A dark, silent planet.


A magnificent crystal edifice, perched on a



A legion of dormant robots, waiting for the signal to bring them back to life.









The Masters

of Luxor














The Masters of Luxor is one of those sought-after gems; an unmade serial from the original series. Out of the increasing number of these that we fans have discovered, it’s perhaps the most famous (after the partially-made Shada). The reason for this is that, back in 1992, the BBC gave Titan Books the licence to publish script books. Luxor was chosen, alongside other completed serials. Since then, it has become very tricky to find, selling for wildly inflated prices on Amazon and eBay. I was fortunate to pick up a copy for a measly £7.50, and I’m glad to say that it was worth it (though probably not worth the £58 the other seller was demanding...)


When presented with an abandoned story, it’s natural to wonder whether it will be something of a disappointment. After all, it had to be shelved for some reason. Thankfully, I can say that I was pleased with the story, and whilst I’m naturally overjoyed that The Daleks was made in its place, I fail to see why Luxor was scrapped. Anthony Coburn, author of the previous, and premiere, serial, An Unearthly Child, delivers here an enthralling six-parter. It does display the slow style of storytelling that we’ve come to expect from early 1960s serials, but I’d say it moved along rather quicker than many of its contemporaries.


The serial (also known to some as The Robots), paints the regulars in a different light than we’ve become used to. The afterword to the book reveals even more – Susan is named throughout as Suzanne, for example – but these would, as editor John McElroy points out, have been altered when such things were eventually nailed down prior to production, had the serial been made. However, numerous oddities survive. The most notable, I feel, is the surprising spiritual side to the Doctor and Susan. Presented in almost all later stories as a sceptic and a realist, the Doctor is here a man of both science and faith.


“Religion sneering at scientific progress… or scientific progress sneering at religion… either of them can lull the people to sleep.”


The Doctor and Susan are also more explicitly alien than in many later stories, with the Time Lords frequently referring to their “own people” and their scientific and cultural achievements, and referring to Ian and Barbara as “Earth people”. Other differences are slighter, and more amusing. Some of the dialogue is distinctly odd, not to mention delightfully naff, with both Ian and Susan exclaiming “Holy Moley!” at points. Ian is characterised as something of a randy young thing, making slightly chauvinistic jokes, and at one point exclaiming to a robot: “They’re women, old mechanical chum, W-O-M-E-N. And if you think your perceptor coils are the only ones affected…”


The differences between women and men are frequently highlighted, with Barbara’s female intuition pitted against the Doctor’s stark rationalism (not unlike the situation in The Edge of Destruction), and some very 1960s, or even 1950s, sci-fi nonsense when the robots can’t recognise the women as the same race as the men. However, the serial does have some serious points to make on the subject of female equality - we learn that on Luxor, all male children are allowed, but only physically perfect females may be permitted, those deemed imperfect being killed as babies. It’s a horrific concept, and one worryingly close to some of today’s societies’ treatment of women.


The storyline itself is a tried and tested formula that wasn’t exactly original at the time, let alone now. It works along the familiar lines of many early Doctor Who serials: the TARDIS lands somewhere, the travellers leave the Ship, can’t get back to it, end up I a confrontation with the natives, become separated and eventually reunite and return to the ship to escape. I doubt I’m spoiling any plot points there. However, the serial is written in an entertaining, and surprisingly funny way, with some cracking dialogue from the regulars and guests.


Beginning with The Cannibal Flower (Luxor has some florid and evocative episode titles, typical of the early first Doctor serials), the TARDIS lands on a planetoid, drawn there by a mysterious signal. Something on this world drains the Ship of its power, and the travellers are forced to enter the mysterious city to find a way of putting this right. There, they find a large and sumptuous meal, and proceed to gorge themselves, in the same daft and gullible way that they did in The Keys of Marinus episode, The Velvet Web. In short order they are confronted by the planetoid’s robotic keepers, the Derivitrons (one can only imagine what Raymond Cusick would have designed for them had he not been given the Daleks instead).


They are taken to the Perfect One, and advanced android created by the Derivitrons in accordance with their own creators’ designs. The situation becomes clear – the Derivitrons believe the travellers to be the Masters of Luxor, the race they were built to serve. Luxor, a planet with a whopping (and rather unbelievable) 700 satellites, exists in the centre of this galaxy; this world we’ve landed on is one of them.


