THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Doctor Who and the Silurians
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters

Author Malcolm Hulke Cover image
Published 1974
ISBN 0 426 10292 4
First Edition Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: All is not well at the Wenley Moor underground atomic research station: there are unaccountable losses of power-output; nervous breakdowns amongst the staff; and then - a death! UNIT is called in and the Brigadier is soon joined by DOCTOR WHO and Liz Shaw in a tense and exciting adventure with subterranean reptile men - SILURIANS - and a 40 ft. high Tyrannosaurus rex, the biggest, most savage mammal which ever trod the earth!


Reviews

Into an Alternate Version by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/11/03

Malcolm Hulke's very first novelisation is one of the best known, particularly for the way in which large sections of the narrative have been altered, with the result that it presents a fresh and alternative take on the story. Some sequences have been dumped altogether (most obviously the Doctor's encounter with a lone reptile man at Dr Quinn's cottage or the final scenes in the caves), characters' names have been altered (for example Major Baker becomes Major Barker, the Old Silurian Okdel, the Young Silurian Morka and the Silurian Scientist K'to) and a lot of background is given so that we come to understand what the reptile men's civilisation was like before they entered the shelter or how Dr Quinn is driven by his desire to be a famous scientist like his father.

More substantially the pace and tone of the book is different from what was seen on screen. As in most of Hulke's television stories a strong effort is made to show things from character's own point of view, whether literally as in Chapter 8 "Into an Alien World" which is told completely through the eyes of Morka and how he interprets what he sees, or through fleshing out their background. We learn how Okdel used to keep an ape as a pet and how he came to be fascinated by its skills, whilst Morka used to hunt apes and torture them, how Miss Dawson had finally escaped London and her mother and is drawn to Dr Quinn or how Major Barker was stationed in Northern Ireland and shot a surrendering sniper in the heat of the moment leading to his dismissal from the Army. Nearly every significant character is given depth and so there is a real sense of tragedy throughout the tale. However there are times when Hulke descends a little too far into caricature. Major Barker is portrayed as a reactionary ultra patriot who sees everything going wrong as a threat to England, whilst the Brigadier is closer to the buffoon of the later televised Pertwee stories than the hard edged soldier of the early ones. This latter charecterisation is especially surprising given that the television story Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a strong exception to the buffoon portrayal and this was the only one by Hulke other than Doctor Who and the Silurians to feature the Brigadier.

The pace of the story is very different from the televised version, and one of the most shocking things is how the Doctor's role in the first half of the novel is limited to a brief venture into the caves where he encounters a tyrannosaurus rex but otherwise he remains on the sidelines investigating and accompanying others but rarely driving the events. Instead we get to see the entire scenario fleshed out before the action comes in the second half. The chapters range from being as short as two pages (excluding illustrations) to as long as twenty-four and the result is that each feels fresh and never does the book feel as though it has been padded out in order to fill up the page count.

One of the most jarring changes comes right at the end of the book and it is perhaps the novelisation's one weak spot. In the televised story the Doctor plans to revive the reptile men one by one in the hope of establishing peaceful relations. However here he seems more concerned with discovering the science and secrets of the reptile civilisation and so his reaction to the Brigadier blowing up the caves is one of sadness that so much potential knowledge has been lost rather than moral outrage at an act of murder. Although this reflects Hulke's original ending for the televised story rather than the revisions made by the production team, it does still stand out and jar with one of the most downbeat endings to any Doctor Who story. Nevertheless this is not sufficient to detract from a very solid novelisation that remains highly readable today, long after the television story has been released on video. 9/10


