Hitting The Target – Doctor Who and the Crusaders by David Whitaker

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As with The Daleks, David Whitaker’s second Doctor Who novelisation opens with a non-televised section.  It’s a truly fascinating prologue which sees Whitaker articulating his philosophy about the series in general as well as explaining why the Doctor never interferes in Earth’s history.

The latter argument is a rum old one. When Barbara asks what would have happened had Adolf Hitler been assassinated in 1930, the Doctor blithely replies that it’s a moot point since Hitler wasn’t assassinated back then! The Whitaker Doctor is content to only observe Earth’s history and – rather than not wishing to change it – seems to believe that the laws of time strictly forbid his interference. But this doesn’t answer the puzzle about why he’s perfectly happy to meddle on Skaro, Marinus, the Sense-Sphere, etc, etc.

This was quite a stifling premise, so it wasn’t surprising that Dennis Spooner held a different view – his scripts (The RomansThe Time Meddler) seemed to take great delight in breaking Whitaker’s rules ….

Whitaker’s Doctor Who philosophy is set out in the opening paragraph of the book.

As swiftly and as silently as a shadow, Doctor Who’s Space and Time ship, Tardis, appeared on a succession of planets each as different as the pebbles on a beach, stayed awhile and then vanished, as mysteriously as it had come. And whatever alien world it was that received him and his fellow travellers, and however well or badly they were treated, the Doctor always set things to rights, put down injustice, encouraged dignity, fair treatment and respect.

It’s a lovely bit of writing, although it has to be said that it doesn’t really reflect many of the Doctor’s televised adventures up to this point.  They mainly consisted of the Doctor desperately attempting to return to Tardis (which was usually, for one reason or another, inaccessible) with the result that any assistance he dished out to the locals tended to be an afterthought.

Whitaker’s shaky memory is no doubt the reason why we’re told that Susan married David Cameron (poor girl) as well as the assertion that the Dalek invasion of Earth took place in the twenty first century. Today, all these facts are just a click away, but that wasn’t the case in 1966 – which explains this garbled slice of history.

Whitaker took a little time to reflect upon the changes undergone by Ian and Barbara during their time with the Doctor. “Ian was now a deeply tanned bronze, his body trained to the last minute, no single trace remaining of the ordinary Londoner he had once been”.

As for Barbara, there’s a faint whiff of Mills and Boon about this following section of purple prose. “Where her face and form had conjured up beauty in the eye of any beholder, now beauty radiated from within and trebled her physical attractions, making her the admiration and desire of all who met her”.

That Ian and Barbara are a couple is also made abundantly clear. Oh, and we’ve not seen the last Mills and Boonish touch. More on that later.

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When the four time-travellers reach the forest glade and tangle with a group of unruly Saracens, it’s amusing to see how proactive the Doctor is. Given a handy stone by Vicki, he orders Ian to hold down a struggling soldier before knocking him out with said stone. He’s a dirty wee fighter.

Given how good the dialogue in Whitaker’s original scripts was, it’s understandable that he chose to retain most of it for the novelisation. For example, Richard’s early petulant outburst is reproduced virtually intact.

Friends cut down about my ears, or stolen! My armies roust about and clutter up the streets of Jaffa with the garbage of their vices. And an hour ago I learn that John, my brother, finds a thirst for power in England; drinking great draughts of it, although it is not his to take. He’s planning to usurp my throne, and so trades with my enemy, Philip of France! A tragedy of fortunes and I’m too much beset by them. A curse on this day! A thousand curses!

The one major change he makes is to re-order the action somewhat. Unlike the television version, which alternated between various locations, the book is content to be more static (for example, Chapter Four – The Wheel of Fortune – concerns itself with Saladin whilst Chapter Five – The Doctor In Disgrace – relocates back to Richard).

