Roots: Espero is a colony based on Catholic values, so there are numerous Biblical references. There are references to Lassie, Salvadore Dali's Autumn Cannibalism, Frank Sinatra, Paddington Bear, The Wizard of Oz, Quality Street, Doctor Doolittle, Sherlock Holmes, Cinderella, Disneyland, Village of the Damned, Miss World, Riverdance, Scooby Doo, Uriah Heep, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Quasimodo, James Lovecock, Boadicea, Andrews Liver Salts, Olga Korbut, Duran Duran, Pandora's Box, and Santa Claus. The town of Santa Anghelides is possibly a reference to Doctor Who author Peter Anghelides.
Goofs: References to Heritage (and especially cloning technology on the planet Heritage) place this story after 6048AD, which means that the Eurozone and America still exist c5778AD; this contradicts various other novels (most obviously Original Sin and So Vile a Sin). [perhaps the Eurozone and America were recreated at a later date.]
Dialogue Disasters: Looloo for God's sake! It made Trix want to shout! Groan.
Dialogue Triumphs: 'There was something in the way they said question me later that sounded like a euphemism for beat me with sticks so I decided to leg it.'
'Humanity may be one of my favourite species, but I'm not blind to the havoc they can wreak, the injustices they visit on themselves. And on others. They're one of the most adaptable, versatile, adventurous species in the galaxy, but they've never lost their inability to learn from their mistakes.'
Continuity: The Makers are parasites. They possess carriers, the bodies of which they restructure to make them more efficient. They use the host's DNA, physiology and physiognomy as a template, improving musculature and reflexes and refining many aspects of metabolism. They can change the appearance of their hosts at will by redistributing mass and rearranging chromatophores in the skin. Whilst converting a host's body, they can make them forget about the presence of the Maker. Humans make ideal carriers; lower animals are not ideal, because they lack the refined control over their musculature or have brains with inconvenient structures. The Maker destroys the personality of its host body, although this takes time. The host body worn by the Maker Reo resembles a centaur with a thin humanoid torso and four legs that splay outwards slightly. The bodies used by the Makers to attach to their hosts are described by Tain as one of their true forms. These forms are small and Y-shaped.
Maker bioships are sentient. They have regenerative subsystems. They can integrate themselves into the biospheres of planets. A bioship's weapon of last resort is the Gaian phase, an energy field that rewrites the DNA of any living organism that it comes into contact with, transforming it into part of a gestalt; once the Gaian phase reaches a critical stage, it is impossible to disentangle the bioship from the planet in question. Tain breaks free of Maker control and destroys its communication organ; it tries to integrate itself into the surface of Espero to prevent the Makers or the Oon taking it back to war. The Oon infect Tain with a Trojan, a synthetic personality construct. Bioships can gain energy from the soil of planets and also from sunlight by photosynthesis. They can synthesise organic material, including the soldiers. Tain repairs the Doctor and Fitz after soldiers under control of the Trojan injure them, but accidentally switches some of their personality traits due to interference from the Trojan.
The Night Beasts are genetically engineered soldiers produced by Tain. They are at least seven feet tall, with a low, sloped head that emerges directly from the shoulders without a neck, hugely muscular limbs and a narrow waist. They are covered in fine, wiry hair and have small, piggy black eyes, no nostrils, and a small o shaped mouth.
The Oon operate on very literal principles and have a reputation for being unforgiving of failure. They hail from a vast, frigid world scoured by halogen storms and dwell in immense crystalline living cities that are as much a part of Oon society as the Oon themselves and may actually be the Oon.
The Frowdar have a pitifully poor level of surgery, at least where humans are concerned.
Espero has indigenous insects. Other animals native to Espero include Burrowbears, which occasionally kill and eat humans, Mokeys, small monkey-like mammals often kept as pets, and tree-rats. Creatures called Elephines dwell on the southern plains. The colonists on Espero cultivate sweet potatoes. They brought horses to the planet with them. Solaris are the currency of Saiarossa.
The Doctor can recall the entire periodic table, the titles of all eleven Lassie films, and the dates of all the Frank Sinatra comeback tours. His memory has been interfered with on thirty-seven separate occasions, eight of which are still outstanding [these likely include the Time Lords wiping of his memories following the events of The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors, The Sirens of Time, The Ancestor Cell, and the events that occur here. Other examples of the Doctor's memory being tampered with are mentioned in Cold Fusion]. He refuses to let Madame Xing restore his memories, terrified of remembering whatever it his that his amnesia has blotted out (see The Ancestor Cell). He drinks mint tea. The Doctor eats lamb stew and salad. As a result of Tain mixing up some of the Doctor's personality traits with some of Fitz's, the Doctor swears occasionally and develops a craving for cigarettes, which he attempts to satisfy by smoking. Tain later reverses this. He carries a credit chip that is accepted on Espero and screw cap jars in his pocket. He drinks ten pints of beer without any obvious effects (see The Year of Intelligent Tigers). A multi-coloured quilt vaguely reminds him of his Sixth incarnation's coat, although he doesn't understand the memory.
Fitz eats fish. As a result of Tain mixing up some of his personality traits with those of the Doctor, he gains impetuosity, curiosity and a coolness of disposition; Tain later rectifies this mistake.
