Speed of Flight

Roots: The Bible (the Sky equals Heaven, the naieen equal angels).

Dialogue Disasters: "The Dead aren't afraid of dying." And various other puns, including the title.

Dialogue Triumphs: "Don't assume that the only way forward is the obvious one."

Continuity: Nooma is an artificial planet, engineered by the Aapex Corporation of Mina Fourteen as a template experiment for the bioengineering and terraforming of low gravity planets four thousand years before the Doctor arrives. The Doctor suspects that the experiment was almost certainly illegal. The gravity on Nooma is approximately one-sixth gee. It has a solid sky to keep the atmosphere in, and six artificial suns thirty miles above the ground, which can also function as starships. The inhabitants of Nooma were genetically engineered so that their life cycle is tied to the planet. The children are furry, large-eyed, winged monkey-like creatures that are made the childforest, probably hatching from budding plants; they become men, on which the children also prey. Men eventually undergo a metamorphosis and fight a battle known as Promotion, the winner ripping the loser's heart out and eating it. Their bodies bulk up naturally in the days leading up to the fight. If they are prevented from fighting, they become Unpromoted, and become almost bestial killers. The winners become naieen, some of which are female, and the losers become the Dead. The bodies of the losers must be given to the Land in order to become Dead, or their essence is lost and they truly die. The Dead are short humanoids with skin that resembles wood and blue crystal eyes. The can communicate with people using telepathic pseudoviruses.

The clay that makes up the Land is alive, and the cities of men are grown from it. The Sky is inert, but it has a biological element and the Temples of the naieen grow downwards from it. Men refer to this process as "the Holy Biology". The Land is a rough circle approximately one hundred miles in diameter surrounded by sea, and boasts seven hills around the rim including Kaygat and Mirador [which also seem to correspond to the cities of Men]. There are seven naieen temples, including Iujeemii, each positioned above one of the mountains. Neef Island lies off the coast of the Land and houses numerous factories. There are five other lands, which are dead by the time the Doctor arrives due to the deactivation of their suns. Men on Nooma fly steam-powered flying vehicles called steamwings, as well as pedal-powered pedithopters. They also fly on the backs of pterodactyl-like creatures. The naieen use skyboats. A council known as the Flight governs the naieen. Jerim birds are green-tinted, rotor-winged birds native to Nooma. Reekaa's Compendium is a book of myths and legends of Nooma. The Grikal Chronicos is another such text. Aapex are remembered as Gods by most of the people on Nooma. Sky barnacles are found on the surface of the Sky. An AI controls the Sky, although it no longer has all of its functions intact.

The Aapex Corporation went bankrupt shortly after terraforming Nooma. The Doctor describes them as "one of the most grasping and unscrupulous business entities of their era."

The Doctor owns a set of orange, collapsible, parachute-like wings, which he purchased in Oxford Street during the July 2108 sales. They fold down to the size of a fifty-pence piece. The Doctor keeps a spectroscope in the TARDIS. He has some knowledge of Aapex systems. He rigs up a transionic polariser from bits and pieces found in one of the naieen temples. He unsuccessfully tries to construct a remote control for the TARDIS. He claims that "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo" is an old Venusian nursery rhyme [he's being facetious]. He carries a Rubix cube.

Jo dons a black leather jacket for her blind date, and later changes into a red dress, hoping that the Doctor will take her to visit the last days of the Raj. Mike, under the influence of the Dead, shoots her in the head on Nooma, grazing her skull.

There is a Pulse Control Meter in the top right hand drawer in the TARDIS console room [presumably in the cabinets seen in Planet of the Daleks]. There is a medical kit in the top left hand drawer.

Benton and Corporal Bell set Jo and Mike up on a blind date [Bell has either returned to active duty after the events of The Face of the Enemy or has kept in touch socially]. Forced to fight Omonu on Nooma, Mike's heart is ripped out and he becomes Dead. The Doctor manages to revive his original body, restoring him.

Karfel is in the same galactic cluster as Earth and the Doctor aims to arrive twenty thousand years in Jo's future [thus dating Timelash to this period].

Links: The Doctor is trying to take Mike and Jo to visit Karfel when they arrive on Nooma (Timelash). Jo recalls Catriona Talliser and the Xarax (Dancing the Code). There are references to Autons (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons),

Location: London, UNIT HQ, England, [circa December 1971 or January 1972]; Nooma, date unknown [the future].

The Bottom Line: 'Please Mike, you have to let me kill you.' As an attempt to create an alien world, Speed of Flight isn't quite as memorable as Leonard's Venusian Lullaby, but is still fairly impressive. The characterisation is superb, and the novel is notable for featuring no real villains, save for the unseen and long-extinct Aapex Corporation. The use of Mike Yates, easily the most irritating regular character of the Pertwee era, is surprisingly effective.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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