Chapter 160. Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks (2021)

Synopsis: A dilapidated prison in space comes under attack as the Daleks try to recapture the prison’s sole inmate – their creator, Davros. On Earth in 1984, soldiers investigate strange objects found in an old warehouse. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough are nearby and as they help the army with their search, the Doctor is slowly drawn into a trap…

Chapter Titles

Numbered one to Eleven, plus a Coda.

Background: This is a reprint of Eric Saward’s novel from 2019 with minimal corrections (though to be honest, I’m hard-pushed to spot exactly what), based on his scripts for a serial from 1984. This edition has the smallest type of any Target novel so far.

Notes: The old tramp’s name is Jones. We’re told a little of the history of Shad Thames. Raymond Arthur Stien is a quartermaster sergeant ‘although in charge of distributing the apparatus of war, he himself had always managed to avoid armed confrontation’. Tegan recognises the Cloister Bell – the ‘Campana Magna’. 

The ship is called the Vipod Mor. It used to be a battlecruiser and it fought in the Hexicon Delta Zone Wars, when it was called the Fighting Brigand and captained by Andrew Smyth, known for his ability to drink vast quantities of Voxnik. Then it was sold to ‘the poet, explorer, scientist and lover, Fellion, Vipod Mor’ who, after being caught in a compromising position with his android assistant, was imprisoned in the ship for 97 years. After Fellion’s death, his ship was reclaimed and converted into an actual prison ship [and see the novelisation of Slipback for why this is interesting].

Lieutenant Tyler Mercer has been in space intelligence for eight years and is the youngest head of security in the intergalactic penitentiary service. He’s been in deep-space stasis for two weeks for his journey to the Vipod Mor. The current captain is another one fond of the Voxnik, hence why he’s already drunk when the crisis begins. The ship’s medical officer is Dr Elizabeth Styles. Her assistant is a beautiful android called Monda who is learning German and hopes to learn Terileptil [see The Visitation]. The ship has a cat called Sir Runcible. Ensign Fabian Osborn spends her spare time translating Terileptil poetry into Northern Hemisphere Earth English. She warns Mercer that most of what he learned at the academy doesn’t apply aboard the Vipod Mor. Senior Ensign Baz Seaton was thought to be the dimmest crew member until a computer glitch revealed he had the highest IQ of all. Later, we learn that Seaton is secretly in the employ of the Daleks and is also behind a minor subplot concerning Osborn’s stolen tools. Seaton shoots Osborn but is then shot by Lytton; the mercenary uses a Browning 9mm automatic, which he prefers to modern laser weapons.

The strange objects that (we later learn) contain the Movellan virus samples are hidden in the basement of the warehouse. The Doctor identifies a computer code running through the time corridor and eventually pins it down as Ciskinady, used by the Daleks (Turlough comes to the same conclusion and is sufficiently aware of the Daleks – and, it turns out, Davros! – to recognise their computer code). The Doctor schools Tegan in the basics of Dalek history and, while he believes they were all destroyed, he feels it’s his duty to hunt them down and eradicate them if they’ve returned. The Doctor still uses his half-moon spectacles and in his pockets he carries a wooden HB pencil, some jelly babies and a device to project maps onto surfaces. 

The opposite end of the Dalek corridor emerges on board a Dalek battle cruiser in 4590 (though as the craft travels through the time continuum, this might just be when it arrived, rather than when it’s from originally). The cruiser is presumably stolen as the Daleks have modified it extensively.  Most of the non-Dalek crew of the battle cruiser are Tellurian – ie human [a subtle nod to Robert Holmes – see Carnival of Monsters]. The station has two starfighters at its disposal; engaging with the approaching battle cruiser, they are destroyed in seconds.

According to Tegan, she and the Doctor met Sir Christopher Wren during the Great Fire of London when ‘those Terileptil things were around’. The Doctor reminds her that they met William Shakespeare. She isn’t much of a tea drinker and doesn’t ‘do colonial history’. Turlough is familiar enough with English literature to reference Christopher Robin and recognise a play by Oscar Wilde. He regards his old school as a place for ‘modern-day thuggery’ and abuse. Despite hating his old school, Turlough still wears the uniform as he hopes it will convince the Doctor’s enemies to underestimate a child; he knows this won’t work with Daleks. The Doctor runs like ‘a two-headed sangorstyk being chased by a hungry speelsnape’ (a creature that Saward references in many of his novels).

The Dalek Supreme looks larger than a normal Dalek and has a black body and white ‘nodules’. Gustav Lytton (not ‘Gustave’ as seen in Attack of the Cybermen) has worked with Daleks before and accepts their commissions because they improve his market rates. He finds them ‘noisy, aggressive and highly repetitive’, but this Supreme is quieter and – Lytton’s surprised to learn – a bit sarcastic, telling him ‘only a fool would expect an answer’ to his questions. The Alpha Dalek – the second in command – considers the Supreme ‘effete’.

The station is bombarded by Low-Impact Torpedoes that take out power substations and flood the corridors with acrid smoke before the gas canisters are released. When the mines in the airlock are detonated, 15 Daleks are destroyed (slightly more than the two on telly). The narrator tells us that ‘by now, almost everyone [the prisoner] had known would doubtless be dead’. Considering this is Davros, and he was in suspended animation for thousands of years before he was frozen, this might seem a little obvious, so we must assume that this is a viewpoint generally held by the crew and that they don’t necessarily know the details of his extended timeline:

His lower half, liveried much as a Dalek, was not only his transport but his life support system. On his top half, with its missing left arm, Davros was dressed in the inevitable leather jacket. With blind eyes he observed the world through a single, blue electronic eyeball set into his forehead.

The bomb disposal squad includes metallurgist Professor Sarah Laird, Sergeant Graham Calder, who is an explosives expert and also very good at making a decent pot of tea, and the group leader, Colonel Patrick Archer, who is an academic without much active field experience. The soldier killed by the Dalek in the warehouse is the first to die under Archer’s command, which unnerves the Colonel more than he expects. The soldier attacked by the Dalek mutant is Lance Corporal Miller. 

Turlough has a compass given to him by the Doctor, which he regrets leaving behind in the TARDIS as he gets hopelessly lost aboard the Dalek ship. The Doctor feels uncomfortable killing the Dalek mutant with a handgun. A second Dalek arrives unnoticed at the warehouse, fails to find its fallen comrade and disappears via the time corridor.

