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.

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…

Chapter 54. Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time (1980)

Synopsis: The Doctor has returned home to claim the Presidency of the Time Lords. As the Gallifreyan elite is driven to panic by this shocking development, this is just the first in a chain of horrific events as the new President banishes senior figures to the barren wastelands of Gallifrey – including his friend Leela. And then the Vardans arrive. This is all part of a trap created by the Doctor to defeat the invaders, but the trap backfires when the Vardans are vanquished and in their place arrive the Sontarans!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Treaty for Treason
  • 2. The President-Elect
  • 3. Attack from the Matrix
  • 4. The Fugitive
  • 5. The Betrayal
  • 6. The Invasion
  • 7. The Outcasts
  • 8. The Assassin
  • 9. The Vardans
  • 10. False Victory
  • 11. The Sontarans
  • 12. The Key of Rassilon
  • 13. Failsafe
  • 14. The Chase
  • 15. The Wisdom of Rassilon

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts attributed to David Agnew (Anthony Read and Graham Williams). This followed Underworld on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Leela has brown eyes again [see The Horror of Fang Rock]. There are many references back to The Deadly Assassin that provide clarification or other information that wasn’t revealed in the onscreen Invasion of Time. There’s a summary of the events that led to the Doctor assuming the position of President by default, including the Doctor’s previous encounter with the Matrix, as well as an explanation that as there was no other candidate available, and the Doctor was absent, Borusa took on the role of acting President as well as Chancellor, making him extremely powerful. Castellan Spandrel has retired and his very recent replacement, Kelner, quickly established a Bodyguard Squad to protect himself; Kelner took possession of a suite of offices that are… :

… of transparent plastic and gleaming metal, with complex control consoles and brightly flickering vision screens everywhere. It was over-technological even by Time Lord standards, but Kelner, the new Castellan felt it helped to maintain his image. 

Kelner is ‘thin-faced, nervous, rather insecure Time Lord’ who gained his position thanks to ‘good birth and political intrigue’. He has a bodyguard who is ‘very big, very brave, and very stupid’. Terrance Dicks maintains the impression given in The Deadly Assassin of the ceremonial chamber at the centre of the Panopticon and the scale of the Time Lord ensemble, which could never be achieved on TV:

The grand hall of the Panopticon is an immense circular chamber used by the Time Lords for all their major ceremonies. It is one of the largest and most impressive chambers in the known universe. The immense marble floor is big enough to hold an army, the domed glass roof seems as high above as the sky itself. Row upon row of viewing galleries run around the walls, and on the far side of the hall an impressive staircase leads down to a raised circular dais. By now the hall was filled with rank upon rank of Time Lords, all wearing the different-coloured robes and insignia of the different Chapters, the complex social family and political organisations that dominated Time Lord Society. 

The Great Key of Rassilon is just a lost artefact on TV, but Dicks ties it to the one named in The Deadly Assassin; the one the Master stole was a replica and the real one is kept in the possession of the Chancellor; also unlike on TV, the Doctor deduces which one of Borusa’s keys is the correct one without Borusa first offering a decoy. The buildings on the edge of the Capitol have ‘sheer white walls’ and the gleaming towers can be seen many miles away. 

Rodan is described as a ‘Time Lady’. The Outsiders live in log huts. Nesbin was expelled from the Capitol for an unprecedented violent attack upon another Time Lord. Ablif is a ‘burly young man’ and is the Outsiders who first captures Leela and Rodan – and gains a scratch across his face for his troubles. Jasko is also a ‘burly young Outsider’ who isn’t ‘especially bright’ but is ‘brave and strong’ and obedient. While these two Outsiders appeared on TV, a third member of the assault party is called ‘Jablif’ and it’s he who is fatally wounded but manages to kill a Sontaran before he dies.

Dicks’ description of Stor echoes that from Robert Holmes’ prologue for The Time Warrior:

The head was huge and round and it seemed to emerge directly from the massive shoulders. The hairless skull was greeny-brown and small red eyes were set deep in cavernous sockets. The nose was a snubby snout, the wide mouth a lipless slit. 

