Well, ninth... poor Pluto.

Well, ninth… poor Pluto.

“The long low room housed three separate rows of control consoles and technicians and resembled Cape Kennedy Tracking Station in miniature.”

I’ve covered Doctor Who novels on a number of occasions, but this one takes us right back to the time of the First Doctor, as played by William Hartnell. The episode is from 1966, the book is from 1976, and it’s one of those ones that definitely shows its age.

Basically, in this story, Earth’s long lost twin planet Mondas has reappeared in the sky and the natives, Cybermen, are coming back to Earth to conquer it and steal all of its power. The Cybermen (for non-Whovians) are an alien race that were once like humans but had a desperation to survive at all costs. They replaced their body parts with metal and plastic until no flesh or bone remained and their brain was replaced with a computer. In their quest for eternal life, they lost their emotions and now run on pure logic.

On Earth, it is the year 2000 and the only people capable of stopping the invasion are the Doctor, his companions Polly and Ben, and the scientific crew of a space tracking station buried beneath Antarctica. But the Doctor is ill and his strength is failing fast. He must work with the humans to stop the invasion and remove Mondas from the sky before the Earth loses all of its power and the human race is deleted from history…

Cybermen have never been my favourite Doctor Who villains, although they look marginally more scary now than they did back then. They come across as creepy, but this is their first appearance and the writers are still clearly working through a few flaws. The Cyberman have names here (possibly the only time they ever do) and there’s still some semblance of humanity about them. They are slightly more hive-mind-like in later appearances; here they still seem to be individual. One particularly odd moment is when they disguise themselves as human soldiers.

The novel also includes the Doctor’s first regeneration at the end of the book. This can’t count as a spoiler, as the cover mentions that it is the First Doctor’s last adventure, so you know that it’s coming. It builds up to it slowly. The Doctor doesn’t do much here, merely gets older and paler, and then turns into Patrick Troughton.

The story has dated in the way that anything from that era that tries to predict the future does. It’s the year 2000 (their future, our past) and mention is made of a manned mission to Mars having just returned to Earth. I miss that optimism and, once again, I must say that it’s about time we started getting interested in manned spaceflights again. We owe it to the past, if nothing else!

A quick read, and of its time, but nonetheless interesting to see an early incarnation of both the Doctor and the Cybermen.