Only Human

Roots: The ideas of the novel were inspired by Roberts' interest in anthropology and evolutionary psychology. Rose compares one of Jack's outfits to the Village People, and mentions Oasis, the Atkins diet, and Horizon. Das's question "where is the quarry?" may be a sly dig at the classic series' tendency to film in quarries, or I might be reading too much into the sentence. The Doctor mentions Loose Women. Rose compares the tree that's the entrance to Osterburg to Scooby Doo, and Osterburg to Sylvanian Families. The Doctor mentions Coldplay and Carry on Cleo. Das watches Will and Grace, Balamory, Spider-Man, and Celebrity Love Island and plays computer game F-Zero.

Goofs: How can Kegron Pluva's sun orbit the planet? Even a basic understanding of gravity tells you that's impossible.

The Doctor's claim that humans didn't realise Earth was spherical for four million years and then stuck people who noticed on a bonfire is rather inaccurate. The Greeks knew it was spherical, and it was the idea that the Earth went round the sun, rather than the idea that the Earth was round, that led later Europeans to persecute people.

The Doctor's claim that Neanderthals died out 28,000 years ago means he's forgotten Timewyrm: Exodus, where he met the last of a tribe of Neanderthals who had survived until about 2700 BC.

How can the credit card have a pin which is "1"? Pins are 4-digit numbers.

If Das doesn't understand the concept of lies or fiction, then how does he understand the idea of a computer game?

If, as stated on page 135, the Osterburgers' idea of romance is to take combo 934/77 and pair up with whoever's nearest, then how come Jacob and Lene have been partners for 90 years by page 59?

Nan flips open Rose's phone. However, her phone isn't one of the ones that flip open.

On page 155, it's Wednesday. But on page 57, it's Thursday, and there hasn't even been one night between those two pages.

Technobabble: Chantal's comments on the Doctor's biology: 'The intriguing monotony in the occurrence of inter-caval conduction block during typical atrial flutter suggests an anatomic or electrophysiological predisposition for conduction abnormalities'.

The Doctor says that the TARDIS key works on a kind of meson projection system.

To fix Rose's head back on, all that's required is to reverse-lock the kinetic seal.

Double Entendres: More of a single entendre, really, from Tillun: 'When I carry on with other women, Rose, I promise I will do it right in front of you.'

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor to Jack: 'Even you can't flirt simultaneously with the entire population of an town.

Das: 'Cutlery ranks with socks as one of the most pointless things made by humans.'

Rose: 'A time machine that runs on steam? I can't accept that.'
The Doctor: 'You accepted Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'

The Doctor: 'The only person in Osterburg with any potential for natural initiative and you just happen to be one of those people who haven't got any natural initiative.'

The Doctor: 'Now that's what I call a lock.'
Quilley: 'We call it that too.'

The Doctor: 'You've found the part of the brain that controls sarcasm, have you? Very clever.'
Chantal: 'Sorry, was that sarcastic?'

Continuity: Kegron Pluva is a planet with 6 moons going one way, 3 going the other way, and a sun that orbits the planet. It has 43 seasons, and the dominant life-form is a kind of dog-plant-fungus thing, the water is solid, and everyone eats a kind of metal plum.

The TARDIS console has a temporal distortion alert which is a flashing light. There is a London A-Z in the TARDIS. Every trip in the TARDIS - even solely in space - causes time ripples. The sonic screwdriver contains 29 computers. The Doctor estimates that a full guided tour will take a couple of years. Its translation circuits have a swear filter. The Doctor's TARDIS key refuses to let Chantal in.

Dirty Rip Engines are a type of time travel which punch a big hole in time. Their big weak point is that they blow up. They were big in the 46th Century. They can pollute every cell in the body of someone transported by them, meaning that the vortex pressure of time travel will tear the time traveller apart. Analogue Rip Engines are worse than the normal sort.

Rose has never been a good liar. When making tea, Rose never stews the teabag. She once took an ill-fated camping tour to Dartmoor with Jimmy Stone. Her pockets contain her phone, a nail file, and a handful of loose change. Her nan married too quick and it was a disaster - he was carrying on with half the other women in the town behind her back. Jackie Tyler always picks up gossip from places like manicurist shops. She gets married here, and her new surname is Glathigcaymcilliach.

Captain Jack runs about naked as a distraction. He has a Wrist-o-Matic which can keep tabs on Das and do a quick micro-genetic check, which enables him to tell that Jackie is Rose's mother.

The Doctor uses the alias Dr Table, and makes up the disease Acromegaly as an excuse to get Das out of hospital. He has a psychic credit card that he gives to Jack, with half a million pounds on it. These cards were banned after the infinite recession on Baydafarn. He claims that he knows how to fix up an elephant with diarrhoea. His blood is very different to human blood (c.f. Spearhead from Space), with lots of unusual acids. He also mentions a self-regenerating genetic imprimatur (c.f. The Two Doctors). His psychic paper works on non-sentient beings like wild horses as well. He admits to having blind spots in his knowledge of history, including May 1982.

