54 years ago some lucky children found a very exciting annual in their Christmas stockings: The Dalek Book, subtitled “astounding stories of the outer space robot people of television’s ‘Dr. Who'”. It was published by Panther Books Ltd in association with Souvenir Press Ltd, and was written by David Whitaker and Terry Nation, “based on the Dalek Chronicles discovered and translated by Terry Nation”. This pretence of reality is just the kind of thing to spark off a child’s imagination, and their fear that the Daleks might end up trundling along their own street one day. The writers knew their readership well.
How much did this annual set back Santa Claus in 1964? 9 shillings and 6 pence. In decimalised terms that’s 50p. In 1964 I was either living a previous life or didn’t exist at all, so I ended up buying my copy second-hand some time in the 90s in a little bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, that wonderful “town of books” in Wales I used to visit once or twice a year with my father when I was a child. It was the best £35 I ever spent.
The Dalek Book is gorgeously illustrated. Unlike the Dr Who Annuals, which were padded out with lucky dips from the children’s encyclopedia, the “features” are all relevant to the Daleks. There are 7 of them, and 11 stories and strips.
In the first strip, Invasion of the Daleks, we are introduced to the main characters who appear throughout the annual:
- “Jeff Stone, a mineralogist”
- “Andy his brother, an electronics engineer”
- “and Mary, their sister, a biochemist”
The imagination is sparked immediately. Just look at how evocative the opening text is:
From the dark unexplored regions of outer space, a new planet moved into orbit around the sun – what strange form of life had developed on this mystery planet? Earthmen wondered as they turned their telescopes towards this new world — the answer came swiftly and terribly – it was the planet of the Daleks, the machine creatures with superhuman brains. Their mission was to conquer the whole solar system and enslave the earth – –
I know it screams 1960s writing a bit, but isn’t that a fabulous opening for a child to read! We are in Mondas territory before Mondas was even thought of, with the Daleks bringing their whole planet to Earth, but that also picks up on the Daleks’ plans in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, to make a spaceship out of an entire planet. First, though, they decide to conquer Venus, and there we find the gold Emperor with his round head, and Daleks on transolar disks.
Unusually for an annual, the stories all connect together to form something approaching a continuous narrative, as if these are episodes in a television series adapted to fiction and comic strips. Red for Danger picks up where Invasion of the Daleks leaves off, with Andy trying to find his brother and sister, who have been captured by the Daleks. Andy is surprised to see a red Dalek.
“I’d no idea the Daleks went in for fashion,” he muttered to himself.
Give them time. It turns out that Jeff is being kept busy painting the Daleks, to protect them from the damp air on Venus. His task might just give him the means of fighting back, with the application of a little science.
Next up is The Oil Well, a comic strip with Jeff and Andy heading off in search of Mary and finding her working in a slave colony. The Message of Mystery is a departure from the rest of the annual, a photo story using stills from the television episodes The Daleks and using them to construct a new story featuring Susan. This is the only reference to Doctor Who in the entire annual apart from the Daleks themselves.
In a petrified jungle just beyond the outskirts of the city, a visitor landed within hours of the discovery of the mystery message. It was Susan, Dr. Who’s grand-daughter. She had borrowed her grandfather’s time-and-space machine, the “Tardis”, intending to visit Venus. But she had landed on Skaro by mistake. A puzzled and frightened Susan decided to explore the forest.
In another clever example of the annual leading the reader on from one page to the next, Susan uses a code-breaker called a “Dalekode” to solve a mystery message, and the next feature in the annual is the Dalekode itself.
In The Secret of the Mountain the tide is starting to turn against the Daleks on Venus, but they still have Mary, when “suddenly all the Daleks on Venus vanished”. Jeff notices that a mountain peak has got bigger.
“Mountain’s don’t grow, Andy,” murmured Jeff grimly.
“The Daleks!” cried Andy. His brother nodded.
“That’s where they are. They’ve hollowed out the mountain and put a false top on it!”
I supposed if you can fly a planet that’s child’s play. But why are the Daleks playing hide and seek?
Suddenly they witnessed the entire top of the mountain peak begin to raise itself on six enormous stalks. The false top then split away into six different sections and curved away, leaving a gaping hole open to the sky. As all eyes fixed on the opening, they saw the rocket ships of the last Daleks on Venus begin to soar from the mouth of the mountain.
That’s one way to make an exit. The writing constantly fires the imagination like this, conjuring up images in the mind that were simply impossible to achieve on television at the time.
