Hitting The Target – Doctor Who and the Crusaders by David Whitaker


As with The Daleks, David Whitaker’s second Doctor Who novelisation opens with a non-televised section.  It’s a truly fascinating prologue which sees Whitaker articulating his philosophy about the series in general as well as explaining why the Doctor never interferes in Earth’s history.

The latter argument is a rum old one. When Barbara asks what would have happened had Adolf Hitler been assassinated in 1930, the Doctor blithely replies that it’s a moot point since Hitler wasn’t assassinated back then! The Whitaker Doctor is content to only observe Earth’s history and – rather than not wishing to change it – seems to believe that the laws of time strictly forbid his interference. But this doesn’t answer the puzzle about why he’s perfectly happy to meddle on Skaro, Marinus, the Sense-Sphere, etc, etc.

This was quite a stifling premise, so it wasn’t surprising that Dennis Spooner held a different view – his scripts (The RomansThe Time Meddler) seemed to take great delight in breaking Whitaker’s rules ….

Whitaker’s Doctor Who philosophy is set out in the opening paragraph of the book.

As swiftly and as silently as a shadow, Doctor Who’s Space and Time ship, Tardis, appeared on a succession of planets each as different as the pebbles on a beach, stayed awhile and then vanished, as mysteriously as it had come. And whatever alien world it was that received him and his fellow travellers, and however well or badly they were treated, the Doctor always set things to rights, put down injustice, encouraged dignity, fair treatment and respect.

It’s a lovely bit of writing, although it has to be said that it doesn’t really reflect many of the Doctor’s televised adventures up to this point.  They mainly consisted of the Doctor desperately attempting to return to Tardis (which was usually, for one reason or another, inaccessible) with the result that any assistance he dished out to the locals tended to be an afterthought.

Whitaker’s shaky memory is no doubt the reason why we’re told that Susan married David Cameron (poor girl) as well as the assertion that the Dalek invasion of Earth took place in the twenty first century. Today, all these facts are just a click away, but that wasn’t the case in 1966 – which explains this garbled slice of history.

Whitaker took a little time to reflect upon the changes undergone by Ian and Barbara during their time with the Doctor. “Ian was now a deeply tanned bronze, his body trained to the last minute, no single trace remaining of the ordinary Londoner he had once been”.

As for Barbara, there’s a faint whiff of Mills and Boon about this following section of purple prose. “Where her face and form had conjured up beauty in the eye of any beholder, now beauty radiated from within and trebled her physical attractions, making her the admiration and desire of all who met her”.

That Ian and Barbara are a couple is also made abundantly clear. Oh, and we’ve not seen the last Mills and Boonish touch. More on that later.


When the four time-travellers reach the forest glade and tangle with a group of unruly Saracens, it’s amusing to see how proactive the Doctor is. Given a handy stone by Vicki, he orders Ian to hold down a struggling soldier before knocking him out with said stone. He’s a dirty wee fighter.

Given how good the dialogue in Whitaker’s original scripts was, it’s understandable that he chose to retain most of it for the novelisation. For example, Richard’s early petulant outburst is reproduced virtually intact.

Friends cut down about my ears, or stolen! My armies roust about and clutter up the streets of Jaffa with the garbage of their vices. And an hour ago I learn that John, my brother, finds a thirst for power in England; drinking great draughts of it, although it is not his to take. He’s planning to usurp my throne, and so trades with my enemy, Philip of France! A tragedy of fortunes and I’m too much beset by them. A curse on this day! A thousand curses!

The one major change he makes is to re-order the action somewhat. Unlike the television version, which alternated between various locations, the book is content to be more static (for example, Chapter Four – The Wheel of Fortune – concerns itself with Saladin whilst Chapter Five – The Doctor In Disgrace – relocates back to Richard).

Joanna makes an instant impression on Ian. “Ian could scarcely take his eyes off such a vision of perfection, who earned for herself no more than a few lines in the history books he had read. Her finely sculptured face, with its high cheek-bones and wide generous mouth, the delicate ivory of her skin, just faintly tinged with colour at the cheeks, the classically simple gown that emphasized the perfect proportions of her figure, all made an impact on him he knew he would never forget”.