Stor calls our hero ‘Dok-tor’ as if it’s his name, which is lovely.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints a much-minicked design of the Doctor and Stor smothered by metal cogs.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks guides us through what was actually quite a complicated script and helps it make sense along the way. Even Leela’s sudden departure is given a little assistance (in Leela’s tribe, it turns out, the women choose the men and Andred’s fighting skills and bravery clearly impressed her). He also succeeds in making the Vardans seem impressive: 

The space ship was enormous, terrifying, a long, sleek killer-whale of space. Its hull-lines were sharp and predatory and it bristled with the weapon-ports of a variety of death dealing devices. Everything about it suggested devastating, murderous power. 

… so that when their human forms are revealed, it’s more dramatic and less underwhelming as they’d already been fairly disappointing before the reveal. We’re still in this dry period where the books largely transcribe what happened on TV, but here, this at least prevents everything from feeling as cheap and improvised as it does on home video.

Chapter 53. Doctor Who and the Underworld (1980)

Synopsis: A group of space travellers seek the lost gene banks of the Minyans, a race of beings with tragic connections to the Time Lords. When their space craft becomes surrounded by a planet, the Minyan travellers discover a subjugated race – the Trogs – who live in underground tunnels as the slaves of the Seers and the god-like Oracle. Could these slaves be the descendants of the lost Minyans? The answers rest with the Oracle – and the quest is the quest…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Nebula
  • 2. The Minyans
  • 3. The Intruders
  • 4. The Quest
  • 5. Buried Alive
  • 6. The Trogs
  • 7. Skyfall on Nine
  • 8. The Smoke
  • 9. The Mouth of the Dragon
  • 10. The Sword of Sacrifice
  • 11. The Crusher
  • 12. The Battle
  • 13. Doomsday
  • 14. The Legend

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1978 scripts by by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes:  We begin with a prologue (how I love a prologue!) that details the events that led to the loss of Minyos and the isolation policy of the Time Lords. Back in The Invisible Enemy, the Doctor complained that the TARDIS control room is such a boring colour – ‘No aquamarines, no blues. No imagination!’ – and here, he’s trying to paint the control room aquamarine and getting paint everywhere (but in the final scene, he’s painting it white again). On learning of the sword ritual, the Doctor reminds Leela that her own tribe had a similar trial by ordeal. Leela suggests that they return to the TARDIS and leave the Minyans to their fate but the Doctor wants to solve the mystery of the P7E.

Cover: Bill Donohoe combines two photo reference from this story to create something rather like a pulp sex book you’d find in the saucy rack in a 1970s newsagent – the Doctor looks pensive  while Herrick carries a near-death Tala – as if we’ve just walked in on a scene we don’t really want to be a part of.

Final Analysis: This would always be a tricky one, a real clunker from Bob Baker and Dave Martin (the kings of overambition) and it’s one that’s always been unpopular for good reason. Devoid of the visibly low budget of the TV version, we’re left with a story with no recognisable human interaction, just mythology that gets a bit repetitive. It’s a relief that Terrance Dicks finds a way to highlight that humanity: The father who grieves for his lost wife and daughter after they’re killed in a landfall is a rare highlight. Something I’ve noticed though is that the Fourth Doctor in this period is brash and often his overconfidence borders on bullying, which makes it hard to like him. The real highlight is that Dicks makes great use of K9 for his comedy potential, the wilfully over-literal explanations are hilarious.

Chapter 50. Doctor Who and the War Games (1979)

Synopsis: The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe between the trenches of the worst war in Earth’s history – World War I. Yet just a few miles away, the war is against Roman soldiers – and here it’s the American Civil War. As the time travellers make their way to the centre of the warzones, they discover a group of aliens controlling the battles as part of a hideous game. All too soon, the situation becomes too great even for the Doctor to handle. With no other choice, he is forced to confront his greatest challenge yet – his own people, the Time Lords…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Sentence of Death
  • 2. Escape
  • 3. The Time Mist
  • 4. Back to the Château
  • 5. The War Room
  • 6. The Process
  • 7. The Security Chief
  • 8. Battle for the Château
  • 9. The Trap
  • 10. Fall of the War Chief
  • 11. Trial of Doctor Who

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts the 1969 scripts he co-wrote with Terrance Dicks.

