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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. David
    September 16, 2013 @ 1:01 am


    Both for that wonderful essay, and for Uncle Terrance himself.


  2. Ozyman Jones
    September 16, 2013 @ 1:44 am

    “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

    I would put this opening line of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, by Terrance Dicks, forward as one of the greatest opening lines of any novel, ever. So much conveyed in a single sentence; that’s where old Terrance excelled. Read it and you know where you are and with whom. Simply brilliant.

    And along with…

    “The Doctor was playing Chess with K9. In the control room of the TARDIS the centre column of the many-sided console rose and fell.”

    And I’m there again, ready to begin another exciting adventure in time and space.

    I’ll let you find that reference for yourself.

    Thank you for the elegant and concise summing up on Terrance Dicks.


  3. Alex Wilcock
    September 16, 2013 @ 2:33 am

    Lovely piece. Top line: “One rarely stops and drinks in the brilliance of Dicks’s writing, but the reasons for this are simple: one rarely stops with Dicks.”

    I totally agree with you that he gets Tennant’s Doctor – ironically for someone who says he always just writes for “the Doctor”, he’s clearly put the effort in. And to be fair to him on Martha, this was the only book written and published before she turned up on screen, which is a challenge to an author (I always assumed what the Whispering Man said to her Mum in Lazarus was something like ‘He killed your niece’, so we have the odd experience here that you allude to of a Terrance novel being wider and deeper than the new series).

    And if a Cyberman story can’t be “stitched together out of bibs and bobs of earlier work”, what can be? Anyway, I started with Robot, so always happy to recognise it…

    This is one of the few new series novels I’ve reviewed, and it’s still for me one of the very best – simply because it feels like a TV episode, while so many others plodding out to 250 pages instead of 99 don’t have anything of the taut economy of new series writing (though the tone is important, too: I praised Made of Steel alongside slating another novel which was horrifyingly BNP in tone and quite against everything the series stands for). I like my Who novels long and deep, or short and crisp, and Terrance does the latter perfectly here, showing just how hard that is to do – you’ve certainly chosen the right point to stop, as for me Terrance’s few more recent offerings show how difficult it is even for Terrance to do it, let alone anyone else. But for this novel, he just hit it.

    You missed some of Terrance’s other appealing attributes on show here – particularly the script editor’s instinct to ‘fix’ plot holes, and his dry humour. Both come together in something that, appropriately for this story, Millennium Dome spotted in his review: this is both script-fixing / retconning and taking the piss out of one particular episode of Torchwood (with a bonus Primeval gag). His Cybermen come with the implicit explanation of how the eponymous Cyberwoman wasn’t sucked into the Void, and what is a “Maid of Steel”, after all, but a “Cyberwoman”? Though I won’t spoil Millennium’s joke of who the Cybermen are obviously converted from. You’ll have to read him.


  4. Alex Wilcock
    September 16, 2013 @ 2:38 am

    Yay! My favourite line, too. First time I ever met Terrance, I presented the book to him and recited the first clause – he joined in on the second, beaming. That's when I realised it was everyone else's favourite line, as well!


  5. prandeamus
    September 16, 2013 @ 4:12 am

    Thank you, both to Terrance Dicks, and also to our blog host for post. It has lifted my Monday.


  6. Daru
    September 16, 2013 @ 6:02 am

    I am really heartened by your lovely essay – yes, thank you to terrance for so many cool childhood memories!

    One of my fave first lines:

    "It was a battlefield."

    Another – not quite one line but:

    "Linx was his name. He was a microsecond from obliteration."

    Love it.


  7. Froborr
    September 16, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    Confession: I've never actually read a Terrence Dicks novel. In my defense, although I saw and enjoyed Fourth Doctor episodes on PBS as a kid, I didn't actually become a Doctor Who fan until 1997, which was not a great year to become a new fan.

