Book Review – “Doctor Who: Remembrance Of The Daleks” (50th Anniversary Edition) by Ben Aaronovitch

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks: 50th Anniversary Edition

From Goodreads:

With unfinished business to attend to, the Seventh Doctor returns to where it all began: Coal Hill School in London in 1963. Last time he was here, the Doctor left something behind – a powerful Time Lord artefact that could unlock the secrets of time travel. Can the Doctor retrieve it before two rival factions of Daleks track it down? And even if he can, how will the Doctor prevent the whole of London becoming a war zone as the Daleks meet in explosive confrontation?

Well, unless you’re either (a) not a fan of “Doctor Who” or (b) a fan of the series but have been living on the moon or on a desert island, you’ll know that the programme will be celebrating a very significant anniversary later this year.  As part of the celebrations of this anniversary, the publishing arm of the BBC has re-issued eleven books, one for each of the Doctors.

This novelisation was previously published in 1990 by Target Books and was based on Ben Aaronovitch’s (who is now known for the “Peter Grant” series of books) own screenplay for “Doctor Who”‘s twenty-fifth anniversary series.

The basic storyline of the novel follows the original screenplay with the Seventh Doctor returning to Shoreditch in 1963 and landing slap bang into a conflict between two Dalek factions… or so it seems.

As with the original episode, the main underlying theme of this story is one that has been around since the Daleks’ inception being that of racial intolerance and racism.  This is primarily told through the conflict between the Renegade Dalek faction and the Imperial Dalek faction along with the sympathies of the main human protagonist, Ratcliffe.

Alongside these two references to racism, there are additional references including the hierarchical structure of how the Imperial Daleks treat one of their number which they call “The Abomination” (also known as the Special Weapons Dalek) and a well written piece of back story for the Doctor’s companion, Ace, where she recollects an incident in her own time when her best friend’s home was fire-bombed.

In fact, although “Remembrance Of The Daleks” was already a strong story for television and one that I highly recommend to people who only know of the new incarnation of the series as there are some loose ties to the post 2005 version of “Doctor Who”, where this story really scores is the backstory and what isn’t seen on television.

Whether it is the story of Group Captain Gilmore’s early romance with Professor Rachel Jensen, the story of Rachel’s early Jewish upbringing, a Dalek’s internal thought processes – as opposed to the well known ranting “Exterminate!!! Exterminate!!!”, the reasons behind why one of the main characters becomes a traitor, or a scratch under the surface of the Doctor’s internal thought processes, Ben Aaronovitch’s novelisation adds a much needed depth beyond what could be managed by four episodes of twenty minutes per episode as well as adding an emotional content which, prior to the resurrected television series, was somewhat lacking.

The characterisation is very true to the original episode, particularly the story arc of Ace’s transition from stereotypical teenage tearaway with a penchant for all things explosive into a young, independent woman who is taking her first steps into the adult world of emotions and sexuality, and the plot arc which was known as the “Cartmel Masterplan” which sought to return the Doctor’s mystery by hinting at previously unknown origins, which are expanded upon in the novel.

If you’re a fan of the current version of the series and haven’t seen “Remembrance Of The Daleks”, this is a great novel because it joins some of the dots up in between the classic series and the mythical “Time War” story arc which dominated the programme when Russell T. Davies was the showrunner, whilst for those who have seen the original story, this novel adds depth and character development to make the story a more enjoyable experience.

Rating: 4/5


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