(2019) Eric Saward, BBC Books, £12.99, hrdbk, v+ 179pp, ISBN978-1-078-594435-2
The original story was first broadcast in 1985 and this is its first novelisation, the author being the episode's scriptwriter. It features the sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) and his assistant Peri (Perpugilliam) Brown.
Having received news of the death of his old friend Professor Arthur Stengos, the Doctor travels to the planet Necros and its famous funerary establishment, Tranquil Repose. At least a thousand years old and one of the finest such establishments in the galaxy, Tranquil Repose is currently run by the Great Healer. The Doctor is not the only one visiting; whilst he walks up to the front door in his usual confident manner, Natasha and Grigory are breaking in at the back. Natasha is Stengos’ daughter and she is very suspicious about her father’s supposed death; she has brought Grigory, a struck-off doctor, along with her in case her father is not as dead as they say and needs to be rescued from some nasty fate… And, of course, there are nasty fates for many in this tale.
When a Dalek appears in the catacombs it not too surprising to find that the Great Healer is none other than Davros, the creator of the evil creatures. He is experimenting on the recently dead, and sometimes the not yet dead, in an attempt to create a better Dalek . Needless to say, the new ones are not any nicer than the old ones. Nearby to Tranquil Repose is Kara’s Kitchen, an industry that is helping to feed many planets by means of the edible synthetic proteins they mass produce. What Kara’s customers do not realise is that some of the protein is not artificial - the factory provides a very handy method for Davros to dispose of bodies after his experiments.
Whilst Davros had used Stengos to bate a trap for the unsuspecting Doctor, the Time Lord is by his nature curious and at least a little suspicious. Teaming up with Natasha and Grigory, who discover that Stengos is indeed not dead but is in the throes of being transformed into a Dalek, the Doctor and Peri commit general mayhem in their efforts to stop Davros and his new Daleks.
I vaguely recall that the original broadcast was nothing special (though with a nice turn by Eleanor Bron as Kara) and the novelisation is nothing special either. It reads too much like a script rather than having the flow of a novel and there is no feeling of the character of this particular doctor - it could have been anyone. As for the title, there was no great revelation, well, other than the Daleks were back (yet again) and Davros was still performing experiments.
Some of the novelisations and stand-alone Doctor Who novels I have read over the years have been good; they have captured the essence of the characters and told a solid story. However, this book has not impressed me in any way and I really cannot recommend it.
See also Ian's review of the accompanying novelisation Resurrection of the Daleks.
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