The original Doctor Who novel is back in an exciting and beautiful new illustrated hardback

Like Blogtor Who, many of you may well have looked under the tree on Christmas morning to find this year’s prestige Doctor Who hardback, Doctor Who and the Daleks. It’s hoped to be just the first of a series of these newly illustrated editions of classic novelisations. But for those who haven’t picked up their own copy yet, it’s clear that it’s a most exciting start. Indeed, as good as it looked in previews, it’s safe to say it exceeds every expectation.

 

The upgraded menaces of the Lake of Mutations are brought to vivid life in Robert Hack's illustrations for Doctor Who and the Daleks (c) BBC Books Ian Chesteron David Whtaker
The upgraded menaces of the Lake of Mutations are brought to vivid life in Robert Hack’s illustrations for Doctor Who and the Daleks (c) BBC Books

Whitaker’s novelisation provides a scale impossible to achieve on TV, with new menaces to match

The text comes from David Whitaker’s landmark Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. It’s an appropriate choice: the first ever Who novelisation from 1965. Whitaker himself was the show’s story editor for Season One and the early part of Season Two. Moreover, he wrote two of the most influential Dalek stories, Power of the Daleks and Evil of the Daleks. This status is not only represented in the skill and knowledge he brings to this adaptation of The Daleks. Given that Whitaker himself guided that story to the screen, it also makes this alternate version an intriguing look into a world where budget and resources placed no limit on the team’s imagination. So prepare for not one barely glimpsed, but an entire pack of gigantic Lake of Mutations beasts pursuing our heroes.

The Dalek city similarly benefits from an impressive new sense of scale, with scenes set among its streets which match the strange alien grandeur of the establishing model shots. Even the Daleks and the Thals receive a bit of an upgrade. The ‘physically perfect’ humanoids now touch six foot four and impressively built, like an entire planet of Chris Hemsworth clones. Though the Thorest of them all is undoubtedly new creation Kristas, a giant even among the Thals, who’s such a warm, brave, lightly humourous presence, you’ll keenly feel his absence next time you watch the TV version. Meanwhile, the mutants within the Dalek casings are described in all their stomach churning detail. Here, they’re grotesque monsters that would taxed a 1980s Hollywood animatronics designer let alone a 1960s BBC effects team.

 

Doctor Who and the Daleks provides a startlingly different first meeting for this TARDIS team. Art by Robert Hack (c) BBC Books First Doctor
Doctor Who and the Daleks provides a startlingly different first meeting for this TARDIS team. Art by Robert Hack (c) BBC Books

The novelisation provides an entirely new opening for Ian and Barbara’s adventures with the Doctor and Susan

There’s more horror and gore on the page than on screen too. The various deaths along the way give a little bit more detail for your imagination to work on. While an early sequence helps reset expectations with a man cut fully in half.

But there are other, more fundamental differences too. Due to the original edition being a stand alone book, Ian Chesteron and Barbara Wright’s introduction to the Doctor and Susan’s world forms the first couple of chapters. But Whitaker doesn’t take the most obvious route of simply adapting the show’s first episode An Unearthly Child. He could easily have done so, skipping the whole business with the cavemen to have the travellers awake on Skaro. But instead, he gives us an almost entirely new origin story for this TARDIS team; one which also subtly changes the characters and their relationship to each other.

This Ian and Barbara have never met before these events, and both are dissatisfied with their everyday lives. Chesterton is a science teacher but desperate to break out into ‘proper’ scientific research and frustrated by a series of failed job interviews. Barbara is a secretary who actually wants to be a teacher. In the meantime, she’s resorted to being Susan’s private part time tutor. It’s a change which adds a surprising amount of tension to events, both between the two humans and with how they see this unexpected adventure.

 

Familiar scenes too are beautifully rendered with Robert Hack's art (c) BBC Books Ian Chesterton Doctor Who and the Daleks
Familiar scenes too are beautifully rendered with Robert Hack’s art (c) BBC Books

Even more than so than the early television stories, Doctor Who and the Daleks is very much Ian’s book

In particular this version of Ian is a deeply frustrated man, but one who gradually sees his abduction by the Doctor not as yet another obstacle in a disappointing life, but as a gift. Meanwhile, it adds a movie style ‘will they or won’t they’ frisson to his relationship with Barbara. Rather than the gentle, deep, affection and love between their on screen counterparts that was never quite stated out loud, they bicker and argue throughout, while stealing covert glances at each other. The whole time, naturally, the Doctor, Susan, and even the Thals, look on with the occasional sigh or head shake. Will these crazy kids will ever get it together?

It’s Ian that we get the most insight into, though, as the entire story is related in the first person from his perspective. This means certain sequences are relayed second hand when they reunite with Ian. Susan’s trek back to the TARDIS for instance, becoming an atmospheric tale told to her impressed cellmates upon her return. However, it’s an age old narrative approach that works perfectly well.

