Power of the Daleks
Evil of the Daleks
Planet of the Daleks
Genesis of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks
Resurrection of the Daleks
Remembrance of the Daleks
The Infinity Doctors
War of the Daleks
|ISBN||0 563 40573 2|
|Synopsis: A group of desperate Thals find their moral limits tested when they hatch a scheme that may defeat the Daleks once and for all. Strangely, the appearance of the Doctor only serves to make this plan more dangerous and more likely to succeed...|
Lots of Good Ideas, But.... by Michael Hickerson 1/5/98
I came to War of the Daleks with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I've been waiting years for the Daleks to appear in the novels and, say what you will about his other works, John Peel's novelizations of the 60's Daleks scripts have been fairly good. On the other hand, John Peel has never been my favorite author when it comes to creating his own character and situtions within the Whoniverse.
War of the Daleks, I hoped, might be a breakthrough.
Don't get me wrong--there's an interesting story here. In fact, there are several interesting stories--enough for several novels or a much longer novel that the final product delivers. It's just that it never gels completely. Part of it is that Peel brings up interesting ideas throughtout the story, only to drop them a chapter later. One of the more interesting is the Thal's idea that if they capture Davros and force him to genetically enhance them, they might be able to defeat the Daleks. Peel spends a few pages exploring not only this but the Doctor's reaction to it before unceremoniously dropping it when the main Dalek squadron shows up.
The novel pretty much feels like a bad term paper with Peel throwing in every possible idea he can, pretty much as it comes to him. The final chapters of the novel had me raising my eyebrows due to the number of attempted plot turns and twists that come up. Also, Peel has apparently decided that the entire Dalek history should be changed, thus invalidating the continuity established by the series. Sorry, Mr. Peel, but I liked the fact that the seventh Doctor destroyed Skaro and no amount of backpeddling here will change that. Indeed, Peel pretty much tries to erase the impact of all three of 80's Dalek stories with little or no success. Instead of being interesting, it turns out to be irritating and annoying.
But the thing that bugged me most was the inconsistency of Peel's portrayal of the eighth Doctor. At times, it felt more like the story was written for the fifth Doctor because I could easily hear Peter Davison saying the lines. After reading the superlative The Dying Days and Vampire Science, I felt I was coming to know this new Doctor. None of those characteristics where in evidence here, which hurt the novel a great deal. Indeed, it feels as though Peel is saying to heck with what's gone before, I'm gonna tell my story as I want to and I don't care about continuity or character development.
In my book, those are two major sins for a line of novels that are trying to establish and maintain a continuity. And that's what makes me give War of the Daleks the big thumbs down.
The Blue and the Gun-Metal Grey by Sarah G. Hadley 21/6/98
John Peel likes Daleks. You can tell. He wrote three standard-length Target novelizations of First Doctor Dalek stories, two novel-length Virgin novelizations of Second Doctor Dalek stories, and, with Terry Nation, an entire reference book about the Daleks. Now he's written the first two original Dalek novels ever: War of the Daleks and Legacy of the Daleks.
War of the Daleks brings many terms to my mind: some of the more notable ones include 'normal', 'usual', 'old hat', and 'startlingly uninteresting'. That, in itself, is one of two major problems... the book is simply, totally unoriginal. At first it feels like a bad Battlestar Galactica plot, with some Daleks and the Doctor thrown in to add spice to the story and later like 'Tea- Time with a Time Lord,' as hosted by the Dalek Prime. So, in very blunt terms, the first half is all action and the second all gab.
The other major problem is the book's own controversy, which doesn't really seem to belong in such a typical novel. Peel attempts to single-handedly rewrite Dalek history, as if carrying on the job which the late Terry Nation first began. Without spoiling the book, I can say that Peel's gamble makes every Dalek story since Genesis of the Daleks seem inconsequential, as well as a portion of one of the later Virgin Missing Adventures, "A Device of Death".
Why go to the bother? Most fans like the Dalek stories as they are, and don?t feel the need for someone to come along and figure out how Skaro wasn't destroyed. However, for some reason, Peel has decided to achieve that goal, as well as a few others... which becomes quite confusing. Yet another Dalek civil war? Davros revived again? Skaro still in existence? All these things and more, the promotional material might say, appear in War of the Daleks...
Aside from the story, the characters aren't even right. The Eighth Doctor resembles the Fifth, while Sam continues to be a dull, early-Ace (or perhaps even Tegan) clone, and almost none of the secondary characters are interesting, with the possible exception of Chayn.
So what does that leave us with? Not much. I'll give the book this, though... it's much better than some of the worst Virgin New Adventures. Like Time's Crucible or Sky Pirates.
But then, that really isn't saying much, is it?
A Review by Leo Vance 26/6/98
John Peel has been unduly vilified in the past. Historical accuraccy was attacked over Tymewyrm: Genesys and his gothic horror story Evolution was vilified for being just as cliched as Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius or The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Here, he has been accused of stealing wholesale from Terry Nation. Why not?
Robert Holmes stole from everybody to produce such "classic" stories as Pyramids of Mars or The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Holmes simply copied The Power of Kroll wholesale for the "classic" The Caves of Androzani. Therefore it can't be bad to copy earlier stories, can it? "Oh yes it can if we're talking anybody other than Bob Holmes the Great Doctor Who writer!" (I apologise if this sounds like Delta and the Bannermen or Ark in Space all over again, but I feel annoyed about reviews of War of the Daleks).
From the beginning, War of the Daleks shows what it is. A straight-forward action adventure, like Earthshock or The Five Doctors, the kind of story Doctor Who has been missing for years and is now back in The Eight Doctors and The Ultimate Treasure to name just two. The plot is good, though lack of practice seems to have dropped his prose style since Evolution.
The characters? Well, Dyoni and the other Thals are reasonably drawn, Davros is perhaps given his best treatment since Genesis of the Daleks. The Daleks are strong, the Dalek Prime is a good character, the examination of Dalek ranks (Blue, Black, Gold) is interesting and the descriptions of Skaro are impressive.
The Doctor may not be quintessential McGann, but he hasn't been given a strong character yet. Sam is much stronger, due to the well-written jealousy over the Doctor.
A cliched story, but still good adventure fare. 7/10
An Abomination by Robert Smith? 13/9/98
Well, it's interesting, exciting, thrill producing and lots of fun. But that's enough about the back cover blurb... what about the book itself?
War of the Daleks is not the book I was expecting. Unfortunately, every reader goes into every book with certain expectations, some well-founded, others not, but there is simply no way to avoid them. A person's entire reading history is unshakable baggage and some books have more of an advance reputation than others. Going in, I was expecting War of the Daleks to not make a lot of sense if you thought about it (particularly the infamous retcon), but otherwise to be a fun-filled, entertaining and exciting read (much like one of John Peel's earlier works, Evolution, which wasn't exactly thought-provoking, but was a fun read and a great way to while away a Sunday afternoon).
Sadly, that isn't the book I read.
I did try to like this book. In fact, the blurb made me quite eager to sample the delights it promised. By the sounds of it, it was interesting and exciting and even thought-provoking. Unfortunately the editor has proven superior to the writer in this instance. While all the exciting-sounding plot elements were there in the first third of the book, somehow the actual prose served to make them come across much duller than they should have been.
The setting aboard the garbage ship sounds quite promising, but the ship is filled with cliched characters who moralise at each other and the ones with little dialogue are killed off rather quickly. Oh, and the engineer falls in love with the Doctor, only to suffer Sam's jealousy. I swear I'm not making this up.
The Thal plan actually had a lot of promise. The idea that the only way to defeat the Daleks is to essentially become the Daleks is a great one (even if it was done a lot more effectively in Killing Ground). The suggestions that what the Thals have become is the Doctor's fault is an intriguing one (although it does fall down completely if you consider Planet of the Daleks), even if it is pointed out via one character making a speech to that effect.
And in a nutshell, this is War's biggest problem. Characters don't talk, they make speeches at each other. And very few of those speeches sound even remotely believable, even if, in a broader sense, the actions make sense. It's the details which have gone awry here, as though the author had grand ideas, but simply lacked the talent to pull them off.
Conveniently, the TARDIS is loaded onto the Thal ship, headed for Skaro. Conveniently, the Doctor's repairs have disabled the doors. Conveniently, no one thinks to bother stealing the TARDIS from the Doctor or using it as a weapon against the Daleks.
War also has a number of details simply wrong. Since Davros has been only floating in his escape capsule for thirty years, this squarely places the action in 1993 (since he was last seen in 1963 and there's no hint that he's been elsewhere since then). And yet, strangley the human race has developed deep space travel by this time (another one of those "Doctor Who takes place in an alternate universe" things, although War would appear to take place in a universe unto itself). Oh, and Davros is clearly not the same Davros last seen in Remembrance, since that Davros was in the Emperor's casing, while this one is back to his wheelchair. The editing is also not faultless, with a number of spelling mistakes and even the inclusion of an entire inappropriate word in the middle of a sentence (although for all we know this may be a Dalek plot).
When the action moves to Skaro, things begin to really fall down. The earlier sections of the book were stronger, because they had decent ideas to overcome the painful dialogue and cliched characterisation. Unfortunately, the later parts of the book have no such saving graces and consist of boring plot and counterplot (some of which are lifted wholesale from Timelash -- and believe me, if you want to steal your plots from somewhere, that is not the place), and lots more speeches from a very chatty Dalek and fight scenes that would look great on a big budget and yet seem extremely run-of-the-mill here.
Oh, and the back of the book should be done in by the Trades and Practices Act. Whoever this third Doctor-soundalike might be, he isn't the Eighth Doctor.
Sam actually doesn't come across too badly here. Partly I think that's because she's exactly consistent with every other portrayal of Sam (ie godawful), but the rest of the book is full of even worse sounding posturing characters who like to make speeches and sound as though they're important that Sam fits right in. Except, that is, for the jealousy subplot, which is almost lifted wholesale from the BBC writers guidelines.
The interludes are completely out of place and not only add nothing to the story, they actually detract from it! (One effectively proves that none of this ever happened, taking place many thousands of years into the future and on the world supposedly destroyed in Skaro's place) However, I must confess that I didn't particularly mind them, because they broke up the tedium of the rest of the story quite nicely. Only the first one is actually good in its own right, as well as being the only one which ties into the rest of the plot, however tenuously.
