I used to collect all the "Target" Doctor Who novels when I was a kid. Before video recorders the novelizations of the TV stories was all we had if we wanted to experience the stories again. I used to buy every copy. My books have not stood the test of time, having experienced several years in my parents garage when I left home so I'm more than pleased to see them start appearing in Kindle form. I'd love to read them all again and with my Kindle I can. I can also share them with my young son who I'm sure will love them as much as I did all those years ago.
In some ways, these books are better than the original TV stories on which they're based as there are no dodgy special effects to contend with. Your imagination can provide the best special effects ever.
This is the first Doctor Who story I can really fully remember, being only 5 when it was shown on the TV. I remember being frightened out of my wits when the Autons woke up and broke out of the shop windows. My parents couldn't get me into a clothes shop for ages afterwards and I still have occasional nightmares about shop window dummies now. This is also the first Jon Pertwee adventure. He quickly became 'my Doctor'.
I've just finished reading this story to my son. He loved listening to it and I loved reading it.
I hope that eventually all the original Target books come to the Kindle. I'd buy them all.
This is the novelisation of ‘Spearhead from Space’ renamed for some reason as the ‘The Auton Invasion’, a much duller title that takes the suspense out of the story to some degree. Whatever the title though this was the first adventure for the third incarnation of the Doctor. Dicks acknowledges this as soon as the books begins by providing a new beginning to the story, or rather by adding to the beginning the end of the Second Doctor’s last story, ‘The War Games’. If you, therefore, haven’t seen, read or know exactly what happens at the close of ‘The War Games’ you probably shouldn’t read this, or at least miss out the first chapter. This inclusion does serve to add something to the story, however. By focussing on the Doctor at the outset it helps to cement his role as the lead protagonist in a story where he spends a lot of the first half unconscious.
Of course, the Doctor’s absence for much of the earlier stages of the story allows time to focus on some of the lesser characters. Dicks takes to this with great relish embellishing the personalities and motivations for many characters, particularly the poacher Seeley and the unfortunate Harry Ransome.
This was also the first appearance of the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons. They made a strong enough impression in the programme to come back a year later. In some way the Autons don’t make quite the same impact in the novelisation. As strange as it sounds, they were a very visual monster with their expressionless faces and uncanny motion. The disturbing inhumanness of them whilst resembling something vaguely human isn’t quite captured by the book. Opposed to this is the Nestene Consciousness. Dicks’ description far outshines the rubbery sack seen on screen (the only bad element of the televised story). The text also contains a little more information on how the Nestene and the Autons actually function as a life form, which enriches them as an alien species.
But the highlight to Dicks’ embellishments on the Autons is their actual attack. As memorable as it was on the television it did also seem like the Autons had chosen to invade a small area of a shopping precinct. The description offered by Dicks seems to encompass the whole of London and wider and effect government and military positions. It is a much more believable effort at an invasion, which might explain the change of title.
The reprinted version also features an introduction by Russell T. Davies that consists of a touching little story about fandom.
Back in the far reaches of history, at a time when there were no repeats of Dr Who, DVDs, CDs (yes there indeed was such a time)fans devoured these glorious retellings of great adventures. Yes we had no iplayer, we only had the written word. As a child I hated reading, I couldn't understand what the big fuss was all about, that was until, in a book shop in Huddersfield, I came upon this book. You cannot begin to imagine what finding this meant to me. This story was the first Doctor Who story I clearly remember watching and here it was for me to relive over and over again. I now have more books in my house than I should. If I stopped reading Amazon and Waterstones would go under... and it's all because of this lovely little book.
I went into the Oxfam shop in Ipswich the other day, because to my delight, there was a whole load of the original Doctor Who Target books displayed prominently in the window. About 20 or more of them. A nostalgic treasure trove. So naturally I stood in the doorway, with my tangled mop of curly hair, pleasant open face, youthful energy etc, and tried to work out if I owned all of those books.
A lady with her son passed by, and her son cried out: "Doctor Who books!" I cheerfully moved aside so the younger generation could do what I did 30 odd years ago - stare at the Doctor Who books and be dazzled and overawed by the choice.
