The 1977 Dalek Annual
|SBN||7235 0384 2|
|Starring Joel Shaw, Reb Shavron, Mark Seven and the Daleks|
A Review by Finn Clark 25/5/04
Yup, it's a Terry Nation book all right... it rips off ,a href=pland.htm>Planet of the Daleks like there's no tomorrow and the first character we meet is called Cal Tarrant.
1977's Dalek annual is in the mould of its predecessor. It's set in the same bleak universe, where mere survival against the Daleks counts as a victory. Its stories even follow the same pattern: (1) our heroes from the ADF being sent on what's practically a suicide mission, (2) a story o' doom which reveals a terrible Dalek secret that means the galaxy is screwed, and (3) a dumb "kiddie interest" tale in which two young boys fight time-travelling Daleks. The biggest difference is that this year's comic strips are TV21 reprints instead of original stories drawn by Edgar Hodges.
As with that year's Dr Who annual, this 1977 Dalek annual is 80 pages long instead of the usual 64 - but it doesn't feel that way. What with endless filler articles and 22 pages of TV21 reprints, it's a quicker read than last year. I'm a huge fan of David Whitaker's Dalek strips, but let's face it: we've seen 'em before. The precise stories are The Penta Ray Factor (TV21 25-32), The Menace of the Monstrons (TV21 40-46) and The Archives of Phryne (TV21 52-58). The first and last of those are retitled as The Envoys of Evil and The Quest respectively, though in fairness all such names are arbitrary after-the-fact designations. The first two are in colour but the third is only black and white.
In the text stories, Terry Nation works hard on his doom-laden atmosphere. The book opens with Cal Tarrant, galactic President, telling the United Planets' Parliament that since its formation last year the ADF has driven the Daleks into retreat. "We are winning!!!" Yeah, right. Fat chance. Of course it's a false hope, deliberately put there so that Terry Nation can demolish it piece by piece. Firstly Joel Shaw reflects on how the President isn't telling the full story. Next we learn that the Daleks have annihilated Emmeron, the ADF's strongest and best defended base, and that Earth is defenceless against their mystery weapon. Finally our heroes, Joel Shaw and Reb Shavron, are sent to Skaro in one-way 'M' capsules. (They eventually get rescued, but the bloke on p17 wasn't so lucky.) As in Planet of the Daleks, they're nearly cooked alive but sail up a chimney on an improvised parachute.
Report from an Unknown Planet is told by a doomed one-off character whose last words are a dying scream. Apparently the galaxy is about to be overwhelmed by a newly awoken army of ten thousand Daleks... again, as in Planet of the Daleks.
We get more Fantastic Skaro Facts, just like those sixties books! This time it's a geographical survey of Skaro's Dark Side, with the Swamp Lands, the Land of the Mutants, the Ocean of Death, the Land of the Lost, Serpent Island, the Crystal Continent and more. The Ocean of Death (also known as the Sea of Death) has an acidity level that destroys human tissue in seconds and contains sea monsters with hides so thick that they're invulnerable to all weapons. Scarily the sixties books also mentioned a Sea of Acid... and THIS ISN'T IT. (The Ocean of Death and the Sea of Acid appear separately on The Dalek Outer Space Book's Strata of Skaro.)
[As an aside, how can Skaro can have a Dark Side when it has two suns? However that sixties factoid seems to have been forgotten; I certainly can't remember any supporting evidence for it from the TV series.]
Skaro's icecanoes get mentioned again too. Yup, again as in Planet of the Daleks. Strictly speaking this is merely good continuity with The 1966 Dalek Outer Space Book, but that doesn't stop this annual from feeling like a "Planet of the Daleks Greatest Hits". I have a theory about this. Day of the Daleks was the Daleks' big resurrection after Terry Nation had withdrawn the rights post-Evil, but for their creator Planet was far more significant. Day was scripted by Louis Marks, but Planet was Terry's first Who work since The Daleks' Master Plan nearly a decade previously - and even that was co-written with Dennis Spooner. Should we be surprised that Planet is practically a checklist of Nation trademarks?
I guess I should mention The Fugitive in this 1977 annual. It's more successful than last year's Timechase, but not by much. The bleak universe of these seventies Dalek annuals isn't really suited to stories about two plucky boys getting home in time for tea. I can see why it's here, given the book's intended audience, but it doesn't really work.
But despite that story, this book is impressive. It's interesting to note that these excellent Dalek annuals cover the exact period when the Dr Who annuals became rubbish under Tom Baker. The inside front cover even has surrealist interpretations of various monsters: Omega, a Zygon, a Zarbi, a Daemon, a dinosaur, a Silurian, something I can't identify and something else that's either an Ogron or a Draconian...