Trix hates feeling conspicuous, hence her liking for disguises. Her eyes are green. Trix has either taken Anji's old room aboard the TARDIS or has adopted the various trinkets that she left behind; her room contains a Mickey Mouse alarm clock that used to belong to Anji. Trix once took an extensive first aid course in preparation for the role of nurse to a wealthy elderly gentleman. She is disturbed by disfigurements and bodily injuries. She carries an assortment of coins in her pockets, plus half a dozen credit cards in different names. She carries a shoulder bag containing the bits and pieces of her disguise kit. She has seen films of the Pamplona bull runs. She dislikes horses, which scared her as a child and still make her uncomfortable as an adult. Her mother once told her, Don't regret the things you do only the things you don't.
The TARDIS contains torches. A corridor in the TARDIS has blood-red walls and is hung with portraits of people that look like the Doctor wearing stupid wigs. The TARDIS also contains a machine for analysing DNA.
Madame Xing is dimensionally transcendental and telepathic and knows the Doctor of old, although he doesn't recognise or remember her. She contains a six-sided parlour, all of which suggests that she may be Compassion.
Planets and locations mentioned by the Doctor include Tapalane, E-Aspai, the Mazuma Matriarchy, and Shuac. Other colonies include Paradiso Grande, two separate Edens, Pelucidar, and Marselle.
Links: The Makers are the same race that created the Psionospheres (ERATO The Muse of Love Poetry and Mimicry: Confabula (Short Trips: The Muses)) (The Doctor recognizes the phrase They called themselves Us). Anji's departure is mentioned several times and there are references to Chloe and the ointment that the Doctor gave to Guy (Timeless). The Doctor is still dwelling on Miranda's death and Trix recalls telling the story of Cinderella to the two Princes (Sometime Never...). There is a reference to Sabbath. Fitz has told Trix about his possession by Garudin (Emotional Chemistry). The Doctor recalls seeing his seven past incarnations in Scale's Camera Obscura, but still doesn't understand who they were (Camera Obscura). The Doctor mentions Ceres Alpha (Dark Progeny). Fitz recalls his experiences with virtual reality (Earthworld) and being remembered (Interference: Book Two). The destruction of Gallifrey is mentioned (The Ancestor Cell). There are references to the colonies on Heritage (Heritage) and Axista Four (The Colony of Lies). Doctors from Eden treated Tannalis (Nightmare of Eden). There is a reference to the Doctor's "Peri eh?" joke from Vengeance on Varos.
Location: Saiarossa City and State on Espero, c6048AD.
Future History: Espero was colonized two hundred and seventy years earlier; most of the colonists were of Black or Asian origin and were Christians. The colony was established by the Ecumenical Council, which decided that all the colonists needed to succeed was faith in God and goodwill. The colonists were mostly from Africa and Asia and were eager to escape from the influence of the Eurozone (Trading Futures), and America. The HomeWorld Corporation sold Espero to the colonists. The Ecumenical Council advised the colonists to turn their back on human history save for the Christian faith, and start anew with the bare minimum of technology and records. The planet's resources proved to be buried too deep for the primitive equipment that they brought with them however and the colony floundered. Despite the visitor centres and embassies established by the Council, the colony failed to establish trade links with offworld cultures and other colonies, since they had little to trade in return. Consequently, offworlders are rare on Espero, especially white humans. The strong Catholic ethic of the colony founders gradually gave way to schisms and different sects arose, resulting the Almost War between three of Espero's nations. Neighbouring colony worlds include Advent and Semane. Other colonies mentioned include Bliss and Availon. Countries on Espero include Anjon, which is ruled by a democratically elected Prime Administrator. There are eight nation states on Espero, all of which have proper democracies save for Saiarossa. Santa Anghelides is a city near Saiarossa. Saiarossa is the name of both the city and the state; it has an Imperial Family, which lives in the Crystal Palace, although they wield very little power, most of the governing of the country falling to a government. The Imperatorship was created for Benhamin Auburon out of gratitude for his aversion of the Almost War. Hispania is another city on Esperon, which attempted to cultivate cutting-edge technologies. New Roma is another city and the seat of Pope Constanza; New Roma has an isolationist policy and is controlled by Constanzas mad and paranoid Vatican Police. Horse-meat is eaten in Saiarossa.
By this point in time, High Catholic doctrine forbids the use of matter transmitters, since Pope Constanza decreed that it is impossible to teleport a human soul.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor recalls Venice, which is possibly a reference to The Stones of Venice but is more likely to be a reference to a visit made during his time on Earth. He once tried to break through his amnesia using Dr Chester's Amazing Cerebrotron. He played Super Mario Brothers in a pub in Bradford during the nineteen-eighties.
The Bottom Line: After the arc-resolving Sometime Never..., Halflife provides a refreshing romp with a plethora of aliens and interesting characters and an impressive (if slightly squandered) attempt at depicting a colony predominantly influenced by black culture. It also raises the issue of the Doctor's amnesia again, which is arguably a mistake, but is used as an excuse for some interesting explorations of why he doesn't want his memory back. Michalowski also explores the friendship between the Doctor and Fitz for the first time in what seems like ages, and manages to develop Trix sufficiently to make her interesting. All in all, rather impressive.