Steady on man, what about Barbara?!

If Richard and Saladin are presented on the page in a similar fashion to their television counterparts, then El Akir is the one character who really benefits from the printed word. Not that any attempt is made to humanise him (far from it). Whitaker takes every opportunity to paint him as a totally merciless individual without a single redeeming feature. For instance, we discover how he received his disfiguring scar – after murdering his brother (in order to gain possession of his brother’s wife) his sister-in-law was able to gain a modicum of satisfaction by striking him with a heavy ornament. Although this satisfaction was short-lived as she was then murdered by El Akir’s men.

Although it’s long been rumoured that Whitaker’s draft scripts implied that the relationship between Richard and Joanna had an incestuous tinge (which was removed, so they say, on the request of William Hartnell) he chose not to introduce this theme into the novelisation. But what he did do was slightly ramp up the sexual nature of Barbara’s predicament.

It’s slightly eye-opening to be told that back in the 1960’s she was often to be found in a bikini, sunning herself on some beach. But this is then compounded by the brief costume she’s forced to wear in Saladin’s court. It’s easy to imagine some of the other companions in this garb, but not our Barbara ….


This slightly squiffy picture of Barbara-as-sex-object is reinforced whenever she falls into El Akir’s clutches. It’s spelled out several times exactly what lays in store for her, although the torments won’t only be inflicted on her body. “El Akir is one whose pleasures are inhuman. He will not spare his victims any humiliation his agile brain can well devise. He is a past master in the arts of torture, not simply of the flesh, but of the mind and soul as well. He does not kill lightly, because he prefers to prolong suffering, pain and mental anguish. Search into the darkest corners of your imagination, invent the worst misdeeds you can, and still El Akir will surpass them by a hundred-fold”.

Although the Doctor and Vicki hardly appeared in the fourth television episode (until the final scene) for this book Whitaker made the decision to remove their other episode four scene.  This means that the Doctor and Richard part on the unhappiest of terms, with Richard believing that the Doctor has betrayed his trust. In book form, the Doctor and Vicki leave the action at the end of chapter five and don’t reappear until the end of the story (in chapter eight).

A slight shame that we’re denied the reconciliation scene between the Doctor and Richard, although it does help to reinforce the notion that the Doctor is just an observer of events rather than an active participant.  The downside is that Richard joins Joanna and Saladin in simply disappearing from the story.

On television, Saladin exits after he receives Richard’s offer of Joanna’s hand in marriage to Saphadin.  In the novelisation he’s given an additional scene – an intriguing meeting with Ian,  which sees the schoolmaster articulating the Doctor’s concept of religious tolerance.

I have a friend, a very wise, well-travelled man who spoke to me on the subject of religions once. In the West, three main streams dominate: Mohammedanism, Judaism and Christianity. In the East, the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Moslem rival Janism, Sikhism, Parsee and Shinto. But what is the sum total? That all people, everywhere, believe there is something mightier than themselves. Only the name changes. The little Negro child will say his prayers and imagine his God to be in his colour. The French child hopes his prayers will be answered – in French. We are all children in this matter still, and will always be – until colours, languages, custom, rule and fashion find a meeting ground.

If El Akir is despatched with indecent haste on television, then his print death is much longer and much more satisfying. First he goes several rounds with Ian, who proves himself very handy with a sword, before Haroun steps up to choke the life out of him.  It’s a nasty way to go, but then he had been viciously whipping Barbara just before Ian burst in to confront him (another of those sadistic scenes which would never have been permittable on television) so I think he deserved everything that he got.

One last burst of Ian and Barbara in a Mills and Boon world? Go on then.

Barbara looked across at Ian, stretched out a hand and held his. A dozen unsaid words hung between them in the understanding of that moment. Modern people though they were, they had stepped into a world of chivalry and barbarism and Ian had not failed her. She had needed him and he had come for her. She knew, whatever the age, whatever the place, whatever the circumstances, he would measure up to her every expectation.

She leant across from her horse, put her arm around his neck and kissed him softly on the lips. She sat back again, her heart beating a little faster, a slight tinge of pink at her cheeks, holding his eyes with hers.

