The Highest Science
Roots: The Chelonians are at least partly inspired by Teenage mutant ninja turtles. Douglas Adams. The Inner Planets Music Festival takes place in 2112, which might be a reference to the Rush album 2112. Blake's 7 (Sheldukher's souped-up Kezzivot Class F61 is reminiscent of Scorpio, the Cell of a suicidal Orac). The Empire Strikes Back (Fakrid's revelation that he is Jinkwa's mother). There are references to the Daily Mail, Rip Van Winkle, BBC2, Charlie Parker, Casablanca ("Of all the planets in all the galaxies, they had to walk into this one!"), Grandstand, Star Trek ("Doctor Spock"), Jeremy Beadle, and Mark Twain ("Reports of my breath have been greatly exaggerated"). One of the chapter titles is "Death of a Salesman" after Arthur Miller's celebrated play.
Goofs: Why is a woman with a six-month old baby travelling on a commuter train?
In the final chapter, Vanessa has taken to waking up early in the mornings since the Doctor disappeared. However, this can only have been two days, which is far too short a timeframe to make this a habit - unless the Chelonians took a lot longer to return to the area where the humans are than they took to leave it.
The picture of the Seventh Doctor on the cover looks nothing like Sylvester McCoy. And, as mentioned in the comments, the Chelonians are depicted as bipeds, when they are actually quadrupeds.
Technobabble: Synchronically aligned holographic vision. Reflective bounceback on the magnetronic spectometer index can be caused by a misphasing of the proton links. Molecular resonance - the inherent anomaly of disparate atomic structures in an induced state of symmetric inversion. Short hop retro reaction coil system. Reinforced megalanium. Spectronic destabiliser. Transtemporal differential regression.
Dialogue Disasters: "You cack footed moron!" "Scum!"
Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: 'This machine is one of the most sophisticated applications of science you are ever likely to encounter. Its range is universal, its power cells inexhaustible, and its usefulness in our current plight irrefutable!'
Benny: 'But does it work?'
The Doctor: 'Of course it bleeps. You can't build a tracking device that doesn't bleep, can you?'
'The smaller of the males... It wore a disc on its head and carried some sort of silly stick. I believe it to be the leader of the freaks.'
Fakrid: 'You may have the mind of a genius, Doctor, but you prattle like any other parasite!'
Sendei sums up prog rock when he says of Zagrat, 'Every number is over twenty minutes long. Nobody ever understood the lyrics until now. Most of their other discods were about elves and warlocks, but this one is just spaced out.'
The Doctor on the Chelonians: 'A race of bullying cowards, sweeping through the stars on a mission of extermination with no philosophy more inspiring than their own petty arrogance behind it!'
'They've been reading too much space fiction. It's like something out of that rubbish they used to put on after Grandstand.'
'A neurotic is a man who's just worked out what's going on.'
And, best of all: 'I offer you the universe and you blither of Taunton!'
Continuity: Benny thinks that the TARDIS lacks only three luxuries: alcohol, weaponry, and duvets. [So she's not discovered that the food machine can produce wine - as is seen in Venusian Lullaby]. During her era there was ration-card chocolate. Bernice studied Virginia Woolf for her year twelve assignment. She swears by The Everywoman Guide to Hassle Free Space Travel. She once had a friend who kept tortoises. She drinks a cocktail called Kronka - cherry brandy, crème de bananas, and pure M3 variant [probably not the M3 rocket fuel seen in The Ambassadors of Death]. She went on an expedition to the quagmire planet of Mordala, where a young biologist in her team accidentally killed himself with an overdose of quarkdust (and was found by old Dr Cartwright.) She also once went on an archaeological expedition to Sensuron to examine stone megaliths; every member of the team chose a megalith that resembled them, and gave it a nickname, in Benny's case Snooty Cow. She becomes addicted to Bubbleshake on Hogsumm. She recognizes Sheldukher's ship as a Kezzivot and has heard stories of Sheldukher; her mother used to tell her that he had scaly skin and terrible halitosis. Benny knows some aikido moves. She knows a good kitchen reject shop on Atvares Minor.
