Roots: The Doctor quotes “Full Fathom Five” from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There are references to Fred Astaire, Scooby Doo, Pliny, Galileo, and The Wicker Man.
Dialogue Triumphs: “I am not going to die in metric!”
“If I knew why anyone ever did anything, I would retire to a hammock with a rather excellent hat and read a lot of novels with pink covers.”
Continuity: The Consciousness of Arill is a race of pure consciousness that needs networks to survive. They live as ghost webs and trolls and throng cyberspace and endospace and any form of non-physical existence. They especially love war planets, where they can parasitize energy sources without causing too much trouble and can be a nuisance but don’t normally cause trouble. They became stranded on Earth and try to inhabit the electrical pathways of the human brain, which causes their host bodies to immolate. They can’t survive in air, as they burst into flames. The Doctor traps them in the upper atmosphere, creating the Aurora Borealis.
The Doctor dons a very small yellow checked scarf here. He can cope with bark tea but doesn’t like musk tea. He claims to be from Vinland. He knows of the Consciousness of Arill. He implies that he can speak Old Norse. He has grey-green eyes. He gives Luag some fish fingers from inside the TARDIS and Freydis and Henrik a compass.
The TARDIS has a submarine warning system that the Doctor fitted. The cloister bell rings here. The Doctor keeps a saucepan in a cupboard in the control room. The TARDIS also contains a diving suit given to the Doctor by Denayrouze, whom he describes as a friend.
The sonic screwdriver can mimic the sound of a horn.
OMNEEFEESH planet-sized net rigs are banned in Calissima. Calprinthina Upper is a language spoken entirely by squeaking your hand under your armpit to a variety of subtly different pitches. Binary Transmuting Xtensior is a language that the Arill can read. Nihophogas have defence programmes in the trillions of gigawatts. The Doctor offers to take Freydis and Henrik to the Festtofian nebula.
Links: The Doctor notes that Freydis isn’t the first person to believe that she is in the afterlife when she finds herself in the TARDIS (that would be Katarina in The Myth makers and The Daleks’ Master Plan). There is a reference to Martha Jones. There is a reference to astronauts emerging from the water (The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon). The Doctor mentions the TARDIS’ swimming pool leaking (Paradise Towers).
Location: Lowith and Lewis, the Hebrides, September, the twelfth century; Lewis, the Hebrides, [the late-twentieth or early-twenty-first century].
Future History: According to the Doctor, humanity will start living underwater in the year 3000.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has played chess with Bobby Fischer. The Harlem Globetrotters taught him how to spin a ball on his finger in 1978. He turned down an invitation to Jacques-Yves’ wedding. He got drunk on honey-mead with Edda the bard during the sixth century and pretended to be a god. He claims to have met D’Artagnan and Zorro. The Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9 visit Lewis during the late-twentieth or early-twenty-first century. He has visited the Florentine palatinate on a May morning and seen the second sunrise of the Erentos. With regards to chess, he claims that he was once the highest seed in the Quatronial, which plays the 256-square board.
The Bottom Line: Enormous fun, with spot-on characterisation of the Doctor, and some great supporting characters, especially Freydis and Henrik. The plot trips merrily along and the prose sparkles with wit. A triumph.