Science Fiction Novelisations
Created | Updated May 11, 2020
A novelisation is an adaptation into a novel of a story that first appeared in a different form, such as a film, television episode, radio series or even computer game. Novelisations have existed since the early, pre-sound days of cinema, but it is since the 1960s (and the evolution of popular television programmes and cult films) that novelisations have become more popular.
Novelisations are often looked down on as a literary form, being considered commercial rather than art. Yet often the boundaries between novel and novelisation are quite blurred, and what is assumed to be a novel is actually a novelisation.
Novelisations are often accused of being lightweight and easy to read – which is precisely their beauty. They are often short, easy to assimilate and ideal books for young children, especially boys, at the start of their literary journey. This aspect of novelisations being introductions to a wider world of reading is something that is beginning to be recognised – not only are young reader novelisation adaptations being written, such as Star Trek: Insurrection, but also the Quick Reads scheme has recognised Doctor Who novelisation author Terrance Dicks by incorporating new stories of his in the Quick Read scheme.
There are several alternatives to novelisation. Among the more common are:
- Young Adult Novelisation - A novelisation which is shorter and easier to read than a standard novelisation. These may include a few select photographic stills.
- Short Story Novelisation - Like the above, but even shorter, often collected into an anthology of other short story versions of episodes in a series.
- Graphic-Novel - A comic-book adaptation of the film or episode.
- Fotonovel - Like the Graphic-Novel, but using photographic stills from the film or episode being novelised.
- Storybook - A short story version of the film or episode but sold in a larger, annual format interspersed with several large colour pictures.
- Audiobook - A recording, often narrated by the author or cast members, which can include novelisations. Radio dramas, however, are not novelisations.
Origins Of Novelisations
Before the invention of videos and home viewing systems, the only way to keep a reminder of a television episode or film forever1 was to purchase a novelisation of the story. These were frequently sold containing photographs from the film or television series they depicted, if not within a central section, then often on their front cover. Novelisations have gained in importance for many television series because they provide some of the few surviving records. The home video market in the 1980s did not affect the novelisation market; novelisations continued to be written, but it is quite likely that the introduction of affordable television box sets may well see novelisations declining in importance.
Novelisations frequently include changes to the original story, as the length of a novel is usually much longer than the screenplay they are based on. The novelisations often include improvements over the original screened stories as background characters have bigger roles and their motivations are explored, no 'dodgy effects' date the story and when a film or episode has suffered from severe studio editing or financial limitations, the novelisation is able to recapture, or even improve on, the original idea.
Undoubtedly the biggest television supporter of the novelised book is Doctor Who. Almost every episode of Doctor Who's original run has been novelised, with only five exceptions2. Some of these novelisations altered the plot of the television series, or increased the roles of background characters, yet these additions and alterations are considered to add extra value to the world of Doctor Who, with the changes being referred to in extras on the Doctor Who DVD range3.
There are also novelised Doctor Who radio dramas ('The Paradise of Death' and 'Slipback'), audio dramas ('Doctor Who and the Pescatons'), unfilmed scripts ('The Nightmare Fair', 'The Ultimate Evil' and 'Mission to Magnus'), spin offs ('K9 and Company' and Sarah-Jane Adventures novelisations) independent fan fiction adaptations ('Downtime') and webcasts ('Scream of the Shalka').
Several key Doctor Who personnel were involved in writing these, especially for the Target range. These involved not only Doctor Who writers and script editors, the people normally associated with adapting scripts to novel form, but also actors, such as Ian Marter (who played companion Harry Sullivan 1974-5 and also wrote novelisations of films such as Splash under the pen name Ian Don), Philip Hinchcliffe, who was a series producer and Barry Letts, who was a director and producer. The most prolific writer in the Doctor Who range was Terrance Dicks, script editor 1969-74 who wrote over 60.
