Title: Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters
Televised as: Doctor Who and the Silurians
Written by: Malcolm Hulke
Teleplay by: Malcolm Hulke
Published in: January 1974
Chapters: One through Five
I started reading the Episode 1 material in the novelization of Doctor Who and the Silurians, on a day about six weeks after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The book was a favorite of mine growing up, but I probably hadn’t read it in about 25 years. So, this time out, I was rather surprised to find my boy, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, endorsing a hard right-wing, and newly resurgent, nationalist sentiment.
The scene: UNIT has been called in to investigate mysterious power losses at the Wenley Moor atomic research center. Wenley Moor is a high-profile government-backed project designed to create cheap and plentiful energy. The project’s security officer, Major Barker, is a fierce nationalist, and so too, it turns out, is the Brigadier. Upon learning of Wenley Moor’s purpose, Hulke writes the following exchange in the novelization — an exchange which did not appear in his TV scripts four years earlier:
“That’ll show ’em!” said the Brigadier.
Everyone looked at the Brigadier, as though he had said something very silly. “Show whom?” asked the Doctor.
The Brigadier had to think for a moment. “You know,” he said, “foreign competitors. A discovery like this will make Britain great again.”
Make Britain Great Again. I posted this bit on my Facebook page, and, of course, the jokes from my Who fandom friends followed soon thereafter.
“We’re going to build a *new* Van Allen Belt around the Earth, and make the Silurians pay for it!”
“At least “Make Britain Great Again” is a play on words.”
Neither the Brigadier nor Major Barker said these things in the TV broadcast. In fact, he’s not even Major Barker on TV, he’s Major Baker, and while Baker is still irrationally concerned with sabotage at Wenley Moor, Norman Jones plays a much saner, more measured person. Writing in print, four years after the TV story was broadcast, Malcolm Hulke decides to use the novelization to unshackle just about all his characters from the bounds of civility, and Barker is the centerpiece of that approach.
In print, Barker soon gets off an epic paranoid rant about who he thinks is trying to sabotage the research center. The text commentary to the DVD release makes clear that Major Baker had once been double-crossed after authorizing security clearance to a friend who’d turned out to be a double agent. This back-story wasn’t expressed on TV, but it makes Baker’s incorrect beliefs appear rational. Norman Jones plays Baker as polite and civil at all times during Episode 1 on TV. In print, the Barker version of Baker is a lot more unhinged, more Alex Jones than Norman Jones:
“It’s as plain as a pikestaff there’s sabotage going on,” said Barker, taking the Doctor’s bait without realizing it. “Anyone can see that.”
“I may agree with you,” the Doctor said. “But sabotage by whom?”
“Communists, of course.” Major Barker gave his answer as though it should have been obvious to everyone.
“Why should communists cause these power losses?” said the Doctor.
“They hate England, that’s why.” Barker started to warm to his subject. “They train people to come here to destroy us. […] England was once the heart of an empire, the greatest empire the world has ever known. But the bankers and the trade-unionist have destroyed that great heritage. Now we are alone, backs to the wall, just as we were in 1940, only there is no Winston Churchill to lead us. The whole world is snapping at us like a pack of hungry wolves. But the day will come, Miss Shaw, when England will rise again…”
Compare all this with the Third Doctor himself, whom Terrance Dicks half-jokingly describes on the DVD audio commentary as a “Guardian-reading liberal”.
But the book’s Major Barker’s lunacy is not confined to Make-Britain-Great-Again speeches. In Episode 1, a near-meltdown of the Wenley Moor nuclear reactor is triggered when a young technician named Roberts suffers a mental breakdown at the controls. On TV, the Brigadier puts Roberts out of action with a karate chop (because the production team hadn’t come up with Jon Pertwee’s Venusian karate yet), and Roberts never returns to duty. In the book, though, it’s Barker who intervenes, inadvertently killing Roberts with a pistol-butt to the skull. Yikes.
All of his Brigadier and Major Barker business makes Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters an exhilarating read, but also a deeply cynical one. And, reading the first five chapters of the novelization, all of which is dedicated to the Episode 1 material (that’s a good 25% of the book just on Episode 1), you can see just how radically Hulke has changed his own story in all sorts of fascinating ways.
In the previous novelization, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (released the same month as this one), the new Third Doctor, and his first assistant, Liz Shaw, have a cordial and mutually respectful working relationship; Dicks narrates many scenes from Liz’s point of view, as she marvels at the Doctor’s scientific knowledge, technical know-how, or ability to work a room. That’s nice.
But Malcolm Hulke doesn’t do nice. First, he strips away all of Liz’s doctorates, and renders her merely as “Miss Shaw”. In an early scene on TV, Liz uses her charm to persuade the Doctor to heed the Brigadier’s summons to Wenley Moor, a pleasant moment well-loved by the five participants in the DVD audio commentary. But in the corresponding moment in the book, Liz first “looked down at the [Doctor’s] long legs and felt like kicking one”. And then, while navigating their way to Wenley Moor, the Doctor tries to mansplain her:
They roared along, not speaking, until the road went along at the foot of the rising ridge of land. In a very determined way Liz said: “It’s that track over there.” She pointed to a gravel road that led up the hill from the main road.
The Doctor slowed down, reaching for the map again. “Well, better safe than sorry.”
“Over there!” she screamed. “That rough track. I’ve studied the route thoroughly.”
The Doctors topped the car, then turned gently to Liz. “Do I irritate you?”
“No, Doctor,” Liz said. “You are the most thoughtful and considerate scientist I have ever worked with!” He beamed, taking her quite seriously. “How very kind of you. I hope that our association together will be a long and happy one.”
Liz closed her eyes to stop herself from screaming again. “Yes, Doctor,” she said quietly, “let’s hope it is.”
Of course, it’s not all disharmony and cynicism. The book opens with an illustrated map of Wenley Moor, showing us where the different settings in the story are in relation to each other. All the best children’s sci-fi and fantasy books have maps. Later on, Hulke footnotes the word “induction” to explain its scientific meaning to the kids. And all within the first five chapters alone, we get discourses on the coelacanth, the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, Carl Jung and the collective unconscious (as illustrated by the factoid about why dogs run in circles before going to sleep), and the fact that D.E. Hughes discovered radio waves several years before Marconi. In fact, looking back more than 30 years later, it’s probably safe to say that I learned more natural science at age 12 from Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters than I did from school.
(My 10th grade Social Studies teacher was an Italian immigrant who proudly used Marconi as the answer on a test; I footnoted D.E. Hughes to my response, proud of my Cave-Monsters-based knowledge, and got a rather unpleasant red X-mark in return. True story.)
Revisiting the first few chapters of Cave-Monsters was, in short, a terrific experience. Even if certain passages proved to be painfully prescient politically 40 years after the book was written. However, you’ll be happy to know, that I’ve decided not to unfriend the Brigadier on Facebook over his comments.
Next Time: More on Cave-Monsters, and the genius of Malcolm Hulke in improving his story from screen to book.