Joanna makes an instant impression on Ian. “Ian could scarcely take his eyes off such a vision of perfection, who earned for herself no more than a few lines in the history books he had read. Her finely sculptured face, with its high cheek-bones and wide generous mouth, the delicate ivory of her skin, just faintly tinged with colour at the cheeks, the classically simple gown that emphasized the perfect proportions of her figure, all made an impact on him he knew he would never forget”.

Steady on man, what about Barbara?!

If Richard and Saladin are presented on the page in a similar fashion to their television counterparts, then El Akir is the one character who really benefits from the printed word. Not that any attempt is made to humanise him (far from it). Whitaker takes every opportunity to paint him as a totally merciless individual without a single redeeming feature. For instance, we discover how he received his disfiguring scar – after murdering his brother (in order to gain possession of his brother’s wife) his sister-in-law was able to gain a modicum of satisfaction by striking him with a heavy ornament. Although this satisfaction was short-lived as she was then murdered by El Akir’s men.

Although it’s long been rumoured that Whitaker’s draft scripts implied that the relationship between Richard and Joanna had an incestuous tinge (which was removed, so they say, on the request of William Hartnell) he chose not to introduce this theme into the novelisation. But what he did do was slightly ramp up the sexual nature of Barbara’s predicament.

It’s slightly eye-opening to be told that back in the 1960’s she was often to be found in a bikini, sunning herself on some beach. But this is then compounded by the brief costume she’s forced to wear in Saladin’s court. It’s easy to imagine some of the other companions in this garb, but not our Barbara ….

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This slightly squiffy picture of Barbara-as-sex-object is reinforced whenever she falls into El Akir’s clutches. It’s spelled out several times exactly what lays in store for her, although the torments won’t only be inflicted on her body. “El Akir is one whose pleasures are inhuman. He will not spare his victims any humiliation his agile brain can well devise. He is a past master in the arts of torture, not simply of the flesh, but of the mind and soul as well. He does not kill lightly, because he prefers to prolong suffering, pain and mental anguish. Search into the darkest corners of your imagination, invent the worst misdeeds you can, and still El Akir will surpass them by a hundred-fold”.

Although the Doctor and Vicki hardly appeared in the fourth television episode (until the final scene) for this book Whitaker made the decision to remove their other episode four scene.  This means that the Doctor and Richard part on the unhappiest of terms, with Richard believing that the Doctor has betrayed his trust. In book form, the Doctor and Vicki leave the action at the end of chapter five and don’t reappear until the end of the story (in chapter eight).

A slight shame that we’re denied the reconciliation scene between the Doctor and Richard, although it does help to reinforce the notion that the Doctor is just an observer of events rather than an active participant.  The downside is that Richard joins Joanna and Saladin in simply disappearing from the story.

On television, Saladin exits after he receives Richard’s offer of Joanna’s hand in marriage to Saphadin.  In the novelisation he’s given an additional scene – an intriguing meeting with Ian,  which sees the schoolmaster articulating the Doctor’s concept of religious tolerance.

I have a friend, a very wise, well-travelled man who spoke to me on the subject of religions once. In the West, three main streams dominate: Mohammedanism, Judaism and Christianity. In the East, the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Moslem rival Janism, Sikhism, Parsee and Shinto. But what is the sum total? That all people, everywhere, believe there is something mightier than themselves. Only the name changes. The little Negro child will say his prayers and imagine his God to be in his colour. The French child hopes his prayers will be answered – in French. We are all children in this matter still, and will always be – until colours, languages, custom, rule and fashion find a meeting ground.

If El Akir is despatched with indecent haste on television, then his print death is much longer and much more satisfying. First he goes several rounds with Ian, who proves himself very handy with a sword, before Haroun steps up to choke the life out of him.  It’s a nasty way to go, but then he had been viciously whipping Barbara just before Ian burst in to confront him (another of those sadistic scenes which would never have been permittable on television) so I think he deserved everything that he got.

One last burst of Ian and Barbara in a Mills and Boon world? Go on then.