Davros enlists help from Trooper engineer Dente Kiston (considering the character was played by future EastEnders star Leslie Grantham, should we wonder if his nickname among the crew was ‘Dirty Dente’?). It’s Lytton, not Kiston who suggests Davros must be ‘equally humane’ in his revenge. The Supreme and Alpha Daleks are aware of Davros’s betrayal from the very start, but the Supreme allows it to play out. Davros is compared to Florence Foster Jenkins attempting a high-C as he rants. A cultural reference for the kids there, Eric.

The TARDIS is said to be from the ‘Type 40 TT series’ but the Doctor has modified it extensively: There’s an art gallery where visitors can gain an insight into artworks by walking around in them; a cavernous wardrobe containing ‘oceans of conflicting garments’; the Explosion Emotion Chamber allows a person to relive sensations and memories; the library contains all of literature from throughout Earth’s history; the robot chef, Ooba-Doa, can conjure up any number of delectable dishes; and the gym, cinema, concert room, private allotment (with its own shed), rock collection and workshops are similarly beyond the realms of a TV budget. The Doctor’s favourite films include Chimes at Midnight (1965, Orson Welles), The Sea Hawk (1940, Michael Curtis) and The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed).

Lance Corporal Miller, controlled by the Dalek poison in his blood, runs off through Shad Thames until he finds a white lorry; he climbs into the back – where he joins his deceased colleagues. A squad of Daleks materialises inside the warehouse to send a high-frequency signal that activates the duplication process (the high-pitched whine that affects Laird on TV). The duplicates then emerge from the back of the white lorry. It’s the Alpha Dalek that intercepts the Doctor on his arrival (‘that’s a new title’, he notes). An officious Gamma Dalek is assigned to guard Davros. A Beta Dalek oversees the duplication room. The two Daleks who are conditioned to obey Davros are Delta and Epsilon. 

Stien loses his stammer when his true identity is revealed and he calls everyone ‘dear boy’ (something Lytton finds especially annoying). The Doctor reveals that he previously met Lytton when he was running a ‘high-class jazz club in Old Compton Street’ (a part of London’s Soho district where Tom Baker spent a lot of the late 70s and early 80s and – presumably – inspired by the similar set-up of Philip Martin’s TV series Gangsters, which starred Lytton actor Maurice Colbourne). Styles is accompanied in the self-destruct chamber by crew member Zena. The Doctor has a lovely little rant at Beta Dalek.

Here we go again, thought the Doctor. ‘Trying to build empires on the back of the dead never works. Kill the Time Lords and you make war on Time itself – all you will get us chaos. And when there is chaos, disaster follows. Have you not learned that?’

The metal detectorist, PJ, was friends with Mr Jones, the tramp shot by the same fake policemen earlier that morning. Tegan is profoundly affected by his murder, a feeling that only increases as she finds the bodies of Colonel Archer and his men. It’s the moment when the Doctor announces his decision to kill Davros when it all becomes too much for her. 

The duplication process triggers memories for the Doctor, regret at having been unable to save Adric and regret at not finding a way of halting the Terileptils in 17th Century London without letting them burn to death. He doesn’t appear to remember other companions although he does recall his fourth and second selves. Lytton tells the Supreme Dalek that the duplicates are failing because they keep remembering their past lives; he’s also aware that the Supreme is concerned by the depleted numbers of the Daleks after their defeat in the war. Davros is aware that the Doctor is a Time Lord and that he is capable of regeneration. As Davros’ Daleks assert that they are not traitors,  Alpha accuses them of blasphemy as ‘the Supreme Dalek is your ruler’. Gamma and Alpha destroy each other in a blast of simultaneous gunfire. The Doctor moves the TARDIS up a level in the warehouse ‘like a lift in Henrik’s’ – yes, the same store Rose Tyler would work in 21 years later. 

The Doctor vows to go after Lytton. Turlough also seems to know who Lytton is (and that he’s an alien too). Tegan wonders if she was too rash in leaving the Doctor. She has been with him for three years and saw many exciting places. She begins to feel strange, as if in possession of new powers. Followed to Tower Bridge by the two policemen, she evades them by dropping down from the bridge edge onto a passing barge. She decides to track down Lytton herself, ‘on her own terms’.

Cover: Anthony Dry’s artwork shows the Doctor with two grey-and-black Daleks.

Final Analysis: There’s something frustrating about Saward’s writing. He often surprises with an odd viewpoint or character insight that really lifts a scene but he also seems easily distracted. Like so many writers in SF, he succumbs too easily to the temptation of trying to make the most mundane, everyday things sound exotic and alien (watch Star Trek for some really bad examples of this), so it’s ‘Terileptil wine’ or ‘Siddion Quartz batteries’ or ‘Tellurian’ whatever, when we really shouldn’t be so focused on such details just as an alien horde is about to burst in. The historical detail about Shad Thames is a lovely piece of background detail that spotlights the history to the location, but when Stien enters the TARDIS and discovers its many rooms, Saward lacks any sense of discipline as he pads the job with giddy abandon to sketch out a hidden dimension of madness that has absolutely no bearing on the plot and adds nothing whatsoever to the characters. Such mind-blowing discoveries could have been the trigger that unlocks Stien’s conditioning, for example, but it just goes nowhere. Also, the tagged-on final sequence with Tegan might have struck Saward as empowerment, but it’s really rather silly.

That’s the negative critique out of the way. This really is the ‘expanded universe’ version of an already popular tale. The crew of the prison station (here named the Vipod Mor, for reasons that apparently completely escaped Saward) are even more disheartened and dejected than they appear on screen, but we’re shown why and how this comes about. The bomb squad are a keen group of experts with likeable personalities but a significant lack of experience in battle situations, so we feel Archer’s discomfort and sense of responsibility as the killings begin. Tegan’s growing distress at the violence that surrounds her is a subtle slow burn, which contrasts her memories of many otherwise uneventful trips to fantastical worlds that we never got to see, while Turlough’s alien nature is illustrated by his love of skulking, his casual knowledge of extra-terrestrial politics and the rather marvellous revelation that he only maintains his school uniform because he believes it will make him seem less of a threat to the Doctor’s enemies if they consider him to be just a mere schoolboy.

