The Daleks
Dr. Who & the Daleks
Target novelisation
Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks

Author David Whitaker Cover image
Published 1964
ISBN 0 426 10110 3
First Edition Target Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: This is DOCTOR WHO's first exciting adventure - with the Daleks! Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright travel with the mysterious DOCTOR WHO and his grand-daughter, Susan, to the planet of Skaro in the space-time machine, Tardis. There they strive to save the peace-loving Thals from the evil intentions of the hideous DALEKS. Can they succeed? And what is more important, will they ever again see their native Earth?


An alternative beginning... by Tim Roll-Pickering 14/11/03

Although an early product of "Dalekmania", the very first novelisation is immensely well written and in no way feels like a rush job designed to cash in on a craze. Instead it remains highly readable to this day and can still hold its own against many subsequent pieces of written Doctor Who, both novelisations and original novels. David Whitaker takes the original Dalek story and, instead of straightforwardly adapting the scripts, he produces a feature film version, told in first person narrative. We get additional material, such as a new version of how the Tardis travellers came together, as well as descriptions of scenes that would have been impossible to produce on a mid-1960s BBC budget, most obviously the encounter with the creature in the lake.

Today the opening chapters stand out as being very different from what was shown on television in 100,000 BC. In an era where continuity is held to be sacrosanct such deviation would cause outrage amongst fans in this book had originated today. But in the 1960s few people cared and instead we get an alternative take on events. Both Barbara and Susan are as much strangers to Ian as the Doctor and Tardis and so we are left with an isolated Ian, uncertain about the world around him. The scenes on Barnes Common are gloomy and mysterious and so help to build up suspense as we encounter first the Doctor and then Tardis (notably called just that and not "the TARDIS"). The result is a set of four travellers with few automatic bonds between them and much resentment, most obviously between Ian and Barbara.

Once on Skaro much of the plot follows that of the televised story but there are some noticeable omissions, for example the sequence where Ian's Dalek casing gets magnetised to the floor and he is left desperately struggling to get out as the Daleks cut through the door has now been deleted, whilst there are also some additions, such as when Ian sends Ganatus and Alydon to destroy the Daleks' hydroelectric plant (and thus the climactic battle makes a lot more sense than it did on television). The character of Kristas is fleshed out a lot more than on television, whilst the relationship between Barbara and Ganatus is dropped in favour of unresolved tensions between her and Ian. There's also some rearrangement of the roles of the regulars in some scenes - for example in the televised story the Barbara was keen to get the Thals to fight the Daleks to get the fluid link back whilst Ian felt this was morally dubious, but here in the book the positions have been reversed.

The use of first person narrative alters the emphasis of the novel no end. In the first half at least the Doctor is now just as much an uncertainty as the world they have arrived in, and the reader can now emphasise much more with Ian's feelings as he tries to comprehend everything that has happened. Whilst subsequent seasons changed the emphasis somewhat, the original televised stories intended very much for Ian to be the heroic figure and the Doctor to be an enigmatic uncertainty and this book reflects that heavily. From a modern perspective this may seem odd, but at the time that it was published the preconceptions were far less at odds with this view. Whitaker easily captures the four characters and it is easy to imagine the television cast speaking the lines, though there is an absence of "Hmms" and the like. Once more this helps to enhance the book's status as a feature film version of the adventure, with the cast having the luxury of performing short scenes with breaks and retakes, a luxury denied to the 1960s television cast. Also of note is that the mysterious old man is called "the Doctor" rather than "Doctor Who", with the latter phrase only appearing once where Ian and Barbara discuss how little they know about him and suggest calling him this but it doesn't take hold. Whilst this may now seem obvious, it is worthwhile remembering how often the character was called "Doctor Who" in many spin-offs throughout the 1960s and the 1970s and how fans may well have not noticed this if the novelisations had followed suit. Indeed it is probably this novelisation, and those the followed it, which helped fandom more than anything else to agree that the lead character was called "the Doctor" rather than "Doctor Who". Also of note is that for the first time ever "Tardis" is said to stand for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, rather than the single Dimension of the earliest years of the television series.

Most editions have illustrations by Arnold Schwartman. Although good, there is some inconsistency in them (most obviously in the Doctor's changing clothes), whilst they are not always placed at appropriate moments (for example Chapter Eight: The Last Despairing Try features no Daleks and is set in the swamp but has a picture of four Daleks in their control room at the start of the chapter). Nevertheless they help to support the descriptions in the book and enhance it no end.

