Terrance Dicks began his association with Doctor Who in 1968 and continued to contribute to the fictional universe right up until his death in August 2019. His final story Save Yourself was published in the Target Storybook several months later and it served as an appropriate final bow for an author whose career after his tenure as script editor on the TV show itself was defined by his contribution to the Target novelizations.
The Essential Terrance Dicks is a two-volume anthology of the best Doctor Who novelisations written by Dicks, as chosen by the fans, and published under the Target imprint. It’s available to buy now from BBC Books and Ebury Publishing.
Terrance Dicks believed that children deserved the very best, and that if you give them the best, they would grow up to give of their best. He was prepared to go without praise and prestige for himself just to make sure we got the best.Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Volume One Foreword
Back in 2019, the Doctor Who social media channels ran the Terrance Dicks World Cup – a week long polling of Who fans to decide which of Dicks’ many Target novelisations should be collected in The Essential Terrance Dicks. Eight books were selected but two more novelisations have snuck their way in, making this a ten story collection across two volumes.
As well as the above stories, The Day of the Daleks and The Talons of Weng-Chiang have been added to the collection. It’s unclear why these two novels were added but my guess would be that the collection needed to be split over two books and having five stories apiece would make them more viable as hardbacks.
I’m young enough to have grown up with access to these classic serials readily available, so I don’t have any nostalgia about reliving the stories through Dicks’ prose. But a foreword in each volume, provided by writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and comedian Robert Webb, do a wonderful job of getting across just how formative his Target books were in creating two young Doctor Who fans.
Terrance Dicks went about his work with considerable skill… His language is accessible but he never patronises his young readers; in fact, most of came away from each book with our vocabulary broadened and enriched by his crisp style.Robert Webb, Volume Two Foreword
Needless to say, the stories are reprinted here with care, having every deftly-selected chapter title set out in the contents page. The beautifully designed dust jackets and hefty hardback build lends the twin set a weight worthy of the great author.
Even if you’ve seen these stories on television before, reading the Target adaptations, immersing yourself in writing of Terrance Dicks, is a different experience entirely. Dicks was not precious about the scripts he was adapting, even his own. Limitations of budget and technology are ignored. Wobbly sets are rendered as vivid, breathtaking landscapes. Unconvincing monsters become vicious, bloodthirsty and bizarre. New foundations are given to narrative weaknesses while respecting the structure of the original work. Dicks had the magic touch that have allowed his novelisations to stand the test of time.
And more than anything else, Terrance Dicks cared deeply about the importance of getting kids to read and that shows in his choices as the author. He understood the responsibility of writing for children and helping them learn to love reading…
I think if you can get a kid reading for pleasure, not because it’s work, but actually reading for pleasure, it’s a great step forward. It can start with me, you know, start with Dicks and work its way up to Dickens – as long as you get them reading.Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who: The Essential Terrance Dicks, Volume One and Two are both available to buy now from BBC Books and Ebury Publishing.