Like Robert Holmes, Saward loves using violence as a means to tap the blackly comic cruelty of the universe:

Enveloped by the gas, people started to die. Internal organs atrophied or erupted like massive boils, causing bodies to rapidly decompose. The truly unlucky developed a form of accelerated leprosy where flesh and sinew instantly started to rot. Whoever had designed the gas seemed to possess a highly warped obsession with reducing organic living beings too little more than puddles of acrid slime.

Unsurprisingly, Saward does Davros rather well. We might think of the character as a dry husk, but Saward depicts him as very wet – coughing, spluttering, gurgling and spitting throughout, ‘like a man with a sudden, intense bout of malaria’. He also achieves a minor miracle by giving each of his Daleks subtle characteristics and personalities. The Supreme is pompous and ‘effete’, Alpha is impetuous and full of scorn for the Supreme’s leadership and the conditioned Daleks genuinely don’t understand what the fuss is all about when all they want to do is serve their creator. Our narrator points out that this teetering on the brink of civil war is a recurring issue with Daleks (and having Daleks called Alpha and Beta might also remind us of a previous period of inter-factional hostility in Dalek history). They might not be strictly adhering to Terry Nation’s vision of a unified and logical race, but this is a very welcome addition to the Dalek DNA.

Chapter 107. Doctor Who – The King’s Demons (1986)

Synopsis: King John is an honoured guest at the home of Ranulph and his wife Isabella. When the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough unexpectedly drop in, the King welcomes them and dubs him his ‘Demons’. The King’s champion Sir Gilles views the intrusion with irritation – unsurprisingly, as he is the Master in disguise. But the Master is not the only one pretending to be something he’s not.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Challenge
  • 2. The Demons
  • 3. The King Takes A Hostage
  • 4. The Iron Maiden
  • 5. Command Performance
  • 6. An Old Enemy
  • 7. Doctor Captures King’s Knight
  • 8. ‘Find These Demons!’
  • 9. Kamelion
  • 10. A Battle of Wills

Background: Terence Dudley adapts his own scripts from the 1983 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 20.

Notes: Ranulf Fitzwilliam has been a loyal servant and friend of King John for twelve years [since the French Wars that saw the King lose his hold on the Duchy of Normandy]. He is immediately suspicious of the ‘King’ who sits next to him now, identical to the one he knows, but his manner is vastly different – the way he consumes food ‘like a starving Flemish mercenary’. The King’s eyes are – metaphorically – described as ‘metallic’ and ‘ferrous’. 

Turlough is aware of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate, or as he calls it cheekily, ‘a refit’, and later tells the incredulous Hugh that the Doctor has two hearts and is ‘getting on for eight hundred years old’. He manages to escape from Hugh in the dungeon and is about to flee the cell when Sir Gilles returns with his prisoner, Isabella. Sir Gilles questions Turlough about the Doctor’s ‘blue engine’ and Turlough accidentally reveals that it can only be opened by a key in the Doctor’s possession. The Doctor tells Tegan that Shakespeare did not write history, so cannot be trusted as a factual source. He also shows off knowledge of the King’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitane, and claims that she had told her son, the future King, about the legends of Melusine, the alleged daughter of Satan, which might explain King John’s insistence that the travellers are demons. Tegan recalls her aunt’s murder at the hands of the Master [see Logopolis].

The Doctor and Tegan both recognise the Tissue Compression Eliminator weapon and realise too late that Sir Gilles is the Master; he doesn’t remove his disguise here. He accuses the Doctor of being ‘obtuse’, not naive’. as on telly Tegan tries to disarm him with a cricket ball, not a knife. Despite never having met him, Turlough recognises the Master by the Doctor’s description from some previous point (‘Listen here, Turlough, I know we’ve just had that unpleasant business with the Black Guardian, but the one you really have to watch out for is another black-garbed chap with a pointy beard – calls himself the Master. He’s a Time Lord like me and…’). Tegan is 22 years old (and would very much like to celebrate her 23rd birthday). At one point, the Doctor recalls that he once spent time with the real King John’s brother Richard and helped him in negotiations with Saladin [see The Crusade].

Taking up the role of King’s Champion, the Doctor is dressed in full chain-mail armour and he persuades Sir Geoffrey to head to the dungeon by pretending that his demonic powers can be used to torture Lady Isabella. The gaoler is called ‘Cedric’. The castle is said to be located at Wallingford, near Oxford, which Sir Geoffrey says is five hours away from London by horse. When Sir Geoffrey is shot by the Master, Turlough helps the merely-wounded knight to safety. Ranulf manages to enter the TARDIS and is so disturbed by the confusion of what lies within that he is convinced the Doctor and his friends are demons. Tegan is aware that to set the TARDIS in motion requires the use of one of two switches, ‘the metastasis switch or the transit switch’. After a frustrating first attempt, she uses the transit switch, followed by the input bar. Kamelion’s lute is apparently part of his illusion, as it transforms into a cricket bat when he takes the form of the Doctor. Once back in control of his ship, the Doctor makes an additional hop to both assure Lady Isabella that only the Master is their enemy and to give her some medicine to help Sir Geoffrey recover from his wounds. The Master manages to evade being shrunk by the trap with the TCE left by the Doctor, but it has somehow sent his TARDIS out of control.

Cover: David McAllister paints a jousting competition outside Ranulph Castle as Kameleon dominates the skyline while playing the lute.

Final Analysis: I’ve always felt rather dismissive of Terence Dudley, largely because of Four to Doomsday (where his rather dreary story was adapted without frills / thrills by Terrance Dicks), but his approach to his own novelisation is surprisingly entertaining. As Sir Gilles, the Master outlines his plan to discredit the King through the means of a lengthy tour around some of the King’s most loyal supporters. Once his true identity is revealed and he faces execution inside the Iron Maiden, he orchestrates a display of fear and pleading so over the top that it makes the Doctor think he’s finally succumbed to madness. So distressing is the performance that even Tegan is distressed at the prospect of his grisly death – until the villain escapes in his torture cabinet-disguised TARDIS. 

Turlough is particularly vividly described, even though he spends most of the story in a prison, as on TV; his various attempts to escape and his increasing indignation at being left chained up is hilarious. When he’s finally rescued, Turlough lets out a huge rant that builds to a revelation:

‘Just a minute! Just a minute!’ interrupted Turlough indignantly. ‘Get on with what? What about my trust? What about my enemies? Who’s doing what to whom and why? I’m dragged down into this hole by that young ruffian whose life you saved this morning. Then he’s going to put me into that thing.’ He flicked a hand at the Iron Maiden. ‘Then I’m hung up on the wall by that hairy Frenchman … Estram. Then the other two get rescued by the Master but I’m left there… hanging… and not a sign on my …’ He stopped short, overcome by the suddenness of thought and his mouth and eyes wide in realisation. ‘It’s an anagram! Estram! It’s an anagram!’

