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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks: 3rd Doctor NovelisationIf 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

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday by Terrance Dicks

 

fourtodoomsdayThere 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.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric by Ian Briggs

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric: A 7th Doctor NovelisationSince the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get the audio treatment. So imagine my delight when the range included several of those titles last year, including my all-time favorite Doctor Who serial and one of my favorite adaptations, “The Curse of Fenric.”

The Doctor and Ace arrive in World War II at classified naval base where one of the first computers is being used to break the German coded ciphers. But with the arrival of a group of Russians, it soon becomes clear that a bigger game is being played — one that the Doctor has known was coming ever since he met Ace.

To number the ways I love “Fenric” could take all the characters I have left in this review and it wouldn’t even crack the surface. While the storytelling in the late 80’s wasn’t quite as serialized as we see in many of the television series today, seasons 25 and 26 did insert a loose character arc for Ace. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Full Circle by Andrew Smith (Audiobook)

Doctor Who: Full Circle: A 4th Doctor novelisation

After a two year hiatus, the Target audio range returned earlier this year and I couldn’t have been more delighted at the selection of titles headed to audiobook. Among them was the fondly remembered adaptation of what I consider to be one of the better fourth Doctor stories, Full Circle.

Andrew Smith (a fan of the show) wrote the script for the story and went on to adapt his story from the printed page. I remembered reading this one on a weekend retreat with my family during quiet times and devouring every last page — even though I was already fairly familiar with the story. Smith’s novelization came in an era when the Target novels were beginning to be more than just straight forward adaptations of what we saw on screen. And while Smith’s re-telling of the story is fairly faithful to what we saw on screen, he includes a couple of items and scenes that didn’t make it into the broadcast version — either for time or because Doctor Who couldn’t necessarily make these sequences come alive on its budget.

Answering a summons to Gallifrey, the TARDIS passes through a mysterious distortion in space. To the scanner, it appears the Doctor and Romana have arrived in the outer wilderness of Gallifrey. Stepping outside the time and space machine, it appears they’ve arrived somewhere entirely different.

The world is Alazarius — and it’s one that is about to undergo a change. But instead of the usual political revolution or stopping an evil force, this time around the Doctor and Romana will battle the forces of evolution and stagnation. The two come into conflict during mistfall, a time when the planet Alazarius and its lifeforms begin to undergo a change.

I have to admit when I heard that Full Circle was getting the audiobook treatment, I was fairly delighted. Smith makes the most of the standard Target book page count, inserting in background scenes and character moments that enhance the story and give you a new appreciation of this four-part serial. Smith does a nice job of keeping things moving and I found myself getting lost in the story again as I listened to it.

Part of this credit goes to narrator Matthew Waterhouse, who was introduced to the Doctor Who canon as Adric in this story. Waterhouse has shown himself to be a solid narrator in the past with his reading of The Visitation. If that one was good, this one is better, partially because the novel is a richer one that the fairly straight-forward adaptation of The Visitation.

Full Circle was a delight to hear again. It made me want to dust off the DVD of the original story and watch it again, mentally inserting some of the scenes from the novel into the televised version. It’s releases like this one that remind me just how much I enjoyed the Target novels back in the day and just how much fun these audiobooks can be as a journey down memory lane.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Dalek Masterplan, Part 1 (Mission to the Unknown) and Part 2 (The Mutation of Time) by John Peel

Daleks: Mission to the Unknown (Dr. Who: The Daleks' Master Plan, Part 1)

Clocking it at 13 episodes, “The Dalek Masterplan” is one of the longest stories from the classic series and one that, for a long time, I had next to no exposure to. I’d read the synopsis of it in my well-worn and much-loved copy of The Doctor Who Program Guide but beyond that I had little or no awareness of how the story unfolded episode to episode until the early 90’s when Target finally worked out a contract with Terry Nation to adapt several of the Dalek stories from the 60’s.

And given the long running time for the story, Target wisely decided to split the story into two halves, thus insuring that the story was done justice and that fans could purchase two books instead of one to complete their collection. The author chosen for this undertaking with John Peel, who had earlier had success adapting “The Chase” for the printed page. At the time, I recall thinking Peel was an ideal choice for the role and eagerly reading both installments.

Now close to twenty years later, I have visited Peel’s two part adaptation of the saga again and found that it doesn’t quite stand up to the test of time or my memory. Part of this could be that the BBC released narrated soundtracks of the episodes years ago, thus allowing me to get as close as possible to experiencing the lost story as we’re ever likely to get (assuming they don’t turn up tomorrow and I have to buy the story on DVD). There is also the DVD release of the three orphaned episodes from this story that exist in the archives which serve only to whet the appetite for more (it’s probably for the best that the seventh installment which serves as the series first Christmas special isn’t one of them. I think the three episodes we have do a nice job of giving us a taste without necessarily overstaying their welcome). Continue reading

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