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'Circular Time'

CD Audio adventure released January 2007. 4 stories.

Writers: Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox
Director: John Ainsorth


Roots: Heart of Darkness, Chaucer's Parliament of Foules. Ovid's Metamorphoses (the legend of Syrinx) Nyssa mentions Tarzan.

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor on Zero: "If he were from any other chapter I wouldn't worry; an Arcalian would stay in his TARDIS, a Patraxes would start cataloguing droppings, but Prydonians are cunning - can't take your eye off them for a second."

"The Sorja tells us he comes from a world where they may be gods, and yet they are not gods; merely old men with big collars, arguing."

Continuity: The world of the Avians features (comprises?) a great rainforest of enormous trees overlooking a huge lake - some of the leaves are larger than fishing boats, and there is also granite. Hundreds of feet up in the trees, and appearing at first glance to be floating in the air, is the city of te Avians, the indigenous humanoid population. The buildings have evolved from nests and are linked by walkways, while the city contains the Parliament of Birds and is the home of their ruler, Carrion. A great city called Platch lies behind the waterfall that feeds the lake. The Avians are bird-descendant humanoids with feathers and beaks; they employ arrows in hunting and communicate through song and ritual display, plumage and dance. The whole Avian culture is based on flight, the ability of which they have lost - the bird-people speak of a prophet who will one day lead them back to the sky. The Avian justice system is simple but vindictive - in accordance with the Songs of their People justice is meted out on the younger family of the offender.

Ten years ago, the Avian world consisted of feudal baronies, but the population have adopted democratic government very quickly, an aspect which has not gone unnoticed. Gallifrey's Temporal Projectionists have predicted that the Avians will make the technological leap from steam to orbital space flight in less than three generations. Gallifreyan protocol dictates that before a period of exile a Time Lord is required to regenerate.

Zero is a Prydonian Cardinal who was one of the Council of the Great Mother, which specialises in the politics of regeneration. Well on his way to getting a seat on the High Council, he abruptly decided to abandon Gallifrey for the Avian world. Having ingratiated himself into the bird-people's society without incident he has been fully accepted as a member and magistrate, acting as adjudicator in a forthcoming murder trial in Platch - the first in six years. Zero's TARDIS is actually the great lake itself in disguise; at the command of the Avian leader his Ship was floated out on a bed of moss and sunk to the lake bottom of the great lake - lacking the proper 'syrinx' for bird speech, he still needs his TARDIS in order to speak the Avian language. He implies that in his Ship he has a pair of anti-gravity boots. Zero also alludes to having known the nymph Syrinx (was she a Time Lord?)

The Avian hatcheries are a perfect example of symbiosis: the bows of the trees hold the nests, which give shelter for the shoots; the trees grow creepers to keep them safe while the droppings of the chicks combine with the fruit juices to make a contact poison called the Yolk of Darts, which repels rival males from smashing the eggs. The Yolk of Darts itself is harmless to females and chicks, but to Time Lords is enough to trigger a regeneration, altering Gallifreyan DNA and producing a hybrid individual, half-Time Lord and half-Avian, complete with functioning wings.

Nyssa is not scared of heights and knows what an ostrich is.

The High Council have instructed the Doctor to talk Zero down from his self-imposed exile, knowing that the mission would be almost impossible for the Doctor to resist, however much he might sympathise. In the Doctor's possession are a Swiss army knife and some Kendal mint cakes. He knows Cardinal Zero of old, saying his acting hasn't improved since his time in Athens.

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor has equipment (including crampons and gloves) from a rucksack he borrowed from Mallory and Irvine just before their final attempt on Everest in 1924.

Links: Nyssa refers to the Doctor's fall in Logopolis, and she and the Docor discuss Traken and Melkurs (The Keeper of Traken). Zero's comment regarding an otherwise fatal hail of bullets leading to a Time Lord's regeneration implies a link to the Doctor's regeneration in the TV Movie. The Doctor shouts out a warning about Vampires in the Capitol (Full Circle). Mention is also made of the Fourth Doctor's scarf and jelly babies.

The Bottom Line: Witty and incidental, 'Spring' is Circular Time's lightest touch, a story that could be told anywhere, yet its theme of rebirth and regeneration locks it in firmly as a fitting opener to a bold cycle of stories. You don't need this one, but it's certainly not unwelcome.