The whole anagram thing works so much better in print, but the fact that the Doctor had only just made the same realisation a few pages earlier makes the scene all the funnier.

It’s not all cause for celebration though. As great as he is at capturing Turlough, Dudley’s depiction of Tegan is pretty patronising: The Doctor is profoundly irritated by Tegan’s ‘feminine superficiality’ and her general habit of moaning, which he’d hoped she’d have grown out of, while there’s a lengthy passage mocking her for her ‘practical feminine mind’ prompting her to ask the castle has ‘a back way’. The Doctor also grows exasperated by Tegan’s inability to grasp that the Master didn’t need to drag the TARDIS through narrow doorways when he could dematerialise it; on TV the exchange is swift, but here it takes two pages before Tegan finally understands and calls herself ‘stupid’. It might have been a funnier scene if the author hadn’t spent the entire book having Tegan constantly and repeatedly moan about being cold. And then, to add insult to injury, he has Tegan sink into ‘a swoon’ when she’s surprised by Hugh. Dudley also has the Doctor refer to ‘a marooned stewardess from an Antipodean airline’, while the book ends with the Doctor expecting Tegan to say that he knows she wants him to take her to London airport, which of course was her main goal in the previous season [Terrance Dicks made the same mistake in The Five Doctors]. Considering she spent her first year aboard the TARDIS trying to get back to a job she was swiftly sacked from, it must be particularly jarring for her to still be thought of as flight crew when she can’t have actually done the job for more than a few months.

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 95. Doctor Who – The Awakening (1985)

Synopsis: In an English village, a historical re-enactment of the civil war begins to take a threatening tone. Some of the players are taking things far too seriously, in particular Sir George, who seems particularly driven towards making the event as accurate as possible. When Tegan Jovanka comes looking for her grandfather, she learns that he has disappeared, while the Doctor joins forces with a local schoolteacher and a time-displaced boy to uncover something terrifying in the church crypt…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. An Unexpected Aura
  • 2. The Devil in the Church
  • 3. The Body in the Barn
  • 4. Of Psychic Things
  • 5. ‘A Particularly Nasty Game’
  • 6. The Awakening
  • 7. Tegan the Queen
  • 8. Stone Monkey
  • 9. Servant of the Malus
  • 10. Fulfillment

Background: Eric Pringle adapts his own scripts from the serial broadcast in 1984, the first novel based on a two-part story since The Sontaran Experiment.

Notes: Little Hodcombe is in Dorset (everyone on TV affects that ‘just outside of London’ accent that covers anywhere from Norfolk to Cornwall). Sir George’s ancestors have governed over the region since before the civil war; Will Chandler was in service to one of them and it’s that ancestor that he sees when he pushes Sir George into the Malus. The conclusion suggests that, as he promised to Tegan, the Doctor does indeed stay in the village for a holiday.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s original cover is a handsome portrait of the Malus, free of its crumbling wall frame. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover adds the Doctor and Tegan to a walled-up Malus.

Final Analysis: This is a fun one: Back when this was first published, I wrote a review for a local fanzine in which I moaned about the padding that was evident in the fact that it took ten pages just to get past the first scene. Impatient youth! So, 35 years later, Eric Pringle’s sole contribution to the range is indeed a slow build as he takes his time to describe every detail that we might have seen on screen… and that’s the issue really. Although made as a two-part story, it was commissioned as four episodes and one might have hoped for an expanded novel that featured loads of extra scenes. As it was, the reason the story was reduced in size was because there wasn’t enough to sustain 90 minutes of drama, so apparently very little incident was actually cut. There was one short scene with Kamelion in the TARDIS that was recorded but subsequently removed, but that doesn’t make it into the novel either. 

Of course, I didn’t know there was material missing in 1985 and what we have is a very thorough and accurate adaptation of the story as broadcast. Far from being padded, this novel makes good use of the increased page-count that’s been the standard since Frontios. The characterisation is strong, particularly for Will Chandler. 

Will had given up being surprised. When he had been bobbing and swinging about in the cart and feeling sure that his bones were splintering inside him, he had made up his mind that if he survived he would take everything in his stride from now on. He had discovered that when absolutely everything is extraordinary, nothing is astonishing any more. Running into a blue box, therefore, was simply another wonder to be accepted without demur, and he shrugged as he ran in through its door, as though this sort of thing happened to him every day. 

Oh why wasn’t he a companion?! There’s one thread that gives us an extra hint of Will’s backstory, as he explores the Little Hodcombe of 1984 and is appalled that the events that he remembers from 1643 – which must be just a day or so ago in his own timeline – are happening again. He even notes that this current time has a Squire Hutchinson, just as his own did. The Squire who pressed him into service and whose actions led Will to hide in the church. Come on, Big Finish, surely there’s a gap you could fill with a mini-series? The Will and Jane Adventures!

Chapter 92. Doctor Who – Planet of Fire (1985)

Synopsis: Peri Brown, a young American student, is rescued from drowning by Turlough. Among her belongings is a metallic object that the boy recognises as coming from his own world. The shape-changing robot Kamelion interferes with the TARDIS to take them all to a volcanic planet where a religious order revolves around a teenage boy who might be the key to Turlough’s secret past. A bewildered Peri discovers that Kamelion is being controlled by someone who knows the Doctor well, someone who calls himself ‘The Master’…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Mayday
  • 2. Message Received
  • 3. Destination Unknown
  • 4. Crisis on Sarn
  • 5. A Very Uncivil Servant
  • 6. Outsiders
  • 7. The Misos Triangle
  • 8. An Enemy in Disguise
  • 9. In the Heart of the Volcano
  • 10. The Blue Flame
  • 11. The Time of Fire

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts for the serial broadcast seven months earlier.