For many fans, 'Doctor Who in black and white' refers less to the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton adventures, but more to the novelised adventures the first eight doctors have had. Although the first Doctor Who serials to be novelised, the William Hartnell stories 'The Daleks' (as 'Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks') by David Whitaker, 'The Web Planet' (as 'Doctor Who and the Zarbi' by Bill Strutton) and 'The Crusade' (as 'Doctor Who and the Crusaders', also by David Whitaker) were published between 1964 and 1965 by Frederick Muller Ltd, it was another publishing company, Target Books, that were to encapsulate Doctor Who in written form to the masses.
Between 1973 and 1991, Target Books published almost every Doctor Who television serial as a novelisation, starting with new editions of the Frederick Muller Ltd. Books. Many Doctor Who fans consider these novelisations to be almost official, or canonical, records of the adventures that no longer exist and they can frequently be found alongside Doctor Who fans' DVD collections, filling in the wiped adventures' gaps.
Target's early books had their television titles re-titled to fit the Target 'Doctor Who and the...' name format, for instance 'Spearhead From Space' was released as 'Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion'. In 1983, Target confused its customers even more by beginning to number its novelisations. The first seventy-three books to be numbered were numbered in alphabetical order; following on from that, the books were numbered in publication order.
Essentially, the books ended up in the order of what seemed a good idea at the time, with all the Doctors mixed up. The last William Hartnell4 novelisation was number 145 when the last Peter Davison5 novelisation in the Target range was number 113. It was from the Fifth Doctor novelisations that the artwork on the front cover were replaced by photographic covers. These, though emphasising the novelisation nature of the story and that they were adapted from the television series, were not as popular with fans as the artwork that had preceded them. Target later abandoned the photographic covers, returning to using the artwork style.
Since 2005, audiobook versions of these novelisations, read by original Doctor Who actors, have been released by BBC Audio Books, starting with the very first Frederick Miller novelisations. Even novelisations of episodes that still exist are adapted into audio plays. This demonstrates the continued popularity of the Target range after almost 40 years.
Virgin And BBC Books
When Target was taken over by Virgin in 1991, three further serials 'The Power of the Daleks' and 'The Evil of the Daleks' by John Peel and the radio serial 'The Paradise of Death' by Barry Letts were added to the range, using the Target numerical system to emphasise continuation with the Target range.
The only original series serials never to have been officially novelised are 'The Pirate Planet', 'City of Death', 'Shada', 'Resurrection of the Daleks' and 'Revelation of the Daleks'. These are due to licensing issues with the original scriptwriters. The Children in Need special 'Dimensions in Time' and Steven Moffat's Comic Relief spoof 'Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death' have not been novelised.
In 1996 the BBC regained the publishing rights to Doctor Who, and Gary Russell's novelised adaptation of the Eighth Doctor TV movie followed eight years later. By 2010, 161 Doctor Who novelisations have been published. These are the three original Frederick Muller novelisations, the 150 Target novelisations (who also republished the first three), six Virgin novelisations6 as well as the 1996 TV movie and 2004 webcast 'Scream Of The Shalka' by the BBC.
Although to date (2010) none of the Ninth, Tenth or Eleventh Doctor stories have been novelised, it is hoped that the new showrunner Steven Moffat7 will allow Doctor Who's novelisation tradition to resume and continue.
When interviewed about his decision to bring back the Silurians for episodes 8 and 9 of the 2010 series8, Steven Moffat admitted,
'It was more the idea than the original TV shows, to be honest, and more Malcolm Hulke's wonderful Target novel Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters than the version of the Silurians we saw on the telly. That novel had proper, complex characters – not just rubber suits.'
Chris Chibnall, who wrote the 2010 episodes, also re-read the novelisation and stated, 'it was even better than I remembered, and I'd remembered it was pretty good. But in that you can see very clearly Malcolm Hulke's unfettered vision for the Silurian race.' This shows the high regard that the Doctor Who novelisations have among the Doctor Who creative team.
Unusually, not only have Doctor Who television episodes inspired novelisations, but Doctor Who stories not created for television have been adapted for the television series. Neither of the two stories adapted into television episodes so far have been adapted for television with the Doctor that originally featured in the original written story. The first story to be televised, the two parter Tenth Doctor story 'Human Nature', was based on a Virgin New Adventure book which is currently available to download from the BBC's website.
