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 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 25. Doctor Who and the Space War (1976)

Synopsis: In the year 2540, an uneasy peace exists between the empires of Earth and Draconia. When the Doctor and Jo are mistaken for space raiders, only they recognise the true culprits as the Ogrons, who have been employed to shatter the truce between the two worlds. At the centre of the conspiracy is the Master, but the Doctor’s old enemy is also working for an equally familiar foe…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Link-up in Space
  • 2. The Draconian Prince
  • 3. Stowaways
  • 4. The Mind Probe
  • 5. Kidnap
  • 6. Prison on the Moon
  • 7. The Master
  • 8. Space Walk
  • 9. Frontier in Space
  • 10. The Verge of War
  • 11. Planet of the Ogrons
  • 12. The Trap

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his own scripts for the 1973 serial, Frontier in Space.

Notes: We get a single use of the name ‘Doctor Who’ very early on. There’s another brief recap of Jo’s entry into UNIT thanks to her uncle, a high-ranking civil servant who pulled strings to help her, and how the Brigadier’s decision to dump her onto the Doctor has led to her exploring the universe. There’s a particularly breathless exchange with the Doctor where Jo spells out her position at UNIT: 

Some people think intelligence work is all very romantic, all glamorous dinner parties with James Bond types. Instead, I’m either filing letters at UNIT Headquarters or I’m off with you in some ghastly place being chased by monsters…

The President and General Williams had a relationship when they were younger, but politics saw them as opponents in the last election. The President selected Williams as her military adviser in the hope that it would unite the voters behind her policy of peace. The President is respectful towards the Draconians, even noting that Willliams’ accusations of espionage have caused them offence and Hulke adds a rather florid form of etiquette between the Draconian Prince and the Earth President: The Draconian says ‘May you live a long life and may energy shine on you from a million suns,’ to which the President responds ‘And may water, oxygen and plutonium be found in abundance wherever you land’ (and the Master uses the same greeting to the President later on).

We’re shown Williams’ first interrogation of the Doctor and Jo and presented with a lot more detail about the journey to their first prison cell, as well as the jailor’s sadistic enthusiasm at the thought of starving his prisoners a little (and later it’s said that he’s been ‘conditioned to have no feelings for prisoners’).

In a detailed flashback, the President recalls how the previous war with Draconia began, when she was a young aide to a diplomat en route to a meeting with Draconians. Williams was a communications lieutenant on the ship and when their ship was caught in a ‘neutron storm’, the ‘inexperienced’ Williams was left as the sole surviving officer. Hulke tries to provide a version of events sympathetic to Williams’ point of view – before revealing that after Williams blasted the Draconian diplomatic vessel to pieces, the resulting war led to the deaths of 500 million Draconians and Earthmen (combined figures!) in just three days. 

The Master’s disguise is a commissioner from Alderberan Four, not Sirius 4. He specifically references the time the Doctor visited him in prison and laments that his partnership with the Sea-Devils wasn’t a success. He also reveals to the reader halfway through the book that he’s in league with the Daleks and is much more callous than the Delgado performance suggests, telling Jo that, unlike the Doctor, she is ‘totally useless’ to him.

‘There are men with an eye for a girl with a pretty face, adventurers with a touch of pity for the innocent victim of a situation. I am not one of those men.’

Jo gets particularly affronted by being told females cannot speak in the presence of the Emperor, much more than on telly (she refuses to let it go – quite right too!).

The beast that terrorises the Ogrons is a giant lizard, replacing the whatever-that-was in the TV version, and Jo finds an Ogron chained up, awaiting sacrifice to the lizard. The ending, which is a bit of a mess on screen, is simplified, but it also loses the Doctor being shot and sending a message to the Time Lords – which is a shame, considering the next release in the range. 

Cover: Another classic from Chris Achilleos as an Ogron dominates a starfield, with a Draconian inset and the Master’s prison ship blasting off. The ‘Changing Face of Doctor Who’ note on the title page tells us that the cover ‘portrays the third DOCTOR WHO’… except it doesn’t show the Doctor at all!

Final Analysis: We might be used to Malcolm Hulke’s personal politics influencing his writing but there’s something here that I’ve only just picked up on. Hulke draws attention to the pilot of a spacecraft fastening his seat belts; seat belts in cars were a recurring theme in the 1970s, with TV adverts recommending them with a ‘clunk click every trip’ slogan while the issue was debated in Parliament – while it was UK law to have a seat belt fitted in a car from 1968, it wasn’t mandatory for all occupants of a car to wear the things until 1991. After his escape from the Draconian Embassy, the Doctor is recaptured by a driverless car, so er… is this Hulke pushing a road safety agenda?

