Synopsis: A brief holiday on the planet Aridius is interrupted when the Doctor gains advance warning that the Daleks are coming for him. So begins a frantic flight through time, each stop brings their pursuers ever closer. Their final battleground is Mechanus, home to killer plants, the robotic Mechanoids and their sole prisoner, a space pilot called Steven. As the Doctor prepares to confront his enemies at last, his friends have no idea that this will be their last adventure together in the TARDIS.
- Author’s Note
- 1. The Executioners
- 2. A Speech in Time
- 3. The Sands of Death
- 4. The Victims
- 5. Deadline
- 6. Flight through Eternity
- 7. Nightmare
- 8. Journey into Terror
- 9. Fallen Spirits
- 10. Who’s Who?
- 11. To the Death!
- 12. The Mechanoids
- 13. The End of the Hunt
- 14. Home!
Background: John Peel adapts scripts from a 1965 serial by Terry Nation. As the author’s note explains, he worked mainly from early drafts, before they were rewritten by story editor Dennis Spooner, so he explains that the book is ‘not strictly an adaptation of the televised version of The Chase’ (ie, it’s not written as if by Terrance Dicks).
Notes: The opening chapter depicts a grand Dalek control room with ‘a background pulse, like an electronic heart slowly beating’. The Black Dalek looks down from a raised platform onto various other Dalek units, including a Chief Scientist. The Daleks know the Doctor by name. They’re also aware that his appearance ‘has changed many times over the years’ and they have tracked him through his ‘basic metabolic pattern’ [meaning these Daleks come from the Doctor’s own future].
The Doctor ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS and lost the operational notes while on prehistoric Earth. He is nearly 750 years old and has not yet experienced his first regeneration. We’re reminded of the introduction stories of Ian and Barbara, that Susan left the TARDIS after falling in love and that Vicki recently joined them after being rescued from the planet Dido. The space/time visualiser is just one of many trinkets that the Doctor has picked up over the years. Neither Ian nor Barbara recognise the Beatles song that appears on the visualiser. Vicki has not encountered a Dalek up to this point, but knows of them from her history books.
The Daleks are led by the Dalek Prime, which is ‘larger than most, and painted a uniform golden colour’ (similar to the Emperor from the comic strips). The TARDIS team have encountered the Daleks twice before. The Daleks use flying discs to survey the surface of Aridius. Aridians have blue skin and they wear the skins of mire beasts as cloaks. We’re party to the meeting of the Aridian elders with the Daleks where they’re given the ultimatum. Ian and Barbara had an unseen adventure on Cetus Alpha. The TARDIS dematerialises with a ‘customary groaning and wheezing’. The Dalek time ship is powered by Taranium, ‘both the rarest and most unstable element in the Universe’; one gram can power a time ship for centuries and it took the Daleks two decades to obtain that amount.
It’s clear the author has done a little research into the crew of the Mary Celeste as the characters are named and fleshed out (he also has one of them exterminated by a Dalek – something that we don’t see on TV). The schoolteachers debate whether they were responsible for the death of the passengers and crew of the ship and Ian reminds Barbara of her attempts to change the history of the Aztecs; they take some comfort from the possibility that the Marie Celeste was always fated to become a mystery. Morton C. Dill is from Alabama. He encounters the TARDIS crew and a Dalek in 1967. The Dalek considers killing him, but then decides to let him live, considering it ‘far worse for the human race to allow this fool to live on’. Ever since that day. Dill has been a resident of the Newman Rehabilitation Clinic for the bewildered (a reference to a routine by American humourist Tom Lehrer). The haunted house is a part of Battersea Funfair, London, and is closed for repair. Vicki uses her months of experience of operating the radio on the crashed spaceship on Dido to use the Dalek radio. After the robot Doctor is destroyed, the real Doctor proves his credentials by reminding his companions of their past adventures, how Ian was knighted by Richard Coeur de Lion, Vicki, led a ‘revolution on the planet Xeros’ and Barbara ‘escaped with the Menoptera from the Crater of Needles’.
Steven Taylor explains that the Earth’s plans for expansion were brought to an end by the Draconian conflict, followed by the Third Dalek War. Realising that the execution squad is outnumbered by Mechonoids and facing defeat, the Dalek squad leader separates from the battle to hack into a computer and trigger the city’s destruction in a final attempt to trap the TARDIS crew.
Steven manages to escape, makes his way through the jungle and reaches the TARDIS, where he collapses. The Doctor is initially very dismissive of the unstable and brutish Dalek technology of their time ship, but quickly becomes more tactful to avoid frightening Ian and Barbara. He’s pragmatic enough to help the schoolteachers to use the Dalek time ship to return home, but he deliberately sets the time of their destination a couple of years in their future to offset the three years they’ve spent travelling with him. They return to the TARDIS to collect their belongings, including souvenirs of their travels. Barbara wonders if she owes back-rent on her flat, while teasing Ian about the amount of dust that will have settled in the house that he owns. They stow their belongings at King’s Cross Station before enjoying a visit to a pub by the Thames and exploring their home city anew.
Cover: Against a backdrop of the time vortex, divided like a 16-hour clock, the Doctor looks across at a Mechanoid and the city of Mechanus, a Dalek, a mire beast and the Mary Celeste. A suitably busy composition from Alister Pearson.
Final Analysis: There was a lot of build-up to this, the first of the remaining Terry Nation Dalek stories to be novelised, courtesy of a deal struck with author John Peel. I’m a fan of the TV story – comical elements included – and the scattergun approach is the set-up for the next Dalek story, which is similarly meandering but on a grander scale. Glad to say, I’m also a fan of this novel. It’s determined to be grown-up about it all, so the jokey aspects are cut back massively, and some of the additional details appeal mainly to the fan gene in linking this story to ones broadcast later or told in other media. At this point in the history of Target, that’s who the readership was. Peel manages to make the Daleks menacing, scheming and not remotely comical (something their own creator chose not to do in the original TV version). His real success though is in capturing the TARDIS team, the growing relationship between the schoolteachers, Vicki’s resourcefulness and most of all the Doctor’s contrary nature, clearly lamenting the departure of two people who forced their way into his life and became good friends – but refusing to let this show. It’s rather wonderful to have another adventure with this particular crew, as this is the last of their adventures to be novelised. And there are only two more stories from this era left to come…