When I was a kid, nothing was more exciting than getting a new Doctor Who book from the TARGET book range. I utterly adored them. Then, one day, I finished the collection and there were none left to collect. When five new ones came out in recent years, I was delighted. Like a kid all over again, I gobbled them up. And then, once again, I was left with no more Target books… That is, until this year, when The Target Storybook was announced. I had no expectation of what it would look like, I only knew that I wanted it! And for Christmas, I was delighted that my wife found it for me. What I did not expect was to be looking at a large, hard-covered volume! Nevertheless, I was excited… probably more than I should have been since it was one of many gifts, but this was a Target book!
The first thing any logical bibliophile is going to do is… smell it. Yeah, don’t lie; you do it too. Then I gave it a once over before reading the dust jacket. The front cover features Jodie Whittaker writ large, along with smaller images of Tennant, the Bakers, and Smith. The back cover: McGann, Troughton, Pertwee, Hartnell, Davison. The spine features Capaldi. …Wait just a second, where are… oh, on the inside of the dust jacket are the remaining Doctors: Eccleston, Hurt, McCoy … AND ADRIC?!?! Give me a gold star for confusion! Why is Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric on the dust jacket? This warrants explanation! And you’ll have it…
Each story opens with a piece of art to accompany the story so you know which Doctor you’ll be reading about before it begins which is fine; it’s a little perk that this book offers that was seldom seen in the original batch. The Storybook opens with Joy Wilkinson’s Gatecrashers; a mystery for Jodie’s Doctor with her fam: Graham, Yaz and Ryan. Like a televised episode, it splits the group into two smaller parties for them to investigate on their own but brings in a fun story that showed how well Joy understands the characters.
The next story is Simon Guerrier’s Journey out of Terror featuring William Hartnell’s Doctor, alongside Ian and Barbara. It takes place right after leaving Vicki in the haunted house at the Festival of Ghana during The Chase. It took some getting used to the changing voices, following the thoughts of the companions as they worry about what will happen to Vicki, while they get into a brief, unseen adventure of their own.
Terrance Dicks offers us the Second Doctor story, Save Yourself, on a secret mission for the Time Lords while he’s awaiting his trial during The War Games. (There’s an oddly physical element to the Doctor that surprised me in an Uncle Terry story, but I accepted it as it was presented!) This story posits that the 2nd Doctor had many adventures before he was forced to regenerate, and he might not remember them all…
Matthew Sweet gives us an environmentally conscious story, The Clean Air Act. Jo features in the story far more then the 3rd Doctor, but he makes the odd appearance. Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the story is helped along by news articles and letters. An intriguing story that would be perfectly at home during Pertwee’s penultimate season.
Susie Day gives us Punting, about the Fourth Doctor and Romana stuck in the punt while The Five Doctors is going on. Witnessing scenes from the 20th anniversary special from their eyes was fascinating and a refreshing idea. They are not devoid of peril themselves making this much more than just a trip down memory lane.
We come to the explanation that you’ve been waiting for! Matthew Waterhouse gives us a tale about Adric and Nyssa on the Mississippi. Adric is, unsurprisingly, painted in a very good light (“Cool”), but in fairness, this story really stuck with me. Waterhouse is a surprisingly good writer. Oddly the Doctor does not feature at all in this one, because he’s still involved in The Visitation.
Colin Baker himself gives us a story set during The Trial of a Time Lord while the Doctor reviews what story he can use in his own defense. Interstitial Insecurity is, as one should expect of Baker, superbly written and gives us an idea of what was happening behind the scenes during the break between episode 8 and 9 of Trial.
Mike Tucker introduces us to The Slyther of Shoreditch, a story that takes place during the classic Remembrance of the Daleks. We never knew the Daleks had a Slyther on Earth during that episode, but it fits in reasonably well. The story also gives us a precursor to the Time War.
Steve Cole offers us We Can’t Stop What’s Coming, an 8th Doctor story alongside companions Fitz and Trix. I didn’t read the series that featured the two companions, but the idea behind the story is captivating. If I had one complaint with it, it was the two different first-person perspectives we get throughout. (And I don’t think the Doctor would ever “blow someone a kiss”!) That said, I still found this story extremely interesting.
George Mann may have nailed my favorite story in the batch with a War Doctor story called Decoy. This is a triumphant story with the Doctor doing what the Doctor is best at: finding the unseen third option and winning the day! And I could hear Hurt’s voice throughout.
Grounded, by Una McCormack, is another Doctor-less adventure, taking place with Clive, who we meet in the 2005 premiere, Rose. Clive is captured nearly perfectly. And just when I think the writer failed to do her homework, she pulls the rug out from under me! I didn’t see it coming and was very happy with it!
Jenny T. Colgan, who gave us the Target novelization of The Christmas Invasion is at it again, this time taking place in Rose’s dimension post-Doomsday in The Turning of the Tide. The human 10th Doctor and Rose have to save their Earth from a particularly draining enemy. The longest story in the book but as hard to put down as her last Target outing.
The delightfully quirky Citation Needed, written by Jacqueline Raynor, is told from the point of view of an intelligent… well, I won’t ruin it. Let’s just say it’s sort of like an encyclopedia. While it starts with the 11th Doctor, it runs through Jodie’s time, which was unexpected. (I particularly liked the accompanying artwork for this one!)
Then we learn some Pain Management by Beverly Sanford as she brings us a hospital visit with Missy, Bill, Nardole and Capaldi’s Doctor. It’s more of a Missy story but she’s captured magnificently. I would have liked a bit more Capaldi though.
Now, one might think: that’s it, right? Wrong. We have our last story written by Vinay Patel called Letters from the Front. This story is done as a series of letters following Prem’s time in the war as he writes to his love, Umbreen from Demons of the Punjab. Who better to write this story, than the writer of the episode. But Prem’s are not the only letters we’re reading. A certain Thijarian is chronicling his own experiences…
I loved this book, as I’ve always loved the Target novels. Maybe it’s the kid in me that can’t see past the joy I used to get from reading them, but this book just brought smile after smile to my face. I was surprised at how many of the stories took place during another adventure though. We’re talking 7 of them! Not that it takes anything away from them, but when you consider asking writers to write a story, typically it takes place on its own, not during another, but there you have it.
Worth getting? Without a doubt. Target has delivered, yet again, another perfect bulls-eye! And I couldn’t be happier. Now, while I wait for the next announcement, I think I’ll read Tom Baker’s Scratchman. ML