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Notes on the Target Collection: Doctor Who – Rose, The Christmas Invasion, The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon a Time

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Homage was not taken so far as either case shown here.

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.

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Leaning tower of BBC Books/Targets

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.

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Notes and Queries: The Lost Dalek Novelizations and David Whitaker’s ‘Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World’

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A much-reproduced image of David Whitaker, found at Wikimedia Commons

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?

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Target 1979 schedule, Celestial Toyroom, January 1979

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.)

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‘Destiny of the Daleks’, Celestial Toyroom, April 1979

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.

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The Wyndham Publications logo as it appeared on the back of Target books between 1978 and 1980.

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.

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‘Wyndham Trauma’, Celestial Toyroom, November 1979

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.

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‘The TARDIS Log’, by David Whitaker, illustrated by Stuart Glazebrook, The Doctor Who Review, February/March 1980

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.

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Opening picture and introduction to ‘The OTHER The Enemy of the World‘, Doctor Who Magazine 200, 9 June 1993, pp 12-13. Design by Peri Godbold.

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.

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Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World was eventually novelized by Ian Marter and published in April 1981, less than a year after David Whitaker’s version had been scheduled to appear. Cover illustration by Bill Donohoe.

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.

The Black Archive: The Time Warrior

timewarrior_titleObverse 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.

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The King’s Demons novelization on audio

King's DemonsWe sing in praise of total war…

This post exists to provide a link to my review of Doctor Who – The King’s Demons by Terence Dudley for the Doctor Who News Page.  I find few redeeming features, but might just be thought open to some of the charges I level against Dudley – except that I do like the Doctor and Tegan. In general, from the mid-1980s I came to appreciate more and more the economic writing style of Terrance Dicks; handing over the books to the authors of the television serials didn’t always gain the desired results.

Doctor Who novelization covers at the Cartoon Museum

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As might be expected at a Doctor Who-related exhibition, Menace lurked in a corner.

Considering that until recently I worked almost round the corner from the Cartoon Museum for nearly two years, it was a pity that I’d not visited it since the museum hosted an exhibition of Doctor Who comic strip art in 2013. This trip was occasioned by another Doctor Who-related project, a smaller but still informative and I hope influential exhibition of Doctor Who book covers, all commissioned for the range of novelizations published under the Target imprint in the 1970s or 1980s or in the case of three new covers for the BBC Books reissues in the current decade. Accompanied by my old comrade-in-Who Paul Dumont, we explored the current main exhibition, The Great British Graphic Novel, beforehand. As I wrote in the visitors’ book afterwards, perhaps reachingly, the museum displayed the work of Masters – Hogarth and Cruikshank and Achilleos and Cummins – alongside the Mistress, Marie Duval of Ally Sloper (a character about whom I first learned from an article on comics in the Look-In Television Annual published for Christmas 1976) but there were other masters and mistresses too, many of whom I’d not heard of before such as Carol Swain or Asia Alfasi, or those of whom I was dimly aware like Kate Charlesworth.

The Doctor Who covers were striking in their original forms, revealing a mixture of formats, materials and working practices. Several artists at times composed their covers on square boards rather than in dimensions which corresponded to those of the paperback cover, knowing that the logo and title and author straplines could be placed on a plain background above them. Some artists suffered from the editing of their work: Roy Knipe’s cover for Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy had his signature trimmed off with the small but in the original welcoming detail of the button on the fourth Doctor’s coat cuff. On Doctor Who and the Android Invasion, we lost Styggron’s fingers. Knipe had a tendency to change the colours of the aliens, whether deliberately or because he lacked colour reference I don’t know, but Styggron is a memorable green rather than grey-brown as he was on television, where the Nucleus of the Swarm was a sort of mottled pale pink rather than the deep-cooked lobster red of and the Invisible Enemy‘s illustration. Others might undergo decluttering, such as David McAllister’s generic TARDIS-in-space used for Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus. Paul particularly noticed Jeff Cummins’s original artwork for Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen, published in 1978, where the background was a more vivid blue and the light patterns across the glass of the tomb door a richer gold than any reproduction has managed. Indeed, the standard of reproduction on the Target covers varied over the years and some suffered from generations of copying as the books migrated from one printer to another and new reproduction methods evolved. Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, as Paul has also said, was a particular sufferer with the subtle beige-yellow of the Wirrn’s eyes in Achilleos’s original being reproduced as an intense and bright yellow-orange. Reproduction on the new impressions might be better, but Chris Achilleos’s new cover for Vengeance on Varos was altogether stronger with a noose around Colin Baker’s neck as was originally intended.

