Wednesday, 12 September 2012

‘Doctor Who: The Dalek Project’ – Justin Richards, Mike Collins (BBC Books)

There are some TV shows, films and so on that you take one look at and just know that they would be perfect for a comic book adaptation. There are also shows etc that must never be allowed anywhere near a comic adaptation but that’s a post for another day I think…

‘Doctor Who’ is very much a show that is not only ripe for adaptation (action, adventure and some weird looking aliens) but has already been adapted on more than one occasion; IDW currently being one of the publishers to visit if you’re after a story and can’t wait for Saturday night. BBC Books also turn out the occasional graphic novel themselves. I still need to get hold of a copy of ‘The Only Good Dalek’ but this was offset, the other day, by the arrival of ‘The Dalek Project’ for review.

Daleks are a pretty big deal in our house at the moment, for reasons that I went into the other day, so I’ve had to fight pretty hard to get ‘The Dalek Project’ out of Hope’s hands for enough time for me to actually read it! As always though, I got there in the end but (as much as I enjoyed it) I had more reservations than I thought I would…

Blurb copied and pasted as I am so behind with, well… everything.

1917. It's the height of the Great War and Hellcombe Hall is a house full of mystery: locked doors, forbidden rooms, dustsheets covering guilty secrets, and ghostly noises frightening the servants.

Most mysterious of all, the drawing-room seems to open directly onto a muddy, corpse-filled trench on the Western Front . . .

Arriving at this stately home, the Doctor meets Lord Hellcombe, an armaments manufacturer who has a new secret weapon he believes will win the war: he calls it ‘the Dalek’.

Soon, the Doctor and his new friends are in a race against time to prevent the entire Western Front from becoming part of the Dalek Project!

Before I get going I’ve got to say that I’m a ‘Doctor Who’ fan and no matter how bad a book or TV episode is, I will sit through it and come away having enjoyed the experience. I do notice the bits that don’t seem to work though and ‘The Dalek Project’ has a few of these. Basically, I had fun reading the book but I don’t think it would come anywhere near a ‘Top Ten Favourite Stories’ list if I had one (now there’s an idea…)

One thing that you can always rely on a ‘Doctor Who’ story to do is tell you just what the villains are up to but, more importantly, why they are doing it. There is always a reason (be it ‘villain gloating’ or whatever) that tightens the plot, giving it urgency and direction. That isn’t the case here.
We get to find out what the Daleks are doing (casting moments of history in a new light) but the one thing we never find out is just why they are doing it. Given that Daleks always love to explain why they are plotting, the change in tack left the plot feeling directionless and with no urgency whatsoever. The Doctor usually fights the Daleks to stop something really bad happening; in this case it was more about him fighting them because they are Daleks and that didn’t feel right to me. If I’ve missed something please let me know.

Luckily, the rest of the plot is driven by the Daleks doing what they do best (Exterminate!) and this means confrontation and escape along with bits of landscape, and people, being blown up. That in itself makes for some exciting moments that speed the plot along nicely. The ‘haunted house’ side plot doesn’t work nearly as well though as the Dalek presence is revealed far too early for any spooky stuff to actually happen.
Starting the story at the end though... I liked that as it really forces it home that the Doctor travels through time (if you didn’t know already…) His adventures don’t have to start at the beginning while the ending can be years later but feel as if only seconds have passed in the meantime.
The Doctor himself comes across well on the page with just enough quirks to satisfy first time readers, looking for a memorable lead, as well as fans who want something the same as Matt Smith’s portrayal on TV.

I’m really half and half on Mike Collins’ artwork which can come across as rushed at times (almost scribbled) which works in terms of showing how urgent the situation is but also just ends up looking, well… rushed really. Hidden here and there in the plot though are some lovely detailed moments like the ‘First World War Daleks’ and the nightmare of the trenches. It’s worth really having a look at each page for moments like these.

‘The Dalek Project’ has a bit of a hollow feel to it then but is a fun read while it lasts. I’d say that if you’re prepared to just go with the flow here then you’ll get a lot out of this book but I don’t think it stands up to more scrutiny than that.

Seven and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

big_cheddars said...

I watched saturday's episode of doctor who yesterday, and yes it WAS good, but the writer was a little amatuer. Some of the dialogue felt strained, and whilst there were great actors and characters to carry it through, I hope no other episodes are written by the same guy. I mean I'm all for giving the dude a good chance, but 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' wasn't quite what it could be.

Just a short, random review I needed to get off my chest :p