Former Doctor Who writer and script editor Eric Saward revisits the first of two televised stories. Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks had never been officially novelised. Now that it has, was it worth the wait?
Firstly, I should declare a vested interest in this book. Resurrection of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who VHS I ever owned. It was a Christmas present in 1993 and I watched it over and over again. I could probably recite it word for word. Deviations from the televised story would therefore jump out a mile for this particular reader. Happily, the only variations to the material are additions rather than subtractions.
Let’s get the negativity out the way first. The cover. Yes it’s fine but let’s be honest, it is a bit drab and uninspired. A small Dalek in the centre. At least they made the cover. The Doctor did not. However, the colour scheme of black and silver with hints of red, is very much akin to the Dalek colour scheme of the episode. It is a tad more stylish than the dreadful single photograph images which adorned the cover of Target books in the early to mid 1980’s. Hopefully, any future paperback release will receive an appropriate Target-style cover.
The Devil in the Detail
The beauty of novelisations of television stories are the extra details and added information which can be included. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the Target novelisations proved so popular. Doctor Who fans in particular love detail. A previously unknown character backstory, for instance. We crave and cherish it. Some of the added details are a little unnecessary. For example, the lengthy descriptions of particular rooms within the TARDIS are not entirely relevant for the story to be advanced. But it is always interesting to read other writer’s interpretations of the fantastical time and space ship.
Also curious is the way that Eric Saward approaches the Daleks. These largely emotionless creatures can make for pretty dull literary villains. Whilst the Supreme Dalek’s attempts at witticisms don’t entirely ring true with the creature’s nature, it makes for a far more interesting read than tedious non-emotive dialogue. Similarly, individuality is attempted to be imposed upon the Daleks using specific names or call signs. This makes sense as, apart from the Supreme Dalek, the rest are largely interchangeable and nondescript. As the story progresses and specific Daleks are recruited to Davros’ cause the reader does need to identify them to keep track. Helps to know who is on who’s side!
Although there are some tweaks to the dialogue, the novel remains faithful to the story broadcast. This includes the dramatic departure of Tegan from the TARDIS. One of the major opportunities of this novel is to expand upon this event and her motivation. Resurrection of the Daleks is a particularly brutal story. The story starts with several people being murdered and ends with a devastating battle taking more lives. In particular, Tegan also observes two innocent people needlessly shot. In this context it’s no wonder she leaves.
Unlike the televised adventure, Tegan does at least have the opportunity to express the direction her thought process is taking her. It might be a brief exchange of words with Turlough but this new addition makes her final departure less of a surprise. That final encounter with the Doctor still remains an emotional one. Additionally, Saward has added a coda concluding Tegan’s personal journey. Although not a lengthy ‘this what Tegan did next’, it does explain how Tegan managed to allude the policemen. It also gives her a moment of triumph after the harrowing adventure she had just endured. Emotionally, she and the reader needed it.
Ultimately, Resurrection of the Daleks was long overdue the novelisation treatment. It still remains a thrilling, if particularly blood-soaked, adventure. Although Saward perhaps overdoes the quantity of Terileptil references, they are still rather enjoyable. They are also an example of the additional details which add more background colour to the events. Some incidents are expanded upon whereas others are skipped through at a swift pace, with the balance largely appropriate. For example, Davros enslaving Kiston is not needlessly accentuated but descriptions of other TARDIS rooms is a tad overindulgent.
Despite minor reservations, this novelisation is wonderfully enjoyable. I raced through the pages at a pace in keeping with the speed of the story. One of the most impressive elements was that Saward has not constructed the chapters in a way where the conclusion of a chapter matched an end of episode cliffhanger. (In either the 2 or 4 episode formats.) Instead, the novel reads like a continuation of events, as all good books should. They are a gripping set of events too!
It will be very interesting to see what Saward does with Revelation of the Daleks. I’m looking forward to it already.