Since the relaunch of the BBC’s classic science fiction series, Doctor Who, BBC Books has published a series of novels involving the Doctor’s ninth and tenth incarnations. These books also include the Doctor’s traveling companions and supporting characters from the new series, as well as some recurring villains from the show in addition to some original baddies. In “Prisoner of the Daleks,” author Trevor Baxendale brings the Doctor’s current regeneration (as played on television by actor David Tennant) face to face with his oldest enemies at a time when they are at the height of their reign of terror.
In the new DW program, the writers and producers have established that the Doctor’s people, the Time Lords, fought the Daleks at some point during the gap between the original and new series. This conflict, known as the “Time War,” resulted in the near total destruction of both races. The Doctor is (or at least believes himself to be) the last survivor of the Time Lords, and the Daleks are no longer the mighty, all-conquering force they once were. Baxendale manages to bring the Doctor across the time lines of Dalek history and encounters his old foes at the peak of the Dalek Empire.
“Prisoner” is set during the twenty-sixth century, as Earth, now the center of the First Human Empire, is now engaging the Dalek Empire in the Second Dalek War. The story begins on Hurala, where the Doctor is tracking a strange signal he’s picked up on the TARDIS scanners. Hurala is a barren planet which had once been used as a refueling station for commerce and exploration vessels, but has long since been abandoned. While seeking the source of the signal, he unwittingly locks himself in a small room.
The Doctor is discovered hours later by the crew of the Wayfarer, led by Captain Jon Bowman. Bowman’s crew had come to Hurala seeking fuel, but they have also detected the same signal being followed by the Doctor. They discover it’s part of a trap set by the Daleks. After a brief skirmish, Bowman and his shipmates escape in their ship with the Doctor in tow. One lone Dalek manages to board the Wayfarer before takeoff. Bowman’s men are able to subdue the creature, but not before it kills a member of the crew, a young lady named Stella.
Aboard the ship, the Doctor learns that Bowman and his crew are bounty hunters paid by Earth Command to kill Daleks. The Wayfarer crew keep the Dalek cryogenically frozen in the ship’s hold until they remove the mutant creature from the metal casing which houses its life support, transport and weapons systems. Bowman wants to interrogate his prisoner to find out what the Daleks were doing on Hurala. The Doctor strongly disapproves of Bowman’s plan to interrogate, as well as the torture techniques employed by the captain. The mutant dies without talking to Bowman, but does speak briefly to the Doctor in its final moments. From that conversation, the Doctor gains a clue as to the Daleks’ plan, which involves the use of a time rift on the dead planet Archeon, which they intend to utilize to alter history and erase the human race from ever having existed. But things go dreadfully wrong on Archeon, and the Doctor and the Wayfarer crew are taken prisoner by the Daleks.
“Prisoner of the Daleks” is a very well-written book, which captures the feel of the Doctor Who universe, especially with the Tenth Doctor and the Daleks. Trevor Baxendale has crafted a magnificent tale which DW fans will enjoy, as well as some non-fans. “Prisoner” is the first of the New Series novels that I have read, and I am now eager to go back and do some catching up with some other Ninth and Tenth Doctor books.