Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters (2011 Reprint) Review

by Malcolm Hulke
(brilliant) illustations by Chris Achilleos

It should perhaps be noted that the original 1974 print is titled Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters. This difference is actually more relevant than the casual observer might think (though besides a few typos nothing in the text has been changed from the original print). As fans might know, the Silurians were Doctor Who monsters whose name was constantly in dispute. Barry Letts thought that technically they should be called the Eocenes. In this novelisation of his excellent script Doctor Who and the Silurians, Hulke never calls the antagonists “Silurians”, but simply “reptile men”, though the word does sneak in there somewhere. This is all reminisced in this edition by Terrance Dicks, who wrote the introduction, and was good friends with Hulke. While Dicks may be the go-to face for Target novelisations, they spawned out of Hulke’s and Dick’s collaborations. At first they had worked together on The Making of Doctor Who, the first book of its kind, before Dicks was asked about the novelisations. It was between these two that Target first started on its novelisations, after they reprinted the novelisations that had come before. Both Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (Spearhead from Space) by Dicks, and Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters coming out on the same day (17 Jan 1974). It was in this way that Hulke and Dicks birthed the true Target novelisations as we know them today.

The Doctor hoped that if he did not move, the monster, in its stupid way, might not realise that living flesh was but a jaw-snap away.

This particular reprint is very good, and might be preferable to the original printing because of just how nicely its framed. Terrance Dicks’ introduction is charming and loving, where he expands on more detail about the novel than his comments on it in On Target — Malcolm Hulke. This introduction is then followed by Justin Richards’ The Changing Faces of Doctor Who, which explains succinctly and clearly the continuity behind the Third Doctor, UNIT, and Liz Shaw. Then there’s the text itself. Then there’s the About the Author by Justin Richards again, who really emphasises the great contributions Hulke made to the programme. Finally, rendering this whole write-up by me fairly useless, is Between the Lines by Steve Tribe, which is a fairly short discussion on the early history of the Target novelisations, and on how Cave Monsters differs from Silurians.

Rather than attempt to pack all seven episodes into a 45,000 word novel, Hulke opts to rewrite his story from scratch, even rewording the majority of the dialogue. — Steve Tribe

A Silurian

In many ways Cave Monsters is a supplement to Silurians, and an excellent one at that. Hulke takes advantage of the medium or prose wherever he can, frequently diving into the heads of characters and adding so much depth it’s like the Wenley Moor Institute itself. Dr. Lawrence becomes much more sympathetic than the cartoonish oaf shown in the serial. Major Barker (Baker in the serial) is as paranoid, deranged, and jingoistic as ever, but the reader is given much more of a chance to pity him and to understand what drives him, the narration staying close to him at some points and even delving a bit more into his back story. Miss Travis is also a small, new character with a nice little arc. The book is packed with things like this. Best of all are the “reptile men” themselves, no longer nameless “Silurians”, but Okdel, Morka, and K’To. Simply naming them makes them much more relatable, but there’s a new prologue to the story from the Silurian leader Okdel’s point of view. And a chapter from Morka’s point of view, which in the serial was just shots of a confused Silurian running about on some fields (if I remember correctly). It adds a whole new level to a story that is very much rooted in character drama. I’ve not seen Warriors of the Deep, but apparently these names are mentioned in that TV serial, which is really quite nice. The Doctor himself is as dry and witty as ever, but seems a little bit less rude than he did originally (Silurians being his second serial). This Doctor seems closer to how he was later on, which makes sense with the years in between the broadcast of Silurians in 1970, and this novel being written in 1974.

They’re not aliens! They’re… Earth-liens! Once known as the Silurian race or, some would argue, Eocenes, or homo reptilia. — The Eleventh Doctor

But don’t think all this depth bloats the story. Instead it streamlines it. The story from Silurians is re-jigged enough so that different characters have character moments at different points, making it all flow a lot more nicely. Some scenes are omitted when characters are doing other things, so that the story is pleasingly linear. For instance, the early scene where the Doctor discovers some logs are missing is omitted, simply having him catch up with Liz to tell her he did that later. Maybe it sounds lame, but it isn’t. It stops it feeling like the slog Silurians can sometimes feel like. It’s one of my favourite Doctor Who stories ever, but 7 parts is just a little too long.

‘Quite honestly,’ said Masters, ‘I’m trying to do my best to cope with what you are saying, but I find it impossible to imagine a lizard armed with a sub-machine gun!’

‘So do I,’ said the Doctor. ‘They are far too advanced for that sort of thing.’

Malcolm Hulke

This book is really good. I’d say it’s the Target novelisation to read if you want to dip in. With that said, there are a few detractors. In prose some of the back and forth between the caves and the base can seem a little repetitive. Also, as prose is often slower paced to just read than on the screen, the whole business with everyone ignoring the Doctor’s pleas for quarantine are obviously ridiculous. I also don’t really buy Frederick Master’s character, which sticks out a little to me as everyone else is just so rich in this novelisation.

Overall though this book is totally rad. If you’ve not read a Target novelisation before, just get this one. The reprint is super cheap and it’s really nice having it presented like this. If you’ve loved Silurians and not read this, then I think you owe it to yourself. Silurians is a fantastic Doctor Who story that epitomises everything I love about Doctor Who. It’s a really heartfelt tragedy in places, but of the most alien kind. Perhaps some of the best Earth-bound Doctor Who has to offer.

I’ve still never read a Virgin New Adventures. If someone could recommend one that’s £2.99 from this seller I’d love to get one. Thanks! I went with The Pit and Blood Tide.

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