There was a point in my life when I didn’t think screenwriting was a job. I loved television, but it was just there to consume. I appreciated the stories, but how could anyone get paid proper money (used to buy magazines and sweets) to write TV? Surely writing TV was just great fun. Who would pay people to have fun? Naturally, I didn’t realise the hard work that goes into scripts, but I was very young and had dreams of drawing comics.
There must’ve been a time that the true nature of screenwriting came into focus, but I can’t remember that. I just remember writing my own scripts, and thinking it was cool.
My view hasn’t change so much. Writing scripts is cool; the one thing that has changed is that I want to do it professionally, as a real job, to earn real money (still used to buy magazines and sweets). Like comics, however, they’re a different language. I think you’ve got to have a particular way of thinking to appreciate a script. It’s got to click or the whole thing is jarring.
That’s why I reckon it’s hard to find scriptbooks. They’re few and far between because people prefer to read novels. Don’t get me wrong: I love novels. Nonetheless, it’s a rare treat to find scriptbooks.
Why? Partly, it’s the way I learn my (hopefully future) craft. It was fascinating to find the Script Library on the BBC Writer’s Room, containing all manner of loveliness, including Spooks, Sherlock: The Blind Banker, and the entire first series of Luther. Seeing how the descriptions translate to screen is amazing, and if you don’t know it verbatim – I’m looking at you, Doctor Who: Smith and Jones – your imagination carries you along, and you can begin to see a director’s influence.
But Who fans have had to use their imaginations for a while now – that is, when it comes to the missing episodes. The audio soundtracks help, of course, but between 1988 and 1994, we were treated, very occasionally, to paperback versions of Doctor Who scripts.
Published by Titan Books, 10 stories were released in total, including an early draft of An Unearthly Child (the range’s debut title) as The Tribe of Gum, the previously-unseen The Masters of Luxor written by Anthony Coburn, and three, at the time of their publication, considered lost: The Tomb of the Cybermen, Galaxy 4 (two of four episodes now exist in the archive), and The Power of the Daleks.
With the animation of The Power of the Daleks just around the corner, this scriptbook still feels precious.
Released in March 1993, this was at a time when there were no real hopes of discovering Patrick Troughton’s first serial as the Second Doctor, and that feels an accurate reflection of this year too. The BBC surely wouldn’t have spent so much time and money animating the story if they knew it existed somewhere, if the so-called ‘omnirumour’ were true. We’re all looking forward to seeing the download and DVD, but there’s a sadness to it as well.
The Power of the Daleks: The Scripts represents a vital corner of Doctor Who that we’ll probably never see again. Fortunately, there’s that word, “probably.” The book also represents hope. After all, The Tomb of the Cybermen scriptbook was released in 1989, and the actual story was found in 1991, and is now available to enjoy on DVD, time and time again.
The paperback remains engaging, even with the soundtrack and animation seemingly superseding it. It’s still an important part of Doctor Who history, and reading it is a real pleasure. Heck, it might become even more relevant after the animation in unveiled to the world, so we can compare how it was written to how it was (at least perceived to have been) realised.
Written by David Whitaker – and redrafted by Dennis Spooner – you can really see why the story was a hit when it aired in 1966. You can appreciate the way this new incarnation of the Doctor was handled, and how he evolved. In Power of the Daleks, he was quite subdued, despite his ascertains that the Daleks were evil, his trying to talk the human colony into believing him, and his reassuring Ben, Polly, and the audience that he was the same man.
Nonetheless, there’s an energy to his lines, and it’s interesting to note that post-regenerative stress and craziness was yet to be introduced – but we can still infer it from some of his actions.
There’s a real rapidity to the dialogue and you breeze through the book in a couple of hours. The cliffhangers all hit wonderfully, and the menace is palpable. The story is put into context by an introduction by editor, John McElroy, and background details by Stephen James Walker, which talk you through the importance of this six-part serial.
Interestingly, the scriptbook was released a few months before the Target/Virgin Publishing novelisation: written by John Peel, the latter deviated from the original text (rather brilliantly, I should add) to include talk of UNIT; the colony’s medic, Thane; and characters’ pasts; and more extra details. It means that this scriptbook is as close to how the story was intended as you’re going to get in print.
The Power of the Daleks is missing. But through a combination of the upcoming animation, the soundtrack, Peel’s novelisation, and, crucially, this excellent scriptbook, we get a beautifully-rendered approximation of one of the Daleks’ strongest tales ever.