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123a 'The Land of the Dead'

CD and audio cassette adventure released December 1999, 4 episodes

Writer: Steven Cole
Director: Nicholas Briggs

Roots: Jack London, Inuit and Native American Legend, specifically those of Adlivum ('The Land of the Dead'), Sedna the monstrous sea-mother, and Tulungusaq - the Raven father and creator of man. Jurassic Park ("nature finds a way", plus a foolhardy millionaire resurrecting extinct species). The Doctor quotes Alice in Wonderland ("Curiouser and curiouser"), possibly misquotes Macbeth ("lead on..."), and also references Clement Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas ("Twas the night before Christmas...'). Monica Lewis' name is purportedly, based on Monica Lewinsky. Little Red Riding Hood ("My, what big teeth you have")

Goofs: For a good deal of the story the Doctor and Monica spend their time in frigid Arctic seawater with no ill-effects. Tulung refers to the Land Rover's 'bonnet' [i.e. British term] rather than 'hood' [US term] - perhaps he picked this up from Brett?

Fluffs: Monica seems to remark (perhaps correctly) upon Tulung and Brett "they're raven mad".

Double Entendres: 'Keep on like this and I'm going to join Gaborik hiding under the bed'

'We must do it!'

'Perhaps we should all just take our clothes off while we're at it...'

Fashion Victims: The Permians end up a lovely shade of sea blue.

Dialogue Disasters: "I take it that's Brett senior hanging above the fireplace there?"

Monica's reaction to the freezing flood gathering around her is to describe it: 'Five hundred thousand gallons of water!'

Dialogue Triumphs: "Are you lost?" "We know this is Alaska."

The Doctor's constant and impolite hints at wanting a cup of tea constantly end up having him make it instead.

'Shall we risk a look?' 'No.' 'Good, here we go then!'

Continuity: The 'Permians' as they are named by the Doctor were the top of the food chain in the Permian Era, some 260 million years before the present, and pre-dating the dinosaurs by 30 million years. Living, intelligent creatures, they rapaciously consume energy from living matter, including their own flesh, leaving only bone and cartilage animated by a bioelectric field powerful enough to induce fear in the creature's prey. This field concentrates intense heat that strips flesh from bone, and effectively hybridises the Permians with their devoured prey (this energy field is enough to enable the TARDIS to trace them to 1994). Among this prey are Arctic mammals and such mammal-like reptiles from their era such as the Sauricean Therapod, generally believed to have been the top predator of the Permian Era. Their predation was intense, and like many predators they also fed from their own species, but [the Doctor theorises] ultimately led to the end of their era in a mass extinction event that claimed 96 percent of the planet's fauna. [The real Permian Era ended with a catastrophic mass extinction around 185 millions years before the present. The cause for this event is postulated to have been global cooling and carbon dioxide poisoning following massive volcanic activity between 238 and 230 million years ago]. Permians have the ability to influence other intelligences - normally a human should be able to resist this. Nyssa is subject to their influence, experiencing visions and feelings of dread, and thus is regarded by Tulung as his 'tornaq', or guardian spirit (Nyssa seems to have an emerging telepathic ability, sensing various things). She mentions the loss of her father and world, and creates a makeshift spectroscope using ion bonding.

Brett's team established itself at Koyukuk some time ago - Monica has already been there for three years giving it 'some local colour'. She is currently decorating the interior of Brett's 'monumental' house, which contains rooms created with (respectively) stone, timber, ice, earth and bone - all sourced from the immediate region. Beyond these are the cliff wall and the sea room, an expanse of real shoreline including 500,000 gallons of seawater, and various species of native wildlife including sea lions and walruses under a holographic moon. The room is furthermore enhanced by virtual [mechanically induced] tides.

Links: In Episode 1 Nyssa asks the Doctor 'Is [Alaska] near where we left Tegan?' and in Episode 3 says to Tulung 'the Doctor told us- told me...', suggesting that this may only be a matter of a week or so since the events of 'Time Flight'.'Arc of Infinity' (The scanner audio circuits aren't reliable).

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor describes Peter the Great's venture to find Alaska, although he may not necessarily have been present.

Future History: The Doctor uses a laser scalpel and says 'every home should have one - or will have one'.

Location: The Koyukuk region, Alaska 1964, 1994.

The Bottom Line: 'Land' has an irritating villain, an irritating supporting female, an irritating 'native' and a feckless Doctor. No wonder Nyssa's confused. There's an attempt to be politically correct in its portrayal of Inuit culture, but so much of it comes across as mere stereotyping with its 'Johnny Old Man' and 'Little Tulung', confused half-castes and stoical old timers. Worryingly, among two neighbouring stories which exploit the audio medium ('Whispers' and 'Fearmonger'), there is an over-reliance upon expository dialogue.

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