Notes: The book begins aboard the ship of Captain Antigonas struggling in a storm. The vessel is weighed down by the treasures of Dimitrios, a fat merchant from Rhodes who is more concerned with the welfare of a marble statue of a boy than for his own life (or those of the crew). He’s last seen clinging to the statue  ‘as if it were a lover’, plummeting to the depths of the ocean. The ancient ways of the doomed mariners are contrasted with the similar fate of the crew of a Trion vessel caught in the gravitational pull of Sarn. Another captain, Grulen, eagerly awaits landing on the planet as several generations of his family once lived there before the volcanoes became overactive. A sudden surge of volcanic activity causes a magnetic storm. Realising they won’t be able to guarantee a safe landing, Grulen opens the security quarters of the ship so that his prisoners might have equal chance of survival as the rest of the crew. Having faced the threat of execution daily, two of the prisoners are resigned to their deaths and as the couple cradle their sleeping child, the father’s thoughts turn to Turlough.

There’s a shuffling of scenes at the start, with all of the scenes on Sarn delayed to chapter 4, which makes a lot more sense. We join the TARDIS in the immediate aftermath of Tegan’s departure. Turlough considered the Australian ‘argumentative, tactless, interfering, brainless and with a voice that could strip paint’; he also misses her terribly and so does the Doctor. Turlough suggests a holiday, and while the Doctor isn’t enthused with the idea, remembering the chaos that ensued after a trip to Brighton, Turlough recalls a holiday with his school chum Ibbotson and his family to Weston-super-Mare – and so is determined that they should find a ‘paradise island’ instead. Kamelion’s screams force the Doctor to realise he’d forgotten all about the robot shapeshifter and notes that he had ‘none of the cheerful loyalty of K9’. His voice is like a speak-your-weight machine. Turlough suspects Kamelion of working with the Custodians on Trion and when the robot advises him to take care under the hot sun (‘with your fair skin you will easily burn’) it sounds to Turlough more like a threat than advice.

Howard Foster speculates that the mysterious metal object might be debris from a Russian satellite. His assistant is Karl, not Curt. Peri mentions a ‘Doc Corfield’ and notes that she would ‘never trust a man with a toupee!!’ Howard is 41 next birthday. He says that Peri has travelled all her life but Peri moans that it’s mainly been a succession of Hilton hotels. She has a trust fund, left to her by her (presumably deceased) father, which will be released to her when she turns 21. The English guys she hopes to go travelling with are called ‘Trevor’ and ‘Kevin’. Peri acknowledges that she’s not a strong swimmer but it’s leg cramp that causes her to come into difficulty as she heads to the shore. Incidentally, Lanzarote is not mentioned at any point in the story; the story begins with the shipwreck off the coast of North Africa (‘the headland’) so Howard’s archeological excavation might take place in Gibraltar, which has easier access to Athens. But it’s probably still Lanzarote in anything but name.

Turlough has a more physical altercation with Kamelion before disabling the robot with a bombardment of waves and dumping him in a spare room. Sarn is a city, not the name of the planet, believed to be the last surviving community after the last earthquakes and firestorms a generation ago. Turlough appears to tell the Doctor the name of his home planet, Trion, for the first time, despite having asked to go there in previous stories. The Doctor quotes Paradise Lost and admonishes Turlough for not studying Milton at school. Misunderstanding Turlough’s intentions, the Doctor calls him a ‘little racialist’: ‘As Tegan had never been slow to point out, Turlough could be a rather nasty piece of work.’ There’s a summary of the Master’s exploits that led to his predicament, during which it’s confirmed that this is his fourteenth incarnation. Turlough and Malkon find a poorly tended grave near the wreck of the Trion ship, which confirms Turlough’s suspicions that Malkon is the only survivor of the crash. The Master’s final teasing line asking the Doctor to ‘show mercy to your own-‘ is cut, as is the final scene on TV where Peri received her proper invitation to join the Doctor.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s illustration depicts the Master and Kamelion in waves of blue flame.

Final Analysis: An elegant adaptation here. I particularly like the way Grimwade makes sure we know when we’re with the Kamelion version of any character as he undermines the illusion in every line: ‘the duplicate professor’; ‘the man in the dark suit who everyone believed to be Professor Foster’; ‘Kamelion in the guise of the American archaeologist’; ‘The robotic Master’. He also has a nice line in similes: The Doctor’s device squeaks ‘like an old lady who has turned her hearing aid up too high’; the volcano grumbled ‘like a sleeping giant with a touch of indigestion’; the Master announces himself to Peri ‘as if he were the Tsar of all Abe Russias’; the Doctor’s party works its way through the streets of Sarn ‘like rodents navigating the secret byways of the skirting board’; the Doctor arrives at the portico ‘like a royal bride’; Kamelion glitters ‘like a Maltese tinfoil Saint at Festa Time,’ and later the robot appears ‘blustered like an actor unsure of his lines’. It’s so much fun seeing which ridiculous comparison he’ll submit next. Though what we’re supposed to make of Peri delivering ‘a sharp kick at the Master’s shins that would have repulsed a Globetrotter’, I’m not so sure.

Chapter 91. Doctor Who – Frontios (1984)

Synopsis: In the far future, the TARDIS suffers a forced landing on the planet Frontios, where the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough find a colony of humans struggling to survive against the elements and the continual bombardments from an unknown aggressor. Then there are the strange unaccountable deaths and the threat of insurrection from citizens tired of rations and restrictions. But Turlough knows the truth. A distant memory from his own people that reveals the attacks are not coming from above, but below.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Refugees of Mankind
  • 2. The Unknown Invaders
  • 3. The Deadly Hail
  • 4. The Power of the Hat-Stand
  • 5. Downwardness
  • 6. Beneath the Rocks
  • 7. The Force Takes Hold
  • 8. Eaten by the Earth
  • 9. The Excavating Machine
  • 10. Prisoners of the Gravis
  • 11. The Price of Rescue
  • 12. Greed Sets the Trap

Background: Christopher H. Bidmead adapts his own scripts for a serial broadcast seven months earlier.

Notes: While Tegan tries in vain to read an unhelpful handbook, Turlough expresses his boredom by tying viciously tight knots into one of the Doctor’s scarves, which the Doctor later fails to unravel. There’s no follow-on from the previous story, so we’re just told that the Doctor has become ‘mysteriously reclusive’ since whatever time and place they last visited. Turlough sees a large portrait on a wall in the medical shelter and Mr Range tells him it’s of their recently deceased leader, Captain Revere (information that I’m sure will come in use later!).

