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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Dalek Menace!


Author: John Peel
Read by: Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves and Jean Marsh
RRP: £40.00, US $64.95
ISBN: 978 1 4713 0658 7
Available 04 October 2012 (US 15 January 2013)

The Daleks are intent upon invading the entire universe - or at least some lucky fan’s Christmas stocking - with this box set. It contains unabridged readings of all three John Peel novelisations based upon Dalek stories featuring the First Doctor, William Hartnell...

Through a Space-Time Visualiser the Doctor and his companions are horrified to see an execution squad of Daleks about to leave Skaro on a mission to find and exterminate them. Eluding the Daleks on the barren planet Aridius, the Doctor and his friends escape in the TARDIS, but this is only the start of an epic journey. As they travel through space and time, they try to shake off their pursuers by making a series of random landings - but the Daleks don’t give up easily. This is a chase to the death...

Inspired by scriptwriter Terry Nation’s original story submission and authorial intentions, John Peel’s debut Doctor Who novelisation, The Chase (first published by Target Books in 1989), is a very different Mire Beast to the 1965 serial upon which it is based.

Peel lends the narrative depth and scale that were impossible to achieve on the television show at the time, despite ambitious direction by Richard Martin and a bigger than usual budget. There are no peeling Aridian tea-cosy skullcaps or floppy Mire Beasts here, or a robot “duplicate” of the Doctor that looks nothing like him. Instead, we get more Daleks, more Aridians, and some quite frightening Mire Beasts. It’s also a lot easier to tell what the Mechanoids are saying, thanks to the fact that they no longer speak in a bizarre code, and the lucid reading of Maureen O’Brien - who played Vicki in the original serial and who reverts to the character’s childlike tones with remarkable ease.

The biggest difference, however, is one of tone. In the screen version of The Chase, the Daleks were frequently presented as figures of fun, whether coughing while rising up from the sands of Aridius, stammering “Er... er...” while trying to decipher instrument readings, or getting well and truly thrashed by Frankenstein’s monster in the haunted house. Here, they are a deadly and terrifying force. This is made apparent by the horror that is experienced by the TARDIS travellers, and by a new scene in which the Daleks show the Aridian leaders the price of disobedience.

The producers of this audio book have followed suit, with sound designer Simon Power providing doom-laden music that is in stark contrast to Dudley Simpson’s often jaunty score to the televised adventure. Meanwhile, Nicholas Briggs’s Dalek voices, which accompany O’Brien’s earnest reading, are generally far more formidable than the stuttering and expectorating creatures encountered on the telly.

The novelisation isn’t humourless, though. For example, Barbara’s line about the Doctor’s singing has been retained: “No, Doctor, not that awful noise - the other one!” Peel’s depiction of the irritating Morton Dill is genuinely amusing - and explains why the other tourists at the Empire State Building tend to give him a wide berth! The author’s descriptions of the First Doctor are quite charming too.

Meanwhile, the departure of Ian and Barbara at the end of the book is almost as poignant as the screen version.

The only notable omission is Steven’s panda mascot Hi-fi. Though far from essential to the plot, the stuffed toy appears at the beginning of the novelisation of the next story, The Time Meddler, so its absence here creates a small continuity error between the books.

The novelist’s Space-Time Visualiser affords us a tantalising glimpse of what The Chase could have been.



Stranded in the jungles of Kembel, the most hostile planet in the galaxy, Space Security Service agent Marc Cory has stumbled across the most deadly plot ever hatched - the Daleks are about to invade and conquer the whole universe. Cory has to get a warning back to Earth before it’s too late - but the Daleks find him first... Months later, the Doctor and his companions arrive on Kembel and find Cory’s message. However, it may be too late for Earth. The Daleks’ Master Plan has already begun...

Peel’s next novelisation, Mission to the Unknown, adapts material from the single-part, Doctor-less “Dalek cutaway” episode “Mission to the Unknown” and the first six episodes of the twelve-part 1965-6 Hartnell epic The Daleks’ Master Plan. At the time of its publication in print (1989), publisher Target Books had a maximum page limit that required the mammoth Master Plan to be split into two novelisations, which is why there appear to be three stories in this slipcase rather than a total of two. In fact, the story divides quite readily along these lines. Without giving too much away (in case you’re unfamiliar with the plot), the Doctor and his companions manage to escape from the Daleks at the end of episode six, “Coronas of the Sun”, and the end of this book - though their victory proves to be only temporary...

The author sticks more closely to the televised plot than he does in the previous novelisation. This is partly because the television version of The Chase survives intact and can be experienced in its transmitted form, whereas “Mission to the Unknown” and most of The Daleks’ Master Plan cannot.

