Chapter 131. Doctor Who – The Ultimate Foe (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor’s defence backfires and the situation looks bleak for his trial by the Time Lords. Unexpected witnesses arrive in the form of Mel and the scheming Glitz, brought to the court by the Master. The Doctor’s oldest enemy has come to his aid for one reason – to expose the Doctor’s prosecutor, the Valeyard. Soon, the Doctor is fighting for his life deep inside the Matrix, trapped by an adversary who knows him better than he knows himself…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Key of Rassilon
  • 2. An Unwelcome Intruder
  • 3. Evil Intent
  • 4. Twelve-and-a-half
  • 5. Treason
  • 6. A World Apart
  • 7. A Lethal Greeting
  • 8. Mr Popplewick
  • 9. A Sticky End
  • 10. To Be Or Not To Be
  • 11. Out of the Frying Pan
  • 12. The Baiter Bitten
  • 13. False Witness
  • 14. Off With His Head
  • 15. Mesmeric Riches
  • 16. Point and Counterpoint
  • 17. About-face
  • 18. Two-faced
  • 19. Double-faced
  • 20. Particles of Death
  • 21. The Price of Vanity
  • 22. The Keeper Vanishes
  • 23. Carrot Juice
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt one script by Robert Holmes and another by themselves for the concluding episodes of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord.

Notes: The prologue recaps the trial so far, the events on Ravalox, Sil’s experiments with brain transference and the attack on the Vervoids. The Doctor has been ‘plucked out of time’ and brought to the space station where the trial is being conducted, ‘a baroque cathedral with dozens of thrusting spires and straddled with porticoes’, a ‘gargantuan hulk’ where ‘all the processes of existence hitherto experienced are suspended’. Sabalom Glitz is a ‘thief, liar, and incorrigible rogue. A coward who would sell his grandmother to save his own skin. For whom profit was a god. A wheeler-dealer devoid of conscience.’ Despite her being ‘half his size, a quarter his weight’, Glitz is initially more afraid of Mel than she is of him. She pinches him to prove that he isn’t dead (he’s spooked by the coffin-shaped capsules that have brought them to the trial station). Mel was in the TARDIS – the future Doctor’s TARDIS – writing an ‘experimental programme for one of the TARDIS’s complex computers’ when she was plucked out of time and brought to the courtroom. Glitz is also standing closer to the Doctor than he was on screen – at one point, afraid that the guards might use their guns on him, he shields himself behind the Doctor’s ‘portly form’. As the revelations begin to flow, Mel stands next to the Doctor, close enough to grab his arm in surprise. The Doctor apparently gives his adventures titles, having christened his last encounter with the Master ‘The Mark Of The Rani’.

Though the contents of ‘the secrets’ that were the focus of Glitz’s attention in The Mysterious Planet were not revealed at that time, we discover in chapter 3 that they were stolen from the Matrix. The Inquisitor admonishes the Valeyard for his attempts to silence the Master. The Master claims that the Valeyard is the Doctor’s penultimate incarnation; on TV, this is slightly less clear. Glitz claims to see a resemblance between the Doctor and the Valeyard (‘Same shaped nose. And the mouth. He’s got your mouth’) , though this is challenged robustly by Mel. Having revealed the Valeyard’s true identity, the Master, aided by Glitz, then explains the  mystery behind Ravalox and the theft of the secrets by the Andromedan Sleepers – and only after the Doctor rebukes the Time Lords for their corruption does the Valeyard flee the court. The Master claims to know both the accused and the prosecutor ‘intimately’.

The Inquisitor had been selected from many candidates to oversee the trial; she felt the appointment to be the pinnacle of her career and likely to see her ascend to the High Council. One of the jurors is a two-thousand-year-old Time Lord called Xeroniam. Glitz wears pyjamas made of ‘Attack Repulsor PolyCreman pongee’ (!), fastened with ‘Batayn Radaral buttons’. The authors provide an explanation for how the Master acquired his access to the Matrix that is… wonderfully convoluted. The Time Lords have relegated maintenance of the Matrix to the Elzevirs, inhabitants of the Moon of Leptonica in the constellation of Daedalus and specialists in micro-technology. The Master hypnotised Nilex, an individual who supervised the Matrix repair team. Nilex duplicated the Key of Rassilon and gave the copy to the Master. 

Mel’s spirited defence of the Doctor is revealed to be a ploy to get close enough to the Keeper of the Matrix to be able to steal his key. A crowd of people await the Doctor’s execution within the Matrix. The Doctor is aware of Mr Popplewick’s secret identity before the revelation. There’s a reminder of the Master’s previous exploits, including his final scene in Mark of the Rani, where he and the Rani were trapped in the Rani’s TARDIS with an ever-expanding tyrannosaurus rex, until the creature grew so big that its spine snapped (as previously recounted in the Time and the Rani novelisation). The Inquisitor lightly rebukes the Doctor for his comments about the corruption in Gallifrey society, before she invites him to become president. In the epilogue, the Doctor explains to Mel that she has to return to her own timeline and leave him to travel alone until they meet properly.

Cover: The Oliver Elms logo settles into place from now on, as Alister Pearson paints two capsules descending down a trial-ship beam of light, with Mr Popplewick standing proudly (a stunning likeness). Pearson had painted a beautiful duo of the Inquisitor and the Valeyard in the courtroom, but the final illustration is a lot more dramatic. Consistent with the two other books published so far, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe’).

Final Analysis: Pip and Jane Baker deliver their final novelisation and it’s like a distillation of their stories so far. They’re as exuberant with their verbosity as ever, capturing the sesquipedalian nonsense of the original TV story and turning it up a notch (a particularly nice line is the Valeyard saying to Glitz ‘I really cannot countenance such exoteric improbity’). Their intention all along was to ignite a passion for language in the viewer and we might ponder just how invested in this flowery language a young reader might be, but I have to confess… it worked for me! I scampered to the dictionary to look up every new word. They were always the best writers for the Sixth Doctor, matching his pomposity with a kindness that was sadly lacking with other writers. Here, they’re equally successful in bringing Glitz to life, creating a character whose every move is either cowardly or conniving. Even Mel is portrayed as an independent, fiery and determined individual with an unwavering loyalty and admiration for the Doctor.

