Revisiting the Past: A Look at the latest Doctor Who Target Books, with James Moran and Rona Munro

The Doctor Who Target range has expanded again, with four new titles available now, each with newly commissioned cover artwork by Anthony Dry – plus, new paperback collections of two Terrance Dicks collections. Russell Cook takes a look at the additions, and chats to writers James Moran and Rona Munro…

Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

In July 1982, a mere four decades ago, David Fisher published his second and final Target book, an adaptation of his 1980 story, The Leisure Hive. In January 1981, his novelisation of his 1979 The Creature from the Pit hit the bookshelves.

“But wait!” I hear Target Books enthusiasts cry. “Mr. Fisher had also written two stories for the 1978/79 season of Doctor Who, tales three and four in The Key to Time series, The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara. They are on my shelves, published under the Target imprint in 1980! Surely that’s four books by David?”

Not exactly. You see, back in the heyday of the novelisations when the books were very much hitting the target for fans, and flying off the shelves at such and alarming and very profitable rate; arguably equivalent, in today’s terms, to fans of Stranger Things streaming the episodes of that Netflix show all at once, the moment they are “dropped”. Demand was high and the phrase “give Terrance a call” was well used by the books’ editors to fulfil demand.

Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to ask David Fisher if he’d like first refusal on writing adaptations of his Doctor Who TV stories, and the first he heard about it was when copies of the novelisations written by the ever-reliable Terrance Dicks crossed his eye-line. Mr. Fisher was not a happy little scribe, and the Writers Guild got involved.

This brought a slight change in policy at Target towers, and the writers of broadcast stories were given first refusals on turning their screenplays into prose. There was still work for Mr. Dicks, of course, but not the one book a month turnaround he had previously been running to, so he was able to concentrate on the likes of T.R Bear, and his many magnificent adventures.

Now, in July 2022, The Stones of Blood and The Prisoner of Zenda, sorry, The Androids of Tara, have been given a Target release, written by the original author. Based on Fisher’s AudioGo adaptations that were issued in 2011 and 2012, the manuscripts have been adapted to book form by his son, Nick.

Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

Reading these rich and multi-layered adaptations, I’m back in 1978, relishing the battles with the Ogri, enjoying the positively batty eccentricity of Professor Romford, and as for the dangers of a spooky stone circle… and it was a positive relief to encounter the Wood-beast Tara style in all its non Aggedor glory and take part in a battle of wits with the moustache-twirling Count Grendel. Excellent stuff.

Both books are a fitting tribute to the skill of the late David Fisher. Read and enjoy – Terrance won’t mind.

New Series Novelisations

Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

Also published are another two series novelisations, adaptations of 2008’s The Fires of Pompeii and 2017’s The Eaters of Light, available under the guise of that lovely Target symbol. Written by the original authors, James Moran and Rona Munro, the latter the writer of the story Survival for the classic series in 1989, they are worthy additions to the continuing journey of Doctor Who novelisations.

And how did the authors feel about approaching their screenplays and guiding the stories on to the printed page?

“I couldn’t have been happier with the finished episode!’ enthuses James of The Fires of Pompeii fame.

“There are always things you have to trim in a TV show to keep it moving fast,” he continues. “I was able to add things that just wouldn’t have worked on screen but add to the atmosphere of a book. It also allowed me to explore some side stories and go off on some tangents time to take a breath, if you like, and to explain some of the things that we had to skim past on screen to keep things exciting.

“I worked from earlier drafts and added some new material where I thought more explanations to some of the events were needed.”

Rona Munro takes up the baton. “In The Eaters of Light novelisation, I was able to to provide a substantial back story for my key characters Kar and Lucius. That was wonderful!” she gleefully reveals. “I tend to do a lot of research when creating story and character, there is rarely space to put it all on screen despite it informing and grounding their reality, it would slow everything down.

“For me,” she continues “the novel was a perfect place to bring an audience into their respective worlds in a more detailed way. I am always very excited by reimagining history as a way of illuminating our present.

“I also live in a particularly beautiful part of beautiful Scotland and the lockdowns vividly reminded me how important a relationship with nature, as the Picts have in the novel, is to human happiness.”

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

Were the authors aware of how important the Target range are to the fans of Doctor Who?

