Terrance Dicks (1985)

Here’s a brief exceprt from a DWM Terrance Dicks interview, in which he talks about his work writing novelisations for the Target range.

“In the early days of the show, there were three novelizations – ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’, ‘Doctor Who and the Crusaders’ by David Whitaker, and ‘Doctor Who and the Zarbi’ by Bill Struttion Those were published in hardback and really didn’t make any great impression on the world. Then, in the seventies, Tandem books wanted to start a children’s publishing house, which they called Target. Their first editor was doing the rounds, and he came across these three old books. He bought them and published them in paperbacks and they sold like hotcakes.

“He very shrewdly went to the BBC, saying he desperately needed more ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations. He got himself a contract and eventually got shunted onto our office. I knew then that I was going to be leaving the programme soon, and I’d also always desperately wanted to write a book. I seized on this opportunity and said I would do one for them. That was ‘The Auton Invasion’. I then became a sort of unofficial editor, and farmed them out amongst a group of the writers, like Malc Hulke, Barry Letts, Gerry Davis, Brian Hayles etc. Gradually, over the years, most of the other writers dropped out, and there was a time when I had a virtual monopoly on the books.

“Since they’ve become more successful, more and more of the writers of the original scripts are thinking that they would like to do the book of their own script, which they have every right to do. So now, I do a smaller proportion of them, but that suits me very well because I don’t want to do only ‘Doctor Who’ books forever.

“The backbone of each book is something called the PAB script, which stands for ‘Programme as Broadcast’. When a programme is completely finished and edited, the BBC prepares a sort of retrospective script, which is taken from what is actually on the screen. What I will do is get the PAB script and read it, then have a viewing of the programme on videotape, from which I will take notes of the purely visual things. The sets may not be as described in the script, the costumes may be different, the appearance of the actors won’t be described, etc. Then, I sit down with the script beside me, and make my way through it, turning the story into a book.

“I try to change as little as possible. I will sometimes change a line, almost a matter of instinct. Sometimes a line that’s written to be spoken doesn’t produce the same effect when it’s read. Also, sometimes you have to fill in some holes or explain a few things. If it’s a particularly complex story, or if it’s a sequel to another story, I’ll write a little prologue to make things clearer. For example, I just novelised ‘Warriors of the Deep’, which is a new story that features the Silurians and the Sea Devils, and refers back to two Jon Pertwee stories. So there’s quite a lot in the book which wasn’t on the screen at all.”

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