Roots: DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths. Star Wars (the soldiers in the universe in which Rome never fell have laser swords). The Faction Paradox novel Warlords of Utopia. There are references to Trotsky, Oswald Mosley, Charles Dickens, Nancy Sinatra, the Walker brothers, The Wizard of Oz ("follow the yellow-lit road"), Agatha Christie, Harrods, Liberty, Hamleys, Morgans, Bentleys, Daimlers, Braque, Juan Gris, Cézanne, Picasso, Diana Ross, Tigger, the Mary Celeste, Stephen King, Moby Dick (Captain Ahab), and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Caliban is the planet proposed as the location for the Sixth Doctor's final adventure by Craig Hinton.
Goofs: The Sixth Doctor's regeneration is rather more dramatic than previously supposed, slightly contradicting Head Games [the Seventh Doctor influences his past incarnation's decision to leave the TARDIS hovering in space, and Mel claims that it happened when he bumped his head on the console - as per the novelisation of Time and the Rani].
On page sixty-five, Garrett is identified as a gas giant, but on page sixty-seven Rummas claims that there is a building on it and on page one hundred and ninety there is said to be an Assembled Images Museum on the planet.
Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but there is no way that a human and a Silurian could mate to produce viable offspring.
Based on the model of multiverses used here, why is there a Prime universe? Surely each alternate universe would be equally valid, except in purely dramatic terms. Furthermore, it is implied that "our" Mel comes from the Prime universe, and yet it is also implied that she is the only Mel without a sister. Surely if hers is the Prime universe in any meaningful sense, all the others would diverge from it rather than the other way around.
The tribal chief who killed Peri is variously referred to as Dominicus and Yikkar.
Mel fails to recognise Evelyn, despite having met her in Instruments of Darkness. [Though, to be fair, this is only implied rather than explicitly stated]
Dialogue Disasters: "Screw you. Bitch."
"Look, why are you so pissy all the time, Melina?"
"Bit late for that, kiddies."
Most of Monica's dialogue, but especially, "So Doctor, we meet once again."
Dialogue Triumphs: "Your friend Rummas is a thief."
"He preserves things that other people lose."
Continuity: The Lampreys resemble massive faceless green serpents with suckers and long rubbery tendrils, which inspired their name. They exist within the Spiral that forms the axis of the space-time vortex, are able to coexist in multiple locations at once, and feed off chronon energy, devouring time. They are usually trapped in the Spiral, but under certain circumstances can access all of time and space, including all universes and parallel realities. They seek out time sensitives on worlds in which they are interested, using them as an anchor. They can change shape at will, appearing human. The Lamprey that adopts the alias Sir Bernard Lamprey implies that Lampreys exist as pairs, one balancing out the other. In human form, Bernard has a daughter, Helen, with a human woman; Helen is thus half-human, half-Lamprey. Bernard is the last survivor of the Lampreys that isn't a temporal image of the Monica Lamprey; the Spiral Chamber kills him. The Time Lords have been studying the Lampreys for millennia, trying to find a way to keep them isolated from reality. Coordinator Rellox, of the Arcalian Council for Temporal Research, wrote a report on the Lampreys that was suppressed by Pandak III (The Deadly Assassin). The Doctor uses the Spiral Chamber trap the Monica Lamprey in the Spiral and destroy her.
Gallifrey doesn't have seasons, and is dry all year round. The Spiral Chamber is an ancient Gallifreyan device that acts as a portal into the Spiral at the nexus of the vortex; Rummas stole it from Gallifrey and brought it to Carsus. Without chronon energy, Time Lords wither and die [is Artron energy a form of chronon energy?].
Nobody is certain who built Carsus, although the Time Lords have been known to take credit for it, even though if they did build it they don't know when. The library on Carsus was designed to contain a copy of every book ever published. Rummas notes that the Library was built "millennia ago". The system containing Carsus is legendary for space-time anomalies. The system includes Minerva and Schyllus, Tessus, Lakertya (Time and the Rani), Molinda, and the lifeless gas giants Hollus and Garrett on the edge of the system. Carsus is equidistant from every other object in the system. The Library on Carsus is identical to the Pentagon. Identical buildings also exist on Tessus, Minerva, Narrah, and Garrett [see Goofs] in the same system as Carsus, and Halos III, Halos V, and Utopiana outside the system. Time in the Library of Carsus is usually linear, rather than fluid.
