Prisoner of the Daleks did not feature the Daleks as antagonists in print for the first time in revived-era material, beaten as it was by the 2006 Quick Reads novella, I Am a Dalek. However, it was the first of the New Series Adventures to pit them against the Doctor, and the first full-length original novel to do so since Legacy of the Daleks in 1998.
The story returns the Doctor to the period of the Second Dalek War, during the 26th century, a storyline which began in 1973 with Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks. Though never thereafter revisited by the TV series, the conflict provided the background for Doctor Who Magazine comic stories featuring Abslom Daak and various aspects of the Virgin New Adventures. Prisoner of the Daleks delves right into the heart of the Dalek war effort and brings the war to a climax, providing the storyline with a sense of finality and closure almost thirty-six years after it began.
The Daleks are advancing, their empire constantly expanding into Earth's space. The Earth forces are resisting the Daleks in every way they can. But the battles rage on across countless solar systems. And now the future of our galaxy hangs in the balance... The Doctor finds himself stranded on board a starship near the front line with a group of ruthless bounty hunters.
Earth Command will pay them for every Dalek they kill, every eye stalk they bring back as proof. With the Doctor's help, the bounty hunters achieve the ultimate prize: a Dalek prisoner — intact, powerless, and ready for interrogation. But where the Daleks are involved, nothing is what it seems, and no one is safe. Before long the tables will be turned, and how will the Doctor survive when he becomes a prisoner of the Daleks?
The TARDIS arrives on the planet Hurala. Whilst investigating a deserted site, the Tenth Doctor makes his way to the base's computer data core room, where he is locked inside by the computer with someone's corpse trapped inside along with him.
Five days later, the bounty hunter ship Wayfarer lands on the planet, its crew of five hoping to use the stores to refuel their ship. They soon come across the TARDIS, and hear a repeating tapping noise. One of them, Scrum, realises it's a Morse code SOS message. They trace it to the computer data core room where they find and free the Doctor, who has been sending it with a spoon. On the insistence of the Doctor and another of the bounty hunters, Stella, the group investigate the computer's systems. They discover an override which, when activated, took control of the base and trapped the Doctor. Someone had used the computer to set a trap. Who did is soon answered when the group are attacked by a Dalek patrol.
The Doctor and the bounty hunters, who reveal that they kill Daleks for a living, race back to the Wayfarer, escape to the TARDIS being blocked by Daleks. They take off but the Daleks blow up a refuelling pump, sending debris flying into the ship through the open landing ramp, badly wounding Stella. As the crew attempt to put her into cryo-freeze a Dalek gets into the ship through an airlock and it exterminates Stella. Before it can kill anyone else, the Doctor freezes it with the emergency cryo-charge intended for Stella. With the Dalek immobilised, Stella's body is also frozen and the crew make a course for Auros, her home planet.
En route, the Dalek's eye stalk is removed so the crew can claim the bounty for killing it, and place it in the cargo hold. Whilst talking with the crew the Doctor realises he's travelled back along the time line to before the Last Great Time War. At this point, the Daleks are locked in a huge galactic war with Earth's first empire with the outcome undertain. The Doctor also learns more about the crew. Commanding the ship is Bowman, a former Earth trooper who has been fighting the Daleks for years. Scrum is the crew's technician, Cuttin' Edge is a former Space Marine who was dishonourably discharged and Stella was the ship's Medic. The other crew member, Koral, is a humanoid alien whose planet and people of Red Sky Lost were destroyed by the Daleks.
Upon arriving at Auros the Doctor and the crew discover that the planet's population are abandoning the planet as the Daleks are about to invade. Using the Osterhagen Principle, they detonate a series of nuclear bombs and destroy the planet to prevent it falling to the Daleks. The Doctor and Bowman realise the Daleks will ambush the retreating convoy. They try to warn them but the Daleks arrive, forcing the convoy to surrender and destroying its flagship as a warning to the other ships.
Furious at the loss of Stella and her homeworld, the crew of the Wayfarer decide to interrogate the captured Dalek. With the Doctor's reluctant help they disarm it. Koral uses its claws to open the casing. They remove the creature inside and torture it, despite the Doctor's protests. They give up when the Dalek tells them nothing. After they've left the cargo hold, however, the Doctor returns and reveals to the dying Dalek who he is. The Dalek, amongst its predictable ranting, lets slip that the Daleks plan to "eliminate all humanity from its very beginnings!" Eventually the Dalek dies, and the Doctor works out what it meant.
He reveals to the crew that the Daleks must be looking for the Arkheon Threshold, a schism in time and space which, if opened, will give the Daleks access to the Time Vortex. Deciding that the Doctor is telling the truth, Bowman orders the crew to head for the remains of the planet Arkheon, destroyed at the start of the war.
They find the planet has been split in two, with the surviving half still retaining a breathable atmosphere. The Wayfarer lands and the Doctor and the crew disembark. Whilst looking round the devastated landscape they encounter dozens of mutated Arkheonites, devolved by the radiation fallout. They chase the crew to the very edge of the planet, where they are captured by Daleks. After destroying their weapons, the Daleks force the Doctor and the crew onto a lift, which descends the side of the planet towards they core. Here the Doctor discovers that the Daleks, far from searching for Arkheon, have been on the planet for years. They have constructed a huge underground base where thousands of human prisoners from Auros mine the core, looking for the Threshold. The base also contains laboratories and the largest Dalek Prison outside of Skaro.
