Dicks of the Light

Terrance Dicks (10 May 1935–29 August 2019)

First times are both easy and impossible to remember.

There must have been a book based on The Clangers. I read the “Bleep and Booster” cartoons in the annual Blue Peter book, with no sense of what it was. And children’s books, for the under sevens, often shade between fantasy and sf.

But for all my disdain for Wookiebooks (which is probably spelled wrong), I’d place my bets that the first sf novel I read was Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, followed by Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks. And I’d like to think that it was in October 1977, when I moved up to Nottingham Road Junior School, because I was probably allowed in a different section of the library by then. I suspect I’d watched “The Face of Evil” as my first television encounter — although I have a ghost memory of Three and Jo Grant looking out over a balcony in “Planet of the Daleks”. But I took these two hardbacks home and devoured them.

Would I have noted the name Terrance Dicks? His role as script editor — long since retired from — would have meant little to me, but I would soon read the second version of The Making of Doctor Who, co-written with Malcolm Hulke.

Of course, I wouldn’t have known that Hulke was much more interesting.

There were a lot of Dickses to read — he novelised his own episodes, and any that the original scripter was unwilling or unable to do. For a while, he had the list to himself. He was probably workmanlike, presumably often working from scripts and production stills, in those days before VHS issues, let alone DVDs. When episodes were rarely repeated, his was the only version of the serials we could access. For the lost or wiped, serials, even more so.

He tried to ring the changes, but there was always the strange space-time continuum and more often than not an open face with a shock of curly hair — okay the hair was Four’s — and they were page turners. The Dalek Invasion of Earth stuck for me — for a decade afterwards I could have regaled you with the plot. And there was something about the Robomen that appealed, despite their nightmare quality. (I got the same buzz from the Cybermen, but I can’t work out if that was The Tenth Planet or The Cybermen; even if there was something special about Daleks, it was Cybermen that took my imagination.)

Dicks was to move on to things like the classic Sunday serial — wasn’t there even a Tom Bake Hound of the Baskervilles? — and other books. I devoured the Baker Street Irregulars, as well. Did he get me into Sherlock Holmes?

And I was to move on, too.

At some point — let’s call it 1981, but it may have been a year earlier or later — I was allowed into the adult library and, anal retentive then as now, I started reading adult sf in alphabetical order. A was for Asimov, C was for Clarke. My guess is B was for Bradbury.

D derailed me.

D was for Dick, and a three novels in one, which included A Crack in Space.

Not the best of starts, I confess.

But Dicks had lit up my imagination and my psychology, in ways I would not realise for decades to come. At one point I had a complete run of the Target novelisations, but I stopped before the end. In a move, I think I lost a box, and part of me wants to replace those gaps.

But it’s the memory that’s important, and perhaps I shouldn’t go back.





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