When Norna describes the circumstances of the colony ship’s crash on Frontios, we’re told her grandparents died among many other casualties, but this was many years before she herself was born. Plantagenet is about the same age as Turlough with a ‘thin physique’ and a ‘head of thick, white hair’. There’s a useful paragraph that explains the scale of the crashed ship:

The propulsion chamber led them through into Causeway 8 that ran the length of the ship – a half hour’s brisk walk in the days Brazen was a boy and the ship was whole. Now most of the structure except the stern end was buckled and filled with silt, and only the part of the ship they walked in now was usable for the business of state and the storage of the precious resource reserves.

The Tractators are ‘silver creatures, each larger than a man. Their insect-like bodies were scaled like fish, and from their underbellies a pale luminescence emanated’. They have ‘two bulbous eyes on either side of the shrimp-like head’ with ‘glossy black mouths’. Their leader, the Gravis, rises up on ‘innumerable rear legs’ and he’s said to be larger than the other Tractators. As the creatures notice Norna, she experiences the sensation of them ‘threatening to drag her flesh from her bones’. Later, we’re told ‘her hair stood up on her head in spikes’… well, it was the 80s…

Norna and her father find a plaque, not a map, which tells them that Revere found no valuable minerals as of the year ‘Alpha 14404’. Brazen’s Deputy is introduced early on, accompanying him as he discovers the blue Police Box in the colony. It’s only when Mr Range faces the inquiry that we learn the Deputy is a woman. The Gravis has a translation machine and an excavation machine that utilise human body parts in very grizzly ways; the excavator is also vaguely the same shape as a Tractator. There are two colonists called ‘Kernighan’ and ‘Ritchie’, named after Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, computer scientists who literally wrote the book on the subject of the programming language ‘C’.

The Gravis claims that they know of the Doctor ‘by reputation’ and explicitly states his belief that the Doctor has been sent by the Time Lords of Gallifrey to prevent their plans (and of course, he also knows what a TARDIS is, though not what it looks like). Much more is made of the Doctor’s ruse that Tegan is an android and as she recalls how she accidentally stumbled aboard the TARDIS and how she cared for the Doctor after his regeneration, she is outraged and not quite realising what the Doctor is doing until he gives her ‘a swift, barely perceptible wink’. He later claims to need his spectacles just to buy him enough time to explain his deception to Tegan. He uses the half-frame spectacles ‘when the print was very small, or the book unusually dull’, though he tells the Gravis that they have ‘poly-directrix lenses with circular polarising filters [to] reduce spectral reflection as much as seventy-five percent, without any perceptible deterioration of resolution’, which is ‘Gallifreyan technology – like the TARDIS’. Observing the wrecked excavation machine, the Doctor utters ‘a Gallifreyan word that is said in these circumstances’.

Cockerill appears to assume the post left vacant by Brazen as Plantagenet’s second in command, taking on an official uniform, giving tasks to the survivors and tempting the Retrogrades back into the community. The final scene where the TARDIS is caught in a plot device from the next story is omitted, though it’s hinted at by the closing line: ‘More serious trouble was on the way for the Doctor, nevertheless. But that was only to be expected.’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s illustration shows a rather dignified profile of the Gravis, with Frontios in the background during a bombardment.

Final Analysis: I’ve been gently critical of Christopher Bidmead’s arrogance leaking into his previous novels, so it’s a relief to see that aspect missing here. Instead, we get a slow-burning horror story that gives Ian Marter a serious challenge with some genuinely unsettling body horror. The Gravis’s translation device consists of ‘a tall narrow trolley that floated a foot or so above the ground… mounted on it was the head and one arm of a dead Colonist, connected by improvised metalwork to a swinging pendulum’. As it speaks, ‘its dead mouth moving to the click of the pendulum’. Then there’s ‘the machine’ – the excavator – which ‘needs a captive human mind to drive it’ and uses human hands to smooth the walls of their tunnels:

White bones tipped with metal cutters scraped against the rock, while rotting hands polished the surface smooth. Through illuminated windows in the body Tegan glimpsed more mechanically gesticulating human arms and legs in an advanced state of decay. It was a machine built from the dead.

While Marter likes his violence wet and gooey, this is more mechanical, playing on castration anxiety and the ‘vagina dentata’ folklore as much as Jaws, where the ground devours people and then the Tractators’ machines chew them up and reconstitute the parts as required. Just look at Bidmead’s description of the Doctor’s reaction here:

The Doctor was not very fond of tunnels at the best of times. They were frequently damp, dark, deep and dangerous, and as a method of transport ranked only a little higher than sitting absolutely still under water waiting for the right current. The best place to be in a tunnel was outside, and if you had to be inside, the less inside you were the better.

We don’t even need Dr Freud to explain this one, do we boys? No wonder 80s producer John Nathan-Turner kept reassuring his audience of quivering adolescents that there’d be ‘no hanky panky aboard the TARDIS’…

Chapter 87. Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep (1984)

Synopsis: The Earth was once home to a race of intelligent reptiles who dominated the land and the sea. Having spent millions of years in hibernation, they are now preparing to awake and reclaim their planet. As the personnel of a nearby underwater military base run tests in preparation for a potential war, their paranoia and stress is being exploited from within by agents secretly working for a foreign power. The Doctor has failed to broker peace with the reptiles before, but now the Sea Devils and Silurians are working together to trigger a war that could eradicate humanity entirely.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Intruder
  • 2. The Traitors
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. The Sea Devils Awake
  • 5. The Attack
  • 6. The Myrka
  • 7. The Breakthrough
  • 8. Sabotage
  • 9. The Hostage
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Counterattack
  • 12. Sacrifice

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for the serial broadcast just four months earlier.

Notes: By 2084, Earth is divided into two power blocs, East and West (suggested on screen but not spelled out) and after space stations proved vulnerable to ‘spy-satellites and the searing blast of laser beams’, many of Earth’s defence systems are now housed under the sea. Commander Vorshak has ‘the rugged good looks of a recruiting-poster hero, much to his own embarrassment’. The hull of the Silurian vessel has an irregular surface, as if it were ‘grown rather than manufactured’. The Silurians are ‘immensely tall, robed figures’…:

… brown-skinned with great crested heads and huge bulging eyes. Their slow, almost stately movements, their coldly measured speech-tones gave evidence of their reptilian origin.