Notes: The prologue is a mission statement from the ‘Chief War Lord’ (so the aliens are the War Lords, who aren’t named on TV; the War Lord is the leader of the aliens). They identify Earth as ‘the most war-like planet known to us’ and their project is called ‘The War Games’. Off the back of their last (unseen?) adventure, the Doctor has promised to take Jamie for a visit to his own time. On their arrival, he explains to his young friends the origins of barbed wire (the invention of ‘an American’ for the purpose of penning in cattle). He goes into detail about the purpose of trenches during World War I, in a time before the tank was invented, and the great loss of life involved in trying to capture ground from the enemy. ‘That’s a daft way to run a war,’ says Jamie, rather pertinently. The Doctor also explains the causes of the American Civil War to Zoe who, coming from the far future, has never heard of the United States.

General Smythe is ‘a huge man with a square jaw and cheeks like cliffs’. Captain Ransom reports to him that they have lost ‘twenty-nine thousand men in the past month’ and Smythe tells him that they’re fighting a ‘war of attrition’. Alone in his room, Smythe uses the hidden video monitor to report to a ‘fellow War Lord’ and request ‘five thousand more specimens’. 

Carstairs’ first name is Jeremy and his father is a factory owner in Yorkshire (but he chooses not to admit this to Lady Jenifer). Head of the military prison, General Gorton, can’t remember if he was born in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire or Berkshire. Two deserters, Willi Müller from Berlin and George Brown from London, witness the shelling of the ambulance and the vehicle’s sudden disappearance in the mist. In the Roman zone, Drusus Gracchus and Brutus Sullas also see the ‘square elephant’ vanish and assume it’s a ‘Gaulish trick’. Drusus vows that he’ll sacrifice ‘three goats, two pigs and a human slave’ in honour of the God of War. 

The War Chief is tall, with a uniform of ‘black with gold and red piping’. His fellow War Lords use a transport device called a ‘Space and Inter-time Directional Robot Allpurpose Transporter’, or ‘SIDRAT’ – a ‘tall black box similar in shape and size to the TARDIS’ (it’s mentioned only once on screen, by the War Chief, who pronounces it ‘Side-Rat’). The machines can deliver hundreds of soldiers to the various timezones and they are powered by green crystals that come from the ‘planet of the Time Lords’ (which the War Chief doesn’t name), but as these have worn out, the War Lord has used other materials that lead to a decreased lifespan. The Alien soldiers wear silver uniforms. The Security Chief does not like people to see how short he is, so he usually stands; he wears a ‘simple black uniform without braid or piping’ that makes him look ‘very sinister’. Foreshadowed before his arrival, the War Lord suddenly appears in the war room alongside the Security Chief and the War Chief and is not described at any point.

