Doctor Who - The Invasion by Ian Marter

Published: October 1985

Edition read: Target first, 1985

Coolest Cover: Andrew Skilleter in straightforward-but-good mode

Purple Prose/Crimes Against Literature: "Routledge remained standing like a waxen dummy for several seconds. Then he vomited a stream of blood and pitched forward onto his face at Vaughn’s feet." (p.95)

The TARDIS materialises with ..." a raucous trumpeting which quickly became a banshee wailing"

...and dematerialises with..."a hoarse trumpeting and groaning sound"

Childhood Recollections: Mostly of treasuring the hardback.

Ramblings: Now that we’ve all had a chance to re-evaluate ‘The Invasion’ with our wonderful DVDs, animated episodes and all, it’s been an interesting exercise to go back to Ian Marter’s 1985 novelisation and another take on an important and influential story. When Ian Marter came to adapt the story, it was with the sole exception of ‘The War Games’, the longest story to be adapted in a single volume. It was also, with the unthinking acceptance of received wisdom characteristic of early 1980s fandom, regarded as a classic by virtue of (a) starring Patrick Troughton, (b) having the Cybermen in it, (c) being the first UNIT story and (d) missing two episodes. And so we paid large amounts of money in the currency of the time to hear Frazer Hines telling anecdotes about exploding Christmas puddings and liquid lunches at the Guinness factory. Some eight years after the novelisation, we could finally (legitimately) see the six surviving episodes and appreciate the unique feel of the televised story, not least in Douglas Camfield’s unique ability to choreograph the military. So in between, we have Marter’s novelisation, an individual take on ‘The Invasion’ which somehow manages to be better and worse than the story as shown on television.

To begin with, Ian Marter’s view of ‘The Invasion’ is somehow less sprawling than the televised story and more coherent. Swapping a few scenes around here and there and describing some of the lengthy action sequences in a few sentences, Marter condenses the eight episodes down to 159 pages- a record length, but in fairly close print and not that disproportionate when compared with some of the adaptations of four-part stories. The contemporary setting helps, of course, as there’s less description to be written, and you don’t need to describe a Cyberman in that much detail when there’s one on the front cover. A couple of changes stand out; in particular, the book retains the scripted sequence where Gregory is killed during a UNIT rescue of Professor Watkins, rather than the muddled sequence in the screened episode, while the scene where Vaughn forces Routledge to shoot himself borders on the revolting - and this on top of the rather strong sequence where the UNIT lorry driver has half his head blown off. He can’t help himself from muddling with the names either, so we have not only Routledge and Bradwell but Taktik missiles and the infamous Nykortny missile base in Russia.

Focusing on these kinds of details is, however, churlish as it’s a good, tightly-written account of the original story which doesn’t follow the televised story slavishly but remains faithful to the spirit, gleefully writing across cliffhangers and recognising the different needs of episodic television and a prose narrative. I’ve mentioned before that Marter seemed to see his core audience as early teenage boys ready for something a bit more gory and violent in their writing, and his style reflects this and remains unpatronising- although I don’t recall him copping quite as much flak for the "bastard" in this book as in his version of ‘The Enemy of the World’. If it shares some of the original story’s flaws- it is after all still halfway through before the Cybermen really turn up- the interplay between the Doctor and Vaughn retains its original sparkle and at no point could the book be said to lag. If it has a weakness, it’s in its eagerness to embrace the original story’s grittiness and enthusiasm for military hardware, it sometimes forgets things like character and charm. But what it loses in that respect, it gains from an ambitious and original approach which turns an incomplete story into something more even and unified, no mean feat when one considers the reference material that Marter had available to him.