This is an original Doctor Who novel, first published in 1997, so during the hiatus of the tv series, and the first Dalek novel to be published in that period. The story was written by John Peel, an author of quite a few Doctor Who novels (Target novelisations, and original novels), and the main one to write for the Daleks, apparently because Terry Nation’s agents demanded such a high percentage of an author’s fees for using the Daleks in novels.
War of the Daleks, and a follow-on book Legacy of the Daleks, are full-length Dalek novels which have caused some controversy among fans as they rather extensively rewrite Dalek history as depicted in the tv series, particularly that following on from the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks. This was evidently done to bring the Dalek timeline more into line with the vision of Terry Nation for the Daleks.
However that may be, as a standalone novel, I found it a good read. The story involves the Eighth Doctor travelling with Sam, an original companion for the Eighth Doctor novels, a teenage girl from Earth that the Doctor first meets in in 1997.
The prologue to the book features a group of soldiers fighting what they know is a desperate battle against a force of Daleks. The action then moves to the Tardis, where the Doctor is making some repairs to components, when the Tardis, with the Doctor and Sam on board, is caught up in a salvage ship’s sweep; a ship that has already caught some interesting debris from the remains of an earlier battle, including a pod. But the pod is of interest to others, as well, and the Doctor and Sam soon find themselves caught up in the ongoing struggle between the Daleks and the Thals.
This story does offer a different outcome to the story that we saw on tv, Remembrance of the Daleks, where the Seventh Doctor tricks Davros into destroying Skaro. Here, there is another reason for why the outcome is different to what the Doctor believes it to have been, and it revolves around the infighting between the different Dalek factions. Whether or not a reader, or a Doctor Who fan consider the book canon is an individual choice, and I found the story itself interesting enough to be an entirely enjoyable read, with lots of action, a broad vista, and a large cast of interesting characters.
on 24 January 2003
I have about 20 pages left of this book to read and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I personally think this is a solid Dr Who story which connects many Dalek stories together to show a progression of the Dalek race. As much as I think Davros was a waste after Genesis of the Daleks the book makes his sometimes disjointed appearances make sense as the big picture evolves. The main action may well take place towards the end of the book but how many times did the TV show wait until the final episode to really get started? I have really enjoyed the ride!
There have been times in the latter part of the TV series that the Daleks have seemed nothing but stooges to Davros, but War of the Daleks takes the ideas from Remembrance of the Daleks and runs with them, emphasising the divisions between Dalek ranks - being those loyal to Davros and those loyal to the Dalek Prime, hence the war. It is interesting to see Daleks starting to think for themselves again like in the good old days, and unlike some of the new range of Dr Who novels this story actually stays true to the TV version and doesn't seem like something completely different trying to compete with American sci-fi. If Big Finish make an audio version of War then I'll be the first to buy it.
on 29 August 2001
Ever since 'Destiny of the Daleks' was broadcast in 1979, there have been a whole series of unanswered questions about the Doctor's oldest foes.
In particular, why was Skaro seemingly abandoned by the Daleks ? Subsequent to 'Destiny of the Daleks', it seemed as if the Daleks had definitely lost their 'galactic superpower' status and were instead doomed to a near-eternity of civil war between those Daleks loyal to the memory of the 'true' Emperor Dalek (destroyed in 'Evil of the Daleks') and Davros who ultimately made himself 'Emperor' of a new Dalek race engineered on Necros (Revelation of the Daleks),
'War of the Daleks' resolves these issues in an ingenious fashion. In a fascinating dialogue between the Doctor and the Dalek Prime (the last survivor of the original 'prototype' Daleks build in the Kaled bunker), it emerges that both Davros and the Doctor have been misled by the Dalek leadership through all the events of 'Destiny of the Daleks' through to 'Remembrance of the Daleks'..
There are a number of interesting characters in 'War of the Daleks'; Delani is a Thal officer who has been morally brutalised by the hereditary war with the Daleks; the Doctor himself comes across as a little out of his depth as his dialogue with the Dalek Prime unfolds ; the Dalek Prime is described as having an appearance that resembles the Emperor Dalek featured in the 'TV21' comic strips of the 1960s - more importantly its existence is clear testimony to the Daleks return to being an autonomous species capable of devising its own strategies.
