Zeta Major
by Simon Messingham

Publisher: BBC
ISBN: 0-563-40597-X


    The Doctor returns to the Morestran Empire to discover that his flippant comment about the kinetic motion of planets has had something of an extreme effect on their development.


    The Fourth Doctor is mentioned in flashback lots and puts in an appearance in the anti-matter universe (Pg 265 "He saw himself as he was, the curly brown hair, the scarf, that nose.")

    Tegan and Nyssa

    Pg 33 On the Torre del Oro, circling a planet in the Omega system of the Morestran Empire.

    Pg 248 By the Black Lake on Zeta Minor

    Pg 270 In the Control Room of the Energy Tower

    It's a sequel to Planet of Evil, so watching that might be useful, but it's set so long afterwards, and the world-building is both clever and clear, so it's not vital

    There are numerous continuity references to Planet of Evil. I have recorded some, but, by the very nature of it being a sequel, the book is inundated with them. I've recorded those that stand out and those which refer to specific events or places in the original story.

    Back cover "You've decided to concentrate on deriving energy from the kinetic force of planetary movement." is a direct quote from the Doctor in Planet of Evil, and the subsequent paragraph briefly summarises that story.

    Pg 2 "They were so far out. No one was meant to see this." As in Planet of Evil, the location of Zeta Minor is well out on the boundaries of the Universe

    Pg 3 "'Do you need any help with bodies.' 'No, I ejected them.' This is what very nearly happened to the Doctor and Sarah-Jane in Planet of Evil.

    "'My God.' 'I thought we didn't believe.' Morestran religion is also briefly relevant in Planet of Evil and incredibly so here.

    Pg 4 "Moreover, Ansar, like the rest of the crew, insisted on wearing those dreadful white boots they used to issue in the old days." A snide comment on 70s costuming policy also refers to the costumes used in Planet of Evil.

    Pg 5 "'If the legend is true.' Souah flinched. 'Then the planet's... well, it's alive.'" This is almost a direct quote from Planet of Evil.

    Pg 6 "Mikovski was using one of the old-fashioned energy rifles. Flashguns they called them. Great for lighting up jungles but fatally inaccurate for any other purpose." Another snide comment about 70s production values that references Planet of Evil.

    Pg 7 "'The jungle,' said Souah strangely. 'It took it back.'" This is another quotation from Planet of Evil

    Pg 9 The grave marker: "EGARD LUMB / Died here 7y2 / In the year 37,166" was seen in Planet of Evil.

    "Ansar smiled to himself. He would be a hero, bigger even than Sorenson." Sorenson, of course, was one of the leads in Planet of Evil. His presence is felt throughout the novel, despite the fact that he died centuries ago.

    Pg 13 As in The Sorenson institute, for example.

    Pg 15 The Church is based on Archetryx. I'm pretty sure that's mentioned in Planet of Evil.

    Pg 21 "Nyssa stared right at him. 'Don't pretend. Tegan and I have both noticed it. Every now and then, since Adric... since...' 'Really? I though I was hiding it rather well.'" Adric died in Earthshock. You knew that. Also, you can just hear Davison saying that line - the characterization, at this point in the book, is great.

    Pg 23 "An oculoid tracker, you say?" As seen in Planet of Evil. More of them pop up later.

    Pg 24 The Doctor is described as "Il Dottore", which is nice. Presumably, the use of Italian terminology throughout the book refers to the Morestran religion, which is based on Roman Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries (how loosely it's based, I leave to you. Messingham seems to be trying to send a not terribly subtle message here). There's actually no justification for the Italian, particularly when addressing people who have telepathic translation ability, but it does sound quite good, so I'll let it pass.

    Pg 31 The description of the ship that the Doctor is running through in his vision is quite clearly the ship from Planet of Evil, with its ceiling strip lights and key-code door panels.

    Pg 32 "Tegan was on her bed, not reading a book, trying not to think about whether or not the Doctor was cracking up since Adric's death." Earthshock again.

    Pg 39 "The man must have died months ago. The body was wizened, mummified. Yellow teeth grinned at her." The man didn't die months ago, but Nyssa's not to know that. His manner of death is consistent with those killed by the anti-matter creature in Planet of Evil.

    Pg 40 "There was even a rumour that the Tower itself had grown so big it had suddenly become alive and was systematically ridding itself of the infesting humans that lived inside it." This could be construed as a slightly sideways reference to Paradise Towers. It may not be.

