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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in Space > SPACE ON THE SHELF

SPACE ON THE SHELF

The official novels and novelisations based on Doctor Who have often been braver and more ambitious than the television series in their depictions of space travel.
The second edition of David Whitaker’s Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks was issued just four weeks after the first, in December 1964. The jacket illustration was by Arnold Schwartzman.
The police spaceship stolen by the Master in Frontier in Space.

Adventures in space have been a staple of Doctor Who since the very first tie-in books were published. In fact, two of the series’ original novelisations featured outer-space settings. David Whitaker’s seminal Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (1964) pitches both the TARDIS and the Dalek city as equally threatening space environments – to the extent that the mysterious Doctor’s new companions, Ian and Barbara, are described as ‘prisoners in space’. Bill Strutton’s relatively stodgy Doctor Who and the Zarbi (1965) does at least succeed in making the planet Vortis a much more eerie place than the television serial The Web Planet (1965) ever managed.

In the early 1970s Target Books revived the Doctor Who novelisations. The first Target titles to significantly build on their screen counterparts were written by Malcolm Hulke. Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (1974), an adaptation of the television story Colony in Space (1971), is particularly noteworthy because it pitches a career in space travel working for one of the big mining companies – in this case the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) – as a glamorous alternative to life on an overpopulated and poisoned Earth, where all animals have been wiped out by 2500. In the chapter ‘The Men from IMC’, Hulke fleshes out Captain Dent’s backstory, making him an even more intriguing character than the gruff villain depicted on screen. Dent is described as being obsessed with his spaceship; he reflects lasciviously on each lever and knob of its controls, the powerful thrust of its motors and the destructive power of its weapons.

Dent’s experience is in stark contrast to the crew of cargo ship C-982 in Doctor Who and the Space War (1976), the novelisation of Frontier in Space (1973). This spaceship is a workhorse, battered from countless trips through the void. The crew are constantly threatened by meteors that have already left numerous lifeless wrecks drifting through the space lanes. No wonder they wistfully long for a career on the Venus to Mars cruise liners. Hulke’s novels make space adventures a metaphor for contemporary concerns over environmentalism and industrialisation, while also reminding us that space can be a dangerous place to live and work.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“Space: the final frontier. Final, because it wants to kill us...” The TARDIS doesn’t just travel through time – stories set in space have been an essential part of Doctor Who for six decades. The inhospitable void between the stars has served as the backdrop to epic space operas and nerve-racking thrillers, while harbouring some of the most dangerous adversaries the Doctor has ever encountered. This lavish publication navigates a revealing course through the space lanes of Doctor Who, with exclusive interviews, rare images, and guides to some of the most memorable episodes.