Althouh largely faithful to the original source material, there’s more than enough additions – a spot of sadism, some good character development, an epic sweep to proceedings which simply wasn’t possible in the cramped studio – to ensure that Doctor Who and the Crusaders stands up as a decent read in its own right. It’s a great shame that David Whitaker wasn’t asked by Target in the mid seventies to adapt any more of his stories. He was approached later on and had begun to rough out plans to novelise The Enemy of the World, but his untimely death in 1980 meant that these plans went no further.

Whitaker’s importance in the development of television Who is clear enough, but he can also lay claim to be the founding father of written Who.  Apart from his two novelisations, there’s also his work on the annuals, various sundry publications such as Invasion from Space, as well as the scripts for the Dalek TV21 comic strip.

Doctor Who and the Crusaders, like Doctor Who and the Daleks, is an essential Doctor Who novelisation.


Hitting The Target – Doctor Who and The Zarbi by Bill Strutton


When I were a lad it irritated me that the Doctor was referred to as Doctor Who throughout Doctor Who and the Zarbi. Fortunately, when I grew up I found that it didn’t matter at all – now I’m more irritated that they corrected this “mistake” for the audiobook and renamed him The Doctor ….

We open aboard TARDIS. Barbara’s clearly some way down the pecking order as the Doctor suggests she makes herself useful by rustling up a quick cup of coffee whilst Ian orders some bacon and eggs from her. It’s possible that the Doctor’s suggestion was simply a ruse to save her from worrying about their current predicament.  Ian, on the other hand, just seems to be hungry and disinclined to lift a finger to help himself.

Bill Strutton sticks quite closely to the dialogue from his original script, even reproducing Barbara’s comment that the fancy bracelet she’s now sporting was a gift from the Emperor Nero (and not, as suggested by Vicki, from Ian).  It’s a shame that their conversation about space-age schooling was cut though.

If ever a Doctor Who story benefitted from being transferred to the printed page then it’s this one. The planet Vortis, and its numerous inhabitants, struggled to be effectively realised on screen (to put it mildly). There’s no such problems here, so the notion of a gun-wielding Zarbi seems perfectly reasonable.

Strutton took the opportunity to change the structure encountered by the Doctor and Ian on the planet’s surface from a pyramid to a vaguely humanoid figure. The text suggests that it’s a Menoptera, although this is somewhat lost in John Wood’s illustration. The illustrations, carried over to the Target edition from the 1965 hardback, are very decent – although Vicki only bears a very passing resemblance to Maureen O’Brien.


If the Zarbi are a good deal more menacing on the printed page than they are on screen, then so – to begin with – are the Menoptera.  Barbara’s first encounter with them (“there was a tall sinister dignity about them – a beauty even, but with the sudden shock of their strange appearance and their glaring hostility, she felt the sickness of a real terror welling up inside her”) has a punch that’s absent from the television realisation. There, they only had to open their mouths or wave their arms about for any sense of danger or tension to be lost.

In book form, Barbara’s interrogation by the initially hostile Menoptera is much lengthier, with the belligerent Challis a prime mover in wishing to bump her off.

When you no longer have to see or hear the Menoptera it’s easy to believe in them as a race of proud souls who are locked into a bitter struggle for the control of Vortis. The wise but aged Prapillus is a good example – leading the attack to escape from the Crater of Needles, at times he has a very Doctorish turn of phrase (“I may be a little short of breath, but not of brains”).

Elsewhere, Ian is a good deal more hysterical in print than he is on screen. Whilst Doctor Who maintains his lively scientific interest, Ian’s not having such a good time – often snarling or grimacing at the latest scrape he finds himself in. For example, after Doctor Who absently declares that he didn’t expect the Zarbi to be behaving like they are, Ian snaps back with the following. “Were they supposed to scuttle away at the sight of us – or greet us with speeches of welcome and garlands of flowers?”

Whilst Terrance Dicks often made use of the chapter title Escape to Danger, it made its DW debut here. David Whitaker was close in The Daleks (Escape into Danger) but not quite close enough.

