Escape Velocity
by Colin Brake


Publisher: BBC
ISBN: 0 563 53825 2

     

    BASIC PLOT
    It's February the 8th, 2001 and at last the Doctor is going to St Louis to meet a mysterious person named Fitz.

    DOCTOR
    Eighth.

    COMPANIONS
    Fitz returns, only a few hours after the events of The Ancestor Cell for him, although a hundred and thirteen years have passed for the Doctor.

    Pg 24 Compassion makes a brief final appearance (unless she's Madam Xing in Halflife).

    Introducing Anji Kapoor.

    MATERIALISATION CIRCUIT
    Pg 24 Compassion materialises in a Soho alley.

    Pg 65 At the start of the novel, the TARDIS is still nonfunctioning and resides in a corner of the St Louis' Bar and Restaurant, 2001. It eventually becomes restored to its former glory on page 208.

    Pg 214/226 In a service corridor aboard the Kulan battleship.

    Pg 249 EarthWorld, New Jupiter, the far future (as we discover in the next book).

    PREPARATORY READING
    This is the culmination of the Earth arc, so if you're reading the preceding five books, this is an obvious conclusion.

    It also ties in to (and contradicts) The King of Terror, but we can't in good conscience recommend reading that.

    CONTINUITY REFERENCES
    Pg 19 After six books and a hundred years, we finally get to St Louis'... and it's a bar. Erm. See Continuity Cock-Ups.

    Pg 24 Fitz: "He'd last been here in the nineties." Interference.

    Pg 25 "Not for the first time he found himself wishing that the TARDIS - the Doctor's original TARDIS - really did still exist, but Fitz found that hard to credit: it had been so comprehensively destroyed." This happened in The Shadows of Avalon and then again in The Ancestor Cell.

    Reference to Sam.

    "What would they do? Head out for that house he had in Kent and grow roses? Steal a space shuttle and head out for the stars?" We first saw the Doctor's house in Cat's Cradle: Warhead and then a number of times throughout the NAs. Stealing a space shuttle is actually what the Doctor did in the previous book, Father Time.

    Pg 37 "After recent events on the now-destroyed homeworld of the Doctor, Fitz wasn't sure that it was" The Ancestor Cell. Interestingly, Fitz never names the Doctor's homeworld in his various internal monologues: the word Gallifrey doesn't appear at all in this novel. Between here and the final EDA, the word "Gallifrey" appear precisely two and a half times (in EarthWorld and The Tomorrow Windows, respectively). You have to wonder if that's deliberate.

    Pg 50 "This sounds like something out of Professor X." Professor X was the NAs' fictional equivalent to Doctor Who. It was usually a bit more subtle than it is here, but no less annoying.

    Pgs 57-58 "Trouble is, even though I saw him the day before yesterday, he won't have seen me for over a hundred years." The Ancestor Cell

    Pg 58 "The Doctor had destroyed his homeworld totally - not just destroyed it, but completely removed it from history." The Ancestor Cell. But see Continuity Cock-Ups.

    Pg 59 "The Doctor was sitting at his desk, reading a yellowing ancient scrap of paper as if it was the most important thing in the world." This is The Note, first seen in The Burning and throughout the Earth arc. Surprisingly, this isn't its last appearance (see History 101).

    Pgs 62-63 There's a long discussion about Professor X, its fans (X-ians to Americans, The Professor X Appreciation Society in Britain), its villains the Cybertrons (see Continuity Cock-Ups), a conspiracy involving a witch hunt by a new BBC controller and scheduling it against one of the country's top-rated soap operas. This might be a subtle allusion to some other science fiction television show, but I can't quite place it.

    Pg 64 "The Doctor shrugged. 'Money wasn't a factor.'" The Doctor is still flush after the events of Father Time.

    Pg 65 "'Not that I have a hat,' he confessed and looked puzzled. 'I used to, I think...' He patted his head, trying to remember. 'A floppy felt hat, something like that...'" The fourth Doctor's hat.

