(2019) various, BBC Books, £16.99 / Can$35.99 / US$23.99, hrdbk, 424pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94474-1
What exactly is The Target Storybook? Well, it’s a collection of fifteen stories featuring all of the Doctors released as part of the newly re-launched Target Doctor Who series of books. Why, fifteen stories? Well, the current Doctor – number thirteen – gets two stories devoted to her, and we also have the addition of a War Doctor story.
Apart from the stories themselves, each has an illustration by Mike Collins to go along with it, which are fairly decent interpretations of the different Doctors, apart from possibly, his rendition of Christopher Eccleston. The wraparound hardback cover also shows all of the Doctors, plus Adric. Why Adric? Well Mathew Waterhouse, the actor who played him, writes the 5th Doctor story, “The Dark River” featuring himself as Adric and Nyssa.
Not to be outdone a certain Colin Baker writes the sixth Doctor’s adventure. Readers of Who novels and short story anthologies will also be familiar with some of the writers here; namely Jenny T. Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner, Steve Cole and the legendary Terrance Dicks, pastDoctor Who script editor and episode writer as well as the author of many a Target Doctor Who novelisation.
Some of the stories take place during crucial periods in the timeline of the Doctors, thus, Terrance Dicks second Doctor contribution “Save Yourself” takes place after his trial in “The War Games” but before his banishment to Earth in the form of Jon Pertwee. Likewise, Susie Day’s “Punting” revisits that scene in The Five Doctors where Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are punting just before the Doctor is taken by a wonky time scoop; and Colin Baker writes about his own incarnation during the time of The Trial of the Time Lord series with “Interstitial Insecurity” and makes a pretty good stab at being a writer - maybe we’ll see him pen some other adventures for himself in the future.
Showing my age, I have to confess that my own favourite Doctor is the second one – yes, I am that old, but I have to acknowledge Matthew Sweet’s excellent handling of the third Doctor and the UNIT gang in his story “The Clean-Air Act”; as is Joy Wilkinson’s thirteenth Doctor story “Gatecrashers” which follows directly on from events which occurred in the “Witchfinders” episode which she wrote. The Time War also looms large in Mike Tucker’s “The Slyther of Shoreditch” featuring the 7th Doctor, and in George Mann’s “Decoy” where the War Doctor takes on a fleet of Daleks.
The Doctor hardly appears in some of the tales – I’ll leave you, the reader, to spot those – and in some cases the stories are so well written, so original and funny, that it hardly seems to matter; while in others there is a Doctor-sized hole in the story. We almost have a Doctor in the house for Jenny T. Colgan’s “The Turning of the Tide” where we visit the alternative universe where Rose Tyler lives with the Doctor who isn’t really the Doctor, and it shows, but hats off to her for trying to do something different and she’s a good enough writer to pull it off.
All in all, The Target Storybook has plenty for Whovians to enjoy, and things that will make them grind their teeth. Do you have a favourite Doctor? Then read their story and see if they have come out on top, or second-best, then see how the other Doctors fared.
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