Theatre of War
Roots: Osterling is frequently compared to Shakespeare, and Hamlet features significantly. Benny has read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. There are references to Marie-Antoinette, Don Juan, Walter Raleigh, Masterson's The Croquet Match, Michael Campling's Shakespeare's Playing Space, and Dad's Army. One of the plays the Doctor passes through is Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound. The title of Benny's book comes (appropriately enough) from an old drinking song.
Dialogue Disasters: Bernice's dreadful pun to an imprisoned Ace: "Practising the hard cell?"
Dialogue Triumphs: "I have been to the Eye of Orion, have been caught in the clutches of the black hole of Tartarus, been hunted through the universe by the Daleks, and played backgammon with Kublai Khan. And you say I don't know what I'm talking about? Have you ever seen the skies above Metebelis Three, tried the experiential grid on Argolis, or watched the space yachts of the Eternals race against the stars? Of course you haven't."
Continuity: Irving Braxiatel is described as tall and thin, with angular features, and appears to be only slightly older than Bernice. He tells Benny that he has known the Doctor "for ever". He has a blotter headed "Custodian of the Library of St John the Beheaded" (see All-Consuming Fire). He is familiar with Verbal Non-Communication by Vyse Plaquet and Hughes Frost. The Doctor describes him as a grand master of political chess and a formidable actor, though a little melodramatic. In a letter to the Doctor, Braxiatel address him as a friend and alludes to past differences. He also notes that they often agree on the ends but not necessarily the means.
The Braxiatel Collection is housed on a planetoid named Braxiatel, which was previously designated KS-159 and which he won in a game of cards (see Tears of the Oracle). According to rumour, the Collection has an entire gallery devoted to Deauxob of Glanatanus, and also contains Parry's original notes from the abortive Telos expedition (Tomb of the Cybermen). It also contains the original hand-written manuscript of Osterling's The Good Soldiers, which Braxiatel won't publish because he says it isn't very good - if it becomes widely available, the awe and mystery surrounding its legend would be shattered. Other contents include an extract from Intelligence Report XV117 from Analyst Ezira to the Rippearean War Cabinet dated 3978 (Braxiatel Collection Catalogue number 219FD), an account of the opening performance of The Captain's Honour at Pentillanian Theatre on Menaxus (Catalogue number 882PA), an eyewitness account of Menaxan actor Hagan acting by George Lichbergh from 2407 (Catalogue number 117GPR), a cover letter accompanying the application for the post of Admissions Overseer at the Pentillanian Theatre by Di Pietro Palladio dated 2315 (Catalogue number 831 CPH), an extract from The Techniques of the Actor by Haga Nodena (Catalogue number 957JM), the incomplete and unpublished manuscript of Beyond Osterling's Legacy by Azcline Grigsen (Catalogue number 883CR), and a surviving first edition of Stories From the Theatre (Catalogue number 002CH). The Mansionhouse and grounds are based on the Palace of Versailles. All of the rooms are bugged, for security purposes. Other notable features include the Garden of Whispers, which contains a statue of Mandrine (pronounced "Marn-dry-nee"), the Archalite goddess of plenty. Research tickets are available by invitation only. Dupok built the summerhouse in the garden. Other research establishments of note are the Stanarbrian Library, the Library of Curios on Thrastus 3, and the Bodleian Library that was destroyed by fire. (The Bodleian library exists in Oxford in the real world)
The Doctor's pocket watch measures time in gleebs. He produces some crumpled teabags and three sachets of powdered milk from his pocket. He has a research ticket for the Braxiatel Collection, which has no name on it but is numbered zero zero zero one. Like Braxiatel, he has a low opinion of The Good Soldiers, noting that Osterling wrote pompous and convoluted dialogue.
Ace's French teacher was called Mr. Briggs, and his class was on a Friday afternoon. She also had a teacher called Mrs. Parkinson. She studied Hamlet in fifth year English. She knew a weaponry officer on Belmos who actually knew very little about weapons. She killed Daleks in the Hai Dow system.
Benny gets a rare opportunity to visit the Braxiatel Collection with the data from the Phaester Osiris expedition. Her book, Down Among the Dead Men, was published 2566 (see Goofs). She drinks a Craxiatanian Chardonnay. She once stumbled across a holoschematic of Ancient Versailles whilst looking for source documents pertaining to Thetalian transport systems.
