Target Books were a children's publishing imprint, significant for being the dominant publisher of Doctor Who prose fiction and non-fiction from the 1970s to the early 1990s. They were most famous for their line of novelisations of Doctor Who serials, in part because the novelisations were the principal route by which some fans could experience missing episodes. Technically an imprint, and not an independent publisher, they were owned by several houses. However, the Doctor Who line is most associated with W.H. Allen & Co, who owned Target from 1977–1989, and Virgin Books, who bought them in 1990 and extended and reprinted the line until 1994. In 2018, the Target Books were revived, featuring novelisations of television stories from 2005 and beyond.
Target Books was a publishing imprint set up in 1972 as a range of paperback fiction for readers of approximately 14 years of age. It was for its long lived and highly successful range of Doctor Who novelisations that Target became best known. Target almost exclusively published paperbacks, but their novelisations did occasionally get first printings in hardback by related publishers Allan Wingate and W.H. Allen & Co. Many of the hardcovers are considered rare, given that they received far smaller distribution than the paperbacks (especially outside the UK).
The Target imprint changed hands many times over its history but up until the end, when it adopted a more modern monochrome version, retained its distinctive, brightly-coloured logo. By the end of the series, they had novelised almost every Doctor Who television story and adapted every one of the First, Second, Third and Seventh Doctors' on-screen adventures.
The importance of the Doctor Who novelisations to maintaining interest and knowledge in the franchise cannot be overestimated. Prior to the 1980s, it was usually impossible to obtain recordings of previously aired stories. Reruns were rare and sporadic, and many episodes from the 1960s were destroyed and believed lost forever. The novelisations were (and in some cases remain) the only venues for reliving past stories or catching up on stories never seen before by fans. They also provided opportunities for many stories to be presented in a form unhampered by TV budgets and special effects technology limitations.
The 1970s Edit
Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Crusaders, adapted by David Whitaker, and Doctor Who and the Zarbi, adapted by Bill Strutton, saw publication as hardbacks by Frederick Muller in the mid-1960s. In 1973, Target began its run of Doctor Who novelisations by reprinting these three titles. For the Target edition, the Daleks novel had its title shortened to Doctor Who and the Daleks. All had new covers by Chris Achilleos, who would illustrate the first wave of Target Doctor Who books.
An original publication, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion by Terrance Dicks, would follow in 1974. Over the years, "Uncle Terry", as fans nicknamed him, would write more Target Books and have a closer association with them in the minds of fans than any other writer. He also wrote a short-lived series of simplified Junior Doctor Who novelisations for younger readers.
Linking some early Target novelisations to their television counterparts was a challenge at times, as for the first few years Target occasionally published novelisations under titles that differed from the TV originals. This practice actually pre-dated Target, with Doctor Who and the Zarbi having been based upon The Web Planet. Under Target, for example, Spearhead from Space became Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion. When the decision was made to keep the original title, the prefix Doctor Who and... was usually added. There were a few exceptions, such as the release of Doctor Who: The Three Doctors. Also there were occasional exceptions for first-edition hardcover publications, such as the novelisation of Revenge of the Cybermen, which was first published as Doctor Who: The Revenge of the Cybermen in hardcover, and Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen in paperback.
An even greater challenge is posed for those reading the books in televised order. When the Target line (and, indeed, the earlier Muller) were launched, the publishers had no inkling of the comprehensive nature the book series would take over the next 20 years. As a result, several novelisations ignore the events of previous stories, creating continuity issues. For example, Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon, based upon the Season 8 story Colony in Space, includes introductions for Jo Grant and the Master, with Grant meeting the Doctor for the first time. In reality both characters were introduced in Terror of the Autons, which wasn't novelised until some time later, and that book once again introduced the two characters. Similarly, Doctor Who and the Daleks ignores the events of An Unearthly Child and thus creates a continuity hiccup for those who first read the novelisation of An Unearthly Child, which wasn't published until the early 1980s. (This situation is not confined to 1970s issues; in the 1980s the novelisation of Mindwarp contained an epilogue that contradicted the ending of a later novelisation, The Ultimate Foe.)
The Muller reprints were not the last books by another publisher to be reissued by Target, as the company also published a new edition of The Making of Doctor Who, a book previously issued by Piccolo Books.
Beginning in the second half of the 1970s, W.H. Allen and/or related publishers began issuing hardcover editions of the novels. In some cases these predated the paperback editions by months. Often they were published simultaneously, and in the case of a few of the 1974–75 books hardcover editions weren't published for nearly a decade.
The 1980s Edit
During the 1980's, experimentally, Target published two original novels featuring further adventures of the Doctor's companions, Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma by Tony Attwood and Harry Sullivan's War by Ian Marter, who had played Harry Sullivan on television. Target also took up three scripts from the "lost" version of Season 23 which, due to the delay and re-thinking of Season 23 by the then-current production team of Doctor Who, never made their way onto screen. Target also began to look beyond the televised series for source material by novelising the radio play Slipback and the spin-off special K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend.
