Dicks, Terrance

About the Author:

Terrance Dicks was born in East Ham, London, England in 1935 and, after working in advertising, began working in television as a writer.  He worked on scripts for The Avengers and later became Script Editor for Doctor Who, for which he also wrote several scripts.  Dicks died on the 29th of August 2019 at the age of 84.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3.2 out of 5

(41 books)

Doctor Who And An Unearthly Child

Dicks' novelisation of the very first Doctor Who story, from 1963.  Teachers Ian and Barbara become curious and concerned about their pupil Susan, who acts strangely and seems to have knowledge beyond her years.  Deciding to follow her home one day, they discover a police box in a junkyard and a strange, irascible old man.

For a minute I was going to write a proper blurb about who the old man is and what the box does, but then I realised that you'd probably have to be as alien as Susan to not have some sense of those things (particularly if you're reading an amateur science fiction book review website).  So, what we get here is where the 50+ year sci-fi phenomenon began and, I have to say, it surprised me by how strong a story it was.  Knowing that the first TARDIS trip was back to meet cavemen (and cavewomen, of course) hadn't filled me with excitement, but its actually handled in quite an interesting way; taking the Doctor and company to the turning point where things like the making of fire and the idea of community are brand new to the primitive humans.  Luckily, these aren't the dumb, grunting cavemen of so many other old TV shows and movies, either, with them still being complex and human, despite being primitive.

The really interesting thing for me was seeing the way the Doctor of this story differs from the Doctor we know and love.  To begin with he's a crafty, superior and, occasionally, malicious entity who feels like an antagonist to Ian and Barbara.  His characterisation definitely taps into the folklore idea of wizards and sorcerers etcetera being untrustworthy even when they're helping the heroes.  At first this feels, in hindsight, like maybe the writers just hadn't hit on the right formula for the character yet, but as the story goes on, you realise that it is specifically having Ian and Barbara there that begins to humanise the Doctor.  It makes a nice thought to think that the difference between this mean-spirited antagonist Doctor and the empathetic heroic one we know now is due to having had companions for so long.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Abominable Snowmen

A novelisation featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions Victoria and Jamie.  To keep an old promise, the Doctor takes Jamie and Victoria to the Det-sen Monastery in the mountains of Tibet.  However, on arrival they are treated with suspicion due to a series of mysterious attacks apparently made by the Yeti and possibly at the behest of some unseen power.

Whilst Victoria is little more than a screaming damsel-in-distress, the Second Doctor and Jamie have one of the best Doctor/Companion relationships anywhere in Who history and that's on full display here; their respect and affection for one another clearly shining through as they prove that anything either does can only benefit from the help of the other.

The story itself is nicely atmospheric, with the isolated monastery in the mountains providing a great backdrop to the mystery of the Yeti.  There is a bit too much of the 'get captured, escape, get captured, escape, etcetera' repetition that plagues a lot of the older Who stories, but that's simply how they used to pad out the run time, so if you're into classic Who, you'll already be prepared for that.  It's also worth noting that this book features the very first appearance of the Great Intelligence, a disembodied antagonist who most recently faced off against Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, and its sinister presence is very well handled.

All round an enjoyable Second Doctor adventure.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Android Invasion

An adaption of a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story featuring Sarah Jane Smith.  Apparently returning to Earth, the Doctor and Sarah Jane begin to suspect that something is amiss and are chased by mysterious aggressors.  Then they encounter some familiar faces who are behaving very strangely.

It's androids.  Obviously.  There is only one thing that would've made this story interesting and that is if there were some genuine mystery as to why Harry Sullivan and Sergeant Benton are acting out of character.  Unfortunately the answer to the mystery is plastered all over the cover and therefore all that's left is a very lacklustre and derivative 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers' knock-off (something Who has already done many times and much better).

The only redeeming feature, and the reason I've not given this a one-out-of-five, is that the erratic charm and wit of Baker's incarnation of the Doctor is on full display here.  I particularly liked the scene where an enemy says there's no time for pleasantries and the Doctor replies "How about 'unpleasantries', pig face?"

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Auton Invasion

The novelisation of the very first adventure of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee).  Banished to Earth by the Time Lords, the Doctor is reunited with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT just in time to help investigate the arrival of the Nestene Consciousness and its terrifying Auton footsoldiers.

The book begins with a bit of overlap with Malcolm Hulke's 'The War Games', showing the Second Doctor's trial, banishment and regeneration.  I'm always interested in first outings for new Doctors because we get to see not only how the Doctor himself is coping with the sometimes drastic changes he has undergone, but also how his friends and companions react to it.  Here I enjoyed seeing the Brigadier get excited at the prospect of working with the Doctor again after the discovery of a police box in the woods and I though his disappointment at discovering an apparent stranger was really well conveyed.

As well as being the Third Doctor's first outing, this is also the first appearance of the now-iconic killer shop dummies, the Autons.  I thought the build-up and reveal of the Autons and of the Nestene's larger scheme was well written, but I have to say its impact was lessened considerably by my familiarity with the first episode of the revived TV series ('Rose' by Russell T. Davies), which hits most of the same notes whilst being a bit more fun.  Perhaps if I'd encountered the Autons here first, then similarly 'Rose' might not have had the same impact, but that's not how it happened.

This story also sees the introduction of a new companion, the young scientist Liz Shaw.  Stubborn and forthright in the face of misogyny, the fact that she's a scientist like the Doctor himself makes her quite a good foil for him, whilst they both frustrate Lethbridge-Stewart no end.

Overall a perfectly enjoyable, but not mind-blowing, Doctor Who story.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Brain Of Morbius

Dicks' adaption of his own script (albeit credited to Robin Bland because he didn't like the Producer's rewrites) for a story featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Sarah Jane Smith.  The Doctor and Sarah Jane are unwittingly sent to Karn by the Time Lords where they find themselves caught between the secretive Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame and the deranged scientist Solon, who is attempting to resurrect the warlord Morbius.

There's a delightful tone of classic horror/monster movies to this story, very deliberately evoking the Universal films of the 1930s and the Hammer films of the 1950s (before Hammer starting making exploitation flicks).  This is not least apparent in the Frankenstein parallels with Solon's obsession with his creation of a new body for the titular brain of Morbius.  Add to that a largely-deserted planet, a sect of mystical priestesses and a crumbling castle and you've got a really enjoyable gothic adventure for one of the most iconic Doctors and one of the most iconic companions.

