A Doctor Who novel, written by Paul Cornell. The fourth of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.

Previous story: Timewyrm: Apocalypse | Next story: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

Regular characters

The Seventh Doctor

Ace

Recurring characters

The Timewyrm

Lieutenant Hemmings

Saul, and Peter and Emily Hutchings

Major developments

The Timewyrm is defeated at last, and Qataka's essence placed in a baby taken from a medical lab of the future. The baby is given to the Hutchings to raise, and named Ishtar. The Doctor faces some inner demons.

My opinion

This was the first of the New Adventures to feature a story that could only really be told effectively in a book, with much of it taking place in the shifting dream landscape of the Doctor's mind. The characterisation of the Doctor is very good, and is a major influence on the rest of the New Adventures. There is some excellent writing in this book, but it also suffers from some major faults. The plot is fairly complicated and ludicrous, and it features one of my most hated plot devices of the New Adventures - the "tidying up" where the Doctor goes back after the event and leaves notes for his earlier self or puts vital elements of a plan in place. It's lazy writing, it makes no sense, and if the Doctor can do that it removes any danger at all from the stories. Anyway, this book has its faults, but it is still contains some good writing and some nice scenes, and remains worth reading.

Quick outline

At school in the past, Ace is attacked and killed by Chad Boyle, who was encouraged by the presence of a man closely resembling the Doctor. Later, the TARDIS appears in Chad's room, and Chad is enticed in with the chance to kill her again.

In the village of Cheldon Bonniface, St Christophers Church is inhabited by a sentient entity known as Saul, long ago converted to Christianity by one of the current pastor's descendants. The pastor in 1992 is Revereand Ernest Trelaw, and he is conducting a service when the Doctor walks in, hands a baby to one of the parishoners, and quickly leaves.

The Doctor and Ace land in the village of Cheldon Bonniface in Victorian times, to relax and visit some of the Doctor's old friends. However, all is not as it appears and Ace is soon attacked by a child in a space suit. She flees, but after running through some woods she finds herself in an airless vacuum, and appears to die, but her mind has merely been sent somewhere else.

The Doctor, meanwhile, has confronted the villagers and it turns out that the village is an illusion maintained by Lieutennant Hemmings to trap the Doctor. They are, in fact, on the moon, protected by an atmospheric bubble. The Doctor escapes and flees to the TARDIS. The Timewyrm, who is behind all of these events, decapitates Hemmings for his failure, but sends his mind to the same place that Ace's has been sent.

Ace wakes up on what appears to be a deserted pier in Cromer, and is told that she has died and that this is the afterlife. A part of her mind tells herself that this is merely a dream, and if she tries hard enough she will wake up back in Cheldon Bonniface. When she tries to do this, in the TARDIS the Doctor's hand spasms and is thrust through the exposed telepathic circuits, and the real village of Cheldon Bonniface in 1992 is destroyed in a massive explosion, and St Christoher's church transported to the moon with Trelaw, the Hutchings and the mysterious baby inside.

The Doctor finds Ace's comatose body and takes it to the church. Soon, the Timewyrm appears in the body of Chad Boyle, and the Doctor confronts her. She apparently kills the Doctor, but he has merely suffered the same fate as Ace, his mind sent elsewhere.

The Doctor and Ace face a variety of nightmarish confrontations as they are tormented by Hemmings and Boyle. The Doctor eventually reveals to Ace that they are in the mind of the being that the Timewyrm has been using as a host, the Doctor himself. At times they also meet up with some of the Doctor's former incarnations, who live on in the Doctor's mind after their time has passed. At one stage they, and the third Doctor, are caught and imprisoned by Hemmings.

In the church, Saul has been hearing an apparently random melody. He relays it to Peter Hutchings, a mathematician, who is able to discern a pattern and improvise a response. Communicating in this way with whatever is creating the melody, they receive some instructions. Saul telekinetically brings Hemming's head to the church and they attempt to communicate with the life dormant in the brain. This draws Hemmings out of the Doctor's mind and back to his own brain, where he quickly dies. This allows the Doctor and Ace to escape from their imprisonment.

The Doctor and Ace make their way to the Pit, the Doctor's deepest subconscious mind, where they are confronted by the Timewyrm in the form of Chad Boyle. He fatally wounds the Doctor. As Ace takes him down to the bridge over the Pit he explains the extent of the Timewym's plan. She had planted a seed of herself in the Doctor's mind long ago, and was able to control him when he slept, which is when he gathered Boyle and Hemmings together. When she sent Ace into the Doctor's mind this created enough disruption that the Timewyrm was able to access parts of the Doctor's mind he had up till then blocked from him, providing her with the energy to move the church to the moon, causing the explosion that destroyed Cheldon Bonniface. The energy that is released when the Doctor dies in his own mind she will channel through Saul to send the moon crashing into the Earth. The temporal chaos that this creates will give her even more energy.

Just as it seems that the Timewyrm is winning, however, a silver staircase appears from above. Saul and the Hutchings have, under instructions, managed to open a portal into the Doctor's mind, and Emily has come through it to rescue them. Saul's healing psychic energy cascades down the staircase in the form of silver water, and the Doctor's wounds are washed away. They begin to climb the staircase, but they are pursued by manifestations of the Doctor's guilt, all the people that the Doctor has failed to save led by Katarina, Sara Kingdom and Adric, the three companions of the Doctor's that died in his company. Seeing that the apparitions will drag them all back, Ace sacrifices herself, letting go of the Doctor and staying behind as the Doctor and Emily escape.

The Doctor and Emily emerge in the church, but the Doctor is in despair. He had used Ace as bait to lure the Timewyrm into his mind, where he planned all along to trap it there and destroy it. However, now Ace is trapped as welll and he can't destroy the Timewyrm without killing her. Ace, meanwhile, has found the fifth Doctor. He has been imprisoned by the other incarnations, as he had refused to join their fight against the Tmewyrm. Ace recognises that he represents the Doctor's conscience, and releases him, thus allowing the Doctor to better deal with his guilt over using Ace as the bait in a trap that has gone wrong

The Doctor decides the reenter his mind to confront the Timewyrm. He reaches out to what remains of Qataka within the Timewyrm, and discovers that she is tired and just wants to go home. He offers peace, and the Timewyrm is finally defeated. Qataka's essence is placed into the mind of the baby, who the Huthchings will name Ishtar and raise as their own.

The Doctor and Ace then leave to tidy up the loose ends, such as stealing a baby from a future medical lab the Doctor can give it to the Hutchings in the beginning of the story.

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