frozen tundra and a trial for murder. All the while, they are unaware that Arbitan’s enemy, Yartek, leader of the Voord, has captured the pyramid and now lies in wait for their return with the keys…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Sea of Death
  • 2. The Marble City
  • 3. The Velvet Web
  • 4. The Brains of Morphoton
  • 5. The Screaming Jungle
  • 6. The Whispering Darkness
  • 7. The Snows of Terror
  • 8. The Demons
  • 9. Sentenced!
  • 10. The Mystery of the Locked Room
  • 11. The Missing Key
  • 12. Arbitan’s Revenge
  • 13. Final Goodbyes

Background: Philip Hinchcliffe adapts Terry Nation’s 1964 scripts, during a period when the story titles for Hartnell’s stories had not been agreed on by consensus, so the title page states that this is an adaptation of Terry Nation’s ‘The Sea of Death’.  So far, this is the biggest gap between the broadcast of a story and its release as a novel, at 16 years, three months and one week. It’s also been three years and 29 books since the publication of a First Doctor story under the Target banner.

Notes: Time is measured in zeniths in inter-galactic time. The Voord submersible pods are BXV sub-oceanic assault craft. Apparently, Barbara suffers from space-time travel sickness and she believes human bodies are not built for time travel – or at least hers isn’t. Hinchcliffe describes the inside of the TARDIS thus:

They were inside a large hexagonal-shaped control room with white hexagonal-patterned walls. A hexagonal console in the middle of the room supported a transparent cylindrical column which moved slowly up and down when the ship was in flight. 

The Doctor has ‘mischievous blue eyes’ (unlike Harnell’s own, which were brown). Barbara and Ian’s first meeting with the Doctor and Susan is summarised and we’re told that the TARDIS can ‘change its appearance like a chameleon’. Ian is still wearing a ‘Chinese jacket’ that he picked up ‘the court of Kublai Kahn’ [sic], which we’re told ‘undermined his air of schoolmasterly interest’. 

The Voord have webbed hands and feet, they’re the same shape as a man, but stronger and more agile:

Its skin was dark and rubbery, its bulletshaped head smooth and devoid of features except for two frog-like eyes and a snoutish protuberance like corrugated piping. The head was flanked by two flat, pointed lugs. The face as a whole faintly resembled that of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of Egyptian mythology. The creature, however, was far from being any sort of god. It was, in fact, a Class I Voord Assault Trooper, programmed to kill enemy life-forms on sight!

The word ‘programmed’ suggests at least some degree of robotic or artificial intelligence. Yartek developed an immuniser that enabled the Voord to ‘rob and cheat, kill and exploit’; Arbitan’s people were helpless as the Conscience made them incapable of violent resistance. Susan calculates that Arbitan’s temple is a couple of miles all round, while Barbara’s comparison from the TV version of the temple to those of the Egyptians and South Americans is given to Ian for some reason. Vasor is said to be like a ‘Breughel peasant’, which suggests he should have been down an alley, puking. Yartek is said to smile and his face has ‘bulbous eyes’, so he doesn’t quite look like his TV counterpart.

Cover: David McAllister’s first contribution to the range is both beautifully painted and disappointingly bland – the TARDIS hovers in space above a generic planet. Were they too squeamish to attempt one of the Brains of Morphoton for this? As the policy of the time was to avoid having older Doctors on the cover, this might have limited their options, so having the iconic TARDIS might have seemed more marketable, but it’s a shame as we could have had something rivalling Alun Hood’s Terror of the Autons cover for sheer horror.

Final Analysis: 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. Aside from maybe an episode at a convention in the mid-1980s, I’m not sure if I saw the TV story for more than a decade later, so it’s Hinchcliffe’s version that was imprinted on my mind, alongside The Daleks, as what Hartnell’s Doctor was really like. Good going, considering the Doctor himself is missing for half of the story and Ian is, as on TV, very much the lead character. This is Hinchcliffe’s final novel for the range and it’s such a weird choice for him, but it’s every bit the Boy’s Own adventure that was at the heart of his time as producer (including what feels very much like the belittling of Barbara to elevate Ian more), so it’s perhaps not as surprising as it first appears. It faithfully adapts Terry Nation’s scripts, which acted as a template for what the series would quickly become. It has a quest (although after all those Key to Time novels, that’s not necessarily a positive); four alien lands with hostile environments; repulsive monsters; selfish antagonists who are more than a bit rapey; and a trial! At the end, the Big Bad Wolf-style villain is revealed to be rather disappointing, but as this is Hinchcliffe, the description of Yartek’s demise is much, much nastier than the fade-to-white we saw on TV.

