Remembrance of the Daleks
Remembrance of the Daleks
|ISBN||0 426 20337 2|
|First Edition Cover||Alistair Pearson|
|Back cover blurb: Shoreditch, London, 1963. Two teachers follow an unnervingly knowledgeable schoolgirl to her home - a blue police telephone box in the middle of a scrapyard The old man whom the girl calls 'grandfather' is annoyed at the intrusion: there is something he has to do, and he has a premonition that he will be delayed for some time... Six regenerations later the Doctor returns; and Ace, his travelling companion, sees London as it was before the Sixties started swinging - and long before she was born. But a Grey Dalek is lurking in Foreman's Yard; Imperial Daleks are appearing in the basement of Coal Hill School; and both factions want the Hand of Omega, the Remote Stellar Manipulator that the Doctor has left behind. Has the Doctor arrived in time to deprive the Daleks of the secret of time travel?|
A Review by Finn Clark 29/3/02
I was really looking forward to this. I hadn't read a Target novelisation since the eighties, for God's sake, but they'd been a huge part of my childhood. These were our video recorders before we had video recorders. These slim children's books were the Doctor Who mythos, as far as I was concerned. The fact that they'd once been broadcast on television was a historical curiosity.
I don't know if this would extend to all the Target novelisations, but personally I've no problem accepting this as canon. It's like the Director's Cut of a movie, except this time it's the original writer getting to fine-tune and tweak to his heart's content without having to compromise for the sake of television production. Sometimes this resulted in massive changes from the original (Eric Saward's Twin Dilemma novelisation springs to mind, with its wholesale junking of Anthony Steven's electrifying dialogue) but here Ben's merely taking the opportunity to flesh out what we saw on screen.
He doesn't remove anything, or revert to unscreened ideas like the paintboxed Dalek flying weapons platform which eventually got junked in favour of the Special Weapons Dalek. He simply fills in the gaps, adding background, viewpoints and motivation. Much of it's wonderful. It's certainly as worth your time as any extended video edition.
(I wouldn't want to pretend that all the Target authors put in this much work, of course. Ben Aaronovitch was one of the very best, with the other end of the scale being the likes of late-seventies Terrance or Stephen Wyatt. But damn, I wish Stephen Gallagher's original version of the Warrior's Gate novelisation survived.)
All the characters get background, and I'm not just talking about the humans. Mike Smith was in Malaya and Rachel Jensen worked with Alan Turing (!), but we even get a glimpse of Davros's early days. Now there's something we haven't seen much of. And of course much of this background material would go on to be fundamental mythos-shaping stuff; this little Target novelisation was the Alien Bodies of its time. You've got scenes between Rassilon, Omega and the Other. You've got Ace's friend Manisha, who became part of TV lore. And you've got lots of Dalek culture, including the Ka Faraq Gatri.
Ben's Dalek culture has been largely overlooked in later years, for an obvious reason, but it's perhaps the most interesting bit of reimagining. There's all kinds of snippets of Dalek language, and even a wonderful glimpse of Skaro itself as the Hand of Omega vapourises it (pp151-152). Yup, that's right. It's definitely Skaro. If we decide we'll have to tweak our view of War of the Daleks because of a Target novelisation... well, personally I've no problem with this whatsoever. :-)
Also p151 gives us a date for Genesis of the Daleks! Apparently it's been twenty millennia since the final conflict ended between the Thals and the Kaleds. (Note: Kaleds, not Daleks.) Since I believe it's generally assumed these days that Remembrance's Daleks came from the year 4663 or thereabouts, that would place Genesis in 15,337 BC. It works for me. Honestly, this novelisation creates so much Whoniverse-shaping mythos that I think we should give its statements some weight.
Ben takes a few chapters to learn how to write, some early sections being dotted with reported incident rather than direct narrative when describing what's happening in action scenes! One can understand how that might happen, the process of novelisation being a slightly unnatural one. However it's the little additions that make this book magical; there's a funny bit on p12 and a lovely little scene on p46. And if you'll forgive a quote... "He stayed where he was, his eyes focused on the dirt in front of his face: there he noticed two ants fighting for possession of a tiny fragment of leaf." This is just after he's blown up the Dalek in Totters Lane, by the way.