The ending is, well, convenient. Convenient that the Doctor should just happen to have been repairing the TARDIS in Chapter One and just happen to have disabled the door controls and the Thals just happen to have loaded the TARDIS onto their ship so it very conveniently turns up on Skaro where the Doctor and co. can very conveniently escape, without having to search out the garbage ship (it would have made far more sense for it to have been left there, unless the Thals actually had a reason for moving it... but unfortunately they didn't). Oh, and the door controls have been very conveniently disabled, so the Dalek Prime can very conveniently lay a few traps in the TARDIS, probably because he suspects the finale is going to be a bit boring and need something to spice it up a bit. Conveniently.
I've left the biggest point til last: the Retcon. And, I have to confess, I didn't think it was actually all that bad! The thing I really liked about it was that actual thought appeared to have been put into it (you can almost see the months and months of radw discussion leaking through). Unlike the rest of the book, this bit has been thought out and thought through and a number of potential holes plugged. There are still a few gaping holes in it, but I like to give points for effort. If the rest of the book had had as much attention paid to it as the Retcon, I think we'd have gotten a much finer novel.
Sadly however, this book appears to have been written in something of a rush so that the big ideas and grand plotting have been reduced to trite moralising, cliched characterisation, childish speeches and an actually painful essay on the horrors of war ("War is bad, Jo - I mean Sam") which makes Planet of the Daleks look subtle. Stuff like this needs subtlety and thought and careful writing, none of which is in evidence here.
It's tragic, in many ways, that we've had to wait so long for the Daleks, only to discover that they're really not that interesting in print (far, far less interesting than Virgin made them to be, by hinting and implying more was going on offstage than actually was). In the end, there really was no need for all the fuss about this book, because its quality is quite poor; so poor that for the first time ever I'm tempted to simply declare one of these books "not canon". Because I think we'd all be much better off if this book never happened, irregardless of its place in the wider Who mythos. A book I wish I hadn't read lately.
In summary: don't waste your time or money.
A Review by Henry Potts 23/6/99
Compared to general opinion, I think I must be something of a fan of John Peel's first Who book. I quite liked Genesys and if many of the books that came after it bettered it, that is no slight to Peel, who had the difficult task of beginning the series. I wasn't so keen on Evolution, but again Peel was in the difficult situation of writing only the second MA. How, then, would I find his third book, War of the Daleks, a book infamous on rec.arts.drwho from its very inception?
Well, I liked War. I can't remember for certain, but I think I gave it a 6 in the Rankings. As 7 seems to be about my average, I hope John doesn't too mind a score of 6. I certainly think it is much better than The Eight Doctors, with which it is currently neck and neck at the bottom of the Rankings. It was a mostly entertaining read, yet War also has profound implications for the long term continuity of the Daleks.
Some might argue that if the book is entertaining, the continuity doesn't matter, but, as the continuity is central to this book's plot, I invoke the maxim of "live by the sword, die by the sword". War involves one of the most dramatic retcons in Who history and it simply was not believable to me. Nonetheless, Peel deserves some credit for a brave attempt, if nothing else.
I found the first three quarters or so of War to be a good, solid read. It kept me interested; it even kept me engrossed. (More on the last quarter later.) It is action packed and it drags the reader along. The characterisation was fine. Some of the supporting characters were perhaps rather simple, but the style of the novel is not one to allow space for much great character detail. Of the regulars, both Sam and the 8th Doctor have yet to settle down in their characters in any of the books so far -- let's see what happens over the next few books -- but their portrayals were pretty consistent. In particular, I could recognise much of the Doctor from Vampire Science -- the definitive text so far IMHO -- in War.
The one regular to come off badly is Davros, but then War is concerned more with his mere existence than with his character. If Davros is a pawn to everyone else, it matters not that we see little of his character. For that matter, who can say what Davros' character should be like given the decline into insanity over his last few TV stories.
There were many nice touches; as another reviewer said, Peel knows his Daleks well. I enjoyed the interludes: they were a successful injection of '60s adventure fiction. I enjoyed seeing the Spider Daleks 'canonised' after their description in The Nth Doctor. The battle scene in the prelude was very well done: exciting, without glorifying; setting up the characters for later in the book; and thematically foreshadowing the bluff and double bluff in the main plot developments and the moral choices to be made later on.
However, as with many Who stories, unravelled somewhat in its conclusion. For example, the final plot twist, with the hidden Dalek factory ship, I just found silly. More of a problem was the final battle on Skaro. As the set piece, climactic finale, it failed to do justice to the idea for me. I think it is difficult to write wars and battles in books, although So Vile a Sin and parts from earlier in War are good examples of how it can be done. The battle of Skaro came across as too small, with long fight scenes not working in print. As well as flowing badly, much of what happened in the battle seemed wrong. I would have expected the Daleks, famed for their battle computers, to have run through the tactical options for the battle in fractions of a second; and the Dalek Prime has had plenty of time to prepare for this fight. Yet, we had the Dalek Prime depicted as only realising the tactical significance of his large windows well into the fight.
I was going to complain that War has a very complex plot, but that is not true. Then, I was going to praise War for having such a straightforward plot, but that is not true. Rather, War of the Daleks is a simple intersection through several complex plots. What happens in the book is well-plotted, but what happens outside the book is sometimes more problematic... and, in one crucial case, very problematic.
War does contain some wonderful ideas which it doesn't itself have time to explore. That is praise, not criticism, by the way. I loved the idea of the Thals desiring to recruit Davros for their own eugenics programme. Yet it is the Dalek history subplot and that retcon that are more of a problem. Within the book, they rather interrupt the flow of the story, requiring an extensive monologue from the Dalek Prime. At times, I felt there was just too much trying to be squeezed into an action adventure. As a reasonable 'page-turner', I could ignore my doubts about the book's implications for most of the way through, yet with the retcon being central to the book's resolution, as well as one of Peel's central motivations in writing the book, you just cannot ignore it.
The retcon... I doubt I can say anything original about the retcon. It is has probably generated more bandwidth on rec.arts.drwho than discussion about all the other BBC Books put together! I admire Peel's ambition. Just as Lungbarrow re-wrote much of what we know about the Doctor, so War was a brave attempt to re-write recent Dalek history. I am not averse to such being occasionally tried, however, I think Peel failed.
Most criticism has centred on the retconning of Remembrance of the Daleks. While War may retcon the plot of Remembrance, it cannot retcon the emotional impact of Remembrance for me, so I care less about that aspect. I think Peel goes some of the way to preserving the significance of Remembrance to the Doctor's character and I am gladdened that that perhaps shows that the lengthy debate about War on rec.arts.drwho was useful. Rather, for me, it is the retconning of Destiny of the Daleks that is the sticking point.
The retcon is just not believable. The retcon states that the Daleks faked an interstellar war in which they had supposedly been brought to a stalemate and which crippled the whole expansion of the Dalek empire; that they even faked the enemy race, the Movellans; that Davros was moved to another planet disguised as Skaro, on which he raised his rebel forces and which was ultimately destroyed by the Hand of Omega. We learn in the book that this plan had taken in both the Doctor and Davros. It is also implied that humanity was at least partly fooled, as the Mechanoids believed the Movellans to be the Daleks' enemy. However, the Thals, for one, do know that Skaro has not been destroyed, so it is hardly a well-kept secret.
Hiding Skaro is the easy bit, but the retcon requires so much more: it's about faking a whole interstellar war and Dalek expansion being brought to a standstill. Perhaps the Dalek empire could have faked such a stalemate, but to do so convincingly would be as crippling as if there really had been in a stalemate. Was the Dalek Prime's plan worth the abandonment of galactic conquest for several years just so that everybody would believe the war was real? It's about faking a whole alien superpower in the Movellans. How do you fake a whole star empire over a long period time (to fool Davros), over all of history (to fool the Doctor)? Could they let the deceit be known to the Thals, but really fool the whole Earth empire?
I am just about prepared to accept that Davros as we see him in his earlier stories could have been fooled and maybe even the Doctor in his younger incarnations too, but the later Doctor is a harder nut to crack. His breadth of knowledge about the universe becomes more and more apparent: he has been in the Matrix on Gallifrey, he has met the Guardians; he has negotiated with God; he has plotted and schemed across all history. This Doctor could miss the faking of a major interstellar war and of one side of that war? The Time Lords must certainly know of the Dalek Prime's deception, yet do they never tell the Doctor despite using him as their agent in Genesis of the Daleks; despite him becoming their President? I should make it clear that I have no objection to the idea that the 7th Doctor as the arch-manipulator, should be out manipulated -- I am currently enjoying Illegal Alien, for example -- but being outwitted is not the same as being fooled.
In summary, as a sequel to Destiny of the Daleks or even Resurrection of the Daleks, War of the Daleks just about works. Had Destiny been rather different or the retcon had left the Movellans alone, then maybe I could have accepted it. But, as is, it just stretches incredulity too far.
Peel knows his Daleks from the outside, but does he know what makes them tick? The Dalek Prime's plan carries with it implications that rather undermine Peel's own position on another point of contention that arose in discussion on rec.arts.drwho before the book was published: poetry. It seems such a small matter, but it is symbolic of the greatest problem I had with War.
Peel uses War to explicitly deny that the Daleks have culture (poetry being the unspecified sticking point), yet Peel seems to be missing much of his own book then. He has said that the interlude with the Mechanoids is to draw the distinction between robots and Daleks, yet he then treats the Daleks as just robots by stripping them of their culture. Peel has tried to make the Daleks more interesting, placing them central stage again and not just background to Davros, yet he makes them boring automatons.
Crucially, the whole Dalek Prime's plan is motivated by considerations of image, of PR. All this is just to discredit Davros. These are not creatures of logic, but beings that are swayed by oratory and presentation. Poetry is just one small step further -- it seems almost inevitable that beings that should do so much just to ensure that the presentation is correct would have poetry.
These two sticking points -- an over-ambitious retcon and an oxymoron of a depiction of the Daleks -- kept me from truly enjoying an otherwise fun action-adventure.