Chapter 51. Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks (1979)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana explore a dead world, unaware that one of them has been there before. A spaceship arrives containing the beautiful Movellans who inform the Doctor that the planet is Skaro – home of the Daleks – and their mission is to find the Dalek creator, Davros. But Davros is dead… and coincidentally, so is Romana!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Dead City
  • 2. Underground Evil
  • 3. The Daleks
  • 4. The Movellans
  • 5. Slaves of the Daleks
  • 6. Escape
  • 7. The Secret of the Daleks
  • 8. The Prisoner
  • 9. The Hostages
  • 10. The Bait
  • 11. Stalemate
  • 12. Suicide Squad
  • 13. Blow-up
  • 14. Departure

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s scripts for a story that aired just two months earlier.

Notes: Dicks calls Romana a ‘Time Lady’ and summarises the events from the climax of The Armageddon Factor, which hasn’t been novelised yet. The Doctor surmises that Romana’s higher score at the academy accounts for her greater control over how she regenerates, unlike his own traumatic experiences. They arrive on the strange dead world at night during a storm (it’s a bright, sunny day on TV). The slaves bury their dead under rocks because the foundations of the city ruins are too thick to dig up. The dead body that the Doctor investigates was a ‘Space Major Dal Garrant’ (so close to that familiar ‘Tarrant’ that Nation often used). While pinned under the fallen masonry, the Doctor reads ‘The Origins of the Tenth Galaxy’,  written by a ‘particularly pompous Time Lord historian’ who he has never liked. He’s interrupted by the arrival of just two Movellans (Lan and Agella) and they’re wearing ‘simple, military-type space coveralls’, rather than the beautifully distinctive space-dreadlocks and Top of the Pops dance-troop suits. On the Movellan spaceship, Commander Sharrell’s rank is denoted by an insignia on his uniform. 

Sharrel does not identify the planet they’re on beyond the serial number. Only later does the Doctor discover that it’s Skaro, when Tyssan tells him. As Davros revives, his eyes open [see The Witch’s Familiar in 2015]. The journey to the surface with Davros involves a long, steep, spiralling ramp. The Daleks cheat and make their way to Davros’s level using ‘eerily silent anti-grav discs’ as seen in Planet of the Daleks. Disappointingly, the Doctor doesn’t tell the Daleks to ‘spack off’. The Dalek mutant that he encounters in the sand dunes is more active than the blob of Slime-with-Worms from TV. It’s a ‘pulsating green blob, a kind of land-jellyfish’ that crawls up his arm. There’s a fair bit of gender-swapping here: Veldan and Jall’s genders are reversed, the Daleks’ sacrificial victims are both male and the Movellan that captures the Doctor and Tyssan is also male. Romana doesn’t dismember Sharrel during their fight, she merely kicks away his power tube.

Cover: Welcome Andrew Skilleter, who surrounds an image of the Doctor (based on a pic from The Pirate Planet) with very TV Century 21-style Daleks moving around in fog, as if at a disco. Alister Pearson’s 1990 reprint cover puts the Doctor and Romana alongside a moody Davros in profile, a Dalek and Agella against a salmon background.

Final Analysis: Destiny of the Daleks seems to polarise opinion, but as it was the first Dalek story where I was old enough to follow the plot in full, I didn’t care about how tatty the props looked or that the central point about a robotic impasse shouldn’t have worked because Daleks aren’t robots. I just enjoyed it for being Daleks on my telly. This novelisation is, for me, the first point in this project where Terrance Dicks’ straightforward script-to-page approach feels a little lacking. Racing to get this story novelised meant that Romana v2 is introduced before V1 – we’ve leapt past a season and a half of stories, which is quite confusing – but there’s no real explanation as to who Romana is, only that she’s changed and she’s from Gallifrey. The Movellan costumes are described in such generic terms that they lose some of their onscreen glamour, and it’s all a little… thin. However, there is this lovely harkback to Genesis of the Daleks, which highlights a decision the Doctor has returned to time and time again:

The Doctor sighed. He had hesitated once before, at a time when he could have destroyed the Daleks before their creation, simply by touching the two wires that would complete an explosive circuit. Who knows what horrors he had unleashed upon the Universe? The Daleks were stronger now and more numerous, and with Davros to help them… He must not hesitate again. The Doctor pressed the switch. 

