Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

May Books 6-9) The Liz Shaw novelisations

So, on to the Third Doctor books, starting with three Dicks efforts of varying quality, and a good one by Malcolm Hulke; all covering stories first broadcast in 1970.

6) Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, by Terrance Dicks

This was the first original Target novelisation (published after the three 1960s First Doctor novels had been reissued) and the first of over sixty novelisations by Dicks (plus a dozen spinoffs). It's not actually one of his better ones (and it's interesting that I often find myself writing that about Dicks' novelisations of Robert Holmes' stories). In particular, the joke of Sam Seeley being a funny little man from the country grates even worse on the printed page than it did on screen, and there is not enough clarity about who the viewpoint character is meant to be. I had fond memories of this from when I first read it as a child, but it didn't really live up to them.

7) Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, by Malcolm Hulke

This was the second original novel in Target's series of novelisations after Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, the first of Hulke's six books for the range. It is a good one; Hulke tells the story in part from the point of view of the eponymous cave monsters (the word "Silurian" is not used here), showing us humans as alien vermin. He also makes the story a more overt parable about authority and power, and adds little bits of character especially for the Brigadier and Liz. (And see note below on a minor character.) I suspect this will be near the top of my list of Third Doctor novels.

8) Doctor Who - the Ambassadors of Death, by Terrance Dicks

This is not particularly good. We lose out on the action scenes which were one of the original story's strong points (along with generally good direction), and Dicks adds little new to the plot (having said which, see below for a point on a minor character) which basically exposes its weaknesses rather more mercilessly to the reader. Published in 1987, this was the last of the televised Third Doctor stories to reach print (wording chosen carefully to allow for Barry Letts' novels based on his two audio dramas).

9) Doctor Who - Inferno, by Terrance Dicks

I'm glad to say that Doctor Who - Inferno, published in 1984, is one of Dicks' better novelisations. He has judiciously trimmed Don Houghton's original seven episodes (deleting its least attractive aspect, the sexist banter between Greg Sutton and Petra Williams) to make a good TV story an exciting book. The twist of the parallel world plotline makes the Third Doctor himself the viewpoint character for a substantial chunk, and this always brings out Dicks at his best.

Two of these books contain explicit references to Northern Ireland, which are otherwise very rare in the Doctor Who mythos (though see also Daragh Carville's play, Regenerations). In Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, we get the following back story for Major Barker (renamed from Baker in the TV story, where he was played by Norman Jones without a beard):
...he saw himself one rainy day in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, leading a group of soldiers who were trying to pin down an IRA sniper. The sniper had already shot two of his men dead, and wounded a third. The Major carefully worked his men into a position so that the sniper was completely surrounded. Then he called upon the sniper to surrender. A rifle was thrown down from a window, and a man appeared with his arms raised. As Major Barker called on his men to break cover and arrest the sniper, shots rang out from a sniper in another building, instantly killing the young soldier next to Major Barker. Without a second's thought, Barker aimed his revolver at the sniper standing with his hands up in surrender, and shot him dead. For that moment of anger, Major Barker had been asked to resign from the British Army and to find another job.
Things had changed rather drastically in Northern Ireland between the time of broadcast of this story (January-March 1970) and Hulke's novelisation, published four years later. According to the grim and masterly Sutton index, before the summer of 1970 the only people killed by the British Army in Northern Ireland were two Protestants shot during riots on the Shankill Road. IRA sniper attacks on the army began only in February 1971. (I don't know if this is at all helpful for the UNIT dating controversy.) The idea that Barker would have been removed from the army in the circumstances described is rather grimly laughable; even the odious Lee Clegg was eventually allowed to walk free and return to the ranks.

The second (and briefer) such reference is in Doctor Who - the Ambassadors of Death, where we are told that Reegan (as played by William Dysart)
had been born in Ireland, though he had spent much of his life in America and other parts of the world, frequently on the run from the law. He had begun his criminal career robbing banks for the IRA, and had left Ireland in danger of his life when it had been discovered that he was keeping more of the proceeds for himself than he was donating to the Cause.
More recent events notwithstanding, Reegan's history sounds more like Odd Man Out than anything else; Dicks celebrates his 73rd birthday this coming weekend, so would have been twelve when Odd Man Out was first released. England seems an odd choice of refuge for a former IRA bank robber to flee to.

I've headlined this post by referring to Liz Shaw, but in fact she doesn't come across particularly well on the printed page and, given my childhood memories of the first two of these books, I was surprised by how much I liked Caroline John in the TV role when I watched. I am beginning to spot a pattern where the brainy companions (Zoe and Liz) don't transfer well to the novelisations, whereas the screamy ones (Victoria, Polly and I expect Jo) actually come over rather better.
Tags: bookblog 2008, doctor who, doctor who: 03, doctor who: novelisations, world: northern ireland, writer: malcolm hulke, writer: terrance dicks

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