No other race of beings have caused the Doctor as much pain as the Daleks. If they're not torturing him physically and emotionally, they're spreading their horror and destruction throughout the whole of creation, utterly relentless and unforgiving in their pursuit of total domination. No matter how many times they're defeated, they always return and survive to plague the Time Lord, his loved ones and the universe forever and ever. He lost his people and home world of Gallifrey to them in the Time War, he lost both his soul mate Rose Tyler and his best mate/big sister Donna Noble fighting them...
They are unquestionably his greatest enemies. Because as the Doctor himself has said, "They survive. They ALWAYS survive, while I lose everything."
In the 2009 series of Doctor Who novels, we have Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale. Taking place after the tragic Journey's End, this is set in the twilight year of the Tenth Doctor. For the first time in a long time, he is truly alone with no companion, friends or family to comfort him. With Davros, Caan and the Dalek race presently presumed completely destroyed, the Doctor finds himself trapped in a moment of history before the Time War. The Dalek Empire is rapidly growing in power, locked in fierce war with the human race. Before long, the Doctor finds himself caught-up in the conflict with a pack of Dalek bounty hunters...and a terrifying, insidious scheme that threatens to unravel everything the Doctor ever knew.
Hands down, Prisoner of the Daleks is the greatest Doctor Who novel I have ever read. There have been a lot of cracking tales in this series of hardbacks but Baxendale has delivered here in a way no other author has, and it's not just because the Daleks are here to whet fans' appetites. Baxendale has written a gripping and major story, complete with a total and faithful understanding of everything the word 'Dalek' means.
Aside from being action-filled, the novel is complete with plenty of tension, horrors and terrific scares. It's certainly one of the darkest and more violent Who novels that's been written and like any good Dalek story, there's tremendous pain, sacrifice and heartfelt losses for the Doctor and all involved as they try to overcome the raging, virtually invincible Dalek machine.
In terms of writing style, Trevor Baxendale is a real expert. His narrative and pacing are perfect. The plot and characters develop naturally and comfortably, gradually unravelling to reveal so many wonderful layers to everything present. It's a magnificent adventure that spans across the universe with the circumstances revealing all to be what they truly are. The journey is made all the more satisfying, thanks to Baxendale's brilliant vocabulary and dialogue, touching upon so much on morals and humanity, and some terrific, subtle references/nods to major notable events in Dalek history, like `Dalek', `The Dalek Invasion of Earth', `Genesis of the Daleks', `The Chase' and `Remembrance of the Daleks' (to name only a few).
The whole spirit of both the Doctor and the Daleks has been captured perfectly by the writer. Naturally, the Tenth Doctor is the heart and soul of the story and you can really feel for him here. Feeling so alone and longing for someone like Martha or Donna, knowing that his actions here before the Time War could jeopardize the future, his helplessness at times in face of the Daleks and his reluctant human allies, and his morals and ideals being sorely tested. Yet somehow managing to maintain his excellent humour and optimism, as well as being the courageous genius throughout who refuses to cave in.
The Daleks are once again shown to be the ultimate antagonists with their cold ruthlessness, their immense power and lethal ability, their dangerous cunning and intellect, and the enormous fascination they radiate. One can wonder how they could have been used so well for this story, but Baxendale has done just that. The plot is typical Dalek desire to conquer time and space, full of dark, credible machinations and high stakes. Even though the future is known, it doesn't alter the high stakes here in any way. As such, it makes the plot truly believable and more intense.
The Daleks' callous disregard for all non-Dalek life still makes them all the more despicable and effective villains. The reader will once again wonder how one survive, let alone stand against them. Baxendale also presents wonderful insights into more Dalek philosophy and individuality through Dalek X, the primary antagonist of the story that matches the same notoriety of the Dalek Emperor, the Supreme Dalek and the Cult of Skaro.
And finally, the supporting cast. The author has once again succeeded here, making each one of the Dalek bounty hunters someone to really care about. Jon Bowman, Koral, Cuttin' Edge, Scrum and Stella all have wonderful distinctive depth and identity to call their own. Each have their own chemistry and relationship with each other, the Doctor and the Daleks, making for some absolutely excellent interaction all-round. There are many heartbreaks as the story unfolds, which again speaks highly of Baxendale's ability to rattle the reader to the very core.
I can't fault this novel. I really can't. Doctor Who: Prisoner of the Daleks is absolutely essential for all fans. What makes the read even more amazing is that it makes one wonder what a televised version of this brilliant story would be like. I'd definitely be up for it. If you can only get ONE Doctor Who novel, it would have to be this one without any hesitation.