Dancing the Code

Roots: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. The behaviour of bees inspires both the title and the behaviour of the Xarax. There are references to Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia, Levis, Casablanca, and the Daily Mail.

Technobabble: 'Double contrapnuemainterfluidostatic action.'

'Reverse the polarity of the binary transmission decoder unit and link it to the reception unit -'

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: 'Brigadier, sometimes I think your grasp of practical temporal physics is somewhat limited. If we're all blown up by an H-bomb whilst I'm trying to repair the TARDIS navigational circuits, how can I possibly go back in time afterwards and stop it from happening?'

Continuity: The Doctor describes the Xarax as a "biological tool kit" and hypothesizes that they were originally very sophisticated symbiotes that were adapted by some intelligent species that used them for their own ends and gave them control mechanisms that could be used by other species. He also hypothesizes that they were either brought to Earth by accident or as a surreptitious gift from another species. The Xarax have been on Earth for seven hundred years and inspired the Kebirian legend of the Al Harwaz, or dancers in the desert. Kebirian scientist Monsieur Zalloua investigated the legends and discovered a single lone Xarax queen living underground; he used pheromones to provide it with instructions, hoping to use it to aid the rebellion. It was Zalloua who dubbed them Xarax. The Xarax can grow exact replicas of humans and they replicate the Doctor and Jo. The replicas are autonomous, and behave in a way approximating their originals.

The chitinous exoskeletons of the Xarax constructs are filled with a honey-like liquid that smells of roses and cloves, although third stage Xarax can replicate blood and internal tissues and are in many ways human. They can also infect and transform humans. The Xarax can also impersonate helicopters, taking the form of huge flying insects with rotor blades, and jet planes. The Xarax, including the duplicates, communicate largely by gesture and scent. The Xarax Queen can link directly with humans by sampling pheromones from their skin, although humans cannot accurately control what knowledge she takes from them. Xarax macroproteins are similar to those of a Time Lord. The design of the radio communication room in the Xarax nest is copied from the Sontarans. The Doctor takes control of the nest and switches the Xarax off.

The Doctor is working on an improved navigation system for the TARDIS. The Doctor has a Personal Time-line Prognosticator, which projects a future image of the individual using it. The projection is based on a formula given to the Doctor by a friend on Venus years earlier (see Venusian Lullaby). He claims that by connecting the Prognosticator to the TARDIS' primary space-time orientation circuits, he can guide the TARDIS to wherever it shows at a given time, although when he tries it the result is a loud bang and lots of smoke. The Doctor is a qualified pilot and flies an RAF Superhawk to Kebiria. He carries a hand-held electronic device with a flickering purple light, which detects living organisms. He is blinded by acid produced by the Xarax nest, but because Xarax macroproteins are similar to his own, he is able to use them repair the damage.

When Jo was fourteen years old her Aunt May was given three months to live. She was Jo's father's sister and used to call Jo "Josie". Jo's mother used to give her Carvol capsules whenever she had a cold. Jo has never been to Africa prior to her visit to Kebiria. Of all the aliens she has encountered the Autons frightened her the most. She goes into cardiac arrest, but the Doctor resuscitates her.

The Brigadier speaks (or at least understands) Arabic. He knows the number of the UNIT morgue off by heart, a fact that he regrets.

Mike Yates is given a new office.

Sergeant Osgood is engaged to a woman named Becky, whom he met at a folk festival.

UNIT HQ is two miles from Marshstead. Henley Wood is UNIT's training ground. Captain Anton Deveraux is UNIT's North African representative. He is killed in Kebiria. His wife lives in Geneva and he knew Mike Yates. The Xarax replica of the Doctor kills UNIT soldiers John Shoregood and Barry Ryman. Other UNIT soldiers seen here include Corporal Cranley, Pepworth and Morgan, who are killed by the Xarax, and Morgan, Corporal Marks, and Major Huffington.

Kebiria borders Morocco. It is a former French colony given independence in 1956. Two thirds of the population are Muslims, and the rest Christians, mostly French-speaking Catholics. A Prime Minister, currently Khalil Benari, runs the country.

The Venusian clan Dhallenidhall considers it quite rude to speak aloud.

Links: Sergeant Osgood first appeared in The Daemons. There is a reference to the Doctor's exile being revoked and he again mentions Metebelis 3 (The Three Doctors). There are references to Nestenes (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons), Axons (The Claws of Axos), Solos (The Mutants), Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Cybermen (The Invasion), Daleks, Ogrons, and Reginald Styles (Day of the Daleks), Dæmons (The Daemons), Arcturians and Ice Warriors (The Curse of Peladon), Sea Devils (The Sea Devils), Drashigs (Carnival of Monsters), Delphons (Spearhead from Space), and the Mars Probes (The Ambassadors of Death).

Location: Kebir City, Kebiria; and UNIT HQ, England, [circa December 1971 or January 1972], though the story states that it is March.

Unrecorded Adventures: Aliens encountered by Jo during her time with the Doctor include Methaji, Hoveet, Skraals, and Kalekani. The Doctor has flown for a total of over seventy thousand hours in a Martian Exploder a couple of centuries ago.

The Bottom Line: 'I have told the Xarax to make perfect copies of all humanity - and then to use the copies to replace us.' A fairly traditional UNIT story, but with a scope that could never have been achieved on the series' budget, and with a strong anti-war message running through it that manages to be thought-provoking without being patronizing. All in all, rather good.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

Other Guides to this Story

Feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions about the site, or any technical problems with it. You may also want to check out our Privacy Policy. There is also an About Us page, if you really want to read one.

Add new comment


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.