Roots: The Doctor quotes Douglas Adams and misquotes Macbeth. There are references to Antony Gormley, Michelangelo, Mad Max, Conan the Barbarian, Blue Peter, and A Christmas Carol.
Goofs: If there are no flowering plants left on Arcopolis, where does the blue strawberry come from? And what will the Kegronian Halcyons eat?
Dialogue Triumphs: “Children shouldn’t be running around outside getting exercise, they should be inside playing violent computer games and eating junk food.”
“There’s no such thing as evil science. Anything can be turned into a weapon. If you worried about what wicked men might do, you’d never invent anything. You’d never light a fire or pick up a rock. You can kill people with medicine, drown them in a bucket of spring water, burn them up in sunshine.”
Continuity: The Eyeless are six-fingered humanoids made out of a living glass or diamond-like substance that cracks or shatters under sufficient impact. They are approximately as strong as a human. They are telepathic and can share memories, thoughts and feelings. The palms of their hands contain gold discs, which are a weapon that fries neurons, killing people instantly. The Doctor’s psychic defences mean that both the Eyeless’ telepathy and weapons don’t work on him. They can temporarily or permanently switch bodies with members of other species, a process they refer to as psychograftng. They came to Arcopolis after detecting the Doctor’s TARDIS, which they refer to as a hypercube, in flight [in the Vortex?] en route to the planet. They forage for technology, thoughts, and experiences. They internalise souvenirs, including a pair of eyeballs, into their transparent bodies as trophies. They travel all across the galaxy and apparently live permanently in their ships. They have never heard of the Time Lords. Their telepathic broadcasts operate at 93.7 megamyers. When they die, their memories live on, copied into the minds of other Eyeless. The Eyeless on Arcopolis, and possibly throughout the universe, are wiped out when the weapon fires. All that remain are tiny glass pendants containing memories from the Eyeless and the ghosts, which the people of Arcopolis turn into pendants.
Arcopolis is the name of the city and also seems to be used as the name of the planet. It is located in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy, a.k.a. Galaxy Seven. The city is located near an ocean. The planet’s sky is green due to the high moisture content in the atmosphere. Circa 291994, the Citadel materialised in Arcopolis, annihilating everything that had previously occupied the site, and the weapon fired, wiping out most of the two hundred million-strong population and all animal life on the planet; any flowering plant life died out subsequently due to the lack of pollinating insects. A handful of survivors escaped the mass extinction due to the weapon not functioning properly and are trying to rebuild their civilisation. Arcopolis had a highly advanced technological society and used robot labourers. They used cosmic energy collected by satellites to power their technology. They had advanced medical sciences and their ancestors had eliminated genetic disease. There were once chicken-like animals on Arcopolis. The Doctor releases a breeding pair of Kegronian Halcyons on Arcopolis; they are widely regarded as having the most beautiful plumage and song of any bird species in the universe.
The Fortress contains a weapon that was built by one of the combatants in a war; Arcopolis was merely caught in the crossfire. The Fortress is designed to guard the weapon, which provides the power source from the Fortress. The Fortress is controlled by an advanced (but non-sentient) battle computer. [It isn’t specified who built the Fortress and the weapon, but given the scale of the war, the technology involved, the fact that the species that built it is dead and their planet destroyed, and the Doctor’s knowledge of it, the Daleks are a likely candidate]. The weapon was designed to wipe out not only the target, but everyone who had ever heard of them, and everything they’d ever created; logically, it should have destroyed the universe, but it doesn’t work properly – it left survivors on Arcopolis and doesn’t destroy the inhabitants of Arcopolis when it wipes out the Eyeless. The “ghosts” on Arcopolis are the weapon’s equivalent of blast shadows; anyone who touches them is vaporised instantly. After the Doctor removes the weapon from the Fortress, he uses a larger version of the sonic screwdriver designed on Arcopolis to dismantle the Fortress. He drops the weapon into a plasma vent on an asteroid, where it opens up; its contents cannot survive unprotected in this universe, thus destroying it.
Gallifrey was the same size as Arcopolis and therefore had the same gravity. It had similar atmosphere, but the sky was orange instead of green (The Sensorites).
The Doctor gets knocked out by Alsa wielding a concrete block and sustains bruising to his head as a result. He wakes up wearing only pyjama bottoms in the settlement. He suffers many more bruises after a fall in the Fortress. A dart in the Fortress nicks his hand, sampling his biodata in the process. He has learned millions of languages, but never bothered to learn Welsh, which he thought he would never need. He eats soup and something that resembles a blue strawberry in the settlement. He hasn’t had empty pockets for centuries. He hasn't spent much time in Galaxy Seven and is largely unfamiliar with it. His pockets contain the psychic paper, a ball of string, anti-radiation pills (see The Mutants, Destiny of the Daleks), a pocket Gallifreyan-Cymraeg phrasebook, a bag of kola nuts, a yo-yo, assorted coins from different planets, everlasting matches (see The Resurrection Casket), and the TARDIS key. He uses the sonic screwdriver to resonate diamond-reinforced type five space concrete. It has a Maximum Disassemble setting that he uses to make a missile fall apart in mid air.
The Steggosians are a species of fascist dinosaur people. Twenty years ago [relative to 2008] their home quadrant was hit by a plague that destroyed their immune system and left no survivors.
On Gammadendrax, there is a tower that reaches all the way to the planet’s moon and therefore has two ground floors.
Links: The Doctor is travelling alone, setting this story between The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End and Planet of the Dead. There are references to the Time War and Rose. The Doctor notes that ghosts can be time travellers with a dodgy temporal feedback circuit (Day of the Daleks), Gelth (The Unquiet Dead), osmic projections (The Time Warrior), holograms (The Talons of Weng-Chiang), waterhive (The Feast of the Drowned), or an army of millions of Cybermen from a parallel universe (Army of Ghosts). He recalls the last of the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride), the Pyroviles (The Fires of Pompeii), the Daleks being sucked into the Void (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday), and Richard Lazarus (The Lazarus Experiment). He notes that St Stephen’s Tower has only just finished being rebuilt (Aliens of London/World War III). The settlement reminds him of Hooverville (Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks).
Location: Arcopolis, in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy, 292,009 and 292,029.
Unrecorded Adventures: he Doctor recently fought the last of the Steggosians in London. The Steggosian had been the captain of a starship out on deep space patrol when the plague wiped out his people; the knowledge of the disaster drove him mad and he decided to rid the universe of mammals, since his people caught the plague from rats. He planned to release a deadly poison so lethal that a single drop would have killed everyone in Britain; the Doctor fought him atop St Stephen’s Tower, where he fell to his death.
The Doctor travels with Alsa for less than a day in his own timestream, before returning her to Arcopolis twenty years after they left; during this day, they dispose of the weapon on the asteroid, buy burgers, and collect the Kegronian Halcyons.
The Bottom Line: “I stole an infinitely powerful super-weapon, exchanged text messages with the dead, had an ethics debate with a psychotic teenage girl and a fight in pitch blackness with an army of glass men. An average sort of Saturday, really.” The welcome return of Lance Parkin results in the best novel for some time. As usual, the world Parkin builds here is well thought out, and the Eyeless make suitably interesting villains. The morose, introspective Doctor, moping about the universe all by himself, works extremely well.