A Review by Rueben Herfindahl 11/8/99
I know it's been a while since War came out, but given its reputation I skipped reading it for a while.
The action starts out in the midst of a Thal/Dalek battle. The book follows some of the Thals from the battle and onto a scavenger frieghter. The frieghter has just picked up some debris which happened to contain Davros's escape pod. The Doctor and Sam are also picked up by the frieghter. The Thals attack the frieghter and awaken Davros.
The action is very well done. Mr. Peel manages to write a pretty good action novel which fleshes out the battles to a greater extent than he was allowed to in his short 80's Target novelizations.
The only problem arises when the infamous retcon issue rears it's ugly head. He spends four or five pages explaining a confusing fanwanky theory about how Davros destroyed the wrong planet. He even goes as far as to retcon the Movellan Dalek war in order to support his theory. It feels like he was forced to incorporate a silly theory on top of an action novel. It just doesn't work and really doesn't advance the story that much.
The story gets a little too obsessed after the Dalek Prime's long winded retcon and starts to feel too much like a dollar bin sci-fi action novel. It's a bit disappointing after the good beginning.
Mr. Peel does still manage to develop the characters of Sam and the Doctor, as well as some of the peripheral characters, despite the high action level. Sam suffers from a mild case of shell shock and goes from naivee concerning the horrors of fighting a war, to understanding the Thal's motivations a bit better. The Doctor is the 8th Doctor in this book, a rare occurance for any books placed this early in the series, and a welcome suprise after his missing the mark on the 7th Doctor's character in Timewyrm:Genesis.
All in all, not a bad read. I think the retcon backlash has tainted the book and the author's reputation a bit too much. Yeah the retcon is silly, and it's certainly not Peel's best work. But for a fun story that doesn't require too much thought, it's worth it.
A Review by Tom Wilton 23/1/00
One of the few plus points I was aware of when the BBC revoked Virgin's licence was the possibility of new Dalek stories being published. Although I'm not a huge fan of the Daleks, I had thoroughly enjoyed John Peel's novelisations of The Daleks' Masterplan, The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks. Perhaps this is why I felt so bitterly cheated when War of the Daleks was finally published. In short, it is perhaps the weakest of all the BBC's early novels. Whereas others published at around the same time I would count as flawed successes, War of the Daleks was just plain flawed.
Perhaps it is because Remembrance of the Daleks was one of my favourite television stories that I object so strongly to what Peel seems to have made his sole aim for this novel. I shan't reveal the ultimate plot revelation, but suffice to say it alters radically what we were shown on television. In all fairness, the way it is achieved does not clash with the televised version, but totally contradicts the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch. It is also achieved in a thought out manner that makes sense.
Unfortunately very little else in the novel seems to have been given the same thought. Peel seems to have spent no time rationalising his characters' actions and so the plot has large holes in it. Similarly, he has spared little time on characterising either the Doctor or Sam, leading me to suspect that he merely changed a few details in an already written manuscript once he heard the BBC had the rights to publish a Dalek story.
As it stands, War of the Daleks is a rather pointless read. Even the continuity alterations it goes to such pains to achieve are futile within the novel alone, leading me to assume that Peel has plans to return to this at a later date. I would hope he does, not because I would enjoy to read this (in fact, I think I would hate it), but because it would make some sense of what he was aiming to achieve in this novel.
A Review by Yonatan Bryant 21/6/00
Genesis of the Daleks was a terrific story, which introduced us to the early history of the Daleks. However, it was also the last great Dalek story. The reason was Davros. The brilliant scientist who created the Daleks was so great in Genesis that he was, as many reviewers have said, just begging to come back. And he did. In every Dalek story from then on Davros was always there calling the shots. Because of this the Daleks sunk from being brilliantly devilish and manipulative creatures to just being another metal monster. They lost all of their cunning, all of their brilliance, and all of their "scariness". Now they were no longer the most important villains, now it was Davros. He had stolen the Thunder and the spotlight of the Daleks. War of the Daleks finally digs the Daleks out the mess they had gotten into. The Daleks are back and they are better than ever. They are once again the scheming monsters that they were before the Fourth Doctor. In War of the Daleks, you finally see the full might of the Dalek empire, with a huge battle scene in the beginning, smaller battles scattered throughout the Galaxy in between the episodes and a tremendous description of imperial Skaro. Up until now Skaro had just been a nuclear wasteland with a few cities scattered here and there. Nothing much really. But now Skaro seems to me to be reminiscent of Azimovs description of Trantor in Foundation. Davros also gets his best story since Genesis. Here you can truly see how insane Davros really is and how that insanity how clouded his judgment. Thankfully he is not allowed to take center stage.
The one thing that has annoyed the most readers of War of the Daleks is the Dalek Supreme's riveting explanation for what has been going on for the past 20 years. The explanation the Supreme (who looks like the Supreme for the wonderful Dalek comic strips of the 1960's) offers is this: it has all been one big conspiracy to stop Davros from doing what he, the Doctor and we the fans, thought he had done in Remembrance of the Daleks. Now we learn that the Movellan virus, the war and the Movellans themselves where all conjured up by the supreme. Now the Daleks have finally regained their "scariness."
There are many wonderful moments in this book. In the second episode, when the Daleks start to treat the Doctor kindly, you start thinking "What the f--- is going on here?" Your jaw then drops when you find out that Skaro was not destroyed and hangs limp when you find out about the Planet that the Doctor killed. On Skaro, your state of confusion grows when the Dalek Supreme offers the Doctor and Sam refreshments and a place to sit down. And when the Supreme starts to tell the story your eyes light up and you cannot put the book down. The trial of Davros is stupendous as is the Battle that follows. Other good scenes are on the TARDIS (oh how we miss you) and the Thal Ship with the Dalek factor that will end up on Vulcan, and the Dalek with the Chameleon Circuit. All of these factors round up to one of the best books of the first two seasons of the EDA's (the others being Vampire Science, Alien Bodies, The Bodysnatchers, Seeing I and Vanderdeken's Children) Let the flame war begin. Oh and by the way the Doctor and Sam are both in it also. They get good parts, but you really don't care because this is a WAR OF THE DALEKS!!!!!!!:):):):)
War of the Fans by Steve Crow 3/4/01
I'm of two minds towards War of the Daleks. On the one hand, parts of the retcon do make sense to me. It answers some points raised in Remembrance of the Daleks, for instance, such as...ummm, why does the Doctor cheerfully destroy Skaro? It should also be noted that the Skaro we get in War of the Daleks is far more interesting then the one we see in Destiny of the Daleks. So kudos there as well.
But there are problems with this. Peel doesn't really explain why the Doctor cheerfully brings himself to destroy Skaro via the Hand of Omega. He just lets him off the hook by saying, "Oh, it wasn't Skaro after all." The Movellan thing doesn't make sense: if the Daleks can make humanoid robot/androids, why bother with the ever-rebelling and troublesome "real" human slaves?
There's definitely a sense of much-missed grandeur to the Daleks: the short interludes help as much to this end as the re-establishment of Skaro as something impressive rather than a radioactive quarry pit with jello spread across the rocks.
But then Peel undercuts the grandeur by having the Daleks engaged in essentially a petty little PR scheme to undermine Davros (which, ironically, is somewhat of a twist on Davros' own plan to ferret out the traitors in the bunker in Genesis of the Daleks). And it is this scheme that doesn't make much sense. The Dalek Prime anticipates a 30% chance of failure in its master plan, but his use of the Doctor as back-up is a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing: what was his plan if the Doctor didn't conveniently happen to turn up?
As others have noted, too much of the story boils down to convenience. The Doctor just happens to leave the door unlocked: hasn't he learned from all the various other times he's done this? I don't have a problem with the Thals taking the TARDIS along with them, but the ease with which they recognize the Doctor as... well, the Doctor seems a bit odd. If Doctor Who fans wandered onto the Thal planet, they could easily convince the Thals they were the Doctor. "You got a blue box, and you know the names Susan, Ian, and Barbara? Hey, you must be the savior of our people!"
Characterization seems almost non-existent, replaced with the interludes, action and "trap" setpieces, and the occasional grisly death. Sam has little to do and her position ranges from one extreme or illogic to another. Just once I'd like to see a character who doesn't feel guilty about talking someone into killing someone else. Particularly if that character's life is on the line. Just once I'd like to see someone think, "Well, yes, I feel kinda bad about it, but the person who ended up dying was a jerk and about ready to put me down for the long count."
The Doctor doesn't have much characterization, being subject either to the whims of the retconning (sitting around listening to the Dalek Prime explaining it all) or the need to spice up the action occasionally with another layer of Dalek subplot.
Overall, War of the Daleks just seems like a pieced-together version of a bunch of other Dalek stories. In my opinion, there was probably a need for a retcon of some sort, or for at least some of these past points to be addressed. War of the Daleks just doesn't do the job in an entertaining manner.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 13/4/01
War of the Daleks reads more like one of the Target novelisations than as a work of fiction in its own right mostly due to some terribly cliched characterizations and some very unfortunate prose. While reading, one wonders if this was not originally a "Junior Doctor Who" novel starring the Third Doctor with Jo and then quickly altered at the last moment to accommodate the Eighth Doctor and Sam. It wasn't, of course, as it was the subject of many an argument between the author and fans on the rec.arts.drwho newsgroup for quite a long time before its publication. The object of discussion was the infamous "retcon" that turned all of the post-Genesis stories on their heads. It's this that the book is most infamous for and I'll speak more about this later, but I'd first like to talk about the rest of the book.
