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A Doctor Who novel, written by Marc Platt. The fifth of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.

Previous story: Timewyrm: Revelation | Next story: Cat's Cradle: Warhead

WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

Regular characters

The Seventh Doctor

Ace

Major developments

The TARDIS is badly damaged by a data-eating creature. In ancient Gallifrey, Rassilon leads a move away from magic and mysticism, towards science and rationalism, and the first time travellers return.

My opinion

This book is well written and makes full use of the possibilities offered by being a book rather than a tv show, giving us a story set in a city divided into three time periods: the past, the present and the future. That setting, however, contributed to a plot that is almost impenetrable. It all makes sense at the end, but you have to think damn hard about it, and I didn't really find the story involving enough to be worth the effort of thinking about it. Another aspect to the story are the details about ancient Gallifrey and the hints about the Doctor's relationship to "the other" in Rassilon's time. These aimed to add more mystery to the Doctor's character, but I don't thing they added much, and other writers have managed to invest mystery to the stories simply by making the Seventh Doctor a devious bastard. Overall a book that was difficult to get through and only partially rewarding of the effort.

Quick outline

The TARDIS is attacked by a datavore, a stange slug-like creature that consumes information. The TARDIS is damaged and collides with another time-travelling vessel, a Scaphe from ancient Gallifrey, the first time-travel journey made by the Gallifreyans. Following the collision Ace finds herself in a crumbling city with no sign of the Doctor.

In due course Ace meets the inhabitants of the city, the former crew of the Scaphe. When Ace first meets them they are considerably aged, and five of the crew are enslaved by Vael, another member of the crew and a powerful telepath, and six helmeted guards. The last member of the crew is the Pilot, a child when the Scaphe crashed but now grown into a young man named Shonnzi. The crew are being forced to search the city for soemthing known as "the stolen Future". After being attacked by the Process (the creature that attacked the TARDIS, now grown much larger), Ace crosses a stream of mercury and meets the crew again, now much younger and having just crashed themselves. Ace realises that the mercury streams in the city divide the it into different time zones.

The young crew turn Ace over to Vael in the hopes that this will secure their release, ignoring Ace's claim that they will be enslaved for years. She is taken to the Process' tower, but escapes with Shonnzi's help. With his guidance she is able to find the Doctor, but discovers that he has lost his memory.

Meanwhile, the political situation in ancient Gallifrey is in some turmoil with the Scaphe missing. The Pythia is the mystic leader of Gallifrey, but recently her power has been challenged by Rassilon, who champions the supremacy of science over mysticism. The aging Pythia had chosen Vael as her successor before sending him to infiltrate the time travel experiments, and his delayed return and Rassilon's challenge to her authority are making her increasingly unstable.

Back in the city, the Doctor's memories gradually return, and he is able to determine that the city is in fact the TARDIS, very badly damaged. As the energy continues to drain form the damaged TARDIS, the city begins to contract and collapse, threatening to kill everyone. During a final confrontation with Vael and the Process in a confused mix of time zones Vael, in an attempt to kill the Doctor, destroys instead the egg from which the Process is about to be born, causing the older versions of the Process to vanish. Sick of the Pythia's presence in his mind he then turns his power inwards, destroying himself. The TARDIS begins to repair itself, and the Gallifreyan's Scaphe is restored, allowing the crew to return to Gallifrey.

On Galilfrey the Pythia is finally driven to a breakdown by the death of her successor, and she throws herself into an abyss to her death, but not before laying a final curse on Gallifrey. From that time on, there will be no natural births on Gallifrey. With no successor for the Pythia, Rassilon is able to assume power, but is forced to turn from his time travel experiments for a short time to find way for the Gallifreyan race to continue.

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