While the resolution to the trial was a mess, there were extenuating circumstances. The Bakers here resist the temptation to rewrite the story from scratch; they fulfil the remit of adapting what happened on screen admirably. But, as all the greats do, they tweak along the way, adding extra motivations or backstory (some of which is bonkers!). Unlike in Terror of the Vervoids however (where they tended to infodump right before the information was required), they manage to foreshadow their additions and build upon what we saw on telly. Even if their explanation for the Master’s acquisition of the Matrix key is, er… no it’s actually insane, but all the more entertaining for it. They were inconsistent, but I’ll really miss them.

Chapter 126. Doctor Who – The Mysterious Planet (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor is on trial for his life and the prosecutor, the Valeyard, presents to a jury of Time Lords his first evidence, in which the Doctor and his friend Peri explore the planet Ravalox. There they meet the underground dwellers and their ruler, a robot called Drathro, the Tribe of the Free and their ruler, Queen Katryca, and a pair of intergalactic conmen called Glitz and Dibber, who confirm the Doctor’s suspicions, that the planet Ravalox has been moved across the universe from its original location – where it was known as ‘Earth’.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Trial Begins
  • 2. Underground
  • 3. Barbarian Queen
  • 4. The Stoning
  • 5. The Reprieve
  • 6. Meeting the Immortal
  • 7. Escape
  • 8. Captives of Queen Katryca
  • 9. The Attack of the Robot
  • 10. Hunt for the Doctor
  • 11. Secrets
  • 12. Tradesman’s Entrance
  • 13. The Big Bang
  • 14. End and Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Robert Holmes for episodes 1-4 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. Holmes had been slated to adapt this himself, prior to his death in 1986.

Notes: The space station that houses the courtroom is hidden within a junkyard floating in space. The Doctor is ‘a tall, strongly built man with a slight tendency towards overweight’ (!) and beneath the ‘mop of curly hair, the face was round, full-lipped and sensual, with a hint of something catlike about the eyes’. The ups and downs of the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords are summarised, including his time as a fugitive, his exile to Earth for ‘five years’ (during which he was the scientific adviser to UNIT) and the couple of times he briefly occupied the position of President. Sabalom Glitz is ‘a burly thick-set fellow with a tendency towards fatness’, while his lackey, Dibber, is ‘taller and brawnier with a hard face and coarse bristly black hair’. The final chapter uses a title variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘End and Beginning’.

Cover: Queen Katryca is dwarfed by the L3 Robot, along with the planet Ravalox and a beam of black light, courtesy of Tony Masero. As before, there’s a flash marking this as part of the Trial of a Time Lord season (and the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet’.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks returns and passes a few milestones’ as he adapts his friend Robert Holmes’ final complete story, tackles the sixth Doctor for his one and only time and it’s also his last novelisation for anything from outside of the 1960s. He matches the impressive opening model shot of the TV version with one of the best single pages of description he’s done for a while. 

Massive, arrogant, invincible, the great complex hovered in space, dwarfing the shattered hulks that drifted around it, dominating its section of space like some enormous baroque cathedral. There was an eerie, almost mystical quality about it. It seemed to be brooding… waiting. 

This enthusiasm to capture everything we might have felt on screen continues with the Doctor’s arrival; the insanity of his costume has never been described so thoroughly but in particular the ‘multi-coloured coat that might have made Joseph himself feel a pang of envy’. I can imagine Terrance chuckling as he wrote about ‘the jutting beak that was his nose [which] seemed to pursue the Doctor through most of his incarnations’. So cheeky!

Some years ago, I was hired as a ‘talking head’ contributor for the Doctor Who DVD range (subsequently released on Blu-Ray). My role there was to represent the views of the contributors who were no longer with us, so my interjections were deliberately on the side of the producer and less supportive of his more vocal critics, who I knew would also be interviewed. My own opinions were put aside, partly so that I didn’t stand in the way of the people I was representing, but also because my feelings towards the overall story – and this segment in particular – are very conflicted. The huge disappointment I felt on first viewing was replaced at first by mockery (a friend used to act out a hilarious ‘Trial in 14 minutes’ routine that had us guffawing for months) and then a desperation to ‘fix’ the story in our minds – a process fans now call ‘head-canon’. I didn’t read this novelisation at the time and it’s rewarding after all these years to find Terrance Dicks trying his best to nudge the narrative a little, hinting at things the reader might discover later or enhancing the mood with a well-chosen description; that thing on the Valeyard’s head might well be a ‘skull-cap’, but coming between the ‘all in black’ ensemble and the ‘gaunt-faced’ description, it just adds to the idea that the Time Lord prosecutor is Death personified. He’s not breaking any new ground here, but Dicks is definitely putting the effort where it’s needed most.

Chapter 124. Doctor Who – Terror of the Vervoids (1988)

Synopsis: As the Time Lords conclude their case for the prosecution, the Doctor takes his place to deliver a defence using evidence from his own future. It concerns his response to a distress call from the Hyperion III, a luxury liner travelling from Mogar to Earth. Among the passengers are a trio of Mogarians and a group of scientists specialising in the propagation of plants. Down in the hold, in a secure area, is a collection of large pods containing… what? As the Doctor and his friend Mel discover on arrival, the ship also contains a murderer.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Defence Begins
  • 2 Identity Crisis
  • 3 Welcome Aboard
  • 4 Limbering Up
  • 5 Tiger Trap
  • 6 The Booby Trap
  • 7 The Fateful Harvest
  • 8 The Demeter Seeds
  • 9 A Change of Course
  • 10 Death Of An Impostor
  • 11 A Plethora of Suspects
  • 12 The Isolation Room
  • 13 Quirky Phenomena
  • 14 The Enemy Within
  • 15 Deadly Disposal
  • 16 A Heinous Crime
  • 17 The Black Hole of Tartarus
  • 18 A Deadly Intruder
  • 19 A Whiff of Death
  • 20 Hijack
  • 21 A Sacrificial Goat
  • 22 Dénouement
  • 23 Philosophy of a Vervoid
  • 24 The Life Cycle
  • Epilogue

Background: Pip & Jane Baker adapt their scripts for episodes 9-12 of the 1986 serial The Trial of a Time Lord. This is the first ‘modern’ story in 19 books and the Sixth Doctor is no longer the incumbent.