I've also always enjoyed Who stories which expand a bit on Time Lord lore (with the exception of the Timeless Child thing, which I won't get into here) and here we learn of another renegade Time Lord, but unlike the Doctor or the Master this one became so powerful that the Time Lords raised an army to defeat him (see Dicks' Fifth Doctor novel 'Warmonger' for that tale).  This is also the introduction of the Sisterhood of Karn, who've reappeared in modern era Who (helping both the Eighth and Twelfth Doctors) and I enjoyed getting to see their unique perspective on the Time Lords.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Claws Of Axos

An adaption of a Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) adventure, featuring Jo Grant, the Brigadier and UNIT.  The mysterious Axos arrives on Earth claiming to have come to give the people of the planet access to the remarkable scientific secret of axonite but the Doctor suspects more is going on than it first seems.  Matters are complicated further when it turns out that Axos is holding the Master prisoner.

For the most part this is an enjoyable but run-of-the-mill story of the Doctor from his days as UNIT's scientific adviser.  There's a nice twist on the usual bickering between the Doctor and the Brig, however, in that Lethbridge-Stewart finds himself defending the Doctor and his role at UNIT against a Government bureaucrat.  Other than that, it's just largely standard Who fare, with Dicks not breaking much of a sweat in his adaption.

There is one element in which this book/story shines and that is, predictably, the Doctor's interactions with the Master.  Back in the Roger Delgado days there was a really palpable love/hate relationship between the two renegade Time Lords and that's on full display here.  The scenes where they have to work together to repair the TARDIS and defeat Axos steal the show and make the whole book feel more worthy as a result.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Day Of The Daleks

When a diplomat is seemingly attacked by a ghost shortly before an important international peace conference, the Third Doctor (the Jon Pertwee version), his companion Jo and UNIT are called in to investigate.  The Doctor and Jo soon find themselves dragged into an alternate future in which Earth has been devastated by war and the Daleks have enslaved the human race.

Much of this book is pretty unremarkable, with the Doctor's verbal struggles with the time-travelling guerrillas and UNIT's shootouts with the Ogrons, the brutish servants of the Daleks, rapidly becoming repetetive.  Also, both the Doctor and his companion put in less impactful appearances than they have in other books featuring the Daleks, coming across as a bit shallow and obvious.

However, there are two redeeming features.  The first is the fact that this was one of the earliest Doctor Who stories to tackle the nature of time travel and its potential paradoxes.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that it is the Doctor's Time Lord heritage which allows him to break the paradox loop begun by the Daleks.

The other redeeming feature is the genuinely interesting character of the Controller.  A man who has collaborated with the Daleks against the resistance for his entire life and yet lived in constant fear of them, he is intrigued by the fact the arrival of the Doctor causes the Daleks themselves to show fear.  Where the rest of the book is largely, as I say, obvious, the Controller's story arc showed impressive depth and complexity.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Destiny Of The Daleks

Featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Romana.  The TARDIS arrives on a desolate planet whose atmosphere is permeated with radiation and whose cities have been reduced to rubble and the Doctor soon discovers that he has once again found himself on Skaro, homeworld of the Daleks.  He and Romana discover that a stalemate between the Daleks and their Movellan enemies has led the former to attempt to recover and revive the long-dead Davros in order to tip the balance.

This is a pretty unremarkable story all round, not breaking much in the way of new ground.  It was, however, good to see the iconic and charismatic Fourth Doctor once again face one of his most memorable foes, Davros, and to witness the matching of wits between them.

Overall though, there's little to write home about in this book and it's a bit of a non-event.  It's also worth noting that Romana is a singularly irritating companion and even the Doctor himself tires of her Time Lord (Time Lady?) smugness at times.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Face Of Evil

This adaption sees the Fouth Doctor (Tom Baker) arriving on a planet peopled by primitives who live in fear of the Evil One, who they instantly recognise as the Doctor himself.  Saving the life of one of the primitives, a woman named Leela, the Doctor sets out to unravel the mystery of the insane god Xoanon.

I've never read nor watched a Doctor Who story featuring the companion Leela before, so it's fitting that my first exposure to her is in her very first story.  She proves to be a nicely proactive and self-assured foil for the Doctor.  Where many of the Time Lord's companions are largely reactionary (and all too often that reaction is simply to scream), Leela was a really nice change of pace.  She's a warrior and doesn't need rescuing so much as she needs the Doctor to provoke her own intellect into solving problems.

The Doctor himself is on fine form here too, showing all of the charm and wimsy that Tom Baker's incarnation was famous for.  I particularly enjoyed the scene where he threatens an antagonist with a deadly jelly baby.  I also enjoyed the fact that this time the problem the Doctor has to solve is one caused by his own arrogant and misguided meddling in the past.  Here he genuinely has to swallow his ego and admit that he made a terrible mistake before he can go about setting it right.

From a story that I honestly wasn't expecting much from, I actually found that it definitely stands out from the crowd.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Genesis Of The Daleks

The novelisation of a story featuring the Fourth Doctor (the iconic Tom Baker) and his companions Sarah Jane and Harry.  The Doctor and his friends are hijacked by the Time Lords and sent on a mission; to destroy the Daleks at the very beginning of their existence.  This mission takes them to the war-devastated planet Skaro, brings them into conflict with the Daleks' deranged creator Davros and leads the Doctor to confront a terrible moral connundrum; to allow the Daleks to live or to commit genocide.

The reason Tom Baker's version of the Doctor is so iconic is because his manic enthusiasm and charming wit would go on to define the Time Lord's character forever after and that's certainly the character we get to see here.  He is a far more accessible and likeable character than his previous incarnations and that makes it easier for us to empathise with him as a protagonist.  To counterbalance that, in Davros we have a brilliant, cruel and merciless villain who is very much the Doctor's antithesis in a way that only the Master ever matches.  This shifting balance of power between Davros and the Doctor makes for some of this book's best scenes.  Also, the Doctor's indecision when he finally has the opportunity to destroy the Dalek race shows an impressive depth of moral complexity to the story and the character.

The setting of this story is another good element, as we see a version of Skaro worn out by countless decades of war.  There are vivid scenes describing the war-torn trenches of Skaro's Wastelands which very deliberately evoke the imagery of the First World War.  There's a particularly grim scene in which Sarah Jane regains consciousness in the bottom of a trench buried under a pile of dead bodies.

As promised by the title, we also get to learn the origins of the Daleks themselves, witnessing their beginnings as unarmed, confused prototypes to the climactic moment when Davros' creation finally turns on its creator.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Giant Robot

Dicks' novelisation of his own original script for the very first adventure for the now-iconic Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).  As the Doctor recovers from his regeneration Sarah Jane discovers something amiss as a scientific research centre known as the Thinktank and the Brigadier investigates a series of robberies at secret scientific facilities.  It soon becomes clear that there is a link between the two and the Doctor ultimately has to face an all-but invincible robot dedicated to destroying all humanity.

