A Doctor Who novel, written by Andrew Hunt. The seventh of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.

Previous story: Cat's Cradle: Warhead | Next story: Nightshade


Regular characters

The Seventh Doctor


Major developments

The TARDIS is repaired, but infected by demonic protoplasm.

My opinion

So, the Cat's Cradle trilogy draws to a close. The story that connects the three books is nominally the damage to the TARDIS, which at last gets repaired here, but there's a less obvious thematic connection to the books - magic. In the first, we see that Gallifreyan society was once magic-based. In the second a character argues that the Doctor is a warlock, disguising his magic as science. In this book we have science disguised as magic. Throughout the books, a TARDIS manifests itself as a silver cat, perhaps representing the Doctor's familiar. Other then offering a few examples of one of Clarke's laws, however, this theme doesn't really add anything to the books.

Of the three books, this is the weakest, giving us a fairly standard fantasy adventure wrapped up at the end with a bit of scientific mumbo-jumbo. It's not entirely a bad book (although it features some fairly lame attempts at humour) but it certainly suffers in comparison with the other two.

Quick outline

The TARDIS, in desperate need of repair, lands in the Welsh village of Llanfair Ceirog. The Doctor has been here before, and he and Ace visit some old friends of his. That night, Ace and the Doctor investigate a nearby stone circle on the property of surly farmer named Emrys Hughes, and witness a number of flickering lights appear in the circle, seemingly out of nowhere. On returning to the Doctor's friend's farm, they see a wolf attacking some sheep, but there should be no wolves in Wales.

Other odd things have been happening in or near the village. A vet delivers a foal to a mare with a bloody scar on her head, and finds a broken bone horn nearby. A coach crashes, and everyone on board (except the driver) have suitcases full of money, are wearing brand new clothes all bought from Marks and Spencer, and have no identification. The driver was Selwyn Hughes, the brother of Emrys Hughes. Inspector Stephens of Scotland Yard's Paranormal Investigations Division comes to Llanfair Ceirog to investigate, but gets nowhere with the local constable, also named Hughes.

On investigating the stone circle the next day the Doctor and Ace pass through its centre and are transported to another place. They are immediately captured by soldiers wearing crude armour and bearing swords. They are examined for the witch mark, and taken to the ruling council. There they learn that this land is named Tir na n-Óg, and is inhabited by a number of races that bear similarities to creatures of human folklore - unicorns, centaurs and trolls. The intelligent creatures all bear a design on the back of their necks the humans call a witch mark, but any human bearing the mark is a demon. The sun of this world is dying, however, and a god-like being known as Giobhnie who formerly aided the world's inhabitants, has apparently unleashed hordes of demonic beings on the world. The humans have been fleeing to Earth with the aid of the Hughes, and are keeping the other races from fleeing as the humans believe they will attract the attention of Earth authorities. The council will not allow the Doctor and Ace to return to Earth unless they attempt to travel to Giobhnie and convince him to restore the sun.

The Doctor agrees, and they set off. The Doctor believes the journey will be too dangerous for Ace, and leaves her with a group of humans they have met, leaving at night while Ace sleeps. Ace goes after the Doctor and eventually meets and befriends a group of unicorns. She plans to lead them back through the transporter to Earth, where she will enlist the aid of the authorities and organise a proper evacuation for all the races. She and the unicorns head back to break through the human lines of defense.

the Doctor, with the help of a vet from Earth he meets on the way, makes it to Giobhnie's tower and discovers that Giobhnie is an alien scientist, and the entire world is a social experiment that is drawing to a close. The artificial sun is running out of fuel, and Giobhnie is preparing to leave. The demonic hordes were failed experiments that, unbeknown to Giobhnie, have escaped their containment. The Doctor convinces him to continue the experiment, and the sun is refuelled.

Ace has managed to lead the unicorns back to Earth, but they are immediately captured by Hughes and other humans from Tir na n-Óg when they emerge form the transporter, and the unicorn's horns are brutally removed to disguise them as horses. With the aid of Inspector Stephens and two American tourists Ace escapes and goes back to Tir na n-Óg, where she is in time to meet the Doctor on his return.

A final assault on the human's defences is made by the demonic entities, but it is defeated by the united forces of all the intelligent races, who no longer have any reason for conflict now that the sun has been restored.

The Doctor and Ace return to the TARDIS, which is finally repaired through the use of some of the protoplasm Giobhnie used for his experiments, although unseen by the Doctor some demonic protoplasm he had on his coat from the battle with the demons also infects the TARDIS.