Cat's Cradle: Warhead

Roots: The Cyberpunk genre.

Goofs: It's never explained who the sniper was that shot at Ace, the Kurdish mercenaries, and the kids in Turkey.

Surely there must have been a less complicated method of getting Vincent and Justine to O'Hara's project.

Dialogue Triumphs: Shreela: 'So I live through all that and end up like this.'
The Doctor: 'You had the years in between'
Shreela: 'Just a postponement.'
The Doctor: 'That's all anyone has.'

The Doctor: 'She's already here.'
Ace: 'Here in the sense of here in the general neighbourhood?'
The Doctor: 'Here in the sense of upstairs in the bathroom.'

Continuity: In some cases, people can know that the Doctor is called the Doctor without being told. [This is thanks to the TARDIS telepathic circuits.] He can keep his hat from blowing off whilst travelling on the back of a motorbike. He has access to diplomatic seals.

Ace once worked as a courier, and wore a bicycle helmet. She has a credit card in the name of Ms J Smith, but with her thumbprint and passport photo. She carries an American handgun that can interface with a Vickers control helmet. She realises that she is incapable of killing Massoud, even though he tried to kill her. She knows two phrases in Turkish - "jump into the water" and "anyone else?". She can recognise the distinctive scorch marks of Molotov cocktails. The Doctor lets her drive his Austin A35.

The Doctor owns a house on Allen Road, Kent. The road sign has been defaced to read Alien Road. The house has a Victorian greenhouse. There is a bulky old physician's bag in the attic containing some gunk that will help revive someone in a chemical-type suspended animation tank. The bathroom has a separate bath and shower and contains at least one rubber duck. The house is 50 miles from the nearest coast. There are a selection of jigsaws and games like Cleudo, Monopoly, and Snakes and Ladders from the 1930s and 1940s.

Links: There is a brief reference to Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible when Ace asks how the TARDIS is. Shreela, Midge, and Midge's sister all appeared in Survival, the Doctor's house on Allen Road first appeared in the Doctor Who Magazine story Fellow Travellers.

Location: A hospital near what used to be Wormwood Scrubs prison, The American Midwest, New York, Turkey. It's the early 21st Century, ranging from late August to October.

Future History: Midge's little sister and Shreela (both from Survival) die when their immune systems go. Shreela had had a career in science writing. By the early 21st Century, weather patterns are increasingly unstable, there is fighting in Indonesia, and widespread environmental damage. Turkish tourist hotels have barcode-activated locks, and voice-activated lights. Vickers helmets are weapon-control systems which interface with the human eye. A blink will fire any gun wired into the system. They have been banned by most militaries, but are popular in the private sector. Australian soldiers use them during the fighting in Indonesia. Motorcycles are used as taxis in London, whilst New York taxis have TVs and bars.

Unrecorded Adventures: Miss David is "an old friend" of the Doctor's, though she used to have a different name. She now apparently lives in Turkey minding a carpet shop.

The Bottom Line: The first example of Doctor Who cyberpunk, Warhead is very well done. Vincent and Justine are built up very effectively, and we get to see Cartmel's idea of the Seventh Doctor fully realised.

Discontinuity Guide by Stephen Gray

Other Guides to this Story

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Comments

One of the best Doctor Who novels I've read and certainly my favourite New Adventures so far. The prose was fantastic; I felt I was in Turkey right along side Ace. Some very clever foreshadowing too, and Justine's nightmare sequence is trippy and disturbing in an absurd way. It went rather quickly to the end though; the subplot of Mancuso and McIlveen didn't go very far. McIlveen's fate was a wonderful twist but introduced too late and only helped a little at the end, mostly to motivate Mancuso to aid the Doctor against BI, and even then Mancuso is injured off-page and doesn't help much at the climax.

I forgot to mention, the scene where O'Hara discusses his plan with his wife only for the scene to show that he had poisoned her and is talking to her corpse is very similar to a scene in Alan Moore's Watchmen.

I thought the sniper might have been Massoud doing another attempt on not just Ace but his own team, but nothing in the text suggests this.

Perhaps I misread that bit, but I thought the implication was that the fourth kid, Warren, was the one doing the shooting. This is the first I've heard that it wasn't. A better goof might be the implied liaison between a pre-series Ace and a boy, given that Happy Endings has Glitz as her first.

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