“When I novelised Survival for Target back in 1990, it was then like an automatic follow on,” Rona recalls. “I had an awareness of the books in that sense, but I hadn’t been a reader of them myself at that point. Now, I’m much more aware. When I was asked to novelise The Eaters of Light, I felt the same sense of a slight intimidation to produce a full length novel, prose , which I hadn’t tackled for a long time. However, opportunities I couldn’t refuse.

“I’ve been reading the Target Books for as long as I could read,” says James. “They were a firm fixture of my childhood and then into adulthood. I loved watching the TV show so they were a vital way of catching up with episodes that I had missed.

“I didn’t know about the wiped stories at the time, so didn’t realise that they were literally the only chance I’d ever get to experience some of those adventures. For me, the Target Books are on equal footing with the show.”

Now that the books are published, and being part of the Target family?

“Excitement!” laughs James. “The thought of someone finding the book in a shop or in a library and experiencing the story for the first time.

“Also fear,” he confides, “fear that I wouldn’t do the story justice. Terror at the impending deadline as I wrote, as I’d never tackled a full book before. The usual anxieties for any writer. However now it’s out and with the target logo to!”

“Yes,” concludes Rona. “Eaters of Light was a much smoother process. When I was writing Survival, I’d literally just had a baby. It’s a sleep deprived time a generation ago. With hindsight, I felt that I hadn’t taken all the opportunities a novelisation offers. With The Eaters of Light I was able to add the details and nuance that can’t be put on the screen, that was the focus of this book.”

Omnipresent Terrance

Two volumes comprising ten Target novelisations by Terrance Dicks from the 64 he wrote between 1974 and 1990 were issued in hardback, complete with that famous Target logo, in 2021. I reviewed the releases here on downthetubes then.

Paperbacks have just been released and there was, to put it politely and as tactfully as possible without taking the chance to Escape to Danger, a little criticism of the covers, a couple of stock photos that looked as if they’d been badly scanned, and, horror of horrors, no Target logo (a punishable offence in the constellation of Kasterborous, I believe).

However, to take a look at the paperbacks, both feature the Penguin Books logo which puts them in the rather notable distinction of them fitting rather well into the Penguin Classics range. That in itself is an achievement. One of which brings a sense of pride for the work of Terrance Dicks and more importantly for the man himself.

Russell Cook

• Russell Cook’s personal, unconnected memoir, Castles in the Sky, a story of love, loss and learning to live again is available from Amazon

Buy Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785947940 | Published by BBC Books

The Doctor is delighted when his quest for the Key to Time leads him to his favourite planet, Earth. But his friends are less enchanted: Romana is nearly lured to her death by a sinister apparition, and K9 is all but destroyed by a belligerent boulder with the power to move – and a thirst for blood.

An ancient stone circle becomes a battleground as the Doctor must outwit the deadliest alien criminal this side of hyperspace – and her bloodthirsty silicon servants…

Buy Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785947926 | Published by BBC Books

The Doctor and Romana’s search for the fourth segment of the all-powerful Key to Time leads them to the planet Tara, where courtly intrigue and romantic pageantry employ the most sophisticated technology.

Within hours of arriving, Romana is mistaken for a powerful princess and the Doctor forced to dally with robotic royalty – and both are quickly embroiled in the scheming ambitions of the wicked Count Grendel. Finding the segment of the Key is easy enough, but escaping with it in one piece will prove an altogether more colourful affair…

David Fisher was approached by script editor Anthony Read to write for Doctor Who and the result was the 100th story, The Stones of Blood, transmitted in 1978. Fisher first met Read when the latter was setting up a series called The Troubleshooters in 1965. Fisher went on to write for Orlando (1967), Dixon of Dock Green (1969), Sutherland’s Law (1973) and General Hospital (1977). As well as The Stones of Blood, Fisher also contributed The Androids of Tara, The Creature from the Pit and The Leisure Hive to Doctor Who. The first two stories were novelised by Terrance Dicks, but Fisher decided to pen the latter two himself for the Target range. 

Following his work on Doctor Who, Fisher wrote for Hammer House of Horror (1980), Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984) and collaborated with Read on a number of historical books with subjects including World War Two espionage, the Nazi persecution of Jews and the Nazi/Soviet pact of the early 1940s.

Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

Buy Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785947797 | Published by BBC Books

It is AD 79, and the TARDIS lands in Pompeii on the eve of the town’s destruction. Mount Vesuvius is ready to erupt and bury its surroundings in molten lava, just as history dictates. Or is it?

