Roots: Greek and Cretan mythology; Storm Constantine's introduction draws on specific examples including the Minotaur, Daedalus, Icarus, and Prometheus, and also likens the Doctor to the Fool of the Tarot. There are later references to Knossos, Furies, Gorgons, Harpies and Sirens. The suggestion that flying is simply enough moments of not falling is probably a reference to Life, the Universe, and Everything. The Doctor sings the Beatles' Yellow Submarine whilst disguised as a poet. There are references to Mohammad Ali (float like a butterfly), The Phantom Menace (The Doctor's Repression leads to numbness, numbness leads to apathy, apathy leads to narrowness, narrowness leads to constipation and all sorts of problems is inspired by Yoda's Hatred leads to suffering speech), Edgar Cayce, The Grand Old Duke of York.
Dialogue Triumphs: 'Now if you can get by on raw talent and plenty of enthusiasm Well look at me. That made me the perennial disappointment to my betters I am today.'
When Alcestis asks the Doctor how he can deal with the all the deaths he caused, he replies, 'It's not the sort of thing you deal with. Compensate for, perhaps, like a man with an arm cut off. Or an old man whose memory has gone. You find a way to love without the part of you that you had before the part that was sure of your innocence. But to deal with is to resolve, and I'm not good at resolutions. Just at moving on to the next moment.'
Continuity: The temporal energies surrounding Thera prevent the TARDIS from materializing on Thera; it remains hovering in the atmosphere with the Doctor's companions on board [either Sam and Fitz or Fitz and Compassion]. The Doctor parachutes down to the ground using a canopy strapped to his back. He disguises himself as a dockhand by donning a knee-length skirt and bronze belt and griming his face and hands. He trades a silver ring for the clothes. He also disguises himself as a wandering poet by donning robes and borrowing a lyre [he's learnt to play since The Romans]. He later dons a heavy cloak. He adopts the name Perdix whilst in Rhadamanthys court and claims to be a teacher; Perdix is the name of a man murdered by Daedalus, as Rhadamanthys realises. The King orders him to teach his sons. He sleeps for half an hour or less each night whilst on Thera (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang). The Doctor turns the canopy into a costume for Alcestis to help her ride the temporal currents; he implies that the material is slightly resistant to the temporal energies generated by the demons. He can stitch cloth expertly. He teaches Alcestis to ride the temporal currents, but he can't ride them himself. He later builds himself a set of wings, powered by one of the crystals from the mountain. The Doctor tells Alcestis that he can play musical notes with skill and enthusiasm, but he can't feel the music and create the same sort of emotion that human music engenders in him (see The Year of Intelligent Tigers). He tells Alcestis that he's killed more people than he can know about and that he can't deal with it; instead he tries to compensate for it. He breaks a pigeon's neck for food. He likes Darjeeling with lemon.
The Titans evolved from creatures living at the bottom of the sea that fed on the volcano for energy; because they cannot evolve further in their ecological niche, they evolved into the Vortex. Many of them left the world and sailed into the Vortex, but a few remained behind because the humans amused them. They can manipulate time, stealing the life of one human and giving it to another to slow ageing and prolong life. They also caused the plague that ended the last war between Thera and Athens, stealing the lives of the Athenians and the children they might have had and giving the energy to the Therans. They cannot create time however, merely rearrange it; they give the Therans four harvests a year by borrowing them from the future, resulting in several years of barrenness in future centuries. They also defer the earth tremors produced by the volcano, eventually resulting in the eruption that destroys Kamenai and buries Akrotiri under ash and lava. The Titans create an environment from the minds of Alcestis and the Doctor in a fold in time to trap and torment the Doctor; within this, Alcestis kills the Doctor over and over again. Humans bound the Titans to the volcano using crystals to harness their power. Their presence creates the temporal currents around Thera that Alcestis learns to ride and that prevent the TARDIS from landing. Demons are small bursts of chronons created by the Titans and given just enough consciousness to be directed; because Alcestis believes them to be gods and believes her gods to be divine bulls, she sees them as bulls.
Links: The Doctor tells Alcestis that he is a perennial disappointment to his betters, which is presumably a reference to the Time Lords and therefore sets this story before The Ancestor Cell, although thematically it works well at some point after he has regained his memories from that story. The Doctor tells Alcestis that he is half-human on his Mother's side (The TV Movie). Fallen Gods may well be a prequel to The Time Monster.
Location: Akrotiri in Thera, c.1000 BC.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor describes Archimedes as a friend.
The Bottom Line: A story that effortlessly combines Greek mythology with science fiction to captivating effect. The gradual disintegration of the Doctor's friendship with Alcestis has an air of tragedy about it, culminating in the shocking moment in which he stabs her in the chest because he can't think of any other way to stop her, one of the most memorable moments of any Doctor Who novel (or novella) to date.