The final novelization of classic era Doctor Who has arrived with Eric Seward’s adaptation of his own Revelation of the Daleks. This volume has been a long time coming, with over thirty years between the airing of the television story and this release. Working from the relatively well regarded Colin Baker Sixth Doctor story, Seward brings a tale of Davros re-engineering the Daleks, a strange and deliberately anachronistic behaving DJ to the dead, honorable and impressive assassins, food shortages with familiar solutions, and planet wide graveyards, to simply name some of the elements.
Characterization is fleshed out slightly in comparison to the televised version of the tale, with explanations for tattoos and career choices expounded upon. Yet these are not detailed passages, but more brief asides. The little bits of inner thought make characters such as Tasambeker and the DJ all the more compelling, and even Davros is used to good effect, finding himself looking down upon the very creations he considers supreme due to his own overinflated opinion of himself. The assassin Orcini is still a quite entertaining figure, with his own motivations for taking a job to assassinate what has to be one of the most hated beings in the universe.
Unlike many classic Doctor Who novelizations, there’s at least one effective sequence that loses something as text. The references to song titles can be white noise for those who have no familiarity with the songs. Yet that‘s not the biggest of the flaws a lack of music can create. At a certain point the DJ kills a Dalek with the power of rock music. It is glorious in both versions, yet for one who has trouble visualizing music the book might be the inferior choice in that respect.
On the other hand effects failures, such as suddenly switched props and bad levitations, largely disappear when in the mind alone as opposed to on the screen on a shoestring budget. Again, novelization serves to make clear improvement upon these, although some stylistic oddities, such as a description of a dead man with a hole in him from a type of attack that involved Daleks, and would not typically result in a hole either on screen or in other stories featuring the characters.
Yet stark language works to great effect just a few pages earlier, when “Natasha Stengos ceased to exist. She was 25 years old” is laid out after the character acts, resulting in a sinking in the reader’s stomach. Given the character’s status as a freedom fighter, this is even more disturbing, reminding the reader of how hopeless situations involving Daleks can quite often seem.
The question of improvements can also argue the opposite, as a woman named Tasambeker drew a degree of sympathy from me that she did not even approach in the original story. By the same token, the DJ seemed a sadder figure for his strangeness, whereas the expression in the series version meant that outside of one impressive moment he was irritating.
The Doctor has a slightly more active hand in this version, and both he and Peru get a bit more time with the reader, thanks to an introductory portion not found in the original show. In addition, an amusing bit of metacommentary comes from the final lines of the novel, wherein the doctor does not get to finish suggesting a destination, and the text reads “but that would remain a secret for quite some time.”
The history of the edit removing the destination is interesting, dating back to Colin Baker’s tough time as the Doctor and the 18 month gap between seasons of the old show during his era. Revelation of the Daleks featured this line, which was cut though it could have said Blackpool and lead into the story titled The Nightmare Fair.
This volume has trade dress which is in many ways a pallet swap of Resurrection of the Daleks. As a result it dutifully reflects the white Daleks which made their first appearances within this dictionthe tale, as the gold highlights will attest, although it does not match the previous trade dress. Overall even this is somewhat expected for a Doctor Who novel.
This is another novelization that has advantages over the original story. It is also a breezy read which can be finished in a quite short period of time, and enjoyed. If not the definitive version of Revelation of the Daleks, the book is at the very least a good one.
(BBC Books, 2019)