Malcolm Hulke drew the short end of the stick when it came to the sheer number of episodes he was asked to compress into 126 pages for the Target novels. In his run of Target novels, he adapted multiple six part stories, one ten part story and this seven part story into novel form. And while “The War Games” feels like a bit of a Cliffs Notes version of what actually happens on-screen, “The Cave Monsters” is a bit more successful in compressing this seven-part Jon Pertwee story down into the allotted page count.
Hulke’s adaptation tells essentially the same story as “Doctor Who and the Silurians” but it does it in a bit of a different way. Hulke gives the creatures in the caves names and delves a bit more into their history and motivation. Listening to the audio version of this story, I found myself curious to know how fans raised on this novel might have reacted when they first saw the complete serial years later. In this story, the Silurians have eye lids and they even shed tears at certain points of the story. Sadly, the limitations of the rubber suits don’t allow for this in the television version.
Hulke does eliminate a bit of the running back and forth between the underground base and the center in the story. The Silurians themselves are front and center from the opening of the novel and not held off-stage for much of the first three episodes as we see on TV. (Again, it just shows how you can tell the same story but in a different way based on the medium). He also tries to close some of the loopholes from the televised versions as well as offering some character depth to the supporting cast and crew.
And yet for all that, I can’t say this is the most successful of Hulke’s “Who” novelizations. It’s certainly superior to “The War Games” but it’s not quite as masterful as “The Doomsday Weapon.” It’s odd that one of Hulke’s strongest television scripts is one of his weaker adaptations for the printed page.
Part of that could be that the audio version of this book isn’t up to the usual standards of this range either. Caroline John isn’t in the same league as William Russell or Geoffrey Beavers, but she’s done some solid work on two other Pertwee era stories. In this case, her reading is competent but not great. Especially bad is her attempted Scottish accent for Dr. Lawrence. It ends up sounding like a bad SNL impression of Scotty from “Star Trek.”