Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on the planet Spiridon, populated by killer plants, monstrous beasts and hostile invisible natives. The Doctor and Jo encounter a small group of space travellers, Thals from the planet Skaro. The Thals are tracking a small Dalek unit, hoping to destroy them. Then a second group of Thals arrives with grave news – deep beneath the planet’s surface awaits an army of thousands of Daleks.
- 1. Jo Alone
- 2. The Invisible Menace
- 3. The Deadly Trap
- 4. In the Power of the Daleks
- 5. The Escape
- 6. Danger on Level Zero
- 7. Ascent to Peril
- 8. The Enemy Within
- 9. Vaber’s Sacrifice
- 10. Return to the City
- 11. An Army Awakes
- 12. The Last Gamble
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Terry Nation for the 1973 serial. Conveniently, this followed Frontier in Space on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.
Notes: Despite being published a month after The Space War, the beginning doesn’t match up with how that ended, but with how the TV episodes played out – the Doctor has been wounded after being ambushed by the Daleks. Which means there’s a potential unseen adventure in the Target universe between the two stories in which the Doctor is injured in a battle with Daleks.
The tentacle that snakes towards Vaber belongs to a huge carnivorous bell-plant 20 feet across and the eye plants open their ‘eye’ only when something comes near. We’re offered a little more detail about the Spiridons, a once-great race who developed invisibility as a survival technique against the hostile environment, but all that remains of their civilisation are the ruins. The Daleks ‘saturated the jungles with killer rays’ to guarantee the Spiridons’ subjugation.
The Dalek hierarchy includes an expedition commander, patrol leaders, technicians and a chief scientist as well as the Dalek Supreme. The Supreme is head of the Supreme Council (not just a member of the council) and ‘second only to the Emperor himself’ – and it is described as ‘not the usual silver’ (so the Dalek troopers might match those in Death to the Daleks?).
Rebec operates the decoy Dalek because she can tell Jo was too afraid. Wester destroys the Dalek immunisation device before releasing the virus. Taron gives the Doctor and Jo anti-jungle coverings and spray to get them safely back to the TARDIS.
Cover: Utterly perfect pulp excellence from Chris Achilleos as the Doctor and the Thal Taron wrestle with a Dalek, which blasts away the side of the frame, all against a crazy lurid background of meteors soaring past a green planet. The 1992 reprint art from Alister Pearson is much more low-key, the Doctor shows off his Spiridon cloak and a patrol of Daleks, like, totally snub him as they glide by.
Final Analysis: How lovely to have this follow on from The Space War, just as it followed Frontier in Space on telly, even if the two books don’t really match up. It remains an epic adventure, every bit the remake of the very first Dalek adventure, but improved on the page by Dicks’s subtle additions to make the alien world feel much more expansive and more terrifying than BBC Television Centre could realise (and indeed more than a few fans felt disappointed by the ‘real’ version when they saw it on home video as it lacked the scale of the novel). The Daleks themselves have a little more personality than their TV counterparts too and at the climax to the story, there’s a gorgeous summation of the Dalek expedition, just before the Supreme delivers that curt motivation speech:
The Dalek Supreme turned arrogantly to his aides. It had been a day of total catastrophe, the army buried, the Spiridon expedition wiped out, the city destroyed. Any other life-form would have been crushed by despair. But Daleks do not recognise defeat. They ignore it and carry on their chosen path of conquest and destruction.