Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale

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After escaping a Dalek ambush the Doctor unwillingly joins the bounty hunter crew of the Wayfarer. Soon these uneasy allies find themselves embroiled in a Dalek plot to conquer all of time and space.

This is a great old-fashioned Dalek adventure. Terry Nation-style in the best possible way. The crew the Doctor joins are the kind of rough, salty space dogs that the series strove for in serials like Death to the Daleks and Planet of the Daleks. It’s a tough, brutal world with little room for sentiment and emotion. Which makes it all the more surprising that this is an adventure for the Tenth Doctor. Early in the tale the Doctor makes a connection with a young woman called Stella, who is set up as the story’s de facto companion, this being set during the Year of the Specials. As soon as they meet he starts showering her with the usual compliments: praising her inquisitive, intelligent nature, just as he did with Rose, Marth, Lady Christine etc. It’s very hard to imagine the Doctor doing this when meeting a man. Shortly afterwards she is gunned down by a Dalek, in a refreshing rejection of this usual Tenth Doctor dynamic. Without his usual Lothario ways to help win allies, he’s left with a crew who don’t trust him. It’s similar to what Russell T Davies did in Midnight; Only this time, instead of day-trippers, he’s with hardened Dalek-killers. Even Scrum, ostensibly a fellow-scientist, who designs the crew’s weapons, doesn’t connect the way he might have with, say, the Third Doctor.

The first half of the book is reminiscent of the television story Dalek by Robert Shearman. There is the same tension while the idea that one lone Dalek is incredible dangerous is explored. Even when that Dalek is apparently incapacitated. Just as that landmark story addressed some of the perceived weaknesses in the monsters, such as stairs and having sink plungers, Prisoner of the Daleks neatly avoids the two biggest mis-steps in that story: Thankfully, the Doctor doesn’t freak out and cower in fear when he encounters the Dalek like he does in Dalek. He’s back to facing them with dignity and treating them with disdain, which I much prefer. Tennant was miles better at this than Eccleston on television. That scene in Doomsday when he just swallows as he witnesses the Cybermen proposes an alliance with the Daleks is far more Doctorly and subtle. Additionally, although the Daleks’ new-found ability to use time-traveller DNA to regenerate is mentioned, it is not used to defeat them. The victory over the Daleks feels hard-won and satisfying here.

A really great touch here is that the Dalek dialogue is written in the font from the old TV21 comics and The Dalek Book, which is both pleasingly nostalgic and conveys the harsh, grating way they communicate,

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Each letter is a jagged, bold intrusion into the text, just as hearing their voices is on the ear.

The story is a full-on Dalek epic, with pleasingly Terry Nation touches like a character who is a Space Major and viruses that attack the Dalek armour casings. The Doctor has jumped a time track to a pre-Time War era. This is still supposed to be time-locked (presumably so that neither side could go back and change the past prior to hostilities). This means Baxendale doesn’t have to come up with a convoluted way to have the Daleks in it, as stories from this era did. A hugely enjoyable read.

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Order Prisoner of the Daleks from Amazon:

Doctor Who: Prisoner of the Daleks: The Monster Collection Edition

On Kindle:

Doctor Who: Prisoner of the Daleks

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