Friday, November 8, 2013

7th Doctor Book Review - Ben Aaronovitch's Remembrance of the Daleks

Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch
Published by: BBC Books
Publication Date: 1990
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

The Doctor and Ace have returned to the beginning, Coal Hill School, London, 1963. The Doctor in his 1st incarnation left behind The Hand of Omega, the device that supposedly gave the Time Lords their control of time. But The Doctor doesn't just leave behind anything that could be dangerous in enemy hands... and the Daleks sure think they could do some damage with this device. In fact two waring factions of Daleks have descended on this small area of London and will fight to the death for this device that could make them masters of time. So what is The Doctor's plan? Let them have it... or at least make sure that the Dalek faction he wants gets it. Therefore the question needs to be asked, what is The Doctor planning and what will happen to the Daleks when they do get The Hand of Omega?

This book is unique in that instead of being an original story it is an adaptation of the episode that launched the shows 25th anniversary. While there might be readers out there that cast a gimlet eye on fleshing out a television episode or movie as a novel I will never be one of them. In fact, I would not be the reader I am today if not for these adaptations. Back in the mists of time... aka the eighties... I was not a big reader, I liked tv, movies, and video games. Then one day I picked up the novelization of the movie Willow (no judging, Willow is freakin' awesome and I will fight anyone who says differently.) I remember one Sunday sitting in my grandparents double wide armchair in the living room, far enough away from the tv so that I could concentrate, and just falling into the book. It was the first time this had happened to me. The movie I knew and loved was fleshed out, expanded, the same, yet different. My love of reading continued from this point, first bridging out into related reading, such as Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, continuing the Star Wars storyline, of which the original trilogy is my most watched films of all time, and then into literature. So why am I saying this? I'm saying this because I do not look down on this book for being what it is, I look down on it for being a bad version of what it is.

Yes, it is a bad adaptation. Now though I'm going to reveal something that will make you question how I can even make this judgement. I've never been the biggest fan of Sylvester McCoy's Doctor, even though he is the only Doctor I have actually met. So... well... here goes... I haven't actually seen the episode "Remembrance of the Daleks." Now you're up in arms saying, you can't judge something if it's based on something you've never seen... well, yes, yes I can. The reason is that this book doesn't work on it's own. A successful novelization has to work on two levels, first it has to work on it's own, then it has to work as a reflection of what it is adapting. If it fails at the first part, the second part is inconsequential. So there. Also, if this book is any reflection of the actual episode, and seeing as they were both written by Ben Aaronovitch, I assume they are, then I never ever want to watch this episode, no matter it's significance, no matter that it delves into The Doctor's past, no matter what, sign me up for a boycott. The book is a jumbled mash of action that maybe made sense on screen, but so didn't on the page that I can't forgive it.

Remembrance of the Daleks just grated on me because it felt like Aaronovitch was trying to use a new medium to jazz up what the show couldn't afford to do. Mainly cool special effects. The special effects were never what Doctor Who was about. The show hung off the acting and the storytelling, not the dubious monsters and sets. So taking a Doctor Who story and just upping the techno babble without adding any true insight just goes against, well, everything Doctor Who. In fairness I think Aaronovitch knew the failings of the book because in his intro he asks to not judge a new writer harshly. Well, I'm sorry that I do have to judge him harshly. He was unable to take a script and flesh it out. The characters are wooden with weird flashbacks to moonlight lovemaking. And that's if you know who the characters even are. He makes no effort to establish place or character and what techno babble he adds is so incomprehensible, the book feels like one giant long rant about Daleks that I found myself reading as fast as I could, when my mind didn't try to wander off to more pleasant thoughts.

Speaking of unpleasant thoughts... Daleks. I'm sick of Daleks, sick sick sick of them. You know why people love the episodes "Blink" or "Silence in the Library?" Because it was something new, something fresh. Not the same old same old again and again. How many times do we have to get ride of the Daleks till they stay dead? Seriously, I want to know so I can wait for that episode to air. Daleks are just stupid. Having them kill each other, even stupider. Yet, this was just one of the many many problems I had. The Doctor being so squeamish about killing one Dalek when, spoiler alert, his plan was to destroy their whole planet and kill them all... well, hypocrite much? I can say that this book has honestly not made me anymore interested in the Sylvester McCoy years... also, it made me realize more and more that if this is the level of storytelling in the final years before the successful reboot it's not a surprise it was cancelled.


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