Notes: Melanie, ‘known as Mel’, was a computer programmer when she joined the Doctor three months ago, her time; her background in computers is hinted at, but not specifically stated on screen until Time and the Rani (and her given surname, Bush, is never actually said onscreen or in print, only in character outlines from the production office). She is 22 years old, 4 feet 10 inches tall and has a 22″ waist. The Doctor has blue eyes. The authors draw our attention to the fact that, like the other two Mogarians, Enzu has a vowel at each end of his name and a ‘z’ in the middle.

The ‘waxy, olive, leaf-veined hands’ of the Vervoids are tipped with thorns, they have ‘vermillion features’ and their skeletons are formed from vines.

Walking upright, the biped’s head was sculpted like a closed ivory brown bud. It had sunken cheeks that projected forward an o-shaped, rubbery mouth. Curling, transparent sepals shielded ear-slits. Neither eyebrows nor lashes framed the lidless, staring eyes in the grotesque, noseless face. Noseless because, like plants, it breathed through its waxy leaves.

Defending himself from a Vervoid attack through a ventilation grill, Bruchner severs the creature’s brittle arm, which independently continues to attack him. After hijacking the bridge of the Hyperion III, Bruchner imagines an Earth ruled by Vervoids, where humanity Is driven to the deserts – and even there he suspects the creatures might somehow thrive. As one Vervoid falls victim to the garbage disposal, another Vervoid learns how to use a gun and shoots a guard dead. There are a few additional scenes of the Valeyard back in the courtroom, taunting the Doctor and leading the jury towards a guilty verdict. It’s clarified that the Mogarians are killed by acid that corrodes their suits and exposes them to the air that is toxic to them. As he borrows a gun, the Doctor slips a note to the Commodore warning him of his suspicions about Doland.

Mr Kimber wears a wristwatch given to him by his son, Peter; he’s travelling back to Earth to visit his son and four grandchildren, looking forward to spending time in the Yorkshire Dales. Lasky’s father, Hubert, was a celebrated scientist but she was closer to her mother, who died when Lasky was a child; her mother used to talk to house plants and it’s this that convinces the thrematologist to attempt mediation with the Vervoids – in vain. 

Cover: Tony Masero’s Vervoid is very stylised but not up to his usual work. It’s rather flat. The cover also features a flash on the bottom right explaining that this is part of The Trial of a Time Lord series. Or will be, when the other books are published (the title page lists this as ‘The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids’).

Final Analysis: I was full of praise for Pip ‘n’ Jane’s first novel. Ah well…

I didn’t read this one at the time of publication, but I heard some wry comments about their writing style. One friend took great pleasure in telling me that they make a point of telling us that Mogarian names have vowels at either end and a ‘z’ in the middle. Certainly, though their tone of voice is very much for younger children than we’ve grown used to, their use of language veers towards the ridiculous, like a teenager armed with their first thesaurus. Why say ‘they were as stubborn as each other’ when you could come up with this?:

Obduracy was hardly a characteristic Mel could reasonably object to, being amply endowed with the same quality herself. She withdrew temporarily to the vionesium sunbed to await the granting of an audience with the autocratic academic.

There are a couple of attempts to provide additional backstory for their characters, but there’s less forward planning than we might have had from Hulke or Dicks; the details are placed immediately before their payoff (information about Kimber’s family is revealed on the page before he’s killed, and likewise Lasky’s). While this is a fairly straightforward transcription from screen to page, even down to how the scenes transitioned on TV, the enjoyment comes from the Bakers’ rather florid style as they strain to make every sentence as complicated as possible. It’s hard not to love them though, trying as hard as they can to inspire a passion for literature (as on telly, there are plenty of opportunities for eager readers to look up their cultural references if the desire grabs them). I have a suspicion though that this, rather than Mark of the Rani, will be more representative of their style going forward. It’s giddy, vibrant and eager to make even the dullest of elements exciting… but it still makes one yearn for the elegant simplicity of a Terrance Dicks.

Bonus Chapter #4. Doctor Who – Slipback (1986)

Synopsis: On board the survey ship Vipod Moor, Captain Slarn is losing patience with his crew, a murderer is on the loose and the ship’s computer seems to be on the verge of insanity. As the Doctor and Peri explore the ship, they have no idea of the danger they are in, nor of the threat Slarn and his vessel pose to the entire universe.

Chapter Titles

  • Part One: In the Beginning…
  • 1. The Vipod Mor
  • 2. The Life and Times of Shellingborne Grant
  • 3. Something Nasty in the Ducting
  • 4. ‘This Is the Captain of Your Ship…’
  • Part Two: … Goodnight and Amen
  • 5. The Dissolute Time Lord
  • 6. Bath Time
  • 7. The Voice Within
  • 8. ‘Mr’ Seedle and ‘Mr’ Snatch
  • 9. The Search Begins
  • 10. The Meeting of the Minds
  • 11. The Search Ends

Background: Eric Saward adapts his scripts from the 1985 Radio 4 serial.

