The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Roots: The myths of Avalon are based heavily on Arthurian legend, hence the planet's name. Barbara is a fan of Jane Austin and P. G. Wodehouse. Marton Dhal's winged apes are straight out of The Wizard of Oz. Gramling mentions Rocs (The Arabian Nights' Entertainments). Susan is familiar with the tale of Rapunzel. There is a copy of Spenser's Faerie Queen in Fluxford library. Noah's Ark is mentioned. Ian mentions a book that is probably The Lord of the Rings. There is an apple that sends people to sleep (Snow White).
Continuity: Mythical creatures made real by the system on Avalon include Dragons, Dwarves, Elves, Leprechauns, Bogies, Wyverns, Guivres, Lindworms, and Krakens. The Cephlies have mottled pelts, large heads elongated at the back, and spindly bodies. The system was built millennia ago and works via trillions of nanobots that saturate the entire planet and control and feed off the energy fields generated by the planet's engineered moons. The nanobots are programmed not to tolerate other electronic equipment; hence they cause any technology alien to the planet to fail.
Avalon has six moons, located equidistantly apart in a ring around the planet. The moons were originally designed as part of a system for collecting and focusing solar energy on a planetary scale to provide power for the planet and also to protect them from the unusually high number of asteroids and meteors present in the sector. They then created the nanobots, which were powered by the energy field. The nanobots eventually became so numerous and sophisticated that they responded to the wills of the creators and could direct and manipulate energy and matter in response to mental force. The system shapes events and people to the dominant mythological structure of the society - the Doctor is able to perform magic because people believe that he can so the system allows it.
Two thousand years earlier c945AD, the Cephlies used the system to try and change the colour of a nearby star - it did this by generating a powerful energy beam, which sent a nearby star nova. The subsequent drain on the system left Avalon without power for many years and the Cephlies' civilization dwindled. The Cephlies were kept alive for centuries by the system, but never recovered from the damage caused by creating the nebula. Following the Doctor's discovery of the truth, he returns the Helm that controls the system to the Cephlies, who use it destroy the system, including the nanobots, the moons and their energy fields - this reduces the moons to burnt cinders and causes the ancient Cephlies to die. Wonders created using the system include the Seven Companions, a three-mile high pyramid, the Crystal Forest of Glissandor, the Great Fountain of Largos, the river Dellberry, and the glass bridge at Fluxford.
Regions of Avalon include Elbyon (a corruption of Albion, the old name for Britain), ruled from the city of Fluxford. Fluxmouth is a nearby port. Glazeby is another location, and its name is a corruption of Glastonbury. The Shadow Isles are located in the Circle Sea. Thule and Borea are lands located to the North of Elbyon.
Forced into a dual with Gramling, the Doctor uses his ring as a focal point for his "spells". He dons the robes of a Sorcerer to take on Gramling.
Susan states that her people cannot get drunk unless they choose to (see Transit, Slipback, The Year of Intelligent Tigers and The City of the Dead).
Barbara is not afraid of heights.
The nanobots of the system on Avalon cause the TARDIS to activate its defence circuits to stop them getting in; this results in blue sparks crackling across its surface when the Doctor attempts to unlock the doors (a high voltage surface electrical discharge). The TARDIS has a force field to filter the external air when the doors are opened, but this cannot remove nanobots trapped in its occupants' lungs and clothes. The Doctor teaches Barbara the correct sequence for turning the TARDIS key (see The Daleks).
Links: This story takes place between Marco Polo and The Keys of Marinus. At the start of the novel, Ian is still wearing the black silk tunic he obtained at the court of Kublai Khan and only two minutes have passed since they left Cathay (Marco Polo). Ian refers to the radiation sickness the TARDIS crew suffered on Skaro (The Daleks).
Location: Avalon, 2945 (the colonists have been on Avalon for eight hundred years).
Future History: Human colonists landed on Avalon 28th September 2145 in the colony ship Prydwen, which set out from earth during the early twenty-second century. The ship carried flora and fauna from Earth. The system, affected by group consciousness, used the unconscious beliefs of the colonists to create Gods, which began to fight amongst themselves and terrorize the colonists. Dying and unable to deactivate the system, the colony leader removed all knowledge of what had happened from the minds of the colonists using the Helm, which is a master control for the system. The system continued to shape Avalonian society, creating a civilization based on Earth mythology and magic. Other ships crashed on Avalon over the years, including the Mercury Starhopper .C. built by the Armstrong Transolar Aerospace Company in 2976, based in Empire City, Tycho, Luna [i.e. on the Moon].
The Special Services Directorate is concerned with the security of the Earth Empire and was formed after the Landsknechte collapsed (Original Sin). Due to the number of ships lost in Avalon's sector of space, the Empire decided to send a ship out to the planet in case one of the Empire's enemies was responsible, and to try to harness whatever natural force was responsible if this was not the case.
The Interstellar Court of Justice judges the right of colonies to independence.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor and Susan met Harry Houdini in the United States, where Houdini taught the Doctor how to perform sleight-of-hand tricks (Planet of the Spiders). The Doctor visited Ireland sometime previously.
The Bottom Line: One of Bulis' better novels, The Sorcerer's Apprentice successfully fuses science fiction and fantasy whilst remaining true to the scientific spirit of the Hartnell era. The concept of the system is well thought out and there is a satisfying conclusion, although neither Dhal nor Gramling make particularly memorable villains.