Monday 2 September 2019

Terrance Dicks

We've just learned that Terrance Dicks has died, aged 84, a few days ago on the 29th of August. Being born in 1984, I can never quite appreciate the sheer impact that Dicks had on so many childhoods. I was born at the tail end of his heyday, when he pumped out dozens of Doctor Who novelisations and original children's books throughout the 1970s and into the '80s. Dicks wrote the Star Quest trilogy, a series of novels featuring the Baker Street Irregulars, the Sally Ann ragdoll adventures, The River Rats, and many, many more. While it was during the 70s and 80s that he produced his mot prolific and celebrated works, he continued writing well into the 2000s. Yet it was those early years that are most rightfully celebrated.

With his many childrens novels, and above all, his huge contribution to the Doctor Who Target novelisation range, Dicks practically taught a generation of kids to read. While I came to Doctor Who after the era of the novelisation, when videos and then DVDs were the easiest way to catch up with old stories, there were still hundreds of Target books around in libraries and charity shops, and the bulk of them had Terrance's name on. Not only the novelisations - after the last few available stories were novelised, Dicks continued to write for the original novels range, for the New Adventures, Missing Adventures and BBC Books' Eighth Doctor and Past Doctor ranges, right up to a couple of Quick Reads releases featuring the tenth Doctor after the beginning of the new series, and even his last novelisation, that of the Sarah Jane Adventures pilot.

Dicks, along with Barry Letts and Malcolm Hulke, his close colleagues, created some of the most important elements in Doctor Who's ongoing story. Dicks became script editor on Doctor Who in 1968, working on multiple serials during Patrick Troughton's last year, co-writing his final serial, The War Games with Malcolm Hulke, in which the two writers introduced the Time Lords. Dicks worked as script editor alongside Letts as producer throughout Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor, creating a whole new era of the series and introducing the Master as his nemesis. After his time as script editor, he continued to provide scripts for the series, starting with Tom Baker's first serial, Robot, in which he essentially created the character of the fourth Doctor.

Even after all these years, his impact is felt. Recently I've been introducing Suz to some of the classics of Doctor Who, watching old serials together and listening to reading of novelisations. A good half of these have Dicks's name attached to them. The Brain of Morbius, State of Decay, The Five Doctors, the novelisations of Carnival of Monsters, Pyramids of Mars, Planet of Giants... and that's just out of the ones we've enjoyed lately. Without Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who might never have made it out of the 70s, and his contribution is clear today.

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