THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE SHORTLY PRIOR
TO THE LAST GREAT TIME
WAR FIRST REFERRED TO
IN THE TV EPISODE "THE
END OF THE WORLD."
OFFICIAL TELOS DELUXE
HARDBACK (ISBN 1-903
889-31-6) RELEASED IN
When a Thal platoon
arrive on a hostile
reports that Dalek
artefacts have been
detected, they are
unprepared for what
In an underground
room is a stranger;
a Professor, or so
he claims, with no
memory of who he is
or why he is there.
With death and
horror their only
companions, the Thals
make their way with
the Professor into the
heart of a crumbling
Dalek citadel in
search of answers...
only to find that the
Daleks are the least
of the horrors they
The Dalek Factor
The Dalek Factor is a fitting final release for Telos’ creatively different novel-
la line. It is quite unlike any Doctor Who or Dalek story I have previously seen, heard or read; in fact, for much of the story it seems barely part of Doctor Who. Nonetheless, it is a triumph. I’m not a fan of Clark’s work generally – not that I dislike it, I’m just not a huge follower of the horror genre. However, I feel that Clark’s style has leant itself perfectly to telling an excellent Dalek adventure.
It’s tempting to make a comparison the earlier release The Cabinet of Light; both novellas keep the exact identity of their Doctor unspecified, and focus, for the majority of the story,
on a new leading character. In this case we are introduced to Jomi, one of a party of Thal
space marines, investigating the isolated Quadrille system for signs of suspected Dalek activity. Jomi, a young man unused to action in the field, is an effective character, if perhaps a little simplistic; nonetheless, he works as a viewpoint character. In spite of his being an alien, he is easy to identify with because he reacts with all the horror, disgust and fear that we would when faced with the terrible crimes of the Daleks. His concern for his comrades
is exactly how we might expect to feel in the terrifying no-win situation he finds himself in.
The Doctor, conversely, is presented as
a mysterious being, with little information
about his background. Of course, such
things are unnecessary to us, the fans,
and withholding them serves to make
him more mysterious and untrustworthy
in the eyes of the Thals. The Doctor is
also a mystery to himself. For much of
the novella, he does not remember his
name, his origins, or how he came to Quadrille. He is described only as having dark hair
and wearing a white shirt, leaving the identity of his particular regeneration open to question. Clark apparently did this as he didn’t want the Doctor to be the main focus of the story, an idea that has backfired somewhat as we inevitably end up only talking about him! For my money, in the light of more recent developments, I wonder if this isn’t a late eighth Doctor, and the actions of the Daleks here early operations in the Time War…
It’s really of little importance though. The Doctor exists here as a means to move the story along; nothing more. The first segment of the book is the Thal crew’s attempts to survive
in the broiling jungle world they’ve landed on, faced with deeply unpleasant parasites and swarming insect hives that have the disquieting ability to take on the form of loved ones,
their images telepathically stolen from their victims’ minds. These fascinating creatures
turn out to be vital to the plot. Clark’s prose here is evocative and tactile, drawing us into
the stifling jungle realm.
As the party is separated, and events move into the Daleks’ stronghold, we finally meet the Doctor, simply sat reading in his chair, unaware of how he got there. I found his tendency to talk in rhyme a pretty pointless gimmick, and why have him call himself ‘the Professor,’ when it’s so close to Doctor that he might as well remember that’s his name? Still, he settles down quickly, his memories slowly returning to him. He’s intrigued by Jomi’s tales of Daleks, and wonders who they are, and if they may have some bearing on his perplexing condition. With the Doctor on hand, advances into the Dalek stronghold continue at far greater a pace, with more and more Thals either killed in horrific ways or vanished into the Daleks’ clutches as the plot progresses.
The Daleks themselves are notable by their absence for much of
the tale. However, their overarching presence is tangible, thanks
to the Thals’ horror stories truly selling to us just why we should be
afraid of these creatures. The first time Jomi sees a Dalek – early
on, rotting in the jungle, harmful to no one – is a chilling moment,
as he is struck with fear at the sight of his nightmare. Eventually,
a we get deeper into their base, we get closer to the titular Daleks
themselves, and their plan. The Daleks have been attempting to
isolate the Dalek Factor - or “Dalek Heart” as its many victims call it – to create beings that will act as Daleks would throughout the Universe. However, they have been far too successful. Their ex-
periments have led to a life form even deadlier than the Daleks,
and inimical to it. The hives have the Dalek Heart, and they, in the
form of none other than the first Doctor, lead the final confrontation
with the Dalek Emperor, nesting in the centre of the Dalek stronghold.
The final passages of the book are galling, as Jomi, having faced the murder and torture of his comrades, and having come within inches of death himself, remembers who he really is; the Thals have not just landed, they’ve simply been reprogrammed, and not for the first time. Jomi has the Dalek Heart, and settles into his lot, as the Doctor has his own newly regained memories torn away from him – for the second, third, hundredth time? – and we arrive back where we started, the Doctor simply part of the Daleks’ experiment, sitting in his chair, wait-ing for his role to begin all over again.
The chilling ending suggests another possibility for a setting: perhaps this is Doctor’s final adventure. Perhaps he will never escape from the Daleks…
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The final - and I dare say the most keenly anticipated - of the Telos novellas was The Dalek Factor by horror guru Simon Clark. Being the first original Dalek text of more than a few thousand words not to be written by the oft-lambasted John Peel, expectations for this climactic adventure were understandably off the page.
An intelligent synthesis of traditional Dalek staples and superlative prose, much like the highly regarded Cabinet of Light and Fallen Gods, this novella has the feel of a real work
of art. Though much of its action is evocative of the original Dalek serial and Planet of the Daleks, and its plot owes much to David Whitaker’s peerless Evil of the Daleks, Clark’s execution is simply staggering.
Clark’s tale is told in the first person
through the eyes of Jomi, an inexp-
erienced Thal commando whose
small team has been charged with
tracking down and eradicating the
few remaining Daleks in existence.
Jomi’s narration injects the piece
with a real sense of propinquity; ‘present’ events are relayed as such, but occasionally the reader is seamlessly swept back with Jomi’s train of thought as he dwells on memories past. As a result we experience the terror first hand as Daleks and Thals alike dissolve into “Dalek-hearted” insect hives, and
we squirm as Jomi is forced to relive his “bloody and incompetent” mercy killing of his child-hood pet when one of his colleagues’ bodies becomes fused with a rapidly-solidifying gas.
In marked contrast, Clark’s Doctor is distant and unfathomable; as
much of a mystery to himself as he is to the Thal troupe that stumbles
upon him. The nebulous description of a dark-haired man in a white
shirt and black trousers leaves the reader oblivious as to which inc-
arnation of the Time Lord we are reading about here, if indeed it is
one that we have encountered before. His propensity for speaking
in rhyme is certainly new (though his ‘Professor’ handle isn’t), and
the rest of his dialogue flits wildly between textbook William Hartnell
(“hmm?”) and - bizarrely, given the date of publication - David Tennant, suggesting that the Doctor of The Dalek Factor has far more wrong upstairs than a simple case of amnesia. Nevertheless, Clark’s Doctor works well within the context of the story – very well, in fact – particularly as the author lulls you towards his shattering denouement.
For their part, the Daleks sit off-screen for the preponderance of the narrative, their horror implied and, on occasion, even usurped. To me, stumbling upon the forgotten skeleton of what appears to be one of the Doctor’s companions is much more disturbing than actually seeing a companion killed, and I found the “Dalek-hearted” insect swarms with their unique talent to be every bit as alarming as the titular tin pots. However, when the Daleks do finally appear in the novella’s concluding chapters, they are a real force to be reckoned with – as machiavellian as ever, yet more articulate somehow. The Dalek Emperor of this tale may look like the one seen in The Evil of the Daleks, but he has much more in common with the verbose and pretentious Emperor as seen in The Parting of the Ways. I wonder…
And so The Dalek Factor brings the short-lived Telos line of novellas to deliciously dark and tantalisingly indefinite climax. In this day and age, tracking it down will probably set you back six months’ salary, but then who wants to be wasting good money on food and warmth? This one is a must.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
We have placed this story towards the end of the eighth Doctor’s era as we love the idea that this ‘Professor’
is an old, amnesiac eighth Doctor. This theory also fits well with the Daleks resorting to ever more inspired schemes to propagate their species here, starting down a path leading towards…
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