THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE SOON AFTER
THE NOVEL "TO THE
SOME TIME - MANY
YEARS, PERHAPS -
PRIOR TO THE NOVEL
- WE RECKON - "THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JUNE 2005.
The Doctor’s home
planet of Gallifrey
has been destroyed.
The Time Lords are
dead; their TARDISes
The man responsible
has been tracked
down and lured to
Earth in the year
2005, where there
will be no escape.
But Earth has other
problems – a STRANGE
signal is received, a
second moon appears
in the skyLINE, and aN
alien menace waits
to be unleashed...
The stage is set. The
Doctor, Fitz and Trix
will meet their FATE.
And this time, the
Doctor isn’t going
to be able to save
The Gallifrey Chronicles was published back in 2005, just after the launch of the revived television series (though some of us managed to get hold of it a little earlier). It might seem hard to believe now, but for some of us, the end of the eighth Doctor’s adventures in print was just as important an event as the beginning of the ninth Doctor’s era on screen.
By the time this book came out, I’d caught up with all the releases that I’d missed, and had been collecting the last two years’ worth as they were released. The Doctor, having lost his memory after he destroyed Gallifrey to save it from the Enemy and Faction Paradox, was about to meet another Time Lord face to face. His past was about to be revealed to him,
and all manner of questions were about to be resolved. This was a big deal.
There was a great deal of pressure on author Lance Parkin with this book – he not only had to wrap up the, now very convoluted, novel series, he also had to provide an enjoyable tale
in itself. Corresponding with Parkin occasionally via e-mail during the writing process, it was clear that he was excited by the project, and I’m pleased to say that he did himself proud. I devoured the book when I first got hold of it, and now - more than three years on - I’ve read it again. And, after four series of new televised adventures, many more stories in print, not to mention continuing eighth Doctor tales in the audio medium, it’s still a cracking read.
The novel centres around Marnal, a Time Lord stranded on Earth for over a century, without his memory. The parallels with the Doctor are immediately obvious. However, Marnal is a rather different sort of Time Lord; one who is convinced of his own superiority over human kind. He is a far harsher, less forgiving, less human character than the Doctor. If anything,
he comes across as a little like the Doctor when we first met him, at the end of An Unearthly Child; the sort of callous old alien who’d smash a caveman’s head in if it meant he’d get out of a sticky situation. The novel kicks off with Marnal’s regeneration, an act which unlocks his hidden memories. From this point on, everything Marnal does revolves around his desire to return to Gallifrey which, of course, is now impossible.
We learn a great deal about Marnal
during the course of the novel. During
his life on Earth, he has a career as an
author for well over a century, writing
a sequence of novels which are the
outlet for his repressed memories
of Gallifrey. During this time he has
children, although whether these are
adopted, or half-Gallifreyan / half-
human, we never find out. We learn
that his ‘real’ son visits him briefly in the 1970s, a son who is implied – only implied, mind – to be the Master. Later, we learn that Marnal was once an interventionist, a contemporary of the Doctor’s father, and that he was stranded on Earth by him as part of his punishment for a terrible error in judgment. It’s all fascinating stuff, raising more questions than answers, and the chance to learn more about Marnal would have been wonderful. Sadly though, this is his final regeneration…
Marnal spent his later years cared for by a young nurse, Rachel. Rachel counterpoints his character, as a very human foil. The parallels with the Doctor and his companions are clearly obvious. However, Rachel is a deeply sad, defeated person, living an unsatisfying life, and her own need for someone is what allows her to be strung along by Marnal. He needs an audience as much as the Doctor does, but he has no compassion for lower beings such as humanity, whatsoever. Rachel undergoes a gradual journey during the story, but we are left feeling that she has a long way to go before she will be at peace with herself.
