Quoting from her website (I have always loved Doctor Who) we learn:
I’ve always found Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor fascinating because of the way his character developed from a bit of a clown to a Doctor with a more Machiavellian streak. In my story, the Doctor’s actions are responsible for a universal catastrophe which forces him to face up to his own fears and prejudices.
How well does Malorie Blackman’s story work? Read on…
The action starts with the TARDIS trapped in a Temporal Plexus – think doldrums or cosmic quicksand to use the author’s own words. In escaping the universe gets changed and the TARDIS ends up on Skaro (and this is post Remembrance of the Daleks) where Daleks are a force for good. Over the bulk of the story the Doctor is seen as unbending, unreasonable and unswerving in his need to prove that the Daleks are ‘up to something’. All the evidence is that they are a great race of thinkers and engineers, friends of the Time Lords and loved by all.
Ace ends up challenging the Doctor for his intransigence and argues the case for this being a better version of reality than the one that only they seem to recall.
The resolution provides a perfect example of the Doctor succeeding only by coming into emotional conflict with Ace – Malorie Blackman is spot on with her treatment of the characters.
This is not the only Good Dalek story in recent times; Nick Briggs gives us two examples in Dark Eyes and The Dalek Generation.
In Dark Eyes the future Good Daleks are revealed to be an illusion though the idea is a central part of the third disc. We had a tension between Molly and the Eighth Doctor which is almost replayed in the way Malorie treats the Seventh Doctor / Ace tension. I don’t suspect that Ms Blackman has heard Dark Eyes so I put this similarity down to two authors arriving at the same treatment for a similar idea.
In Dalek Generation (which I reviewed in Sunshine on Sunlight 439) Nick revealed the Dalek’s duplicity very early in the story and much of their behaviour is able to be interpreted for good or evil. This is a style I like and the resolution includes the reveal of the truth.
In Ripple Effect the Good Dalek concept is taken to its extreme and they are genuinely a force for good. Given this is Malorie Blackman’s first (AFAIK) Doctor Who story I think she should take credit for the way she has handled this concept.
I enjoyed this story and the author didn’t overdo the Professor/Doctor motif. Once again a solid story in the range and an author I’d be pleased to find out was writing some more stories for the Doctor.