    Pg 66 "As invigorating as the sonic shower he'd used on Vega Station" Demontage.

    Pg 68 "A lot better than the last time I saw you, thought Fitz: pale and half dead." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 69 "Fitz thought he could take a guess at the cause of those: wiping out your homeworld and all its people could probably do that to a person." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 70 "Compassion was right - it has regenerated itself." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 71 "In fact, I had the chance to take a close look at an American space shuttle a few years back." Father Time

    Pg 77 "Before they knew it, they were passing the Hanger Lane gyratory and then Perivale with the green swathe of Horsenden Hill looming about it. The Doctor glanced over as if recognising it and remembering something." Survival.

    Pg 92 "At least on this occasion there appeared to be no interference from the damned UNIT people." Control previously butted heads with UNIT in The Devil Goblins From Neptune and The King of Terror.

    Pg 100 Reference to UNIT.

    Pg 125 "He wished things could get back to how they used to be, before... Fitz frowned. Before what? Something weird was happening to his mind now." Fitz's memory problems will continue throughout most of the rest of the EDAs, especially Trading Futures; they're resolved in Halflife.

    "Had the Doctor really destroyed his own homeworld?" The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 129 "'As I once said to -' He stopped abruptly, a puzzled frown on his face. 'Napoleon?'" The third Doctor said this in Day of the Daleks.

    Pg 130 "One minute a crotchety old man, a quick make-up and costume change, and then a comic little man with a flute." The first and second Doctors.

    Pg 140 Reference to UNIT.

    Pg 145 "I'm not having another foul-up like that business with the Jex and the Canavitchi." Alas, if only this were true. What's that? Oh, sorry. The King of Terror. And see, inevitably, Continuity Cock-Ups.

    Pg 148 "The three of them had been travelling - no running, hiding." This started in The Shadows of Avalon and continued until The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 149 "They'd come to Earth. It had been sometime in the past, England of course, somewhere in the eighteenth century and then..." The Banquo Legacy. But see Continuity Cock-Ups.

    "He remembered that they had ended up on the Doctor's homeworld, and everything had gone pear-shaped big time and the Doctor had been forced to destroy his own people." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 164 "I have this flash memory of some kind of crown of thorns..." The Telemovie.

    Pgs 166-167 "There are a number of races with military interests in this sector: the interminable Rutan-Sontaran conflict has often spilled over this way and rumour has it that the Daleks have been active in this area as well." The Time Warrior, Horror of Fang-Rock, et al; The Dalek Invasion of Earth, et al.

    Pg 173 "The previous leaders having died along with half the invasion force in an ill-advised attack on a Chelonian colony." Chelonians were first seen in The Highest Science.

    Pg 174 "Legends tell of a great race of warriors that came from this planet." The Ice Warriors.

    Pg 179 Reference to UNIT.

    Pg 188 Reference to UNIT.

    Pg 196 "All that business about godlike aliens disguised as angels. How unlikely! But then I've never really rated TV science fiction since they got rid of Nightshade..." Godlike aliens disguised as angels appeared in Ghost Light. The TV show of the same name was first mentioned in Nightshade.

    Pg 210 The Doctor finds the sonic screwdriver.

    Pg 213 "Perhaps I'm an exile from the forty-ninth century." Susan says this in the Pilot episode.

    Pg 226 "The Kulan ignored his laughter, probably assuming him to be some sort of congenital idiot, and led him away." The eighth Doctor of the early-to-mid EDAs was known by fandom at the time as "the congenital idiot", due to all the stupid things he kept doing in various novels. This is the novel's only successful joke.

    Pg 244 "And then he had been forced to destroy his home planet, wiping out his entire race." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 245 "Was he talking about this recent adventure or the events on his homeworld?" The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 246 "I've been keeping myself busy: living fire, zombies, aliens, the usual thing..." The Burning, Casualties of War, The Turing Test/Endgame/Father Time.

    "Everything before the accident is still a little hazy." The Ancestor Cell.

