The Two Doctors
Target novelisation
The Two Doctors

Author Mark Platt Cover image
Published 1985
ISBN 0 426 20201 5
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: Disturbed by the time travel experiments of the evil Dastari and Chessene, the Time Lords send the second Doctor and Jamie to investigate. Arriving on a station in deep space, they are attacked by a shock force of Sontarans and the Doctor is left for dead. Across the gulf of time and space, the sixth Doctor discovers that his former incarnation is very much alive. Together with Peri and Jamie he must rescue his other self before the plans of Dastari and Chessene reach their deadly and shocking conclusion...


A Little Blue Lump Of Fun by Matthew Harris 13/9/02

"Go to sleep my little grey lump of fun,
You will grow up to be big and strong,
Eating aught that comes along,
Smash the head and chomp the flesh
And sup the blood and crunch the bones,
For all is grist to the Androgums..."

    - Androgum Lullaby composed by the Matriarch of the Quawncing Grig
Doh. I can't believe I left this out. I did a Top Ten Target Covers - partly because Joe Ford had done something similar and I haven't an original bone in my body, and partly with the express intention of including this little gem. Andrew Skilleter got around the whole someone's-being-pissy-and-not-letting-us-draw-real-people thing by drawing two entwined TARDISes instead (and Stike, who can be included since he doesn't exist because Sontarans, as a species, are a work of fiction). It's brilliant. And I left it out. I'm a tit.

Still, who am I to complain? I'm holding in my hand a pretty-damn-good condition copy of the very first edition of the 100th Target Novel... and the only one to be written by God himself (except for the prologue to The Time Warrior). With my pot belly, and preponderance of stubble, only a ponytail and some Bermuda shorts are needed to make the Comic Book Guy allusions into a disturbing reality.

About nine months after its publication, Robert Holmes was dead (which gives the lie to his claims at being God somewhat, but heigh ho). It's a shame: rumour has it he was pencilled in to adapt Mysterious Planet. Which would have been great (not to degrade the sterling work of Tel Dicks, of course).

The book is introduced by someone called John Nathan-Turner, for some reason. The late Hawaiian-shirt wearing one doesn't actually say anything particularly apposite (except for foreshadowing "the Teddy"...), but it's nice to have some words by him. For sentimental purposes. I'm soppy.

Yer actual "book" bit of the book makes an auspicious start: the first paragraph, describing the space station, is both lucid, intelligent, and (inevitably) laugh-out-loud funny. Twenty seconds later we get an explanation of how Jamie knows the Time Lords - from his perspective, obviously, allowing Bob to be as vague as he liked, while also papering over a teensy crack. A bit. There were these chieftains, see, and...

He also left out the whole "Victoria's Doing Graphology Because There Wasn't Any Period Where It Was Just The Doctor And Jamie, Was There, Not Even Between Fury From The Deep And The Wheel In Space" thing. So the continuity is restored. Hurrah. Except for the Sixth Doctor's non-memory of events\pointless gradual change into an Androgum\not recognising a Sattenheim remote control when he sees one\and so on, which I can overlook because I know it was just Bob playing silly-buggers for the sheer hell of it.

We also get the shock revelation that there is no such thing as a gumblejack... the Doctor made the damn things up as part of an elaborate ploy to get Peri to keep him company by the river. Cool, and, more importantly, totally in character. He's being a manipulative git, as he was before and would be again, but not for scientific curiosity's sake, or due to pretensions of being "Time's Champion", just in order to get a holiday with his companion - painting Colin Baker's Doctor as being like a cross between McCoy and his earlier namesake. Which is what he should have been all along. This entire book is, in some ways, a remit for the character: flamboyant, with some angry darkness and a streak of compassion.