When Marnal attempts to contact Gallifrey, and finds that he can’t, he constructs a universal viewer, powered by cold fusion, using a glass bottle and some bits of handy junk. He then discovers that Gallifrey is gone, and eventually identifies the Doctor as the culprit. There are some wonderful moments as he tries to track him down, viewing his entire time-stream up to this point, baffled by the difficulty of putting it into any kind of logical order (Parkin was writing his AHistory reference book at the same time as writing this, and his frustration appears to be showing through here. Oh, how we laughed!) This leads to my favourite line in the book: “As for his future… he has three ninth incarnations. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Meanwhile, the Doctor, Fitz and Trix are enjoying various brief adventures. We have snap-shots of their time before they become embroiled in the plot. Hints of Dalek activity are set off against silly jaunts in Roman togas. Most importantly though, we see Fitz and Trix begin
a romantic relationship. Although it feels sudden and rushed, this is the very point, as two people who live their lives on top of one another, suddenly find themselves in exactly that position. It’s just the sort of thing that really happens in close situations, and the fact that
their declarations of love are out-of-the-blue is entirely deliberate. Surprising even each
other, they decide to settle down together, as soon as they get the opportunity. Trix has
never allowed herself to put down roots, and Fitz has finally tired of following the Doctor’s footsteps. The fact that Fitz – seemingly, once again by implication – as managed to get some future knowledge of the end of their relationship, doesn’t seem to sap his optimistic outlook. He’ll live for the good times right now, thank you very much.
Trix finally gets some real characterisation, as Fitz breaks her defences down. We learn she’s definitely on the run from something… but never what. With the range coming to an end, its undeniable that Trix never got the exploration that her character needed. Fitz, on
the other hand, is the mainstay of the range, and it’s almost impossible to remember a
time when he wasn’t part of the series. Parkin has never kept quiet about his dislike of the character, viewing him as childish and unbelievable. Oddly, he seems to write for him better than any other author. It’s unsurprising that Parkin has him finally desire to move on, and equally unsurprising that he has him killed off. What’s surprising is that he then elects to
bring him back from the dead! I won’t spoil the twist of how this is accomplished for those who haven’t read it, but rest assured, it’s quite ingenious (and really rather chilling).
About halfway through the book, Marnal lures the Doctor to him, using the callous method of a beacon planted on Sam Jones’s grave. From here on, events move rapidly. While Fitz and Trix get on with their new life, the Doctor is confronted by his actions. He learns that he is a Time Lord, that he destroyed his own world and his own people – and he’s OK. There’s no desperate anguish or need for forgiveness. He sees a replay of Gallifrey’s final moments in The Ancestor Cell (written with more panache here than in the original), and he concludes that he did what had to be done, given the desperate situation. He’s his own man, with new memories, and he doesn’t need Marnal or the Time Lords or his old life to make him who he is. It’s wonderfully triumphant. Of course, part of the purpose of this book is to bring back the status quo from the earlier days, to set things up so that the Doctor remembers who he is, and Gallifrey to exist again so that it can be destroyed, finally, in time for the new television show. Again, I won’t reveal how Parkin resolves this, for those who have yet to read it; but needless to say, it’s a stroke of genius, and absolutely not the cop-out that many feared. As Parkin reminds us, the Doctor always wins.
So all well and good. Then, about two thirds of the way through, the Doctor escapes to make his own investigations. While he’s away, a second moon appears above the Earth, and the vicious Vore, a horrific hive of gigantic blowflies, attack the Earth. Fitz and Trix, and Marnal and Rachel, are caught up in the devastation. The story becomes another one entirely for them. These sequences are chilling, unpleasant and haunting, and give the book a much needed sense of jeopardy. The human race is devastated, and the Doctor has gone.
Amongst all this, The Gallifrey Chronicles is one of the novel series’ most reverent works. Not only does it celebrate the books so far – Anji turns up; we get a flashback to the Doctor and his daughter Miranda in Parkin’s own Father Time; Sabbath is mentioned, and so on – it’s absolutely chocker with references to Doctor Who as a whole. It’s fun spotting winks to the TV Movie; the New Adventures; The Infinity Doctors; various classic series episodes; unmade feature films; and I’m sure I missed as many as I found. The TV Movie is probably the most referenced, bookending the series. Even the Master turns up, or an echo of him,
at least, still imprisoned within the Eye of Harmony, and mightily pissed off. This sequence includes my second favourite line of the novel:
‘Do you finally realise the extent of my victory over you?’
The Doctor took a deep breath.
‘Oh, don’t worry, I recognise a victory when I see one.’
