Roots: Robert Jezek's performance is, apparently, based on Woody Allen. Seinfeld ('Yadda yadda yadda'), Gormenghast, I Claudius, Jacobean tragedy (especially The Duchess of Malfi), Shakespearean tragedy (especially Richard III and King Lear) were Shearman's primary inspirations. The names generally come from a mixture of pre-medieval French history (Pepin, Arnulf, Childeric, Clovis - early Frankish kings), Roman history (Tacitus - like the scribe, a historian - Sejanus) and straight medieval history (Berengaria - the wife of Richard the Lionheart). The idea of a child becoming a spokesman for God, if removed from the corrupting influence of other men since birth, was considered by such luminaries as Alaric the Goth and King James I. Tacitus paraphrases Macbeth ('who'd have thought an old man had so much blood in him?'), the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode 'Hard Time' (an eternal prison).
Intertextuality: Frobisher the penguin-shaped Whifferdill comes from Doctor Who Magazine and was introduced in the Steve Parkhouse story 'The Shape Shifter' (issues 88-89).
Double Entendres: If you're into script-entendres, a good deal of Tacitus' lines ('I can improvise the rest of the chapter anyway', 'The prose style isn't much to write home about, but it's very thorough')
'Come on Clovis - give me a sneak preview.'
'I have devised a plot that cannot fail.'
'My people will come for me.'
'I was hoping for something a little more climactic.'
Dialogue Triumphs: 'If I could ask his Omnipotence - pick a card, any card'
Childeric to the Doctor: 'Silence. I'm addressing your master, the big talking bird'
Berengeria on Frobisher's godhood: 'If you touch my wounds, could you take away my life?'
'-I don't think so'
'-then what is your divinity worth?'
'And on the fifteenth day since the last ritual of the bath Pepin III decided to take another. And he did immerse himself in water and play about his body with soap. And the people were sore relieved, for he had begun to smell a bit'
'Do you like your hot water weak or tepid?'
'If I've learned anything from being a historian it's that death and torture are inevitable. Best to just grin and bear it'
'Hiding in crypts, Childric, doesn't make you look evil, just sulky and rather antisocial'
And much, much more.
Continuity: The Dimensional Stabilisers give the TARDIS her structure and form including the interior and the oxygen its inhabitants breathe (clearly some improvements have been made since 'Planet of the Daleks') - given the constant monitoring that this requires, it's the most difficult job the TARDIS has to do. Frobisher uses these stabilisers to create a sentient 'virtual' fish (see: 'Links'). Despite its past activities and duress, the Ship has never been 'on strike' before, and in this story acts more interactively on the whole (when Frobisher accuses its background hum of being 'more smug than usual', it rises and falls in reaction). According to Frobisher, the Doctor thinks there's something philanthropic in the Ship's circuits, hence their always landing where trouble needs to be addressed ( Frobisher thinks it's just being bloody-minded).
Frobisher, despite not actually being a penguin, feels the urge to hunt real fish. As a private detective he once went undercover as a vicar and developed an allergy to dog collars (he had a rash around his throat for a month). He was also once married, but it didn't work out, as his wife said he wasn't the Ogron she'd fallen in love with.
The creators of the 'prison' and Tacitus' gaolers are never mentioned. It could be inferred that they are not only human, but from Earth - see 'Roots' for names used, the Castle uses gold imperial coins as currency and their playing cards include clubs in their suits and the number 3. In addition, Tacitus uses a biro and the ritual 'miracles' are all popular stage acts (card tricks, sawing a woman in half, pulling a rabbit out of a hat).
Links: Frobisher hunts a Gumblejack ('The Two Doctors'), the TARDIS swimming pool is used (it is also referred obliquely as a bath, but given the echo in the scene we could assume this is the same 'bath' Leela partakes in 'The Invasion of Time')
Untelevised Adventures: 'Frobisher', says the Doctor, 'after all our adventures together...', which is the best we'll get to suggest the two have traveled together for some time, along with Frobisher's familiarity (and considerable expertise) with the TARDIS
Location: The TARDIS, the interior of Tacitus' 'prison'.
The Bottom Line 'All hail the big talking bird!'
A black comedy which deals with existentialism, faith, infanticide, circles of violence and free will. 'The Holy Terror' is flawless. There are so many great scenes - Pepin and Frobisher discussing heaven and the TARDIS 'altar', Pepin and Beregeria beginning to reconcile - even Clovis discovering the limits of his own freedom. Tacitus' child is supremely chilling, and despite a downbeat ending, the sixth Doctor never got a better story. A triumph.