2001 saw the release of the Doctor Who novel Bullet
Time by David A. McIntee. This book, featuring the Seventh
Doctor, takes place shortly before his fateful shooting and
regeneration in the 1996 TV movie - an era of Who that
poses several continuity problems for fans of the novels.
Richard McGinlay looks at some of these problems, and offers
did the Seventh Doctor do before he collected the Master's
exterminated remains from Skaro at the beginning of the TV
movie? The answer to that depends on which books you have
read. Two BBC Books titles (Gary Russell's novelisation of
the film and Terrance Dicks's The Eight Doctors, the
flagship of the BBC's range of original Who novels)
state that the Seventh Doctor travelled alone for some time,
growing rather bored, before receiving a telepathic message
from the apparently doomed Master. However, in Marc Platt's
Lungbarrow (the last of Virgin Publishing's New
Adventures to feature the Seventh Doctor, published after
the BBC's movie novelisation but before The Eight Doctors,
and shortly before Virgin's license to publish Who
fiction expired) the Doctor is assigned to collect the Master's
remains by Gallifrey's president. It is a mission for which
he departs immediately, leaving his companion Chris Cwej behind
course, if you don't read any of the books, then the Seventh
Doctor's penultimate adventure would either be Survival
or one of the Big Finish audio releases, but I will assume
from this point that you are interested in the books!
would argue that while the BBC's novels may count, Virgin's
certainly don't, because they are all long since out of print.
However, if we applied that principle to the original TV show,
then we would have to disregard the likes of Marco Polo
and The Power of the Daleks, stories that no longer
exist visually. The New and Missing Adventures
continue to exist on the shelves of those who collected them.
Author Lawrence Miles has a theory that the Virgin stories
don't take place in the same universe as the BBC novels. His
Doctor-less New Adventure, Dead Romance, and
his two-volume Doctor Who novel for the BBC, Interference,
both imply that the Virgin universe exists on another dimensional
plane inside a miraculous bottle. Now where's the fun in that?
I regard the various editors and publishers of the Doctor
Who books as I do the different producers of the TV show
and the different Doctors' tenures. Despite obvious differences
in the tone of each era, I doubt that many fans would regard
the stories produced by Philip Hinchcliffe as being set in
a different universe to those produced by Graham Williams.
Neither would they consider the Pertwee era to have taken
place on a different dimensional plane to that of the Troughton
years. In any case, the final Doctor-less New Adventure,
Twilight of the Gods, undermines Miles's proposition
- but that's a debate for another time.
authors currently writing for BBC Books - such as Paul Cornell,
Terrance Dicks, Steve Lyons, David A. McIntee, Justin Richards
and, perhaps most of all, Gary Russell - continue to refer
back to Virgin continuity, particularly in the case of Virgin
books that they themselves wrote. It would seem, therefore,
that those old stories aren't going to go away.
man with a mission
that you do care about the books and would like them
all to take place in the same universe, why does the
Seventh Doctor depart immediately for his assignment at the
end of Lungbarrow, then apparently forget all about
it, and instead wander through space and time, getting lonely,
before finally receiving that telepathic plea from the Master?
possible answer lies in the sketchy nature of Lungbarrow's
closing pages, during which Marc Platt never actually documents
the briefing for the mission. The author has the Doctor's
former companion Romana, now president of Gallifrey, and Ferain,
a member of the nefarious Celestial Intervention Agency, beginning
to describe a mission to Skaro, but then the scene changes.
When we return to the conversation, the Doctor has already
made up his mind that: "If it's the Master's remains, then
I should be the one to fetch them." Ferain points out that
the Matrix, Gallifrey's awesome computer net, "predicts a
96 per cent chance of fatal injury", so it is possible to
infer that the Master's extermination hasn't actually happened
yet but has been predicted by the Matrix. Perhaps Romana wishes
to assign the Doctor in advance of the event.
this does not explain why the Doctor should then need to depart
Gallifrey straight away, or why, in his cameo appearances
in both the movie novelisation and The Eight Doctors,
he appears to have forgotten all about the impending assignment.
Nor does it explain why Flavia has reverted to being Gallifrey's
president in The Eight Doctors. But I'm just getting
became president of the Time Lords on TV in 1983's The
Five Doctors and also featured in Terrance Dicks's New
Adventure, Blood Harvest (The Eight Doctors
goes to complicated lengths to explain why Flavia was
not in charge during 1986's The Trial of a Time Lord).
