It's time to remove the Gods from Dellah, because the NAs are ending and no one likes loose plot threads. Benny, Jason, Chris and Clarence go on a suicide mission to save the galaxy.
Professor Bernice Summerfield.
Jason Kane, Chris Cwej (second body) and Clarence.
The last seven books of the NAs are quite tightly tied together, but probably the most important one is the point at which the Gods arc began in Where Angels Fear, if only to see how blatant retcons can be.
Pg 1 "The wind became colder and sharper, the breeze before an oncoming storm." Presumably a reference to how the Doctor has been frequently described since Love and War.
"Born a mere lord, he had grown up to make decisions most cultures left in the lap of the gods." Braxiatel is a Time Lord, of course.
Pg 2 "Presently, he headed for the Mansionhouse, part of his replication of the Palace of Versailles. One day there would be a lake here, a summerhouse there, a Garden of Whispers... Perfection." The Braxiatel Collection will eventually be as it was seen in Theatre of War.
"Emile had put back on a bit of the weight he had lost during his period of possession by a malignant god some time before." Emile, originally from Beyond the Sun, was possessed by one of the gods in Where Angels Fear, a plot point that was relevant in The Mary-Sue Extrusion.
Pg 3 "Plenty of time for you to brief whoever you send into the Dellahan situation." That being the gods taking over Dellah in Where Angels Fear and subsequently trying to take over the galaxy in the books since.
"That boring mercenary guy sent us an obscene reply." I'm guessing that this is the unnamed narrator from the Dave Stone novels The Mary-Sue Extrusion and Return to the Fractured Planet. It does seem a little harsh.
Pg 4 "Chris Cwej, former Adjudicator and sometime agent of higher powers." Adjudicator from Original Sin and agent of the Time Lords in Dead Romance.
"After a particularly radical bit of reconstruction he was now short and broad with receding, dark hair." Chris regenerated in Tears of the Oracle after having received a dose of radiation poisoning in Dead Romance.
"Clarence being an artificial construct housing the crippled intelligence of a defunct sentient spaceship." Gosh, here we are with the infodump. Clarence is the crippled intelligence of murderous spaceship C-Mel from The Also People. He was introduced in his new form in Ghost Devices.
"The creation of a race of super-advanced beings - rivals of Chris's former employers - Clarence was trying to distance himself from those lofty heights." Said super-advanced beings are the People, introduced in The Also People. Chris's former employers are, as mentioned, the Time Lords.
Pg 5 Chris and Clarence are watching "a fiction, a fantasy of the wildest kind. But it all seemed rather obvious and predicable to Clarence." 'How long did this show run for?' he asked Chris. Chris frowned. 'About thirty-odd years, I think?' 'And it is all like this? Just people being captured and escaping, a lot of running around and an explosion at the end?' 'Pretty much. Why do you ask?'" They appear to be watching Doctor Who.
"So Professor Bernice Summerfield, former holder of the Edward Watkinson Chair at St Oscar's University on Dellah." She's held that role since being invited to take it up in The Dying Days. We saw Edward Watkinson in Tears of the Oracle.
Pgs 5-6 "She spent much of the uneventful trip doing crossword puzzles and other intelligence tests, a form of mental physiotherapy intended to help her recover from a recent brain condition." Benny's mind was being destroyed as a result of what she had done in The Mary-Sue Extrusion. The damage had been revealed in Tears of the Oracle and cured, albeit with some memory loss, in Return to the Fractured Planet.
Pg 6 "First buying that coat, now this." Presumably the beige coat that Benny bought in Beige Planet Mars.
Pg 7 "In a deep cryogenic sleep, Jason Kane, ex-husband of Bernice Summerfield and the galaxy's premier author of xenophiliac pornography, happily dreamt of electric gerbils." Jason was revealed to have talents in this area in Beige Planet Mars. The electric gerbils line is a reference to the Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was the forerunner to Bladerunner.
"What, apart from an alien parasite in the brain?" Emile's god problem, as mentioned above, from Where Angels Fear.
Pg 10 "The Proximan Chain isn't the most salubrious of places." Jason has been visiting the setting of some of The Mary-Sue Extrusion and pretty much all of Return to the Fractured Planet.
Pg 11 "Well, if we waited for you to finish analyzing everyone's body posture, speech patterns, eyebrow movements, use of the word 'custard' and so on we'd be here for hours before we got to the bloody point." Possibly the most thumpingly obvious reference to Benny's generally competent reading of body language, as established in Love and War, that you're ever likely to get.
Pg 13 "Cepachi San, a recent convert to the Children of Maa'lon." Maa'lon was the big bad god in Where Angels Fear.
Pg 19 "Some guy I killed in the Tashwari called me that." The Sultan of the Tashwari was the person who a) allowed St Oscar's University to be on Dellah as established in Oh No It Isn't! and b) instituted the law that everyone must have a religion as detailed in Where Angels Fear.
Pg 23 "This 'blockade' that has been placed around the planet is hindering the spread of our gospels." The blockade was put in place at the end of Where Angels Fear.
Pg 25 "After the Sultan had declared that it was illegal not to have a religion." Where Angels Fear. Ah, yes, the NAs rail against organized relgion. It's just like old times.
"Then, one night three months ago, when she had been away on an errand outside the palace, something had made her suddenly change her mind about her beliefs." This is the arrival of a spacecraft infected with a virus which destroys faith (the identity of which is discussed below in Continuity Cock-Ups) which crashed on Dellah in Tears of the Oracle.
Pg 37 "And yes, I know that they [Earth] have expansionist plans." Given that his is the twenty-sixth century, this is presumably the rise of the Earth Empire that so many Pertwee stories (The Mutants, for example) charted the end of.
Pg 38 "The World-sphere will retreat into a dimensional pocket, the other side will plug up their bottle, and a Doomsday Probe will be launched." The World-sphere is the People from The Also People, whilst the bottle is the Time Lords in Dead Romance. Amusingly, the implication here is that, if Bernice wins - as she does - the Time Lords will come back out of the bottle, thus rendering everything Lawrence Miles did to the various book lines irrelevant.
"When the probe reaches Dellah it'll activate, and for five seconds a wave of accelerated entropy will sweep across this section." The People and the Time Lords are essentially releasing Logopolis in order to solve their god problem.
Pg 39 "The Berkeley team stumbled across the place the gods originated from." This is probably a coincidence, but, in the bible for the 1996 Telemovie, maybe, the Doctor's father was working as a university lecturer at Berkeley. His name was Ulysses and this gets another kind-of check-off in Unnatural History.
"'Although it lacked conventional energy, this universe ran on completely different scientific rules from ours. Of course, there were many similarities. But there were enough differences for the people, the living things there, to operate on a totally different level from life in our universe. It was, in many ways, a far tougher environment, requiring incredible psionic ability just to survive. A person from that universe, if they could come here, would be -' 'A god,' said Benny quietly. 'They would be a god.'" And with a single stroke, all the clever ideas about who the gods would be is reduced to a prosaic 'other universe' excuse. See also Continuity Cock-Ups. To add insult to injury, this is same origin story as the Great Old Ones, pretty much, from All-Consuming Fire.
Pg 40 "'Dimensional engineering, I'll bet,' said Chris." The Time Lords again, as if you didn't know.
Pg 43 "'Never got married,' added Benny. 'Never got divorced,' continued Jason." Happy Endings and Eternity Weeps respectively.
"'Alpha-wave disruptors,' said Emile." Conveniently designed to negate the belief effect of the gods from Where Angels Fear.
Pg 44 "Maybe it was one last trip, to say goodbye to [Dellah] for good." Yes. This is the last NA, and we never return to Dellah after this point.
Pg 46 "Any closer and the vworp engines might cause a severe disturbance." Either a silly reference to the Doctor Who comics or to Star Trek, but probably to both.
Pg 48 "The planet did not appear to glisten as much as Benny remembered though, a possible side effect of a lower-than-usual rain count." Dellah had been rainy since Oh No It Isn't!, when it was mentioned that the Sky Pylon caused increased rainfall. The Mary-Sue Extrusion noted that it had been destroyed.
Pg 49 "Another reason for Benny to worry (as if she needed one) was that the last report had come in from Dellah before B-Aaron had crashed into the planet. The ship had been carrying an infectious agent that existed by absorbing faith." In Tears of the Oracle, except it wasn't the B-Aaron then. See, inevitably, Continuity Cock-Ups.
Pg 74 "BOWMAN'S EVERLASTING: THE FLAME THAT NEVER DIES." A double reference, to the everlasting matches in Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (the novelization of The Daleks) and the fact that the eighth Doctor has been going about with the pseudonym of Doctor Bowman for a while in the EDAs of late.
Pg 75 "The Obligatory Faith Declaration was introduced." The Sultan again in Where Angels Fear.
Pg 76 "It was a ship, infected with a psychically-transmittable faith-eroding virus. It was crashed on Dellah to try to loosen the gods' grip." Tears of the Oracle again.
Pg 77 "Besides, he had been given hints of Chris's recent activities that made Maande's actions seem like trivial misdemeanors by comparison." Dead Romance, and Chris's unlikely hobby of creating clones of people he kind-of once knew and then ritually and brutally sacrificing them. Difficult to disagree with Clarence's conclusions here, to be honest.
Pg 79 The New Moral Army, from Where Angels Fear and based on 90s Indies band the New Model Army (themselves based on the name of Oliver Cromwell's troops were called).
Pg 93 "And the next they might be complaining about the Earth Empire bombing Skaro." A deeply bizarre reference to the home planet of the Daleks visited in The Daleks, amongst others, and destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks. We cannot recall when the Earth Empire ever bombed it, however.
Pg 101 "'And,' she lied, 'when this is over, we'll go for a pint in the Witch.'" The Witch and Whirlwind, the Wizard of Oz inspired pub in St Oscar's introduced in Oh No It Isn't!.
Pg 121 "And Cwej had been to 1970s England so he'd seen a lot of tasteless crud to compare it to." In Dead Romance, although, given the content of that novel, the humour is way off beat here.
Pg 127 "Time to stop the arts-and-crafts rubbish, go back indoors and do something less boring instead." This is a paraphrase from the theme tune of Children's BBC programme Why Don't You?, which encouraged children to turn of the television and go out and do something useful, whilst somehow missing the point that it was, in fact, a television programme. Interestingly, this was one of the first TV programmes that Russell T Davies worked on, although his contribution to Doctor Who at the time of this novel's publication was limited to writing Damaged Goods.
Pg 153 Another reference to Chris having nanotechnology in his bloodstream, a result of his time with the Time Lords.
Pg 165 Another reference to Jason writing adult fiction.
Pg 167 "The meanings of a few lines of dialogue, all badly mistranslated anyway, has caused endless fighting." Let's not even try to parse that sentence, as it's grammatically horrendous, but just take a moment to note that, even at the end, the NAs are still taking their moment to rant that organized religion is a bad thing.
Pg 173 "Benny stood in front of a mirror, reaching down to feel the bulge of the child within her. Jason's child." Benny's children with Jason were predicted in Return of the Living Dad and have since been pretty much wiped out of the future timeline. This particular sequence feels very much like the flash-forward in the TV version of Human Nature.
Pg 174 "The dawn of the twenty-first century and Benny was on the moon, standing on the plain with Jason. They had decided to divorce, and the decision cut through her like a knife." Flashback to Eternity Weeps.
There's a real attempt in this sequence to leave the impression that Jason and Benny are getting back together, wrapping up their story as it should have ended in Return of the Living Dad. As Big Finish got Benny thereafter, it didn't happen, but you can see what they were trying to do.
Pg 187 "She remembered what the Oracle had told her about the great war that might come to pass. She remembered that the chances of the war happening had faded, but had never gone away. She remembered realizing that whether the war occurred or not depended on her." Tears of the Oracle. The War has actually been woefully undefined, but may have been between the People and the Time Lords, may have been between either or both of those potential combatants and the gods, may have been between Earth and anyone. Whichever way, it's trying to wrap it all up here.
Pg 194 "This could be the universe where she was a lunatic. Or an evil double with a beard..." Presumably a reference to Inferno.
Pg 199 "Benny turned to the helicopters. She was sure piloting one couldn't be too hard..." In the style of the Doctor in Fury From the Deep, although Benny transpires to be much better at it than the Doctor was.
Pg 202 "He smacked the control panel with his fist." Chris is channeling the Doctor from all sorts of places, but I'm going to note The Robots of Death here, for want of a better example.
Pg 210 "You are the one who has refused to follow the Code of Intervention." The Ferutu are an alternate universe version of the Time Lords (as established in Cold Fusion), so the Code of Intervention is presumably the equalivent of the Time Lords' policy of Non-Intervention.
Pg 215 "Although they look familiar." The Ferutu look familiar because Chris met them in Cold Fusion, but he doesn't recognize them properly here because the Time Lords have messed with his memories after he joined up with them in the wake of Lungbarrow.
Pg 216 "He remembered things the way they happened, not the way his employers wanted him to." Chris's memories are restored rather like the way the Doctor's are in Twice Upon a Time. Part 1 of the Great Lawrence Miles Retcon Plan.
"And he remembered an ice planet. One of the coldest in the galaxy that was capable of supporting human life. He remembered an ancient time machine and an ancient traveller. And he remembered ghosts. Ghosts from another universe..." Cold Fusion.
"The one we eliminated from existence. The one the fusion bombs destroyed." Cold Fusion again, except it turns out that it didn't happen like that.
Pg 217 "The nature of our power meant that we were able to intercept the inevitably before it took place." One of the most outrageous retcons in this history of retcons. The Ferutu didn't tragically die at the end of Cold Fusion just so they could appear here.
