THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

BBC Books
The Ultimate Dalek Survival Guide

Authors Justin Richards and others Cover image
ISBN 0 563 48600 7
Publisher BBC
Published 2002

Summary: Everything you ever needed to know about how to survive the looming threat known as... the Daleks.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/12/02

This one took me something by surprise. All year this book has been advertised on the Net, and in relevant publications. I presumed it would be a Hardcover A4 style book. It would contain the potted history of the Daleks. In fact I was expecting a book very similar in tone to David Banks excellent The Cybermen.

And then one day I wandered into Waterstones - the local bookstore near to work in Leeds - and saw this tiny black book - the sort trendy poems usually come in. It had a weensy little Dalek on the cover - it was The Dalek Survival Guide. Suddenly it all made sense. This was to be a book you could carry in your pocket, so that if ever you need to Survive a Dalek Invasion you could pull it out - sort of like the 4th Doctor did in Creature From the Pit with his Teach Yourself Tibetan.

I looked at the price - 9.99! I thumbed through it and returned it to the shelf in disgust. So much for so little. Over the next few days I contemplated my decision. I was buying the Telos Books (for a tenner), so quality rather than quantity was important to me. I returned to Waterstones during my lunch break.

I picked the black handbook off the shelf again (less copies, seems a few people were buying it), and took it to one of those plush chairs where you seem to melt into the shelves. I started from the beginning, and read. 45 minutes later I had finished The Dalek Survival Guide!

It's quite good fun you know! I haven't a clue who the authors are, or the artists for that matter, but this is humourously written with a fair amount of irony. The Doctor is seen as the Daleks' Number 1 enemy, but it's debated whether he is myth or reality. Equal gravitas is given to Comic Strip (Dalek Chronicles reigning supreme here) and the TV show. Terry Nation is mentioned as translater of the Dalek Chronicles. This is a book firmly tongue in cheek, but treating its subject with some seriousness as well!

Know your Enemy isn't as basic as the DWW series used to be. It goes through a Daleks appearance, describing what each bit does. There's a section for those who meet a Dalek, for those who even befriend a Dalek (the way to ride a Dalek brought out the biggest laugh of the whole book!).

On reflection it's a bit expensive for what it is. I can't understand the 10 price tag. 4 (like the excellent Pocket Essential series) I can agree to. It's a good laugh though, and very nicely written and drawn throughout.

The Dalek Survival Guide is totally different to what I expected. Before it came out I wasn't even entertaining the idea of buying it, or reading it for that matter. Here I was having read it, feeling guilty about whether I should now buy it. I wandered over to the Counter, which just so happens to be near the Cult TV section, still undecided. In a sudden blur of movement I placed The Dalek Survival Guide back on the shelf, picking up instead a book about Dad's Army. What a fickle fan I am! The assistant smiled at me, and I didn't feel so guilty after all. For an entertaining dinner hour 7/10.


Spaced-Out with the Outer Space People by Andrew Wixon 17/12/02

The Doctor Who phenomenon is all things to all people, but with The Dalek Survival Guide one gets the impression BBC Books is possibly trying to make one small softcover do very slightly too much.

On the one hand, it's yet another Dalek cash-in book, albeit one of a superior standard. On the other, it's a parody of the 1960s and 1970s Dalek annuals, with their bizarre 'world history according to the Daleks', etc, features. On yet another (any Edoans out there...?) it's a parody of lots of diffrerent things - the Worst Case Survival Guide series of tongue-in-cheek handbooks, mainly, but also sex manuals, political correctness, etc etc...

The main joke is that the book treats the series as a documentary cunningly slipped out in the guise of a naff TV kids' show (what do you mean, you already knew that?) and affects to take it all terribly terribly seriously. At its best this leads to some sublimely droll, deadpan humour on useful subjects such as what to do when confined in a small space with a Dalek. At other times the jokes dry up and the writers struggle to avoid appearing as geeky fantasists. This was a group production and as a result the tone varies from the marvellously loopy (the Ogrons' favoured mode of transport is... nah, that'd be telling) to the jarringly realistic.

But it's all very good-natured in the end and it takes a refreshingly ecumenical approach to continuity issues - everything from Seasons of Fear, to the movies, to the TV21 comic strips, is fair game and treated as equally valid 'evidence' regarding the Dalek threat.

Parts of the survival guide are very funny. Parts of it seem a bit anally literal-minded. Parts of it are just plain bonkers. The whole thing is possibly a bit lightweight for a tenner, but if you're open minded about people taking the mickey out of the show in the most affectionate way imaginable, it's probably worth a look.