Chapter 140. Doctor Who – The Chase (1989)

Synopsis: A brief holiday on the planet Aridius is interrupted when the Doctor gains advance warning that the Daleks are coming for him. So begins a frantic flight through time, each stop brings their pursuers ever closer. Their final battleground is Mechanus, home to killer plants, the robotic Mechanoids and their sole prisoner, a space pilot called Steven. As the Doctor prepares to confront his enemies at last, his friends have no idea that this will be their last adventure together in the TARDIS.

Chapter Titles

  • Author’s Note
  • 1. The Executioners
  • 2. A Speech in Time
  • 3. The Sands of Death
  • 4. The Victims
  • 5. Deadline
  • 6. Flight through Eternity
  • 7. Nightmare
  • 8. Journey into Terror
  • 9. Fallen Spirits
  • 10. Who’s Who?
  • 11. To the Death!
  • 12. The Mechanoids
  • 13. The End of the Hunt
  • 14. Home!

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from a 1965 serial by Terry Nation. As the author’s note explains, he worked mainly from early drafts, before they were rewritten by story editor Dennis Spooner, so he explains that the book is ‘not strictly an adaptation of the televised version of The Chase’ (ie, it’s not written as if by Terrance Dicks).

Notes: The opening chapter depicts a grand Dalek control room with ‘a background pulse, like an electronic heart slowly beating’. The Black Dalek looks down from a raised platform onto various other Dalek units, including a Chief Scientist. The Daleks know the Doctor by name. They’re also aware that his appearance ‘has changed many times over the years’ and they have tracked him through his ‘basic metabolic pattern’ [meaning these Daleks come from the Doctor’s own future]. 

The Doctor ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS and lost the operational notes while on prehistoric Earth. He is nearly 750 years old and has not yet experienced his first regeneration. We’re reminded of the introduction stories of Ian and Barbara, that Susan left the TARDIS after falling in love and that Vicki recently joined them after being rescued from the planet Dido. The space/time visualiser is just one of many trinkets that the Doctor has picked up over the years. Neither Ian nor Barbara recognise the Beatles song that appears on the visualiser. Vicki has not encountered a Dalek up to this point, but knows of them from her history books.

The Daleks are led by the Dalek Prime, which is ‘larger than most, and painted a uniform golden colour’ (similar to the Emperor from the comic strips). The TARDIS team have encountered the Daleks twice before. The Daleks use flying discs to survey the surface of Aridius. Aridians have blue skin and they wear the skins of mire beasts as cloaks. We’re party to the meeting of the Aridian elders with the Daleks where they’re given the ultimatum. Ian and Barbara had an unseen adventure on Cetus Alpha. The TARDIS dematerialises with a ‘customary groaning and wheezing’. The Dalek time ship is powered by Taranium, ‘both the rarest and most unstable element in the Universe’; one gram can power a time ship for centuries and it took the Daleks two decades to obtain that amount. 

It’s clear the author has done a little research into the crew of the Mary Celeste as the characters are named and fleshed out (he also has one of them exterminated by a Dalek – something that we don’t see on TV). The schoolteachers debate whether they were responsible for the death of the passengers and crew of the ship and Ian reminds Barbara of her attempts to change the history of the Aztecs; they take some comfort from the possibility that the Marie Celeste was always fated to become a mystery. Morton C. Dill is from Alabama. He encounters the TARDIS crew and a Dalek in 1967. The Dalek considers killing him, but then decides to let him live, considering it ‘far worse for the human race to allow this fool to live on’. Ever since that day. Dill has been a resident of the Newman Rehabilitation Clinic for the bewildered (a reference to a routine by American humourist Tom Lehrer). The haunted house is a part of Battersea Funfair, London, and is closed for repair. Vicki uses her months of experience of operating the radio on the crashed spaceship on Dido to use the Dalek radio. After the robot Doctor is destroyed, the real Doctor proves his credentials by reminding his companions of their past adventures, how Ian was knighted by Richard Coeur de Lion, Vicki, led a ‘revolution on the planet Xeros’ and Barbara ‘escaped with the Menoptera from the Crater of Needles’.

Steven Taylor explains that the Earth’s plans for expansion were brought to an end by the Draconian conflict, followed by the Third Dalek War. Realising that the execution squad is outnumbered by Mechonoids and facing defeat, the Dalek squad leader separates from the battle to hack into a computer and trigger the city’s destruction in a final attempt to trap the TARDIS crew. 

Steven manages to escape, makes his way through the jungle and reaches the TARDIS, where he collapses. The Doctor is initially very dismissive of the unstable and brutish Dalek technology of their time ship, but quickly becomes more tactful to avoid frightening Ian and Barbara. He’s pragmatic enough to help the schoolteachers to use the Dalek time ship to return home, but he deliberately sets the time of their destination a couple of years in their future to offset the three years they’ve spent travelling with him. They return to the TARDIS to collect their belongings, including souvenirs of their travels. Barbara wonders if she owes back-rent on her flat, while teasing Ian about the amount of dust that will have settled in the house that he owns. They stow their belongings at King’s Cross Station before enjoying a visit to a pub by the Thames and exploring their home city anew.

