on 7 July 2011
The word for today is 'sphere'. This book introduced that word to my vocabulary over 35 years ago. Terrance Dicks got the novelisation job for this one even though it's a story from before his involvement with the show. For the most part he sticks with the Mervyn Haisman/Henry Lincoln script. He lets the dialogue drive the action with the bare minimum of descriptive narrative. We certainly don't spend much time in anybody's head. There's very little of Dicks' attempting to expand on the story. Travers gets a bit about him being mocked by the Royal Geographical Society and he gets a few little amendments to scenes like tricking the gate guard. To me the book is more notable for what was left out. Only the second episode and audio of the broadcast episodes remain but if you ever get a chance to listen to them you'll realise at once how much more sparkier Patrick Troughton's dialogue is. The scene with the Doctor sounding out Thonmi in the cell is a really strong dramatic scene but in the book it is insipid by comparison. Some of the other dialogue that didn't make it into the book was probably added quite late in the production so probably was never included in the script prints. You could argue that Dicks may have just been editing out some of the humour such as the very funny routine the Doctor has with Jamie when he comes up with a plan to trap a Yeti, or the classic 'They came to get their ball back' line. I didn't know any of this when I first read this book though in the early 1970s. All I knew as a 8 or 9 year old was I was getting to read a past Doctor Who story that I had almost no chance of ever seeing. I was enthralled with the Yeti. Not seeing them waddling down a hillside like a cuddly friendly CBeebies monster has its advantages I suppose. I also didn't notice how thoroughly annoying Victoria is in this adventure. She's dubbed 'that devil girl' by the monks and rightly so as she either whines on about being bored or tries to wander off and get into trouble. It might sound like I don't like this one but I assure you I do like it. Long before I eventually got to watch and listen to what remains of The Abominable Snowmen I'd already burned this book with the heat of nostalgia onto my memory. Those damned monks and that snowy mountainside are going to be with me to the end.
This new edition has an introduction by Stephen Baxter, a between the lines feature about the script to novelisation process, original illustrations and an about the authors spotlight of Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.
In 1974 there was no way to for home viewers to revisit old TV programmes - and it wouldn't have helped the Second Doctor much if there had been, because someone at the BBC had wiped many of Patrick Troughton's best adventures. So if, like me, you were too young to have seen the original broadcasts, what was there? Nothing but a memory of his sparkling comic double act with Jon Pertwee in `The Three Doctors' - until the Target Books appeared.
Terrance Dicks' novelisation of `The Abominable Snowmen' was the first full adventure I enjoyed with the Second Doctor, and it's a terrific expedition into the past of `Doctor Who' as we land high in the Himalayas and find the anthropologist Edward Travers on the trail of Yeti.
Set in and around the wonderfully described Det-Sen monastery, the story allows us to encounter an unfamiliar culture right here on Earth, the gentle, meditating Buddhist monks of Tibet who have been driven to take up arms by attacks from the previously shy and secretive Yeti. It doesn't take the Doctor long to discover he's dealing with robots, not the `real' animals - but robots controlled by whom - or what?
Through an adventure filled with action, scientific detective work, mistrust and treachery, the Doctor and his companions Jamie and Victoria gradually discover the truth - the monastery's Inner Sanctum has become the base for an evil, unearthly presence with no body and no name, a great intelligence from another dimension encountered by the Tibetan master Padmasambhva during his spiritual journeys on the `astral plane'.
In an exciting climax, the malevolent alien influence runs into another, very different alien force - the powerful mind of the Doctor, who is here revealed to have the mental abilities we would later see misused by the Master. In the original broadcast we still didn't know the Doctor is a Time Lord, but in the 1974 novelisation Terrance Dicks throws out many hints that our hero, despite his baggy check trousers and slightly comical air, is an intelligence very much greater than he appears.
