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"A Pleasant, Open Face..."

Writing, the Terrance Dicks Way

By Thomas Whitby

Terrance Dicks is a name synonymous with Target Doctor Who novelisations. Of 154 novelisations, his name appears on 64 (42%). Dicks has often been labelled a formula writer in his approach to Doctor Who novels, so I have taken a specific feature of his books - his description of the Fifth Doctor in all seven novelisations Dicks wrote for this era, and see how closely they compared.

All seven books state directly that this is the Doctor's fifth incarnation. Kinda says that he is "now at the beginning of his fifth incarnation". He is variously described as slight, rather slight, slightly-built or just plain slender. All seven books mention that he has fair hair, and all except The Caves of Androzani (perhaps because it is the last Fifth Doctor book), describe him as young. Four to Doomsday says that he "seemed to be growing younger rather than older". What exactly "a pleasant open face" is escapes me, but all but two of Dicks' books use this description. Kinda simply says that he is open-faced, and Arc of Infinity is the only open faceless book. The most original observation Dicks makes about the Fifth Doctor is when he describes him as having "an air of mildly-bemused curiosity" in The Caves of Androzani.

"He was dressed, somewhat incongruously, in the costume of an Edwardian cricketer" says Warriors of the Deep; all seven books make reference to the 'Edwardian cricketer' attire, all say that this included striped trousers. He apparently wears a blazer in three books, a frock-coat in another three, and a coat in the remainder. All seven books agree that it is fawn, and all but the two Mara novels add that it has red piping.

His sweater is simply described as white in two books, as a white cricketing sweater in another two, and "a cricket sweater bordered in red and white" in The Caves of Androzani. The Doctor apparently does not wear his sweater in either of the two Mara novels as there is no mention of it. He is said to wear an open-necked shirt in all but Snakedance.

Four to Doomsday ends the description of the Doctor's appearance with "The whole ensemble was completed for reasons best known to himself by a sprig of celery in the lapel". The Caves of Androzani is the only novel in which the celery plays any sort of part in the proceedings, so naturally it is also mentioned there, as well as appearing in The Five Doctors and Snakedance. The celery is not mentioned in the other three books.

The fullest descriptions are in Four to Doomsday (Dicks' first), The Five Doctors (an obvious choice for a full description), Warriors of the Deep and The Caves of Androzani (his last), and the latter of these gets my award for the best description of the Fifth Doctor from Dicks. Kinda contains the briefest and blandest.

"Now at the beginning of his fifth incarnation, he was a fair-haired open-faced young man wearing the dress of an Edwardian cricketer - striped trousers, fawn blazer and an open-necked shirt." (Kinda p.11)

"The Doctor, now in his fifth incarnation, was a slight, fair-haired figure with a pleasant open face, and an air of mildly-bemused curiosity. He wore the garb of an Edwardian cricketer: striped trousers, fawn blazer with red piping, a cricket sweater bordered in red and white, and an open-necked shirt. There was a sprig of celery in his lapel." (The Caves of Androzani p.2)

Only Ian Marter (Earthshock) and Christopher Bidmead (Castrovalva but not Frontios) give any description of the Fifth Doctor at all other than Dicks. Even Terence Dudley (The King's Demons, Black Orchid), with his richly descriptive style, utterly fails to give any indication of the Doctor's appearance. The best description of the Fifth Doctor comes from Ian Marter:

"...the tall fair-haired young man... His face was long and tanned, and although it was gentle it also suggested enormous strength and determination. The cheerful newcomer was dressed in a kind of pale, knee-length blazer with bright red edging, a cream shirt, a cricket pullover and striped trousers. On the open collar of the shirt two red question-marks were embroidered. He looked as though he were dressed for a summer garden party or a regatta." (Earthshock, p.12)

Okay, so there's no mention of the celery, but there's also no 'open face' - and Marter is the only Fifth Doctor novelist to mention the question-marks on the Doctor's collar!

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).