Cover: Against a backdrop of the time vortex, divided like a 16-hour clock, the Doctor looks across at a Mechanoid and the city of Mechanus, a Dalek, a mire beast and the Mary Celeste. A suitably busy composition from Alister Pearson.

Final Analysis: There was a lot of build-up to this, the first of the remaining Terry Nation Dalek stories to be novelised, courtesy of a deal struck with author John Peel. I’m a fan of the TV story – comical elements included – and the scattergun approach is the set-up for the next Dalek story, which is similarly meandering but on a grander scale. Glad to say, I’m also a fan of this novel. It’s determined to be grown-up about it all, so the jokey aspects are cut back massively, and some of the additional details appeal mainly to the fan gene in linking this story to ones broadcast later or told in other media. At this point in the history of Target, that’s who the readership was. Peel manages to make the Daleks menacing, scheming and not remotely comical (something their own creator chose not to do in the original TV version). His real success though is in capturing the TARDIS team, the growing relationship between the schoolteachers, Vicki’s resourcefulness and most of all the Doctor’s contrary nature, clearly lamenting the departure of two people who forced their way into his life and became good friends – but refusing to let this show. It’s rather wonderful to have another adventure with this particular crew, as this is the last of their adventures to be novelised. And there are only two more stories from this era left to come… 

Chapter 125. Doctor Who – The Time Meddler (1988)

Synopsis: New arrival in the TARDIS Steven Taylor cannot accept that he’s travelled in time, even when confronted with a Viking helmet in the year 1066. Landing on a beach, the Doctor and his friends explore the coastline and find themselves in a village near a monastery where the only inhabitant is a very furtive, very secretive monk. The Doctor immediately recognises him as one of his own people, but unlike the Doctor, he has no concerns about changing history, in fact, that’s what the Monk is determined to do.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1 The Watcher
  • 2 The Saxons
  • 3 The Monastery
  • 4 Prisoners of the Saxons
  • 5 The Vikings
  • 6 An Empty Cell
  • 7 Unwelcome Visitors
  • 8 The Secret of the Monastery
  • 9 The Monk’s Master Plan
  • 10 A Threat to the Future
  • 11 A Parting Gift
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts by Dennis Spooner for a story from 1965.

Notes: A prologue offers a scene from The Chase not shown on TV as Steven Taylor flees the burning City of the Mechonoids and the ‘strange alien creatures who had come to this planet in search of four mysterious space travellers’. Clutching his stuffed panda and avoiding the Fungoid plants, he runs for hours in pursuit of the four travellers, who had helped him escape. Eventually, he finds a blue box in the jungle and makes his way inside before passing out. And a generation of fans cheer!

The Doctor has ‘sharp blue eyes’ [as we’ve established, the actor who played him had brown eyes]. Vicki is ‘little more than five feet tall’ and she has ‘elfin good looks and a mischievous little-girl smile’. The TARDIS control room contains a Louis Quatorze chair and an ormolu clock, which has stopped. We’re reminded that Vicki came from the 25th Century and that she is an orphan. She had assumed that Steven had died in the flames. 

Edith and Wulnoth have been married for 15 years, though it’s said that she has aged considerably more than her thirty years (a little harsh on actress Alethea Charlton there!). The Monk’s carefully prepared breakfast for the Doctor is a masterpiece in time-trolling: Using a ‘Baby Belling stove’, a non-stick frying pan and a steel spatula, he cooks bacon, sausage and fried eggs; charred toast is delivered from a rusty toaster, served up on a plate with a bottle of tomato ketchup and a mug of instant coffee; and as he approaches the Doctor’s cell, he whistles a tune that won’t be written for nine hundred years (so, around 1965; later, he returns to the monastery whistling a Beatles song, so maybe it’s Ticket to Ride, which had appeared in the previous story, although reading this after 1988, Yesterday would be funnier).

The Doctor spells out for Steven and Vicki the consequences of the Monk’s ‘master plan’ – that as they are both English (new information, by the way!), the chances are that somewhere in their lineage is someone of Norman blood, someone who might die because of the Monk’s interference, thereby wiping out their descendants. It’s a tidy way of making the Doctor’s role much clearer to his young friends and to the reader. After taking the dimensional stabiliser from the Monk’s TARDIS, the Doctor also ensures that the atomic cannon is removed from the clifftop (and Steven has to lug it back to the TARDIS). The Doctor’s line about not being a ‘mountain goat’ (which he so beautifully fluffs on TV) is moved to the end of the book. In the epilogue, we discover the ridiculous effort the Monk puts into messing up time: Fearing some kind of reprisals from his ever-growing list of enemies, the Monk decides to leave his TARDIS in the chapel and cross England on a stolen horse to keep his plan on track; he reaches the infamous battle too late and sees William of Normandy declared the victor; the Monk heads north again to find the Doctor has stranded him in 1066 with a broken TARDIS.

Cover: Jeff Cummins makes his final contribution to the series with a haunting portrait of the Monk lighting beacons on the cliff tops. The image was flipped for the 1992 reprint, for some reason, accompanied by a ‘NOW BACK ON TELEVISION’ exclamation to tie in with the repeats on BBC 2.