    However, I did want to comment on this:

    Because this is the problem with social justice readings. Well, no. This is the problem with people who read social justice readings. As far as I can tell most of us who give them are perfectly capable of recognizing that “racist” and “misogynist” are not labels that erase everything else about a person or a story. They’re things that people are sometimes. It’s the people who read us who seem unable to distinguish between “Terrance Dicks has a really distressing tendency towards rape apologism” and “Terrance Dicks is evil.”



  8. Triturus
    September 16, 2013 @ 8:38 am

    Lovely essay. I really enjoyed reading this one. Thank you.

    I just went and counted up my Target books. Good grief; forty-four of them are by Terrance Dicks. However did he find the time?


  9. Laurence Price
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man”- yes, that is rather wonderful. O ye poetic metre buffs! It’s almost an anapaestic tetrameter. If we scan “ruin” as a long stressed monosyllable and bounce through “city”, it more or less fits the classical form. And the repetition of the content resonates with the metre to make it even more hypnotic- the stresses falling on “ruin”, “city”, “ruin”, “man”. Is the next in the sequence “ruin”, “world”? But to repeat the sequence would make it sound too pat and Dr. Seuss-like for prose, and we’re left to draw the conclusion ourselves. And I love the juxtaposition of “stalked” with the images of ruin; something is still active, hunting, dangerous, despite the apparent collapse. Zombie imagery done right.

    Terrance of the Autons was probably the second Target novelisation I swallowed up at the age of 8, with its amazing incomprehensible Nestene cover art. Such a shame to see the TV realisation- a white blob?. But that’s one of the joys of Target novelisations- their descriptions are concise enough to act as spurs to the imagination, not shackles.

    By the way, is there a specific reason why it was always 128 pages? Is there a reason that means 129 pages cost disproportionately more? Or was that as much as Uncle T. could slam out on his typewriter in a weekend?


  10. Unknown
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:15 am

    "Is there a reason that means 129 pages cost disproportionately more?"

    Printing reasons. Going over 128 pages, non-story pages included, would mean adding another 'signature' (a set of folded pages) to the book — signature sizes vary, but 16 and 32 pages are quite common, as they're the result of folding a large sheet 4 or 5 times respectively.


  11. peeeeeeet
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    "Linx was his name. He was a microsecond from obliteration."

    ISTR Robert Holmes wrote the first chapter of that one. As a whole it's more in his style than Terrance's, anyway, unlike the rest of the book.


  12. Alex Wilcock
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:32 am

    “Such a shame to see the TV realisation” – absolutely. When I eventually saw the TV version, it took me a very long time to love it. I still think, of all Terrance’s books, Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons is the one he most stunningly improves on the transmitted form, both in the imagery and in the plot. Terrance himself says adapting Holmes stories made him rise to his best because Bob’s were simply the best scripts, but this one’s just so very much better: it’s not quite Terrance’s best, but it might just be the best to recommend to someone who’s got all the DVDs and wants to know why to bother with the novelisations. Geoffrey Beevers is another reason in this case, of course…

    It was also one of the first I ever read, and my most dedicated ‘Terrance Dicks tribute review’ (complete with terrifying pic of me aged 7. Bow ties are not cool).


  13. dm
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    I think JK Rowling must have read more than her fair share of Uncle Tewwance. Her prose (in both the Potter books and Casual Vacancy- I'm yet to read her detective novel) has the same wonderful, breathless functionality to it.


  14. benny whitehead
    September 16, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    As well as, 'wheezing and groaning' there were also always the, 'heavy metal doors'.


  15. Ross
    September 16, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    Not to mention the horrific injury that left the fifth Doctor with a perpetually "open face"


  16. Daru
    September 16, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    Ah well – I really like my first one a lot more anyway.


  17. Henry R. Kujawa
    September 16, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    Terreence Dicks was one of the two guests at the very 1st DOCTOR WHO convention I ever went to. The other was John Leeson! (Can you imagine?)

    I wish I could go back and experience that day all over again, now. I'm sure I'd appreciate him a LOT more than I did at the time.

