Peel, John

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3.6 out of 5

(7 books)

Doctor Who: Legacy Of The Daleks

Book ten of the Eighth Doctor (the Paul McGann version) Adventures.  Seeking his missing companion Sam, the Doctor returns to 22nd Century Earth in the hopes of also visiting his granddaughter Susan.  However, his simple plans are thrown awry by the discovery that civil war is tearing England apart and two of his oldest and most persistant foes are about to return to confront him.

I really liked the premise of this book, showing us Earth thirty years after the events of 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' (as novelised by Terrance Dicks) and finally reuniting us with Susan, the Doctor's very first companion and only known family member.  There is a powerful post-apocalyptic feel to the setting but rather than nuclear war, it is the war with the Daleks which has left England devastated and its people forced, in many cases, to resort to primitivism.  On top of this I liked the way in which we're introduced to Estro, an aide to the vicious Lord Haldoran, whose part in the story grows considerably (although I had figured out the twist before it happened, so you might too).

With all that going for it, I was puzzled to find that I didn't particularly enjoy the book as a whole.  However, I eventually realised the reason for this is that the story is just so bleak.  Brutal civil war between two vicious and arrogant Lords, a female main character who is psychologically scarred by her infertility and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Susan and her husband David discussing getting divorced... and so it goes on.  Finally; although, predictably, the Daleks end up defeated, the book still manages to end on a downer and doesn't even resolve the Doctor's search for Sam.

A great story idea, but one which is lacking the one essential element of all great Doctor Who stories: a sense of fun.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Chase

An adaption of an adventure featuring the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Ian, Barbara and Vicki.  Having been thwarted by the Doctor in their attempts to exterminate the Thals on Skaro and in their invasion of Earth, the Daleks build a time machine and send forth an assassination team tasked with hunting down and destroying the Time Lord and his companions.  The Doctor then has to try to stay one step ahead of his arch-enemies on a chase through time and space.

I liked that in this story the Daleks have identified the Doctor as their biggest threat and proactively seek to kill him, rather than merely having them react when he stumbles across their latest scheme as happens in many Doctor Who stories.  The narrative lives up to the book's title too and we get a nice sense of pace and danger as each hop through Time and Space has the Daleks inexorably gaining on the TARDIS.

Unfortunately, because this book contains so many different locations it feels very episodic (a hold-over from its TV serial origins), with each sub-adventure feeling very disconnected from the next.  One minute the protagonists are exploring a desert planet and, in no time at all, they're facing Dracula and Frankenstein's monster on Earth (no, really) before then moving on to a strange swamp world with carnivorous mushrooms.  In a book only 144 pages long, none of the ideas or locations gets chance to develop fully.

That said, this book's finest moment comes from one of these mini-adventures wherein the TARDIS materialises on a 19th Century ship, hotly pursused by the Daleks.  A ship called the Mary Celeste.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Daleks' Masterplan - Part I: Mission To The Unknown

This adaption features the First Doctor (the William Hartnell version) as he once again finds himself standing between his arch-enemies the Daleks and their plans for galactic domination.  They have forged an alliance of several alien powers in order to destroy Earth using a device called the Time Destructor but the Doctor and his companions manage to steal a vital component of the weapon and then have to try to stay one step ahead of pursuit.

This book begins rather poorly, introducing us to a string of unfamiliar characters on the planet Kembel whose adventures and fates lacked any real impact.  However, predictably, once the Doctor becomes fully involved, the story jumps up a notch.  There's a real sense of danger and pace as the Time Lord and his friends have to flee from world to world without having access to the TARDIS, with nice asides that show us a bit of the backstabbing and manipulating going on among the Daleks and their council of 'allies'.

Also, where some Doctor Who adventures are fairly lighthearted, this book sees the violent deaths of no less than two of the Doctor's friends, really raising the stakes.

For me, the best moment of this book was near the end when the Black Dalek (second only to the Dalek Prime, in case you were wondering) suddenly realises the identity of the shrewd old man who's been giving them the runaround.  It was a great hint of the way in which the Daleks comes to fear the Doctor just as much as he fears them.

4 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Daleks' Masterplan - Part II: The Mutation Of Time

Continuing on from 'Mission to the Unknown', the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Steven and Sara find themselves being pursued through time and space not only by the Daleks, seeking the return of an item of stolen technology, but also by another traveller from the Doctor's homeworld with a score to settle.

The introduction of this latter character, the first Time Lord to appear in the Who mythology aside from the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, intrigued me at first.  I'm not heavily versed in classic Who storylines, so I was keen to see what would develop from the arrival of the Monk, expecting him to be a sort-of proto-Master.  Disappointingly, the Monk turns out to be a buffoon whose appearance in this story is largely incidental.

Also the theme of both the Daleks and the Monk pursuing the Doctor's TARDIS through time and space felt a lot like a rehash of more or less the same situation featured in 'The Chase'.

On the plus side, the companions in this story are far more developed and involved than those in the preceding book were and the death of one of them has all the more impact as a result.

