How essential are novelizations?

Basically just the title question. For context, I’m in the middle of a large scale “experience everything Who” project, so I will read the novelizations eventually, but I was wondering if it was worth reading them in context of when they were written. Are there enough elements new/different from the TV stories/other media they’re based on to justify prioritizing them? Curious to hear opinions.

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It entirely depends on the story. I’ve only read a few and most of the Target Novelizations are simply a prose version of the TV serial. It might streamline things here and there, but mostly what you saw on TV is what you get in the novel. Remember, most of the Target run was written in the days before home video so it was a way to relive your favorite stories or experience ones you’d missed. There are some though, especially later that tend to expand a bit on the TV version (the Season 26 novels are especially noteworthy as Ghost Light helps make better sense of the plot and Curse of Fenric adds bits to that flesh things out well).

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This makes a lot of sense. Selfishly, I was hoping that would be the case so I could put a hundred books to the side for now! I’ll probably read them piecemeal before embarking on the Read It All project once I get through the New Adventures or something.

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Unfortunately, they’re kinda a case by case kinda thing. I thought The Sensorites was better as a novel than on TV, whereas Robot was a retelling of the TV story without anything really extra. Then of course The Curse of Fenric adds a fair bit to the story and fleshes a lot out.

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I’d tend to expect on the serials with missing episodes that the novelization would add a good bit to them…

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Having read a few (but far from all) Target novelizations, I’d say there are roughly three types of them:

Direct adaptations, e.g., The Faceless Ones, Wild Blue Yonder. These are pretty much word-for-word adaptations that don’t add or change anything. It’s like reading TV scripts in novelized format.

Extended adaptations, e.g., The Daleks, Fury from the Deep, and The Star Beast. These adapt the TV story but usually add a few extra scenes, characters, or details that flesh out the story more. I find these to be generally the best novelizations because they balance the familiar TV story with new material without leaning too much into either style.

Very different adaptations, e.g., The Giggle. These are rare, but generally do something unexpected with the source material and spend parts of the novel doing things that don’t happen in the televised story.

Personally, I prefer the novelizations that add something extra and build upon the original story, as reading the direct adaptations tends to be a bit boring at times. That being said, they are good alternatives to the missing stories or for stories you don’t fancy watching (such as The Web Planet or The Gunfighters).

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Well, with The Gunfighters, you could probably just watch this and consider it good…

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I actually enjoy The Gunfighters for the comedic romp it is and don’t mind the constant singing parts. I just thought I’d point out that you dont have to hear the singing if you read the novelization :smiley:

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For me, the singing was really my number one issue with the serial, despite being someone that normally likes music. I expect I’d appreciate the episode a lot more if I was watching a cut down version with the song entirely removed…

(And to be fair, there are a fair number of episodes I think would be improved just by cutting out filler. I like serials, but sometimes they were padding things far more then they should.)

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Perhaps we should campaign for a The Gunfighters in Colour release next :grin:

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I must be alone in loving the singing in The Gunfighters, it’s so fun :grin:

A similar example alongside The Giggle I feel is the target City of Death which draws on the Douglas Adams material quite a lot and is a very fun read. It doesn’t necessary add much but it’s definitely not a prose copy and somehow managed to pull off the same overall feeling as the serial.

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Now I’m wondering if the novelization of Gunslingers has the singing in it…

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The song does appear in the novelisation, but only once in the opening chapter xD

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You are not alone good sir :slightly_smiling_face: I just lament the fact that it keeps going in my head for weeks on end when I have seen it :grin:

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I don’t tend to buy or read the novelisations any more. For me they were a way of experiencing stories before the explosion of VHS.

I do have a complete collection (sort of - it’s a mix of paperbacks, hardbacks, reprints and double-book versions) but haven’t bothered buying any of the modern novelisations.

There are some which are definitely worth seeking out though such as The Romans which is written as a series of letters and diary entries or, as others have said Ghost Light which really clarifies what is happening in that story.

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The other thing about the novelisations is that I can distinctly remember where I was when reading certain ones as it was in my burgeoning fandom years.

The Leisure Hive was on a steam train. The Web of Fear was sitting in the park at Greenwich with my Uncle and Nan. Terror of the Vervoids was on holiday in a converted barn.

I can also remember where I found a lot of them. The Invisible Enemy was on a small shelf of books for sale in a tiny cafe on a clifftop. The Macra Terror was in a bookshop in Falmouth. Terminus was one of many I found at a Scout jumble sale just round the corner from my house. The Wheel in Space was given to me as a gift by my friend which she’d managed to get off another friend of hers who didn’t realise how rare it was!

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Interesting! I love The Sensorites on TV but the novelisation didn’t really work for me, I think the story was a bit too simplistic in places for the prose format imo, but with the atmosphere & performances on TV is elevated to be a delightful early story.

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I love it! They were doing something slightly different and it was fun!

I’ve only read novelisations of my favourite modern stories, especially because I heard that they had extra details to them, plus two of them were written by the original episode writers - Russell T Davies (Rose) and Steven Moffat (The Day of the Doctor). I thought they were brilliant

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