Beautiful Books 5

.or, ‘You can (sometimes!) judge a book by its cover’

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With a cover by Chris Achilleos, this 1973 edition of David Whittaker’s ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ is a reprint of Whittaker’s story which was published on the back of the first wave in Doctor Who mania in 1964. It was the very first novelisation of a Doctor Who story (almost all of the Doctor Who stories from the original run, which ended in 1989 would be novelised) but this was the first and probably the best. It also boasts possibly the best, most ‘Doctor Who-ey’ cover of them all.

Imagine, you are 8 years old and mad on Doctor Who. Tom Baker is the current Doctor and you can remember Jon Pertwee being in the title role. You have heard about the earlier Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton) but have seen nothing of their stories because Doctor Who was rarely repeated and when it happened it was usually recent stories which you could remember. Until the advent of ‘Doctor Who Weekly’ (later to become ‘The Doctor Who Magazine) in 1979, there weren’t even any stills from stories to paw over. In fact the only regular fix of old Doctor Who were occasional showings of the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who films from 1965 and 1966. Garish and occasionally silly, these were terrific as a child (and still are) and provided food for the imagination.

What you did have, though, are these novelisations each and everyone with a colourful rendition of the adventure within…and to your mind there is absolutely nothing to dispel your knowledge that the television story is every bit a great as they are.

And just look at that cover: those strong, muscular Daleks in garish alien colours, firing scorching flames which bleed into a universe which provides blood and guts of the mysterious, stern Doctor. This image is the perfect Doctor Who adventure because those are always the ones which you had when you were eight years old with an imagination which knew no bounds.

This novelisation  is a strange one in that it completely ignores the first television adventure of the Doctor and his companions. In doing so Whittaker makes Ian Chesterton (one of the Doctor’s first companions – in the TV show he and fellow companions are teachers of the Doctor’s ‘grand daughter, Susan) the narrator of the story and has him bumping into the rest of his travelling companions on a foggy night in Barnes Common…

‘I stopped the car at last and let the fog close in around me. I knew I was somewhere on Barnes Commons and I had a suspicious idea it was the most deserted part as well. A warm fire and the supper my landlady would have waiting for me seemed as far away as New Zealand. I wondered how long it would take me to walk home to \Paddington and the possible answer didn’t do anything to cheer me up. A fitting end to an impossible day, I thought savagely.’

And later when the band of strangers are whisked away to the planet Skaro, we get our first introduction to the Daleks themselves…

‘Susan stopped and looked round her wildly and then stared at me, her eyes distended in a dreadful sort of horror. She looked past me and I knew that there was something behind me somewhere. I was just about to turn and look when the Doctor collapsed in my arms. I laid him down on the floor in a sitting position and looked at Susan, a question forming on my lips.

The answer came through the front entrance slowly. A nightmare answer that had blood draining away from my face and the skin stretching around my eyes…’

What more do you need – go out and read it now!

Above is a facsimile of the first edition which, apart from the strangely spooky Doctor Who logo is deadly dull. The Armada edition from 1965 boasts a far better cover with a rather heroic and swashbuckling Doctor and a glorious TARDIS…but no Daleks, which I suspect copyright costs prohibited them from using.

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