    Pg 45 "Not for the first time she [Nyssa] reflected that half her life with the Doctor seemed to be spent doing this sort of thing and wished they'd land on wide open spaces a bit more often. Or preferably in the centre of large, friendly cities." She does have Mawdryn Undead to look forward to, which is at the top of a hill. There is a slight irony that, according to conventional wisdom, the next story Nyssa appears in is The Sands of Time, in which she gets a 4000 year break from running up and down corridors.

    Pg 52 "Through the window he saw the spaceship. It was so similar to the long-range probe ship all those years ago." The Doctor flashbacks to Planet of Evil.

    Pg 54 "The scout ship gets here in six degrees." Time measurement is consistent with that of Planet of Evil.

    Pg 56 "'Did you say Omega system?' 'Yes. Omega Major was the planet selected for the grounding of the Tower. Why?' The Doctor raised an eyebrow. 'The irony.'" The Omega system if, of course, exactly the place you'd want tonnes of anti-matter! The irony is explained in The Three Doctors, Arc of Infinity and The Infinity Doctors.

    Pg 60 "You are claiming to be the handmaiden of il Dottore, the 'Sair-Ah' written of in the scriptures?" She'd've loved that! - this is, of course, Sarah Jane Smith.

    Pg 64 "Her mind drifted back to Adric. He wasn't supposed to exist in this universe either. And now he didn't." Earthshock again. In most of the fifth Doctor books, Nyssa thinks about dead people - either Adric or her Father.

    Pg 65 "Nyssa caught a red glint in his eye and was suddenly afraid." Again, consistent with Planet of Evil, where Sorenson's paint-on eyes were red.

    Pg 66 "They were running. The usual corridors. Something animal smashing away at a metal door that wouldn't open." The animal thing is an anti-man from Planet of Evil. I am not prepared to list the number of corridors that Nyssa has run down.

    Pg 69 features a biblical retelling of Planet of Evil, no less: "And lo! The Doctor did descent into the great pool of darkness, with Sorenson, who was mightily afflicted by demons, and there did he battle with the Dark Gods." It should be mentioned that here and elsewhere in the Morestran legends, the continuity to Planet of Evil is wrong, but this is presumably deliberate, as any retelling of a 2000-year-old tale would change in detail over time. Although the rumours of Salamar's survival are quite clearly an exaggeration. But see Continuity Cock-ups.

    Pgs 97-98 contain a brief explanation of why the anti-matter doesn't immediately self-annihilate with the matter in the known universe, which is actually quite neat - a universe of ante-matter, as the Doctor puts it.

    Pgs 112-113 "Recordings containing terrible images, pictures of the Planet of Evil. Of the prophet Salamar, and his betrayer Vishinsky. Of the disciples Morelli, and Ponti and de Haan." Rather gloriously, the inhabitants of the Morestran Empire actually refer to Zeta Minor as the Planet of Evil, capitalization and all! We also get a quick cast-check of that story, although, as mentioned elsewhere, the continuity is deliberately wrong.

    Pgs 125-126 "He asked about the TARDIS. I told him about the Cybermen, the Master, Adric. I told him how I watched you change from... from him into you." In order: Earthshock, Logopolis/Castrovalva/Time-Flight, Logopolis through Earthshock (this is Tegan's point of view) and Logopolis/Castrovalva.

    Pg 129 "What was the Doctor supposed to have said? 'You shan't be allowed to leave.'" This is a direct Planet of Evil quote.

    Pg 134 features the highlight of the book for continuity fans: "On the screen: an old, old picture, scoured with lightning-style tracking lines. A rushing tunnel of colours and odd whistling sounds. The images flicked over the man in grey. 'Video feedback,' he stated. 'Any second now.' / Space. A planet in the distance. No stars. / Zoom in on the planet. Purple. / Cut to: a jungle. Oddly lit, purple and red light..." and so on. Yes, gloriously, they actually watch Planet of Evil during the narrative, including, it would so appear, the opening credits. The self-indulgence of having a character saying 'I have edited the various log entries together. So there's more of a story. It's quite good.' is so outrageously silly, it's fantastic. The fact that 'video feedback' was how the Hartnell theme sequence was actually created is just the icing on the cake.

    Pgs 136-137 "Their family was respected, even successful. The rumour was that they were descended from Baldwin, one of the disciples on the Sorenson Expedition (which, had Baldvin know it, might have been the source of his infamous bad luck)" Planet of Evil, and the ill-fated Baldwin.

