Roots: Most of the genetics comes from Matt Ridley's book Genome. The book opens with a quote from Job 3:23. There are references to Joan Simms, Nick Ross, Anne Frank, Mills & Boon, and Star Trek. The Doctor uses the term Homo Superior, originally coined in The X-Men.
Goofs: Reverse transcriptase is an enzyme, not a type of junk DNA.
Dialogue Triumphs: Cauchemar's condition scuppers his ability to make decent megalomaniac threats: 'You will get me those parts, or I will I will ... I will shout at you, Hox, and then I will collapse, it seems.'
Continuity: The planet's gravity is more-or-less Earth normal. It is protected by various natural-seeming phenomenon, including white holes and strange matter. An unnamed race of aliens most of whom had evolved to a state of pure thought, steered a human prison ship damaged by a collision with a meteor to the planet, irradiated it to make the occupants terminally ill, and then offered to save the survivors, if they would become part of the aliens' experiment. The aliens, with Cauchemar's help, genetically engineered the humans, removing all of their junk DNA. The aliens had learned how to become creatures of pure thought by discovering the gene for their soul; the colonists were designed to be carriers for the souls of undesirable members of the alien race, who had to live out their lives in symbiosis with their human hosts. If they live a good life, they are judged worthy by the Creator, a semi-sentient energy emission generated by the gestalt genetic code, and when the human dies, the alien's soul, trapped in a sequence of transgenic DNA on chromosome 13 of the human carrier, is released to join the rest of its race in harmony with the universe. If they do not live a good life, when the human dies both human and alien are reincarnated in another carrier of the DNA godswitch ad infinitum until they achieve worthiness.
Cauchemar terms the transgenic colonists cat G, a pun derived from the four nucleic acid bases. Because the number of alien souls is reduced, once all the alien souls have evolved into creatures of pure thought, the colony would die the human colonists, unaware of their origin, refer to this semi-mythical time as the Vanishing Point. In order to maintain the experiment and prevent the colonists discovering the truth, the aliens created the Holiest, genetic constructs made from the dead, and outlawed genetics. The Holiest know the true nature of the planet's society and are responsible for passing the Creators' judgement on the colonists at the point of death. The water-mountains are the home of the Creator and the water contains various enzymes and catalysts. There are cow-like animals on the planet, which resemble Earth cows but are much larger. The city appears to be the only city on the planet, although Dark implies that there were others, now ruined.
Cauchemar is a human geneticist, who was exiled to a prison colony on the New Earth frontier for experimenting on fellow colony members. He was aboard the prison ship hijacked by the aliens, but because he had experimented on himself in an attempt to make him immortal, he was unsuitable to be a carrier for the aliens' soul essence. They agreed to grant him his freedom if he helped to establish the colony, but having left the planet he grew lonely and missed a prison guard, Jasmine, who had been genetically re-engineered by the aliens. With his experiments on himself having failed and induced dystrophic cellular degeneration, he became obsessed with the fate of his soul, and decided to destroy the colony he helped to create and force the Creator to recognise his soul at the same time, so that he, like the aliens, can become one with the universe when he dies. The Creator can only detect, alive or dead, the colonists containing the godswitch on chromosome 13. Cauchemar spent years on the colony in secret, lobotomising colonists to remove the aliens essence and make them invisible to the Creator; served by these, he searched for years for the colonist containing the reincarnation of Jasmine.
In order to force the Creator to accept him, he genetically engineered a baby containing the fingers taken from colonists he murdered because their flesh still lives in the baby, their godswitches were never thrown. He intends to kill the baby, releasing the built-up potential energy of all the separate experiential tracts within it, thus confusing the Creator, and further overwhelming it by mass-murdering the city's inhabitants with a network of bombs. The resultant self-defensive frenzy of the creator would cause a feedback of energy into the remaining colonists, killing everyone carrying the godswitch, and thus preventing any more of the alien souls from being released. He plans to simultaneously kill Ettianne Grace, the colonist in whom he believes Jasmine still exists, and ride into Heaven with her soul whilst the Creator is disrupted. His insidious manipulation of the colony over the years results in the introduction of genetic change, producing the mooncalves, who lack godswitches and therefore cannot be detected by the Creator.
Following his arrival on Earth at the end of The Ancestor Cell, the amnesiac Doctor was found wandering and was placed in a Victorian ward for five days. Having spent a century on Earth, the Doctor is keen to encounter monsters. Showing off, he twists a towel into a knotted rag doll with a single flick of his wrist. He carries a whistle.
At the age of eight, Fitz visited the seaside with his Mum and fell off a wall, spraining his ankle. His Mum used to call him a mooncalf. He and Anji have become friendlier since leaving New Jupiter, following Anji's constant irritation with him in Earthworld. He has sex with the mooncalf Vettul, and it is hinted that he makes her pregnant.
Anji has three sisters. She has had self-defence classes and often carries a rape alarm. It is again mentioned that she doesn't believe in Gods. She once tried to learn ballet but was rubbish at it. She is still carrying her mobile around (see Earthworld). She learns about the Doctor's ability to place him in a coma. She has had a couple of relationships with older men (see The City of the Dead). She and Dave visited the theatre shortly before his death. Dave was an atheist. Following his death, Anji found herself wishing that she believed in reincarnation, but couldn't manage to.
Links: There are various references to Earthworld. Fitz notes that alien leeches (The Taint), virtual reality generators (Parallel 59), and the TARDIS (Interference) have tampered with his mind. The Doctor says that he would hope he has a shadow, which is a reference to Faction Paradox stealing his shadow (Interference and The Ancestor Cell). He mentions Miranda (Father Time). The Doctor comments that he might be of mixed heritage (see The TV Movie).
Location: An unnamed planet, date unknown (sometime in the future).
The Bottom Line: A taught thriller, with a fascinating central mystery and reasonable grounding in science fact. Cole creates the same sort of dystopian society rife with sinister secrets that cropped up in his earlier co-authored novel Parallel 59, but here manages to make the guest cast much more interesting. Its a shame, however, that Cauchemar goes from being a tragic Shakespearean villain to a ranting madman by the end.