Original TV21 (left) and bookazine (right)

I did have doubts about reviewing The Daleks bookazine from Panini UK when it’s such a hot item that scalpers are offering it for inflated prices – especially when we’re in the middle of a lockdown and it’s difficult to get out to the supermarkets that are rumoured to have copies. But, on consideration I’m sure enough copies were printed to satisfy demand and that the initial shortfall is just a distribution problem.

Congratulations to Marcus Hearn for convincing his management that this project had a prospect of success. After all, the 1960’s Dalek comic strips from TV Century 21 have been reprinted several times – not least by Marvel/Panini in 1994’s The Dalek Chronicles. But new technology and dogged research has allowed this latest edition to be shot direct from the original artwork. As you can see from the comparison above, this has brought new life to the stories.

Ron Turner TV21
Ron Turner restoration

As Peri Godbold explains in an accompanying restoration feature, a lot of work had to be done to present the artwork in its original condition. The TV21 comics have decomposed after 50 years, but so has the original art, “the boards had darkened from white to something resembling a pale coffee colour.” Digital restoration removed this aging and also tidied up the damage to the artwork, either when the ink had flaked or sections had been amended for subsequent reprints such as the Dalek Annuals. When the original boards could not be located, the designers worked from old copies of TV21, although again a lot of painstaking work needed to be done where the original printed off-register.

To be honest, at first glance, this doesn’t look like a restoration. It looks like something that was written and drawn yesterday. The most obvious difference from the original TV Century 21 is that the original comic was a tabloid (foreseeing newspapers like The i ). It was printed by photogravure, rather than lithography and the paper stock – while glossier than most comics of the 1960’s – was never as bright and glossy as the paper used in this bookazine. So, you lose some, you win some.

The bookazine includes an archive interview with artist Ron Turner and a background article by Marcus Hearn which explains how the comic strip came to be. Much of the script writing was by David Whitaker, the former Dr Who story editor who Terry Nation sub-contracted his Dalek work to. There are a few episodes written by Angus Allan, TV21’s script editor for its first year and freelance scriptwriter for the later years. He later recalled being told by editor Alan Fennell that there was a scheduling problem and asked to write a three week sequence which kept the continuity going without actually advancing the story. Allan did so, and was pleased and surprised to later receive a cheque from Terry Nation (which was at Nation’s normal rate, higher than the going rate for comic strips).

Although the continuity was written for weekly episodes, the stories hang together quite well. Despite Terry Nation’s lack of day-to-day involvement with the strip, the stories have a familiar ring to them. There’s often a traitor lurking in the conflict and there are undertones of resistance against the Nazi’s. The conclusion of the second sequence (in which a bunch of slaves outwit both their slavers and the Daleks) made me think of Blakes Seven , while the Daleks’ struggle against a rust virus seemed to anticipate Survivors.

So, it’s an immaculate restoration and an enjoyable read. What more can you say?