There are a lot of things about “Revenge of the Cybermen” that don’t make sense.
But the biggest thing comes not from anything that takes place on-screen but the serial’s place in Doctor Who history.
Back in the 80’s as VCRs became more and more common in homes, the BBC decided to test the waters with a commercially released classic Doctor Who serial. And for this honor, they decided to pick something from what many fans considered the pinnacle of Doctor Who – the Tom Baker starring, Robert Holmes script-editing, Phillip Hinchcliffe producing years.
Somehow classics like “The Ark in Space,” “The Pyramids of Mars” or “The Robots of Death” were passed by and instead the world got “Revenge of the Cybermen.”
Who-lore from the era tells us that the BBC polled fans at a convention and a mix-up between “Revenge of the Cybermen” and the then missing “Tomb of the Cybermen” occurred. Seems fans wanted “Tomb.” Instead we got “Revenge.” Continue reading
If there has been one glaring omission from the classic Doctor Who Target novels audiobooks line, it’s “The Day of the Daleks.” One of the first serials adapted by Terrance Dicks, “Day of the Daleks” was one of the first Target novels I read (though it was under the U.S. Pinnacle reprint, including the fantastically, ranting introduction by Harlan Ellison) and it’s easily one of the strongest adaptations the line ever produced.
And while I was delighted that the story was finally getting the audio treatment, part of me was still a bit nervous about visiting this old friend from my Target-obsessed days. Could it live up to the greatness associated with it in my memory?
The good news is that it not only lived up to my fond memories of it, it may have even exceeded them. Continue reading
It only took three decades for John Nathan-Turner’s prediction that we’d have a female Doctor to come true.
In the weeks since it was announced that Jodie Whittaker will be my favorite Time Lord’s next incarnation, I’ve been excited by what this news means for my favorite television show. With a co-production deal with China ensuring we’ll have new Doctor Who for at least four more seasons, I’m excited and intrigued to see where the changes in creative staff both in front of and behind the cameras will take the series in the next several years. Doctor Who is a series that’s been defined as much by the person crafting the scripts behind the camera as it has by the person who brings those scripts to life in front of the camera. Find the right combination and you’ve got a winner on your hands. Find the wrong combination and you’ve got, well, a mess on your hands where the behind-the-scenes drama is almost more interesting than the finished product on our screens (I’m looking at you, the Colin Baker era, where you had a great actor with a tired script editor and the quality of the stories declined).
No slight at Chris Chibnell intended, but I couldn’t help but think that with the casting of a female Doctor how utterly exciting and compelling a female show runner might be. Continue reading
For some odd reason, I never picked up a copy of “The Horror of Fang Rock” during my Target novel collecting days. Whether it’s because the bookstores I frequented didn’t have a copy or there were other books that got my hard-earned cash instead, I don’t know.
So, I came to the audio version of the fourth Doctor and Leela adventures without any memories of the original on the printed page.
And I’ve got to admit, this one was pretty well done. Adapting his own script, Terrance Dicks creates a bit more backstory for some of his characters and gives the reader some context as to the social norms and assumptions of the day. These additions give a greater depth to how some of the characters interact over the course of the novel.
And while his adaptation of “Horror of Fang Rock,” doesn’t necessarily create a larger canvas for the story like “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion,” “Fang Rock” still feels a bit more substantial than others from this era that simply feel like Dicks is adapting the shooting script for the printed page.
The audio version of the story adds an extra layer of tension to the already tense story, thanks in large part to the performance of Louise Jameson. While the actress who brought Leela to life has been a fixture in the Big Finish range, this is her first Target novel reading. Based on the work she’s done here, I hope it won’t be her last. Jameson reads the story like we’re gathered around a camp fire and she’s sharing a scary tale with us. Jameson wisely doesn’t try to offer her imitation of each actor from the original broadcast but instead creates her own performances for each of her characters. It goes without saying that her Leela is a highlight of this novel.
With his adaptation of “The Pirate Planet,” James Goss has done what multiple authors have tried but rarely succeeded in doing — recreating the spirit of Douglas Adams on the printed page.
Goss takes the original shooting script as well as notes kept during the development of the second installment of the Key to Time season to produce one of the more entertaining, fun and delightful novel adaptations of the Tom Baker era. Searching for the second segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on what should be the planet Calufrax. But instead of finding an icy, desolate world, they discover a planet that regularly declares new ages of prosperity under the rule of the tyrannical Captain. Continue reading
There are times reading a Terrance Dicks adaptation of a classic Doctor Who serial that I imagine the poor man, chained to a typewriter, given only bread and water and told to churn out the next Target adaptation as quickly as possible. Dicks was prolific adapting the classic Who stories in the age before we could own the entire run on VHS or DVD. And many times he could turn a less than memorable story into a more memorable one by either harnessing the reader’s imagination or creating some deeper characterization than we were treated to on-screen.
Unfortunately, he’s not able to do much with the second story of the Peter Davison era, Four to Doomsday. It’s an entirely faithful adaptation of what we saw on our screens with little or no room for embellishment. The televised version had Monarch offering commentary on what the Doctor and his companions were up to across the ship with jump cuts for a reaction and a word or two. The novel keeps those intact and feels a bit scattered and unfocused at times. Dicks also tries his best to give some motivation to Adric’s shifting loyalties and trying to make sense out of the long term invasion plan that Monarch is running. Neither is entirely successful, but it’s nice of him to try.
This one was part of my Target collection back in the day and I believe I picked it up right after seeing the serial in question repeated on my local PBS station. Years later, listening to it again as an audiobook, I found myself enjoying it a bit more than on the printed page simply because of the performance by Matthew Waterhouse. Yes, you read that correctly.
While he was never the strongest asset to the series, Waterhouse has delivered a couple of nicely performed audio books in the Target range. Waterhouse ably mimics the speech pattern of Monarch and he gives the reading some subtle shading as it goes along. It doesn’t help make the story itself any better, but it did lead me to enjoy listening to this story again a lot more than I originally expected.
It also made me almost give into an urge to dust off the DVD and give the story another look.
Confession time. I loved the first half of “Victory of the Daleks.”
I know the story is one of the more reviled of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. But as a classic Doctor Who fan, the first half was a pure delight. Seeing the manipulative Daleks, pulling the strings of the gullible humans all while the Doctor tries to convince everyone that they’re really up to no good felt like a writer Mark Gatiss channeling “Power of the Daleks” for a modern audience. Continue reading