Atom Bomb Blues
by Andrew Cartmel

Publisher: BBC
ISBN: 0 563 48635 X


    Los Alamos is a tense place in the last days before Trinity... and things aren't going to anyone's liking. Fear of spies pervades the project. Edward Teller thinks they'll all blow themselves to oblivion. And there's someone working on the atomic bomb who shouldn't, according to history, really be here at all.



    Pg 15 The Doctor and Ace have implied in front of Major Butcher that they've come from Chicago and took a train from there to Lamy, but it turns out they just arrived in Lamy and left the TARDIS there.

    Pg 191 At the Storrows' house, Los Angeles.

    None, oddly enough.

    The dedication is to one Catherine Gang, known for her 40s type jazz. This will be a running subplot throughout the book.

    Pg 16 "It's another caper like the one with Dr Judson." Curse of Fenric.

    "Although hopefully it will rain a little less here." Possibly a sly reference to the horrible shooting conditions during Curse of Fenric, which necessitated minor script rewrites.

    Pg 19 "But he'd been deliberately cultivating the Neanderthal grease-monkey look for his feint as the driver." Might be a hint at Nimord in Ghost Light, but probably isn't.

    Pg 23 The Doctor mentions Ashley Pond, unimaginatively named after a man called Ashley Pond. This is indeed a real pond in Los Alamos, so any reference to current companion Amy Pond would seem to be purely coincidental.

    Pg 24 The words "crazy paving" pop up which, juxtaposed with the Seventh Doctor, always remind me of his leaving speech to Mel in Dragonfire.

    Pg 27 "He's some kind of boffin, right? Like Dr Judson." Curse of Fenric again.

    A butterfly goes past Ace and the Doctor. Butterflies and the Doctor are famously associated in the works of Kate Orman, as chronicled in Set Piece, Vampire Science, and many other places.

    Pg 28 Amusingly, Butcher uses a hairpin to open the Doctor and Ace's trunks. The number of books in which companions have used their hairpins for lock-picking probably outnumber the Dalek stories.

    Pg 29 The Doctor writes "Wickedly subversive" in one of Butcher's books, which suggests to me that he hastily faked the annotations a la Battlefield. It doesn't sound like something the Seventh Doctor would usually write, does it?

    Pg 32 Robert Oppenheimer appears; Ace almost immediately wants to mock his tweed jacket. Score two for unintentional references to the Stephen Moffat era, then.

    Oppenheimer also introduces himself as Oppy. See Continuity Cock-ups.

    Pg 36 "Ace took a sip. She had never been big on gin, especially warm gin, but the honey and lime mixture made it quite palatable." Perhaps she tried it on Iceworld? By the time Warlock rolls around she orders one in a pub, so Cartmel might be setting that up here.

    Pg 40 "Oh, I'm sure that's because he was a personal friend of the Fuhrer's." The Doctor will go on to be something disturbingly like that in Timewrym: Exodus. Of course, he's already met Hitler in Shadow in the Glass.

    Pg 44 Ace knows about Indiana Jones. She'll mention him again in The Left-Handed Hummingbird.

    Pg 50 "Ace had always been partial to jazz, treasuring her personally autographed Courtney Pine CD". Silver Nemesis.

    Pg 53 "But that wasn't so unusual here on the Hill where it seemed everyone had a doctorate - with the possible exception of the Doctor." Rather amusing reference to the long running fan debate about the Doctor's qualifications or lack thereof.

    Pg 56 Ace clicks her heels when she goes home to the dormitory. Very L. Frank Baum of her.

    Pg 61 "When we went to see Dr Judson you were posing as a mathematical specialist." Curse of Fenric again.

    Pg 68 Ace feels like she is in a freak show, and has a similar thought a few pages on. Perhaps like the one in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, or more darkly the one in Matrix.

    Pg 77 The Doctor and Ace pretend to be looking for one of her lost earrings. This sounds like a reference to the notorious Greatest Show in the Galaxy continuity mixup, but I suspect it's something else. As detailed in "Ace! The End of an Era", Ace's Batman earrings disappeared during the Remembrance of the Daleks shoot. They had to be replaced rather expensively.

    Pg 78 The Doctor enjoys a banana, rather as he will do in The Doctor Dances.

    Pg 111 Ace thinks about the TARDIS.

    Pg 118 "Now the first thing we need to do is stop at the Fuller Lodge and collect my umbrella." The Doctor wants his umbrella despite the complete and utter absence of rain. Rather like the McCoy era...

    Pg 119 "Then he turned to the desk and lifted his umbrella, pointing it at Henbest. There was a faint spitting sound." Until it turns out to be equipped with a gun. Which isn't very much like the televised Seventh Doctor at all, however dark he was in Curse of Fenric.

