About the Author:
Born in 1924, Malcolm Hulke worked as a television writer from the 1950s until the 1970s, scripting shows including Pathfinders, The Avengers and Doctor Who. Hulke died in 1979, shortly after completing his novelisation of 'The War Games', which was published posthumously.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.7 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Cave-Monsters
The novelisation of Hulke's own script for the TV serial 'Doctor Who and the Silurians', featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), his companion Liz Shaw and UNIT. Called to investigate strange losses of power at the Wenley Moor underground atomic research station, the Doctor and his UNIT comrades discover that something has been awoken in the caves there, something which has slumbered beneath the surface of the Earth for millions of years.
This is the first appearance of the now-iconic Silurians and the story set-up will be familiar to anyone who watched their reintroduction during Matt Smith's recent tenure as the Doctor, as it hits a lot of the same notes. The Silurians believe they are the rightful owners of the planet and the humans are predictably beligerent in their response. Between the two opposing sides is the Doctor, desperately trying to understand the situation and, perhaps, even broker a peace. I loved how the Doctor behaves here, the enlightened man of peace who most of us will know him as. Although he has great respect for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, here we see just how the Doctor's nature makes him the antithesis of the military-minded. It's fair to say that this wasn't always the case with the First and Second incarnations, but Pertwee's Doctor sets the trend for later incarnations to follow. The final page of the book is a great sting in the tail which shows how humanity is not always in agreement with the Doctor's choices (see Harriet Jones in 'The Christmas Invasion', novelised by Jenny T. Colgan, for a modern Who take on the same thing).
The Silurians themselves are given impressive depth, with their own culture being just as fractured in its politics and opinions as that of the humans.
A good mystery and adventure for the Doctor which shows impressive depth and moral complexity.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Dinosaur Invasion
Featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Sarah Jane, this is an adaption of a story which aired on TV in 1974 and which was written by Hulke himself. The TARDIS arrives back in Sarah Jane's time to find London completely deserted and giant prehistoric monsters roaming the streets. Linking up with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the Doctor and his companion soon discover that there is a greater plot afoot to change the entire history of mankind.
I love Doctor Who and I love dinosaurs, so this book was ideal for me in those respects, showing our favourite Time Lord coming up against tyrannosaurs, pterodactyls and more. However, there's a quaintness to the way the dinosaurs are featured that I enjoyed less, a result of the fact that in the early 1970s considerably less was known about the 'terrible lizards' than is known now. I can only imagine how awful it must have looked on a TV budget with 70s special effects, but at least with this book your imagination can do a better job of bringing the dinosaurs to life.
I did like the fact that, for all their horror and wonder, the dinosaurs are just a sideline to the real villainous plot which is, in fact, impressively morally grey. There are genuinely good characters who are onboard with 'Operation Golden Age' because they've fooled themselves into believing the ends justify the means. Of course, not fooled for a moment are the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, who are suitably dynamic throughout.
Overall this is a largely enjoyable story which, for me, was spoiled slightly by the dinosaurs not living up to their promise (not to mention the paleontologically inaccurate assertion that a triceratops would've used its horns to spear prey).
3 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Doomsday Weapon
An adaption of Hulke's own script for the TV serial 'Doctor Who and the Colony in Space'. Here the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo are unknowingly sent by the Time Lords to a planet where human colonists are trying to eke out a living. Soon the arrival of a ruthless mining company threatens all-out war and the arrival of the Master reveals that there is even more going on than the Doctor realised.
First off I should point out that this was one of the very early Who novelisations so Jo Grant and the Master are presented as if they're brand new to the audience, even though on TV and in subsequently released novelisations of early stories, the Doctor has had several adventures featuring those characters already. Not a big thing, but having just read 'Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons' by Terrance Dicks, which shows Jo's actual first encounter with the Doctor, it was weird to begin this book by having her meeting the Doctor for the first time. Again.
The vast majority of this book is taken up by the story of the colonists and their battle of wills, legality and, eventually, actual weapons with the ruthless corporate mining operatives. Whilst this is a plot that has important resonance regarding the callous business practises of corporate entities, it is one that has been done dozens of times before and since, often better. I rapidly started to find it all tedious and was struggling to get through the book for the first two thirds.
However, at the eleventh hour Hulke gives us something that changes the tone and quality of the story for the better to an enormous degree; the arrival of the Master. Now, he's plastered all over the front cover and the blurb on the back so it's disappointing that he only features in the final third of this book, but that third is leagues better than the preceding two. As ever, it is his fascinating relationship with the Doctor that makes for the best reading and there's a scene where they're sneaking through and underground city together and you genuinely get a sense that these two are old friends as well as antagonists. In fact, the Master's own conflicting feelings for the Doctor are brilliantly expressed by the fact that one minute he's ready to shoot the Doctor in cold blood and the next he's genuinely offering the Doctor the chance to rule the galaxy with him as partners. Wonderfully complex character interaction.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Green Death
An adaption of a Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) adventure featuring Jo Grant and UNIT. When a man is killed by a mysterious green slime in an abandoned coal mine in Wales, UNIT and the Doctor are called in. Caught between Government support of Panorama Chemicals and the protests of a group of ecologically-minded scientists, the Doctor and his allies have to unravel the mystery of the 'green death' and the deadly giant maggots associated with it.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this story since it doesn't feature any particularly iconic villains and comes from the Doctor's earthbound days (a coal mine in Wales isn't as exotic a location as I would prefer for my science fiction). However, it has a strong beginning with some fairly modern comments about environmentalism and the exploitation of nature by large corporations. Seriously, how can it be forty years later and these problems are still relevant. On top of the environmental aspect, I found the setting of a coal-mining community trying to cope in the days after the closure of the mine to be a very realistically and emotionally developed backdrop for the core mystery.
