Revenge of the Cybermen is not one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. It has its charms, but I think it’s quite bland, and it makes the Cybermen just feel like generic enemy aliens. It might seem odd that I wanted to read the novelisation after that, but I just happened to see that the audiobook was available on the BorrowBox library app, so I borrowed it on a whim. As it happened, I really quite enjoyed it.
It’s hard to explain exactly why, but I think I enjoyed this story more as a novel than I did as a TV adventure. One of the biggest improvements for me, is the Cybermen themselves – in the TV story, they don’t feel like Cybermen to me, not really. Their voices are weird, and they don’t even really seem to behave like the creepy logical monsters of their earlier appearances. Here, partly due to a nice introduction which ties all the Cyberman stories together, it feels much more like a part of their history. The audiob00k takes it even further with Nicholas Briggs reading the Cyberman dialogue through the usual voice modulator.
I think Revenge of the Cybermen is also a story that looks pretty cheap (despite the odd on-location cave scene) and overall it comes off as generic, not that good Doctor Who. However, in book form, all of these things are glossed over. The characters all feel much more substantial – it even gives a deeper look into the mind of Sarah Jane Smith than you’d ever really get on TV.
Terrance Dicks is probably the most prolific Doctor Who noveliser, and I think this is a classic example of a Target Book that enhances the original story. The ending even creates a cliff-hanger that ties into the next TV episode (and funnily enough, when I read it, I had a false memory of watching it in the episode). Some of the novelisations don’t add much to the source material, but this is one that’s worth checking out.