The Tenth Planet
Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet
|ISBN||0 426 11068 4|
|First Edition Cover||Chris Achilleos|
|Back cover blurb: The Sergeant blinked again. Three lights were moving towards him through the murk of the blizzard. Even as he looked, the lights changed into three tall, straight figures, clad in silver-armoured suits, advancing across the ice with a slow, deliberate step. Horror-struck, the Sergeant reached for his gun, and a stream of bullets sprayed across the marching figures. BUT THEY CONTINUED MARCHING... The CYBERMEN have arrived. The first invasion of Earth by this invincible, fearless race - and the last thrilling adventure of the first DOCTOR WHO.|
One way to find out what happens in Episode 4... and why that's missed so much! by Tim Roll-Pickering 3/1/04
Gerry Davis' first novelisation, Doctor Who and the Cybermen, was a strong debut to the range, so it comes as little surprise to see he returned to the range the following year to adapt another Cybermen story. This was also the first Target originated novelisation to feature the Hartnell Doctor (Doctor Who - The Three Doctors aside) but the original television story is by no means representative of the Hartnell era, being more of a prototype for the "base under siege" and "invasion of Earth" type stories that predominated in later years. The televised story also has a strong reputation for being extremely tedious, repetitive and dull so it does not bode well for the novelisation.
Despite this Gerry Davis has succeeded in producing a highly enjoyable read. He predominantly follows the scripted course of events, though at times he undoes changes made during the production such as the date being changed from 2000 to 1986 or the Doctor being entirely absent throughout the third episode. Also, in line with Doctor Who and the Cybermen, he continues to imply that Polly and Ben come from the 1970s through little hints such as Ben recognising Roger Moore as James Bond. A truncated version of "The Creation of the Cybermen" is reproduced from the earlier book and on this occasion Davis is broadly consistent with the version in which the Cybermen originate on Telos, apart from one minor use of the term "we" to describe the separation of the Earth and Mondas. Other than this the novelisation is for the most part faithful and yet despite an uninspiring original script, Davis somehow manages to inject a lot of life into the plot. Rather than resort to a Malcolm Hulke style of showing scenes completely from one particular character's viewpoints, Davis instead goes for an equally effective method of highlighting a particular character caught up in chaos, such as Cutler in the very memorable passages where he believes his son has been killed because of the actions of Barclay, Ben and the Doctor and fails to give orders at the most crucial point for the base's defence, instead becoming focused only upon taking out his anger on those whom he blames for the death. Even in the era of telesnap reconstructions it's hard to judge the effectiveness of this scene on screen, but here in the printed form it comes across as especially memorable. Equally strong is the scene where Ben confronts a lone Cybermen with a film projector and manages to take its weapon but then finds he has no option but to use it.
The back cover blurbs for both the original and the 1993 reprint editions mention that this is the very first Cybermen adventure and the last story for the first Doctor, but little is made of the former within the book itself. The Cybermen's origins are explained away at the start and no mention is made of the events of The Invasion, and instead the book focuses upon the actions. However an attempt is made to explain why the Doctor's body changes, with him appearing to age rapidly throughout the book, though recovering at times of tension. The uninspired famous last words of "Keep warm" that were heard in the televised story don't appear here and instead we get the line "No, no. We must go, I say," as the first Doctor's last words, which are more in keeping with the character as a furtive wanderer. However there is little sense of momentous events taking place for the Doctor until the very last few pages of the book. Gerry Davis alters and extends the ending so that the Doctor now changes under a screen but the younger man who appears very definitely makes it clear that "I am the new Doctor!" unlike in the televised version of The Power of the Daleks where the strange man does not make such an outright declaration of his identity. Although this may upset continuity purists, it does nevertheless ensure that the book does not end on an outright cliffhanger, especially as The Power of the Daleks had not yet been novelised when this book first appeared, and indeed would not materialise on bookshelves until 1993. This novelisation sets out to retell a television story that has been condemned as dull and it does so spectacularly, bringing it to life and making viewers want to see it. It is almost certainly a strong contributor to Episode 4 being the most missed episode of all and it is a strong way to find out just what happens in it. 8/10
Oh dear by Andrew Feryok 20/7/06
POLLY: What's been happening to you, Doctor?There are few stories in all of Doctor Who that are as paradoxically infuriating as this story! On the one hand it is one of the worst stories ever made by Doctor Who on screen. The design of the Cybermen, while highly original, has not dated well, and the story is extremely convuoluted and boring. On the other other, this story has some of the most original concepts in the series, to the point that this story has been lauded as a classic generation after generation. These conceptions include the Doctor's ability to regenerate, a planet genuinely affecting the gravitation of space craft, and the Cybermen themselves! It is therefore incredibly difficult to label this story. Is it a classic or a flop?
