The Pit

Roots: Jack the Ripper legends. A Clockwork Orange (Milkbars). The Bible, Dante's Inferno, and Paradise Lost (the imagery of the Yssgaroth universe). Naked Lunch (the beetle with a typewriter on its back). Quatermass and the Pit (the Hob's Lane disaster [again implying that Bernard Quatermass exists in the same universe as the Doctor - see also Remembrance of the Daleks and The Dying Days]). The War of the Worlds (the red weed). With Blake featuring in the novel, there are references to his work, including "Tyger, Tyger" and "Milton". The novel opens with Isaiah 14: 12-21. There are references to Leonard Cohen, The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", Peter Pan (Tinkerbell), Augustine, Pandora's Box, Samuel Coleridge, Plato, Sigmund Freud, Dante, the Statue of Liberty, the Evening News, "Daisy", Isaac Newton, Ken Dodd, the Baker Street Irregulars, the Alamo, and Ferdinand Breughel. The book of poetry by William Ashbless is from the novel The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. (and some of the plot may also be from there.)

Goofs: Love and War' is now dated to 2450AD, contradicting The Highest Science as well as evidence that Love and War takes place after the events of Frontier in Space [see A History of the Universe].

Dialogue Disasters: 'Imagine our universe is a huge cheese, and where we were is another cheese.'

'We are returning to your paltry universe. And nothing can stop us now! Abandon all hope...'

Dialogue Triumphs: 'They aren't monsters. They're alien races with their own agendas, plots and dreams. But there are monsters out there, very real monsters. Monsters which shadow us; that are part of our imagination.'

The Doctor tells Blake, "The future of mankind? Just remember these words - Auschwitz, Stalingrad, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just words. Gladys Aylward, Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer. Just names. Somewhere between the words and the names lies the future of mankind.'

Continuity: The literal translation of Gallifrey is "They that walk in the shadows". There is a saying on Gallifrey that roughly translates as "Never trust a Time Lord". The Gallifreyans' initial attempt to detonate a star by Rassilon and Omega (see The Three Doctors) went wrong and punched a hole into the universe of the Yssgaroth, unleashing them into this universe. General Kopyion Liall a Mahajetsu, the Lord Defender of the Faith of the Peoples of Gallifrey, led a war against the Yssgaroth, monsters from another universe, and eventually expelled them from this universe. The Matrix doesn't mention the war. Rassilon came to power on Gallifrey during the thousand year long Eternal War against the Yssgaroth; the two surviving soldiers, including Kopyion, found that in their absence religion had been abolished in favour of science. During the war, star systems were destroyed and billions died.

According to Kopyion, the Seal of Rassilon actually predates the Time Lords by thousands of years, and Omega's accident was deliberately engineered to prevent anyone learning of Rassilon's great mistake (The Three Doctors). Kopyion tried to convince Rassilon of the need to be vigilant for the return of the Yssgaroth, but was ignored and fled Gallifrey. The Yssgaroth passed into the mythology of many species, as an all-powerful race that infested the entire universe. The khthons know of them as the Elder Gods, expelled from the universe by the sacrifice of a distant race. The legends of Gallifrey tell of nameless horrors infesting the universe defeated only by the combined might of the Time Lords [the Vampire war possibly took place during this time, and is in some way connected to the war with the Yssgaroth]. The Doctor claims that Yssgaroth is "a name used by frightened children to describe nameless, formless horrors which await you in the fog, or around the next corner." The Yssgaroth manifest as serpents hundreds of feet in length with wet, dripping skin, and horns and wings along their bodies. They have reptilian heads with multiple eyes in the forehead, and horns There is a gateway into the Yssgaroth universe in the castle on the unnamed planet in the Althosian System.