The Doctor is even more radically reinvented than he was in the TV story, which doesn't seem so remarkable these days but was groundbreaking back in the eighties. Even by the standards of today's original novels, this is a powerful depiction of the Seventh Doctor. Rachel Jensen and Gilmore get a romance, but thankfully it's done with the lightest of touches and left for the reader to infer rather than being hammered into our faces.
You'll also see the original story afresh. I was struck how clever it was to make Ratcliffe and his Association the Renegade Daleks' human allies, for instance. Normally such people would be dumb stooges who've been promised money (ho ho) or simply mind-controlled, but it's far more chilling to make an explicit alliance between the Daleks and the fascists for which they're a metaphor.
At the end of the day, this is merely a novelisation. You'll read it with the video playing in your head, which detracts from the point of the exercise. However it's also a well-written work that easily stands up to today's novel both in literary level and in quality of imagination. In fact, its Whoniverse-reshaping in some ways raises it above today's books. This is history in the making, and even more awesome as such on the page than it is on-screen with Sylvester and Sophie.
Remembrance of the Novelisation by Robert Smith? 11/9/04
"What will I remember in twenty years' time? As I watch the world rush headlong into the future, the world of the young, Ace's world. A silver sea in 1940, the Dalek at Totter's Lane, the spaceship landing in the playground perhaps? Or will it be Turing stammering out his theories or Ian's warm hand on mine while we watched the Doctor engineer an act of genocide?" (Remembrance of the Daleks, page 160)Fully a third of the back cover blurb of the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks is devoted to describing the events of An Unearthly Child. The back cover also assures us that the Canadian retail price is $6.25, despite the fact that it was never released there. Those were the days. Or would have been, at any rate.
"'You can't do that,' said Ace, 'you mashed up the transmat.'Remembrance of the Daleks is arguably the most important novelisation ever published, with the possible exception of The Auton Invasion. It's the only novelisation which had a major plot point subsequently taken up by the TV show, in the form of Manisha's backstory. While it's true that the words "chameleon circuit" appeared in novelisations long before their first onscreen appearance in Logopolis, previously the novelisations' major contributions had been the occasional naming of concepts that the series already had.
'I,' said the Doctor, 'can do anything I like.'" (page 131)
"For one vertiginous moment, the Dalek Supreme wanted to skip." (page 123)But Remembrance's legacy goes much further. It's the cornerstone on which the NAs were built, even more than the televised story itself. Reading it now, it has far more in common with its thematic descendents than it does with Terrance's month-o-rama transcripts. Not only does it introduce the other (merely an uncapitalised description here, although the graphic novel mentality of the NAs would soon make this a capitalised title, along with powers bordering on the supernatural), it also gives us our first glimpse at Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart (or the grandmother she's named after, at any rate) and writes the Doctor, suddenly and shockingly, just as the NAs did - distant, aloof and powerful.
"It was called the Eret-mensaiki Ska, Destiny of Stars. The flagship of the Imperial Fleet, it was constructed in orbit around Skaro. Elegant in conception and execution it typified the Dalek renaissance." (page 82)The novelisations had been steadily improving, at least in contrast to their televised counterparts. The novelisations of Season 22 are actually pretty good and Dragonfire turns a messy and unfocussed television story back into the classic it always wanted to be. But, like the difference in tone the televised story gave us, there's simply nothing that went before that prepared us for just how good the novelisation of Remembrance is.
"'It's Susan,' said the woman. The old man's face creased with irritation as he sensed that he was about to be delayed for a long time. But then time was relative, especially to someone such as himself." (page 9)The prologue consists entirely of the first Doctor's POV as he returns to the junkyard in the very first episode. This ties into the nature of the series as mythic icon, in a way that looks old hat now, but simply hadn't been done before. The show had fed upon its past in the Davison and Colin Baker eras, but here that past is actually used for a reason.
"It was dawn on the Vekis Nar-Kangji, the Plain of Swords - a wasteland of dust and bones bisected by a range of mountains. Here, twenty millennia ago, the final conflict between the Thals and the Kaleds had ended." (page 151)The televised Remembrance deconstructs the series as a whole, showing us a version of Doctor Who that's at once familiar and radically different. We've got a Doctor who won't pick up a gun, yet who engineers a premeditated act of genocide. We've got faux-UNIT, complete with scientific advisor. We've got the Doctor expending massive energy just to keep the humans out of the crossfire. We've got Daleks as Nazis being contrasted with actual Nazi sympathisers. The Doctor has to abandon his intricate plan and improvise wildly when more than one Dalek faction shows up. The societal racism seen through Ace's eyes finally brings the series into the eighties, as well as tying into the theme. When the Doctor uses Davros to destroy an entire planet, we feel it and we know the true depths of what he's done.
"One thousand million Daleks cried out in defiance. Then the seas boiled, the metal cities of the Daleks ran like wax, and the atmosphere was blown away into space. Skaro died." (page 152)The Doctor's ultimate reliance upon a weapon of mass destruction is shown to be an act so un-Doctor Whoish that it reaffirms the character of the Doctor through its omission. Suddenly, the Doctor is not only powerful, he's terrifying. This is the force-of-nature Doctor whose journey continues through the descent and redemption of the NAs.
"She stared at Manisha's face, noticing the way the skin had bubbled on her cheeks and the raw meat under dressings on her scalp." (page 48)Compare this to The Seeds of Death, where the Doctor callously sends the Ice Warriors into the sun, or Horns of Nimon, where he commits an act of genocide and then makes jokes afterwards. Or Resurrection, where he doesn't have the backbone to kill Davros, yet he uses a biological weapon to kill thousands of Daleks without a second thought. Remembrance took the series apart to see how it worked, but also to put it back together in a brand new way. And that new way changed Doctor Who forever, allowing it to survive beyond its television death. Oh, and it also has the best title of a story, ever, bar none.
"This planet. Its children will be flung out into the stars, to conquer, to fight and die on alien planets. Indomitable, fantastic, brilliant and yet so cruel, petty and selfish. And it is always here that the final choices are made." (page 46)The novelisation's additions are uniformly fabulous. We get monologues from Daleks' POV, which are just fabulous, written in that machinepunk way that Aaronovitch excels at. There are historical documents, such as Kadiatu Lethbridge Stewart's "The Zen Military - A History of UNIT" and Njeri Ngugi's "The Children of Davros, a Short History of the Dalek Race, Vol XX". Rachel is explicitly Jewish here, in contrast with Ratcliffe's hate. Ace dreams of Manisha's flat being fire-bombed and her transformation from impotent Dorothy to powerful Ace who fought fire with fire, destroying a wall of racist graffiti with nito-nine. And the Doctor's internal thoughts wondering if the Earth could get along without him, just for a little while, before he heads to Harry's cafe, are fantastic.
"The Dalek was insane. Radiation had altered the structure of its mind and made it mad. The mark of its insanity was, that of all Daleks in the great race of Daleks, it had a name. It was called the Abomination." (page 128)Then there's the special weapons Dalek, the only Dalek who ever had a name. We've got Dalek language, the Hand's POV, Davros recalling his accident and subsequent rise to power (as well as a delicious quote from Richard III at the start), and Rachel and Gilmore being lovers, who marry shortly afterwards.
"Of these three Gallifreyans who would reshape their world, two would become great legends; the other would vanish from history." (page 44)There are scenes set in ancient Gallifrey, featuring Rassilon, Omega and the other, although they total less than five pages. The other is simply the third member of the triumverate whose name vanishes from history. Rassilon forbids superstition and Omega refers to Rassilon as "cousin", which has a lot more resonance at the end of the NAs than it did at the beginning.
