“Resurrection of the Daleks” has a history of delays. Initially commissioned to celebrate Doctor Who‘s twentieth anniversary, the serial was delayed until season twenty-one. Then the Target adaptation of the serial was long-delayed over rights issues.
Finally after thirty-plus years, “Resurrection of the Daleks” has finally hit shelves. And now, the biggest question facing us is, was it worth the wait?
Yes and no.
If you’re a completist, finally hoping to fill in a gap in your Target book collection, you’re one step closer to having the full set. But if you were hoping for a novelization worthy of a thirty-plus year wait, odds are you’re going to be a bit disappointed.
In an interview, Saward said that he had a difficult time dusting off his Target novel writing skills for this one — and it shows. The serial already boasts the highest body count of any classic Doctor Who story and that fact is only underlined. On-screen, many of the characters marching off to be exterminated at the hands of various factions were nameless victims. Here, Saward is able to give them names and a bit of backstory, making the story even more grim as you realize just how high the body count really is.
It’s not helped by Douglas-Adams-like digressions that undermine the story’s dramatic tension and don’t really serve a purpose. Listening to the audio release of “Resurrection,” I was struck in particular by one passage that details the interior of the TARDIS room-by-room, up to and including details on which three movies the Doctor keeps on rotation in the TARDIS media room. All this takes place while the Doctor and Stein are traveling up the time corridor to face the Daleks. It makes the novel feel a bit disjointed at times and like Saward is padding things out a bit to up the page count.
“Resurrection” is a story that’s got an excess of plot, including no less than a Dalek plot to take over Gallifrey, using Davros to cure a Movellan-created virus that nearly wiped them out, and (maybe) a plot to infiltrate and conquer the governments of Earth. With the novelization, I had hoped Saward might give some depth to these plots or at least try to make them all make a bit more sense. Alas, that isn’t the case with Saward instead translating what we saw on screen to the page without taking the opportunity to expand things a bit. It wouldn’t be quite as glaring if we hadn’t had a couple of novels from the fourth Doctor era that got a higher page count, expanding the stories and giving us something more than just transcribing the story to the printed page with few embellishments.
That isn’t to say Saward doesn’t try. He includes some Easter eggs in there for classic fans (though his reliance on name-dropping the Terraleptils wears thin after a while) and, of course, he includes details on Adric’s death and the Doctor’s guilt over that as well (though to be honest, that was done better in his adaptation of “The Twin Dilemma.”)
After thirty years of waiting, “Resurrection of the Daleks” could and should have been better than this.