Roots: You Only Live Twice (with several other Bond references, including The Man With the Golden Gun); The X-Files. The novel opens with a quotation from Hearst. There are mentions of the Washington Post, the L A Times, the Hong Kong Star, Jurassic Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Miller beer, Garfield, Bart Simpson, War of the Worlds, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Al Capone, Only Fools and Horses, Clarke's Law, Nancy Drew, Nintendo, The Manchurian Candidate, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Wilfred Owen, Oprah Winfrey, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, Open All Hours, and Mata Hari. The Seventh Doctor reminds Sarah of Columbo! The title is probably a reference to the special effects technology first used in The Matrix
Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: 'I see the faces of every death I'm responsible for every time I sleep. Every enemy, every friend I've lost, every innocent I've failed to save. So I stopped sleeping.'
'Perhaps you never knew the Doctor. How can a member of one species really know how a member of another species' mind works, or how they think or feel? You've no frame of reference: you can only make assumptions and have beliefs. And without a common frame of reference, those are most likely to be utterly wrong.'
Continuity: The Amphitheatre of M'Khrosh is one of the great monuments of S'Arl. The spacecraft Qeshaal was shot down whilst on a mission to recover Tzun technology from a previous expedition to Earth (First Frontier). They claim that they no longer have any interest in introducing Earth into the Confederacy, due to the amount of social turmoil across the planet, although they do turn various humans into Ph'Sor Tzun to provide aid should any further Tzun end up on the planet (Chiu tells that Doctor that these Ph'Sor will live out normal lives on Earth until or unless they are needed). He renders Tom unconscious with a nerve pinch to the back of the skull. He carries a Swiss Army Knife. He notes that the only person within UNIT who he can trust is Alistair.
The Doctor uses the alias Pendragon, in his role as leader of the Triad organization Tao Te Lung (Way of the Dragon), which was actually set up by the Chinese as a means of trapping up-and-coming Triad Godfathers prior to Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule. Whilst in Hong Kong, he lives in a cottage on Sunset Peak. He also uses the organization to aid the stranded Tzun, in order to help them leave Earth as quickly as possible. He lures Sarah to Hong Kong, because he needs somebody he can trust outside of UNIT to expose the fanatical factions at work within UNIT [he obviously knows that they exist, but doesn't know of the Cortez Project specifically]. He briefly wears his question mark pullover.
Sarah Jane Smith still writes for Metropolitan (she is researching an article on the Khmer monuments when she first meets Tom in Bangkok) and has published a couple of science fiction novels. She turned down an offer to work for Tomorrow's World. She has an A level in history. Sarah is experienced at undercover work and for this reason she dislikes having her photograph published. She can pick locks. She recently wrote an exposé on the Thai sex tourism industry, which brought her into contact with the Golden Triangle Lords. Sarah has not worked with UNIT for a couple of years, but is still on their reserve list as a member of civilian staff. According to UNIT records, she joined headquarters staff in 1978 [which, inevitably, contradicts Mawdryn Undead, but not Pyramids of Mars]. She is 48 years old and is still single. K9 is not mentioned. In order to disable her ability to threaten the Tzun, the Doctor fabricates a news story that discredits her, thus allowing him to persuade the Tzun not to kill her. Sarah's fate at the end of the novel is ambiguous; she is shot at close range by Tom and shortly afterwards is surrounded by heart monitors which flat line, suggesting that she dies [which David McIntee has stated is his preference]. However, she owns a Kevlar vest, and the Doctor could fake her death and help her find a new identity, to protect her from the Cortex Project people. The epilogue is just as ambiguous; either the Doctor bids farewell to the real Sarah or he is merely exorcising his ghosts.
UNIT has a branch in South-East Asia, referred to as UNIT-SEA for short, with its headquarters in Singapore. The Cortez Project is a highly secretive and fanatical renegade faction within UNIT, which is determined to prevent all alien incursions to Earth, even apparently friendly ones, ostensibly to protect the planet. They are named after the damage Cortez and his army brought to the Incas, in the form of religious persecution, syphilis, and plague. They are ordered to commit suicide rather than allow themselves to compromise the secret of their existence. Since she learns about them, Sarah (if she survives) would therefore be high on their list of security leaks.
MI6 has a Time Lord working as their scientific adviser.
Links: The Seventh Doctor is traveling alone, placing this story between Lungbarrow and The TV Movie. Iris Wildthyme is mentioned as one of UNIT's scientific advisers, although she is currently on vacation (The Scarlet Empress, The Blue Angel and Verdigris). The Doctor mentions Al Capone, whom he befriended in Blood Harvest. Sarah mentally compares the Doctor with the Master, whom she met in The Five Doctors and Decalog 2: Housewarming.
Location: Bangkok, March 1997, Hong Kong, Singapore, Moscow and the Persian Gulf, April 1997.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has already arrived on Earth and established himself as head of the Tao Te Lung before the novel begins.
The Bottom Line: Another fast-paced thriller from McIntee, which attracted controversy from sad fans who objected to Sarah's apparent death. It feels very much like a New Adventure, with the Doctor's companion taking centre stage whilst he manipulates events from behind the scenes. The Tzun make a welcome return (although they are never referred to by name) and the (ambiguous) epilogue is very poignant.