"Nothing was left of the Dalek Supreme but ashes. Efficient to the last, thought the Doctor as he looked down on the remains. From nothing you came, to nothing you aspired, to nothing you went." (page 158)While confronting the Black Dalek, the Doctor muses about the impulse of organic intelligence to turn themselves into machines and ape the form and mannerisms of machines. Just before telling the Dalek that he has no inferiors, no reinforcements and no hope of rescue, there's a line saying "If you are going to lie, thought the Doctor, make it a big one." And he's given a further line of dialogue we didn't get in the televised version, where he steps right up to the Black Dalek and says "I have annihilated the entire Dalek species". This is powerful stuff, even more powerful than the televised story.
"In the end that's all we have: our memories - electrochemical impulses stored in eight pounds of tissue the consistency of cold porridge. In the end they define our lives." (page 160)Remembrance led the way for the next season's novelisations, which bridged the gap between transcripts of a televised script and the full novels that the NAs became. It fed the TV series itself, via Ghost Light's backstory. It created two of the most important characters in the NAs. Three, if you count the NA Doctor himself. But more than anything, it's gloriously written and remains one of the best Doctor Who books in existence. It doesn't get much better than this.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 26/6/07
It is a book that fans have said was the forerunners of the Virgin NA line. That concepts mentioned in this little novelization of a four-episode serial from 1988 would have an impact on book Who for a good amount of the 1990s.
And, that is true. But the big question is: Is Remembrance of the Daleks any good as a novelization?
Absolutely. It's written by Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote two of the best (and my favorite) NAs ever: Transit and The Also People. I knew I was going to enjoy it, once I found a copy at a reasonable price and read the damn thing.
The most interesting thing about RotDN is that it is still a novelization in the traditions of Uncle Terrance Dicks -- well, more Ian Marter in style -- in that it mostly follows the serial and encapsulates it in prose form.
What sets it above your average Target is the author. Aaronovitch is Who's best worldbuilder since Bob Holmes. So, the Daleks end up with a culture, a language and a mindset missing from most Dalek stories. Case in point is the story of the Abomination, which is perhaps my favorite part of RotDN. It turns what is essentially a big laser cannon (albeit a very cool one) on a Dalek base into an actual character. Daleks have a language, which just sounds cool.
The bits about ancient Gallifrey were just a far more entertaining info dump. Other writers would run with these concepts (Dark Time, the other), but it give a little pizazz to what would be a scene between the Doc and Ace.
At other times, you get the sense that Aaronovitch is putting in the explicit things that had to be cut from the serial: Rachel Jensen being Jewish; her relationship with Gilmour; Ace and Manisha. In a TV episode they would have slowed things down. Here, they just make the world just a little deeper.
RotDN is brilliant. It does the job as a print version of a very cool serial and by also expanding the world it is set in for added depth.
The final showdown by Andrew Feryok 10/8/07
GROUP CAPTAIN: "Shouldn't we bring in reinforcements? Armoured units..."
DOCTOR: "Haven't you listened to me, Group Captain? The ship up there has surveillance equipment that can spot a sparrow fall fifteen thousand kilometres away. Any sign of a military build up and they may decide to sterilize the area."
GROUP CAPTAIN: "And we have no defence."
DOCTOR: "Frightening, isn't it to find that there are others better versed in death than human beings."
- Remembrance of the Daleks, chapter 7, page 68
Before I get started reviewing Ben Aaronovitch's wonderful adaptation of this classic Dalek story, I just have to analyze this whole issue of the "final end" of the Daleks. Just how many times have the Daleks met their end demise? Obviously at the end of every Dalek story they are usually killed off, but there are a select few stories that kill them off with the intention of really killing them off. In the Daleks' very first story they were destroyed in a cataclysmic battle with the Thals, but this was glazed over when it was realized the public wanted more of the tin pots! After a spate of stories, they were given their "final end" by Troughton's Doctor in The Evil of the Daleks. But even that didn't hold them back for very long for they were back battling Pertwee a short while later! And finally they met McCoy's Doctor in this story which pits the Doctor, Davros and the Dalek Supreme in a titanic battle to the death in which only the Doctor walks away alive. But even the destruction of their planet in this story could not hold them down and they were back in the new series! Heck, they even survived being wiped from the time/space continuum by Rose! Just what does it take to kill these evil blobs for good? No wonder the Doctor considers them his number one nemesis!