There are several ideas present in the book that could, if developed properly, have turned out very well. It would have been interesting to see the Doctor coming to terms with having accidentally wiped out an entire planet with more than just a shrug of his shoulders and a mumbling of, "Oh golly, I feel just awful about those guys." The scenario in which the Thals wished to turn themselves into Dalek-like creatures in order to survive and defeat the Daleks should have been a lot more interesting than it in fact turned out to be. The Doctor merely lectures the Thal leader for a few moments and then the whole matter is dropped from the book without any more expansion. There are some moments of actual interesting interaction that had the potential to develop into intriguing character development. Sam and a Thal war veteran discuss some of the aspects of a race totally dedicated to war with generations upon generations not knowing any other way of life. But instead of the conversations actually going somewhere philosophical or thought provoking, they are resolved with hackneyed dialog and banal observations. Every character is a two-dimensional cliche and each person can be entirely summed up in a word or a short phrase ("greedy", "dedicated, but questioning", "creepy", etc.). Even the Doctor is mostly faceless; the only way we know that it's the Eighth Doctor is that we don't go any more than three pages without being told how good-looking he is. It was certainly a relief when Davros was revived and was one of the only characters not to continually notice how attractive the new Doctor is.
The rest of the book is mostly a confused mess. For example, the water planet on the fringes of the Dalek Empire is given the same name as the world that the Doctor is supposed to have destroyed (the editor should have caught this one). The book is so heavy in continuity references to previous Dalek adventures, that one almost needs some reference material in one hand while reading the book in the other in order to make sense of it. While the continuity points may alienate casual and non-fans, the hardcore fans are most likely annoyed that so many of the points are incorrect. The remains of the Dalek battlecruiser that was destroyed by the Hand of Omega near Earth in Remembrance of the Daleks are found floating thousands of light-years away in a seldom visited area of space with no explanation. Remembrance took place in 1963 (at least Peel didn't try to retcon away the year of the adventure), yet "about thirty years" later, Earth is supposed to have a giant space empire spanning a large portion of the galaxy. And worst of all, the Daleks actually find the Doctor's TARDIS unlocked, with all of its time-travel capabilities and other secrets available and the most interesting thing they can do is to plant a bomb inside in hopes of killing the Doctor.
Now, onto the retcon. The only question that I have is: why? The story could have continued on perfectly well without it and would not have been bogged down for several pages while the Dalek Prime has to explain and re-explain the situation to a confused audience. It isn't needed for the story and only succeeds in making the Doctor and Davros look like complete morons for not noticing that a very important base of operations is suddenly a few thousand light-years away from where they thought it was. It really does not seem to have any reason to be in the book at all. It certainly reads as though the retcon was thought up first and then the rest of the book was structured to make it seem plausible. Even with all the thought that obviously went into devising this, it still does not adequately fit into the rest of the story. The jump from action to long, tortured explanation back to action feels very jarring.
The last few chapters of the book are passable if only because at this point one knows to keep one's brain firmly in the locked "off" position. This is not recommended for grown-ups.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 20/5/02
Heard a lot about this one. Mainly bad stuff: appalling writing, incoherent plot, the retcon, etc.
As a straight action-style story, War succeeds. Lots of battles, explosions, fights and what-not. As a view of the Daleks and their hierarchy, it's kind of nice to see how the Daleks are structured and what exactly all those colors mean.
Um, characterization on all levels, however, is a different story. The only time Sam stands out is when we get mentions of her crush on the Doctor. As for the Doctor himself, he was generic, and could have easily been the fifth. Most of the other characters tend to shout cliched speeches about war. The only standout is the very chatty Dalek Prime. He seems to be a throwback to the more cunning and plotting daleks that David Whitaker used in Power and Evil. I kind of liked him. Davros, well, was a waste, though I assume he was placed in War just to kill him off for good.
And then there's the retcon. Hmm.... didn't bug me all that much. The TV show constantly contradicted itself, and there have been other books that have subverted 'canonicity' for their own agendas. I think War gets to be the whipping boy for 'retcon' stuff is that it rendered Remembrance of the Daleks -- a very popular story within fandom -- pointless. I'm in the minority who thinks Remembrance is godawful, so it didn't bug me at all.
Final verdict? Not as bad as popular opinion dictates, but it could have been helped immeasurably by better characterization.
Sleeping with the Past by Marcus Salisbury 9/9/02
War of the Daleks has a fantastic cover. Startling yet understated, and combining the familiar images of sinister Dalek casing and negative "extermination" effect. Because of the yawning abyss of nostalgia induced in my inner child by this cover, I snatched up the book without the merest consideration for what I might be letting myself in for. It's not too late for a refund, however, so I'm taking it back to the shop on Monday.
John Peel is the writer who rounded off the legendary Target Who novelisations with two outstanding adaptations of classic Troughton Dalek epics. Didn't he attempt to do justice to the rambling brilliance of The Daleks' Masterplan over two volumes? He even made The Chase seem like it had been drafted in advance. Once upon a time, John Peel occupied the position in Who-writing now occupied by Lawrence Miles... the author one book alone couldn't handle. Sadly, as the late, great Quintus Horatius Flaccus put it; the mighty mountain laboured, and gave birth to a ridiculous mouse. The cloister bell has been tolling for Peel since the laboured Virgin MA Evolution, and it's finally happened. He's written a bad book.
I think that John Peel once watched Resurrection of the Daleks and saw That It Was Good. The only problem is that it WASN'T good... not on repeated viewings, anyway. That story looked good at first, but was in fact hurried, cliched, contrived, and wholly dependent on continuity and the prior knowledge of viewers. In any case, the first half of War of the Daleks is a direct descendant of Resurrection. We have a seedy Earth spaceship, Davros in an escape pod, and the Doctor caught unknowingly in a Dalek gambit in which Davros is the ultimate target. Instead of Colonel Archer's bomb squad, we have a group of Thal Dalek fodder. Instead of the gratuitous Dalek mind-probe flashbacks, we have a series of interpolated incidents from the various Dalek wars. Mercifully, Absalom Daak is nowhere to be found. We even have (gasp) yet another Dalek Civil War, in which Davros leads his Dalek faction against that controlled by the Dalek Prime, a character from the 'sixties TV Comic Dalek adventures who has been assimilated into Peel's version of Dalekology.
In a way, War of the Daleks is what you'd expect from yet another Dalek adventure. Faceless Thals, a garrulous Dalek Prime (wouldn't THAT have worked well on telly?), the usual ranting cipher masquerading as Davros, gratuitous hugs and kisses for the continuity Nazis... it's all been done before. What really lets this book down is a Doctor who seems to desperately require a young-old face, frilled shirt and velvet smoking jacket. The Eighth Doctor's huge potential for depth and originality of character (since addressed with a vengeance in the 8DA range) is nowhere to be seen here. Instead, we get retread Jon Pertwee, with Sam as a retread Sarah Jane Smith (a point seized upon by, of course, Lawrence Miles in Interference). The bumming-around-in-the-smelly-spaceship-waiting-for-the-Daleks scenes are strongly reminiscent of Frontier in Space, and the book's closing images of carnage on Skaro are a clear reference to the "final end" of Evil of the Daleks. The warlike Thals in daft costumes are straight out of Planet of the Daleks, and there are wholesale references to Remembrance's destruction of "Skaro". Doctor Who may be at its best when its roots are showing, but wholesale grafting of other stories onto an alleged new one do not a pleasant reading experience make.
To cap it all off, continuity is used in a way that frankly insults readers' intelligence. We are asked to swallow a series of continuity revisions that reach stellar heights of ludicrousness. We are told that Destiny was set on the planet Antalin, refurbished to resemble Skaro. Antalin was rendered desolate to confuse Davros, who had been excavated from Skaro after years (millennia?) buried in the rubble of the Genesis Kaled bunker. Davros was placed on Antalin after having been reported as destroying Skaro in the future with the Hand of Omega. Once awakened on Antalin, Davros was put to work combating a confected Movellan "menace", but proved difficult to control and was captured by Earth and imprisoned. Whereupon he was recaptured by the Daleks, escaped again (to Necros), was recaptured, escaped again, and THEN set off to find the Hand of Omega, which he then used to destroy... Antalin. And all to consolidate the Dalek Prime's position in the Dalek hierarchy, when the expedient solution would have been to quietly dispose of Davros's "remains" after they had been first excavated on Skaro. Or at any time in the preceding few millennia.
Calculate the chronological anomalies encoded in the above continuity wank to the nearest decimal place. Or simply hurl the book across the room, as I did.
The Daleks are past their use-by date. I remember watching Destiny of the Daleks (by no means their best outing, but one that looks positively stellar next to War) as a child. For me, the last truly classic Dalek moment was the Part One cliffhanger in Destiny, where several Daleks smash through a black glass screen and shriek at Romana. I was, as the cliche dictates, watching from behind my grandparents' sofa that Saturday evening. Everything since has been a sad contrivance, a lazy outing down nostalgia lane in which the potential for cutting-edge storytelling and edge-of-the seat suspense has been wasted. Getting nostalgic about watching them as a kid is bad enough, but recycling this nostalgia into uncritical, unoriginal fanwank fiction is a waste of everybody's time.
The Daleks were once truly alien aliens, but they ran out of steam a long time ago. The things are going on for 40 years old, and they're past it in their current state. They could be updated to incorporate explicitly their true potential as dark products of genetic manipulation, cyborg interfacing and xenophobic obsessiveness. Or they could be quietly put aside. Simply having "a Dalek story" won't do any more... either use them at their full, potentially nightmarish potential, or consign them to the motorised dustbin of TV history. The Daleks at their best embody many modern nightmares. At their frequent worst, they are used as patsies for contrived storytelling and sawdust plots. Surely it's time to move on.
The Daleks in their current paradigm have passed their use-by date, and the saddest thing about War of the Daleks is the comprehensive way in which it inadvertently highlights this.
A Review by Finn Clark 1/5/03
BIG HUGE SPOILERS, should anyone care. But hey, it's only War of the Daleks.
Oh my God. I've read some rubbish in my time, but this is in a league of its own. At least with something like The Eight Doctors or Divided Loyalties I could enjoy the badness. Not here. War of the Daleks is boring, witless, pointless, self-contradictory, one-dimensional and simply painful. Nothing about it rewards the reader. It doesn't have life or energy. The characterisation doesn't have enough depth to be merely bad; instead it's an affront to one's book-reading sensibilities. This isn't "so bad it's good", but "so bad that your eyes will bleed and you'll lose twenty IQ points".
You know, John Peel's reputation wasn't bad until War of the Daleks came out. He probably wasn't anyone's favourite author, but he'd been chosen to launch the NAs with Timewyrm: Genesys and his MA Evolution wasn't terrible. But this...