    Pg 143 "The Doctor had known some pipes in his time." An Unearthly Child

    Pg 148 "The Academy reminded her of some of the schools of learning on Traken" As in The Keeper of Traken, and Nyssa's birthplace. There are other references to Traken here and there.

    Pg 167 "'My brother and I watched a videotape the other day.' 'Really?' 'Yes really. And apart from discovering some interesting truths concerning the roles of Commander Salamar and Vishinsky, you were the star turn.' 'I see.' 'You could have made an attempt to look like the Doctor.' 'It was rather careless of me. The curly hair, the nose-' They refer again to their pirate copy of Planet of Evil (possibly purchased on Ebay) and the Doctor refers to the looks of his previous incarnation.

    Pg 176 "Watch your videotape again. Watch it carefully. A whole crew was destroyed for a few tins of anti-matter." A fair summary of Planet of Evil.

    Pg 184 The warship Sorenson is named for the character in Planet of Evil, obviously.

    Pg 185 "The Admiral tugged at the faded white tubing on his tunic." Planet of Evil costuming policy again.

    Pg 187 has the Doctor thinking about the last time he was on Zeta Minor. See Continuity Cock-ups for one of the all-time greats.

    Pg 191 "Nyssa sometimes wondered quite why she was so often tested so severely. The murder of her father by the Master, her whole home planetary system obliterated in a random spread of entropy and now this." The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis

    "The more cruelty and evil [Nyssa] encountered with the Doctor the more she was determined to combat it, to prove that intelligent life could be better, could improve." This vaguely prefigures Nyssa's decision to leave the TARDIS crew in Terminus.

    Pg 210 "Fall sucked down whatever was in the bottle and fell back. The phial dropped to the floor. Outside, sounds of battle continued. 'How long have you been infected?' asked the Doctor." Sorenson also had a drink to try and resist the effects of the anti-matter, although his smoked alarmingly.

    Pg 212 "How had Sarah put it? 'Drawing his soul from his body.'" Another direct Planet of Evil quote.

    Pg 215 "AFTER THE THIRD TREATMENT VISIT, 8355 [Nyssa] HAS NOT RESPONDED POSITIVELY TO ANTI-MATTER. HER MUTANT BIOLOGY PRODUCES CONSIDERABLY LESS THAN THE NORMAL YIELD PRODUCED BY OTHER PATIENTS." While this may because of Nyssa's Trakenite heritage, it may also be to her recent exposure to another sort of anti-matter in Arc of Infinity.

    Pg 216 Nyssa has had anti-matter crystals sewn into the lining of her stomach. Whilst this is distressing in itself, it should be mentioned that Nyssa, in the books, keeps on having bad things happening to her. Fear of the Dark was fun for no one, but in The Sands of Time she gets mummified while alive, and in Goth Opera, she's going to be made into a vampire. No wonder she left pretty soon after. That said, this is completely consistent with the character's treatment in the series itself, wherein, as we all know, her father, step-mother and planet are utterly destroyed, she herself is possessed by the Master, collapses due to sleep deprivation (or something), is attacked because she looks like someone else, has another close friend killed, is nearly aged to death and eventually contracts leprosy.

    Pg 219 "'What weaponry are we carrying?' Ferdinand asked on one of the rare occasions that he looked up. 'Two cobalt missiles.'" Cobalt bombs, presumably similar, were used or threatened in Revenge of the Cybermen, The Empire of Glass, The Devil Goblins from Neptune, Timewyrm: Genesys and Iceberg.

    Pg 226 "She [Tegan] wasn't exactly known for her cool detachment but at least she felt she used her temper wisely." Pretty fair characterization - notice The Visitation particularly.

    Pg 234 "I flooded the console room with zero particles." Like the Zero Room in Castrovalva

    Pg 256 "She looked at him. Once, she wouldn't have trusted his motives. Would have put up a fight. But since the death of Adric..." Earthshock, yet again.

    Pg 269 "If they didn't use these dimensional openings, the Energy Tower would have had to be thousands or even millions of kilometers long and physically connected to the storage point." It's pure speculation, but Nyssa's description sounds similar to the Needle, which appeared in The Infinity Doctors and Father Time. The Doctor's knowledge of the possibility of such a structure when he mentions it in Planet of Evil, and his unwillingness to talk about it here (Pg 280) imply he knows a little more than he's telling.

    Pg 270 "The TARDIS isn't known for its pin-point accuracy." Typical of the Fifth Doctor's tenure at the controls.