Notes: The first chapter boldly claims that only two planets in the Milky Way can boast of intelligent life, while the galaxy of Setna Streen had seventeen. While this does clash with much of galactic lore as established in Doctor Who, the chapter also claims that civilisation is impossible without the discovery and production of wine, which is so indisputable as to make everything else in the opening section easy to accept as fact. There’s also mention of a creature called a Voltrox [see Revelation of the Daleks] and the revelation that the ship Vipod Mor was named after a visiting Time Lord, who spoke portentously about the dangers of time travel. In a lengthy biography for Shellingborne Grant, we learn that he’s partial to Voxnic [see The Twin Dilemma]. We also learn more of the speelsnape [Revelation of the Daleks again]; it weighs ‘approximately fifty-five kilos… a little bigger than a large dog’, but with ‘the speed of a cheetah,the temperament of a psychopathic crocodile on a bad day’. It has razor-sharp teeth and can tear through anything. They live to eat and reproduce – and can mate with any species of its own size. Once born, a baby speelsnape always devours his mother (they are always male). They are also very beautiful and the pelt of a speelsnape is a highly prized fashion item, often used on seat covers.

We learn of the reason why the Doctor rarely sleeps:

As a rule, Time Lords require far less sleep than most humanoid life forms, usually managing to survive quite happily on three hours a day. What’s more, they also have the advantage of not requiring to take their rest in bulk. A ten minute doze here, a half hour snooze there, is a valid contribution to their three hour quota. 

While trying to cope with a drunken Doctor, Peri’s helped by a nearby Terileptil [see The Visitation] and there’s mention of the tinclavic mines on Raaga [see The Awakening]. The Doctor once again references the explorer Rudolph Musk [see the novelisation of The Twin Dilemma], who it turns out was swallowed whole by a splay-footed sceeg (though he survived, by reciting poetry, which made the sceeg vomit him back up). This story’s featured creature is the Maston, which apparently has a very distinctive scent, like rotting flesh (a smell that becomes deadly during the act of mating). They have sharp claws and a hairy, bulky body. 

Peri spent one term studying Kafka. Apparently the Doctor has never met ‘a computer with a thriving dual personality’ [but see The Face of Evil]. Captain Slarn is shot by his steward, Velsper, who then throws himself into a fire to prevent the crew from contracting mors immedicabilis. The public voice of the computer also allows the crew to abandon ship. The Time Lord who stops the Doctor is revealed to be the renegade Vipod Mor (in the radio production, he is not named).

Cover: Paul Mark Tams imagines a repulsive green face for Slarn as the TARDIS hovers nearby.

Final Analysis: Does this count? Well, it isn’t a numbered volume in the Target Doctor Who library (hence why this is a bonus chapter), but it was broadcast on a BBC channel and adapted as a novelisation, so here I am. Taking the tone of The Twin Dilemma to the next level, Eric Saward continues his Douglas Adams-esque meandering around his own universe – no, really, there’s a whole section about people who are followed around by rain, which will be familiar to Adams fans. We might also compare this to Tony Attwood’s Turlough spinoff, in that Saward cannot pass a character, location or beast without providing a potted biography, history or reproductive cycle for each one. Unlike Attwood though, each of the elements are at least quite funny or whimsical enough to be entertaining in their own right. However, this is a Doctor Who book and it’s painfully obvious that Saward is reluctant to introduce the lead characters and has little interest in them once they appear. You’ll have to wade through four chapters of backstory, diversion and, well, waffle, before you get sight or sound of the TARDIS. Still, well done on bulking the slight radio scripts into something approaching a novel.

Bonus Chapter #3. The Companions of Doctor Who: Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Having left the Doctor behind, Turlough returns to find his home planet changed by revolution and a despotic leader called Rehctaht. Expectations are high for this returning hero – but the young man seems more interested in visiting the planet’s many museums. Only one old friend knows the truth – that Turlough is attempting to build a time machine of his own.

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 00: Prologue
  • 01: Ace
  • 02: Duo
  • 03: Trio
  • 04: 4d
  • 05: Magic
  • 06: Mobile?
  • 07: Transport!
  • 08: New Trion On Trion
  • 09: Juras?
  • 10: Pharix
  • 11: Knave
  • 12: Queen
  • 13: King

Background: Tony Attwood writes an original novel based on the character of Turlough.

Notes: Our first original story for the range and our first introduction from an actor who played a role in the programme. Mark Strickson displays his typical modesty as he compares the character he played on TV with the more rounded version available to the reader here. We’re told a lot of the recent history of Turlough’s home planet, Trion, which had focused on the development of science and technology until their society was torn apart by revolution. A new leader emerged, in the form of Rehctaht, ‘the most dominant unforgiving woman Trion had ever known’, whose reign lasted for seven years (this was published in 1986 and the hideous despot’s name is, of course, ‘Thatcher’ backwards).

Our introduction to Turlough comes through the eyes of a tour guide and – yes! – he’s been able to ditch that school uniform at last:

He was young, barely more than a boy, perhaps twenty years old, no more; taller than average but not excessively so, and dressed more casually than was the current style, fading green trousers, a grubby white T shirt and white running shoes. There was a lean hungry look about him that reminded the guide of an ancient legend she had been read by her mother as a child. It was something about men being dangerous when they have that look…

It’s confirmed that Turlough travelled with the Doctor for two years. His family went into exile after Rehctaht came to power and many of the people who endured her reign see him, a member of one of the old ruling clans, as something of a celebrity. One time trip brings Turlough and his old friend Juras Maateh back to his old school; there’s mention of the obelisk on the hill and of the events of Mawdryn Undead that saw one of his teachers meeting his future self. He tells Juras that he never explored the Doctor’s TARDIS: ‘Why spend time running around inside a machine rather than real worlds?’

Cover: David McAllister provides a fine moody likeness of Turlough, whose head is floating above a space station (that might be very familiar to fans of the Star Trek movies) near a system of planets.

