Shearman, Robert

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4 out of 5

(1 book)

Doctor Who: Dalek

A novelisation of Shearman's own script, featuring Christopher Ecclestone's Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler.  Receiving a distress signal, the Doctor and Rose arrive in a secret facility beneath the Utah desert, where a ruthless billionaire is keeping and torturing a captured alien being.  However, the so-called Metaltron is far from harmless and is stirred into action by the arrival of the Doctor.

This story marked the first appearance in the relaunched series of Doctor Who of the Time Lord's most iconic enemy and, unfortunately, its biggest flaw is its own title (not to mention the image on the cover).  When I saw this on TV the first time (when it aired way back in 2005), I missed the title card and was therefore blown away by the scene in which the Doctor enters the darkened cell of the 'Metaltron' and says he's the Doctor and he's there to help.  There's a brief pause and then, with lightbulbs flashing, the shadowed creature responds in that iconic metallic tone "Doc-tor?  The Doc-tor?!" and then the Dalek is revealed, to the Doctor's horror.  It remains one of my favourite scenes in Who but its impact will always be lessened by knowing that it's a Dalek.  The way the story is written deliberately plays up the ambiguity of the Metaltron's identity but isn't self-aware enough to realise that the title has already spoiled the reveal.  Imagine if The Sixth Sense was called He's A Ghost The Whole Time.

But, aside from that one nitpick, this is a truly great Doctor Who story.  It re-establishes exactly what makes the Daleks such a threat but also examines the fear and hatred that they and the Doctor have for each other.  One of the best bits of the aforementioned meeting of Doctor and Dalek is the way that the Doctor goes from screaming terror to gloating over his role in wiping out the Dalek race ("I watched it happen.  I made it happen!").  Having these two age-old enemies meet as the sole surviving members of their respective races, the last survivors of the Time War, makes for some very poignant explorations of them both.  We're truly brought to understand not only how ruthless the Daleks are, but also how ruthless the Doctor is capable of being when trying to stop them.  It's a real watershed moment for the Ninth incarnation and I love it.

Shearman expands on the original story by fleshing out the backstories of many of the supporting characters with, it has to be said, mixed results.  However, the best of these new inclusions is where we see the Dalek participating in the Time War, coming face to face (face to eyestalk?) with the War Doctor amid the Fall of Arcadia.  It's a nice touch that brings the two main characters full circle in a way that wasn't possible when this was originally scripted due to the details of the Time War being so sketchy at that point (it wasn't until eight years later that we met John Hurt's War Doctor).

4 out of 5

Collaborations & Anthologies:

Doctor Who: The Cruel Sea (here)

Doctor Who: The Story Of Martha (here)

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Doctor Who (here)