Chapter 44. Doctor Who and the Android Invasion (1978)

Synopsis: The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Sarah to an English village where something is wrong. The locals seem cold and machine-like, while a group of blank-faced astronauts patrol the area and shoot at the new arrivals. The Doctor tries to piece together the clues around him, but it’s Sarah who reveals the truth; the village isn’t a real village, this isn’t really Earth – and Sarah is not the real Sarah! The whole thing is an elaborate copy created by Styggron – chief scientist of the Kraals. And the real invasion has already begun…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Strange Arrival
  • 2. Village of Terror
  • 3. The Watcher
  • 4. Hunted
  • 5. Captured
  • 6. The Test
  • 7. The Countdown
  • 8. Braindrain
  • 9. Blastoff
  • 10. Hero’s Return
  • 11. Takeover
  • 12. Death of a Doctor

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts, completing the run of Season 13 stories for Target.

Notes: Sarah wears ‘casual late-twentieth-century clothes, with a brightly coloured scarf at her throat’. The army soldier who throws himself off the cliff isn’t from UNIT and the android Sarah finds inside the capsule by the TARDIS is an old lady. Chased by patrol dogs, the Doctor has a curious thought that anyone who thinks foxes enjoy being hunted should try being chased across country by dogs themselves. Styggron is described thusly:

The face hovering over her was broad and flat with leathery greenish skin. It was heavily jowled with a squashed pig-like snout, underhung jaw, and enormous ears set flat against a massive skull. Huge eyes glowed in cavernous sockets beneath the jutting brows. 

The calendar in the Fleur de Lys only shows the month of September (on TV, it’s a day-by-day calendar with solely ‘Friday July 6th’ pages). The entrance to the Kraal bunker is hidden inside an empty barn. When Styggron says ‘There is no time for pleasantries’, the Doctor asks rudely: ‘How about unpleasantries, pig face?’ Haha!

Benton has promised to take his sister to the village dance (not The Palais). It’s not exactly clear on TV, but the android Benton is found leaning over Benton’s body. Here’s the paragraph:

The kneeling man turned and looked up at him and Adams gave a gasp of astonishment. The soldier leaning over Benton, was Benton… He opened his mouth to shout an alarm, and a savage blow struck him down from behind. The android technician caught the falling body and laid it down beside the body of the real Benton. The android Benton got to its feet, and gave a nod of satisfaction. ‘Good. Have them taken away…’

That’s not just ‘the unconscious Benton’, it’s ‘Benton’s body’. Eek!

It’s the Benton android, not the Doctor Android, that points out that there’s ‘much to do’. Once the Doctor has bluffed his way past Android Benton, the scene is not repeated with the android Doctor. We don’t get the final scene of the Doctor and Sarah leaving in the TARDIS; instead, the Doctor plans to collect up all the androids and dismantle them before the scanner beam can be switched off. Marshal Chedaki, meanwhile, waits in vain for Styggron’s signal to begin the invasion. ‘With Styggron dead, his master plan had come to nothing. The android invasion was over.’

Cover: Another brilliant cover by Roy Knipe, it’s just the Doctor being tied to the village memorial by spacemen while Styggron looks off into middle distance, but it’s so effective.

Final Analysis: Often dismissed as lightweight because of the grittier stories that surround it, I’m very fond of The Android Invasion. Here, Dicks adds a little to the playfulness between Sarah and the Doctor where, in the past, that might have been trimmed. Chedaki is more of an antagonist to Styggron, as a disgruntled leader of the military wing, and he’s more threatening a presence than the subservient TV version. Dicks then tidies up all the loose ends in a final section that unfortunately stresses just how rushed the conclusion was on telly.

And just in case we’re in any doubt – it’s Benton’s BODY! Not so lightweight now, eh?

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.

