For some reason, I missed reading Gerry Davis’ adaptation of his and Kit Pedler’s script for “The Tenth Planet” during the height of my reading and collecting the Target novels. It could be due either to that fact that I didn’t appreciate the William Hartnell serials as I do now during my initial viewing of Doctor Who or it could be that this one just didn’t show up at my local bookseller.
A pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet” features two huge firsts — the debut of the Cybermen and the first time the Doctor regenerated.
You’d think that for a story this pivotal to the long-running history of the show, the Target novelization would be more to write home about.
Davis follows the Terrance Dicks model of adapting Doctor Who stories and sticks fairly closely to the plot as it unfolded on screen. There are a few differences, from the story moving from 1986 to the year to 2000 and details of the first Doctor’s first regeneration (he uses a special couch instead of just falling to the floor of the TARDIS). But, the basic outline of the story is still here, including the Cybermen invading an isolated base not once, but twice during the course of the four episodes. (This story could be looked as a template for not only the Cybermen’s appearances during the Troughton era but also the base under siege stories that were popular during the era).
I did find it odd that Davis includes a prologue detailing the history of the Cybermen, which pretty much spoils the entire story to come. It also offers some hints as to their future history and feels like it’s included to entice readers to pick up future Cybermen adaptations from Davis’ pen. It’s also odd for various Cybermen to have names.
The audio version of the book is up to the usual standards of excellence that I’ve come to expect from this range. Anneke Wells’ reading of the story is a good one, including her choice on how to imitate various members of the regular and guest cast. It’s a shame that this story isn’t much of a showcase for Polly (is this the first time Polly is giving little to do in a story besides make coffee?!?) because you can tell Wells is enjoying revisiting the story and her character.
The audio version also gives us Nick Briggs as the voices of various Cybermen and the voices are close to what we saw on screen and not quite as jarring as hearing new Who Cybermen voices was in earlier installments (like the ones used in “Earthshock” for example).
Like many Who fans, I find it unfathomable that the BBC would keep parts 1-3 of this serial but not the historic fourth installment. I felt certain that with series 10’s finale hinging on Mondasian Cybermen, that good news of the fourth installment’s recovery would be coming out any day (as well as an opportunity to purchase the story again on DVD). And while that news hasn’t broken (yet!), I still hold out hope.
Until then, this novelization and the DVD release can fill in a few of the gaps surrounding this pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who. It’s just a shame that the adaptation isn’t one of the better entries from the Target line.