Chapter 154. Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks (1993)

Synopsis: The Doctor is gone and a new man stands in his place. Polly suspects this person is the Doctor in a new form, but this is something Ben cannot accept. The TARDIS lands near a colony on the planet Vulcan, where the Doctor assumes the role of an investigator to help solve a murder. Instead, he discovers a nasty surprise – the colony has been infiltrated by Daleks. But none of the colonists will believe that the beings are evil, especially when all they want to do is serve the humans. Even the Doctor cannot imagine the scale of the Daleks’ deception as they work in secret to mass-produce more of their kind and take over the colony…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. We Must Get Back to the TARDIS
  • 2. It’s Beginning to Work Again
  • 3. I Think We’ll Make Some Changes
  • 4. So You’ve Come At Last
  • 5. They’re Not Going to Stop Me Working on the Capsule
  • 6. Why Have You Come to Vulcan?
  • 7. Alien? Yes – Very Alien
  • 8. Nothing Human, No
  • 9. You Don’t Half Make Mountains
  • 10. Plenty of Nuts
  • 11. They’ll be too Frightened to do Anything Else
  • 12. It’s Watching Me, Lesterson
  • 13. What Have you Done, Lesterson?
  • 14. I Obey
  • 15. You’ve Done Nothing But Meddle
  • 16. Keep Her in a Safe Place
  • 17. When I Say Run. Run Like a Rabbit
  • 18. Insanity
  • 19. These Things Are Just Machines
  • 20. We Want No Accidents
  • 21. The Doctor Was Right
  • 22. I’m Going to Wipe Out the Daleks
  • 23. I Can’t Stop Them
  • 24. The People Will Do Exactly as They Are Told
  • 25. Every One Must Be Killed
  • 26. You Have to Admire Them
  • 27. The Law of the Daleks is in Force
  • Epilogue
  • Author’s Note

Even with the author’s note, it’s not quite enough to beat Delta and the Bannermen‘s record for the most number of chapters in a novelisation.

Background: John Peel adapts the scripts from David Whitaker’s 1966 story, published by Virgin as a continuation of the Doctor Who novels range. At 26 years and seven months, this is now the holder of the record for biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation. It’s also the longest novelisation to date, with 256 pages, beating the previous record-holder, Fury from the Deep.

Notes: The story opens at the end of The Tenth Planet with Lieutenant Benton leading a team from ‘the English division of UNIT’ [so either he came out of retirement, or the Brigadier’s story about him becoming a second-hand car salesman in Mawdryn Undead was perhaps an official cover story]. UNIT comes with a scientific team headed up by Professor Allison Williams [Remembrance of the Daleks]. The operation was later summarised by Sarah Jane Smith, UNIT’s ‘official chronicler’, who described the contents of the cyber space ship as ‘The Aladdin’s lamp of applied technology’; as it turns out, that technology provides the means for Earth’s expansion beyond the stars and the Cybermen invasion was ‘both the greatest disaster and most astonishing blessing ever to have happened to the human race’.

The second chapter adapts the conclusion to The Tenth Planet. Ben Jackson spent his teens ‘barely keeping on the right side of the law’ (and he later tells Polly that he grew up opposite a brewery) before he joined the Navy. He’d read HG Wells’ The Time Machine prior to meeting the Doctor and since stepping aboard the The TARDIS he’s been to 17th-Century Cornwall and now 30 years into Earth’s future [in line with Gerry Davis”s Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, Peel sets the arrival of Mondas in the 1990s]. He appreciates that Polly isn’t a snob. 

The Doctor is ‘tall, thin, with a pinched face and expression to match’. He has a ‘sergeant-major pay-attention-to-me-you-‘orrible-little-man voice’.  Inside the TARDIS, a ‘large octagonal device’ descends from the ceiling (neatly explaining why the similar hexagonal ceiling decoration is seen so infrequently after its appearance in An Unearthly Child). As the old Doctor begins to change, Ben wonders if he’ll crumble, like the Cybermen, or ‘like Christopher Lee did in those Dracula films’ (Lee’s cycle of Dracula movies for Hammer had begun in 1958 with Dracula, followed in 1966 with Dracula: Prince of Darkness)

 The new Doctor’s skin is ‘no longer pale and transparent, but almost tanned and thicker’ and instead of the silver mane, he has ‘a shock of jet-black hair’. Ben notes that he’s not only changed his face but ‘his tailor as well’:

The battered black coat and trousers were different. They were now a loose, stain-covered black jacket several sizes too large for the small man who wore it. The trousers were yellow, with a large chequered pattern on them. He wore a faded shirt with a very large bow tie that seemed to have been tied by a blind man in a rush to be somewhere else.

