The Dark Path
Roots: According to the foreword by David McIntee, the Veltrochni are supposed to resemble a cross between Klingons (Star Trek) and Predators (Predator), rather than the Toads from Bucky O'Hare (as on the cover). Return of the Jedi (a planetary deflection barrier around an Imperial base). The novel opens with a quotation from Macbeth. Koschei quotes Hamlet. Victoria finds a copy of Robinson Crusoe in the TARDIS and is familiar with Dante's Inferno. The Doctor mentions Hannibal's elephants and quotes General Lee. There are references to Heironymus Bosch and Descartes. As in First Frontier, there is a Rocky Horror Show reference (through space, and perhaps even who knows? time itself). Koschei is the name of a near-immortal sorcerer in Russian folklore.
Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor's response to 'Doctor who?' is, for once, 'Oh, don't you mean Doctor whom?.'
Terrell asks the Doctor if he's wondering how information will be forced out of him: 'I imagine you are thinking of hoses and electrodes. Minds like yours usually do.'
Koschei begins his journey to the dark side: 'Sometimes, Miss Waterfield, one must compromise and accept the existence of a lesser evil for the greater good. I gave you the knowledge to destroy Terileptus, and don't think I don't hear every voice screaming, but I'm adaptable.'
Koschei offers the Doctor joint power: 'Just imagine it for a moment. No one need ever be murdered, raped or robbed; no one need ever feel the pain of loss or betrayal, because the cosmos is a cohesive society governed by a single rule - ours.'
Continuity: The name of Time Lord who eventually becomes the Master is Koschei [there are hints from the Doctor that this is not his real name, the Doctor is suspicious but unsure about who Koschei is when he first hears the name - this is contradicted by Divided Loyalties, which establishes that he used the name Koschei when he was at the academy with the Doctor]. He dresses here in a grey double-breasted suit, a silk shirt, and a cravat with a silver bird-of-prey tiepin. He is already adept at hypnotism. He has a companion, Ailla. He considers killing to be a sign of poor preparation and possibly unprofessional, but is capable of easily breaking Gothard's neck with his bare hands when the need arises. Even at this point he is ruthless when necessary, persuading Terrall to use the Darkheart to destroy Terileptus in order to distract the Adjudicator from the more drastic option of using it to turn all the major species in the universe into humans, thus choosing what he sees as the lesser of two evils. His grief over Ailla's death, the temptation of the power offered by the Darkheart, the revelation that the Time Lords sent Ailla to spy on him, the disclosure that she is not human but one of them, and the knowledge that the Doctor supposedly betrayed him by not telling him is what tips him over the edge and on the road to becoming the Master. He realises that with the Darkheart he can bring order to the universe, preventing wars and other disasters at their inception. He customizes a disrupter into his [first] tissue compression eliminator. His TARDIS is a Type-45, with user-definable macros for easy navigation. Its control room is similar to the Doctor's, and contains filing cabinets and two cylinders, beyond which are banks of computers lining the walls of a corridor that stretches into the depths of the TARDIS. The console has more controls than the Doctor's. An instrument on the console can check how many people are present in the TARDIS. Prior to attempting to merge his TARDIS with the Darkheart, he tears out the recall circuit (see Arc of Infinity). When the Doctor short-circuits the dimensional bridge separating the two masses of the Darkheart, Koschei's TARDIS is almost pulled into the resulting black hole; it is implied that this precipitates multiple regenerations, using up his lives at an accelerated rate (see The Deadly Assassin). His TARDIS disguises itself as a flyer. Koschei may have visited the pyramids on Phaester Osiris (see Pyramids of Mars and The Sands of Time). He has met the Chronovores before (The Time Monster) and has visited the Skonnon Empire (The Horns of Nimon).