At one point, Lieutenant Carstairs wonders ‘just how many wars they have going on in this place’ – and it’s a fair few, as well as his own 1917 Zone: There’s an English Redcoat, taken from the battles of the Jacobite Rebellion of Jamie’s time; we learn of a ‘French Deserter’ from Napoleon’s army in Gorton’s prison; General Smythe references zones from the Dakota War / Sioux Uprising (from 1862), the Korean War (from 1951), the American War of Independence (from 1776), the ‘Punic Wars’ between Rome and Carthage and the ‘Mongolian Invasion’ of the 13th Century; the War Lord known as Count Vladimir Chainikof oversees the Russian side of the Crimean zone (at some point between 1853-56); there’s a zone from 1936 with Chinese and Japanese combatants, though this predates the second Sino-Japanese war by a year and would possibly have been the tail-end of the Chinese Civil War; in the Central Zone, the Doctor and Zoe see a mix of soldiers, including Aztec warriors, a Roundhead from ‘Oliver Cromwell’s time’, soldiers from the Franco-Prussian War (1870),, an Austro-Hungarian officer from the Boxer Rebellion (from where we later meet a Chinese soldier who joins the resistance), two women soldiers from the Spanish Civil War zone, a soldier from Catherine the Great’s army (presumably the The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74), a Japanese Samurai warrior and a soldier in a suit of armour from an undisclosed period; Jamie joins soldiers from the Boer War from 1899 and a Chinese revolutionary from 1911. The zone for the American Civil War (or the ‘War Between the States’) is from 1862 and Hulke uses the term ‘Negro’ to describe an unnamed resistance soldier, which is period-appropriate but which may jolt the attention of modern readers (also, the role of Harper is absorbed into that of Russell). Arturo Villar claims that all of Mexico is ‘all war’, but he’s probably from the Mexico-American War of 1846-48. Another resistance soldier, Boris Ivanovich Petrovich, is from the Russian Revolution of 1812. 

For the first time, Jamie begins to wonder who the Doctor really is and when he finally raises the question, the Doctor is about to tell him when they’re interrupted. It’s the Security Chief, and not the Chief Scientist, who first uses the term ‘Time Lords’. The War Chief reveals that the Doctor stole his TARDIS (The War Chief also has a TARDIS of his own, stolen like the Doctor’s and hidden somewhere). When the Doctor confirms this to Zoe, he admits that ‘it’s not one of the best models. The chameleon effect doesn’t work’ (Hulke previously referred to the TARDIS’s chameleon feature in The Doomsday Weapon and its use here still predates it being said on screen). During his trial, the Doctor mentions the Daleks, Cybermen, Quarks, Yeti and the Krotons. The Time Lords wear long white robes and they tack on an additional charge to the Doctor’s crimes of stealing a TARDIS, which is consistent with the version told in The Auton Invasion. Back on the Wheel, Zoe meets an unnamed man (not Tanya Lernvov as on telly). After the Doctor disappears, the prosecuting Time Lord admits that the Doctor ‘would never have fitted in back here.’ His colleague agrees, but laments: ‘It’s a pity. He would have brightened the place up no end.’ 

Cover: John Geary creates a mishmash of eras as the TARDIS stands in a battlefield where a Roman centurion approaches a British army officer. The 1990 reprint used Alister Pearson’s elegant monochromatic VHS cover with Troughton, the War Lord and a Time Lord in a grid of warzone triangles, accompanied by an American Civil War soldier, a Roman chariot and Lieutenant Carstairs.

Final Analysis: This is the longest novel since Doctor Who and the Cybermen, four years earlier. In condensing the ten-part epic from 1969, by necessity, Hulke makes it less of a Terrance-Dicks-style scene-by-scene adaptation, more a top-to-toe rewrite of the story with each chapter roughly covering a single episode. Although a lot of the beats are the same, Hulke is more concerned with creating the world for the reader than recapturing exact memories of a programme broadcast once a decade earlier. 

Hulke’s human characters are, as ever, multi-faceted and they reveal much about the societietal attitudes of their respective times: Carstairs is a loyal and patriotic officer who struggles to accept the deception of his superior officer, but also unpicks the inconsistencies of the Doctor’s Court Martial (and considering the horrific injustices he must have witnessed already, this is saying a lot); he also reveals a degree of inverted snobbery, choosing not to reveal much about his background to Lady Jennifer; Zoe reveals a fierce feminist conviction, stating her opinion that things would be better if women were in charge. Lady Jennifer disagrees, saying that, aside from periods of war, a woman’s place is in the home, a view that seems to be introduced to undermine her belief that ‘new socialists… believe in a lot of nonsense’ (though she later tells Russell that she believes that women should have the vote, so she’s quite complex too).

Hulke sums up the brutality of the First World War effectively through a combination of the Doctor’s mini-lectures and the reactions of the soldiers to newcomers, immediately accusing them of being spies and threatening them with being shot. Lieutenant Carstairs observes that the average lifespan of a British officer on the front line is only three weeks. As they part company on No Man’s Land, he asks the Doctor ‘Did my side win?’

