Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate by John Lydecker (nom de plume for Stephen Gallagher)
Published: April 1982
Edition read: Target third reprint, 1984
Coolest Cover: Andrew Skilleter gets all the main images from the story (except a Gundan) and seems to be starting to discover airbrushes.
Purple Prose: Much is made of Ian Marter using the word "bastard" in Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World and considerably less of Stephen Gallagher using the word "boobs".
The TARDIS materialises with..."a violent lurch"
...and dematerialises with..."an unmusical sound, a warning hoot"
Childhood Recollections: I can say with confidence that this last week has been the first time I’ve read this book. I remember buying it more or less when it first came out and disliking it intensely as (a) impenetrable and (b) having no chapter breaks.
Ramblings: A story as complex and multi-layered as the televised ‘Warriors’ Gate’ was surely demands an equally sophisticated adaptation, so we’re fortunate that Target were able to persuade Stephen Gallagher to adapt his scripts and to bring out one or two strands which were lost in the televised story. I don’t think there’s ever been very much attempt to conceal the fact that "John Lydecker" is Stephen Gallagher’s pseudonym for his tie-in novels, presumably to protect the name of an up-and-coming sci-fi/horror novelist, but that’s somewhat beside the point. The overall effect of the book is as if Gallagher flicked through a couple of Terrance Dicks’s more workmanlike adaptations, decided that it would quite frankly be a disservice to his scripts and to himself to submit them to something so restrictive and decided instead to rewrite the story as a science-fiction novella. There are strengths and weaknesses of this approach- Gallagher’s own creations and ideas come out particularly well, Rorvik in particular emerging as the strongest and probably most realistic character in the book- his casual demolition of Sagan’s house of cards in particular showing his offhand cruelty, but he’s all the more convincing as a character because he isn’t analysed- he’s a dispassionate bully and that’s that. And through Rorvik, Gallagher’s themes also rise to the surface; there’s a particularly subtle moment where, shortly after Rorvik has dismissed to Packard the idea of the TARDIS being a ship for anything other than midgets, Packard repeats the same remark to Lane- and so the bullied become bullies and, as the story of the Tharils shows, the slavers become enslaved.
The weakness of the approach, however, is that the regulars don’t always come across particularly well. It’s not difficult to imagine Gallagher becoming frustrated with Tom Baker’s broad approach to his carefully constructed script, but it’s a shame that much of the emotional impact of K9’s damage and Romana’s departure is missed- the latter in particular coming across as strangely unsentimental. What the book shares with the previous entry, Terrance Dicks’s Doctor Who and the State of Decay, is a complete absence of interest in Adric’s character, seeing him primarily as a means of generating situations by getting into trouble, which is disappointing to have from two widely differing approaches. Nevertheless, as a way of fleshing out a demanding story, the adaptation is certainly a success, and furthermore it’s an unpatronising extension of some of the more complex themes of the original story. If it loses out slightly as a Doctor Who adaptation, it’s only because the original writer knew it deserved better.