Chapter 30. Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth (1977)

Synopsis: The Doctor finally brings Ian and Barbara back to London but celebrations are short-lived when they realise they are two hundred years in the future and Earth is under the occupation of the Daleks. Separated and befriended by various groups of resistance fighters, the time travellers all come to the same conclusion – they must find out what the Daleks are doing and defeat them. But for one of them, life will never be the same again.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Return to Terror
  • 2. The Roboman
  • 3. The Freedom Fighters
  • 4. Inside the Saucer
  • 5. Attack the Daleks!
  • 6. The Fugitives
  • 7. Reunion with the Doctor
  • 8. The Mine of the Daleks
  • 9. Dangerous Journey
  • 10. Trapped in the Depths
  • 11. Action Underground
  • 12. Rebellion!
  • 13. Explosion!
  • 14. The Farewell

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1964 scripts for the second Dalek serial. The title page says it’s adapted from Doctor Who and the World’s End, presumably taking the story title from the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary special, which used the titles of each first episode to represent the serial as a whole.

Notes: The first chapter features a recap of the schoolteachers and their first meeting with the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS. The Doctor is a lot more tetchy than he was on telly; when Susan describes the TARDIS readings as ‘normal’, the Doctor corrects her with irritation: ‘Normal for where?’ Later, Susan tells David that she left her own planet when she was ‘very young’ – is this comparative for a teenager, or was she a young child?

Tyler’s first name is Jim, not Carl, and Jack Craddock becomes Bill, but David’s name is still Campbell [see The Crusaders for why this is interesting]. The events of the time travellers’ first meeting with the Daleks is put into perspective when the Doctor surmises that the city they attacked was just one on the planet Skaro (in the TV version, he guesses that their first meeting took place a million years in the future). The Black Dalek (also called the Dalek Supreme) is said to be larger than normal Daleks – maybe the standard Daleks don’t have the enlarged bumper in this version? There’s also a ‘second in command’, a ‘commander of the ground forces’ and an engineer without any descriptions – are these based on the movie Daleks?

The Doctor is dazed after escaping the robotisation process, but not unconscious as on TV. David calls the Dalek fire bomb a ‘blockbuster bomb’ – it destroys whole blocks in one go. Dortmun is buried under rubble (like in the movie), rather than just being exterminated, while Larry and his brother Phil don’t kill each other in combat; the rewrite is much more tragic: Roboman-Phil’s helmet comes off in the struggle, killing him and as Larry holds his brother’s body another Roboman guns him down. There are a few dialogue swaps, such as Barbara getting a second go at making the Robomen attack the Daleks – the Doctor merely adds that the slaves should join in. The Doctor’s party is celebrated for their part in overthrowing the Daleks, so there are a lot more people willing to help free the TARDIS (and Tyler says he doesn’t need to know why they want the police box). Ian doesn’t wedge the Dalek bomb to stop it, but diverts it off course (just like Tom does in the movie!). The Doctor’s goodbye to Susan is a little simpler than on TV, but it’s almost more emotional as a consequence. We then join the Doctor inside the TARDIS as he turns from the scanner and sniffs, daring the teachers to comment, before smiling and promising to get them home (and the schoolteachers agreeing he probably won’t).

Cover: Chris Achilleos presents one of my favourite covers ever, and it’s so weird. It depicts a scene that’s threatened but not actually delivered on screen – the burning of London to flush out the rebels, with a Dalek and roboman patrolling as Dalek spaceships set fire to the Houses of parliament. But the spaceships are from the second Dalek movie, the roboman is a mashup of a movie version and a Genesis of the Daleks soldier, while the Dalek looks like it’s from the first Dalek movie, but it’s red all over with black spots. Its gun is from one of the original TV props but that and its sucker arm are the wrong way round. However, it’s utterly stunning. The 1990 reprint cover by Alister Pearson also uses the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop but it’s much more understated, showing portraits of the Doctor and Susan alongside an accurate TV version of a silver and blue Dalek.

Final Analysis: There’s surely no better start to any of these books than the first page of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, particularly that opening line: ‘Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.’ It sets up the tone of the book, which is a war story with Daleks, where each character has something to say about the life they’ve led up to this point. Of course, Dicks is working off the back of three other writers – Terry Nation, David Whittaker and Milton Subotsky – but it’s the stuff he adds to meld the work of the others together that makes this so perfect. 

