If you make a list of the most influential people in the history of Doctor Who and writer Terrance Dicks would be at or near the top of it. Not only did Dicks create some of the series iconic backstory, but with producer Barry Letts, Dicks shepherded the series for five years in the 1970’s as the script editor for the Jon Pertwee era.
That alone would earn Dicks a spot in the Doctor Who hall of fame (if such a thing existed, mind you). But it was his other role with Who that arguably had an even more profound influence on entire generations of fans. It was Dicks who served as the chief writer in the influential range of Target novels, adapting 60 original scripts for the printed page over close to two decades.
In the days before repeats or home video, Dicks and the rest of the Target team, kept the stories that fans couldn’t see alive on the printed page. The Target range is credited for engaging several generations of young readers. In some ways, the Target range was a precursor of the Harry Potter novels — books that even young readers who didn’t like to read would crack open.
When Dicks was engaged, his adaptations of stories were particularly good, sometimes even great. “Day of the Daleks” and “The Auton Invasion” show just how good Dicks could be when given time to put care and love into a novel. As the series continued to sell and Dicks was writing nine to ten adaptations a year, the novels would often be little more than a re-telling of the shooting script without the early flourishes.
In an extra on the DVD, Dicks said one of aspect of his career that brought him pride was that he always brought his work in on time. As a trained journalist, I appreciate anyone who understands the importance of meeting a deadline. Dicks was also a humble man, not seeking out credit or glory for doing what he saw as his job.
There are a lot of authors that could be considered influential on me. And Dicks is probably one of them. In fact, I’d argue that outside of Robert Holmes, no writer had a bigger influence on Doctor Who than Dicks.
I read and re-read a metric ton of Target novels in my youth. I loved them and have fond memories of them. Today I’m rediscovering them thanks to BBC audiobooks of the range. As I discovered then, some are good, some are OK and some are great.
So, thank you to the man known in Whovian circles as Uncle Terrance. I hope that your family finds comfort in this time of loss and that you rest in peace.