The Doctor provides Benny with a purse of assorted currency, some of which she considers to be "very strange". He builds a machine to detect the Fortean flicker. He later builds a contraption that immobilizes Chelonians by "molecular resonance" out of items from his pockets, including a small (tartan-effect) Thermos flask of vegetable soup, a torch, a catapult, a chain of safety pins, a radiation detector, a tin opener, a fluff-covered dog biscuit, and two dark green objects resembling spoons [possibly the components of the Rani's machine that the Doctor plays with in Time and the Rani]. He accidentally leaves his tin opener and spoons in the temporal field. He was planning to take Benny to visit the three-eyed Toad People of Miradilus Four before he learned of the flicker. He has a book entitled Displacement of Theoretical Anomalies, which contains information on Fortean flickers, and he also owns a book on the history of Checkley's World. Submitted to psychic attack by the Cell, the Doctor provides it with a recipe as misinformation. There is an implication that if the Doctor's legs were amputated, he could eventually grow another pair [by regeneration? This contradicts Jubilee]. He has heard of Sheldukher, Rosheen and Klift, and Checkley's World. In an attempt to hide his identity from Sheldukher, he uses the alias Norman Brown and adopts a West Country accent. He dislikes playing chess on computer grids. He has crossed the timelines so many times in the TARDIS that he is extremely sensitive to temporal disturbances; they make his head fuzzy and he becomes nauseas. He wears a blue gem stone ring [possibly the same ring worn by the First Doctor and last seen during The Power of the Daleks], which he uses to condition Bernice against the effects that Bubbleshake has had on her mind. He also uses it as a substitute operator's key for a transmat system.
The Chelonians are reptilian and scientifically advanced. They hail from the planet Chelonia. They resemble giant tortoises and are herbivorous. They cannot be described as humanoid - though their forelimbs are capable of using weapons etc. They are also hermaphrodites, a result of genetic engineering designed to improve reproductive efficiency. Chelonians that don't receive a dose of fertisol to stimulate their brood cycle and don't have their brood cycle deactivated entire the "Time of Blood", which causes them to become mentally unbalanced. They lay eggs. Chelonian eyes can focus on multiple things at once. Like humans, they prefer to live in moist, fertile environments. Chelonians cybernetically enhance themselves by grafting on hydraulic units when they reach maturity, which amongst other things allows them to alter their ocular range by several spectra, thus improving their vision. Military rank is denoted by painting stripes on their shells. The dead offspring of Chelonian officers are cremated. Most Chelonians refer to humans [and most other intelligent lifeforms] as parasites and believe that they need to be exterminated, although the prohibited Chelonian Respect For Life Brigade claims that humans are actually intelligent and should be treated with respect. The fact that humans kill one another convinced many Chelonian biologists that nature realised its mistake in creating them and tried to rectify it by breeding self-destruction into the species. They consider female humans to be the most dangerous type, since they can breed. Chelonian weapons include molecular dissociators. "By Mif" and "To Gaf" are Chelonian oaths; "Buf" and "Nazmir" are also referred to in oaths. There is a Chelonian colony on Mantikroz. Zarathion is a Chelonian weapon, a virus with effects similar to slow-acting napalm. According to the Doctor, they are eventually demoralized by fighting more advanced humanoid races, and turn to civil war; they will eventually capitulate and become co-operative members of interplanetary society. They use a substance called adrenal-amyl to enhance their combat abilities. They worship a Goddess.
Project FXX Q84 was created a from gene strain encoded to create pure, self-supporting intelligence. It was created on Checkley's world, from where the criminal Shelduhker stole it to aid him in his quest to find Sakkrat. He dubbed it "the Cell". The Cell grew a body that is part vegetable, part animal, and part mineral, since it assumed that this would make it the perfect life form. Since Sheldukher stole it, the Cell has made several decisions that it now considers to be mistakes, including the decision to develop senses. It is in constant pain and longs for the release of death. It developed the ability to speak whilst Sheldukher and his crew were in cryogenic suspension. It is also has crude ESP, a feature deliberately provided by its creators.