Final Analysis: Turlough was far and away the most under-written companion ever and the character relied hugely on actor Mark Strickson to make him interesting. As the first novel in a proposed new series of original novels, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma manages to capture some of the character’s moral ambiguity but sadly fails to make us care about him or his adventure. It doesn’t help that, free to emerge from the Doctor’s shadow, Turlough is paired with another eccentric Time Lord (‘the Magician’). As with Timelash, so much is told in reportage rather than illustrated through dialogue and I’m afraid the story just didn’t engage my interest at any point. We encounter a race of sentient slugs that aren’t the same sentient slugs we met in The Twin Dilemma but have a position in Trion history that seems to occupy the same space the Tractators might have done. It might appear that Tony Attwood watched one story for research – Mawdryn Undead – but there’s no mention of Turlough’s brother here, no acknowledgement of any of his life beyond his first TV adventure. 

It was, Turlough thought, like watching one of those dreadful adventures so beloved of people on Earth. Everyone knew that the hero would survive and the evil one would at least get caught, if not die. Yet despite this preknowledge the people of Earth still found it enjoyable to share in the game of watching.

Not this time, sadly.

Incidentally, in the introduction, Mark Strickson claims not to have much use for modern technology, though at this point in his life, Mark was still an actor; he retrained, becoming a hugely successful producer of nature documentaries and along the way he discovered the phenomenon that was naturalist Steve Irwin. At a two-day Doctor Who convention in Manchester in the 1990s, Mark was inundated with questions about his travels around the world. He was quite taken aback by the enthusiasm of the audience, bursting with questions about all the deadly species he’d encountered, prompting Mark to reassure the fans rather bashfully that he was more than happy to discuss Doctor Who as well. Sadly, when your guest has encountered real-life sharks, crocodiles and poisonous spiders, the Tractators lose much of their appeal.

Chapter 103. Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Peri has just witnessed her new friend die and be replaced by a completely different man. Unstable after the trauma of regeneration, this new Doctor is loud, violent and self-obsessed – and Peri is terrified of him. Deciding to become a hermit on a barren moon, the Doctor instead becomes entangled in a policeman’s investigation into the kidnapping of hyper-intelligent twins. The culprit is someone the Doctor once knew, but is now enslaved by a megalomaniacal slug with mind-boggling ambitions.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Home Time
  • 2. The Maladjusted Time Lord
  • 3. Enter Professor Edgeworth
  • 4. Mestor the Magnificent
  • 5. Titan Three
  • 6. An Unsafe Safe House
  • 7. The Reunion
  • 8. Jaconda, the Beautiful!
  • 9. End Game, Part One
  • 10. End Game, Part Two

Background: Eric Saward adapts the scripts by Anthony Steven for a 1984 serial.

Notes: Professor Archie Sylvest is a university lecturer who lives with his wife, Nimo, and their 12-year-old twin sons live at 25 Lydall Street, the only Georgian terrace left standing in a metropolis of ‘mirror-smooth’ and ‘flameproof, plastic buildings’. He has an android babysitter for the boys, which he knows they hate. Sylvest is scared of his children, something the boys exploit. He takes solace in harbouring murderous thoughts towards them (a strategy suggested by his therapist to help suppress his fears) while drinking too much Voxnic in the company of an attractive computer programmer called Vestal Smith. When Sylvest returns home drunk and discovers his sons’ disappearance, his concern is less that they might have been hurt and more that they might be used in some nefarious scheme or other.

The Time Lord process of regeneration is the work of a hormone called ‘lindos’, which works at lightning speed to repair every cell in the Time Lord body. An illustration of regeneration’s random nature comes in the story of Councillor Verne, whose stunning beauty distracted his peers from his unsuitability to office; his subsequent regenerations saw him grow increasingly unattractive until he became a ‘hideous monster’ who so distressed the then-Lord President that he ordered the Verne creature to be destroyed.

The new Doctor initially misunderstands Peri’s distress, but then apologises to her as he realises how terrified she must be. Peri is relieved and reassured – until she sees his new costume:

… each panel of the coat was quite different in texture, design and colour. This wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if the colours had blended, but they seemed to be cruelly, harshly, viciously at odds with each other. In fact, the coat was so gawdy it would have looked out of place on the back of a circus clown…. The whole ensemble was finished off with a waistcoast which looked as though someone had been sick on. (For all Peri knew, someone had.) The final touch was a livid green watch chain that at some time must have been stolen from a public lavatory.

Delightful! As she fights off the Doctor’s frenzied attack, Peri grabs the mirror in the hope of smashing it to use as a weapon against him.

The personal history of Professor Bernard Edgeworth – aka the Time Lord Azmael – is recounted: Like the Doctor, Azmael grew tired of life among the Time Lords and chose to retire; unlike the Doctor, the High Council decided Azmael was too dangerous to be allowed to escape their control and chose instead to kill him; they despatched ‘Seedle Warriors’ to assassinate him, only for the bloodthirsty squad to massacre the inhabitants of Vitrol Minor, where Azmael was hiding; Azmael brought legal proceedings against the High Council, who retaliated by framing him for their own crimes; Azmael’s last course of action was to gun down the High Council in their chambers and flee to the planet Jaconda. The specific species of gastropod that lays waste to Jaconda is the Sectoms. We also learn of the history of Titan Three, formerly home to the Mastons of Maston Viva, who fell victim to the generally bleak atmosphere of the planet and committed mass suicide, leaving behind their research equipment for Azmael to find.

‘Mestor the Magnificent’ is nearly two metres tall and considered ugly even by other gastropods. To allow him to stand upright, Mestor has grown two small legs that make him wobble as he walks, and two tiny arms, which serve ‘no particular function’ except to gesticulate as he speaks. 

His face, what there was of it, was humanoid in form. As he did not have a neck, head or shoulders, the features had grown where what would have been the underside of a normal slug’s jaw. As though to add to the peculiarity of a gastropod with a human face, the features were covered in a thin membrane.