    Pg 247 "I wonder what Sam would have made of all this. You wouldn't get a Volkswagen Beetle in here now, would you?" The Doctor's Beetle was first seen in Vampire Science and destroyed in Unnatural History.

    Pg 249 "Outside the time machine, a shadow fell across the sand in front of the TARDIS as something, or someone, came to investigate this new arrival." This harks back to the very first materialisation we saw, at the end of the first episode of An Unearthly Child.

    OLD FRIENDS AND OLD ENEMIES
    Pg 90 Control, previously seen in The Devil Goblins From Neptune and The King of Terror. He'll go on to appear in Trading Futures and Time Zero, but fails to get any more interesting there either.

    NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES
    Christine and Pippa Holland.

    Despite dying, we'll hear a lot more about Dave Young in future books and even meet his clone, in Hope.

    CONTINUITY COCK-UPS

    1. Pg 19 After six books and a hundred years, we finally get to St Louis'... and it's a bar. How does the Doctor know Fitz will be in this bar in London, rather than, say, in the city of the same name in Missouri? I mean, ten out of ten for subverting expectations, but minus several million for logic.
    2. Pg 36 "He had considered the possibility that the Doctor had regenerated, but he had never really believed what Sam had told him on that score." Except that Fitz has just come from Gallifrey, with Time Lords dying en masse around him. Did none of them regenerate?
    3. Pg 50 It's not actually a cock-up, but there's an extremely ugly point-of-view change within this scene, starting with Holly's POV and merging into Christine's. I'm sure it's just coincidence that it reminds me of bad fan fiction.
    4. Pg 58 "The Doctor had destroyed his homeworld totally - not just destroyed it, but completely removed it from history." This is one of the biggies. Did he or didn't he? That's not at all the implication we got in The Ancestor Cell.
    5. Pg 63 Dave once played a Cybertron in Professor X. Except that in Synthespians, the Cybermen analogues were the Cybs.
    6. Pg 82 "Screens of financial data I can read with my eyes closed; this science stuff is another language." Except that on pages 61-62, Anji says she was drawn to the sciences growing up.
    7. Pg 88 "The street sign was in Flemish - Stevinstraat - and he had to look twice to see the French translation, Rue Stevin." Fair enough that Fitz might speak a little French and is unlikely to know Flemish, but "Stevinstraat" is a lot closer to "Stevin Street" in English than the "Rue Stevin" is.
    8. Pg 145 "I'm not having another foul-up like that business with the Jex and the Canavitchi." In The King of Terror, aliens appeared in 1999 and on television, no less. So why is everyone so surprised to discover that aliens exist in this book?
    9. Pg 149 "They'd come to Earth. It had been sometime in the past, England of course, somewhere in the eighteenth century and then..." Except that The Banquo Legacy was set in 1898, which is the very end of the nineteenth century, not the eighteenth.
    10. Pg 156 "But these were intelligent life forms from a world incomprehensibly alien to Christine, and see felt a sudden cold stab of fear as she realised how vulnerable she was in this enclosed space" Why does Christine think of herself as a "see"?
    11. Pg 183 "But I am with my people, aren't I?" Are we really expected to believe that the Doctor thinks he's human by this point? He certainly didn't in Father Time.
    12. Pg 184 "I've not aged a day in over a hundred years." Not true, he's got crows' feet and grey hairs, as shown in Father Time.
    13. Pg 233 "It was very weird: she would look at some written Kulan and see strange alien characters and then she'd blink and the letters morphed into English." This contradictics numerous examples of the TARDIS being unable to translate the written language, such as The Left-Handed Hummingbird (page 23) and Genocide (page 247).
    14. Pg 241 "Fitz though the alien must be in terrible pain" It might have been helpful if Fitz had thought this, as well.