Prior to regenerating for the first time here, Ailla is tall with bright and inquisitive eyes, smooth cheeks, and short dark permed hair. She wears a blouse, slacks, and knee-high boots. After being shot by a laser blast, she regenerates and is described as having high cheekbones and shoulder-length auburn hair. She knows of the Doctor. She met Koschei on twenty-eighth century Earth, during the height of the Empire, where the Time Lords had planted her in order to meet him. She was instructed to make occasional reports on his activities, due to doubts about his stability. She posed as a human, not telling him that she is actually a Time Lady. She is an expert with computers. She tries to force the Doctor to return his stolen TARDIS to Gallifrey, giving her a lift in the process, but is prevented from doing so by Brokhyth and Sherwin and is left stranded on board the Piri Reis c. 3300.
The Darkheart is a neutron star approximately three point eight solar masses and nine kilometres across, and the companion to a class K4 red supergiant. The system is a semi-detached binary with a nova cycle of approximately seven thousand and four hundred years and is located in the void between two of the galaxy's spiral arms, beyond Lasty's nebula. One of the six planets orbiting it is a bubble of neutron star material that has been flung off into space and has cooled into a solid shell. The other five planets are in distant orbits and are presumably genuine planets. It is still part of the star's mass, but is separated from it by a dimensional bridge, thus allowing the neutron star to exists as a body of black-hole density without actually becoming a black hole. Prior to evolving into their current plane, the Chronovores existed in time as part of it, with the ability to move across it. These ancestors of the Chronovores built the Darkheart as a healing device, capable of projecting nourishing energy to any point in time. The Darkheart device can be used to alter history by destroying planets in the past; because it directly affects space/time itself, it can make these changes without splitting off a parallel universe, by restructuring everywhere and everywhen to account for the new matrix. It is also capable of drawing energy from the space/time vortex to maintain a temporal stasis of the human morphogenetic field and thus stop the human colonists from ageing. It is capable of projecting this morphogenetic field through time and space, rewriting the DNA of all the alien races in the universe into human form, which would mean that humans are the only intelligent life-forms in the universe; races who have evolved on planets with atmospheres breathable by humans (such as Draconia) will have always been human, whereas races on planets without atmospheres breathable by humans (such as Alpha Centauri) will never have existed.
The Veltrochni are eight-foot tall humanoids with brown reptilian skin, four-digit clawed hands, and rows of porcupinish quills in a crest running down its back from its forehead. Their legs have the knees at the back and their jaws protrude forwards. Veltroch orbits the star Fomalhaut. Veltrochni families are called Packs. They use Dragon cruisers, armed with quantum lances, which were designed to penetrate the graviton shielding and terullian hulls of Tzun Stormblades. The Veltrochni are members of the Federation. Many Veltrochni feel guilty at the deaths of those subject races of the Tzun Confederacy who died when their planets were carved up by Veltrochni quantum lances during their war with the Tzun (see First Frontier). Veltrochni armour can have a holographic projection grid built into it, allowing the wearer to project another form around them or refract ambient light to give an illusion of transparency. When the Earth Empire began to expand across the galaxy, many Veltrochni Packs fled Veltroch, fearing annexation, and adopted nomadic lives. The Veltrochni word for Earthman is Iirdmon. An ear-twitch is the Veltrochni equivalent of a nod.
The Doctor confirms that he and Koschei were at school together (The Sea Devils). He carries paper and pen in his pocket, and a small pocket telescope. He hasn't seen Koschei in two hundred years and can de-hypnotize anyone that Koschei can hypnotize.
Victoria has been teaching Jamie to read. She is aware of the Giant's Causeway and may have visited it. Koschei hypnotises her. The traumatic events that she witnesses here make up her mind to leave the Doctor and Jamie the next time they land on Earth (see Fury from the Deep). Jamie isn't scared of heights. He travels by transmat for the first time (see The Seeds of Death). Ben and Polly told him about the Doctor's regeneration (The Tenth Planet), but he didn't believe them until Ailla regenerates.
The TARDIS has a safety override allowing it to make short hops [the HADS - see The Krotons], although the jump is always completely random and will only take the TARDIS approximately a mile from its original location. The Doctor notes that it is a very long time since he used this function. The Doctor can parallel the controls of his TARDIS to Koschei's and operate his TARDIS by remote control from there.
Draconia has no astrology. There is a portrait of the Second Doctor in the Emperor's palace on Draconia (see Frontier in Space). Terileptus is the nearest space faring planet to the Darkheart. Koschei manipulates Terrall into destroying Terileptus using the Darkheart.
