I knew they were coming, I knew what they were, I knew even exactly what they looked like. Yet still, as the postman delivered them through my door, I couldn’t wait to hold them in my childishly eager hands. To feel. To caress. To drool. But not on these books. Never on these books. For publisher Frederik Muller’s complete trio of hardback D(octo)r Who novels – An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks, The Zarbi, The Crusaders – remain in their original 1964/5 forms the holy grail of printed tie-in collectibles from the series’ infancy, and now here’s the chance to own the next best thing. From the reproduction dust jackets to the original blurbs and reviews – “…carries enough dramatic suspense to make it popular with adults” the Manchester Evening News said presciently – through to the interior artwork by Arnold Schwartzman, John Wood and Henry Fox, these early excursions for Hartnell’s Doctor, penned in turn by David Whitaker, Bill Strutton, then Whitaker again, feel, appropriately enough, like visitors from another time.
A time when, for instance, I loaned the first book along with John W Jennison’s Thunderbirds Lost World from my local (caravan) library and never wanted to take either back. No surprise there – these books were one of the very few avenues to the fantastic we had in those pre VHS and DVD days: our only chance to escape into TV worlds otherwise denied but for once a week, and then only when a series was on air. Now here they are again, startlingly and discomnobulatingly pristine and vivid in their regeneration, perhaps, but nonetheless old friends come home. It’s pointless to review the stories themselves – the many paperback versions through Armada to Green Dragon to Target mean these contents are familiar enough to all of fandom – and so for once I will judge books by their covers and simply wallow in their (re)appearance. It’s impossible to overstate how special these books were to fans of a certain vintage, and I applaud BBC Books for reissuing them in such a faithful format. They are lovely things and they belong on your bookshelf today. Mike Wild