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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Revelation of the Daleks (Paperback)


Author: Eric Saward
Publisher: BBC Books
192 pages
RRP: UK £7.99, US $10.99, Cdn $16.99
ISBN: 978 1 78594 436 9
Publication Date: 11 March 2021

“Beware the hands that heal.” The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Necros to visit the funerary home Tranquil Repose – where the dead are interred and the near-dead placed in suspended animation until such time as their conditions can be cured. But the Great Healer of Tranquil Repose is far from benign. Under his command, Daleks guard the catacombs, where sickening experiments are conducted on human bodies. The new life he offers the dying comes at a terrible cost – and the Doctor and Peri are being lured into a trap that will change them forever…

To misquote the Great Healer AKA Davros in his previous story, Resurrection of the Daleks: nine months I was frozen in that. Nine months of mind-numbing boredom! Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it has taken me a long time to get to the end of this, the final novelisation to be based on a classic-era Doctor Who adventure.

Now, there’s nothing in here that’s as egregious as Davros squawking like Florence Foster Jenkins aiming for a high C, like he did in Eric Saward’s previous tome. No Daleks purr, burp or grunt. There’s no over-long and misplaced tour of the TARDIS interior – though the Doctor does briefly refer back to his robotic chef. Several mentions are made of Tellurians, Terileptils, the malleable metal tinclavic and the alcoholic drink Voxnic, but these references are less heavy-handed than they were in the novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks. For example, here Voxnic is the tipple consumed by the drunken grave-robber Grigory, which is perfectly in keeping with the black humour of the 1985 screen version of this tale.

Unfortunately, though, for vast stretches of the narrative, this book just isn’t very interesting to read. The extent to which the words on the page fail to come to life is an indication of how much value was added to the television production by the imaginative direction of Graeme Harper and the entertaining performances of the actors. The chief embalmer and sexual predator Jobel comes across particularly badly – unlike when he was played by Clive Swift on screen, in print I just couldn’t wait for his scenes to end. I haven’t heard the audio book read by Terry Molloy and Nicholas Briggs, but I dare say that Saward’s stilted prose, like his dialogue, comes across much better when delivered by talented actors.

In contrast to his adaptation of Resurrection of the Daleks – and indeed unlike most novelisations, given the supplementary scene-setting that tends to take place – more material is added to the end of the story than it is to the beginning. There are relatively few additions to the first 45-minute episode, apart from occasional lines of speech that may have originated from earlier drafts of the script. There’s an extra scene inside the TARDIS, during which the Doctor and Peri cook and eat nut roast for breakfast. We learn how the security men Takis and Lilt first met, how the DJ (real name Derek Johnson) ended up at Tranquil Repose, and most of the characters are given full names, but that’s about it. As a result, material from Part One occupies little more than the first two-fifths of the page count.

A scene cut from early in Part Two has been reinstated, in which Orcini and Bostock discover the body of the mutant encountered by the Doctor and Peri in the previous episode. The bulk of the author’s additions are to be found towards the end of the narrative, in what was the final quarter of screen time. Here Saward inserts an entire subplot involving the Doctor and a new character, another mutant called Alex Sagovski, attempting the sabotage the pyramids in which Davros’s new race of Daleks is being stored in suspended animation. This strand is somewhat superfluous, since Kara’s bomb will take care of the Daleks in any case, but it does give the Time Lord more to do, links back nicely to the first mutant, and swells the ranks of the enemy – the equivalent scenes in the television version featured a single transparent Dalek that activates and kills Natasha and Grigory. The latter characters benefit from more memorable and poignant deaths in the book.

A far less forgivable addition is the theft of some dialogue from The Awakening, with Davros delivering Sir George Hutchinson’s accusation, “You speak treason”, and the Doctor replying that he does so fluently. Even if it hadn’t already been heard in a previous adventure, this exchange would feel out of place.

We’ve waited a very long time for this novelisation, but sadly, despite some excitement towards the end, much of it is as lifeless as Tranquil Repose’s plot for perpetual instatement.


Richard McGinlay

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