Ten Little Aliens

Roots: Aliens. Chapter Fourteen is written in the style of a Fighting Fantasy or Choose Your Own Adventure book. There are references to Yuri Gagarin, Confucius, G. I. Jane, Superman, Charles Atlas, Lon Chaney, John Wayne, and Doris Day.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'The wielders of any kind of power are animals, seeking to dominate animals less fierce.'

'Believing in magic is easy, the reaction of a cowardly mind to explain away any phenomenon that vexes the intellect. But finding magic in the realities of existence... seeking out some hidden truth to cling to from every painful experience we endure... that is never easy.'

Continuity: The Humans refer to the Morphieans as Spooks. They exist primarily as beings of pure thought. Their technology is based on rituals. Large rituals require ten participants and are capable of decimating planets. Long before the Earth Empire arrived in their galaxy, they were active in the sector of space containing the Schirr homeworld and the Schirr learnt some of their rituals. By the time the Empire arrived, they had withdrawn to their own quadrant and adopted an isolationist stance. The rulers of Morphiea are unconcerned by the Empire's expansion, content to let humans spread through the entire quadrant whilst they operate on purely intangible planes; however, dissident factions within the quadrant object to relinquishing all claim to corporeal existence to make way for what they consider to be more primitive life-forms. The Morphieans can create powerful bodies for themselves by controlling the flea-like creatures present on the planetoid and spaceship, so that they aggregate. Their rituals can also be used to transform human bodies into Schirr.

The Schirr are large, pig-faced humanoids. Their home planet was renamed Idaho when it was annexed by the Earth Empire. Angry and resentful at this invasion, a group of ten Schirr terrorists known as the Ten-strong led by DeCaster began a series of attacks on the Empire, using Morphiean rituals. Schirr assault craft are described as fleshy ovoids, suggesting that their own technology is organic.

The Doctor carries a jewellers glass in his pocket.

Ben has an older brother, who taught him swearwords when they were at school. He received a malaria jab when he joined the Navy. When she was eight years old, Polly's Dad took her to visit some caves. She had a bright red raincoat at the time. Her New Year's resolution in 1963 was to work in a Cancer Research Charity Shop in Notting Hill, but after a week she couldn't stand it and quit, to the delight of her mother. She donated a large pile of the previous year's clothing to make herself feel better about it. She once went to a party at Kensington Roof Gardens, where she was offered, but declined to take, LSD.

The TARDIS control room can be de-pressurised.

Toronto has twin suns and rich salt-broth seas with a superabundance of marine life that allows the Empire to freeze and export billions of tons of food to its outer colonies.

Links: When Polly briefly links up with the Doctor's mind, she sees his frustration at being trapped in a old, decrepit body, until he blocks her out with an image of a penny farthing (references to his forthcoming regeneration in The Tenth Planet, and the similar trick he used on Lobos in The Space Museum, respectively. The Doctor also tells Ben that he will soon feel a new person). The TARDIS spacesuits, which come in a range of colours, are used here (The Moonbase). The Kill-Droid reminds Ben of the War Machines and there is a reference to the Inferno nightclub (The War Machines). Creben mentions Spectrox (The Caves of Androzani).

Location: A training centre and military base, exact location unknown; a spacecraft and an unnamed planetoid, close to Vertigan Majoris, unknown galaxy; from 23rd May, '90 [The millennium and century are unspecified, but humanity appears to have achieved inter-galactic travel and is in the midst of its Empire, so the most likely date is 2990 - see Original Sin].

Future History: It is implied that the Human colonies mentioned here are located in a galaxy other than the Milky Way, of which the Morphieans control an entire quadrant [the Doctor tells Ben and Polly that they are in a galaxy very distant from Earth's]. Humans actually born on Earth are referred to as Earthborn. The various Earth colonies are named after locations on Earth; hence, there is an Indochina system, a Thai system, and a Commonwealth Belt, and planets include Toronto, New Jersey, the Argentines, Buenos Aires, Paris II (located in Little Europe [a solar system]), Idaho, and Beijing Minor. Idaho was annexed fifteen years earlier, in '75. Vertigan Majoris is located at the edge of the Earth Empire and is on the border of the Morphiean quadrant. Terrorist atrocities are said to have recently taken place on Toronto, New Jersey and the Argentines, probably at the hands of the Schirr. Convicted criminals [possibly just non-human ones] are branded.

There were pacification programs carried out on Buenos Aires between the years '87 and '88. Earth military units mentioned include the Lux-dirigibles (the so-called Pauper Fleet) and the SMC Incendiary Division, all of which are controlled from Pentagon Central. Cyborgs are only ever used for intelligence work and are programmed never to reveal their true natures.

Unrecorded Adventures: Ben and Polly have had several adventures with the Doctor since the events of The Smugglers [explaining their nonchalance at landing on an alien planet in The Power of the Daleks].

The Bottom Line: A taut and effective thriller that manages to put the First Doctor into an Aliens-style scenario without making him seem out of place. The Choose Your Own Adventure chapter works surprisingly well, and whilst obviously a gimmick, is nevertheless entertaining.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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