THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "LONGEST DAY"
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN APRIL
England in the late
22nd century is
from the devastation
that followed the
Daleks' invasion. The
Doctor's very first
- his granddaughter,
Susan - is where he
left her, helping to
rebuild Earth for the
survivors. But danger
IS STILL around...
While searching for
his lost companion,
Sam, the Doctor finds
himself in Domain
London. But it seems
that Susan is now
missing too, and his
efforts to find her
lead to confrontation
with the ambitious
Lord Haldoran, who
is poised to take
control of southern
England through all-
out war. With the
help of a sinister
plans are already
Power cables have
been fed down a mine
shaft, reactivating a
mysterious old device
of hideous power.
But has the Dalek
presence on Earth
really been wiped
out? Or are there
still traps set for
his cost once again
that when dealing
with the evil of the
Daleks, nothing can be
taken at face value...
War of the Daleks was a book slated by many yet, despite of the glut of fundam-
entally fatal flaws that plagued half the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Legacy of the Daleks,
on the other hand, is the inverse in every respect. It is a competent enough novel that mildly entertains in a conventional sort of way, yet I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with it as I plodded through its 245 pages.
Perhaps my dissatisfaction with this book stems out of my prevailing sense that, considering the toys that John Peel had to play with here, Legacy of the Daleks should have been better than this – much, much better. Peel had the Doctor. He had the definitive Master, as played by Roger Delgado. He had the Daleks. He even had Susan. This had the potential to be one hell of a novel; something truly special. But it wasn’t.
My first major grievance is that Legacy of the Daleks isn’t really about the Daleks. They dominate both the title and the cover illustration, yet their involvement in the story is limited
to a few pithy appearances in the second half of the book, none of which are particularly remarkable. Now to be honest this dumbfounded me. Even War of the Daleks’ most flagrant detractors would probably concede that if nothing else, Peel knows how to write for Daleks. His novelisations of the ‘lost’ Dalek serials are absolutely exceptional pieces of work, and the level of detail to be found in those books (as well as in War of the Daleks) is pretty much unparalleled to this day. However, the only real weight that the Daleks have in this novel is borne out of the fear instilled in the humans as a result of the Dalek occupation of Earth – something that Peel can hardly take credit for.
Peel handles the Master slightly better, but only slightly. Although the Master that we read about here looks like the Roger Delgado version, he acts a lot more like Anthony Ainley’s portrayal. What’s more, the ‘big reveal’ is excruciating. Having saddled the Master with a transparent alias, Peel waits until over half way through his story to unveil him. On television this may be forgivable, but in print it is unbearable. The worst of it though is that the Master doesn’t really do anything until after his identity is revealed; he’s admittedly just killing time, meddling in local politics and stirring up trouble for the sheer hell of it.
More positively, in principle I have to admit that Peel was onto something of a winner with
his idea to use the Delgado Master here. I’ve always longed to see the Doctor encounter
his friends and foes out of sequence, and although a few novels have had the Doctor and the Brigadier tripping over each other in the most a-linear of ways, to have the Doctor encounter a fellow time traveller in the wrong order is much more interesting – and entirely against all the laws of time too, it seems.
Further, I’ve always wondered why (within the story, I should stress) the Master disappeared off the scene after Frontier in Space, as well as how he became the emaciated wreck that we would meet again in The Deadly Assassin. If nothing else, Legacy of the Daleks at least sets the record straight on this front, and in a rather surprising and innovative way too. Had Peel not pushed things that little bit too far by annexing a dreadful, prosaic epilogue featuring Chancellor Goth to the novel then this thread of the story might well have redeemed Legacy of the Daleks entirely.
One would think that the presence
of Master and the Daleks would
quite easily outshine the Doctor’s
misbegotten granddaughter, but
oddly enough the most interesting
aspect of this book by far is how
Peel deals with Susan’s plight. By
the time of this novel it has been
decades since the Doctor left
Susan behind on 22nd century
Earth to wed David Campbell, but
thanks to her Gallifreyan physiognomy she still looks eighteen years old. Her appearance has been causing marital strife for her as David is middle-aged, balding and fat, and worse still may not have all that much distance left to run. Susan could live for millennia but she’s having to watch the man she loves grow old and die. Now whilst Peel’s story does border
on the preposterous at times – having Susan wear a grey wig and a fat suit to look older, for one thing – for the most part it is really quite moving. It also answers a few questions about the Gallifreyans too, most notably that they do still have sex despite being a barren race.
Unfortunately though, Susan and the Doctor only meet in a fleeting moment of danger; something of an anti-climax for a novel that many thought would see their long-awaited reunion. Instead, the mantle of makeshift companion falls to Donna, an old-school knight
with a long history of being raped and tortured by her ex-husband, Lord Haldoran, and his cronies. Lovely.
On the whole Legacy of the Daleks is little more than slightly grown up Target. I expected a lot from it and as a result I was very let down, but perhaps if you go into this one with relatively low expectations then you might actually get something out of it.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
An Earthly Child was clearly intended to stand apart from the earlier novel Legacy of the Daleks, and although there are one or two similarities between the two post-occupation worlds painted by Marc Platt and John Peel, these are few and far between.
However, as in An Earthly Child Susan is widowed and raising a son alone, then - for her - the later release could feasibly be set after the events of Legacy of the Daleks, but in order to swallow this you still need to make one or two massive leaps…
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