History of me: Doctor Who Target Books

In my wardrobe I’ve several plastic crates of books. Too many to realistically store on bookshelves unless I plan on converting a room into a library, these books are destined to stay in relative safety in the dark.

These are my Target paperbacks and these are arguably the reason I’ve become an author. They are THAT IMPORTANT.

To appreciate quite why these books are so important you need to be a Doctor Who fan of a certain age.

I was born in the seventies so grew up watching Doctor Who in the 1980’s. Back in those dark days, and for a Doctor Who fan, those dark days would get even darker, there was a special way to watch Doctor Who. You sat down on your butt in front of the TV when it was broadcast, usually Saturdays (but for a strange period on Mondays and Tuesdays), and concentrated. You had to concentrate you see, because we (like most families) didn’t get their first VCR until the mid to late 1980’s, and repeats were rare.

Without DVDs or digital downloads or Netflix, Target novelisations were our ONLY way of ‘seeing’ a programme more than once. Written by a range of writers but most prolifically by Terrance Dicks (once Who script writer), they were the ideal thing a young boy needed to feed his imagination. Released in a seemingly random pattern with different doctors being released out of sequence they had a magic all of their own.

Instead of pocket money, every Saturday, we went as a family to the Berni Inn, where Dad paid with luncheon vouchers, before wandering to Wh Smith where I could have a book. I always tried to hurry my parents up on that walk to Smith’s, getting irritated whenever we’d pause in Woolworths or Marksies. And once there, I knew exactly which shelves to head for. They never had many, but I’d always have the choice of about five or so.

And with a book in hand I’d get the chance to read the blurb before having to pay for it and watch it get lost in mum’s shopping bags until we got home.

The books were always brilliant. Rarely following precisely what happened on screen, they took the opportunity to flesh out scenes or a character’s back story, or explain away plot holes that didn’t make sense on screen.

Some of my favourite things about them:

  • The covers. Just gorgeous (until some of those dodgy Peter Davison photo covers).
  • The mystery of not quite knowing which Doctor I was reading about.
  • Uncovering the history of the show. Which companions went with which Doctor. What on earth was Bessie and how did he fit it in the Tardis?
  • The brevity of story telling. These weren’t epic novels. I could read one in a couple of hours.

But buying them from the shops was never enough. Every Wednesday, Mum would take me to the library where I’d only be allowed 3 books on my card (kids have it unlimited now, don’t know they’re born!), and all 3 would be Target Doctor Who novels. I’d read one on the Wednesday night and the other two on the subsequent nights, usually hiding back in my room once the Six o’Clock news came on.

But back to those crates in my wardrobe. A secret. They aren’t those same ones I had collected week by week as a child. No. Shame. I got rid of those. In one of those terrifying periods in every Doctor Who fan’s life when he thinks that it would be a good idea to ‘grow up’ and put away Doctor Who things. I can’t even remember where those books ended up. I hope I was at least smart enough to sell them rather than throw them in the bin. The books in crates are thanks to eBay (no doubt other fans thinking it’s lime to grow up). But these books aren’t going anywhere.

This time the books are here to stay.

Doctor Who fan? What are your memories of Target books? Did you keep them or give them away?

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