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Doctor Who and the Zarbi was the second Doctor Who novelisation ever published. It was based on the 1965 television serial The Web Planet. This was the first Doctor Who novelisation to be written by the original teleplay writer. It became an on-and-off practice for the original writer to be commissioned to write the novelisation when possible (though during the Target Books era other authors such as Terrance Dicks would often be brought in to do so when this wasn't possible).

As the second Doctor Who novelisation, this book established the title format Doctor Who and the ... which would be followed by the Target Books novelisations into the early 1980s. It was also the first novelisation to have a title substantially different from that of the televised story (in this case, The Web Planet), a practice followed by Target on occasion through the 1970s.

Publisher's summary[]

1973 Target Books edition[]

DOCTOR WHO lands his space-time machine Tardis on the cold, craggy planet of Vortis. The Doctor and his companions, Ian and Vicki, are soon captured by the ZARBI, huge ant-like creatures with metallic bodies and pincer claws; meanwhile Barbara falls into the hands of the friendly MENOPTERA who have come to rid Vortis of the malevolent power of the ZARBI...

'They're well-written books-adventure stories, of course, but with some thought...the creation of the character of the Doctor had a touch of genius about it.' Westminster Press

1991 Target Books Edition[]


Drawn to the planet Vortis by some unknown force, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in a barren, cold world dominated by the Zarbi, monstrois metallic ant-like creatures at war with delicate Menoptra. Searching for the lost TARDIS, the Doctor must struggle with the Animus-seemingly a creature of evil and light...

The Web Planet was first broadcast in 1965 and featured William Hartnell in the role of the Doctor. This novel, adapted by Bill Strutton from his own script, is a example of the early style of Doctor Who novelistions and was originally published under the title of Doctor Who and the Zarbi.

Doctor Who- The Web Planet is available on BBC video and has recently been broadcast on BSB television.

April 2016 BBC paperback edition[]

Doctor Who stared about him and passed a trembling hand over his brow. "The ship!" he muttered. "It's...gone!"

Affected by a strange force, the TARDIS is dragged down to the desolate planet of Vortis. Until they can discover what is holding them there, the Doctor and his friends are trapped on the planet...

The Doctor, Ian and Vicki are soon captured by the Zarbi - huge, ant-like creatures controlled by the parasitic alien Animus. Meanwhile, Barbara runs into a group of Menoptera, butterfly-like creatures that have been driven from their home planet by the Animus, and plan to return with an invasion force. But the Zarbi know their plans and are waiting for the Menoptera...

This novel is based on a Doctor Who story which was originally broadcast from 13 February-20 March 1965.

Featuring the First Doctor as played by Willam Hartnell with his companions Barbara, Ian, and Vicki.

November 2016 BBC hardcover edition[]

The Zarbi, huge ant-like creatures with metallic bodies and pincer claws, are waiting for Tardis when it’s police-box shape materialises on the cold and craggy planet Vortis. They capture Doctor Who, Ian and Vicki and take them to their weird headquarters, a city of web-like organic matter.

But the Zarbi are not the only being in Vortis. Barbara has fallen into the hands of the butterfly-creatures with soft voices and iridescent wings, whose civilisation has been destroyed by the Zarbi. She learns that her captors are only the advance party of Menoptera in exile who plan to win back their planet by and invasion form outerspace. For the Zarbi “have brought the dark age to Vortis”.

In the final thrilling chapters, Doctor Who and the crew of tardis encounter the power which controls both the Zarbi and the living Web City. How can they defeat this strange bladder of dazzling light which draws in and absorbs all who come into its presence?[1]

Chapter titles[]

  1. The Web Planet
  2. The Zarbi
  3. Escape to Danger
  4. The Crater of Needles
  5. Invasion
  6. Centre of Terror

Deviations from televised story[]