The renewal has left the new Doctor in ‘agony’ with ‘a burning sensation inside all of his bones’ and his new muscles and tissues are ‘filled with pain’. He senses the ringing of a ‘Cloister Bell’ but can’t remember where he heard it [see Logopolis]. He checks his pulses (plural) and notes they’re ‘quite far apart’. He tells Polly that the renewal is a painful process but ignores Ben when he asks if this is the first time he’s done it 

Exploring the chest in the TARDIS wardrobe room, the Doctor finds the gift from Saladin as well as a broach from the Aztec Cameca. The piece of metal, which prompts him to remember ‘extermination’ on TV, was found by his granddaughter Susan on their one visit to Skaro. Trying to explain his renewal in simpler terms, he challenges Ben to summarise his understanding of the mechanics of time travel and asks Polly to rationalise the dimensions of the TARDIS. He tells them that he left his home planet over 750 years ago. The Doctor’s old diary is written in High Gallifreyan [see The Five Doctors]. He knows how to measure in kroliks but not where that unit comes from. He considers taking some of the mercury as a supply for the TARDIS fluid links and he’s worried about losing consciousness in the swamp in case the agonising regeneration process starts again.

The capsule was found in the swamp when the colony was still being built; Lesterson ordered that his laboratory be built around the capsule so that it could be studied (this partly explains why Lesterson is unaware that the capsule is so much bigger inside than it appears – and how it happens to be inside a room without hangar-bay doors that it could fit through). The colony’s chief medical officer is Thane, a’ fortyish woman with short cropped blonde hair and a very efficient air’; she’s later revealed to be part of the rebel underground. According to Thane, the colony is wheel-shaped and was established to mine minerals that the ‘home world’ so desperately needs. The colony is only the third to be established and ‘quite a way out’ from the frontier. There are about 8,000 colonists, about a thousand of whom are in the main city. The planet Vulcan is surrounded by a network of satellites, each one with the power to ‘punch holes through the sub-ether’ and contact Earth with a minimal delay. The time travellers notice that the colony doesn’t appear to be affiliated to any one nation – there are no UK or US flags – and later Polly learns from Dr Thane that it’s funded by the International Mining Corporation [sic – see Colony in Space for what IMC originally stood for]. 

After the Doctor uses the piece of metal from Skaro to open the capsule, Polly asks him if the Daleks destroyed his home planet. He doesn’t think so, as he remembers leaving with Susan;  he tries to recall where his granddaughter is now, knowing only that it’s something else to do with Daleks. The old Doctor had mentioned his greatest enemy to his young companions before and Ben knows that they will invade Earth at some point in the future. Valmar sided with the rebels when he was demoted by Governor Hensell after an accident that killed four people. Lesterson asks the Doctor to help him and the Doctor says the best help he could offer would be to shoot him in the head. 

The Dalek mutant is more detailed than the shapeless blob seen on screen (as far as we can tell from the surviving off-air photos), possibly inspired by Ray Cusick’s unused designs for the mutant’s first appearance in The Daleks:

The thing was a writhing mass of tentacles, a bilious green in colour. Two of these limbs ended in bird-like claws that flexed and clicked. Some kind of slime enveloped the sickening bundle. It was pulsing slowly but regularly. Lesterson realized instantly that this, this whatever-it-was, was alive.

In the final showdown, it takes Valmar three shots to kill Bragan – the final one is to the head.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover art is working around a new template – the ‘Slatter-Anderson’ design similar to the one used on Virgin’s ‘Missing Adventures’ range. It’s a strange affair, a stunning portrait of the new Doctor in his Paris Beau hat (we all know it’s not a stovepipe now, don’t we?), which merges into a Dalek with two silhouettes echoing backwards, surrounded by electrical sparks. To the right lies the TARDIS, standing in a Vulcan swamp.

Final Analysis: At last! Thanks to his connections to Terry Nation and some frankly miraculous archiving on the part of David Whitaker’s widow, June Barry, John Peel gets to adapt the remaining Troughton Dalek stories. We’ve come a long, long way since the days of Whitaker’s own adaptations, written with a mass-market child audience in mind; these final entries were very much for the aging completist fans. 

Peel had already put some effort into ensuring his novels drew from wider references than just the individual scripts, creating a more cohesive universe where the Daleks view the Doctor as an ever-increasing threat and tararium is an essential mineral beyond The Daleks’ Master Plan. We’ll see more of this next time, but here the story is self-contained with few links to Dalek continuity. Instead, Peel looks to the end of The Tenth Planet, linking the events to UNIT, Counter Measures and Sarah Jane Smith. The references might feel gratuitous (the term ‘fanwank’ was growing in popularity around this time, personal tastes dictating whether it was meant to be abuse or celebration), but I’m not sure it is – certainly not as sure as I was when I first read the book in 1993.