The Doctor and the crew are taken into the base where they are scanned for "suitability". Scrum is found to be of marginal use. Cuttin' Edge and Koral are sentenced to work in the mines. When Bowman is scanned it is discovered he is in fact "Space Major Jon Bowman", the designer of Earth's defence system and high on the Dalek's list of wanted people. The commander is alerted. Upon being told by the Command Dalek that Bowman will be taken for brain excoriation, which will kill him, Koral, who is secretly in love with Bowman, lashes out at the nearest Dalek. In retaliation the Daleks kill Scrum, the weakest member of the group. As the Daleks prepare to take Bowman away, the Doctor stops them and whispers something to the Command Dalek. The Command Dalek, suddenly terrified, orders two of its minions to scan the Doctor. They immediately identity him and prepare to exterminate him. The Doctor persuades them to interrogate him first. News of the Doctor's capture is sent to the Supreme Dalek on Skaro, who sends the Primary Intelligence Unit, led by the Dalek Inquisitor General, to interrogate the Doctor.
Cuttin' Edge and Koral are sent to work in the mines. The Doctor is placed in the same cell as Bowman, who reveals to him that the Dalek Inquisitor General, called "Dalek X" by the Earth authorities, is second in command to the Supreme Dalek and is described as being "the Devil in Dalek form". Dalek X arrives at Arkheon aboard the Exterminator, the Dalek Empire's most advanced ship, containing five hundred Daleks and accompanied by a small fleet of Dalek saucers. Dalek X takes over command of the base, and exterminates one of its mining Daleks for failing to meet its target. He orders that every hour the weakest group of workers will be exterminated. Soon after, the Doctor is brought to the interrogation room. Dalek X measures the Doctor's capacity for physical pain with a mind probe, simply out of curiosity. After an unknown length of time in pain, the Doctor is released from the mind probe and shown around the base by Dalek X. Meanwhile, the Wayfarer is destroyed by an Aggressor-class starship, and Bowman is taken to have his brain removed.
Dalek X reveals to the Doctor that once the planetary core has been extracted, the Daleks will locate the Threshold with a Large Chronon Collider. They will open it, access the time vortex and defeat the Time Lords. There is a chance that the collider won't work properly, however. To ensure success the Daleks need a control element; the Doctor's TARDIS. The Doctor refuse to co-operate, but the Daleks threaten to exterminate a woman and her daughter from Cuttin' Edge's and Koral's work force if he doesn't comply Finally, the Doctor agrees to help, but on the condition that Cuttin' Edge, Koral and Bowman come with them to help him operate the TARDIS. The Daleks agree and Bowman is released, just before he is about to be killed.
The Exterminator and its escort fleet head for Hurala, with the Doctor, the surviving Wayfarer crew members and the Dalek Temporal Research Team on board. When they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor claims to have lost the key, saying it is in the room he was held in. As they head for it, Cuttin' Edge recognises the identification symbol on one of the Daleks. It is the same one that killed Scrum. He lashes out at it and is exterminated by Dalek X, though he pulls another Dalek into the ray, destroying it. The Doctor, Koral and Bowman use the distraction to escape into a maintenance duct.
After escaping, the Doctor reveals his plan. There is still enough astronic energy fuel on the planet to cause a huge explosion. If they can detonate it, they can destroy Dalek X, the Temporal Research Team and the orbiting Dalek fleet. They make their way to a silo that still contains fuel. The Doctor starts to rig it to explode. Dalek X, enraged by the Doctor's escape, catches them and prepares to exterminate the Doctor. Dalek X is attacked by Koral and Bowman, who disable him and then push him over the edge of the gantry they are standing on. The Doctor is nearly finished, but realises he can't stop the safety override by remote control. Someone will have to stay behind and hold the manual override lever down until the silo reaches critical. Bowman volunteers to stay behind, refusing to leave despite protests from Koral. He knocks out the protesting Koral so the Doctor can take her back to the TARDIS and safety. The Doctor and Koral make it into the TARDIS just as the Daleks arrive. In the silo, Bowman holds the lever as the Daleks approach. As the base begins to shake, the Daleks retreat. The silo reaches critical mass and Bowman prepares to face death. He is saved at the last second by the Doctor, who materialises the TARDIS on the gantry. Bowman leaps into the TARDIS just as the Command Dalek tries to exterminate him. A second later the silo explodes, killing the Daleks on Hurala, as well as destroying the Exterminator and its escort fleet.
Back on Earth Bowman and Koral report to the Earth authorities. They learn the Dalek fleet is in complete disarray thanks to them, and a task force is preparing to attack the Dalek base on Arkheon and release the prisoners. The Doctor leaves as Bowman and Koral prepare to go and meet Bowman's parents.
