Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks are two parts of a trilogy in which nobody can really decide what the third part is. It might be Remembrance of the Daleks, which continues a lot of the themes from these two stories, but it’s not written by the same author. Or it might be Attack of the Cybermen, which directly follows the character of Lytton from Resurrection, but isn’t a Dalek story and, well, it’s a bit crap. The truth is that the third part of the Resurrection/Revelation story is the Dalek story that Eric Saward never got the chance to write because he had a big bust-up with Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner and walked away from the show. It’s a pity because Resurrection and Revelation really feel like two parts of a trilogy, but it’s a trilogy the third part of which will always remain a mystery. A bit like The Tripods.
Nevertheless, after many years in novelisation limbo, Eric Saward finally decided to adapt his two 80s Dalek stories as novels and Resurrection of the Daleks was released back in August (you can find a review here). But can his adaptation of Revelation of the Daleks live up to its predecessor? Of course it can; they were written around the same time so there’s no discernible change in quality, and Revelation is widely considered to be the best story of Colin Baker’s brief run as the Doctor, so it would take a lot to muck it up. This is a story that many criticise for being overtly violent and not in the tone of Doctor Who, but all I can say is that at the time it was broadcast, this felt a lot more like the Doctor Who that I was used to than what was to follow in The Trial of a Time Lord.
For those who don’t know the story, Revelation of the Daleks was the climactic story in the 22nd season of Doctor Who and followed the Sixth Doctor and Peri to the funeral planet Necros to pay their last respects to Professor Arthur Stengos, an old friend of the time lord. However, things are not as they seem on the planet Necros, as Davros, the creator of the Daleks, has taken over the organisation of Tranquil Repose, reinventing himself as ‘The Great Healer’, whilst using company resources and available genetic material to develop a new generation of Daleks. A business associate of Davros’, Madame Kara, is secretly planning to have him killed by professional assassin Orcini (a Knight of the Grand Order of Oberon) and his scruffy squire Bostock, whilst simultaneously taking out the President of the Galaxy, her to attend the funeral… sorry, perpetual instatement of his wife, opening up a power vacuum that she intends to fill.
Revelation of the Daleks is full of colourful characters and they all spring to life in Saward’s novelisation. You’ve got the chief embalmer Jobel, portly and bewigged, who uses his position and influence to pick up women, and Tasambeker, his frumpy assistant who is besotted by Jobel and whom he treats like garbage. Then you’ve got Takis and Lilt, employees of Tranquil Repose; here represented much more as the Laurel and Hardy style characters that they were originally intended as in Saward’s script than the way they were on TV. There are also Natasha and Grigory, the daughter of Arthur Stengos and her drunken friend, who are determined to find out what happened to her father’s body – a truth which is more horrific than she could possibly imagine.
The DJ, played on TV by actor and comedian Alexei Sayle, was by far the most extraordinary character in the original serial and he’s still the character that Saward lavishes the most attention on in this version. Given the real name of Derek Johnson (DJ, geddit?), Saward adopts elements of Sayle’s personality and grafts them onto the character. Alexei Sayle is from Liverpool, so when not adopting the character of an American disc jockey ‘for professional duties’, he is described as being a Liverpudlian. The character is quite beautifully fleshed out here and his eccentricity is quite believably attributed to being a symptom of crushing boredom. Hey, how would you like to sit in a recording studio all day playing records for the dead and near-dead? His final demise, which is a bit arbitrary on TV, is given extra flair and added comedy befitting of the character.
As with Resurrection, Eric Saward sticks quite closely to his script and writes a brisk, fast-paced adaptation; but this is no ‘he said’, ‘she said’ cash-in, there’s genuine love for the original material and you can tell that he wants to tell the same story on 2019 that he told in 1985. The one point where it strays noticeably from the televised version is near the end where the Doctor and a new character called Alex sabotage the workings of Davros’ Dalek farm to have it flooded. I’m not sure if this was a character and a story element that were dropped from the original script, or if it was some deficiency in the story that Saward felt the need to correct, but either way it doesn’t detract from the story. Although it is a little odd to introduce a new character so late in the story.
Revelation of the Daleks is a solid, undemanding read, very much in the style of the old Target books and, although this imprint comes in a very nice mourning-blue hardback with a marble effect dust jacket, both this and Resurrection of the Daleks will shortly be being re-released as part of the BBC’s new iteration of Target Books. It’ll fit in there very nicely, and very aptly, as it marks the point at which all off the stories from the ‘classic’ era of Doctor Who have been novelised. I hope that the positive reaction of fans and in the media toward Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks encourages Eric Saward to try his hand at writing something new for the Doctor Who range, as that’s something I’d really like to read. Then, perhaps, we’ll get a definitive third part of that trilogy after all!
‘Revelation of the Daleks’ by Eric Saward is published in hardback by BBC Books (2019)