The Slow Empire
Roots: One the Shakrathians is heard to chant "Sma I Are", which is a joke based on Dr Seuss's children's book Green Eggs and Ham. There are also references to Nirvana, the Borg, Quantum Leap, Top of the Pops, Bugs Bunny, Star Wars, Cosmopolitan, Pokemon, The Clangers, The X-Files, The Abyss, Time Bandits, Naked Lunch, Voyager, and Independence Day. Fitz refers to Pink Floyd, describing them as an "R 'n' B combo". He also retells the story of Gawain and the Green Knight.
Dialogue Disasters: Ambassadorial Corpse, as the author so rightfully admits!
Continuity: The Slow Empire was established millions of years earlier by a humanoid race from a know-unnamed planet, which designed a method of travel known as transference. They sent out probe ships carrying, in stasis, condemned psychopaths who had been lobotomised and "cyberdynically" implanted with controls so that on arriving on a habitable planet, they would set up the engines of transference and then die on the spot. Ninety-nine percent of the probe ships failed in this mission, but the remaining one percent formed the basis of the empire. Transference works by destroying the original body, and recreating it at the other end, with only the soul travelling between [see Down for a similar theory of transmat]. The traveller on reconstruction at the other end is left with a lined and patterned face, which looks like it has been tattooed. Ambassadorial Corps from the home world were sent out to the various planets, but since Transference takes hundreds of years, it was assumed that they would never meet their originals, and so the apparatus was rigged so that they were not destroyed. The Empire lasted for almost two million years, sustained by the slow transport of people and materials between planets. Eventually, the people of the home world were wiped out through unknown means and the Empire began to fall apart, each world believing it to be the centre. The Transference technology warped the local fabric of space-time, making faster-than-light travel and [therefore] time travel impossible. The Doctor, Fitz and Anji's alien nature also causes them to be affected, changing their personalities in erratic ways. The bodies of the inhabitants of the Empire contain high levels of cyberorganic matter.
Vortex Wraiths are a chaotic quasi-biological life form that is indigenous to the Time Vortex [and which may be the Time wraiths mentioned in The Quantum Archangel]. TARDISes have defences to prevent the Wraiths from noticing them, although the effects of the Transference network of the Slow Empire allows them to penetrate the Doctor's TARDIS. The effects of Transference have also affected the area of the Vortex corresponding to the empire, allowing the Wraiths to leave it on the backs of the Transference signals, which they corrupted in order to allow them to create an organic host in which they could survive. They have thus been accumulating on the home world for thousands of years. Due to an unspecified threat that is devouring the Vortex (see Sometime Never...), they are attempting to leave en mass and intend to colonise the empire, slaughtering its populations. Because the originals of those who have undergone Transference from the home world have been retained, this results in one soul being split between two bodies, thus allowing the Wraiths to control the Ambassadorial Corps throughout the empire. They want to incorporate TARDIS technology into the Transference network in order to open a breach.
The planet Goronos was an administrative base for the Empire. Eventually, the Ambassadorial Corps built the Cyberdyne, a vast computer based in huge pyramid that incorporated the humanoid population of Goronos ("biots") to make simple yes/no decisions. They were provided with an idealised virtual reality in order to make them think they were still living ordinary lives. The alien nature of the Doctor, Fitz and Anji, allows them to unconsciously disrupt their own virtual realities, thus enabling them to wake up.
The Doctor finds in his TARDIS a yellow-umbrella with a question mark handle (probably belonging to the sixth Doctor) which contains a concealed sword blade (he claims not to have ever realised this). The regenerated TARDIS console is octagonal. The TARDIS is still re-growing, and contains only one swimming pool [in Escape Velocity it supposedly had two; however, it is hinted that the single swimming pool moves around with the architecture], as well as an incomplete secondary control room [which seems to be the traditional white-walled console room]. It also contains a Stellarium and portholes, which show a virtual representation of what is outside the TARDIS in a way that humans can cope with, and an arboretum that the Doctor says is a manifestation of its "extelligence". It has several library rooms, and apparently contains a big red button with a sign next to it saying "DO NOT PUSH!" which if pushed will cause the TARDIS to disappear up its own pocket singularity (although the Doctor may be joking about this). On landing, the TARDIS scans a planet's radiobroadcasts, its computer and satellite systems, and analyses the layouts of its cities - this information is stored in a database. Its defences allow it to destroy the invading Vortex wraiths. The Doctor modifies the iteration of the immediate probability space in order to allow himself and his companions to escape from Shakrath, which results in a series of chaotic events that trip up all of the guards; he notes that he doesn't know how he did this and probably couldn't do it again [he is only able to do this due to the metatemporal stresses of the Empire on his personality]. The bizarre properties of space-time in the Empire cause him to have flashbacks to previous selves (which he does not recognise), at one point prompting him to pick up a penny whistle [either a reference to the second Doctor's recorder or the fourth Doctor's use of a penny whistle in The Pescatons]. He survives a stab wound to the chest, since it misses anything vital. The equipment in the TARDIS medical bay is capable of rapidly regenerating tissue. After having his clothes ruined, the Doctor dons a simple dark suit and greatcoat. Before leaving the Empire, he makes a personal transportation unit for Jamon de la Rocas, which also allows de la Rocas to rescue anyone who was in Transference when the pylons were destroyed.
