Target novelisation
Doctor Who - Logopolis

Author Christopher H. Bidmead Cover image
Published 1982
ISBN 0 426 20149 3
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: In theory the TARDIS should be able to change its appearance to blend in unobtrusively wherever it happens to materialise. In practice, however, because of a fault in the chameleon circuit, it always looks like a police box - a minor inconvenience the Doctor now hopes to correct. Fixing the mechanism involves a visit to Earth and a trip to the planet Logopolis - normally a quiet little place that keeps itself to itself. But on this occasion the meddling presence of the Doctor's archenemy, the Master, ensures the disruption of normality. And even the Master is horrified by the threat of total chaos he unintentionally precipitates - until he finds a way to turn the imminent destruction of the universe to his own advantage...


When Novelizations Mattered by Jason A. Miller 10/1/04

I first read the novelization of Logopolis when I was in the sixth grade. At that point, all I knew about Doctor Who was from the few 5th Doctor episodes I'd seen on PBS. I borrowed the book from a classmate who was trying to explain how the 5th Doctor came to be. Said classmate is now a life insurance agent in South Dakota and hasn't had any contact with Doctor Who in fifteen years. The book he loaned me, however, remains one of my enduring favorites.

The novelizations of the Doctor Who TV adventures were an unusual breed: for many fans, they served as (at worst) a replacement for, or (at best) an improvement on the series itself. The condensing of a TV script into 120 pages gave rise to a peculiar richness of language that laid the groundwork for a dozen years (and counting) of original Doctor Who novels.

Reading the back cover of the Logopolis novelization reveals a host of words you don't find any more in books aimed at 12 year-olds. "Precipitated", for instance. The opening paragraph of the story is unusually literate, presaging the Fourth Doctor's death: "Events cast shadows before them...".

The story's condensation is most keenly felt in author Bidmead's prose: a lot of on-screen dialogue is converted into plain text. This keeps the narrative moving without turning the novelization into a mere transcript, but also preserves the richness of the original script. In some instances, the story improves from the condensation: most of the shots of Tegan and Adric running up and down the TARDIS corridors have been omitted; instead, we're given a scene were Adric reads from "Paradise Lost". The Doctor introduces Adric to the TARDIS's "logic circuits", a visually striking piece of equipment never seen on-screen.

Best of all is the restaging of the death scenes. When the Monitor dies on-screen, it's done through a straight visual effect, and doesn't make all that much sense. In the novelization, Bidmead makes the demise more graphic, in a manner that couldn't have been realized on television.

The Doctor's death, too, is improved. On TV, he climbs along a tilting catwalk on a telescope high above the ground, and is knocked over the edge by an explosion of sparks from a cable he's unplugged. In the book, however, he falls from the catwalk first, and is left clinging to the cable for support. By unplugging the cable he effectively commits suicide; this adds dramatic heft to his final choice and turns the Doctor into, if possible, an even more heroic figure than he was on TV.

Much of the relevance of the Doctor Who novelization has faded with time: video and DVD have made the stories more accessible than they were in the 1970s and '80s; the fan base has grown up and no longer needs to read books that are 120 pages long. Logopolis, however, in spite of a few instances of purple prose and some clunky similes, retains a poetry distinct from the TV story from which it was adapted, and thus still bears reading today.