Peel does make some changes, though. As with his subsequent novelisation of The Power of the Daleks, he includes a substantial recap from the preceding story, in this case The Myth Makers. This is because the ending to Donald Cotton’s novelisation of The Myth Makers differs substantially from the transmitted version in terms of tone, being decidedly casual and comedic. Peel provides a more serious and dramatic take on the departure of the Doctor and the wounded Steven from Troy, accompanied by their new companion, the handmaiden Katarina. The novelist explores the backgrounds and viewpoints of various characters, including Katarina, Bret Vyon, the intergalactic delegates - all of whom are given names - and the prisoners of Desperus. There are also mentions of Alpha Centauri, Draconia and the Movellans, alien civilisations from later eras of the television show.

Notably, Peel takes his greatest liberties with the events of the fifth episode, “Counter Plot”, perhaps because the episode survives in the BBC archives (as does the second episode, “Day of Armageddon”, but that would not be recovered until several years after the novelisation, in 2004). His changes include a reduced role for Mavic Chen’s subordinate Karlton (Chen’s Machiavellian scheming works better in prose than prolonged discussions with Karlton) and additional action and dialogue for the invisible Visians (who, on screen, never speak).

Presumably because the entire two-book saga is so long, the narration chores are shared by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (alias Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom), who take turns reading sections of the story. Their vocal styles are quite different (including varying pronunciations of the name of the planet Mira), but each is compelling in its own way. Purves provides some neat impersonations of Hartnell’s Doctor and Kevin Stoney’s Chen.

As with The Chase, the narrative is further enlivened by Dalek voices provided by Nicholas Briggs, and Simon Power’s exciting music.



The Daleks’ Master Plan is well under way. With the Time Destructor, the most deadly weapon ever devised, they intend to conquer the universe. Only one person stands in their way - the Doctor - for he has stolen the precious Taranium Core, which is vital to activate the machine. Travelling through time and space, the Doctor and his companions are forever on the move in case the Daleks track them down. After several months, to their horror, the TARDIS indicates that they are being followed...

Picking up where the previous volume left off, The Mutation of Time adapts the final six episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan. Whereas Daleks: Mission to the Unknown involves a chase through space via various means of transportation, this volume involves pursuit through time - inviting comparison with The Chase. There’s a more comedic tone to this half, especially during the earlier chapters, presumably owing to the influence of the television serial’s co-writer Dennis Spooner, who throws his comical creation the Monk into the mix for three episodes. Peel widens the division between his two volumes by inserting of gap of several months for the time travellers, allowing for plenty of unrecorded adventures with Sara Kingdom.

Following the addition of a scene-setting chapter aboard the TARDIS, to remind the audience of the story so far, Peel sticks fairly closely to the original scripts. He even includes the light-hearted Christmas episode, “The Feast of Steven”, which has nothing to do with the overall plot.

The novelist makes no attempt to play down the frivolous nature of the Christmas episode. If anything, he accentuates the comedy, adding a food fight towards the end. The “Feast of Steven” sequence works surprisingly well, despite the inability of the prose medium to accurately convey the appeal of silent movies during the film-set scenes (more on those later). Peel also incorporates the production team’s original plan of featuring characters from Z-Cars, basing the names of the policemen on those of the stars of the popular police series, so that what were unnamed characters on screen become PC Welland, PC Blessed, Sergeant Ellis and Inspector Windsor. Not surprisingly, in this version the Doctor does not wish a Happy Christmas to the audience at home!

Other changes include a more convincing explanation for how the Doctor is able to overcome the Monk’s tampering with the TARDIS lock; the Doctor does not hand over the Taranium Core quite so readily as he appears to do on screen; there’s a new coda to the events in ancient Egypt; Marc Cory’s recorded message gains a new significance; and we find out what becomes of Chen’s accomplice Karlton, who is simply forgotten about in Spooner’s scripts. Perhaps most notable of all is the Doctor’s presence throughout the events of the eleventh episode, “The Abandoned Planet” - in the television version he mysteriously disappears for much of the episode.

Throughout the book, Peel charts an effectively tragic character arc for Sara Kingdom. It begins with her waking from a nightmare, still haunted by her guilt over the death of her brother. She believes that her only chance of peace is to return to the planet Kembel, defeat Chen and put an end to the Daleks’ scheme. Initially, these aims seem impossible, especially given the Doctor’s inability to steer his ship. Ultimately, though, she finds redemption, but pays a terrible price for it...

As with the previous volume, the narration chores are shared between Purves and Marsh, each of whom is compelling in his/her own distinct style. Once again, the narrative is augmented by Nicholas Briggs’s Dalek voices, and music and sound effects by Simon Power. The latter’s contributions are particularly effective during the film-set scenes, with period music and film-projector sounds evoking the silent era of the movies. Once again, this is a masterful production.



So if you want to spend your Christmas with a Dalek, or you know someone who does, make it your mission to chase this box set down. With a running time of almost 18 hours, it is sure to conquer the Yuletide season, bringing a Happy Christmas to all of you at home!

Richard McGinlay

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