Category Archives: Doctor who

Remembering Terrance Dicks

terrancedicksIf 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.

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Excerpt: Fury from the Top of the Stairs

Last week, Shortcake was startled while climbing the stairs and I got to find out how fast I can run.

I decided it was a good chance to post on my “being a dad” blog.  Here’s an excerpt:

Shortcake doesn’t react well to being startled.  Most of the times, she’ll just let out a yelp. But last week, she was climbing the stairs to give Mommy and her sister cat a hug.  I was planning to follow her upstairs, but got distracted by something that kept me from being on the stairs with her at the moment of the big scream.

If you’d like to read the entire story, you can HERE.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Mind of EvilMany Whovians consider “The Daemons” to be the Pertwee-ist story of the Third Doctor’s era.

I tend to disagree and point instead to “The Mind of Evil” as the story that brings together most of the elements required for a “essential” Pertwee-era adventure. Featuring UNIT, the Master, and multiple threats to Earth, “The Mind of Evil” has long been one of my favorite stories from this era — and even the entire run of classic Doctor Who.

Which is why it’s a darn shame that Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the story doesn’t even begin to do it justice. If there were ever a story crying out for the rounding out of things that Dicks was able to do with “The Auton Invasion” or “Day of the Daleks,” it’s “The Mind of Evil.” Instead, we get Uncle Terrance late in his run of adapting the original version for the printed page. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death: 3rd Doctor NovelisationThe final televised Third Doctor story to reach the printed page was something of a disappointment when I read it initially thirty plus years ago. However, thanks to the audiobook line from BBC Audio, I was given the opportunity to visit the story once again.

In the years since I first read the novel, “The Ambassadors of Death” has grown a bit in my estimation. Yes, it’s still the weakest story of season seven, but that’s damning a bit with faint praise.

Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the John Whitacker/Malcolm Hulke script does a serviceable job of trying to condense seven episodes into the mandated page count. Dicks is able to streamline some of the action sequences (Liz Shaw’s car chase, for example, takes about a paragraph or so) and give a bit more time and space to early developments. However, after listened to some of Dicks’ earlier works when he was given more time to develop the characters and add in some background details to the situation, I can’t help but wish he’d had don that here. Imagine the Dicks who wrote “Day of the Daleks” being allowed to fill in the history of the Mars Probe missions or even time to make General Carrington a bit more of a sympathetic villain (or at least give us a better understanding of his motives).

I can’t help walking away from this one feeling like it’s a missed opportunity more than anything.

And yet, for all of that, the audio version was still a pleasure to listen to. Part of that is narrator Geoffrey Beavers, who could probably read Malcolm Hulke’s grocery list and it would be utterly scintillating to the listening ear. Once again, Beavers shows he’s one of the jewels in the audio book line.

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Doctor Who: Rosa

Doctor-Who-series-11-ep-3-1692a63.jpgThis week’s installment felt a lot like an episode of Quantum Leap with the TARDIS crew trying to put right something going wrong with history. But where most Quantum Leap episodes (well, at least until season five) were concerned with history on a personal scale, “Rose” found the Doctor and company at a pivotal crossroads of world and universal history.

It made for a fascinating hour of television, buoyed once again by the performances of the quartet that makes up the TARDIS crew.  It was interesting to see Ryan and Yas have to confront racism is Montgomery, Alabama at the birth of the civil rights movement.  Going back to Quantum Leap, it felt a bit like an early episode when Sam leapt into an older African-American man and was forced to confront the horrors and realities of racism. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument

doctor-who-s11ep2-0-e1539568668138Last week was all about meeting the new Doctor and assembling her new trio of friends for adventures through time and space.  “The Ghost Monuments” is about that first adventure in time and space — even if the trio is accidentally brought along on the journey to locate the TARDIS.

After being rescued from outer space, the Doctor and company find themselves on a planet called Desolation, which is the end-point for a galactic race that will leave one person wealthy and the other stuck on a world that’s pretty much going to do everything in its power to eliminate him or her as quickly as possible. Seeing a planet where even the water is a threat was a nice touch, though Chris Chibnell’s script doesn’t slow down long enough for us to ask questions like who would design such a planet and why they would do it. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Introducing a new Doctor can be a bit of a tricky thing.  Have too much emphasis on the previous eras of the series and you lose drive-by fans who might be tuning in to see what the new Doctor is like (especially this time around).  Have not enough connection to the history of the show and you run the risk of disenfranchising long-time fans who may decide to not tune in again or won’t make Doctor Who appointment viewing any longer.

Doctor Who Series 11Over the thirty-seven season run of Doctor Who, we’ve seen examples of both.

In many ways, the debut of Jodie Whitacker as Doctor reminds me a bit of how the Jon Pertwee era began, wiping the slate clean for a new era of the series.  For the third Doctor, it was a huge jump from black and white to color.  For Whitacker, it was another major change for the show with the first female Doctor. Continue reading

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