General Kopyion has a shock of white hair, a small beard, and a ponytail. He has only one arm, gold teeth, and a large facial scar. He lost his other arm on the unnamed planet in the Althosian System. He carries a sword and an old revolver. He was amongst the first settlers of the Althosian System and created the Justice Police. He still owns Mirage Enterprises, the company that builds androids. He habitually dresses in black, and likes Leonard Cohen. He likes to fry rare Lokan grasses in vegetarian sauces, and he drinks wine. He likes dates. A worm curling around a globe is the symbol of the Yssgaroth; Kopyion carries an amulet bearing this design, because the ancients of Gallifrey believed in using evil to ward off evil. He rescues the Doctor from the Yssgaroth universe because he says he can't allow him to die, although he threatens to kill him if he ever interferes with Kopyion's work again. He built the unnamed planet [and the space station] to monitor the Yssgaroth. He destroys the Seven Planets as a symbol of defiance towards the Yssgaroth.

The Fellowship in London in 1888 is responsible for the Jack the Ripper killings; they worship the Yssgaroth and use the sacrifices in an attempt to summon them into their world. An Yssgaroth skeleton is found beneath Stonehenge during the later twentieth century.

Khthons are the original inhabitants of the Althosian System and are small, wizened hairless humanoids. They are native to the planet Trieste. The human colonists used them as slaves, until the Althosian System gained independence and the Academy decreed that they would be given freedom and equal status. They are telepathic.

Hunters are scavengers around holes in time. They are found in the Althosian System and can survive in the vacuum of space. They fly between planets and prey on colonists. They are also present in the Yssgaroth Universe. They have bat-like wings, horns, extended faces with savage teeth, piercing yellow eyes, claws, long tails, and skeletal bodies. They have brown reptilian skin.

Killer-type androids are used in the Justice Police in the Althosian System and have a reputation for ruthlessly carrying out their programmed tasks. They are two metre tall humanoids and seem to be artificial intelligences with minds of their own. They have some of the senses of humans. They are usually programmed to fight Hunters, for which they use hang-gliders.

Butler and Swarf are shapechangers, although their species and origins are not revealed. They are midgets, with oversized bellies, bald heads, and pig-like facial expressions. They either have natural psi abilities or are powerful enough to shield themselves against telepathy through force of will. They can only change shape for short periods of time.

There are bapputchin, pack animals that are relatively safe to ride, in the Yssgaroth universe. The Cun are grotesque pig-like creatures that derive entertainment from fights between animals. The Doctor and Blake are attached by blue skinned women with missing body parts on the back of pterodactyls; the women speak Ancient Gallifreyan. Galks are jackal-like creatures, some of which have also entered the Yssgaroth universe.

The Doctor claims that he is now over a thousand years old. He's built a new sonic screwdriver since The Highest Science. The Doctor uses a weasel flirt to repair the TARDIS console. He still carries a yo-yo. His pockets contain a half eaten apple, bits of machinery, a wallet full of cards, some money, and a toy batmobile, which he gives to the mutant women in the Yssgaroth universe. The Doctor tells Blake that Susan loved his work. In the Yssgaroth universe, the Doctor is confronted by a spectre named Legion, who transforms into each of the Doctor's incarnations. The Doctor drives a juggernaut for the first time. He carries a harmonica, on which he plays "Jimmy Crack Corn". He once told Benny that he's always wanted to ask God, "Why?"

Benny isn't religious. She plays chess with the Doctor. Bernice collects twentieth century films and watches them repeatedly; she has seen The Great Escape and Sons of the Desert. She wears green combat trousers and a T-shirt. She can't remember much about her father. He used to read Hans Christian Andersen stories to her and he used to take her fishing. She has seen the Seal of Rassilon from some old books in the TARDIS library.

The TARDIS control room currently contains only a chair and a hatstand; the Doctor has at least three other hatstands dotted around the TARDIS, having at one time decided to collect them. The TARDIS databanks have no record of the Seven Planets.