    Pg 122 "Tell him I'm a dolphin." Ace suggests to Henbest that she is an evil dolphin, an impression possibly inspired by the villainous dolphin Bernard from Heritage. Or not.

    Pg 127 Ray is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which may or may not be a reference to John Nathan-Turner's liking of same.

    Pg 138 "It's no Bessie, but nonetheless quite an enjoyable vehicle to drive." The Third Doctor's era, but the Doctor's seen her recently in Battlefield.

    The Doctor is also wearing tweed. Between that and the bow tie he was wearing on page 14, one wonders if he's test driving Matt Smith's look.

    Pg 153 "The only corresponding evil to be found among the animals spirits is the owl." In what is possibly the most sarcastic take on Paul Cornell's owl theme ever, the Doctor claims that they are seen as both utterly evil and hugely powerful by the Mescalero Apaches. The sad punctuation is unfortunately in the book.

    Pg 159 The Doctor seems to know about the Foo Fighters when Ace mentions them. Remarkably specific music knowledge for someone who's never even heard of the Pet Shop Boys in Damaged Goods.

    Pg 168 "The power of suggestion, Ace, the power of suggestion." The Doctor mildly hypnotises Butcher so that he can handle the shock of meeting Zorg. Too many places to count, but the first time the Seventh Doctor tries this is in Battlefield.

    Pg 171 "Build perfect robot replicas of ourselves and leave them on the Hill while we go off?" Sounds a bit like the Doctor's robot double in The Daleks' Master Plan, although that one was something less then perfect.

    Pg 175 "Ace was wearing sunglasses." It's not clear whether these are the vision-enhanced ones she wanted in Heritage.

    Pg 193 "You could always say you were Harry Houdini." The Doctor claimed he met Houdini in Planet of the Spiders.

    Pg 208 "'Clarke's law,' said Ace." First introduced to her in Battlefield.

    Black Eyes, Scar, and Sun Runner have met another incarnation of the Doctor, although we've never actually seen them before.

    The Trinity crew: Professor John Henbest, Major Rex Butcher, Kitty Oppenheimer, Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, Professor Abner Apple, Lisetti.

    Zorg, or Zostrathnia Otocr Regus Gelb.

    An alternative universe Duke Ellington also appears with his band.

    Lady Silk and "Cosmic" Ray Morita, both of whom seem to have doubles. Both versions of Lady Silk survive. It's not clear what happens to Ray's double (See Continuity Cock-ups), but the main Ray survives.


    1. Pg 9 "This is 1944." Except that Trinity takes place in July 1945, the back cover says 1945, and there's nothing to suggest the Doctor and Ace stay in Los Alamos for eight months.
    2. Pg 20 The Doctor misnames one of Butcher's books. It wouldn't be so odd if he doesn't make a similar mistake later on; it looks like Cartmel's taking this theme somewhere, but he doesn't.
    3. Pg 21 "The 1920s saw the rise of organized labour in America, the unions." Without going into the history of American unions, let me just say that the Industrial Workers of the World that the Doctor mentions further down the page were founded in 1905. And since it is the Doctor talking, there's really no excuse for historical inaccuracy.
    4. Pg 32 "Call me Oppy." Oppenheimer introduces himself as Oppy, and this spelling is used consistently throughout the novel. Despite the fact that everything else ever written about Oppenheimer spells it "Oppie", including his signature on personal letters.
    5. Pg 40 "It's the music of the master race." It sounds distinctly odd to hear anti-foreigner Major Butcher use terminology usually attributed to the Nazis. He's discussing Wagner, but I don't see anyone in wartime America making that mistake.
    6. Pg 43 "Major Butcher, who had returned to the room, drifted close to them just in time to hear Ace say 'Who the hell is Uncle Sam?' Before Butcher had a chance to consider Ace's anachronistic remark, there was the sound of angry voices from outside." An anachronism is a reference to a temporal error, but the phrase "Uncle Sam" was current in the eighties as well as the forties. Ace is confused because she's English, not because she's from the future.
    7. Pg 44 "You do know who the Nazis are?" Er, what? There've been talking about WWII and Curse of Fenric all day, what is the Doctor thinking?
    8. Pg 47 "This lot managed to blow up an atom bomb all right... and built another one and dropped it on Japan." There were two bombs dropped on Japan, not one.
    9. Pg 70 Ray says that cactus needles are better for records than metal ones. A popular misconception, but it isn't actually true. As a record collector Ray should know that.
    10. Pg 73 On page 71, "He left Ace drinking beer in the sitting room", but she still hasn't had any when Butcher comes in.
    11. Pg 122 "Should he be able to smell the sulphur and brimstone? [...] We don't even know if the man's a devout Catholic." In America, images of hell are more generically Christian than specifically Catholic. And the whole brimstone thing is rooted in Protestant history, not Catholic. Not to mention that sulphur and brimstone are the same thing.
    12. Pg 243 In addition to being a horrific pun, "Imperial Lee" is a joke that makes sense only in English. Given Lee's personality, wouldn't he prefer a joke that was actually in Japanese? What makes it worse is that Imperial Lee seems to be from Ace's universe, like Ray, so we can't blame this one on the alternative history.
    13. Pg 248 It turns out that Lady Silk and Imperial Lee have doubles, like Ray. So even though they're from the twenty-first century, they have doubles in the 1940s. What's going on with the chronology here?
    14. And that doesn't even explain what happened to Ray's double, who we know exists because the Doctor was talking about him on page 91. Considering that Ray is worried about the Doctor and Ace, he might have spared a thought for his alternative self.
    15. Pg 257 "Isn't it a little late to be calling?" Except that it's a little after four in the morning. Shouldn't that be early?
    16. Pg 275 The Doctor tells Ace that the entire reason they're here is to try to convince Teller that his math is wrong; the atomic bomb won't destroy the atmosphere. In real life, Teller caused a brief panic when he came up with this possibility, but it was eventually found erroneous. No one, including him, was worried about it by the time Trinity happened.