Final Analysis: I’m growing rather fond of Nigel Robinson. He’s taken Terrance Dicks’ approach of transferring the script faithfully to the novel format, just adding additional information and tidying as he goes. There’s a charming significance to the way he captures Vicki by pulling in a detail of Maureen O’Brien’s performance, in that she pacifies the Doctor the same way the actress had quelled the fractious temper of her co-star. That he’s also choosing to cover the less favoured stories himself really underlines the mission to create a complete library of adaptations.

Chapter 119. Doctor Who – The Romans (1987)

Synopsis: The time travellers enjoy a relaxing time in a villa just outside Rome. As the Doctor and Vicki head off on a trip to the city, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by slave traders. Barbara is bought by a slave-master working for the Emperor Nero, but Ian’s fate is to be placed at the oars of a slave ship. Can the Doctor solve some of the mysteries surrounding Nero without affecting established history?

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • I First Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • II First Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • III First Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • IV Second Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • V Second Extract from the journal of Ian Chesterton
  • VI Second Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • VII Third Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • VIII Third Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • IX Third Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • X Fourth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XI First Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XII Fourth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XIII First Selection of jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XIV Fourth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XV Fifth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XVI Fifth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XVII Second Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XVIII A Poisoner Remembers
  • XIX Letter from Barbara Wright
  • XX Second Selection of Jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XXI Sixth Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XXII Third Extract from the Commonplace Book of Poppea Sabina
  • XXIII Fifth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XXIV Sixth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XXV Seventh Extract from the Journal of Ian Chesterton
  • XXVI Seventh Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • XXVII Sixth Letter from Legionary (Second Class) Ascaris
  • XXVIII Third Selection of Jottings from Nero’s Scrapbook
  • XXIX Eighth Extract from the Doctor’s Diary
  • Epilogue

That ‘most number of chapters in a novelisation’ record (previously held by The Myth Makers) gets smashed here with 29, plus a prologue and epilogue.

Background: Donald Cotton’s adaptation of scripts by Dennis Spooner for a story from 1965 arrives 22 years and two months after it was broadcast on TV. It’s the only time Cotton approaches scripts originally written by someone other than himself.

Notes: Consistent with his previous novels, this version of The Romans is narrated by Tacitus, the great Roman historian. Here though, Tacitus’s role is that of a framing narrative, within which appear certain documents that have fallen into his hands – diaries and letters written by Ian, the Doctor and Barbara, among others (as the chapter listing above shows). As a consequence, this is the first novel to be narrated in part by Ian Chesterton since the very first one. His chapters are addressed to his headmaster (who might or might not be the same one we’ll actually meet in a later story) and he fears his employer assumes that he and Barbara have eloped, which might affect their pensions. In the Doctor’s journal, he confesses that he intends to leave the school teachers behind when he visits Rome, due to his concerns that Ian’s politics might get him into trouble in the heart of an Empire, while Barbara is being punished for spending their money so freely on ‘feminine fal-lals’. He learns from his companions of a passing scholar who they encountered in a nearby town, and who performed ‘a rambling iambic account of the Rape of Lucretia’, which he considers to be inappropriate for ‘a mixed audience’ (a view with which Vicki later agrees). 

We learn more of the scholar in a legionary’s letter to his mother, in which he reveals that he has been ordered to kill said scholar, who is ‘in the running for the Golden Rose Bowl at the Senate Song Contest’, an accolade his employer wishes for himself. Ian learns from the home invaders that Barbara carelessly asked about the conversion rate from pounds to lira in the market, alerting the locals that she and Vicki must be Britons. Ian recalls he’d once contemplated a sailing holiday that would have been roughly the same stretch of water on which he now finds himself after being press-ganged into the rowing crew of a ship. He played rugby as an ‘Old Boy’, which once again suggests he’s a former pupil of Coal Hill School. He also reminds his headmaster that he was deputised as games master after Farthingale ‘lost an ear during a hockey scrimmage’. Ian references the hugely successful American comedian Jack Benny.

Nero sketches out an ode to Barbara – it’s terrible – and he uses the word ‘anapaest’ (incorrectly). There’s an unfortunate scene in the Doctor’s diary where he refers to a character as ‘deaf and dumb’ (very much frowned upon nowadays, but a common enough term even when the book was written); he claims to be ‘well acquainted with the rudiments of sign language’, but as he also calls it ‘mime’, we can take from this that the Doctor knows nothing about sign language (as we later see on TV in Before the Flood), least of all that there is not one universal sign language – not even in English-speaking territories. Let’s hope his efforts are more effective than we see on telly with the Zarbi!

The lions, which the Doctor accidentally frees during the gladiatorial games, find their way into Nero’s suite, where they settle down for a nap. Having embarked upon his adventure solely to disprove the legend that Nero ‘fiddled while Rome burned’, the Doctor leaves with Nero’s lyre and his plans for a new Rome in his hands; he sets fire to the plans, which then causes a major fire in the city and, happy that he has not made any effect on established history, departs while playing the lyre. In the epilogue, Tacitus lays the blame for the fire squarely on the Doctor’s shoulders. He names the tale ‘The Quo Vadis TARDIS Affair’ and also reveals that the failed assassin Ascaris eventually ended up in Britain, causing mayhem and disruption during the construction of Hadrian’s Wall.

