Review: Doctor Who: The Target Book Artwork

WebThe Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, WC1A 2HH London until May 15, 2016

Glorious art, beautifully presented.

If you’re one of those fans who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, and didn’t have access to a video recorder, then the Target books were pretty much your only way of reliving adventures that had been shown once (maybe twice if you were really lucky) and then consigned to history. Three novels from the 1960s were reprinted in 1973 to great success, and a further batch were commissioned from outgoing script editor Terrance Dicks, and his scriptwriting colleagues Malcolm Hulke, Brian Hayles and Gerry Davis. From there, the range grew until nearly every “classic” story was novelised, many receiving multiple reprints. (For the full story, check out David J. Howe’s The Target Book.)

One of the key elements to the books were the fantastic cover paintings that were commissioned. Chris Achilleos set the bar high with his paintings for the Hartnell reprints in 1973, and was joined by many similarly excellent artists over the years, including Jeff Cummins, Andrew Skilleter and Alister Pearson. The original paintings were snapped up by collectors, although some have sadly disappeared. However, to accompany BBC Books’ reprinting of seven of the classic novels – with new Achilleos art for the 1980s Doctors stories – BBC brand manager Edward Russell and team put out a plea for these to be brought together…

And now some of those wonderful pieces of art can be seen in all their original glory – from Achilleos’ huge original pieces for Revenge of the Cybermen and The Web of Fear (my personal favourite) to Cummins’ highly intricate, almost paperback sized illustration for Tomb of the Cybermen, from Skilleter’s The Mark of the Rani to Roy Knipe’s Death to the Daleks. The Cartoon Museum is hosting the exhibition, which dominates the first floor – and if you’re going, don’t forget to look at the other pictures around the walls, which include a page from the Daleks strip, as well as some classic Look-In art.

According to one comment at the launch on April 28th, more people had come to see the Who art on its opening day than had seen the previous exhibit in total across a number of weeks, demonstrating the interest in the topic. The launch was very well-attended, with Achilleos, Cummins and Skilleter present, along with Dicks, the man who wrote more of the novelisations than anyone else, and really symbolises the range! There were a lot of long time fans there – including current Head Writer Steven Moffat, and the Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi, as well as former script editor Eric Saward (slightly ironically, as his two Dalek stories are among the handful never novelised!), and DWM teams past and present.

The exhibit is a testament to the power of the art – for many of us, those pictures are their own TARDIS, taking us back to the first time we bought or read those books – and with plenty more art offered but not usable because of space restrictions, let’s hope that a second exhibition is on the cards!

Verdict: Pure nostalgia. Don’t miss it. 9/10

Paul Simpson

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