First published in 1964 by Frederick Muller, Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (to give it its full name) was the first full-length novel based on the then-fledgling BBC sci-fi series. Republished many times since with numerous different covers, the book is often regarded as the very best Doctor Who novel ever written, the work of series story editor David Whitaker who deftly retooled the show’s origins and refashioned a new introduction that abandoned the stone age story that kicked off the TV series and leapt straight into an adaptation of Terry Nation’s The Daleks, the seven-part serial that made the series a national talking point almost overnight. Tightly and evocatively written the book presented a more realistic, slightly grittier and very early 1960s take on the experiences of struggling assistant scientist Ian Chesterton who meets up with teacher Barbara Wright after a car crash on foggy Barnes Common and a search for a lost teenager that leads into an encounter with a mysterious old man and his remarkable Police Telephone Box…
Most Doctor Who fans probably have several editions of the book on their shelves but this new, large-sized illustrated coffee table book is not only the best it’s ever looked it’s also A Very Beautiful Thing in its own right. Running to 210 pages this new version has been lavishly and imaginatively illustrated by long-time Doctor Who fan and professional comic artist Robert Hack who brings the story to life with a colour, vigour and atmosphere it’s never had before. The pages are punctuated with full-page/half-page/inset images depicting key moments from the story – Ian’s car lost in the fog, the arrival of the Doctor as Ian clambers out of a crashed lorry, Ian’s forced entry into the TARDIS in just the first chapter – and gives the story a whole new dramatic dynamic. Hack hasn’t just rehashed familiar photographic promo material; his images are all clearly inspired by moments in the story that fired up his imagination and he’s given himself free rein to illustrate the story in ways beyond the budget of the TV serial but without compromising the integrity of the story itself. Amongst the other gorgeous images here that frankly deserve to be just stared at for hours are a luridly-coloured two-page spread of the Dalek city on Skaro, the Daleks converging on the Doctor and Susan (reproduced as the cover image), Ian’s “extermination”, a bird’s eye view of the Doctor and his friends imprisoned in the city, Susan struggling across the storm-lashed surface of the planet and, later in the book, the grisly interior of the Dalek casing, hideous creations exploding from the Lake of Mutations and the raiding party picking its way through the massive Dalek control complex, surrounded by massive, towering turbines and reactors.
In its new form, Doctor Who and the Daleks is a wonderful collectable, a format that could breathe new life into some of the better-remembered Doctor Who novelisations. But even if it’s just a one-off (and one with a fairly hefty price tag) its release to coincide with the show’s own 59th anniversary is especially timely and if nothing else offers us another opportunity to relish in a unique moment in the history of Doctor Who fiction, the book that inadvertently started a publishing phenomenon which survives and thrives to this day.
Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker is available now from BBC Books