At 8 pages long, The Planet of Dust is the longest story since Fugitives from Chance, all the way back when Jon Pertwee was still playing the Doctor. This helps give The Planet of Dust the feeling of being a season-ending epic story like The Invasion of Time or The Armageddon Factor. With only one story left in Adventures in Time and Space after this, and that a very short 2-pager, this is maybe not so far from the truth.
The Planet of Dust starts as it means to go on: oddly.
As the Doctor ran a practised eye over the flickering needles and glowing lights of the Tardis control panel, Leela watched him carefully, finding her subject infinitely more interesting, if even less revealing than the complexities of the instruments that had brought them there.
Now I don't think it's the starting the story in media res that is odd, I think it is the use of the word "needles." Confused cat is confused.
There is an unusually lengthy (unusual for the Doctor Who Books Project at least) Tardis scene, filling us in on the backstory that the Doctor and Leela (whoever is playing her this time) are answering an "Inter-galactic distress signal" and they use the Tardis scanner to see the planet outside.
It was a skull, some seventeen feet in length and with two grey horns protruding from the top.
The Doctor ignored her attempt at humour.
'This is not the moon,' he chided, 'and whatever that creature was, it most certainly wasn't a cow.'
The Doctor and Leela leave the Tardis and fall through the surface of the planet to a "huge chamber" inside it (I hope it isn't a Dalek asylum). This takes until the end of page 2 - already a quarter of the story is over and hardly anything has happened yet. The slower pace of this story makes it quite boring so far. Hopefully things will liven up on page 3 when they meet a giant alien creature.
The horned, scaly head with its grinning, tooth-filled mouth, seemed an after-thought, like a cherry on top of a cake. For the body was so massive that Leela was unable to take it all in. The clawed fists were the size of houses. The squat legs were wider than a motorway. Leela felt that if the creature were to move the whole planet would be jolted off its axis.
The creature is called Beshi and he chats to the Doctor for a bit, giving exposition about how he crashed on the planet with a colleague who went
'I mean to give these plants the ability to think for them-selves. I mean to give them the ability to walk and talk like other living things. Imagine it! A human can walk - a plant cannot. A plant can live off sunshine and rain - a human cannot. Imagine a plane that is able to walk to find water, one that can uproot itself and move out of the shadow, one with all the abilities of a human, but none of the appetite. This desert of a planet could become a paradise covered with lush vegetation.'
Beshi takes them to his laboratory.
They walked for almost half an hour down a long corridor, with the Doctor and Leela having to run, and Beshi taking one giant stride and then waiting for them. Eventually he stopped altogether.
'Perhaps it would be better if I carried you,' he said.
'Yes, perhaps it would.'
This page has two pictures on it, but the bottom one makes no sense.
They get to Beshi's laboratory at about the halfway point of the story. So far this has been so boring that I am going to go and have sleeps before I finish it. Zzzzz.