Roots: The Doctor quotes from John 8:33 ("The truth shall set you free") and Newton's Certain Philosophical Questions ("Aristotle is my friend - but my best friend is truth") Stage magician patois ("well, you've been a wonderful audience, and for my next trick...")

Intertextuality: The Doctor's alchemist act has him reciting the opening lines of Jon Pertwee's single 'I Am The Doctor.' The Jade Pagoda, an alternative outer shell for the TARDIS first appeared in the New Adventure novel Iceberg.

Goofs: The Doctor expresses alarm that Newton, mid-fit, has swallowed his tongue and is choking. He (and Newton) could have breathed easy - it's physically impossible to do this.

Technobabble: Alchemy bears interesting parallels with quantum light-wave particle duality, apparently.

Dialogue Triumphs: "I do not like fools, forgers or Catholics. Which are you?"

"Orthodox, perhaps?" "-Not a word I'd use to describe him."

"He's a Prydonian" "Ah - a free thinker!" "-They're usually anything but"

"I have to make sure this food's not poisoned" "But your wife made it!" "You can never be too careful"

"You know, sometimes not thinking is very relaxing..."

Dialogue Disasters: "Ah, Molly that donkey smells divine"

Continuity: The Doctor and Nyssa have been arrested for forgery after having been trapped by Sir Isaac Newton disguised as an Algerian juggler with a false chin. Sir Isaac says his nose bled for three days

The seven coins in the Doctor's bag lack legs, and hence are of Earth origin. They comprise an Irish Euro from 200, a hexagonal thruppence piece from 1953, a two pound coin, an Eisenhower dollar from 1978, some Roman coins, including one newly-minted and the last coin, a triangular shape with Oriental-looking pictograms from a time more distant than the others. It shows the solar system on the reverse and the picture consists of fifteen planets.

Nyssa hasn't heard of Catholics. She says religious and political factions are one and the same on Traken. She compares the Doctor's and Newton's ability to mentally give themselves over totally to an idea and abandon everyone else around them.

Despite his experience the Doctor still admires Sir Isaac. He apologises to him for being a fast bowler. He still intends upon making a new sonic screwdriver and says he was taught how to perform magic by Harry Houdini, demonstrating a variation of the French Drop.

Future History: The Doctor's joke suggests that there is a Mars-Earth cricket tournament (presumably human colonies only) during which the Ashes might be contested (either that or Mars' team is so formidable...)

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor says he always meant to "nip back" to Nicea (see Links)

Links: The Council of Nicea. Mention is made of Dalek taskforces. An Unearthly Child (the TARDIS as a sedan chair, the Doctor's quote "something that looks like a sedan chair sat in a gaol yard able to travel in time..." recalls Ian Chesterton's remark about the TARDIS in the same story)

The Bottom Line: "Marvellous - a comedian"

Self-consciously silly, and at times barely bordering farce. The less said about the comedy servants the better, but David Warner's testy Newton is an excellent foil to Davison's reliable straight-man routine gone awry. No less incidental than Spring, but a lot more fun.


Roots: Andrew mentions The Lord of the Rings Dylan Thomas (the cricket team are "raging against the dying of the light") Cinderella ("You shall go to the ball!")

Intertextuality: The village of Stockbridge was introduced in the pages of Doctor Who Monthly's comic strip (see link below)

Goofs: Stockbridge is described here as being in Hampshire, rather than the comic strip location of Gloucester.

Double Entendres: "We are not going down!" "That's the spirit - never say die!"

Nyssa: "I've been inspired. 'Breathed-into', you might say. It's funny."

Continuity: There is a charity ball and buffet dinner on the last night of the cricket season at the Stag's Head Hotel, with music produced by local band "Good Times". Further into the town is a betting shop. Close to the cricket grounds is a wood where the TARDIS is at rest. The nearby village of Traken has a pub with a four-star restaurant, is twinned with another village in Germany and is only a 40 minute drive from Stockbridge. Andrew Whittaker is an engineering grad student. His boss at the [B&B] is a woman.

The TARDIS wardrobe has a selection of formal dresses from this era, according to the Doctor.

