The Art of Destruction
Roots: Golem myths. There are references to Star Trek, James Bond and Goldfinger, the Koala Brothers, Sesame Street (Big Bird), Frankenstein, Tolstoy, Horlicks, Lord of the Rings, Da Vinci, Spider-Man, Aladdin, David Dickinson, Bounties, Double Deckers, Arnold Schwarzenegger, The A-Team, and Bambi. Artworks that inspire the Valnaxi great works include the Mona Lisa and the Scream.
The alien blobs that can transform living tissue into golden metal is reminiscent of the short story The Deadly Weed from the Doctor Who Annual 1985.
Goofs: When Rose realizes that the TARDIS is translating Arabic for her, we get the line, "The ship was telepathic, it got inside your head and could translate any language you liked - as well as those you didn't", which is... interesting.
Dialogue Disasters: The Doctor's atrocious puns: "That's the 24-carat question." "Turning my blood into mushroom soup. Should make me a fun guy to be with."
Dialogue Triumphs: "You can keep pointing the gun at me. It might help you believe you've got some power over the situation..."
"If you try to escape, you will be killed, ingested and excreted in casts."
Continuity: The Valnaxi are a telepathic avian species which produced artists of incredible talent. They had a telepathic rapport with their planet, Valnax, which inspired them. They fought the Wurms across seventeen star systems before losing their planet to them. After they lost the war with the Wurms they hid the greatest works of art in a series of warrens on planets across the universe, each warren containing coded directions to finding the next. They also planted numerous false trails, with decoy warrens containing traps. They planted an art warren on Earth two thousand years earlier (c.118 AD) and left guardians to protect it. Great Valnaxi works of art include the Lona Venus, The Flight of the Valwing, and the Shriek. The guardians transform animal DNA, converting skin into flexible metal alloy. Realizing that the Wurms would hunt their warrens down, the Council of Valnax stored the intelligence of themselves and thousands of others and stored them in a spaceship beneath the warren on Earth, using the heat of the planet's mantle to sustain their buried ship's systems. The warren on Earth is a trap for the Wurms; the deactivation plaque for the defences of this particular warren contains a genetic sampler designed to extract the DNA, life essence and psychic energy from the Wurms when they touch it, giving them a new template to recreate their race in the shape of their oppressors. The plan failed when Solomon found the plate, and they end up creating a male form based on Solomon and a female form based on Rose instead. The Doctor launches the Valnaxi ship, with the disembodied Valnaxi on board into space to save Earth; the Valnaxi inhabiting the new forms "Male" and "Female" remain trapped on Earth and decide to build new lives for themselves.
The Wurms have pale, glistening, segmented bodies like earthworms. They are the size of elephants. They have no discernible facial features and wear crumbling white armour. They are capable of independently reproducing themselves by the hundred. They have stubby arms with cybernetic attachments and also use cybernetic implants in their technology. They have an empire and waged war against the Valnaxi because they had already conquered neighbouring races. They use mud-guns that fire lumps of mud containing insects specially reared to feed on the guardian magma and whatever flesh it is controlling. Their technology is principally organic, their ship adapted from other living organisms. They use various modified insects, including tech-bugs. They use egg-sacs for atmospheric flight, which the Doctor speculates work by breaking down bacteria in the lining to create a propulsion jet of gas. The Wurms take prisoners of war, whom they interrogate and then turn into fertilizer. Wurms disintegrate themselves rather than remaining prisoners.
Jazamillian Faltato's species isn't named, although he is a member of the Hadropilatic Fellowship. He has a thin head with five piggy eyes surrounded by eyelashes like cactus spines, a fat neck like giant toad's, which billows in and out, two spindly arms stuck out on either side of his body each of which ends in a heavy-duty pincer like a crab's, and numerous thin legs. He has at least six prehensile tongues, including his hunting tongue, his speaking tongue, and his flossing tongue. He has sharp teeth. He can use one of his tongues as a grappling hook.
The Doctor is aware of data-gets and is mildly surprised that they are still in use in 2118. He increases the range and sensitivity of one of them to such an extent that he needs extra memory wafers to cope with the increased data, and later adapts it to scan his serum as an electro-chemical irradiation. He produces ID that claims that he and Rose are from the Global Farming Standards Commission [presumably the psychic paper]. He claims that the sonic screwdriver can, amongst other things, oscillate atomic structures and resonate magnetic fields. He knows of the Valnaxi and the Wurms. He creates a serum to counteract the effects of the guardian magma. He creates an explosive liquid in some vials to use against the Wurms.
Rose wears a light blue t-shirt and a short denim skirt. She failed GCSE chemistry. She sprains her ankle here.
Faltato considers setting up an antiques shop on Hastus Minor.
Links: There is a reference to Krillitanes (School Reunion) [since Mickey is no longer on board the TARDIS, this story must take place at some point between The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (Rose notes that she has "seen enough of hell lately") and Fear Her]. There is a reference to Henry Van Statten (Dalek). The Doctor adopts the Kilbracken technique to cure the guardian magma's effect on living tissue (The Invisible Enemy).
Location: Mount Tarsus, Chad, Africa, over several days from 11th April 2118 AD.
Future History: By 2118 AD, Agricultural Technology Units have been set up to try and find alternate sources of food and alleviate famine; Agricultural Technology Unit 12 in Chad is working on growing fungus in the bat guano in the lava-tubes beneath Mount Tarsus. The surrounding area has numerous starving refugees desperate for food.
An Oulian rocket-wash opens up on Titan c. 3000AD. By 3000AD, Africa is in the middle of its third golden age [see So Vile a Sin].
At some point after the present day, actor Cal MacNannovitch plays James Bond.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor helped transfer Charles I on Horseback from the National Gallery to a bunker under North Wales, presumably during World War II. He transported the Mona Lisa up Everest on a camel in the fifty-first century.
The Bottom Line: After the dreadful The Feast of the Drowned, Cole returns to form with The Art of Destruction, which is enormous fun. The Wurms make great monsters, although Faltato almost steals the show and - happily - escapes at the end, allowing for the possibility of a return appearance.