Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Back in the olden days, when we were all analogue, I was rather fond of Doctor Who. But this wasn’t just about the sacrosanct ritual of Saturday evenings (did anyone actually try to hide behind their sofas, most of which were surely flush against the wall?) but also about the books. In those pre-video days, the Target novelisations were pretty much the only way you could relive your favourite stories, or discover the ones that had been shown before you were sentient.

The thing is, the books were a sort of parallel universe to DW as seen on TV, essentially similar, but with additions and subtractions, especially when the author was someone other than the original scriptwriter. Subplots, back stories, peculiar Biblical allusions would be thrown in to replace something that wouldn’t work so well in the new medium, to pad out the word count, or just to allow the writer to indulge his personal obsessions.

Moreover, although the books ultimately derived from the scripts, there was little explicit connections with the broadcast programmes. Opposite the title page in each volume was a sentence headed “THE CHANGING FACE OF DOCTOR WHO”, which would put the relevant incarnation of the Time Lord into contex. For example: “The cover illustration of this book portrays the third Doctor Who whose physical appearance was altered by the Time Lords when they banished him to planet Earth in the Twentieth Century.” But there was no reference to the actor who played the Doctor (in this case, Jon Pertwee), nor were any stills from the show included in the books. Instead, we had to make do with line drawings (eventually phased out) and cover art that was of distinctly variable quality, but still hangs around in the memory many decades after I got rid of my collection, about the time of the second Romana.

So just trust me, the following picture, which I half-inched from Cat Machine, is very amusing indeed.

As is the post title.


Steerforth said...

Yes, they were the DVD of their day, but with no special features.

I still remember feeling disappointed if the novel wasn't written by Terence Dicks, although Malcolm Hulke was an acceptable second.

When puberty arrived, I quickly got rid of my collection.

I'd never noticed the Master-Ayatollah connection before, but now it's abundantly clear.

Tim F said...

Hate to be pedantic* but it's not the Master, it's Omega, who was a different renegade Time Lord entirely.

*No I don't.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Aww - You've awakened great memories of hiring all those Target Dr Who books from the library as a geeky kid. It was wonderful, the 'cool' kids never used the library so I was safe from their book-mockery.

Good times...

Billy said...

That is brilliant.

Tim F said...

That's why I don't like the idea of libraries having to justify their existence by being 'inclusive', 9/10. They're refuges, for those of us who got picked last for the Hitler Youth. Sorry, rugby.

Billy: I think the only flaw is that you can tell quite clearly who the drawings are meant to represent. As opposed to the original covers, where Jon Pertwee morphed into Bella Emberg.