‘Was all the death and misery for nothing?

‘You have answered your own question, Lieutenant. War is always death and misery, and both sides lose. I hope that one day you humans will find another way to settle your arguments.

This adaptation covers so much ground that in some ways it damaged the reputation of the TV episodes it was based on. Terrence Dicks’ natural modesty (and the pressures under which he and Hulke wrote the story) always led him to underplay its success, but some readers were entertained enough by the novel to assume that all the stuff cut from the TV episodes must have been needless padding. The DVD release restored its reputation as one of the best stories of that decade, but this novelisation is also a magnificent undertaking. Some characters are missing, some scenes truncated, but none of this leaves us feeling short-changed. We’re lucky enough to have both the TV and novel versions and both of them stand among the very best of their respective genres.

Malcolm Hulke died in July 1979, aged 54. This book was published two months later.

Chapter 36. Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin (1977)

Synopsis: The Time Lords of Gallifrey enjoy immense power, living in isolation from the rest of the universe. On the day that the President of the Time Lords is expected to announce his successor, security is tight! Yet somehow, an obsolete and unauthorised time capsule – a TARDIS – has landed right in the heart of the Capitol. Its owner, a criminal called the Doctor, is nowhere to be found. Then the President is assassinated – and the Doctor is found holding the gun. But could there really be two rogue Time Lords at play? Soon, the future of the Time Lords will depend on a battle of wits between two bitter rivals – and it will be a fight to the death.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Vision of Death
  • 2. The Secret Enemy
  • 3. Death of a Time Lord
  • 4. Trapped
  • 5. The Horror in the Gallery
  • 6. Into the Matrix
  • 7. Death by Terror
  • 8. Duel to the Death
  • 9. The End of the Evil
  • 10. The Doomsday Plan
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The End – and a Beginning

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s 1976 scripts.

Notes: That epic crawl from the start of the TV version is dropped, though its main details are absorbed into the rest of the book. In his youth, the Doctor trained for a seat on the High Council on Gallifrey, but he grew frustrated at the ‘never-ending ceremonials and elaborately costumed rituals’ and the ‘endless accumulation of second-hand knowledge that would never be used’. The Doctor recalls ‘boyhood memories of forbidden games, of hide-and-seek’, while the spark that sent him to flee Gallifrey is described as ‘a final crisis’. Dicks builds in vague gaps in the story deliberately, as none of this completely contradicts other explanations for why he left Gallifrey, but it does add to his possible reasons. There are a few references to ‘the Omega crisis’ and the ‘Omega file’ [see The Three Doctors]. The Doctor’s TARDIS control room is in the more traditional configuration, with a console that has a column at the centre (the one on telly is the wooden one without a central column).

The large dome at the heart of the Capitol (not actually seen on TV until 2007) houses the Panopticon. Spandrell is ‘unusually broad and muscular for a Time Lord’ and Goth is ‘tall, handsome, immensely impressive in his elaborate robes’. Goth is now head of the Prydonians, with Borusa elevated to the status of ‘High Cardinal’. The captain of the Guard is Hildred (not Hilred). Runcible and the Doctor had been at school together, where Runcible had been ‘utterly fascinated by rituals and traditions’. Now, he’s a ‘small plump figure’ unlike his onscreen depiction. When the hypnotised guard, Solis, tries to wreck the APN cables, Spandrell shoots him repeatedly. 

The villain at the heart of the tale was revealed in the end credits but it wasn’t spelled out until the Doctor saw the shrunken corpse of the cameraman and realised who he was up against. For the reader, Dicks teases the identity and after his accomplice calls him ‘Master’, he starts to use this as the villain’s title, but it’d still be fairly easy for a new reader to wonder if this is the Master, or just a master, especially as this Master is even more gruesome than on telly:

The cracked, wizened skin, stretched tight over the skull, one eye almost closed, the other wide open and glaring madly. It was like the face of death itself.

