Death to the Daleks
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1978
ISBN 0 426 20042 X
First Edition Cover Roy Knipe

Back cover blurb: A mysterious power-loss strands the TARDIS on Exxilon, a sinister fog-shrouded alien planet. Forced to brave the dangers of the planet, the Doctor meets the survivors of a beleaguered expedition from Earth searching for a precious mineral that can save the galaxy from a terrible space-plague. Sarah finds a mysterious super-City and becomes a captive of the savage Exxilons, and, worst of all, the Doctor's greatest enemies, the dreaded Daleks, arrive on a secret mission of their own. What terrifying power makes captives of all who come to the planet? What is the secret of the mysterious deserted City with its great flashing beacon? And what sinister plan has brought the Daleks to Exxilon? The Doctor and Sarah must risk their lives time and again in a desperate attempt to foil the Daleks and save millions of humans from the horrific plague.


A strong rehabilitation by Tim Roll-Pickering 3/4/04

Okay the cover is not very accurate to the story (no Dalek successfully uses their conventional laser in this story and on television the Daleks were a much lighter colour) but quite simply it is the best cover ever used on a Target book. For many years I was very lucky to have the poster of this on my wall and more recently it was used as the cover for the issue of Doctor Who Magazine that began a series of articles looking at the history of the Target novelisations. Truly a masterpiece...

So please step forward whoever was responsible for commissioning a replacement piece for the 1991 reprint. There are some covers that just shouldn't be tampered with.

The book itself is also quite strong. Forget the pedestrian direction, dull music, dodgy CSO, poor film/videotape mixture, dreary quarry and all the other elements that have led the television story to have such a poor reputation. Instead we get a description of a world of despair. There is a real sense of awe in this book whether it's the power of the City, the desperation of the humans or the scheming of the Daleks. The story still suffers from the basic problems of the televsised version, most obviously that the Daleks merely replace lasers with bullets, whilst there is no explanation for just how they are able to survive, let alone move about and use their computers in a depowered environment, but short of a major restructuring of the plot the former problem has to remain, whilst the latter would probably have taken up space that is instead used to developing the story. However I would like to know just how the Doctor's sonic screwdriver functions.

Several other elements that are weak in the televised version work much better here. Gone is the cliffhanger which just ends with "Don't move!" and in its place Chapter 10 ends with the Doctor and Bellal trapped by the City walls as the Daleks advance, as in the original script. The destruction of the beacon is far more plausible with the Daleks using four bombs instead of two, and so Galloway taking one is not noticed at all. Jill Tarrant also comes across as less wet than on screen, but the real honour goes to the treatment of Dan Galloway. In a revealing sequence we learn how he has always put self-success above all else and how he is determined to lead the mission to victory, even disobeying the dying Commander Stewart's orders to follow another man. Then at the end when he sacrifices himself there is a very real sense that he has realised that it is the mission's success, not his own, that matters as he recalls Commander Stewart's words.

Whilst far from the meatiest book ever written, Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks is a strong read and shows Terrance Dicks managing to make the story into something truly enjoyable which flows so well that its faults do not seem to matter. This is a strong rehabilitation for a much derided story. 7/10