About the Author:
David Whitaker was born in April 1928 and worked in the theatre as an actor, writer and director. He later worked for the BBC and became the Story Editor for the TV series Doctor Who and also wrote several episodes. Whitaker died in February 1980.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.5 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Crusaders
The novelisation of a TV serial originally scripted by Whitaker himself, this book sees the First Doctor (William Hartnell) taking his companions Ian, Barbara and Vicki back to medieval times in the TARDIS. Arriving in the Holy Land, Barbara is kidnapped by a cruel Emir whilst the others find themselves in the court of King Richard the Lionheart. Ian then has to seek out Richard's opposite number, the great sultan Saladin, in his quest to free Barbara.
It's hard to imagine now, but Doctor Who was originally envisioned as an educational programme for children rather than pure science fiction entertainment. The Doctor's early adventures therefore were often used to examine historical figures, cultures and periods, which is where this story originates. I have to admit the knowledge of this made me dubious about reading this book to begin with.
However, Whitaker delivers an enjoyable historical romp featuring chivalrous knights, cruel villains and two of history's most interesting political and military rivals. I was impressed by how rounded, informed and largely unromanticised the characterisations of Richard and Saladin were, with them making excellent pivots for the main plot to turn on. As for that plot, Barbara's capture and subsequent rescue was a compelling adventure story with plenty of derring-do that put me in mind of old Errol Flynn movies.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who And The Daleks
Originally possessing the somewhat less catchy title of 'Doctor Who in a Thrilling Adventure with the Daleks', this was the first Doctor Who novel ever written, a novelisation of (William Hartnell) the First Doctor's second TV story arc in which he has his first run-in with his most iconic foes, the Daleks.
Interestingly, this story is told in the first person by Ian Chesterton who, after witnessing a car crash, finds himself whisked away on the TARDIS alongside fellow teacher Barbara Wright by the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan. The fact that we see events through this character's eyes is a great way to introduce us as readers to the events of the book, giving it an air of mystery even to those of us who know the Doctor and the Daleks well. I particularly enjoyed Chesterton's observations about the Doctor, seeing him as crafty in an occasionally malignant way.
Another interesting thing about this book is the way in which it's real-world qualities are mirrored by elements of the plot. By this I mean the fact that this story comes from the very earliest days of Doctor Who, when it was still developing in tone and content. This is carried over into the two titular elements of the book in that both the Doctor and the Daleks are still developing in and of themselves. The Doctor himself notes that the Daleks are continuing to mutate and here we see them discovering that they are not alone on Skaro and thereafter adopting their long-lasting genocidal tendencies. As for the Doctor, although he is portrayed as a crotchety and cunning old man, he shows a naievete at times that reveals the character as being young and inexperienced in a way that makes for an interesting comparison to the modern ancient-in-a-young-body depiction familiar to David Tennant and Matt Smith fans.
All that aside, taking this book on its own merits, I can say that it's just okay. Absolutely nothing wrong with it (well, maybe the outdated gender bias shown by Chesterton) but also not a hugely gripping novel either. Also, because Who was still in its developmental stages here, this book occasionally lacks depth and complexity.
Still, my copy comes with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, who loves the book, and who am I to argue with him?
3 out of 5