Neanderthals don't have proper waists, and these ones speak in a high-pitched voice, even the men.

The Hy-Bractors created by Chantal are over seven feet tall, humanoid, and have grey putty-like skin that's a little bit lumpy, with ugly sunken-cheeked faces, glossy hair, and long grey tails.

Cephalids are the most notorious gamblers in space and love sporting occasions on their own planet. However, they evolved to see the universe in nine dimensions simultaneously, so their sports are weird events like the Ratio Acceleration Derby and Atom-Boarding. To humans it looks like staring at an accretion of invisible gas particles for seven years, but the money they bet on it is off the scale. Their multi-dimensional weapons will shoot at a human but hit where they've been or where they will be, or where they might have decided to go in an alternative universe.

Links: The Doctor mentions having met a couple of Neanderthals (Ghost Light, Timewyrm: Genesys, and possibly An Unearthly Child). Rose mentions meeting Jack in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and remembers meeting Gwyneth in The Unquiet Dead. The Doctor mentions the year 5 billion in The End of the World. The Doctor uses the fast return switch (The Edge of Destruction). Jack uses his psychic paper (The Empty Child). The Doctor mentions the destruction of his home planet in the War (The End of the World).

Location: Earth, 2nd October 438,533 AD; Bromley, 2005 and May 29,185 BC.

Future History: Some of the unanswered historical questions of Chantal's time include who caused the collapse of the European Union, and who assassinated the Mage of Toronto and why?

Around the year 436,000, there is a massive space battle in Monoceros between Kallix Grover and the Sine Wave Shrine of Shillitar and Earth gets caught in the crossfire. A massive reef of magnetic energy misses its target and drifts billions of miles off course at about a million times the speed of light and smacks into Earth wiping every computer on the planet. The state of technology was such that there was a computer in everything, and the vast grid of nanotechnology curled up and died in under a second. There was fire, plague, famine, and war, and the planet was cut off from its colonies. This was known as The Great Retrenchment. The after-effects of the reef meant that humanity turned to analogue technologies during its 10,000 year Dark Age, their big technologies being biology and chemistry - becoming able to do anything they want to the body, including the brain. The Lord's Prayer is still known in this period.

The Brooklyn Poisson-o-Rama in New York wouldn't be built until the collapse of Inter-Bank, and Inter-Bank hasn't even been built yet. In Jack's time, things that have lasted from 21st Century culture include Van der Graff Generator, Shena Mackay novels, and Sparks, whilst U2 and The Da Vinci Code are completely forgotten.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor once went for a stroll in Bromley in a location where there used to be a brass band every Sunday without fail, and there was "lots of copping off, in an Edwardian way". He can't remember the exact details of what happened that day, but thinks that almost everybody survived. Jack running around naked isn't the biggest distraction he's ever seen. He claims to have slain a dragon in Krakow 1300 years ago. He also claims to have wrestled a tiger (Eye of the Tyger?), and won by rubbing its tummy and fooling it into thinking he was its mummy. He tells Rose that he'd know that marrying for love is overrated, and that if she doesn't believe him, she can ask Lade Mary Wortley Montagu.

Jack notes that a girl at a party in Elizabethan London and a proto-humanoid Gloobi hybrid in the wastes of 39th Century Tarsius were both happy to make the same mistake with him. He also recalls that the inhabitants of Celation aren't fussy when it comes to relationships. A few years back, he tried to sell tickets to the horse racing in 2nd Century Rome to a party of humanoid Cephalids. They didn't understand the racing or Jack's slate, so they paid him millions out of embarrassment, but later sent a battle fleet after him.

On her travels with the Doctor, Rose has met robots with more personality than the residents of Osterburg.

Q.v. Bad Wolf, The Parting of the Ways.

The Bottom Line: 'Enough spoilers, just let me see it.' After four poor efforts in the New Series books, Only Human is a breath of fresh air, raising the bar considerably. There is plenty of Roberts' usual wit and humour, though not as much as many of his earlier Who books, and the regulars and guest characters are all brilliantly well drawn. There is, of course, a decent plot but that takes a back seat to the style and characterisation. The only down side to the book is that it is too short.

Discontinuity Guide by Stephen Gray

Other Guides to this Story

Feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions about the site, or any technical problems with it. You may also want to check out our Privacy Policy. There is also an About Us page, if you really want to read one.

Add new comment

Comment

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Copyright Statement

Doctor Who is both copyrighted and trademarked by the BBC. The rights to various characters, alien races, and other fictional elements from the series are owned by the writers who created them. In particular, the Daleks are owned by the estate of Terry Nation. No infringement of any copyright is intended by any part of this site, which is an unlicensed reference and review site. All credited material on this site is copyright © the named author. All Wiki pages are copyright the site members who edited them. All other material is copyright © Stephen Gray 2004-2014. The whoniverse logo and design were created by Tom Hey (that link is to his band's site). The site was constructed using Drupal. All comments are owned by, and are the sole legal responsibility of, the individual posters. You may not reproduce any material from this site without the permission of the relevant author(s). If you want to use what we've written, ask us and we might just say yes.