 

Susan and Alydon's first meeting as reimagined by Whitaker and Hack (c) BBC Books Doctor Who and the Daleks Robert Hack David Whitaker
Susan and Alydon’s first meeting as reimagined by Whitaker and Hack (c) BBC Books

Robert Hack’s gorgeous illustrations, combine retro stylings, the full sophistication of modern comic book art, and neatly evoked likenesses to provide the backbone to this edition

But with the text only lightly modified to correct minor inconsistencies in character descriptions, how essential is this new edition to anyone who has already read David Whittaker’s novelisation? In a word: very. Even among Doctor Who fans’ collections where one copy of a story is never enough (be honest, how many version of Shada are on your shelf right now?) the Doctor Who and the Daleks Illustrated Edition is an absolutely essential purchase. The handsome presentation of the text, and satisfyingly heavy volume are part of that. The brand new introduction by best selling author Neil Gaiman is another. But make no mistake: the star here is new illustrator Robert Hack.

Hack has worked on a number of Doctor Who titles over the past several years, and has also reached wider fame as the artist of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and subsequently designing the opening titles for its Netflix adaptation. But moreover, few comic book artists today have better command of the use of solid blacks and shadows. Nor can many claim as keen an understanding of just where and when to use colour to lift and highlight. The strain of dark whimsy throughout his work, and his ability to direct mid-20th century pulp styles through the lens of 21st century technology and ideas, makes him both one of the most exciting comic artists of the moment, and perfect for Doctor Who.

 

The Doctor's new introduction is even more mysterious than on television. Art by Robert Hack. (c) BBC Books Doctor Who TARDIS First Doctor William Hartnell
The Doctor’s new introduction is even more mysterious than on television. Art by Robert Hack. (c) BBC Books

The illustrations expertly dance between atmosphere, dynamism, and horror in concert with the demands of each chapter

The illustrations accompanying this review largely speak for themselves. But they’re not just all pieces that would happily grace any fan’s wall if released as prints (hint, hint, BBC Studios). Allied to Whitaker’s prose they also provide a powerful blanket of mood and setting. The tension and almost suffocating darkness of a night time car crash and people missing in the fog is hugely enhanced by Hack’s accompanying pictures, while William Hartnell’s introduction is fantastically atmospheric. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Whitaker’s prose in this chapter, which circles back towards the colder, even more mysterious Doctor of the unaired pilot.

In other sequences the artist’s imparts a real sense of dynamism and action, too. While there are certainly times a keen fan will recognize a particular publicity photo as inspiration for a drawing, one of the real joys here is how adept Hack is at depicting events that never happened on TV, or characters’ faces from angles we never saw, while keeping a strong impression of Hartnell, Russell, Hill, and Ford throughout.

 

The Doctor and Ian argue about exploring the Dalek city. Art by Robert Hack. (c) BBC Books Doctor Who and the Daleks David Whitaker
The Doctor and Ian argue about exploring the Dalek city. Art by Robert Hack. (c) BBC Books

Hack’s art meshes beautifully with the text in a perfect partnership, touching almost every page in ways large or small

Don’t mistake this volume for one of those illustrated editions featuring half a dozen book plate scattered across hundreds of pages of text, either. There are about sixty illustrations among Doctor Who and the Daleks’ 210 pages, whether big or small. Often these explode into the spaces between paragraphs, adding to the overall pace and energy. Even the pages without illustrations of their own still feature some pattern or design, such as the faded roundels which discreetly back any scene set in the TARDIS itself. There’s only negative of any note. On just a couple of occasions some of the gorgeous art disappears a little too deeply into the page gutter.

So whether it’s your first time experiencing David Whittaker’s novelisation, or simply a new way to experience it, Doctor Who and the Daleks Illustrated Edition will bring a smile to any fan’s face. Here’s to a follow up in time for Santa’s next visit.

 

Doctor Who and the Daleks: Illustrated Edition. Cover by Robert Hack (c) BBC Books David Whitaker The Dead Planet Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks
Doctor Who and the Daleks: Illustrated Edition. Cover by Robert Hack (c) BBC Books

Doctor Who and the Daleks

Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are caught up in the flight through time and space of the mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter Susan. They travel in the TARDIS to the planet Skaro, where they strive to save the peace-loving Thals from the evil intentions of the hideous Daleks. Can they succeed? And if they do, will Ian and Barbara ever again see their native Earth?

This is the ultimate edition of an iconic novel – a deluxe volume that embraces both proud tradition and modern innovation to present the drama of a Dalek dystopia as you’ve never seen it before…

1 COMMENT

  1. Nice review – but the Neil Gaiman intro isn’t new, it was originally done for a BBC reprint of the book about 10 years ago.

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