The first (of many) books I purchased from the Target line of adaptations still holds a special little nostalgic place in my heart. Curious about the history of the series, I figured “The Five Doctors” would be a good point to get an overview and catch-up course on the twenty plus years of history surrounding Doctor Who. Picking up the shiny silver cover, I quickly took it home and consumed it. It more than satisfied my itch and was the seed from which a huge collection of Target novels grew.
The sheer fact that the story crams in as many continuity references and callbacks as it does and isn’t a complete shambles is a credit to Terrance Dicks. It’s interesting that given a laundry list of things that the production team wanted included that the person many people consider to be the greatest writer in the history of Doctor Who (classic or new) couldn’t find a way to crack it. When Robert Holmes passed on writing the anniversary story, the production team called on former script-editor and Target adaptation leader Terrance Dicks to give it a try. And somehow, Dicks managed to find a way to do what Holmes couldn’t, serving as a testament to his skills as a writer.*
* Listening to Dicks on the audio commentary for the DVD release, it’s fun to realize that he was having a bit of revenge on Jon Pertwee by giving him certain lines of technobabble.
Each of the Doctors is being taken out of time and forced to play a deadly game in the Death Zone on Gallifrey. Between them and the secret of why they’ve been called together ranges a plethora of familiar faces and foes. The story is fairly straightforward and given that you’re bringing together that many callbacks and shout-outs to the past, it has to be. And yet, it still all works and provides an entertaining trip down memory lane.
And while Dicks moves around a few scenes here or there (which would later be reflected in the re-edited special edition) and includes some cut moments, the novel is a pretty straightforward adaptation of what appears on-screen.
For the audiobook, BBC Books has tapped comedian Jon Culshaw again. Culshaw’s reading is, once again, spot-on. His imitation of various Doctors and companions is close to perfect (for the most part). The only one that sounds a bit off is his take on the Fifth Doctor. Nicholas Briggs adds in authentic for the story Dalek and Cyber voices.
The audiobook was a nice jaunt down memory lane and a reminder of just what an achievement this story really is. A fun trip down memory lane.