The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book was a children's book published by Target Books and W. H. Allen. It was an educational publication, with the Fourth Doctor travelling back in time to the "Age of the Dinosaurs" but not meeting any alien interference or other major conflict, and thus instead giving information about various kinds of dinosaurs which was believed to be scientifically accurate at the time of publication.
The book didn't use an established TV companion; instead, the text of the book was written as the Doctor's own speech and directed at a companion he picks up for the first time in the introduction and brings home at the end of the book, thus allowing the reader to imagine themselves as the Doctor's "you".
The Fourth Doctor takes a 20th-century human on a trip to various time periods in the Age of the Dinosaurs to observe the many reptilian "monsters" who once inhabited the Earth, to less strange and dangerous than the space monsters the Doctor habitually faces!
The Fourth Doctor gets into a conversation with a 20th-century human on the subject of monsters. He explains that, although he has faced many monsters in his travels through outer space, Earth once had a number of monsters of its own: the Dinosaurs. He offers the other individual to use his TARDIS to take them back in time to the Age of the Dinosaurs so that they can witness these "terrible lizards" together.
Travelling back "about 180 million years", they step out of the TARDIS to find themselves towards the beginning of the Age of the Dinosaurs. The Doctor explains that he has a whole list of dinosaurs t show his companion. First is a "little chap" called a Coelophysis, one of the first dinosaurs. As the Doctor explains its features to the companion, the Coelophysis, puzzled, holds off on attacking the Doctor because it has "decided that the Doctor is a bit too odd-looking to be really tasty". The companion is disappointed by the small size of their first dinosaur, and the Doctor promises that the next one will be bigger.
Travelling forward 3000000 years, they meet the humongous Apatosaurus, a gentle creature whom the Doctor feeds some weeds by hand. The companion notices that the Apatosaurus looks worried about something; the Doctor soon discovers the reason and points out a roving Allosaurus, which soon leaps onto the Apatosaurus and sinks its teeth into the Apatosaurus's neck, ripping into him with its claws. However, demonstrating that not all herbivores are as defenceless as the Apatosaurus, the Doctor points out another Allosaurus which is "biting off more than it can chew" with a Stegosaurus, whose barbed tail allows it to fight off the Allosaurus.
The Doctor advises the companion to look up as well as around, and they spot, about to dive-bomb the Doctor himself, a Pterodactyl, as well as an Archaeopteryx, a creature whose descendants will one day evolve into birds. After also spotting an Iguanodon, they had back into the TARDIS.
Having jumped to 80000000 before the human's present, they meet an Ankylosaurus and a duck-billed Anatosaurus. After marvelling at the duck-like qualities of its behaviour, even laying aside the beak, they jump backwards to 100000000 years in the human's past. They end up landing in the middle of a Protoceratops nest, with the Doctor immediately picking up one of their eggs to make a joke about breakfast. This proves to be a mistake, putting the Ceratops mother in "a very bad temper". The Doctor puts down the egg "quietly" and "creeps quietly back to the TARDIS".
Jumping forward again to "75000000 years ago", they are ironically faced with a Struthiomimus, a dinosaur whose primary mode of sustenance was stealing and eating other dinosaurs' eggs — which they see making its escape from an Allosaurus. In this case, the eggs were not properly speaking dinosaur eggs, but belonged to a Pteranodon. The Doctor keeps out of sight, deeming it dangerous. Drawing away from the Pteranodon nest, the two time-travellers end up overlooking the sea and observe a Plesiosaurus and a shark-like Ichthyosaurus.
Ending up 150000000 years in the past, they later meet a Polacanthus, which the Doctor notes with amusement was an English dinosaur, and a Diplodocus, one of the longest Earth animals of all time. They make a brief jump forward to spot "the star of the show", a Tyrannosaurus rex (indeed, there are two of them, and the time-travellers witness a fight between the two T-rexes over the carcass of an Anatosaurus that one of them has killed) before returning to 150 million years ago to meet the probable "largest" dinosaur, the Brachiosaurus, and then the "smallest", Compsognathus. When they return to the T-rex's era, they again see a fight between dinosaurs, this time between Triceratopses; the Doctor notes that he "isn't quite sure what the argument's about" in their case, concluding that it might be "sheer bad temper".
Moving forward to shortly after the Extinction of the Dinosaurs, a pensive Doctor sits by the skeleton of a dinosaur and ponders humans' hypotheses as to what killed the Dinosaurs. He notes that he does not know the answer himself, and is unwilling to spoil the mystery by going himself to check, although he says that he probably will do so someday.
Making a further ump forward, they observe "a few interesting creatures" who existed after the Dinosaurs, including a "particular favourite" of the Doctor's, the Megatherium, a giant sloth. Then, travelling to "half a million years ago", he shows the human one of their own ancestors, one of the first human tribes, whom they witness spear a Smilodon. They move forward to observe man's progress and see a different band of primitive humans slaying a Mastodon.
Finally, they return to the companion's home town. The Doctor gives the companion parting words about appreciating the majesty of the Dinosaurs, silly as they might look. He advises the companion to be on the lookout for police boxes if they ever want to take another trip with the Doctor, as police boxes are becoming disused in modern England and therefore there's a good chance any box they spot will in fact be the TARDIS!
- The Doctor states that he has faced "fearsome monsters" including Daleks, Cybermen and Ice Warriors.
- The name "Dinosaur" means "terrible lizard".
- The platypus is a duck-billed egg-laying mammal which exists in Australia.
- Following the success of The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book a range of educational Doctor Who books (Doctor Who Discovers), following a similar format, was launched in February 1977.
- This title had a print run of 75,000 copies and was priced 75p (UK).
- Terrance Dicks is not credited as the writer on the cover, but is inside.
- Due to its educational purpose, the book was wrongly tagged as "Children/Non-fiction", despite it containing clear fictional content in the form of the framing device of the Doctor's time travel trip to the Age of the Dinosaurs (unlike the similarly-titled The Doctor Who Monster Book).