One strange thing is that I recall Terrance Dicks claiming that he’d been sent the wrong photo for the Slyther, and what he described was the Mire Beast from The Chase, yet what he writes is pretty spot on and actually adds to the menace of the creature:

Ian saw a vast lumpy blob of a body, powerful flailing tentacles, two tiny deep-set eyes shining with malice… Moving incredibly fast, the creature lurched towards them.

and:

They heaved and kicked and punched at the Slyther’s flabby bulk, shoving it out of the bucket with maniacal fury, dodging the flailing blows from its enormous tentacles.

That the Slyther survives its fall at the end and crawls off means that even after the Daleks are defeated, there’s the problem of pest control still to deal with – unless the volcano sorted it out. Although, for all the little tweaks Dicks makes to improve on the scripts, he still has the Doctor leaving Susan behind with just one shoe!

Never mind – I might go as far as to say that it’s Dicks’s best adaptation, so I’ll be interested to see if anything can top this.

Chapter 26. Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks (1976)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on the planet Spiridon, populated by killer plants, monstrous beasts and hostile invisible natives. The Doctor and Jo encounter a small group of space travellers, Thals from the planet Skaro. The Thals are tracking a small Dalek unit, hoping to destroy them. Then a second group of Thals arrives with grave news – deep beneath the planet’s surface awaits an army of thousands of Daleks.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Jo Alone
  • 2. The Invisible Menace
  • 3. The Deadly Trap
  • 4. In the Power of the Daleks
  • 5. The Escape
  • 6. Danger on Level Zero
  • 7. Ascent to Peril
  • 8. The Enemy Within
  • 9. Vaber’s Sacrifice
  • 10. Return to the City
  • 11. An Army Awakes
  • 12. The Last Gamble

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Terry Nation for the 1973 serial. Conveniently, this followed Frontier in Space on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Despite being published a month after The Space War, the beginning doesn’t match up with how that ended, but with how the TV episodes played out – the Doctor has been wounded after being ambushed by the Daleks. Which means there’s a potential unseen adventure in the Target universe between the two stories in which the Doctor is injured in a battle with Daleks. 

The tentacle that snakes towards Vaber belongs to a huge carnivorous bell-plant 20 feet across and the eye plants open their ‘eye’ only when something comes near. We’re offered a little more detail about the Spiridons, a once-great race who developed invisibility as a survival technique against the hostile environment, but all that remains of their civilisation are the ruins. The Daleks ‘saturated the jungles with killer rays’ to guarantee the Spiridons’ subjugation.

The Dalek hierarchy includes an expedition commander, patrol leaders, technicians and a chief scientist as well as the Dalek Supreme. The Supreme is head of the Supreme Council (not just a member of the council) and ‘second only to the Emperor himself’ – and it is described as ‘not the usual silver’ (so the Dalek troopers might match those in Death to the Daleks?). 

Rebec operates the decoy Dalek because she can tell Jo was too afraid. Wester destroys the Dalek immunisation device before releasing the virus. Taron gives the Doctor and Jo anti-jungle coverings and spray to get them safely back to the TARDIS.

Cover: Utterly perfect pulp excellence from Chris Achilleos as the Doctor and the Thal Taron wrestle with a Dalek, which blasts away the side of the frame, all against a crazy lurid background of meteors soaring past a green planet. The 1992 reprint art from Alister Pearson is much more low-key, the Doctor shows off his Spiridon cloak and a patrol of Daleks, like, totally snub him as they glide by.

Final Analysis: How lovely to have this follow on from The Space War, just as it followed Frontier in Space on telly. It’s still an epic adventure, still every bit the remake of the very first Dalek adventure, but improved on the page by Dicks’s subtle additions to make the alien world feel much more expansive and more terrifying than BBC Television Centre could realise. The Daleks themselves have a little more personality than their TV counterparts too and at the climax to the story, there’s a gorgeous summation of the Dalek expedition, just before the Supreme delivers that curt motivation speech:

The Dalek Supreme turned arrogantly to his aides. It had been a day of total catastrophe, the army buried, the Spiridon expedition wiped out, the city destroyed. Any other life-form would have been crushed by despair. But Daleks do not recognise defeat. They ignore it and carry on their chosen path of conquest and destruction.