If there is to be a 40th anniversary special, 'War of the Daleks' is a prime candidate to provide its core plot. The novel's scenes are too epic for the BBC, but the plot, if portrayed properly, would restore 'Doctor Who' as a leading science fiction series.
on 5 December 2012
I have seriously mixed feelings about "War of the Daleks". Despite it being clunky, juvenile and containing the most pointless continuity rewrite in the history of science fiction, it's still the only BBC Doctor Who novel (with the exception of "The Infinity Doctors") that I've read more than once. It's a guilty pleasure, like Godzilla movies. Reading it, you know that it's dumb, but you just can't stop. At least, I can't.
Throughout the novel, John Peel does a great job of showing us how good it could have been, as he breaks up the main plot with small vignettes from the greater galaxy as it grapples with the Dalek threat. These are gripping stuff indeed, epic adventures against an implacable and ruthless foe. The opening scene, a vast battle between the Daleks and Thal special forces, is equally gripping and for some reason reminds me of many of the scenes in Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". If the book had continued along those lines, it would have been superb; miltary SF in the Doctor Who universe is something we really haven't seen before, and Peel infuses the battle scenes with great tension and drama, whether they be between the Daleks and lone security agents, custodial robots or Draconian starships. He proves that he certainly has the ability to write this kind of stuff well, which is why the direction he takes with the rest of the novel is so irritating.
In between the battle scenes, Peel manages to create some very interesting characters and then gives them very little to do. The Doctor, supposedly the hero of the story, literally does nothing to affect the plot at all throughout the entire book. Yes, he gets to solve problems, but it is plain that those problems are largely of no consequence and that most of the events of the novel would have occurred in exactly the same way were he present or not. Given that Peel's characterisation of the Doctor is extremely generic, I'm convinced the book would have been far better had it been written as a standalone book without the Doctor in it at all.
The biggest problem with the book occurs when the plot moves to Skaro, the Dalek homeworld. Since the Doctor blew it up in the TV episode "Remembrance of the Daleks", the fact that it still exists drives what is left of the plot. It's at this point that pretty much all the characters switch their brains off and Peel reveals the real reason the book was written in the first place; to undo the destruction of Skaro as seen on TV. Apparently the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, objected to the destruction of the Dalek homeworld, despite okaying it for broadcast (he had script approval and the ability to veto anything he didn't like), and Peel took it upon himself to "undo" that event. To do so, he concocts the most bizarre, convoluted, risky and ultimately pointless conspiracy I've ever come across, rewrites over a decade of Doctor Who history and makes both the Doctor and Davros (the mad scientist who first engineered the Daleks) look like complete idiots. When the book was first published, the sound of Dalek fans all over the world going "huh?" was almost deafening. After waiting years for a new Dalek adventure, to be presented with something so mediocre that showed the skeleton of the classic it could have been was almost too much to take.
And yet I keep re-reading it, almost as if I keep hoping that since the last time it'll have metamorphosed into the book it should have been. It's the literary equivalent of a dumb popcorn movie, complete with spectacular set pieces, implausible plot and dodgy acting. If I can keep my brain stunned into silence for the duration, I enjoy it. It's only when I start asking questions that I realise how bad this thing is. Still, if you - like me - love the Daleks and have been starved of new adventures for years, you could do worse than pick this up. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
on 16 May 2014
Not exactly the best Dalek story, but you can do alot worse. The only major issues I had in this story was Peel re-writing Remembrance of the Daleks' ending.
on 21 November 2004
John Peel's War of the Daleks is undeniably a fascinating and entertaining read, but it is far from easy going, and the finer complexities of the plot will no doubt be lost on those not totally familiar with established Dalek history.