Telefrag is a Marine Corps term for teleporting somebody into the exact same coordinates as somebody else, with terminal results.
Links: The Master first appeared in Terror of the Autons. The novel opens with a quote from the Master in The TV Movie [this is credited to the (ersatz) Master, a reference to McIntee's theory that the Master in that story is a clone]. On learning that he is present, the Doctor automatically assumes that he is hunting him (see The War Games). The Veltrochni were first mentioned in First Frontier. Original Sin, So Vile a Sin, The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon, Legacy. There are references to Usurians (The Sunmakers) and Daleks. The TARDIS time path indicator detects Koschei's TARDIS, prompting the Doctor to tell Jamie about being pursued by the Daleks (The Chase) this in turn prompts Jamie to mention Waterfield and Maxtible (The Evil of the Daleks). Jamie recalls the Cybermen (The Moonbase, Tomb of the Cybermen) and Yeti (The Abominable Snowmen, The Web of Fear). The Doctor mentions the Ice Warriors (The Ice Warriors). Ailla mentions the Landsknechte (Original Sin). Victoria recalls the Doctor mentioning his family (Tomb of the Cybermen) and dwells on the suffering she has witnessed on her travels with the Doctor, foreshadowing her departure in Fury from the Deep. The Adjudication Lodge contains murals depicting the conquest of Solos (The Mutants) and the destruction of Mondas (The Tenth Planet); Terrall is working on another depicting the triumph of the glittergun over the Cybermen (Revenge of the Cybermen). Terrell reflects that allying themselves with human traitors is the Cybermen's preferred method of infiltration (see The Invasion, Revenge of the Cybermen, and Earthshock). Koschei ponders the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (Day of the Daleks, Invasion of the Dinosaurs). The Doctor and Sherwin discuss the expedition sent by the Empire to Avalon (The Sorcerer's Apprentice). Hakkauth mentions the Rutan (Horror of Fang Rock, Lords of the Storm, Shakedown).
The TARDIS has just left Vortis, Victoria taking a shower to remove isocryte grit (Twilight of the Gods (MA)). She also recalls disguising herself as a Menoptera. The Doctor refers to the Animus as Lloigor, which ties in with All-Consuming Fire, but cryptically notes that there were several Lloigor originally, and that the one that entered our universe expended a vast amount of energy to do so, which may deter others from following it; this seemingly contradicts both All-Consuming Fire and Millennial Rites.
Location: The Darkheart, c. 3350AD.
Future History: The Sons of Earth were still active at the time of the Empire (The Wheel in Space). Following the death of the Empress (So Vile a Sin), most of Centcomp's data structures collapsed, resulting in fragmentary records from the end of the Empire. An Imperial Navy expeditionary force under control of the Special Services Directorate (see The Sorcerer's Apprentice) was sent to the Darkheart in a Dauntless-class Imperial destroyer around the turn of the thirty-first century and still occupies one of the orbiting planets, having established a military dictatorship based on the (essentially bureaucratic) old Empire. They established a local Adjudication Lodge (see Original Sin). Viscount was the title given to a planetary or colonial governor by the Empire. Dauntless-class destroyers have not been constructed for four hundred years. Other Imperial ships include the city-sized Victory-class destroyers. The Imperial forces have access to logs from the Britannicus Ice Base, showing the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria (The Ice Warriors).
By the time of the Federation, the Adjudicators have become the Arbiters and are a judicial service rather than a police force. The Federation Chair is located on Alpha Centauri. Federation members include the Veltrochni, the Terileptils (The Visitation), and the Draconians (Frontier in Space). Xarax are used aboard spaceships (Dancing the Code).
The Bottom Line: 'That name no longer has any meaning for me Doctor. In time you too will call me Master.' An engaging space opera with spot-on characterisation of the Second Doctor makes for an impressive penultimate Missing Adventure, made all the more memorable by the Veltrochni. But it is Koschei who steals the show, as he starts down the dark path towards becoming the Master, and as in First Frontier, McIntee's portrayal of the Doctor's future nemesis is peerless.