Chapter 1. Dr Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (1964)

aka Doctor Who and the Daleks (1973)

Synopsis: Ian Chesterton meets Barbara Wright and searches a foggy Barnes Common for her missing student, Susan. The pair bump into a mysterious old man near a police box and inside they find Susan, a huge white control room and the beginning of a terrifying adventure in another universe…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Meeting on the Common
  • 2. Prisoners in Space
  • 3. The Dead Planet
  • 4. The Power of the Daleks
  • 5. Escape into Danger
  • 6. The Will to Survive
  • 7. The Lake of Mutations
  • 8. The Last Despairing Try
  • 9. The End of the Power
  • 10. A New Life

Background: David Whitaker adapts Terry Nation’s scripts from the second Doctor Who serial, broadcast in 1963-4. Published by Frederick Muller Ltd in November 1964, first reprinted as a Target book in 1973. 

Notes: David Whitaker’s novelisation begins with a reworking of the first ever episode, with some significant changes. Ian is a science teacher, but is applying for other jobs and recently lost out on a position as an assistant research scientist. Barbara has recently taken up personal tuition as a side-line to her secretarial work; and her pupil is called Susan English. Also, Ian smokes, which would have been handy if this had been a mere rewrite of the rest of An Unearthly Child. As it is, he’s longing for a ciggie as he awaits the Thals to warn them of the Dalek trap, but that’s the last we hear of that! 

Across the first two chapters, Whitaker introduces the four lead characters and the ‘Tardis‘ through the eyes of the narrator, Ian, who doesn’t know Barbara as they’re not teachers at the same school. After they board the Tardis, Barbara tells him that she grew curious about her pupil as she seemed extremely knowledgeable on the subject of Robespierre, even down to ‘what walks he took and the measurements of some of his clothes.’ The mistakes that give Susan away differ from the TV episodes: ‘She thought Australia was in the Atlantic Ocean… she thought the Spanish Armada was a castle… she had written that Japan was a county in Scotland.’ When Ian and Barbara find Susan inside the Tardis, she’s described as wearing a ‘most extraordinary scarf’ on her head with ‘thick red and yellow stripes on it and made her look like a pirate’ [See The Edge of Destruction]. Ian’s description of her is clearly from a more innocent age, though it does foreshadow events that the very first readers wouldn’t see on TV for another month or so.

I imagined from what Barbara had said that Susan was aged about fifteen but silhouetted there as she was, with her dark, short cut hair against the white rocks behind her, she looked like a young woman in her twenties, very attractive and vivacious. I wondered briefly what would happen when she met a man she wanted to marry and decided not to travel in the Tardis with her grandfather any longer [See The Dalek Invasion of Earth].

The Doctor’s initially as unhelpful as his screen counterpart, though his mild scuffle with Ian becomes a full-on wrestle to the floor. But he becomes a charmer much quicker as he patiently explains his reasoning to an indignant Ian. By the end of chapter 3, The Dead Planet, Ian realises that they don’t even know the Doctor’s real name or what he does. ‘Perhaps that’s what we ought to call him. “Doctor Who?”.’ The Doctor reveals that he and Susan are ‘cut off from our own planet and separated from it by a million, million years of your time’. Ian noticed that the old man has a kindly smile even when Ian threatens him and later, while Susan and Barbara take his words at face value, he thanks Ian for not exposing his lie about the fluid link.

The Tardis control room is described loosely as we saw on TV, but ‘twenty feet in height and with the breadth and width of a middle-sized restaurant’. One corner contains ‘a row of at least twenty tape-recording spools’ beneath which are ‘a similar number of barometric needles [that] zig-zagged uneven courses across moving drums of paper’, all of which must have seemed futuristic in 1964. Susan provides the explanation of the name ‘Tardis‘ as ‘Time and Relative Dimensions [sic] in Space’, less than a year after the TV version gave us a more singular ‘dimension’ [See An Unearthly Child]. Tardis is said to contain a shower room that pummels the body with oils and warm water jets, a headset that’s programmed to give Ian a haircut and a device the size of a marshmallow that gives him a smooth shave. When using the scanner, the Doctor claims that the Tardis has ‘very strong searchights accompanying the picture… they’re quite invisible outside of the Tardis, of course. They merely serve to make a picture possible at night-time.’ The food machine provides Ian’s bacon and eggs (which looks like a Mars Bar ‘the colour of white icing’), while the Doctor enjoys ‘Venusian Night Fish’, while the next morning, Ian is served a drink that ‘looked like tomato juice and tasted of melon’ that Susan tells him is a concentrate of ‘the winter berries of Mars’.

