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A New Dimension For Target?

By Paul Scoones

Since 1981, Target Books have averaged an output of about 9 - 10 new Doctor Who novels each year. 1989, however, will see that output drop significantly, as the publishers will have finally exhausted their stocks of serials requiring the novelisation treatment. Providing the last nine serials from the first 24 years of the show remain tied up in copyright ( the Dalek serials and those by Douglas Adams), we can expect to get a grand total of four new titles in 1990, four being the present number of serials produced each season.

Or will we? Thanks to the efforts of editor/writer Nigel Robinson and his successor Jo Thurm, we can reasonably expect to get perhaps two extra titles a year. These fall under two categories: One is those that appear in The Companions of Doctor Who series. This has so far produced three novels, featuring not the Doctor and the TARDIS, but rather the adventures of one or more of the Doctor's companions after their departure from the series. We have had Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma, Harry Sullivan's War and K9 and Company so far, the latter based on the one-off TV special of the same name. No more titles are scheduled as yet, but Janet Fielding is keen to further the exploits of Tegan Jovanka, the character she played in the Davison years, and Victor Pemberton, a writer during the Troughton years, would like to write the story of Victoria Waterfield, one of Troughton's most popular companions. Pemberton is of course most qualified for this task as he wrote Victoria's final story, Fury from the Deep, in which she stayed behind on a gas-rig in the North Sea, thus any future exploits by Victoria might well revolve around that location. Even if these two opportunities are taken up, the potential for expanding on this idea is limited to say the least. A novel about the Brigadier, Romana, Jamie, Leela or Nyssa would be well-received, but few other companions are interesting enough to warrant a book of their own.

The second category is that of the unused (yet written) script. I don't know how many of these Doctor Who has clocked up, but I believe it isn't very many. Few serials get beyond an extended storyline and yet not completed as TV stories. There are exceptions, however, and one of these is The Nightmare Fair by Graham Williams, one-time producer of the show. The script was commissioned as the opening story of Season 23, pitting the Sixth Doctor and Peri against a very old foe, the Celestial Toymaker, in Blackpool. Rumour has it that things were mere weeks away from filming when the axe came down, and all plans for the season were wiped. When Williams was approached not so very long ago to turn his script into a novel, he jumped at the chance. The book will come out in the UK at the end of this year, numbered as part of the regular series. Again, the potential here for future novels is small. Even if mere storylines are encompassed as well, this doesn't amount to more than ten at the most where the writer/s are still around to do the novels. Undoubtedly some were rejected because they weren't right for Doctor Who and would similarly be rejected by Target for the same reasons. This does however lead into yet another, unexplored possibility - that of the totally original Doctor Who novel.

Star Trek fans will know that there is an impressive range of novels of this variety for their show, written by not only professional writers but fans as well. If pursued, this avenue could open up a whole new dimension for Target. The untapped potential of plots is certainly far greater than Star Trek. Far more can be attempted in the novel than on screen, such as exotic alien worlds in abundance, huge space battles, complex paradoxes, creatures impossible to realise on a BBC budget, and character-orientated dramas (rather than an emphasis on action and location). It is true that Star Trek seems to be gifted with a large number of talented writers, but surely Doctor Who has a few lurking in its fandom? I have not come into contact with much Doctor Who fan fiction, but there are certainly a number of Doctor Who fiction fanzines published, indicating the existence of some talent in this area. Of course, however, these are only short stories, a mere fraction of the length of a full-length novel such as would be expected by Target. I have written the occasional Doctor Who short story myself, but find the idea of writing a novel daunting to say the least. Fans, of course, would need to write original adventures to the extent that they do not include Cybermen, Sontarans, Daleks, the Master, or any one of countless characters, or indeed situations, that are the creations of other writers, except of course the good Doctor and his companions. I suppose one could include something else from the series, but only in with the permission of its creator. Target would be understandably more keen to commission novels from established writers, whom they could be reasonably sure of getting a good book from. Herein also lies the potential for sequels as well. As you can appreciate, the scope is virtually limitless, more so than the TV series, which is exhibiting a growing reluctance to stray too far from an established formula for each story. It remains to be seen what Target does - if anything - to fill the gap left by the 'completion' of the novelisation series, but I am sure there is a market for the expansion of the range into original stories. Let us look forward, and hope for a new dimension for Target.

This item appeared in TSV 7 (May 1988).