The Incredible Hulke

doctor-who-and-the-silurians-2

Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters.  The edition I own.

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: Six through Twelve

On the DVD audio commentary track for Episode 1 of Doctor Who and the Silurians, Terrance Dicks, bless him, says, in rapid succession, two things that cannot possibly be true at the same time.  First, he bemoans the length of the seven-part serial that he and Barry Letts inherited during Season 7 from the previous production team.  It’s “impossible”, he says, to tell a story of that length without unseemly amounts of padding. Now, on the one hand, you really can’t blame Dicks for thinking this way; he’d just had to co-write a ten-part story (with Hulke) the previous season, so certainly would have had a better idea than most, just how long is too long.

However, on the very next scene in the episode, a comic bit of business featuring the Doctor, Liz Shaw, and the Doctor’s new sprightly Edwardian roadster named Bessie, Dicks adopts a ton of warm nostalgia, and laments that this sort of non-plot-based, character-driven scene, could never feature in the New Series, with its 45-minute episodes.

So Dicks is kind of having it both ways at once here: the seven-part story both is, and is not, an ideal vehicle for telling a good Doctor Who story.

*****

Which brings us to Malcolm Hulke, the man who actually wrote Doctor Who and the Silurians (his first solo Doctor Who writing credit), and the man who then novelized it, as Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, four years later.  Because, in the book, Hulke explodes his own original scripts, essentially junks the seven-part structure, and tells his own tale – similar character names and same basic plot, but radically different characterization and dialogue, and (particularly in the back half of the book) radically different scene structure.  He devotes a full quarter of the book to adapting Episode 1, spends equal amounts of time on Episodes 2 through 5… and then rushes through Episodes 6 and 7, which combine to take up just 24 pages out of a 158-page book.  Hulke is unsentimental about junking the filler dialogue scenes and lengthy action sequences that featured heavily on TV, and replaces them with vivid characterization, the philosophies of his numerous villains of the piece, and witty retorts.

For Hulke, as well as Dicks, the seven-part story both was, and was not, the way he wanted to tell this tale.  Hulke instead sees his story as a study in villainy.  The only decent characters in the piece are the Doctor and Liz… and perhaps base physician Dr. Meredith (a fleeting role that barely registered on TV, but who sticks around longer in the book).

Last time, we talked a bit about Major Barker, the novelization’s take on Major Baker, who had been a more neutral character on TV.  Before the eponymous Silurians show up, the first half of the book features two real sets of villains: Barker, and then Wenley Moor research center personnel Miss Dawson and Dr. Quinn.  What’s remarkable about the middle portions of the book is how much Hulke leaves the regulars out of the picture, and tells the story from the successive viewpoints of several different complex bad guys.

Miss Dawson is introduced in a chapter called The Traitor, as a study in disappointment.  Hulke gives her a backstory that the TV episodes never had time for, and it’s pretty tragic — shes the dutiful daughter who never developed her own identity until just a little too late in life:

In her heart, Miss Dawson feared the moment when  people would stop asking, “Why don’t you get married?”  and replace it with the dread, “Why didn’t you get married?”

We learn how Miss Dawson develops a relationship with Dr. Quinn, and then learns that Quinn has met the Silurians and has a plan to exploit them for his own personal gain.  He is quite a bit more ruthless in the book than Fulton Mackay played the role on TV:

“Then keeping this to yourself is” — she couldn’t think of a strong enough  word — “is criminal!”
“Oh, no, I don’t think so.  Because, you see, I shall kill them first, after I have found out all that I want to know.”

Soon, Quinn shamelessly manipulates Miss Dawson into being his silent accomplice.  Hulke writes Miss Dawson as a battered woman, and tells us this from her point of view.  The novelizations would not always be this complex, especially in the years to come, but this one little chapter, The Traitor, is a master class in characterization.

*****

doctor-who-and-the-silurians-2

The Doctor in a cat-and-mouse game (or, quite literally, playing peekaboo) with the somewhat villainous Dr. Quinn.