Initially, Ian tells us the Daleks are ‘a round metal thing about three feet in height, like an upturned beaker with a domed top’ – but when climbing into a casing later, he revises this to ‘four feet three inches’. The Daleks refer to chemicals in the air but don’t mention radiation (is this Whitaker simplifying the science or just trying not to frighten children?), and while the Doctor speculates that the Daleks harness static electricity, this isn’t actually confirmed. 

It’s outside the Dalek city that Whitaker allows himself poetic license by improving on what we saw on telly. The Thal males are all well over six feet tall, while Dyoni is nearly six feet and all of them are ‘perfectly proportioned’. During the expedition to the mountains, the swamp creature from the TV show (two glowing eyes on a bladder with rubbery legs)  is much more impressive: 

Its very size was enough to dry up my mouth as tons of water cascaded off its scaly back and plunged back into the lake. With a body the thickness of a house, its head seemed to be all teeth and on the short neck I could see two pairs of claws… I could see it had six webbed feet on either side of its body, which propelled it forward through the water at a frightening speed.,, I saw one terrible red eye glaring malevolently at me…

As they leave the scene, twenty or more of the beasts devour the body of the one they have just defeated.

The other famous inclusion is the Glass Dalek, which seems to suggest the mutant creature looks like a one-armed Mekon:

The Dalek looked totally evil, sitting on a tiny seat with two squat legs not quite reaching the floor, The head was large, and I shuddered at the inhuman bumps where the ears and nose would normally be and the ghastly slit for a mouth. One shrivelled little arm moved about restlessly and the dark-green skin glistened with the same oily substance that had revolted me before.

Though Ian’s relationship with the Doctor thaws into growing mutual respect, it’s strange to see that he and Barbara are at loggerheads for much of the book. While Ian tries and fails to work out what he’s done wrong, it’s only after the final battle when he overhears Barbara talking to the Thal Kristas that he begins to understand: ‘He hates me. I know he does. I was stupid. Trying to fight… the way I felt…’

The Doctor explains to the pair that he cannot promise to ever get them home, but he and Susan would value their company, Ian gallantly invites Barbara to make the choice for them. As she holds Ian’s hand, he wonders if she seeks ‘comfort? Affection? I still didn’t dare hope it might be love. Only time could tell.’ Blimey! That escalated quickly!

Cover & Illustrations: There have been many covers for this story, the first was a line drawing in the style of the illustrations, while the Armada release in 1965 had a painting showing some bloke in a cloak and a massive non-canonical logo declaring “Dr. Who. Its most famous cover, the first Target-branded version by Chris Achilleos, is a beautiful combination of pointillism shading with colour washes, with Daleks that look straight out of the pages of the TV Century 21 comic strips. Alister Pearson provided a disappointing montage for the 1992 reprint, depicting a pensive Ian. a Dalek and the Doctor, inset – all expertly painted but lacking drama. The first edition I saw though was the 1975 White Lion hardback issued to libraries, depicting a stylised psychedelic Tom Baker on the cover! Inside, there are 12 illustrations by Arnold Schwartzman, all faithfully reproducing on-set photos and none of them try to elaborate or embellish what appeared on screen. The best of these, the third, is an odd one as it just shows the Doctor and Ian. It’s supposed to be inside the Tardis, but it’s taken from the side-room with the geiger counter in the Dalek laboratory, and the lighting effect is rather marvellous.

Final analysis: Even though Whitaker is writing this for younger readers, it never feels that he’s talking down to them. I’m still not sure why there are so many changes to the origins of the characters as it creates almost as many problems as it solves. As it was presumably intended to be a stand-alone novel though, Whitaker improves where he can – his Doctor may have alien motivations, but he’s a lot more likeable than his TV counterpart was at this stage. He’s authoritative and commanding, but defers to Ian on occasion as a sign of respect. Barbara comes off as badly as on screen, despite matching the moves of the rest of the party at every step. At the time of writing, Whitaker may not have known the future of the series itself beyond the next six months or so, let alone any potential sequels in print, so the ending is enticing enough for us to want more without writing himself (or other writers) into a corner.