Dr. Who & the Daleks
Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks
|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."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?
- Doctor Who and the Daleks, by David Whitaker, Chapter 2, page 38.
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:
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.
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.
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.