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Getting the Picture

Alister Pearson’s cover painting for Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death (1991). The original artwork now belongs to his father.

Imagine owning an original piece of Target Books artwork. It will be your responsibility. And remember, its value is beyond computation…

Whether they’re proudly displayed on bookshelves or squirrelled away in cardboard boxes, there are millions of Target books all over the UK and beyond. For a while, some editions boasted on their back covers that there had been “over 8 million copies sold”. So, while it’s satisfying to have a complete collection of Doctor Who novelisations, it’s an achievement shared by many fans.

But what if you could own a unique piece of Target history? What if you could have, hanging on your wall, the original artwork painted for one of your favourite books? Over 200 pieces of art, by 19 diff erent artists, were commissioned for the main Target range of offi cial TV tie-ins, and a high percentage of them have found their way into private collections. Some fans may be lucky enough to have one or two, but an eager group of about half a dozen dedicated collectors have amassed their own impressive galleries of works by the likes of Chris Achilleos, Jeff Cummins, Roy Knipe, Steve Kyte, Andrew Skilleter and Tony Masero.

David J Howe, one of fandom’s most renowned collectors, started the ball rolling. His fi rst encounter with Target Books was when he saw a copy of Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon (1975) in a bookshop on a family holiday. He quickly bought up the back catalogue. “There the publishers, Universal-Tandem, who furnished him with details of forthcoming publications and cover proofs of the books. When he started his own fanzine, his love of Target Books was an obvious area to focus on. was something about the covers,” he says. “They were simple but very evocative of the stories they illustrated. I liked the use of white space on those early covers – they were generally an image against white. I absolutely loved them.”

David admits that the bold approach of Peter Brookes’ cover for Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (1975) was something of a shock, but he’s grown to admire the variety of styles that have graced subsequent covers over the years. “Diff erent pieces speak to you in diff erent ways,” he says, citing Chris Achilleos’ The Web of Fear (1976), John Geary’s reprint cover for The Claws of Axos (1979) and Andrew Skilleter’s The Invasion (1985) and Frontios (1984) as particular favourites.

“It completely reflects the way the show went on television. It kept changing, kept reinventing itself… that’s what keeps it fresh and new. You have to move with the times. You don’t get longevity by doing the same thing. People of all diff erent ages, who grew up at all diff erent times – their fi rst Doctor Who and their fi rst Target book will probably be diff erent to yours. I’ve read so many diff erent opinions online. The whole history of Doctor Who illustration is such a fascinating subject.” David’s early fascination with the range led to him contacting the publishers, Universal-Tandem, who furnished him with details of forthcoming publications and cover proofs of the books. When he started his own fanzine, his love of Target Books was an obvious area to focus on.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Considered a unique record of Doctor Who’s history in the era before fanzines, official magazines and home video, Target books are probably the most cherished items of merchandise inspired by the show. They’re certainly the most commercially successful. From the early 1970s to the early 90s, it’s estimated that Target sold over eight million novelisations and other Doctor Who books. This is the inside story of a legendary imprint, from its rise and fall to its triumphant revival in 2018. Highlights include exclusive interviews with the key players, numerous rare images and extracts from two unpublished manuscripts.