The Collectors are amorphous creatures, which obsessively collect any items that appeal to them. The Doctor claims that they travel the galaxy in five-mile-wide cruisers made from planetary debris, which move into orbit around planets and release swarms of short-range fighters, although the Collector denies this. Their ships use "hyperwobble drives" and their technology is utterly incompatible with that of the Empire, causing Transference pylons to explode when the two are connected. They call humanoids "monkey-hominids" [they are very similar to the Sloathes from Sky Pirates! and might be related]. The Collector asks for a lift back to "The Collection", which may the name of their home world.
Fitz has a Fender Telecaster, which he obtained on their last trip outside the TARDIS. He fantasises about being a rock star.
It is again noted that Anji left home at 17, in order to escape from her family's outdated attitude towards women. The colour of her eyes is green-flecked almond. Her ideal life as realised by the Cyberdyne is to be a successful business executive.
On Thakrash, the ambassadorial corps had giant mobile bases on legs. They use reptilian cerberi as guard dogs. The inhabitants of the Empire refer to worlds outside the Empire as the "Unseen Lands".
Races and species found in the empire include the Moblavian ptarmigan (which dwells in the fjords of Moblavia and eats until it bursts), the Big-Footed People of Robligan, the Durabli, the Piglet-People of Glomi IV, Heklodian spline-molluscs, the zowie-whelks of Bretalona Maxis, the Zlam (who lack the ability to taste), the Big-footed Figgy Pudding People, Stygian clampets, Golgorithian snow panthers, Vlopatuaran land-going octopi, Wilikranian aerial predatiger, the Technomages of Valencir, the Technomages of Raghagi, Glastrali Behemoths, the Oscillating Monks of Rabmaka, Golglobulan feeder-minnows, punnet-sharks, Thraptulese helium-puffing giggle fish, and the Thraali. Planets and regions other than those mentioned above include Hat, Drasebela XIV and the other thirteen planets of its system, Taroca, Barsoom, Tibrus (a mining colony), the Pamanese Confederacy, Walamaloon, Rahaghi, the Suminarian Panaplectorates, Guli, Drustiri, Pons Iridi, Draglos, and Gingli-Tva [Many of these species and planets are named by Jamon de la Rocas who might, as the author notes, be making them up].
Links: Anji is reminded several times of the events of The Year of Intelligent Tigers. The Doctor queries if the artificial Emperor of Shakrath is operated by clockwork, which recalls Stone's clockwork-obsessed New Adventures Sky Pirates! and Death and Diplomacy. The Piglet People of Glomi IV were first mentioned in Burning Heart. The Doctor has told Fitz about Vortisaurs, which feature in the Big Finish eighth Doctor stories Storm Warning, Sword of Orion, and Minuet in Hell. The Collectors were first mentioned in Heart of TARDIS. The man who appears to Anji in the Cyberdyne is probably The Man With the Rosette later seen in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street and strongly hinted to be the Master.
Location: Shakrath, Thakrash, Goronos, the unnamed home world and the TARDIS interior, date unspecified [humans have not reached the empire, although the Doctor notes that it is a long way from Earth. Since the Piglet People of Glomi IV live within the Empire, we can assume that it takes place earlier than Burning Heart].
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor remembers recording a version of Trenchtown skank for Two-tone records. He visited the Court of Caligula. Fitz recalls the TARDIS spending several weeks [hovering] in the eyespot of Jupiter. The explosions of the Transference pylons occur with a minimum of injury and loss of life, a situation that the Doctor notes that he needs to get around to causing at some point.
The Bottom Line: More inspired lunacy from Dave Stone, this manages to spin an entire book out of the Internet fan debates about how transmat works. As usual it mixes wit and slapstick with visceral horror, the scene in the Emperor's throne room being particularly unpleasant, and is let down only by the virtual reality sequence, which goes on far too long.