Killing Ground

Roots: The ArcHivists, the ArcHives and the Cyber history adopted here all first appeared in David Banks' book Cybermen. Alistair Pearson based the cover illustration of Grant Markham on himself. The Doctor misquotes Winston Churchill. There are references to Frankenstein, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Dialogue Triumphs: Hegelia to the Doctor: 'How can it be that you, the so-called arch-foe of the Cyber race, can in reality be such a facetious buffoon?'

Memorable Moments: Hegelia's cyberconversion, as she records every stage of the experience as she undergoes it. Once she becomes a Cyberman, she destroys the recording, no longer appreciating its significance.

Continuity: The Cybermen seen here are CyberNomads, the type seen in Revenge of the Cybermen. They know of the Doctor's ability to regenerate. Hegelia notes that the Cybermen are believed by humans to be extinct during this era, since they are actually hibernating on Telos (Tomb of the Cybermen) or wandering groups of Nomads (Revenge of the Cybermen). They are programmed to imitate emotional responses, because this has an intimidating effect of organic life forms [explaining why Christopher Robbie's CyberLeader in Revenge of the Cybermen shouts a lot, gesticulates, and puts its hands on its hips]. In addition to the weapons built into their headpieces, they also carry more powerful hand weapons. They are waterproof and can swim. The Cybermen send a small party to the planet each time in a shuttle similar to that seen in Revenge of the Cybermen. Their main force is on board a captured Selachian warcraft, the weaponry of which the Doctor describes as phenomenal. The Cybermen partially drain the ship to facilitate their own operations, but leave the engine levels flooded, since Selachian engines are designed to work under water. Dying CyberLeaders can broadcast a disabling signal to all cybertechnology within range (including guns), rendering it inoperative. Due to the toll exerted by the Vogan war, these Cybermen contain more organic components than any other model since the original CyberMondasians. This results in the resurgence of an old weakness, as they become susceptible to radiation. The Doctor floods their Selachian warcraft with a lethal dose of radiation, destroying them and freeing Agora.

Selachians are an aquatic species (see The Murder Game, The Final Sanction). Their ships are filled with water and are armed with plasma weapons that can punch through a planet's crust from space. Selachian warcraft are sleek black ships with three anti-gravity discs on the underside. The Selachians paint rows of serrated teeth on the front of their warcraft to give them a greater psychological impact. The Doctor considers them to be shrewd businessmen.

The ArcHivists study the history of the university from the Arc Hives, repositories of knowledge. There is an Arc University, where young ArcHivists are trained; Jolarr becomes the youngest ever graduand. They are humanoid, with very white skin, black hair, and deep black almond-shaped eyes. The ArcHivists have time travel capability, Hegelia and Jolarr travelling back to 2191AD to study the Cybermen on Agora. The Custodians govern the rules of the ArcHivists, including those concerning time travel. Their guidelines forbid the ArcHivists from visiting times that they have actually studied, in case they interfere with such an important temporal nexus; however, they are permitted to visit times shortly after the period of interest to study archaeological and anecdotal evidence of still recent events. ArcHivist time ships travel through the vortex. On arrival at their target location, the time ships can be placed into interstitial time to prevent locals discovering them. Hegelia, an expert on Cyber history, is the most respected of all the ArcHivists. ArcHivists on field trips carry a WebNet interface and HyperReality console.

The Doctor can place himself in suspended animation for at least twenty minutes (see <Terror of the Zygons). Regeneration cannot undo radiation damage without the aid of a TARDIS. He spends weeks in the TARDIS recovering from the radiation sustained on board the Selachian warcraft.

Grant Markham was born on Agora, the son of Ben Taggart and Jean Markham. Following the unsuccessful rebellion of 2175 to 2176, Jean Markham was shot dead by the Cybermen as punishment for the colony. Grant left the colony when he was six years old; the oldest of four children smuggled on board a mysterious ship found on the colony and named the Lifeline by the Agorans. The ship was actually the ArcHivist time ship that Hegelia and Jolarr arrived in in 2191, which suffered temporal shift and slipped backwards in time. The ship was set on a course for New Earth, so that these children at least could escape the Cybermen. He suspects that the sight of a Cyberman when he was young gave rise to his instinctive fear of robots, which manifests as a recurring nightmare about being hunted by robots (this was exacerbated by his experiences during Time of Your Life). Whilst on Agora, he adopts the name Stuart Revell on the advice of the rebels.

The TARDIS lock is still isomorphic (Pyramids of Mars). The TARDIS has an emergency exit (Original Sin).

The human leaders of Agora are called Overseers. Under Cyber rule, pregnant mothers are subject to prenatal testing and any foetuses with genetic abnormalities are aborted. When the Cybermen first took over, they altered Agora's sun to make it hotter, in order to make it virtually impossible to grow crops and thus survive away from Population Control. In order to finally defeat the Cybermen, a group of rebels lead by Henneker creates the Bronze Knights, cybernetically altered volunteers designed to match the Cybermen's strength. The Bronze Knights are six feet tall and bulky with hydraulically reinforced limbs, a gun on each forearm and fat, angular heads with a letter box slit for a mouth and black slivers for eyes. They are bronze in colour, hence their name. Agoran children take their surnames from their mother, due to the vast number of children men are forced to father by the Cybermen's breeding quotas.

Links: Hegelia tests Jolarr's knowledge of Cyber history, covering events from The Tenth Planet, Tomb of the Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen, and Attack of the Cybermen. She later mentions the events of The Invasion and Iceberg. There are references to the Doctor's tortuous regeneration in the TARDIS in Planet of the Spiders (see also Love and War), and to Thoros Beta (Trial of a Time Lord: Mindwarp).

Lecturing Grant on Earth Government cover-ups, the Doctor mentions the Great Intelligence (The Web of Fear, Downtime), Autons (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons), Axons (The Claws of Axos), and Zygons (Terror of the Zygons).

Location: The TARDIS, in orbit above Mars, 2100AD; Agora, 2191AD.

Future History: The Century Program was launched in 2100AD to establish colonies on numerous worlds and alleviate overcrowding on Earth. One of the colony ships, the New Hope, set course for the Centraxis system, establishing the most remote of these early colonies on Colony World #A7, which the colonists renamed Agora. The Cybermen invaded the colony during the 2150s and subdued the population, turning the planet into a breeding colony; they return every three years by the Earth (or Mondasian) calendar, and take five hundred healthy young males for conversion into Cybermen. The colonists attempted to rebel in 2176, but failed; the Cybermen mutilated the rebel leader, Arthur Lakesmith, as a warning to the other colonists.

Earth is still rebuilding after the Dalek war (The Dalek Invasion of Earth).

Unrecorded Adventures: Arriving on Agora, the Doctor spends several days in custody, being tortured by Madrox. Hegelia knows of Mel from her studies of the Doctor, suggesting that the Sixth Doctor encounters the Cybermen again whilst travelling with her. Following the defeat of the Cybermen, the Doctor returns Jolarr to the ArcHives.

The Bottom Line: One of the most relentless Doctor Who novels, and thus possibly the most effective study of the horror represented by the Cybermen. The various atrocities inflicted on the Agorans by the Cybermen are chilling, and Hegelia's conversion summarizes what it means to be a Cybermen; in satisfying her curiosity as to what conversion feels like, she loses all interest in the question. The development of Bronze Knights contrasts superbly with the Cybermen themselves, as the Agorans threaten to become monsters no better than their oppressors.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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