Unlike David Whitaker – who was writing without any knowledge that the books or even the TV show that inspired them would have any kind of longevity – Peel has the benefit of hindsight; he knows these books are likely to be the closing chapters to the story, at least as far as Target’s readership is concerned. His references add to the wider universe (Benton lives!) while creating a really intelligent connection between two adjacent stories novelised decades apart. Just as we read An Unearthly Child knowing that Old Mother’s prophecy that ‘fire will kill us all’ would be echoed in the radioactive wastelands of Skaro, so the Earth’s ‘first contact’ with an alien invader leads to humanity’s expansion across the universe in colonies such as the one we encounter in Vulcan. Similarly, the discovery that the colony is run by IMC means nothing to Polly, but its connection to Colony in Space on TV (novelised as Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon) helps to explain why there’s a rebellion in the first place and add a greater level of jeopardy without spending pages detailing mining rights and the kind of ground already handled by Malcolm Hulke in his own novelisation, published 19 years earlier.

A couple of other items of note. The addition of Thane means that Janley isn’t the colony’s only prominent female (on TV she’s the Smurfette of Vulcan), but it also gives us a more balanced view of the rebellion. We know that the Governor is vain, lazy and self-serving, but on screen the rebels are fanatics, whereas here, they’re individuals motivated by wide-ranging concerns. They criticise the lack of support from IMC, the poor leadership from Governor Hensell and the stresses that come with a new colony on the frontier of known space; they also reveal more selfish desires – greed, lust, pride – which Bragen and Janley exploit to their cost.

Writing for a much older audience now, Peel is able to introduce a little violence, including one of the most graphic scenes to date, the death of Bragen: 

Bragen choked on his own blood and staggered forwards. Then his heart gave a final spasm. Valmar’s third bullet went through his brain, killing him instantly.

It’s not one of Ian Marter’s bubbling-pus corpses, but it comes suddenly and is so matter-of-fact that Peel doesn’t need to overdo it – it’s sufficiently shocking. Though the departure of the Doctor and his friends is just as abrupt as on TV, we’re given some reassurance as the new Doctor recalls that Vulcan eventually grows into something of a paradise:

The surface of Vulcan was unchanged. One day, the Doctor knew, the humans would remake the world. The bleakness would vanish under a canopy of green. The colony would become just the first of many cities. The humans would thrive. 

2 thoughts on “Chapter 154. Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks (1993)

  1. It’s a difficult one, isn’t it. Peel’s later War of the Daleks is the height of fanwank what with Draconians and Movellans popping up for pointless cameos. Almost like a Gary Russell “UNIT museum” in Business Unusual (how many times did Mel meet the Doctor now? At least three). Here, I did feel the opening was bordering on fanwank when two of the elements – say, Benton or the Countermeasures group – were joined by Sarah Jane Smith; but maybe the Sarah Jane Adventures are about as fanwanky as one can get, even bringing the Brig back, and who can begrudge them that? Conversely I quite enjoyed Downtime, which should feel gratuitous but Platt pulls off something more interesting. Heck, I even enjoyed Mawdryn Undead… and the UNIT dating fan-baiting makes that even more fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Potentially, there’s a solid argument that could be made here for Peel’s two Dalek novelisations forming the stylistic basis of the Missing Adventures. Their status as adaptations notwithstanding, they feel very much like contemporary takes on then 25(ish)-year-old characters and their circumstances.

    1993 was also a big anniversary for the show and the bleed is very prominent here. It’s one of the very few times where I think you could probably get away with some continuity wrangling that would otherwise leave many scratching their brow. “Emperor of the Daleks”, a sequel/prequel comic to “Remembrance of the Daleks” relied on a knowledge of “Planet of the Daleks”, but that was largely fine because the reruns were readily available on BBC1. (And it’s still a well-told tale, to boot!)

    I think the nods to history weren’t as noticeable in “The Chase” or “The Daleks’ Master Plan” probably in no small part due to how fast we were swapping from location to location. We were running on a galactic trail of terror from the Daleks. Here, we can sit and let the continuity around Vulcan sink in. You can see the era of the video cassette and that 1990s fascination with retrospectives is starting to shape how stories are told. It’s a far cry from the flash-in-the-pan storytelling of the mid-1960s.

    I wonder if the impulse to tie it all into something broader came about precisely because the television series was over? If it might have been comforting in some respects to know that these characters were still out and about. Living their lives. Even if the show they belonged to had bowed out four years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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