Eventually, of course, the Doctor returns to save the day, though we don’t get to see it. Some readers hated the open ending, but I loved it. We know that the Doctor will be back, we don’t need to see it happen. The novel ends with the Doctor leaping into the Vore hive, ready to fight ten billion aliens away from the Earth. He may succeed without incident. He may have
to regenerate. We know that some time between this novel and Rose, Gallifrey is restored;
a Time War is fought; and the eighth Doctor becomes the ninth. We can see how the Doctor gets there, we don’t need to see it happen.
Whatever happens next, the Doctor always wins. And so, Lance Parkin managed to wrap
up the longest, most convoluted story arc in Doctor Who’s forty-five year history, at the same time writing a cracking adventure novel with a solid, emotional core. This one is undoubtedly impenetrable to newcomers, but it simply isn’t written for them.
It’s written for us, the fans, and it’s marvellous.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Taking its name from an early 1990s reference work, The Gallifrey Chronicles harbours as much love for Doctor Who and its multimedia spin-offs as any work of fiction possibly could. Within the space of just 281 pages, Lance Parkin ties up most of the long-running threads that defined the latter years of the eighth Doctor’s BBC Books adventures, saying goodbye to some much-loved characters and revelling in the nonsensical continuity
of the Wilderness Years, whilst at the same time embracing the fantastic future. This is a book charged with closing doors, yet determined to open them.
Published in June 2005, just as British television audiences were getting acquainted with Christopher Eccleston’s no-nonsense ninth Doctor, The Gallifrey Chronicles had many a BBC Books-devotee rummaging around in book shops behind the revived series’ glossy hardbacks, desperately looking for the unassuming paperback responsible for bridging two dazzling eras. And with a blurb that begins “The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey has been destroyed. The Time Lords are dead, their TARDISes annihilated…” I’d wager that many new to the show couldn’t resist it either, once they’d seen the closing moments of The End
of the World. Herein lays the beauty of the book: its accessibility. It has far more continuity references, in-jokes and even metafictional conceits than would generally be considered palatable, let alone sensible, yet almost every aspect of it is geared towards re-establishing the Doctor as a dashing, prime time adventurer in time and space. The Gallifrey Chronicles takes the Doctor’s darkest hour and twists everybody’s perspective on it, proving once and for all that the Doctor never loses - even when he’s already lost.
Unlike many of the range’s event
novels, this story is surprisingly
straightforward, and written in a
style that’s verging on Terrance
Dicks-digestible. That’s not to
say that Parkin doesn’t have fun
with language though; quite the opposite in fact. His opening description of the Doctor is one of the most beautiful and clever
that I’ve ever read - sheer poetry, you might say - and at one point he had me convinced that
K-9 was a Dalek. That’s the magic of prose for you. Even more brilliantly still, Parkin playfully
breaks the fourth wall when he sees fit. There is a particularly beautiful passage where, in a
dream-like haze, the Doctor ruminates on his impending return to television. A tad fanciful,
perhaps, but indubitably rousing.
The plot itself has three main threads, the first of which concerns the Time Lord Marnal, and his vendetta against the man whom he learns has destroyed his beloved home planet: the Doctor. Marnal is initially presented as an elderly, amnesiac author who has made his name writing a series of oft-lambasted novels about a planet called Gallifrey and its majestic Time Lord inhabitants. Parkin litters the book with snippets of these works, naming most of them after the working titles of old Doctor Who television serials, and even repackaging the off-canon webcast Death Comes to Time’s prologue as one of the old exile’s more eloquent musings. As the narrative unfurls, Marnal regenerates, recovering his sense of identity and his sense of purpose along with it. With the aid of his nurse, Rachel, Marnal lures the Doctor to Earth where he plans to make him pay for what he’s done, but instead he inadvertently becomes the key to unlocking the mystery of the Doctor and Fitz’s amnesias, and the truth about the annihilation of Gallifrey and the apparent demise of its people.
