DOCTOR WHO - REVELATION OF THE DALEKS / AUTHOR: ERIC SAWARD / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Released in July this year, Eric Saward’s eagerly-anticipated novelisation of his 1984 Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks was a crushing, crashing disappointment, a genuinely terrible piece of writing that did nothing to rehabilitate a messy TV script and wandered off into strange flights of fancy that suggested that Saward has written the whole thing in a series of afternoon nap-induced hazes. Consequently, hopes weren’t high for Revelation of the Daleks, Saward’s novelisation of his 1985 serial with the Doctor, now played by Colin Baker, visiting a funeral planet and encountering the Daleks, his oldest enemies, and their bitter, twisted creator Davros now posing as The Great Healer. Thankfully this is a much better book, far more focused, far more restrained and, as a result, far more enjoyable.
Revelation of the Daleks is quite popular amongst fans of this particular troubled era in Doctor Who’s history; this was, after all, the final story in the season whose levels of violence and general unpleasantness led to the BBC putting the show on ice for eighteen months (although by this time the show was unpopular with the Corporation who were in reality quite keen to see the back of it for good). But it’s not actually a particularly distinguished story. Saward was clearly inspired by classic series writer Robert Holmes who crafted strong, memorable stories often populated by ‘double act’ characters and Saward tries to pull off the same trick here with pairings such as Tranquil Repose’s funeral attendants Takis and Lilt, body snatchers Natasha and Grigory, the capitalist Kara and her obsequious secretary Vogel, and assassin Orcini and his squire Bostock. But Saward’s characterisation is blunter and less nuanced, his dialogue not as sharp and his story, inevitably, nothing like as clever. But possibly because he’s more invested in this story and its characters than the unholy mess that was Resurrection, Saward has made a decent fist of expanding on his world and his cast of characters and is clearly having a good time doing so. Necros, the icy world the Doctor and Peri arrive on to pay their respects to the Doctor’s recently-deceased old friend Arthur Stengos, is a cold and unwelcoming place and there’s a well-developed sense of funereal doom about the story as the time travellers - as on TV they take an age to actually get involved in the action - discover the sinister truth about the Doctor’s old enemy’s activities.
Revelation is a dark-hearted and mean-minded story that rarely displays the joy and optimism usually associated with the series but Saward judiciously expands upon the events as seen on TV by introducing an entirely new character towards the end of the book and a few new ideas and concepts that give the story a much-needed lift and a greater sense of high stakes. Although it could have done with another run-through from an editor’s pen to tidy up a few clunky turns of phrase Revelation of the Daleks is a brisk and agreeable read that brings to the page its TV counterpart with much more style and alacrity than the dire Resurrection.