Notes on the Target Collection: Doctor Who – Rose, The Christmas Invasion, The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon a Time
Amidst being ill and travelling, reading in the first half of this week has involved the four entirely new Doctor Who novelizations from BBC Books. These somewhat emptily bear the Target logo on the front, though nowhere else, with no explanation of the logo on the covers or the interior. This might be an indication that the marketing of these books has been very much to the older fan for whom the logo (here in its most dissimilated late 1970s form) bears fond associations, and less to new ones despite social media showing that there is a lot of enthusiasm for these titles among the teen and twentysomething bracket.
Brief thoughts: The Day of the Doctor is extraordinary, if occasionally smug, but indicates what Steven Moffat would really have like to have done with the anniversary story. There are more Doctors, some River Song, and portents of The Time of the Doctor… or is it The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon? (Sorry – what did I just type? Why are there tally marks on my arms?? Turn to page 232… Predictable as ever, Moffat???) If this is what a first novel looks like from an experienced television writer, then Moffat should write more, in whatever genre.
Rose, by Russell T Davies, is a tale of human beings being extraordinary even when circumstances set a low bar (traditional phrase) and when they can, like Rose, do so much more. Mickey is redeemed in print in a way he wouldn’t be on screen until later in the first series, and has a band. Clive is more noble and more pathetic at once, too; and the rising of the Autons is more violent, more bloody, and more enduring. Jenny Colgan’s The Christmas Invasion is a generally brisk treatment of RTD’s script, but Colgan does take time to add more detail and character texture; we learn more about the Guinevere One programme, and of Danny Llywellyn and his team, and there’s more sense of the human cost that sleepwalking a third of the population to precipices would bring as well. Meanwhile, it’s not just a new body the Doctor is getting used to, but unprecedented feelings in a certain direction – and I’ve never thought of the Doctor in terms of chocolate cake before.
Finally, Twice Upon a Time feels just as well marinated as the older stories, despite Paul Cornell having written most of the book before seeing the television episode on screen. He incorporates a critique of the episode’s characterization of the First Doctor, the Twelfth being its (inner) mouthpiece. Barbara Wright is namechecked, and the issues of memory and story, which I’d have mentioned in any review of the episode, are brought out into the fore in a way the television episode didn’t quite manage. Questions about Bill and Nardole and their manifestations in this story are answered, too.
While a full revival of the novelizations range is unlikely and probably undesirable in its old form, a carefully-curated release every so often would be welcome, featuring of four or five books like these, with a careful mix of original authors and novelizers sympathetic to the original material. Let’s see Doctor Who: Listen before 2195.
Notes and Queries: The Lost Dalek Novelizations and David Whitaker’s ‘Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World’
April 1980 found the writer of the lead story in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s Celestial Toyroom newsletter (probably its editor, Chris Dunk) mourning the loss of an ‘unfinished classic’. This wasn’t Shada, whose production at BBC Television Centre had stalled a few months before, but David Whitaker’s return to novelizing Doctor Who stories. A few months before, it had been confirmed that David Whitaker would be writing Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World for the Target range of Doctor Who novelizations, his first commission directly for the Target series and his first novelization since Doctor Who and the Crusaders for Frederick Muller in 1966. However, on 4 February 1980 David Whitaker had died in Hammersmith Hospital. In the February 1980 edition the DWAS’s fan fiction zine editor, John Peel, could be found looking forward to ‘David Whitaker’s new books’. What might Peel have been referring to specifically, and what might a Whitaker novelization of The Enemy of the World have looked like?
Celestial Toyroom for January 1979 printed the Target Doctor Who schedule for 1979, supplied by Target editor Brenda Gardner through John McElroy. McElroy then ran the DWAS’s overseas department and supplied Target titles to the society’s overseas members. The schedule as printed was largely that maintained during the year, with some obvious changes, but for a brief period there was a more drastic alteration which might indicate the titles Whitaker was expected to take on.
In April 1979 Celestial Toyroom announced that the first story of Season Seventeen would be Destiny of the Daleks, the first Dalek story for four years, written by the Daleks’ creator, Terry Nation. In addition, Target were changing their schedules to publish the novelization of the story within a few weeks of the series’ transmission. This was part of an audacious publishing initiative which saw two previously announced special publications, originally K9 and the Daleks and The Third Doctor Who Monster Book, change to focus on K9 and the Daleks respectively. (They would eventually appear as The Adventures of K9 and Other Mechanical Creatures and Terry Nation’s Dalek Special.)