The tone and feel of this book is very much a curiosity now we have the benefit of hindsight.  Baker's Doctor is so iconic, often being called the best incarnation of the Doctor, that to see him in a story that feels so much like a Third Doctor adventure is quite jarring.  Obviously Dicks had been a major creative force of the Pertwee era and, as the first of Baker's stories, it's understandable that they hadn't quite found the right mix for this new Doctor, but it is nonetheless a slightly uncomfortable fit for the Fourth.

For all that the trappings of the story (Earth-based, terrestrial villains, UNIT and the Brig) from the previous era of the show are in place, the manic energy and charisma of Baker's Fourth Doctor are immediately identifiable as unique to this incarnation.  The story is also somewhat self-aware because the new Doctor immediately tries to just run off in the TARDIS and leave everything behind, seeing his role at UNIT as somewhat defunct.  Unfortunately, the novelisation lacks the brilliant bit of dialogue when the Doctor meets new companion Harry Sullivan in the TV version; "You may be a doctor, but I'm the Doctor.  The genuine article, you might say!"

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Hand Of Fear

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) stars in this novelisation featuring his companion Sarah Jane Smith.  An accident in a quarry leaves Sarah Jane under the hypnotic influence of a stone hand.  The influence drives her to attempt the resurrection of the hand's original owner, the powerful alien entity Eldrad.

This is a fairly standard Doctor Who story which has enough pace and mystery to keep you turning pages happily.  There's little that's outstanding about it, however.  Although, it has to be said, I did enjoy seeing the Doctor match wits (and egos) with the arrogant entity Eldrad.

It should also be noted that this was Sarah Jane's last regular adventure with the Doctor, although she has encountered him a few times since ('The Five Doctors', 'School Reunion' and a couple of times in the Sarah Jane Adventures).

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Invisible Enemy

A novelisation featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Leela.  Answering a distress signal, the Doctor becomes infected with an alien contagion that takes over the minds of its victims.  Leela manages to take him to a medical facility where they hope to cure the Time Lord with help from a mobile computer called K9.

The mind-controlling illness is not a terribly original concept and the way that the Doctor encounters it is very contrived.  Similarly, part of the book involves short-lived clones of the Doctor and Leela (no, really) being shrunk down in order to enter the (real) Doctor's brain to fight the disease and this is all very derivative (to quote the Twelfth Doctor; "Great idea for a movie, terrible idea for a proctologist").

With all that against it, I really shouldn't have enjoyed this book at all.  But the truth is that the pace of the story moves along at a nice clip and I continue to enjoy the interaction between the Doctor and this particular companion.  Also, anyone who watched classic Doctor Who (or these days, the Sarah Jane Adventures) as a kid will not be able to help but look on K9, here in his first appearance, with fond nostaglia.  All of these elements save this book from being a total disaster.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Loch Ness Monster

The novelisation of 'Terror of the Zygons', the title the book was later re-released under, a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) adventure featuring Sarah Jane and Harry.  Returning to Earth at the request of the Brigadier, the Doctor and his companions begin investigating the destruction of offshore oil rigs in Scotland.  Their investigation takes them to Loch Ness, where a huge creature is running rampant on the orders of shapeshifting aliens.

This is a fairly important story in Who history, being the first appearance of the Zygons, the final appearances of Harry and Benton and the end of the era of the Doctor working as the Brigadier's scientific advisor.  For the Zygons, I was impressed by how fully-formed they are here.  Often when I experience the first instances of antagonists who are now iconic to Who fans, I can't help noticing ways in which the idea hasn't been fully developed yet, but the Zygons are spot-on right out of the gate.  In terms of this being the end of the UNIT era of Who, it's a welcome change.  The Third Doctor's exile on Earth was one of the less inspired changes to the show's format over the years and it's good to see that being cast off, but I'm also very glad that it ends on a high note because you can't help but have a certain affection for the Brigadier and Benton.  I wasn't sorry to see Harry (played by another Who noveliser, Ian Marter) leave, however, because he always felt like something of an anachronism; a poor-man's Ian Chesterton.

As for the story itself, it's a really enjoyable mystery which Dicks keeps moving along at a brisk pace, with none of the circling and plot-stretching that often plagues classic era Doctor Who.  I'm also glad that I read this novelisation without seeing the TV version first, because I hear that the Skarasen was awful onscreen, but here, in my imagination, it was every bit as huge and terrifying as the Loch Ness Monster should be.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Monster Of Peladon

An adaption of Brian Hayles' original script and a sequel to 'The Curse of Peladon'.  The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Sarah Jane arrive on the planet Peladon to discover that fifty years has passed since the Doctor's last visit.  As unrest grows between the nobles, the miners and the representatives of the Galactic Federation Peladon edges closer to war.

There's plenty to enjoy here, be it the return of familiar characters like Alpha Centauri or the appearance of the iconic Ice Warriors.  Personally, I enjoyed the scenes where Sarah Jane tries to teach women's lib to the male-controlled Queen Thalira.

Unfortunately, all too much of this book is a rehashing of things from the original Peladon story, with only the Ice Warriors really having a significantly different role to play.  On top of that, I worked out who the secret traitor was literally from their first appearance in the story, totally robbing the 'twist' reveal of any punch.

So, having recently read 'The Curse of Peladon' (novelised by Hayles), I struggled to get as much enjoyment from this book as I otherwise might have.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Planet Of Evil

A novelisation of a story featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Sarah Jane.  Following a distress signal, the TARDIS arrives on Zeta Minor where a research expedition has been almost wiped out by a mysterious power.  When a rescue ship also arrives its commander suspects the Doctor and Sarah Jane of being behind the deaths of the scientists.

This story has very strong overtones of 'The Forbidden Planet' about it and that loss of originality quickly left me ill-disposed towards the book.  It never really recovers from that, being a fairly by-the-numbers Who adventure with few surprises and even fewer memorable characters.

To be honest, even the iconic Fourth Doctor is strangely muted here and when the main character isn't engaging for the reader, the book as a whole is in real trouble.  Also, it has to be said that the title is just awful.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Planet Of The Daleks

An adaption featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo.  Injured by the Daleks, the Doctor is incapacitated as he and Jo arrive on the hostile planet Spiridon.  However, they soon encounter a team of Thals attempting to counter the Daleks' plans to steal the secret of invisibility from the natives of Spiridon but the Daleks have bigger plans than any of them realise.