This is also Jo's last adventure with the Doctor and here we actually get to see her showing a bit of fierce feminism in the face of the dismissive attitudes of the Doctor, the Brigadier and Professor Jones. For once, rather than just being a screaming incompetent who follows the Doctor around, we get to see Jo as a decisive and proactive independent young woman. Sad that it comes right at the end of her tenure as the Doctor's companion.
The final thing I enjoyed about this book was the villain of the piece, known as the Boss. I found it wonderfully refreshing to be introduced to a self-aware computer which has observed the successes of humanity's lack of logic and manages to programme itself with a human ego in order to achieve its ends.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Sea-Devils
A novelisation of a Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) adventure, originally scripted by Hulke himself. The Doctor and Jo travel to an island off the coast of Britain to visit the Master, who is being held prisoner there. However, they soon discover that a number of ships have recently disappeared in the area and begin investigating. The disappearances herald the awakening of the Sea-Devils, relatives of the Silurians and the Master is clearly somehow involved.
It could fairly be said that the basic premise of this story is pretty much the same as 'Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters' (or even the two-part Eleventh Doctor TV story which saw the return of the Silurians) with the only major difference being that 'underground' is replaced with 'underwater'. However, this is still very much a compelling story, even if a little familiar, and the underwater element does genuinely add a new aspect to it. There's something very tense about the idea of a submarine being attacked by mysterious forces whilst deep underwater or of offshore oilrigs being found abandoned, their crews killed. Also, it can't be avoided that the reason the Silurians, and by extension the Sea-Devils, are still so popular is that the idea of a race of intelligent reptiles who used to rule the Earth and have been in hibernation for eons is endlessly compelling.
Of course the other big difference with this story is the inclusion of the Master and here we get to see him at his most manipulative and devious. As with most of the Jon Pertwee/Roger Delgado Doctor/Master interactions, we also get a genuine sense of these equally brilliant Time Lords being both rivals and friends. There's even a scene where the Doctor explains to Jo how they used to be close; a friendship inspired by their similar rebellions against Time Lord society. Having the Master be so prominent in this story really did elevate it far above just being a retreading of '...the Cave Monsters'.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Space War
Hulke's novelisation of his own script for the TV serial 'The Frontier In Space', featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo Grant. Arriving in the year 2540, the Doctor and Jo find themselves treated as spies by two great empires on the verge of war, Earth and Draconia. However, the Doctor soon learns that the raids which are leading the opposing empires towards war are actually the work of the Master, trying to foment a galactic conflict.
There's no prizes for spotting the Cold War metaphors littered through this Who story and whilst I do like to read science fiction that refects the times it was written in, I can't help but feel that things are laid on a bit heavy handedly here.
On top of that, it can't be avoided that the vast majority of this book is repetition of the following sequence: the Doctor and Jo are captured as spies, their captors refuse to believe the truth, they escape, then they're captured again, and so on and so forth. It's an unfortunate hold-over from the way in which Doctor Who television stories were forcibly dragged out longer than the actual amount of plot on offer justifes.
There is good stuff here too, though. I've always enjoyed the chemistry between Pertwee's Third Doctor and the Roger Delgado incarnation of the Master; showing the perfect balance of them as both arch enemies and old friends. In fact, once the repetition of no-one believing the Doctor ends and story focuses directly on the Master and the Ogrons as the antagonist, it becomes significantly more entertaining.
Two final negative points, however. Firstly, there is a subplot that reveals the Master is working for someone else and the reveal of who that is would've made for a really great moment in the story if it weren't for the fact that Hulke gives us some of the Master's inner monologue, ruining the twist long before it actually happens. We didn't need to know it then and, as much as I hate the 'mystery box' style of storytelling, I would've preferred to have been surprised later on. The other somewhat negative point is that this story ends on a 'to be continued' note, so you'll have to buy 'Doctor Who And The Planet Of The Daleks' by Terrance Dicks if you want to know how things turn out.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who And The War Games
The novelisation of the final adventure of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), originally co-scripted by Terrance Dicks and Hulke himself. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive amid what they initially believe to be the First World War but soon realise that there is more going on when they discover other historical conflicts, including the American Civil War, the Boer War and the Crimean War, are all also being fought in adjacent time pockets. The discovery of the War Lords and their appropriated time travel technology forces the Doctor to call on a group to whom he is a criminal renegade; the Time Lords.
It is strange now to think that for the first six years (and first two incarnations) of Doctor Who's run on television, viewers had little idea of who the Doctor was, where he came from and why. For most of this book the Doctor is very cagey about his past, even when he reaches the point that he knows it's going to soon confront him and, even to one who is well aware of it, the final reveal to his companions of his renegade nature still has immense impact. Added to that is the fact that this is the very last story for the extremely likeable Second Doctor and the finale becomes even more significant.
Aside from the revelations about the Doctor himself, the core story here is also a very strong one. He and his companions are faced with the horrors of the First World War only to discover that it is merely part of a larger and, ultimately more callous plan. To claim anything is more callous than how the governments and general involved in WWI ran it gives you some idea of just how cruel and ruthless the real villains here are. Not to mention the fact that there is another renegade Time Lord in play, who seems to know the Doctor of old. (It's open to speculation as to whether this is the first canonical appearance of the Master, but it would fit rather nicely).
A good Doctor Who story should be a compelling adventure in and of itself whilst simultaneously letting us discover new things about the Doctor himself and his companions. This book has all of that and has added significance for being Hulke's last writing projected before his death (the book was published posthumously).
5 out of 5