Let's start with the cardboard things that masquerade as characters. They all have exactly one dimension, allowing them one character trait each which they display over and over again until you desperately want the Daleks to kill them. The Thals are bad enough, but at least they get to commit some violence. That's nearly worth reading about. But the civilians on the Quetzel... dearie me, what a bunch of losers. Balatan is bad enough, but I cheered aloud when Loran bought the big one. Oh, and Harmon must have had his brain surgically removed.
Then there's the sexual relationships. John Peel has often come across as an arrested fourteen-year-old, and that's here too. Sam fancies the Doctor, but so does Chayn and Sam's jealous. Eurrrgh. Some of this writing is practically slimy. I need a wash. (Need I add that Sam Jones was hardly ever more irritating than she is here?)
The book's first half was so boring that I was desperate for the Daleks to show up and add a bit of interest... but when they do, the book gets worse! If I hadn't read it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it possible. You won't sleep through the Retcon (more on that in a moment), but you will through the pages and pages of mind-numbing Dalek battle between Davros and the Dalek Prime. Gee, will irredemable evil #1 defeat irredemable evil #2 or will it be the other way round? I DON'T CARE WHO WINS! This could be regarded as a flaw. In fairness I was surprised to see that John Peel kills off Davros, though if you think he'll stay dead I have a bridge to sell you. This detail hadn't surfaced in any comments, reviews, newgroup posts or indeed my own previous one-and-a-half readings of this book. Clearly every reader's brain had shut down long before p269 and thus such minor points hadn't registered.
There's some interesting background with the Thals. I liked Delani's plan and would have liked to see it followed through, no matter that we've seen it already in Killing Ground. I also liked the notion that the Doctor was responsible for the Thals becoming inhuman killers, though a millisecond's reflection shows this to be complete bunk. He might as well blame himself for children being napalmed in Vietnam because he gave fire to the Tribe of Gum.
The plot gives the Doctor little to do. He lands on a spaceship, gets captured and taken to Skaro, gets told about the Retcon by a suspiciously chatty Dalek Prime and then escapes. The end. Huh? Even the Daleks themselves don't show up until halfway through, so John Peel inserts some action-packed Daleky interludes to keep them in our mind's eye. These provide the book's best sequences and are sometimes even quite good too. I liked the first twenty pages and was entertained by unintentional amusements like the homoerotic SSS agent on p90 or the way John Peel accidentally uses the same name for his fake Skaro and also an uninhabited waterworld in human space.
I think it's time to discuss the Retcon.
It is ingenious. However the entire world hates it, including you, me and Peel's fellow authors who must have canonised half a dozen alternative explanations of what happened by now. It's hard to believe at times (why not just kill Davros when you dig him up? why explain it all to the Doctor?) and there's that second Antalin to confuse things further. The dates are confusing too. Davros has only been floating in space for thirty years since Remembrance, yet the Antalin interlude is set after Daleks' Master Plan and in their next book (Alien Bodies) Sam says that they've just visited the 40th century. Overall it's unholy wank and the most unwelcome addition to the Doctor Who mythos ever, unless you decide that the only way to make sense of it all is to assume that the Dalek Prime is lying. If you want to look it up for yourself, see p172 for Antalin's history and p186+ for the full Retcon.
This book is a disaster. On the plus side it's high-concept Who that thinks big and gives us a larger-scale story than Legacy of the Daleks. It also works hard to make the Daleks impressive again after all those years of playing second fiddle to Davros and in that it partly succeeds. If you've never read this book before, it might seem exciting. However if you're rereading it, it'll make you want to stick forks in your eyes. Almost completely worthless.
A Review by Brian May 9/2/05
To say that War of the Daleks is a book not widely liked by fans would be an understatement. Indeed, on this site, it has been described as an "abomination" (Robert Smith?) and a "disaster" (Finn Clark). While my opinion of the novel is not as vehement or as passionate as these, I still have strong feelings about it. And they are, for the most part, negative.
Essentially, I find the whole book wrong. The most important element of this is, of course, the extensive retconning undertaken by John Peel. It seems to have been done simply because, as an author, he can do it. The stories most to bear the brunt of this rewriting are Destiny and Remembrance, both of which have elements effectively invalidated. In the former, the entire role and purpose of the Movellans is rejected; in the latter, it's the destruction of Skaro. These are explained in a somewhat confused way; they are intended to be dramatic, jump from your seat revelations, but they're more likely to make the reader sigh at the blatant and gratuitous butchering of Who history and continuity. Of course, this is going to cause problems. In the case of Destiny, Peel has totally ignored one of its after-effects - the Movellan virus from Resurrection; this "pick and choose" rewriting of some events and ignoring others doesn't really help.
War of the Daleks is also affected by that other great blight of Who fiction - fanwank. The references to past Dalek stories come thick and fast. The various interludes make mention of Marc Cory and feature the Draconians and Mechonoids. I presume they're meant to be quiet asides that show the extent and ubiquity of the Dalek menace - but in actual they are shameless moments of showing off. So too are the mentions of Rebec and Rachel Jensen, and the inclusion of Dyoni as a central character. The events of Dalek Invasion of Earth and Day also get a ring-in, again, not serving the story at all. And I suspect that the dialogue regarding the expulsion of the Dalek ship into the time vortex (top of p.263) is meant to retroactively set-up The Power of the Daleks.
The Dalek factions and conflicts have also been done to death in the last few years of the original television programme - Resurrection and Remembrance in particular. So the fighting that breaks out at the end of this novel is unoriginal and, to be blunt, quite awful. It seems to be a tribute to the great Dalek battle of Evil, but in actual fact cheapens the memory of that story. And speaking of things unoriginal, why oh why is Davros brought back yet again? In my opinion, he should have been a one-story character. Then we'd have Michael Wisher's superlative portrayal in Genesis as the sole memory of him. Instead, he was brought back to the series ad nauseam, and Peel, at least, should have given him a rest. The idea of Davros being tried by the Daleks is another chestnut, which Peel tries to hide with all that waffle about the Dalek race being put on trial. And, as usual, Davros's fate is left open ended.
Do I have anything complimentary to say about this story? Well, yes. It's competently written. Peel has a good grasp of building up suspense and plot (although the revelation of Davros is hardly the surprise he wanted it to be). The Doctor and Sam being treated like honoured guests by the Daleks is intriguing. Even though it's obvious the Dalek Prime has a trap prepared, it's quite tense as the Doctor and the Thals attempt to work out what it is during the journey from Skaro. However, as I've mentioned, the Dalek battle is overlong and boring, as are the other action scenes in the Dalek city. What's more ludicrous are the two tacked on traps behind the trap - a Dalek bomb, followed by a disguised Dalek in the TARDIS. These bits are a pointless waste of paper; reminding me only of the way vengeful henchmen turn up at the end of James Bond films (and at least they did it just once in a story).
Also to his credit Peel has written a decent eighth Doctor. It's difficult to capture Paul McGann on page, especially before the Big Finish series kicked off, so I'm inclined to be more lenient on the early EDA range if he's not captured perfectly. As for Sam, her realisation is okay, but her trendiness and hipness is stressed to a yawn inducing degree. (To be fair to Peel, it's a pretty boring character template to work with.) As on previous occasions, she tends to think too much about the Doctor at the wrong times - i.e. right in the middle of an action scene! (cf. The Bodysnatchers.) Her crush on him is a bit tiresome, as is her streak of female jealousy when he gets on so well with Chayn. Speaking of Chayn, she's the only well developed character.
And what was all that "It's easy to say that war's wrong..." stuff? Peel might as well be saying "And the moral of the story, kids, is......" The blunt preaching is cringe inducing, with all the subtlety of Star Trek. The dangers of pacifism were terrifically explored in The Daleks; heck, even The Dominators did it better than this guff! Once again, an attempt to pay homage to a televised Dalek story merely comes across as a cheapening of its memory.
Like the epilogue does with the end of Genesis.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The first appearance of the Daleks in original Who fiction could have been something special. Or perhaps it was the worst possible thing that could have happened. If Peel hadn't got there first (by virtue of his novelisations of Dalek stories) who would it have been? Craig Hinton? Gary Russell? Terrance Dicks? To quote the Doctor from Day of the Daleks:
"They would always have found someone!"(Sorry, I hope that doesn't cheapen the memory of the story!)
War of the Daleks is not a good book - in what it does, and what it represents, more so than the story itself, which is pretty horrid anyway. Actually, I think Robert and Finn were right, after all. Sorry about that, fellas. 1.5/10
"Ex-ter-min-bloody-ate!" by Joe Ford 29/9/05
The Quantum Archangel, Strange England, Grimm Reality, GodEngine, The Ghosts of N-Space, Parasite, The Space Age, Heritage, Island of Death, Placebo Effect, Warmonger, Deceit, Loving the Alien, St Anthony's Fire, Invasion of the Cat-People, Tragedy Day, The Taking of Planet 5, Witch Mark, Escape Velocity, Last Man Running... these are just a few books that are less enjoyable than War of the Daleks. What is the beef with this book? It's not in my worst fifty books, let alone my worst ten. War of the Daleks seems to represent everything that is evil and vile about Doctor Who fiction, a good place for people to point and go "Look, that's how it shouldn't be done!" but the truth of the matter (as usual) is that its reputation has been blown out of all proportion. It joins books such as The Domino Effect, Birthright and Fear of the Dark, books which I kind of like but are reviled by fandom.
I was reading an absolutely fascinating interview with Gary Russell on an Outpost Gallifrey where the man speaks frankly about his contributions to Doctor Who. It has made me respect the man a million times more, primarily because he has the guts to admits his strengths and failings and can apply those critical faculties to Doctor Who too. One of the things he mentions is how experimental the NAs were, and how they stopped being Doctor Who because they were trying to push the envelope with every single book (rather than churning out anything resembling the series we so adore, I assume). This could explain why so many people were so appalled by these early EDAs, which are a return to the safer, traditional Doctor Who stories of old. What I am trying to point out is that doesn't make them bad (although some of them were terrible on their own strengths), just less demanding and in some cases more enjoyable. Obviously people still wanted boundary-pushing stories at the time (since Alien Bodies was such a hit) and more conventional action adventure stories were the literate equivalent of having a threesome with Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair, something to be avoided at all costs (well unless you're kinda kinky...)
