Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Dalek
Written by: Ben Aaronovich
Publisher: BBC Books
With BBC Books releasing a newly bound novel from each Doctor to celebrate Doctor Who’s Golden Jubilee, Dave starts with the Seventh Doctor’s contribution.
Start at the beginning. Or so they say. Personally I’ve always found causality to be rather boring, which might go some way to explain why I’m beginning these reviews with Part 7 of 11.
Or maybe this is my favourite storyline from the original series, who’s to say?
Anyway, moving swiftly along, the last Dalek serial of the classic era was written as part of the show’s 25th anniversary year (sweet zombie Jeebus has it really been that long!?). Writer Aaronovich retained first refusal to adapt the storyline as a novelisation and jumped at the chance. Freed of a 1988 BBC budget he is able to really go to town on the battle scenes that, while certainly impressive for classic Who (and frankly even better than some of the scraps we get in new Who), always felt strangely limited.
We find the Seventh Doctor and tomboy companion/surrogate granddaughter Ace arriving in London in November 1963, around a month after the First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara departed for stone-age Earth and about a century of aimless wandering because he couldn’t be arsed to fix the TARDIS. Previously the Doctor had intended to hide one of two dangerous Time Lord artefacts he stole when he fled Gallifrey on this backwater planet, but a force of Daleks have followed him here.
In fact, two forces of Daleks have followed him: for reasons that I will attempt to summarise here, the Daleks are embroiled in a civil war. Having lost a war against the android Movellans, the Daleks split up into different factions and attempted to find a cure for the biological weapon the Movellans had unleashed on them. Now two of these factions, the white-and-gold Imperial Daleks and grey-and-black Renegade Daleks, are going head to head (tentacle to tentacle?) for control of the Hand of Omega, a device used by the Time Lords to customise stars into huge power sources, in order to master time travel just as the Time Lords had. Unfortunately for the residents of Shoreditch, they are right in the middle of this interstellar punch-up. The Doctor must find a way to prevent the Daleks from gaining the power of the Time Lords while stopping London being wiped off the map.
The story still reads wonderfully, possibly even better than before in light of new Who’s Great Time War. Here we can see the first shots being fired in a temporal conflict that will change the Whoniverse for ever: the Doctor manipulating events in a way that would leave Machiavelli jealous and the Daleks trying to gain mastery of time travel to destroy Gallifrey. With no budget or episode length to constrain him Aaronovich is able to flesh out his characters’ backgrounds and create truly huge battles between the two antagonistic Dalek factions.
I’m not ashamed to say that I suddenly regressed into a giddy 8-year-old watching Daleks blow up in truly MASSIVE explosions in glorious monosound while reading this book. I loved it. Arguably the best Seventh Doctor story (tying with Silver Nemesis and Curse of Fenric); easily the best classic Dalek story. Yes, even better than Genesis of the Daleks. What more can I say? And if anybody wants me I’ll be round the Post Office for a 10p mix-up…
5 out of 5 Nerds, mainly for nostalgia but also a bloody good read!