Last Man Running

Roots: Aliens (drop ships). The Doctor mentions Confucius and quotes Shakespeare. There is a reference to Kipling.

Dialogue Disasters: "He's a psychotic pervert, but at least he's our psychotic pervert."

Dialogue Triumphs: "It is not funny to mock people's lack of knowledge, Doctor. Especially when you are stuck up a tree."

"Only lawyers and policemen ask questions to which they already know the answers."

"If you're serious about becoming a brutal psychopath I think you need to do some more studying."

Continuity: The system from which the Investigators originate contains at least two inhabited planets, known as First Planet and Second Planet. Inhabitants of First Planet tend to be thin and are colloquially known as "Firsters" whilst those from Second Planet tend to be fashionably plump and are known as "Toodies". The Out-system Investigation Group (OIG) has headquarters in Trikaybel City on Second Planet. Safedown is a city on First Planet. Other Second Planet offworld organisations include Csat, Dpex and Transorb. Duellists fight to the death on both planets for the entertainment of the public and for money, and can select kill-zones, including the Unlimited Kill-Zone. Contract duels are essentially a form of bounty hunting, tracking down criminals and executing them for money; the targets of contract duels are known as "runners".

According to the Doctor, the Empire of the Lentic constructed the unnamed planet. They had a rudimentary grasp of transdimensional engineering. The Empire of the Lentic was military and carried aggression to extremes, becoming obsessed with the need to create the perfect soldier. They created the planet and others like it as a semi-sentient, self-refining training facility, which analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the test subjects and then uses them to develop a training-and-selection programme, exaggerating the weaknesses and feeding them back as physical threats. The system was designed to copy the ultimate soldier when it found it in sufficient numbers to maintain the empire forever; the Lentic tested subjects in batches, a process of elimination known as Last Man Running. The Empire eventually collapsed. In its current location, the unnamed planet/testing facility has short nights and exhibits various environments. These include jungle consisting largely of needle-leaved evergreen trees; swamps; and a lake. It has an underground control centre and a recycling centre that breaks down anything landing on the surface, including meteorites and spaceships, and stores the raw materials for reuse. The system creates various environments and life-forms, including a number of predators, by a process of fabrication that is vaguely similar to cloning, but not technically the same. The planet's systems have a projector, which creates predators based on the memories or thoughts of anyone interfacing with it. Predators created by the planet include: a giant insectoid creature with huge mandibles; squad snakes; giant flying lizards; a huge multi-coloured amphibian with at least two tongues, black eyes, four flippers and six legs, which hunts using subsonic waves and has some tele-hypnotic abilities; small pack-hunters with a body almost as broad as it is long, with two wickedly clawed front legs and four heavily-muscled back ones, mottled black and white fur, a small head with large eyes, large ears, and a mouth filled with rows of backward-angled sharp-toothed ridges, and which apparently moves by jumping; and squad snakes. Squad snakes are five-feet long and can spit nerve toxin or inject it via hinged fangs. They have vestigial telepathic links to each other and hunt in groups of up to one hundred individuals. They use a telepathic strike to paralyse the nerve centres in warm blooded organisms. Humanoid warriors appear on the planet: they hairless green skin, heads with a crest of bright yellow or white spines, long arms with double elbows, and long and muscular legs with narrow three-toed feet. They wear woven metal body armour and carry short-shafted spears and shields. The planet has been interdicted by the OIG, meaning that nobody can take-off from or land on it without their prior clearance.

Bloodswimmers are parasitic worms native to Leela's planet, which can be very dangerous if allowed to swarm. A Bloodswimmer has three needle-sharp points on each of its head, including a point to paralyse, a point to dissolve, and a third, which the Doctor suggests may be to disconnect the segments when its swarms. None of her tribe has ever survived a Bloodswimmer attack.

The Doctor has never encountered an arthropod taller than the TARDIS, at least as far as he can remember. He carries some coins, a penknife, and a gold nugget shaped like a duck. His scarf gets torn and partially shredded when he is forced to climb up a tree to evade the insect. One of things he most likes about Leela is her directness. After Ri and Pe misunderstand his name and call him Thedoctor, he facetiously invites them to call him "The", which they do. He tells them that Leela is a professional fighter and that he looks after her affairs. He hates swimming. The Doctor carries a large white handkerchief. One of the Leela fabrications cuts his neck with her knife. The Doctor has heard of the Lentic but has never met or seen them.

Leela can now remember what TARDIS stands for. She works out how to operate the main doors by copying the Doctor's actions at the console. She cooks and eats one of the black and white pack hunter animals; the meat has an intoxicating effect on her. She can swim. She was taught "Your knife makes you a warrior. Lose it and you are not a warrior, nor have you ever been."

The TARDIS has a holographic star chart and a sampling image locator. The console has biomechanical circuitry. The TARDIS shifts backwards and forwards slightly in time to defend itself against the recycling centre.

Links: The Doctor notes that walking around in the kaleidoscopic interior of the grey membrane must be what walking around in a brain is like, which is possibly a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Invisible Enemy, which also features short-lived clone-like fabrications of the Doctor and Leela.

Location: An unnamed planet, date unknown [the future].

Future History: The firsters and toodies apparently originate from Earth, and consider the works of Shakespeare to be a sacred text, but don't know who wrote them.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor once gave a speech at a symposium on 'The Question of Fear'.

The Bottom Line: Promising script, disappointing novel. In keeping with his three Doctor Who television stories, Boucher crafts an intriguing science-fiction plot and some memorably (if rather macho) characters and provides some nice world-building detail. Unfortunately, his inexperience with writing prose creates the impression of a Terrance Dicks Target novelisation; this might have worked very well on screen, but as a debut novel is a massive let-down.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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