Things didn't start too well here, with events on Spiridon initially seemingly like little more than a rehash of things which had happened in 'The Chase' (as novelised by John Peel) and which actually weren't terribly compelling the first time around.  I rolled my eyes pretty hard when the first invisible alien turned up too.  I guess that's one way for the original TV show to work with a limited budget in the 70s.

However, things do become more interesting once the Doctor and Jo ally themselves with the Thals in order to sabotage the Daleks' underground base.  I also enjoyed seeing a little bit of internal Dalek politics as the Dalek Commander is exterminated by the Supreme Dalek for failing to defeat the Doctor.

Overall a passable but not remarkable story.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Planet Of The Spiders

The novelisation of the final adventure of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) featuring UNIT and Sarah Jane Smith.  The disgraced former UNIT officer Mike Yates gets in touch with the Doctor and Sarah Jane to report strange goings-on at a monastery.  The Time Lord and his companion soon find themselves drawn away to the planet Metebelis III, where it's giant spider overlords are plotting an invasion of Earth.

I can't claim to have particularly enjoyed this book.  It's too slow-paced and the giant spiders as antagonists just feel rather silly; although I have to admit that some of that feeling does come from having seen what they looked and sounded like in the TV version of this story.  The truth is, I just never really bought into the premise and I kept waiting for it to get more interesting or engaging, but it never does.  Honestly, the backstory of the spiders, that they came from Earth and were mutated by Metebelis III's crystals, was more interesting than their vague and meandering plans for universal domination (through the power of jumping on people's backs).  Even the introduction of another Time Lord exile on Earth is handled fairly uninterestingly and never garners the plot attention that something like that should have done.

The one good thing about this book is that the beloved Third Doctor's final scene unfolds with just the right amount of emotional gravitas.  It made me wistfully sad to see him go in a way that surprised me considering how long ago it all happened and how I'm just as familiar with Tom Baker's incarnation as I am with Pertwee's.  I particularly liked the Brigadier's delightfully prosaic reaction to the Doctor changing his face yet again.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Pyramids Of Mars

The novelisation of an adventure starring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Sarah Jane.  Drawn to Earth in 1911, the Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves in deep trouble when they have to attempt to prevent the release of the evil godlike being Sutekh, imprisoned in a pyramid in Egypt by his own people millennia before.

This story often comes up in lists of favourite classic Who TV adventures and the novelisation captures everything that makes it worthy of doing so.  Here the Fourth Doctor is at his most iconic, mixing timeless wisdom, bottomless compassion and wry mischieviousness.  Whilst Sarah Jane spends most of the book simply making sarcastic observations, the elements of her character which made her so beloved among all the companions, her proactivity, fearlessness and intelligence, are all in evidence.

Added to this spot-on mix of classic Who's best elements is the villain Sutekh.  A being of almost unimaginable power, it takes all of the Doctor's resources, not least his Time Lord heritage, to defeat the ancient evil.  There's also robot mummies, if you're into that sort of thing.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Revenge Of The Cybermen

A novelisation of a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) adventure originally screenwritten by Cybermen co-creator Gerry Davis.  Following directly on from 'Genesis of the Daleks', this book sees the Doctor and his companions Harry and Sarah Jane materialising on Space Beacon Nerva where a mysterious plague has devastated the crew.  They soon find themselves caught in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between the implacable Cybermen and their archenemies the Vogans.

The character of the iconic Fourth Doctor is perfectly captured here by Dicks, but I have to say I was less impressed with Harry, who comes across as a bit dim, and Sarah Jane, who despite being described as not a 'helpless heroine' nevertheless consistantly finds herself captured and in need of rescue.

I found the story on offer here a compelling one, with the hapless humans merely getting caught up in the age-old emnity of two alien races.  Unfortunately the delivery sometimes lacks finesse.  I also found the Cybermen to be less threatening here than they usually are.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Robots Of Death

An adaption of a beloved TV adventure featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Leela.  The Doctor and Leela arrive aboard a sandminer just as one of its human crew is murdered, they immediately become suspects but the Doctor is suspicious of the robots that do the actual work aboard the vessel.

There's a reason why this is one of the better-regarded Fourth Doctor adventures and it's because it has all the constituent elements of classic Doctor Who.  There's an isolated environment, a small group of humans who all have their own agendas and there's a mysterious death.  Sometimes, in other stories, these elements stray a little too far into cliche territory but here it shows just how much narrative tension can be extracted from those simple elements.

This is only second story featuring Leela that I've read, but she continues to be an interesting and proactive companion, who genuinely has skills that the Doctor lacks.  The other characters prove to be a diverse and engaging group, who don't fall into the one-note one-dimensional catagories as often happens with the disposables, sorry 'supporting characters', in Who.

The only real problem with this book is that it would've been immeasurably better to read if the title hadn't clearly spelled out who/what is responsible for the murders.  Sure, there's more to it than just 'the robots did it', but the title does rob the narrative of a great deal of its mystery.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Sunmakers

This novelisation features the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companions Leela and K9.  The TARDIS arrives on Pluto where the Doctor is surprised to discover a heavily industrialised society where the workers are taxed to death in support of the ubiquitous Company.  Saving one of the workers from suicide, the Doctor and Leela become embroiled in the planet's troubles.

It's funny, but I keep underestimating these Tom Baker-era stories.  In part it's because so many of them lack recognisable antagonists but in this specific case (and in several others) it's mostly because of the actual book's uninspiring cover and plot summary (the front of the book is just a bald man sat at a desk).  I know the cliche that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the truth is that often you can and this one looked to be pretty bad.  Instead, however, I discovered a book with far more going for it than I was expecting.  It still wasn't brilliant, but it was far from as bad I feared it might be.

What the covers totally fail to express is that this is a story in which the Doctor sees a culture where the people are being brutally exploited and decides to begin a revolution.  What's important there is that he isn't aiding a resistance movement already under way; the rebels he meets are basically just criminals hiding from the authorities.  Instead the Time Lord actively decides to begin the revolution himself and overthrow the status quo.  It's rare that we see him quite this proactive and the fiery and often violent Leela is definitely the right companion to help him bring down a government.  K9 helps too of course!

So whilst this isn't the best Who book by far, it is surprisingly satisfying and solid as an adventure for the iconic Fourth Doctor.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Terror Of The Autons

The novelisation of an adventure featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and UNIT.  Once again the Doctor, accompanied by his new assistant Jo Grant, confronts the Nestene Consciousness and its Auton footsoldiers but this time the Nestene have enlisted the help of their own rogue Time Lord; the Master.

