Dying in the Sun

Roots: Film references abound, including Warner Brothers, James Stewart, Dracula, Howard Hughes, Disney, Joan Crawford, Bambi, Jason and the Argonauts, Gregory Peck, King Kong, and The Wizard of Oz. Agatha Christie is also mentioned. Ben's encounter with a prop corpse is reminiscent of the corpse-in-the-bath scene from The Shining. At one point, the Selyoids take the form of light projections of Ku Klux Klan members.

Goofs: Fletcher uses the phrase snuff movie, a term not invented until the 1960s.

What happens to the savage mindless Selyoid prototype form after the other Selyoids die out?

Dialogue Triumphs: 'In my experience open benevolence rarely occurs without some kind of hidden agenda.'

Continuity: The Selyoids are beings of light, which on their own planet lived purely to express their creativity. They referred to themselves as the Children. They were a race of artists, with their scientists considered to be outcasts. When a devastating climate change blocked off their life-giving sunlight, the desperate Children turned to their scientists in order to survive; the scientists devised a corporeal form for them, a primordial soup capable of travelling through space on an asteroid. Most of the race died in the death of their world, but the altered Children escaped into space and travelled to Earth, where their scientists believed they could survive in symbiosis with the indigents, who could be directed to help them create a new form in which to survive. They landed in Alaska, where mediocre film director Leonard De Sande discovered them entering into symbiosis with the creatures, he agreed to help them and dubbed them Selyoids. Together, they planned to possess humanity by distributing De Sande's film Dying in the Sun, the film of which contains a layer of Selyoids, which can influence the emotions of the film's audience and encourage them to follow them. The Selyoids can use the supportive energy of the audience to create projections of light, which they can use as bodies. De Sande's crystal projector devices allow the Selyoids to escape from the chemical form on the film and express themselves in their natural forms. The emotional experience of the film caused by the Selyoids' effect on the audience makes the film highly addictive, which de Sande is depending on to take control of the audience and make them serve the Selyoids. Once everyone on Earth is willing to single-mindedly serve the Selyoids, they intend to direct humanity to find a way to return them to their natural forms.

De Sande's first attempt to create a solid form for the Selyoids resulted in a Selyoid taking on the literal form of one of the demons from Dying in the Sun - a side effect of this was that the Selyoid lost its intelligence and became a mindless beast. The Selyoids can make physiological changes to their human hosts to make them more charismatic. They do this by altering posture, skin quality, body language, and pheromone production. When the Selyoids merge with a living human, they are subject to the will of that person's mind. If they possess a corpse, however, they can animate it and exert complete control over it. The Selyoid Director and several others possess John Does from the local mortuaries to allow them to direct the project. Once the Selyoid Director is forced to merge with Fletcher, it resists and starts to die, the shock of which causes the rest of its race to die; ironically, the Director ends up surviving and remains on Earth in symbiosis with Fletcher. The Selyoids' death releases the harmonious emotional energies that they absorbed into the sky over Los Angeles, calming the city down, and possibly resulting in its enduring obsession with glamour and celebrity.

The Doctor says that he has not been in America for some time (the last time presumably being Salvation). He drinks (presumably alcoholic) punch. The dying Selyoids create a permanent image of him and Ben in the film print of Dying in the Sun, since they like the pair despite their refusal to join with them.

Polly has always wondered what it would be like to be famous. She has seen The Sword of Damocles. She drinks several cocktails and a rum and coke. She implies that she thinks Ben drinks too much.

FOCAL is an organisation originally set up by a group of monks in the 1890s to raise money for the underprivileged. By the 1940s, it has become a secret society largely funded by De Sande and other carriers of the Selyoids, who use it prepare their plans for large scale-distribution of the Selyoids influence. Following the death of De Sande and the destruction of the Selyoids, Robert Chate takes command of the organisation and promises to turn it into a genuine charitable organisation.

Hollywood films made by Maria Coleman include Cowgirls Abroad and A Piece of Sunset. De Sande's past films include The Cold Blooded and The Sword of Damocles.

Links: The Second Doctor is travelling with Ben and Polly, and the three seem fairly close by now, so this probably fits in between The Murder Game and The Highlanders. When writing Dying in the Sun, Jon de Burgh Miller wanted to prove that it was possible to write a Past Doctor Adventure with no continuity references, and he has succeeded - the novel doesn't even hint that the Doctor and his companions are time travellers.

Location: Los Angeles, over several days from 12th October 1947.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor is an old friend of the late Harold Reitman, and first met him when Reitman visited England during the 1920s. The TARDIS crew's arrival and departure is not seen, and neither is the TARDIS herself.

The Bottom Line: As an attempt to a past Doctor adventure in the continuity-free style of The Burning, Dying in the Sun is an admirable attempt, but it doesn't quite work. The regulars are caught to perfection, even the Second Doctor, who is notoriously difficult to capture in prose, but the novel drags for the first two hundred pages and the whole thing feels inconsequential.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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