To a certain group of fans (of which this reviewer is one) Target’s Doctor Who book range was an integral part of their childhood back in those heady days of the 1970s. These were the days before the rise of home video, the advent of DVD and VOD, where if you missed an episode of your favourite programme on the three channels available (yes that’s right, just three TV channels), then you had to hope it would be repeated in the summer. In the case of Doctor Who, repeats were scarce at best. Thankfully Target offered a sliver of salvation with missed episodes and parents memories of Hartnell and Troughton stories with their range of Doctor Who novelisations.
The Target Book: A History of the Target Doctor Who Books tells the story of how a minor, insignificant publisher’s imprint became a powerhouse in the world of children’s books and the problems it encountered from its inception in 1973 until its demise in 1994. Originally published in 2007, this new hardback edition has been expanded and improved with errors from the previous edition having been corrected.
The book itself is a treasure trove of gorgeous artwork, particularly Chris Achilleos’ book covers that became synonymous with the range, and his involvement is covered extensively. There is also a wealth of unused and rejected artwork and how one artist found inspiration for his cover of The Space Pirates after seeing Tom Selleck in Runaway on a cover of STARBURST Magazine. Along with the main text, there are exhaustive sidebars that cover the writers, editors and other contributors that made the books a publishing phenomenon. There’s some surprising revelations too, such as how Terrence Dicks’ novelisations were often cruelly received by fans, and how authors of the early books would use the opportunity to flesh out their own scripts before publishing time constraints put an end to any such creativity.
This book is an indispensable guide to anyone who grew up with, and feels nostalgic towards, these books. Indeed, there are quotes dotted throughout the book which will be immediately familiar to readers, such as " … he had a pleasant, open face…" or “… as if some vast primitive being were in torment…” Even the chapter headings of this book mimic those of the novelisations, such as Countdown to Doom and The Terror Begins.
For a generation, the Doctor Who novels were the gateway into reading for pleasure and an introduction to broadening one’s literary experiences. Indeed, this reviewer went on to discover the likes of Bradbury, Asimov, Philip K. Dick et al., and all because of an alien who travels in a blue box through time and space.
THE TARGET BOOK: A HISTORY OF THE TARGET DOCTOR WHO BOOKS / AUTHOR: DAVID J HOWE / PUBLISHER: TELOS PUBLISHING LTD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW