Longest Day
by Michael Collier


Publisher: BBC
ISBN: 0 563 40581 3

     

    BASIC PLOT
    Hirath is a planet divided into discrete time-zones, all held in balance by a master computer invented by a distant alien race. In these time-zones, the locals dump their unwanted: the criminals, the insane, pollutants, you name it. But the machine is breaking down, and time is no longer what it was, so the Doctor and Sam arrive to sort out the problem. But then the aliens come back, looking for what they left behind so long ago...

    DOCTOR
    Eighth.

    COMPANIONS
    Sam Jones, who, albeit not by her choice, leaves the Doctor for a while in order for the EDA authors to 'grow her up'. This begins a brief arc of four stories popularly known as the 'Sam is Missing' arc.

    MATERIALISATION CIRCUIT
    Pg 18 On the orbital monitoring station on the moon above Hirath, 3177AD.

    PREPARATORY READING
    None.

    CONTINUITY REFERENCES
    Pg 5 "She'd been back in London a while ago with this length hair, and it had made her realize that the Sam of Coal Hill School was long, long gone." Option Lock for the London visit and The Eight Doctors (as well as An Unearthly Child and Remembrance of the Daleks) for Coal Hill School.

    Pgs 6-7 There's a glorious acknowledgement of just how cluttered the Who continuity has got: "Look at him on Earth. He'd been there so often that in any one year there were probably half a dozen of his selves wandering round the place righting wrongs or meeting people to name-drop about later. Probably in every year. Every year, right from the start." In fact, in the case of Option Lock, this is quite untrue, given that he's only also there for System Shock. But the previous year 1997, he's busy stopping the Ice Warriors in The Dying Days, meeting Sam in The Eight Doctors, getting Sarah Jane killed in Bullet Time, fixing the San Francisco vampire problem in Vampire Science, foiling Morgaine in Battlefield and meeting sensopaths in Infinite Requiem. Plus partying in Ibiza, if you credit the dreadful audio release, The Rapture.

    Pg 21 "Oh, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam." The Doctor's habit of repeating words makes a wildly unwelcome return to the books. This isn't the last time in this novel, but it's the last that I care to mention.

    Pg 23 "The disturbance faded to just above omega from this very spot." 'Omega' would appear to be the lowest point of temporal disturbance, which is ironic when you consider the events of The Three Doctors.

    Pg 32 "The Doctor started humming something operatic to himself." Possibly Puccini's Madame Butterfly from the Telemovie or some Paletti from Vampire Science (and Transit initially).

    Pg 38 "Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Admirable advice. If only I could remember who said it." It was you, actually, Doctor, in The Tomb of the Cybermen.

    Pg 44 "Drugs frightened her. She'd dabbled once, and it had scared her to death." We see Sam's one experience with drugs in flashback in Interference, part II.

    "Then it had been no caffeine. Abstinence. She'd already said no to gelatine, no to meat. No drugs." Actually, her 'I don't even drink coke' in The Eight Doctors actually makes a lot more sense with the little additional piece of information that it was a result of messing with drugs.

    Pg 55 "The machine stops, eh?" This is a reference to E.M. Forster's short story of the same name, written in 1909, in which a computer-dependent society collapses when the repair machine for the computer itself breaks down. It's excellent, chilling, and comes highly recommended.

    Pg 85 "Somehow, fighting Krotons, Daleks, whatever - however scary or deadly they were - you could understand them." Alien Bodies, War of the Daleks.

    Pg 86 A brief Dalek impersonation.

    Pg 87 "Wherever you were in the galaxy you could bet your life you'd find someone willing to share scary Dalek anecdotes. The evil little sods had probably broken the ice at more parties across the universe than anything else." This is quite glorious!

    Pg 103 "He marched over to the computer and banged the top of it hard with his fist." The Doctor's standard treatment of malfunctioning technology, as seen in State of Decay.

    "He glanced down at his lapel absent-mindedly for a cat badge to rub." From the Sixth Doctor's costume.

    "His biodata coiling into infinity" is actually what's happened to the Doctor's biodata to a certain extent, as we find out in Unnatural History.

    Pg 109 "WORDS WITHOUT ACTIONS ARE THE ASSASSINS OF IDEALISM" Alright, it's a quote from Herbert Hoover, but it remains one of the most pretentious chapter titles in a Doctor Who novel.

    "The Doctor woke up bewildered, aching and absolutely soaking wet. 'That was some party, Brigadier...' he whispered hoarsely." A seemingly unrecorded adventure from the Third Doctor's tenure. Wish I'd been there...

    Pg 145 "He chewed them thoughtfully on the way back to Anstaar, and thought of Sam. 'Terrible habit,' he murmured." Sam's nailbiting has been referred to in both Kursaal and Option Lock.