Cover: As Nero looks out to a burning Rome, the Doctor stands dressed in a toga. Tony Masero coincidentally uses the same photo reference of Hartnell that Andrew Skilleter used on The Gunfighters.

Final Analysis: Where to start with this? It’s likely that Donald Cotton has seen the BBC’s I Claudius. He might even have read Robert Graves’ original Claudius novels, too; as with Graves’ notation of the events of the Roman Empire, there’s a sly nod to the modern reader in the way Cotton suggests that his work is too contentious and should be left unpublished until… say, 1987. He definitely watched the historical farce Up Pompeii! though. His Tacitus straddles the centuries, just like Frankie Howerd did as Lurcio, with puns and sly winks that would make little or no sense to the Romans. Indeed, there’s one sequence where the Doctor, in his diary, observes that his would-be assassin was ‘getting away with the lute’, a joke that clearly gives him great satisfaction, until the character (and writer) begin to dissect it and he realises that the musical ‘lute’ wouldn’t be invented for four centuries and the word ‘loot’ wasn’t popularised until the 1920s. 

While the story remains largely the same, Cotton’s use of multiple epistolary narrators leads to some deviations in the telling. The assassin Ascaris becomes a recurring narrator and adds greatly to the sense that the Doctor is in fact a bloody nuisance. The poor Legionary accidentally kills his own superior, is set upon by lions and eventually emerges from his hiding place when the Doctor throws burning documents into the sewers, setting Ascaris alight. This is Cotton’s final novel for the range and it’s a shame. Each of his novels provides an education, not so much in the history, which is wilfully unreliable, but in the sheer unlimited joy of writing. I’ve loved every unbelievable word of these.

Chapter 116. Doctor Who – The Space Museum (1987)

Synopsis: The Doctor, Vicki, Barbara and Ian explore a museum on an alien world, only to find versions of themselves already standing as exhibits. It seems the TARDIS has jumped a track in time, so is this just a possible future or is it certain? As the Doctor encounters the leader of the planet’s rulers, the Moroks, Vicki leads a revolution!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. AD 0000
  • 2. Exploration
  • 3. Discovery
  • 4. Capture
  • 5. Rescue
  • 6. The Final Phase

Background: Glyn Jones adapts his scripts for a story from 1965, taking the record for the biggest gap between transmission and publication, at 21 years and eight months… but he won’t have it for long.

Notes: The novel retains the plot element of the travellers changing out of their ‘crusading clothes’, meaning this follows on directly from The Crusaders; here, it’s Vicki who points out that their clothes have changed, instead of Ian as on TV. Ian is disappointed that they’ve landed in another sandy desert and longs for the TARDIS to land somewhere leafy, like Hampstead or Wimbledon Common, or a Yorkshire dale or Welsh mountain. The Doctor has a ‘space-time clock’ aboard the TARDIS, which he claims has only ever caused him trouble once before, when Augustus Caesar dropped a day from the calendar that the Doctor claims to have been designing. At one point, the Doctor adopts a pose holding his hand out and inclining his head slightly to buy himself time to think; he recalls that it was a pose he once saw adopted by the great Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. Ian wonders if his bio-rhythms are ‘at rock bottom’ (which doesn’t seem all that scientific).

Barbara finds a NASA spacesuit whose former occupant was ‘David Hartwell’, which I’m assuming is a sneaky namecheck of the prolific science fiction editor and publisher. There’s also a space shuttle named after Robert E Lee, the Confederate general in the American Civil War, which at the very least suggests a divergent timeline for the US space program. Vicki bumps her head on a display case that contains ‘an upright creature of saurian ugliness’. The Doctor is repeatedly referred to as a ‘Time Lord’. During a sarcastic rant about calling the AA to pick them up, Ian says that it will take ‘about a hundred light years’ for any help to arrive – a unit of distance mistakenly used as a unit of time [might we assume that Ian knows the difference, even if the author doesn’t, and that he’s joking here?]. Vicki confidently explains the concept of ‘time dimensions’ to an amused Ian.

While still in limbo, the travellers witness a massacre as Xeron rebels are gunned down by Moroks – but then the bodies disappear. They realise that they’ve returned to the correct dimension when they’re unable to pass through objects. Once they finally ‘exist’ in this dimension, Ian triggers an automated audio guide that informs him he’s looking at a weapon from the planet Verticulus; Vicki notes that the announcement is in English, to which the Doctor observes ‘There will be an explanation for that’ – and offers nothing more (though we later learn that the Moroks have devices that recognise a language within a few words and provide instant translations). Vicki sees an exhibit of ‘a small furry creature, very cuddly, like a teddy bear, except that its teeth would have snapped off a man’s leg with one bite’

Moroks have two hearts and measure time in ‘metones’. Lobos was sent to Xeros, which he considers to be ‘the dullest planet in the Empire’, after a ‘tiny indiscretion’. He has a favourite robot – Robot 9284 – which he calls ‘Matt’ and against which he likes to play – and lose at – chess. Lobos’s second in command is called ‘Ogrek’, while among Lobos’s forces is Mort, a ‘one-eyed mercenary from Kreme’, while the sympathetic Morok who helps Ian is called ‘Pluton’. Among the rebels are a couple of new members, Bo and Gyar, as well as a ‘cherubic’ child called Jens, who requests a gun; he is refused and told to go back to ‘the Colony’ to prepare himself in case the revolution fails and he has to be part of a future wave. The Xenons can see in the dark but have neither a sense of smell nor an awareness of what a sense of smell is. Inspired by Barbara, Dako tells Tor about the concept of the Trojan Horse.

