April 12, 2022 · 1:52 pm
“Revenge of the Cybermen” was never intended to be the season finale for Doctor Who’s twelfth season. It became the “de facto” end to the season when the BBC decided to hold over the already produced “Terror of the Zygons” for the next season in the fall.
So, if you’re expecting an epic, spine-tingling end to Tom Baker’s first season as the Doctor, you may be a bit disappointed. I’ve detailed my disappointments with the serial itself elsewhere, so I won’t rehash those here. Instead, I will attempt to review the Target novel version of this one.
Early on in my Doctor Who watching days, I checked the adaptation of “Revenge of the Cybermen” out of the library a lot. It was one of a dozen Target books reprinted in the United States under the Pinnacle banner — and to my mind, that meant it had to be one of the best the series and range had to offer.
Alas, “Revenge of the Cybermen” isn’t one of the best, but I wouldn’t say this adaptation is one of the worst that Terrance Dicks ever gave us. It does its best to translate the televised story faithfully to the printed page, though at times you can feel Dicks’ frustration at trying to make the (supposedly) emotionless Cybermen interesting on the printed page. This comes across a good bit when various Cybermen speak or when Dicks is forced to try and explain away why they’re acting emotionally when (technically) they shouldn’t have any emotional reaction to things.
Dicks does a bit better in translating the epic Vogan conflict to the printed page –or at least he helped this fan identify who was who in the conflict a bit better than the televised version did. Dicks seems to understand when to minimize certain aspects of the story (the gaping loopholes in the Cybermen’s plan) and when and what to expand and play up. He even tries to find an explanation for why Voya is able to toodle about the galaxy, though there is little explanation of why it comes so close to the Nerva Beacon.
All in all, it’s a good job with a script that was full of gaping holes to begin with. There isn’t a lot of depth given to the supporting cast, but this is far from the later fourth Doctor adventures when it feels like Dicks is only being given enough time to translate a shooting script to the printed page.
As an audiobook, this one works fairly well, though the nitpicky fan in me found it hard to hear Cybermen speaking in mechanical voices as opposed to what we saw in the original version. It’s an interesting choice and one that creates a consistent feel to the Cybermen audiobooks, even if it doesn’t line up with the televised version. Nicholas Briggs does solid work, even trying to give us his own take on the fourth Doctor, which is good but he’s no Jon Culshaw.
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Tagged as audiobook, book review, Doctor Who, review, Target audiobook, target novel, Terrance Dicks
July 14, 2021 · 1:27 pm
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 →
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Tagged as audiobook, audiobook review, book review, Doctor Who, Target audiobook, Terrance Dicks, tom baker
October 7, 2020 · 8:00 am
Unless you were watching in 1966, odds are you haven’t seen Doctor Who‘s season four debut story, “The Smugglers.”
Sure, we’ve got a couple of clips thanks to the Australian censors (though why they kept the clips and not the full episodes is something I’d really like an answer to) but there isn’t much out there to experience when it comes to this lost historical serial.
And yet, for some reason, I skipped the Target adaptation of this one when it was released in the late ’80s. Whether it was to save my money for another Target book coming later or that I was weary of Terrance Dicks’ adaptations, I can’t quite recall. But my omission then allowed me to enjoy the audiobook release of this one now as something (almost) new to me.
And I have to admit, I kind of liked it. Unless they somehow recover part of all of it tomorrow, this four-part serial’s biggest claim to fame will be a link to “The Curse of the Black Spot” from the modern series. As a historical, it works fairly well, though it does feel a bit as if the script is borrowing a bit of Ben’s reaction to time traveling for the first time from Stephen’s reactions in “The Time Meddler.”
After barging into the TARDIS, Ben and Polly are sent back in time with the Doctor to a seventeenth century Cornish town under assault by pirates. There’s a bit of chasing back and forth during some of the middle episodes from the pirate ship to the town settings, but overall the story moves along at a crisp pace and works fairly well. Of course, there’s a pirate treasure at the center of all this and apparently, the Doctor is the only one with the necessary clue to try and uncover it.
Read by Anneke Wills who played Polly, this audio adaptation is another solid release from this range. I realize that we’re slowly getting to the end of this range and there are fewer fondly remembered adaptations ahead of us. But having the chance to experience this one, I find it a solid offering from Dicks. It’s not quite on the level of his early work, but it’s not quite the translating the script to the printed page with a few descriptions that we got in the Tom Baker era.
November 13, 2019 · 2:50 pm
Earlier this year, iconic Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks passed away. To memorialize the man who molded and developed the series on-screen and on the printed page, BBC Books is planning a hardcover release of fan-chosen Target adaptations by the prolific author.
And it’s almost as if BBC Books knew it was #SciFiMonth and a great time to celebrate all things Doctor Who. (Oh yeah, the big 56th anniversary is Saturday, November 23!)
Starting on Monday, November 18th, fans can cast their votes for their favorite Target novels. Dicks’ sixty-four novels are being broken into brackets and then the stories will face off.
I know I will be voting. And I know which of the iconic adaptations I hope wins the whole thing. ::cough::cough::Day of the Daleks::cough:::cough:::.
If you want to vote, set your browser coordinates for the BBC Books official Twitter feed next Monday!
September 3, 2019 · 12:26 am
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.
March 14, 2019 · 11:17 pm
Many 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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Tagged as audiobook review, book review, Doctor Who, Doctor Who book review, review, target novel, Terrance Dicks
August 2, 2017 · 9:00 pm
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 →
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Tagged as audiobook, audiobook review, book review, Doctor Who, favorite, review, Target audiobook, target novel, Terrance Dicks
June 24, 2016 · 1:09 pm
While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine’s novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it’s staggering — to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.
Visiting some of Dicks’ output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans — keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn’t see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.
“The Claws of Axos” comes from an era when Dicks wasn’t given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. “Claws” is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor’s chagrin at being “a galactic yo-yo,” Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don’t jostle the TARDIS). Continue reading →
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Tagged as audiobook, audiobook review, Claws of Axos, Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee, review, Terrance Dicks