Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doctor Who and the Daleks (Book Review)

I recently started using Goodreads and am filling out reviews for the books I've read since the beginning of the year (mostly Doctor Who). Since I never did a proper review of Doctor Who and the Daleks (aka Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks) for this blog, I figured I'd post my Goodreads review here. For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while, you'll note that it's mostly a compilation of the comments I made previously in other blog posts and on Google+, which I collected and present here for completeness sake. :)

Doctor Who And The Daleks
Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Until video cassette recorders became available to the masses, the only way to experience an older episode of Doctor Who was through novelizations and the rare rerun (the number of reruns allowed was heavily controlled by contracts - a factor which contributed to the junking of episodes). As with modern movie novelizations, the book, while being based on the screenplay, is often different from what makes it to the screen. This can be for various reasons: the book is based on an earlier draft of the screenplay, certain scenes were unable to be filmed as originally conceived, etc. This is also true of the Doctor Who novelizations. Where possible, the author of the original story was employed to do the novelization, and many times, they took advantage of the opportunity to flesh out the story more than they might have been able to in the screenplay or the aired episodes.

This is the first ever novelization of a Doctor Who story published. It is a novelization of the second ever serial: The Daleks. At that time, the individual episodes had names, but the serials didn't have official names. While this story is commonly known as The Daleks (or The Mutants - incidentally the title of a Third Doctor story), the novelization was originally published under the title of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks in 1964 and was later reprinted by Target Books as Doctor Who and the Daleks in 1973. Last year, BBC Books started reprinting some of these older novelizations, both in paperback and e-book formats. They published 6 last year and 6 this year, so there are currently 12 out there for a new generation of readers.

In the BBC Books edition, there is an afterward that talks about how this novelization differs from the televised story and why. Since this novel was intended as a standalone book, the introduction of the main characters and how they come to be in the TARDIS varies significantly from the serial. The afterward also notes a few things that this book does first: such as a glass Dalek that wouldn't be seen on-screen until Revelation of the Daleks, a Sixth Doctor story. This book also was the first to use the word "Exterminate" which wouldn't be seen on screen until The Power of the Daleks (incidentally a chapter title in this book) shortly after this book was released. "Exterminate" actually didn't become a full blown mantra for the Daleks until later.

This particular story has been adapted to the screen twice: once for the original serial and once for a feature film Dr. Who and the Daleks starring Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who". These two screen versions and this novelization differ widely. It's been a while since I watched the original serial in its entirety, but I read the novelisation a couple of months before watching the feature film. I also went back to the original serial to compare a couple of scenes to see which did a better job: the serial, the film, or the book.

The scene where they cross the swamp near the lake and find a back way into the Dalek city was, to me, one of the big differences. In the book, it seemed much more perilous than in either the serial or the movie. I got the impression from the book that this was a large lake and the creatures in it were huge. The movie gave a slight sense of that when it shows them climbing the mountain with a matte painting of a lake vista behind them, in contrast, the serial didn't show them climbing at all. The lake creatures really weren't shown in the movie although the serials did some miniature work, which while done on a television budget, gives a better sense of danger than the movie. In the book, there is a scene where they injure one of the lake creatures and its fellows come and fight over the body of the fallen creature. This was missing from both screen versions.

I also got the impression from the book that the pipes they followed into the mountain were huge pipelines. In the movie, they were small when they sighted them underwater, and a little larger on the mountain. In the serial, they only showed a model shot of largish pipes running into the mountain (in a composited shot) and completely skipped the party climbing the mountain, jumping straight to them being in the caves. I also thought the scene in the serial where they jumped the chasm was more intense than the movie version.

I enjoyed reading this and I hope BBC Books will continue to reprint these Target novelizations. I'm buying them as ebooks and will buy every one they publish. :)

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