Oh No It Isn't!
Roots: Pantomimes, especially Puss in Boots, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin, and Sleeping Beauty. The physical description of the Perfectons sounds suspiciously like Smurfs. The Blues Brothers. The novel opens with a quotation from Emma Thompson. There are references to Michael Aspel, Robinson Crusoe, Adam and the Ants ("Ridicule is nothing to scared of"), Shakespeare, "I Could Have Danced All Night", Vivienne Westwood, Seven, Die Hard ("Yippee ki-yay"), Michael Howard, Queen's "A Kind of Magic", Spice Girls, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Nancy Drew, Scooby Doo, Francis Drake, and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Goofs: Menlove Stokes was described as being completely bald in The Romance of Crime, but now has a mop of brown hair with a double crown [either he shaved his head previously, he's had hair growth treatment, or his newfound mop is a bizarre gift from the Black Guardian].
Double Entendres: Well, this is panto...
"They're hot on my tail! And let me tell you, that's not as good as it sounds."
"The King's balls get bigger every year."
"Hold on to me, Dick." "I beg your pardon?"
"Where can I put my chopper?"
"Look at the size of those jugs!"
And many more.
Dialogue Disasters: "Bad fact!"
"I've always preferred blur to oasis." Groan...
"Give us back our genie! Or face evaporation!"
Dialogue Triumphs: "Information: the inner land of Slawcor is inside Grellor. There, none are Servitors. All are Masters. All are facts are knowable, nothing is hidden, and the secrets of the universe are available as perfect flowers on the walls. There are no dwarves there."
"I'd heard that another of my kind would be coming to this ball, but I could scarcely have hope that she would be so... soft-furred and silver. Let's hope she hasn't been neutered."
""Report" may be the wrong word. "Be dissected" is a closer translation."
Continuity: St. Oscar's University on Dellah consists of a campus of nine colleges and was the brainchild of the Sultan of the Tashwari Regime, who built it so that the expanding Earth Empire would already consider Dellah to be civilised and therefore would not annex it. The colleges include Garland, Pracatan, Pierce, and Goodyear. Dellah is a not a united planet, but is in fact occupied by three different power blocs: as well as the Tashwari Regime, there is the monarchy of Goll and the Sylan Federation. These three nations on Dellah include seven separate intelligent species of vastly different biological types. Including various cults and splinter groups, there are over five hundred officially registered religions on Dellah. The Sultan also established trade links with Earth. The University has its own space port. A Campus Bulletin is produced. The Dellahan autumn is usually rainy. The spaceport's Sky Pylon causes perpetual rain around the University.
The Grel are from Grellor and are bipedal, with thin, tentacular fingers, bulbous heads, tentacular faces, and thin, muscular torsos. Grel literature tends to emphasise the emotional aspects of events, such that the Grel process of writing history reads like novelisation. Their ships are called datarunners. The Grel are obsessed with collecting data and are often described as data pirates. Their creation myth states that they stumbled out of the ocean and were clever enough to make themselves bodies that can walk. Their recent history is recorded in the frequently updated Informative Record of Recent Grel History. They carry axes with data monitors; the spikes on the axe are used for penetrating skulls so that the data monitor can suck information out of brains. They have apparently destroyed whole worlds in search of the most trivial facts. They do not dream. They believe in an afterlife in a place called Slawcor. They are mentioned several times in Chelonian literature, the Chelonians boasting of killing many of them.
The Perfectons are small blue humanoids with six multi-jointed fingers on each hand. They lack toes, but have very flexible soles. They have white hair. They have high cheekbones, sharp teeth, and piercing eyes. They referred to themselves simply as "Us". The Perfectons supposedly died out five thousand years ago, and are recorded only in the accounts of other species. Perfecton is covered in grey dust that forms dunes. A major city on the planet consists of seven tall golden lozenge shaped buildings. Perfecton's star is a very old, very diffuse red giant: Perfecton's climate is impossible for a planet orbiting such a star and must therefore be artificially maintained. Because records are incomplete and nobody knows how the Perfectons died out, Perfecton was designated a Prohibited World by Earth Central when it was located: the order is lifted in 2593, and Bernice's expedition is the first allowed on the planet. Part of the reason for lifting the order is the fact that Perfecton's star is likely to go nova at any time.