Dicks' major addition to this story is snow! However good the lost episodes were, filming in summer in North Wales was always going to fall somewhat short of the ideal. In the book, we see the Doctor breathing in the clear mountain air, admiring the panorama of jagged, white peaks, trudging through icy snow and after a long climb with Jamie, watching sunrise over the Himalayas. The wonderful mountain atmosphere is contrasted with the dim, smoky interiors of the monastery, lit by prayer-lamps and filled with priceless relics.
My original 1974 `Target' copy, with its spine and back cover as blue as the Himalayan sky, somehow wandered off on the `astral plane' years ago, so I was pleased to be able to buy this new edition which includes an introduction and a `Between the Lines' essay looking at some of the background details.
Fortunately, we can now enjoy many of the Troughton era adventures on DVD, including the return of the Yeti in `The Web of Fear', but I'm still hoping for the missing episodes of `The Abominable Snowmen' to turn up one day!
on 21 July 2012
For as long as I can remember, I've been a passionate 'Doctor Who' fan and had a lively interest in cryptozoology. But which came first? Was my interest in hidden and unknown animals sparked by reading 'Doctor Who' novelisations like this one? Or did this become one of my favourite 'Doctor Who' novelisations (as it did) because I was already fascinated by tales of hairy creatures lurking amidst the rocks and crags of the windswept Himalayas? I have no idea. Perhaps the two interests fed off one another. Whatever, this is a gloriously moody and atmospheric story, best read after dark by the light of a torch under the bed covers. You know, that image of Patrick Troughton staring sternly down at you still sends a shiver down my spine.
on 15 June 2012
I bought all the 'Target' Doctor Who novelizations when I was a kid. This was before the VCR so the only way to re-live Doctor Who was to read it in novel form. I can honestly say that it was the desire to read these stories that was my prime motivation to learn to read when I was in junior school.
I'm so glad these literary treasures are being released on the Kindle. I've bought all of them so far and will probably buy all the subsequent releases. My young son loves to have them read to him for his bedtime stories.
In this 2nd Doctor (Pat Troughton) story, the Yeti near a Himalayan monastery have suddenly become violent and deadly. Why have these shy creatures done so ? What is the secret in the cave ? This is one of the lost stories so this is the only medium you'll have to enjoy it.
on 9 September 2014
The Tardis crew arrive in the mountains of Tibet, but the local monastery is no peaceful retreat. A sinister presence is lurking within its walls and creatures of myth are being sighted.
If you exclude the brief taken appearance of the Yeti in ‘The Five Doctors’, then the Yeti were the only re-occurring monster from Doctor Who with no surviving intact stories (which is, in fact, still sadly true as the third episode of ‘The Web of Fear’ still eludes us). Therefore the Target novelisations of their two stories have probably been the best way to enjoy them for many years. As one of the Doctor Who’s iconic monsters, coupled with the return of the Great Intelligence (their controller/leader) to the series after so long and the rediscovery of most of ‘The Web of Fear’, it seeming fitting (albeit with hindsight) that ‘The Abominable Snowman’ should have been one of the Target novelisations to be republished during the last couple of years.
The photonovels and telesnaps of stories, interesting though they can be I usually find to be a quite clinical way of relating a story. They generally fail to capture atmosphere, which ‘The Abominable Snowman’ seems to have in abundance if Dicks’ narrative is representative. He manages to convey a sense of tension and threat throughout. There is also a much greater impression of the locale that sells Tibet better than what remains of the televised version.
The Yeti are in some ways more effective in prose. Dicks does a great job of giving them presence and making them scary. Their ‘cuddly’ appearance is lost. This is probably the Yeti as they were intended to be if budgets were larger and effects better; but that is the advantage of novelisations.
As usual Dicks successfully portrays the Tardis crew, Jamie being particularly well characterised in this book. However, even though Dicks grasps the character of the Second Doctor more than most, there does seem to be times when the Pertwee incarnation asserts some influence. There are certainly times when this is a more action orientated Doctor, not entirely suitable to Troughton.
Overall, this is a strong story that has been realised well by the author. It is also probably the best way to enjoy it; unless the televised version should ever miraculously be found.