The collection encourages respect for craft. The ebb and flow of the ink on what appears as a solid purple border on Achilleos’s Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars is visible, as is the technique of his inking of the cosmic objects fizzing around the Doctor and his antagonists on his first three covers, Doctor Who and the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Zarbi and Doctor Who and the Crusaders. More impenetrable are the smooth washes of his early multi-coloured Daleks (very much based on the work of the last of the TV 21 Dalek artists, Ron Turner) and the methods by which he painted incredibly smoothly the features of Tom Baker on Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Ark in Space.

The exhibition draws attention to the lost art of the book cover, but there was room for it to have made more of the links between the book covers and comic strip art. Chris Achilleos’s covers were initially intended as patterned after the style of Frank Bellamy, too expensive a comics artist for budget-conscious publishers Universal-Tandem to employ. Achilleos borrowed not only from Turner for his Daleks but famously from a Marvel Comics Fantastic Four Jack Kirby image when composing his cover for Doctor Who – The Three Doctors . Absent from the exhibition were the four mould-breaking but format-setting covers by Peter Brookes, which all appeared in 1975. At a time when the BBC Books reprint programme is associating the Target series exclusively with Chris Achilleos, the exhibition was a reminder that there were many other artists with the ‘family friendly’ image BBC Books have cited as their reason for using the Achilleos covers. I think a case exists for a Peter Brookes set of reprints, as well as a  Jeff Cummins set and a Roy Knipe set. The use of light and indeed suggestion of reflections on smooth surfaces in the work of Cummins and Knipe wasn’t flattered by the reproduction of the covers during their original lifespan, but their imagery is surely something in which the current paperback market might have some confidence.

Though limited to one part of the upper gallery at the Cartoon Museum, and lacking some of the apparatus which other exhibits had, Doctor Who: The Target Book Artwork is more than welcome. Edward Russell, best known as a long-serving brand manager for latterday Doctor Who, deserves thanks for his effort in curating this exhibition, including sourcing the original artwork from several collectors, some well-known among fans veteran or otherwise, some not.

Doctor Who and the Republication of the Targets

Target_booksFollowers of the Doctor Who books range have been pleasantly surprised by listings on Amazon which indicate that seven more novelisations of Doctor Who stories first published between 1965 and 1988 are to be reissued by BBC
Books as mass market paperbacks in April 2016. The titles listed are Doctor Who and the ZarbiDoctor Who and the Web of FearDoctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, Doctor Who and the Genesis of the DaleksDoctor Who and the VisitationDoctor Who – Vengeance on Varos and Doctor Who – Battlefield. It also appears that Doctor Who and the Zarbi will appear in hardback, along with the other two novelisations published by Frederick Muller Ltd in the mid-1960s, Doctor Who and the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Crusaders, perhaps as a belated celebration of fifty years of Doctor Who books.

There is no news on whether the format followed by the reissues of 2011 and 2012 will be revived, with covers based on the design of the Target paperbacks (Target being the imprint which published Doctor Who novelisations for twenty years from 1973) and introductions by prominent writers associated either with televised Doctor Who or the contemporary books range. Given the four-year-gap between the second and third set this would seem unlikely, as the last three titles don’t come from either of the two series of covers by Chris Achilleos. Indeed, the inclusion of 1980s titles broadens the appeal of the range away from the 1970s nostalgia mined by the first two; this third set draws from the first seven Doctors and each has an obvious hook to sell the titles anew to the audience of 2016.

We have perhaps the most inhuman enviroment encountered by the Doctor; the subversion of the London Underground, a touchstone of metropolitan and perhaps English and British identity too, in a story which became part of Doctor Who‘s refoundation myths; a memorable allegory of middle-class protest turned authoritarian fantasy, with dinosaurs; the Dalek story I expected to be part of the second set; the serial which arguably moved the pseudo-historical genre from fan cr
itical theory into part of the series’ fabric, with alien monsters influencing the course of two famous historical events; a biting satire of reality television possibly even more relevant today than it was in the 1980s; and a story which promises (but doesn’t deliver in a conventional fashion) the meeting of the Doctor and his fellow British myth, King Arthur. If Amazon’s early listing is correct, this looks like a strongly commercial set.

Why Who? The Influence of Doctor Who in Fiction, 16 July 2014

Apologies to Neil Perryman, whose book is not depicted here as my copy is elsewhere.

The post-event off-centre picture-of-boosk-on-bag on table on pink carpet domestic illustration. Apologies to Neil Perryman, whose book is not depicted here as my copy is elsewhere.

