Novelising City of Death

By Paul Scoones

Unlike the other four ‘missing Target’ novelisations published by TSV Books, the adaptation of City of Death started out as an independent project by its author, David Lawrence. I first became aware of David's work on the book in May 1990, when his letter was published in TSV issue 18. David wrote, “I am novelising City of Death and it is nearing completion... might JPS be interested in it perhaps?” (JPS was the imprint under which the novelisations were initially published).

David first started work on the story soon after its repeat broadcast on New Zealand television in March 1988. “I loved the novelisations but I thought I could do better. I was one of those kids that filled exercise book after exercise book with abortive novelisations - not just Doctor Who but anything I was interested in... I was determined to do a Doctor Who novel and City of Death was it.” David had recorded the middle two episodes on video, and relied on his memory to fill in the remaining half of the story. “The first version was handwritten on folded sheets of A3 paper, so that once I was finished it all folded together like a book,” he explains. “It can't have been very long; especially as my memory of parts one and four was not hugely accurate. Later in the year I typed it up - I had a manual Imperial typewriter as a kid.”

David then took the extraordinary step of submitting his typewritten manuscript to Target Books around the middle of 1988, to see if they'd be interested in publishing it. “I wish it had been a couple of years earlier, because surely as a 12-year old I'd have known better,” says David. “In retrospect I'm amazed they even bothered writing back to me. The letter (from Nigel Robinson's anonymous editorial assistant) was a very polite rendering of: ‘For copyright reasons City of Death will not be novelised and we have strong suspicions that you're only 12 years old and not a proper writer!’ I naively hoped that being from NZ would mean they had no way of establishing that I wasn't an already-published author, so I was deliberately vague about my credentials in the letter I sent. I think the dodgy typing would have given it away!”

David wasn't put off by Target's rejection. “I did a second version in 1990 around the same time as I became a member of the NZDWFC. I'd borrowed an electric typewriter and I started again completely from scratch.” When David began reading TSV he was overjoyed to learn that the club was already producing a range of novelisations. He immediately contacted the club and told them about his own book. “They said they'd put me in touch with Paul (Scoones) with a view towards publishing it. After numerous letter and phone calls I got fed up and wrote to Paul myself. The first letter I have from Paul is dated 26 August 1990 and makes for fascinating reading - I must have been fairly pissed off by this stage at being mucked around and he was on the receiving end of all my whingeing! Paul expressed great interest in publishing it.”

I met David Lawrence for the first time at WhoCon, a New Zealand Doctor Who convention held in Christchurch one month later. Immediately prior to the convention David had performed a hasty re-write of his manuscript. “Paul's major concern was that I'd novelised it without the use of a full video version or script of the televised story, as his intention was to provide an accurate rendering of the story. By this stage I now had the story on video and rapidly bashed out a new version of the first chapter, which I ‘submitted’ to Paul pretty quickly - his reply is dated 6 September, and WhoCon was the week later... In the twelve days between those letters I did a swift reworking of the first episode in order for Paul to have something before WhoCon to prove that I could write. As Paul's stipulation was that the book had to closely resemble the TV story, I had to insert all the scenes I'd missed or dialogue I'd misquoted.” David completed his City of Death manuscript in November 1990, however it would be another two years before the book was finally published.

During the latter half of 1992 I edited and typed up David Lawrence's City of Death novelisation. It had originally been planned that the book would be completed in time for a publication launch and author signing at a Doctor Who convention DoctorCon'92, held in Wellington in January 1992. City of Death proved however to be challenging to edit. David's manuscript featured a lot of additional material of his own creation and some off-the-wall humour written in homage to Douglas Adams' prose style. I believed that some of this new material detracted from the flow of the story and made the difficult decision to edit the book so that it more closely followed the TV serial.

