20) Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin, by Terrance Dicks
21) Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders, by Terrance Dicks
22) Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive, by David Fisher
Four Target novelisations of Doctor Who stories from the original series here. The first two are average Terrance Dicks treatments of two of Robert Holmes’ best scripts, The Deadly Assassin being regarded by many as the Fourth Doctor’s greatest story, and The Caves of Androzani regarded by almost everyone as the Fifth Doctor’s best moment.
But with Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders, Dicks has taken a Third Doctor TV story which by all accounts (I haven’t seen it) was decidedly average and turned it into a cracking good read. It was one of the first of his many many Doctor Who books (and he’s still at it), and for those of us (like me) who occasionally mock the by-the-numbers approach of his later efforts, it’s very much worth re-reading the earlier ones to remind ourselves of how good he was at turning dodgy special effects and occasionally wooden acting into a novel that caught the spirit of what he, as script editor, had no doubt hoped and intended the original TV version to be. (Like The Caves of Androzani, Planet of the Spiders has the Doctor regenerating after an adventure climbing around in caves. But I think that’s a coincidence.)
David Fisher wrote two Doctor Who novels based on his own scripts for the Fourth Doctor stories Creature from the Pit and The Leisure Hive. (He also wrote the original scripts for two Fourth Doctor Key to Time stories, The Stones of Blood and the Androids of Tara, but the novelisations of those were done by – of course – Terrance Dicks.) I remember really enjoying his Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit when it first came out, and Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive is, for the same reasons, also a hilarious read – Fisher has a Douglas Adams-like ability to build in circumstantial detail and hilarious commentary to make you feel that this is a real, zany universe in which the Doctor and Romana are dealing with complex alien societies as well as future technology. I saw the series when it was first broadcast, but missed the last episode for some reason – I see it’s now on DVD, and after reading this I am very much inclined to add that to my collection too.