Doctor Who and the Cave-Monstersby the Incredible Malcolm Hulke
Edition Read: Target, 1984 (5th reprint)
Coolest Cover: Has to be Achilleos here- the only alternative is Alister Pearson’s symphony in taupe.
Continuity Conundrums: The major one is that, having decided to give his Silurians names and calling the Young Silurian Morka, this was then ignored ten years later by Johnny Byrne when he called the same character Icthar.
Unseen Adventures: A previous adventure in the time of the tyrannosaurus rex, presumably in one of the Doctor’s first two incarnations. On the other hand, being set in the early Seventies, he could just have gone to a Marc Bolan gig.
The BBC Budget Wouldn’t Run To: This is an interesting one for reasons I’ll come to later, but the caves are of course all much bigger, and there are more pet dinosaurs around.
Purple Prose: The whole of Chapter 8, but also the following: "Miss Dawson was worried. She had been one of the first scientists selected by Dr. Lawrence to work at the research centre, and she was thrilled to get the job. All her life she had had to live in London, which she had come to detest, because of her elderly mother. Her brothers, older than her and all scientists, had got married and gone to live in America and Australia. Miss Dawson had been the one left at home to look after their ailing mother. True, she had had some interesting research jobs in London, but whenever she saw an advertisement for an electronic scientist needed abroad, or even in another part of Britain, her mother’s health had mysteriously taken a toll for the worse. " (p.26)
Crimes Against Literature: "’In years to come, the name of Matthew Quinn will be as unknown as - as that of D.E. Hughes.’
‘I’m sorry to be so ignorant,’ said Miss Dawson, but who was D.E. Hughes?’
‘Exactly!’ exclaimed Dr. Quinn, then returned to his lecture-hall voice to reel off more information from his mental store of knowledge. ‘Professor D.E. Hughes, a professor of music, invented radio in 1879, and built a primitive transmitter in his home in Great Portland Street, London.’ (pp.29-30)
Childhood Recollections: My one memory of this book is of picking it up idly from my bedroom floor and reading it from cover to cover one Sunday morning, with occasional breaks for the loo. Happy days.
Ramblings: The Alien Bodies of the Target range, this is the first example of a writer taking the opportunity to improve on his own script. The sedate pace of Doctor Who and the Silurians is tightened up considerably; Hulke takes great pains to delve into the backgrounds of his characters and, as befits any good politically committed writer, asks what drives people to take up positions opposite to his own, so we see that Drs Quinn and Lawrence were both driven into physics by domineering fathers, and the exact nature of Major Barker’s slip-up. The middle section of the story is substantially restructured so that Dr Quinn’s body is found by Dr Meredith (how many doctors do you need in a story, for God’s sake?) and the Doctor and Liz, sans summoning device, have to find another way into the Silurian base. Captain Hawkins and Sergeant Hart are merged into one character, and Dr Lawrence almost makes it to the end of the book; Dr Meredith is a rather younger man than cast for TV, and Major Barker is rather more brutish and unsympathetic than Norman Jones’s haunted Major Baker. As touched on above, however, the down side is that there’s an awful lot of info-dumping, particularly in the first quarter of the novel, right down to a footnote about electrical induction, which jolts somewhat. But it rightly deserves its reputation as one of the best of the early novels, as it’s clear that Hulke took the opportunity to make his story into a stronger, more coherent narrative away from the demands of serial television.
Interesting footnote: the (Marxist) Hulke calls the Silurian Scientist K’to. "Kto" is the Russian for "who". Coincidence?