Doctor Who and the Cybermen by Gerry Davis

Published: 1975 (although my copy says 1974)

Illustrations: Alan Willow, drawing Ben as Lee Majors and getting the perspective on the moon’s surface badly wrong. Rather than looking like an enormous base about a mile away from our heroes, it looks like it's a couple of yards away and eighteen inches high.

Edition read: First reprint, 1974

Coolest Cover: Chris Achilleos’s cover is just iconic- the wrong sort of Cyberman, Troughton from ‘The Three Doctors’, but combined with the black spine and back cover it looks so wonderfully dark and disturbing.

Continuity Conundrums: Ben is apparently from the 1970’s, so he’s in for a surprise when he gets dumped in 1966 in two stories’ time...and the Cybermen here say they’re from Telos.

Unseen Adventures: None, but the ‘Creation of the Cybermen’ prologue gives some idea of how Davis originally saw the Cybermen.

The BBC Budget Wouldn’t Run To: Thirty Cybermen launching an all-out attack on a dual-level moonbase set.

Purple Prose: It’s too long to quote here, but the sequence where Ralph is attacked by a Cyberman in the food store stuck in my subconscious for years. Also, bearing in mind that the book was written at the same time that Davis’s script for ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ had been substantially rewritten by Robert Holmes:

The Cyberman turned and looked at the second Cyberman, then back at Benoit. ‘Revenge? What is that?’

What indeed...sadly the line is in the original story, but I’m sure Davis could have taken it out if he’d wanted to...

Crimes Against Literature: Davis seems never to have heard of tautology, so we get the likes of "the solar sun" (as opposed to the other kind, then) and "the round, doughnut-shaped torus of the Gravitron". The book is also particularly badly copy-edited, leading to howlers like:

...Evans was sitting with his head on the controls, unconscious. ‘Quick,’ said the Doctor,’before he comes too’.

Obviously one of the lesser-known side-effects of Cyber control.

Childhood Recollections: I remember having a copy, certainly, and at some stage wanting the poster Target did of the reprint cover.

Ramblings: The second Troughton adventure to see print is the superior in every way, and in common with Terrance Dicks’s adaptations of the Pertwee era, has the good fortune to be adapted by its script editor and co-writer, so although it’s a reasonaby faithful adaptation as far as I can tell from the existing episodes, there are just a few areas where you feel that Davis wasn’t particularly happy with Morris Barry’s direction. Hobson is referred to (and his lines are slightly modified to reflect this) as a Yorkshireman, so I get the impression that we weren’t all that keen on Patrick Barr’s interpretation, and the book loses something of the story’s sense of an international base with named individual characters. Davis’s prose style is also a bit undisciplined and can veer from the utterly compelling to the awkward and cliched, as suggested above, and he’s not helped by the fact that the book was clearly copy edited by somebody who had their mind on something else and didn’t know that benzine and benzene are two different chemicals. Clearly Davis imagined the story taking place on a bigger scale, and he restructures the climax slightly so that the Doctor isn’t in three places at once and some of the tasks get spread out more evenly among the cast of characters. There’s a nice (underdeveloped) bit where Davis dwells momentarily on the gadgetry used to treat Jamie- while for us it’s a clever little foreshadowing of the Cybermen, more could have been made of it. It’s useful, though, to know that the shower caps are actually acoustic helmets to drown out the sound of the Gravitron while it’s in operation. But don’t get the impression that I didn’t like it- far from it, the book treads the fine line between faithful adaptation and authorial re-imagining, and while it loses some of the rough edges of the 1967 production, it’s remarkably faithful considering that ‘The Tenth Planet’ might have been a more logical choice for a first Cyberman book, and that it has to explain the events of that story before it can tell its own.