Pg 223 "In the past Chris had been part of an operation that had ruined millions of lives." Dead Romance.
Pg 227 "Chris was a child, little more than thirteen years old." The regeneration of Chris has been reversed as well in part two of the Great Lawrence Miles Retcon Plan.
Pg 230 Jason gets left behind in the alternate universe, which will be dealt with in the short-story collection The Dead Men Diaries.
Pg 233 Benny is now head of archaeology at the University of Vrymnya, which is something that will be forgotten very quickly as Big Finish take over the reins of Benny's story.
Pg 234 "With my former people in their little bottle, and the People locked in their sphere..." Shutting down the Benny loose ends: Time Lords from Dead Romance and the People.
Pg 235 A reference to the Overcity, where Chris was brought up and that we saw in Original Sin.
Pg 236 "I'm not unfamiliar with memory loss, and it all comes back far clearer than the cynics would have you believe." Even the loss of Benny's memories, from Return to the Fractured Planet, is being retconned away.
Pg 236 "I once went to Heaven." Where Benny met the Doctor, so very many years ago in Love and War.
Pg 238 "Another friend had given her a desk-tidy in the shape of an archaic phone-box." That'll be the Doctor then.
"And a garbled message from someone she'd never heard of. Someone called Christine." Christine Summerfield was the lead character in Dead Romance.
OLD FRIENDS AND OLD ENEMIES
Emile Mars-Smith, now Braxiatel's assistant, originally from Beyond the Sun and various and sundry places since.
Maa'lon, big bad in Where Angels Fear. Now toast.
Reverend James Harker, from Where Angels Fear, is around a lot too.
The Sultan of the Tashwari. He dies on Pg 130 and there is much rejoicing.
NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES
It's worth noting here that, as part of the plot, Benny takes Dellah to an alternate universe and abandons it there, thus pretty much everyone here could feasibly be considered dead by the end of the novel. The only reason that we list them at all is that we don't actually see it happen. But they are still pretty much dead.
Cepachi San, a recent convert to the Children of Maa'lon.
Palma Tabaa and her friend Maande.
Heldov, Sekari, Meil and Gruat, hidden in the Hidden City.
Tehke, a very unpleasant god. Almost certainly got what was coming to him.
Teran Sevic - who, going by the name, is a refugee from a Blake's 7 plot - is one of the few people who get off Dellah with Benny. He spends much of the story in a gimp mask, which is not a place that we thought Doctor Who would ever go.
- Pg 25 "All they had to do was declare their faith in one of the higher Pantheon, the six great gods of Dellah." This really doesn't square with Where Angels Fear, where the point wasn't the gods in question, but the level of belief in simply anything that kept the gods alive.
- Pg 39 "'Although it lacked conventional energy, this universe ran on completely different scientific rules from ours. Of course, there were many similarities. But there were enough differences for the people, the living things there, to operate on a totally different level from life in our universe. It was, in many ways, a far tougher environment, requiring incredible psionic ability just to survive. A person from that universe, if they could come here, would be-' 'A god,' said Benny quietly. 'They would be a god.'" So, despite everything that we've been told, the gods are not the gods of the People (Where Angels Fear) and they're not Time Lords from a higher bottle (Dead Romance). Okay, fair enough, theories can be wrong, but it's odd that no one says, 'Hang on, that's not what they were last time we looked'.
- Pg 49 "Another reason for Benny to worry (as if she needed one) was that the last report had come in from Dellah before B-Aaron had crashed into the planet." Except it wasn't the B-Aaron back then in Tears of the Oracle; it was the J-Kibb.
- Pgs 60-61 "She looked back to make sure Jason was following her, and noticed that his T-shirt was on back to front." This is the Jason that we know and love/hate (delete as applicable), but it's a far cry from the indescribably capable and intelligent version we got of him last time in The Joy Device.
- Pg 125 "Clarence was desperate to know how the Sultan maintained this kind of influence, certainly in the wake of the B-Aaron's crashing into the planet." Ah. Now Clarence thinks it was the B-Aaron as well. How awkward.
- Pg 136 "They left the room through an alcove which, according to Heldov's memory of the geography of the place, would lead towards the reactor." This somewhat contradicts Pg 116 which states that "There appeared to be no doorways in the walls of the chamber, meaning their plan to get further into the mountain was well and truly thwarted." An alcove leading out of the chamber was absolutely not in existence when they entered the chamber. Yes, there has been seismic activity since, but surely not enough to open an alcove that Heldov already knew about.