As usual, there’s no link into the next TV adventure, so no grand unveiling of the Time-Space Visualiser; instead, the Doctor reveals the tiny crystal that has somehow been responsible for their dimensional issues, before the TARDIS departs ‘to leave Xeros to the Xerons’.

Cover: Using a photo reference of Hartnel from An Unearthly Child, David McAllister paints the Doctor, a space rocket and a pair of misleadingly cheeky Daleks.

Final Analysis: It’s a curious thing, releasing this in 1987, where the recent trend on TV had been for the Doctor and his companions to constantly bicker and snipe at each other. In the novel, the regular characters seem much more like 80s characters than the mild-mannered exchanges they had on TV in the 60s. Ian has a particularly fractious relationship with the Doctor, rebuking him for making jokes, which is at odds with how they appear on screen, but is in keeping with the memory of the Doctor as a grumpy old man. It’s also worth remembering that, when interviewed many years later, Glyn Jones revealed that he’d written the original scripts as a satire and was disappointed when his more comedic elements were removed at editing stage. Back in the hands of the author, the dialogue has the back-and-forth of a screwball comedy – just not the pace of one. Considering this is one of the least well-regarded stories of the period, Jones manages to add depth to his characters and a sense that they’re part of a wider universe without over-explaining every single reference like some authors. He gets a huge minus point for failing to give Barbara anything significant to do (Vicki is the star of the show here, as on telly), but at least he retains the infamous line about ‘arms fallen into Xeron hands’, proving it was very much intentional and not the goof some have assumed it to be.

Chapter 104. Doctor Who – Galaxy Four (1986)

Synopsis: Two spacecraft lie in ruins on an otherwise deserted planet. The Doctor and his friends must decide who to help – the beautiful Drahvins and their leader Maaga, or the hideous Rills and their robot servants. Their choice is made all the more difficult when the Doctor learns that the planet is about to explode…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Four Hundred Dawns
  • 2. Trap of Steel
  • 3. Airlock
  • 4. The Exploding Planet

Background: William Emms adapts his own 1965 scripts for a serial generally known as ‘Galaxy 4’, 20 years and one month after the story aired.

Notes: The book is divided into four chapters that pretty much match the TV episodes. The Doctor brings the TARDIS ‘back into time and space’, though we’re not told from where. Steven is said to have fair hair. The unnamed planet’s surface is black, like tarmac, and the Doctor identifies it as being in ‘Galaxy Four’ (getting in an early title check and providing better context for the title than the TV serial had). When Steven ponders which of the three suns they might be revolving around, the Doctor suggests it’s ‘quite possible that they revolve around us’.

The Drahvins have…

… long, blonde hair and would have been considered extremely attractive by any man were it not for the total lack of warmth in their faces which were straight and set, reflecting no emotion whatsoever.

They carry weapons like machine guns. When held at gunpoint, the Doctor notes that there appears to be ‘something of a surplus of weapons on this planet’, which he doesn’t care for. He notices that the Drahvins are not identical, so are not physical clones, but he speculates that they might have cloned minds.

Fleeing the Chumbleys, the Doctor has ‘hearts’ (plural) and he wishes that he ‘had found a younger body to inhabit’ as ‘there was not a lot to be said for this one’. Initially, this might just be interpreted as flippancy, but in Chapter 2, the Doctor has an interesting train of thought:

[Steven] had been wrenched into it by unforeseeable circumstances and had borne up gamely whereas he, the Doctor, had learnt to adapt since time immemorial. Human life wasn’t long enough, he thought, no sooner given than taken away, with insufficient time to learn what was necessary or do what had to be done. He dismissed the thought. There was nothing he could do about it. He wasn’t God, simply something of a clown in his own eyes, trolling about through time and space seeking the final truth as he inhabited one body after another, and yet with the dull feeling that that final truth would remain forever beyond his reach.

So either he’s predicting his future incarnations, or he’s recognising that he’s had past lives. Also, Emms’ understanding of regeneration makes it seem more like possession! Later, he has the Doctor claim to be ‘five feet nine or ten’ (William Hartnell was 5’8″), adding ‘I’ve never measured this body. It’s enough that I inhabit it.’ Steven is six feet tall. The Doctor and Steven fall into a pit and manage to tempt a poor Chumbley over to the pit and pull it over so they can use it to step out to safety. The Doctor paraphrases philosopher Bertrand Russell’s assertion that a belief that the sun has always risen is no guarantee that it will rise tomorrow.

Maaga is certain that she was sent on this mission as a political act by the Minister for Offensive Research, a member of the elite on Drahva, like herself; Maaga had insisted that soldiers were not suitable for space exploration but she was overruled and she now feels she’s not expected to return. There is only one political party, but they hold elections anyway.

