wheezing groaning
March 21, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

In the dim and distant past before video recorders, never mind DVDs and the interweb, the only way a Doctor Who fan could re-live old episodes of the programme was via the Target Books novelizations. The BBC is reissuing some of the classic stories with new intros by the likes of Neil Gaiman.

They will be retaining the classic covers by Chris Achilleos

Problems might ensue if they do 'Genesis of the Daleks'...
posted by fearfulsymmetry (32 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That will be a welcome replacement of that grating into by Harlan Ellison, then.
posted by everichon at 1:36 PM on March 21, 2011

I wonder if they'll reissue/update the Program(me) Guide (1, 2)?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:48 PM on March 21, 2011

Praise be to Terrance Dicks!
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on March 21, 2011

Of course, there was ONE way to re-live old episodes...the old-fashioned rerun.
posted by Billiken at 1:53 PM on March 21, 2011

For the episodes that survived, maybe, though due to some short sighted BBC policies that wasn't all of them. And they were always very stingy with the Who re-runs when I was growing up - there's still classic storylines I know only from the novelisation.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2011

They tended just to repeat the shows in the following summer then that was that. It was an enormous event when the reshowed the first story (and some of the others) for the (I think) 20th Anniversary.

There's a very entertaining* doc on the Revenge of the Cyberman DVD (which was the first story released on video tape) about the underground trade in bootleg videos in the early days of home video in the 80s. Pure gold was having a friend in Australia who could record the old Pertwee / Baker shows being shown over there at the time (or an insider at the BBC who had access to the archive).

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:02 PM on March 21, 2011

There are still quite a few lost episodes. And some that exist in an incomplete form (like photos + audio tapes).
posted by kmz at 2:07 PM on March 21, 2011

After many moves and many different types of lives lived, the only thing that has stayed in my possession since I was 12 years old have been my ever-growing collection of Target books.

And though I love (many of them) and meeting Terrence Dicks was just about the high-point of my life as a fan, thank God they weren't the only way I could re-live many old episodes.*

Because even though some of them might not have lived up to the standard set on the page, the show is always my preferred version.

* Being able to watch the episodes unspool weekly over Iowa Public TV pretty much from the moment I discovered it -- with only one time when they went from Logopolis to Robot, which really meant seeing the Tom Baker episodes I hadn't seen already and only a repeat of three seasons -- might be the only good thing about growing up where I did.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:25 PM on March 21, 2011

I loved these books as a child, to the extent that I found the actual show a bit of a let down when TVNZ finally started showing it again. Looking back, the books were a very mixed bag. Some of them were very simple reworking of the scripts, but occasionally the author would go crazy with all sorts of extra details and subplots, usually improving the duller episodes.

Also of note: the unauthorised books written by fans to cover the gaps left when target stopped publishing the official novels.
posted by AndrewStephens at 2:31 PM on March 21, 2011

usually improving the duller episodes

The way to do this when watching the DVDs is to have the info text on. I swear sometime I'm going to make a drinking game with the info text (drink when you find out something cheesy is due to budgetary problems; drink when the guest star was on Z Cars; drink twice when the guest star was on Nu Who; etc.).

I never got into the audio dramas or the novels, but I might try some of the novels on for size now that getting into them doesn't necessarily mean going down an ebay/dealer room rabbit hole.
posted by immlass at 3:08 PM on March 21, 2011

There are still quite a few lost episodes. And some that exist in an incomplete form (like photos + audio tapes).

The story of the lost episodes is one with many odd twists and turns. SF Debris (previously) has made a nice long two part documentary to tie them all together, "Lost In Time: Wiped, Junked, But Not Forgotten" (Part 1), (Part 2).
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2011

I miss the Target Books though. Kind of like an extended version of what they did for Star Trek with James Blish.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:19 PM on March 21, 2011

And if I ever invent a time machine, I might go back in time and recover the lost episodes before they get destroyed.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:19 PM on March 21, 2011

Doctor Who and The Cave Monsters (available for pre-order)
by Malcolm Hulke
with introduction by Terrance Dicks

Will Terrance Dicks' intro be just some conversation with himself, with "he said" and "she said" appended to the end?

(Joking aside, "Timewyrm: Exodus" was the business)
posted by John Shaft at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've still never read Kim Newman's Time and Relative... will have to track that donw someday.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on March 21, 2011

I had a ton of these when I was a kid, and most still live with my mom in Cleveland. I have to say this for the Target books: Those are some damn well-made paperbacks. The spines didn't crack! Most of the paperbacks I have from that era look like they've been through a war, but those Targets look brand new (minus the inevitable yellowing of the pages). As for the books themselves, reading one before seeing the episode in question tended to lend itself to heartbreak, as the incredible Heavy Metal-esque alien vistas I imagined were inevitably realized as spaceship "models" (like an upside-down aerosol can with some rubber taped around it) landing in sandboxes that were meant to represent the surface of Mars or something. I'm only now getting used to a Who with an FX budget.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I miss the Target Books though. Kind of like an extended version of what they did for Star Trek with James Blish."

Yes, exactly! Ten bajillion years ago we had no cable TV, and I first learned of Star Trek through James Blish. His adaptations were just another series of short stories set in a common universe, like Asimov's Galactic Empire or Heinlein's future history. When I eventually saw the show it was something of a shock to discover what Kirk and Spock really looked like.