DOCTOR: I'm not sure child. An outside force of some kind, perhaps? This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.
POLLY: A bit thin?
DOCTOR: Yes. It's nearly time for a change..."
- The Tenth Planet, pages 103-104, chapter 11
The book is adequately written by Gerry Davis. I have enjoyed his previous adaptations of The Highlanders and The Moonbase and was hoping that his authorial skills could save this story. Unfortunately, despite all his efforts, this is still the convuluted mess that it was on screen in 1966 (at least what I can tell from having seen the surviving episodes 1-3 and the reconstructed episode 4). The story still lumbers along with three episodes of space technobabble as Cutler and his crew try to get not one, but two spacecraft down that are endangered by the new gravity of Mondas. It is pretty bad that in a four part story you have to keep the drama going by launching another ship into space so that you can endanger it after the previous one already got destroyed in an identical situation!
General Cutler is also just as annoying a character as before. He is the first in a long line of psychotic and unhinged base commanders who would lose it to alien threats throughout the base-under-siege years of Patrick Troughton. But unlike later base commanders, Cutler at least has a motivation for going nuts... his son is in danger and he's already witnessed the consequences first hand. While this makes his going bananas more plausible, it still is not believable. How could anyone this unstable ever get in a command position? And more importantly, why doesn't anyone relieve him of duty when he suggests a plan that will very clearly endanger millions of lives on Earth for the sake of one person's safety?
The Cybermen are written extremely well in this story. It is clear that Gerry Davis adores his creations and makes every effort to paint them as cold and uncaring. This particularly comes across when they dismiss the rescue of the space ship as being a waste of time since their destruction is inevitable. The base tries desperately to reason with them, but they have applied their cold "logic" to the conclusion that it is a waste of their time and resources. It just goes to show you that logic can be very arbitrarily applied depending on the goal you desire. Since the Cybermen are only interested in survival, their sense of "logic" is drastically different from anyone else's. Interestly, while the cover shows the television episode's original Cybermen design, Gerry Davis actually uses the descriptions of them from The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen. This makes for some rather confusing descriptions and it means that they lose that organic feel to them, but they at least get to use better weapons are less cumbersome in their movements.
The regulars are written well by Davis. The Doctor is at his all-time most crotchety, but it is clear, towards the end of the story, that he has really grown fond of Ben and Polly and cares for their safety. Polly also shows some spunk as she is the only one in the base who is willing to stand up not only to the Cutler, but to the Cyberleader as well. Unfortunately, these leadership skills are not utilized by everyone else and she is largly relegated to looking after the Doctor, making coffee, and being a prisoner on the Cybermen's ship. Ben ends up being the real star as he heroically defends the base against the Cybermen threat with the Doctor incapacitated. Although it is rather remarkable how much teamwork goes on between the Doctor and Ben. The Doctor is able to make subtle suggestions when he is conscious and Ben is able to grasp their meaning when others cannot and implements defense plans based on them.
Besides the Cybermen, there are some other alterations to the story. The setting is now 2000 rather than 1985. Either date works since the technology seen in the original television story and in the book are not too far off into our near future, particularly the handling of space travel. The biggest alteration of all is the regeneration! The Doctor does not transform before Ben and Polly's eyes. Instead, he slips into a "sleeping cabinet" in the console room while Ben and Polly are cleaning themselves up in their normal bedrooms. They then open the casket and out pops the Second Doctor. He even tells them "I am the new Doctor" although it is clear that Ben and Polly are not going to believe him in the opening of the next story. While this does mean that we get to meet the Second Doctor for a short time at the end of the story, I actually prefer the original television version which is more jarring and mysterious.
Overall, this is a very difficult story to judge. It is a very historically significant story for Doctor Who, introducing the Cybermen and regenerating the First Doctor. As a novel, Gerry Davis adequately brings this lost story to life in text form. Unfortunately, the story is not one of my favorites and I still think it is extremely convoluted and slow moving. Not to mention that many of the changes by Gerry Davis were unnecessary and only add to frustrate fans rather than clear up aspects of the original story poorly explained before. I must sadly rate this 4/10 despite it being a highly historical Doctor Who and something which fans should watch or read at some point at least once in their lives.
PS: Coincidentally, Gerry Davis also includes the Cyberleaders in this story for the first time, who wear black helmets as they did in Revenge of the Cybermen.