    Call me crazy, but SHAKEDOWN was my very favorite WHO-related spin-off video of the 90's. The reason was simple… I could UNDERSTAND the story without having to struggle with it. It was so refreshing at that point to be once again dealing with a writer who knew how to WRITE, instead of one who spent too much time instead trying to be "too clever for anybody's good".


  18. Ross
    September 16, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    Shakedown was definitely more like a story and less like a four way highway collision of in-jokes and writers trying to be clever than any of its contemporaries. (Well, maybe Airzone, but Airzone's plot was so full of holes and nonsense that you'd expect the Beatles to fly the yellow submarine through it to get to the Sea of Green.)


  19. Alexandria Seale
    September 16, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    I've just discovered the Target Novelizations, what are the best by Dicks?


  20. Alex Wilcock
    September 16, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

    How long is a piece of string?

    Everyone’s mileage varies, but for me the best is still Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (multi-review of the six BBC reprints here).

    I’d also particularly recommend Terrance’s Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (again), Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars (detailed review here, Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen, Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth with its award-winning opening line, Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, Doctor Who – Inferno and, one to surprise people, Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon.

    A few favourites that aren’t Terrance: Doctor Who In An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks (characterful); Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters and Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (in-depth); Doctor Who and the Ark in Space (scary); Doctor Who – The Leisure Hive (funny); Doctor Who – Logopolis (compelling); and especially Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks (just stunning).


  21. peeeeeeet
    September 16, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    I actually think the Mara stories are two of his best – certainly the only two of his I've ever re-read. Whether its because filtering them through his simplifying mindset makes them more straightforwardly enjoyable that the TV versions, or whether the superior scripts and characters lifted his otherwise rudimentary prose is for you to decide. Or maybe I just loved the Snakedance front cover.


  22. Laurence Price
    September 16, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    I'd certainly second Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks (aka just And the Daleks) for an alternative universe version of An Unearthly Child. My 9-year-old self was very disappointed that the VHS video of the story started on Skaro, and not with Ian tearing his jacket on a nail back at home, followed by a car crash on a deserted heath one foggy night. I'd add John Lucarotti's novelisation of The Aztecs, with large extra chunks of Aztec culture. And possibly the funniest, most ambitious and original of them all: The Romans, by Donald Cotton. Anyone who describes the Emperor Trajan as "the well-known columnist" gets my vote.


  23. elvwood
    September 16, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

    Gave me a nice wam feeling, this one, though it had enough 'meat' to go along with that. Thanks.

    I've just counted, and Terrance Dicks was involved in 29 out of the 45 stories I watched as a child (well, 47 if you include the Peter Cushing films). That's an awesome record!

    I've also read five of his books (putting him in joint second place for number read, behind Justin Richards – joint first if you discount the Darksmith series) and thoroughly enjoyed all of them except the Judoon one, which lacked something. I wholeheartedly endorse …and the Auton Invasion as well as ..and the Dalek Invasion of Earth (with its awesome opening line) and actually enjoyed Blood Harvest more than Paul Cornell's better-received Goth Opera.

    So thanks to you too, Mr. Dicks!


  24. Anton B
    September 17, 2013 @ 2:36 am

    Starts on Skaro? Oh I see, yes it does but Whittaker cleverly conflated parts of 'An Unearthly Child' with the Dalek story to give a much more exciting 'secret origin' of the Doctor. Actually I often wonder why. was it a copywrite issue with Anthony Coburn? Much as I love early Hartnell I think DWIAEAWTD improves on the opening episodes by cutting the tedious cavemen and ramping up the potential threat of the mysterious time traveller and his grandaughter. And yes, Barnes Common will always be a place of foggy magic to me.


  25. T. Hartwell
    September 18, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

    When I set about collecting the Target novelizations, I was mainly focusing on the ones written by other writers, only picking up the Dicks ones if they happened to be an immensely favorite story of mine.

    This post, and the comments in the conversation, make me want to go for the whole set now.


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