...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, September 25, 2006

Day 2090: DOCTOR WHO: Quick Reads – I am A Dalek


It has been LOTS of politics for a while hasn't it?

Do not worry, ROBIN HOOD is on his way soon. Until then, I have kept Daddy Richard busy with another Dr Who book. Here is what he had to think:

Now, couldn't David Tennant have been given this to read? Okay, it would only have been a single CD but there would have been no need to abridge and it is leaps and bounds better than at least 66% of the Doctor's recent literary adventures.

Gareth Roberts has always been one of the Doctor Who books' brighter talents, ever since his debut in "The Highest Science" captured the form of a Douglas Adams science-comedy without falling into the usual trap of trying to imitate DNA's voice. He's been closely involved with the new TV series – he wrote the "red button" adventure "Attack of the Graske" for Christmas last year, and those fun little internet or telephone trailers called TARDISodes, as well as the highly readable novel "Only Human" for the ninth Doctor last year.

He doesn't disappoint here and, even though the format is supposedly even more trimmed back than the hard-backed full length tenth Doctor stories, this manages to be deeper both emotionally and plotwise.

The Doctor's planned golfing trip to the moon is interrupted by the discovery of a Dalek casing. Tampering with the shell causes a new Dalek mutant to be re-engineered and, as you would expect, it goes on the rampage. The Dalek action is excitingly written, and captures the feel of "Dalek" and it's ethos of let's remind people that these things are scary killer machines. Rose, separated from the Doctor (of course) has a different but related problem: GIRL X whose remarkable recovery from near death turns out to be a result of her Dalek engineered heritage. This provides for an emotional, even horrifying, core to the story as we get GIRL X's first person perspective as Dalek ideology begins to take over her personality. It is a clever device, because we all feel prejudice and anger and despite from time to time and GIRL X reminds us that we can all be a bit to close to Dalek thinking sometimes.

Thrilling and moving, then, there's only really one problem and that is one of continuity: the book has to take place between "The Parting of the Ways" and "Doomsday" for the very obvious reason that it starts the post "Parting of the Ways" tenth Doctor and the pre-"Doomsday" not-trapped-in-another-universe Rose. And a Dalek. But on the telly, Rose is appalled to meet the Daleks in "Doomsday" – appalled not in an "oh no not again" way, but in an "oh my god aren't you all supposed to be very dead" sort of way.

It's not a total contradiction, but having Rose and this Doctor encounter another Dalek survivor slightly undermines the TV stories. It would have been more in keeping with the Rose and ninth Doctor pairing, discovering another Dalek survivor of the Time War, one of a scattered few, like the one found by Van Statten in "Dalek".

"The Parting of the Ways" implies that Bad Wolf Rose wipes out all the remaining Daleks in the universe. The only way that the Black Dalek and his Cult of Skaro chums managed to survive was by hiding outside of the Universe itself. But if some random Dalek relic managed to survive by accident, then that changes the implication and means Bad Wolf Rose only destroyed those Daleks with the Emperor's fleet. And if one survived, why not a hundred? It lessens the impact of "Doomsday".

"I am a Dalek" is billed as a Quick Read, and it's not kidding. I devoured it in a single tube journey, but that was as much because I really wanted to find out what happened as because of the large type and short page-count.

This is a cracking piece of Doctor Who, and – continuity quibble aside – fits perfectly into the new series.

And so you'll be delighted to hear that Gareth has been given the ultimate reward of writing an episode for next year's Doctor Who.

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