Barbara looked across at Ian, stretched out a hand and held his. A dozen unsaid words hung between them in the understanding of that moment. Modern people though they were, they had stepped into a world of chivalry and barbarism and Ian had not failed her. She had needed him and he had come for her. She knew, whatever the age, whatever the place, whatever the circumstances, he would measure up to her every expectation.

She leant across from her horse, put her arm around his neck and kissed him softly on the lips. She sat back again, her heart beating a little faster, a slight tinge of pink at her cheeks, holding his eyes with hers.

Althouh largely faithful to the original source material, there’s more than enough additions – a spot of sadism, some good character development, an epic sweep to proceedings which simply wasn’t possible in the cramped studio – to ensure that Doctor Who and the Crusaders stands up as a decent read in its own right. It’s a great shame that David Whitaker wasn’t asked by Target in the mid seventies to adapt any more of his stories. He was approached later on and had begun to rough out plans to novelise The Enemy of the World, but his untimely death in 1980 meant that these plans went no further.

Whitaker’s importance in the development of television Who is clear enough, but he can also lay claim to be the founding father of written Who.  Apart from his two novelisations, there’s also his work on the annuals, various sundry publications such as Invasion from Space, as well as the scripts for the Dalek TV21 comic strip.

Doctor Who and the Crusaders, like Doctor Who and the Daleks, is an essential Doctor Who novelisation.

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Hitting the Target – Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

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Given that most potential purchasers of this book back in 1964 would have been well aware about how the television series began, it’s a little odd that David Whitaker spent the first fifth of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks crafting an alternative origin story for the Doctor and co.

But I’m awfully glad that he did, because it’s absolutely gripping – a tale of fog, Barnes Common, everlasting matches, a strange telephone box, dead soldiers hanging out of lorries and a malevolent old man searching for a lost key ….

I love the way that Whitaker returns from time to time to the events of An Unearthly Child.  In both the book and television versions there’s the disturbing notion that the old man has (for reasons unknown) secreted a young girl inside a telephone box.  Plus Barbara remains the one who’s questing for answers to the mystery of Susan – with Ian a helpless passenger buffeted along by events.

Subtle touches to other television stories – when we first see Susan she’s wearing the same sort of bandage memorably sported by the Doctor in The Edge of Destruction – are woven in whilst Whitaker also takes the opportunity to expand upon the wonders of TARDIS.  He was clearly very taken with the food machine scene (repeating it here virtually verbatim from Nation’s script).  Indeed, he loved it so much that he later popped a food machine scene into the first draft of The Power of the Daleks (which was then snipped out by Dennis Spooner).

Whitaker’s additions include the metal skull cap which gives Ian an excellent haircut (“as good a barbering as I would have received at Simpson’s in Piccadilly”) and the oil and water shower. Clearly TARDIS had plenty of mod cons, although we never learn who cleaned and pressed Ian’s suit (was it Susan or was it all done by machines?)

Given the limited page count, the story has to be streamlined somewhat from the transmitted version, but little of substance is actually missing even if certain key scenes where Ian wasn’t present (Susan’s meeting with Alydon, for example) have to be re-told in the slightly clumsy way that was always a problem with first-person narratives.

There are scores of memorable descriptive passages, such as Ian’s shocked discovery about the horror which lurks inside the Dalek casing.

It was an evil monstrous shape. There was one eye in the centre of a head without ears and with a nose so flattened and shapeless it was merely a bump on the face. The mouth was a short slit above the chin, more of a flap really, and on either side of the temples there were two more little bumps with slits in them and I heard the Doctor mutter that they must be the hearing parts. The skin was dark green and covered in a particularly repellent slime. I felt my stomach heaving and I bit the inside of my mouth until I tasted blood.

