‘Doctor Who’: ‘The Dalek Project’ graphic novel review

Originally due for publication in September 2009, and set to star the Tenth Doctor, The Dalek Project was held back due to apparent similarities to Series 5’s WWII set Victory of the Daleks.

Three years on and now restyled for Matt Smith’s incarnation, this graphic novel concerning Daleks in the trenches of World War One is finally available.

The story tale begins in 2017 with the discovery of a crashed ship in the fields of France. An archaeology team have begun to assemble that which should have remained firmly buried. Luckily the Doctor, travelling solo, is on hand to ensure the creatures are entombed again.

Despite some entertaining action with a JCB, this is all fundamentally an extended teaser for the meat of the story, as questions provoke the Time Lord to tell the tale of how the ship came to be there, and how the Daleks played a role in the Great War.

Back in 1917, the Daleks are shown operating at their devious and manipulative best. Forced to play the long game their, plan is highly detailed and they demonstrate wonderful ingenuity. Rodent-carried cameras in the trenches and alternate methods of propulsion appended to a damaged saucer make for some impressive imagery as the action shifts between costal Kent and war-torn France.

Author Justin Richards carefully treads the line of suggesting that the Daleks are responsible for triggering the Great War and he is right to, as there is a danger in suggesting that aliens rather than men are responsible for all the great atrocities on this planet. Dalek enthusiasts will be pleased to see a few additional variants introduced, as is traditional in comic form, including an impressive looking Dalek controller and some Aqua-Daleks too. He doesn’t hold back from a stair gag either.

Mike Collins illustration is bold and striking. He conveys both the action sequences and the creeping fear of the Dalek menace well, playing with the form for occasional single and double page images to highlight key moments. The Daleks themselves are rendered in glorious detail both singly and in significant numbers, mainly in their popular chunky gold livery and with not a new paradigm Dalek in sight.

Similarities to Victory of the Daleks are, in fact, fairly superficial, and mainly exist due to the fact that a Dalek is unveiled as a sort of tank to aid the war effort. The storyline is far more ambitious and probably leans towards elements of both The War Games and the Silence than anything else.

The Dalek Project is a cracking read that exploits the graphic novel medium well.

Published on Thursday 6th September 2012 by BBC Books.

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