Also televised was a short story originally published in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual written by current showrunner Steven Moffat. The story 'What I Did On My Christmas Holiday By Sally Sparrow' featuring the Ninth Doctor was the basis for the acclaimed tenth-Doctor episode 'Blink'. Sally Sparrow was originally younger in the annual story, which revolved around the Doctor leaving messages under the wallpaper in order to regain his Tardis and did not feature the weeping angels.
James Bond Novelisations
Featuring spaceships and satellites, underwater bases, aquatic and invisible cars, the James Bond films have evolved from their Cold War Thriller origins into the realms of science fiction.
Ian Fleming's Novelisations
In 1954 Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, had been adapted for television by the American television channel CBS. As this had been successful, in 1958 they contacted Ian Fleming expressing interest in creating more television episodes. Although this proposal later came to nothing, Ian Fleming had written at least three story outlines for the series: 'From a View to a Kill', 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Risico' which he adapted into short stories.
Thunderball, the ninth Ian Fleming novel published in 1961, is actually a novelisation of an unfilmed screenplay. Thunderball began life in the late 1950s as an intended film for Xanadu Productions, which consisted of Ian Fleming, Ernest Cuneo, Ivar Bryce, and Kevin McClory. It was originally inspired by a short story written by Ernest Cuneo and underwent several rewrites, although elements from the short story remained. The identity of the villains fluctuated between the Russians and the Mafia, before finally becoming SPECTRE - whether SPECTRE was created by McClory or Fleming is still debated. Ian Fleming wrote versions of the screenplay, then in 1959 Jack Whittingham rewrote Fleming's story, and in 1961 Kevin McClory produced the final screenplay. After failing to find financial backing, Xanadu Productions disolved and in late 1961 Fleming sold the film rights to the James Bond books except Casino Royale.
Ian Fleming then novelised Thunderball, basing it on the original short story, his and subsequent drafts of the screenplay. Initially Ian Fleming was credited as the sole author of the novel, which he dedicated to his friend Ernest Cuneo. However McClory, along with Whittingham (who assigned his script rights to McClory), sued Ian Fleming. Ian Fleming settled the lawsuit out of court in December 1961. The settlement declared that the Thunderball novel should read "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming", though Ian Fleming's author credit remained. McClory was also granted the film rights of the Thunderball story, although he was unable to find independent backing for developing the film, so in 1964, he reluctantly agreed to allow Thunderball to be adapted as the fourth, official James Bond film, which was released in 1965 starring Sean Connery.
By the late 1970s, the original plots of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels had dated and when Ian Fleming sold the film rights to The Spy Who Loved Me, it was under the understanding that no elements from his original, experimental novel be filmed.
Christopher Wood, with Richard Maibaum, re-wrote the plot of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 and after its success, and the phenomenal success of Star Wars, adapted Moonraker. They added the space scenes to the story originally based about a nuclear missile, yet kept Fleming's villain, Hugo Drax. As these screen adaptations were so different from the original novels, Christopher Wood novelised his screenplays. In 1977 he gave the new novelised version of The Spy Who Loved Me the title James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me to avoid confusion with Ian Fleming's original novel, and his 1979 novelisation was named from Moonraker to James Bond and Moonraker.
Ten years later, in 1989, John Gardner novelised Licence To Kill based on the screenplay by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum. John Gardner was the official Bond novelist at the time and had written 8 original Bond novels during the 1980s, and he attempted to reconcile the film with the events chronicled in both his and Ian Fleming's Bond novels. This was quite a challenge considering Licence To Kill tried not to contradict events featured in Ian Fleming's Bond stories that had not been previously filmed. The biggest challenge was that in the film Felix Leiter's arm and leg are eaten by a shark, events which had happened in the Live And Let Die novel. In the novelisation, John Gardner has Felix lose the same arm and leg again in a chapter called 'Lightning Sometimes Strikes Twice'. The film also resurrects Milton Krest, who died in Ian Fleming's short story 'The Hildebrand Rarity', but appears in the novelisation as if for the first time.