“The final manuscript differed radically from the published book,” says David. “Whereas Paul's intention was to provide an accurate record of the televised story, mine was to deliver the book I thought Douglas Adams would have written. Hence there was much diatribe in the style of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, especially in the early half of the book. Although it's not at all my style now, at the time I thought that kind of stuff was hugely funny. There was a lengthy history of the war that wiped out the Jagaroth, terrible stuff about Jagaroth being jealous of races that had eyelids and were thus able to blink and a huge historical reminiscence about Paris, including stories about the building of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris Opera House.”

The book underwent major editing, removing the more outlandish of David's invented passages, but several of his original sequences were retained, including flashbacks to when the Doctor and Romana first heard of the Jagaroth on Gallifrey, and a newspaper report about the destruction of the chateau. David adds, “I also included a TARDIS interior scene in part four in order to explain K9's change of voice from John Leeson to David Brierley.” Duggan's back-story also changed. David had given the detective Douglas Adams' life story (even down to him script-editing a SF TV show), but I felt that it needed to be something more plausible and grounded on the facts we learn about him in the television version, so I ended up writing this section myself.

I typed the entire book on computer during July and August 1992 and then passed the edited version around several people - including Jon Preddle, Felicity Fletcher, Chris Mander and most importantly David Lawrence himself for feedback and approval. “The more ridiculous stuff didn't survive the first edit,” explains David, “but eventually the TSV crew decided that even the leftover stuff didn't sit well, so the published book was essentially just the script with "he said/she said" inserted in it. Ten years on I'm still in two minds about it. I'm sure back in 1992 I made an unnecessary fuss about it all, but re-reading it now I can admire the construction - especially the call-backs or pay-offs for certain jokes - even if that kind of thing doesn't really make me laugh anymore.”

Unfortunately, despite all of the editing and input from others, a small number of errors - mostly related to incorrect interpretations of French words - were not picked up until after the book was published and Phillip J Gray helpfully pointed these out in a letter published in TSV 32.

The cover illustration was by Warwick Gray, who was a frequent contributor of artwork to TSV, including many front covers. (These days he's better known as Scott Gray, and works on the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip.) I originally asked Warwick to design the cover in late 1990 and he replied, “Just don't ask me to draw the Mona Lisa...” The illustration was a montage of the heads of the Doctor, Romana and Scaroth with a city skyline and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Seeing the cover for the first time in some years, Warwick was highly critical of the artwork he created a decade earlier: “Oh my God! I knew that City of Death cover was bad, but my memory had shielded me from the full extent of its godawfulness. Damn, that's embarrassing.” Warwick recalls that he wanted to put Julian Glover's face on the cover, but that I asked him instead to illustrate Scaroth's Jagaroth head. “Judging by the ultra-dodgy likenesses of Tom and Lalla, I think that was a good call on your part!”

The internal layout was produced by Chris Mander and the 48-page book was published in November 1992 with a yellow card cover. The book sold approximately 75 copies in this edition.

City of Death had sold out by early 1995. Around the middle of that year I prepared new cover designs, based on Virgin Publishing's new novelisation cover format, for a planned reissuing of the series of TSV Books novelisations. These new-look editions were never published, and it was five years before the books were once again made available to fan club members.

In response to the popularity of the novelisations of Resurrection of the Daleks and the reissued Revelation of the Daleks, both published in 2000, new editions of the three ‘missing Target’ Fourth Doctor novelisations were planned for 2001. In line with the intention to have the books follow the Target books of their era, the titles were modified to ‘Doctor Who and the...‘ and the contemporary series logo was adopted for the three covers. The intention was to release the trio of books at regular intervals throughout 2001 in story order however when David Lawrence requested more time to prepare his revisions his book was put back to early 2002 and I instead reissued Doctor Who and Shada in its place.

Doctor Who and the City of Death by David Lawrence was the fifth and last book needed to complete the set of new-look TSV novelisations. I was mindful that David had been less than entirely satisfied with the 1992 edition, so this time I offered him a relatively free hand to rewrite the book as he saw fit, my only stipulation being that however much he added or changed, it still had to follow the plot of the TV version. David welcomed the opportunity to do what was effectively his fourth rewrite. This is, he says, “surely far too many times to have redone a fan novelisation!”

