Eric Saward’s Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks

There have long been a number of noticeable gaps in the novelizations of the original television series of Doctor Who. With Eric Saward now the novelising his own Resurrection of the Daleks, those gaps have become one fewer. The book also represents a chance for an author to revisit his own work in a different format, something that has in the literary tradition given rise to perks up as much quality as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere novel. While a reader will probably not expect as much from a Doctor Who novelisation, the chance to improve on a previous version of a work is an interesting one.

For those who watched the original television story, the plot summary is no great surprise. From being stuck in a temporal disturbance, the doctor finds the year in 1984 connected to the distant future by the way of a time corridor, and investigated this strangeness with his companions. It’s not long before it becomes clear that the individuals in the distant future creating this connection are the Daleks. Details change, of course. A conversation between the Doctor and Davros is slightly longer,  and while this does not change the general nature of the story it helps to give new weight to the moment. In addition, a death in the preceding story Earthshock gains a new reference, and with it a reminder that the hero is fallible. Given that the events of this story are dark at times, and there are certainly heroic casualties, this makes sense to harken back to.

One of the chief changes in this version comes in the form of a coda to the story focusing upon the companion who left, Tegan. In this instance, the reader gets to see her reactions after deciding to leave, and getting left behind as a result. The young woman second guesses herself, as many would after making a momentous and life-changing decision. However rather than showing her as broken by the experience, Tegan is unsure yet overall optimistic, looking at a number of potential future opportunities to do something good with her life, both following on the loose ends from this story and in a more general matter. It is a less depressing ending in many ways, however it does strengthen the main female character of the tale, and is somewhat appreciated for that reason.

Eric Seward was firm and insistent in making sure he wrote this novelization. Within its pages, one can see that the story remains largely the same, and in the process realizes how many of its deficiencies could be attributed to BBC production of the series at the time. Indeed this is a story that became legendary in part because of the failure to use a special effect on the Dalek voices, a deficiency that naturally does not exist in a print format. Areas described as dimly lit remains so, rather than the over bright sets that characterized Peter Davidson’s run as The Fifth Doctor.

The trade edition dress is an interesting choice, black and silver and red with a very small Dalek on the front. It does not neatly match the previous trade deign for novelizations in paperback or hardcover, however it works surprisingly well for this particular story. Further, this volume status as a hardcover or ebook means it was never going to match with some of the older paperbacks.

Overall this was an enjoyable, short, read. Having a third person point of view helped a great deal, as the internal logic many characters used allowed for strange behavior to make significantly more sense. The action is direct, the characters are consistent, and the book does not feel padded as one often worries they will find in novelizations. This is an enjoyable story featuring the  Fifth Doctor, and easily recomendable to someone who enjoys Doctor Who, particularly of slightly older shade of it.

(Penguin, 2019)

About Warner Holme

Born in the mid-south and keeps getting dragged back there. Warner Holme is well studied in fantastical and mysterious fiction.