The Althosian System has twin suns. Planets in the system include Nicaea, Trieste, Byzantine, and the unnamed outermost planet, which off-limits to humans under inter-planetary law on pain of death due to the number of ships that have gone missing near there. The unnamed planet is artificial, which is why it shares so many species with Earth; many of the plants and animals are mechanical or electronic. Nobody has ever returned from the planet. There are small, herbivorous reptiles native to the unnamed planet, as well as rats and spiders, and a large ten metre wide jellyfish with a grey body and black spots. The unnamed planet is covered in jungle and has vast river some nine kilometres wide. Areas on Nicaea include Washington Square and Mikhail Gorbachov conapt. There are ants and scorpions on Nicaea. The Academy is the parliament of the Nicaean Federation. The Imperial Palace on Nicaea is located several kilometres outside the city and covers three hundred acres.

There are space docks on Glasson Minor.

Dream B is a highly addictive hallucinogenic drug not generally found on twentieth-century Earth.

Links: There is a reference to State of Decay. The time path indicator briefly lights up (The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan, Timewyrm: Genesys). There are references to Daleks, Cybermen, the Brigadier and Jo Grant. Amongst the bones the Doctor finds in the Yssgaroth universe are those of Ogrons (Day of the Daleks, Frontier in Space) and Terileptils (The Visitation). The Doctor recalls playing backgammon with Kublai Khan (Marco Polo) and again mentions meeting Harry Houdini (Planet of the Spiders). The Doctor mentions the Pythia (Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible) and Bambera (Battlefield).

Location: Gallifrey, date unknown; Nicaea, and the unnamed planet, in the Althosian System, 2400AD; Whitechapel, 30th September, 1888AD; the Yssgaroth Universe, date inapplicable; and Salisbury Plain, England, [the late twentieth century].

Future History: Brian Parsons was a veteran of many of Earth's most notorious conflicts; he died c2200AD, but many of his methods are still programmed into Nicaean Killer Androids in 2400AD.

Circa 2397AD, Nicaea and the other six planets of the Althosian System (known collectively as the Seven Planets) led a revolt against the Earth Corporation that owned the system and gained independence. Subsequently, the Archon becomes the supreme ruler of the Seven Planets. The religion of the human colonists on Nicaea is loosely based on the Eternal War between the Gallifreyans and the Yssgaroth. They worship the Prime Mover, whom they also refer to as the Supreme Deity. Their holy book refers to the Eternal Battle between the Prime Mover and the Form Manipulator. A war breaks out between the Priesthood and the Academy in 2400AD. Kopyion destroys the Seven Planets in 2400AD.

By 2400AD, many Earth colonies are fighting for independence from the Corporations; by Benny's time, most have rejoined the Corporations in order to fight the Dalek War.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor and Bernice take Blake home before Deceit. The Doctor took Benny to a 1980s Laurel and Hardy convention in Ulverstone, Lancashire, where he recited stories about his old friend Arthur Jefferson. The Doctor has seen entire worlds destroyed by Dream B. The holiest person that the Doctor ever met was a French Jesuit palaeontologist whom he met in Africa in 1956. The Doctor claims to be a personal friend of Queen Victoria [see Empire of Death].

Q.v. Benny's Birthday, Love and War.

The Bottom Line: 'Don't interfere in my work. It goes on.' Despite having a reputation as the worst New Adventure, the The Pit has much to offer. The prose is decidedly eccentric and the intrusive references to popular culture suggest that Penswick is a first time author, but there are some fine ideas on display, and some great characterisation especially in the case of Blake. It's rather too long and unfocused (the middle section, which is an attempt to explain the Jack the Ripper legend, is superfluous to the main plot), but overall The Pit is worth a look.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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Comments

The prose was stilted, the civil war subplot went nowhere and there didn't seem to be any point to featuring William Blake. Yet, I didn't find The Pit a bad read in the end. I especially liked the ghastly adventures on Nicaea, and I have to agree with Lawrence Miles about Yssgaroth being a great name. In no way deserving of the reputation for being the worst of the New Adventures.

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