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Mar 06, 2006

Stuck on you

Dwomncov_1Back in the dark days of the 70s, when the only way to relive Doctor Who was through Target novelisations, I got The Doctor Who Omnibus for Christmas - 1977 if memory serves. This was a hefty hardback volume containing three novelisations: The Space War (Frontier in Space), Revenge of the Cybermen, and The Web of Fear.

I could just remember Jon Pertwee's Doctor - my first memory of Doctor Who is from The Planet of the Daleks - and Revenge of the Cybermen was an adventure I could dimly remember (it was only a couple of years old at that point, but you know what it was like at that age - a fortnight was a lifetime ago).

The Web of Fear novelisation was my first toe in the water of the series' dim and distant past. I'd seen a clip of Troughton on Nationwide, and not been entirely impressed, but I loved this story. It was atmospheric, tense, and it had the wonderful character of Evans, who so impressed me that I named my favourite toy soldier after him and made him the hero of all my games from that moment on. I wanted to be him, and I wanted to be Welsh - a capital offence in Yorkshire, so I kept it quiet.

There's something a little sad about having your fantasies ripped away from you. In my mind's eye, Frontier in Space was a real epic spanning the whole galaxy with (spoiler alert) the Daleks right at the end, somewhat teasingly (and coincidentally leading into that first-remembered story of mine). When I finally saw it, it was a little disappointing to say the least.

I've got used to that now - I can't have been alone in wishing Tomb of the Cybermen had remained lost to us forever - but this one remaining episode of The Web of Fear manages to live up to almost all my expectations. Only the very opening, with the TARDIS trapped in the web, fails the imagination test, but the rest of it meets or even exceeds it. The squashed closeness of the characters, the underground (which to a boy from York was something rather exotic and unknown), the constant threat from the invisible enemy that we, the audience, knew - giving us a rare advantage over all the characters.

This, if given the choice, is the story I would have picked if someone had held two boxes over a fire and said 'Tomb or Web, which will you save?'

Web76cov_1I have the audio version of this story on CD, but I've never listened to it. When I saw the single episode again recently I wanted to dig deep in the taped-up box that's followed me from city to city as I've grown up, and that I know contains that original omnibus along with all my Target books.

I think we're wrong to link the TV series with the high incidence of writing as a career of Doctor Who fans, myself included - I put it down to Target, and to Terrance Dicks in particular.

It's high time these books were reprinted - there's a new audience out there who would hoover them up with a passion. They're sometimes the best way to experience the original series, you know.

(Images from 'On Target')

Comments

I couldn't agree with you more. Ironically enough I've picked up about 7 or 8 Target Novelisations at a local comic book shop (in Texas!) for 3.49 US apiece. Lucky for me they don't know the goldmine they're carrying.

The Web of Fear is one of my all-time favourite Target novels.

I must have read it about 20 times!

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