Back in the 1970s, the history of Doctor Who was largely unavailable to its legion of fans whose knowledge of the show’s legacy usually stretched no further than the episodes they could remember having seen in the previous couple of years. 1973 saw the beginning of the Target book revolution when three novelisations published in the 1960s were reissued to enormous acclaim, triggering the launch of a new series of adaptations that would, in time, open up the long mythology of the series well before the advent of home video, DVD and Blu-ray. These pocket-sized paperbacks, with their colourful and evocative covers, became essential readings for fans with only the vaguest memories of the show’s early days or who, perhaps, were barely aware that there had been any previous Doctors prior to the current incumbent. Many of the best-remembered covers from the Target range were the work of Cyprus-born artist Chris Achilléos, who created over thirty thoughtful, punchy illustrations in his own very singular style, more often than not delivering stunning pieces of art that encapsulated the thrill of the Doctor’s adventures far better than any cover blurb.
Kklak! – the name refers to the infamous sound effect Achilléos added to his cover of Malcolm Hulke’s 1976 novelisation of 1974’s Invasion of the Dinosaurs serial – is a beautifully-presented volume that immaculately reprints all of the artist’s Target book covers in chronological order on high quality glossy paper. Each cover is presented in a full-page format without the title credits of the original publications, which makes them appear even more striking than when they first appeared, affording the opportunity for the reader to fully appreciate the composition of the pieces and Achilléos’ commendable attention to detail. Each cover is accompanied by text providing details of the release of each novel, brief story outlines for those unfamiliar with the adventures, and commentary from Achilléos himself. The artist is candid about the strengths and weaknesses of various pieces, clearly frustrated by those occasions when he was given inaccurate photographic reference material (which led to one or two covers featuring Cybermen or Daleks from different eras of the show) and justifying those illustrations where artistic licence brought a greater vivacity to images that might otherwise have undersold the book they were intended for. Achilléos isn’t afraid to criticise his own work, either, pointing out the odd cover that he feels falls short of his normal standards or compositions that don’t quite work. There are some new pieces here too, a handful of illustrations created exclusively for Kklak!, and a few private fan commissions never available to the public before.
Kklak! is a book to cherish and study at leisure. Beyond Achilléos’ own pithy comments, a section at the end of the book contains recommendations and memories by fans; many are names familiar to Who afficionados, others could have benefitted from some context explaining who they are and where they fit into the world of Target book/Chris Achilléos appreciation. But this is terrific, handsome volume, available in a highly-affordable and compact paperback edition and a pricier hardback format. It’s a wonderful nostalgia punch that any fan who lived and breathed Target books in the 1970s and 1980s really won’t be able to resist.You can order the book directly from Candy Jar Books (where the hardback is an exclusive) or pre-order the paperback from Amazon, where it will be published on May 27th.