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The Sons of the Crab was the third short story, and second adventure short story, published in the Doctor Who Annual 1966.


The Doctor arrives on the planet Wengrol in the Crab Nebula, inhabited by shapeshifters. Taken as a specimen by humanoid scientists who believe he is a shapeshifter who had stabilised in a single form, the Doctor finds the scientists unwilling to believe that he is an intelligent lifeform. Once the scientists realise their error, the Doctor is taken before Fomal, the Chief Yend.

Fomal also refuses to believe the Doctor is from another world and questions him about his stabilised shape and his box, which has also been brought into Fomal's quarters. As the Doctor attempts to convince Fomal, his statements distress Fomal enough to cause a momentary shift in his form. After the Doctor points out that Fomal is also a shapeshifter, Fomal begins to explain the downfall of the Yend.

A rogue star, Mortain, had entered their star system centuries before and bathed Wengrol in radiation. When paired with the genetic engineering of the Yend biologists, the radiation caused the shapeshifting mutation the Doctor has seen. Now the biologists are looking for a way to stabilise their forms and keep from shapeshifting.

The Sons of the Crab - 2.jpg

Fomal asks the Doctor to take a case of one hundred unmutated Yend embryos away from Wengrol and to a new system free of Mortain's radiation. While the Doctor hesitates to take charge of a hundred lives, he also knows that unless he does, he will not be allowed to leave. As the Doctor ponders, mutants break into the laboratory and the scientists lose control of their forms. The Doctor takes the case from Fomal and retreats to the TARDIS. Once safely in the TARDIS, the Doctor examines the embryos and finds that they are all dead.



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  • Dr Who comments, "I'm human, just like you are." As the people he's talking to are not from Earth, the word "human" seems to be used to mean humanoid. However, he also adds that he is from Earth: "I have come from a galaxy we call the Milky Way. To us on Earth this planet is what we call the Nebula of the Crab."
  • The Doctor refers to galaxies as "island universes", an archaic term used in science until the early twenty-first century, when it began to fall out of use.
  • The story is a clear commentary on in vitro fertilisation and features literal test tube babies. The author makes their opposition to the process quite obvious in the conclusion of the story, deeming it as unnatural, although the Doctor himself never expresses such concerns. In the real world, the first IVF baby was born in 1978, almost thirteen years after this story was published.
  • The story was read by Dan Starkey for the audio anthology Time Wake & Other Stories.


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