Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

May Books 34-36) Three Season 12 Novelisations

And so to the glory days of Who, when Hinchcliffe and Holmes oversaw the Best Stories Ever (until recently), and Terrance Dicks turned them into readable and sometimes (as in two of these cases) good novels.

34) Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, by Terrance Dicks

Oddly enough, Dicks is not especially good at making his own stories transition happily to the printed page. There are some good bits added/changed here, especially the characterisation of the new Doctor, but in general it is competent rather than exciting.

One point that struck me on reading this (rather than on watching the TV original) was the similarity between the Robot and the Hangman in Roger Zelazny's Hugo/Nebula winning novella, "Home is the Hangman". The Who story came first, but I would be surprised to learn that Zelazny had had a chance to see it; both he and Dicks were, of course, drawing from many other sources going back at least as far as Mary Shelley.

The next two stories in sequence were both adapted to the printed page by Ian Marter, who played Harry Sullivan throughout this season. Dicks then picks up the sequence again with

35) Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks, by Terrance Dicks

One of the greatest TV stories, and I still think one of the best novelisations. The action is breathlessly stripped down from six episodes to fit the Target format; but Dicks also adds a lot more circumstantial detail about the horrible landscape of Skaro, Davros, the Kaled and Thal leaders, the reactions of Harry and Sarah to their environment, and the Doctor's moral dilemmas. Despite knowing the story as well as I do, I found myself reading avidly to the end.

36) Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen, by Terrance Dicks

Again, one of those cases where Dicks has taken a so-so story and made it into a good read. Partly this is because of good scene-setting; partly also that he is liberated from the constraints of poor special effects; mainly that he seems to have been having fun with the script. I remembered this one fondly from my childhood, and for once it lived up to my memories.

The Season 12 novels, including the two not reviewed here but with slight reservations for Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, are consistently good in a way that I don't think can be said for any other season so far. (I know that Season 7 has its partisans, though.) All the elements seem to have come together successfully. There are a couple of significant differences in characterisation: Dicks' version of the Fourth Doctor is more jolly than the screen version, so I imagine that fans coming to Tom Baker's stories via the books will be surprised by the darkness in the original portrayal. Harry comes over as more clueless than gallant as written by Dicks (the reverse is true in Marter's books for some strange reason). I'll come back to Sarah in due course.

You may be relieved to know that the end of this mad project is coming into view; there are different ways of calculating it, but the half-way mark for Classic Who stories, counted individually, is definitely in the second half of Season 12. And I've read perhaps a quarter of the remaining novelisations already. Thanks for your patience.
Tags: bookblog 2008, doctor who, doctor who: 04, doctor who: novelisations, doctor who: sarah jane, writer: terrance dicks, writer: zelazny
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