Next up is the comic strip City of the Daleks, with Jeff Stone landing secretly on Skaro to gather intelligence. The art is stunning, with fabulous drawings of the Dalek city on Skaro, but as a story it is unintentionally funny, with some out-of-character information gathered about the Daleks. Apparently they have a museum called the “Dome of Sciences and Dalek Culture”, which has an Earth section. It’s hard to imagine the Daleks as tourists visiting a museum.
In the Earth section is a “hall of fame”, with heads of great Daleks from the past such as “Skaro the Great” (so there’s a bit of information for us: Skaro was named after a Dalek), but then the story goes cheekily von Daniken with us, with an Einstein bust inscribed “his theories were taken from Dalek Cosmology”, and an important note about Shakespeare:
Ancient Earth mystery now solved – the Shakespeare plays and sonnets were written by our Emperor.
A startling revelation or propaganda? You decide! But why would the Daleks care about Earth writers and scientists anyway? That Dalek Emperor certainly has some hidden talents, spending his spare time writing Romeo and Juliet. No wonder some of those tragedies are so bleak. I can definitely believe that a Dalek wrote Titus Andronicus. Perhaps the Dalek Emperor wrote Shakespeare plays in order to demoralise generations of children, forced to study them. An interesting tactic.
Again we are lead on to the next thing in the annual, with everything linking cleverly together. Jeff finds a top-secret document, “Anatomy of a Dalek”, and that is the very next feature in the book. It is quite rightly the most famous page in the annual, in fact the most famous page in any annual. We learn all kinds of new information about the Daleks, but my favourite is how excess energy is released through the eye stick:
Before these valves were evolved, early Daleks literally exploded with rage!
Although it is a wonderful illustration, it doesn’t really fit with what viewers had already seen on television. The Dalek is full of machinery, with a very small mutant (we can’t see it in the illustration) housed inside a small yellow globe. It’s hard to square that with Ian climbing inside an empty Dalek casing in The Daleks.
The Humanoids continues the ongoing narrative, with Jeff escaping back to Earth with the information he has gathered. On his way home he takes a detour to Mars, detecting the presence of Daleks there. He finds some natives of “Alpha Centaura” there, although sadly they are humanoid rather than hexapods with giant eyes.
The Small Defender is a charming little sidestep of a story. The Daleks have decided to start with a small-scale invasion, covering a field in Kent with metal to make a landing strip for larger ships. Suddenly we are in Wind in the Willows territory. The hero of this little story is a mole, who accidentally foils the Dalek plans. It’s all very charming, and told from the perspective of the mole.
Next there are a couple of great features: The Dalek War Machines, which shows us all kinds of exciting Dalek inventions, including their anti-gravitator, dreamwave, thunderizer, anti-solarium, etc, and then the Dalography of Skaro, which is a map of the planet. There are three continents, Davius, Dalazar and um… Darren. The smaller details capture the imagination much better than “Darren”, with:
- The Ocean of Ooze
- The Sea of Rust
- The Sea of Acid
- The Bottomless Sea
- The Serpent Sea
- The Forbidden Island “shrouded in swirling mists, no explorer has ever returned from its shores.”
We are in schlock comic strip territory with The Monsters of Gurnian:
Gurnian! Worst Planet in the Sky! Infested by the Dreaded Horrorkons!
… but the main attraction is not the two-headed dinosaur things, but the Marsh Daleks!
In Break-Through! the Daleks have “scurried back to their home planet Skaro”, and so begins “the Age of Universal Peace, which started at the beginning of the year 2409 AD”, nine years after the Dalek invasion of the Solar System. A space army has been launched from Earth to take the fight to Skaro for one “last battle”.
Then we have a disposable but amusing little feature: The Dalek Dictionary. Much like the museum with its strange claims, a lot of this seems out of character for the Daleks, including Dalek words for polite expressions such as “I understand you but I do not agree with you.” (Clyffil), “Follow me, I am your guide.” (Galkor) and “farewell” (“Zyquivilly”). We also learn that they have a word for “any creature from another planet”: “Wibbials”.
The annual ends with Battle for The Moon, a comic strip featuring one final battle with some Daleks on transolar disks, the “black fleet”.
The value of this annual has increased since I picked mine up in the 90s, but at the time of writing there are some poorer quality examples on ebay for around the price I paid for mine. Put one on your Christmas list. It’s the best annual you will ever add to your collection.
Zyquivilly for now. RP
This is a good one to read on the countdown days to Christmas. Thanks, RP. 🎄
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