The Doctor travels to Hurala, which has been sealed off for five thousand years due the radiation fallout. There he finds Dalek X, badly damaged but still alive. The Doctor informs him that Arkheon has been taken by the Earth forces, the Daleks are in full retreat on all fronts and that he has sealed off the Threshold. Regardless of the Doctor's revelations, Dalek X rants that the Daleks are never defeated. The Doctor replies that the Daleks are always defeated, because they can never accept that every other form of life in the Universe is better than they. To prove this the Doctor points out that there is no form of life in the Universe that would volunteer to be a Dalek. As the Doctor prepares to leave, Dalek X vows to hunt him down. The Doctor responds by stating that he'll be waiting. The Doctor finally departs Hurala, leaving Dalek X trapped on the planet, alone.
- Tenth Doctor
- Space Major Jon Bowman
- Cuttin' Edge
- Vanessa Lakestaad
- Dalek X
- Command Dalek
- Dalek prisoner
- Temporal Research Team was a team of Dalek scientists.
- The Daleks have visual records of all the Doctor's pre-Time War incarnations.
- The Doctor was able to prevent himself growing a beard during his five-day incarceration through sheer concentration.
- The Shadow Proclamation is mentioned.
- The planet Auros is blown up by Osterhagen technology.
- Skaro is still in existence.
- The Auros population tries to find the Inner Worlds.
- Prisoner of the Daleks was also released as a paperback novel in a collection pack, which also included paperback versions of the novels The Many Hands and Shining Darkness.
- This story was also released as an ebook available from the Amazon Kindle store.
- This novel was reprinted and re-released as an ebook by BBC Books on 6 March 2014 as The Monster Collection Edition.
- Dalek X's colour scheme is vastly similar to the colour scheme of the Supreme Dalek from Planet of the Daleks, though lacking a gold dome. This is known because it is based on the Character Options black and gold RC Dalek from the battle pack released in 2005.
- The Daleks in this book are pre-Time War due to the Doctor crossing the Dalek timeline. It specifically takes place during the Second Dalek War of the 26th century. A specific year isn't given (Cuttin' Edge tells the Doctor but it is not revealed to the reader), though evidence points to the approximate decade of the 2580s.
- Osterhagen technology is utilised. The Osterhagen Project was capable of destroying the Earth. (TV: The Stolen Earth / Journey's End)
- The Doctor suspects that he has jumped a time track when he realises that these Daleks are pre-Time War. (TV: The Space Museum)
- The Doctor edges away from some of the larger spiders' webs on Hurala, showing that he still has his fear of arachnids. (TV: Planet of the Spiders)
- The Doctor says that just touching the frozen Dalek case could make it absorb DNA and regenerate. (TV: Dalek)
- The Doctor mentions that he was there when the Daleks were born during the Kaled conflict with the Thals. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks)
- The Doctor was present at the origin of the Second Dalek War. (TV: Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks)
- The Doctor mentions his mistrust of satnav. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky)
- The Doctor mentions the Cardiff Space-Time Rift. (TV: Boom Town, Utopia, The Stolen Earth)
- The Doctor remarks that time travel is 'wibbly wobbly, timey wimey'. (TV: Blink, Time Crash)
- The Doctor struggles to gain the trust of strangers because he lacks a companion. (TV: Midnight)
- Dalek X is a Black Dalek. (TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan, Resurrection of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks, Army of Ghosts / Doomsday, Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, AUDIO: Dalek Empire, The Apocalypse Element, Jubilee, The Juggernauts, The Davros Mission, Enemy of the Daleks)
- Dalek X is accompanied by black-domed guards (TV: The Evil of the Daleks, The Parting of the Ways) and Assault Daleks (TV: The Parting of the Ways)
- Dalek X exterminates another Dalek for incompetence. (TV: The Daleks' Master Plan, Planet of the Daleks)
- When the Eleventh Doctor first encounters the Daleks, (TV: Victory of the Daleks) he states that he has not met them since Journey's End. However, he may be referring to Davros's Daleks, not Daleks in general; or he may be speaking in terms of the Daleks' own timeline.
Additional cover images
Editions published outside Britain
- Published in Brazil by Suma de Letras in 2015 as a paperback edition.
- Published in Russia by AST in 2016 as a hardback edition.
- Published in Germany by Cross Cult in 2020 as a paperback edition.
- Published in China by New Star Press in 2020 as a paperback edition.
- Published in Spain by Dolmen Editorial in 2021 as a paperback edition.
- This novel was released as an audiobook on 3 September 2009 by BBC Audio and read by Nicholas Briggs.
- This novel was released again as an audiobook in August 2011 by Chivers Audiobooks and read again by Nicholas Briggs. The audiobook was only available through the AudioGO website.
- The Discontinuity Guide to: Prisoner of the Daleks at The Whoniverse
- The Cloister Library: Prisoner of the Daleks
- The war in the story was sparked by the events of Frontier in Space, which was set in 2540. Reference to the First Dalek Incursion taking place "over forty years" before the events of the novel roughly point to the 2580s as the story's time period. Curiously, the Doctor explicitly asks for the year in the novel and receives an answer, but the reader is never told what it is.