Work has led this blog to be neglected; but I spent the evening just past at an event which I thought I’d flag up here. It was the last book talk and signing to be hosted by Blackwells Charing Cross Road, as the Oxford-based bookshop chain prepared to migrate from London’s historic street of books; but as at least one attendee said, it felt like the beginning of something rather than the end. Why Who? The Influence of Doctor Who in Fiction placed Andy Miller, author of among other things The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Books Saved My Life, alongside multigeneric scribe Jenny (T.) Colgan, armed by Blackwells with copies of Doctor Who Dark Horizons and bringing along an extract from her Doctor Who e-novella Into the Nowhere. and Neil Perryman, one half of the legendary and beloved Neil and Sue of Adventures with the Wife in Space, the book of which has just been re-released in a new slightly more populist paperback edition. A combination of popularity and the fact that Blackwells close their Charing Cross Road branch on the date of this post – ‘tomorrow’, as I haven’t been to bed yet – led the event to be hosted in the Phoenix Artists Club at the corner of Phoenix Street and Charing Cross Road. I’d not been to the Phoenix before, and its black-walled cave-library-bar of an interior was highly appropriate for an event which had gathered together so many people involved in the book side of Doctor Who and their friends and admirers and critics.

There were issues raised by the material concerning audience: Andy Miller’s excised extract revived memories of Tom Baker’s presentership of Yorkshire Television’s ITV book series for children, The Book Tower.  In children’s television in 1979, four deliberately placed sugars in one’s tea was the most determined statement of opposition to the establishment. Comparisons of Baker’s eventual successor, Timmy Mallet, to the last incumbent of 1963-1989 Doctor Who were not well received in one corner at least, but raised thoughts about what is acceptable to different audiences and how specialist readerships with privileged information will interpret material very differently to less committed audiences primed by exchanges of news and opinion which I’ll label mainstream for want of a more appropriate term.

Jenny Colgan, meanwhile emphasised that even in these days of tight deadlines and regulations in licensed Doctor Who fiction, there is still room for experimentation with the regular characters. The Clara of Into the Nowhere is a person who bears the scars of her experience of being scattered along the Doctor’s timeline much closer to the surface than the Clara we have seen on television after The Name of the Doctor so far, and on the strength of the extract read founds a wariness of her time with the Doctor upon it; someone who has died tens of times for the Doctor can’t be the Doctor’s innocent surrogate through whom he views the universe afresh, or so this Clara feels. Neil Perryman’s moment was autobiographical, the story of how he and Sue met, but given how his book is about how the fiction of Doctor Who is part of the framing material of their relationship, then this was relevant.

My abiding memory of the questions and semi-formal discussion afterwards is that they were dominated by discussion not of Doctor Who‘s influence on non-Doctor Who fiction, but of Target Books and the New Adventures. Andy Miller praised David Howe and Tim Neal’s The Target Book for exploring how the Doctor Who range survived at Target through a series of takeovers and amalgamations. There was much praise for the influence of Terrance Dicks, whose books Jenny Colgan always sought out first when growing up as a Target reader, and there was a lot of appreciation for the elegant economy and of his prose coupled with compressed characterisation. There were suggestions for ‘literary’ writers of the late twentieth century attendees and panellists would have liked to have seen write for Doctor Who, though none seemed to strike the right note with me.

Afterwards there was much lingering, book purchasing (with attendee Steve Berry’s Behind the Sofa a late addition to the Blackwells table) and chat and an impression that there were lots of people who had only communicated through the internet or had not seen each other since they stopped going to the Fitzroy Tavern (and there was much love expressed for Jenny Colgan’s Guardian piece on the Tavern for its alignment of the Doctor Who fan gatherings there with the pub’s literary London heritage). There was an appetite for more events in a similar vein, perhaps also extending to the legacy of Doctor Who Magazine; there are successful literary careers now where authors’ subjects and treatments owe as much to their experience and knowledge of Doctor Who on screen and in print as anything. Blackwells helped start digging the sub-surface tunnel, but a lot of Doctor Who‘s influence is still underground.

This is a late-night blog on an office day, which will close with the expression that the event provided a thoroughly enjoyable series of meetings with everyone I was introduced to or renewed acquaintance with there. My only regret is that I was quieter than I would have liked, dumbfounded perhaps by possibilities – though what does one say when one is introduced a few times as the man who guilelessly unearthed Peter Capaldi’s 1976 fanzine contributions? (‘I bet he really likes you’, someone said…)