Nearly six decades on from their first appearance on British television, Doctor Who’s Daleks still exert a strange fascination upon the show’s fans and whilst they are no longer the huge audience draw they once were - the 1960s days of Dalekmania are long gone - each new appearance in the modern reinvention of the series still manages to cause a frisson of excitement and intrigue even amongst the series’ more casual viewers.
Frankly, it’s a casual audience that might find most to enjoy in this glossy new book authored by Richard Atkinson and Mike Tucker, for there’s not much new here for long-time fans - hardly surprising considering the incredible wealth of written and pictorial material now available chronicling virtually every move the Doctor has made since his/her debut back in 1963. Taking the format of the collation of vital intelligence gathering about the Daleks by the Time Lords (do they even exist in Doctor Who lore these days? Who knows?) it purports to be of vital assistance to anyone preparing to engage the Daleks in battle (hmmmm) but is, in reality, just another excuse to revisit a substantial part of Doctor Who history and remind us of it all over again. The bulk of this colourful, well-presented book recounts the events of all the Doctor’s encounter with the planet Skaro’s meanest machines - events most fans could recall if they were a coma - with occasional sections devoted to cross-section diagrams of the Dalek city, Dalek spaceships, various Dalek factions and designs, their time travel technology, their involvement in the infamous Time War, Dalek anomalies, Dalek shopping lists (maybe not) and all narrative points in between. It’s pretty exhaustive stuff, of course, meticulously research and supported by superb colour (and some colourised?) photographs and lavish new illustrations from Gavin Rymill. But it all feels a little reheated, over-familiar material warmed up and served again to satisfy a market that largely already knows all this inside out. Atkinson and Tucker are to be commended, however, for their attempts to explain away plot holes and inconsistencies or to wave away contradictory canon by writing it off as some unresolved temporal mystery.
Dalek Mark III Travel Machine won’t do much for the hardcore except allow them to read story outlines they’re already familiar with but any newer fans drawn in by this year’s enjoyable New Year episode Revolution of the Daleks won’t find a better grounding in the horrible history of Doctor Who’s most implacable baddies; if nothing else there are pages and pages of lovely Dalek photographs to gaze at, and that, in itself is never time wasted. And ultimately, if the Daleks do somehow cross over from the world of the imagination and launch an all-out attack on humanity (and we’re not ruling out anything at this stage) then at least we’re primed and ready and we will know our enemy.