The Rill who speaks to Vicki has ‘huge, heavily-lidded eyes’ like ‘soft pools of concern, dark brown and gentle’ and ‘a scaly coat resembling that of a lizard’. They also have tentacles, ‘six of which have hands’. Vicki has apparently always felt uncomfortable with reptiles (her late pet Sandy seemingly forgotten). We’re told some of the Rill way of life and evolution; they developed thick skulls that helped them survive their natural predators (though some female Rill undergo skull-thinning as a preference). Like the Drahvins, the males aren’t considered to be especially important: ‘Anyone who happened to be passing could and did fertilise an egg’. As usual, the book ends without the lead-in to the next story.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter goes full B-movie with two gun-wielding Drahvins in front of a boiling planet.

Final Analysis: Apparently the idea to make the Drahvins female came from Verity Lambert, so William Emms’ original storyline was even more generic than this. So what do you do when you adapt your cliche-ridden scripts after 20 years for an audience who might have seen 2001 or Planet of the Apes and have definitely seen Star Wars? You take your time, work your way through the script and give it an extra layer of polish as you go. As he progresses through the story, Emms introduces backstory and extra information that make the alien societies seem much more credible and rich. The tone also darkens as we approach the climax, slowly ramping up acts of violence (Steven’s painful asphyxiation is particularly distressing).

For the ardent Doctor Who fan, the bonus comes in Emms’ iconoclastic depiction of the Doctor. By 1986, we’d had six TV Doctors, all of whom had been seen on TV within the living memory of your average seven-year-old (plus a different ‘original’ in The Five Doctors and a recent repeat of the two Peter Cushing movies). So while we might think of ‘The First Doctor’ here, Emms depicts him as just one of many – and not necessarily even the earliest incarnation. At the time of writing, Emms was the same age that the ‘elderly’ Hartnell had been when he first played the role and there’s a sense that both writer and character feel frustration over growing old. In one passage, the Doctor longs to replace his form for something more agile, foreshadowing his eventual regeneration rather beautifully..

Sooner or later renewal would come and he prayed that when the time came he would be better served. Something comfortable and capable was what he longed for, something able to do more of what he asked of it. He mused and pondered on the whimsical ways of Fate.

Galaxy 4 was William Emms’ sole contribution to both the TV series and the Target novels, though he did also write a ‘Make Your Own Adventure’ book called Mission to Venus, published by Severn House just a few months after Target’s Galaxy Four. He died in 1993, aged 63.

Chapter 97. Doctor Who – The Myth Makers (1985)

Synopsis: The beauty of a woman is the spark that fires up a bloody and lengthy war between Greece and Troy. Though many of the figures in the battle have entered into legend, a version of the story as recounted by the great poet Homer reveals the involvement of three travellers who emerged from a blue box and changed the course of the war. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Homer Remembers
  • 2. Zeus Ex Machina
  • 3. Hector Forgets
  • 4. Enter Odysseus
  • 5. Exit the Doctor
  • 6. A Rather High Tea
  • 7. Agamemnon Arbitrates
  • 8. An Execution is Arranged
  • 9. Temple Fugit
  • 10. The Doctor Draws a Graph
  • 11. Paris Draws the Line
  • 12. Small Prophet, Quick Return
  • 13. War Games Compulsory
  • 14. Single Combat
  • 15. Speech! Speech!
  • 16. The Trojans at Home
  • 17. Cassandra Claims a Kill
  • 18. The Ultimate Weapon
  • 19. A Council of War
  • 20. Paris Stands on Ceremony
  • 21. Dungeon Party
  • 22. Hull Low, Young Lovers
  • 23. A Victory Celebration
  • 24. Doctor in the Horse
  • 25. A Little Touch of Hubris
  • 26. Abandon Ship!
  • 27. Armageddon and After
  • Epilogue

This now nabs the record held so briefly by Marco Polo for the most number of chapters in a novelisaton, with 27 chapters and an epilogue.

Background: Donald Cotton adapts his own scripts for the 1965 serial.

Notes: Yep, the story is narrated in the first person by the great author Homer, who apparently was just out of shot in every scene.

The Doctor had promised his young companions a trip to London in the 1960s. Homer claims that he has met the Doctor on many occasions (and that he is now younger than he was the first time they met), knows that the TARDIS is a time machine – and that the Doctor is specifically a ‘Time Lord’! Vicki has a very loose grasp of Earth history, much to Steven’s despair, but knows enough to recognise the importance of the Trojan Horse. Steven is concerned about his absence from the ‘Space-Research Project’, where he had been an amateur athlete during his training and it’s suggested he might have played football (he compares the prospect of fighting Odysseus with ‘the second eleven on a Saturday knock-about’, so that’s definitely football and not the completely different ‘American Football’). We discover how ‘Cyclops’ lost his eye and gained his name [but see Final Analysis below]. There’s no explanation for how Steven is wounded by the start of the next story. Instead, we learn that Vicki – as Cressida – remained with Troilus and the pair took care of their blind friend Homer. The epilogue reveals that the elderly poet has been telling his story to the Doctor, who, it turns out, has popped back to look in on Homer on many occasions throughout his eventful life.

