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'The Cannibalists'

Released August 2009. 2 episodes.

Writer: Jonathan Morris
Director: Jason Haigh-Ellery

Roots: Titus, Probus, Macrinus and Domitian are all named after Roman emperors. Minerva is the Roman god of wisdom. Matthew Arnold's description of Oxford (Titus says the Assemblers live in 'dreaming spires'). Lucie calls Macrinus a Transformer and tells Servo that she's watched too much Star Trek. Titus quotes Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" ("it's better to burn out that fade away"). PC operating systems (she could at least have asked us "Are You Sure?"). The Sex Pistols (according to the script Titus is based on Sid Vicious, but (correctly), Phil Davis' patois is based on that of Johnny Rotten).

Continuity: The Haven station is likely an Earth-originated artefact (see: Roots for the origins of the robot names). Abandoned for hundreds of years it is a barely-maintained ruin, smelling of hydrogen sulphide and looking (as the Doctor describes) "like standing inside a giant valve radio". Nearly four thousand years ago it was declared by a human named Protocol to be obsolete and was abandoned, its service Drones and Assemblers (essentially robots built to create Drones) infected with a virus that was intended to promote self-destruction, but instead caused the Drones to become self aware and evolve. In the case of the Drones, this manifested as a psychopathic desire for survival, to the point of cannibalising other robots for their machinery. There have been two hundred and fourteen generations of robots since the introduction of the Protocol virus - this generation of robots has been 'awake' for nearly fifty years. The age of Haven is calculated by Minerva to be four thousand nine hundred years and just over twenty-six days. Other, past, Assemblers recorded by Minerva include Vespasian and Antoniate.

Haven's control system is called Minerva, a device which also acts as a remote 'reset switch', capable of "full-system re-initialisation". Power for the city is created by the generation furnaces.

Drones have pincers for hands, and their positronic brains incorporate neural transmitters and meta-bionic drive systems. Lucie describes the Cannibalist drones as looking "like a cross between a biker gang and the contents of a cutlery drawer", while the appearance of the Assemblers she compares to vacuum cleaners. Servo has a vocabulary bank of over one hundred million words and, like Titus (another drone) can synthesise the voice of others.

Lucie has met robots before (but includes Autons and Cybermen among them). She has, allegedly, watched a lot of Star Trek and had a friend called Big Alice. She is five foot four in heels.

The Doctor can understand hexadecimal code (to the extent that he can instantly comprehend Servo's poetry).

Location: Haven space station.

The Bottom Line: "I think she's human, even if she does have bits sticking out."

Enjoyable and inventive, with some great casting (the two Phils in particular). Despite good sound design, the story rattles along in a functional way - perhaps indicative of the largely linear mechanical characters. Direction-wise, however, much of the noise of the story is like being stuck in a tin can with a wasp - hard on the ears.

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