Rummas is a Time Lord who, like the Doctor, left Gallifrey to see the universe. He collects things, mainly books, often by stealing them. His TARDIS is stolen. He has lived on Carsus for several centuries. The Doctor first met him at a party on one of the Moons of Korpal, but was too drunk to remember the exact circumstances. Rummas apparently shared tutors at the Academy with the Doctor, including Delox and Borusa (The Deadly Assassin). Rummas is on his last incarnation.
The Sixth Doctor regenerates not from a bump on the head, but due to exposure to vast amounts of chronon energy in the Spiral Chamber. His last words are "Local... tractor beam..." Whilst regenerating, he leaves the TARDIS in hover mode in the same system as Lakertya, thus explaining how the Rani's tractor beam snares him. The Doctor has a collection of Herran poetry in the TARDIS library. He also has a book about the galaxy's wonders including Carsus written by a certain grumpy Professor, which he picked up on the Braxiatel Collection (Theatre of War, Tears of the Oracle). Mel and the Doctor share lobster, Waldorf salad and a Merlot with Rummas; Mel avoids the lobster. The Doctor produces a Chinese lacquer box, hand painted and engraved with jade leaf, as a birthday present for Helen.
Various Doctors from alternate universes include the Doctor from the universe in which the Roman Empire never fell, who wears a sombre black high-collared outfit with a voluminous cloak. This Doctor has an eye missing. His TARDIS's Chameleon Circuit is fully operational, and the control room is decorated with wood and stained glass, with parquet flooring and sculptures and artworks lining the walls. He has visited Earth numerous times and is an old friend of Praetor Linus. In this universe, America is an untamed wilderness known as the New World; the Doctor was accompanied by a version of Peri called Brown Perpugilliam, a savage who was killed by a tribal chief, who tortured the Doctor with a red hot poker, costing him his eye, before letting him go. The Doctor lied about her death afterwards, trying to make his actions sound more heroic than they actually were, and keeps the scar to remind him of his guilt. He takes shaven-headed slave Melina, an alternate version of Mel, with him when he heads for Carsus. The Monica Lamprey kills Melina and this version of the Doctor.
Another version of the Doctor is largely similar to his more familiar self, but accompanied by Mel Baal, whose father is a Silurian. Her sister Anabel is a purebred human, Alan Bush having died after she was born and Christine marrying Baal. She has scaly skin and a third eye, as well as a third eyelid on each of her other eyes. This Doctor first met Mel in Derby. Before arriving on Schyllus, they visited Ariel. The Monica Lamprey kills Melanie Baal. One of the other alternate Doctors reads Lost Empires of the Planet Chronos. Other versions of the Doctor include two accompanied by versions of Evelyn, one of who is a cyborg (see Real Time) and one of whom is accompanied by Frobisher.
Mel's full name is Melanie Jane Bush; she was born on 22nd July 1964. According to the Library of Carsus, there are one hundred and seventeen thousand, eight hundred and sixty-three versions of Mel across all alternate universes. Mel dons a slimming pair of white trousers, matching ankle boots, and a puff-sleeved striped blouse. She knows about regeneration due to her visit to Gallifrey (Trial of a Time Lord). Mel became a vegetarian at secondary school. Mel's Mum Christine attended Durham University, where she read English. Her father Alan did a postgraduate degree in accountancy and sold his Elvis and early rock 'n' roll records to get by. Mel is uncomfortable around drunks. Mel had a sister named Anabel, born 4th October 1962; Mel accidentally killed her when she was eighteen months old, and her parents never told her about it. When Mel was a student she shard a flat in Goldhawk Road with fellow students Leonora, Julia, and Jake; the house was affectionately nicknamed "the Shag Palace"; Mel lost her virginity there to Jake. When she was at Primary School, her family lived at Number 14, The Lawns, Ardingly, a few miles east of Pease Pottage; her family moved there from 8, Gosling Street, Croxdale in County Durham after Anabel's death. Mel got an Etch-a-Sketch for her third birthday.
One of the walls of the TARDIS control room still conceals a bed (Planet of the Daleks).
Planets that the Doctor visits in various alternate universes include Huttan in the year 2267, Janus 8 in 66.98, Schyllus in 4387, Narrah in 2721, C'h'zzz in 3263, Luminos in 2005. Yestobahl in 1494, and Helios 3 in 5738. In the main universe, Schyllus is a tourist trap, with little of interest besides a shopping centre and holiday resort. In one of the alternate universes, Utopiana City is located on Earth and renowned for its scientific advances. It is the biological norm for males to bear children on Halos V. The inhabitants of Schyllus are basically humanoid; they are telepathic, and can temporarily "swap" bodies. Rainwater on Schyllus is saltier than on Earth.
Links: Time and the Rani; the Doctor regenerates here, and the last line of the novel is the Rani's "Leave the girl. It's the man I want". The Doctor mentions Gumblejacks (The Two Doctors). Praetor Linus is an alternate version of Bob Lines (The Scales of Injustice, Business Unusual, Instruments of Darkness). The Library of Carsus has a Time Path Indicator (The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan). The Doctor receives a warning from a future incarnation in the TARDIS [probably the Seventh Doctor - see Goofs and also Head Games]. The Doctor mentions Zarbi (The Web Planet, Twilight of the Gods (MA)). The Doctor recalls meeting Mel's parents (Business Unusual). The one-eyed Doctor from the alternate universe in which Rome never fell gives Linus a small green distress beacon to contact the TARDIS (The Shadow in the Glass, Real Time). There are references to Daleks, Cybermen, Martians, Sontarans, and Pakhars (Legacy). The Doctors communicate by "Contact" (The Three Doctors).
Location: Wulpit, Suffolk, Earth, during the twelfth century; Carsus, date unknown; Bucharest, Romania, the 1950s; London and Wendlestead, Suffolk, England, December 1958; Brighthelmston, England, in an alternate universe in which Rome never fell, c1990; Halos V, in an alternate universe in which the Nazis won World War Two and went on to conquer other planets throughout the galaxy, c2436; and Janus 8, date unknown.
Future History: In an alternate universe in which the Nazis won World War Two, they went on to conquer other planets, terrorizing the galaxy; they were finally defeated c.2436, when the Earth was destroyed.
In the alternate universe of the so-called "Human Bullet", a hydrogen accident devastates most of the United States of America some time after the 2130s, destroying Florida and the California peninsula. Racing ships around the solar system is a popular spectator sport.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor and Mel have just visited Caliban at the start of this story. They have recently visited Kolpasha (first mentioned in Instruments of Darkness), fought the Zarbi and the Proctor of Darruth, visited the singing sands of Cousus VI, defeated the Daleks' attempt to erase civilization, and met Pakhars. The Doctor and Rummas are old friends. The Doctor claims that he is a good friend of John Cleese and Connie Booth, and they based certain characters in Fawlty Towers on him.
The Doctor once wrote a book on the history of Gumblejack fishing the eighth galaxy whilst on a four-month journey to Mars to retrieve the TARDIS after he lost it in a game. He claims to have given the proceeds away to charities all over the universe, becoming "the Great Benefactor" [c.f. The Crystal Bucephalas].
The Bottom Line: Oh dear. Whilst writing a proper regeneration story for the Sixth Doctor is admirable and Gary Russell is one of the logical choices to do it, Spiral Scratch is a return to the lows of Divided Loyalties and Placebo Effect, with crass dialogue and an irritating tendency towards third-rate soap opera. It doesn't help that the Lamprey, a supposedly awesome threat to the whole of creation, resembles a parasitic fish and spouts some of the most dreadful villainous lines in Doctor Who to date. There's also a rather mean-spirited attempt to establish that the BBC Books and Big Finish audios take place in separate universes, which fortunately is sufficiently poorly developed that it can easily be ignored.