Because when all the politics are pushed aside War of the Daleks is a perfectly fine Doctor Who-ish story with Daleks, Davros, spectacular space fights, Dalek civil wars and anti-pacifist Thals. Don't mistake my words and start calling me the anti-Christ, I'm not suggesting this is a Doctor Who classic (which it most definitely is NOT) or even an above average book (which it could have been with some tweaking) but as a throwaway holiday novel, a pleasant read that you can skip through in a few hours, it is utterly harmless and quite enjoyable. I certainly re-read it with little trouble, skipping from page to page, ogling at the innovations made to the Daleks and enjoying the shallowness of all the manic action set pieces.
I think every man and his dog is fully aware that John Peel is not the best prose writer in the universe and it shows. His sentence construction is a little off, some of his metaphors are eyebrow raising and his descriptive prose is hardly worthy of the name. But nothing of this really matters when you consider the amount of enthusiasm there is in the writing, this is clearly a man who is thrilled and excited to be writing for the Daleks and it shines from every page. It's like watching a clearly rubbishy TV episode, say Meglos, but you still enjoy it because of the gusto of the actors. The Daleks are clearly the biggest bad-asses on the space lanes and Peel never lets us forget what kind of firepower these metal meanies have at their disposal. Spider Daleks? Missile Daleks? Underwater Daleks? Weapons platform Daleks? Perhaps his passion for the creatures goes into overdrive but during some spectacular action sequences (that would look delicious on the big screen) we get to see how far the Daleks will go to secure a victory, battering the enemy with as much suicidal firepower is needed to win. When the Doctor and Sam are escorted to Skaro through a layer of defences that seems positively paranoid I was wondering how the hell they would get out. The Daleks are BAAAAD and they'll kick your ass, that's all you need to know really.
Unfortunately whereas the Daleks translate fairly well into print their creator is not treated to the same attention. This was a golden opportunity to get inside the head of Davros, the novels much more suited to fleshing out TV villains than the parent series, but Peel fails to seize this chance to shows us what makes Davros tick. He was a raving, ranting monster on the telly so he's a raving, ranting monster in the books. He thinks of nothing but power and conquest and being in charge of the Daleks. Dead boring really. For a book that enjoys some decent flashbacks to draw lots of Dalek continuity into one coherent universe (you have fun stuff with a Slyther, Mechanoids and Varga Plants!) the one glaring omission is a flashback to Davros' life before he was Dalek-ised! We could have discovered how he became such a monster! I guess we'll just have to enjoy Lance Parkin's Big Finish story Davros for that, which admittedly would have contradicted this severely so maybe we were better off. Mind you War of the Daleks and Terror Firma directly contradict each other as to what happened next after Remembrance of the Daleks so maybe I shouldn't go there, I might give myself a big canonical-sized headache.
This is where I upset some people. The retcon. The planet Skaro was not destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks but was in fact another planet called which Antalin which the Daleks set up for the slaughter after they realised the Doctor would trick Davros into destroying their home planet. This knicker-twisting plot twist has upset some people so much they formed the LAWOTD (that's League Against War of the Daleks) and have their annual book-burning session (having spent a year seeking out as many copies of the book for their spectacular bonfire!). At least they haven't discovered mine yet...
Who cares? Who really cares about this turn of events? So Skaro isn't dead. Good, it has been the setting of some great stories. So the Movellans weren't the Daleks' greatest foe. Good, they were hardly the most terrifying force in the universe (and it makes sense that the Daleks would create these camp humanoid androids as their enemy, given how much they despise humanity). So Davros was tricked. Wouldn't be the first time. So Time's Champion got something totally, utterly wrong. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I can't tell you how funny that is! It's hardly the most offensive piece of revisionist continuity I have read (did you know the fifth Doctor and Peri had an entire series of adventures with an Egyptian Pharaoh between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani?) and it is incorporated into the book rather well. Why should the Daleks be so interested in not altering established history when it hasn't bothered them before, I hear you cry? Because this suits their plans perfectly, the Supreme Dalek or whatever calls himself these days can exploit Davros' huge, planet-annihilating error to his advantage. It makes perfect sense in retrospect and this book is built around the twist very well (with mentions of Skaro early on). I can understand if you feel the books shouldn't have the right muck about with the TV series' continuity but you have to remember it was the books that kept the series alive whilst it was off air and this was the original Doctor Who of the time. Personally, come War of the Daleks, the books have kept the Doctor Who flame alive long enough to take liberties like this. Just like they had every right to blow up Gallifrey.
The Doctor's looks are becoming a bloody liability! Somebody fancies the pants off him again! Still at least he is using it to his advantage. Rather than the bouncy, jolly, Tigger-ish Doctor the EDAs have set up, War of the Daleks' eighth Doctor adopts a broody, moody nature, lost in his thoughts about Davros, the Daleks and destroying Skaro. There wasn't one moment in War of the Daleks where Sam got on my tits which scares me a bit - when Ms Jones is the best character in the book, be scared! Sam is written on the periphery of the story, contributing to the action with some acidic one-liners (her unimpressed reaction to the Daleks is hysterical!) and her irritating pacifist nature is used effectively for a change, as she is forced to fight a force that refuses to acknowledge her feeling of war.
The rest of the characterisation is completely bland; this is not a thoughtful novel and does not contain thoughtful characters. Most of them spout embarrassing speeches on the futility of war and the temptation of power, which makes you want to punch them in the face a lot. Loren was the most memorable; I laughed my head off when he started running around with a gun screaming "I'll kill all those bastards!" when his dad was killed. I think it was supposed to be dramatic.
The twists towards the end of the book get a little ridiculous. Davros has won. No the Dalek Prime has won. The Doctor has escaped... but there's a Dalek factory on the Thal ship! There's a bomb in the TARDIS! There's a Dalek in the TARDIS! Those Daleks really do think ahead, don't they? I was waiting for one more surprise on the last page, I don't know, that the TARDIS was in fact a big Dalek in disguise or something... it certainly would fit in with these campy twists!
Sorry folks but I just cannot hate this book; it is so inoffensive I can't find it in me to even moan about it that much. Perfectly readable but far from essential, this is a decent page-turner that is too interested in the past to make much impact on the present.
Dalek Armageddon by Andrew Feryok
OR The Power of the Genesis of the Invasion of the Destiny of the
Resurrection of the Revelation of the Remembrance of the War of the
"Destroy me, and you destroy your own future," Davros warned
him. "Without me, you have no hope. I can give you vision! I can give you
purpose! I can show you your destiny!"
How could I not resist buying this book all those years ago when it first
was published? It's the Daleks! And it's the new Doctor! At the time this
book was published, there had been a severe lack of Dalek material. Virgin
publishers had been deliberately avoiding using them and Remembrance of the Daleks had brought the Dalek TV
episodes to a nice, neat conclusion with only the fate of Davros still
hanging in the air. In many ways, this book sought to tie that bit of
continuity up and dispose of Davros once and for all. However, what should
have been a book that blew fans away ended up being rather mediocre
"No," the Dalek Prime answered. "Your purpose is insanity. Your destiny is death. The Daleks will go on without you."
"I created you!" Davros insisted. "You owe me everything that you are."
"No," the Dalek Prime contradicted him. "You helped create us. We have changed. We have improved. We have become a different species. I have experimented on myself. I have altered the genetic code that you laid down. I am no longer what I once was. I am the future for the Daleks. You are not..."
- War of the Daleks, Chapter 11, page 264
OR The Power of the Genesis of the Invasion of the Destiny of the Resurrection of the Revelation of the Remembrance of the War of the Daleks!
To be fair to John Peel, I'll list some of the positives first. Peel is a very good writer, at least when it comes to descriptions and atmosphere. Characters are another issue, but I'll get to that next. One of the books' greatest strengths is its sense of doom and shell shock. From the start of the prologue to the final pages, we are immersed in a universe where the perpetual war of the Daleks has turned all to ruin and transformed even the most innocent of people into victims or emotionless killing machines. Life is fickle and fleeting as death waits around every corner. Indeed, the only certainty in Peel's universe is death; no matter how many billions upon billions of Daleks you destroy, they will keep coming and will ultimately destroy you. This is how the Daleks should be portrayed, and I'm glad to say that with stories like The Parting of the Ways and Doomsday, the Daleks have finally managed to reach this scale in the new series.
I also liked the initial plot concerning the Thals. The idea of the Thals becoming a race of hardened warriors once again whose only purpose in life is to kill the Daleks at the expense of all other life forms is neat. But the cool twist comes when we find out that it was the Doctor who set them on this path all along when he and Ian prodded them out of their pacifism in the very first Dalek story. This is a nice piece of continuity reference that works and still stays within the character of both the Doctor at that period and the Doctor now. But even better is the idea that the Thals have decided the only way to defeat the Daleks is to become Daleks themselves, which makes one wonder if they really have won the war at all if they become what they tried to destroy in the first place. Sort of shades of today with the United States' use of torture on people from societies we've condemned for using torture in the first place. Have you really won if you become what you are trying to destroy?
Now for the bad stuff. A common complaint in all the above reviews is the continuity within this book. I just got done reading Goth Opera by Paul Cornell and I thought that book had a lot of continuity! Granted, Goth Opera's problem was that the continuity came from all over the place and wasn't necessary to the story. In Peel's book, the continuity is all Dalek continuity, but like Goth Opera it really isn't that necessary. You can tell Peel loves the Daleks. He's written several books on the subject before anyway and it shows. Everything from the largest set piece to the smallest detail has some reference to a past Dalek story. In fact, I think Peel managed to reference every single Dalek story in some way throughout the book. While I don't mind continuity that much, if you haven't seen all the Dalek stories on TV, you're going to be drowned in references you don't understand! And if you HAVE seen every Dalek story, you're still going to get drowned. He even makes references to the Dalek comic strips with Spider Daleks, Striders, hover platforms, and the Dalek Prime!