The Doctor and Nyssa have been staying at a guesthouse in Stockbridge for three weeks and two days before this story begins; with Nyssa attempting to write a book (a new experience for her, and one which she doubts will ever see publication), and the Doctor out of "old obligations" (the local cricket season). The team captain, Don, is an ex-pro from Lancashire who moved to the area last year.

Nyssa has not kissed anyone (in the romantic sense) before; it - and what else may be implied to follow between her and Andrew is a new experience for her. The Doctor says that Nyssa's and Andrew's lifespans are roughly the same. The light of Traken's destruction close to the Orion Nebula is still able to be seen even with a small telescope from Earth.

The club house has photographs of the Doctor's 'family' going back years. He usually leaves before the awards ceremony to avoid embarrassment and is known to spend his winters 'away', yet is regarded as something of a wonder player who just turned up one Sunday asking if he could play. The Doctor orders lemonade at the pub. He can speak to Anton (a Croatian) in his own language (there is nothing to suggest that their mutual understanding is effected by the TARDIS' translation circuits.)

Untelevised Stories: The Doctor and Nyssa have met P G Wodehouse.

Links: The Keeper of Traken (including Nyssa's misunderstanding of the term 'Foster Home'). The Doctor's observation of Nyssa's lifespan is contradicted in Cobwebs.

Location: the Hampshire town of Stockbridge, Early September (end of cricket season). England has just won the Ashes.

The Bottom Line: "I came here to experience a particular kind of time, but I've ended up with exactly the opposite."

A simple story about a complicated relationship. Cornell's dabs are all over this one, featuring his favourite on-screen Doctor and companion, very human emotions, a little bit of political correctness and some cricket. Both the Doctor and Nyssa are frustrated as they each seek an Earthly distraction, but it's the spaces between these doomed pursuits that tell another story.Very very good indeed.


Roots: Hamlet IV, v ("Go softly on..." - but see also Links). The book of Ruth ("where you go, I go") The Doctor mentions Lewis Carrol. The Doctor and Lasarti share an old joke about a man pursued by a coffin ("have you got anything to stop this coughin'?")

Intertextuality: The Doctor's "I'm a wanderer who wanders by himself and all places are the same to me" paraphrases The Cat That Walked By Himself from Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories - also a point of character reference for the Sixth Doctor provided by Colin Baker himself. The Doctor's description of himself as "an old man in a young man's body" similarly recalls the character sketch for Davison's portrayal of the Fifth Doctor, while 'Anima's complaint that all his jumpers look the same is a comment on the Doctor's cricket 'uniform' (which did actually change several times and slightly throughout his lifetime.)

Dialogue Triumphs: "You really are an odd apparition - you seem to think I'm the one doing the appearing."

"You'll wake up Tegan" "Tegan's here?" "She's upstairs, in bed - with Adric." "-Oh."

"Welcome to my mind. Sorry about the mess."

"Each life creates the next - no wonder Time Lords and Buddhists get on so well."

Continuity: In the guise of the Doctor's 'wife' Anima, Kamelion is part of the Master's plan to interrupt the Doctor's regeneration and kill him outright. His mental link to the Doctor creates the dream world and enables the Master's influence over its contents, distracting the Doctor and concealing his companions from him.

Nyssa appears to have left Terminus behind, and has lived through something referred to as the Corporation Wars. Her husband, Lasarti, is a dream research scientist and has developed a device to consciously explore dreams. Nyssa has told him that she never wants him to analyse her. Nyssa and Lasarti's child is an infant girl named Neeka. Nyssa hasn't heard of Lewis Carrol. She and Lyasrti refer to the Master as a 'parasite' (rationalising his takeover of Tremas in biological terms, rather than emotive ones)

The Doctor thinks he may have met Robert Louis Stevenson. In his confused state he recalls having possibly lost a daughter, of whom Nyssa reminds him: "...four... five- how many children did I have?" [It's possible that he may be confusing children with companions or, possibly, regenerations given he stops at five.] The Doctor perceives the Watcher's clothing as having clothing of various colours below it, hinting at the incarnation to come. He says that hallucinations often accompany a Time Lord's regeneration and says that he held death (i.e. his imminent regeneration) off for an hour in order to get Peri to safety on Androzani. Over this time as a result of the spectrox poisoning the supply of blood to his brain has halted and the poison breaks down his nervous system. His illusory life, seemingly a full life with hours shared with Lasarti and Nyssa, lasts a few seconds in real time, and once the Master's plan is foiled the Doctor's friends are able to reach his mind across time and space and urge his rebirth on. Among these are Tegan (described as "at home", Turlough, Nyssa, Kamelion and Adric (does this mean Adric experiences the Doctor's last moments before he himself dies?) His brain structure finally collapses as in his dream he 'falls' into the Watcher, regenerating at last.

Links: The Fifth Doctor quoted "go softly on" shortly after his own regeneration in Castrovalva, during which the original Zero Cabinet was made. The Caves of Androzani ("is this death?", "feels different this time...", "we're not out of the caves yet", plus his latter vision of himself beginning to regenerate in the real world) The Keeper of Traken (Tremas and the Master's return), Logopolis (the Watcher). As in the same story he catches glimpses of Tegan, Turlough, Adric, Kamelion and the Master. The issue of Nyssa's children is contradicted in Heroes of Sontar.

The Bottom Line: "This is the sort of life I wanted... isn't it?"

Audacious, and impeccably written. A domesticated Doctor is one of the most jarring of concepts, despite being one teased and tested over the years. Here it's treated no less, while the Fifth Doctor's life loops back upon its birth as the Time Lord's incarnation dies. Beautiful imagery, an evocative soundscape, and the tightest of gaps ever in which to place a story. Special nod to Toby Longworth's spot-on Master laugh. A classic. In a classic release.


As the Doctor explains in Circular Time: Spring, the politics of regeneration includes matters of class, gender and race; the Time Lords have a special council dedicated to it. Indeed, with the calculated actions of Cardinal Zero in the same story, as well as that of the Master in Last of the Time Lords, it can be said that the process of regeneration is itself a political act. The Doctor is critical of Romana in Destiny of the Daleks for taking on the form of another living person, suggesting such things are not unheard of (although there's no evidence for example to suggest that the Sixth Doctor's resemblance to Commander Maxil was in any way deliberate.) With regard to the issue of class (as referenced in Circular Time: Spring) we may just have to take the Doctor's word for it, but gender and race are easier to find examples of. The Eleventh Doctor's first comments suggest that gender realignment might be possible, and his fellow Time Lord the Corsair was alternately male and female by hitherto unknown means. Certainly the issue of changing species through regeneration is hinted at even prior to the Doctor's comments in the TV Movie. Romana, mid-regeneration, appears to have taken the form of a blue-skinned humanoid. Zero crosses the species barrier through his regeneration, while the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors (The Parting of the Ways, Sarah Jane Adventures' Death of the Doctor respectively) suggest that post-regeneration a Time Lord could either be dramatically different in physique (two heads? No head?), or even "anything".

In Death of the Doctor, the Doctor claims he can regenerate 507 times, though we may never know if this is true (or live to see it tested). Certainly for the time being - and perhaps while the Time Lords are still around the generally-agreed limit of regenerations a Time Lord can naturally have is twelve; that is, thirteen incarnations, a limit set by the process' creator Rassilon himself (Zagreus). There are occasional exceptions, both so far involving the Master who seems a clear example of a Time Lord 'using up' his lives too quickly: in The Five Doctors the High Council offer him a new regenerative cycle for his compliance, and during the Time War he is resurrected and indeed given the ability to regenerate at least once more (Utopia). The Time Lords are evidently able to manipulate the regeneration of another Time Lord, forcing the process and influencing the next appearance (The War Games) or actually removing later regenerations, offering them to another Time Lord (The Ultimate Foe).

In most cases, regeneration occurs when a Time Lord's life is compromised through age, illness or injury. Time Lords can will themselves to die by regenerating when they have 'used up' their available regenerations (Azmael). If the Time Lord is fatally injured a second time during the regeneration, they die, unable to complete the regeneration (The Impossible Astronaut). Some drugs, such as anaesthetics or toxins might disrupt or destroy the regenerative process (Doctor Who), and the process is usually accompanied by intense hallucinations (Circular Time: Winter, The Twin Dilemma, Time and the Rani). In Power of the Daleks the Doctor suggests that the TARDIS can aid his regeneration - certainly nearly all of his transformations have occurred either in or near the Ship. A Zero Room or cabinet, blocking all outside distractions similarly aids post-regenerative recovery (Castrovalva).

Various explanations have been offered for the process of regeneration. In Mawdryn Undead it is stated that Time Lord bodies hold "packets" of regeneration energy, one for each life. These packets can be physically removed, a process which may be akin to the Valeyard's intentions for the Doctor. Massive amounts of a hormone known as lindos released during extreme trauma can trigger the regeneration itself; recently-regenerated Time Lords can be identified by the raised levels of the hormone in their system (Unregenerate!) In The Sirens of Time it is revealed that during the process 'bit errors' in the DNA of regenerated cells cause changes in a Time Lord's appearance including height, mass and apparent age. The individual's personality also changes because the cells and chemistry of the brain regenerate as well. According to the Sixth Doctor in Sirens, each of his incarnations displays a certain characteristic of his personality more strongly that the others ('his' is allegedly pragmatism.)

For the Doctor in particular the regenerative process can be physically traumatic - the Eleventh Doctor describes it as "painful" (Death of the Doctor) and, change aside, it rarely occurs without incident. The Fifth Doctor feared that his regeneration "was failing" when he finds himself reverting to previous personae, while one of the Tenth Doctor's hearts stops for a time when his regeneration similarly falters (The Christmas Invasion). In contrast, some Time Lords display greater ability to control the process; Romana seemed adept enough to be able to choose her appearance, and possibly the Master too, in Utopia, but the degree of control that Time Lords may have over their end isn't clearly explained - and may be a matter of little importance to their society. With great effort, Time Lords can initiate their own regeneration (e.g. Azmael) or resist it, effectively committing suicide (as the Master does in Last of the Time Lords). In The Gathering the Doctor threatens with resisting regeneration in order to stop System from unlocking the biological details of regeneration. Indeed, on Androzani he delays his own regeneration so that he might remove Peri from danger and save her life, exposing himself to psychic attack from the Master (Circular Time: Winter). The Tenth Doctor is able to suppress the regenerative process long enough to (allegedly) revisit all of his former companions, plus a few acquaintances and their descendants. We also see the Doctor further circumvent death and regeneration by channelling the emerging regenerative energy into his severed hand, the appendage storing enough energy to eventually grow an identical Time Lord after it comes in contact with another living being (Donna, Journey's End). The delayed Doctor therefore heals without full regeneration; though his regenerated other 'self' is effectively mortal (perhaps this is a Time Lord safeguard to prevent unauthorised cloning?)

Immediately following regeneration, a Time Lord may exhibit confusion, erratic behaviour, mood swings and memory loss. Physically they may lack motor control, needing assistance (Castrovalva). Following his ninth regeneration the Doctor almost crashes the TARDIS, while after his tenth regeneration, he experiences intense and changeable food cravings. Alternatively, for a short time after regenerating, a Time Lord may display temporarily-enhanced physical strength; the Fourth Doctor is able to karate-chop a brick in half while recovering from his regeneration, his Eighth incarnation hammers a steel mortuary door open bare-handed following his, and the newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor is able to literally hang by his fingertips while his TARDIS is crash landing. We may infer that his check of all limbs and features suggests that a regeneration may occasionally omit some features (perhaps this only follows a delayed or especially traumatic regeneration), although The Christmas Invasion also indicates the Time Lord ability to re-grow a severed limb within a given amount of time (fifteen hours) immediately following a regeneration due to residual regenerative energy. While usually an invigorating process, regeneration can sometimes bring the Doctor to the point of exhaustion, as is seen after his third regeneration, while the Tenth Doctor slips into a coma.

It's perhaps unsurprising that the Doctor comes to consider each regenerative process a "death". He refers to his incarnations as "lives" on several occasions, and prior to his ninth regeneration tells Rose "I'm not going to see you again. Not like this." The Tenth Doctor's explains: "Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away, and I'm dead." (The End of Time) "Is this death?" asks the Fifth Doctor "Feels different this time". Change is inevitable, and it seems for none more so than the Doctor.

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