Doctor Who was the reverse. I'd never heard of the show before we got cable TV, and only discovered it while flipping channels on a Friday night. It was insane, bizarrely violent and wonderfully imaginative, and I instantly fell in love with whatever it was.

Then the novels seemed to appear almost simultaneously, and I set on them like a starving man, desperate for more information about this crazy show. They were really confusing, because the Doctors on the covers weren't all the same as the Doctors on TV, but they also filled in so many blanks. Through the novels I learned about Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor, who the companions were supposed to be, the nature and function of the TARDIS and about organizations like UNIT. It was a shared universe like the Galactic Empire, but instead of telling stories about different people who lived at different times, these stories were about the adventures of one man who had several different faces, and all the companions, friends and enemies he accumulated over the years.

I loved those books. And to this day there are episodes of the show that I've never seen, but vividly remember thanks to the Target novelizations. First and greatest of them all is "The Web of Fear," with its crazy combination of Yetis and spider webs in the train tunnels. Then there was "Invasion of the Dinosaurs," with the awesomest cold opening of all time: some poor schlub goes to London to watch a football match, gets drunk and falls asleep, then wakes up to discover a deserted city that's haunted by dinosaurs. It blew my eleven year old mind.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:05 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

bizarrely violent

But... but... The Doctor is a pacifist!
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on March 21, 2011

Maybe he's a pacifist, but his villains killed enough people for three shows in any average adventure. There were even some episodes where everybody died, except for the Doctor and his friends. Heck, sometimes the companions even got it! Alas, poor Adric...
posted by Kevin Street at 4:21 PM on March 21, 2011

Well, you know, he's very sorry.
posted by Artw at 4:26 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Artw, I think you mean SORRY! VERY VERY SORRY.

And the doc's not always been a pacifist.. see Doc3 and his venetian(?) aikido, and resorting to frilly fisticuffs at every opportunity.
posted by coriolisdave at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2011

Venusian aikido. Venetian aikido is just flipping somebody into a canal.
posted by maqsarian at 4:47 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Used only for self defence! Like when he'd run people over with a hovercraft in self defence!
posted by Artw at 4:47 PM on March 21, 2011

Ooh, for anyone who hasn't seen it: this year's Red Nose Day special (part 1, part 2)!
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

That will be a welcome replacement of that grating into by Harlan Ellison, then.

is this real or a joke? i'd like to read that
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:49 PM on March 21, 2011

drink when the guest star was on Z Cars

HA! I think I've only ever watched one serial with infotext on, but I have a feeling I would already be absurdly drunk by the end of that.
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 6:12 PM on March 21, 2011

I used to absolutely love Doctor Who, but in the last few years, it's becoming grating to me. The last season more so than older series. Probably doesn't help that one of the people i tend to watch it with is a Fanatic of it, (with a capital F) and i guess is a "name" in the fandom, having consulted Neil Gaiman on his episode this season, so we never hear the end of how great it is and how its science is so important (really? always seemed more fantasy to me).

I've read a few of the books, mostly the Tom Baker and McCoy eras, but lately i wonder why bother with the way continuity keeps getting changed at the whim of whomever is heading the show. If i pretend it's more a re-imagining, or alternate world, i guess it wouldn't bother me as much, but lately it's feeling like every few seasons things get the "it's only a dream" type change just so the person in charge can make it fit their idea. The books annoyed me too as they would keep tossing in hints of things that would never get dealt with as far as i know (the McCoy ones seemed to keep hinting he was really some other time lord who knew Rassalon, or something, then drop it), just started getting annoying.

Sorry for the rant, i just kind of miss the more laid back and less mood swing doctors of old, with less "This is serious business". :P
posted by usagizero at 9:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Who has no cannon!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:25 AM on March 22, 2011

is this real or a joke? i'd like to read that

It's real. Basically, Ellison gives a somewhat elitist overview of the differences between Doctor Who and American sf television of the Star Trek ilk, beginning with an anecdote of being over in Britain and having Michael Moorcock set him down before the telly and say "Now be quiet and just watch." Excerpts.

It's terribly dated and rooted in a kind of genre insecurity that predates the wide popular acceptance of science fiction in the movies and a modern winking ironic acceptance of, well, trash. Ultimately, a curmudgeon who's openly feuded with the TV/movie end of sf through most of his career might not be the best person to pump up enthusiasm for something in the TV/movie end of sf.

Something like Apple hiring the Unabomber as Chief Evangelist.

usagizero, you may want to read Paul Cornell on canonicity in Doctor Who. "Not giving a toss about how it all fits together is one of Doctor Who’s oldest, proudest traditions, a strength of the series."
posted by dhartung at 11:40 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry for the rant, i just kind of miss the more laid back and less mood swing doctors of old, with less "This is serious business". :P

S'OK. They seem to be a product of the era, specifically the taste and sophistication of BBC production and the general public. What we have today is influenced by the changes in television from the time Doctor Who was born until now, and the kinds of shows that Davies and Moffat have made and would like to make.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:06 PM on March 22, 2011

Paul Cornell on canonicity in Doctor Who.

Paul Cornell is great. Usagizero might particularly like him on The Third Doctor.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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