March Books 4-9) The Dodo Sequence of Doctor Who novels

4) Doctor Who – The Massacre, by John Lucarotti
5) Doctor Who – The Ark, by Paul Erickson
6) Doctor Who – The Celestial Toymaker, by Gerry Davis and Alison Bingeman
7) Doctor Who – The Gunfighters, by Donald Cotton
8) Doctor Who – The Savages, by Ian Stuart Black
9) Doctor Who – The War Machines, by Ian Stuart Black

Feeding my unhealthy fascination with the First Doctor’s companion Dodo, I borrowed ‘s copies of the Target novelisations of her stories and found them pretty easy to get through. They are all between 120 and 150 pages long, and not particularly taxing. I read them in sequence, but in fact there is little real sense of continuity between them; fans will find more to tickle their obsessions in the four spinoff novels featuring Dodo, whose collective pagecount certainly exceeds that of the six discussed here.

The novelisation of The Massacre strays furthest from the story as broadcast: we experience it as a flashback from the First Doctor’s point of view, at a moment when he has temporarily made his peace with the Time Lords and is relaxing in the garden from which he is wrenched for The Five Doctors. Rather than the Doctor disappearing from the scene as he does in the TV story, here he and Steven get completely sucked into the Protestants’ attempts to discredit the Doctor’s double, the Abbot of Amboise, and to be honest it is all rather confusing; apparently the story had to be rewritten to allow for Hartnell’s health (or the unusability of Lucarotti’s original script, depending what version you believe). We get the impression that because of the Doctor’s interference to save Anne Chaplet, the Time Lords get grumpy with him again. There is also circumstantial evidence to support the Wood/Miles view of what was going on after curfew, though they are wrong about the chariot pulled by greyhounds (they are Alsatians). Dodo does not appear at all except in that her arrival is referred to by the Time Lords in the epilogue.

Like Lucarotti, Paul Erickson added some extra chrome into the book version of The Ark which was, I suppose, not realisable on screen, notably the numerous different habitats on the Guardian/Monoid spaceships, and a second invisible Refusian. Also the motivation for the Monoids’ peculiar decision to send the Doctor and Dodo on an exploratory mission is (just about) rationalised. I had forgotten just how bloodthirsty the climax is, as the Monoids wipe each other out in a firefight (and here Erickson gives in to Ian Marter-style temptation to make the fighting even more vicious on the page). I felt, however, that the characterisation of the first Doctor was a bit shaky, with a bit too much use of “old chap” which is not really one of his catchphrases. (Sarah Crotzer disagrees on that point.)

Alison Bingeman is currently the story editor for a US/Canadian TV series called Whistler which I have not previously heard of. Apparently she was married to Gerry Davis, who heavily revised Brian Hayles’ original scripts for The Celestial Toymakeragrees.)

Donald Cotton’s novelisation of The Gunfighters is, I think justly, acknowledged as one of the great Target novelisations. It takers the basic theme of the televised story, but messes around immensely with the actual plot and details, especially in the last episode. (Again, Sarah Crotzer has analysed this in detail). As with Doctor Who – The Massacre, the story is told in flashback, but this time it is the dying Doc Holliday recounting events to Ned Buntline. The whole thing is done in a brilliant pastiche of Western idiom, and it is very entertaining. (Though I am in the very small minority in fandom who actually enjoyed the “Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon”, a song linking scenes of the TV version which is of course dropped from the novel.)

The two Ian Stuart Black stories both deal with the misuse of technology by humanity, though in the first case it is humanity which is more in error and in the second it is clearly the machine which is the villain. The novelisation of The Savages sticks pretty closely to the TV script, and there’s little more to say about it than that (and Sarah Crotzer has said it). The Doctor’s most amusing line has been cut for some strange reason.

Black played around a bit more with the plot of The War Machines, and it is generally to the book’s benefit. Whereas in the TV version, the Doctor rather incongruously walks straight into the heart of the British scientific establishment and is accepted immediately, here he engages in a combination of forging letters of introduction and invoking Ian Chesterton, now, we are told, a senior scientist (he must have achieved that pretty quickly in the year since the end of The Chase, but let that pass). Also the War Machines themselves, liberated from the clunky restrictions of television production, come across as distinctly more menacing. One feels that this is what Black really wanted the TV show to be like, especially since for most of it he sticks fairly close to the script (including the Doctor’s closing rant).

In conclusion, I found these books a pretty easy read when feeling generally somewhat run down. They do feed into my thoughts on Dodo as a character, but I will save that for another day.

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