The Hollow Men

Roots: [Note I am indebted to co-author Keith Topping for providing a commentary for The Hollow Men to The Novel Continuity, which contains a frighteningly detailed list of influences right down to specific lines of dialogue]. The Title comes from T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men. The Midwich Cuckoos (an isolated community with a dark secret). John Fowles' A Maggot (the sixteenth century dialogue). The Chens are named after Chinese novelist Chen Jo-His. The novel opens with a quotation from Margaret Thatcher. There is a quotation from Underworld's Born Slippy, by permission of the band. In addition, there are many other references hidden in the text, many obscure but cited by Topping. These include Peter Luke's Wednesday Play The Devil, a Monk Wou'd Be; The BlackAdder; Neil Gaiman's Sandman; The X-Files episode '731'; The Children of the Corn; Camberwick Green (Mrs. Cluett's name is homage to that series); Trumpton (the name Stuart Minton); Our Friends in the North; Grant Morrison's issues of The Doom Patrol; The Young Ones; Round the Horne; Pulp Fiction; Shallow Grave; William Blake's The Sick Rose; Twins of Evil; the poetry of Muriel Spark (the tense used for some of the flashback sequences); From Beyond the Grave (the mirror imagery); The Woman Who Slept With Demons (Longman's copse); Oliver Stone's JFK; and Monty Python's Flying Circus. Martin Day was apparently inspired to use scarecrows as monsters by Tom Baker's proposed Doctor Who film 'Doctor Who Meets Scratchman'.

As usual in Topping and Day's novels, there are numerous references to pop music, with chapter titles named after or inspired by songs and albums; these include (thanks to Keith Topping) Julian Cope's The Bloody Assizes, Elvis Costello's Jack of All Parades, Dreadzone's Little Britain, Paul Weller's The Butterfly Collector, The Kinks' The Village Green Preservation Society, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's I Betray My Friends, Cast's The Promised Land, Tinderstick's City Sickness, Paul Weller's Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, Penguin Caf Orchestra's The Sound of Someone You Love Who's Going Away And It Doesn't Matter, The Who's Happy Jack, The Prodigy's Firestarter, The Smiths' Hatful of Hollow, Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy, The Chameleons' Mad Jack, and XTC's Sacrificial Bonfire. Other musical references include the Beatles' All You Need is Love, The Stone Roses, Debussy, Schuman, Schubert, New Order, the Fall, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis, The Prodigy, Morrissey, Elgar's Enigma Variations, the hymn Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, Elvis Costello's Sleep of the Just, The Smiths' Hand in Glove, Paul Weller's Tales From the Riverbank, The Smiths' There is a Light That Never Goes Out, Mansun's Stripper Vicar, The Stone Roses' I Am the Resurrection, James, The Wurzels (I've Got a Brand New) Combine Harvester, and XTC's The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.

There are references to Thomas Hardy, Camelot, the Daily Telegraph, the Elephant Man, Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, Concorde, Wilde, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, Hsi Yu Chi, Hitler, Play School, the Daily Star, H. G. Wells, Coca Cola, the Bible, Sherlock Holmes, Romeo and Juliet, Apocalypse Now, Goering, Laurel and Hardy, the Titanic, Action Man, Martin Luther King, Crimewatch UK, Match of the Day, Men Behaving Badly, Marks & Spencer, Einstein, John Dillinger, Night of the Living Dead, Tom Brown's Schooldays (Flashman), Danny Baker's Dozen, Who's Who, The Big Issue, Worzel Gummidge, H. P. Lovecraft, Jeremy Beadle, Jules Verne, Turner, and Marlon Brando's performance in On the Waterfront. The Doctor at one point watches The Teletubbies.

Goofs: According to the back cover, this story takes place between The Curse of Fenric and Survival, but the Doctor's intention to leave a settee in Perivale during this story implies that these events take place after Survival, given his surprise and disgust at landing safely on convenient furniture in that story.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'Responsibility for one's actions comes from the absolute validity of what one does.'

'It's what characterizes humanity. You are born, you live, you are terrified by death, and obsessed with guilt and the desire for rationality. And you are redeemed by love. It's all you need.'

Continuity: Hakol is in the star system Rifter (The Awakening). Hakolian invasions take place in three stages; the first is the dispatch to a likely world of a reconnaissance probe (in this case the Malus) to check for psychic energy; the second stage is the dispatch of a battle vehicle containing a war creature designed to operate in tandem with the probe to enslave numerous individuals an destroy any potential opposition; and the third is arrival in person of the Hakolians when the conflict is over. Both creatures feed on hate and fear. The Malus sent an invasion signal to Hakol in 1643, before becoming dormant again. In 1685 the experimental battle vehicle Jerak arrived, but missed its target and landed in Hexen Bridge; because the war machine thus failed to link up with the Malus, the invasion plan failed and it too remained dormant, becoming the mythical Jack i the Green. The Doctor hypothesizes that the failure of both the probe and the war machine to report back to Hakol persuaded the Hakolians to abandon their invasion plans. Like the Malus, Jack is part machine, part living creature and feeds off and manipulates psychic energy. The psychic energy of the Hakolians produces sterility in the slaves they possess on conquered planets; as a result, all planets invaded by the Hakolians eventually die. The Terileptils, who mined tinclavic exclusively for the people of Hakol (The Awakening), eventually turned against them, appalled by their continual butchery. Under the control of Jerak, Matthew Hatch funds research into a genetic agent capable of unleashing psychic energy and destruction in humans without them becoming sterile. Because the Hakolians rely on primitive fear and terror, they are limited to invading relatively primitive planets; Hatch's agent would allow them to unleash primitive fear on any planet they choose.