John Gardner also novelised GoldenEye, which fortunately did not raise any controversial contradictions. One sequence John Gardner added to the novelisation even made it into the popular GoldenEye computer game.
After John Gardner retired from writing James Bond novels, the mantel was picked up by Raymond Benson. He novelised the remaining three Pierce Brosnan Bond films – Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. These include added scenes providing more background information. The novelisation of Tomorrow Never Dies attempts to resolve the infamous scene in the film in which Bond is unable to use a Chinese keyboard, despite the You Only Live Twice film showed Bond telling Moneypenny he had passed an Oriental Languages course. Benson states that Bond had in fact lied to Moneypenny in You Only Live Twice. However, in Benson's previous Bond book, Zero Minus Ten, Bond was fluent in Cantonese. The Die Another Day novelisation was the last Bond novel Benson wrote before retiring. So far, neither of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been novelised.
Star Trek Novelisations
Star Trek has had different approaches to novelisation. Only the films and more recent series have had the plot of films and important episodes novelised.
Both the Original and Animated series chose not to novelise, but instead adapt episodes as short stories. The Original series has also been adapted into Fotonovels. Though not strictly novelisations, they are still well worth discussing.
Original and Animated Series' Short Stories
The very first Star Trek adaptations were written by James Blish who wrote a series of short stories adaptations of Star Trek episodes from 1967 until his death in 1975. These numbered books, called simply Star Trek, were generally based on the scripts. His first books were written before Star Trek had even been shown in the UK. In July 1975, James Blish died and his wife Judith Ann Lawrence, writing as J. A. Lawrence, completed the last anthology, Star Trek 12, and a book containing the two Harry Mudd episodes as well as an original story. These generally followed the plot of the episodes, although there were some changes both to titles (for instance, the episode 'The Spectre Of The Gun' was called 'The Last Gunfight' in his adaptation) and plot – especially 'The Menagerie' which ignored all the additions filmed to surround the original pilot.
The success of these prompted a similar approach to adapting the Star Trek Animated Adventures series. The animated adventures are now tragically an ignored and neglected part of the Star Trek universe, but with ten anthologies published between 1974 and 1978, there were more Animated Adventure anthologies than novelisations published for the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise television series. These logs were edited by Alan Dean Foster who also wrote connecting segments, and pretty much followed the broadcast order of the animated adventures.
Before the invention of the video player, the closest you could get to owning the original episode was by buying a Fotonovel. These were produced in the 1970s and were a photographic comic book or graphic-novel. They showed colour stills from the episode in chronological order, with speech bubbles and narrative descriptions to tell the story. Fotonovels were not unique to Star Trek, other television series and films, including the original Battlestar Galactica, also released Fotonovels. Twelve Star Trek original series Fotonovels were released. A Motion Picture Fotonovel, adapted by Alan Dean Foster, was also produced.
- The City on the Edge of Forever
- Where No Man Has Gone Before
- The Trouble with Tribbles
- A Taste of Armageddon
- All Our Yesterdays
- The Galileo Seven
- A Piece of the Action
- The Devil in the Dark
- Day of the Dove
- The Deadly Years
- Amok Time.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Gene Roddenberry
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Vonda N. McIntyre
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Vonda N. McIntyre
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - Vonda N. McIntyre
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - J. M. Dillard
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - J. M. Dillard
- Star Trek: Generations - J. M. Dillard
- (Young Adult Novelisation by John Vornholt)
- Star Trek: First Contact - J. M. Dillard
- (Young Adult Novelisation by John Vornholt)
- Star Trek: Insurrection - J. M. Dillard
- (Young Adult Novelisation by John Vornholt)
- Star Trek: Nemesis - J. M. Dillard
- (Young Adult Novelisation by John Vornholt)
- Star Trek - Alan Dean Foster
It is long joked that the Star Trek films divide into two - the even numbered films are considered good, the odd films bad. This can curiously be seen to the novelisations of those films also, with the novelisations of Star Trek II, IV and VI being the best written, with the worst Star Trek novelisation, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the unlucky odd first one.