    Pg 156 "The Doctor turned and smiled wanly. 'I never think about dying. Or death in general, really.' He turned back to George, his voice low and quiet like that of a sombre child. 'I mustn't.'" This may, just, be a suggestion that if he thinks too much about the immortals such as Death that he had such a connection with in the NAs, then they might just come calling again.

    Pg 172 "I'm usually more or less immune to this kind of temporal embolism." The phrase 'temporal embolism' appears to be being used in a different way or context to its appearance in The Two Doctors.

    Pg 174 "The Doctor gave a short, hollow laugh. 'Time trees.' His eyes became distant." Genocide.

    "The waste product from your terraforming, the heavy metals dissolving into the soil." This is an explanation of why the Time Trees had an appetite for heavy metals in Genocide.

    Pg 178 "The whole planet had been used as a tactical front. Caught in the crossfire of layers upon layers of lethal weaponry, the Kusks' own missiles had had no effect on the mighty fleets as they battled. They were ignored, microbes at the feet of giants." It may just be me seeing this, but it could well be that said battling superpowers, who left loads of time technology in their wake, were the Time Lords and the Enemy.

    Pg 190 "Softly, he began singing a soothing Venusian lullaby." Bet we've heard that before: The Curse of Peladon et al.

    Pg 215 "But then she thought of the dreams she'd had of being someone else, a dark-haired girl holed up in a King's Cross bedsit, with nothing special in her life, just endless days of being ordinary." Sam's dreams are of Dark Sam, that person who she would have been had not the Doctor come into her life. See Alien Bodies and Unnatural History.

    Pg 221 The Doctor is thinking of "the apparent ubiquity of time travel these days" which, again, may be a reference to the fact that the Gallifreyans, as their war progresses, are not paying as much attention as they used to.

    Pg 229 "She remembered trying to convince a Thal warrior that fighting and obeying orders you didn't believe in were bad, that they killed your inner spirit. She shuddered at how fatuous her comments must have sounded." War of the Daleks, and fair comment.

    Pg 251 "Why couldn't she have pockets like he had." Because she hasn't read the book mentioned in Alien Bodies.

    OLD FRIENDS AND OLD ENEMIES
    None.

    NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES
    The only survivor is Corren Anstaar.

    CONTINUITY COCK-UPS

    • Pg 14 "She felt a shiver run down her as she watched him wandering round the ornate bronze-and-wood, five-sided console that guided them through the vortex." Hang on? Five-sided? Since when?

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

    • Actually, it was five-sided in Ten Little Aliens as well. Maybe it's an alternative setting that the Doctor can switch to occasionally. Or maybe Steve Cole edited this bit and he simply can't count.

    FEATURED ALIEN RACES
    The Kusk, thoroughly charming creatures with brown skin which looks and smells like charred flesh. They've huge eyes, a fatty tongue and six strangely slender fingers, they also have fatty thighs which drip a sweaty liquid. There's lots more, but suffice it to say, they're basically your worst nightmare to wake up with after a heavy Saturday night.

    The natives of the Thannos system are basically humanoid, although the men have really long eyelashes, while the women have none. The latter do, however, sport an inner eyelid and have two tongues.

    Nashaad is of an unnamed alien race, and has a blue face, yellow teeth, black eyes, and metal legs, although these came later.

    FEATURED LOCATIONS
    Pg vii: The pink planet Hirath, 3158 according to the Thannosian calendar. This is 19 years before the main action, but the length of a Thannosian year is unclear, and may not match Earth years. If they do, then this is the equivalent of 2181AD.

    Pg x: The Orbital Base on Hirath's only moon, 'now', which is later given as 3177. Legacy of the Daleks states that this is Thannosian time, and implies (it's a long story, but trust us here) that this is the equivalent of 2200AD.

    Pg 1 The Orbital Base on the moon, one week later.

    Pg 9 Above Hirath. Most of the rest of the action takes place either on the planet or on the Moonbase.

    Pg 26 Except this bit, on the Kusk ship, approaching Hirath.

    IN SUMMARY - Anthony Wilson
    Some of the writing is quite nice, and the final few scenes, from page 254 onwards, are quite marvellous. Some of the lines are great - the loudspeaker one on page 192 particularly - and the Doctor is generally in control and more as we'd like him to be than he has been for some time. The setting has quite a strong science-fiction principle underlying it and is both interesting and clever, so it's a crying shame that the plot isn't. Collier appears to have had little idea what to do with his world-building, so he populates it with cliched characters and then just... kills them all. Literally every character is there simply to serve a function in the plot, to keep the plot moving, and beyond that plot there's just an awful lot of running around, precisely none of it thrilling. In the end, when the best defined character is the Kusk leader and he's the biggest walking cliche this side of Sir Gilles Estram, you know you have a problem.