The Doctor carries a notebook containing lists of things that he'll do in the future to make his past and present easier; these include leaving a settee in Perivale (Survival) [see Goofs] and returning to Planet 14 to check up on its provisional government (The Invasion). He adds a reminder to telephone A Taste of the Orient the previous Monday to make a reservation. Earth schools often remind the Doctor of Prydon Academy. He books two rooms in The Green Man under the name of Smith. He claims to be a pharmacologist amongst other things. The Doctor's pockets contain a blue yo-yo, a bag of jelly babies, a Swiss Army Knife, a teddy bear, an etheric beam locator (Genesis of the Daleks), and a small spool of bare electrical wire. He has a degree in Philosophy that he obtained in Vienna.

Ace apparently supports Charlton Athletic football club. She hasn't screamed since she was ten years old. She orders a pint of lager, prawn crackers and Beef Szechwan whilst in A Taste of the Orient. The Doctor orders Seven Stars Around the Moon, Wandering Dragon and Happy Family. Ace dislikes teachers, especially openly Christian teachers. She used to make night time trips to her local cemetery to spray phrases like 'Satan Lives!' on gravestones as part of dares with Midge and Jay. She carries a form of plastic explosive nitro, complete with miniature timer and detonator. She owns a pair of night vision binoculars.

Pogar is a star visible from Gallifrey [according to Keith Topping, it is the name of Gallifrey's sun].

Johnny Chester's band is named the Star Jumpers. Johnny Astronaut supports them when they play at Wembley. According to Keith Topping, the female Australian politician to whom Chester is married is Tegan. Other (fictional) bands mentioned here include Fractured Spirit, Unlicensed Virgins, Amanda, Strawberry House, and Sugar Coma. The band Heroin Sheikh has a song called My Body is a Temple.

Links: This story is a sequel to The Awakening. Ace notes that she hates fascists as much as she hates clowns (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy). The Doctor mentions Ian and Barbara. Johnny Chester was first mentioned (as Johnny Chess) in Timewyrm: Revelation. The Doctor recalls visiting Liverpool one Christmas with Steven and Sara (The Daleks' Master Plan) and refers to his regeneration in Logopolis. There are references to Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti (The Abominable Snowmen, The Web of Fear, Downtime), and Draconians and Ogrons (Frontier in Space). Ace recalls being chased by vampires (The Curse of Fenric). According to Keith Topping, the Doctor's claim that he has practised law is reference to The Stones of Blood. The Doctor states that he trained in medicine in Glasgow (The Moonbase).

Location: The village of Hexen Bridge on the Somerset-Dorset border; Liverpool; and Tottenham Court Road, London; England, in June during the early twenty-first century [the year is unspecified, but brass-coloured five-pound coins are legal tender in Britain].

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor's trip to 1643 to return Will Chandler following The Awakening apparently turned into something of a right how-do-you-do. Following the events of The Daemons, the Doctor was exploring the area around Devil's End and eventually came to Hexen Bridge; concerned about the weird oppressive atmosphere surrounding the village, he resolved to return and investigate further at some point. Following the events of The Awakening, he was reminded of the village and with the help of Jane Hampden managed to get a place on the board of governors at Hexen Bridge School so that he could keep an eye on the area. He read a first edition Byron in the west wing of the school during 2986. He's made several visits to the village, stayed in the pub, and has met Mr. Chen before on several occasions. He presented Turner's Hambledon versus All England to the school upon his acceptance to the board. The Doctor visited Hexen Bridge in 1971, on which occasion he met the young Ian Denman. The Fifth Doctor, travelling with Tegan and Nyssa visited again in 1984, meeting Denman and the five-year old Trevor Winstone. The Doctor may have visited Hakol, and describes it as a place of nightmares.

In 1995, the Fourth Doctor and Romana spent an evening relaxing in Cornish fishing village pub when the Doctor saw a news report concerning the suicide of David Brown, captain of the English cricket team and a native of Hexen Bridge. At some point, he witnessed Michael Forster, lead singer of the band Comanche Bloodbath commit suicide on stage at the Glastonbury Festival.

The Doctor knew Turner, and once spent an afternoon at Lords with Francis Thompson. The Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria once spent a holiday in Grasmere.

The Bottom Line: With an ancient alien menace buried beneath a quiet English village, The Hollow Men could easily have been cliché-ridden and derivative, but thanks to some superb characterisation and plotting, it works magnificently, and is easily the best Doctor Who novel Keith Topping has contributed to date.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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