Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons by Terrance Dicks

Published: 1975

Illustrations: Alan Willow had presumably by this point returned from his fortnight in Bognor refreshed and renewed. His illustration of the Master observing Goodge at the controls of the radio telescope is most notable for Goodge having "Johnson" clearly written on his uniform.

Edition Read: 4th reprint, 1984

Coolest Cover: Tough one, this- but for my money, Peter Brookes captures the comic-strip feel of the original story perfectly. Read on for the effect of Alun Hood’s marvellously repulsive version...

Continuity Conundrums: Only a retrospective one, but the bomb the Master gives Professor Phillips is a Sontaran fragmentation grenade. This is also, as far as I’m aware, the first mention of chameleon circuits, predating ‘Logopolis’ by several years.

Unseen Adventures: A few escapology lessons from a fakir during the Indian Mutiny.

The BBC Budget Wouldn’t Run To: Doing the Nestene creature properly.

Purple Prose: "Most of Phillips’ time had been spent inside that strange control room, carrying out a variety of tasks according to the Master’s instructions. The rest he had spent as a circus clown, stumbling about in the ring with the others, accepting the buckets of water and the blows and kicks without complaint. It had amused the Master to degrade a brilliant scientist into a mindless buffoon." (p.68)

Childhood Recollections: Alun Hood’s reprint cover so terrified me as a child that, after reading the book, I couldn’t bear to have two black plastic bags full of rubbish in my room in case they attacked me during the night. Even today it’s thoroughly nasty.

Ramblings: The original ‘Terror of the Autons’ was a fast-paced shocker, playing off Robert Holmes’s macabre humour against the urbanity of Roger Delgado’s Master. Terrance Dicks’s adaptation keeps the pace and keeps the thrills, but there’s a certain amount of revision in hindsight going on here, as if on looking at the story again, Dicks could see where the production team either went too far or lost some of the potential impact of the story. A certain amount of trimming goes on here and there, so McDermott’s presence is lessened and the funniest line in the whole story (Farrel’s "Sylvia, would you check Mr McDermott’s entitlement on termination of employment, please?") is cut; similarly, the devilish charm of Roger Delgado’s Master is diminished- Dicks makes is quite clear that every remark about gallantries on the eve of battle and so on is his way of compensating for his failure to kill the Doctor the first time around. I wouldn’t say the story was necessarily weakened by this; if anything, it gives the book a little more focus than the approach of the TV story, but it does mean that a lot of the enjoyable details are left out. It’s an improvement on Dicks’s preceding adaptation of his own story, however- he’s discovered the way in which significant details can really flesh a character out, so we understand more about the dynamics of the Farrel family and the Goodge household. A good example of a strong TV story adapted into an exciting read, with as much gained as lost- cracking job, Mr Dicks.