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.

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!

Chapter 17. Doctor Who – The Three Doctors (1975)

Synopsis: A strange blob of jelly invades UNIT HQ while the Time Lords are being drained of energy. The answer to the mystery lies on the other side of a black hole, where a Time Lord legend waits to enact his revenge. As the Time Lords break one of their strictest rules to allow three of the Doctor’s incarnations to work together, Jo Grant worries they might only end up bickering…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Lightning from Space
  • 2. Attack from the Unknown
  • 3. The Menace of the Black Hole
  • 4. Beyond the Unknown
  • 5. A Shock for the Brigadier
  • 6. In the Hands of the Enemy
  • 7. Door to Freedom
  • 8. Escape from Omega
  • 9 .’All things shall be destroyed’
  • 10. Return through the Flame
  • 11. Three Doctors Minus Two

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the 1973 scripts by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

Notes: The Second Doctor has ‘dark brown eyes’ (which doesn’t match Patrick Troughton) that are ‘at once humorous and sad’. Omega’s servants are only called ‘Jelly creatures’ and ‘blob-men’ – not ‘Gellguards’ as we’ve come to know them. The First Doctor asks ‘what’s a bridge for?’ and it’s Jo who suggests ‘crossing?’, prompting the old Doctor to note ‘Gel’s got more sense than the two of you put together!’ (it’s the Third Doctor who grabs the glory on TV). The battle with Omega’s monster takes place in an open-air arena and the beast itself is still humanoid but eight feet tall and muscular (rather than a short avante-garde dance performer). There’s a hilarious pitch battle in chapter 10 where Jo is ‘staggering under the weight of an anti-tank rifle’ before she fires at the blob men and falls backwards, deciding instead to be an ‘observer’.

Cover: A Chris Achilleos classic, using references from the familiar Three Doctors photoshoot and merging them with a classic Jack Kirby Fantastic Four cover (depicting Galactus where Omega would be). It’s a vision in orange and gold. The first edition also has a rear illustration by Achilleos showing the second Doctor being led away by two blob-men. My first copy was the 1978 reprint with a cover by Jeff Cummins showing the three Doctors in front of a black hole in space (it’s the one a reader of Doctor Who Magazine criticised for making the Doctors look too old, too evil and ‘too Welsh’!). The Pertwee is from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the Hartnell from An Unearthly Child and the Troughton isn’t the Doctor, but Salamander – hence why he’s ‘too evil’. A 1991 edition with a cover by Alister Pearson is a little more stylised, with a photorealistic Omega ranting before a backdrop of burnt-out Doctors as banners in front of a black circle.

Final Analysis: Dicks makes Jo our point-of-view character, so to her, the other Doctor that Benton knows is her ‘Doctor Two’, while the one on the scanner screen is ‘the old man’ and ‘the old Doctor’, which works so well. Dicks also has Doctor Two correctly identify his instrument as a recorder – then refer to it as a ‘flute’ for the rest of the book!