Doctor Who - Terminus by John Lydecker (nom de plume for Stephen Gallagher)
Published: September 1983
Edition read: Target first reprint, 1984
Coolest Cover: It has to be the photographic cover by default- shame the book doesn’t mention the Doctor’s attempt to brace the handle with the metal bar...
Childhood Recollections: Not having particularly enjoyed the televised story, I’m not sure I every read this at the time.
Ramblings: A sudden leap forward into Peter Davison’s second season, ‘Terminus’ is (after all) the middle part of a trilogy and to an extent something of an unusual choice to be adapted first. There’s no concession to this being Turlough’s first appearance in print, however as with the adaptation of his earlier ‘Warriors’ Gate’, Gallagher has a conception of the book which doesn’t involve such trivialities. As with Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate, Gallagher adapts his television scripts as a novella without chapter breaks and the end result is something with a little more sophistication and ambition than your average Target adaptation. Not being all that familiar with the televised ‘Terminus’ (having seen it three times at most in the last twenty plus years), I probably found it easier than most to stop trying to compare what I was reading to memories of the screened episodes an therefore to appreciate the book more as a work of prose, with a different pacing and different priorities reflecting the changes forced on a story by the need to generate three cliffhangers.
One of the first things you notice about the adaptation is its length- it runs to a hitherto-unprecedented 159 pages, and yet the curious thing is that it seems neither padded nor over-developed. There are no major insights or additional information that we didn’t get in the televised story- if anything some of the minor scenes are compressed or reported to prevent the book from becoming even longer- but there’s quite definitely a sense in which, freed from the needs of serial television, the author gives his story a natural development and progression. The only problem with this approach is that it emphasises the way in which the regular cast are split up-and in Tegan and Turlough’s case, quite frankly kept out of the action- until being briefly reunited at the story’s end. In other words, the structure is perhaps a little too near the surface- but in other aspects the story is vintage Gallagher. It’s not difficult to imagine Kari and Olvir coming from the same society as Rorvik and his crew, and there are similar themes of exploitation and cruelty; the Vanir use the Garm much as Rorvik’s crew use the Tharils, but the Vanir are just as exploited in their turn. To an extent it’s a shame that the Vanir never really quite come to life and aren’t too easy to tell apart, but then again the story is more about the collision of two ideas- the Pilot who jettisons his fuel only to destroy his own universe and create another, and the corporation which uses a leaking reactor to treat the dying. Either could probably have fuelled a short story, or possibly even a novel, in its own right, but their convergence gives the story a core of ideas which never quite catches fire- and it’s a slight disappointment that this happens in the writer’s own hands. Perhaps it’s the need to balance out the regulars, and perhaps it’s the author’s failure to bring his own creations fully to life on the page, but it’s difficult not to feel that a fairly interesting story could have become something more.