Cover: The TARDIS materialises in front of the wooden horse, painted by Andrew Skilleter.

Final Analysis: Donald Cotton tore up the rule book for his TV stories and he revolutionises the Doctor Who novel here. Cotton’s habit of using witty episode titles continues with the novel’s chapter titles ‘Zeus Ex Machina’ ‘Temple Fugit’ and of course ‘Doctor in the Horse’, which was his original title of episode 4. He really strains with chapter 22’s ‘Hull Low, Young Lovers’; I wonder how many eager readers would know the song ‘Hello, Young Lovers’ from the 1951 musical (or 1956 film) The King and I, so might this be a reference pitched at a prospective parent reading this for a young fan a chapter a night at bedtime?

Casting Homer as the narrator gives us insight into the politics of the time, while also contriving increasingly outlandish reasons for him to be party to private conversations, ‘concealed in a clump of cactus I wasn’t too fond of’, accompanying the TARDIS into Troy and, after being jabbed in the eye and being dubbed ‘Cyclops’, he passed out and wakes up ‘covered in fish-scales and crabs’ legs’. Homer is aware that the Doctor is a time traveller too, making much merriment with details he shouldn’t know anything about:

… how do you describe a time-machine to a man who has never even heard of Euclid, never mind Einstein? Of course, up till then, I’d never heard of them myself, but I must say I found the whole concept fascinating. 

Cotton – through Homer – has a delightfully waspish style. We’re told that Cassandra is a fearsome woman who looks like ‘her brother Hector in drag’, while Achilles ‘had that look of Narcissistic petulance one so often sees on the faces of health fanatics, or on male models who pose for morally suspect sculptors’, adding ‘I believe the Greeks have a word for it nowadays’. It’s when he comes to explain the causes of the siege of Troy that we might feel certain attitudes from the mid-1980s are guiding his hand. His description of Paris appears to be a commentary on more modern Royal events that resonate just as much in 2021 as 1985:

… the second sons of Royal Houses – especially if they are handsome as the devil – have a lot of temptation to cope with. And then, the unlikelihood of their ever achieving the throne does seem to induce irresponsibility which – combined, of course, with an inflated income – how shall I put it? – well, it aggravates any amorous propensities they may have…. Well, we all know about princes and their libidinous ways: their little frolics below stairs – their engaging stagedoor haunting jaunting? 

Trigger warning here: Among many anachronistic terms Homer uses, the phrase ‘a coon’s age’, which dates from the early 19th-century and referred to racoons, but for many readers this may still have racial connotations.

As one of the missing TV historicals, it’s not a story I know that well, having only heard the soundtrack and watched a telesnap reconstruction. Cotton pulls out all the stops to bring the period alive and make it like a gossip between old friends, a tale told with tongue firmly in cheek and a knowing wink at the reader (this is especially evident in the audiobook with a delicious reading by Stephen Thorne). Even in providing us with what must be the first celebrity historical featuring an author (something modern fans might be more likely to expect), he’s smart enough to leave himself plenty of escape routes. Homer himself tells us the effect of adopting many guises to avoid being trapped into supporting one side or the other. Like the Doctor, his name lives on in legend:

I’ve always found it a very good rule to be a bit cautious about handing out the label unless unavoidable – which is why, I’m told, to this day, nobody is entirely convinced that Homer ever existed […]

Chapter 3. Doctor Who and the Crusaders (1965)

Synopsis: The Doctor and his chums meet King Richard the Lionheart, his willful sister, Joanna, and his nemesis, Saladin.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Death in the Forest
  • 2. The Knight of Jaffa
  • 3. A New Scheherazade
  • 4. The Wheel of Fortune
  • 5. The Doctor in Disgrace
  • 6. The Triumph of El Akir
  • 7. The Will of Allah
  • 8. Demons and Sorcerers

Background: David Whitaker adapts his own scripts from a serial broadcast in March to April 1965, published by Frederick Muller Ltd in September 1965, first reprinted as a Target book in 1973. t followed The Web Planet on screen, so very early on, we have our first set of consecutive stories to be novelised.

Notes: The prologue gives us a short summary of what’s happened since the first book – and it is incredible. Apparently Susan had left the Tardis to live with David Cameron (!) and her place taken by Vicki, who we met in the previous volume. Ian and especially Barbara are now perfect physical specimens thanks to their travels and Barbara is now apparently ‘the admiration and desire of all who met her’ [see The Keys of Marinus and The Romans], but he’s foreshadowing future events too. Though it’s never explicit on screen, Ian and Barbara’s ‘destinies were bound up in each other’. There’s mention of an unseen adventure involving ‘the talking stones of the tiny planet Tyron in the seventeenth galaxy’ while Barbara and Vicki are playing Martian chess.

… and then Whitaker has the Doctor explain why they can explore all these alien worlds and interfere but they can’t change anything in Earth’s history. The examples he chooses from history – from Pompeii to John F Kennedy – are frank and somewhat surprising. And then, with some additional foreshadowing that really sets out Whitaker’s aims, we have this from the Doctor:

‘The next time we visit Earth,’ he said, ‘I hope we encounter a situation where two men are opposed to each other, each for the best reasons… ‘That is the only way to understand the folly, the stupidity and the horror of war. When both sides, in their own way, are totally right.’

Cover & Illustrations: Henry Fox’s original cover shows a raging crusader and the Tardis with a yellow background, while the Armada hardback by Mary Gernat shows the Doctor fleeing a crusader on a blue background. Chris Achilleos’s Target cover features the Doctor with a strong likeness of Julian Glover as King Richard. The 1975 White Lion hardback again pops Tom Baker in along and the one I first owned was the 1982 Andrew Skilleter cover shows the Tardis (I think it’s from an early Peter Davison photo). Henry Fox’s 15 illustrations are gorgeously melodramatic, in particular the image of Barbara about to be whipped.

Final Analysis: My surprise at the impressive prologue suggests that this is the first time I’ve read this book! As with the previous two volumes, this expands upon the scale of what could be achieved in Riverside Studio 1. In fact it’s hard to visualise a small studio set at all when there is such a sense of distance between each location. Whitaker develops the romance between Ian and Barbara, which gives the pair extra motivation to be reunited, although he also adds to the horror of Barbara’s experience by having El Akir whip her repeatedly, leaving her badly scarred (the death of El Akir is also more violent, strangled before his skull is dashed against a wall, rather than the more theatrically clean stabbing on telly). It’s a mature work, living up to the promise of the prologue by trying to present both sides of the war evenly and with Ian trying to explain how all religions have a basic central idea of a higher being.

Chapter 2. Doctor Who and the Zarbi (1965)

aka Doctor Who – The Web Planet (1990)

Synopsis: The Tardis crew land on a rocky alien world occupied by a variety of insects being controlled by a malevolent parasite. Susan has disappeared and she’s been replaced by Vicki. And after Ian’s suggestion for a nickname for their pilot, it seems ‘Doctor Who’ is his actual name now.

Chapter Titles

  • 1 The Web Planet
  • 2 The Zarbi
  • 3 Escape to Danger
  • 4 The Crater of Needles
  • 5 Invasion
  • 6 Centre of Terror

Background: Bill Strutton adapts his own scripts from a serial broadcast just six months earlier, in February to March 1965. Published by Frederick Muller Ltd in September 1965, first reprinted as a Target book in 1973.  At 174 pages, it remains the longest of the adaptations until Fury from the Deep, though this includes the 15 illustration plates too.

Notes: Although this is a follow-on from The Daleks and was in production alongside The Crusaders, there’s no attempt to explain where Susan has gone or who Vicki is, aside from ‘the youngest member of the Tardis inhabitants. There are a few references to past episodes – Barbara’s gold bangle, which was a gift from Nero; Vicki’s crashed rocket on the planet Dido; using ‘like poles’ to repel magnets on the Dalek saucer – so unlike An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks, this isn’t part of a series of books so much as an extension of the TV series.

Ian describes his tie as that of the ‘Coal Hill Old Boys’, suggesting he was a pupil there too. Maybe this is why he was tired of teaching in the first book? Strutton assumes that the light on top of the police box is in fact a Tardis searchlight (possibly the one mentioned in the first book). A couple of the female characters on TV are male here, even though there are other female Menoptera and Optera. And of course, the ‘larvae gun’ are renamed ‘venom grubs’, which makes much more sense.

Cover & Illustrations: The first cover, for Frederick Muller, is a black-and-white illustration with a red background and a weird non-canonical, shimmering  “Dr. Who” logo. White Lion did another odd one with Tom Baker for the 1975 hardback and Alister Pearson’s VHS cover was used on a 1990 paperback reprint. Once again it’s the Chris Achilleos cover that endures, using the same photo reference as his cover for The Daleks, a pair of mahogany Zarbi and a startled Menoptera. There are 15 illustrations by John Woods and they depict the world of the novel, not the TV show. For some reason his Vicki is terrible but the others look spot on and the Zarbi look particularly impressive directing an attack from the edge of a cliff. My favourite pic though is of the Doctor and Ian looking up at a creepy statue in the rocks. Really helps create a sense of vastness on the Vortis landscape.

And we get our first chapter title called ‘Escape to Danger’ too!

Final Analysis: In contrast to David Whitaker’s approach, Bill Strutton appears to be writing for a much younger age group. Is this because that’s who was buying the books or just who he assumes would be buying them? Also, Whitaker was writing when the programme was still in its first series and many things were still being ironed out; despite calling him ‘Doctor Who’, Strutton’s Doctor is more recognisably the one from TV than Whitaker’s, complete with umms and ahhs, even if he does fix Hartnell’s fluffs from the original recording. Also, his descriptions of the motivations and movements of the  Zarbi really help to make sense of the TV episodes – for instance the beginning of episode two, where Barbara is walking around the pool of acid, where the book explains that the Zarbi is controlling her, as opposed to waggling an arm and beeping.

It might seem an odd story to adapt but it was the highest rated serial of the programme so far and Strutton takes every opportunity to make Vortis seem so weird and beautiful, especially on the very last page.