The most unforgivable piece of continuity is the infamous sequence where the Dalek Prime explains his master plan to the Doctor and basically renders every story from Genesis of the Daleks to Remembrance of the Daleks null. I can see why he did it: Peel wanted to eliminate Davros, and bring back Skaro. But since the Seventh Doctor so cleverly, and with such finality, destroyed Skaro with the Hand of Omega, it was going to take some tricky plotting to undo that. And this is exactly what Peel does here. This is the second time I've read this book. The first time I read the section, I was scratching my head in confusion and wondering how the Dalek Prime could possibly have come up with a plan that elaborate to outwit Davros and the Doctor? He creates a whole new planet, plus invents a war with robots in order to fool Davros? The Doctor got the coordinates of Skaro wrong? Reading it again, it makes a lot more sense, especially when the Dalek Prime discovered records when they invaded the Earth in 2164 AD referencing Remembrance of the Daleks which makes it possible for the Dalek Prime to know that Davros destroys Skaro and that he must avert this. But the whole thing just seems ludicrous and strains believability.
On top of that, I really don't buy the Dalek Prime's ability to come up with numerous master plans. If you thought the Master was a bit unbelievable having three different plans to destroy the Doctor in Castrovalva, then wait until you see this book! The Dalek Prime seems to have at least 13 different plans going on! And not only that, there are plans within plans, and backup plans for each of those plans. The end of the book gets particularly silly when the Doctor first discovers a Dalek factory on board the Thal ship that he has to dispose of, which is followed by a fusion bomb inside the TARDIS, which is then followed by a cloaked Dalek hiding inside the TARDIS! The number of plots just keeps spiraling out of control, and I get the impression that whenever Peel felt that the book was starting to lose momentum, he would just have the Dalek Prime whip out another master plan. On top of that, the Doctor and Sam's inexplicable ability to detect these plots with almost no evidence strains believability.
And finally we come to the characters themselves. This was the first year of the Eighth Doctor books and it shows in the characters of the Doctor and Sam. Aside from the physical descriptions, the Doctor is pretty generic here. If he latches onto any character, he seems to be doing the Fifth Doctor here. Sam is also a generic companion whose only real character traits seem to be her ability to make quick judgments and condemnations of people. Her teenage crush on the Doctor and her hatred of any girl that gets within a mile of him gets extremely irritating as well. Having read the short story Dead Time, I know these characters can be written better. I just hope that this book's depiction was an exception and not the norm. As for the other characters in the book, I couldn't really be bothered to describe them. They are all basically generic whose purpose is to either prove Sam's judgments and condemnations are wrong or to be cannon fodder to the Daleks. Chayn is the only strong character, but after her wonderful start she virtually disappears in the second half of the book and is promptly married off in an unconvincing manner. And, as for Davros, he's basically in his Destiny of the Daleks mode: an object to be fought over by the various factions in the book.
On the whole, this is a disappointingly mediocre book. While its scale and depiction of the invincibility of the Daleks is good, the overuse of continuity and the bland characters really drag it down. Come to think of it, this book has a lot in common with Resurrection of the Daleks! The Doctor merely stands by while events unfold around him, Davros plots a revolution, and the Daleks have ridiculous plots within plots. I'd rather go watch Resurrection of the Daleks. 5/10
A Review by Steve White 14/4/13
War of the Daleks was the first novel to feature the infamous foes since the TV show was cancelled in 1987. As such, it had a lot of hype to live up to, lots of pretty big expectations, so how does it fare? The novel is called "war" of the Daleks and it starts with 20 pages detailing a long and bloody battle between the Daleks and the Thals. Honestly, this is the perfect introduction to the book, you learn what both the Daleks and the Thals are capable of whilst all the time immersed in the very interesting battle. After this, the book starts properly with the Doctor and Sam in the TARDIS and a little bit of a background of the scavenger spaceship the Quetzel. Both then lead nicely into when the two parties meet and the story gets underway. To me this is exactly how a Doctor Who novel should flow, easy to follow, an interesting read, and almost non-stop action. I know I shouldn't compare books, but I prefer this style to the multi-thread mess which was the previous novel (Genocide).
Basically, the Quetzel scoops up a pod and inside is Davros who has escaped since the events of Remembrance. A short time afterwards, the Daleks arrive to put him on trial for crimes against them and you realise the "war" is actually a reference to the two rival factions of Daleks. I suppose I should also mention the "retconning" that went on in the story. Basically, by the time this story happened, Skaro should have been destroyed as the 7th Doctor blew it up in Remembrance of the Daleks. Apparently though, the Daleks got wind of this when they were on Earth (The Dalek Invasion Of Earth) after the events of Remembrance so decided to terraform the planet Antalin to make it look like Skaro and it was Antalin the 7th Doctor destroyed. The Daleks also changed Davros' memory to make him think he was on Skaro, and engineered the Movellans from Destiny of the Daleks. My opinion on this, as with my opinion on most of the BBC Books retconning, is that the books are true. It does all fit together quite nicely, makes sense, and effectively continues the story from the TV show. Of course, Dalek Prime could have been lying about some or all of it, but seeing as the book features Skaro after it was meant to have been destroyed, he was telling the truth about at least one thing. Whether you believe him or not, it really doesn't ruin the book in any way.
The end of the book sees the Dalek Prime's plans playing out, and of course the Doctor thwarting them. It also features the pretty final demise of Davros, but since he appears in the new TV show he must have got out of it somehow. A very minor complaint is the last part of the book seems hurried; I would have liked a bit more of the war, but all in all the story is very strong.
It isn't just the story which is a winner, John Peel really has the characters down too. Again compared to Genocide the difference in Doctors is astonishing. In Genocide, he was happy to mooch along with whatever happened, but here his youthful exuberance and childish wonder from Vampire Science and The Bodysnatchers is back. Sure he has some down moments, but you actually get the feeling that the Doctor knows what he is doing, second guessing Davros and the Dalek Prime time and time again.
Sam gets her first (and only) taste of the Daleks in this novel. She starts by thinking the Doctor over-exaggerated their menace, but soon learns this is not the case. You'd also have thought that her experiences in Genocide would have taught her a lesson or two, but sadly she is back to being her usual annoying self. Still, she is a teenage girl, and her hormones are going wild, so we will have to forgive her a little bit.
The other characters are very well done, the best being a Thal called Ayaka who wants to kill Daleks, but doesn't approve of destroying innocent civilians to accomplish this. However, she is under the command of a Thal called Delani, who has no issue in slaughtering innocents. The way she is torn between the two opposites is great to read. Likewise, the Doctor and Sam meet a human called Chayn who provides Sam with much jealously as she is stunning, and a whizz with engineering, just the kind of woman Sam thinks the Doctor would like. Her bits are also very well done. There are also a lot of minor characters who end up dead via various means throughout the novel, which is usually a sign of lazy writing; however, it is set in a war, so you have to expect some casualties.
On the Dalek side, things are still good. The Daleks are scary, they kill without mercy, they enslave races and they are master tacticians. After watching the Daleks in New Who it's good to go back to a time where they were a force to be reckoned with. Davros is also back and is as cunning and insane as ever; his true cowardice also shows strongly during the civil war, which I enjoyed.
To sum it up, War of the Daleks is the best Eighth Doctor novel so far. To me, it is everything a Doctor Who novel should be, an easy-to-follow plot with very little downtime between the action. Essentially a beefed-up TV story, and a very good one at that. I've tried to find anything negative to say about this novel, and struggled. Damn near perfect in my eyes.
"Round peg, square hole" by Thomas Cookson 11/4/15
I doubt there's much to say about this book that hasn't been said better elsewhere. Joe Ford particularly nailed the horribly melodramatic dialogue and how its characters don't converse so much as soapbox to each other. Which comes off as unbearably shrill, even on the printed page.
Despite that, I find the book readable enough (the introduction's particularly gripping) but also incredibly flaccid. There isn't a plot, just a string of set pieces existing to clear up continuity points. It's almost so fixated with its canon as to defy charges of being poorly thought through or sloppy, but all the attention has gone on the wrong things. It's too concerned with adding to past stories to ever tell a worthwhile story in its own right.
Peel relies on leftover ideas from his 1988 Dalek guidebook, about the trial and execution (by overkill) of Davros, whilst padding out the rest with threads that go nowhere. The interludes are meant as non sequitors, but frankly the whole book consists of them.
There's also a desperation to it, particularly the scene of Sam mocking the sight of a dormant Dalek, whilst the Doctor has to bring up a string of facts to explain why each 'weakness' or 'silliness' of the Dalek is cancelled out. It's trying too hard to make the Daleks threatening and comes off as stamping its feet at the usual 'Daleks can't go up stairs' jokes, and adding comeback after comeback until it ceases to be funny or impressive. There's a huge element of ante upping to this story that gets completely out of control fast.
There's also an element of telling rather than showing. Chapter 6's cliffhanger where the Doctor says the Daleks only spared his life because they must have a vaguely far worse thing planned for him is a particular nadir. Hence why overall the story has no atmosphere. It keeps telling us how terribly dangerous Daleks are, but it doesn't build any threatening atmosphere.
I must confess, I dislike the Dalek variants idea, and I think there's a good reason they've been rejected by Big Finish and RTD.
I sometimes think all the new superpowers the 2005 Daleks demonstrated detracted from what makes a Dalek frightening rather than enhanced it. Why should a Dalek need heat shielding to repel bullets when its tough casing was sufficient enough? Being able to spin its midsection suggests Daleks could never make a 180 degree turn otherwise. And Daleks didn't fly in the classic series, but now they seem to do nothing else, which just widens the gulf for the sake of it. Which is rather typical of RTD, of not letting the best virtues of classic Who stand proud but instead shamelessly turning them into something they're not.
This novel goes above and beyond that. Spider Daleks. Marine Daleks. All completely missing the point of the Dalek design: its iconic uniformity, its near-symmetry conjuring a fear of mathematical multiplicity. Gutting that design to create more efficient models misses the point. The novel fails to make the Daleks iconic, largely by diluting and cheapening that iconography.
