Doctor Who and the Time Warrior by Terrance Dicks and a Gentleman

Published: June 1978

Edition read: Target fourth reprint, 1984

Coolest Cover: I’ll go with Roy Knipe - fantastic attention to detail.

The BBC Budget Wouldn’t Run To: The space dogfight which constitutes the Prologue, for a start.

Purple Prose: "Linx was his name. He was a microsecond from oblivion." (p.7)

The TARDIS dematerialises with..."the familiar wheezing, groaning noise". I should think it’s flipping well familiar by now...

...and again with..."a wheezing, groaning noise".

Childhood Recollections: Only of a hardback copy in my local library which was always something of an object of desire for me as it always seemed to be out.

Ramblings: There’s one thing everybody knows about Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, so let’s get it dealt with for a start. We all know that the Prologue was written by Robert Holmes, newly free from his responsibilities as the script editor of the television series, and that he eventually threw in the towel and handed it over to Terrance Dicks to complete. It’s also generally agreed that the Prologue is far superior to the body of the book. But hang on a minute- Holmes takes all of ten pages to cover the events leading up to the story, which the televised story covers in seconds. All well and good if you’re writing a serious science fiction novel, but this is a Target book and you only get 144 pages to do your stuff; such an approach is surely unsustainable within the format (as it is, we spend 60 pages on the equivalent of Part One and only 84 on the rest) and to my mind the text of the prologue feels like something the writer found hard work and had to come back to several times. Neither is he entirely sure of his approach- the name of Jingo Linx and the "blood-stirring, ineffably sweet strains of the Sontaran Anthem" suggest a tongue-in-cheek satirical approach, but at the same time much of his version of the space battle suggest an attempt at a straight adaptation.

In the circumstances, it’s something of a relief when Dicks takes over, normal service is resumed and it feels like a Target book again. Tying in quite nicely with the return of the Sontarans in ‘The Invasion of Time’, it is of course an important story in that it introduces Sarah. By this stage in his adapting career, Dicks has adopted the line with Holmes’s scripts that the best thing to do is to let the dialogue speak for itself and just fill in the spaces in between, so we have a very close adaptation with a few sensitive touches to flesh out the characters. What’s particularly impressive is that Dicks brings out Sarah’s initial mistrust of the Doctor, but any timidity on Sir Edward’s part is explained by his being broken in health and spirit after serving in the Crusades, and Hal’s remaining in England is due to his sense of loyalty and obligation to his lord. The approach to the setting is loose; it’s broad-brush Middle Ages rather than an attempt a historical accuracy (with the notorious sack of potatoes in the kitchen) and the characters are similarly broad in their definition. But it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and a well-paced adventure in the middle and I’m left wondering whether Terrance Dicks isn’t a better adapter of Robert Holmes’s scripts than Holmes himself.