Peri observes that the Doctor’s delusions lead him to act like Sherlock Holmes, Hern the Hunter (a dig at Doctor Who’s ITV rival Robin of Sherwood?), an explorer called Musk and a country squire. She apparently ‘never even grasped the fundamentals of the microwave oven’. The issue of the time delay with the matter transporter is removed; although Peri dematerialises first, the pair return to the TARDIS at the same time.

The planets that form part of Mestor’s plans are called Muston and Seniel  The Doctor recalls his past companions, including a rather brutal summation of Adric and his ‘childish antics’, a desperation ‘to be loved and accepted for what he was’, which prevented the Doctor (or at least, this incarnation) of ‘ever being able to fully praise, help or ultimately like him’. The Doctor’s first meeting with Mestor is delayed until the climax – their prior conversations conveyed via a hologram link.

Cover: Due to a breakdown in negotiations, an earlier cover showing Colin Baker was rejected (the actor’s agent enquired how much his fee might be for using his likeness and the publisher, misunderstanding the enquiry as a demand for payment, panicked and cancelled the already completed artwork). Andrew Skilleter’s second painting offers up a very green cover featuring a Jacondan, Mestor and some gastropod eggs. The 1993 reprint used Andrew Skilleter’s art for the VHS, again showing a Jacondan and Mestor, but this time joined by the Doctor.

Final Analysis: This is more than just an adaptation; its position in the history of Doctor Who offers us a little insight into events behind the scenes. It was written and published before the increasingly public fall-out between Eric Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner, but the causes of Saward’s dissatisfaction can be seen here in his depiction of the lead character. Even though it’s the post-regenerative monster that he’s writing, and even though he turns the self-serving and cowardly acts into something more whimsical (thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes etc), some of Saward’s negativity is still very much evident. In the final confrontation with Mestor, he frames this Doctor as sounding ‘more like a street bully than a Time Lord negotiating with a creature capable of taking over the universe’ and his pleading with the despot is ‘foolish, almost childish’. The conclusion to the tale is much less confident and reassuring than on TV. Peri even tells the Doctor she just wants to go home.

‘… whatever else happens, I am the new Doctor. This is me whether people like it or not.’

The statement was as bland and as sterile as it sounded.

Peri hoped that she had caught a glimpse of a smile as he uttered it.

If she hadn’t, this particular incarnation of the Time Lord would prove to be a very difficult person indeed.

Hugo Lang is also subject to a character assassination, the dogged and determined police officer becoming a self-serving and ruthlessly opportunistic man who pursues the twins only for personal glory and who decides to stay on Jaconda to extort money from Mestor’s chamberlain.

This is still a diverting read though, as Saward tries hard to make it more entertaining than he managed to make it on screen. As with the fox in The Visitation, Saward once again uses the form of an animal to witness events; the arrival of Azmael’s ship and his kidnapping of the twins goes undetected by anyone on Earth except a ginger cat, who prides himself on knowing what is happening before anyone else and vows to tell nobody about what he’s seen. His telling of the circumstances of Hugo Lang’s crash on Titan Three make for a scene straight out of Star Wars and, as the quote above shows, he succeeds in making Mestor a horrifying and fearsome presence. 

We’re now in the period where authors were encouraged to attempt something other than a straight retelling of the TV show and for many readers, the episodes would still be fresh in the memory. Saward attempts something in the style of Douglas Adams as his narrative regularly drifts off to discuss various tangentially related topics: A mention of Azmael’s revitalising modulator leads to a detailed history of the life and convoluted death of the machine’s inventor, Professor James Zarn, as well as the results of his other great scientific success, involving the Social and Sexual Life of the Veedle Fly; the acid that the Doctor uses to attack Mestor is Moston acid, which ages its victims to death and which is a product of Professor Vinny Mosten, about whom we also discover more than we’d ever hoped; even the floor of Mestor’s chamber, decorated with a celebrated Jacondan mosaic, inspires a further condensed history lecture. Whether or not this is a successful approach is down to personal taste. Personally, I rather enjoyed it, even if I was slightly worried every time a new brand name or invention popped up. Stop trying to make ‘Voxnic’ happen, Eric. It’s not going to happen.

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (1983)

Chapter 81. Doctor Who – The Five Doctors  (1983)

Synopsis: The Death Zone on Gallifrey – once the location of cruel games in the old times of the Time Lords, before it was closed down. A sinister figure has reactivated it and the Doctor has been dragged out of time from different points in his life. Though one of his incarnations is trapped in a time eddy, four others work together, joined by old friends and obstructed by old enemies. Their joint quest points towards an imposing tower that legend says is also the tomb of the Time Lord founder, Rassilon. A deadly new game is afoot, and the prize is not what it seems…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Game Begins
  • 2. Pawns in the Game
  • 3. Death Zone
  • 4. Unexpected Meeting
  • 5. Two Doctors
  • 6. Above, Between, Below!
  • 7. The Doctor Disappears
  • 8. Condemned
  • 9. The Dark Tower
  • 10. Deadly Companions
  • 11. Rassilon’s Secret
  • 12. The Game of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts his own TV script in a novel that was published before it was broadcast in the UK – pushing the record for the gap between broadcast and publication into minus figures.

Notes: The book opens in ‘a place of ancient evil’ – the Game Room – where a black-clad Player is preparing for the game to begin. The Doctor has a fresh stalk of celery on his lapel. Tegan is still considered to be ‘an Australian air stewardess’ despite having been sacked by the time of Arc of Infinity. The Doctor has remodelled the TARDIS console room after ‘a recent Cybermen attack’ (is this Earthshock or an unseen adventure?). Turlough is introduced as a ‘thin-faced, sandy-haired young man in the blazer and flannels of his public school.’ He’s also ‘good-looking in a faintly untrustworthy sort of way’.

