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THE small, blue planet Earth, also known as Sol 3, on the outer reaches of Mutter’s Spiral, appears an unremarkable world at first glance, but has attracted a surprising number of invasion attempts during its multi-billion year history.

While Earth had been visited by many alien races throughout its history, it was the launching of space probes in the 20th century which really began drawing the attention of extraterrestrial forces, leading to numerous bids to conquer or destroy the planet which were only foiled by the intercession of the Doctor or organisations like UNIT and Torchwood.

This box set focuses on three of the key invasion stories from the classic series, featuring William Hartnell’s First Doctor and the Third Doctor as played by Jon Pertwee – The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Auton Invasion and The Dinosaur Invasion.

London lies in ruins following a decimating plague and devastating invasion, with brainwashed Robomen enforcing control for their masters, the deadly Daleks. Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companions join forces with an underground resistance group, striving to survive in the face of overwhelming odds. Fleeing the capital in the wake of a failed strike against the Dalek mothership, the crew make a perilous journey across England to discover why the Daleks are drilling into the depths of Bedfordshire, and what the real reason is behind their ruthless invasion… Terrance Dicks’ novelisation is read by William Russell, who played the Doctor’s companion Ian Chesterton in the 1964 original serial, with Dalek voices by Nicholas Briggs. This is a relentless look at a Britain ground into the dirt by an oppressive conqueror, with obvious parallels to what would have happened if we had lost the Second World War, including black marketers, fifth columnists and of course the Nazi-like Daleks overseeing all. An all-time classic Who story, well worth a fresh listen.

The Auton Invasion introduces the Third Doctor in a story which worked admirably on screen as Spearhead From Space, but succeeds so much better in print, with author Terrance Dicks building up the atmosphere, characterisation and plot to produce a truly masterful work of science fiction, with the luxury of allowing his imagination full rein when re-envisioning the hideous Nestene Consciousness.

When meteorites rain down on the Essex countryside, UNIT recruits the assistance of expert Dr Elizabeth Shaw to help with their investigations, but the arrival of a mysterious stranger in a battered old police box soon changes all that. The newly-regenerated Doctor, exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, realises the meteorites herald an invasion by the Nestene using their plastic killers the Autons…

Offering a fresh start for the series in colour and with a new format revolving around an Earthbound Doctor working for UNIT, this story has justifiably gained a reputation as one of the strongest adventures from the Jon Pertwee years, with classic sequences like the Auton dummies breaking through a shop window actually reimagined in the first story of the revived show in 2005.

The late Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw, does the reading duties for this tale.

Wrapping up this release is a novelisation perhaps as famous for its cover as the story contained therein. Featuring the Third Doctor in battle with a tyrannosaurus and pterodactyl, its comic-strip style exclamation of “KKLAK!” has entered Who folklore.

Based on the story The Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the more succinct The Dinosaur Invasion does something which the television adventure could never achieve – it doesn’t show poorly animated model dinosaurs obviously superimposed behind the serial’s cast – and as such allows a focus on the narrative rather than the poor SFX.

On the surface, this is one of the stand-out stories from the Pertwee years, with chilling images of a deserted London under martial law juxtaposed with a plot about time experiments, betrayal by a UNIT stalwart and a bid to establish a new society of mankind by the world’s elite. Unfortunately problems with the effects meant the broadcast show featured barely animated and “glove puppet” dinosaurs which totally ruined the serious nature of the storyline.

Hoorah for books then! As this well-crafted novelisation by original writer Malcolm Hulke proves, there’s nothing quite like the imagination for getting around shortfalls in television technology, ensuring we can enjoy this fascinating tale in its own right.

Martin Jarvis, who featured in the original serial, reads the audiobook.

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