Atom Bomb Blues

Roots: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Zorg's excruciating poetry is reminiscent of the Vogons). Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon, inspires the character of Butcher. There are references to the Sun, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Wagner, Fuchs, Hitler, Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow", Dennis Quaid, Indiana Jones, Duke Ellington, Einstein, War and Peace, Nirvana, the Foo Fighters, Harry Houdini, Arthur C. Clarke, John Wayne, and Mata Hari.

Goofs: It seems extremely unlikely that Ace has never heard the phrase "Uncle Sam"

Dialogue Disasters: The appallingly crass line, "Ace had seen a documentary about Hiroshima at school and hadn't been able to eat kebabs for nearly a year afterwards." It's regurgitated several pages later.

Most of "Cosmic" Ray's dialogue.

Continuity: The parallel Earth differs from Ace's native Earth in that the American Federation of Musicians' recording ban never happened. Additionally, thanks to the Doctor's intervention, Oppenheimer's first nuclear test explosion takes place one day later, on Tuesday 17th July.

Zorg's full name is Zostrathnia Otocr Regus Gelb. Zorg is vaguely crab-shaped, with iridescent, multi-coloured flesh, and a "face" in the middle of its "stomach". Zorg's ship is saucer shaped, translucent, and seemingly organic; it exudes tentacles to bring passengers on board.

The fish from which the oil that Ace takes comes is eaten by the natives of Two Moons, since it endows them with the large and efficient brains they need to calculate the trajectories of their fishing lines, hooks and harpoons against the corresponding trajectories of large schools of fish. In a human brain, the oils stimulate the centres involved in abstract thinking, specifically mathematical calculation.

The Doctor again uses the alias Doctor John Smith, and is working as an undercover British agent. He wears his panama hat, chocolate brown suit, white short and an indigo bow tie of iridescent material here. He poses as a physics expert from England and provides forged papers for him and Ace. He has read Butcher's novels, including Yellow City, Hell's Inheritance, The Hawk of Gibraltar and Shadow Man. He's also read Butcher's short stories The Woman in the Night, Tarpaper, Fire Escape, and The Head on the Coin. He leaves the TARDIS in Lamy and travels from there to Los Alamos to avoid suspicion. He and Ace bring heavy trunks with them containing their luggage; the Doctor's contains an umbrella, some plain boxer shorts, numerous letters, and books on physics. His umbrella is capable of firing a small gold pellet containing a hallucinogenic truth drug. The Doctor and Ace meet Oppenheimer's team of scientists and Duke Ellington, albeit in the parallel universe. The Doctor carries a [presumably forged] FBI badge. Chloroform doesn't affect him.

Henbest drugs and hypnotizes Ace in order to interrogate her. Ace saw a documentary on Hiroshima at school. Whilst at Los Alamos, Ace poses as the Doctor's assistant and uses the alias Acacia Cecelia Eckhart, a mathematics genius. She dons a belted white raincoat. Mishearing the Doctor and believing that they were visiting The Alamo, she dresses in a tasseled leather skirt with gold trim and big silver stars, a broad snakeskin belt adorned with silver dollars, a western style shirt in bright red cotton with black shoulder patches, mother of pearl buttons and deep pockets in a virulent shade of blue. She wears a sleeveless suede vest decorated with beads over this shirt. Her luggage trunk mainly contains clothes, including copious underwear. She takes fish oil capsules that affect her brain, turning her into a mathematical specialist; the oil comes from a giant pink-and-grey fish on Two Moons. She drinks martinis and eats chilli and later has waffles, sausages, honey and white country butter for breakfast. She and the Doctor later share steak, baked potatoes, and tomato salad. She likes jazz and still has her autographed Courtney Pine CD (Silver Nemesis). She has drunk Mescal.

The TARDIS contains a sophisticated computer the size and shape of a black pearl that generates a three-dimensional map of the surrounding area.

Links: Ace mentions Dr Judson (The Curse of Fenric). The Doctor mentions Bessie (Battlefield).

Location: Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Los Angeles, California, 1945, in a parallel universe.

Unrecorded Adventures: Prior to travelling to America, the Doctor and Ace visited the fishing station at Two Moons.

The Doctor has evidently visited this parallel universe before; he is a friend of Black Eyes, Scar, and Sun Runner, as well as Zorg.

The Bottom Line: 'It's a bit ambitious. But I think we can pull it off.' A far cry from Cartmel's blistering "War" trilogy, Atom Bomb Blues takes a surprisingly whimsical approach to a dark subject, and manages to be rather entertaining. Having said that, there is only the most tenuous reason for setting it in a parallel universe. Which isn't a problem in principle, but makes the novel feel like just another alternate timeline story, of which there have been rather a lot recently. And the villains' motivation is ludicrously overblown. Cosmic Ray has some of the worst dialogue ever included in a Doctor Who story in any format.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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