The Awakening
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - The Awakening

Author Eric Pringle Cover image
Published 1985
ISBN 0 426 20158 2
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: The Doctor has promised Tegan that they will visit her grandfather in the English village of Little Hodcombe, in the year 1984, a precision of timing and location that the TARDIS has not always achieved... When the Type-40 machine comes to rest, the view on the scanner screen only serves to confirm Tegan's rather low expectations of the TARDIS' performance. The most sensible course of action would be to leave immediately - but despite Turlough's protests the Doctor rushes out to take on a seemingly hopeless rescue mission...


"A Noxious Infusion" by Jason A. Miller 14/11/16

I personally love The Awakening as televised. It was one of my first stories, for one thing. As a blend of paganism and Satanist forces menacing a church in the pastoral British countryside, the story is an homage to such influences as The Wicker Man and Doctor Who's own The Daemons; it's full of iconic imagery. Plus, at just two parts in length, the pacing is pretty taut, and the production is bolstered by strong guest performances. A short, but very enjoyable, story.

And what of the novelization? Bear in mind that, in the mid-1980s, some interesting things were happening with the Target novelization range. With Terrance Dicks moving on to some of his many other ventures, and with Nigel Robinson as editor, many older 1960s stories were finally being adapted by their original authors, and the more recent stories were also being adapted by their original authors So for The Awakening, the only Doctor Who story to bear the "By Eric Pringle" credit, the novelization is also by Eric Pringle.

Much of the Target output from the mid-'80s bears little resemblance to the televised story being adapted. John Lucarotti made wholesale changes to Marco Polo and The Massacre, making the novelizations completely different entities from the TV version. Donald Cotton did much the same with his versions of The Romans, The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters. However, you won't find such creativity out of Eric Pringle. His take on The Awakening is a straight-up adaptation of the shooting scripts. Every line of dialogue is ported over from the TV version.

On paper, that approach should be deadening, especially given what creativity Pringle's fellow Target authors were getting up to at around the same time. But, for two reasons, Pringle's novelization actually stands out, and in surprising ways.

For one, this is a standard-length 120-odd-page adaptation of a story. But where most 120-page Target jobs in the mid-'80s were novelizations of four-part stories, The Awakening is an adaptation of a two-part story.

Terence Dudley was contemporaneously adapting his own brace of two-part adventures for the Target line: Black Orchid and The King's Demons. But Dudley crammed his novelizations with extra scenes, and, in the case of the latter book, whole additional storylines and a completely different ending to what we got on TV. Pringle doesn't do that; he adds not a scene, hardly even another word, to the TV scripts.

So that means that Pringle's book has plenty of time to breathe. Scene-settings and descriptions can go on for twice as long; quick-cut scenes that featured just 20 to 30 words of dialogue on air can last for two to three pages in print. His treatment of the Part One cliffhanger is ratcheted with tension and manages to improve on the superlative TV version.

"Look out!" Jane yelled -- too late, for smoke erupted from the hole, as if the noise had assumed visible form. It poured over the Doctor like a waterfall, and he was obscured instantly.

The noise roared and the smoke billowed, and inside it there were exploding noises as if the wall was disintegrating. The Doctor was inside it too. He had disappeared.

"Doctor...!" Jane screamed and screamed.

The other interesting point is this. Eric Pringle did not write The Awakening. He submitted a four-part adventure, which script editor Eric Saward then rewrote as a two-parter. There are a few touches in the story that are pure Saward: Sergeant Willow menacing Tegan sexually in Part One and the Malus' psychic projection within the TARDIS in Part Two literally puking itself to death. One might have expected that the novelization would have been a forum for Pringle to novelize his own four-parter and throw out everything Saward did to his storyline; this is what John Lucarotti did for his novelization of The Massacre, for example, a TV story which bore little resemblance to his submitted scripts.

But Pringle doesn't do that. He novelizes Saward's scripts, not his own. And he does them persuasively well. The only remaining trace of his original proposal, as far as I can tell, is the repeated comparison of the Malus to a poltergeist, with "Poltergeist" having been one of the story's working titles.

Of course, there are indications here that Pringle didn't understand the Doctor Who format all that well. In the novelization, he has the Doctor fear that two soldiers trying to batter down the TARDIS doors with chunks of masonry might actually succeed. And Turlough, the "untrustworthy" companion, who doesn't have all that much to do on TV apart from comment sarcastically on the unfolding action, is a bit flat in print, with Pringle not managing to add any of the delicious oiliness that Mark Strickson brought to the role. That said, Pringle captures the Doctor and Tegan particularly well:

"It was time for the Doctor to act: he knew the signs and was only too well aware of Tegan's talent for jumping to conclusions and diving in at the deep end of things."
Pringle also puts his finger on the Doctor's special magnetism: "He was a strange man, Jane thought, with a remarkable authority; she realized that she trusted his judgment implicity, and with only a passing hesitation at why she should put her life in the hands of a complete stranger, she followed him out of hiding."

Guest characters like Colonel Wolsey, and particularly the story's human bad guy, Sir George, benefit well from the extra space. Hutchinson's descent from village squire into the Malus' mad zombie pet and Wolsey's parallel progression from Hutchinson's henchman to the Doctor's vital ally are described at length, adding extra layers onto the already solid work given by returning "Who" guest actors Glyn Houston and Dennis Lill on screen. I do wish that Sir George had been given more backstory -- we only get faint hints that he was an honorable man before he discovered the Malus -- but, again, Pringle isn't adding new story beats here, so that sort of backstory would have to be reserved for the hundreds of Who fans writing Sir George Hutchinson fanfic on alt.drwho.creative in the early '90s.

There are other times, of course, where Pringle doesn't seem to know what to do with the extra space he's been given for the book. Late in Part One, he gets bored enough to start personifying a chair, "which stood like a sentinel in the middle of the rough, boarded floor." Moments like this are rare, thankfully. Much better is when Will Chandler, the 17th-century boy inexplicably caught up in the story's 20th-century conflict, who takes charge during the climax:

"And Will, freed from the anchorage of his fear, shot out of the group like an arrow released from a bow and scutled into the smoke billowing around the Malus and Sir George."
One little grace note. Almost every sergeant in the history of the Doctor Who novelization line was described with the adjective "burly". Now, the one sergeant in this story, Joseph Willow, is not given that description, although Pringle says of him, rather wonderfully, that he "had the rasping, ill-tempered voice of a natural bully". There's a colonel, Ben Wolsey, who's described as burly not once, not twice, but... how gratifying... to do it three times over! Pringle may not have been an expert on Doctor Who, but he certainly knows which words belong exclusively to the novelizations.