    PLUGGING THE HOLES [Fan-wank theorizing of how to fix continuity cock-ups]

    1. Maybe the Doctor has concluded that Fitz will know where to find him, so it doesn't really matter where he is. But that's still a pretty giant leap of logic on his part, especially for a meeting he's waited over a hundred years for.
    2. This may be an early clue that Fitz's memories are starting to fade, as we'll discover more about shortly.
    3. Christine is merely imagining what Holly is thinking for a while.
    4. It's possible this is Fitz's memories staring to play up... but given what we later find out about the changing nature of the universe in the absence of the Time Lords, we'd have to conclude that Fitz is right and the Doctor did far more fundamental damage than previously thought. How Fitz knows this is never explained (perhaps Compassion said something offscreen).
    5. Professor X clearly featured both the Cybertrons and the Cybs. It's a surprise it got cancelled, really.
    6. Anji was drawn to the sciences, but presumably not very good at them, so she switched to economics.
    7. The TARDIS isn't currently providing him with a translation ability, so this has clearly dulled Fitz's senses.
    8. The governments of the world clearly explained away the previous invasion as a hoax. And we've have plenty of information to suggest that people in the early twenty-first century aren't aware of aliens, so clearly The King of Terror needs to be ignored (and thank goodness, really), but it's still outrageous that when two authors try to tie their books together (via Control), they nevertheless contradict fundamental elements of each others' plot.
    9. Have you read that short story in Short Trips: Repercussions, where Colin Brake thinks An Unearthly Child was set in 1962? I mean, honestly. Clearly he's rubbish at even the simplest of facts... What's that? Oh, sorry. Er, Fitz is suffering from memory degradation, so he clearly isn't thinking too straight.
    10. While feeling vulnerable, Christine happened to see some felt and it wandered into her thoughts subconsciously.
    11. He's just fishing for information, in case Sa'Motta knows something of value.
    12. Most people don't notice their own aging, even at a much faster rate than the Doctor, so he probably thinks he looks much the same.
    13. The TARDIS translation system is simply erratic when it comes to the written word.
    14. This is a subtle clue that Fitz isn't forming complete thoughts.

    FEATURED ALIEN RACES
    Pg 93 The Kulan. They have light skin, which looks translucent under bright lights. Their eyes are narrower and ears larger, but otherwise they can pass for human.

    FEATURED LOCATIONS
    Pg 5 Brussels, February 2001.

    Pg 16 The Nevada desert.

    Pg 19 London, England.

    Pg 30 A train crossing the English Channel into France and then Belgium.

    Pg 74 The Kulan Battleship.

    Pg 79 Oxfordshire, England.

    Pg 116 Zaventem airport, Belgium.

    Pg 154 A motorboat crossing the English channel.

    Pg 154 The Belgian coast.

    Pg 155 The Star Dart.

    Pg 171 Springs, Ohio, The Unites States.

    Pg 216 The Planet Hopper.

    IN SUMMARY - Robert Smith?
    And it was all going so well, too. At the time, we honestly thought that Richards' editorship and the quality of the preceding Earth arc books might have meant an end to crap books. Alas. I mean, faced with the tightest and strongest arc in the history of Doctor Who, why would you assign the final book to someone who can barely write, let alone fail entirely to construct a decent plot? Anji's about the only good thing in the book, but even she reads like a continual description of her character bio, not an actual person. And the Babylon 5 resolution has to be seen to be believed: the Kulan realise something terrible has happened because Dave already had Kulan elements in his DNA (page 187). Everyone realises this is just like the Minbari souls, from Babylon 5... everyone, that is, except readers who aren't actually familiar with that show. And to make matters worse (despite the obvious obstacle this presents), nothing whatsoever is done with this information and the Kulan ships are all conveniently destroyed in a contrived explosion. Ye gads. In the Afterword, Brake says that the BBC cancelled Doctor Who in order to prevent him becoming script editor. Given the fact that he clearly doesn't know where the apostrophe goes when he writes "Virgin Publishings' Decalog 3" [sic] in the next paragraph (no, the company is not, and never was, named "Virgin Publishings"), one can only be grateful for the BBC's wise decision. This is a novel of sheer, unrelenting tedium, that's only broken up by prose so appalling it'll make your eyes bleed. Run away.