Or is that the Second Doctor? Well, yes, that's why this episode was conceived in the first place, nimrod. Doctors two and six are the most similar in character, therefore it'll be a "laugh" to put them in a room and have them shout at each other. Which it was, but a very dark, hollow laugh. But you know that already. What I will confirm is that it is more successful without Peter Moffatt's "Look At This, Ha Ha Ha" direction. For example. When Shockeye bites into the rat, it's handled very casually, as an everyday occurrence, as if he's cleared his throat, or scratched his head. Chessene licking the blood is shocking, but not lurid.

I don't know if Bob was a vegetarian, but he didn't seem very "up" on meat. There's a streak of cattle-market satire going on here, not least when they appear in the kitchen and meet Shockeye o' the Quawnsing Grig. (I've seen it written down many times and am still not sure whether to hate it for being such a stupid name, or to love it to bits for exactly that reason). Remember him trying to buy Jamie? Me too, which with many novelisations is a prerequisite, or you won't get it. Not here. He sings songs, he thinks about food, he writes a song of his own ("Naught compares to a Tellurian\Yes, my lads, a Tellurian\Cooked for three hours in a Tandoori oven"... brilliant). He's great. Obviously, Holmes liked writing for Shockeye.

More than for Chessene o' the Franzine Grig, certainly (which is a far worse name than Shockeye's). She had little personality on screen; she has little more here. Dastari (anagram of "A TARDIS", which is totally irrelevant and not a little pointless) fares better, but is still little more than the standard Dexeter-model misguided scientist. And there is still no reason for the Sontarans to even be there. But other than Shockeye (and the Dona Ara?, who gets a few pages to herself before dying horribly), for New Dimensions In Character, Oscar Botcherby is where the money is.

Poor old Oscar. Old Oscar, who never wanted to be involved in these time-travelling spudman shenanigans, old Oscar, who never wanted anything but to be "tucked safely up in his nice pink bed, with dear little Teddy on the pillow beside him". Here we get something that the screen version lacked. We know Oscar. We see that he's a faintly irritating middle-class ponce, who inexplicably has landed himself a gorgeous twenty-eight year-old Spanish girlfriend (though anyone with a Teddy can't be all bad). But we - or I - care for him. And then he dies. And yes, it's still gratuitous in the worst possible sense. But moving with it, which really isn't possible, but there you are. The passage with his final words: "Oscar gazed up with sightless eyes. 'Please take care of my beautiful moths,' he said. 'And darling old Teddy.'" ...well, it gave me a lump. But, as I said, I'm soppy.

In the end, a novelisation can't be much better than the material it novelises (Silver Nemesis tries, but he left in Mrs Remington... and reverted to the name Hackensack to boot. Doomed from the start) unless, of course, it totally revises said material (The Twin Dilemma, which is, against almost insurmountable odds, a great book). This one's bogged down by the fact that the show itself wasn't great at a fundamental level (the unfocused plot, the gratuitous violcence, the frankly appendix-like Sontarans) but it does look better in the pictures in your head. Stike doesn't have that goatee, for one thing (cover notwithstanding). It's a Good Book. Find it. It'll be valuable now, for one thing (being the 100th and all). But read it before selling it at a massive profit. You won't be disappointed. Unless you expected a cookery book. On the other hand...

Oh, (puts on dirty mac) one more thing: it's got one of the best endings to any Doctor Who book ever, even Festival of Death, which had two for the price of one. It's a great curtain-falls-exeunt-omnes piece (read: ending) for the book, and a wonderful final curtain on a wonderful career. It simply says, in its own paragraph:

"Meanwhile, the Doctor and Peri...."

