The Sour Note was the first illustrated short story in the 1968 Doctor Who Annual. It featured the Second Doctor, Ben and Polly.


After landing on a strange planet, Ben gets an almost irresistible urge to go running, claiming that he's failing to get proper exercise in the TARDIS. The Doctor opens the doors and soon Ben is out of the nervous view of Polly.

The Doctor suggests he and Polly should get some exercise, too, so they walk briskly after their companion. Soon, however, they encounter a giant, towering, metal grasshopper. The Doctor surmises it's likely a robot, so Ben is likely not in danger of dying by contact with this robot, but he still might be somehow captured by one. The Doctor and Polly go in search of whatever is controlling the robot. They find what appears to be an underground entrance nearby, but the swift insectoid robot prevents their progress towards it.

As he studies the robot's movements, the Doctor notices a series of musical notes in the air that seem to be controlling it. He pulls out his recorder and repeats the notes. He lures the creature to the TARDIS to examine it with his instruments. When they arrive, the robot is bearing down on them, and they enter the TARDIS just in time. They find Ben safely inside the TARDIS. He's been waiting there quite some time for them. Outside, the robot tries, without success, to destroy the TARDIS, until the Doctor simply dematerialises it, and the travellers speed off towards another adventure. The exasperated Doctor, well-winded from his run from the robot, advises Ben that if he'd like to run in future, he'll just have to jog twenty times around the interior of the TARDIS.



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  • Like many early Doctor Who print stories, both comic and prose, the Doctor is referred to as "Doctor Who" or "Dr. Who". The word "doctor" is not even seen as a proper noun here when used on its own to refer to the character.
  • This story alternates the way it refers to the Doctor's time-travel machine not as "the TARDIS", but simply Tardis, as was done with the time machine in the 1960s Dalek movies. Unusually, it actually spells out the acronym at one point, whereupon the author then decides to use the definite article and an antecedent noun. Thus,
  • "The Doctor rushed towards Tardis."
  • "the 'Time and Relative Dimensions in Space' Vehicle"
  • As with other stories in the 1968 annual, the Second Doctor refers to Ben and Polly as "my children", or, individually, "my child", "my girl", or "my boy". Uncharacteristic of the Troughton Doctor, this seems to be a hold-over from the Hartnell era; there was simply too little time between when Troughton took over and this annual had to go to print for the editors to understand Troughton's approach to the role.
  • As in other illustrated stories during the Troughton era of World Distributors annuals, the Doctor is shown wearing his stovepipe hat. It's unclear why, exactly, since Troughton had stopped wearing the hat on television a good eight months before the publication of this annual.
  • Ben's need to get out of the TARDIS so he can run and exercise seems at odds with later notions of the almost infinite amount of space in the TARDIS. (TV: The Invasion of Time, Castrovalva and others) However, at this time in the programme's history, it had not been posited that the TARDIS had a vast interior — merely that it was "bigger on the inside".
  • This story was read by Anneke Wills in The Second Doctor Who Audio Annual.


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