Icthar is confirmed as the sole survivor of the ‘Silurian Triad’ and it’s made clear that the Doctor specifically remembers him as one of three Silurians from their origin story [see The Cave Monsters for Okdel, K’to and Morka – thought he could be one of the other bystanders who survives the end of the story only to be entombed]. He led the return to hibernation and awoke over a hundred years later. The Sea Devil warriors are in suspended animation in a chamber in the bowels of the Silurian ship (not in their own base as on TV), which is where Icthar found them, frozen under a polar ice cap (so Sea Devils and Silurians presumably had an alliance at some earlier point, considering the Sea Devils are piloting a craft that the Doctor recognises as specifically Silurian). There’s a handy addition to the backstory of the Earth Reptiles, summarising their two previous appearances. Apparently, many of them had developed’ almost mystic powers, the Silurian ‘third eye’ being ‘the source of psychic energy that enabled some Silurians to dominate lesser races by sheer mental force’.

Terrance Dicks still considers Tegan to be an ‘air-hostess’; she hasn’t been one for some time now, after she was sacked, and hadn’t actually started work prior to Time Flight, so it might be time to accept that she’s ex-flight crew now and let her move on, eh?

Doctor Solow was recruited by Nilson to the cause of the Eastern Bloc. She was ‘disappointed in her career, left alone by the death of her husband and her parents’ so she fell ‘an easy prey to Nilson’s arguments’. Icthar found the Myrka along with Sauvix’s ship and revived it. The beast is ‘like a kind of pocket dinosaur’ with a ‘hideous dragon-like head’ and ‘a long tail’ that is agile enough to use as a weapon against its attackers.

The Doctor climbs out of his stolen Sea-Base uniform as soon as he hands the gun over to Vorshak. The charred bulkhead door reminds Turlough of toast, which triggers a memory of ‘study teas’ at his public school, ‘with a terrified fag to make the toast’; for non-English readers, this isn’t quite as offensive as it sounds, referring to the public-school practice of forcing the younger boys to work as servants (or fags) for older boys. The fact that he finds himself running towards the sound of battle with a gun in his hand strikes Turlough as odd. Later, he and Preston shoot down two Sea Devils to rescue the Doctor and Tegan; Turlough reminds Preston to ‘Aim for the head’. Tegan is surprised by Turlough’s change of heart but decides to give him the benefit of the doubt. As the Doctor laments that there ‘should have been another way’, he also recognises that Bulic won’t be the sole survivor and maybe he can lead the others and get the base running again.

Cover: The first release boasts a straightforward portrait of a Sea Devil warrior by Andrew Skilleter. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover is really classy, with the sea base and the Doctor between a Silurian and a Sea Devil. There’s also a new brand logo, the colourful target is dropped in favour of a hollow, white line drawing.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks has form for improving on the limitations of what could be achieved in a studio: Adapting a story that was famously overlit because of external pressures, he tells us here that the whiteness of the sea base is intentional, a design choice to counter the blackness of the deep sea; while the Silurians walk and speak slowly not because of restrictive costumes but because it’s dignified to do so; the heavy bulkhead door lands on Tegan, whose foot is ‘only trapped, not mangled’; and the Myrka is a horrific beast with a lithe and deadly tail! In truth, I’ve always loved this story, so it’s gratifying to see Terrance do it justice, even if some of the enhancements are tongue in cheek, it at least allows him to pay tribute to his friend Malcolm Hulke in reminding new readers of the origins of the Sea Devils and Silurians.

We should remember also that this novel, like the story it retells, was released in 1984, the year that Ultravox released Dancing with Tears in My Eyes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood topped the charts with Two Tribes. While the TV episodes and the novel both predate the harrowing drama Threads this was the peak year for anxiety of mutual annihilation from a nuclear attack, the most ‘1984’ story we could have got, short of a celebrity historical where the Doctor meets George Orwell.

Chapter 85. Doctor Who – Enlightenment (1984)

Synopsis: As the Black Guardian tightens his grasp on the terrified Turlough, the time travellers find themselves taking part in a race across the solar system. The players are a race of Eternals and the prize is ‘enlightenment’, though nobody seems too sure what that means. As one of the eternals tries to cheat their way to victory, the finish line offers a surprising choice for Turlough.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Winner Takes All
  • 2. The Race
  • 3. Here She Blows!
  • 4. Marker Buoy
  • 5. One Down!
  • 6. The Officers
  • 7. Man Overboard!
  • 8. The Buccaneer
  • 9. The Grid Room
  • 10. Spy!
  • 11. Focus Point
  • 12. The Prize

Background: Barbara Clegg adapts her scripts from the 1983 serial. She’s the first woman to write for Target’s Doctor Who range.

Notes: As on TV, Turlough and Tegan play chess as a foreshadowing of the battle between the Guardians; significantly, on TV, Turlough chooses to play as white, but here he’s black. The Black Guardian doesn’t appear after the White Guardian at the beginning. The Doctor reviews a newspaper to discern that it’s 1901 (the newspaper on TV is from a year later). In her quarters aboard Striker’s ship, Tegan is startled to see the dress that Lady Cranleigh gave her among her things [see Black Orchid]. Striker’s ship is unnamed (although it’s only named on screen on a lifebelt). Turlough’s communication crystal for the Black Guardian is, once again, a cube. 

Quick trigger warning: Aboard the Buccaneer, Turlough sees ‘Persian rugs and a negro statue holding a great candelabra’. Mansell is a much bigger man than on telly: 

… his brocaded coat flashed with gold thread, but it appeared to have belonged once to someone else, for it fitted him poorly. His broad shoulders were nearly bursting the seams. He walked with the lithe power of a black athlete…

The Doctor speculates that Eternals don’t have a human form, but simulate it based on the minds of their ‘ephemeral’ crews. Wrack’s deadly jewels include crystals and sapphires as well as the ruby gems seen on TV; they’re all described as ‘capuchon’, so they’re polished, not cut like more modern gems.When activated by Wrack, the gem in Tegan’s tiara turns black and as the Doctor tries to destroy it, they can all hear the voice of the Black Guardian saying ‘Focus… focus…’ (this happens on TV, but it’s not clear if it’s diegetic sound or just a theatrical device). As the ‘Enlighteners’ (the two Guardians) reveal the prize of the race, the Doctor tells Turlough that he wasn’t sure who the boy would push overboard on the Buccaneer; Turlough confesses, neither did he.

Cover: That daft cutout of the Doctor is still blocking the logo, but Andrew Skilleter captures that beautiful image of the sailing ships floating through space towards the glowing Enlightenment.

Final Analysis: Again, the original scriptwriter novelises the story and it’s a cracker. Barbara Clegg brings a level of nuance that I’m not sure we’d have got with Terrance Dicks. While other writers have highlighted Tegan’s brashness, Clegg delves a little deeper: When Marriner corners Tegan and appears ‘inexperienced’ in his pursuit, Tegan feels she can cope with the situation: 

There had been other young men boringly concerned about her in the past. She was on home ground…. She did hate emotional scenes, particularly when she could not return the emotion.

Clegg also chooses to hide the Black Guardian’s involvement until very late on, so for any reader who’s missed Turlough’s previous adventures so far, his involvement with the Doctor’s enemy will come as quite a shock.

Chapter 82. Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead (1984)

Synopsis: A chance reunion with the Brigadier at a boys’ school is just the beginning of the Doctor’s troubles. An alien seeks a cure for himself and his colleagues who are trapped in an eternal mutation. Tegan is lost in another time. And Turlough, one of the Brigadier’s pupils, has just made a terrible promise to a powerful being – the Black Guardian has returned. With Turlough’s help, the Guardian will have his revenge on the Doctor!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. An Accidental Meeting
  • 2. A New Enemy
  • 3. An Old Friend
  • 4. The Alien in the Tardis
  • 5. Return to the Ship
  • 6. Rising of the Undead
  • 7. Double Danger of the Brigadier
  • 8. All Present and Correct

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts from the serial broadcast six months earlier.

Notes: The building that is now Brendan School was once the country seat of the Mulle-Heskith family. The school was founded in 1922 and the obelisk on the brow of the hill is a tribute to a late member of the former occupants, General Rufus Mulle-Heskith. By 1983, the headmaster of the school is a Mr Sellick, who owns a ‘smelly doberman’. The school medic, Dr Peter Runciman, is aided by the matron, Miss Cassidy. Turlough joined Brendan School at sixth-form level, so is at least 16 years old; as the story begins in summer, he can’t be more than 17, or else he’d be looking forward to being free of the school forever in just a month or so, so he must be in the lower-sixth with a full year to go before freedom – or his next enforced prison. He is ‘thin as a willow, his auburn hair, blue eyes and sharp-boned face investing him with an unworldly, pre-Raphaelite appearance’. His friend Ibbotson is ‘a lump’ and ‘a bore’. 

After Turlough’s antics with his new car, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart tells Dr Runciman that longs for the return of capital punishmen: As we discussed in the chapter about The Sea Devils, the death penalty was repealed in the UK for murder in 1965 (and for most other offenses except treason in 1969); while the Brigadier’s reaction is extreme (and not to be taken seriously), most schools in the UK still practiced corporal punishment (the entirely less terminal practice of beating or otherwise physically abusing children as punishment) until it was banned (thanks to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights) in 1986. However, at private schools such as Brendan, which possibly had no financial support from the government, corporal punishment was still permitted in England and Wales until 1998. So when Turlough and Ibbotson talk about a ‘beating’, it’s likely to have involved being hit repeatedly by either a length of wooden cane or a leather strap.

The identity of the main villain is revealed gradually; as on screen he introduces himself as Turlough’s ‘guardian’ and then ‘the voice of the man in black’ (a subtle nod for older readers to Valentine Dyall’s most famous radio persona) before finally being confirmed as the Black Guardian. Turlough’s bargain with his ‘guardian’ is left vague, as the boy can’t quite remember what he agreed to, and his various attempts to kill the Doctor are defined more clearly as being down to the Black Guardian’s possession of Turlough than conscious acts on the boy’s part. As in Terminus, the Black Guardian’s controlling device is a crystal ‘cube’. Very early on, he’s identified as the Doctor’s ‘new companion’ – if there were any doubt, having already met the character in two previous novels by this point. Turlough reveals his extra-terrestrial knowledge very swiftly too, which both makes Tegan suspicious and sends a very deliberate message to the Doctor that the boy is not from Earth without having to spell it out for him.

To distinguish the sunny 1983 setting, in 1977 it’s raining. The spherical capsule is said to be ‘dimensionally transcendental’ like the TARDIS – a further clue to the source of Mawdryn’s people’s curse. Tegan recalls the smell of ‘slaughtered cattle’ on her uncle’s farm when she was a child. Mawdryn is much more alien in his natural form, with ‘bulging reptilian eyes, his high domed forehead and slimy flesh that crept and quivered like a stranded fish’. Seeing the misery of Mawdryn reminds the Brigadier of an incident 35 years earlier when he was a lieutenant in Palestine, when a badly wounded young conscript begged him to ‘take his rifle and kill him’.

On his return to the school, the Brigadier reassures the headmaster that there will be no request to return Turlough’s fees; the headmaster is unperturbed by Turlough’s disappearance as such things are a regular occurrence. A mechanic from a nearby village has fallen in love with the Brigadier’s car and has offered to help make it roadworthy again, so to celebrate, the Brig goes to the pub.

Cover: Another really dull photo cover of the Doctor in the TARDIS. Alister Pearson’s 1991 reprint cover is so much better, another “floating heads’ design incorporating The Doctor, Mawdryn, the Black Guardian, the transmat pod and Turlough, all around a 1977 Queen’s Silver jubilee pin. 

Final Analysis: I said I was looking forward to Peter Grimwade’s next effort and this is a huge step up from Time Flight. The author attended a similar school to Brendan in the 1950s and he deftly captures the casual brutality of public-school life. Obligatory note for American readers: ‘Public school’ means it’s a private school with fees to be paid; the equivalent of the US ‘public school’ is a state school like Coal Hill. Grimwade depicts the Brigadier’s ‘flashback’ montage from TV in a beautiful way, with quotes of the Doctor from past adventures that start to swim into sharp focus as the Brigadier’s memory returns. He also explores the abject misery of Mawdryn and his people in a way that affects the Doctor’s friends in different ways. Turlough is shown to be sly and self-serving but with a glimmer of hope that he isn’t completely under the influence of the Black Guardian, and just in case there’s any doubt, Tegan’s intuition is proven to be right at every single stage of the story, from her suspicion of Turlough to her incredulity that the disfigured Mawdryn is the Doctor.

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.