The 1978 Dalek Annual
|SBN||7235 0421 0|
|Starring Joel Shaw, Reb Shavron, the Daleks and the Mechanoids|
A Review by Finn Clark 28/5/04
The 1976 and 1977 Dalek annuals hit a winning formula, so I'm happy to say that the 1978 annual keeps up the good work. It's more of the same, but for once that's a good thing. Admittedly it only has three text stories, but even the weakest one is pretty good and there's plenty of TV21 reprint material to bulk out the pages.
The Castaway is another riff on Terry Nation's obsession with the theme of survival. Here it's not just survival from the Daleks, since this story's narrator is stranded on the planet Knosson with random volcanoes and acid lakes. I really liked this, which makes something worthwhile from a plot which could have seemed predictable and old hat. In my opinion it's the strongest of this year's stories. Its ending in particular is a genuine surprise.
The Seeds of Destruction is this year's take on the now-traditional "the Daleks can destroy us all and mankind is doomed" chiller. This one springs its horror revelation as a surprise twist at the end instead of turning the entire story into an Inevitable Build-Up of Doom, but it's pretty good.
The third and final story is Assassination Squad, which pleasantly surprised me by not starring two boys on holiday with their Auntie Mary. Instead it brings back the annuals' Anti-Dalek Force regulars: Joel Shaw and Reb Shavron, though not Mark Seven. It's a political thriller which only surprised me by including a baddie who resembles an ADF agent but isn't a Dalek duplicate as in The Chase or Resurrection of the Daleks. For some reason that was an ever-present motif in the sixties Dalek books. This story's other plot twists are visible a mile off, but I still enjoyed it.
This year's TV21 reprints are only 11 pages instead of 22 last year, but they're good'uns. Lumped together as one big story are The Rogue Planet (TV21 59-62) and Impasse (TV21 63-69), in which the Daleks send a killer planet towards the Mechanoids and agent 2K must avert interplanetary war. Like the Quarks, the Mechanoids were fourth-rate TV adversaries who got promoted as heavy hitters in the sixties comic strips, presumably in the hope of catching "the next Daleks". It never happened, needless to say, but the resultant comics were highly entertaining. Besides, Ron Turner's art is fantastic.
There's a three-page article on Davros, including the equivalent of one of those Anatomy of a Dalek diagrams. Apparently Davros's wire headpiece contains a fatigue eliminator, vibro-sensor, telepathic receptor and omnipute. Impressive, eh? The final paragraph even foreshadows Destiny of the Daleks, speculating about his resurrection exactly as Terry Nation did in his 1979 script!
There's even another of those Dalek Facts pages which were so awesome in 1965's The Dalek World, though sadly it spoils the joke by flagging everything as 'Dalek Throughspace Information Programme' propaganda. Its anti-facts aren't even very silly, the only remotely wacky one being the claim that the Straits of Dover were created by a crash-landing Dalek spacecraft in 2008 BC. Allegedly it ripped a furrow in the land which filled with water when the Daleks took off, which is how the British Isles got separated from continental Europe.
Have I mentioned how impressive Daleks look when drawn properly? The sixties book artists only made fitful stabs at this kind of accuracy, but these seventies annuals really got 'em right and they look fantastic. This is a highly entertaining book. It would seem even better if you'd never read the TV21 comics before, but even so it's well worth your time.