My New Year’s resolution is to re-read all the Target novelisations. And from time to time I’ll blog about the more interesting ones.
In the pre-VHS era they were incredibly important to me – every paperback was a window into the inaccessible past – but once it became possible to actually view the stories, the Targets were relegated to an increasingly dusty bookshelf.
Some I’ve re-read during the last few decades, but many have remained untouched since the early nineties. So, my non-chronological journey begins with an all-time favourite …. The Day of the Daleks.
Day is packed with extra value – the whole of chapter one (Moni’s flight through the workcamp and his tussle with the Ogrons) for example. I also love the many incidental touches added by Dicks which don’t alter the narrative, but help to broaden characters or generate more atmosphere. Jo’s dummy making skills (preparing an object for the Doctor to test the ray gun on) is a lovely example. It was very disappointing to later learn that on television the Doctor simply used a basic cardboard cut out (I wanted to see Jo’s lipstick smeared mannequin!).
The Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks – in the railway tunnel – is another of those moments which works terribly well in print, but turned out to be something of a damp squib on screen. In the book, the Doctor is horrified to see the slowly advancing Dalek. On television, he hot-foots it the other way as soon as he claps eyes on it!
When the Doctor and Jo are rescued from the clutches of the Controller by Anat and the others, Dicks cleverly names the various characters who were anonymous extras on screen. By giving them identities and very brief back-stories, their deaths resonate just a little bit more.
Dicks also took the opportunity to restore a “deleted scene” (a second encounter between the present Doctor and Jo and their future selves). On television, the loss of this scene wasn’t really a problem (the story concludes very effectively with a close-up of the Doctor) but it’s a nice book-ending moment that enhances the print version.