If the book has a fault then it’s one shared by the television original – midway through it does tend to sag a little (too many scenes of the Doctor being interrogated very, very, slowly).  Bill Strutton’s prose style is workmanlike enough but lacks the visceral impact of Whitaker’s Dalek novelisation.

Still, if I’ve come to love The Web Planet a little more over the past decade or so then my appreciation for The Zarbi has also increased. If you’ve not read it for a while, then it’s worth pulling it from the shelf, giving it a dust down and diving in.


Hitting the Target – Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

doctor who and the daleks

Given that most potential purchasers of this book back in 1964 would have been well aware about how the television series began, it’s a little odd that David Whitaker spent the first fifth of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks crafting an alternative origin story for the Doctor and co.

But I’m awfully glad that he did, because it’s absolutely gripping – a tale of fog, Barnes Common, everlasting matches, a strange telephone box, dead soldiers hanging out of lorries and a malevolent old man searching for a lost key ….

I love the way that Whitaker returns from time to time to the events of An Unearthly Child.  In both the book and television versions there’s the disturbing notion that the old man has (for reasons unknown) secreted a young girl inside a telephone box.  Plus Barbara remains the one who’s questing for answers to the mystery of Susan – with Ian a helpless passenger buffeted along by events.

Subtle touches to other television stories – when we first see Susan she’s wearing the same sort of bandage memorably sported by the Doctor in The Edge of Destruction – are woven in whilst Whitaker also takes the opportunity to expand upon the wonders of TARDIS.  He was clearly very taken with the food machine scene (repeating it here virtually verbatim from Nation’s script).  Indeed, he loved it so much that he later popped a food machine scene into the first draft of The Power of the Daleks (which was then snipped out by Dennis Spooner).

Whitaker’s additions include the metal skull cap which gives Ian an excellent haircut (“as good a barbering as I would have received at Simpson’s in Piccadilly”) and the oil and water shower. Clearly TARDIS had plenty of mod cons, although we never learn who cleaned and pressed Ian’s suit (was it Susan or was it all done by machines?)

Given the limited page count, the story has to be streamlined somewhat from the transmitted version, but little of substance is actually missing even if certain key scenes where Ian wasn’t present (Susan’s meeting with Alydon, for example) have to be re-told in the slightly clumsy way that was always a problem with first-person narratives.

There are scores of memorable descriptive passages, such as Ian’s shocked discovery about the horror which lurks inside the Dalek casing.

It was an evil monstrous shape. There was one eye in the centre of a head without ears and with a nose so flattened and shapeless it was merely a bump on the face. The mouth was a short slit above the chin, more of a flap really, and on either side of the temples there were two more little bumps with slits in them and I heard the Doctor mutter that they must be the hearing parts. The skin was dark green and covered in a particularly repellent slime. I felt my stomach heaving and I bit the inside of my mouth until I tasted blood.

In both of Whitaker’s novels, Ian and Barbara seem to be more than just good friends (this is made explicit in Doctor Who and the Crusaders where their future life plans have already been settled). Things are less certain in Doctor Who and the Daleks (after all, they’ve only just met) but a notable Whitaker addition to the second half of the story is Barbara’s cold fury towards him (“I suppose you imagine I like you hanging around me all the time. Well you’re wrong! We’re forced together, I can see that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!”). Does the lady protest too much? At the end of the story this question is answered.

Another interesting wrinkle by Whitaker is the way he reverses the viewpoints of Ian and Barbara concerning the question as to whether the Thals should be formed into a fighting army to help recover the Doctor’s fluid link from the Daleks. In the novel, Ian is gung-ho whilst Barbara is keen for them to make their own minds up. The boxing match – organised by Ian – is an entertaining addition.

The slow descent into the Dalek city via the caves by Ian, Barbara and a small group of plucky Thals is probably the lowpoint of the television version. These scenes work better in print, although it’s a pity that Antodus’ ever-growing fear has been deleted. On the plus side, Kristas is greatly expanded and becomes wise and sage-like. It’s therefore something of a shock to realise that the television original is a much more anonymous character.

Doctor Who and the Daleks never fails to engage. Certainly one of my top ten Targets.