The Morale Dimension by Andrew Feryok 24/2/08

"He's sealed them in," the Doctor said quietly. Liz nodded. "He [the Brigadier] had to. They'd never have accepted sharing this world."
The Doctor felt anger rising in him. "We've lost the chance to find out now," he said. "We shall never know." The Doctor started up the car again and continued along the main road in silence.
- Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, page 158, Chapter 19
In Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, Malcolm Hulke adapts his classic Season 7 story Doctor Who and the Silurians into book form for Target, and what a most unusual book it is! Although I have not watched my VHS tape recently, from memories of it alone I was able to spot so many differences that you could virtually call this a totally new story. It is definitely a "special edition" book in the vein of Doctor Who and the Daleks and The Rescue. Here is a small list of some of the more obvious differences I spotted:
  1. There is a really nice prologue told from the perspective of Okdel as the Silurians are going into the shelters prior to the arrival of the moon. It's a great bit of Doctor Who continuity and fills out some background on the world of the Silurians and their culture.
  2. There is no opening scene of men getting attacked in the caves.
  3. One of my favorite lines for the Third Doctor has been cut: "On the contrary! I've been a scientist for many hundreds of..."
  4. The T-Rex is much more realistic both in the text descriptions and in the accompanying illustrations. There is also now a central cage in the middle of the Silurian control room in which it is kept.
  5. The backgrounds of and relationship between Quinn and Miss Dawson is greatly expanded. In fact, Hulke dedicates an entire chapter going into their background.
  6. Barker's background is also expanded. It's hinted that he was discharged from the army, and we learn why in a chapter dedicated to him later.
  7. There is no confrontation between Morka and the Doctor in Quinn's cottage.
  8. Morka traps the Brigadier and UNIT using a simulated cave-in rather than having walls magically appear around them. Okdel then raises the rocks up when he releases them.
  9. There is a whole new sequence in the caves in which one of the UNIT soldiers, named Robbins, is driven into a gibbering, cave-drawing Neanderthal. When Okdel releases them, Morka gets his revenge by taking over Robbins' disturbed mind and inducing him to commit suicide by throwing himself off of a cave cliff. The Brigadier tries to talk the man down, but Morka's influence is ultimately too great.
  10. The Minister named Masters spreads the virus into London not through the train station, but instead through a taxi! UNIT succeeds in stopping Master's train, but he flees the train and hires a taxi from the local village. When Masters dies in the taxi, the driver flags down a police officer. Both come down with virus and are admitted to a hospital. It is from the hospital that the virus spreads. Ultimately, I do not agree with this change as it makes the fast spreading of the virus all over the world less believable than the television episode. This is ironic considering that Terrance Dicks did so well in expanding the Autons' invasion in Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion that very same publication year.
  11. The characterisation of Liz Shaw (I'll explain more of this below).
  12. Dr. Lawrence now dies at the hands of Morka when he refuses to help them reactivate the nuclear reactor at the stories' end. In the original episode, Dr. Lawrence dies from the virus and blames it on the Doctor in a feverish rage. Indeed, Dr. Lawrence's character has been softened considerably from the television episode.
  13. The epilogue in which the Brigadier blows up the caves is very different. The Brigadier is present and hurriedly tries to get the Doctor and Liz to the leave. This makes the Doctor suspicious and, just as Liz is about to spill the beans, he watches the caves explode. Indeed, the whole ending has a different tone in which the Doctor's alien point of view is seen to be in an unpopular minority (see more of this discussion below). The Doctor's tinkering with Bessie at the end is also dropped.
Hulke's writing style is leaps and bounds above the Terrance Dicks volumes I had been reading recently. He is clearly writing to a slightly older audience and goes into great detail with descriptions and painting characters. Virtually every incidental character gets an entire chapter to themselves in which their background and motivations are explored. Even the Silurians themselves get a considerable amount of character. They even have names for the first time in the series! The book reads well, although I am a bit concerned about the pacing. Hulke has attempted to speed up the 7-part story by editing out a lot of material and sticking only to the essential parts of the story. But the story itself is not an action-adventure like Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion. Its main set-piece involves looking for a cure to a virus in a laboratory! But still, the television episode swept along quite nicely, but for some reason it just did not translate well on the page and seemed to drag along at times.

