Doctor Who - Inferno by Terrance Dicks

Published: October 1984

Edition read: Target first, 1984

Coolest Cover: Nick Spender, whose cover didn’t make much sense until I saw the original publicity photo on which it was based. Nice Skilleter-style airbrushing in the background, though.

Childhood Recollections: Having a contest with my friend Mike to see who could get the last remaining hardback copy of this from Wilsons in Liverpool. I made it about an hour before he did.

Ramblings: The Target range proper began with two Terrance Dicks adaptation from Season 7, so it’s interesting if somewhat odd to find that it took another ten years for another story from this season to be attempted. Having said that, with the Target range increasingly encouraging scrpt writers to adapt their own work in the mid-1980s, at least there was something left for Dicks to adapt with some feeling, having been involved in the original productions.

In all honesty, Terrance Dicks’s adaptation is perhaps an example of why ‘Inferno’ wasn’t all that high up on the list in the first place. Turning seven episodes of television into 126 pages of closely-typed prose is an art, and one which had only been attempted twice previously. And Dicks’s technique isn’t the most radical- he sets out with the apparent intention of including every word of the dialogue, which is helpful when it comes to some of the filmed sequences, but can mean that some scenes look like little more than a script, to the extent that I found myself occasionally relying on memories of the televised story to remind myself who was speaking. His departure from the story as transmitted comes however when the Doctor is transported to the alternate dimension; whether for effect or economy, the scenes which cut back to the world of UNIT are generally removed, so the action is concentrated on the Doctor’s predicament and Sir Keith’s disappearance is unheard of until the first scene with the Brigadier following the Doctor’s return.

There are however some interesting Dicksian interpolations- he rationalises the Fascist regime in the alternate world down to a domestic coup following peace with Hitler, and rather curiously relocates the Inferno project to East Manchester. Leaving aside for a moment the curious idea of there being something more volcanic and explosive in East Manchester than Stuart Pearce when City go in 3-0 down at half-time again, it’s rather ironic that this transfers the action to the one part of Britain where shambling hairy regressives wouldn’t seem out of place- just look at the Gallaghers. But while it’s an ambitious attempt to compress the story into 126 pages, some of the middle episodes are squeezed into 16-18 pages and the end result is something which lacks the intensity and atmosphere of the original story. Its greatest achievement is perhaps the way in which it revived a certain amount of interest in a story which had been one of the unfairly-neglected curiosities of the Pertwee era and paved the way for a proper appreciation of the televised episodes in due course.