David deliberately chose not to refer back to the televised story for this version, instead working from the published book and his earlier manuscript. “Initially I thought I'd just put all the Douglas Adams bits back in, but re-reading all the Virgin New Adventures made me realise I could do something a bit more mature. The major difference as I see it is that in 1988, back when I started all of this, scripts weren't easy to come by, nor were videotapes. By 2002 the story has been released on commercial video and was repeated in NZ just last year. It's no longer the ‘missing link’ it once was, and while I want to render the story faithfully, I have no qualms about taking liberties with the structure and so forth. I've restructured the first episode so as to give the Doctor and Romana a later entrance - set up Paris, set up Duggan, set up the Scarlionis and then have the Doctor and Romana arrive. The way it works now, with a bit of luck, is that the trip to Paris is the last stop in a long-running debate between the Doctor and Romana about art - he keeps trying to show her great works of art which she thinks are rubbish. They go to a party with da Vinci, and the Doctor takes Romana to the new Globe to see Mark Rylance play Hamlet, and she keeps being a pain and saying it's all stupid and that computers are much better. I like the idea of the Fourth Doctor and Second Romana being so arrogant and nonchalant that they just spend their time idling around the galaxy arguing about art and literature.”

A decade had passed since City of Death was first published, and in that interval David has visited Paris and has become a professional theatre director. Both of these experiences inform the new version. “I'd like to make more of the Paris stuff for the simple reason that I have firsthand knowledge of all the ‘sites’ in the story now... I tried last time to expand on the Hamlet stuff a bit but ran out of time and inspiration - so all that happened in the published book was that the Doctor retrieved the first draft of Hamlet from Scarlioni's collection, only to accidentally drop it when they're in primeval Earth. While working on the new edition, in my real life I'm directing a production of Hamlet which goes up at the end of February, so Shakespeare's gloomy Dane is foremost in my mind. Obviously my professional self has issues with City of Death, because the whole business of a first draft of Hamlet is implausible and impossible, but I guess I'll have to suspend my own disbelief!”

Alistair Hughes created new cover illustrations for all five of the novelisations, but he was less enthusiastic about City of Death than he had been about his previous pieces, feeling that images from this story had frequently appeared in print. “I recalled the criticism levelled at the original video cover that there was nothing to suggest the Parisian setting, which many feel is crucial to this story, even if the primeval landscape is more interesting. Paul's stipulation was that the Doctor should feature on the right hand side of the illustration this time, to avoid three left sides in a row, and that his ‘artists lapel badge’ unique to this story should be visible. I also wanted to avoid showing Scaroth (the obvious choice for this cover's baddie) in the often-seen suit and cravat, so decided to feature him in the Jagaroth ship cockpit, space-suited and surrounded by flight consoles. His hand (admittedly un-Jagaroth-like) is mine as I felt it was a necessary adornment for a control console! The inclusion of the Eiffel tower is perhaps a little too montage-y for the usual style of this season's covers, but does convey the Paris setting without being too obtrusive. And finally, the Doctor is a combination of his City of Death ‘hair’ and a publicity shot of Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes, which goes to show just how difficult it has become to find good, original reference for the Fourth Doctor.” The cover was printed on green card, inspired by the Jagaroth and also to match the look of the cover of Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden, another Season Seventeen novelisation.

The cover was printed on green card and the book was published in April 2002, nearly ten years after its first edition. The book has so far sold around 60 copies.

Doctor Who and the City of Death - the second edition - was published in April 2002 as a 84 page (39,465 words) book. The book was reprinted numerous times between 2002 and 2005 (reprints were not recorded on the publication page after 2002), with an estimated 480 copies of this edition printed in total. The last reprinting, a batch of 50 copies, occurred in May 2005 and the book was announced as out of print, along with the rest of the TSV novelisations, in November 2005.