Later, the Master’s ‘bloodless lips [draw] back in a smile of hatred. The Doctor describes his enemy to Borusa thus:

He was always a criminal, sir, throughout all his lives. Constant pressure, constant danger. Accelerated regenerations used as disguise… He was simply burnt out.

During the trial, the Doctor interjects to confirm that the witness, an elderly Time Lord, can hear loud voices, thereby disputing the prosecution’s claim that he misheard the Doctor’s cries of ‘They’ll kill him’.

The final chapter uses a variation of a Terrance Dicks favourite – ‘The End – and a Beginning’.

Cover: The decaying Master leers from the top of the cover, while a stern-looking Doctor, flanked by two Time Lords in ceremonial robes and collars, looks off to the side. I can scarcely believe this is by Mike Little, it’s a huge step up from his previous efforts. 

Final Analysis: Not much to add to this, to be honest; it’s a straightforward adaptation, which is going to be the norm for a while now. Dick adds a few little details here and there, so as is often the case, it’s just a matter of scale – the Panopticon houses many more Time Lords from many other chapters than we could see on telly – but doesn’t change anything too much. When he’s working from scripts by his pal Robert Holmes, perhaps he doesn’t feel the need or the inclination.

Chapter 33. Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius (1977)

Synopsis: The planet Karn is home to a secret Sisterhood who administer a sacred flame that can provide the secret to everlasting life. It’s also home to Dr Solon, a scientist with a very singular purpose – the resurrection of a Time Lord war criminal called Morbius. Only his brain survives, but Solon, with the help of his brutish servant Condo, has fashioned a monstrous new body to house the brain. All it needs is a compatible head – and the Doctor and Sarah have just dropped in for a visit…

Chapter Titles

  • 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 adapts his own scripts, which were hurried rewrites of scripts by Robert Holmes and broadcast in 1976 under the name ‘Robin Bland’.

Notes: The alien in the first scene is not specifically a ‘Mutt’ from The Mutants, but is identified as Kriz, a member of ‘The Race’, who are six-limbed mutant insects who ‘colonise, not conquer’ as they are a moral species, led by a ‘Great Mother, Goddess and Queen in one’. 

The sisterhood are dressed in black, not various shades of red as on screen. Maren uses a crystal ball. She enjoys immortality like the rest of the Sisterhood, but when they first discovered the secret of the flame, she was already old – hence why she looks ancient. Solon has made many clay busts of Morbius, destroying each one for not being right (yet he feels enthusiastic about his body for Morbius; maybe he just can’t draw fingers…).

The mind-wrestling battle skims over the other faces on the screen (you know the ones) without explanation, merely covered by Sarah having ‘a confused impression of even more faces on the screen’. Read after the events of The Timeless Children, it’s handy that Dicks saw not to lock down the identities of those other faces one way or the other. 

Cover: New artist Mike Little has a large portrait of the Fourth Doctor (using a photo reference from Robot) with Solon facing down the Morbius creature, all three outlined with a thick red line and electrical crackle (the red is dropped for later reprints). It’s a bit… basic compared to earlier efforts. The 1991 reprint cover used Alister Pearson’s gorgeously moody VHS cover, which shows the Doctor (as seen in Seeds of Doom) plus Solon, Maren, Sarah and the Morbius creature.

Final Analysis: It’s surely just a coincidence, or maybe just a product of the era being adapted, but Terrance Dicks follows Ian Marter’s debut with another horror novel. Considering the original script that Dicks wrote differed greatly from what became The Brain of Morbius, he resists the temptation to make sweeping changes to Robert Holmes’s transmitted version. What we get is a straightforward but sombre adaptation, not shying away from the more visceral descriptions, yet not quite reaching the levels of violence we enjoyed with Marter.