Furthermore, Terrance Dicks was to follow Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks with two more Dalek novelizations, Doctor Who and the Power of the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Evil of the Daleks. These were to be adapted from the two second Doctor Dalek stories, whose teleplays were both by David Whitaker rather than Terry Nation. Both presented tightly-drawn narratives in a limited number of settings and perhaps appealed more as candidates for adaptation than the remaining Terry Nation Dalek stories, the travelogues of The Chase and the unwieldy twelve- (or thirteen-) episode saga The Daleks’ Master Plan.
Everything then went quiet regarding the Troughton Dalek books. There was a report (also in the April number) that future Target titles would include The Keys of Marinus and The Monster of Peladon, both to be written by Terrance Dicks. In September a new schedule was published in Celestial Toyroom, missing both the Troughton Dalek titles.
Behind-the-scenes news then took over as the Howard & Wyndham group reviewed its publishing operations and decided that its children’s list warranted pruning. Brenda Gardner, the children’s editor, and her team were all made redundant and ‘the Target Books Department’ (which also included Longbow, W.H. Allen’s hardback children’s imprint), closed.
Target had been launched by Universal-Tandem Publishing in 1973. It functioned largely as a reprint list, combining paperbacks of titles originally published in hardback by other publishers with some paperback originals. Universal-Tandem had been bought by Howard & Wyndham in 1975 (edit though it appears that it was formally Howard & Wyndham’s subsidiary W.H. Allen which made the purchase – see The Bookseller 12 April 1975), was first renamed Tandem Publishing, and then in 1976 merged with the paperback list of Howard & Wyndham’s existing publishing house W.H. Allen to become Wyndham Publications. The Wyndham name seemed like an optional extra, as from November 1977 the Doctor Who paperbacks were attributed to ‘the Paperback Division of W.H. Allen & Co Ltd’, but the Wyndham logo remained on the back of the books and correspondents to the editorial address received letters with the Wyndham letterhead at least into 1978. From the publication of Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora in December 1977, the hardback editions of the books, hitherto issued under Allan Wingate, which had been used by Tandem as an imprint for hardback editions of paperback originals mainly marketed at libraries, bore a ‘Longbow/W.H. Allen’ imprint on the spine and were described as Longbow books, published by W.H. Allen, on the title page. During this period, with Brenda Gardner as editor, W.H. Allen published several original works of children’s fiction and non-fiction in hardback which they could then paperback themselves if sufficiently successful, but this strategy ended with the arrival of Bob Tanner as head of Howard & Wyndham’s publishing interests and Gardner’s ensuing departure.
The closure of W.H. Allen’s children’s division was reported outside the publishing press, for example in the London Evening Standard. Celestial Toyroom’s story ‘Wyndham Trauma’ saw John McElroy warn that although ‘Wyndhams’ were likely to honour the fifteen months of commissions already agreed, there would be changes in the long term, and in the first instance there would be no more special publications following the two published in 1979. The Doctor Who series would be edited by someone from the adult fiction list for the foreseeable future.
The December issue included a report suggesting that prospects for the Target Doctor Who series might not be as bad as feared, as Philip Hinchcliffe and Ian Marter had agreed to write one more book each. (Hinchcliffe’s novel would turn out to be The Keys of Marinus, previously associated with Terrance Dicks.) There was also a teasing suggestion that Target were in talks with David Whitaker. This would have excited some of the loudest voices in fandom, who were disenchanted with televised Doctor Who as it stood in 1979 and for whom the 1960s stories existed at best as distant memories with little documentation to support them. This contrasted to the 1970s serials, the majority of which had been turned into books by 1979.
Unlike novelizers such as Malcolm Hulke (whose death in 1979 led the September 1979 Celestial Toyroom) and figures associated with the early years of Doctor Who such as Verity Lambert, Dennis Spooner, Donald Tosh, Gerry Davis and Innes Lloyd, who had all given interviews to fanzines by the end of 1979, David Whitaker’s views on Doctor Who had not been widely shared. This was partly because he had been resident in Australia for much of the 1970s. One fanzine editor who did establish a correspondence with him, Gary Hopkins of The Doctor Who Review, later wrote that Whitaker ‘took the view that, as a story-teller, it was part of his job to maintain the illusion… created by moving pictures on a screen. He was justifiably proud of Doctor Who, both as a fictitious character and as a TV programme, and guarded its secrets well.’ (Doctor Who Magazine 200, 9 June 1993, p 17). Nevertheless Whitaker did contribute a short reflection and short story to The Doctor Who Review, published in issue 4, February/March 1980.
