>Recently, the BBC aired a radio program examining the impact of Doctor Who in print on the reading habits of children of that era. The program specifically looked at the Target line of novels that in the era before home release of Doctor Who and UK repeats of early serials, was the only way some fans had of finding out what happened in earlier Doctor Who stories.
I read and had an extensive collection of the Target novels in my younger days. And then when the series was put on hiatus for fourteen years, I moved over into the original fiction lines of the New Adventures and the Missing Adventures.
And I have to admit, I loved them. I believe I’ve read the entire line of the New Adventures and a great majority of the Missing Adventures. And while I can’t recall specific details of every novel I read, there were a few that stood out.
One was “The Dying Days” or as I call it, “The TV Movie Done Right.” Lance Parkin tells the elements of the TV movie that worked and crafts a far better story than the TV movie did. Of course, I can see why it’d never work to bring in new fans, but that doesn’t mean I still didn’t love it.
Then there was just about any novel by Paul Cornell from “Human Nature” to “Love and War” to “No Future.” I can remember eagerly anticipating a lot of the books and being glued to the pages for “The Also People” and “Legacy.”
And then, there’s “Conundrum.” The story takes place in the midst of a five-book arc in which an old adversary has returned. The novels do a nice job of keeping the identity of this old adversary under wraps, all while telling some fascinating, intriguing stories. And while I’m sure a lot of fans will disagree with me and wonder why I didn’t pick “The Dying Days” or “Human Nature” (both very good), I’m putting up “Conundrum” as my favorite novel. It’s one of those books I picked up at the bookstore one evening and once I cracked the cover, I couldn’t put it down. A lot of it’s probably nostalgia for how much I enjoyed it at the time and how eager it made for the next books in the series (it’s the third of the five books).
I loved the book then, though I wonder at times if my nostalgia for it is similar to how fans who grew up watching the older serials felt about those stories looking back. I recall the days of the Doctor Who Magazine letters column where fans would hold up certain stories as the great ones and talk about how Doctor Who had never been that good before and would never be that good again. Of course, it was easy to say since most fans hadn’t seen the story or stories in question. But then along came VHS and the stories were released…and the general opinion shifted a bit. Some stories were confirmed as classics, others were re-evaluated. I’m afraid that if I were to go back and re-read “Conundrum” and the entire NA line now, I might re-evaluate things. But until I find the time to do that, I’ll count this one as my favorite novel.