In both of Whitaker’s novels, Ian and Barbara seem to be more than just good friends (this is made explicit in Doctor Who and the Crusaders where their future life plans have already been settled). Things are less certain in Doctor Who and the Daleks (after all, they’ve only just met) but a notable Whitaker addition to the second half of the story is Barbara’s cold fury towards him (“I suppose you imagine I like you hanging around me all the time. Well you’re wrong! We’re forced together, I can see that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!”). Does the lady protest too much? At the end of the story this question is answered.

Another interesting wrinkle by Whitaker is the way he reverses the viewpoints of Ian and Barbara concerning the question as to whether the Thals should be formed into a fighting army to help recover the Doctor’s fluid link from the Daleks. In the novel, Ian is gung-ho whilst Barbara is keen for them to make their own minds up. The boxing match – organised by Ian – is an entertaining addition.

The slow descent into the Dalek city via the caves by Ian, Barbara and a small group of plucky Thals is probably the lowpoint of the television version. These scenes work better in print, although it’s a pity that Antodus’ ever-growing fear has been deleted. On the plus side, Kristas is greatly expanded and becomes wise and sage-like. It’s therefore something of a shock to realise that the television original is a much more anonymous character.

Doctor Who and the Daleks never fails to engage. Certainly one of my top ten Targets.

Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction. Episode Two – The Brink of Disaster

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The previous episode ended with the Doctor being attacked by a mysterious assailant.  It’s therefore something of a letdown to learn that it was only Ian – trying to warn the Doctor not to touch the controls, as they would have given him an electric shock.

Ian had two choices of course.  Choice number one would have seen him tell the Doctor not to touch the controls whilst choice number two is to throttle the Doctor into submission.  Yes, he goes for choice number two.

But why Ian would think the controls would be dangerous (and how he managed to awake from his drugged sleep) is a bit of a mystery.  Yes, Susan was attacked by the console in the previous episode, but we saw the Doctor touch the controls later on with no ill effects.

For a few minutes, the Doctor is still convinced that Ian and Barbara are the cause of his problems, but eventually the penny drops that something is wrong with the ship.  Barbara decides that the TARDIS has been trying to warn them.  “We had time taken away from us and now it’s being given back to us because it’s running out” is just one of her baffling utterances which make no sense at all.

And the reason why the TARDIS acting so oddly? The Fast Return Switch was broken (a faulty spring!) and is hurtling the ship towards destruction. But rather than issue a conventional warning, the TARDIS decided that a series of oblique and bizarre moments would be just the ticket.  Also, it’s impossible not to love the fact that somebody has written “fast return switch” in felt-tip on the console!

Hartnell has quite a long monologue which is designed to wrap the mystery up.  Even at this early stage he was never keen on lengthy speeches – due to the worries he had with remembering lines.  He is a bit wobbly in this story from time to time, but he’s pretty much perfect when it comes to this sequence.  Although his reaction when receiving the script (“Christ! It’s bloody Hamlet!”) strongly implies that he needed some persuading to learn it!

I know. I know. I said it would take the force of a total solar system to attract the power away from my ship. We’re at the very beginning, the new start of a solar system. Outside, the atoms are rushing towards each other. Fusing, coagulating, until minute little collections of matter are created. And so the process goes on, and on until dust is formed. Dust then becomes solid entity. A new birth, of a sun and its planets.

It was very possible that this would have been the final episode of Doctor Who.  If so, then it would have ended with a more mellow Doctor finally beginning to appreciate his two new companions.

DOCTOR: I’d like to talk to you, if I may. We’ve landed on a planet and the air is good, but it’s rather cold outside.
BARBARA: Susan told me.
DOCTOR: Yes, you haven’t forgiven me, have you.
BARBARA: You said terrible things to us.
DOCTOR: Yes, I suppose it’s the injustice that’s upsetting you, and when I made a threat to put you off the ship it must have affected you very deeply.
BARBARA: What do you care what I think or feel?
DOCTOR: As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.
BARBARA: Perhaps.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes. Because I accused you unjustly, you were determined to prove me wrong. So, you put your mind to the problem and, luckily, you solved it.

