Doctor Who: The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2 (book review).

June 11, 2022 | By | Reply More

This second volume of ‘The Essential Terrance Dicks’ has five more stories penned by Dicks which mostly took place in the Fourth Doctor era. The final one is the 20th anniversary episode of 1983, by which time we had already reached a fifth.

A foreword by writer and comedian, Robert Webb, who again highlights the joy of reading these stories and of his love of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Oh, impressionable youth.

Doctor Who And The Genesis Of The Daleks

What I mostly remember from this is ‘Have I the right?’ spoken by the Fourth Doctor when he is about to blow up the Dalek nursery. There’s a lot more going on here as this is a mission by the pesky Time Lords who demand the Doctor, Sarah and Harry commit a little light annihilation when the Daleks are in their cradle. It’s the old killing Hitler dilemma again. Davros is a key character here, not forgetting he is a Kaled scientist who decides the Daleks would make excellent killing machines. He’s deemed to be disposable by the Daleks and so it goes.

Doctor Who And The Pyramids Of Mars

I’m not sure if this scared me or not when it was transmitted. I think I was too old by then. Looking back on it now, I realise that the plundering of the Egyptians gods as space aliens was done before ‘Stargate’ made a heap of money out of it. Erich Von Daniken published his ‘Chariots Of The Gods’ in 1968 so the ‘truth’ was already out there.

There’s a quite a body count in this one, too, but people dropping like flies. I don’t remember these being as blood thirsty as new Who but it seems they often were.

Doctor Who And The Talons Of Weng-Chiang

Aside from the regrettable racism in the portrayal of Chinese people, this is a galloping adventure in the style of Sherlock Holmes that features a giant rat amongst other excitements. We have the musical hall and fake magic versus real time-travelling and Leela in a frock. There is an element of ‘The Good Old Days’ TV show here. The characters of Henry Gordon Jago, theatrical entrepreneur with a fine line in assonance and alliteration and the upper-class pathologist Professor George Litefoot make interesting middle-aged sleuths even though it’s the Fourth Doctor wearing the deerstalker.

Despite her tribal origins or maybe because of, Leela is in her element here. She despatches an assailant with a Janus thorn and always carries a sharpened sidearm. The scene where she tears into the cold buffet caveman-style joined by Litefoot as he’s such a gentleman is a delight.

Doctor Who And The Horror Of Fang Rock

The Fourth Doctor and Leela are knocked off course by some strange power manifesting as fog and they find they are on a rocky shore quite close to a lighthouse.

A stone-cold horror story with a twist as the horror comes from further away. This is the one where the lighthouse is assailed by a creature drawing the power of the new-fangled electricity used to power it. There are some Agatha Christie types added when Lord Palmerdale’s boat goes aground in the fog. It would have got boring with just the lighthouse keepers to be picked off.

There is an examination of class neatly inserted into the text that is peculiarly British. There is also a corrupt MP but that’s old news these days. Again, it’s all rather gruesome. I feel like if it was made today there might be more survivors as it’s a bit bleak.

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors

Produced for the 20th anniversary of the ‘Doctor Who’ series, this adventure features five-ish Doctors. Tom Baker decided not to come back to the series at that time. It’s by way of a tribute to the series, bringing back previous foes and companions. After twenty years, the show had accumulated a lot of baggage so it is a little packed in.

The novel is just as affectionate in its treatment of all the returnees, even those with walk-on parts. The actual plot is more like a primitive computer game which took 7 floppy disks and forever to load. My how things have changed. It all seems a lot simpler than the complex stories that get wedged into 45 minutes these days.

The five books selected make a good package of fairly quick reads. There’s something for everyone from the classic era and it highlights again the versatility of Terrance Dicks who is able to whip up these fun stories, even if the material wasn’t as promising as it might have been. A long look into the past, mostly mine, which spotlights why the Doctor has enjoyed so many lives.

Sue Davies

June 2022

(pub: BBC Books/Penguin, 2022. 480 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-736-0)

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Category: Books, Doctor Who

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