The Star Trek: The Motion Picture novelisation was written in 1979 by Gene Roddenberry, the only Star Trek book that Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek, wrote. The novelisation contains much background information not in the film, but sadly much of it is disappointing and detracts from, rather than adds to, the story in the film.
It begins with a foreword supposedly from Admiral Kirk himself informing us that no-one outside Starfleet have surnames – which is inconsistent with Star Trek as a whole. It then informs us that Admiral Kirk has a communicator embedded in his brain, which is never mentioned in any other film or television episode. Most of the human race are now "new humans" rather than humans, marriages only last a year and Kirk's Starfleet career began when his 'Academy class was the first group selected by Starfleet on the basis of somewhat more limited intellectual agility'. Gene Roddenberry then proceeds to inform us that Kirk and Spock were not lovers, with Kirk commenting, 'I was never aware of this lovers rumour – although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman.' Quite. Eventually the plot does get going – after discussion of the importance of the Mediterranean on African agriculture as well as the effects a woman who reminded him of his mother had on his genitals – halfway through chapter five.
There are a few good additions to the novel. The character of Vice-Admiral Lori Ciani, Kirk's lover who dies in a tragic transporter accident is a nice touch (although her effects on Kirk's trousers and Kirk calling her a whore could have been excised without loss). Admiral Nogura too, a name casually mentioned in passing in the film, is given a prominent and increased role. Yet overall the novelisation, though written by Star Trek's creator, does not capture the feel of Star Trek. It promises much, but delivers little but disappointment.
In comparison, Vonda N. McIntyre's Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan novelisation is one of the highlights of novelised Star Trek. She introduces character development for the background characters on the Regula I spacestation, gives Sulu a first name, Hikaru, for the first time, writes about Scotty's nephew Peter Preston with heartfelt poignancy and her portrayal of Saavik, introduced as a half-Vulcan, half-Romulan, is the finest in the Star Trek series. It is therefore unsurprising that she novelised the following two films. Her Star Trek III: The Search For Spock novelisation fails to reach the same heights as her Star Trek II novelisation, but her Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a return to first class form. It includes more excellent scenes with Saavik, well written background scenes as well as including scenes not filmed, for instance in which Sulu meets an ancestor, Scott and McCoy discuss cause and effect and the ethics of transparent aluminium and also includes the swearing in its full colourful glory. For those brought up with seeing only the censored version of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home shown occasionally on television, this was quite a revelation.
The Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country prologue with Carol Marcus too adds depth to the story. With later novelisations, attention is drawn further away from the story to how the films were made, with detailed and well-written making-of reports at the end of the books. These prove to be a most welcome addition.
Subsequent Series Novelisations
The novelisations of the subsequent television series, namely The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, only a few select episodes were novelised. These were often the first and last episodes of the series, special episodes featuring members of the original series and a few two-part episodes also.The Next Generation
- Encounter at Farpoint - David Gerrold
- Unification - Jeri Taylor
- Relics - Michael Jan Friedman
- Descent - Diane Carey
- All Good Things... - Michael Jan Friedman
- Emissary - J.M. Dillard
- The Way of the Warrior - Diane Carey
- The Search - Diane Carey
- Trials and Tribble-ations - Diane Carey
- Far Beyond the Stars - Steven Barnes
- What You Leave Behind - Diane Carey
- Caretaker - L. A. Graf
- Flashback - Diane Carey
- Day of Honour - Michael Jan Friedman
- Equinox - Diane Carey
- Endgame - Diane Carey
- Broken Bow - Diane Carey
- Shockwave - Paul Ruditis
- The Expanse - J. M. Dillard
Star Wars Novelisations
All six Star Wars films have been novelised, with also comic book and storybook versions of the films made too. Sadly so far no novelisation of the Star Wars Holiday Special has been written. In general, these novelisations expand on the films, including more scenes, scenes deleted from the film and also giving background characters more prominence.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - Terry Brooks
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones - R. A. Salvatore
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Matthew Stover
- Star Wars – Also known as Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope – George Lucas – but really Alan Dean Foster
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back - Donald F. Glut9
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi - James Kahn
Before the release of the Star Wars film in May 1977 came the first Star Wars novelisation, originally titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. Although the book's cover claims to have been written by Star Wars creator George Lucas, in fact it was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster. When asked if he had any bad feelings about George Lucas taking sole credit for his novel, Alan Dean Foster has said, 'Not at all. It was George's story. I was merely expanding upon it. Not having my name on the cover didn't bother me in the least..'
