5 down, 17 to go.
My “Eleven Faces” series continues with my first experience of another Doctor Who adventure. This time, I’ve gone for a novelisation.
From 1973 to 1994, Target Books (an imprint of various companies over the years) published novelizations of nearly every DW TV story and radio play to that point, as well as three of the unmade stories from the original plan for Season 23 – the first three they did were reprints of 1960s novels, but these are considered part of the range. In a pre-VHS/DVD range these 156 books were the only ways to experience the old stories, as repeats were very rare.
The novels tend to be short – about 150 to 200 pages – and do not follow the stories exactly, with minor changes, extra scenes and sometimes tightening up the plot. They’re also aimed at a young audience, although Ian Marter’s ones did go a little more adult than others. You can find many a Target in a second hand book shop or charity shop these days.
Recently, the BBC have reprinted some of the novels in both e-book and paperback form, with new forewords and afterwords. I got the electronic version of Doctor Who and The Abominable Snowmen, as I haven’t seen or heard any of the story – although I am familiar with the plot through the reference work The Television Companion.
Where we’re at
The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie arrive at a monastery in Tibet in 1935, expecting a warm welcome. What they get is a place at fear of the sinister robot Yeti…
“The Abominable Snowmen” was the second story of Season 5 of the original run, written by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln, being broadcast in autumn 1967. Only episode 2 of this six-parter is complete in the BBC archives. In 1974, Terrance Dicks (the most prolific writer of the range and then script editor) did this one. On the advice of then producer Barry Letts, a practising Buddhist, who had noted that Haisman and Lincoln had named the monks after well-known figures in Buddhist history, Dicks changed the names of some of the characters slightly to avoid causing any offence.
The novel has a wonderful atmosphere (and more snow than the original TV story), with a genuine threat that wants to take over the world. The Yeti themselves are powerful creatures and very hard to destroy – arrows just bounce off them and firearms are hard to come by here. The vessel through which the villain uses to communicate and influence people is a classically horrific one, a human being who is not allowed to die; you’ve got to feel sorry for the guy.
The plot in itself is classic “base under siege”, complete with Team TARDIS getting incarcerated on more than one occasion, building to a superb climax which you can imagine being done today. The use of the Yeti control devices (they have to be in the creatures to allow them to work) is a great plot device.
Dicks captures the Second Doctor and Jamie very well – I’m familiar with both their voices, with their dialogue sounding authentic. In particular, the Second Doctor has a great deal of intelligence and hidden strength, something that is common with all the Doctors.
Victoria Waterfield, who has acquired a justified reputation as one of the show’s biggest screamers, has little to do here. She gets hypnotised at one point (badly so) and is only brought along for the final confrontation because she’d do even worse if left on her own.
The pacing of the story is a little off as well, but not by too much. The paragraphing (i.e. where the sentences were and when we went to a new paragraph, a lot less frequently than today) threw me a little, but I got used to it.
An enjoyable read and a nice insight into a lost story. You’re not expecting Shakespeare, but what’s here is good.