It also reinforces the notion that all four members of the TARDIS crew have something to contribute.  It was Barbara who solved the mystery in this story, Susan returned to the TARDIS to fetch the anti-radiation drugs in The Daleks, Ian made fire in An Unearthly Child, etc.

This might be something of a ramshackle story, but at only two episodes it doesn’t outstay its welcome and apart from a few decent character moments it’s mainly memorable for the subtle reshaping of the Doctor’s character.

Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction. Episode One

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This is odd.   A mysterious explosion in the TARDIS has robbed everybody of the ability to act.  William Hartnell’s the luckiest, as he spends the first ten minutes unconscious on the floor whilst Jacqueline Hill doesn’t come off too badly (she’s been positioned as the sensible one since the first episode and that carries on here).

It’s William Russell and Carole Ann Ford who get the rough end of the stick.  Whether it was as scripted or Russell’s choice, but for the first half of the episode Ian’s lines are spoken in a numbing monotone whilst Ford enjoys violent mood swings as Susan goes somewhat loopy.

There’s a number of bizarre moments, but one of my favourites is at 7:21 when Susan tries the controls of the TARDIS and extravagantly plummets to the floor.  “She’s fainted” says Ian afterwards, blindingly stating the obvious.

This was the first story to use stock music rather than specially composed tracks.  Eric Siday was the composer and one of the cues should be familiar (as it was later reused in The Moonbase).  But the problem is that there’s not enough music and ambient sound effects used – meaning that for long stretches there’s nothing but the raw studio sound.

A prime example is when Susan comes back into the console room and notices that the TARDIS doors are open.  This is clearly a dramatic moment – the ship hasn’t landed so it shouldn’t happen – but it’s played out to a totally dead atmosphere – no music, no effects.  It’s possible that this was intentional (to highlight something was wrong with the TARDIS).  Or possibly not.  It all depends how generous you want to be, I guess.

After fainting, Susan threatens Ian and later stabs her bed with a pair of scissors in a notorious scene which was somewhat controversial at the time.  Why Susan is acting irrationally (and why Ian doesn’t seem to be acting at all!) is never made clear – was this due to the explosion at the start or is it part of the TARDIS’ defence mechanisms (which we’ll discuss during the next episode).

This is an interesting exchange –

SUSAN: I never noticed the shadows before. It’s so silent in the ship.
BARBARA: Yes. Or we’re imagining things. We must be. I mean, how would anything get into the ship, anyway?
SUSAN: The doors were open.
BARBARA: Yes, but, but where would it hide?
SUSAN: In one of us.

It’s a red herring as nothing did get into the ship, but the concept that an alien invader might be hiding in one of them is a powerful and disturbing one.

The Doctor’s now up and about and is convinced that Ian and Barbara have sabotaged the TARDIS. It’s not possible to say for certain that the Doctor is acting irrationally (like Susan) because he’s been a very changeable character since episode one.

I think it was simply the Doctor being his usual suspicious, arrogant self – but it gives Barbara the chance to tell him some well deserved home truths. Jacqueline Hill is wonderful in this scene, as she is throughout the episode. Whilst the others have been erratic, Barbara remains strong.

BARBARA: How dare you! Do you realise, you stupid old man, that you’d have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn’t made fire for you?
DOCTOR: Oh, I.
BARBARA: And what about what we went through against the Daleks? Not just for us, but for you and Susan too. And all because you tricked us into going down to the city.
DOCTOR: But I, I.
BARBARA: Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us. But gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have, or any sort of common sense either.

Frankly it’s worth sitting through the episode for that exchange alone.

We end with the Doctor having drugged(!) the others so he can examine the TARDIS in peace. But somebody then attacks him. Or do they? Possibly it’s just a very contrived cliffhanger.  All will be revealed when we reach The Brink of Disaster.