    PLUGGING THE HOLES [Fan-wank theorizing of how to fix continuity cock-ups]

    1. The Doctor and Ace do stay for eight months. Technically it works out, since the novel never says that they don't...
    2. He may be testing Butcher's reaction the first time. Alternatively, it's a subtle hint that the Doctor's less familiar with this universe.
    3. The entire book takes place in an alternative universe with a distinct and possibly different history. In this universe, the Wobblies started later.
    4. Alternative universe again. Handy get-out clause, eh?
    5. Butcher has been sampling the martini pitcher.
    6. Butcher doesn't know the correct meaning of the word, and thinks it can indicate a spatial mistake.
    7. The Doctor suspects Ace has had too much to drink and wants to test her.
    8. Ace doesn't know as much history as she thinks, or has had too many martinis to care.
    9. By this point in the war, needles are so rare that some people are using cactus, and Ray is worried that metal needles would damage the time line. Alternatively, Ray doesn't know what he's talking about.
    10. Ace was presumably waiting for Ray before she started, and Ray didn't notice.
    11. The Doctor is extremely uncomfortable with this whole scene and is trying to dissuade Ace in a hurry.
    12. The pun is genuinely in Japanese, and the TARDIS translation circuits have rendered an equally horrific version for Ace's benefit.
    13. Deep breath here... Lady Silk says that the doubles attract, which means that on some level a time traveller's mere presence in another universe affects the way sentient beings behave in that universe. So possibly existence in another universe can do something at a quantum level to bring those doubles into existence in the first place, in the same time period that you're experiencing. Either the Doctor or the TARDIS probably have safeguards against this. Otherwise, there's going to be a very confused version of Ace wandering around in the 1940s.
    14. It's possible that Ray has been told that he has a fake identity rather than being an impersonator, which is why he isn't worried about the fate of his double. Presumably Lady Silk and Imperial Lee went after the double when Ray wasn't looking.
    15. Butcher has been up all night and his question reflects his thinking.
    16. Another aspect of this alternative universe is that Teller is much stupider and refuses to admit he made a mistake.

    Pg 166 Zorg is a member of a race of vaguely crab-shaped aliens. They have colourful jellylike organic spaceships with tentacles designed to transport people onboard. Zorg's poetry is extremely bad, but it's not clear whether this is a pastime of the entire race or not.

    Most of the novel happens in an alternative universe's version of Los Alamos, although we aren't told that right away. It's apparently 1945, although see Continuity Cock-ups for more on that.

    Pg 147 A cave several miles away from Los Alamos, somewhere in the desert.

    Pg 157 Inside Zorg's spaceship.

    Pg 180 On a train to Los Angeles.

    Pg 191 Los Angeles, still in the parallel universe.

    IN SUMMARY - Dorothy Ail
    A shockingly poor effort for Cartmel, it's a pity this was the PDAs' swan-song. Characters drop out of the story as soon as the plot doesn't need them, including a stab at a romantic subplot that even Ace can't stand. Cartmel's vitriolic racism and sexism are a disgrace to both Doctor Who and BBC Books. Cosmic Ray's motivation is decent and the alternative universe theme is handled reasonably well, but they can't redeem the story. A painful novel to be avoided.