The novelisation was written before the screenplay was finished and therefore contains differences from the final film as well as deleted scenes (some of which have since been restored in the Special Edition). One difference is the role of Emperor Palpatine, who is mentioned and portrayed as being a figurehead puppet, rather than the all-powerful Emperor we later see, although the major difference is the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi, in which he is defeated by Darth Vader rather than surrendering to the force to allow Luke to escape.
Curiously, no author has written more than one Star Wars novelisation, which is strange considering both the Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi novelisations were among the best selling books of the years in which they were released. James Kahn, who novelised Return Of The Jedi in 1983 did, however, novelise Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. His Return Of The Jedi novelisation does contradict in some areas with the later prequel films. For instance, in the novelisation Luke and Leia are four, not mere seconds old, when their mother dies. The prequel novels tend to follow the finished films with more precision, although again add more detail and contain deleted scenes. The best of the prequel novelisations is that for Revenge of the Sith. In this film, Asajj Ventress, a character from the Star Wars: Clone Wars series who does not appear in any of the films, is mentioned on more than one occasion, and Count Dooku's role is increased.
As with the Star Trek novelisations, editions for younger readers were also released by Scholastic.
For many television series, only extra special episodes, usually the first one, would be novelised. This approach was adopted by Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, the opening story was the only one novelised (by Addison E. Steele). Babylon 5 similarly only novelised the feature length episodes 'In The Beginning', 'Thirdspace' and 'A Call To Arms'.
Often film companies would invite a famous author to write the novelisation rather than the screenwriters who originated the story idea. One example of this is when famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov10 was invited to write the novelisation for Fantastic Voyage. Isaac Asimov later wrote of the experience, giving an author's invaluable perspective of the novelisation process:
" [Fantastic Voyage] was, actually, a novelisation of a motion picture that had been written by others. I followed the plot-line that existed as closely as I could, except for changing several of the more unsupportable scientific inconsistencies. I was never quite satisfied with the novel – although it did very well – simply because I never felt it to be mine."
Alan Dean Foster is an author famous for writing several novelisations. These include Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, The Black Hole, Clash Of The Titans (1984), The Thing and most recently the Transformers films. He also was ghost-writer for the Star Wars (Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope) novelisation, which was credited to George Lucas. Although he contributed towards the Star Trek: The Motion Picture screenplay he was not involved in the novelisation, although he was involved in producing the Fotonovel. He continues to novelise the Star Trek universe, having novelised the recent 2009 Star Trek remake film.
Three Blake's 7 novelisations written by Trevor Hoyle were published. The first, simply called Blake's 7, contained the first four episodes 'The Way Back', 'Space Fall', 'Cygnus Alpha' and 'Time Squad'. The second, Blake's 7: Project Avalon contained the series one episodes 'Seek-Locate-Destroy', 'Duel', 'Project Avalon', 'Deliverance' and 'Orac' and the final novelisation, Blake's 7: Scorpio Attack contained the series four episodes 'Rescue', 'Traitor' and 'Stardrive'. These books were later printed in the late 1980s in America.
Battlestar Galactica (1978)
Perhaps one of the finest novelisations, the original 1978 paperback novelisation11 included photographs and artwork in colour pages in the middle, and between each chapter were fascinating 'Excerpts from the Adama Journals' – sections from Commander Adama's diary that provided fascinating background information and character development. It is in these extracts we learn that Adama as a young child believed Paradise would be blue and full of model aeroplanes, and how a very young Starbuck outwitted Adama soon after being assigned to the Galactica. None of these, and many other details, are in the television series, but improve the story.
