FOWC: Dead on Target

Being an old school fan of Doctor Who (as in was there for the primary run albeit at the tail end) I was in the situation where although video recorders were becoming more widespread commercial video releases were mostly films and they were expensive and most likely VHS (we were a Betamax family), so my way to enjoy Doctor Who stories from the best was to go down to the library, WHSmith’s or to a small bookshop on Wellington market and get one of the Target novelisations. These, as the name suggests, were the scripts written into novel form, mostly by former Script Editor and Writer Terrance Dicks depending on the publication point. The range started as Target Books in the early 70s when a company capitalised on the success of the Pertwee era on TV and no doubt inspired by the various comic strips available, republished the three Doctor Who novelisations published in the 60s which were Doctor Who and the Daleks (based on the first Dalek story), Doctor Who and the Crusaders (based on The Crusade) and Doctor Who and the Zarbi (based on The Web Planet), these sold like hot cakes and it was clear there was a market for more. So the Target novelisations were born and for a long time they were the only way to re-enjoy a previous story. At their best the target novelisations went beyond what was on screen, tidied up a few bits which didn’t work and addressed the pacing issues.

It was quite late in the day when the range started dipping back into the black and white era and these were extra special because many of the prints for the episodes were (and still are) victims of the BBC archive purge, so these were pretty much the only way to re-experience these stories. The added bonus was that the new range editor was keen to get the original script writers involved with the novelisations where possible which added a brand new dimension to the novels. One of the more curious and successful moves was to hire Ian Marter to novelise a few, Marter played Harry Sullivan alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor, and he proved to be a great if perhaps visceral writer. He wrote a total of 8 novelisations but his career was cut tragically short as he died from complications from his diabetic condition on his 40th birthday.

Those are three titles from the mid-eighties, not how the Doctor Who logo matches the one on screen. The Space Museum cover is a little misleading as it implies it is a Dalek story when it isn’t, though they do cameo.

These are from the final phase of the Target range and from the reprint series of the early nineties, again the contemporary logo was used on the books (which was also used on the New Adventures range). The reprint series came about because new range editor Peter Davrill-Evans was aware the source of new stories to novelise was coming to an end and that many fans had gaps in their collection, so they were reissued with (mostly) new covers and a brand design to the covers. Three of the books in the photo were written by the original script writers and one, well the screenplay authorship is still a little murky though it is widely accepted that Saward was heavily involved in the scripting.

Last year the range was briefly resurrected by BBC Books and brand new novelisations of NuWho stories were commissioned, each was an event story and the joys of the Target range were reborn. However I feel this is a one off and, unlike the original range, the publishers haven’t pushed marketed the range at children and settled more on the nostalgia and fan base.

In response to Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Target

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