The technology of Checkley's World is used to build the citadel on Hogsumm. The citadel is protected by the Monumental Guardian, a huge robot with a squared off silver thorax, a rectangular head on a long black neck, and a segmented tail. It moves along on multiple tentacles, and has seven lights built into its head. A variety of clamps and probes extend from its thorax, one of which ends in a claw. It has an organic component in its brain. The two genetic constructs are identical naked bald men without body hair or genitalia. They can fire energy bolts from their fingertips. They are programmed to melt if they fail in their task. The Ethers are spirits brought into semi-corporeal form, and were only ever harnessed on Checkley's World. They are telepathic and are very difficult to kill. Unlike the Constructs, they have minds of their own as a result of having once been living beings. Other products of Checkley's World include compression grenades, Hercules Devastators and Freire gas. The slow time compressor on Hogsumm has a faulty kronos element, which creates a Fortean flicker.
A Fortean flicker is a metaphysical phenomenon that causes the chaotic forces of coincidence to snowball unpredictably and damage causality, moving people and places about in time and space. Bubbleshake was invented by the Joseph-Robinson Corporation, a particularly unscrupulous food company that operated for a time amongst the outer colonies of Earth. Bubbleshake is an appetite suppressant designed to be taken along with a pill; when taken without the pill it is highly addictive, and leads to hyperactivity, personality changes, compulsive behaviour, short-term memory loss and eventually the disintegration of the brain. It contains the extract of the Fabi weed; only a massive course of decontaminants can destabilize the brain cells. Megalanium is used to build spaceships.
Sakkrat is the legendary lost planet on which the Highest Science, which represents he final discovery on the scale of scientific discovery, was developed. According to the legend, this mysterious Highest Science destroyed its creators and their civilization. Legends of Sakkrat are found in ancient Martian mythology ("The fall of Sakkrat, City of the wise"), Draconian myths of Ssaa Kraat and the High Knowledge, and stories told amongst the children of Mulkos of King Sacrat and his unspeakable discovery. According to the Doctor, even the Eternals know the story. The owners of Checkley's World adapted Hogsumm to conform to the myth, thus setting a trap to lure Sheldukher there.
Hogsumm is located beyond Lasty's Nebula on the rim of the galaxy. Lasty's Nebula was renamed after an obscure scientist who went to chart the region in an early colony ship, and who died in poverty when it proved to be of little economic value. It has not been colonised by the late 27th Century. No intelligent life has been found there, and it is some way away from the galactic hub - which is where everything concentrates. There are small four-legged mammals native to Hogsumm. Vaagon has a pink sun. Farmers on Tayloe developed an anti-preservative chemical. Whilst searching for Sakkrat, Sheldukher's ship visits the stellar conjunctions of Naiad, the crystal quasars of Menolot, and the furthest reaches of Harma. Exalfa is one of the inner planets. Its capital city is Exalfa City.
A is a drug that is usually smoked, but can be swallowed. Bubbleshake - developed by the Joseph-Robinson Corporation is an appetite suppressant drink in cans. It is addictive without the pills that accompany it.
Most telepathic species encountered by humans have enlarged crania and one or two extra ganglia.
Links: Benny recalls Jan and the Hoothi (Love and War) and pointing a gun at the Doctor Transit. The Doctor has a blue ring that is slightly reminiscent of the first Doctor's. The materialization of a TARDIS causes a massive displacement of artron energy (The Deadly Assassin, Four to Doomsday). There are references to Draconians (Frontier in Space), Eternals (Enlightenment), the Panopticon (The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time), and Daleks. On regaining consciousness, the Doctor cries out, "Where am I? Who am I? And who are you?" in a nod to Time and the Rani.
Location: Vaagon 5665, Evertrin 2112 , England 1993, Hogsumm 2680, a bar in the 27th Century, and 52, Tavistock Square, August 1935.
