Destination TARGET:
Barnes Common.


Books Having completed a full watch of the television of Doctor Who up until that date in 2013, the second most important pilgrimage for a "we" seems to be read through the whole lot again in the form of the prequels to the era. To that end for the past few years I've been slowly collecting the TARGET novelisations and although there's plenty more to find, and indeed afford since some of them are really quite expensive for what they are, yesterday, just for now, I began with the first chapter of Doctor Who and the Daleks.

As you can surmise from the photo, in order make this even more worthwhile (!), I've decided to read each book in a place with some kind of thematic or actual connection.  This will not stretch very far.  The Himalayas seems like obvious setting for a thumb through John Lucarroti's Marco Polo, budget and time suggest this would be about as practical as visiting Marinus making somewhere in Chinatown a more feasible setting.  Lorks knows where I'll end up for Terminus, but World Museum Liverpool will probably be seeing a lot of me.

To the point: when the first three Doctor Who novelisations were published in the 1960s, author David Whittaker didn't know that a decade later such things would become a publishing sensation, so his interpretation of Doctor Who and the Daleks notoriously begins with a rewriting of the origins of the series.  Quite why Whittaker decided to offer such a radical rethink of Terry Nation's script surely someone reading this will know and enlighten me via Twitter (Jim?).

Instead of two teachers tumbling into the TARDIS from the junkyard after following one of their students home, we have the first person account of Ian Chesterton, scientist on his way home from a disappointing job interview stumbling into Barbara Wright who has just survived a crash with an army truck on Barnes Common as she took her pupil Susan home, still out of curiosity as to her living conditions.

With the flexibility of prose, Whittaker takes the opportunity to increase the atmosphere of his opening, the sinister shadows and noirish light sources suggesting the opening of a Hitchcockian thriller from his British period, with Ian as a more dynamic, cigarette smoking figure in the style of Richard Hannay or Adolf Verloc.  Barbara is referred to as "the girl" for much of the chapter and a problem Chesterton is semi-reluctant to solve.

As Mark Gatiss recognised when he gave it a nod An Adventure in Space and Time, the setting for this revised opening, Barnes Common, has become a particularly jolly in-joke and since reading the book many, many years ago (possibly as much as a decade), I've wanted to visit and see how close the locale is to what's the described in the book.  Was Whittaker familiar with area when he wrote the piece or did he simply select it from a copy of the A-Z because it sounded right?

The main destination for my monthly visit to London on Monday was the Wallace Collection (home of The Laughing Cavalier and Poisson's A Dance to the Music of Time), but that's small enough (for someone not that interested in porcelain wear, guns and armour) that something would be needed to fill the rest of the afternoon and Barnes is only about twenty minutes outside of Central London via a change at Clapham Junction. 

As you can also see from the photograph, quite quickly after leaving Barnes station, it became clear that Whittaker's description of the place refers to the general area around Barnes Common rather than the parkland itself.  It's mostly woodland and shrubland with patches of grass whereas the book suggests a space consisting of larger fields away from civilisation.  Barnes Common is framed with housing on all sides.

Barnes Common is also on the tourist trail for rock fans as Marc Bolan, some ten years after the publication of the book in 1977, was the passenger in a purple Mini which rammed into a tree killing him instantly in an odd parallel to the events in this parallel version of Who's origins.  For decades, the tree on which this occurred was decorated with scarves and keepsakes from fans until a memorial bust was erected recently.

Now, what I'd really like to describe is finding a spot, perhaps near the memorial, and reading through this chapter, soaking up the atmosphere and wondering if seeing the very space where the crash is supposed to happen.  I'd like to say that.  But yesterday, the rain around Barnes Common was persistent enough that some of the pavements disappeared beneath the terentials.  There was nowhere dry enough to stop and sit and take in the view.

So here's a photograph of somewhere I could have sat if the weather and been dryer:


And another:


Some large wooden balls (Jim?):


Instead, I waited until the train home:


The book will now return to the shelf until I've completed the collection (fifty pounds for The Wheel in Space?!?) and decided on the most relevant venues for some of the rest of the books.

The fate of that Kit-Kat is another story.

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