As we’d expect from Hulke, he treats his characters with respect, their motivations guiding their actions. Hardy’s blind adherence to the claim of the ‘Dragon attack’ is driven by preexisting racism, which he casually reveals with his frequent use of the slur ‘Dragon’, even in front of the President. The President herself is idealistic but also politically aware enough to know her best chance of success is with alliances and compromise, while the bullish Williams is shown to have been placed in an impossible position at a relatively young age, the burden of which he carries into middle-age. Even the Draconian Emperor is shown as a pragmatist, pushing aside protocol in allowing Jo to speak and forcing his wayward son to join forces with the apologetic Williams in chasing down the Master. In fact, it’s really only the Master who appears more shallow than he does on the telly. It shows just how much Roger Delgado brought to the role, adding a layer of charm that the script alone didn’t offer.

Chapter 14. Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (1975)

Synopsis: A renegade Time Lord calling himself ‘The Master’ has followed the Doctor to Earth and as an introductory calling card he’s brought the Autons with him. The Doctor has even more trouble on his hands with a new assistant forced upon him by the Brigadier, the very keen and very newly qualified agent Jo Grant.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Terror Begins
  • 2. Sabotage at the Space Probe
  • 3. The Master Takes Over
  • 4..Death at the Plastics Factory
  • 5. The Killer Doll
  • 6. In the Hands of the Autons
  • 7. The Battle of the Forest
  • 8. The Killer Doll Attacks
  • 9. The Deadly Daffodils
  • 10. Prisoners of the Master
  • 11. The Final Assault
  • 12. The End of Round One

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’ 1971 scripts.

Notes: Our introduction to Luigi Rossini (real name here is ‘Lew Ross’) presents a much more consciously obnoxious figure, employing labour of a mainly criminal type as they’re cheap and won’t risk complaining. This includes Tony the Strongman, who’s wanted by the police. Rossini manages to persuade his crew that the Doctor and Jo blew up Phillips as they were trying to steal the mob’s wages. The Auton meteorite device glows green as in The Auton Invasion, while the Master says that the plastic chair that kills McDermott is made of ‘polynestine’. The Doctor recognises the visiting Time Lord as being a member of the High Council who exiled the Doctor to Earth.

The Doctor recognises the device that the Master leaves in the cabin of the radio telescope is a ‘Volataliser’, a product of ‘The Xanthoids [who] use them for mining operations’, while the one that Jo tries to detonate in the UNIT lab is ‘a Saturnian Solar Bomb’. One of the best / nastiest additions is the revelation that the Master uses Professor Phillips to help him operate controls within his Tardis, but when he’s not on duty, he is both disguised as – and forced to work as – an actual clown, because it amuses the Master to ‘degrade a brilliant scientist into a mindless buffoon’. There’s a gap of a few days between Mr Farrel’s death and the Doctor’s visit to his wife, and the distribution of the daffodils spans a few more days too. Brownrose from the Ministry is completely removed and I didn’t even notice until just now. And of course, as the cover reveals, the description of the Nestene’s arrival is much more impressive than on TV.

Considering the Master’s crimes, the Doctor provides an insight into their race:

Once captured by the Time Lords, the Master’s life-stream would be thrown into reverse. Not only would he no longer exist, he would never have existed. It was the severest punishment in the Time Lords’ power.

The text refers to the ‘chameleon mechanism’ and ‘chameleon circuits’ for the first time in print (and ‘chameleon circuit’ won’t be said on screen until Logopolis!). There’s also a reference to a ‘Sontaran fragmentation grenade’ (the story came before their first appearance, but the novelisation was published a year after The Time Warrior aired). The Doctor makes good use of his sonic screwdriver, dismantling a bomb, opening the Auton-containing safe and trying to break into the Master’s Tardis.

Cover & Illustrations: Peter Brookes’ original cover depicts a scene that doesn’t actually happen on TV as the one-eyed crabtopus Nestene creature envelops the radio telescope and, inset, the Doctor makes a surprise entrance as the Master plays with a lever. The back cover again features an illustration, Captain Yates inspects a fallen auton carnival dummy while another soldier in silhouette takes on a horde of autons. The 1979 reprint boasts a cover by Alun Hood, again depicting the imagined Nestene but in a more photorealistic style more akin to a Pan horror book; this was the edition I first owned and I was convinced this was a photo of the prop they used (what a disappointment the TV version turned out to be!). Alan Willow provides six illustrations, all of which expand upon what we saw on TV. It’s hard to pick a favourite although I love the one of the radiotelescope technician working away as ‘A dark shape peered down at him’ – the Master, snooping through a skylight, is much more dramatic than him just stepping through a door. 

