THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
UNUSUAL" AND THE
on the Hyperion III
(shown in "THE TRIAL
OF A TIME LORD" as
a glimpse of the
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'MISSING
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
England, 1999. the
Doctor and Mel have
come to London to
celebrate the new
year with old friends
– and to heal old
wounds. But others
are making more
to usher in the new
software house is
about to run a
program that will
change the fabric of
reality. And an entity
older than the
universe is soon to be
When Anne Travers’
fear of the Great
combine, London is
transformed into a
dark and twisted
populated by demons
and sorcerers. Only
the Doctor can put
things right, but his
friends have also
changed and he
cannot trust anybody
– least of all himself.
“Millennial Rites” is a book of two halves. It is also a book of two Doctors – the sixth and the "quintessence and personification of all that rots and festers in the Doctor’s soul"- the Valeyard.
The first half of the book is set in the familiar stomping ground of not-quite-contemporary Earth. In fact, this novel marks Doctor Who’s first story set around the millennium – a fact
that the author, Craig Hinton, takes great delight in exploiting. He really plays upon Mel’s computer-programming background to milk all that he can out of the population’s ‘Y2K’ fears. A worldwide computer crash? Nothing. In “Millennial Rites,” Chapel – the former right hand man of Tobias Vaughn, incidentally – has created a computer virus that will alter the very nature of reality and see the world invaded by creatures from universes both before and after our own.
I really liked how Hinton uses Mel in this story. She may be one of my least favourite companions, but even so it is fascinating to see her react to being dumped a good decade or more into her own personal future. All her friends from University have grown up, got jobs and had babies and yet she has not aged. They have left her behind. It is good to see
Doctor Who exploring the more mundane consequences of time travel - something that it seldom takes time to do.
“Millennial Rites” sees the return of an elderly, and apparently sex-starved, Anne Travers; the Great Intelligence, which is given name here - ‘Yog-Sothoth’; and a new adversary, Saraquazel, a creature from the ‘next’ universe. There really is so much to this book, and whilst I do not want to negate the brilliance of the main Yog Sothoth / Saraquazel / fantasy Earth storyline, for me “Millennial Rites” is all about the Valeyard.
Although the Doctor and Mel have evidently met and are travelling together (she stowed away on board the TARDIS after she helped the Doctor prevent the Master from taking over the stock market, apparently), the Doctor is still trying his damnedest to fight the future. He knows that his adventures with Mel are the first steps down the dark path that will see him become the Valeyard. But even with her in tow, if he can avoid the Vervoid incident then that future will never happen, surely?
“Mock away, but remember this: of all your incarnations, your sixth is the weakest link,
the one most likely to succumb. Beware your hubris, Doctor…”
This conflict is at the centre of the novel throughout, but it is never clearer than in the second half of the book where the Doctor has to constantly fight to keep his dark side contained. In the new, altered version of reality the Doctor’s Valeyard ‘powers’ are great but the more he uses them, the closer he gets to becoming the Valeyard once and for all. Hinton demonstrates this brilliantly by putting the Doctor in the position where he has to watch people – watch his friends – suffer and die because of his refusal to use his ‘powers.’ Think Will Riker in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hide and Q” – it is the exact same dilemma that the Doctor faces here. Godlike powers, but at what price…?
“There is a violent storm approaching, Doctor.
A storm that will consume time and space – unless Time has a champion,
someone with the strength of his convictions,
the courage to make the difficult decisions and carry them through.
Even if those decisions demand the greatest of sacrifices.”
“Millennial Rites” culminates in face-off between the Doctor and his twisted, potential future self. A few short pages [pp296 – 299] sum up precisely what the Valeyard is and what the Doctor could become - without doubt the most remarkable facet of this whole novel is in how the author draws a parallel between the seventh Doctor and the Valeyard. The words that come out of the Valeyard’s mouth during his confrontation with the Doctor and the qualities that he states Time’s Champion will need are specifically the ones that are possessed by the seventh Doctor in abundance. It is no co-incidence that some of the seventh Doctor’s darkest hours have been when he has tried to live up to the mantle of being ‘Time’s Champion’ – including the (alleged) ‘murder’ of his sixth incarnation. “Millennial Rites”’ sister novel “Head Games” takes this idea and postulates that this ‘suicide’ was not only brought about as a result of a desire to become ‘Time’s Champion’ but, perhaps even more fundamentally, to avoid becoming the Valeyard. Here, the Doctor comes close – far too close – to killing Mel / Melaphyre or whatever she is called. He flirts with his power and is almost fatally seduced by it. Ironically though, if “Love and War”, “Head Games”, and this novel are to be given credence and the sixth Doctor’s life was deliberately cut short in order to stop him becoming the Valeyard, then it may have been in vein as in his lifetime the seventh Doctor has already come far closer to the dark side than his predecessor ever did.
“Then he smiled, and allowed himself a brief laugh. He knew himself, he knew the most distant recesses of his own mind. And the Valeyard was safely under lock and key.
He shook his head. The Doctor, grandmaster of chess on a thousand boards, with his companions as sacrificial pawns?
That would be the day.”
The ‘Valeyard’ thread of the plot aside, we are given an explanation as to the origins of the Great Intelligence, not to mention allusions to an as-yet-unseen inaugural ‘Doctor and Mel’ adventure featuring the Master trying to take over the stock market. It could have all gone so horribly wrong. But it didn't...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb suggests that it takes place between the television stories The Trial of a Time Lord and Time and the Rani, but it does not offer a more specific placement. As the text refers to the Doctor and Mel meeting just prior to the events of the novel Business Unusual, and the events of the novel The Quantum Archangel must take place after this story, we have therefore placed it between the two.
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