Although it’s purely transferring the TV characters to the page, we can note here that this story boasts by far the largest number of roles for women in this era (a period of three years where the ratio of female to male is roughly 1:6, excluding Sarah Jane, but where six entire stories feature no women guest characters at all). This is especially relevant as a reworking of the Frankenstein story, where the underlying subtext, created by a woman writer, was a man trying to create life by completely removing women from the process. Here, we have a man failing to create an authentic lifeform, hiding out mere feet from a community of women who have survived for centuries entirely without men. Our leading lady runs around literally blind to the horrors around her but the hero only survives thanks to a sacrifice on the part of the main female guest character.

Solon’s laboratory lacks the traditional lightning converters and sparks we might expect, the Sisterhood’s own future is assured thanks to a ‘spark’ (in the form of a firework that clears a blockage in the flue of the sacred flame). All of this is present in the book too, but we’ll have to wait a while for the best adaptation of this. Clue: It’s aimed at much younger readers…

Chapter 23. Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks (1976)

Synopsis: The planet Skaro has been a battleground for generations as two races fight for supremacy. Deep beneath the planet’s surface, the chief scientist of the Kaleds, Davros, has determined the final outcome of his race and has planned for their future – as Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are sent by the Time Lords to avert the creation of the Daleks – but do they really have the right to commit genocide?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Secret Mission
  • 2. Prisoners of War
  • 3. The Secret Weapon
  • 4. Rocket of Doom
  • 5. Escape to Danger
  • 6. Betrayal
  • 7. Countdown to Destruction
  • 8. Captives of Davros
  • 9. Rebellion!
  • 10. Decision for the Doctor
  • 11. Triumph of the Daleks
  • 12. A Kind of Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts.

Notes: The story follows on from The Sontaran Experiment with the time travellers expecting to be back at Space Station Nerva [but see The Ark in Space and The Sontaran Experiment for how that doesn’t match the book universe]. Sarah recalls her first encounter with the Daleks on the planet of the Exxilons [See Death to the Daleks in 20 books’ time]  The Doctor  has time to explain the Time Lords’ mission to Sarah and Harry before they’re attacked and endure a more protracted battle on their first approach to the Kaled dome. There’s a little extra information about how Davros came to look the way he does:

Harry Sullivan looked at Davros in horror. ‘What happened to the poor devil?’

‘An atomic shell struck his laboratory during a Thal bombardment,’ whispered Ronson. ‘His body was shattered, but he refused to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.’

A group of Thal soldiers are noted to be blond (as in the earlier stories, even though that was a product of their full cycle of mutation). Sevrin is a giant with agility like an ape, while Bettan has ‘an important official position’ and is responsible for the victory celebrations planned after the end of the war. Davros’s office looks down onto the laboratory, which gives the Doctor and his chums a better view of events than the small monitor they had on TV. As Davros is exterminated by the Daleks, his chair explodes into flames. The new Dalek leader, while announcing their mission statement, decrees that they shall build their own city [a reference to the first Dalek story?]. Sevrin sees the time travellers disappear (and Sarah waves him goodbye before the trio vanishes).

Cover: Achilleos gives the first edition a deceptively simple design as Davros (in a brown tunic) owns the centre while a Dalek lurks at the rear and the Doctor is inset and sepia as if on a screen. Alister Pearson gives the 1991 reprint a similarly plain cover, with the Doctor emerging through the fog as Davros enters, stage left.

Final Analysis: Matching the TV story, the tone of this adaptation is a leap away from the rompy fun of its predecessors. This is grim from the first scene and there’s barely any concession to a younger audience. Maybe it’s the quality of Terry Nation’s scripts (or Dicks’s friendship with the script editor who oversaw then), but considering the TV version has possibly the highest number of exterminations in a story up to this point, Dicks doesn’t shy away from any of it, and even goes into detail and singles out a few individuals for their personal experience of ‘Death by Dalek’. Even the Dalek incubation room benefits from a little extra groo, as Dicks paints a picture of glass tanks containing ‘ghastly-shaped creatures twisted and writhed in agitation, while in the darker corners of the room other monstrosities cowered away timidly’.

As if this couldn’t be more perfect, we get another chapter called ‘Escape to Danger’. Yay!