The First Doctor is said to have ‘blue eyes […] bright with intelligence’ (William Hartnell had brown eyes so this is definitely the Hurndall First Doctor) and a ‘haughty, imperious air’. He’s aware that he’s near the end of his first incarnation and is living in semi-retirement to prepare himself for the impending change. The Brigadier’s replacement is called ‘Charlie Crighton’ (Charles Crighton, as in the film director?). The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (not blue – or even green as previously) which appear ‘humourous and sad at the same time’. We find the Third Doctor test-driving Bessie on private roads, which is how he can drive so fast without fear of oncoming traffic. On leaving the TARDIS, Sarah-Jane Smith had felt ‘abandoned and more than a little resentful’; at first, she thinks the capture obelisk is a bus rounding a corner – until it’s too late. There’s a new scene depicting life on future Earth for Susan Campbell – formerly Foreman – whose husband David is part of the reconstruction government and they have three children together. 

Strangely, she calls her grandfather ‘Doctor’, which is what alerts the Dalek to the presence of its enemy  (this was fixed for the TV broadcast). The obelisk tries to capture the Fourth Doctor and Romana by lying in wait under a bridge. The Master recognises that the stolen body he inhabits will wear out, so the offer of a full regeneration cycle is especially appealing. The slight incline that Sarah tumbles down on TV becomes a bottomless ravine here. The First Doctor is much more receptive to Tegan’s suggestion that she accompanies him to the Tower. As the Castellan accuses the Doctor of ‘revenge’, we’re reminded of the events in Arc of Infinity, while there’s also a summary of the events with the Yeti in London that led to the Doctor and the Brigadier’s first meeting. The ‘between’ entrance to the tower has a bell on a rope, not an ‘entry coder’ and the First Doctor, realising the chess board has a hundred squares, applies the first hundred places of ‘Pi’ as coordinates (which explains how he translates the measurement of a circle to a square!).

Sarah Jane tries to launch a rock at a Cyberman to keep it away (‘I missed!’) and on meeting the Third Doctor, Tegan tells Sarah ‘My one’s no better’ and they compare notes – scenes that were reinstated for the special edition of the story on VHS and DVD. When the Brigadier helps to disarm the Master, the Doctors pile onto him. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are returned to the exact moment they left, still punting on the river Cam. Though the Second Doctor departs by calling his successor ‘Fancy pants’, the ‘Scarecrow’ response is cut. The Fifth Doctor tells a confused Flavia that Rassion ‘was – is – the greatest Time Lord of all’.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter creates the central image of a diamond containing the five Doctors in profile, surrounded by the TARDIS, Cybermen, a Dalek and K9. All of this on a very swish-looking metallic-silver background with a flash in the bottom right-hand corner proclaiming the book ‘A Twentieth Anniversary First Edition’. Alister Pearson’s art for the 1991 reprint features the story’s five Doctors (Hurndall stepping in for Hartnell and an off-colour Tom Baker) against a backdrop of elements that evoke the interior decor of the Dark Tower with a suggestion of the hexagonal games table.

Final Analysis: Apparently Terrance Dicks completed this in record time, so understandably there are a couple of mistakes (Susan calling her grandfather ‘Doctor’, Zoe and Jamie labelled as companions of the ‘third Doctor’), but otherwise he juggles the elements of his already convoluted tale very well, even resorting to his trick from the previous multi-Doctor story of calling them ‘Doctor One’, ‘Doctor Two’ and ‘Doctor Three’. It’s not just nostalgia working here, Terrance Dicks does such a good job with the shopping list he was given and makes something that both celebrates the past and catapults the series into the future.

Chapter 80. Doctor Who – Arc of Infinity (1983)

Synopsis: Aided by a traitor, a being from an anti-matter dimension breaks into the Time Lord databanks to steal the Doctor’s bio-data. When the Doctor is later attacked by the being, the Time Lords step in and he is summoned to return home to Gallifrey. There, he learns that the the anti-matter being is trying to create a foothold in this dimension, something that could destabilise the universe. Seeing no other solution, the Time Lords sentence the Doctor to death, but at the last minute he is rescued by the mysterious entity. The Doctor flees Gallifrey for a reunion in Amsterdam…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Deadly Meeting
  • 2. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 3. Recall
  • 4. Death Sentence
  • 5. The Prisoner
  • 6. Termination
  • 7. The Matrix
  • 8. The Traitor
  • 9. Unmasked
  • 10. Hunt for Omega
  • 11. Transference
  • 12. Omega’s Freedom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for a serial that was broadcast just over six months earlier.

Notes: The appearance of Omega in negative is more than just a nifty special effect; it’s a result of him being projected from another universe! Colin’s passport was stolen (not just lost) while he and Robin had been in a crowded cafe; though it’s never stated explicitly, and despite certain ‘speciality’ cafes and their wares being fully legal in Amsterdam, this might be the real reason Colin’s so reluctant to go to the police. There are reminders of the events of The Three Doctors when Omega first attempted a return, and that the Doctor was once the President of the Time Lords. Connecting to the Matrix via the Crown is both ‘dangerous and stressful’ and is only attempted in grave emergencies. When Nyssa breaks into the termination room, she sets her staser to stun before shooting the guards – then sets it to kill before entering the chamber to confront the High Council (it’s especially chilling that the meek and mild Traken princess has been driven to contemplate murder).

The Ergon is ‘a hideous lizard-like creature with a long thin skull, ending in a mouthful of fangs’, though it’s also described as ‘insectoid’; when it dies, Omega shrieks and twists convulsively as his link to the creature is severed. In the story’s final scene, we learn that Robin was able to get a new passport after all. Yay!

Cover: Worst cover ever? Could be – the Doctor and Hedin crudely cut out of the same photo and slapped onto an orange background. Meh… Thankfully, in 1992, Alister Pearson gave us a splendid piece of art for the reprint, depicting the Doctor and Omega (fading from negative to positive) against a background of the Matrix, framed in a double-diamond shape and an orange universe. Controversially, the diamond motif and a very similar layout were used by Pete Wallbank for the VHS cover.

