Title: Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure With the Daleks
Televised as: The Daleks (video release title)
Written by: David Whitaker
Published in:November 1964
Chapters: Three through Six
Last time, we talked about how David Whitaker opened his novelization of The Daleks with two original chapters, adding a non-canonical origin story for Ian and Barbara. This means that the actual text of the seven televised episodes of The Daleks are confined only to the back eight chapters of the novelization. As with the first two chapters, the rest of the book is quite well written. But the whole thing is still a markedly different beast than the TV story; it’s just as excellent, but for very different reasons.
While Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks was the first-ever novelization, and, although Target reissued it in 1973 as soon as they acquired the Doctor Who print license, the book’s style obviously is not representative of what the typical Target novelization would come to look like. For one thing, just about all the Target books (excepting those written by Donald Cotton about 20 years after this one) would come to be written in the third person. Also, a significant number of the Target books were 12 chapters long (deviating most typically for six-part or longer stories), with the TV cliffhangers located roughly every three chapters. But David Whitaker here has no such mold to follow or break. If you’re coming to this book after years and years of Terrance Dicks, you’ll find that there’s no third-person narrative, no easily divisible number of chapters with clearly marked cliffhangers. In fact, this book pretty much eschews the cliffhangers altogether.
With Ian as the narrator, the book does resemble the televised version in terms of plot breakdown, but much less so in terms of scene-by-scene action and dialogue. For example, because the cliffhanger to Episode One on TV featured Barbara encountering a Dalek on her own — you know, the one with Jacqueline Hill screaming most terrifyingly at a sink plunger, the cliffhanger that’s considered in fan mythology to be the moment that put the show on the British cultural map to begin with? — it doesn’t appear in the book at all. The book’s solely from Ian’s POV, he’s telling it, so that moment just doesn’t exist here.
(And, yes, when I was 11 or 12, I wrote that cliffhanger into my copy of the book in pencil. Just couldn’t let it go.)
Similarly, the cliffhanger to Episode Two, which features Susan alone in Skaro’s dead forest, menaced by an unseen pursuer, is here told only in flashback. The moment is here, but buried in mid-chapter and not particularly dramatic — especially as Susan’s telling it after the fact, so we know that there was no real moment of peril involved.
Another side-effect of the decision to tell the book as Ian’s narrative, is that we get no Dalek-only scenes, such as the kind featured heavily in the middle and later episodes of the serial. Instead we see the Daleks only through Ian’s eyes. Ian senses their malignance from the very beginning, but they’re still kept ambiguous – faintly menacing but not actively evil – until the later stages of the story, when they set about on their plan to reclaim Skaro by exterminating all of the Thal people.
(Except that the planet is not called Skaro here. Whitaker leaves it nameless.)
The Episodes Three and Four material fly by in print at double-speed, because Whitaker has again excised all non-Ian scenes. Any material from TV featuring the Thals earnestly discussing their future with one another, or featuring the Daleks monotonously plotting and scheming against the TARDIS crew, is gone here. In place of that, we get some unexpected angst. On TV, Ian helps the travelers escape from their prison cell, and then sends them off to safety while he unsuccessfully tries to prevent the Dalek ambush of the surviving Thals. In the book, however, Barbara is infuriated by how Ian dismisses her, and spends most of the rest of the book in a blind fury at him. This puts Ian in the awkward position of spending the second half of the book wondering just why Barbara is so angry. I quite enjoyed this bit of real-life relationship angst (which Whitaker will resolve nicely at the end); it’s something that you just won’t see happening in the Target line, and it certainly didn’t come from the TV story.
There are two other major deviations from the televised material. First, this version of the Doctor lacks a lot of the mannerisms which William Hartnell brought to the part. This Doctor refers to Ian solely as “Chesterton”, but never gets his name wrong, not the way that Hartnell chose to do in almost every scene. Next, Whitaker reworks the Daleks’ origins. On TV, Nation had the Daleks as descending from the race of Dals, who were said to have been benevolent philosopher-kings before the war. When Whitaker ghost-wrote the eventual Dalek Chronicles comic strip, under Nation’s name, this origin was junked, and you won’t find it in the book, either. The book was, if memory serves me right, written contemporaneous to the Chronicles, but Whitaker doesn’t include his Chronicles version of the Daleks’ origin in the book either – instead, he leaves their origin a complete mystery.
What’s not a mystery is Chapter Four — that’s right, Whitaker calls it The Power of the Daleks. Two years after the publication of this book, he would be recycling that title. And very effectively, too…
Next Time: Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, Chapters 7-10.