Hitting the Target. Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil


Although most of the Pertwee stories were novelised during the seventies, four tales – The Ambassadors of Death, InfernoThe Mind of Evil and The Time Monster – were skipped.  It’s interesting that two of the titles were by Don Houghton, but presumably that’s just a coincidence as there’s never been any suggestion that he was actively blocking publication.

When Target eventually decided the time was right to mop up these stragglers, Houghton declined to tackle his stories – Inferno and Mind – so the task fell to that reliable old warhorse Terrance Dicks.  Published in 1985, The Mind of Evil is a very faithful transcript of the televised story (even keeping most of the original dialogue intact).  This had become Dicks’ style – something which was appreciated and mocked by different sections of fandom.

For some, in the days before VHS copies were widespread, having an almost verbatim novelisation of the television story was appreciated.  But others wanted books which went beyond the televised events and were less impressed with Dicks’ workmanlike style.  The printed word does had advantages over the television image in certain respects though – for example, the visual manifestations of the evil impulses generated by the Keller machine.  On screen we saw less than impressive superimposed images (water, fire) but there was no such limitations on the printed page.

Dicks also remembered that some readers might be unaware of the Doctor’s current status, so he helpfully sets the scene by informing them that, at present, the Doctor is exiled to Earth and working for UNIT.

The various criminal types are given very brief backstories.  We learn that Barnham had choked the life out of a security guard who had disturbed him whilst he was blowing a safe whilst Harry Mailer is painted as a Kray-like gangster (eventually caught because he was rash enough to kill somebody in public).

It’s notable throughout the television original that the Doctor’s in something of a bad mood, especially to begin with (his arrogance is very much on overdrive when attending the initial demonstration of the Keller process).  Dicks doesn’t attempt to soften this and, indeed, his condescending attitude to all around him – including Jo – is even added upon.  At one point, the Doctor despairs of having to leave the Keller machine in the hands of Jo (whom he regards as a feather-headed child).  But this was still early on in their relationship, so it’s maybe not as brutal a character assessment as it first seems.

Benton can always be relied upon for a comedy moment or two, and Dicks delightfully paints him as a wistful James Bond wannabe – dreaming of vodka martinis, shaken not stirred, Bentley sports cars and mysteriously beautiful international spies.  His actual assignment – keeping tabs on the suspicious Captain Chin Lee – is rather more down to earth though.  The Brigadier’s assessment of why Benton is fundamentally unsuitable for undercover work is also entertaining (Benton lurking in a doorway with his raincoat collar turned up, was about as inconspicuous as an elephant at a tea party).

Not the most essential Target then, unless you favour a very accurate reproduction of the events on screen, but it’s still one of those books which whetted my appetite for the television original.

Hitting the Target. Doctor Who – The Mind Robber


I love the tranche of Hartnell and Troughton novelisations penned in the eighties.  Many were written by their original scriptwriters and it’s fascinating to see how they retooled the stories after a gap of several decades.  Peter Ling, like many of his fellow writers during the sixties, wasn’t steeped in Doctor Who lore.  He wrote a single story and then no doubt didn’t think about it or the series again until he was commissioned to write this novelisation in 1986.

This isn’t a problem though and in fact there’s something rather charming about the slight sideways feel that you get from many of these books.  There’s some odd moments to be sure (such as the sight of the Doctor pottering around the TARDIS engine room with a can of oil and a rag) whilst it’s hard to imagine Troughton’s Doctor ever uttering the line “ye gods. I need my brains taken out and buttered”.  But I’d sooner this approach than an obsessive fixation on continuity – where things are either “right” or “wrong”.

Ling sticks pretty closely to the original script, although there’s plenty of instances where he takes the opportunity to do things which would have been beyond the series’ budget.  When Jamie and Zoe are tempted out into the white void, they both see very personal images.  For Zoe, it’s the sight of her mother, looking down at her from the sky, whilst Jamie sees his cottage, complete with his family waiting for him and a spot of supper on the table.  These visitations upset Zoe especially (possibly this was a hint that her mother had died).

After the TARDIS has exploded, the image of Zoe slowly slipping off the console and descending into nothingness is an evocative and disturbing one.

