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.
A review from the archives, written in November 2009 shortly after The Waters of Mars was broadcast.
When Doctor Who has managed possession, it has done so rather well. The Waters of Mars is no exception. Establishing Bowie Base One as a setting was achieved with alacrity, so we were only a few minutes in when Andy (sympathetically portrayed in his few unpossessed scenes by Alan Ruscoe) was infected and became the first representative of the Flood. The delayed transformation of Maggie was well-achieved, though I had expected her to continue to be a spokesperson for the Flood; her covetous little speech about the Caspian Sea became an odd exception to the rule that the Flood is implacable and impossible to interrogate. (As I am about to post this I’ve just learned her later speeches were cut, in one of which she would have named the infection as the Flood – it’s not just a spontaneous naming by the Doctor). Steffi’s convulsions in front of the recorded message from her children, and her possessed self’s turning impassively away from the screen to pursue the remaining humans, with the children’s voices still playing out in the background, was simple, effective and for this viewer disturbing.
The evolution of Doctor Who has depended more upon improvisation than upon planning. There has been a tension in David Tennant’s performance as the Doctor from the beginning, between his fun-loving jovialness and his sometimes coldly calculating, overburdening sense of responsibility; this has contributed towards his Doctor coming across as unbearably smug, particularly in his first season when Billie Piper’s Rose threatened to turn into a mirror for his apparent self-love. Now the smugness sank into delusion, but one which the audience have been invited to share on occasion in the last four years. I expected Adelaide to shoot the Doctor from her window, either instead of or in addition to shooting herself; when the previews spoke of Adelaide as the Doctor’s most strong-minded companion yet, it was probably her suicide which was being hyped. The Doctor is now face to face with his psychological imbalance; the survivor guilt which seemed purged at the end of The Parting of the Ways was instead repressed and has been gnawing away at this Doctor from the inside. How much of The End of Time will be in the Doctor’s reality, and how much hallucination? Or will there indeed be very much difference?
I’m still not sure how far The Waters of Mars left me numb with shock, or simply underwhelmed. The threat from the Flood seemed to lose focus; the infected humans were dismissed too easily. Luckily the Doctor’s conviction that he could and had the absolute unquestionable right to save Adelaide, Yuri and Mia was taken just far enough beyond previous limits to undermine this viewer’s confidence: the Doctor had to lose his Mother Hen qualities (as Elisabeth Sladen has termed Jon Pertwee’s performance) and become, for a few minutes, someone very dangerous. Adelaide had to die to show the Doctor the error of his ways; he is left holding on to life and sanity and the programme hopes we are holding him too. This was just about managed; but the closing two-parter will have to have been made with care indeed.
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.
I found myself double-booked for The Doctor Falls, and so over a week after broadcast have returned with a follow-up review for Time Lines, John Connors’s blog which continues the ancient traditions of his earlier fanzines Top, Faze, This Way Up, Antenna and others. As I write, it’s not quite a review:
Steven Moffat at his best is very good at treating characters and events as symbols whose interaction as principles not only shapes but often overtakes conventional narrative. Looking back after over a week of rewatches and reviews, the success of The Doctor Falls lies largely in how this coded writing works, laying emphasis on specific aspects of character and setting which sometimes confound expectations which World Enough and Time might have encouraged. What follows isn’t quite another review but a set of reactions considering some of the opinions I’ve come across since The Doctor Falls was broadcast. In case anyone is in any doubt, I greatly enjoyed the episode; there was a tense fatalism throughout, leavened by statements of optimistic principle. I realised while watching it that kindness was probably the factor that kept me watching Doctor Who in the first place. The Doctor has not always been kind, but he tries to be kind to the greatest possible conceivable number of people, all the time. This is his virtue and periodically, in limited ways, his downfall.
Reviewed by me over at the Doctor Who News Page’s Reviews section.
Again, I’ve been remiss about reviewing the 2017 series of Doctor Who for this site. However, I have reviewed World Enough and Time for John Connors’s Doctor Who blog. It’s always a pleasure to guest review there, and to read my reactions (though managing not to say anything about the controversial and intriguing pre-credits sequence, I notice) please visit Timelines.
I’ve not written reviews of every story this season, but hope to get round to them eventually. However, I did undertake a review of Empress of Mars for the Doctor Who News Page’s reviews site. It’s best read over there…
My Doctor Who writing time has been taken up for the past month by editing The Tides of Time for the Oxford Doctor Who Society (once the Oxford University Doctor Who Society, and still a registered student club of the University of Oxford). It features articles on all aspects of Doctor Who, plus fiction and poetry inspired by the programme. For full details about the new issue, and the relevant links to download it or parts of it, see the Tides of Time web page.
It’s been a Doctor Who-intensive week, with one thing and another; and one cannot live by Doctor Who alone. So this review is posted somewhat later than I would have ideally liked.
