On television, “Dalek” is a masterpiece and possibly the best hour of the revived Doctor Who has yet produced. I’ve loved it since it first enthralled me upon first airing and it’s probably the new Who episode I’ve revisited the most.
So, when news broke that Rob Shearman was adapting the story for the second set of new Who Target novels, I was very excited. And a bit nervous, fearing the novel might not live up to my lofty expectations. Expectations only grew when the four new Target novels were pushed back a year in the early days of the pandemic and lockdown.*
* On a positive note, this gave me a chance to explore some of Shearman’s other writings, including his collection of non-Who short stories. This, as it turns out, was a very good thing.
And so it was, at last, that the four new Target novels hit my download queue and I could finally take a listen to “Dalek.” And I’m happy to report that Shearman has hit out of the park with this one. He’s taken one of the quintessential episodes of Doctor Who and turned it into a quintessential Target adaptation. I’m not sure I could have enjoyed this one more.
Like many of the great Target novels of my youth, Shearman tells the same story in an entirely different way on the printed page. The original episode is a bit action-heavy, which Shearman translates well to the printed page. But beyond that, he uses the printed page to explore the characters more — providing backstory to many of the major and minor characters we meet in the Dalek’s attack on VanStatten’s underground bunker. The backstories fill in a few details and created an investment so that when many of these characters are exterminated (and there is a lot of exterminated going on here), the loss is felt a bit more profoundly.
There’s even a passage in which Shearman examines what it really means to have a Dalek exterminate someone that is truly haunting and memorable.
This is one of the few books that not only lived up to but exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t be happier with it. Listening to the audio, the performance by Nick Briggs is nothing short of spectacular.
This one sits up there with “Day of the Daleks,” “Remembrance of the Daleks,” Black Orchid,” and “The Cave Monsters,” and “The Curse of Fenric” as one of the crown jewels of the Target line.