The Doctor and Donna find that Pompeii is home to impossible things: circuits made of stone, soothsayers who read minds and fiery giants made of burning rock. From a lair deep in the volcano, these creatures plot the end of humanity – and the Doctor soon finds he has no way to win…

James Moran is a British screenwriter for television and film, who wrote the horror-comedy Severance. He works in the horror, comedy, science-fiction, historical fiction and spy thriller genres.

James is online at www.jamesmoran.com | Twitter

After screening at around 60 film festivals internationally, James’ film, Blood Shed is now available to buy on Prime Video (or watch for free if you’re a Prime member). It is also screening on ShortsTV in North America, and will be coming soon to ShortsTV in Europe. For more information about the short film, visit the website here

Crazy For You, James’ first short film, is also available on Prime Video, the iTunes store, and is screening on ShortsTV

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light (Target Collection) - cover by Anthony Dry

Buy Doctor Who: Eaters of Light (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785947933 | Published by BBC Books

The Doctor takes Bill and Nardole back to 2nd century Scotland to learn the fate of the ‘lost’ Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman Army. 5000 soldiers vanished without explanation – how?

The search for the truth leads the Doctor and his friends into a deadly mystery. Who is the Guardian of the Gate? What nightmare creature roams the wildlands, darkening the sky and destroying all in its path? A threat from another dimension has been unleashed on the Earth, and only a terrible sacrifice can put things right…

Rona Munro was born in Aberdeen and has written extensively for stage, film, radio and television. Her breakthrough play, Bold Girls, won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. As the writer of Survival and The Eaters of Light she is the first (and only) writer of stories for both the classic 1963-1989 series of Doctor Who and the 2005 revived series.

Buy Doctor Who: The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 1 (Paperback, AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785946653 | Published by BBC books at £14.99

The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 1

For over 50 years, Terrance Dicks was the secret beating heart(s) of Doctor Who – from joining production of The Invasion in 1968 to his final short story in 2019. As the undisputed master of Doctor Who fiction, Terrance wrote 64 Target novels from his first commission in 1973 to his last, published in 1990. He helped introduce an entire generation to the pleasures of reading and writing, and his fans include Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Mark Gatiss, Alastair Reynolds, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Frank-Cottrell Boyce, and Robert Webb, among many others.

This two-volume collection, features the very best of his Doctor Who novels as chosen by fans – from his first book, The Auton Invasion, to his masterwork, the 20th anniversary celebration story The Five Doctors, voted all-time favourite.

This volume contains, complete and unabridged:

• DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMEN
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE WHEEL IN SPACE
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE AUTON INVASION
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE DAY OF THE DALEKS

The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2

Buy Doctor Who: The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2 (Paperback, AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1785947360 | Published by BBC books at £14.99

This Volume contains, complete and unabridged:

• DOCTOR WHO AND THE GENESIS OF THE DALEKS
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE PYRAMIDS OF MARS
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE HORROR OF FANG ROCK
• DOCTOR WHO AND THE FIVE DOCTORS

Read Russell Cook’s full review of The Essential Terance Dicks collections here on downthetubes

Terrance Dicks became Script Editor of Doctor Who in 1968, co-writing Patrick Troughton’s classic final serial, The War Games, and editing the show throughout the entire Jon Pertwee era to 1974. He wrote many iconic episodes and serials for the show after, including Tom Baker’s first episode as the Fourth Doctor, RobotHorror at Fang Rock in 1977; State of Decay in 1980; and the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors in 1983.

Terrance novelised over sixty of the original Doctor Who stories for Target books, including classics like Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen and Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, inspiring a generation of children to become readers and writers.

He died in August 2019, only weeks before the publication of his final Doctor Who short story, ‘Save Yourself’, in The Target Storybook. Tim Robins paid tribute to him here on downthetubes

With thanks to Rona Munro and James Moran for taking the time to chat about their respective books.

• Russell Cook’s personal, unconnected memoir, Castles in the Sky, a story of love, loss and learning to live again is available from Amazon

Web Links

Doctor Who cover artist Anthony Dry is on Deviant Art

Prints of the original Target Books covers for The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara are available here from Andrew Skilleter Art Prints & Original Artwork

One of many guest posts for downthetubes.



Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, Doctor Who, downthetubes News, Features, Other Worlds, Reviews, Television

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: