Roots: The story title comes from the line "here's to a world of gods and monsters" from James Whale's Frankenstein. The legend of Weyland and the works of H P Lovecraft (Hex nearly loses his sanity when seeing Weyland in his natural state). Whilst avoiding their deaths all of the protagonists like to make pop culture references: Ace tells Lysandra to "give the Who Dares Wins stuff a rest". She mentions Johnny Hates Jazz, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Asterix, Viz magazine's Roger Irrelevant ("completely hatstand") and compares the moustachioed Wayland to Freddie Mercury. She imitates a London cabbie. Lysandra compares the future Sally to Chuck Norris and paraphrases The Wizard of Oz ("I don't think we're in the West Country anymore"). Sally recalls Bobby Fischer's game of the century Peggy refers to Queen's We Will Rock You (the Doctor name checks A Kind of Magic) Fenric quotes Yeats' The Second Coming ("things fall apart, the centre cannot hold") and refers to himself as the "Big Bad Wolf" (yes, they went there) The Haemovores are "dressed like refugees from Aladdin." Prince of Persia. 2000AD's ABC Warriors (Lysandra refers to the Forge's weaponry as "Atomic, Bacterial, Chemical")
Intertextuality: Fenric's apparent coin-toss over whether to enlist Ace or "a lovelorn motorcyclist from... Wales" (i.e. Delta and the Bannermen's Ray) mirrors the choice between the two companions the Doctor Who production team also made prior to Sophie Aldred's signing on as the Seventh Doctor's full time companion.
The Arabic origins of Fenric may be an allusion to Ian Briggs' expanded Target novelisation of The Curse of Fenric
The Truthsayer used by Sally in Fenric's imagined future first appeared in the Companion Chronicle Project: Nirvana.
Fluffs: Sylvester McCoy calls one of his tools a "Molecular phrase disruptor"
Goofs: Fenric describes Sally, Ace and Lysandra ("Maiden, Wife and Hag") as Norns, but there is no clear equivalence between the Norse goddesses of fate and the Celtic triple-goddess.
Dialogue Triumphs: "You, a single grain of sand on a beach, begging the mighty ocean to retreat!"
'For all your huffing and puffing Fenric, you're just a boy who likes pulling the wings of spiders, aren't you?'
"My name's Ace, I come from a dysfunctional family, and I cope by blowing things up. What's your excuse?"
Dialogue Disasters: See: 'Roots'
Continuity: The Elder God Weyland, or 'Volund' has many angles and colours in his natural form. Weyland is the blacksmith of the Norse Gods and Fenric's true opponent. As the Black King, his pieces comprise his Smithy and the Doctor's TARDIS (the Black Castles), Sally (Black Queen who thinks she is a Knight.) Lysandra (The Knight who thinks she is a Bishop) and Hex. Fenric's White pieces meanwhile include his castle (the White Castle), the chalk horse at Uffington (The White Knight) and the Ancient One and his Haemovores (White Pawns.) He claims Hex, Sally and Lysandra as his creations, while relegating the Doctor to a mere carrier of his pieces. By its name and nature the Forge is also Weyland's creation, and he claims to have been present in Perivale, watching Fenric's movement of Ace from the beginning (see: Links)
Weyland's Shield is marked with coordinates in the language of multidimensional beings more complicated than the Time Lords themselves. It is an anti-mass weapon, drawing mass from its wielder and rendering them invisible to an opponent, and can transform whatever it entraps into anything the bearer desires.
Fenric was banished to the outer darkness to play games. In his natural state he is a multi-limbed being with arms across several dimensions.
Hurmzid and his father the king of Persia saw Fenric playing dice on the road to Byzantium, and also encountered the Doctor who warned them against making deals with demons. The Ancient One of Fenric is Hurmzid's father, presumably turned into a Haemovore and wearing modular bio-armour which can heal tissue it touches but disintegrates on his death.
Moloch allied himself with Wayland, seeing Fenric's greed and intentions to possess the Shield.
A null-field anti-cannon looks like a glittery tube with wind chimes for sights - it shoots a stream of protons, which are only meant for short bursts.
Sally did her Duke of Edinburgh award, spending some time camping on the Ridgeway near Wantage. She was in the chess club at her school. Wayland personally created the bullets that killed her parents, bringing her further under his influence. Reference is made to her phobia (see: Links)
In a potential future created by Fenric Sally has been promoted to general and leads the earth initiative against the White Fleet, a body of alien craft who have burned their way through the galaxy, heading for earth and destroying Mars along the way. Earth's twelfth and final defence force was wiped out in space by the Fleet, necessitating the deployment of the 'Higgs-Killer', a dish device that fires a beam of electrons which can target and strips Higgs-Boson particles ("targets simply fall apart"). Tested in CERN by Nimrod himself, Lysandra was in his official escort and witnessed him typing the release codes - based on the final sequence of moves by Bobby Fischer in the Game of the Century (a Queen sacrifice.) The Higgs Killer works at the speed of light and its operating means the assumed destruction of Earth in the deployment. In this future Sally kills her captive Lysandra and, at the point of deployment, herself.
Lysandra was born in either 1982 or 1983.
Hex is Roman Catholic. His wound at Scutari (see: Links) was healed by Weyland and reappears as a fatal injury when Weyland is banished.
After blowing up her school's art room Ace did a bunk, returning home to watch some kids' TV (Jimbo and the Jet Set) in either 1986 or 1987 (Fenric refers to the time as "early summer, 1987") Fenric says her position as one of his 'wolves' was pure chance, the toss of a coin. Otherwise it might have fallen to "a lovelorn motorcyclist in Wales" (see: Intertextuality), and Ace would potentially be a single mother at eighteen one year on (though he may be baiting her). She once spent all night on a pavement with her friend Lauren waiting for Johnny hates Jazz to leave their hotel and get into a cab. Her friend Midge got into Dungeons and Dragons one summer. She hated French at school.
Ace swiped the Doctor's molecular phase disruptor (and possibly a Ganymede driver) from the TARDIS toolkit which she uses to shatter some chains of Fenric. She is Anglican.
The Doctor first suspected the involvement of Fenric back in his time in the sanatorium in Switzerland (The Magic Mousetrap) due to the presence of chess sets about the place.
Links: This story directly follows Black and White. The Angel of Scutari. The Magic Mousetrap, The Curse of Fenric, Dragonfire (Ace talks about Iceworld, Wayland refers to the Doctor's description of Perivale from this story), Delta and the Bannermen, House of Blue Fire, Project Destiny. Ace mentions Ganymede drivers (The Hand of Fear) and her friends Midge (Survival) and Lauren.
Untelevised Adventures: Ace says she's been to Mars (as Hex seemingly recognises the jawbone of an Ice Warrior perhaps both of them went?) Sally also accompanied the Doctor to Mars, checking hieroglyphs on the tomb of an ancient star god. The Doctor was present on the road to Byzantium where Hurmzid and his father saw Fenric - the Doctor told Hurmzid never to make deals with demons. The Doctor met Lord Baden-Powell and told him never to underestimate the value of a well-tied knot, though "BP" was distracted by the fact that half the boys in his care were enchanted by sprites and the rest were turning into werewolves ("it was a rather odd weekend...") he once left a "lovely" umbrella on a ridge at Arnhem during the German occupation in World War Two.
Location: The Game Board of the Gods, "before the birth pangs of the universe", Wantage (in a future projection by Fenric), Perivale, the Vortex.
The Bottom Line: "All this time I'd thought of myself as Fenric's opponent, his equal. Instead I was just another piece on the board, being played!"
A thrilling and moving sign-off for Hex, but otherwise somewhat disappointing. Too many characters (including Sally and Lysandra), toothless villains (the already-established Fenric especially), an Ace who's unaccountably dialled back to 1987 dialogue-wise, forced humour during tense scenes and way too many Twentieth-century pop culture references for a supposed universal game of life and death. Barnes and Maddox did this extremely well in Legend of the Cybermen, but here it's just sloppy.
THE ELDERS GODS
The concept of some of Doctor Who's most powerful and celebrated beings being akin to ancient and otherworldly deities is not a new one. For the Black TARDIS trilogy, the equating of the likes of the Animus, Fenric and the Celestial Toymaker as 'old gods' akin to the Elder Gods of H P Lovecraft's fiction seems to have been imported to a great degree from three key spin-off novels: Andy Lane's All Consuming Fire, Craig Hinton's Millennial Rites, and Gary Russell's Divided Loyalties.
These novels maintain the notion that the 'Great Old Ones' are ancient beings from another universe (Millennial Rites goes so far as to say they are counterparts to this universe's Time Lords), who fled the destruction of their home to a parallel side-dimension at the edge of our universe, from where they have been worshipped by many races and cultures since the dawn of time, including humans, Silurians and the Shobogans of Gallifrey. Among the 'Gods' associated with the aliens of the TV series in Lane's novel are Azathoth (a deity of the Silurians) and Dagon (worshipped by Sea Devils), Yog-Sothoth (aka the Great Intelligence), Lloigor (the Animus) and Hastur the Unspeakable, another name for Fenric. Other Gods not associated with creatures of Doctor Who are Cthulhu (previously referenced in an earlier New Adventure, David A McIntee's White Darkness), Nyarlathotep and the weakest God, Azathoth (all of whom are derived from the works of Lovecraft), while the Gods of Ragnarok are named for themselves. Hinton's Missing Adventure expands the character of Yog-Sothoth and adds to the list Shub-Niggurath (another Lovecraft creation), whose 'thousand young' are this time assigned to the Nestene Consciousness. Russell's BBC Book, the most recent of the three, claims the Great Old Ones are "sub-Guardians" discovered by Rassillon and given their names by him. To these Russell adds 'Melefescent' Gog and Magog and Tor-Gasukk. He breaks down the Gods of Ragnarok to three individuals named Raag, Nah and Rok.
In Big Finish's audio series some divergence takes place. The Celestial Toymaker, labelled a Guardian in Divided Loyalties, is referred to as an Elder God by the Doctor in The Magic Mousetrap and by Ace in Black and White. We must also add to this list the Elder Gods the Doctor meet subsequently, namely the Karnas-koi (Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge), and the Mi'en Kalarash (House of Blue Fire), the unnamed 'zombie lizard god' on a cemetery planet, the chaos-feeding Kai-Liza-Kayaa (Black and White) as well as the creature Derleth (named after Lovecraft contemporary August Derleth) both encountered by the Forge and whom the Doctor confronted with Sally and Lysandra (the latter in the Companion Chronicle Project: Nirvana). Fenric's Lovecraftian alter-ego is not, it should be mentioned, referred to by name here.