Fans of The Hunger Games will instantly recognise the world of Varos: it’s much like District 12, and everything is filmed and televised.
Varos is a former prison colony, a terrible world where citizens live in tiny home-cells, forced to watch government-issued televisions featuring live broadcasts of prisoners in captivity. Should they live or die? Compulsory voting follows, and those who don’t vote risk having family members report them.
Philip Martin, who also wrote the screenplay for the episode, wrote Vengeance on Varos, which was first published by Target Books in 1988. For Classic Doctor Who fans, Target was the only book publisher that mattered in the 1970s and 80s. Target Books released 156 Doctor Who titles from 1973 to 1994. Vengeance on Varos was first broadcast in two weekly parts on 19–26 January 1985, during the show’s 22nd series. The novel and episodes feature the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, and companion Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant).
The book begins with a TARDIS disaster so bad that the Doctor actually reads a manual on what to do next. The Doctor and Peri are trapped in a broken-down TARDIS, and there is only one thing that will fix the great blue box: Zeiton-7. The one thing the unfortunate planet Varos has to offer is the ore Zeiton-7, which its inhabitants mine and sell. The Doctor manages to get a tiny bit of power and they head to Varos.
Once there, they find themselves part of the Punishment Dome, where live broadcasts of executions are filmed every day. The Doctor and Peri arrive just in time to save young rebels Jondar and Aleta from an awful fate.
Peri and the Doctor are separated, and Peri winds up in the hands of the Governor of this broken planet. But is the Governor truly as vile as the other officials? The Governor himself is embroiled in a vicious battle over the price of Zeiton-7, and must negotiate with Sil, a brilliant and twisted reptilian creature who dreams of taking over the planet.
The action is non-stop, as the Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Aleta must try to escape the Punishment Dome and the various acid baths, psychological traps, and ferocious poison ivy plants. The book is fast-paced, great fun, and ultimately uplifting. Another treasure from the vaults of Target Books.