The historical value of this novelisation is obvious, not only in establishing some of the terms now taken for granted, but also because its 1973 reissue spawned the series of Target novelisations which brought adventures to the attention of fans long before videos became widespread and provided much pleasure. But this is also a very good read that holds up well today. 10/10

The very first Doctor Who by book by Andrew Feryok 22/1/05

"I didn't know whether to hate it or dislike it or what I felt yet. I only knew that the Doctor was right and that I had to accept it. Either that or go completely insane. Insanity would imply that everything around me was a stage setting of the mind, that I was hypnotized or drugged. Dream and nightmares, I knew only too well, never sustain belief for very long and the more time I took to examine my surroundings and match them against my actions and sensations, the weaker the idea of fantasy became. I was certain I wasn't hypnotized, I was sure I had not been drugged and I was positive I wasn't dreaming. I began to feel better. The Doctor had told me the wisest thing to do would be to open my mind and accept what had happened. I did."
- Doctor Who and the Daleks, by David Whitaker, Chapter 2, page 38.
Well, I've finished another Target novel. I wanted to read something other than Troughton, so naturally I reached for a Hartnell story (I'm a sucker for '60s Doctor Who!) This time, I decided upon Doctor Who in An Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, or Doctor Who and The Daleks as Target has renamed it. I've had the original TV story on VHS for some time and practically know the story by heart. Would this novel live up to that story, or be another bland script-to-book adaptation?

To my utter delight, Whitaker went far beyond the call of duty to make this one of the best Doctor Who books I have read so far! It follows the same story as the original, but Whitaker has spiced things up, adding new scenes and altering ones that didn't quite work. This felt like an "Extended Edition" version of The Daleks rather than a simple adaptation.

With so many changes, where do to begin? Perhaps I'll start with a list:

  1. The entire beginning of the book is a completely different retelling of the An Unearthly Child Episode 1, providing new backgrounds to the characters. Barbara is a history tutor for Susan while Ian is a failed science teacher and scientist who was recently turned down a job offer at a rocket facility. They meet one night on Barnes Common after Susan, fearing Barbara would discover the TARDIS, forces their car to crash into a lorry. Discovering Susan was injured, Barbara goes off to get help, and it just so happens that Ian had just been passing in his car. Together, they explore the wreckage for Susan's body, which has mysteriously disappeared. That is when they meet the mysterious Doctor, who has been searching the wreckage for Barbara's body using a device which would be used much throughout the book: everlasting matches. From there, things pretty much proceed as the original episode did as they force their way on board the ship and get kidnapped by the Doctor. But instead of going to 100,000 BC, they end up on Skaro...
  2. There is now a field of ash between the Dalek city and the petrified forest, which the time travelers and Thals must trek through several times throughout the story.
  3. Ian's first attempt to turn the Thals back to their war-like ways is to teach them how to box... with hilarious consequences!
  4. There are several added scenes to the swamp sequence. After the first Thal is swallowed up by something in the water (the cliffhanger to Episode 5), the group goes around the lake to just below the mountain were the Dalek city pipeline reaches from the lake into a high-up cave entrance. But while investigating the mountainside, they are suddenly attacked by giant sea-monsters from the lake which try to catch them with their tentacles and eat them (think of that CGI monster from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). After a lengthy battle with the monsters using fire torches, they then have to climb the cliff to the cave entrance. There is a tense few pages as Kristas must free-climb the cliff to the cave entrance were he can then let down a rope for the others.
  5. The character of Kristas is much more prominent in the book than in the TV show. In the TV episode, he was nothing more than a background Thal who accompanies the group through the swamp and caves. In the book, Kristas is portrayed as this jolly-giant of a Thal who is always out front, risking his life and becomes very close friends with Ian as the story goes on. He takes particular prominence throughout the swamp and cave sequences as he fights swamp creatures, and Daleks left and right.
  6. The infamous glass Dalek! At first, I was wondering when this guy was going to show up since I had heard so much about him. And he finally did! In the last scene, where the Thals enact their attack on the Dalek control room to stop the neutron bomb, the glass Dalek is a prototype Dalek Supreme who sits on a podium at the front of the control room. In fact, this novel gives an unusually detailed description of what a Dalek looks like inside its casing. I had always liked the fact that the TV series never actually showed us what a Dalek looked like as it conjured up our own horrific imagination of what might be inside. But don't get me wrong, the descriptions of what Daleks really look like is quite disgusting!
  7. And finally... Ian and Barbara get a joining scene! It is similar to when Vicki first joins and the time travelers give her an opportunity to join them or stay where she is. Ian and Barbara, who never got such a scene since they were kidnapped, actually get a joining sequence here. In the final pages of the book, Whitaker capitalizes on Barbara's romance with a Thal by having the Doctor offer the two teachers an exciting alternative life helping rebuild the Thal society. As tempted as they are, Ian and Barbara finally decide that they would prefer wandering in the fourth dimension with the Doctor and Susan, thus eliminating a lot of the tension that wouldn't have been resolved until the next story. It's a sweet sequence and one which I think every fan wishes they had actually gotten.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I'll talk a bit more about Whitaker's actual adaptation of the TV script. One thing which makes this story really work is that it is told completely from Ian's perspective. One of the things that had hurt the original production is that it was terribly slow, having been bogged down by needless scenes of Daleks plotting in a control room and Thals making various discussions in the forest. Here, that is all cut out and we only get to see the scenes that Ian was in. Actually, I hadn't noticed exactly how much of the original story revolved around Ian since he is virtually in every important scene of the story. The only important scenes in which he wasn't present, such as when Susan meets Alydon, and when the Doctor and Susan are captured after sabotaging the Dalek spy camera, are told to Ian in flashback by other characters. This speeds the story up considerably and makes it much more exciting.

