The Shape of Terror synopses was written by Stephen James Walker and David Howe, originally published in Doctor Who Magazine #219.

The Shape of Terror was the second of two unsuccessful storylines, the first was The Brain Dead, that Brian Hayles submitted prior to writing The Curse of Peladon.

 

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Brian Hayles
Brian Hayles

The Shape of Terror

The storyline is set in an advanced research station, Pi Delta 6, on the mineral-rich planet Medusa Centaurus. The story opens with a rescue mission, led by Commander Hallett, responding to a an SOS call. The station appears deserted, and Hallett's ruthless security officer, Garford, believes it has been attacked by pirates. When the Doctor and Jo arrive in the TARDIS, they immediately come under suspicion. The true culprit is later revealed to be a foam-like organism called the Energid (see description).

The Energid has already absorbed the station's crew and now attacks the rescue team. It also draws off the data from the computer. The Doctor decides that to defeat the creature he must allow himself to become part of its neural structure. Jo and the others fear he has become power-mad in seeking this alliance, and lock him up. The Energid invades the Doctor's cell and, in a psychic nightmare, shows him what he could attain if he allowed himself to be absorbed. From their fusion would come a new super-race, and he would become a supreme creator. The Doctor seems almost won over, but then reveals his true motives. By calling on the survival instincts of the absorbed men, he throws the Energid into a state of katabolism -- self-destruction -- thus ending the danger.

The Energid

The villain of the story is in face a highly refined primordial cell of neural protoplasm -- the Energid. The normal method of cell growth is by selective absorption. In this case, the Energid has mutated to absorb the protein and neural patterning of intelligent men. In the same way that by interlinking a series of computers greater development potential is produced, the Energid is going through a super-anabolistic phase, adding to its power by fusing into its nucleus the brains and personalities of its victims. Eventually, it will reproduce by self-division -- but aware that the Doctor's brain is a prize worth having, it retards reproduction until it can absorb his neural patterns and intellect.

As a non-cellular organism, the Energid is capable of considerable changes of shape and viscosity, but never loses its own distinctive surface texture. Thus it can echo the shape of a man but can never become more than that. This surface could be rather like a stiffened detergent foam or egg-white, which could as easily subside into complete flatness, with all the motive qualities of 'thin' water.

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Terrance Dicks was initially unenthusiastic about this storyline but liked it more on a second reading. He made number of notes on it, observing that it presented a potentially tense "And Then There Were None situation" and concluding:

"This could be planned to be a very cheap show -- small cast, one set, one monster (if we can find a cheap and effective way of realizing it) and no exterior film -- which could be very useful financially!"

In the end it was decided that only the basic concept, a murder mystery set in an enclosed community with no location filming, should be useful. This was developed into The Curse of Peladon.

 

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