Target Review 002: Doctor Who in An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks

Written by David Whitaker

Note: This review is based on the Doctor Who and The Daleks audio book release by BBC Audio.  It was wonderfully read by William Russell

From the box:  Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright travel with the mysterious Doctor Who and his granddaughter, Susan, to the planet of Skaro in the space-time machine, the TARDIS.  There they strive to save the peace-loving Thals from the evil intentions of the hideous Daleks.  Can they succeed?  And, what is more important, will they ever see their native Earth again?

Opening Line:  “I stopped the car at last and let the fog close in around me.”

The first and most obvious thing about this story is that it provides a different introduction to Ian, Barbara, Susan, and The Doctor.  While Ian and Barbara are still school teachers, they do not know each other before this story begins.  They actually meet when Ian finds Barbara in the fog on Barnes Commons.  She had been taking Susan home when they collided with a lorry.  This is a rather suspenseful introduction, and while it lacks much of the intrigue of An Unearthly Child, I think I prefer The Doctor’s first adventure to be The Daleks.  Every hero needs a nemesis, and The Doctor’s most-identifiable ones are The Daleks.  In some way, it fits that they would be the first antagonists, the ones that were present when his grand journey began.  This is actually rather similar to what Tim Burton did in his first Batman movie.  Jack Napier created Batman by killing Bruce Wayne’s parents.  Batman created The Joker when he couldn’t save Napier from falling into toxic waste.  There is a satisfying irony in this, even if it does go against comic continuity.  So while An Unearthly Child has a rather symbolic juxtaposition of primitive vs. advanced society, Doctor Who and The Daleks creates an action-packed starting point for our Edwardian Adventurer.  I’m also quite biased as I prefer David Whitaker’s writing to Terrance Dicks’.

It is generally thought that the best way to introduce new people to Doctor Who is to write a story in which the companion discovers The Doctor through mysterious circumstances.  An Unearthly Child does this, introducing us to Ian and Barbara as they attempt to unravel the mystery of Susan.  Rose had the titular character be rescued by The Doctor when she was attacked by Autons.  David Whitaker has done this in his novel, but he goes a step further by using the first-person narrative with Ian Chesterton being the POV character.  I honestly think this was a great move because it adds a new layer to the original story.  While the same events occur, we get more than a recitation of these events.  We get Ian’s perspective.  Likewise, any action in which he is not present must be related to him.  These exposition-laden passages can potentially be dull, but they are brief enough to not break the narrative flow too much.  As Ian is the “action” character, this also serves to keep us in the middle of the action and skip over many of the slower scenes from the original script.

According to the interview material at the end of the audio book, overt attempts to portray Ian and Barbara romantically linked were generally nixed in the show.  The strength of these two characters and the chemistry of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill caused such suggestions to be present in the performances if not the scripts.  In the novel, however, no such restrictions are present.  Whitaker makes it quite clear that Barbara falls for Ian and that Ian hopes that this relationship will grow in further TARDIS adventures.  While I think many fans take it as writ that Ian and Barbara fell in love in their travels, it is nice to have a book, written by the original script editor of Doctor Who, confirm this.  I almost wonder if this was Whitaker’s initial plan for the characters.

In all, I think this was a great adaptation.  It was not a straight adaptation of the original episode, it provided interesting insights and variations to the characters, and it was a compelling read.  Certainly one of my favorites.  It is quite exciting that the book is not only available on CD or MP3, fittingly read by William Russell, but that the BBC is re-releasing the book this year.  Highly recommended.

Prescient Chapter Title: The Power of The Daleks

Girl Talk: “Alydon is about six foot four and perfectly proportioned and he has long, fair hair.  The scaly thing I’d caught a glimpse of is the cloak he wears.” She glanced at Barbara again.  “I’ll come back to Alydon later, if you like,” and Barbara raised her eyebrows to agree to a future and secret conversation.

The new release of the novel can be ordered at Amazon.

The audio version can be purchased on CD from Amazon or on digital audio from Audible.

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