The Ultimate Evil
Roots: The Cold War.
Goofs: If the TARDIS is functioning perfectly, why doesn't it change shape on landing? [The Chameleon circuit breaks again immediately].
Continuity: Mordant is from Salakan. The Salakans are a race of unscrupulous salesmen that mercilessly strives to accumulate the wealth of whole planets, often by dealing in addictive substances or arms. They have a reputation as the best liars in the universe. Mordant is an arms dealer, and his weapons include a powerful emotion-manipulating ray that can target whole continents, and a smaller hand-held hypno-ray. His ship is disguised as a black planetoid [suggesting that it is quite big]. He uses a robot exoskeleton to attack the Doctor and Peri and has transmat technology. He keeps a (rather vicious) pet bird in a cage.
The TARDIS is fault-free for the first time since the Doctor stole it. The storage locker contains a device that fits into the TARDIS console and allows it to travel down any transmission to the source (which the Doctor uses to travel to Mordant's ship), plus a device for measuring the mass of any object up to the size of a planet. The holiday ball is one of a pair of crystalline spheres, the other being in Mordants ship. It is ostensibly designed to suggest holiday destinations to the owner, but is actually a spying device. The user can be seen in the twin ball located in Mordants ship. Mordant has ten such balls, implying that he is spying on nine other beings in addition to the Doctor (He notes that the Time Lords use the balls far less often than the Salakans would like, so perhaps the balls are for the Time Lords' exclusive use). The ball can also be used to target Mordant's emotion-wielding ray against the Doctor.
The planet is unnamed but has two continents, Ameliera and Tranquela. The two populations have avoided contact with each other for fifty years by the time Mordant arrives. This is in accordance with a peace treaty, suggesting that they were at war in the past. The Tranquelans have an armoury in the palace, which has been permanently guarded since the treaty. Under the terms of the treaty, any Tranquelan found in Ameliera may be killed immediately without recriminations, and vice versa. They can travel using thought balloons, artificial spheres which allow the user to teleport at a thought. Because of the possibility of them thinking of Ameliera at the moment of transference, thought balloons were outlawed by the peace treaty. The Council of Families rules Tranquela. Family members are conditioned from birth to be incapable of lying. The two races are apparently not human, so this is not an old Earth colony: Kyreela is sensitive to wave emanations, and the Tranquelans can teleport unaided in certain circumstances. Ameliera is the northernmost of the two continents and is perpetually shrouded in an artificial mist, designed to sanitise. The Amelierans are obsessed with physical and mental purity and wear environment suits constantly. These are called Interceptors and link them to the Central Computer that rules them.
The Time Lords have a golden rule known to the Salakans that any being found to have been spying on them will have their history altered either to mould them into a less inquisitive person, or to simply prevent them from being born [This contradicts their non-intervention policy, and so is probably enforced by the CIA. The fact that Mordant is aware of the Time Lords and this Golden Rule suggests that it is a meant as a deterrent to those races powerful enough to spy on them].
Location: The TARDIS, Tranquela and Ameliera, and Mordant's ship, date unknown.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor is aware of the Salakans and has encountered Mordant before, when he was given the Holiday Ball (he was under the impression that it was a bribe, but accepted it anyway). He has also visited Tranquela before, and counts Ravlos as an old friend. The Doctor intends to take Peri to Majorca after they leave Tranquela.
The Bottom Line: A readable enough novel, although Mordant is rather too similar to Sil to be interesting in his own right. The structure is very much in the style of Colin Baker's first season, with long TARDIS scenes early on and an arrival in Tranquela that comes quite late in the proceedings. The final happy ending scene is horribly tacky.