Everything Old is New Again — Thoughts on a few Target audio novels

Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive (Target Doctor Who Library)Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive by David Fisher

Revisiting some of the original Doctor Who Target novels in audio form has been an interesting experiment, especially going back to those that I have strong memories of or recall enjoying a great deal the first time around.

One that elicits good memories and feelings of enjoyment is David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive.” My recollections of the novel were that it did a nice job of world-building and character development, all while keeping the basic story from the television screen in tact, even if it wasn’t necessarily a beat for beat adaptation.

In fact, I’d say that Fisher spends the bulk of his time adapting what is (on-screen anyway) the first installment of the story that the rest of his novel ends up feeling a bit too rushed to get to the finish line. I’d love to know what Fisher might have done without the publisher imposed page-count on the Target novels of this era.

Alas, it appears that Fisher isn’t going to re-work his initial novelization or expand it any for the audio release, which I think is a bit of a shame.

All of that said, this one holds up remarkably well. Again, a lot of it comes down to Fisher’s world-building and filling it details that are merely hinted at in the television version. Fisher also brings a bit of a Douglas Adams sensibility to certain passages of the novel, which works fairly well, for the most part.

Lalla Ward’s reading of the novel is solid and exactly what you’d expect from the woman who brought the second Romana to life on our screens. The only disappointment to the audio version is that they couldn’t secure the rights to use the musical score from the televised version for the audio book. Of course, this is entirely a personal bias, but I think the audio score for “The Leisure Hive” is one of the best and most memorable incidental scores ever created for the classic series (part of it may be the umpteen and one listens to my dubbed copy of Doctor Who: The Music growing up), thus making it feel a bit odd when another set of musical cues are used to signal chapter breaks and changes in the audio book release.

But if that’s all I can find wrong with this release (and it pretty much is) that means I’m probably nitpicking and obsessing over details that don’t amount to much in the final equation.

Yes, this one is as good as I recall and it’s one of the better adaptations Target produced from the range.


Doctor Who #127: The Mysterious PlanetDoctor Who #127: The Mysterious Planet by Terrance Dicks

One of Terrance Dicks’ final entries in the classic Doctor Who Target novel line, “The Mysterious Planet” feels more like Dicks going through the motions than anything else.

It’s hard to read this and recall that Dicks delivered some really good adaptation in his day — “Day of the Daleks” and “The Auton Invasion” are two that immediately spring to mind. And even when he was churning out a book a month, the output by Uncle Terrance just felt better then than it does here.

And yet, of all of the novels adapting “The Trial of a Time Lord,” this one is the most successful of the lot. Again, Terrance offers us nothing new, but at least he’s got one of the better scripts of the season to work with and he’s adapting how old friend Robert Holmes.

This one turned out to be a far more pleasant way to help keep my mind from talking my body out of working out as much as I needed/wanted to. It’s certainly not great literature — I think it’d be a huge stretch to call it literature at all — but it’s still solid enough that fans of classic Doctor Who will probably enjoy it.


Doctor Who: Trial of a Time Lord : Mindwarp (Target Doctor Who Library, No. 139)Doctor Who: Trial of a Time Lord : Mindwarp by Philip Martin

To this fan, “Mindwarp” is a low point of the original run of Doctor Who. It’s a confusing script that isn’t clear on the motivation for certain actions that unfold on our screen and one that leaves me a bit cold, despite the death of a one of my favorite companions.

So it was that when Target first published their adaptation of “Mindwarp,” I hoped that author Philip Martin might take the opportunity to fill a few gaps or at least explain a few things that unfolded on-screen.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with “Mindwarp” and it ends up being as completely forgettable as when it first hit shelves more than twenty years ago and just as frustrating.

I listen to these Target novels while doing various forms of working out because they’re familiar enough to me to not require my full focus the entire time for fear of missing a crucial plot detail or two when the wind comes up or water gets between my waterproof ear buds and my ear drums. But if you saw me running or working out with a confused, frustrated look on my face, odds are it was because I was listening to this audio book and feeling more and more frustration with it as the story went along.

I’ll give Colin Baker credit for trying to make this work, but he’s not given the best source material to work from. There were moments I want to just skip this one and not finish it, but I kept hoping Martin might be just about to find the storytelling spirit he did for “Vengeance on Varos” and put it on display here.

That never quite happens and it leaves me wondering why this one would get an audio book release and why old favorites like “The Day of the Daleks” and “The Curse of Fenric” are still sitting there, just begging for an audio book release.


Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids (Target Doctor Who Library, No. 125)Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids by Pip Baker

I vividly recall the day I found the paperback release of “Terror of the Vervoids” in my local bookstore. It was the first serial from “The Trial of a Time Lord” season to be released in the Target range and I eagerly snapped it.

I then carried it around with me, stealing moments to read it and never quite realizing how strange the cover might be to someone who hadn’t seen the original serial and wasn’t familiar with Doctor Who.

Just look at the cover and tell me you don’t think of the Seinfeld episode where no one can remember his date’s name but it rhyme with a female body part.

But, I digress.

As difficult as it was to get through “Mindwarp,” “Terror of the Vervoids” is no picnic either. Pip and Jane Baker bring absolutely nothing new to the printed page. In fact, this is a classic example of a straight forward script to screen adaptation as one is likely to find in the Target line. While it might make sense to streamline certain scenes, the Bakers instead are slavishly devoted to their original script and rarely deviate from it.

It’s not quite as disappointing as “Mindwarp,” but it certainly is not a solid example of what this range could and should do when it’s at it’s best.

Now, if you’re wondering why I’ve done three of the four segments from “The Trial of a Time Lord,” but not the concluding two-parter, I can only say that after listening to these three, my mind felt like it wanted a break from this season and that I could circle back and hear “The Ultimate Foe” at a later date.   Plus the idea of spending four or so more hours hearing the Baker’s script adapted the printed page was more than I wanted to bear at the time.   I will get back to it, someday….

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