Final Analysis: Another good job by Dicks here, covering a lot of ground and adding nuance where appropriate. Jo’s previous ‘debut’ in The Doomsday Weapon is glossed over, but there’s some decent continuity between this and The Auton Invasion, including the Brigadier asking why they can’t just do what they did last time and the Doctor points out all the flaws in his previous attack plan.

Chapter 9. Doctor Who and the Sea-Devils (1974)

Synopsis: The Master has been tried and imprisoned with a ‘life-long’ sentence (commuted from a death sentence by the Doctor’s plea for mercy). When the Doctor and Jo visit him in his high-security home, they are only briefly reassured that he’s secure before he escapes and sets into motion a plan to resurrect more of the homo reptilia race – this time from beneath the sea.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Abandon Ship!’
  • 2. Visitors for the Master
  • 3. The Vanished Ships
  • 4. Stranded!
  • 5. Air-Sea Rescue
  • 6. ‘This Man Came to Kill Me!’
  • 7. Captain Hart Becomes Suspicious
  • 8. The Submarine
  • 9. Visitors for Governor Trenchard
  • 10. The Diving Bell
  • 11. ‘Depth Charges Away!’
  • 12. Attack in Force
  • 13. Escape

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from the 1972 serial (the smallest gap so far between story transmission and novelisation, at two years, six months and two weeks).

Notes: It’s a little less even-handed this time as Hulke plays the Sea-Devils (not ‘Sea Devils’) as the aggressors from the start (and what a great opening scene as the crew of the ss Pevensey Castle abandon ship and are pulled under water one by one). Hulke also doesn’t give names to any of the Sea-Devils. There’s some background from the Master’s trial, where the Doctor begged for his best enemy’s life; although the death penalty was repealed for murder in the UK (except Northern Ireland) in 1965, it was still available for treason until 1998.

Governor George Trenchard’s backstory is elaborated upon to be both comical and rather tragic. Th Doctor and Jo’s walk up to the chateau is given extra detail with the engraved wall-tap and the mysterious poem that reveals ancient local legends and somehow inspires the Doctor to deduce a pun on ‘the scales of justice’. The Master reveals that he’s worked with the Ogrons before (not in the TV version, but this was written soon after Frontier in Space, so would be fresh in the mind of the author and his audience). And the lead character is referred to as ‘Doctor Who’ twice.

Cover & Illustrations: The first cover by Chris Achilleos (a yellow maelstrom with the Doctor, Jo, two Sea Devils and a submarine). The first cover I owned was the 1979 John Geary reprint with the green and yellow Sea Devils and a bluey-pink background. The illustrations are once again by Alan Willow and my favourite is either the Doctor ducking as a Sea-Devil fires a heat ray or a Sea-Devil watching the submarine on TV.

Final Analysis: Another corker from Hulke. Even though the Sea-Devils are more overtly villainous than their cave cousins, they repeat their claim on the planet and at least appear to waver before going on the assault (stirred up by the Master). There’s the oft-quoted business about Trenchard wanting to be brave and being killed by Sea-Devils because he left the catch on his gun, and the Doctor switching it off before Captain Hart notices, but this is only one of many moments of charm for the characters – in fact if anything, it’s Jo who comes across worst, brash and impatient and occasionally compelled to back down when she gets too hot-headed.

Chapter 6. Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (1974)

Synopsis: The Master has stolen information from the Time Lords regarding a mythical weapon, which can be found on a planet recently occupied by Earth colonists. The desperate people are caught between hostile attacks from the indigenous natives and a mining corporation intent on taking the planet’s resources for their own ends. All this awaits Jo in her first trip in the Tardis.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. A Missing Secret
  • 2. Into Time and Space
  • 3. The Planet
  • 4. The Monster
  • 5. Starvation
  • 6. The Survivor
  • 7. The Robot
  • 8. The Men from IMC
  • 9. The Spy
  • 10. The Claw
  • 11. Face-to-face
  • 12. The Bomb
  • 13. The Attack
  • 14. The Adjudicator
  • 15. Primitive City
  • 16. The Ambush
  • 17. Captain Dent Thinks Twice
  • 18. The Master’s TARDIS
  • 19. The Return of Captain Dent
  • 20. The Doomsday Weapon

At twenty, this book sets a record for the most number of chapters in a novelisation, which will remain unbroken until 1985.

