‘Doctor Who’: ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ (50th Anniversary Edition) book review

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As well as re-matching the Doctor against his most famous adversaries, ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ opened Doctor Who’s 25th season and acts as a sequel to the first story. Ben Aaronovitch’s novel, drawn from his own script, sees the Time Lord return to Shoreditch in 1963 with action taking place at both the Totter’s Lane scrapyard and the Coal Hill School. He prefigures this connection with a forward guest starring the First Doctor and Susan.

Working from script editor Andrew Cartmel’s desire to restore both a sense of mystery and darker shades to the central character, often referred to in fan circles as The Cartmel Masterplan, the Doctor becomes a game player. In this instance, he has lured the Daleks to 1963 with an ancient Gallifreyan artefact, but is caught out when two factions take the bait.

Providing the Seventh Doctor and Ace with a gang of military and scientific friends, Aaronovitch creates memorable characters including with Group Captain ‘Chunky’ Gilmore and Professor Rachel Jensen. In prose, he expands upon their history teasing a romantic wartime liaison between the two.

Ace’s hatred of racism is fleshed out nicely, throwing links to ‘Ghostlight’, as is her proto-relationship with Mike making his betrayal cut much deeper. The duplicitous sergeant’s connections to Ratcliffe and the Association are explored too, with the latter benefiting from links to the battle of Cable Street and Oswald Mosley Blackshirts.

Aaronovitch manages to give the proceedings a level of importance by prefacing some chapters with extracts from historical works, suggesting that Gilmore’s Intrusion Countermeasures Group would become the template for UNIT. The book, like the television story, is rife with series references that are fun to pick up on.

We enter the mind of the Daleks, particularly in combat, where we see their strategy; battles become markedly larger in scale when unconstrained by the television budget. It is not only the Dalek that receive such attention, as even the ill-fated army privates are given identities and lives.

Other treats include brief cameos from Gallifreyan Antiquity, featuring Rassilon, Omega and an unnamed other. When getting the Hand of Omega device operational for the first time we see Omega apparently lose his life and so this story manages to becomes a lead in to the events of ‘The Three Doctors’ too!

Sometimes the themes in a Doctor Who story can be slightly obscure, present for those who wish to look for them. On other occasions, the theme is overt; the warring Daleks act as a mirror for our own fears of the other.

‘Remembrance’ is a solid tale which was a highlight of the McCoy era and this novelisation does it justice, heightening its drama superbly.

Published on Thursday 7 March 2013 by BBC Books.

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