Future History: In the 27th Century there are fermentation compressors, which are banned from some bars.
A Fortean flicker takes three festival goers from the annual Inner Planets Music Festival (known colloquially as Ragasteen) on the planet Evertrin in 2112 AD. Sheer Event Shift is a popular discod recorded by an artist named Zagrat. Bands playing at Ragasteen include M'Troth, the Great Mothers of Matra, Is Your Baby a God, and Televised Instant Death.
At some point during the twenty-fourth century, the Skaas and the Vetrux fought a war on the planet Regurel. The Doctor finds a holographic recording of a programme featuring a hero called Captain Millennium from an unspecified era [probably 2112].
Checkley's World is settled in 2290AD and is selected as the optimum site for a scientific frontiers base. The laboratories are released from state control in 2300AD, when the source of funding becomes a consortium of planetary consortiums and corporations including Riftok, Masel, and Arcturus; the major partner remains Earth Government. Checkley's World becomes known as "the Horror Planet" due to the nature of the research conducted there. Sheldukher steals Project FXX Q84 in 2389 and destroys its creators and their notes. A misdirected missile attack eventually destroys Checkley's World.
McArty led the third campaign against the Iguanoids in the Koftan war. Slow time compression is first theorized in 2386AD. His technique involved an ultrasonic whine at just the right frequency to incapacitate them. It worked because of their cybernetic systems.
Gustaf Urnst's Being an Account of my Discovery of the Unnamable Secrets of Sakkrat is published in 2421 by Magick Quarterhouse Computer Press, Glastonbury. Urnst is a notorious fraud, whose sensationalist style and wild claims led to an enormous resurgence in his popularity during the twenty-sixth century. He disappeared thirty years before Benny's time, transported in time and space to Tavistock Square in 1935 by the Fortean flicker. The Doctor owns a copy of The Collected Works of Gustaf Heinrich Urnst, printed in June 2503. Solar Cola is a popular drink in Benny's time.
Van Winkle worlds are colonies inhabited by humans cryogenically frozen for space flight during the first years of interstellar travel, only to find themselves overtaken by their descendants on awakening. Their inhabitants are notorious for sexism.
During the mid-twenty-fourth century it is common for parents to sell disappointing offspring to the military.
By 2680, Sheldukher is a legendary figure, having destroyed entire star systems including the Krondel Constellation. He had a reputation as the most dangerous man in the galaxy. His name is used to frighten naughty children. Holovids were made about Rosheen and Klift, played by Lithola Baxter and Arrad Swanson, respectively.
The Chelonians attack the Earth colony on Vaagon in 5665AD, almost wiping the humans out. The colony is based on agriculture. The Chelonians landed in the Wadii desert and moved eastwards towards the population centre, wiping out the third largest city on the planet. A Fortean flicker removes the invaders and thus saves the colonists, who believe that God has saved them; their ensuing reliance on miracles means that they are wiped out several generations later by a second Chelonian invasion force.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has met Chelonians before [including The Well-Mannered War]. He ran Taunton for two weeks in the eighteenth century, and has never been so bored. He claims that he once had to convince a deranged dishwasher that it didn't really want to take over the universe. He has encountered sentient defence installations (a.k.a. Living Bullets) before. He has seen entire worlds ruined by the crimes of Rosheen and Klift.
Q.v. Benny's Birthday, Love and War.
The Bottom Line: 'You are holding this book upside down.' Gareth Roberts' debut novel is pretty good, full of the comic style that he later developed so successfully in his fourth Doctor books. The Chelonians are a welcome addition to the stable of Doctor Who monsters, as is clearly shown by their many later appearances. The situation with the eight-twelves is particularly brilliant. However, Benny's subplot for the first half of the book fails to interest. It's just a way of getting her out of the way and to the ruined city.
'You are holding this book upside down.' A hugely witty debut from Roberts, with an engaging plot and an impressively nasty villain in the form of Sheldukher. The Chelonians are superb in their first appearance, and remain one of the best monsters created in the novels.