The swamp scenes in particular are a delight. I had always liked the first four episodes of The Daleks more than the last three since they were mostly padded journeys intended to milk out the story until the climatic battle with the Daleks. In the book, however, these scenes are actually the highlight of the book (a truly amazing feat!) The descriptions of the plant life in the swamp are really quite interesting and we get some cool action sequences with swamp monsters and climbing precarious cliffs. I could actually imagine these scenes with today's CGI technology. It would have looked great! <> Whitaker captures the Doctor wonderfully in this story (he should know since he was the series' first script editor!). Actually, this is the darkest version of the First Doctor I have ever seen/read, even darker than the version we saw in the aborted pilot episode. He's really spooky, creeping around the lorry wreckage with his everlasting matches, denying any knowledge of Susan's body, kidnapping the teachers, and then sabotaging his ship. In fact, the sequence in which he sabotages the ship is made even more tense by the fact that it is apparent that the Doctor knows Ian doesn't believe his ruse, but Ian can only watch helplessly as the Doctor craftily fools both Barbara and Susan into believing him. However, when it is later discovered that they are suffering from radiation sickness, the Doctor turns uncharacteristically soft by begging Ian's forgiveness and giving in to the slightest of Ian's suggestions as he realizes that their situation is desperate and that they must find Barbara before it is too late. Speaking of Barbara, she is not quite what I remembered her to be like in this story. At first, Barbara is the only one who believes in the Doctor and his talk of the fantastic ability to travel in time and space. Ian doesn't believe him and it is not until he steps onto the surface of Skaro that he becomes a true believer. The opposite seems to happen with Barbara. While she believes in the Doctor's powers at first, when she steps onto Skaro, it seems to unhinge her and she spends the rest of the story being bitter, angry, and snappish towards everyone, including Ian whom she seems to hate the most. It is not until the very end, when she willingly gives up a life on Skaro for the Doctor's TARDIS, that she breaks her first smile and finally shows that she's accepting her situation.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful Doctor Who book. It blew my expectations completely out of the water and I can now see why children grew up adoring the Daleks. The writing style and depth that Whitaker uses is truly amazing, and put many of the books I have recently read from the Doctor Who series to shame. Any author who can take a familiar and somewhat average story and transform it into a classic novel is okay in my books! It's interesting that this was, in fact, both the first Target novel and the first Doctor Who book written. It certain bode well for the future of the book series, which has yet to see an end. I shall definitely have to check out some of Whitaker's other adaptations such as Doctor Who and the Crusaders, which I hear is really good. 10/10

PS: Where exactly is Barnes Commons? Does anyone know? From the description in the book, it sounds like an open field somewhere outside London. Since I'm not from England, I wasn't exactly sure were this was supposed to be.

A Review by Jack McLean 3/5/19

Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks is not your average Target novelisation. For one thing, it plays fast and loose with the source material - and it's all the better for doing so. The Targets weren't even a twinkle in anyone's eye when the book was written in 1964. It would be rereleased in 1973 as one of the trio of books launching the legendary Targets, but in 1964 it could well have been a series of one. I think that allowed David Whitaker to go his own way with the book, and he did wonders. The opening of the book is completely new, being a marvellously atmospheric set-piece on Barnes Common. It's grim and rather intense, with dead soldiers hanging out of the smashed window of a crashed lorry but it vividly brings the characters to life. It's completely at odds with An Unearthly Child but who cares? When this was written, there was little thought given to the idea that anyone would ever An Unearthly Child again. Even VHS was still the best part of twenty years distant.

Once we get through the first two chapters and we land on Skaro, the book more or less follows the TV story but has glorious additions like the glass Dalek and the description of the Daleks as being just over three feet tall (later editions were changed to five feet). I always rather liked the idea that these Daleks were small. I did wonder how Ian could fit inside, though. Ian. I think the reason that this book stands out so much is that it's told in the first person by Ian Chesterton. This isn't Ian the schoolteacher. This is Ian the scientist, the logical mind who rails against the impossibility of the Doctor's TARDIS and its transit through space and time. It's also the Ian who confronts the old man's self-serving morals but who then shows courage in buckets by passing through a swamp to infiltrate the Daleks city. This book is a wonderful introduction to Doctor Who in his original form as a flawed anti-hero, but it's largely Ian book, in which he shows himself to be an equally flawed hero. We experience the story through him and live the sights, smells and tastes far more richly for that. We experience his emotions first-hand, too. It's potent stuff.

This is a terrific adventure story. It feels different than most Targets, more mature and adult in tone, despite having been written for children. David Whitaker's only other Doctor Who novelisation, Doctor Who and the Crusaders, is a similarly superior and mature read. It's an immense shame that he only wrote the two.

I genuinely can't recommend this highly enough. It was the first Doctor Who novelisation, and there's a good case to be had that it's still the best. 10/10 (because I can't give it 11).