As a child, I was a frequent visitor to my local library. It was the boundary for the furthest point I was allowed to walk unaccompanied, it was a meeting place for friends – and it was the cause of more than one row with my best friend, who had a habit of snatching books out of my hand and rushing to sign them out before I could protest. They were hardback books with white spines that displayed the title and author in thick, black letters. The covers were laminated with plastic sheeting that was often tatty or torn and they had the same four words at the start of each title: ‘Doctor Who and the…’. Terrance Dicks wrote many of them, but there were others by such authors as Malcolm Hulke, David Whitaker and Gerry Davis. Some of them had illustrations inside of people looking shocked in a variety of scientific bases and weird alien landscapes. I had a real fascination for the covers, which were often montages of black-and-white portraits against brightly coloured galaxies made of bubbles.
Many Doctor Who fans who grew up in the 70s and 80s will recognise the descriptions here. Although the hardbacks were published by WH Allen, the paperback editions were released by their sub-brand Target. By the time I was nine years old, and recognising that an eagerness for reading should be encouraged, my parents bought me my first Target books of my own: Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus, Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, and Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. Throughout the 1980s, I added to my collection at Christmas and birthdays, or if I’d saved up enough pocketmoney, and many of my own editions were bought from a two-storey bookshop on Renshaw Street, Liverpool (sadly no longer there). That’s where I bought Doctor Who and the Zarbi, Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons and many, many more…
Despite an enthusiasm for the stories and easy access to other bookshops, I never quite managed to collect the set. Doctor Who had been huge in 1984, but just a year later, it was put on hold for 18 months and even though it limped on for four more years, it wasn’t the communal interest it had once been. By the early 90s, Doctor Who was over and my friends were discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation or looking back to other shows such as Blake’s 7, The Avengers or Gerry Anderson’s puppet series.
In this digital age, where space is limited and bookshelves store DVDs instead, it’s been a real blessing to stumble across someone who has scanned every one of the Doctor Who books, including the covers and illustrations, and made them available in an eBook-friendly format. There are also audiobooks of many of the books, read by the actors who starred in the TV originals. So now, equipped with a complete set of Target books for the first time, I’m ready to start a pilgrimage through time and space.
Just a quick note, though. As of 2021, although there are a select few modern stories adapted (ie, stories transmitted after 2005), there’s no stated intention to novelise every single one. On the upside, the addition of four new novels means there’s now a complete run of books spanning 1963-96. Just to give it a proper end-point therefore, the focus of this project will be the ‘classic’ era only.
Care to join me on this quest? This amazing wiki guide lists all the books in order of publication with loads of extra information. https://tardis.fandom.com/wiki/Target_Books