Friday, August 12, 2011

Bang on Target

Its time for a shocking confession. Yes, I know, what could I possibly have to confess to (other than my dislike for the Seventh Doctor)? Well, up until yesterday, I’d never actually read a Target novelization.

“What?” I hear you cry. “Never?”

Well, no. Of course, I knew about them; they are somewhat legendary, after all, as well as being the cause of so much disappointment when missing stories are rediscovered. If I had a pound for all the times I’ve read about how let down people felt when they actually saw a lost episode because it wasn’t a patch on the novelization, I could probably afford one of those really big coffees you can have a bath in.

I blame Nev Fountain. When I was chatting to him for our memorial episodes, he mentioned how one of his schoolteachers thought he read far too many Doctor Who stories and he went on to extol their virtues in such a way that I felt I really should go out and have a look for myself. And, rather fortunately, the Beeb have tentatively re-released a select few titles to see if it’s worth their while to reproduce the entire output.

But where to start? I thought it sensible to begin not only with the Daddy of Doctor Who novelizations, Mr Terrance Dicks himself, but also a story that I’d actually seen just so I could compare the two versions. And of those available, the only one that fit the bill for me was “Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion”, better known to you and me as “Spearhead From Space”.

I wasn’t disappointed. Mr Dicks has always scared me silly (not that I’ve ever met him, but his on-screen persona is positively terrifying to this pixie), but the man can certainly crank out a rollickingly good adaptation. Dicks evokes the tone and voices of the characters beautifully and the story pelts along at a fair old pace with a few variations from the televised version (the differences are discussed in an appendix at the end of the book). And for readers who don’t know the earlier stories, there are solid introductory pieces describing the main characters and the series set-up so they can quickly get to grips with the action. I pretty much finished it in one sitting. Yes, stylistically it’s a little old-fashioned but, in a strange way, that’s actually quite comforting. This is what books were like in my childhood and there’s nothing wrong in that.

Would I read more? Definitely. In fact, I’m lining up “Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen” and probably “Doctor Who and the Crusades” so I can find out what’s going on in the episodes that aren’t on the “Lost In Time” DVD. But I’m also thinking of getting them because of what’s not here: all the rest of them (including the books written by Harry Sullivan, or rather Ian Marter, which I have been reliably informed are more than a little bit ace). Because if this limited re-release doesn’t sell, then for those of us who didn’t realise they were about at the time, and for a whole new generation eager to learn about the Doctor’s past, unless we’re very lucky in charity shops, we won’t get to experience the delight that is the Target novelization.


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