Blood Harvest also features Castellan Spandrell, a
popular character who is said to have been in and out of retirement
since the events of the 1976 TV story The Deadly Assassin,
and the return of Romana from the universe of E-space. Several
New Adventures later, Paul Cornell's Happy Endings
reveals that Romana has succeeded Flavia as president. She
appears again in Lungbarrow, by which point Spandrell
has been succeeded by Andred, a character who appeared on
TV in The Invasion of Time. But then Flavia and Spandrell
reappear as president and castellan respectively in The
Eight Doctors, which reflects the administration seen
in Blood Harvest. How can this be?
explanation that may seem, on the surface, to be obvious would
be that Doctor Who is a time-travel series, so the
Gallifreyan scenes in The Eight Doctors are simply
set at a point in time before Romana succeeds Flavia. After
all, later BBC novels - Paul Cornell's The Shadows of Avalon
and Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole's The Ancestor Cell
- have also featured President Romana.
one of the points that is reiterated by The Eight Doctors
is that Time Lords are not ordinarily allowed or able to encounter
each other, or their other incarnations, out of sequence.
This is backed up by the fact that the Doctor's meetings with
the Master and his landings on Gallifrey have, with a few
notable exceptions, been in chronological order. Admittedly,
this is largely a factor of TV script writers either not wishing
to confuse their audience or just not considering the possibility
of an out-of-sequence meeting between Time Lords. Additional
evidence can be found in President Romana's dialogue in Big
Finish's The Apocalypse Element, when she reveals her
surprise at meeting the Sixth Doctor after she has already
encountered the Seventh. Furthermore, it is fairly clear in
The Eight Doctors that President Flavia considers the
Eighth Doctor to be the current one.
possible way around this problem would be to assume that Gallifrey's
recent history has been altered. The Eight Doctors sees
the legendary Gallifreyan Rassilon making small "improvements"
to his planet's history by sending the Doctor back into its
past, something that is not normally possible. Flavia's first
appearance in the novel comes after the Doctor has
begun his quest, so perhaps a new timeline has been established
in which Flavia and Spandrell have not yet been succeeded.
perhaps the Seventh Doctor, who, without the aid of Rassilon,
has bent the Laws of Time by meeting his former selves on
numerous occasions, somehow managed to meet Romana out of
sequence in Happy Endings and Lungbarrow. This
is the theory put forward in my short story Distractions,
which attempts to bridge the discontinuities between the Virgin
and BBC novels by explaining away both the Romana/Flavia problem
and the aforementioned issue of the Doctor's mission to Skaro.
also touches upon the contentious subject of the Doctor's
redesign of the TARDIS interior to create the version that
we see in the TV movie. Both the novelisation of the film
and The Eight Doctors assert that the Seventh Doctor
reconfigured the design in his spare time. However, Lungbarrow
implies that the interior is altered as a result of the ship
being closed down and restarted - the Doctor's companion Chris
reacts by exclaiming, "You won't believe what the inside of
the TARDIS looks like!" Rather helpfully, author Marc Platt
doesn't actually describe the new interior in Lungbarrow.
It is therefore possible that the design seen by Chris is
later modified by the Doctor prior to events in the TV movie.
Furthermore The Eight Doctors states that the console
room seen in the TV movie is actually a version of the so-called
secondary control room, the mahogany-panelled room seen on
TV during Season Fourteen. "Secondary" is a bit of a misnomer,
however, because this room, according to the Fourth Doctor
in The Masque of Mandragora, is in fact older than
the more familiar white-walled control room. It would thus
make sense that, when "rebooted" in Lungbarrow, the
TARDIS would return to its original configuration, with the
wood-panelled room reinstated as its primary control chamber.
aspect of The Eight Doctors that seems to conflict
with Virgin continuity is the incorporation, in the Seventh
Doctor's chapter, of a couple of scenes featuring the Master.
