Since Roger and I began the Junkyard, almost a year ago, I’ve found myself periodically discussing the Doctor Who Target novelizations. They were a big deal when opportunities to obtain Doctor Who merchandise in the US were few and far between! When I was eight years old, my mom and dad got me the first Doctor Who novel in my collection: The Aztecs. My mom’s attitude was that if I was going to watch and read science fiction, at least I should learn something from it. Unwittingly, she started that collection. I might never have done that had it not been for her.
Then a friend of mine gave me a gift card for a local bookstore, B. Dalton. I went to pick up another Doctor Who book, and the one that caught my eye was The Monster of Peladon. When I went to pay for it, I found that my gift card afforded me a lot more than one book… so I nabbed 17 of them in one sitting. It didn’t take me long to get through them.
Sometime later, I went to a small comic book shop in Staten Island called Jim Hanley’s Universe (which still exists). When I grabbed a smaller but no less impressive number of Doctor Who books, I went to the counter to find the same cashier working that had been working at B. Dalton. Under such bizarre circumstances, a friendship was inevitable; we still talk frequently and get together often!
Then there was The Five Doctors which I had to read twice; and I had to get the second cover when that was released too, because… why not?
After my friend took another job, I was at the mercy of other workers of Jim Hanley’s. I was irate when another friend of mine obtained Battlefield from a used book store, since I was still waiting on the one I ordered from Hanley’s months earlier! Yeah… sometimes you just get a bum deal.
But in the early days of my collecting, it’s important to remember that I didn’t know anything about the Doctor’s ability to regenerate. I only knew Tom Baker as the Doctor. Yet that did nothing to impede my enjoyment of these books. Yes, the young old man or the crotchety old man or the cosmic hobo… they were all Tom Baker to me. And you know what? They still worked. As time went on though, I did discover the whole regeneration thing on TV and then found the books that coincided with those stories. It all made sense, I just took the long way around to get there.
Most of this is not new information. I’ve shared a great deal of it before. But I bring it up for two reasons now.
The first: as a father now, I know the value of reading and hate how difficult it can be to get children to do it. I was the same way until these books! They were truly special. They were short enough not to be intimidating; they were interesting enough not to be ignored. I have such vivid memories of reading some of them too, like The Aztecs and later, The Macra Terror! I even read one of them in a single sitting over about 2 hours, but I’ll talk about that one more when we review the episode. I’ll tease with this: it was a lost episode and I made a wish…
Towards the end, all I needed was Genesis of the Daleks, which I found at a convention. Sadly, I blundered; I let the seller see how excited I was and he claimed the price was $6. That’s not a terrible price, but I’d never spent more than 3.95 on them. I was pretty sure he knew he could eke out a few extra dollars from me, and he did! But right after buying it Sergeant Benton himself was behind me and signed it. Talk about a surprise value on that book; well worth the $6! Those Target books were a source of immense joy to me. Even Slipback and The Pescatons, and the entire lost season of Colin’s Doctor, although Slipback was a tough one to get through, if I’m honest, while The Pescatons made my vacation house quite eerie, being so close to the water!
The second reason I bring this up: as readers know, this past Friday was my birthday and I’ve had a busy weekend. No, I wasn’t stopping a Kraal invasion like Tom did on my birthday, but I didn’t have time to work on the post I was planning. But what did happen was wonderful: my wife and kids got me a spectacular gift.
This morning I started reading City of Death, because that’s what happens when you have a Douglas Adams book in front of you. I confess that with my schedule being what it is these days, I don’t think I’ll be able to blitz through these at the speed I used to, but I will be following this up with reviews as I complete them. Let me just say this to readers of this blog: the original TARGET books were marvelous. They had the perfect weight and feel. God knows, they even had a smell that was perfect – oh, admit it, if you’re a book collector, you know! And of course, if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you can’t let these escape you. Find them! Give a few a read through. They are easy, fun, and ultimately Doctor Who! And I can’t wait to add these 5 to the bookshelf when I finish reading them! ML