The Lair of Zarbi Supremo

Goofs: The Doctor is surprised to hear a voice on an alien world speaking English, which is... interesting, since the TARDIS must have translated for his companions, if not him, on his previous visit to Vortis. And all the other planets he's visited prior to this story.

Despite various references to The Web Planet, the Doctor reflects that he saw little of the Zarbi on his last visit but heard plenty about them, which flatly contradicts that story. Menoptra is spelt Menoptera.

Continuity: There is a reference to the Marie Celeste.

This story takes place after The Web Planet (the Doctor recalls the need for the Atmospheric Density Jackets, one of which he again dons here, Vortis has several moons, and the Menoptera have legends of the Doctor and the TARDIS). The Zarbi Supremo (a name coined by the Doctor) is three times the size of a normal Zarbi. It has organized the building of giant engines to pilot Zarbi through space and plans to invade Earth. It wants the Menoptera to act as ambassadors to Earth to trick humanity into believing that its intentions are peaceful, until it is in a position to take over. It communicates by telepathy and uses collars to hypnotize human and Menoptera slaves [a very similar method used by the Animus - did the Animus have something to do with its creation?]. It has directed the construction of a large fleet of Zarbi spacecraft. The Menoptera have built robot Zarbi suits that they can climb inside and operate, to move unnoticed amongst the Zarbi. Zarbi larvae are produced by large Queens and fed and housed in nurseries. When the Doctor releases the captured humans from the Zarbi Supremo's control, they shoot it to death. They intend to take over Vortis and make use of the Zarbi Supremo's inventions; amusingly, the Menoptera hurriedly fly the Doctor back to his ship before they actually deal with the humans, which is left unseen at the end of the story!

A space-ship from twentieth century Earth has crashed on Vortis, which it discovered in Earth's Solar System whilst on a mission to the Moons of Jupiter. The purpose of the space program in question is basically to find intelligent but peaceful civilizations and nick their stuff! Vortis hasn't yet been detected from Earth.

The Doctor is referred to as Dr Who throughout, whilst the TARDIS is simply called Tardis. He keeps binoculars in Tardis and carries a walkie-talkie.

Links: This story is a sequel to The Web Planet. Planets being piloted around space is something that featured in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which Whitaker script-edited. Despite the total lack of any television sequel, [TV]The Web Planet has spawned various sequels in other media, including the TV Comic strip On the Web Planet, the Marvel Doctor Who Year Book comic strip The Naked Flame, and Christopher Bulis' Missing Adventure novel Twilight of the Gods. Which is ironic given the decline in popularity of the story as more and more fans have had the opportunity to see it on video and DVD and realised how badly it has aged...

Location: Vortis, the Solar System, the twentieth century.

The Bottom Line: In the days before Doctor Who Weekly and its later iterations, the vast majority of Doctor Who short stories were published in various annuals and one-off publications, with World Distributors' Doctor Who Annuals appearing every year until 1985. The stories in the annuals take much the same approach as TV Comic's Doctor Who comic strip, i.e. they take what they want from the series continuity and leave the rest, often not featuring companions and making no attempt to fit in between television stories whatsoever, an approach that problem seems very unusual to anyone who has come to the series in recent years. This, the first story of the first annual, is therefore something of a rarity, acting as it does as a sequel to The Web Planet. Nothing to do with shameless cash-ins, obviously.

Anyway, with David Whitaker handling the writing chores for the first annual, this is rather good. The twentieth-century spaceships with children on board harkens back to Target Luna and its sequels and is now difficult to take seriously, but we get an unexpected twist as the humans prove to be greedy and aggressive at the end. Within moments of Dr Who finding the Zarbi Supremo, he arranges its defeat and destruction! Bizarrely, despite the total lack of companions, there's also rather a lot of continuity with The Web Planet here, which now seems rather odd in retrospect.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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