I don’t know whether Ling’s script had originally intended for Zoe to briefly find herself dressed as Alice in Wonderland (encountering a white rabbit with a pocketwatch and falling down a rabbit hole) but if so, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see it.  Possibly the fact that the recording would have had to have been paused in order for Wendy Padbury to change clothes was the prosaic reason why it didn’t happen.

It’s slightly odd that Zoe has never heard of Alice (especially since she knows all about the Karkus – she’s aware of comic strips then, but not classic literature).  We’re told that this is because she comes from the twenty first century, which seems a fairly feeble rationale.  The Karkus is good fun – especially since he comes complete with Batman-style speech bubbles which accompany his every move and gesture.

Ling didn’t make any attempt to differentiate the Master in his story from the Doctor’s identically named arch nemesis, which no doubt would have confused some people.  Early reference books did make a distinction – The Making of Doctor Who called him the Mind Master, for example.  Mind you (sorry), that was confusing too – when I finally saw the story, I was surprised he wasn’t referred to as the Mind Master.

It’s characteristic that Jamie is disappointed when Rapunzel disappears (he was looking forward to getting to know her a little better).  Jamie – like Frazer Hines – always had an eye for an attractive female …

It’s a pity that Ling didn’t come up with an alternative ending as it seems to contradict everything we’ve previously been told.  Earlier, the Doctor realised that if he attempted to create fiction then he’d be trapped in the Land of Fiction forever.  But when he and the Master meet for their climatic battle, he does precisely this with no consequences.

But that apart, The Mind Robber is a cracking read.  There’s plenty of bonus material not seen in the original television production, but not so much as to make it unrecognisable.  Certainy a book that’s worth tracking down.

Hitting the Target.  Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks 


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.

Doctor Who – Target Books. A personal appreciation


With a new edition of David J. Howe’s history of the Doctor Who Target books just released, the rather nice feature on Target artwork in the current Doctor Who Magazine (DWM 499) as well as the latest wave of reprints, it seems like the ideal time to take a brief look at Target’s Doctor Who imprint.

In the pre-video age, the tv tie-in novelisation was one of the best ways (along with off-air audio recordings of course) to relive memories of your favourite series.  I’ve plenty of books of this type in my collection, but for sheer volume the Target Doctor Who range is well out in front.

From receiving my first (The Day of the Daleks) as a birthday present in 1979 to finally plugging those remaining gaps in my collection in 1987 (The Monster of Peladon and The Ribos Operation) following a visit to Forbidden Planet in London, part of the pleasure of the Target range was the time and effort it took to track every last book down.

Back in the olden days, you couldn’t simply buy a book online with a few clicks, you had to go out and locate them – one by one.  So every Saturday morning I’d head off to my local WH Smiths and peruse their Who titles.  They tended to have a selection of the more recent books as well as a handful of older reprints – but many remained tantalisingly out of reach.  For example, for some reason I found it very hard to track down The Android Invasion (I was told it was out of print) until suddenly a single copy appeared on the WH Smiths shelves.  Naturally enough I snapped it up!  But many weeks would end in disappointment as the books I required never seemed to make it to my neck of the woods.  This meant I had to venture further afield or try my luck with second-hand bookshops (also handy for tracking down first editions with the original covers).

But although the thrill of the chase was part of the fun, the books themselves were also quite important.  For me, there’s three clear ages of Target – the first is the Golden Age, with Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Brian Hayles and Gerry Davis all crafting some of the best novelisations in the range.  The late 70’s and early 80’s is the Bronze Age alas, as Terrance ended up as pretty much the last man standing, churning out some fairly nondescript books month after month.  The Silver Age runs from the mid 80’s onwards and is particularly enjoyable thanks to the contribution of many Hartnell and Troughton era scriptwriters who, some two decades on, returned to pen novelisations of their original scripts.

The cover artwork was often another memorable part of the package. Chris Achelleos’ work remains iconic, but it’s nice to see in the DWM article that other artists, such as Jeff Cummins, are also highlighted.  It’s remarkable to me that Cummins only painted nine covers, as I’d assumed he’d done many more, but every one was a winner.  His personal favourite is The Horror of Fang Rock and it’s hard to disagree with him.

