I discovered Doctor Who in the autumn of 1984. I was eleven years old and growing up in suburban Long Island, New York. A couple of classmates introduced me to the program, which at the time was airing nightly at 7 PM on WLIW/21, a Long Island-based PBS station.
I tuned in first for about twenty-five seconds of Time-Flight Part One. Remarkably, that didn’t scare me off the show forever.
I came back a week later, seriously this time, during Arc of Infinity; the cliffhanger to Part Two made me a fan.
As much as the televised episodes, though, the novelizations published by Target Books in the UK became just as important to me as the nightly PBS airings. These gave me a window into the broader history of the show. Past Doctors. Different companions.
By January 1985 my parents, trying to teach me the value of a dollar, offered me $1 a day to babysit my younger sister after school three days a week. One Target novelization at the time cost $2.95. The deal I quickly struck is that I would forego the cash in exchange for two Doctor Who novelizations every other weekend.
Add in the occasional Saturday night babysitting chore, and on Super Bowl Sunday in 1985 I made my first trip to the then-Waldenbooks at the then-Mid Island Plaza in Hicksville, NY, for my first three novelizations. These remain The Big Three for me.
- Doctor Who and the Cybermen: Having already seen The Five Doctors, I knew that the Cybermen were huge. Huge!
- Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time: I’d already read most of a borrowed copy of this and was sucked in by the mythology. Gallifrey. Time Lords. K-9.
- Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks: Even on Day One of purchasing novelizations, a hobby that would last until I finally completed the series 12 years later, I couldn’t walk away without one Dalek story. Most of the in-jokes wouldn’t make sense until I finally discovered Hitchhiker’s Guide a year later, but this one remains a favorite.
Two of the three, of course, written by Terrance Dicks.
And so it began, every other Saturday a pair of new books.
Now, not quite 30 years later, I still have all the little Target books, heavily marked up and, in many cases, much the worse for wear.
Now I find myself re-reading the novelizations, and I’m keeping this little blog to keep track of my thoughts. What keeps me returning to these slim little books, most of them barely 100 pages of text, most of my copies dog-eared and yellow and marked up in ink where the episode cliffhangers go?
Let’s find out.