Peter Capaldi meets legendary Doctor Who artist Chris Achilleos at Target exhibition launch

The stars gathered for the opening of an exhibition of artwork from the classic Doctor Who novels at the Cartoon Museum in London – closes 5 June

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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.

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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!

The exhibition runs at the Cartoon Museum until Sunday 5th June

Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH

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The excellent, revised and updated edition of “The Target Book: a history of the Target Doctor Who books” by David Howe is available to buy now

Illustrator Chris Achilleos with Peter Capaldi. Photographer Jon Pountney
Illustrator Chris Achilleos with Peter Capaldi. Photographer Jon Pountney
Peter Capaldi with Chris Achilleos and Chris's partner Natasha. Photographer Jon Pountney
Peter Capaldi with Chris Achilleos and Chris’s partner Natasha. Photographer Jon Pountney
Author Terrance Dicks, artists Chris Achilleos, Andrew Skilleter and Jeff Cummins with Steven Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
Author Terrance Dicks, artists Chris Achilleos, Andrew Skilleter and Jeff Cummins with Steven Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
Exhibition curator Edward Russell joins the group. Photographer Jon Pountney
Exhibition curator Edward Russell joins the group. Photographer Jon Pountney
Chris Achilleos with his two earliest pieces for the Doctor Who Target book range, published in 1973. Photographer Jon Pountney
Chris Achilleos with his two earliest pieces for the Doctor Who Target book range, published in 1973. Photographer Jon Pountney
The 1973 cover artwork for Doctor Who and the Zarbi and Doctor Who and the Daleks by Chris Achilleos
The 1973 cover artwork for Doctor Who and the Zarbi and Doctor Who and the Daleks by Chris Achilleos
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Dicks, Achilleos and Skilleter. Photographer Jon Pountney
Terrance Dicks signs a book for Chris Achilleos. Photographer Jon Pountney
Terrance Dicks signs a book for Chris Achilleos. Photographer Jon Pountney
Uncle Terrance. Photographer Jon Pountney
Uncle Terrance. Photographer Jon Pountney
Steven Moffat speaks to BBC arts correspondent Tim Masters. Photographer Jon Pountney
Steven Moffat speaks to BBC arts correspondent Tim Masters. Photographer Jon Pountney
Rarely seen together, three creative minds behind Doctor Who: 1960s/70s script editor Terrance Dicks, 1980s script editor Eric Saward and current showrunner Steven Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
Rarely seen together, three creative minds behind Doctor Who: 1960s/70s script editor Terrance Dicks, 1980s script editor Eric Saward and current showrunner Steven Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
Dicks, Saward and Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
Dicks, Saward and Moffat. Photographer Jon Pountney
The 1975 Doctor Who and the Cybermen cover artwork by Chris Achilleos
The 1975 Doctor Who and the Cybermen cover artwork by Chris Achilleos
The 1974 cover artwork for Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon by Chris Achilleos.
The 1974 cover artwork for Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon by Chris Achilleos.
The 1974 cover artwork for The Day of the Daleks by Chris Achilleos.
The 1974 cover artwork for The Day of the Daleks by Chris Achilleos.
The 1976 cover artwork for The Three Doctors cover by Jeff Cummins
The 1976 cover artwork for The Three Doctors cover by Jeff Cummins
The 1977 cover artwork for The Ark in Space by Chris Achilleos.
The 1977 cover artwork for The Ark in Space by Chris Achilleos.
Dicks and Skilleter.
Dicks and Skilleter.
The group
The group
Peter Capaldi. Photographer Jon Pountney
Peter Capaldi. Photographer Jon Pountney