The Autons are an iconic Who enemy, so its always interesting to see the Doctor have to face them, but here it is the introduction of the Master that is this story's most important element.  What I loved about this is that the Master arrives fully-formed and its made immediately clear that he and the Doctor have history.  Unlike in our modern era where everything has to be explained, I enjoyed that this 70s story simply presents us with the fact that these two characters have history, without having to go into any pointless exposition about the details.  I also enjoyed that from this, his very first story appearance, the Master's complex friend/foe relationship with the Doctor is established.  You genuinely feel that these two characters hate each other but would also miss each other if one was no longer around.  It's an interesting thing to see for someone, like me, whose introduction to the Master was through the John Sim and Michele Gomez versions of the character.

Handled slightly less well is the introduction of Jo Grant.  The Brigadier largely dismisses her as a girl and the Doctor says that he's no use for an assistant who isn't a scientist, but what makes this worse is that Jo doesn't ever really prove them wrong.  She bounces around making silly mistakes and doesn't really offer anything to the resolution of the plot.  Where Liz Shaw, in '...the Auton Invasion' was immediately shown to be a strong-willed and brilliant scientist, Jo just comes across as a ditzy blonde.  Not an auspicious start for her at all.

As for the main plot, it's fine.  It's nothing groundbreaking and here Dicks handles is ably but without flair.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Time Warrior

A novelisation of an adventure featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee).  Investigating the disappearance of a number of notable scientists, the Doctor meets undercover reporter Sarah Jane Smith.  The mystery leads the Doctor and Sarah Jane to medieval England where a band of ruthless outlaws have allied themselves with a powerful warrior from the stars.

In terms of Who lore this is a very important story, introducing for the first time as it does both Sarah Jane and the Sontarans.  Both of these elements are done justice and reveal why they became such popular recurring elements.  Sarah Jane is fiesty, inquisitive and fiercely opposed to the phallocentric attitudes of the men she meets.  Meanwhile the Sontaran Commander Linx perfectly embodies a warrior culture to whom humans are primitives and compassion of any kind is a weakness.  The Sontarans have become a little bit of a joke in recent Who (although I do adore Strax), so it's nice to see one of them providing some genuine danger to the story.

The actual plot, set mostly in the middle ages, turns out to be something of a disappointment and, for the most part, failed to really engage me.  With Dicks' natural inclination to focus on plot and pace over description, the setting also isn't very vividly brought to life.  Truth be told, in my head I was picturing the sort of cheesy TV set castle they probably actually used in the series, the lack of description robbing the prose medium of its big advantage over film; the ability to use the reader's imagination to be bigger, better and more realistic than a BBC budget will allow.

An interesting point to note is that in most of the main story beats, the Twelfth Doctor episode 'Robot of Sherwood' is very much a remake of this story.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Underworld

The novelisation of a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) adventure, featuring his companions Leela and K9.  The TARDIS encounters a ship which has been searching the stars for a hundred thousand years in hopes of finding the lost Race Bank of the Minyan people.  The search leads them to a newly formed planet at the centre of a nebula, where an oppressive society has developed in tunnels at the planet's core.

This is fairly standard Who fare, with some interesting science fiction trappings that could, conceivably, make for a good story regardless of the Doctor.  Dicks, as ever, keeps the pace high but doesn't spend a lot of time on description or introspection.

Leela isn't as impressive here as she has been in other stories I've read with her but that's balanced somewhat by K9, without whom everything would fall apart.  Honestly, aside from the silly design, I don't know why K9 gets such hate by cynical fans.  Personally, I think he's a brilliant foil for the Doctor who, here, gets thoroughly (and simply) put in his place by the robot dog.

One other interesting element to this book is that it reveals an important bit of Time Lord history.  For the first time we get to discover exactly why the Time Lords adopted their policy of non-interference.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who And The Web Of Fear

A novelisation of a Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) adventure, featuring his companions Jamie and Victoria.  A follow-up to '...The Abominable Snowmen', this book sees the Doctor, Jaimie and Victoria arrive in London only to discover that the city has been invaded by a deadly web-like substance and its streets are patrolled by robotic yeti.  In the tunnels of the Underground they discover a small group of soldiers and scientists attempting to stop the catastrophe engulfing London.

There are lots of Doctor Who stories which pick up threads from earlier ones, but this is the only one I can think of where the same TARDIS team arrives thirty years in the future from a previous adventure and meets up with not only the same allies, in this case Travers, but also the same antagonist.  I really liked the tone of this being unfinished business from before that this gives the story, but also the way in which at least some of the players are already familiar with the Doctor's MO, so we don't go through too much of the 'everyone is suspicious of this strange newcomer' that happens in most stand-alone Who stories.  I was also pleased to see the return of the Great Intelligence in a way that doesn't rob it of any of its mystique.  I really like the fact that the GI is just a disembodied force for evil and no more is needed to be explained than that (it also doesn't hurt that I've always loved the Intelligence's resurgence in New Who in 'The Snowmen' - my own first encounter with the villain).

By any measure this would be a solid Who story; with good characters, a great antagonist and the nicely atmospheric and claustrophobic setting of the London Underground; but there is something that pushes this book over the top for me.  Because this novelisation was written long after the story originally aired on TV, it means Dicks gets the opportunity to really give some retroactive weight to a scene which, in hindsight, is one of the most important in the long history of Who: the very first meeting between the Doctor and Colonel (not-yet-Brigadier) Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart.  The chemistry that these characters instantly have is brilliant, with each rapidly coming to respect, albeit not always agree with, the way the other does things.  After that, any time they share page space is a pleasure to read.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Catastrophea

A Past Doctor Adventure featuring Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor and his companion Jo Grant.  The Doctor and Jo find themselves out of their depth when they arrive on Kastopheria, a planet beset by troubles including native unrest, violent political radicals, drug smugglers, ruthless business owners and looming war with the Draconian Empire.  Although the Doctor decides that there are too many problems for him to be able to help, the planet's various factions are all bent on drawing him into their intrigues.

This book was a big disappointment for me.  Most of the Third Doctor novels I've read have all focused on his UNIT adventures and I was looking forward to one, written by one of the main creative minds behind that era of Who, that sees him return to his universe-roving adventures in the TARDIS.  However, what Dicks delivers is an almost entirely formulaic 70s-style Who story, with pompous authority figures, blundering soldiers, misguided rebels and a repetetive capture-escape-capture format.  It's like a tick-list of all the most boring Who tropes of the classic era, not least the unnecessary drawing-out of plotlines past the point where they feel fresh or interesting.

The one element of the book which does make it stand out a little is how Dicks tackles the clearly allegorical subject of the native People, enslaved by colonial humans.  Not only does he address the obvious wrongs of brutal profiteering slave owners, but also the more complex matter of a sympathetic colonial administration attempting to adopt the role of guiding parent for the poor primitives.  That and the misguided dissident groups show that even well-intentioned intervention is still not the same as simple freedom.  Also, these issues give us the book's best moment when Jo, seeing a slave owner abusing his driver, dives in an attacks the cruel bully, with the Doctor rushing to catch up.  I don't think I've ever loved Jo Grant as much as I did in that scene (unless you count Katy Manning's famous nude photoshoot).

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Death To The Daleks

An adaption featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Sarah Jane.  When the TARDIS' power is mysteriously drained, the Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves stranded on Exxilon and attacked by savage natives.  They soon discover that they are not the only ones trapped on the planet as they are forced into an alliance with an expedition from Earth and with a scouting party of Daleks.

The introduction of Exxilon in this book is very atmospheric, with the planet and its natives quickly proving to be the main threat in this book, despite the Daleks featuring in the title.  It was very interesting to see the Daleks, drained of power just like the other stranded parties, forced to enter in to an alliance with not only the humans but the Doctor himself.  However, as expected, the evil pepperpots are always up to something more and I really enjoyed the way in which whilst one group of Daleks talks peace, a second group is determined to discover a way of reactivating their weapons.

Its not all great, with the Doctor's activities inside the ancient Exxilon city being bizarre and, ultimately, entirely irrelevant.  On top of that, the ending of this story is a little rushed and abrupt, but overall its an enjoyable outing for the Time Lord.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Made Of Steel

An original adventure featuring the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Martha Jones.  When several high-security tech storehouses are robbed by giant silver men it becomes clear that the Cybermen have returned.  Whilst Martha is captured by the cybernetic monsters, the Doctor's help is enlisted by the military forces tasked with defeating them.

There are several things of note about this book before we get into the text itself.  Firstly it's Dicks' first foray into the revived Who era and secondly it's a so-called Quick Read, coming in at just under a hundred pages.  Finally, this is the Doctor and Martha's first adventure together as this book was released before the companion made her debut on TV (although the book is, naturally, set after that).

Curiosities out of the way, I found that, to begin with, I wasn't hugely impressed with this book.  The very beginning read as very contrived and short on explanation.  I particularly cringed when the Doctor and Martha joke about there being no danger of the Cybermen ever returning.  On top of this poor start, I was also constantly bothered by the way the book only ever references the alternate-universe Cybermen from Series Two, never mentioning the fact that the Doctor has had more than a few run-ins with Cybermen in his own universe.  I get that in its early days the revived show (and therefore its tie-ins) was reluctant to reference the classic series too much, but that begs the question of why you'd invite Terrance Dicks, the granddaddy of classic series novellists, to write this book.

However, once I got a bit further into the book I actually settled in an started enjoying it for what it is; a fun adventure in which the Doctor once more matches wits with one of his most persistant foes.  Dicks does a great job of capturing Tennant's iconic Tenth Doctor and, by the end, I was sorry that this wasn't a full-length adventure.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Players

A Past Doctor Adventure featuring the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his companion Peri.  Arriving in South Africa amid the Boer War, the Doctor and Peri soon encounter young Winston Churchill.  However, after foiling a mysterious assassination plot, the Doctor begins to suspect that someone is meddling in the course of history, recalling a similar encounter with Churchill amid the First World War during his Second (Patrick Troughton) incarnation.  The Doctor and Peri then encounter Winston once more in 1936 and discover a plot to derail history by preventing the abdication of Edward VIII.

The Sixth Doctor is not well-regarded by most, largely as a result of poor writing, BBC interference and John Nathan-Turner's bizarre design choices over the Doctor's look.  However, I've always thought Colin Baker's performance was brilliant and here, in the only the second Sixth Doctor original novel I've read, we get to see this iteration of the character really shine.  The Doctor here still has his superior arrogance, but we also see it tempered by charm and genuine affection not only for Peri, but for several of the supporting characters too.  The Sixth also does righteous indignation better than any other Doctor and I enjoyed his reaction to the Players, beings meddling with the flow of time as entertainment.

All too often Who authors bog their books down with long incidental introduction sections and with the stories of the one-off supporting characters.  Here, however, Dicks uses his experience of writing the novelisations to create a Doctor Who book that feels like it could be the novelisation of a TV story, even though it isn't.  He keeps the pace moving along nicely and keeps most of the focus on the Doctor and Peri, never getting bogged down in side stories.  He also nicely links this book to others he's written; having a character who met the Seventh Doctor in Prohibition Chicago turn up, as well as calling back to 'The War Games', a TV serial which he helped to script (novelised by co-scriptor Malcolm Hulke).

For me, the best element of the book is the Doctor's relationship with Churchill, who shares a great many of the Sixth Doctor's personality traits.  The development of their friendship is interestingly timey-wimey as the Second Doctor met him in WWI, then the Sixth meets him in 1899 and they're reunited in 1936, where Churchill is affably suspicious of how much this new 'Doctor John Smith' is like those he's met before, even if he doesn't look like one of them.  The dynamic of their relationship here feeds really nicely into that portrayed on screen between Churchill and Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, linking this 1999 novel nicely with the TV series circa 2010.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Revenge Of The Judoon

A Quick Reads original adventure featuring the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha Jones.  The Doctor and Martha arrive in Scotland in 1902 to discover that Balmoral Castle, complete with King Edward VII, has been taken by the Judoon.  They then have to find the missing royal residence and find out who is behind the Judoon's actions.

This book starts well, with the Edwardian era being a great setting for a Who adventure and the disappearance of Balmoral and the king being a great mystery for the TARDIS travellers to get stuck into, with Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle somehow involved.  Unfortunately the book never really delivers on all this early promise.  The mysterious group behind the plot aren't really very threatening, Doyle's appearance is little more than a cameo and the Judoon are sorely underdeveloped and underused.

The simple truth is that the premise of this story would have made a great full-length novel but as a 102-page Quick Read it feels rushed and shallow.  Dicks' writing ability remains of high quality but, if anything, that serves to highlight how much better this could've been if it were longer.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Caves Of Androzani

Dicks' adaption of the final adventure of the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison).  The Doctor and his companion Peri arrive on Androzani Minor and, after decending into its subterranean caverns, are accidentally poisoned.  Their conditions steadily worsening, the TARDIS travellers then become embroiled in the warfare between criminal gunrunners, the army of Androzani Major and the deranged genius Sharaz Jek.