The Perfect One reveals a great deal of Luxor’s history, including how the Derivitrons were created by Tabon, a scientist who experimented on his own people. We’re left in no doubt as to how immoral and horrible said experimentation was, but the Perfect One still wishes to improve himself by continuing his designer’s work (obviously, he’s not quite perfect enough). He proceeds to drain off Susan and Barbara’s life force in a quite harrowing scene, with the intention of combining human and mechanical attributes to attain true perfection. Locked up, Ian and the Doctor escape to find Tabon himself, who they then revive him form suspended animation. The scientist is now repentant, and a showdown between creator and creation ensues…


Altogether, while some of the themes are a little old-fashioned, this story is a gripping one. I’d recommend The Masters of Luxor to any fan of the William Hartnell years, providing, of course, that you can find it for under fifty quid.


Copyright © Daniel Tesier 2008


Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.






I’m surprised that Big Finish’s recent first Doctor Lost Stories didn’t include an adaptation of what many would argue is the definitive Lost Story; the original, you might say. Anthony Coburn’s Masters of Luxor was originally intended to be the series’ second serial, occupying the slot that would eventually be allocated to a seven-part script from Terry Nation about some bug-eyed monsters that would unwittingly turn Doctor Who into a phenomenon. Titan Books’ 1992 publication of Coburn’s slightly amended script therefore offers fans a fascinating peek at what might have been had Daleks been Derivitrons and Skaro Luxor. And, interestingly enough, there seem to be more similarities between Coburn’s script and Nation’s than there are differences.


Borne of the same period and the same fears, The Masters of Luxor and The Daleks each look at a post-apocalyptic world and its semi-artificial inhabitants. Each addresses the edgy relationship between the Doctor and Susan and their schoolteacher abductees. Most notably of all though, each attempts to deliver something a little heavier than mere pulp fiction, taking some rather profound sociological issues and dressing them up in tin foil and funny voices, because thats the only way they could get away with it.


And whilst The Masters of Luxor isn’t anywhere near as transfixing a tale as The Daleks, it is nonetheless a remarkably rich and polished scientific romance which seems to measure up well against its peers. Reportedly inspired by the author’s curiosity about the introduction of computers into the television industry, this serial sees the TARDIS crew encounter a semi-sentient robot who’s on a quest for perfection that echoes both Star Trek’s Borg and the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. This alluring ambivalence permeates all six episodes, evoking fear and sympathy in perfect measures.


“Why are you Earth people afraid of the word ‘God’?”


The script’s portrayal of the regular characters is equally hesitant. The Doctor is portrayed as an alien being who champions both science and faith, alluding to a spirituality that we would never really see in the series, whilst Ian Chesterton reads more like his alter ego from David Whitaker’s Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks novelisation than he does the trusty fellow that William Russell would bring to life on television. The characterisation of Barbara and Susan is more in line with that we would see in the series, however, particularly Babs who is afforded a strong role equal and opposite to that of the Doctor.


In presenting the script, editor John McElroy has made a few necessary tweaks (such as renaming ‘Suzanne’ Susan, and removing some unfathomable dialect dialogue) but insofar as possible he has presented the text exactly as written - religious subtext, overly-ambitious hovering TARDIS and all. His commentary is therefore of great interest when reading the script, as he speculates as to what changes might have been made had the serial gone before the cameras.


Zeitgeisty and intelligent, I dare say that had it seen production, The Masters of Luxor would have proved popular amongst viewers, but no more so than, say, The Keys of Marinus did. I certainly don’t think that this script was capable of capturing lightening in the bottle in the way that The Daleks managed to, no matter how inspirational Raymond Cusick’s realisation of it might have proved. Indeed, in the parallel world where this adventure pipped The Daleks to the post, I’m not sat here reviewing Nation’s unmade Dalek script because Doctor Who died long before I was born. That’s not an indictment of this script, mind; just an affirmation of The Daleks.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.



Written as Doctor Who’s second serial, The Masters of Luxor picks up directly from where the fourth episode of An Unearthly Child (The Firemaker) left off, and contains numerous references to the events of that serial. The same could be said of The Daleks, which was ultimately produced as Doctor Who’s second serial.


This being the case, we posit that The Masters of Luxor takes place between the TARDIS leaving Earth and materialising on Skaro at the end of The Firemaker. This is (just about!) workable as Coburn’s script for The Masters of Luxor ended with the beautifully malleable phrase “…and I would rather leave the rest of this until I can link it properly to the opening scene of the next episode.” Well, now we can, though its admittedly a bit of a fudge!


Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.

Doctor Who is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.