I’m going to finish off with my top ten favourite books (apologies if some of the choices are crushingly obvious).

10. Doctor Who and the War Games by Malcolm Hulke (1979)

war games

I think a little love for Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation of The War Games is in order.  Although Hulke is correctly lauded as one of Target’s key writers, his final book for the range is often rather unfairly dismissed.  This seems to be because he had to compress ten episodes down to a 120 page count, although I confess that I can find little of note omitted.  Whilst I love the tv version of The War Games dearly, it did have a fair amount of running on the spot, so Hulke’s leaner book version is fine by me.  There’s also a pleasingly darker tone at times, noticeably right at the start – when it’s made clear that the 1917 zone is one of the worst places in the universe you could ever hope to find yourself.

9. Doctor Who – The King’s Demons by Terence Dudley (1986)

king's demons

If the television original is rather insubstantial (although I still rather like it, see here) then Dudley’s book is able to flesh out the story very successfully.  Many loose ends are tied up and it’s very pleasing that the Doctor is given a proper leaving scene (much better than the tx version where he just nips off without a word to anyone).

8. Doctor Who and the Cybermen by Gerry Davis (1975)


Gerry Davis’ novelisations were always worth reading (well apart from The Celestial Toymaker, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his co-writer was chiefly responsible for that one) and it’s the Cyberman’s debut Troughton tale that’s made my top ten.  Although some of the logic of the story has always irked me (the business with the sugar seems rather risible) there’s an eerie claustrophobia to this classic base under siege tale which comes over very well in print.

7. Doctor Who and the Ark in Space by Ian Marter (1977)


Ian Marter’s another of those writers who delivered some excellent books and his debut – The Ark in Space – has long been a favourite.  Although it sticks very closely to Robert Holmes’ original, it feels somewhat bleaker (probably because it lacks the bright visuals of the tx version).  The Doctor seems slightly off at times, but it’s no surprise that Marter has an excellent handle on what makes Harry tick.

6. Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion by Terrance Dicks (1974)


Classic early Terrance, adding considerable extra value to Holmes’ original.  Particularly noteworthy is the way that Sam Seeley becomes a three-dimensional character with strong motivations (meaning that the “oo-arr” yokel in the tx version was later something of a disappointment to me).  The Auton attack on Unit HQ is another of those “missing scenes” that also disappointed me when it didn’t show up on the VHS.

5. Doctor Who and the Crusaders by David Whitaker (1966. Target Edition 1973)


Whitaker’s novelisation makes few concessions to his young audience, as it’s wordy, dense and atmospheric.  As a young child this meant I found it somewhat difficult to get to grips with (much preferring Terrance Dicks’ efforts) but when I returned to it a few years later I was amply rewarded with a memorable tale.

4. Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion by Malcolm Hulke (1976)


All of Hulke’s Target books are a joy, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this one.  From the hapless Shughie McPherson to the camp-as-a-row-of-tents Whitaker, Hulke provides plenty of incidental moments not to be found in the original teleplay.  And, of course, on the printed page the dinosaurs are very impressive!

3. Doctor Who – The Myth Makers by Donald Cotton (1985)


Cotton’s novelisation is another book which made few concessions to his target (no pun intended) audience – with plenty of jokes which would have no doubt sailed right over their heads (but this is the reason why The Myth Makers is an excellent book to revisit).  Wonderful stuff and the audiobook (read by Stephen Thorne) is also warmly recommended.

2. Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker (1964. Target Edition 1973)


For a generation, Barnes Common was just as much a part of Doctor Who lore as Totters Lane was.  Writing it from Ian’s viewpoint was a masterstoke – it gives the book a very 1950’s John Wyndham-ish feel, which I find terribly appealing.  If you only want a handful of Doctor Who novelisations, then this should certainly be one of them.  And the audiobook, read by William Russell, should also be in your collection.

1. Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks (1974)


Well, it was my first, so it obviously holds a special place in my heart – but it’s undeniably an excellent book.  It made such an impression that when I finally got to see the tv original (in 1986) I found it paled by comparison.  Time is a great healer though and I’m able to love the television version for what it is, but Terrance’s novel is always the way I prefer to picture the story.