From 1973 until 1994, the Target Doctor Who paperbacks
were a mainstay of the publishing world. From humble beginnings,
they grew into a list running to 156 individual titles and
selling over 13 million copies world-wide. This is the story
of Target Books. Noted researcher and historian David J Howe
chronicles the origins of the imprint, speaking to all the
major players in its development, from editors to art directors,
managing directors to artists and authors, and charts the
books' critical reception as well as the fortunes and failings
of the many publishing houses involved in their production...
Theres a whole generation of fans who grew up reading
the good Doctors thrilling adventures in the Target
novelisations and, in many ways, this cherished range of books
became almost as important as the television episodes themselves.
back in the mists of time, when Doctor Who repeats
were almost unheard of, long before the days of wall-to-wall
re-runs on digital channels, long before you could walk into
a shop on the High Street and purchase a DVD boxed set of
an entire season (and still have enough change left over for
an inflatable Dalek and a pair of Cyberman slippers), the
only way of re-living a classic story was to track down a
copy of the Target novelisation from the pen of the mighty
were a hugely important part of the young fans life,
and we would consider it a fabulous privilege to be able to
dip into the mythical realms of vintage Who, and immerse
ourselves in stories that we could only ever dream of seeing
on the small screen.
quality of the books was, of course, variable. The range got
off to a cracking start in the early 70s with deliciously
enhanced and extended works from the likes of Malcolm Hulke,
Brian Hayles and, of course, the ubiquitous Terrance Dicks
was then a momentous slide downhill as the other writers gradually
lost interest, and Dicks found himself with an accidental
monopoly on the entire range, settling on a very simplistic
style which enabled him to knock out a couple of books at
a time on a rainy Sunday afternoon when there wasnt
much on the telly.
things picked up again in the mid-80s, as more effort
was made to persuade the original script writers to novelise
their own stories, resulting in a glorious peak of consistently
superb books which would continue right up until the eventual
demise of the range.
there was always something magical about the Target books,
even during the absolute nadir when Dicks seemed to be simply
typing out the scripts and adding a few wheezing, groaning
bits of description.
you were eagerly awaiting the latest brand new book to materialise
in your local WHSmith, or desperately hunting down old and
battered copies in second-hand bookshops (and pondering how
much it mattered that some idiot had written Only 20p!
on the cover in permanent marker), collecting the Target books
was a crucial and deeply wonderful part of being a fan.
Target Book is a joyous celebration of those days, and its
about time too. Its baffling to think that we have about
273 reference books to peruse on the clunky old series, but
its taken this long to come up with a guide to such
a massively important part of Doctor Whos legacy.
it worth the wait? Unquestionably, unequivocally, yes.
roots of the book lie in a series of terrific features written
by David J Howe for Doctor Who Magazine several years
ago, which chronicled the secret history of the books for
the very first time, and were amongst the very best articles
ever to be published in the magazines 28-year history.
Howe had simply reprinted the text of those articles into
this stunningly designed book, it would still have been great.
As it is, the articles have been revisited and hugely expanded
to such a degree that the book is now a completely fresh overview
of the history of the Target range.
the publishers humble beginnings in reprinting a couple
of old 60s childrens books that nobody else seemed
interested in touching, through the dazzling success of the
70s and 80s when Doctor Who titles dominated
the bookshelves, right up until the quiet death of the range
in the early 90s, David J Howe has left no stone unturned
in compiling an exhaustive and definitive study of a publishing
of the major players are interviewed and profiled, be they
editors, writers, artists or managing directors.
compelling story is told within a beautiful landscape of lavish
design, featuring the cover of every single Doctor Who
book produced under the Target banner, from the 1973 Chris
Achilleos cover of Dr Who and the Daleks, to the final
Alistair Pearson cover of the The Talons of Weng-Chiang
reprint in 1994.
the extra books that existed outside the novelisation
range are meticulously covered here, from The Doctor Who
Dinosaur Book to the short-lived Companions of Doctor
Who series, as well as special coverage on overseas titles
(and some of their frankly baffling artwork!) and a wealth
of previously unseen concept art and unused covers.
is quite simply a flawless journey into glorious nostalgia,
and every conceivable angle is covered in breathtaking detail
(want to know exactly how many chapters were titled The
Terror Begins or Escape To Danger, and in which
books they appear? No? Well tough, its all here anyway!)
might be a history of the classic books, but its perhaps
quite ironic that it has itself ended up as a genuine contender
for the crown of best Doctor Who book ever.