Carnival of Monsters
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1977
ISBN 0 426 11025 0
First Edition Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: The Doctor and Jo land on a cargo ship crossing the Indian Ocean in the year 1926. Or so they think. Far away on a planet called Inter Minor, a travelling showman is setting up his live peepshow, watched by an eager audience of space officials... On board ship, a giant hand suddenly appears, grasps the Tardis and withdraws. Without warning, a prehistoric monster rises from the sea to attack... What is happening? Where are they? Only the Doctor realises, with horror, that they might be trapped...


No CSO or magic wands... by Tim Roll-Pickering 2/2/04

By the time this novelisation arrived in early 1977 several trends had emerged in the Target range. One of the best was the way that an adaptation of a Robert Holmes script by Terrance Dicks could produce a highly enjoyable book without having to alter much at all from the original televised version. Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters is no exception to this rule, once more providing a strong book that brings the script to life and even manages to tie up one or two loose ends, most obviously the question of whether or not history has been changed when the S.S. Bernice is released from the Scoop. (Lance Parkin and contributing fans who aided A History of the Universe please take note!)

As with the televised version, the events of this book are small scale and so a plot to discredit and bring down the President of a planet is constructed within the confines of a space port, whilst the Scoop remains a tiny macro universe, though some lines are added suggesting that as well as humans, Drashigs, Ogrons and Cybermen there are also Ice Warriors amongst Vorg's collection. Although the small scale remains, there is far less tackiness inherent in the story, with Dicks providing descriptions that imply a production with a far greater budget, not to mention a complete absense of CSO, and yet never once undermining the simpleness that is a key part of the story's charm and appeal.

There are however a few subtle changes to the story that alter the emphasis of events and the most obvious change comes when the Doctor and Jo flee from the Drashigs in the swamp. On television the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to ignite the marsh gas and thus scare the Drashigs off, but this has its flaws as it turns the sonic screwdriver ever more into a magic wand for solving all problems as well as effectively having the Doctor routinely carry a weapon. Dicks has come up with an alternative version in which the Doctor takes a flare pistol with him when he escapes the S.S. Bernice and now it is this he uses to ignite the gas. The change does not impact on the wider story but does show a clear determination to ensure that the Doctor's moral code remains clear as well as getting away from using the sonic screwdrive as a quick fix solution to every major problem. At a time when on television the Doctor was appearing ever more violent, most obviously in The Brain of Morbius, The Seeds of Doom and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, it is reassuring to that see the Target books, whether at author or editorial level, were prepared to hold the line and reign back on this, as well as ensuring that the Doctor remains a wanderer surviving by his wits and not by having a quick fix solution to everything.

Unfortunately the end of the book could not be easily altered to avoid the Doctor pulling the necessary equipment to solve everything out of the TARDIS but a real sense of tension remains as the equipment gets damaged and the Drashigs go on a rampage. But otherwise the story remains competent and holds up well. This isn't the best of the Dicks adaptations of Holmes stories but remains a competent effort. 7/10