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from 1971 for Colony in Space.

Notes: Another prologue of a scene that never happened, as an old Time Lord shares stories with an apprentice, revealing the history of early TARDISes and his own personal involvement in the resolution of The War Games returning the kidnapped soldiers to their rightful times. He refers to the Doctor’s TARDIS and the fact that it’s lost its ‘chameleon-like quality’. There’s also another cheeky ‘Who’ reference as the old Time Lord explains the Doctor’s inability to pilot his TARDIS: ‘‘Who? No, Who can’t control it… not always.’

Newly qualified security agent Jo Grant is introduced, having come top of her year in spy school before getting her uncle to pull some strings to arrange a posting to UNIT, where she’s ignored by everyone except Sergeant Benton and attempts to reprimand the Doctor before she finds herself whisked off to an alien world as her very first adventure. A lovely if inconsistent flashback. Meanwhile, Jane Lesson recalls being aware of other ‘terrifying space creatures’ ‘Monoids, Drahvins, some small metallic creatures called Daleks’ before referencing Hulke’s own creations, the ‘reptile men’.

The story’s set a bit further forward in time, 2972, and there’s a grim but casual detail in the Doctor realising that the colonists describe a creature ‘like a big lizard… from the picture books’ because the Earth animals were ‘exterminated by Mankind by the year 2500’ and not because, for example, they were describing dinosaurs. The Doctor speculates on the size of an attacking creature as ‘about twenty feet high’ and then corrects himself to ‘six metres’ as he remembers that all of Earth went metric a thousand years before. Surprisingly, the IMC robot is described as humanoid – a much more achievable look on TV than the bulky robot we ended up with (and the illustrations don’t quite match this new design either).

There’s a hint of the first pioneers across America here as the colonists have never done physical work (‘on Earth machines did everything’) so they’re even more badly equipped to found a new civilisation than it might appear. But when they have to consider how to bury their dead, Ashe recalls an ‘audiobook’ from back when Earth ‘still had open land’; it seems that even the disposal of dead bodies on Earth is automated as the Doctor has to explain to the colonists the rituals of graves, religious services and the importance of ‘a time for tears, and then a time to rejoice in the continuation of life. Hence the tea.’ 

The leader of the primitives is described as the size of a doll, explaining the earlier foreshadowing of the primitives reaction to a child’s doll, while the primitive priests have the faces of otters – and the rest of the primitives are stark naked!

Cover & Illustrations: The original cover and illustrations were by Chris Achilleos (though my first edition was the 1979 reprint with Jeff Cummins’ impressive portrait of Roger Delgado as the Master). I’m really not keen on the illustrations here, they’re a bit scrappy – some are clearly working from set photos while others show people who we don’t see in the TV version (Caldwell could just be an Auton!). I love the pic of the Doctor and the Master at the controls of the Doomsday machine though, as it looks like the Master is washing his hands.

Final Analysis: We’re only three books into Target’s own run of books and there’s still no guarantee that every story will be novelised, so we get a new introduction to Jo Grant that ignores all of her adventures prior to this, but gives her a marvellous backstory too. Some of the supporting characters benefit from an expanded biography too, specifically Ashe and Dent. Hulke’s second novel for the range hints at the author’s politics in the way it describes Earth in the far future as a desperate place: The entire surface of Earth in this time is covered in tiny cube apartments within huge buildings; IMC arranges marriages based on computer-decided compatibility (though strangely Dent’s marriage seems happy while Caldwell’s has ended in separation); food is sourced solely from the sea; even when IMC chief Dent offers his team champagne, it’s from a can. IMC represents the worst excesses of capitalism, dictating a person’s quality of life by how much debt they owe to the company and all minimal perks can be removed at the say-so of a cruel boss like Dent. Hulke doesn’t make the colonists too perfect either, as they’re more than happy to kill to survive (there’s none of the Thal’s pacifism here, and Smedley’s disposal of Norton, however justified, is quite callous. It seems the new (unnamed) world offers new hope to the colonists; as the Doctor and Jo leave, the entire landscape has already begun to sprout with grass and shrubs.

As Doctor Who Magazine writer Alan Barnes points out, the original title, Colony in Space, might have been exciting for viewers who’d become used to the Doctor’s Earthbound adventures, but as part of the mix-and-match releases of Target, it’s less of a draw. The Doomsday Weapon’ is a much better title anyway.