The Green is an area that accesses all of space and time; the Perfectons' children used to send items into the green and produce items from it for entertainment. It stitches different times and places together briefly, allowing people to pass through. All three billion of the Perfectons, under the instructions of the leader, the Greater One, passed into the Green, which is why they disappeared and seemingly died out; they knew that their sun would soon go nova and decided to create a new world for themselves inside the Green. Their previous leader, the Great One, simply wanted them to stay on Perfecton, have a big party, and die with their sun. Once inside the Green, they preserved their entire culture as a computer matrix and downloaded everything, including themselves, into a single missile designed to launch itself at any ship that came near their planet. The missile would reactualise that ship into a dimensional transcendental vessel for the entire Perfecton culture, transforming the original crew into Perfectons, and allowing them to take their species out into the universe, escaping the destruction of their home world. Instead, it strikes Professor Archduke's book creating a pantomime world. Because they never pursued the physics of interstellar travel, preferring to make their best of their own world, they had no other escape from the impending explosion. Perfecton's sun goes nova here, destroying the planet. The Perfectons are preserved inside a single data module, in the form of Professor Archduke's thesis: Perfecton Thooo returns to Dellah with this, to decide how best to go about resurrecting his people. Thooo is offered a teaching position on Dellah.
The two agents sent by God to help Bernice are not actually members of the People, but humans. They are two of a choice few chosen to represent the People, or more specifically, the Tiny But Interesting Interest Group, in the Milky Way. They have been sent to try and recruit Bernice as an agent, since the TBIIG is very interested in various things in Dellah's sector of space. She accepts, in return for a small fee.
Bernice is currently in her mid-thirties. She holds the Edward Watkinson Chair of Archaeology at St. Oscar's. She is also Rector of Garland College. She has been given a small white spherical robot porter named Joseph, who is already starting to irritate her. Writing a sequel to Down Among the Dead Men was written into her contract of employment: she currently has got as far as a title, So Vast a Pile. She wears spectacles. She still has a pale band of flesh around her finger where she wore her wedding ring (see Eternity Weeps). Her rooms at St. Oscar's are filled with books. She owns a copy of Make Dangerous Love to Me - the Erotic Poetry of Carla Tsampiras. She has recently been ordering traditional jazz vinyl LPs from Earth at vast prices. She speaks a little Goll. She has befriended Menlove Stokes. She often drinks in the Garland College Bar, the Witch and the Whirlwind. Her rucksack contains archaeological equipment, data-retrieval systems, selected tools, ration packs, and a bottle of brandy. She achieved her doctorate on the run, from hard experience, having dropped out of Spacefleet. She uses a perfume here called Ah: A Perfume for an Alien or a Human. Whilst trapped in the pantomime world, she finds herself dressed in green ankle-length boots with boot cuffs, golden tunic, puffy-sleeved shirt, tights, and tricorn hat. She later changes into a big blue dress and point hat. She knows of the Grel due to the fact that one of those seen here ends up passing through the bedroom walls of the young Bernice due to the effects of the Green. Bernice quite possibly has sex with Michael Doran at the end.
The panto effect transforms Wolsey into an intelligent seven-foot feline humanoid in Cavalier hat, big red coat, puffy-sleeved shirt and big-thighed britches. In his usual form it transpires that he thinks of Bernice as "Servant Woman". His front right leg gets burned off here: a vet grows a new one for him back on Dellah.
Menlove Stokes is the host of popular weekly art transmission Paint Along With Menlove. On at least two occasions he has been driven off planets by mobs firing guns at him, and on one occasion by a mob firing guns at his paintings.
Bernice's head of department is a reptilian named Dr. Follett who is surrounded by a cloud of chlorine. Michael Doran is a member of her tutor group. Hettie Bonistall and Lucinda Pargiter are St. Oscar's joint occupiers of the Chair of Etiquette, due to a bureaucratic error. Professor Warrinder, the Head of Psi, is a Pakhar male. Professor F. Archduke is in Earth Literature and is the author of English Pantomime: A Critical Study. Professor Epstein is a specialist in Chelonian literature. Professor Owl is a rather buxom cosmologist.
Species on Dellah include Ootsoi, golden-skinned Lucidians, and Maldeans. Linnekerism is a cult on Dellah. It is implied that the lost empire of Lucidia had clandestine contact with humanity during its development.
Links: The Also People (God and the People).Bernice was left on Dellah with Wolsey by the Doctor at the end of The Dying Days. Menlove Stokes was provided with a chair on Dellah by the Black Guardian at the end of The Well-Mannered War. The Pakhars first appeared in Legacy. There are references to Chelonians (The Highest Science, Zamper, The Well-Mannered War).
Location: Dellah, the IAC cruiser Winton, and Perfecton, 2593.
Future History: The journey time from Earth to Dellah has been reduced to eleven months by 2593. There is a celebrity burglar named the Cat's Paw at large in the Earth Empire. The Winton is an Inman Class cruiser.
The Bottom Line: "The audience is revolting!" After a couple of opening chapters that establish Benny's new status quo, Oh No It Isn't turns into a pantomime farce, which has a great deal of wit, verve and imagination underneath a very silly façade. The Grel are great, and the whole thing is very promising, although in retrospect I can't help feeling this wasn't necessarily the best way to launch the new range...