All right, ranting aside, I must say I really enjoyed this book. Ben Aaronovitch has done more than simply write an adaptation of his television script, he has written a full blown book to be appreciated on a totally new level from the other novelisations. I would rank this even alongside Doctor Who and the Daleks as one of the best Doctor Who novels I have read so far for Target. Like Doctor Who and the Daleks it feels like an "extended edition" of the story. In fact, many of the deleted scenes, which I recognized from the DVD extras, have been included (although the infamous "more than just a Time Lord" sequence is still excised). What is especially likeable is the the fact that Aaronovitch goes into enormous detail on the background of each character and really brings out their individual characters more than was done on the screen. Some of my favorites include flashbacks from Gilmore and Rachel from the Blitz in which we see the horrors their generation faced as well as the relationship which grew between them. Mike is also well done. We learn a bit about his background and his racism is emphasized even more. We also learn that Ratcliffe was a Nazi sympathizer who was jailed during the war and has resented England ever since. Mike is a honest young man who has been brainwashed by Ratcliffe's propoganda and really has some difficulties struggling with his loyalties, especially when he finds himself falling in love with Ace!
The Doctor and Ace are very well portrayed in the story. The Doctor in particular shows his "Time's Champion" persona for the first time. While I like McCoy's Doctor when he is darker, I've never really liked the "Time's Champion" stuff, feeling it took the Doctor a little too far away from the character I've known and loved over many different regenerations. I especially don't buy the whole Doctor as being part of a powerful pantheon with Rassilon and Omega. If the Doctor really was this important to Time Lord history, why has he always been treated so horribly by his people in the past? Despite this, his Time's Champion persona really plays well in this story since the Doctor is using his titanic powers of planning and manipulation to lead his greatest enemies into a deadly trap. His darkness and brooding does not stem from his responsibilities as a galactic hero, but instead comes from the responsiblity of committing genocide on his enemies.
Ace also comes across well and we begin to see our first shades of the Ace who would come in the New Adventures. There is a little bit of sexual tension for the first time in the book and television series, particularly in a sequence when Mike comes into Ace's room when she's only wearing a towel and they "admire" each other. Aaronovitch writes Ace marvelously as a character. On the surface, she sounds and acts just like any angry teenager, but as we get to know her, we begin to see that there something more deeply wrong with her. She is definitely troubled by something and has a a lot of anger and aggression inside of her. It is also implied that her use of explosives is one means by which she vents some of this aggression.
In the Daleks' last story, they are also portrayed magnificently. Although I did have worries that I wouldn't be able to tell the two Dalek factions apart in the book, I was actually able to distinguish them much better in the books than I was on television! The Skarosian Daleks are much more experienced in battle than the Imperials and have adapted unorthodox methods into their battle plans, such as using a human girl as part of their battle computers. The Imperial Daleks are more logical and they also weild better weaponry, especially in the form of the Special Weapons Dalek or "The Abomination" as the Daleks call it. The Abomination is given a character all its own since it is one of the few Daleks that has been given permission to act as a an individual, hence the perception that it is insane. The book has a great deal of the story from the perspective of the Daleks which gives us some insight into their culture and language that we have never seen before. Although we only meet Davros for a short time in the novel he is very well depicted in the story as a pathetic but dangerous individual. It is a shame that no adaptation of Resurrection or Revelation of the Daleks was officially made, since I would like to read more of this Davros (Revelation of the Daleks would have been an excellent opportunity).
Overall, this is clearly a special book which is setting the tone for the New Adventures to come, as many have pointed out before. I have to admit that, like The Caves of Androzani, this story has never been one of my favorities. Over time I have come to appreciate these two stories for their special qualities that sets them as classics of the series and I would even go so far as to say this novel has helped to push this story up in my appreciation of the McCoy years. It may now become my new favorite story! At the very least, it is one of my favorite novels. 10/10