Overall, this isn't quite as enjoyable as the first half of the story but is still a solid adventure for the Doctor.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Evil Of The Daleks

An adaption featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companion Jamie.  In 1960s London the TARDIS is stolen and, in tracking it down, the Doctor and Jamie are caught in a trap that sends them back to 1866, where the Daleks are waiting for them.  But rather than exterminate the Time Lord and his companion, the Daleks insist that the Doctor help them to improve themselves by isolating the Human Factor; the elements which make humanity the Daleks' second most persistant foe.

This book is a series of ups and downs.  The first act, although somewhat slow, draws you on with the intriguing mystery of the antiques dealer Waterfield but then things become a bit tedious as we're exposed to page after page of obscure and pointless interactions in the house of Mr Maxtible.  We do then get the best bit of the book as the Doctor, who's acted pretty cagey for a while, reveals his plan to gloriously turn the tables on the Daleks.  The pace then slows to a crawl once more as the story moves to Skaro and we get a rehashing of the creeping through the Dalek city seen in David Whitaker's 'Doctor Who and the Daleks'.  The book ends fairly well, with the Doctor coming face to 'face' with the Dalek Emperor for the first time and civil war breaking out on Skaro.

Because of this up and down, the experience of reading the book is damaged overall.  So, despite having one of the best Doctor Who moments (the Doctor teaching Daleks to play trains), this is far from the best Doctor Who book.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks

An adaption of one of the notoriously 'lost' Doctor Who serials, this story features the very first adventure of the Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton).  Disorientated by his first regeneration and distrusted by his companions Ben and Polly, the Doctor finds himself on Vulcan at a human colony rife with intrigue, rebellion and shifting alliances.  To make matters worse, the colony scientist has discovered a mysterious capsule which, when opened, reveals three dormant Daleks.  When they are revived and claim to serve humanity, the Doctor must desperately try to convince everyone of the true danger the Daleks represent.

This book opens incredibly strongly, with the First Doctor (William Hartnell) falling ill after defeating the Cybermen for the first time.  After regenerating into his second incarnation, the Doctor has to struggle with the distrust of Ben and Polly as well as with the confusion of his new form and personality.  I really enjoyed the companions' reaction to the regeneration and the way in which Ben becomes convinced that this strange tramp-like little man has murdered the real Doctor and is impersonating him.  But more than that, I enjoyed being able to read the Doctor's own internal thoughts regarding the change and his struggles to recover the details of his memories.  Perhaps the best moment of all this comes when we discover that this new incarnation actually finds some of the First Doctor's personality traits irritating, revealing just how complex a psychological process regeneration is for the Doctor.

The story moves on to the Vulcan colony with its conflicting personalities and agendas, which sets a great background to the most important struggle of the book; the endless emnity between the Doctor and the Daleks.  There is a brilliant scene where a Dalek is keeping up the pretence of being nothing but a servile robot but nevertheless can't help staring at the Doctor.  The significance of this is underlined when Ben, still dubious about the regeneration as a whole, realises that the Dalek recognises the Doctor even when he no longer does.

The tension of the Doctor's constant thwarted attempts to raise the alarm about the Daleks' true nature comes to a great conclusion as civil war breaks out among the colonists.

This is a genuinely brilliant story from the TV series and a thoroughly enjoyable book by Peel.  Truly Doctor Who at its best.

5 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: War Of The Daleks

Book five of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) Adventures, featuring his companion Sam Jones.  When the TARDIS is scooped up by a salvage ship, the Doctor discovers that the salvagers have also recovered a lifepod containing none other than his nemesis Davros.  He, Sam and the salvagers then find themselves caught in the never-ending war between the Thals and the Daleks.

This book is good, but...

That sums up almost every aspect of the book really; for every good element, there is a significant downside.  For example, one of the things I really liked about this book was that it depicts numerous scenes of the gritty, vicious warfare taking place between the Thals and the titular pepperpots, but it also has a series of interludes showing other species at war with the Daleks which, whilst interesting, actually prove detrimental to the pace of the main story.

Another two-edged sword is Peel's efforts to link together all of the Doctor's previous encounters with the Daleks into a linked series of events.  Whilst it's great to thread together all those disparate adventures into a cohesive storyline, it does reach the point where the Dalek Prime's plan becomes pretty much ludicrous in its complexity due to having to hit all the story notes set by thirty years of Doctor Who on TV.  This forced retconning (retro-active continuity, for the uninitiated) becomes spread so thin that at one point, so that Skaro can feature here, we're expected to believe that the Daleks devastated a world, dressed it up like their homeworld and buried Davros' dormant corpse on it just so that when Davros was revived in 'Destiny of the Daleks' (novelised by Terrance Dicks) he would be deceived into thinking he was on Skaro.

However, I have to say that one of these retcon moments was my favourite bit of the book, where we finally get to learn how the Dalek factory ship came to be buried on Vulcan, where it was confronted by the Second Doctor in the excellent 'The Power of the Daleks'.

The final 'good, but...' aspect of this book comes from the fact that the Doctor has very little to do here.  So, whilst this book tells a very good story, as a Doctor Who book it fails by having the Time Lord be less important to the plot than the Thals and Daleks it features.

4 out of 5

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