This is often lauded as one of the best stories of classic Who, so I was looking forward to reading this book, having never seen the TV original.  Rapidly I began to wonder if this story is so lauded because the proponents of classic Who are often cynical 30-40 year olds who malign the revived series for its lighter tone.  This is a very dark story for the Doctor, in which he's dying across the entirety of it and every side of the conflict he falls into are irredeemable villains.  There is absolutely no sense of fun or wonder about this story and I suddenly began to understand why Doctor Who of the 80s was considered too grim and violent for its target audience.  There's nothing wrong with Who stories being a bit more adult, but without that sense of fun it loses what makes it what it is (there is a reason, afterall, why Tom Baker and Matt Smith are among people's favourite Doctors).

Perhaps visually this was a good story, but here it comes across as fairly repetitive and tedious, with the Doctor and Peri being captured by one side, escaping, being captured by another side, escaping and so on.  Very early in the book the idea is introduced that the only cure for the Doctor and Peri's poisoning was bat milk (?) that can only be found in the airless depths of the planet.  I was, naturally, expecting the story to become a quest-style story with the antidote as the Holy Grail.  Instead, this whole plot point gets ignored for the majority of the book and then, at the eleventh hour, the Doctor just pops off and grabs it as easily as if he was getting milk from the shops rather than from a giant bat in a lava-filled airless underground cavern.  This third act condensing of plotlines which should have been spread throughout is epitomised when the Doctor, dying, has to carry Peri back to the TARDIS through the caves of an errupting planet.  What should have been a tense time-running-out sequence is literally covered in a single sentence (one which, ironically, describes the journey as 'endless').

Whether it's because Dicks has failed to do the story justice or because it's actually just not that good at its core, by the end of the book I was eagerly awaiting the Doctor's 'death' and the arrival of Colin Baker's replacement.  And it's not often that the Sixth Doctor is treated as an improvement.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion Of Earth

A novelisation of several episodes of the TV series featuring the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Susan, Ian and Barbara.  Here, still trying to return Ian and Barbara to 1960s England, the Doctor and his friends find themselves in 22nd Century London.  But the thriving city of the past is in ruins and the Doctor soon discovers that the monstrous Daleks have invaded.

Science fiction has often been used for allegory and that is very much the case in this book, where a ruinous London is in the hands of a ruthless fascist regime whilst its inhabitants fight a desperate war of resistance.  Although the trappings of this story are the Doctor and the Daleks, it taps into the fears of a Britain which had faced exactly such a possibility only twenty years earlier.  This mirroring of the deep-seated fears of its age elevates this book above mere franchise fiction into the realms of genuinely intriguing science fiction.

Of course, to a Who fan such as myself, the Doctor and the Daleks are trappings which I am happy to see the story adorned with.  I particularly enjoyed reading about how the TARDIS travellers, separated by conflict with the Daleks, each have their own unique adventures as they try to find out exactly what has brought the Daleks to Earth and how they can stop it.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Eight Doctors

The first book of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) Adventures.  Following directly on from the 1996 movie (novelised by Gary Russell), the Eighth Doctor falls afoul of a booby trap left by the Master and has his memories wiped.  After a brief time in 90s London, where he becomes embroiled in a drug deal gone wrong, a mysterious force sends the Doctor on a quest to regain his memories by seeking out his seven previous incarnations.

I wonder if Dicks suffered a blow to head shortly before writing this book, because it comes across as a car-crash of ill-fitting subplots and bad fan fiction ideas.  There's also plot holes aplenty, the most glaring of which is that as the Doctor encounters each previous incarnation he tops up his memories to that point, but he could have gotten them all at once if he'd just started with the Seventh Doctor rather than going through them each in chronological order.

At times this book reads almost like a collection of short stories, with disparate narratives.  For instance the opening section with the drug dealers and the introduction of new companion Sam Jones ends abruptly and then weirdly resumes right at the end, totally detached from everything else that has happened in the book, as if Dicks was obliged to set up the rest of the series but only did it grudgingly.  Then there's the confusing and meandering subplot where the Celestial Intervention Agency (no brain cells burned out creating the acronym) is trying to kill the Doctor for some vague reason.

For me the worst element of the book is what should have been its best; how the Eighth Doctor interacts with his earlier counterparts.  The amnesia premise is a cliche, of course, and contrived with little explanation by Page 2 (literally), but it did afford an opportunity for this new Doctor to discover who he is by exploring who he was.  Weirdly, that's not the direction Dicks takes the story.  Instead the Eighth Doctor goes about putting his past incarnations in their places and setting them on the right path.  For example he prevents the First Doctor from bashing someone's head in with a rock, he's also the one who puts the phrase that there is evil in the universe and it must be fought into the Second Doctor's mouth and even has to convince the Earth-bound Third Doctor not to murder him and steal his TARDIS.  I can't understand how someone who knows those characters as well as Dicks could possibly undermine them so horribly.  It felt like a hideous betrayal of beloved characters in favour of the one BBC books was trying to market instead.  The only past Doctor who gives a good accounting of himself when interacting with the Eighth was the Sixth.

It's not all bad, but a multi-Doctor story like this should be great and this book is very far from that.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors

The novelisation of the Doctor Who twentieth anniversary special sees the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) being reunited not only with past companions but also with the past versions of himself.  Plucked from their own times by a mysterious force, the Doctors find themselves trapped in the Death Zone along with some of their most formidable enemies, including the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master.

In all honesty, the way in which these characters are all brought together is pretty contrived and the plot revolving around the Tomb of Rassilon is somewhat rushed.  However, there are countless scenes in the book which are so satisfying that they definitely make up for the shortcomings.  Among these are the First Doctor encountering the Master for the first time (well, sort of), the snippy rivalry between the Second and Third Doctors and the return of much-loved companions such as Susan, the Brigadier and Sarah Jane.

So, although much of this book is basically fan-service, I personally found that to be very enjoyable.  The Doctor is a compelling character in all of his incarnations and it's a real treat to see those characters interact; different men and yet, at the same time, all the same man.  It's a little disappointing that, due to Tom Baker's decision not to return for the original TV version of this story, the Fourth Doctor spends the entirety of the book trapped in the time vortex.  I would have particularly enjoyed seeing that iconic version of the Doctor interact with the others.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Seeds Of Death

The novelisation of a Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story, originally scripted by Brian Hayles, featuring Jamie and Zoe.  The TARDIS arrives in the 21st Century where the Doctor discovers that the T-Mat system vital to human society has been disabled.  Travelling to the T-Mat relay station on the Moon, the Time Lord and his companions discover that the fearsome Ice Warriors are behind the problem.

This is a perfectly adequate and functional adventure for the Second Doctor, no more nor less than that.  There's nothing here that really stands out as remarkably good but by the same token, there's also nothing that is particularly bad.  It's fine, just fine.

