Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who and the Daleks

(1964 / 2022) David Whitaker, BBC Books, £30 / Can$63.95 / US$39.99,
hrdbk, x + 210pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94801-5


Wow, isn’t this a beauty? A lavish hardcover, large-format of the first Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks, taken from Terry Nation’s first Dalek story, and using the text from the first-ever Doctor Who novelisation, from way back in 1964, rather charmingly sub-titled Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. They don’t make them like that anymore. Author Whitaker knew more than most about the Doctor, given that he was the show’s script editor for season one (was he the first script editor, surely not, but I think he was) and part of season two, and he also wrote two memorable Dalek stories, namely Power of the Daleks and Evil of the Daleks.

This time, we get the ultimate version, looking like an old Doctor Who annual, but probably even thicker, and it’s not just the size that captures that old annual vibe, it’s also the artwork by Robert Hack that reminds me of those annuals with stories and matching illustrations. Hack is no hack, ouch, and is a bit of Doctor Who veteran, having start drawing the Doctor from the age of 5, and professionally since 2008, his work gracing the cover of Doctor Who comics, and his work can be seen adorning titles involving Star Wars, The X-Files, Sherlock, Blade Runner, and Stranger Things, but he is probably better known as the artist of the comic series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – check out those comics, and also the TV series on Netflix, which uses his illustrations for the opening titles of the show.

To add the icing on the cake we also get an introduction from Neil Gaiman, telling us what the Doctor meant to him, and I’m chuffed, though probably not surprised, as Gaiman and I are of a similar vintage that his Doctor, was the second one, the same as me, and it should not be forgotten that Gaiman also wrote the Doctor Who story 'The Doctor’s Wife'.

But what do you get for your £30? Well, you get this lavish, deluxe edition with Gaiman’s introduction, and Hack’s illustrations. After the introduction and before the story starts we have a little introduction to some of the characters – the Doctor, Susan, his fifteen-year-old, grand-daughter, and two teachers from her school – Coal Hill – namely Ian Chesterton, a science teacher, and Barbara Wright, a history teacher. Science and history are handy subjects to know about if you are travelling with the Doctor. And with the scene set, on with the action, told over ten chapters and told from the viewpoint of Ian.

This is an old tale, almost 60 years old, and probably a familiar one to fans of the series. They might have seen the episodes, read the adaptations, even watched the film “version” starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, which pretty much follows the story involving the Doctor taking Susan, Ian and Barbara to the planet Skaro in his TARDIS where they encounter the peaceful Thals, and the evil Daleks, but Whitaker is able to write large, and free himself from the shackles of a TV production and its associated, restrictive budget, thus we get more monsters from the Lake of Mutations, a bigger Dalek city, and even bigger Thals, with almost a touch of the He-Mans about them. Crucially, Whittaker gives us a new origin story which creates a new dynamic and tension between the group.

Story aside, let’s not forget about Hack’s artwork, which embraces a variety of styles, from broad-brushed to highly detailed likenesses of the characters such as the first appearance of the Doctor on page 11, and Hack’s work highlights the strangeness of an alien world from the Dalek city to the landscape of Skaro, even the horror within the Dalek shell is revealed in all its hideousness, and his artwork manages to convey a sense of wonder combined with brooding, menace.

To sum up, this is a volume that no Who fan should be without, and who knows, there may be more to follow, after all it would look pretty lonely on a bookshelf amongst all those other Doctor Who volumes, even with the Target logo on the top of the spine.

Ian Hunter

See also Jonathan's review of Doctor Who and the Daleks as well as Peter's review.



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