Androgums Galore! by Andrew Feryok 29/6/06

SHOCKEYE: Do you serve humans here?
OSCAR: Most of the time sir. Oh, yes I would venture to say that most of our customers are certainly human.
SHOCKEYE: I mean human meat, you fawning imbecile!
OSCAR: No, sir. The nouvelle cuisine has not yet penetrated this establishment.
- Shockeye ordering dinner at La Piranella, The Two Doctors, Chapter 12, page 137
At last a Target book written by Robert Holmes himself! Unfortunately, this was the only story he ever adapted for Target novels (he probably didn't want to end up like Terrance Dicks). Holmes is a wonderfully verbose author who clearly enjoys writing and Doctor Who. His prose is very descriptive and entertaining to read, reminding me very much of Donald Cotton's style only less sarcastic. He is also incredibly violent in his descriptions. This can't be helped sometimes, especially when two of your main villains are cannibals, but there are times when he goes into Ian Marter territory in describing the gore and violence of situations, particularly when Stike, the Sontaran, goes into his death throes and gets blown up when he tries to shut off his self-destructing ship. His guts literally get splattered all over the house and Shockeye takes great delight in showing everyone Stike's leg. This is clearly around the time when the Doctor Who books began to change direction from being written for children and young adults to being geared more towards young adults and adults.

The Second and Sixth Doctors are written faithfully to their characters is this story, although that may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective! Holmes does an excellent job of showing just how different and, oddly, how similar the Doctors are to each other. One sequence that particularly points this out are the TARDIS sequences in which both Doctors glimpse the space station for the first time and discuss it with their respective companions. Both believe that the station scientists will be clamoring for their autograph, only to find the exact opposite when they arrive! Both Doctors are also very irratable throughout the story and take great delight not only in showing how much smarter they are than everyone else, but also taking every occasion to insult each other.

Speaking of the Sixth Doctor, after so many years of listening and reading a mellower Sixth Doctor in the BBC Novels and Big Finish audios, it was a real lurch to suddenly be presented with the original, uncaring, stuck-up, self-important, and overconfident Sixth Doctor of the original Season 22. Actually, Holmes alters some of his original dialogue to make the Sixth even more unlikable. However, one thing that Holmes does wrong is that he removes any sense of likability in the relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Peri. Granted there wasn't much love between them, but at least on screen Baker and Bryant tried to twist these arguments so that they had some sense of humor about them. However, Holmes writes them as all-out bitchy towards each other and you wonder why these two travel with each other at all. In fact, Holmes removes the reference of being vegetarian from the final lines of the book and simply has the Sixth Doctor tell Peri to follow him on a 20 minute walk and Peri resigns herself to following him because that is what she feels she has to do, not because she really wants to.

It is very clear that the Androgums are Holmes' real motivation for writing this story and one of his favorite creations. He particularly enjoys Shockeye and goes into enormous detail on the background of the Androgums, their culture and their belief systems. They are truly a disgusting and grotesque race, but incredible fun to read about! He even writes several Androgum songs, which Holmes himself admits are not very good but the Androgums like them! The descriptions of Shockeye are much different than what he appears on screen. He is a giant with massive strength and surprising speed and a neanderthalish facial appearance. Clearly, of all the creatures in this book, Shockeye is painted as the most dangerous, followed by the cunning Chessne.

At the bottom of the creature line, however, are the Sontarans. These creatures were not intended to be in the story and were thrust upon him by JNT. However, despite clearly resenting their appearance, Holmes does make some effort to flesh them out in the book, including giving them a plausable reason for them to be relegated to henchmen when they clearly are much higher billed monsters. Stike is eager to be rid of the Androgums and would like nothing better than to get back to the war. Only the promise of superior time travel technology keeps him here. Along the way, we learn a bit more about the Sontarans, including their cultural sense of honor, their latest war weaponry, and their incredible bureaucracy (Stike cannot steal the time cabinet without first clearing it with his command!).

Holmes also adds many other new sequences to flesh out the television story. They include the Doctor fainting outside while fishing instead of inside the TARDIS, Peri punching Jamie out when he attacks in the computer core, and some background on Oscar and the Dona Arana. But possibly the biggest additions were the inclusion of a scene in which Peri and Jamie must rescue the Sixth Doctor from a fire while he is in a trance trying to contact his second self on the space station. Holmes also includes a reason why Chessne suddenly wants to turn the Second Doctor into an Androgum: when the Sixth Doctor arrives, she fears the Time Lords are already on to her and decides to switch to a contingency plan. This new plan involves turning the Doctor into an Androgum. Rather than try to dissect the secret out of the Doctor, she will simply make him one of them and thus introduce the Time Lord's genetic secret directly into the bloodline of the Androgums. Plus he will make a fitting assistant in her plans for world domination, making him essentially a mirror for what Chessene is to Dastari.

