For fans of a certain vintage, Target novelisations were pretty much as important as the programme itself. No videos, no DVD’s, no downloads; my goodness me no! If you missed Doctor Who in the Seventies – that was it. And even if you’d seen it, that was probably your one and only viewing with hardly any repeats in the days before BBC3. So the books were crucial if you wanted to relive your favourite adventures or, even better, discover ones you had never seen at all.
The news that the wonderful City of Death is to get the novelisation treatment in 2014 has set us thinking here at Kasterborous. What if Target were still publishing Doctor Who books? Which stories should get the adaptation treatment? And which writers should get the gig? Join us as we journey into a parallel universe where the Target empire never fell…
Aliens of London/World War Three
I bet Russell T Davies secretly wishes he could journey back in time and have another go at this. Make the Slitheen truly threatening and scary, not that horrid mix of clumsy costumes and dodgy CGI. Rein in the performances to stop the guest cast acting like they were on CBBC. Sort out that shot of the spaceship crashing into the back-to-front clock face.
Lord knows, he could even get someone to teach Andrew Marr how to deliver a line. Well, now he can do all of this, only on page in the first of our all new alternate reality Target novelisations… Come on Russell; over to you.
Arguably the moment when the revived series really took off – I remember being in the pub that night where a bloke in a top hat and long leather coat (yes, really) told me it was ‘the greatest 45 minutes of television’ he’d ever seen – and packed with potential for expansion into a novel. The scene where the Doctor faces off with the very last Dalek in the universe (ahem) is surely worthy of a book on its own. I, for one, would love to know more about the Doctor’s terrible torment – what must Rose have been thinking when she saw the spitting rage he displays? And Robert Shearman is a proper writer who’s done plays and books and everything…
Human Nature/ The Family of Blood
Okay, bear with me here. I know Human Nature was a novel long before it was adapted for the series. But there’s just so much good stuff in the television version which is, for me, probably the richest, most elegant story since the series returned in 2005. So many people in so much pain, unable to say who they really are or what they really feel. Joan, obliged by the social conventions of the time to hide her feelings. Martha, forced to endure casual prejudice from ghastly born-to-rule posh types. And that ending, with the Doctor, deeply damaged, inflicting all manner of cruel and unusual punishments on the Family of Blood… I’m welling up already at the thought of reading this.
The Vampires of Venice
Target books seemed to be published at such a rate in the 1970’s that a trip to WHSmith was pretty much bound to reveal a new title on the shelves. And many of the covers were so terrific they made the books worth buying for the artwork alone (yes, even the most slender, knocked-off-in-a-morning volume by Terrance Dicks, bless him). Have a look at Carnival of Monsters, with a striking black and white Pertwee about to get a sea monster munching on his bouffant hairdo. Or Jeff Cummins’s atmospheric Horror of Fang Rock with Tom Baker complete with bowler and seafarer’s rope (Tom’s favourite cover, Target trivia fans).
I reckon Chris Achilleos would be ideal for this overseas adventure from Matt Smith’s first season. Never would those beguiling sexy-fish-vampires and Venetian (okay, Croatian) canals have looked more alluring.
The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People
One of the great things about Target books was the way they could turn a so-so television story into a great one on the page. Think of Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon, where Malcolm Hulke managed to turn a plodding six-parter into a fascinatingly detailed exploration of his characters’ back-stories, complete with new introductions for the Master and Jo Grant (in the early days of the books there was no expectation that all the stories would be adapted, meaning writers could be wonderfully unconstrained in making up new stuff).
So maybe if Hulke were still around in our alternate dimension he could have a bash at this one, where some strong Doctor Who ideas somehow amounted to less than the sum of their parts. And shake up that all-too-convenient resolution, where somehow only one of each human/ganger pairing survives.
Despite a couple of valiant efforts, Target’s attempts to launch a spin-off range never really got off the ground, much like JN-T’s with K9 and Company. The modern day series had much more success, of course, with Captain Jack and Sarah-Jane enjoying lengthy runs of adventures away from the parent show. I think there’s room in our parallel universe for a Torchwood range, and where better to start than with surely the most vividly memorable episode of that wildly hit-and-miss show? But who could tackle this most full-on festival of high camp?
Gareth Roberts is having a ball these days adapting Douglas Adams’s witty, sophisticated scripts, but when he’s done with that how about a tyre-shredding change of direction to attempt a prose version of this slice of jaw dropping, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking magnificence? How about it Gareth?
Okay, so that’s what we think. What do you think, fair reader…?