Friday, 20 April 2012

Fourth Doctor Adventures!

Co-incidentally, I've read two new adventures of the fourth incarnation of Doctor Who (Tom Baker, for th eperosn readin gthis who doesn't already know!) in the past few months.  One of them is a big-money, big-splash hardback adapatation of the 'classic' lost story, 'Shada' by current tv writer Gareth Roberts, based on a script by the late Douglas Adam.  The other is a Lulu published paperback (very loose) adaptation of the even more lost, Baker and Marter script 'Doctor Who Meets Scratchman' by author and blogger Nick Campbell.

I liked them both a great deal, I must say.  The Baker-era has not been brilliantly served in novel format, I think, though the high points - Steven Marley's Managra, say - have been pretty high indeed.  But both of these examples illustrate in their own way the strength of the TV show at the time they were initally conceived and which authors should use far more when writing for the Baker Doctor now.

They are very different though.

'Shada' is an big budget production, with Gareth Roberts - an able prose writer but, I think, a better dramatist - bringing both bow strings to bear on Adams' script, to generally pleasing effect.  It's a book designed to appeal to the casual Who fan, the sort of people who watch the new series on telly and who know the name 'Douglas Adams' from somewhere or other.  It's funny at times while overly obvious at others, clever but also clumsy and well-written but unsure if it's a Target novelisation or a Douglas Adams' book.  I didn't care for the gushing over the genius of Adams towards the end, which felt forced and out of place, but for all that it's a decent rendition of a certain point in TV time and very welcome amongst the bland uniformity of much of the Who prose output since the TV series lurched back onto the screens.

'Doctor Who meets Scratchman', on the other hand, reads like the fabulous but slightly scary love-child of Paul Magrs and Terrance Dicks, midwived by Barbara Euphan Todd and Rosemary Sutcliff.  It's a Cajun stew of a novel, full of peculiar textures and odd tastes, alive with an outpouring of ideas, and so obviously in love with the whole era that it's virtually palpable as you read.  From the Target style cover featuring Vincent Price as Scratchman all the way to the last page which promises the upcoming 'Dr Who Discovers the Miners', this book is a proper wallow in something actually wonderful, in the real sense of the word.  At times while readng it, lying on my bed with the rain battering on the window, I disappeared into 1975 again, with Tom striding about, cabbage companion to hand, and Sarah and Harry to the rear, the sexiest couple on TV.  I can easily picture myself slipping this book into place on the long shelf which ran above my bed when I was ten, in between 'Revenge of the Cybermen' and 'Terror of the Zygons', then mentally hugging myself as I considered the every growing rank of spines, each little adventure mine to keep and re-visit whenever I want. There's something genuinely brilliant in a book which can conjure up that kind of memory so clearly, I think.


  1. I would be curious to know how to tget a copy of 'Doctor Who Meets Scratchman' by author and blogger Nick Campbell.

  2. I'm not sure it's actually available to buy anywhere, sadly.