Peel's characterisation is, I feel, somewhat hit and miss - Ayaka is possibly one of the finest Doctor Who characters ever written, constantly torn between her strong morality and her unwavering sense of duty to the Thal cause. The other Thals are also well written, as is Chayn. Perhaps the most interesting characterisation however is that of the Doctor, as we discover just how little he understands what has been happening in the Dalek empire over the last several centuries, and how he has been manipulated by the Dalek Prime. Also, his guilt concerning the actions of Delani and the Thals - it was, after all the Doctor who first convinced the Thals to abandon their pacifist ways and fight against the Daleks - is well-realised and believable. The character of Sam is also fairly well developed, as she realises just how much she cares for the Doctor, and how out of her depth she is when faced with the menace of the Daleks.
The Daleks themselves, however, while presented fairly well as a civilisation (perhaps not the appropriate term for the Daleks!), are often poorly written, and I found it difficult to imagine a Dalek saying much of the dialogue in the later chapters. Davros too, who seems to have been modelled on Terry Molloy's somewhat misguided version of the character, is disappointing. While he is occasionally given some splendid dialogue, he is on the whole presented as a ranting imbecile, and a long way from the quiet, cold, calculating genius of Michael Wisher's original performance in Genesis of the Daleks.
The actual plot is, as I mentioned, incredibly complex, and shatters everything that you thought you knew about the Daleks, casting new light on the events of every Dalek story from Destiny of the Daleks onwards. This may be too much for the casual reader to digest, but provided you grasp the details of the Dalek Prime's master plan and the events leading up to the war prophesised in the title, the rest of the book is highly entertaining, and not at all slow-moving, as has been suggested by other readers.
By far the most disappointing aspect of the book for me, which prevents it from receiving a five-star rating, was the ending, which after the epic events of the final few chapters, seemed like rather an anticlimax, as the Doctor realises that the Dalek Prime has manipulated him once again and the Thals (and indeed the entire galaxy) are in grave danger - all well and good, but following this realisation, the Doctor devises and executes an effective solution far too easily, and the whole final chapter seems rushed and rather unsatisfying.
Gripes aside, War of the Daleks is a highly entertaining read, and re-establishes the Daleks as a dangerous, intelligent enemy in their own right, as opposed to simply being Davros's 'heavies', as they were often portrayed in the later TV stories. While casual readers would do better to investigate Peel's subsequent Dalek story (Legacy of the Daleks), War of the Daleks is, on the whole, a highly satisfying read for the die-hard Doctor Who fan.
on 18 August 2004
This was one of the first original Doctor Who books that I bought. I thought that it was pure fun but also had some very serious elements that kept the pace fresh. It did tend to get a bit slow at certain points and the explantion for the return of Skaro contradicts the Seventh Doctor's plotting and planning but minor gripes aside I would recommend this as one to spend a bit of extra money on. Davros' character is realistic here and it gives the plot a greater forward drive then you would get from his character in Destiny of the Daleks. It's a pity that after the first ten BBC Who books that were fun like this, they started to go downhill.
on 30 December 1998
Being the first original Dalek story since the TV series ended, John Peel's "War of the Daleks" has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately the result is a rather complex story which does not seem to present the Daleks terribly well. The characterisations of the Doctor and his companions is carried out rather well but the book attempts to explain various events in Dalek history as seen on TV. The result is the Doctor explaining everything at length on several occasions and the 'War' when it comes seems somewhat left out. Good but not a Dalek classic.
on 22 September 2001
A new Dalek adventure should have been great, but there's very little to get excited about here. It's slow, slow, slow all the way. Halfway through and Sam and the Doctor are still stuck on a spacecraft doing nothing slowly and the Daleks hardly get to do any exterminating or evil doing. The Thals were boring too. The big twist in the plot ends up so confusing and far-fetched that it just can't be taken seriously. Why not have the Daleks simply reclaim a new planet? After all, it worked ok for the Cybermen. Overall a very tedious read, with little to recommend it.
on 11 January 2008
This book was a great read. The Doctor and Davros are well written by John Peel who seems to be really enjoying writing for them. It is so easy to picture davros screaming in anger and the description of the war between the Daleks and the Thals is fantastic. The only slight criticism of this book was that Davros is pretty firmly killed off at the end. However all in all this book comes highly recommended