A stone’s throw from the British Museum more than 30 ancient holy relics went on display on Thursday night – “ancient and holy” as far as Doctor Who fans are concerned anyway.
I’m talking about the original cover artwork that appeared on the Doctor Who novels published by Target Books in the 1970s and 80s. These rare pieces are now available to view at the Cartoon Museum in central London, in a small but perfectly formed exhibition curated by Doctor Who brand manager Edward Russell.
He’s succeeded in tracking down many original pieces, now in the hands of private collectors – some very lucky Doctor Who fans – who kindly allowed them to be transported and put on display. Apart from the pleasure of examining the originals in close-up detail, what’s most remarkable is how pristine all of the artworks still are, the earliest being from 1973.
For many fans, before the ages of VHS, then DVD and now the internet, the Target Books were the only way we could relive our favourite TV adventures – and in many cases read about them for the first time. And the covers were always in a class of their own.
Such is their allure that current Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat attended the launch party held on Thursday night. The gallery space at the Cartoon Museum was packed to the rafters. Among the guests was the granddaddy of Doctor Who: Terrance Dicks, the programme’s script editor (1968–74) who also wrote the lion’s share of the Target adaptations.
Most importantly, the talented illustrators were there in person too, including Jeff Cummins, Andrew Skilleter (who also designed the famous Radio Times Five Doctors cover in 1983) and the legendary Chris Achilleos. He painted the earliest Target covers in the 1970s and has been asked back by BBC Books to produce new covers in his inimitable style for reissues of some of the later books.
It was a fun night – with many attendees admitting little else would have torn them away from the finale of Line of Duty!
Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH