This is one of the few novels from the Tom Baker/Louise Jameson era of classic Doctor Who I had in my original Target books collection. It was only because I somehow kept missing the serial — whether it was my PBS station skipping it in the rotation or just plain not setting the VCR right to catch it when it was repeated (ask your parents, kids).
So, for a long time, my only impression of this story came from Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the Bob Baker and Dave Martin scripts. And that probably helped things a good bit because, quite frankly, Dicks seems a bit more invested in this fourth Doctor story than he is in many of the others he adapted. Continue reading
Thanks to the quirks of KTEH’s (a bastion of Doctor Who in the U.S. back in the day) scheduling of Colin Baker’s first season as the Doctor, I saw season 22 of classic Who a lot during my first decade or so as a fan. That kind of explains why it’s been a hot minute since I dusted off that particular season on either my VHS or DVD collection. It’s probably been at least a decade since I really dabbled in season 22 in a serious way — and boy, did revisiting Philip Martin’s adaptation of his script for “Vengeance on Varos” show that.
Martin takes a page from the master of the Doctor Who adaptation, Terrance Dicks, and gives us essentially the same story we get on-screen. Though to Martin’s credit (and Dicks in the early days before they chained him to a typewriter and he churned out eight novels in a year), he does at least try to make the story feel like it unfolds over a longer duration of time than what we got on-screen. Martin makes it feel like the Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Arata spend a bit more time wandering around the punishment dome, trying to find a way out and escape. He even extends things out enough so it appears the Doctor has passed away for longer than five-minutes than we see on-screen.
There is an extended sequence where we pull back the curtain and see how the Governor truly lives when he’s not negotiating with Sil or being sprayed with death rays. And don’t forget that part where he has Sil fall into the vat of liquid that he’s constantly being sprayed with on-screen.
But despite all these flourishes, it’s the story of “Varos” that continues to shine through and where the success or failure of this particular story lies. Continue reading
How you feel about Stephen Wyatt’s adaptation of his own script for “Paradise Towers” probably depends on how you feel about the televised story. If you liked the broadcast version, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you weren’t a fan, there isn’t much here to really add to what we saw on television screens.
Back before season 24 aired, I met Sylvester McCoy at my local PBS station’s hosting of the Whomobile (a semi packed with props, set pieces, and an opportunity to sit in Bessie). McCoy regaled the audience with stories about his first season, making it sound far better than season 24 turned out to be.
“Paradise Towers” isn’t necessarily a terrible story. It’s one that has some ambition to it, but given the limited budget of the time and that it’s a studio-bound story that features a lot of running up and down corridors, it still ended up disappointing me at the time. The novel is extremely faithful to what we saw on screen, though Wyatt does try to make certain characters a bit more credible on the printed page. Pex, for example, seems to look the part a bit more in the descriptions we’re given in the book than the actor did in the television version. It also helps the Chief Caretaker be a bit more menacing when I’m not constantly taken out of the story by Richard Biers playing the role (though I will admit the audiobook isn’t done any favors by Bonnie Langford doing a fairly good impression of what Biers does on-screen).
All-in-all, this is a solid enough adaptation that ranks in the middle of the range. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great as other Target books featuring the seventh Doctor would be.
Regarded as one of the best stories in the Doctor Who canon (classic or new), “The Caves of Androzani” gets a rather disappointing Target adaptation from Terrance Dicks.
Listening to the audiobook, ably read by Peter Davison, I couldn’t help but wish that the Dicks who adapted “Spearhead From Space” into “The Auton Invasion” was on-hand and could work that same magic on another solid script from Robert Holmes. Maybe Dicks didn’t have the time or the inclination to do that here and it’s a shame because there is so much that could or should be expanded upon on the printed page.
Imagine expanding or delving into the history of Morgus and Jek a bit deeper or giving a deeper dive into Chelak’s career before being saddled with this losing campaign on Androzani minor. I’m not talking about expanding “Caves” to three-hundred plus pages like we’ve seen with recent adaptations of “City of Death” or “The Pirate Planet.” But there’s just so much more lurking beneath the surface of this story that it’s a huge disappointment that the Target novel isn’t any more than a standard retelling of the televised story.
This tragic story to end the fifth Doctor’s era is one of the most unique and compelling in the Doctor Who canon — one of those perfect coming together of acting, directing, and scripting to create something that transcends the genre and material. The only letdown is the forced inclusion of the Magma creature, which stands out a bit like a sore thumb on the screen. I will give Dicks some credit that he tries to make the creature a bit more threatening than the budget allowed for on our screens.
Alas, this is still a big missed opportunity for a Target novel to take one of the undisputed classics of Doctor Who and make it into one of the undisputed classics of the Target range.
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