Saturday, 7 May 2011

‘Doctor Who: The Dalek Handbook’ – Steve Tribe and James Goss (BBC Books)

Whether you’re a longer term fan of ‘Doctor Who’ or someone who has only been watching since Chris Eccleston took up the reigns you’ll know only too well that the Doctor’s deadliest foes are the Daleks; mutated life forms in protective armour that will not stop until they are the dominant life form in the universe. Long term fans of the series will probably already know all there is to know about the Daleks but the BBC are well aware that there are a whole load of new fans out there that don’t have the whole picture yet. That’s where the ‘Dalek Handbook’ comes in...

‘The Dalek Handbook’ sets out its stall to be the ultimate ‘one stop shop’ for all things Dalek related. You get the Dalek’s history in terms of their appearances on the TV show itself but you also get their history off screen as well; we’re talking the history behind their creation and ongoing design as well as their appearances in other media. Did you know that there was a Dalek stage play for example? I didn’t until I read the handbook...

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t really bother picking this book up unless you have some kind of interest in Daleks! I’m a big fan of the show etc and that was all I needed to get stuck in and find out what little bits of information I’d been missing out on...

The first thing that struck me was that the book is only a hundred and sixty pages long. That suggests to me that either the writers involved didn’t have that much to tell their audience (unlikely given how long the Daleks have been around in the show etc) or that things have been deliberately scaled back to cater to the younger end of the market. I would have personally suggested the latter but when you get into the book itself you’ll find that everything is covered in fine detail. There’s no wasting words here although the font is pretty small as well!

There’s a whole load of the old Dalek stories that I’ve never seen (‘The Chase’, ‘Mission to the Unknown’ & ‘The Dalek’s Masterplan’ amongst others) so I found this book particularly beneficial in terms of finding out just what happened in those episodes. I also liked the way that Tribes and Goss made sure that all these separate stories were connected, lending the whole thing a sense of ‘Dalek history’ (apt, given the time travelling theme…) rather than it just being a collection of TV shows. I picked this book up for the story that I thought it could tell and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.

Being in it for the story meant that the more factual passages (the Dalek’s creation off screen etc) didn’t do it for me as much. I’m one of those people who like to get into what’s happening on the screen and finding out how it was all done just spoils it… These passages have had the same level of care and research lavished on them though and there is bound to be something of interest there for those amongst us who want to know about the technical details. It’s just not for me.

Unless you’re a hardcore ‘Doctor Who’ fan ‘The Dalek Handbook’ won’t grip you with everything that it has to offer. There’s enough there though to appeal to casual fans on one level or another. Worth a look if you have any kind of interest in the show at all.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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