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The Pescatons

by Victor Pemberton

Book review by Jon Preddle

The latest Target book is The Pescatons, the novelisation of an LP record released in 1976 from Argo/Decca Records. Written by Victor Pemberton from his own script, the book differs quite considerably from the record, and this review looks at the changes.

The most noticeable change is the length; the novel is 124 pages, the norm for a four-part story during Terrance Dicks' time as chief noveliser, but the record plays for a scant 30 minutes. Obviously to expand this into a full- length book, a lot of padding had to be added.

The story on the record is narrated by Tom Baker. This narration takes up most of the recording, and there are little bits of dialogue between the Doctor and Sarah, and later the Doctor and Zor - but these are the only three characters with speaking parts. All the other characters in the book are mentioned in passing, such as Professor Emmerson and the Expedition members.

Sequences missing from the book include the placing of the story in February, the Ministry of Defence sign on the beach where the TARDIS lands warning people not to swim, plus the discovery of a metallic octopus, which starts the terror. The meteorites had in fact first landed several years earlier.

Within five minutes of the record, the Doctor goes alone to explore the Thames river bed (Chapter 2). On his return, he tells Sarah about Pesca. The monster then appears and heads for the zoo, a sequence Pemberton places later in the book.

Side One of the record ends with the death of the monster at the zoo, and then the landing of the meteorites in the Thames. As the Doctor says with deep menace in his voice, "The Pescaton invasion had begun..." (Chapter 5).

Side Two opens with the Doctor telling Sarah about his previous visit to Pesca and his meeting with Zor. Pesca is located in the constellation of Pisces, a point omitted from the book. This sequence lasts about five minutes, and appears as Chapter 7 in the book.

The next piece on the record is the attack on a river tug. Stock sound effects roars, screams and crashes are used to great effect for this. Following this is a piece thankfully missing from the book when Sarah finds a baby crying (more stock sound) and is attacked by a monster. To distract the creature, the Doctor dances a jig and sings "Hello Dolly"!!

The final five minutes deals with the Doctor exploring the Underground following reports that a creature is trapped there. Against character, the Doctor plays his piccolo when he gets nervous and it is the vibrations he realises that can destroy the monsters!

A series of high frequency sound systems are set up in the sewers and used to destroy Zor when he finally makes his presence known. Zor disintegrates, as do the other Pescatons, and finally the planet of Pesca explodes (an event placed earlier in the novel). The invasion is over and the Doctor takes off once more in the TARDIS, but it is unclear if Sarah has left with him.

The book is a lot better than the LP, but neither is particularly good in any case. The padding in the novel is made up of new characters - in particular the scientific expedition team, the tramps and the sequences with the hard cone-like structures along the coast. Pemberton has also provided a better description of the Pescaton race and their reasons for invasion.

The ending has been altered too - instead of sound waves being used to kill Zor, it is a bright light in the book. The novel is also full of scientific inaccuracies, notably stars being seen during a full moon, distant planets visible through telescopes, etc. Even the TARDIS takes off like a rocket!

This book is really only for completists, and it is a pity that Target has numbered it as part of the range. If you want to know where the book falls in chronological order, it is best placed between The Seeds of Doom and The Masque of Mandragora.

This item appeared in TSV 26 (December 1991).