On the whole, while I enjoyed this book and think this is one of the Sixth Doctor's best stories, I must admit this was never a story that I raced back to watch on television the way I raced back to watch The Mind Robber or The Stones of Blood. It may be because of the "shopping list" aspect of the story that it lacks a direction and coherence that other Doctor Who stories enjoy. If I was to rank this as a story by itself it would be about 9/10. However, because this novel is by Robert Holmes and he does such a great job of bringing the characters and plot to life, I will rank this a full 10/10. Now, this book ends with the line "Meanwhile, the Doctor and Peri..." but instead of following the Sixth Doctor and Peri, I am going to follow the Second Doctor and Jamie to Tibet...

PS: The TV story features one of my favorite Doctor Who set designs of all time: the computer core with its maze of pipes and wires that are suspended over seeming nothingness and bathed in an eerie, misty, blue light! Great design whoever did it!

Lone Holmes by Matthew Kresal 12/3/12

The Two Doctors, as a TV story, has the reputation of being amongst writer Robert Holmes least successful scripts for Doctor Who. That fact, along with the story being the weakest of the three multi-Doctor stories of the classic series, makes its 1985 Target novelization all the more surprising. The story's novelization was to be the first, last and only contribution Holmes would make to that long running series (not including a small contribution to the novelization of The Time Warrior). In a way, it's a shame because The Two Doctors works better as a novelization and does so in large part thanks to Holmes.

Holmes seems to relish the chance to novelize one of his own stories. The story is full of vivid characterizations that expand much on the character's seen in the TV version (which gives Holmes the chance, through the memory of Oscar Botcherby, to poke fun at the 1953 film of The War Of The Worlds). The Sontarans for example come across much better in the novelization as Holmes actually gives them a sense of presence though that might be due to ejecting both the over the top performance of Clinton Greyn as Stike (which one would expect in the novelization anyway) and the fact the novelization firmly reestablishes them as clones to the point of saying that the only way to tell the difference between the two Sontarans is Stike having a bit more gold on the shoulders of his uniform. Holmes has something of a reputation for the characters in his TV scripts and this novelization shows that gift could have extended to prose as well.

Another gift Holmes brings is pacing. The TV version of the story is almost pedestrian in its pacing but the novelization moves along at quite a pace. It races along, never staying in one place for too long and managing to bring a sense of tension to the Sixth Doctor and Peri's visit to space station Chimera. In fact, once everyone arrives in Spain, the pace picks up as it builds towards the ending. Holmes takes a middling TV story and turns it into a page turner.

Which isn't to say that Holmes makes The Two Doctors really a better story. The story still suffers from the weakness that it's a multi-Doctor where one Doctor just lies around for much of its length. The plot is still every bit of a jumble as it was on TV as it moves along without really any purpose or threat. In fact, the novelization makes the attempt to make it look like the second Doctor died on space station Chimera make even less sense. The ending also still feels like something of an anti-climax but it oddly seems to work just a tad bit better here. As said previously, Holmes keeps the story moving though at a pace that puts the TV story to shame which helps but it doesn't fix the plot problems.

The novelization of The Two Doctors proves two things. The first is that, while the plot of the TV version definitely had issues, the novelization shows that the writing behind it was solid. The second is that it makes a sad fact all too clear: Robert Holmes would have been a fine novelization writer. Reading this, it's hard not to wonder what he might have made of say The Deadly Assassin or The Talons of Weng-Chiang. For just being the single Target book by arguably the best scriptwriter of the original series, The Two Doctors novelization is well worth a read.