The January 1980 Celestial Toyroom reprinted a reassurance from W.H. Allen to the book trade that the Target list would continue, although the hardback children’s titles would not, and a mysterious statement that the Evil of the Daleks novelization had not been cancelled but the question remained as to who would write it. (The Power of the Daleks had been forgotten.) The news referred to by John Peel in February was confirmed by a report in Celestial Toyroom for March, that David Whitaker would novelize The Enemy of the World for publication in July 1980. The idea that Whitaker’s Dalek stories would follow would be a forgivable assumption. Unknown to most of those reading confirmation of David Whitaker’s return to Doctor Who in print, a future of David Whitaker books was not to be, for as mentioned above Whitaker died on 4 February 1980, while receiving treatment for cancer.
How, then, might David Whitaker’s treatment of The Enemy of the World appeared if he had lived? He has been quoted (in ‘a long David Whitaker interview from DWM’ – part one; part two – Paul Scoones writes that this was a feature in issue 98, March 1985, ‘Whitaker’s World of Doctor Who’, by Richard Marson) as having found writing Doctor Who and the Crusaders as more straightforward than Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks as one script needed more restructuring than the other. He was joining a list where Terrance Dicks had mastered the art of recreating the viewer’s experience of watching the television series while often performing substantial but subtle surgery on a story. Whitaker’s surviving synopsis for Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World showed that he intended to continue his earlier practice of regarding stories as told in script form as necessarily very different from those told in novel form, even if the same broad argument was to be respected. The proposal appeared in Doctor Who Magazine 200 in 1993. Whitaker intended to remove Victoria entirely, fill in more details of the society of Earth in 2030 (advanced from the 2017 of the scripts, in keeping with the idea that the story was set fifty years into the future), and also show Salamander handed over to the people of the world for judgement rather than attempt escape in the TARDIS. It’s probable that he would have been encouraged to reconcile his novel with the broadcast serial, if only as far as the inclusion of Victoria. Nevertheless the proposal suggests that Whitaker novels would revisit the serials, overhaul them structurally and focus them thematically so as to better entertain the reader. Where Terrance Dicks sought to translate the viewing experience, which he did very well, David Whitaker instead envisaged literary Doctor Who as demanding more economy of character and sub-plot and more development of the main narrative if it was to succeed.
What, then, of the Dalek novelizations? After Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks, no Dalek novels appeared until Doctor Who – The Chase in 1989. This was written by John Peel – the very columnist who had looked forward to future David Whitaker novelizations in Celestial Toyroom for February 1980. The history of W.H. Allen’s negotiations with Terry Nation is only known through fragments, but it seems possible, from what we know of the wider context, that had there been more Doctor Who books from David Whitaker, they would not have included his Dalek stories. Alwyn Turner’s Terry Nation The Man Who Invented the Daleks (2013) mentions that Nation and Whitaker supposedly had a quarrel in 1967, and Simon Guerrier in The Black Archive #11: The Evil of the Daleks (2017) presents reasons why Whitaker, as the man who commissioned and developed Terry Nation’s first two Dalek serials for Doctor Who, and much else, might have fallen out with Nation. Later in the 1980s, Eric Saward could not accept Nation’s agent’s financial demands concerning the proposed novelizations of Resurrection of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks, which remain unpublished. W.H. Allen’s renewed emphasis on certainty of profitability following its restructuring in 1979/80 might also have added some rigidity.
So, there is no certainty that Whitaker would have taken over the Power and Evil novelizations relinquished by Terrance Dicks. In the event, they appeared, in forms much longer than the standard Target format (described by Whitaker as 39,000 words), in 1993, written (like The Chase and the two-volume Daleks’ Master Plan) by John Peel.
