This is the end (at least, for three decades) for Sarah Jane Smith as a regular character in Doctor Who. There is only one really bad one out of these eight, and it is the one which is not based on a televised story.

8) Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil, by Terrance DicksCollapse )
9) Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars, by Terrance DicksCollapse )
10) Doctor Who and the Android Invasion, by Terrance DicksCollapse )
11) Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, by Terrance DicksCollapse )
12) Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom, by Philip HinchcliffeCollapse )
13) Doctor Who - The Pescatons, by Victor PembertonCollapse )
14) Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora, by Philip HinchcliffeCollapse )
15) Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear, by Terrance DicksCollapse )

What struck me almost for the first time as I read these books is that this is the period when the basic format of the show as we now know it was first tried - a single, female, companion, who has a life of her own (remember that Sarah first met the Doctor while impersonating her own aunt, and her journalistic career is mentioned in both The Android Invasion and The Seeds of Doom), and the Tardis travelling from adventure to adventure, without any real fixed base for the Doctor (the last proper UNIT story is just before this sequence, and the first proper Gallifrey story immediately after). Previous companions were either a larger ensemble (with minor male exceptions - Steven in The Massacre, Jamie in a few episodes but no complete story) or part of UNIT. Sarah Jane Smith (followed by Leela, Romana, Peri, Mel and Ace) is the first real predecessor of Rose, Martha and Donna. And unlike a lot of others, the printed page does her justice - perhaps because so many of her books were written by Terrance Dicks, who after all invented the character as script editor. All decent enough reads (apart from the Pescatons).
2) Doctor Who - Fury from the Deep, by Victor Pemberton

Ian alerted me to this novelisation (published in 1986, of a 1968 story) as being possibly one of the better ones of the later Target run, and I got it off eBay pretty easily. I admit I (and even more so my wife) had found the original story a bit lacking; since then, however, I've seen the few surviving clips on the "Lost In Time" DVD and it really does look much better than it sounded. Also, in the context of a Doctor Who which was moving more to contemporary England as a setting, it makes more sense; it is a successful (and maybe in some ways better) prototype for some of the Pertwee stories. (Drilling-awakes-ancient-enemy of course goes back to Lovecraft and before, but reappears in Who in Inferno and The Power of Kroll at least.)

Anyway, the book is OK, and as you can see has prompted me to re-evaluate the original story, but it is not a great work of literature. As with too many of the Target novelisations, it is mostly narrated as if the author were simply writing down what is visible on the TV screen, and Pemberton's occasional excursions into tight third are actually jarring and often unsuccessful. The Doctor and companions get apparently killed so often that it loses dramatic impact (and this occasionally calls forth thunderously bad prose, citing for instance pp 129-130). On the other hand, the book does make more sense than the original story and fills in some of the plot gaps and backgrounds to the characters, and Victoria's decision to depart is decently foreshadowed. And the monster, as so often, is more convincing on the printed page. So I don't regret buying it.

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