Thin Ice has been widely praised and deservedly so. I enjoyed the episode’s treatment of Regency London, more black than it was in the movies and yes, perhaps more black than it would have appeared to many of those in London on 4 February 1814. This story, though, was set by the Thames, where London was at its most diverse and a large proportion of Britain’s trade came, often to be re-exported. The Frost Fair allowed the sons and daughters of Empire, the children of unions of no or doubtful legality or those made across social class and colour in the colonies and trading posts, to emerge from their protracted schooling or clerkships, their domestic service or their soldiering, or even, now and again, their unexpected but substantial wealth, and mingle with those from around the world who were just off ship, and perhaps not feel so odd and tolerated by an ambivalent society. It’s entirely likely that Bill would recognize this feeling and share it, and we see the crowd through her eyes. The companion has been explicitly identified before as the series narrator – Doomsday was the last story Rose would ever tell, and BBC America viewers in 2010 saw an introductory narration from Amy at the start of each episode which framed Doctor Who as her story – the young woman whose childhood imaginary friend turns up the night before her wedding and takes her away from everything.
Bill is a step away from the Amy model, back towards Rose – the ‘mystery’ she holds for the Doctor isn’t that she embodies a fantastical problem to be solved, but that her reactions are human and early-twentysomething and the Doctor is non-human and two thousand years old (at least). Thin Ice as we see it is Bill’s adventure – her experience, her casting, and it is right that we should see the story that way. However, there’s more to this ‘diverse’ London than boosting Bill. The London of 1814 was a few decades beyond Ignatius Sancho keeping his shop in Westminster, and of Olaudah Equiano campaigning for the rights of enslaved Africans; Dido Belle had been dead ten years, but Joseph Emidy was alive and was a celebrated musician, and Britain was eighteen years away from the election of its first known non-white MP, John Stewart. Bill’s reality needs to be our reality because it’s the memory Britain had to be prodded to remember after more than a century of it being painted out.
Pearl Mackie has a marvellous expressive face, and feet which can show off the most daintily laced boots. These are the slightest representations of her range. Her disgust at the Doctor’s apparent lack of concern for Smiler’s fate makes us feel the conflicts – how can we put our trust in the Doctor when he seems to show such little concern for human life? We are also unable to judge the Doctor ourselves because Bill is our narrator; for me, the Doctor’s calculations as he moved across the ice were based around saving the boy and the screwdriver, but circumstances meant that the screwdriver had to be saved if nothing else was. Bill as yet knows little about it nor understand what it means to the Doctor. The viewer is caught between choices made by the director, camera operator, editor, performers and writer among others and they have to make their decisions about their own impressions of a scene as it plays out before them. I thought that there was a lot of room for a more compassionate reading of Peter Capaldi’s performance than many found, but the emphasis in editing was on Bill’s interpretation of events.
Capaldi’s Doctor, though, remains much more approachable than in previous series, but without losing his edge. In reading from Struwwelpeter to the children, he’s refusing to conform to twenty-first century ideas of responsible guardianship while at the same time showing his appreciation of children’s attraction to the gruesome. He’s reading Hoffman thirty years before publication, which suits the Doctor’s philosophy of not worrying too much about the consequences of intervention in the human past. The scene nevertheless might point towards the Doctor’s irresponsibility at breaking his oath by travelling in space and time away from twenty-first century Earth. He thrives on crisis, and wants to promote it.
The realisation of the frozen Thames was striking, with enough shadow of Canaletto’s riverside views from sixty or seventy years before in them to convince me, while depicting an altogether more rumbustious river scene than he did. The design of the handbills and posters was believable too, resembling real survivors or images seen on early photographs from twenty or thirty years later, though a street nameplate seen looked distressingly modern and digital. Costuming was astute with the Doctor and Bill firmly in the middle or upper middle of a society otherwise seen at its extremes.
For an episode about a trapped marine creature and a frozen river, it’s not perhaps surprising that the episode felt it needed more buoyancy. I’d have enquired about the colour grading too. We need more warmth against the cold on a Saturday night. It’s a pity we couldn’t have seen more of the river serpent or of Lord Sutcliffe, the monsters below and above the water. Sutcliffe was credibly petty, his vision hobbled by greed, but we saw less of him than we might have done. His villainy was based in the cruelty of his time, but there was room for the viewer to have seen more of his schemes and how they might have played out in practice. I’m sure the residents of Fairford – a Gloucestershire village associated with one of the major political families of the period, the Hills, marquesses of Downshire, and latterly with a forthcoming open-minded literary festival – are happy that Sutcliffe is not wanted in the Fairford Club.
Thin Ice, though, was a very good Doctor Who story indeed, not only for its muscular liberalism as the Doctor referenced Captain America number one’s cover in a scene recorded several months before someone punched American ultra right-wing leader Richard Spencer, but also for its sense of design and its vivid sketching of a historical place and time through costume, setting and modelwork as well as through dialogue and performance. The Doctor doesn’t overthrow the established order in this story, but in endowing the children, though Perry, with the Sutcliffe inheritance, he does shift it a little towards the society we hope we know or would like to see, an optimistic note in troubled times.