In the first of these scenes, the Doctor's arch enemy, having
just escaped from the Cheetah planet featured in Survival,
goes in search of the worm-like creature that he will use
to cheat death in the TV movie. However, The New Adventures
had already featured a post-Survival Master, who had
even managed to regenerate in David A. McIntee's First
fact of the matter is that when Terrance Dicks wrote The
Eight Doctors, he had to be careful not to alienate readers
who may not be familiar with Virgin's output. Consequently,
his description of the Seventh Doctor's costume matches the
one worn during Season Twenty-six rather than any of the Doctor's
less eccentric New Adventures outfits. However, there
is a deliberate element of vagueness that makes it possible
to incorporate Virgin mythology. Notably, Dicks makes no mention
of the Doctor's companion Ace, who goes by the name of Dorothée
in the later New Adventures. By simply establishing
the fact that the Seventh Doctor has been travelling alone,
the author allows new readers and New Adventures fans
alike (and, for that matter, readers of the Doctor Who
Magazine comic strip Ground Zero, in which Ace
is killed) to imagine their preferred version of her departure.
Dicks is similarly circumspect in his depiction of the Master,
realising that some readers will have Anthony Ainley's incarnation
in mind, while others might expect the "McIntee" Master.
light of the recent Big Finish release, one could just as
easily imagine the once again emaciated Master from Dust
Breeding, as played by Geoffrey Beevers. His condition
would provide ample motivation for his audacious scheme to
steal the Doctor's body in the TV movie. I prefer to assume
that the Doctor meets the Master out of sequence in Dust
Breeding, and that this Master used to be the "McIntee"
incarnation before he was ravaged by the Warp Core.
first of the Master's two scenes in The Eight Doctors
may be regarded - after the first line, which ties his narrative
in with the Seventh Doctor's - as a flashback to a point in
time just after events in Survival. The second scene,
in which the Master arrives on Skaro, having made genetic
modifications to the "deathworm", could easily concern the
"McIntee" or Beevers Master. One needs to assume that there
is an interim between the Master's two scenes anyway, even
if one only accepts BBC Books as canon. This is because other
BBC stories set between Survival and the TV movie have
featured the Ainley Master - the short story Stop the Pigeon
by Robert Perry and Mike Tucker, and Tucker's solo novel Prime
couple of other aspects of The Eight Doctors may appear
to contradict the Virgin novels (the sheer number of continuity
headaches caused by this one book are mainly due to the fact
that it deals with the entire duration of the TV show's mythology).
The following issues are not dealt with in Distractions,
but I do have answers for them, as you will see. The first
of these concerns the revival of Borusa.
Eight Doctors recycles a number of elements from Dicks's
own New Adventure, Blood Harvest. These include
the vampires from his 1980 TV serial State of Decay,
Gallifreyan conspiracies, the Timescoop from The Five Doctors
and the release of President Borusa from the "living death"
that was imposed upon him by Rassilon in that same story.
In both Blood Harvest and The Eight Doctors
Borusa is revived, is shown to have learnt the error of his
ways, then chooses to rejoin a merciful Rassilon in peaceful
slumber. How can this process happen twice over?
hold on to your hats, because this gets a little complicated,
but it is possible to rationalise a plausible sequence of
chronological order, Borusa is initially released in The
Eight Doctors to help restore public order following insurrection
sparked by the corrupt High Council's devastation of Earth
during The Trial of a Time Lord. Under his supervision,
time is folded back and Earth is restored, after which Borusa
departs "to share Rassilon's long repose". As a result of
the temporal manipulation, the memories of all witnesses to
these events become blurred, and the participation of the
Eighth Doctor and Borusa become akin to legend.
in Blood Harvest, the Committee of Three, a group of
Borusa's former followers, seek to return him to power, blaming
the Doctor for his imprisonment. Perhaps the Three are unaware
that it was the Doctor himself who released Borusa on that
earlier occasion, or perhaps they do not believe that Borusa
resumed his sleep willingly. With the aid of an elemental
entity called Agonal, they release Borusa from his resting
place within the Tomb of Rassilon. It is curious that the
face of Borusa is still visible on the bier in the tomb (it
became blank in The Eight Doctors), but then this would
be what the conspirators expected to find. Maybe this is another
manifestation of Rassilon's cunning - he could have foreseen
that Borusa would be needed again. To the surprise of the
Committee of Three, Borusa announces that he has no wish to
be released. Defeated by Rassilon, Agonal takes Borusa's former
position on the bier, and Rassilon declares that he has "a
better place" for the former president, who then vanishes
for the last time.
