Roots: Russell mentions Star Trek's Borg in the introduction. The Federation is used to make comments about the EU. The plot revolves largely around athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs. There are references to Bang and Olafson, Dixon of Dock Green, Thatcher, Chirac, Mandela, Kleenex, Humpty Dumpty, Kenneth Williams, Candid Camera, Crimewatch, Kiss FM, John Gielgud and Arthur and Arthur 2: On the Rocks, Richard Burton and 1984, Blackadder, and Brasseye (the drug Cake).
The Doctor's travels with Stacy and Ssard were seen in Gary Russell's Radio Times comic strips, Dreadnought, Descendance, Ascendance, Perceptions and Coda. The Kleptons and Thains are from the very first TV Comic Dr. Who strip, The Klepton Parasites. The Meep are from the Doctor Who Weekly comic strip The Star Beast. Kandalinga is from The Dr Who Annual short story The Fishmen of Kandalinga. The Mufl Empire is probably a reference to The Dr Who Annual 1969 short story Death to Mufl. The Werelox appeared in the Doctor Who Weekly comic strip Doctor Who and the Dogs of Doom. The spelling of Wirrrn is taken from Ian Marter's novelisation of The Ark in Space.
Goofs: The Doctor claims that he had the Volkswagen Beetle serviced whilst Sam was away, but it was still badly damaged at the start of Seeing I.
Dialogue Disasters: There's an incredibly tedious and badly written dialogue about religion and Darwin on pages 123 to 132 that reads like it was written by a sixth former.
"You will become like us."
"What do you want, Twin Sunner?"
"Hear me and prepared to be absorbed!"
And many more.
Continuity: Nobody knows exactly where the Wirrrn originated. Prior to leaving Andromeda, they infested the planets Tyrexus (a hot planet), Livista (an arctic planet), the planets of the Phylox system, Coscos, Salostophus (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy), Golos, and Vysp. Wirrrn Queens can live for centuries and can spawn Swarm Leaders and Secondary Queens. They plan on infecting the athletes competing at the Olympic Games via a tailored illegal stimulant drug, and thus spread themselves all across the Galaxy. After the Doctor defeats them, their survival instinct compels them to return to Andromeda.
The Foamasi have hollow bones with double-joints every few centimetres, which allow them to compact their natural forms into human body suits for up to eighteen hours at a time. Foamasi Lodges include the Twin Suns Lodge, the Dark Peaks Lodge, and the South Lodge. Their home planet is called Liasica and has been rebuilt since the war with Argolis.
The Doctor has a copy of How to be a Best Man and Ensure the Wedding Goes Well in a Hundred Easy Lessons. He takes Sam to Micawber's World in July 3999 to attend Stacy Townsend and Ssard's wedding (see Unrecorded Adventures). The Doctor knows the name Dal Karlton, but never met him in The Daleks' Master Plan [he's either met him since or Bret Vyon or Sara Kingdom mentioned him]. He tries to use the alias Smith again, with little success. He has sown a pan-dimensional pocket into his coat [since Alien Bodies]. He carries a pack of cards in his pocket, with which he plays Clock Patience. His eyes are greyish. He is familiar with pre-republican dolmite artwork, including the work of Quinaposki. He creates an antidote to the Wirrrn-infected drugs.
Sam dons overalls to service the Volkswagen Beetle. She is now twenty-one years old. She confirms that she met the Doctor in 1997 (see The Eight Doctors). She asks to visit London, on New Year's Eve in 1999 at the end of the novel.
Stacy is a Christian. She is from the twenty-third century. The Doctor brings her parents Christopher and Mary Townsend to 3999 to attend her wedding. Since leaving the Doctor, Ssard has taken a job in the Martian Commission on Io, helping to track down some of the fringe Martian groups that want to break away from the peaceful life of Federation membership. Ssard usually wears his traditional warrior exosuit, but for his wedding changes into a slimmer, darker, one-piece affair with breastplate, knee-high boots and sleek black gloves. He wears a white sash from shoulder to hip and a red sash around his waist. They plan to get married in the Church of Earth on Micawber's World. Protesters from the Church of the Way Forward disrupt their wedding. Not surprisingly, Stacy and Ssard cannot have babies. Following their eventual marriage, they go travelling, possibly to Kolpasha.
The TARDIS is self-cleaning. It has a garage. There is an ATM in the TARDIS with an inexhaustible supply of cash in any currency. The TARDIS can generate incredibly detailed holograms of solar systems and planets.
Kleptons dislike humans, because they remind them of the Thains. The Thains have been extinct for ten thousand years. Doradans are lemon-skinned and typically white-haired.
The Teknix are a cloned species (The Daleks' Master Plan). They are employed directly by the office of the Guardian of the Solar System.