Panini Magazines have recently published the latest in their series of bookazines The Essential Doctor Who, this time concentrating on Time Travel. I was glad to contribute a piece called ‘Readers of Time’ on some of Doctor Who‘s literary precedents, namely the books and stories mentioned in a document compiled by John Braybon and Alice Frick at the BBC Script Department in 1962. Most – but not all! – the pages of this report can be found in the mothballed Genesis of Doctor Who section at the old BBC Archive site.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this issue. Among the articles can be found Patrick Mulkern looking at exactly when Tardis and Tardis were superseded by TARDIS as the received way most publications refer to the Doctor’s space-time craft; Alan Barnes revealing a Canadian television time traveller of the 1950s who visited some of the same places as the Doctor; the more self-aware time travel adventures which can be found in an early draft of 1965’s The Chase are explored by Andrew Pixley; Jonathan Morris explores the fall and rise of the ‘Sideways’ story in Doctor Who, from Inside the Spaceship to Extremis; Mark Wright untangles and retangles the life of River Song; Paul Scoones on time travel in comic strips; and Simon Guerrier on Robert Holmes’s attitude to time travel in the series; plus more from these gentlemen, and from editor Marcus Hearn, John J Johnston, Robert Fairclough, Chris Bentley, Kevin Spencer and others.
Obverse Books have announced today that they will be publishing my examination of the Doctor Who story The Time Warrior as the twenty-fourth book in their series The Black Archive. The Time Warrior was a four-part story broadcast between 15 December 1973 and 5 January 1974, written by Robert Holmes and directed by Alan Bromly. It was the first story of the eleventh season (Jon Pertwee’s fifth and last as the Doctor) and the first to feature Sarah Jane Smith, played of course by Elisabeth Sladen, and also introduced the Sontarans, with Kevin Lindsay as their solitary representative, Linx. The full announcement can be found below, via Facebook.
Richard Marson’s life of Doctor Who‘s first producer, Verity Lambert, has been published by Miwk Publishing. I’ve reviewed it on my general blog The St James’s Evening Post.
This is an archive piece which I originally wrote for The Tides of Time, issue 32, in 2006. Tides is the magazine of the Oxford (University) Doctor Who Society, with which I have an association longer than I ever anticipated. Contents and the full issue as a pdf are available here.
The article was definitely written with my then view of a student audience in mind, hence the introductions and explanations aimed at new viewers of a revived Doctor Who. Biographical details and other contextual pieces are out of date.
All my life I’ve taken for granted that Doctor Who was an important cultural phenomenon; and there are a growing number of books around which not only take that for granted, but sing it from the rooftops. When the Oxford University History Society thinks it’s a good idea to have a meeting about Doctor Who, you feel the shades of the fans of twenty-five years ago – a time when fanzine letters columns were filled with fans wondering if the programme could ever be ‘intellectually respectable’ – materialising with vindication in the corners of the room.
James Chapman, the speaker, is senior lecturer in film and television history at the Open University, which is the kind of job which tempts this eighteenth-century historian to jump ship. His previous publications include Saints and Avengers: British Adventure Series of the 1960s, Past and Present: National Identity and the British Historical Film, and Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films. It now seems practically inevitable that Chapman would turn his attention to Doctor Who, but until very recently, this was not the case.
Chapman’s talk concerned both the history of Doctor Who and Doctor Who’s treatment of history. He began by explicitly placing Doctor Who within his personal Anglo-British sense of heritage. In 1989, England lost the Ashes to Australia, and Doctor Who finished; in 2005, Doctor Who came back, and England regained the Ashes. From the part these iconic moments play in his personal mythology, he moved to discussing the history of the series’ production in the context of its fiction, and while for the sake of argument falling back on the usually received account of the programme’s origins, acknowledging the large contribution of Sydney Newman, he noed that the discussions which led to the creation of Doctor Who began many months before Sydney Newman arrived at the BBC.
According to Chapman, traditionally cultural history has regarded Doctor Who as a conservative programme, whether considered politically, socially or aesthetically. John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado’s Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, published back in 1983, saw the programme’s narrative storytelling as conservative, and more recently work on science fiction television design has tended to dismiss Doctor Who as culturally conservative in that arena too. Chapman will argue in his book that this view is mistaken: he cited cases in the early 1970s where Doctor Who stories were commissioned with political issues in mind, such as ‘The Curse of Peladon’, ‘The Green Death’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’.
Chapman ran through the different Doctors for the benefit of those in the audience who were unfamiliar with the series’s history, though given the numbers of people in the audience who were DocSoc members or on our mailing list, this was probably a minority. Troughton was described with the ‘cosmic hobo’ tag, though surprisingly Chapman said that he had been unable to find where this description originated: Steve Goddard, sitting next to me, was sure that it had appeared in one or other edition of Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke’s The Making of Doctor Who, and checking, he was right – page 31 of the 1976 edition.
