A Thal platoon investigates a hostile planet, following reports
that Dalek artefacts have been detected, but they find more
than they bargained for. In an underground room is a strange
man with no memory of why he is there or even who he is -
though the title of Professor seems oddly familiar to him...
Those nice people at Telos Publishing have decided to give
us something special for their final licensed Doctor Who
publication: the return of the Daleks to the printed page.
I was initially a little mystified to find that the Daleks
are not actually present during a large proportion of this
novella, particularly since the estate of their creator, Terry
Nation, does not issue the rights to use them lightly. However,
perhaps author Simon Clark had made the right decision. Whereas
on audio you get to hear the Daleks' screeching voices, and
on TV you also have the visual thrills of their appearance
and their murderous antics, in prose fiction you only get
to see the word "Dalek" on the page and have their cruelty
described to you, by the author directly or through the characters.
Just telling the reader what the creatures are up to would
not be very effective, so instead Clark conveys his story
through the eyes of a young Thal soldier called Jomi, a person
who has an instinctive fear of these hated enemies. The Thal's
terrified anticipation as he searches for signs of Dalek activity
echoes and heightens the anticipation of the Dalek-hungry
reader. As a result, the essence of the creatures permeates
the entire narrative, despite the brevity of their appearances
As well as the Daleks and Thals, Clark throws in other sly
references to the works of Terry Nation. The planet is a hostile
jungle world typical of a television Dalek tale. Imagine the
most dangerous aspects of Skaro, Mechanus, Kembel, Mira and
Spiridon all rolled into one. As well as deadly vegetation,
the Thals and the Doctor (I don't think I'm giving too much
away if I reveal the true identity of the amnesiac "Professor")
must contend with insects that can group together to form
a hive intelligence. A Thal called Tar'ant also reflects a
name much favoured in Nation's writing: Tarrant.
in a previous novella, The Cabinet of Light, the Doctor
depicted here is an unspecified incarnation. However, there
is an accumulation of evidence to suggest that he is the Eighth
Doctor. He wears a simple costume that resembles the garb
of his first incarnation, as Paul McGann did in the TV movie,
and he possesses "unusually intense eyes". Furthermore, references
to the horrors that lie in his kitchen sink, and the line
"I refer to myself as 'I'", both seem to be comical allusions
to the character McGann played in Withnail and I.
main criticism of this novella is that it does beat about
the bush a bit. Several passages take the form of lengthy
discourses or internal dialogues on subjects such as the very
appearance of a Dalek or the terrifying implications of a
Dalek city, which rather slow the narrative down. These, coupled
with the brevity of many of the chapters, mean there is less
story than you might expect from a 140-page book.
all other respects, however, this is an engaging and intriguing
finale to the range: like an episode of The Outer Limits
but with Daleks and Thals.