Meanwhile, Fitz and Trix fall suddenly and deeply in love, and
decide to leave the Doctor to start a life together the next time
that they land on Earth. Of course, they soon find themselves
landing on Earth, in 2005, and any last-minute doubts are given
an almighty shove by the Doctor’s nonchalance at learning of one
of his former companion’s deaths, and the carrot of untold riches
courtesy of a certain Ms Anji Kapoor. It is this development that
lends the book much of its sentimental feel; reading about the
Doctor and Fitz being torn apart, only to be gloriously reunited
despite the most terminal of fences facing, is completely and
utterly uplifting. What’s more, the whirlwind romance between
the two companions is presented surprisingly persuasively. At
the time I remember being taken a little aback by it, but having now read the preceding novels again, the signs were all there, arguably as far back as Halflife. Blink and you’ll miss ’em.
Above: The original Gallifrey Chronicles
Unfortunately though, one question that The Gallifrey Chronicles doesn’t answer is that of Trix – in fact, it only serves to make her even more of a mystery. Through her actions in this novel we learn more about her character than in the total sum of her preceding appearances, as Fitz and her love for him really bring out the best in her. However, this is juxtaposed with the revelation that she is wanted by the police for murder, yet no-one stops to ask whether she really is a murderer. Fitz, blinded by love, never asks the question, and so we are left wondering whether the woman with no name is a cold-blooded killer, an “I killed my wife-beating husband” victim, or something else altogether. Back in 2005, I was seething about this because I really wanted to know. Now, however, I’m more ambivalent – whilst I still want to know, I can’t help but feel that had Parkin spilled all the beans about “Beatrice MacMillan”, then it would have thrown off the balance of the whole novel.
The third ingredient, if you will, is the Vore’s epic, Dying Days-scale invasion of Earth. As with the final New Adventure, Parkin does a tremendous job of conveying such a tumultuous event. Reading the book again in 2011, I was put in mind of some of Russell T Davies’ most ambitious season finales on television, such as Doomsday and The Stolen Earth. I’d like to say that it’s a pity we didn’t get to see more of the Vore, as they pose such a unique threat, but The Gallifrey Chronicles is such a perfectly weighted thing as it is that – as is the case with Trix’s past – Parkin would have been in real danger of over-egging the pudding had he introduced them earlier and/or protracted matters.
Indeed, The Gallifrey Chronicles’ most
palpable strength lies in its heart. Many
of my favourite moments are between
the Doctor and his fellow Gallifreyan,
Marnal. Parkin’s portrayal of the Paul
McGann Doctor is second to none, and
Marnal serves as timely reminder of the
darker side of the Doctor’s nature, as
well as compelling character in himself. An alluring blend of William Hartnell crabbiness and Sylvester McCoy righteousness, you can’t help but warm to Marnal the more that you learn about him. By the time that he meets his noble end, he’s no longer the villain of the piece but a tragic hero – and one who might just have paved the way for the renaissance of his people.
The revelations about what happened to the Time Lords after the Doctor pulled that lever at the end of The Ancestor Cell are delivered exquisitely by the author. I love how he subtly re-writes the final moments of that landmark tome, forcing readers to look at both Grandfather Paradox and the Doctor in a brand new light. When the Doctor woke up on Victorian Earth an amnesiac, many assumed that the trauma caused by destroying his planet had given rise to guilt and denial, and in turn the memory blank. Others assumed that with Gallifrey not only destroyed but apparently erased from creation, the Doctor was literally a man without a past, and thus no memory of that past; a theory that began to crystallise as even Fitz’s memories of Gallifrey began to fade with the passage of time. But Parkin does what no author before him had, giving voice to the obvious. “What has the Doctor got to feel guilty about?” Answer: nothing. He couldn’t have done anything differently. It’s simple, with hindsight, but the thought never once occurred to me until it had been spelt out. Then he asks another question, just as judicious: “Has the Doctor ever run from anything?” Answer: nope, and he never will. And if Marnal (amongst others) remembers Gallifrey and the Doctor, putting paid to the “nothing to remember” theory, then what did erase the Doctor’s memories? Answer: he did.
Then we come to the big one: why?