Chapman, uncontroversially, places Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in the tradition of gentleman television heroes such as John Steed of The Avengers, and Adam Adamant. In passing, he remarked that the exile to Earth was nothing or little to do with the budget, as the budget per episode went up in 1970. Of Tom Baker, I’ve noted that in Chapman’s eyes he ‘bestrode’ the series, while Peter Davison was the ‘most heroic’ Doctor, in part because he lacked the ‘masculine authority’ of his immediate predecessors. After Davison, said Chapman, the turnover of Doctors came to resemble the recent leadership of the Conservative Party, and the BBC Archives for the period are still closed with the result that it’s difficult to gain an insight into what was going on. Colin Baker seemed to carry the can for falling ratings and general instability afflicting the series in the mid-1980s; the series had lost touch with a crucial part of its demographic, the young adult audience identified back in 1963 as Juke Box Jury watchers, instead gaining a preponderance of over-35s. The question of whether John Nathan-Turner was making the series for fans was raised, including Ian Levine’s involvement and the controversy over who exactly wrote ‘Attack of the Cybermen’.
Sylvester McCoy’s tenure, James Chapman thought, was fascinating, changing the Doctor into someone dark and manipulative with a grand design. This was difficult to analyse because of the absence of primary texts, and the inevitable selectivity of Andrew Cartmel’s recent memoirs has contributed to an already heavily mythologised version of the last years of the 1963-1989 series, comparable to the varying accounts of its origins.
Moving to some of the series’ broader themes, Chapman remarked that the most noticeable trends in the programme’s ratings in the 1960s are that audiences fell in summer, not whenever the programme ran an ‘historical’ story without science fiction elements. Chapman cited ‘The Aztecs’ as an example of the programme’s illustrating that the past is alien to the liberal humanist values espoused by Doctor Who and voiced, in this story, mainly by Barbara. The Doctor’s doctrine of non-interference as voiced in ‘The Aztecs’ – “You cannot change history! Not one line!” varies according to the writer, with Dennis Spooner and Donald Cotton both heavily qualifying John Lucarotti’s doctrine in order to allow the Doctor to shape events. In Cotton’s ‘The Myth Makers’, for example the Doctor initially dismisses the Trojan horse as a myth and refuses to suggest it.
Towards the end of William Hartnell’s time on the programme came ‘The Gunfighters’, which supposedly received the lowest audience figures ever. This wasn’t the case, but incoming producer Innes Lloyd preferred to make a Doctor Who that was dominated by monster-led science-fiction stories, leading to a narrowing-down of genres, and the rise of the Cybermen as a new race of enemies more frightening, in Chapman’s view, than the Daleks, whom he thinks children for the most part liked. The Cybermen represented mid-1960s apprehensions about a technocracy that would turn people into items of technology themselves.
Later periods of Doctor Who returned to the past, and in Peter Davison’s first year experimented with a return to the ‘pure historical’. Chapman argues that in ‘Black Orchid’ Doctor Who presented its audience with a proto-Gosford Park, a tale of social hypocrisy in the 1920s exploiting the territory of early 1980s films such as Chariots of Fire. For Chapman, Peter Davison was a heritage cinema Doctor. Showing a clip from ‘Black Orchid’ to illustrate his argument, Chapman commented that filming sporting events without professional sportsmen is difficult – during the cricket scenes in that story Peter Davison actually takes a wicket, and there is visible uncertainty among the cast about whether or not that should be a take. Sadly this attention to contemporary trends disappeared as the programme catered increasingly for a cult viewership later in the decade.
Chapman remarked that the new series seems to have returned Doctor Who, for the moment, to its successful phase of the 1960s and 1970s where it was able to simultaneously negotiate fluctuations in public taste and the prejudices of BBC senior management. As for its treatment of history, ‘The Empty Child’ embraced historical revisionism by undermining the myth of the Blitz. Its heroine is a young woman, Nancy, scavenging with a group of homeless children; the legend of community solidarity is subverted with their tales of abandonment and child abuse. The Doctor invokes the traditional myth of the Blitz in his speech to Nancy, but it is a long way from her experience.
This account is very much my reconstruction of James Chapman’s argument. I think the meeting was much enjoyed and James Chapman seemed to find it difficult to get out of St Peter’s, so many were the questions and observations. I anticipate that I will be nodding furiously a lot of the time when I get to read the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what I disagree with as well.
Further comment awaits when I get round to reviewing the second edition!