I Had That! #23: Doctor Who Target Novelizations

When I first got into Doctor Who in 1981, it wasn’t a terrible time to be a fan. Though merchandise was thin on the ground, it was starting to come in. Unlike fans even a few years earlier, you didn’t have to just piece together a fandom more or less on your own.

One of the huge aids to fandom then were the novelizations of episodes published by Target in the UK. Previously, the only books to make it over here were the Pinnacle Books adaptations of ten of the episodes, with their sometimes-odd cover art and a foreword by Harlan Ellison, who even then was pretty much just bile with a typewriter.

The Target books were essential because this was before you could have nearly every extant episode at your fingertips. For American fans, this was largely the only way to experience many First- and Second-Doctor stories (and Third Doctor for me, as my local station wasn’t showing those.) Largely penned by a small stable of writers who were also writers for the show, such as Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, they weren’t so much “novelizations” as scripts with “he said” added to them, but they were inexpensive, collectable, and you could plow through one pretty quickly.

I bought them like candy, and they’re pretty much the reason I never read much “real”, “classic” science fiction. You can even see in the photo above that I had a special slipcover I got at some convention which would fit over the books (whether a story was ten episodes or two, the novels were always around the same page count, so nearly every book had the same dimensions.) This was actually my second such cover, as I wore out the first one.

During this time I worked at a used book/comic store called “The Book End”. The owners, Jim Mulé and Jan Luke, ordered whatever Doctor Who merchandise they could (I don’t remember either of them being big fans, but the stuff sold) and this is where I got the bulk of my Target books. Jim also ran the New Orleans sci-fi convention Vul-Con and my co-worker (and fellow Who fan) Allen and I convinced him to try and get Terrance Dicks to be the guest of honor for the 1982 con, which he did. Meeting him was a huge thrill for me.

Going by this list, I bought the Target books until mid-84, which was also about the time that my interest in the show itself waned. Many years later, though, I would always look for them in used book stores in an attempt to fill in the gaps in my collection. But there were so many and I couldn’t remember what I did and didn’t have, and most importantly, they didn’t show up used that often, so I still don’t have a complete collection. Not that I’d know what to do with such a thing if I did have it.

During the interregnum, when there were no new stories to be novelized, there were two lines of Doctor Who books available. The “New Adventures” were continuing on from the end of the series, featuring new companions and the Seventh Doctor, who was trapped in the role forever, I guess. There were also the “Missing Adventures” which were stories designed to be slotted in between existing stories, featuring past Doctors and companions. I tried both of these lines and wasn’t really wowed by them. They didn’t read like Doctor Who stories, even the ones that were sequels to existing ones.

When did I get it? Between 1981 and 1984, with a few bought several years after that.

Do I still have it? I do. They’re in a box in the attic, the fate of most such “collections”.

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