Ghosts of India
Roots: Gandhi. There are references to Einstein, Shakespeare, Mother Teresa, The Times, Dennis the Menace, The Gita, Cadbury’s Wispa, Hieronymous Bosch, Heat magazine, and Smarties.
Goofs: How does “hovering up” and neutralising Zytron energy instantly cure the cellular damage it’s already caused?
Dialogue Triumphs: “I’ve seen more suffering in my life than you can possibly imagine. But that doesn’t mean it ever gets any easier.”
Continuity: The Jal Karath have multi-limbed, stalk-like bodies and numerous milky-white eyes. They live in Hives, of which there are eleven. They are generally a peace-loving species, although the current leaders of the eleven hives are corrupt and the Hive Council is initiating a secret build-up of military forces on one of the outer planets, including Gelem warriors, and is planning to build an interstellar empire. Enforcers track down and capture renegade Jal-Karath. Jal-Karath live for hundreds of years. Their home planet is Jal Paloor. Thousands of dead planets surround Jal Paloor.
Gelem warriors are a construct species, the creation of which was banned by the Pact of Chib in the eleventh century. Their shape depends on the species harvested to provide the raw material from which they are made. Many emergent space-faring races used Gelem warriors during the War of the Five Hundred Worlds, harvesting more primitive species to siphon off their base instincts [and genetic material?] to create Gelem warriors. They can survive extremes of temperature and don’t need to eat, breathe, drink or sleep. It takes five living creatures to provide the raw material to make one Gelem warrior.
Glamour technology is a type of psychic shield invented by the Kladdavoreesh to protect them from the many predators on Kladdavor. Zytron energy causes cellular damage and uncontrolled aggression in living beings.
The Doctor and Donna meet and befriend Gandhi here. The Doctor produces a Satsuma and a set of wind-up teeth from his pocket. He also carries a Maluvian Rainbow Cascade, which he sets off here. His pockets also contain plum stones, a rubber spider, scribbled notes, a book, a tangle of green and yellow wire, sweet wrappers, a yo-yo, a bouncy pink ball with Donald Duck’s face on it, an old creased photo of Brighton Pier (picked up during The Leisure Hive or Pier Pressure), paperclips, shells, chunks of stone, a cocktail umbrella and a cassette recording of him signing with Elvis (see Unrecorded Adventures). With the aid of his psychic paper he adopts the alias Dr John Smith, Royal College of Surgeons, Rare and Tropical Diseases Unit. The sonic screwdriver can detect Zytron energy. He builds a crude “timey-wimey” detector. He takes two sugars in his tea. He knows of the Jal Karath.
Donna wears a flowery dress and sandals here; she dons a pair of army boots after losing her sandals. She later borrows a silky plum-coloured dress and a wide, floppy-brimmed hat. Her cousin Janice is married to a Sikh. Donna slept in a four-poster bed in a hotel on Janice’s hen night. Amrita was a work colleague of Donna’s at H. C. Clements. She drinks home-made lemonade with the Campbells.
The ears of Fostarones turn blue when they lie. The inhabitants of Istervaal are descended from mountain goats.
Links: Donna recalls the Ood (Planet of the Ood). The Doctor notes that he has been a teacher (Human Nature, Human Nature/The Family of Blood). There are references to the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride), Draconians (Frontier in Space), the Shadow Proclamation, Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans. The Doctor contemplates trying a Venusian lullaby on an enraged attacker (The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon). The Doctor notes that he knew some butterflies and beetles once, which is a probably a reference to The Web Planet.
Location: Calcutta, 1947.
Future History: Zytron energy is discovered on Earth c.4947.
Unrecorded Adventures: Eatery-owner Kam Bajal is an old friend of the Doctor’s in Calcutta in 1937, the Doctor having helped him out with an infestation of Jakra Worms. He later visited him for Navratri in 1941. The Doctor was once voted man of the match at the Calcuttan Polo Club. He once got caught up in the shanghorn-running ceremony on Ty. He has a sun-visor that he claims was given to him by Ginger Spice, which he loses here. He again notes that he has met Cleopatra (The Masque of Mandragora). He once got invited to a feasting ceremony just outside the Toxic Zone on Kladdavor. He entered the Intergalactic Staring Championship on Acerlago Prime and won bronze because the Rallion Gestalt cheated. He claims to have recorded a cover of “How Much is That Doggy in the Window”, which they were going to release as a single until Colonel Tom vetoed the idea.
The Bottom Line: A fairly light-weight romp, although setting it in India in the forties results in an admirable effort at capturing contemporary local colour and teaching the kids about history. The portrayal of Gandhi is so two-dimensional that he’s the least memorable character in the novel, and having him accidentally foil the villain’s plans by being pure goodness is both nauseating and trite.