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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but so complex..., 21 Nov 2004
This review is from: Doctor Who: War of the Daleks (Paperback)
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.
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