Other Battlestar Galactica novelisations improve the titles of the episodes, and also improve the plots. The second novelisation, The Cylon Death Machine, sounds more threatening than 'The Gun On Ice Planet Zero', the title of the two-parter the novelisation is based on. Similarly, the episode title 'The Lost Planet Of The Gods' implies the Gods have been a bit careless, whereas The Tombs Of Kobol is closer in feel to the Egyptian mythology of the original series as well as having more resonance with fans of the remake.
The success of the original three-part television adventure, released as a film in many parts of the world, led to an almost immediate creation of it into a full television series, with writers frantically rushing to complete scripts as the episodes were being shot. The series nadir was 'The Young Warriors'. In this episode a small group of children successfully destroy a platoon of the fearless Cylons by riding unicorns and reciting poetry, thus forever ruining the image of the Cylons as a fearsome enemy. However, as the novelisations were written later and in less of a rush, it allowed authors Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston a chance to improve on the mistakes the hurried television scripts made. The destroyed Cylons are revealed to be not true Cylons, but robots in Cylon suits – preserving the threat real Cylons bring – and the children do not recite poetry.
The Red Dwarf series of books is a curious case of a set of four sequel books, three of which are novelisations of episodes, and one is an original story novel. The first two, Red Dwarf (commonly known as Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers after the picture on the cover) and Better Than Life were co-written by both of Red Dwarf's creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor under the pseuodnym 'Grant Naylor'.
The first book contains versions of 'The End', 'Future Echoes', 'Kryten', 'Me²' and 'Better Than Life' as well as large amounts of background information regarding how Dave Lister ended up on the Red Dwarf to being with. The sequel, 'Better Than Life', expands more on the nature of virtual reality rather than follow the plot of the episode. Similarly other episodes, including 'Polymorph' and 'Backwards', are referenced but the events that take place are completely different.
The two independent sequels, one written by Doug Naylor and the other written by Rob Grant, are further departures from the original series, although both use television episode elements. The first sequel to Better Than Life, Doug Naylor's Last Human, contains elements from multiple episodes including 'Psirens', 'Emohawk: Polymorph II', 'Legion', 'Camille' and 'Gunmen of the Apocalypse' although diverges widely. Rob Grant's following Red Dwarf novel, entitled Backwards, ignores all the events of Last Human and follows closely from Better Than Life. It contains elements of the episodes 'Dimension Jump' and 'Gunmen of the Apocalypse' but like Last Human is more an independent novel rather than a novelisation.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Although the novel for 2001: A Space Odyssey reads 'A novel by Arthur C. Clarke, based on the screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick', it is not a true novelisation. Both the novel and film were written together at the same time by the same people. In Arthur C. Clarke's book The Lost Worlds Of 2001 he stated, "I felt that when the novel finally appeared it should be "by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick; based on the screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke" – whereas the movie should have the credits reversed. This still seems the nearest approximation to the complicated truth." Sadly, however, Stanley Kubrick disagreed and so the novel's credits give the impression that it is a novelisation.
Many of Douglas Adams' published novels can, in fact, be defined as novelisations. His novel of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy started as a radio comedy in 1978, adapting much of the first radio series for his 1979 novel, but excising much of the material that John Lloyd co-authored for 'Fit the Fifth' and 'Fit the Sixth'. The plots of the radio series overlap that of both The Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy and The Restaurant At The End of the Universe, the first two novels in a way later echoed by the Red Dwarf adaptations – the right events take place, but not necessarily in the right order.
The third of his Hitchhikers' books, Life, The Universe And Everything famously began as a proposed Doctor Who script, Doctor Who and the Krikketmen which was never fully developed. Similarly, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was an adaptation of two of his Doctor Who stories; 'City of Death' and the unfinished 'Shada'. Even a computer game he created, Starship Titanic, was novelised - by Terry Jones.
For an author whose best-remembered work consists of endless retellings, new versions and novelisations of the same story, it is perhaps ironic that Adams is one of only two writers whose work on the original Doctor Who series12 has not been novelised. When asked, he claimed he wanted to write the novelisations himself, yet in true Douglas Adams' avoiding deadlines style, he never did.