Labus is an elephantine alien with bluish-green skin that exudes a slime corrosive to humans, large red oval eyes, and yellow-spotted membrane-lined bloated cheeks. Equinoids are yellow-and-purple-spotted (see Frontier in Space). Other species mentioned here include the Snarx, the shaggy white-furred V'orrn (which can see over three hundred and eighty alternate spectrums of light), Cogwebs (an artificial life form), Saurians (which are small, scale-covered marsupials with elephantine ears, black oval eyes and white curved beaks), Morogs (squat humanoids from Pindant that emit a noxious smell), the salmon-skinned Hiinds (who overthrew the Mufl Empire generations ago), four-armed Morrians, lupine Werelox, the Parads (an insectoid species from the Dermaptera section of Alpha Centauri that resemble earwigs and are experts at surveillance and are a highly sensitive telepathic race), and Shistavanens. The Hals of Hallion II have wings. The natives of Corpos Delta are predominantly herbivorous. Elton Ward is a catering company based on Bachius III. Blakkis has been declared a plague zone and quarantined. Blakkis Moon 3 is one of its satellites. Other planets mentioned here include Sirius 4 and Kandalinga. Iota 9 is a small colony world on the other side of Sauron from Earth.
The planet Jadea is a member of the Federation. Gwampa fruit are an export from Jadea. Jadeans are blank to telepaths. They are well versed in numeracy and literacy and are employed throughout the Federation as administrators.
Links: The Ark in Space, The Leisure Hive. The Federation was first mentioned in The Curse of Peladon. There are references to the Guardian of the Solar System (The Daleks' Master Plan), Rassilon, Cantryans ad Pakhars (Legacy), Victoria, Tegan, Tzun (First Frontier), Chelonians (The Highest Science, Zamper, The Well-Mannered War), Lurmans (Carnival of Monsters), Vegans (The Monster of Peladon), and Draconians (Frontier in Space). Sam recalls Victorian London and meeting Zygons (The Bodysnatcher), Daleks (War of the Daleks), Twenty-Second Century Borneo and the Shift (Alien Bodies), the Jax (Kursaal), the moon of Mu Camelopides and Anton (Dreamstone Moon), Ha'olam and the I (Seeing I), and Tractites (Genocide).
Location: Cape City and Micawber's World, late July 3999.
Future History: Chicago still exists in 3999.
Carrington Corp owns Micawber's World, an artificial planet built around a tiny asteroid, tripling its size. The foundation stone of Micawber's World was laid in 3986. It hovers halfway between Pluto and Cassius. Chase Carrington is the CEO of Carrington Corp: Micawber was his mother's maiden name. PharmaChem and Medico Inc has an office in Ganymede City. Carrington Corp buys Grecian Corp and thus ownership of the Olympic Games. The last Olympic Games was held on Axiss. The Intergalactic Olympic Games is to be held in the Olympic Stadium on Micawber's World, which is nicknamed the 7,438th Wonder of the Universe and can seat over a million people. There is an artificial lifeform sub-Games.
The abolitionist movement started by church leaders in the mid-twentieth century ultimately led to the creation of the Galactic Federation. The whole of the G'narlan civilisation was saved due to the interference of missionaries. There are 1,362 [intelligent] species listed on the Galactic Federation Database. The Federation has outlawed the sale of any gwampa fruit that don't have a perfect ninety degree bend in them. Like Galaxy Five (The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon), Free Rasta VI is a terrorist organisation. Members of Free Rasta VI are imprisoned on Desperus (The Daleks' Master Plan). The Church of the Way Forward opposes inter-species marriage. The SSS has files on the Doctor, including records of three visits to Peladon, one involving the Ancient Diadem (The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon, Legacy). Peladon is no longer part of the Federation (see Legacy). The Meeps made a diplomatic request to the Federation that toy models of them stop being used by other cultures.
Tees are cleaning robots created by a Professor MacTaggart, who let them set up their own civilisation; when it failed, the Federation bought them all. Drugs mentioned here include FeelGoodz, Cake and Skar (Catastrophea).
Unrecorded Adventures: After leaving Sam was at a Greenpeace rally in Canada, the Doctor met Stacy and Ice Warrior Ssard and travelled with them for a time: they eventually parted company with him in 3999 and got engaged.
Earth has a Royal Family and a Duchess of Auckland, and Regency styles are back in fashion.
Frankie the Pakhar tailor knew the Sixth Doctor and correctly guesses that his coat was made by a Kolpashan fashion house. He once left a message in a bottle for the Doctor on Talin VII, asking him to meet him five years later in Ca'nt'rs, an appointment the Doctor kept.
Sam has encountered psionovores (see Minuet in Hell). The Doctor was a guest of the Federation Chair in 3984.
The Bottom Line: "Let's leave the sermons against drugs to the schools, shall we?" Gary Russell's most tedious novel, Placebo Effect is a haphazard mix of pointless fanwank and a drawn-out plot that doesn't really kick off until near the end. Most of the continuity references are completely self-indulgent, most notably the appearance of the companions from Russell's short-lived Eighth Doctor comic strip. Worst of all, by re-imagining the Wirrn as the Borg, it cheapens The Ark in Space.