Arc of Infinity
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - Arc of Infinity

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1983
ISBN 0 426 19342 3
First Edition Cover Photographic

Back cover blurb: When the Doctor returns to Gallifrey, he learns that his bio data extract has been stolen from the Time Lords' master computer known as the Matrix. The bio data extract is a detailed description of the Doctor's molecular structure - and this information, in the wrong hands, could be exploited with disastrous effect. The Gallifreyan High Council believe that anti-matter will be infiltrated into the universe as a result of the theft. In order to render the information useless, they decide the Doctor must die...


Not as good as the Title by Andrew Feryok 2/10/08

"We're too late," said the Doctor defeatedly. "Omega controls the Matrix."
- Part 3 cliffhanger, page 89, Chapter 9
I must admit I've always had a bit of nostalgia for this story. This was the second story I ever owned on VHS and I bought it solely on the coolness of the title. You have to admit, "Arc of Infinity" is definitely one of the most inspired titles of the fifth Doctor era that conjures up all sorts of plot possibilities. It's just a shame that the story doesn't live up to it. Before reading the novelization, I watched my new DVD of the story in order to re-familiarize myself with the plot and characters. I think I definitely enjoyed this story more as a kid than as a young adult. It's a pretty thin plot with a horrible rendition of Gallifrey that is only being held together by three people: Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Michael Gough. It is easy to see how Colin Baker caught JNT's attention in this story, since Colin brings a presence and menace to what is otherwise a ranting cliche. So how does the novelization hold up to the original story? Pretty badly.

The novelization falls within Terrance Dicks' script-to-book category. In fact, it's almost embarrassing to call this a "book" at all. It is basically a translated script of what was seen on screen with no additions or expansions whatsoever. In fact, Dicks hasn't even bothered to add any real descriptions beyond what is minimally necessary. The result is a book that has to rely more on the quality of the original story instead of prose style, and given the quality of Arc of Infinity's story, this results in a book that drags miserably. This is not good when it is only 117 pages in large text! Every line seems to exude a general lack of enthusiasm from an author that was overburdened with a nearly impossible writing schedule at the time. Dicks seems to be struggling to get the story even into this small page count.

This is a real shame because I could see an enthusiastic author having a lot of fun with this story. A deeper exploration of the High Council could have been welcome, exploring their backgrounds in more detail and discovering how they came to this appalling conclusion that they must kill the Doctor. Certainly, an exploration of the Castellan would have been nice. Compare this to The Deadly Assassin. In that story, the Castellan believed the Doctor innocent even when the Doctor was seen firing the gun that killed the President of the High Council in front of a large crowd! Now the Castellan, on almost no evidence, is convinced the Doctor is a traitor who is involved in a conspiracy with the President to destroy the universe with Omega! I could also see an author like Ian Marter having fun with Omega's transformation at the end. Terrance Dicks feebly makes a stab at describing the body horror of Omega's transfer into matter and then his decay during the chase through Amsterdam at the end. Marter would have lovingly described every detail of that transformation in all its gory detail.

Without the wonderful performances of Davison, Baker and Gough, the characters really do end up becoming bland and unexciting. I had a hard time picturing the Doctor, Nyssa or Hedin as they were on the TV screen and this was just after I had watched the story! The subplot involving Tegan and her cousin in Amsterdam drags the story down even more than it did on screen. In fact, when I got to the part where the two were spending the night in the crypt, I got so bored I put the book down for several weeks and moved on to some other books before I forced myself to come back to it.

So, are there any positives in this book? Well, I do have to admit the horribly designed Ergon monster comes across better in this story. Instead of a giant chicken zombie, we now have a humanoid lizard that is a bit more terrifying. That is, it would be if Dicks had bothered to put in any effort to the descriptions. The sequence where Nyssa attempts to rescue the Doctor from his execution by holding the High Council at gunpoint is still a very effective sequence. For the first time, I really felt that the character had some guts and motivations. She is normally such a gentle character and for her to resort to gunplay shows just how much she cares about the Doctor and how far she is willing to go to save him. After all, her father, mother, planet and Adric are all dead, Tegan has left, and the Doctor is the only friend she has left in the world. I could easily see why she would snap and threaten the High Council!

On the whole, a disappointing adaptation of a mediocre Davison story. It is clear that Dicks was just writing this one for the schedule. He puts the minimal effort into adapting the story and just presents the plot and dialogue. You are much better off watching the television version. At least then you'll get to see the great performances of Baker, Gough and Davison, particularly Davison's wonderfully underplayed take on Omega when he is relishing life as normal person again. 3/10