the tomb in the final chapter of The Eight Doctors,
the Doctor notices that Borusa's place on the bier is now
blank. No mention is made of Agonal, but this is forgivable,
as to do so would have further complicated the story. Perhaps
Rassilon had forgiven another transgressor in the interim,
and Agonal's position had been shuffled around, or perhaps
Rassilon always keeps one space free for future eventualities
- which would certainly reduce the coincidental nature of
that single empty space seen in The Five Doctors!
fate of the Timescoop device follows a similarly convoluted
but workable sequence of events.
its illegal use in The Five Doctors, President Flavia
orders the Timescoop to be destroyed (as she recalls in The
Eight Doctors). However, it would seem that she delegates
this task to the CIA, who regard the device as "too useful
... to waste" (The Eight Doctors). Perhaps the CIA
convince Flavia that mere deactivation will suffice, for in
Blood Harvest she states, "I ordered that device to
be deactivated." The Committee of Three reactivate the Timescoop,
but it is severely damaged in Paul Cornell's Missing Adventure,
Goth Opera. Evidently the CIA manage to salvage it
some time prior to The Eight Doctors, when it is then
used by Ryoth, a character who is said to have had marginal
involvement with the Committee of Three (an unequivocal reference
back to Virgin mythology). Ultimately, both Timescoop and
Ryoth are eaten by a Drashig!
writing Distractions, I also threw in a couple of references
to meetings that had occurred between the Fifth, Sixth and
Seventh Doctors prior to the Big Finish audio release The
Sirens of Time. Naturally enough, to avoid confusing the
hell out of casual listeners, Sirens does not refer
to Lance Parkin's Fifth and Seventh Doctor novel Cold Fusion
or to the Sixth and Seventh Doctors' joint venture in the
Doctor Who Magazine strip Emperor of the Daleks.
I have assumed that the Doctors were simply too busy to discuss
their previous encounters.
talking of comic strips, there is no reason why DWM's
Ground Zero cannot co-exist with The New Adventures,
although my rationalisation is a little desperate! In this
earth-shattering comic strip, Ace (still going by that nickname)
travels with the Seventh Doctor (dressed in his smarter TV
movie outfit) in the traditional white-walled TARDIS control
room. At the climax of the story Ace is killed, so how can
this fit in with Virgin continuity? Well, maybe after Distractions
the Seventh Doctor and Dorothée meet up once more. Maybe he
cannot get used to calling her Dorothée, so she lets him call
her Ace for old times' sake. Maybe, also for old times' sake,
the Doctor decides to use the more familiar control room,
which The Eight Doctors shows us still exists. This
admittedly rather shaky rationale would be instantly invalidated
if Ace/Dorothée were ever to reappear alive and well in an
Eighth Doctor novel, but then again, maybe this death is the
one that was predicted in Prime Time. Only time will
and other bothers
not suggesting that no further inconsistencies exist within
the book series, but then no one could ever claim that the
original TV series was consistent either. The novels of Robert
Perry and Mike Tucker, for instance, have stated that Ace's
surname is Gale, which conflicts with the more commonly used
McShane. Steve Lyons's Head Games and Gary Russell's
Business Unusual give different years for Melanie Bush's
departure from Earth. The status of Sarah Jane Smith implied
by Bullet Time is at odds with both Justin Richards's
Millennium Shock and some of Lawrence Miles's predictions
for her future in Interference. Different authors disagree
as to whether the First Doctor had one heart or two (my money's
on one - see The Edge of Destruction). Then there's
the old bugbear of dating the UNIT stories. In such cases,
I just do a bit of mental editing as I read, substituting
the name, number or date that I prefer.
Dicks's books (for both ranges) have had Gallifreyans referring
to their brothers, whereas numerous New Adventures have
insisted that all Gallifreyans are reproduced by means of
genetic Looms, and only have cousins. I tend to assume that
"brother" to a Gallifreyan simply means "male cousin". And
perhaps the "father" to whom the Doctor refers in the TV movie
was in fact Quences, the elder of the Doctor's House of Lungbarrow.
as dedicated fans, including the novelists, have sought to
explain the TV show's many inconsistencies, so we should be
able to handle those that arise within the books. If you're
enough of a fanboy (or girl) to notice or care a jot about
such inconsistencies, then you can also be enough of a fanboy
to iron them out with a little imagination. If all else fails,
troublesome stories can always be consigned to Lawrence Miles's
quest for consistency and continuity will continue for as
long as new fictions are produced.