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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 Dicks

This is fairly standard stuff, with (as so often) the advantage of the printed page being that it spares us the embarrassing special effects and occasional wobbly acting of the original version.

9) Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars, by Terrance Dicks

A good novelisation of one of the great stories. Dicks has topped and tailed the narrative with an explanation of the Osirians, and a nice vignette of Sarah going back to see what the local newspapers said about it all at the time. Again, some of the effects work better on the page than on the screen. (Though the written word can never give us the excellent performances of the guest cast here.)

10) Doctor Who and the Android Invasion, by Terrance Dicks

Alas, this was a case where the novelisation exposes the flaws of the original story a bit more; no longer distracted by the visuals of working out who is who, the incoherency of the Kraals' plan to Konkwer Erth is much more difficult to ignore.

11) Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, by Terrance Dicks

For once, Dicks rises to the challenge of adapting one of his own scripts for the printed page (perhaps because it had been substantially rewritten in the meantime). One of the few flaws of the original TV version is that Karn does look every now and then like a TV studio with funny lighting; of course, on the printed page you can depict whole landscapes rather less expensively. The whole thing seemed to me to work rather well.

12) Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom, by Philip Hinchcliffe

Hinchcliffe was the producer of Doctor Who in arguably its greatest days, and his two novelisations of stories from that time give us an insight into what he thought he was doing. His Fourth Doctor is much closer to the Tom Baker screen version than the somewhat more overtly clownish character of the Dicks books; he sticks closely to the script but concentrates perhaps a bit more on the horror elements of the story, and the villainous Harrison Chase is memorably evil.

13) Doctor Who - The Pescatons, by Victor Pemberton

I read this book here because continuity experts suggest this is where it goes - Doctor and Sarah fighting off fish creatures in London. (Actually it probably belongs better before The Seeds of Doom, since the story begins with them arriving in contemporary England in the Tardis.) On the one hand, it scores over the audio version on which it is based by having a larger number of active characters and a wider view of the action. On the other hand, Pemberton's writing style is absolutely dire, with a cringeworthy phrase on almost every page. In addition, he seems unsure which Doctor he is writing for, with the appearance of a flute (ie recorder) at the end, and a confusion about whether we are in the 1960s or 1970s. Not quite the worst novelisation or spinoff fiction I've read, but really one for completists only.

14) Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora, by Philip Hinchcliffe

As with Hinchcliffe's treatment of The Seeds of Doom, we have a much less clownish, dark Doctor, and much more horrific elements in the story - horrible frazzling of the Helix's victims, also the Doctor casually slaying Count Federico's guards. But the other thing that struck me was Sarah's relationship with the Prince - much more romantically presented here than it was on screen, and basically her closest approach to romance in the entire canon, I think. Not an outstanding novelisation but not bad either.

15) Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear, by Terrance Dicks

A pretty standard retelling of the TV original, without much added or taken away. The story line seemed slightly clearer on paper, but maybe I just was not concentrating sufficiently when I watched it. On the other hand, Dicks does not quite do justice to Sarah Jane's farewell scene.

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).

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