The TARDIS has a cinema with a holographic projection chamber. The signal from Benny's track/locator is detected by the TARDIS Time Path indicator (The Chase).
The planet Zastaz Four is mentioned, as are Zincrast, Abadron, Yenvel, Panderian Major, the Arfalla Colonies, Kotosh Station, and Limnus Five. The Plaustus Strike-One is a gun to which the Rippeareans do not have access. The ancient Pranchens of Golrargos concerned themselves with plays centred on different households.
Notable plays in addition to Osterling's The Good Soldiers include The Weavers, Black Vengeance, Dratus and Tomark, Love's Labour's Won (see The Empire of Glass), The Oresteia (a real play), The Execution of Segestus, The Playboy of Aspallon, Balance of Power, and Devereaux Watkins' Death's Bane. The early works of Brachnid and Tergenev are also described as being valuable.
Links: The Braxiatel Collection was first mentioned in City of Death. It contains statues of Lavithian Graffs (The Ribos Operation). The two pages of The Good Soldiers found by the Mordee excavation are catalogue number 357EH. Phaester Osiris was Horus and Sutekh's home planet (Pyramids of Mars) and Benny's decision to join Rhukk's expedition with Savaar was made at the end of Legacy (When the Doctor stated that Sutekh destroyed Phaester Osiris in Pyramids of Mars, he meant destroyed in the sense of "ruined", similar to the alternative Earth of 1980 he shows Sarah in that story). The Doctor tells Ace about one of his tutors, who told him that he had a propensity for vulgar facetiousness - this a reference to Borusa (The Deadly Assassin). The Doctor mentions Blinovitch (Day of the Daleks).
In a moment of one-upmanship (see Dialogue Triumphs), the Doctor mentions the Eye of Orion (The Five Doctors), the black hole of Tartarus (Trial of a Time Lord, episodes 9 to 12) being hunted through the universe by the Daleks (The Chase and The Daleks' Master Plan), playing backgammon with Kublai Khan (Marco Polo), Metebelis Three (The Green Death and Planet of the Spiders), the experiential grid on Argolis (The Leisure Hive), and the space yachts of the Eternals (Enlightenment).
Location: Menaxus, 15th September 3980 and 3985; The Braxiatel Collection, the Schlaer asteroid belt, and Heletia, 3985. An unnamed planet with two suns, date unknown.
Future History: By the start of the twenty-third century, Earth and its colonies were becoming seriously depleted in terms of technology and were in recession, which was exacerbated by the Dalek invasion (The Dalek Invasion of Earth) and the Cyber wars (Revenge of the Cybermen). This had an impact on the theatre, due to loss of money, and drama reverted to the Greek model, with most of the action happening offstage. Osterling was considered innovative because he had the action in The Good Soldiers happen on-stage (the Doctor hints that he suggested this to Osterling). The Good Soldiers by Stanoff Osterling was published in 2273 and was universally acclaimed as the greatest ever work of one of the two greatest ever playwrights (Shakespeare being the other). Accounts of the first performance and some critical reviews survived, but the manuscript was lost. Zagglan Crichley found some pages on Mordee in the year 2955 which are held in the Braxiatel Collection (A Mordee colonization ship carried Xoanon - see The Face of Evil). Little else is known about the play, save for a brief outline of the plot in a children's storybook, Stories From the Theatre published in 2294. The handwriting on the original manuscript is the Doctor's - he helped Osterling out when restioparothis crippled the playwright's hands, just as he helped out Shakespeare with Hamlet - see City of Death. Another of Osterling's plays is The Mercenary.