Beginning in 1981, Target began making a concerted effort to enlist the original script-writers in writing the novelisations based upon their stories (a practice actually dating back to Strutton's Zarbi novel, but only occasionally employed during the 1970s). They were successful in commissioning novelisations even from writers who had last worked on the series in the 1960s. Where the original author was unavailable, unwilling, or deceased, the range turned to one of its staff writers, such as Marter or Terrance Dicks. The practice of having the original scriptwriters write the books when possible would continue for the remainder of the line. The two most significant writers whom Target was unable to commission for novelisations were Terry Nation and Douglas Adams. Marter had the unique distinction of adapting several stories in which he himself had performed as Harry Sullivan; he died in 1986 and several of his novelisations were published posthumously. One of Marter's books, Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World, was controversial for incorporating adult concepts and language — issues that would later resurface when original Doctor Who novels began to appear in the 1990s.
Towards the late 1980s and into the 1990s, however, Target loosened the policy of only commissioning writers with past connection to Doctor Who on TV, beginning with the novelisation of The Celestial Toymaker, which was co-authored by Gerry Davis and Alison Bingeman, a writer with no Doctor Who connection. Later, Nigel Robinson, the line's editor, who otherwise had no Doctor Who TV connection, wrote four books. In the 1990s, John Peel wrote the final five Daleks novelisations.
In 1982, Target phased out the practice of adding Doctor Who and... to its novelisation titles. In 1988, the practice of publishing hardcover editions was abandoned following publication of The Smugglers.
The Virgin years Edit
During the 1990s the company was acquired by Virgin Publishing. The only titles still held by Target were the Doctor Who stories. Many of the titles were reissued with new covers, but to many readers they were still affectionately regarded as "Target Books". Indeed, Virgin itself referred to the later titles as part of "the Target Library".
The end of Target Books Edit
In the later years of the run, Target was successful in negotiating with Terry Nation's estate the rights to adapt four of his Daleks storylines, most notably The Chase and The Daleks' Master Plan; the latter had to be published in two volumes.
Target eventually outlasted the original run of Doctor Who itself, which ended with Season 26 in 1989. The Target line continued in the "short paperback" form until the release of Doctor Who - The Pescatons in 1991 — an adaptation of an audio play, as virtually all available televised stories had been adapted by this time. Between 1990 and 1994 Target republished many of its older releases with new cover art; a subsidiary, Star Books, also published omnibus paperback editions combining two books at a time. The 1990–1994 reissues and the Star Books editions were straight reprints, rather than new editions that corrected typographical and other errors.
After 1991, several additional releases were published in longer-format paperbacks by the owner of Target, Virgin Publishing, beginning with the adaptations of The Evil of the Daleks and The Power of the Daleks, two David Whitaker scripts that, like the Nation stories, had previously eluded adaptation. The 1994 release The Paradise of Death, based upon a radio play, was the 156th and last release in the Target series.
By the time it had ended, almost every Doctor Who story aired on television (save for five; see below), along with several audio dramas, had appeared under the Target imprint. Within a few years of the final release, the Target Books line had fallen out of print, with many of the books, particularly the scarce hardback editions, becoming collectors items. Virgin continued to publish a few more novelisations, but under its New Adventures and Missing Adventures lines, and none based upon televised episodes of the original series.
When Doctor Who returned to television in 2005, it was announced that no novelisations would be published, in part due to the expectation that the episodes would be easily available on DVD in due course. Nonetheless, Penguin Character Books revived the novelisation format by releasing adaptations of episodes from the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures; appropriately, the first of these books was written by Terrance Dicks. One novelisation, adapting The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, featured the Doctor appearing in a TV novelisation for the first time since the novelisation of the 1996 TV movie. However, in 2018, four new novelisations were released: Rose, The Christmas Invasion, The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon a Time
The "lost" novelisations Edit
Target Books was unable to come to agreement with Douglas Adams or Eric Saward on the adaptation of several serials. As a result, the Adams-written (or co-written) The Pirate Planet, City of Death and unbroadcast Shada, and Saward's two Dalek stories, Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks, were never adapted for Target (the Saward stories were at one point announced as future releases, but were cancelled). Years later, the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club published fan-written novellas adapting these storylines. In 2012, BBC Books published a new official novelisation of Shada by Gareth Roberts, the first new Doctor Who novelisation in 16 years; an adaptation of City of Death by James Goss was published in May 2015 and The Pirate Planet was published in January 2017.
Audiobook adaptations Edit
In the early 1980s, several audio book adaptations of Target novels were released, read by Tom Baker. In 2007 BBC Audio began a new series of complete and unabridged releases of the Target novelisations, giving new life to these old (and out of print) favourites (see Audiobooks of novelisations). In most cases, the books are read by actors who had appeared in the original stories. This series has continued into 2013.
Special distribution Edit
In July 2008, backstock of 27 Target novelisations (and a few Target-published spin-off works) were distributed at random with copies of Doctor Who Magazine #397. These were not reprints but original copies, some dating back more than 25 years.