  • The First Doctor is mostly referred to as "Doctor Who" throughout the book, one of the few occasions where the standard naming protocol is broken. Likewise, the TARDIS console is referred to as a "control table" and the larvae guns are called "venom grubs".
  • The TARDIS is referred to as Tardis, rather than using the usual definite article.
  • Rather than encountering a Temple of Light as in the televised version, the Doctor and Ian discover a column of rock fashioned into a "huge totem pole of a figure".
  • The Doctor slices away the web that snares Ian with a slender spar of fallen rock. The trap is noted to be statically charged, explaining the blisters on the schoolteacher's face and arms.
  • The Menoptera Vrestin is male. The character was female in the televised story.
  • The character of Hrhoonda is replaced by Challis. A fourth Menoptera named Zota is also present in the cave scenes. Zota, along with Challis, is killed by a venom grub.
  • The Menoperta radio is described as having flashing lights and an antenna. On-screen, the radio unit is crystalline.
  • The Zarbi throw nets over the Doctor and Ian when they first capture them. On-screen, no such event happens.
  • Upon their arrival in the Zarbi Headquarters, the Doctor is pinned against a wall by the Zarbi, so they can use a venom grub to spit acid around his head to demonstrate their ability to kill.
  • Whereas the entity living within the Carcinome was called the Animus in the televised version, the novelisation leaves its identity ambiguous. It's referred to as the Voice and, curiously in retrospect, the Intelligence. The Doctor's means of communicating with it is a saucer-like dome rather than a translucent cylinder. It alters his features from without like a funhouse mirror. The Voice possesses a verbal tic that makes it repeat the last syllable of some words. For instance: "Very well-ell! We shall show you the fate that awaits all your ships, all your people-le...!"
  • Unable to breach the TARDIS's defences, the Zarbi immediately collar the Doctor, Ian and Vicki with the gold necklets. There is no mention of Vicki having restored the Ship's power. However, there is a reference made to the events of TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, concerning the Doctor and Ian's imprisonment on the Dalek saucer. The venom grub's weapon is repelled like two positively-charged magnets.
  • The scene in which the Doctor tries to give Vicki a chocolate bar to calm her is removed.
  • The Menoptera slaves do not have their wings entirely cut off, merely "short-clipped".
  • The Optera Nemini is male. The character was female on-screen.
  • The Voice plans to assault the Earth "in its hundredth Christian millennium", possibly indicating the time period in which this story takes place.
  • Armed with the Web Destructor in their final assault on the centre, Barbara realises that she can't find the dark side she was instructed to attack. Instead, she focusses her energy on the "fiery mass whirling on a pivot" at the centre of the chamber. Its shape appears to alter as it grows weaker.

Writing and publishing notes[]

  • The book was originally published by Frederick Muller in September 1965.
  • Doctor Who and the Zarbi was one of three titles bought by Target from Frederick Muller that were used to launch the series of Doctor Who novelisations. It was released on 2 May 1973. The hardback edition illustrations were retained.
  • Quickly sold out of the first 20,000 copies and reprinted.[which?]
  • Chris Achilleos was excited by the idea of drawing giant ants but was told they had to look like those in the series.
  • The Target edition title page information includes: "THE CHANGING FACE OF DOCTOR WHO The cover illustration and others contained within this book portray the first DOCTOR WHO whose physical appearance was later transformed when he discarded his worn-out body in favour of a new one."
  • This title was renamed Doctor Who - The Web Planet in its later reprint. The paperback release on 28 April 2016 and the hardcover Frederick Muller facsimile on 3 November 2016, both published by BBC Books, reverted to the Doctor Who and the Zarbi title.

Audio release[]

This story was released in a five-CD format. It was read by William Russell (Ian). It was later released in the limited edition in Travels in Time and Space alongside the audio releases of Doctor Who and the Crusaders and Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks.

Additional cover images[]

British publication history[]

First publication:

  • Hardback
W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd. UK
  • Paperback
Target (2 May 1973)


  • Paperback
Target / Virgin Publishing Ltd. UK (January 1991). Cover by Alistair Pearson (£2.50 UK)
BBC Books (28 April 2016)
  • Hardcover
BBC Books (3 November 2016). Facsimile of the Frederick Muller original.

Editions published outside Britain[]

  • Published in the Netherlands by Unieboek/De Gooise in about 1975/76 as a paperback edition, translated by Wim Hohage and published as Doctor Who en de Zarbi's, it was one of eight Dutch novelisations; despite the broadcaster TROS showing Seasons 12 and 13 at this time the cover still depicts the First Doctor, however Chris Achilleos' image of the Fourth Doctor from The Doctor Who Monster Book does appear on the back cover.[2]
  • Published in Portugal by Editorial Presença in 1983 as a paperback edition, translated by Conceição Fardim and Eduardo Nogueria and published as Doutor Who e os Zarbi, it was one of ten Portuguese novelisations.

External links[]

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