The Heletian Empire and the Rippearean Cluster are both outside of the Federation. The planet Heletia was originally colonized by a troupe of ambitious actors who wanted to establish a playhouse to stage the greatest drama of the universe. They became an expansionist power, but were still heavily influenced by their theatrical background, believing that only cultures with a history of sophisticated dramatic production are truly civilized. Their leader is called the Exec. The Heletian Empire was forced to release its hold on the Rippearean Cluster in the Great Retreat of 3985. The front line of the war with the Rippeareans is pushed back to the moons of Dosardus, which was conquered after Optron and Gluvene. By the time Benny arrives on Menaxus, Optron has been cut off from the rest of the Empire and remains under siege. At some point, the Heletian Empire seized Icoronata in a bloody conflict. Other planets in the Empire include Avidos, Cortasplay, Veterov, Bostra, Phaselis Minor, and Nichoria. Assok is a Heletian military rank. During the war, rebels and Rippearean sympathizers are shipped to camps on Pulai Kompay. There are also Heletian camps on Temenos. Arbela is a city on Heletia. Manact is also a Heletian rank, apparently second only to Exec. Heletia is protected from attack by a minefield of "kill-sats" in the Alterberg Gap.
Braxiatel created the Pentillanian Theatre on Menaxus c3979 as part of a trap to allow the Rippeareans to invade Heletia - there was never a theatre on Menaxus and all of the documents in the Braxiatel Collection which relate to Menaxus are fakes, including De Witte's plan of the Pentillanian Theatre of Menaxus, supposedly sketched c2314. Hence, the entire documented history of Menaxus from universal calendar date 2176 to 2542 relates solely to the Pentillanian Theatre. The machine was planted there so that the Heletians, who would be unable to resist the temptation of playing a recording of The Good Soldiers in front of the Heletian Exec, would discover it. The machine was programmed to make conditions on Menaxus as hostile as possible, so that the archaeological expedition there would withdraw quickly, taking the machine with them and ensuring that it was taken to Heletia quickly, instead of remaining on Menaxus for the duration of a lengthy archaeological survey. The machine is capable of generating apparently real, three-dimensional projections that can leave the machine thanks to a real-world interface and a crude dimensional osmosis damper (see Nightmare of Eden). These projections can include copies of people that are so advanced they don't realize that they aren't real. His original plan was to have the robots from the final act of The Good Soldiers leave the machine and massacre the Heletian leaders, leaving the Heletian court in uproar. Having recruited Benny to deactivate the minefield in the Alterberg Gap and let the Rippeareans in, he no longer needed such a lethal diversion and gave Benny a letter to pass to the Doctor, suggesting that he might find such an alternative. It is implied that Lannic is not only another of Braxiatel's agents, but also a projection from the machine created to assassinate the Exec. Following the assassinations of the Exec and the Manact and the defeat of the Heletian forces by the Rippeareans, the commissionaire of Arbela becomes acting Exec of Heletia.
The Myth of Artificial Intelligence by Phil Houseman was published in 2009. The Dream Scenario, a Case Study in Virtual History by Al Jardine, was published in 4123. The Dramatist's Art by F. Van der Cleele was published in 2811. Klasvik's paper New Brasiscan Discoveries from the Time of Corneille III was published in either The Archaeologist in 3941 or Brasiscan Diaries in 3942. Verbal Non-Communication by Vyse Plaquet and Hughes Frost was published in 2137. Osterling's Legacy by Azcline Grigsen was published in 3498 - Grigsen died in 3515. Haga Nodena's article The Techniques of the Actor was published in Theatre Today issue 428 in July 2049. The New Dramatists by Barbas Lothal was published in 3544. Fictional Voices by Booth Kitava was published in 2267. Reality - An Overrated Concept by Rankin Alduss was published in 2876. Fardal Konin submitted his final doctoral thesis in 3931. The Absurdity of Performance by Wanlek Ackman was published in 2044. The Greeks Had a Play About It by Peter Hinton was published in 2012.
Archaeologists Rumbelow and Proctor inflicted serious damage on the remains of Trajan Five.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has visited the unnamed planet with two suns to which he takes Ace a couple of times before (he notes that he once staked his reputation on the beauty of the planet's sunrise, when he was young enough to bowl a good Chinaman - this is presumably a reference to his fifth incarnation, implying that this is the planet from Goth Opera). It is implied that he knew twenty-first century author Wanlek Ackman.
Q.v. Benny's Birthday, Love and War.
The Bottom Line: A promising debut from Richards, which is notable for its multi-layered plot, and trademark twists. It is refreshing to see the Doctor out-manipulated for once, and the novel is also notable for the first appearance of Irving Braxiatel. Its only drawback however is that Richards fails to convincingly carry off space opera, with the scenes set in space coming across as rather unconvincing.