- Pg 170 "No wonder this was the forbidden room. It had to be where Tehke left his victims." This is ludicrous. Tehke has walked through the plot killing pretty much anything that moves and has made precisely no secret of it. Displease him and you're toast, and everyone knows it. So why on Dellah would he have a top secret forbidden room where he disposes of the bodies of his victims? A page later, it turns out that these are the victims of the very public sacrifices that are made to him. Once again, forbidden for what reason?
- Pg 202 "He pushed a few keys on the control panel and used a trick his former employers had taught him to disable the speed limiter." Does this genuinely sound like something that the Time Lords would a) want to know and b) teach Cwej? No, I thought not.
- Pg 218 "The moment they [the rebel gods] arrived in your universe, they were recognized for what they were and imprisoned." This utterly contradicts the idea in Where Angels Fear that the gods were the gods of the People.
- Pg 243 "THE NEW ADVENTURES - THE COMPLETE LIST." OK, it's blatantly not because it missed out the first 61 of them but, more to point, where's Beige Planet Mars?
PLUGGING THE HOLES [Fan-wank theorizing of how to fix continuity cock-ups]
- The situation has changed. And not for the better.
- The nature of the gods has changed. And not for the better.
- Okay, this is tough, because both descriptions are in narrative, but, given that the latter is in Benny's mind and we know that her memories have been royally messed about with recently, it's possibly something to do with that corruption. In short, her memories have changed. And not for the better.
- This adds credence to our theory in The Joy Device that the Jason there wasn't the real one, but was in fact a construct of the People designed to keep Benny safe. Whichever way, Jason has changed. And not for the better.
- Given that Clarence knew the B-Aaron extremely well, this is infinitely harder to get around than the excuse of Benny's memories being messed with. Okay, let's give it a go. We never see the B-Aaron again after Tears of the Oracle, so let us posit that, despite all the protection it set up, it too become infected with the anti-faith virus just like the J-Kibb and was subsequently crashed into Dellah as well. Yeah, that's not great, we know. We should add that, in the afterword, Peter Darvill-Evans notes that the NAs have returned to his editorship at the last, after loads of other editors in between him starting them off and now. The beginning of the NAs were riddled with intra-book inconsistencies now, and it seems that he hasn't improved over time. In short, since Rebecca Levene left, Virgin editing has changed. And not for the better.
- Presumably, the alcove wasn't there originally and, after the earthquake, Heldov worked out that it probably led in the right direction. That's pretty poor, though, and a clear consequence of having two authors who were apparently not actually on speaking terms during the writing of the book. Whichever way, the geography of Casmov has changed. And not for the better. (Is it possible I'm over-milking this joke now?)
- Public ritual human sacrifice has changed. And not for the better. (Enough already?)
- Clearly the Time Lords have changed. And not for the... Okay. Genuinely done with it now.
- Even God, from The Also People et al, has managed to get it wrong. Clearly, he's changed over time. And not...
- They were probably trying to forget it too. (See how I resisted 'Clearly listing has changed. And not for the better'? Go me.)
FEATURED ALIEN RACES
The Gods of Dellah, revealed here as the Ferutu, with unusual powers because they're in a different universe.
Arctic Serpents, long, sluglike creatures covered in metallic white skin. And deeply unpleasant.
A Junlagi, the size of an elephant and covered in white fur. Quite friendly.
The Ferutu are completely hairless with almost transparent skin who can blur the boundaries between time and thought (whatever that means) and can heal with a gesture. So much for them being 'normal' back in their home dimension.
The pretty-much complete Braxiatel Collection on Asteroid KS-159
The cargo vessel Nervous Norvin
The Valley of the Defeated on Dellah.
Tashwari on Dellah.
The Casmov power plant on Dellah.
The Hidden City, also known as Kasakech, once again an area of Dellah.
The planet Dellah is removed to a different, now dying universe.
The planet Vrymnya and the university thereon.
IN SUMMARY - Anthony Wilson
Ho hum. The NAs, ironically, end as they began, with a fairly pointless runaround. There are moments of good writing, particularly where the narrative starts to mock itself (although that should have given the authors some kind of clue), but it just fundamentally lacks drama. The Doomsday device is coming to destroy the universe, but we never see it. The new universe is a bit like the old one, only more boring. The Ferutu have been rendered as dull cyphers. Benny is occasionally in peril, but it never feels like she's in any danger. The mission is detailed at the start of the book, and then it plays out over the book, with nothing clever or thoughtful to change the trajectory that's already been laid out. In short, and terribly, it's boring, which is the very last thing we needed at the very last moment that we needed it. It's a pity, given how very, very good the NAs as a whole were and, indeed, how very good so many of the Benny ones were, but they end not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that's a crying shame.