April Books 17-18) The Last First Doctor Novelisations

And so I reach the end of the first phase of this insane project, the last two novelisations featuring William Hartnell’s incarnation of the Doctor.

17) Doctor Who – The Smugglers, by Terrance Dicks

A fairly standard Dicks treatment of a competent Brian Hayles script. Perhaps because this is one of the stories whose visuals are completely lost, there is much less than usual of the feeling that the author is just writing down what he is watching on the screen. The best bits all survive recognisably – Ben’s disbelief that they have travelled in time, Polly’s gender confusion, Polly and the Doctor appealing to magical forces, the Doctor deciding to intervene. Worth the effort to hunt down.

18) Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, by Gerry Davis

This was the first new First Doctor book published by Target, and is of course both the last First Doctor story and the first Cybermen story. Davis made a number of changes, mostly minor and annoying, to the script he co-wrote with Kit Pedler. Most crucially, the Doctor’s regeneration at the end takes place in a coffin-like cabinet rather than just on the floor of the Tardis; also the year of the action is shifted from 1986 to 2000. Bizarrely, considering that Pedler’s involvement was supposed to bring a bit more scientific credibility to the show, the number of basic mistakes is legion – the South Pole is about the least suitable place imaginable to put either a space tracking station or a deadly nuclear missile, the terms ‘nova’ and ‘supernova’ are flung about with wild abandon, and the whole foundation of the plot makes as much sense as Velikovsky. Plus Davis is compelled to do some retconning of the Telos/Mondas confusion which actually makes matters worse. I enjoyed the screen version much more; it was easier to go with the flow ignore the flaws is the story.

So, that’s it for the First Doctor novelisations. The best ones are David Whitaker’s original Doctor Who and the Daleks, Ian Marter’s Doctor Who – The Rescue and Donald Cotton’s Doctor Who – The Romans, with honorable mentions to the other four by those three authors, John Lucarotti’s Doctor Who – Marco Polo and the three Dalek novelisations by John Peel. None of them is quite the real thing though: Hartnell’s performance was so strongly visual that it is impossible to catch on the printed page. The only way to really get a flavour of early Who is to watch it.

On to the Troughton era now…

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