An elderly Kalendorf visits THE VELYSHAAN WAR museum, WHICH IS displaying trophies of his victory in the Dalek War. THERE HE ENCOUNTERS A MAN HE MET MANY YEARS AGO, A MAN WHO HAS THE POWER TO DESTROY THE DALEKS FOREVER...


           ...BUT AT A PRICE.









Museum Peace








As a rule, I don’t include reviews of individual short stories on the site, primarily because it would be something of a nightmare logistically, not to mention disproportionately time-consuming. “Museum Peace”, however, is probably going to be the only exception that I’ll ever make. With its audio adaptation running for over forty minutes, I could hardly discount it on the ground of pithiness, and in terms of significance it may well be the only door that is ever opened into the darkest chapter of all the Doctor’s lives. Written by prolific science fiction scribe James Swallow, “Museum Peace” serves as a coda to the first two series of Dalek Empire, whilst also offering us rare and illicit insight into the Doctor’s thoughts and feelings as he prepares to bring the Last Great Time War to its cataclysmic end.


“Museum Peace” was originally published in December 2006 as part of Big Finish’s Short Trips: Dalek Empire collection, where it effectively topped the bill. It was then afforded even greater exposure in late 2009, when Nicholas Briggs fused his unabridged reading of it with some stirring sound design to create a spellbinding mp3 audio book, which Big Finish then made available to their subscribers as an exclusive download.


Although written in a traditional, omniscient style for the most part, the story is told from the judicious perspective of an elderly Kalendorf. Set a few generations after the main events of Dalek War, Kalendorf is now an intolerant old man, history not only having robbed him of his chance to die in battle, but also having cursed him with long life. “I’ve buried all my friends,” he growls at the Doctor. “And I’ll bury all my enemies too.”

Swallow presents Karlendorf as a man who’s lived his life and fought his battles, and now he’s got nothing to do but stand by as ignorant schoolchildren loiter in the Velyshaan War Museum’s Hall of Daleks, oblivious to the sacrifices that were made for their freedom. Yet on one particular visit to the museum, Karl is accosted by an apparently youthful man with a familiar aura – a man he met once before, during the Dalek occupation of Spiridon. A man who’s changed his whole physical appearance. A man who can travel in time, and thus offer the old soldier one last chance to eradicate the Dalek menace forever…


It’s utterly beguiling to hear to Karlendorf and the Doctor debating the ethics of genocide and the temporal mechanics of erasing the Daleks from history. These two men are two sides of the same coin; one tempered by integrity and the laws of time, the other answerable only to the greater good. This is, of course, an argument that has reared its head many a time in Doctor Who, both before and since, but what sets this dispute apart is its unique positioning. Here, Karlendorf is an old man looking back on his long and war-torn life, totally convinced that, were it possible, the Daleks should be expunged from history. The Doctor, however, is where Kalendorf was a hundred years or so earlier - right at the apex of his war, the power to end the Dalek threat forever in his hands, but only at the cost of everything that he holds dear.


As the Doctor quarrels with Kalendorf, it soon becomes clear why he’s sought him out. His resolve wavering, the Doctor sought counsel from the one man in the universe who, better than anyone, understands the evil of the Daleks. The one man in the universe who would, if necessary, endorse the unspeakable. However, as their discourse appears to be wrapping up, the Doctor isn’t convinced. As Karlendorf so succinctly puts it, “You’re not prepared to become them to destroy them.”


But then comes the masterstroke. Throughout the story, Swallow had littered his narrative with fleeting glimpses into the mind of a moribund Dalek, low on power and trapped within one of the museum’s display cabinets; long-since thought dead. When it identifies Kalendorf, the man who engineered the destruction of almost every Dalek, and the Doctor, an even greater enemy, it channels all of its hate and all of its power into one final, desperate exterminatory blast.


What happens next is profoundly poignant. It’s such a tiny death, in the grand old scheme of things, yet it’s clearly the catalyst for the Doctor’s dreadful decision; the impetus for what he is about to do. Through this one, spiteful act, the museum Dalek condemns its own mighty race to a fiery end, taking the most ancient civilisation in the universe with them. This is the moment of which the Time Lords spoke in The End of Time, or at least the prelude to it. After this, the Doctor pushing the button is just a formality.


What I like most about “Museum Peace”’s payoff though is that it leaves room for doubt – did the Dalek mean to kill Kalendorf, or did it mean to kill the Doctor? Or did it mean to tear the hearts of out of both men, rather than settling for killing just one of them? I guess we’ll never know.


Which brings me to the main reason that I decided to make “Museum Peace” the exception to my little rule: I’m completely enamoured with it. When people think of the Time War, they imagine colossal Dalek war fleets, timonic fusion missiles raining down from the heavens, and TARDISes mapping their internal dimensions onto their exteriors in an attempt to look big and mean. This little story cuts through all that, forging a clear path straight to the crux of the matter and the hearts of the man. When all is said and done, that Dalek death ray might as well have hit the Doctor, because this story sees the eighth Doctor die.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.



Short Trips: Dalek Empire does not offer any guidance as to placement, but it seems apparent that this short story takes place in the early days of the Last Great Time War, at a point where the Doctor is wrestling with the notion of becoming invovled in the conflict.


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