Doctor Who: The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 1 (book review).

June 10, 2022 | By | Reply More

In a timely way this is an interesting release for the approaching centenary as Terrance Dicks wrote over sixty of the novelisations for ‘Doctor Who, The Classic Series’. I took my literacy for granted but I’ve no idea where my motivation to read and enjoy thousands of books come from. In Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s introduction, he talks about these books as tools of memory because the episodes were not available-on-demand. He talks about how inspiring they were to generations and that they were often greater than the sum of the episodes.

Doctor Who And The Dalek Invasion Of Earth

This First Doctor story takes us to the ravaged London of Dalek occupation. The TARDIS is full with Susan, Barbara and Ian but, by the end, Susan has been left behind. In this novel version, it feels like the Doctor deliberately locks her out with giving her a chance to say goodbye and pre-empting the decision she might not have made.

It’s a powerful story which leads to the downfall of the invasion but there is no reset of the war damage and it feels very much like a child of its time when the evidence of the Second World War was still being only partially erased.

Famously, this was remade as a feature film with a different cast.

Doctor Who And The Abominable Snowmen

This is a real old school boy’s own adventure. It has an adventurer who is deemed to be the first to find the mythical yeti and a Shangri-La like monastery with militant monks.

There’s quite a momentum in the story and it very much reminds me of the films made about the L Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle books which were the television staple when I was growing up.

Doctor Who And The Wheel In Space

The Doctor and Jamie meet Zoe on the space station that is the Wheel in Space. By the end, the logical and very clever Zoe has been seduced into a life of adventure with the pair. In between, they help the space station crew fight off the Cybermen who are determined to conquer Earth.

Interesting to note that the roles of women are central in this story and rather inspiring in this optimistic tale from the 1960s.

Doctor Who And The Auton Invasion

This is the story that gave me nightmares. It was the first story for Jon Pertwee who became the Third Doctor. The story that involves live plastic in the shape of shop manikins made me nervous of walking past the men’s clothing shop Burton’s for many years. Elements of this story including the Nestene consciousness that animates the plastic were used in ‘Rose’, Christopher Eccleston’s first story. The Doctor takes his time with his regeneration and this was very much used in the David Tennant opener after he has regenerated. Matt Smith acquires an outfit from a hospital in direct tribute to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.

Doctor Who And The Day Of The Daleks

This Third Doctor adventure features Jo and is bookended by the Brigadier and a timey-wimey experience. The Doctor and Jo arrive in a London occupied by the Daleks and the future of the Earth is at stake.

A story that deals with potential futures, time-travelling Daleks and Ogrons has a lot going for it and doesn’t disappoint. It was so memorable that a recent episode of Big Finish’s ‘Doctor Who: Stranded’ featured an interaction with it.

These books do fill in some details about the various Doctors and I think they would work without knowledge of the TV series.

These stories remind me how it was to be young and thrilled by the latest instalment of Doctor Who and that even applies to the ones I’ve never seen. The books are fun and are written with energy and joy. It’s easy to forget when every single episode is on stream somewhere that there were aeons of time to fill between series and even between episodes. These books inspired a generation of writers enabled others to extend their vocabulary enough to complete Wordle in their dotage.

Some people and, in my experience, it was teachers could be very snooty about novelisations but reading is reading is reading is reading. The more you read the more you want to and there is no reason to look down on people who might want to read Target novels or romance or comics. Freedom to read what you like is a powerful tool in a democratic country so be wary of people who want to restrict your choice. Enjoy these adventures and read more!

Sue Davies

May 2022

(pub: BBC Books/Penguin, 2022. 576 page enlarged paperback. Price:  £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-664-6)

check out website: www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk

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Category: Books, Doctor Who


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