    Pg 272 As the Energy Tower takes on characteristics of the jungle on Zeta Minor, the Doctor realizes "So, the planet is quite literally alive," which is what Sorenson considered possible way back in episode 1 of Planet of Evil.

    Pg 273 "Fall allowed himself a moment of triumph. 'Call it... glorious amorality. For now, I control the fate of the universe. Why not let it all go? The whole thing's rotten anyway.'" This may be a deliberate riff on Master's sentiments and actions at the end of Logopolis.

    Pg 276 "'Becoming the Tower. Using its physicality to shape itself in our universe.' He stood up. 'Deus ex machina.'" Well, if you're going to have one to finish your book, you may as well acknowledge it in the text.

    The Anti-Matter creature from Planet of Evil, albeit mostly in forced telepathic communication with the Doctor. It finally makes its way into this universe on Pg 251.

    The Dean of the Sorenson Academy is about the only survivor.


    1. Slightly strange that Zeta Major (a word meaning big) is used for a small rogue asteroid, but Zeta Minor (meaning small) refers to an entire planet. And are the really no systems with more than 2 planets? What would a third one be called?
    2. Pg 187 "He recalled his own visit to Zeta Minor, so long ago. The whole reason Sorenson and nearly all the others had been killed...' Ah. As we all know, and as is clearly stated elsewhere in the book, Sorenson did not, in fact, die, during Planet of Evil.
    3. Pg 279 And the proof-reading was going so well: "It appeared to be being sucking itself away from the anchor planet." And then on Pg 280 "All the time Tower seemed to be shrinking." (missing 'the').

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

    1. Presumably the major and minor don't apply to size but to something else, possibly distance from Alpha Major. A third planet in a system may be called, for example, Delta Minimus (meaning 'smallest'). And it's possible that only inhabited planets are named, and you rarely get more than one or two in a system.
    2. This is unfortunate. Presumably Messingham meant to type Salamar, but he didn't. Fortunately, it's on the same page as "Disturbingly, the visions were coming back. Slowly at first but now more and more frequently, each time with greater intensity... Trying to use his time more effectively, and to keep his mind clear of the visions..." Clearly, the Doctor's head is very muddled and confused, as so much of his mental energies are going to assuage the visions, that his faulty memory here must just be a slip of the mind.
    3. This is Tegan's thought-process, she's been through a lot. Her poor grammar is probably just representative of her current state of mind.

    The Morestrans are not alien. Pg 46 states that they are "an empire almost entirely cut off from its Earth origins both spacially and temporally".

    Anti-men, humans regressed down the evolutionary line by the presence of anti-matter. Also not, strictly speaking, aliens.

    The anti-matter creature, the only true alien in the story, features mostly in hallucinations.

    It's an Empire-spanning story, with lots of places to visit...

    The Morestran Empire some 2000 years after the events of Planet of Evil (which is about 30,000 years after the Earth Twentieth Century), including:

    A very unpleasant prison planet

    Alpha Major, which is also known as Morestra. On this planet, on the continent of Valentia, we also visit the Sorenson Academy.

    Alpha Minor

    Archetryx, home of the Church, on one of the Beta planets.

    The Omega System, whereat one would find the Energy Tower.

    Zeta Major, and its very nasty processing plant. It's destroyed.

    Inevitably, we also arrive at Zeta Minor, first at the remains of the Morestran base there, and then at the Black Pool, which is now a Black Lake.

    Other parts of the Empire name-checked include the Epsilon system, Theta Major, Eta and Delta Minor

    The ships Sagrada and an unnamed stealth ship, the Sorenson, the Marne, the Imperial Pride, the Fury, the Triumph, the Castillio, the Fermentara.

    IN SUMMARY - Anthony Wilson
    What a strange book. I loved it at first. The world-building is marvellous - a decaying, atrophied, post-technological society, where every available resource has been put towards the ultimate 2000-year-old White Elephant. Many nice, subtle touches (the scribes gag) and superb characterization of the regulars. There's also something quite marvellous about practically every guest character being almost irredeemably evil. But, as the story wore on, it all goes slowly wrong. The subtlety of humour and character is gradually lost as the enormity of the plot takes over. Like Messingham's first book, Strange England, it's very brutal, meaning that, eventually, the only feeling you have is satisfaction when people who deserved it are brutally killed. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing I suppose. There's a massive sense of scale in both plot and setting, which is great, although unfortunately, this also causes the writer to resort to a terrible bodge job on page 244 to get everyone to the right place at the right time. Overall, setting: great, ambition: great, execution: not so good.