A lot of readers expected The
Gallifrey Chronicles to put all the
toys back in the box; some even
wanted it to. Many expected a
regeneration, a restoration of
Gallifrey, or even an elaborate
retcon that would see the Daleks
supplant Faction Paradox in the
events of The Ancestor Cell. To
his credit though, Parkin treads
very lightly here. Rather than take us all the way up to the ninth Doctor “finding Wilson’s body”
and uncovering a Nestene plot to invade Earth, closing off every mind-boggling possibility for
the eighth Doctor, he sews the seeds of any or all of the above outcomes, leaving the fate of
Eight and his planet to the imaginations of those who followed his adventures for so long.
The final two pages of this book rank amongst my favourites in the whole range as they who-leheartedly embrace this uncertainty; this excitement. As the Doctor prepares to leap into the Vore Hive and to what may well be this incarnation’s death, his companions speculate as to what will happen next, giving voice to all the trains of thought hurtling around inside readers’ overworked heads as they realise that there is no time for Parkin to resolve everything now – this, as they say, is it. The moment for killing the past and coming back to life.
And he leaps.
The time will come, I’m sure, when we the story of how Eight became Nine will be told, but even when that time comes, it will struggle to top The Gallifrey Chronicles. Many, of course, will balk at its compulsory cop-out, but even Parkin’s distaste for what he has to do seems evident in certain passages, and he is careful to remind the reader that the mutable, wibbly-wobbly history of the Whoniverse doesn’t undo the actions that maketh the man – and that
is, ultimately, what this one is all about. A sublime work of art from one of the series’ finest storytellers and wordsmiths, and one of my all-time favourites.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The Gallifrey Chronicles opens far more doors than it closes, but in our view the most likely series of events following it (from the Doctor’s perspective) are as follows:
The Doctor defeats the Vore without having to forfeit his incarnation. He parts ways with Fitz and Trix at the end of the adventure, who remain on Earth to enjoy a life that flits between luxury and fugitive. Thereafter the Doctor builds a Citadel on a huge and hitherto uninhabited burnt-orange planet which, for posterity’s sake, he drags and drops into the old Gallifreyan star system, along with a brand new sun. There, he constructs vast progenerative looms to weave new bodies for the Time Lords, whose consciousnesses he retrieves from the recesses of his mind with the help of K-9 and Madame Xing of Espero. Gallifrey is reborn, and probably none
Our reading of both The Gallifrey Chronicles and The Infinity Doctors is that the latter book is set on this ‘new’ Gallifrey – a theory lent some weight by the Lady Larna’s claim to be from the relative future in this book, and her declaration that “Gallifrey must fall” in order for it to return. It may be, then, that following another drastic haircut, the eighth Doctor settles for a while on Gallifrey, before leaving it once more to travel the stars again at that novel’s end. It may be.
Whether the Doctor is able to restore all of his pre-Ancestor Cell memories is doubtful, though the portrayal of the Doctor in the revived television series makes it clear that he has knowledge of all of his past lives (that we know of), including key events and acquaintances from them. Nevertheless, a few convenient holes in those memories could go a long way towards explaining apparent discontinuities between the various media without having to carve up the Whoniverse into umpteen slightly-divergent parallels and sealing half of them away in Klein Bottles and what have you.
As it should be, The Gallifrey Chronicles does not detail any of the events of the Last Great Time War or the ‘ultimate’ destruction of Gallifrey, though the Daleks’ threatening, veiled presence in the universe can certainly be felt in earnest. The aliens on Mars are demonstrably Daleks, and the Doctor’s oblique forebodings serve as a suitably ominous portent of events to come.
It may be rather telling, however, that in his new series tie-in The Eyeless, Parkin’s describes the destruction of Gallifrey in the Time War using the exact same wording as he does here to describe its destruction in The Ancestor Cell. You’ll need to read About Time to get your head around the implications of that, though.
Finally, as The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, Sometime Never… and The Gallifrey Chronicles all strongly imply that the Master lives on – be it in the bowels of the TARDIS, as a man with a rosette, or somehow even both – presumably his resurrection referred to in The Sound of Drums occurred on the Doctor’s new Gallifrey in a similar fashion to those of his peers. We posit that, rather than the Matrix memories housed within the Doctor’s mind, the Master’s mind and soul were somehow extracted from the TARDIS’s Eye of Harmony or wherever they ended up – and most probably against the Doctor’s knowledge and/or will.
This is all rampant, speculative nonsense of course.
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