Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Review: new 2023 Target DOCTOR WHO Editions

July 2023 and Ebury/BBC Books have issued five more novelisations under the Target banner ... Here's a review of three of them!!

WARRIORS' GATE AND BEYOND by Stephen Gallagher

Stephen is an old pal of mine, and it's great to see one of his classic series stories getting a new novelisation. The history of this one is interesting:  Stephen originally submitted the scripts to the Doctor Who Production Office, and then John Nathan-Turner, the producer at the time, wanted a hefty rewrite, so Stephen apparently took his scripts and cut them up, putting them back together again to create the story as transmitted. He then 'lost' the original version for many years until it turned up again, granting the opportunity for Stephen to return to the source material and to novelise that ...

And so 'Warriors' Gate' gets a new outing. To be honest, it's not that much different from the story as on television, and it reads well. It's very like one of those novelisations by the original author where they have taken the opportunity to expand and develop the scenario and characters to a degree that the television version could not. We still have the Privateer exploiting Time Sensitive Tharils as navigators; there's still the Gateway; and the idea that the Tharils were once the enslavers, and the Gundan robots were created to battle them ... Romana still wants to leave ... K9 is still damaged and needs to stay with Romana, and Adric is still ... well ... Adric. Of all the cast he has the least to do! Not really surprising as he would most likely have been a late addition to the cast/scripts, joining the show just two stories earlier.

What is good is that in this novelisation, the focus is shifted more from Rorvic and his Privateer chums to the Tharils and their predicament. It's a good move. I also liked how one of the great shots from the TV episodes, of the coin spinning in the air and stopping, is used here with a greater explanation and development on how the randomness of tossing a coin can help navigate through the Gateway portals. 

Overall it's a grand story, and as you would expect from a writer of Gallagher's calibre, very well written.

The book also contains a short story: 'The Kairos Ring', which was written as an audio for the BBC to release, and also an even shorter story 'The Little Book of Fate' in which the Doctor meets Romana again ... 

Overall it's a smashing package and well worth a look. If you're wondering, then the original Target novelisation of 'Warriors' Gate' was as by John Lydecker, which was Stephen Gallagher under a pseudonym...

PLANET OF THE OOD by Keith Temple

This novelisation is a revalaton! The TV story 'Planet of the Ood' was not one of the best ... hampered by a somewhat ridiculous CGI chase in the middle between the Doctor and a claw machine in a factory, and reintroducing the Ood from previous adventures, the story seemed a little disposable.

Here though, Temple writes with panache and delivers an excellent book that both expands on and explains much of what happens in the television story. Motivations are developed for all the characters, and Halperin comes over as just horrible and truly deserving of his fate!  Though I have to say that the explanation for just how what happens to him happens to him is not forthcoming. It was a bit of a leap of believability  on television, and remains so here.

But I really enjoyed revisiting the story through the lens of Temple's prose. It's excellently done, and I hope he gets to write some more!


In contrast to Temple's novelisation, Phil Ford's adaptation of his scripts for the story seems perfunctory. However there is still a great deal to enjoy about this story of a Mars mission which falls foul of an alien entity trapped under the ice beneath the planet's surface, and which seems to be formed of the water itself.

I found myself not really engaging with the Doctor - Temple manages to capture him nicely, but here he seems distant. Maybe it's because there's no companion character for him to bounce off ... but also in the televised story, we also have Graham Harper's assured direction to propel us along, the superb action and direction stopping us from thinking too hard about the story.

Also, in terms of the series, this is the Doctor starting to go off the rails somewhat and to believe that he can do anything, anywhere, anytime and nothing can stop him ... it's the beginning of the end of the tenth Doctor in all honesty. These elements are all nicely explored, and the parallels between all the characters are well drawn. Even the annoying robot 'Gadget' seems to redeem itself.

It's a good, functional novelisation, but perhaps a little too 'by the numbers' in an age where readers are perhaps expecting more from their written-word Who ... I rattled through it quite quickly, and I found myself nodding along to the beats of the original ... it's very much an effective novelisation of what was seen on screen in that regard.


As well as these three, also published are KERBLAM! by Pete McTighe and THE ZYGON INVASION by Peter Harness ... Well worth checking out!