I’d already read probably the best Jamie / Zoe novel, Doctor Who – The Invasion, by Ian Marter, and also the worst, Doctor Who and the Dominators, also oddly enough by Ian Marter. Four of the other six are fairly standard efforts by Terrance Dicks, but the other two present points of interest.
A standard Dicks novelisation, compressing a six part script into Target format without adding much of interest. Happily, the best line of the original remains intact.
This is much more fun. The original TV version was one of the most surreal stories ever; the novel takes some liberties with the script, but basically improves it further to make it one of the better Second Doctor novels. Even the Karkus somehow makes better sense here. One to look out for.
Again, an average Dicks treatment of a less-than-average Robert Holmes story.
For once I felt Dicks was trying a bit harder here, with a certain amount of characterisation and back-story for the (admittedly somewhat implausible) future Earth society and the hierarchy in charge of the T-Mat. The Doctor gets really trigger-happy with his wholesale slaughter of Ice Warriors at the end. One visual that I am happy to lose is the Ice Warrior leader Slaar, who reminds me too much of Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in Space Balls.
The good thing about the novelisation is that we are spared the excruciatingly awful accents of the original version (Milo Clancy is almost certainly Irish here). The bad thing is that we see even more clearly just how implausible the plot actually is. None the less, I felt Dicks was trying a little harder here, and he has made a pretty awful story slightly less awful.
I seem to be against received fannish wisdom in finding this rather good, if taken on its own merits. The original story is one of the great Who stories; the novelisation, constrained to less than fifteen pages for each of the ten episodes, is not quite of the same quality, but none the less tells a good story well, with decent foreshadowing of the Doctor’s fate and sensible meditations on the nature of war. This is the first Hulke novelisation I have read in this run, and sadly was the last he wrote before his death, so I am looking forward to the others.
So, that’s it for the Second Doctor novelisations. I finished up my read-through of the First Doctor novels by regretting that almost nobody manages to capture Hartnell’s performance on the printed page. Troughton (who perhaps put less of his own personality into the part than any other Doctor before Davison) is easier to pin down, the visual aspects of his performance more easily described. Of the other regulars, I felt that Victoria gains most, and Zoe loses most, on the printed page. Perhaps it is easier to inject some gravitas into the rather two-dimensional Victoria than to convey how stunningly cute Wendy Padbury is as Zoe.
The best of the Second Doctor novelisations are John Peel’s Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks, Terrance Dicks’ Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, Peter Ling’s Doctor Who – The Mind Robber and Ian Marter’s Doctor Who – The Invasion, with honourable mentions to Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks, the other three early Season 5 books, and Doctor Who and the War Games. None is quite as good as the best of the First Doctor novelisations, though.
Since I am reading these on my commute and am taking a long weekend chez