I was a little disappointed that this wasn't a particularly iconic story for the Ice Warriors, the return of famous villains usually being an exciting addition to any Who story, but I suppose it has to be remembered that this was actually only their second appearance and therefore they hadn't really become iconic when this story was originally created in 1969.

One thing that is worthy of particular praise, but not necessarily as an exclusive element of this book, is the fact that Zoe is a very intelligent and capable companion.  I recently read a couple of Who books with the Second Doctor and Jamie travelling with Victoria, who is just the worst.  Zoe, on the other hand, is proactive, capable and often an intellectual peer of the Doctor; something that few female companion manage even in the modern era of the franchise.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

An adaption of Doctor Who's tenth anniversary story, which featured the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) gaining help from his two former incarnations in order to thwart the powerful rogue Time Lord Omega.

The TV version of this story is a charming adventure which is severely hampered by the special effects and budget of early 1970s TV science fiction.  Here, however, where your imagination provides the sets and the effects, its a great deal better.  This is particularly true of Omega's jelly-blob henchmen, which looked godawful on TV but which become more threatening and sinister when told through prose.

There are two main reasons to like this story and the first of these is Omega.  He's the Time Lord who first created time travel but eons in isolation and exile have driven him quite mad.  You really get a sense, through the Doctor's eyes, of this antagonist being both brilliant and deranged.  As a foe, the text itself has the Doctor thinking to himself that Omega makes the Master look like nothing more than a petty criminal.

The second, and more important, reason to like this book is that it is, of course, a multi-Doctor story.  Unfortunately, due to the health issues that forced him to leave the series in the first place, William Hartnell's appearance in the original TV serial was very limited and whilst that's still true here, we get a bit more of an explanation as to why that is.  But it is the interaction between the Second and Third Doctors which makes this book so good.  They have an almost instant irritation with each others' personality and constant fall into bickering.  This could have been annoying for us as readers if it were not for the fact that you're always aware that these two characters are the same man.  They're both brilliant and charming, but each has a very different approach to situations.  The scene where the First Doctor puts a stop to their arguing as if they were two naughty schoolboys dragged before the Headmaster is one of my favourites.  But behind the disagreements, you get a distinct sense that all three respect each other on the grounds that, although very different characters, they are all, fundamentally and in every way that matters, the Doctor.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Time Monster

A Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) story featuring Jo Grant, the Brigadier and UNIT.  The Master creates a machine which can summon Kronos, a creature which feeds on time itself.  However, he discovers that the key to controlling Kronos for his own ends lies in ancient Atlantis.  The Doctor, Jo and UNIT have to confront the Master and stop him from accidentally destroying the entire universe.

This is a pretty by-the-numbers Third Doctor story, with very little to either recommend or villify it for.  However, one instance of each is that the Master's interactions with the Doctor are always enjoyable, whilst the casual sexism, patronisation and dismissal that Jo has to deal with is very uncomfortable for a (hopefully) enlightened modern reader.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Wheel In Space

The novelisation of a Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story originally scripted by David Whitaker.  The Doctor and Highlander Jamie McCrimmon arrive in the future aboard an abandoned rocket ship en route to a spacestation (the titular Wheel).  However, mysterious goings-on soon prove to be the preliminary moves in another attempt to conquer Earth by the Cybermen.

This is Doctor Who exactly as it should be; a small group of people in an isolated outpost who come under a mysterious attack that only the errant Time Lord and his companions can help foil.  The tension-building is pefectly paced here and, unlike in Gerry Davis' 'Doctor Who And The Cybermen', the foreknowledge of just who the baddies are doesn't detract from the impact of the story.  It could be argued that these types of stories have been done to death, but so long as they're well-written, I for one will never get sick of the formula.

The charm of Troughton's Doctor shines through here too and even the usually annoying Jamie proves to be a benefit overall.  On top of that, we get some important moments in Who history as the book begins with the departure of one companion, Victoria, and ends with acquisition of a new one; Zoe.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Warmonger

Part of the Past Doctor Adventures series, this book sees the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and his companion Peri become embroiled in an intergalactic war.  When Peri is severely injured the Doctor takes her to the planet Karn in order to gain the assistance of the greatest surgeon in the universe.  However, the arrival of the mysterious General soon leads them on the path to war.

This is an odd book really.  Whilst Dicks' prose is very easy and enjoyable to read, I found that the plot wasn't always strong enough to keep me reading.  Similarly, whilst the overall plot was occasionally lacking, specific elements of it were brilliant.

There's also plenty to keep longtime Who fans happy, with appearances by the Time Lords, the Cybermen, the Ice Warriors, the Sontarans and the Draconians.  The book as a whole serves as a time-bending prequel/sequel to the Fourth Doctor story 'The Brain of Morbius'.

For me, this book's most interesting new concept is also what causes its biggest problem.  The concept in question is the idea of what would happen if the Doctor found himself in control of an army (something that Missy tries out with the Twelfth Doctor); what good could he do and what effects would it have on his character.  The reason this becomes a problem is that the Doctor is more or less unrecognisable in his role as military paragon and we see him acting very un-Doctor-like.  This means that it's hard to believe that he just goes back to normal at the conclusion of the story.  Similarly, we're supposed to accept that Peri, who becomes a badass guerilla leader here, goes back to being the whiny nitwit who continues to travel with the Doctor into his Sixth incarnation.

Overall, a good book but one which just feels too out of place in the Whoniverse.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Warriors Of The Deep

The novelisation of a Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) story featuring Tegan and Turlough.  The TARDIS is attacked in 2084 by a defence satellite and hastily rematerialises inside a military Sea Base.  The Doctor and his companions soon discover that not only have they arrived amid paranoid tensions between East and West, but also at the very place where the Silurians and their Sea Devil cousins plan to begin the reconquest of Earth.

The televised version of this story is one of the most heavily-criticised of its era, with critics citing both its violent content and low production values.  Thankfully, I've never seen the screen version (I hear the monstrous Myrka is particularly awful) and my imagination has no budgetary constraints to spoil the effect.  As for the violence, I can see how it was shocking at the time but the whole point of this story is to highlight the futile brutality of the potential worsening of the Cold War if peace couldn't be achieved.  Honestly, the bleak tone of this story's ending is perhaps its best element.

Beyond the Cold War allegory, this is not more nor less than an old fashioned base-under-siege story.  Tried and tested territory for Who but not particularly interesting as a result.  Unfortunately the Fifth Doctor is my least favourite and here's every bit as bland as my general impression of him has always been.  So where a truly dynamic role for the Doctor could've elevated the staid storyline, that simply isn't the case here.

3 out of 5

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