In Hulke’s hands, the Episode TV 2 material takes up three chapters in the book (Six, Seven and Eight). Each of these chapters is told from the point of view of a different villain in the story: Dr. Quinn, Major Barker, and Morka (his name in the book — on TV he’s never named, but is called “Young Silurian”).  Episode 3 takes up four chapters, and three of those also come from bad-guy POVs – Quinn again, Barker again, and Miss Dawson.  While it’s clear that Hulke doesn’t exactly sympathize with the motives of any of these people, by telling the story as a mosaic from their different viewpoints, we get a much better look at the moral complexities behind the story’s driving questions, than we would if Hulke wrote it as a straightforward third-person-omniscient narrative.

It’s Liz Shaw who suffers the most from this narrative approach.  On TV, she’s the one who deduces in Episode 3 that Quinn has something to hide, but her material in this regard is cut from the book, and it’s the Doctor who gets to be the clever one instead, deducing Quinn’s villainy from a tire tread and a dropped handkerchief.  Liz in Episode 3 also recognizes that the globe in Dr. Quinn’s Wenley Moor office has been marked with the outlines of Earth’s continents as they looked 200 million years ago, but in the book Hulke has her as none the wiser and it’s the Doctor who must explain Pangaea and continental drift to her.

We’ve already talked a bit about Major Ba(r)ker and his xenophobia.  In the book, we see real repercussions to his inadvertent murder of Roberts (which, again, on TV, he didn’t commit), which causes him to be investigated by the local constabulary.  News of this investigation causes Barker to flash back to the moment that led to his disgrace from the Army – his murder of a surrendering IRA sniper in Londonderry.  Hulke spends so much time in Barker’s head that you really feel for the man, as narrow-minded and delusional as he is.  When he’s captured by the Silurians in the book, he cries out that he’s ready to die for his country, “for England and St. George!”.  The corresponding moment on TV, without that defiance, is much paler.  Even the Doctor momentarily shows his admiration for Barker:

The reptile men went up to Major Barker.  “You have not eaten your food,” one of them said. “We shall not offer food again, not until you answer our questions.”
“Then I shall starve to death,” shouted the Major.
The Doctor whispered close to Liz’s ear.  “That’s a very brave man, Liz.  A fool.  But a really brave man.”

We also learn much more about Dr. Quinn. During the Doctor’s probing visit to Quinn’s cottage in Chapter 11 (greatly expanded from the corresponding sequence in Episode 3 on  TV), he learns that Quinn is the son of Dr. Charles Quinn, a pioneering atomic physicist, and that our Dr. Quinn (John on TV, but Matthew in the book) really only ever wanted to be a geologist. “One didn’t argue with my father”, Quinn tells the Doctor in the book.  Hulke again invites us to sympathize with the man who’s already told us that he intends to exploit and then kill the Silurians, and who blackmailed Miss Dawson into helping him.

In the book, Hulke also rewards Quinn with a death scene, as he’s killed by Morka as punishment for keeping the latter in captivity.  On TV, the Doctor found Quinn already dead … but in the book, Morka kills Quinn, in Chapter 12, which Hulke rather sardonically titles Goodbye, Dr. Quinn.

That’s the first half of the book.  Of the four bad guys who’ve been given POV chapters thus far, Barker will continue on for a short while longer, and Morka will become the principal baddy, to whom the next post in this series will be dedicated.  Quinn has been killed.  Interestingly, Miss Dawson is present for Morka’s killing of Quinn, and Morka allows her to survive the encounter, although he does threaten her with the extermination of all humanity.  But she doesn’t appear in the book again, and we never learn of her fate.  Hulke handled her somewhat similarly on TV, where she was not present for Quinn’s death; she appears as a bitter antagonist in Episodes 4 and 5, then contracts the Silurian plague off-screen in Episode 6 and we never do learn if she survived.  Book or TV, Hulke just never has a happy ending in mind for poor Miss Dawson…

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About drwhonovels

An incredibly languid sojourn through the "Doctor Who" canon, with illustrations from the Topps 1979 baseball card set.
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3 Responses to The Incredible Hulke

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