Rose Revisited and Target Novels

This week sees the launch of new Target novelisations of stories from the new era of Doctor Who. Rose by Russell T Davies, Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat, The Christmas Invasion by Jenny Colgan and Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell. Also being released in a Target edition is City of Death by James Goss, based on the Douglas Adams script.

With Rose, it will be difficult to fully capture what this episode meant to a lot of fans. For many, it was their first introduction to the series, for others it heralded the return of an old friend. The anticipation and expectation that had been built around the 2005 story is something almost impossible to recreate.

If you haven’t gone back and re-watched Rose recently, I highly recommend it. The show may have gotten higher production values over the years, but that isn’t too much of a put off. Indeed, it’s great to see how they managed to do so much with so little.

The writing is tight, the dialogue feels natural, and the pacing is almost perfect. You can tell a lot of effort went into this first episode. It had to make a good first impression, after all.

There are a lot of moments in the episode that have been under-appreciated. The characterisation of the Doctor is especially interesting as we see a conflict within him. A man intent on saving the world, but isolating himself from it, and yet harbouring a deep desire for friends. His conversations with Rose show him slipping easily into camaraderie, and in spite of the seriousness of the situation, he remains committed to keeping people safe and happy.

Moreover, there is a particularly good moment near the end which really tells us a lot about this Doctor. After Rose has helped to save the Doctor from the Nestine Consciousness, she points out how he would have died without her.

“Yes, I would,” he says. “Thank you.”

It’s a moment of humility that we rarely see from him. In an episode where he is accused of thinking the world revolves around him, the Doctor also shows he is able to recognise greatness in others. This is a major theme of the Russell T Davies era – that the Doctor always believes in his companions potential and will defend them to the bitter end.

As for the Target novels, there’s more to enjoy here. Davies has such a joyous writing style it’s hard not to take a liking to the guy right off the bat. It’s great to see that someone who writes decent dialogue is also a dab hand at prose. Davies has always had an energy to his writing, it flows, it moves with the action, it feels very present when it needs to.

There are, of course, some bonus scenes. Coming back to a story after thirteen years has given Davies scope to flesh out some ideas more and also to give a little more detail here and there. While the original broadcast had to bring brand new viewers in, this novelisation has the opportunity to go further. As such, Davies drops hints about the Doctors’ future, including a glimpse of Jodie Whittaker, and beyond.

Rose saw a photo of a man with a fantastic jaw, dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie. Then Clive kept the sequence going; an older, angry man in a brown caretaker’s coat, holding a mop; a blonde woman in braces running away from a giant frog in front of Buckingham Palace; a tall, bald black woman wielding a flaming sword; a young girl or boy in a hi-tech wheelchair with what looked like a robot dog at their side…

Undoubtedly, there will eventually be somebody, somewhere for whom this is their first encounter with Doctor Who. Much as the TV version was for so many. It remains to be seen how this will stand up in time.

The original Target novels were the only source of so many stories for so long that they secured a place in people’s hearts. Now, with the seemingly infinite archives of the internet, do they still have a place? Most certainly. What we see here with Rose is a fun and dynamic reimagining of the story, not simply a script-to-prose transference. Apologies to Terrance Dicks, I know you tried your best.

This could be the start of a whole new line of novels, and it could be for many young people their first dip into reading. I know I annoyed the librarians at my school by constantly asking for Doctor Who novelisations and being disappointed when they didn’t have them. Let’s hope we shall have more fans created this way.