1. False Gods
Author: Mark Morris
Roots: Egyptian mythology (very loosely — Thoth was actually a male god) Hex mentions David Attenborough. Star Wars (droids).
Technobabble: Being caught on the outside edge of a localised time field is fatal, leaving you looking as though you've been dead for years, possibly even centuries.
The Doctor explains Hex's 'Remember Thoth' phantom voice as a residual time echo conveyed through the TARDIS's telepathic circuits.
Dialogue Triumphs: "My name's Ace by the way." "What a curious name." "I'm a curious girl."
Continuity: 'Jane' is a student Time Lord from Year 45 who came to Earth centuries ago with a colleague, Antak, on a field trip during Academy History Module 101 to study Assyrian cosmic influence. Due to a freak surge in the Vortex their TARDIS was damaged by a time spike, and upon materialising they discovered they'd lost their time signature and with it their route map home. Attempting to integrate themselves into the local populace they found their sudden arrival has been observed and they were taken to be gods. The people re-named Antak 'Amun' and Jane became 'Thoth'. One year when the crops failed there was an uprising; Jane escaped into the Sudan, while Antak perished. Their TARDIS, disguised as a shabti figure, was stolen by Userhat, a servant of Amun and Jane spent a dozen lifetimes since then searching for it, arriving finally at Userhat's tomb when the dying TARDIS 'called' to her. By allowing themselves to be taken as gods, Jane and Antak committed a Class 2 intervention - the penalty from their time is vaporisation [The Doctor offers to speak to the Time Lords on Jane's behalf, implying that the Time Lords have become more lenient recently]. Jane's TARDIS looks identical to the Doctor's ship because it time-links itself to his TARDIS in order to stay alive. The Doctor knows this ship is dying and believes it's become dangerous and is beyond repair. In the effort to euthanise the ship Jane slips time tracks (see: Links) and crashes her TARDIS into the heart of the sun, causing a subtle shift in the Earth's axial rotation — a Class 1 intervention.
The Doctor claims to be a colleague of Professor Petrie from University College. He has not recorded the legend of 'Thoth' in the painted symbols on the shabti box, but thinks that he may do one day. He does not recognise Jane as a fellow Time Lord [perhaps as a mere student she does not have the required 'aura'?]
Links: The Time Monster [Destroying a TARDIS via Time Ram]. Ace says Hex makes better tea than she does [The Settling] Mention is made of time tracks [The Space Museum]
Future History: In the far future the earth's ozone layer is compromised to the extent that life cannot be sustained. Armed 'droids' equipped to recognise only individuals bearing 'authorisation chips' guard the planet's treasure against 'heritage raiders'.
Location: Valley of the Kings, Thebes 1902
The Bottom Line: Mark Morris hits the books and brings up a story set in Egypt, about the classic Egyptian Gods being aliens and... they're not Osirans for one. Surprising, but also slight and straightforward — this is a decent opener, but there's little here beyond the plot, some decent research and one of Sylvester McCoy's better 'angry' scenes.
2. Order of Simplicity
Author: Nick Scovell
Roots: Verryman refers to 'The Doors of Perception' (originally from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and later a book by Aldous Huxley). Ace mentions The Addams Family and Captain Caveman.
Technobabble: Verryman intends to isolate his neural network within a telepathic projection field.
An Inductor is a piece of equipment reminiscent of a hospital scanner. The patient is strapped inside and a series of probes identify the medical problem and begin treatment. As the surgery is done with energy pulses and gravity manipulation there are no scalpels or 'mess'.
Dialogue Disasters: "In the name of the six-chinned sages of Saturn's rings!"
Continuity: The island of Mendolovinia is a remote location and part of the Sphere of Influence, a planet almost completely devoted to the advancement of knowledge, founded by a team of scientists including Doctor Verryman who, along with his colleagues was one of the foremost minds in the field of biotechnology. Verryman is retired, but was once one of the foremost authorities on bio-engineering. Verryman's house is somewhat 'gothic' with stone flooring, oil lamps, a perfunctory kitchen in the basement and a letter slot in the front door. It has at least three bedrooms and three storeys.
Verryman's has modified his Inductor to restructure the human brain in order to suppress primitive desires and enhance the intellect; his plan is to broadcast 'improving' pulses across the ether - a mass and instantaneous 'brain operation' to augment and extend the mental capacities of the entire human race. As the guinea pig for his first experiment he undertook the procedure, and for a short time, the doors of perception were flung wide open and he transcended genius, becoming the cleverest man who ever lived. Within hours however he experienced a clouding of his consciousness and the rapid deterioration of his mental processes, even down to basic autonomic functions. Rescued by his housekeeper Mrs Crisp he entered the Inductor a second, third and fourth time to counteract the damage, to diminishing durations and degrees of success.
The Order of Simplicity is a cult sworn to destroy the corruption of technology. They believe that natural impulses have been smothered by technology and that life should be simple and pure as nature intended. Their weapon, an alien virus of uncertain derivation (the order chose not to record this, instead believing that 'ignorance is bliss') was implanted by stealth into Verryman who, thus infected, encoded it into a sequence of instructions and sent out the encrypted code as a broadcast to enlist the aid of available and suitable minds. Acting in the same manner as a virus the code is designed to set up a destructive chain reaction in the victim's neural pathways; it has the potential to render any infected human brain (and latterly any brain of normal or above intelligence) to the intellectual level of Homo erectus, an IQ of 45.
Hex is not fond of basements.
The Doctor picked up Verryman's call for assistance (triple-encrypted) with his code on the TARDIS' communications channel. Although he has never met Verryman, he has read his books. The Doctor regards himself as a genius three times over. He can 'think' himself stupid (yes, you read that right).