A perfect microcosm of this story's attempts to fit a square peg into a round hole might be the ending where a stowaway Dalek disguises itself as a plant pot. There doesn't seem to be any thought as to how this is supposed to be envisioned. And worse, the scene only exists to explain, as if any explanation was ever demanded, why the Dalek capsule in Power of the Daleks ended up where it did, and why those Daleks recognised the Second Doctor. The prospect of just leaving it to the imagination, to the mystique of events unseen or the Daleks' superior perception or even that old trope of a thematic telepathy between hero and villain seems beyond Peel. Begging the question of how he could bear this show's loose ends beforehand.
This was of course the culmination of obsessive continuity, which had been running through the show and fandom since the 1980's phase of the TV series.
It was the uncompromising nature of this approach that really damaged the show's mainstream appeal. Having the same co-ordinates for Gallifrey given in Pyramids of Mars be repeated in Full Circle was a nice optional extra for the fan segment of the audience, giving the show a sense of internal authenticity and integrity, whilst still allowing the stories to function as fresh standalones that anyone could follow. This sadly lasted only for those three E-space stories, and then ended with the Master's return. Then we had the unbreakable chain of continuity fixated stories from Time-Flight to Warriors of the Deep. And the notorious Season 22.
(Moffat's era suffers less from continuity, and more from Moffat's own cult of personality).
Strangely, this fixation with continuity tends to mainly interest those elder generation fans like Gary Russell, Levine and Peel, who grew up on the 60's and 70's, back when the show was more about variety and standalones and self-contained storytelling and looking ahead rather than behind. Frankly, fans with the most continuity-obsessed vision are the ones raised on an era that should have taught them better.
Conversely, for fans born of the continuity-obsessed 80's, such as Rob Shearman and Lawrence Miles, continuity navelgazing tends to interest them the least (simultaneously they tend to be fans with the greater reverence for the show's Hartnellian beginnings).
Perhaps they were gorged on continuity to the point they were fed up of it, or saw how unfulfilling it was. Or that the continuity approach broke itself around The Two Doctors or Silver Nemesis when it became impossible to pretend the show's history really hung together anymore. Did they learn from the show's mistakes?
Well I suppose War of the Daleks demonstrates what happens when the more stubborn older generation fan doesn't move on or find new reasons to love the show and instead decides to fix those mistakes with a sledgehammer.
There are several things wrong with retconning Skaro's destruction. Mainly it makes the Dalek Emperor more fixated with correcting the canon through convoluted, petty-minded fan theories than possessing any actual masterplans or ambitions. Although, given this humourless, autistic pursuit, it's almost fitting that a Dalek narrates it. Also, it brings the story momentum to a halt, quite self-consciously and deliberately to do this. A better writer might've had the Doctor figure this out slowly through clue hunting.
Also, if you'd go to that many lengths to erase a story from canon, why not a more deserving one than Remembrance of the Daleks? This feels like an adolescent rubbishing of a story that's leagues ahead of it that it's desperately chasing after. And I personally find Remembrance of the Daleks overrated, simply for following Season 24. There is a masterpiece version of Remembrance of the Daleks which is the novelisation, not the TV story. But this continuity vandalism is so artless, vulgar and graceless that it never transcends its own petty vindictiveness or becomes even remotely as interesting as what it replaces.
In discussing what really bothers me about the direction of 80's Who, an online friend said it best of how he believes that stories exist and are discovered by a writer rather than contrived. Certainly, that's how a good story should come off. As organic. As a story that writes itself. When it doesn't, then clearly something's gone wrong behind the scenes.
I believe that's as true of Doctor Who's overstory as anything in between. Neither Verity Lambert or Terry Nation ever had Genesis of the Daleks in mind back in 1963. Yet in hindsight it feels like Genesis of the Daleks was always inevitable from then on, destined to be a crucial part of the show. One that can be mapped as the next logical chapter after the Second Doctor's speech to his people in The War Games.
Under JNT, it feels like that hero's journey became contemptfully discarded. Too many 80's stories feel like inorganic, forced disasters that were far from inevitable and like a major affront to where the show was naturally going beforehand. From the Master's presence in Time-Flight to undoing The Silurians' ending to the Doctor's utter regression.
Pitifully few JNT stories feel true to what was meant to happen next. State of Decay might be the last of its kind. In fact, Romana's character journey itself was the perfect natural continuation from The War Games, with the Doctor actually converting one of his own people to his ways. So something feels wrong from the moment Romana leaves arbitrarily in Warriors' Gate, her character arc incomplete.
War of the Daleks' retconning almost follows the path of a possible existing story of how the Daleks saved Skaro. It comes close to even being Moffat-esque, in its satisfying, focal sharpness. It's feasible that Rachel's report on Skaro's destruction would curse it to unhappen the moment she wrote it, when the Daleks raided and read the Ministry of Defence records in 2164. It's also very serendipitous that the Doctor was using the randomiser when he landed on Skaro in Destiny of the Daleks. It almost feels like Nation himself intended it that way. Yes the Doctor's deja vu about Skaro was meant in earnest, and, by overwriting it, Peel exposes the literal-mindedness of his approach whereby he can't allow dramatic themes or portents or character instincts to undermine the sacred cow of his canon of facts. The letter trumping the spirit.
But even that's forgivable. Maybe Skaro still was destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks, but the Daleks' preventative action changed future history, thus allowing Remembrance's conclusion some integrity. Like how Time Crash's paradox could have originally involved various failed attempts by Tennant to save the TARDIS, which Davison's Doctor would remember, forcing him to keep trying something different when the moment came, until finally being witnessed getting it right.
Unfortunately, it loses it completely by carelessly retconning the Movellan war too (sure, a backstory of Movellan's origins feels like Destiny's biggest missing piece, but this wasn't what I wanted). A good editor could have cut out these worst excesses.
It particularly bothered me how stupid it made the Doctor to just accept that a centuries-long, galaxy-spanning war was happening, based only on a sham set-up in only two localised settings. Did he never become curious over why he'd seen no evidence of such an expansive long-running war elsewhere?
For the Daleks to play 'Let's Pretend' over the Movellan war must mean the Daleks actually created the Movellan virus themselves and deliberately made it deadly to themselves, with the intention that it be used against them to wipe out their whole prison-raid division. Let's just forego the death toll involved just in researching the virus' creation. The cruel irony is that this was supposed to restore the Daleks to their pre-Davros 1960's glory. But if it were ever possible to retroactively make the Daleks of Resurrection of the Daleks even more neurotically self-destructive and pathetic, then War of the Daleks achieves it.
That's what leaves the nastiest aftertaste. Reducing the all-feared Daleks into suicidal meat puppets.
If you must undo the Doctor's masterplan triumph in Remembrance, have it happen through superior Dalek thinking, not tactless self-bludgeoning. But sticking so rigidly to canon and precedent leaves Peel no such avenue.
War of the Daleks stands as a lesson of how not to handle Daleks in the continuing media. Resultantly, Big Finish concentrated on telling solid stories to draw out the Daleks' worst nature, rather than beating the past canon into submission. Telling new stories and even entire spin-offs of what the Daleks could actually do next. Terror Firma showed how a good convoluted retcon of the Doctor's assumed past could actually involve agency, vengeance, motivation and will, whilst saying something about the nature of hero and villain, and still work as its own story, providing a backdrop and atmosphere to complement it. Not stringing them through mindless fanwank that matters to neither character, only to the author.
An Unnecessary War? by Matthew Kresal 26/7/15
To paraphrase a famous quote about Shakespeare's Hamlet: "What can be said about War of the Daleks that hasn't been said all ready?" This 1997 Eighth Doctor Adventure remains one of the most controversial novels in Doctor Who fandom as few novels have its polarizing effect. Having only come into Who fandom in 2007, its reputation intrigued me enough to read it. And I found it to be intriguing to say the least...
The novel does have some pluses. Characterization is an overall plus of the novel, from its various Thal characters to Davros and even the Daleks. Peel's takes on the eighth Doctor and Sam are the big disappointment of the novel's characters; as he had with Timewyrm: Genesys, Peel effectively makes them into bog-standard Doctor and Companion - though, given how little he had to work with, I find myself more forgiving than I might be. Overall though, Peel grounds the story in decent characters (even if not in the best of situations). The novel also has two other essential elements of any good Doctor Who story: pacing and morality. For the vast majority of the novel's length, there is excellent pacing, though there are moments when the novel practically grinds to a halt (more on that later though). There is also the morality sitting at the heart of the novel's first half involving the Thals and what they want Davros for. This is arguably the finest part of the novel, and it is a shame that it is so overshadowed by the novel's downsides.
And now for the biggest problems of the novel: continuity references and (especially) chapter eight. If ever Doctor Who fans could give an award for way too many continuity references in any single Doctor Who story, I feel very certain that War of the Daleks would win hands down. Not only are there references to every single Dalek TV story but to the 1960's comic stories as well, to the point of annoyance. Peel also felt the need to put "interludes" between the various parts of the novel, which show humans, Draconians and Mechanoids fighting the Daleks but that serve no story purpose (that I could find anyway) and bring the novel to a halt. Yet these are mere appetizers (for lack of a better word) for the biggest problem of the novel: chapter eight aka THE RECON.
If there is any reason that this novel is as controversial as it was, is and is likely to remain, it is chapter eight. Apparently at the insistence of Terry Nation, Peel decided that he would, in the space of a single chapter, bring the entire novel to a halt for the purpose of rewriting the entire history of the Daleks from Destiny of the Daleks to Remembrance of the Daleks. Completely and totally. Unlike recons of the past like Genesis of the Daleks or Lungbarrow, the recon at the heart of the novel feels unnecessary and is jarring to read. Sadly, even in a charitable state of mind, it is next to impossible to look past the slow-moving and unnecessary chapter that brings down the overall value of the novel.
So where does the novel stand nearly twenty years after its original release? Well, it's not a train wreck. In fact, with its strong characterization and mostly brisk pacing, it makes for a fantastic adventure novel. Yet it is the continuity references by the dozen plus the mother (and father most likely) of all recons keep the novel from reaching any higher in its potential. While I won't say this novel should be avoided like the plague, if you dislike novels based entirely around continuity references then this isn't the novel for you. So consider yourself warned...