Final Analysis: It’s fitting that co-creator of the Time Lords Terrence Dicks has novelised the majority of Gallifrey stories so far (though the other creator, Malcolm Hulke, covered two stories with brief Time Lord scenes); he knows them better than anyone and it’s reassuring to have him here on quite a continuity-heavy tale, explaining the relevant or subtext where appropriate. He tries his best to make things dramatic for the main villain – who effectively sits in a chair until the final chapter – and the image of Omega like a snake ‘sloughing off its old skin’ is much more effective than the deflating rubber mask on screen. 

We might also note that Colin Baker’s casting as the next Doctor had already been revealed around the time Terrance was writing this, and the character he plays here, Maxil, is described as ‘burly’ and ‘square-jawed’. I wonder if we’ll see that pop up as a description for the Sixth Doctor? We’ll have a long wait to find out…

Bonus Chapter #2. Junior Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor and Sarah land on the planet Karn, which is home to a secret Sisterhood, a mad scientist – and a brain in a jar. The brain belonged to an evil Time Lord called Morbius and Solon wants to bring him back to life. Just like he wanted to do in the original novelisation.

Chapter Titles

Identical to the original novel

  • 1. A Graveyard of Spaceships
  • 2. The Keepers of the Flame
  • 3. The Horror Behind the Curtain
  • 4. Captive of the Flame
  • 5. Sarah to the Rescue
  • 6. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 7. Solon’s Trap
  • 8. The Doctor Makes a Bargain
  • 9. The Monster Walks
  • 10. Monster on the Rampage
  • 11. Deathlock!
  • 12. A Time Lord Spell

Background: Terrance Dicks once again rewrites his earlier adaptation of the story he originally wrote (ish) for TV – this time for a younger readership.

Notes: The murder of the alien Kriz by Condo is excised, with the book beginning instead with the arrival of the TARDIS. Solon’s first scene is also cut, jumping straight to the introduction of the Sisterhood. Maren’s sacrifice is both excised and glossed over, with Maren presenting the Doctor with the last drops of the elixir before he gives the soot-clearing firework to Ohica.

Cover & Illustrations: Harry Hants gives us a much better cover for this than we got for the fuller version; even though it’s a very similar basic idea (the Doctor’s face huge in the background as Solon wrestles with the monster), it’s beautifully painted. Peter Edwards provides 35 wonderful illustrations and the gothic setting really suits his style. His Morbius monster has huge taloned feet like those of a bird of prey and pretty much every picture of blind Sarah is unnervingly creepy, but especially the one where she enters the room containing Morbius’ brain in a tank. Best illustrations so far.

Final Analysis: Confession time – this was the version of the story I had as a kid and I didn’t read the full novel prior to this project. It’s a great introduction for children to the genre of horror, enhanced greatly by Peter Edwards’ gritty illustrations, which truly are the stuff of nightmares. It’s a shame this was the last of these experimental junior editions and I wonder how a version for younger readers of The Android Invasion (the Fourth Doctor story with the lowest death count) might have looked.

Chapter 58. Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor (1980)

Synopsis: Two planets locked in war, Atrios and Zeos. A princess tries to help her people while her zealous Marshal fights to win the war. Unseen, a shadowy figure is manipulating events as he awaits the final pawns in his game. The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on Atrios in search of the final segment of the Key to Time, and help comes from an unexpected source as the Doctor is reunited with an old friend. Soon, the Key to Time will be assembled – and the hidden enemy will be revealed. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Vanishing Planet
  • 2. Missile Strike
  • 3. Kidnapped
  • 4. A Trap for K9
  • 5. The Furnace
  • 6. Behind the Mirror
  • 7. The Shadow
  • 8. Lost on Zeos
  • 9. The Armageddon Factor
  • 10. The Planet of Evil
  • 11. Drax
  • 12. The Bargain
  • 13. Small World
  • 14. The Key to Time

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This is now four stories to be released consecutively in the order they were broadcast on TV.

Notes: The first TARDIS scenes are condensed and moved to the beginning of the first chapter, with an additional explanation of the on-going mission to find the Key to Time. The Marshall’s description is a love-letter to actor John Woodvine:

Tall and broad shouldered, straight-backed with iron-grey hair, he wore a magnificent scarlet tunic with gold epaulettes, the eagle of Atrios emblazoned in silver on the breast. His stern face was rugged and handsome, his voice deep and commanding. 

Merak is apparently the son of one of Atrios’ oldest families and has secretly been in love with Astra since they were both children. They are both members of an underground peace party.  Drax is from the ‘Class of Ninety-Three’ (not Ninety-Two) and has heard that the Doctor ‘got done by the High Court’ for stealing a TARDIS and ‘served a stretch’ on Earth – Drax himself bought a TARDIS second hand and he agrees to stop calling the Doctor ‘Thete’ (short for Theta Sigma, which we’re told was a ‘Time Lord coding’), though he’s sensitive that, unlike the Doctor, he didn’t get his degree. Once exposed, the Black Guardian contorts into a demonic creature and it’s both his callousness about Princess Astra and his inability to set things right with the Key already assembled that alerts the Doctor to his true identity.

Cover: Bill Donohoe paints the Doctor (using a surprising photo reference from The Seeds of Doom) and Romana with the Key to Time locator core in her hand, with the red bird motif from the War Room on Atrios in the background. Apparently producer John Nathan-Turner didn’t like this cover – he was wrong though.

Final Analysis: Yet another fairly straightforward adaptation, with the only major omissions being those scenes with the Marshall preparing to fire on Zeos that are repeated on TV, which don’t need to be replayed here.

And so ends a long, long journey towards this point. There have been trials, tribulations and many disappointments on this quest, but finally we’re done… we’re out of the worst run of books in the series so far – perhaps ever. A combination of poor original stories and a very lacklustre approach to adapting them makes me so glad we’ve got a treat coming up next.

I hope…