The boy loved it. He was pointing out the Cybermen, the 1960s Cybermen at that! And the Daleks. It was really nice to see a child of today enjoying the same books that I loved in the 1980s. Good to know the current series' appeal has given those old books a boost.
I had to chuckle when the boy pointed at the impressive collection of vinyl records that they also sell in Oxfam and asked: "What are they?" His mum smiled too and said: "That's what they had before CDs." "Oh yeah, I knew that," said the boy, possibly not even knowing what CDs are. And went back to the Doctor Who books. Good lad.
Anyway. You don't have to go to Oxfam in Ipswich. Some of the original books have been republished. This is one of them. I read it by the pool on my holiday in Cyprus. Fantastic. The Autons (seen in Christopher Ecclestone's first TV adventure) make their first ever appearance here, as does Jon Pertwee's Doctor.
It's a great story, and you'll probably recognise numerous elements of the new show in the story. Russell T Davies very kindly writes a great foreword for this republished version.
As RTD says, the book is a story telling masterclass, delivered by one of the best children's authors in the country, Terrance Dicks.
Try it out on your children, or yourself if you're going on holiday :-)
The basic story of this one owes a lot to Nigel Kneale's second Quatermass serial, with sentient meteorites being scattered about the countryside, mysterious industrial compounds manned by dull faced workers, high ranking officials being subverted or controlled, an alien intelligence brewed in a vat and scientists aiding the military to bring down an alien invasion. Doctor Who script editor Terrance Dicks took to writing tv novelisations like the proverbial quacker to the wet stuff. Without him it's doubtful that the Target range would have lasted the course. Generally his novelisations were very faithful to the tv stories, with some slight character expansions, some additional or extended scenes and a handful of small changes, usually included to emphasize something that wasn't clearly explained or got lost in the production. He can't resist correcting little mistakes either (ones he missed the first time round) like Liz Shaw's 'The world is fast asleep' line or big mistakes like Channing recalling the Auton when it's shot at by the Brig's sidearm, even though it had previously cheerfully shrugged off both barrels from a shotgun. Dicks explains this away by getting the Doctor to trick Channing by the shouted bluff, "The platoon must be nearly here. We'll capture it when they arrive." Ah, the old ones are the best. The country poacher, Sam Seely, is probably the character who gets the most additional coverage as he skulks about Oxley Woods, searching for 'thunderbolts' and observing the UNIT soldiers. He even gets to witness the arrival of the Tardis and the emergence of the newly minted Doctor. On screen Seely is little more than a Robert Holmes poacher archetype. Dicks gives him a little bit more and even tries to give him and his wife Meg a touch more marital devotion than seen on screen. Some of the rank and file also get more of a mention, notably the ill fated Corporal Forbes. The latter part of the book gets the lion's share of attention by Dicks, with added scenes ramping up the scale of the Auton Invasion. The imagination doesn't bow to budget restrictions; street to street fighting, quarry men fighting back with explosives and I would have loved to have seen the tanks crushing the invaders under their tracks. The Autons were the first old monster to be resurrected for the present day series, so I guess this novelisation of Spearhead from Space, Jon Pertwee's first outing, might be a good place for the present young generation of fans to dive in. It's clear that this book had some influence on Russell T. Davies; when the Autons first crash through the store front windows, one of the first witnesses' blames it on 'students' just as Rose does on her first encounter; and from the final battle there's a great line about a severed Auton arm lashing 'wildly round the room, spitting energy-bolts like a demented snake'. Fittingly this new edition includes a special introduction by new series executive producer (2005-10) Russell T. Davies, a spotlight on writers Terrance Dicks and Bob Holmes, original illustrations and a between the lines feature noting the novelisation process and the differences between the broadcast series and the book.
Wasn't sure whether I'd like this book, as I was a DR.Who fan as a kid, but not watched it for years. Brilliant, its all the characters I remember, Jon Pertwee as Dr Who,it brought back memories of a long forgotten childhood. I read it in a day, the story had me hooked from page 1, the writing was easy to follow. Just an all round great read.