Location: The island of Mendolovinia, on the Sphere of Influence, 3380.
The Bottom Line: "From the base to the divine!" "-More like from the sublime to the ridiculous"
Bizarre, and on first listening very nearly comprehensible. There's the suggestion that this story was edited down perhaps too rigourously for its own good - but there's hardly enough story here for a longer story. The performances are over the top and the ending (in which the Doctor 'thinks his way to idiocy, killing the virus... er, somehow) defies belief.
3. Casualties of War
Author: Mark Michalowski
Technobabble: The Doctor uses a flashing low-band detector to search for psionic energy.
Continuity: Truthsayer bracelets are coercive truth-releasing devices used by the Deons, 'space police' from the Anurine Protectorate. They operate on psionic energy, but damaged can be very dangerous to anyone nearby (it is not explained how at least two came to turn up on Earth or how old they are).
Ace recognises 'The Four Barrels' as her old local, and knows they are in Streatham, not far from Old Terrace where her mum grew up (presumably with the Carlisles). Audrey is three years old in this story. Ace takes two sugars in her tea.
Miss Merchant is a Forge operative; she owns a psionic detector and also has a laser pistol. Joey's 'confession' suggests that the crashed van belonging to The Forge was clearly marked.
Location: London, 9 May 1945 (VE Day)
Links: The Curse of Fenric. The Forge stories. A Death in the Family
The Bottom Line: A nod to the series' past, and possibly its future with clear links to two of the more significant 'parent' stories of all the Doctor's companions. For its straightforward structure it's a good character story wrapped up in a simple linear plot, and offers some nice character beats for hex and (especially) Ace. But it has to be said, Beth Chalmers is no Aaron Hanley.
4. The Word Lord
Author: Steven Hall
Roots: Hex describes the place as a cross between Buckingham Palace and the Death Star. Monty Python's 'The Funniest Joke in the World' sketch. Robocop ("Dead or alive I'm coming with you?") The Odyssey (an interloper adopting the name 'Nobody'), Carry on Cleo ("Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me")
Technobabble: The Doctor gives Hex a thermo-spanner.
Dialogue Triumphs: Hex and Ace: "Y'know, you don't have to be horrible all the time" "Yeah, you say that, but nobody likes a quitter"
"The Dalek Supreme is offering a fortune for you, but the only reward I need is the way his little eyestalk will light up when I bring you in."
Fluffs: Sylvester McCoy's pronunciation of 'Antartica' adds American to his list of languages.
Continuity: Ranulph Fiennes Base is a top secret bunker 450 miles from civilisation and subject to extraordinary levels of security. Any movement in a 200 mile radius is investigated via satellite and monitoring arrays can tell where everyone is at all times. There's only one book in the entire facility — the Bunker Protocol Guide. All recording and monitoring is wiped and the entire system re-booted every 45 hours. No data is ever stored here and aside from the distress signal (in reach of all the military forces off the coast) there are no transmitters. Top secret peace talks are underway at the height of the second Cold War, with the threat of 'nuclear meltdown' very close. Alexander von Gratton, the American consul to the Far East, has just been murdered.
The Doctor explains that there are countless billions of dimensions, some of them incomprehensibly different to our own. Beings from these distant dimensions obey very different laws of physics and are (presumably) forbidden to cross into other dimensions. Nobody No-One is a Word Lord, a bounty hunter and renegade 'cognolinguistic' entity from a reality 45 billion dimensions away and composed of language and communication instead of matter and energy. To the Word Lords the power of [comprehensible] language is mutable - saying particular words is enough to make them reality for a Word Lord, and in effect some complex linguistic structures may use 'chameleon memes' to disguise themselves for the Word lords' use. In No-One's case such a structure is his CORDIS, a Conveyance Of Repeating Dialogue in Space-Time, essentially a non-physical TARDIS. No-One's CORDIS can project to him any tools or weapons he happens to need as well as rendering him indestructible. No-On'es CORDIS is old and inaccurate, meaning he kept missing the Doctor. The laws of temporal grace don't apply to him.
Commander Claire Spencer met the Doctor years ago while she was in Special Forces, (she doubts he recalls it having been 'older' at the time — a future incarnation then?) in the middle of "a really rough situation" he reassured her, telling her it was good to be scared and not being scared was something to genuinely be scared of. Spencer is one of just 34 people on the planet with access to the UN files covering the Doctor. She is able to pull rank to re-draft him back into his former position of chief scientific advisor.
The TARDIS' translation unit is a small red switch underneath the console near the central column, although it's protected by a welded panel put there by the Doctor himself.
There is a great bounty on the Doctor's head, persumably from a number of beings and organisations, but including the Dalek Supreme (who just wants the Doctor dead) and the Cybermen (who only want his brain). There are also a couple of offers for Ace and Hex, although the reward for Hex (forty-five Dinars) is disappointingly small.
Future History: The Second Cold war is nuclear and takes place mid-21st century.
Location: Ranulph Fiennes Base, Antarctica, 2045
Links: Warriors of the Deep (the future Cold War). Hex is relieved to not go into the basement (see: Order of Simplicity)
Qv: 'Temporal Grace'
The Bottom Line: "I'm just like him, just a little more god and a little less... gnome."
The highlight of the disc, with a villain set up for and worthy of a return. The extras for this disc reveal that much of No-One's original nastiness was cut out, retaining a performance in Ace which is possibly a little too fraught for the drama, especially (and unfortunately) against the flatter lines of Linda Marlowe's Commander Spencer. It's a cracking story though, with some great lines and the best ever use of the anthology's numeric theme — better than the earlier 100, even. More, please.