I both agree and disagree with Hulke's presentation of the Silurians in this story. On the one hand, they come across as a very formidable and scary force. Interestingly, their scariness comes not from the their presence as monsters, but through their world-view which is very Nazi-like, particularly from Morka, who is a very nasty piece of work! His sole goal seems to be to wipe out all life other than his own and enslave only that which is useful to him. Even the Doctor at the end admits that humans have a superior quality to the Silurians in that at least humans are willing to give peace a try whereas Morka and his group have decided to wipe them out without even hearing their case. And this really brings me to one of my two biggest gripes about the story: the one-sided moral argument. One of the things that made this story stand out as a television episode was that never before or since have we ever seen the Doctor try to mediate a force as equals. He sees arguments for both sides and tries to get them to see the good in each other. Unfortunately, Hulke has altered his story so that the Silurians really don't seem worthy of being treated as equals to humans. They come across as selfish and Nazi-like and no better than the Martians or any other aliens that have tried to invade the Earth. At first, the Doctor's arguments for peace seem to be sound, but by the end you pretty much agree with Liz that the Silurians would not have accepted a world with humans. Okdel, the elder Silurian who helps the Doctor, is supposed to be the model of hope for peace between the two races, but is instead portrayed by Hulke as being an oddity within his own race. In the prologue and in other parts of the story, all Silurians see him as a bit of an outsider (how he became leader is anyone's guess) and an eccentric for his loving views towards humans. Clearly Hulke is trying to show that the Silurians at large do not think of humans as being worthy of anything except death. They even delight at the thought that the "smelly apes" will be wiped out by the approach of the moon at the beginning. And this ultimately destroys the sympathy necessary to make the final moment of the Doctor at the end have some pathos.

I might as well get my other gripe out of the way: Liz Shaw. Hulke seems to have confused Liz with Jo Grant. Not only do all the illustrations seem to show Jo, but also Hulke writes her as Jo. She is a total ditz and shows very little of the intelligence and resourcefulness that made her a unique companion. This is particularly unforgivable when he robs Liz of one of her shining moments in the conclusion. In the original television episode, the Doctor gets captured by the Silurians before he can write down the antidote, which forces Liz to recreate his entire experiments from scratch and rediscover what he barely discovered in half the time! It is her shining moment, since it shows her to be a brilliant scientist easily on par with the Doctor and just as capable of saving the world as he is. But in the book, Liz not only cries into hysterics, clinging to the nearest male for support when she sees the Silurians dragging the Doctor away, but Hulke conveniently has the Doctor's notes lying on the table and Liz picks one totally at random and through sheer luck it turns out to be the right one. Huh? Was that supposed to be the competent scientist who saved the day?

With those exceptions, the characters are very well done. The Doctor and the Brigadier are still not used to each other. The Doctor operates much more independently, and out and out disobeys the Brigadier on many occasions. He clearly does not like the idea of being ordered about and he is much more crotchety which is very in line with this season's portrayal of him. The Brigadier is also gruffer, runs UNIT with an iron fist, and is determined to get the Doctor under some semblance of control. But, at the same time, Hulke makes sure that they also show deep respect for one another. There are times when the Brigadier follows the Doctor blindly into impossible situations simply because he trusts him from past experience that he knows what he is doing; at one point, he even remarks that he likes the fact that the Doctor has a vanity streak since it lends him a sense of "humanity" to his otherwise alien personality.

On the whole, this is a good book. It takes great liberties with the original television episode, shortening some things while expanding others. I'm beginning to realize exactly where Warriors of the Deep got its characterizations for the Silurians, but, even with Hulke's weakening of the moral arguments here, it is still light years ahead of that clunker. Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters is never going to replace the television episode which I think is superior. But, as a companion piece, it makes for an interesting side step into an alternate version of the story. Definitely worth checking out. 9/10