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The Power of the Daleks

By John Peel

Book review by Stuart Brown

I have waited for years and when it is finally released my worst fears are confirmed - it's not all that good! I felt the introduction was not really necessary and served no purpose except to flesh out the page count. It is written in the same vein as a New Adventure and is a lot more mature than previous novelisations.

The actual story itself is not too bad as long as you can handle the rather overall boring feel to the book; it does improve towards the end with the climax but it's a pity it isn't like this throughout. The characters are pretty dull and lifeless and the rebels would definitely not have my support in that they are boring. Ben, Polly and the Doctor's characterisations are handled okay but could have been better - you do feel that Ben definitely is very suspicious of the 'imposter' Doctor. The Daleks would have to be the best written in the whole book, as what they do or attempt to do makes sense.

Many fans will buy it for the sole reason that it fills an important gap in their collection. If only it were more exciting - a lower page count may have helped and if all the unnecessary items and descriptions were removed it would be better. Here's hoping that Peel's next novel, The Evil of the Daleks, is a lot better!

Book review by Jeff Stone

The first new Target novel for three years and it's a Dalek one! No matter what the book was like, this was bound to sell well - to say that the fans were awaiting the appearance of the Troughton Dalek tales in print with ill-concealed impatience would be a massive understatement. But was it worth the wait?

No, not really.

There's nothing wrong with The Power of the Daleks as such - it isn't bad; it just isn't good either. Peel snatches us away from the still new heights of literary intelligence that the New Adventures represent most of the time and takes us right back to the good old days of 'the Doctor said, Ben said. Polly said', etc. Yes, The Power of the Daleks is essentially classic 1970s Terrance Dicks - a straightforward retelling of the script.

The Power of the Daleks isn't by any means unenjoyable. It's undemanding on your intelligence, has plenty to maintain interest (Daleks, new Doctor, etc) and David Whitaker's brilliant script is so good even Peel can't louse it up!

To be fair, The Power of the Daleks is something of a 'director's cut' in that Peel has reinstated some (but by no means all - what about the food machine scene?), of the cuts made to Whitaker's screenplay. These additions do not add much to the story but at least Peel didn't just pad out the story with his own material.

When Peel goes 'original' the novel hits some of its definite lows - the continuity laden prologue implying Earth reached the stars via stolen Cybertechnology for example, is full of problems and totally unnecessary.

Mind you, not all of Peel's 'inserts' are bad - in the TV serial Ben and Polly accept the new Doctor as the real McCoy (Troughton?) almost at once, but Peel has Ben play the Doubting Thomas for much longer, which is more realistic.

The Daleks are all pretty colourless - Peel has very little of Ben Aaronovitch's skill at imbuing the ranting pepperpots with personalities all their own, and even indulges in the dreaded Pip'n'Jane 'question at the end of a paragraph' once or twice in an attempt to inject them with menace! Horrors!

The same goes for almost all the other characters; most are cardboard cannon-fodder, and the main villain Bragen has become a camp Hitler-clone. Only the TARDIS crew have any real personalities - Peel does quite a good job at bringing the new Doctor to life.

But the book is ruined by Peel's bizarre obsession with sticking sexuality into his stories. Janley suffers worst, becoming little more than a target for the male characters' libidos, but Polly doesn't escape the treatment either. If there's one thing even the worst non-Peel New Adventure isn't, it's sexist. So, big points off for that.

All in all, an overwhelmingly ordinary novel, of interest largely to Dalek fans and completists. An undemanding read to clear the palate between New Adventures is perhaps the most appreciative description I can give it.

Beautiful cover, though.

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).

Index nodes: The Power of the Daleks