BBC Books reprints Edit
In July 2011, BBC Books reprinted six Target novelisations with original cover art by Chris Achilleos and new introductions by prominent writers affiliated with Doctor Who or who are fans of the series. Six more reprints followed in May 2012. Seven more followed in April 2016.
In 2013, Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks was republished in a new edition by BBC Books as part of a series fo 50th anniversary reprints; it was the only TV novelisation featured in the set and was reissued in lieu of republishing any of the many original Seventh Doctor novels.
- Note: The following tables are based upon Target's numbering of the book releases and the dates of first paperback publication. Up until 1988 most books were also published in a hardcover edition that, in many cases, predated the publication of the paperback by many months and, in some cases, were not published until long after the paperback. The paperback releases are used as the baseline given they are and remain far more common than the hardcovers.
- The numbering of the novelisations was introduced in 1983, with the first seventy-three books retroactively renumbered in alphabetical order (although not every book had a numbered edition). The books from #74 onwards are predominantly numbered in the order of publication, with a few notable exceptions.
The Missing Episodes Edit
From 1989 through 1990, as "the Missing Episodes", Target published a short series which adapted scripts which were to have aired during Season 23, before the hiatus put on Doctor Who by Michael Grade. A few scripts which the production team intended to have aired during this version of the season remained un-novelised.
- For a discussion of the missing episodes of Doctor Who (i.e. aired episodes which do not exist in the BBC Film and Videotape Library), see separate article.
The Companions of Doctor Who Edit
Although intended to showcase original fiction (see below), the Companions sub-series also included a novelisation.
Junior Doctor Who Edit
In the early 1980s, Target published two adaptations by Terrance Dicks of earlier novelisations in abridged and illustrated form, written for younger readers.
Original fiction Edit
Target's Doctor Who fiction consisted exclusively of novelisations, with two exceptions.
The Companions of Doctor Who Edit
- Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma - first full-length original Doctor Who-related novel ever published.
- Harry Sullivan's War
Target Books also published numerous reference and behind-the-scenes books based upon Doctor Who, as well as activity and general knowledge books featuring the Doctor.
General reference Edit
- The Making of Doctor Who (Second edition only)
- The Doctor Who Monster Book
- The Second Doctor Who Monster Book
- The Doctor Who Programme Guide Volume 1
- The Doctor Who Programme Guide Volume 2
- The Universal Databank (Enlarged and revised edition of Volume 2 of the orginal Programme Guide)
- The Terrestrial Index
- The Doctor Who Programme Guide (Enlarged and revised edition of Volume 1 of the original Programme Guide)
- Travel Without the TARDIS
Doctor Who Discovers Edit
A non-fiction series of illustrated educational books narrated by the Fourth Doctor.
- The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book
- Doctor Who Discovers: Early Man
- Doctor Who Discovers: Prehistoric Animals
- Doctor Who Discovers: Space Travel
- Doctor Who Discovers: The Conquerors
- Doctor Who Discovers: Strange and Mysterious Creatures
Activity / puzzle books Edit
- Build the TARDIS
- The Doctor Who Quiz Book
- The Second Doctor Who Quiz Book
- The Third Doctor Who Quiz Book
- Doctor Who Crossword Book
- Brain Teasers and Mind Benders
Additional details Edit
Non-Target novelisations Edit
The following books adapted official and unofficial Doctor Who and Doctor Who-related productions, but were not published under the Target Books banner:
Virgin New Adventures Edit
- Shakedown (adapted independent film production Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans with new material involving the Seventh Doctor)
Virgin Missing Adventures Edit
BBC Books Edit
- The Novel of the Film (adapted the 1996 telefilm)
- Scream of the Shalka (adapted the 2003 webcast)
- Shada (2012 adaptation of the unfinished 1979 serial Shada)
- City of Death (2015 adaptation of the previously unadapted 1979 serial City of Death, later reprinted in an abridged format under the Target banner).
- Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen
Penguin Character Books Edit
The Sarah Jane Adventures Edit
Novella-length adaptations of episodes of the spin-off series.
- Invasion of the Bane
- Revenge of the Slitheen
- Eye of the Gorgon
- Warriors of Kudlak
- Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?
- The Lost Boy
- The Last Sontaran
- Day of the Clown
- The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (featuring the Tenth Doctor)
Note: two additional novelisations, The Nightmare Man and Death of the Doctor, were announced for publication in 2010, but subsequently cancelled.. They were later released in e-book format only.
New novelisations for audio Edit
To date, three novelisations originally published by Target have been rewritten by other writers and recorded as audio-exclusive releases for AudioGO.
- Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood by David Fisher
- Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara by Fisher
- Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child by Nigel Robinson
An Unearthly Child was scheduled for release in November 2013, but the release was cancelled due to AudioGO entering administration. As of January 2014 it has yet to be announced when or if Random House Audio, AudioGO's announced successor, will release it.
- Dr Who Gallery This gallery only site shows all TV novelisations (Armada, Dragon, Target, Virgin and BBC) in order of publication date.