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'The Song of Megaptera'

CD audio adventure released May 2010. 4 episodes

Writer: Pat Mills
Director: John Ainsworth

Roots: The Biblical tale of Jonah (see: Untelevised Adventures) and Isaiah 2:4 ("swords into ploughshares"), Moby Dick (the Captain "goes Ahab"), the Alien movies (corporate directions ordering capture of advantageous xenomatter) 1980s 'three minute warning' broadcasts against nuclear attack. The 2009 global financial crisis. London Underground announcements ("mind the gap"), 'LEET' speak. One of the crew of the Orcus describes the life forms inside its vats as "like Darwin on steroids". The historical Fourth Oil Wars largely fought by robots may be a nod to Mills' ABC Warriors comic series.

Technobabble: Mention is made of the TARDIS' temporal adjudicator and its time sensory magnification field, which is compromised when the Ship enters a Ghaleen's 'futurity field' (in order to synchronise it with the Ghaleen and escape the TARDIS must enter the whale itself). The TARDIS' Post TARDIS Explosion Stress Disorder system incorporates temporal buffers which kick in to combat the aforementioned trauma. TARDIS occupants experience a sense of euphoria and hear 'piped' music.

Double Entendres: "I don't think you appreciate the seriousness of your position, Doctor"

"It'll look good mounted in the mess hall"

"I can't wait to teabag it"

The Doctor's quip about Peri being stuck at the same age for 'a couple of decades' after exposure to the time core may be a reference to the 'timeless' setting of the Big Finish audios themselves.

Dialogue Triumphs: "Nothing will be wasted, everything will be used" "-Everything but the song."

"I'm not delirious... I'm... an American!"

"Spores and stripes forever!"

Dialogue Disasters: The Orcus computer's 'LEET-speak'

Continuity: Ghaleen or 'space whales' are long-lived ("thousands and thousands of years', according to the Doctor) creatures over a mile long with traditional anatomy, yet the only animal which can exist naturally in the vacuum of space. Externally they resemble Earth whales (including a blowhole), except for organic solar scales enabling them to absorb energy from the stars they pass, while inside their capacious bodies maintain an internal microclimate and ecosystem which nourishes and sustains them, including defensive bacteria and phosphorescent fungus. At their heart is a 'time core', a sphere which Peri likens to "a pearl in an oyster", composed of tachyons, axions, neutrinos, and other dark matter around a heavy atomic nucleus. Its density gives the Ghaleen the power to open wormholes in the time-space continuum, thereby 'diving' beneath the event horizon (this is measured in millennia by the Orcus' computer) to access the areas of dark matter throughout the Universe. Exposure to a time core can also have a dilatory effect on time and the individual's ageing process [possibly one reason for the Ghaleen's being hunted] and potential time narcosis, while the organism's 'eternal' organs are protected by an orange ambergris. Young Ghaleens 'harvest' these particles as they swim through space-time, suggesting that their time cores grow as the whale ages. Their 'song' is transmitted by radio waves and their pods number up to a thousand individuals.

Legends tell of space whales coming to the aid of distressed space craft and of the insides of Ghaleens providing safe harbour for stranded space travellers - this is borne out and witnessed for the first time by the Doctor here. The community inside 'Megaptera' are themselves thousands of years old but by no means their first generation. Being so long-lived yet never ageing they have revoked all traditional human bonds save for what they term "family" - when friends become family. It is not clear whether they are descended from the Terran battleship whose gun turret (bearing anti-Dalek graffiti) is still inside the Ghaleen. Other stranded space farers within Megaptera included a crew of Sontarans in their distinctive spherical spacecraft.

The SS Orcus is a factory ship over a mile long and equipped with time radiation shields, a killing floor and processing vats (there are rats the size of dogs inside them, according to the crew). Its arsenal includes neuron torpedoes ('binary sensoral search and destroy devices designed to home in on neural activity) and tachyon depth charges which disorientate Ghaleen and force them to 'surface'. Rule 34 subsection J of the Orcus' corporate manual instructs any genetic material that may be of benefit to the corporation be preserved in as intact a manner as possible - failure to comply with this ruling results in dismissal without benefits or references. Article 57GH revision 0-9 of the same handbook authorises any action up to and including lethal action against hostile forms to protect corporate property (this should only apply to dangerous parasites escaping the bodies of space whales)

Tuthons are a fungus-based life form from the planet Xiphias. Their culture is based around a shamanistic relationship with the space whale or Ghaleen, a separate species the Tuthons regard as their 'brothers', yet nevertheless hunt ritually and for subsistence. Tuthon leaders, called 'Callers' are distinguished by spiral tattoos and have the distinction of 'calling' the spacefaring whales into their upper atmosphere of their planet for slaughter. During the initial rites of a caller the individual stands before the time core of a Ghaleen and manipulates it. Tuthons are almost impervious to hollow-point bullets and lasers and have razor-sharp claws and teeth which they use readily; these carry a fungal infection which is virulent, and acts rapidly as an hallucinogenic, but is fatal to humans. Seemingly prior to the discovery of the callers' talents Tuthons were used as front-line troops by Earth's armies - callers once identified were then enlisted as trackers by space whalers until this practice was also abandoned. It is thought that callers can track Ghaleen by their signature pattern of tachyons they leave after surfacing above the event horizon.

The Doctor's TARDIS hasn't been hit by a neural torpedo until now. Its outer shell is scarred by a chainsaw Using the sonic lance the Doctor is able to essentially effect a limited 'regeneration' (he likens it to the Time Lord process) on Peri's arm by "cellular reconfiguration". He stuns their human captors by setting the lance to 3100 hertz at 800 decibels.

Peri's hair is described as still being 'short' in this story. As a teen she attended a Slayer concert.

The Doctor says he once built an asteroid-hopper out of spaceship parts and an old lawnmower. He is adept at programming computer viruses such as the Swords Into Ploughshares virus (see: Future History)

Future History: There has been a galaxy-wide recession which is still having an effect on present activities alongside 'ecotage', the activity of a considerably strong and influential ecological group (nicknamed 'Ecos' by the crew of the Orcus). The Fourth Oil Wars were fought by which robots who were undermined by the Swords Into Ploughshares computer virus, shutting down their offensive capabilities (some turned to flower arranging instead).

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor says he once met the Biblical Jonah - a "confirmed vegan who would go mad at the sight of seafood", with bleached skin like parchment and in general a nice chap. He also confirms that leprechauns exist and are great tricksters, having once nearly lost the TARDIS to them in a game of cards.

Links: The Doctor refers to his regeneration as having been 'recent'; he and Peri discuss Daleks (Revelation of the Daleks). A Sontaran spaceship is inside the Ghaleen, while one of the race's meson rifles is used.

This is the earliest (but not the first) known instance of a TARDIS crewmember shouting 'Geronimo!" while inside a space whale.

The Bottom Line: "Don't do it, captain - remember, I'm an endangered species too!"

In places this could be a companion to Slipback - full credit for the very Eighties-sounding score, and once again, the Ship's computer personality will have you reaching for the earplugs. On the whole though, this is probably Mills' best audio as well as his most-anticipated. It would have made a great comic strip.

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