Chapter 26. Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks (1976)

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.

Chapter Titles

  • 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. It’s still an epic adventure, still 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. 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.

Chapter 23. Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks (1976)

Synopsis: The planet Skaro has been a battleground for generations as two races fight for supremacy. Deep beneath the planet’s surface, the chief scientist of the Kaleds, Davros, has determined the final outcome of his race and has planned for their future – as Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are sent by the Time Lords to avert the creation of the Daleks – but do they really have the right to commit genocide?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Secret Mission
  • 2. Prisoners of War
  • 3. The Secret Weapon
  • 4. Rocket of Doom
  • 5. Escape to Danger
  • 6. Betrayal
  • 7. Countdown to Destruction
  • 8. Captives of Davros
  • 9. Rebellion!
  • 10. Decision for the Doctor
  • 11. Triumph of the Daleks
  • 12. A Kind of Victory

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terry Nation’s 1975 scripts.

Notes: The story follows on from The Sontaran Experiment with the time travellers expecting to be back at Space Station Nerva [but see The Ark in Space and The Sontaran Experiment for how that doesn’t match the book universe]. Sarah recalls her first encounter with the Daleks on the planet of the Exxilons [See Death to the Daleks in 20 books’ time]  The Doctor  has time to explain the Time Lords’ mission to Sarah and Harry before they’re attacked and endure a more protracted battle on their first approach to the Kaled dome. There’s a little extra information about how Davros came to look the way he does:

Harry Sullivan looked at Davros in horror. ‘What happened to the poor devil?’

‘An atomic shell struck his laboratory during a Thal bombardment,’ whispered Ronson. ‘His body was shattered, but he refused to die. He clung to life, and himself designed the mobile life-support system in which you see him.’

A group of Thal soldiers are noted to be blond (as in the earlier stories, even though that was a product of their full cycle of mutation). Sevrin is a giant with agility like an ape, while Bettan has ‘an important official position’ and is responsible for the victory celebrations planned after the end of the war. Davros’s office looks down onto the laboratory, which gives the Doctor and his chums a better view of events than the small monitor they had on TV. As Davros is exterminated by the Daleks, his chair explodes into flames. The new Dalek leader, while announcing their mission statement, decrees that they shall build their own city [a reference to the first Dalek story?]. Sevrin sees the time travellers disappear (and Sarah waves him goodbye before the trio vanishes).

Cover: Achilleos gives the first edition a deceptively simple design as Davros (in a brown tunic) owns the centre while a Dalek lurks at the rear and the Doctor is inset and sepia as if on a screen. Alister Pearson gives the 1991 reprint a similarly plain cover, with the Doctor emerging through the fog as Davros enters, stage left.

Final Analysis: Matching the TV story, the tone of this adaptation is a leap away from the rompy fun of its predecessors. This is grim from the first scene and there’s barely any concession to a younger audience. Maybe it’s the quality of Terry Nation’s scripts (or Dicks’s friendship with the script editor who oversaw then), but considering the TV version has possibly the highest number of exterminations in a story up to this point, Dicks doesn’t shy away from any of it, and even goes into detail and singles out a few individuals for their personal experience of ‘Death by Dalek’. Even the Dalek incubation room benefits from a little extra groo, as Dicks paints a picture of glass tanks containing ‘ghastly-shaped creatures twisted and writhed in agitation, while in the darker corners of the room other monstrosities cowered away timidly’.

As if this couldn’t be more perfect, we get another chapter called ‘Escape to Danger’. Yay!