Book Review: Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

doctorwhoanddaleks1Title: Doctor Who and the Daleks

Author: David Whitaker

Year written: 1964

Publisher and year: BBC Books, 2011

ISBN Number: 978-1-849-90195-6

This is the first Doctor Who book and, although it’s renamed, is a reprint of the book Dr Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. I’m not sure when it got renamed but I also have a copy of the 1965 version published by Armada Paperback. This book is one that I grew up loving but I haven’t read it in over ten years so I wanted to see if it would live up to how I remembered it. It was also probably the main thing that got me in Doctor Who originally as I grew up in the 90s and I don’t remember many reruns being on TV, though I did see the 8th Doctor movie.

The story this book is based on is the classic Doctor Who story Arc aired between 21 December 1963 and 1 February 1964, which is apparently the second story ever but I’m not sure I know that the first was as this introduces the Doctor and the original companions of Susan, Ian and Barbara. This copy includes a foreword, a section called The Changing Face of Doctor Who and some background on the author and notes on the original story and any changes made or things worth mentioning at the back of the book. I do like these little extras as they’re very short and help people who aren’t familiar with the characters or where this story fits within the timeline of the show to know who is involved and where the companions came from to understand their reactions to events. I am also including a bit of a comparison, or the differences, between this copy and the original that I have.

doctorwhoanddaleks2As I’ve said with previous books in this series, I do really like the art style on these covers. It’s very colourful and simplistic and brings the whole series together. I think it’s a good representation of both William Hartnell and the Daleks but in a very stylised way. The bronzey gold lettering on the front and the cream, rather than white, background make it seem like an older book to me, giving it the look of a book that’s been out for a while rather than one published in the 2010s. I like the design on the back too and the information it includes about where this story falls in the timeline as well as which episodes or story arc it’s based on.

The introduction is nice, it does remind people about the time when it was written and the first episodes released, and seems like Neil Gaiman really likes the show. The Changing Face of Doctor Who is a quick mini guide to the main characters, explaining where they’re from and who they are within the universe, though that’s all really set up in this book it’s still nice to have that as a bit of a reminder going into the story itself. The information about the authors is a nice, short, background on them which is a quick read if you’re interested and the Between the Lines section explains about any differences between this story and the original book or TV show. This is the main point, which I didn’t really realise until reading this, that although this is written about the second Doctor Who story it was originally written as a standalone, not expecting there to be any other Dr Who books (as it is spelled on the original cover) and the meeting and introduction to the characters was rewritten from the original TV episodes. I guess as I grew up with this book I just accepted this as the way it all happened but if you know the original introductions this book might seem slightly off, I don’t know the differences there.

This is the first Doctor Who book and includes an introduction, not only to the companions like in later books, but the whole idea of the Doctor and the Tardis. The characters seem true to the original story, as much as I remember, and I like the way he wrote the character of the Doctor, he’s a lot sharper and more strict than most later Doctors and his introduction shows this side to him as well as how clever he is. The story itself starts pretty much straight away, there is a car crash and the main characters are inside the Tardis within the first 14 pages which I think may be a record for these Doctor Who books as some seem to start of a little slow.

The storyline itself is pretty much a stereotypical Doctor Who story, there’s the Tardis, some confused humans being taken along for a ride by the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, some Daleks, a nice peaceful alien species that needs to be helped, the group are kept prisoner and there’s a happy ending so they continue on their journey. I don’t think this paragraph is at all spoilery as that could probably be a good summary (maybe minus the Daleks) for most of the Doctor Who episodes, and the classic Who books.

I wouldn’t say that there’s anything too antiquated or that would need to be explained to readers now within the story. Most of it takes place on an alien planet so there’s descriptions of that, as there would be now, and there wasn’t much use, or any that I can remember, of Earth technology at the time aside from cars which aren’t really described and are recognised today anyway, so there’s nothing there to date the story really. The way they spoke is more formal than you’d probably get in a lot of young adult or children’s books now but it doesn’t stand out as odd.

doctorwhoanddaleks3I think I first read it when I was 8 or 9 and I think the vocabulary is fine for that age, it was written as a children’s book and I think it’d be fine for that now. There is some violence, it is the Daleks after all, and death mentioned near the beginning so those themes may put people off a bit but I don’t think it’s all that gruesome and not as gory as some of the deaths in TV shows and books aimed at the same audience today.

Throughout this book there are also some illustrations, they do fit in with the original art style from the 60s and 70s, going by books I grew up with, and they vary in size with some taking up a whole page and others a little are in it. I will say that some of the illustrations in this book seems bit less detailed than in the others and the ink feels a bit thick with the lines. Some of them aren’t the best when it comes to representing the well-known characters. With the other books I wasn’t sure if maybe they were using the original art but this time I know they aren’t as I have the original as a comparison. At least they aren’t the same as the 1965 version, I kind of wish they’d stuck with them, apparently there was a 1964 version but the 1965 seems to be the earliest version I can find information on so I think it’s the original.

doctorwhoanddaleks4

I thought a bit of a comparison next to the original might be a good way to see how different versions might be different inside. In all of the photos, the original is on the left and the newer copy on the right. The story overall is the same, as far as I can tell by picking out random parts and reading them, they match word for word. The covers are obviously different and the newer version includes the extras so it’s a thicker book, but if you’re only interested in the story itself then the original, or any other reprint in between, would be fine for that. Apparently one difference is the measurements, changed to metric from imperial, but I didn’t notice it.

doctorwhoanddaleks6

The main difference to me is the illustrations and the layout for the chapters. The illustrations are completely different, they even show different scenes, and I couldn’t find an equivalent between them so I’ve just put two pages side by side so you can see the difference in detail, though the style stays the same. The chapter layout is a bit odd for a modern book, I’m not sure if this is how it was done in general then though. Instead of each chapter starting on a new page, no matter how far down the previous page it ended, the original leaves a few lines gap and has the next chapter title in italics and aligned to the right. I think I actually prefer this method but it does look very different when you’re used to having the next chapter on a new page.doctorwhoanddaleks5

Overall I think this book has lived up to my expectations. I love the introduction to the characters and think it’d be a great book to read if you want to get into the Classic Who series. It’s a good one to start with for any fan of Doctor Who, even if you know the general history, as it’s a quick read like the others in the classic series and it does get going quickly. I think this is a good book for pre-teens, maybe around the age of 8 or 9 would be the earliest I’d say due to some of the characters but it would depend on how you think the child would react to the Daleks and whether they would enjoy the book. I think fans of Doctor Who of any age will enjoy it as it really does include all of the stereotypical Who plot points. It would make a good book for your collection, whichever edition you want, as the first ever Who book.

If you can still find this book, I’m not sure if there’s a version still in print, then I’d recommend it to Doctor Who fans. I think sci-fi fans in general would probably enjoy it too, it’s fast paced and has the alien element even if you’re not interested in the Daleks or the characters themselves outside of reading the book.

The original copy is mum’s and it was bought when it was first released, this later copy I bought from eBay in a set of 6 for about £8 which is a very good price for me. I’ve said with others that if you can find it cheap it’s worth getting but otherwise maybe not but I’d say that, to me, this one is probably worth it at full price too. Obviously it’s best if you can find it somewhere for cheaper, and find whichever version you can, and I’ve seen quite a few of these on eBay in sets for quite cheap so maybe there or a used book stall or car boot sale would be good starting points if you want to buy it, otherwise it’s definitely worth getting out of your local library if they have a copy.

 

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