The Target range of Doctor Who novelizations has long held the ability to transform an otherwise average-to-bad episode of the show into a memorable and enjoyable book. Sometimes, what doesn’t work on screen is destined to work on the page, and granting the original screenwriter the opportunity to expand upon their script often yields exciting results. This is the mindset I approached the latest wave of the range with. Neither “The Crimson Horror” nor “The Witchfinders” are bad episodes of Doctor Who, but they are decidedly average ones, which means there’s quite a lot of room for them to be bettered in a novelization. While “The Crimson Horror” doesn’t really achieve this feat, “The Witchfinders” does. And, to be fair, both novels are immensely enjoyable and should prove pleasing to any Doctor Who fan who decides to read either story.
“Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror” by Mark Gatiss Something ghastly is afoot in Victorian Yorkshire. Something that kills. Bodies are washing up in the canal, their skin a waxy, glowing red… But just what is this crimson horror? Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax are despatched to investigate the mystery. Strangely reluctant to assist their enquiries is Mrs Winifred Gillyflower, matriarch of ‘Sweetville’, a seemingly utopian workers’ community. Why do all roads lead to the team’s old friends Clara and the Doctor? Who is Mrs Gillyflower’s mysterious silent partner Mr Sweet? And will the motley gang be in time to defeat the mysterious power that threatens all the world with its poison?
“Doctor Who: The Witchfinders” by Joy Wilkinson The TARDIS lands in the Lancashire village of Bilehurst Cragg in the 17th century, and the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz soon become embroiled in a witch trial run by the local landowner. Fear stalks the land, and the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But the Doctor soon realises there is something more sinister than paranoia and superstition at work. Tendrils of living mud stir in the ground and the dead lurch back to horrifying life as an evil alien presence begins to revive. The Doctor and her friends must save not only the people of Bilehurst Cragg from the wakening forces, but the entire world.
The pandemic has been exceptionally hard on the entertainment industry. It’s been difficult for everyone, but industries that rely on large groups of people gathering together to do or watch something have been hit particularly hard. Still, many individual pieces of entertainment found creative and innovative ways to continue making content during this time. Doctor Who might have found one of the more fun ways of doing things—publishing short stories and videos created by people involved in the making of the show. What started as a series of short stories posted on the Doctor Who website has turned into an anthology of 16 stories published in support of the Children in Need charity. Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown is not only a fun read for a good cause, but an example of how creative and varied the show can be. (4.5 out of 5 wands)
Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown (by Chris Chibnall, Steven Moffat, Russel T. Davies, Neil Gaiman, Joy Wilkinson, Vinay Patel, Pete McTighe, Paul Cornell, and Mark Gatiss) While staying home was a vital safety measure in 2020, the freedom of the TARDIS remained a dream that drew many – allowing them to roam the cosmos in search of distraction, reassurance and adventure. Now some of the finest TV Doctor Who writers come together with gifted illustrators in this very special short story collection in support of BBC Children in Need.
Current and former showrunners – Chris Chibnall Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat – present exciting adventures for the Doctor conceived in confinement, alongside brand new fiction from Neil Gaiman, Mark Gatiss and Vinay Patel. Also featuring work from Chris Riddell, Joy Wilkinson, Paul Cornell, Sonia Leong, Sophie Cowdrey, Mike Collins and many more, Adventures in Lockdown is a book for any Doctor Who fan in your life, stories that will send your heart spinning wildly through time and space…
Last year, the Target line of Doctor Who novelizations burst back to life with the first adaptations of episodes from the revived TV series – Rose, The Christmas Invasion, Day of the Doctor, and Twice Upon a Time. The novels were really solid works in their own right, managing to take all the best elements of their respective TV episodes and weave them into something that worked as a novel. They also had the added bonus of reinvigorating the entire Target line – another batch of new adaptations has been announced for July 2020. And then there’s this collection of short stories that was published in October 2018. Normally, the Target range adapts preexisting Doctor Who TV stories, but this collection of short stories decided to go a different route – bringing readers a collection of stories set before/during/after iconic stories from all through Doctor Who‘s 50+ year history. And, I gotta say, a lot of these stories are really, really good.
Doctor Who: The Target Storybook (featuring stories from various authors)
In this exciting collection you’ll find all-new stories spinning off from some of your favourite Doctor Who moments across the history of the series. Learn what happened next, what went on before, and what occurred off-screen in an inventive selection of sequels, side-trips, foreshadowings and first-hand accounts – and look forward too, with a brand new adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor.
Each story expands in thrilling ways upon aspects of Doctor Who’s enduring legend. With contributions from show luminaries past and present – including Colin Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, Vinay Patel, Joy Wilkinson and Terrance Dicks – The Target Storybook is a once-in-a-lifetime tour around the wonders of the Whoniverse
Honestly, this episode should have been broadcast closer to Halloween because it would have been so perfect as a Halloween episode. Doctor Who has had an interesting relationship with witches and magic over the years. It tends to take the stance of magic being misunderstood science and any “witches” either being persecuted women or an actual alien threat. The Witchfinders, written by new-to-Who writer Joy Wilkinson, is no exception to this rule. Much of the episode is spent with King James I (Alan Cumming) and landowner Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) going around the village of Bilehurst Cragg accusing various people of being witches only for the episode to eventually reveal that an alien intelligence is responsible for things all along. That being said, the episode is still a whole lot of fun.
Episode 1108: The Witchfinders (written by Joy Wilkinson, directed by Sallie Aprahamian)
The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial, run by the local landowner. As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But is there something even more dangerous at work? Can the Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land?