Millennial Rites and
A linked pair
|Authors||Craig Hinton and Steve Lyons|
|Synopsis: The story of Mel carries across two eras. These two books, released together, look at two sides of Mel's adventures.|
A Review by Shaun Lyon 17/9/99
One of the moments I've waited patiently for since Virgin started issuing the New Adventures was -- at last -- an explanation of the Melanie situation. You know, how Mel left with the Doctor at the end of Trial of a Time Lord even though she hadn't met him yet, or he hadn't met her yet... oh, I hate time paradoxes. Suffice it to say, it was a puzzle, and if you do the math, things don't necessarily add up.
The Melanie Question has bugged me for years. Thankfully, it bugged Craig Hinton and Steve Lyons enough to write novels about the situation, and after all these years, we finally have some explanations. Consulting each other in the writing of their two books -- Millennial Rites taking place some time after the Doctor began his travels with Melanie, and Head Games with the Seventh Doctor, Bernice, Chris and Roz -- both have developed an elaborate tapestry that involves the creation of the Valeyard, the Melanie Question, and the reason why the Doctor bumped his head and regenerated to become Sylvester McCoy at the beginning of Time and the Rani... and that's only the beginning.
Before I let you in on some of these secrets, let me say this: I loved Millennial Rites and, other than the Valeyard and Melanie bits, I hated Head Games. Let me start with Head Games, which is basically a sequel to Lyons' earlier, patronizing Conundrum. (I kinda liked Conundrum which was a visit to the Land of Fiction...) We discover in Head Games that the mysterious Writer from Conundrum whose mind was used by the Master of the Land of Fiction is now becoming more powerful. His name is Jason, and he's traveling with "Dr. Who," the fictional character based upon the Doctor Who comics of the Sixties. (If you're confused, go read Conundrum.) There are some weird subplots in Head Games regarding some people on a distant planet, but let me say this... 95% of that is crap. I found myself skipping forward to the interesting bits concerning Mel and the Valeyard. I'll get to those in a minute. Head Games is confusing and almost impossible to get through, and I really recommend that you do what I do -- skip to the good bits.
Millennial Rites, on the other hand, is my favorite Missing Adventure of them all. The Sixth Doctor and Melanie have come to Earth on New Years Eve, 1999. The Doctor has linked up with Anne Travers, whose destiny is linked to the Great Intelligence (she's Professor Travers' daughter from Abominable Snowmen and Web of Fear, and she's there during the third Intelligence/Yeti attack chronicled in Downtime, the video and upcoming Missing Adventure book.) Anne's got a bit of a problem... she thinks the Great Intelligence is about to attack again. Meanwhile, across town there's this other bloke named Ashley Chapel, head of a computer firm who's been driven for twenty years to write this massive program that will somehow transform the world. Basically, Ashley's been possessed by Saraquazel, a being from the next universe (the universe born after ours stops expanding and contracts and Big Bangs again), while the Great Intelligence, also known as Yog-Sothoth, is from the PREVIOUS universe. By a freak of coincidence, when the Millennium Codex computer program runs, Saraquazel and the Intelligence -- who, it turns out, IS going to attack Earth again -- bump heads and the energy released by the program transforms London into a bizarre other reality.
The new London is a staggering place. It's divided into three segments, run by the Archimage (Ashley), Anastasia (Anne) and Melaphyre (Melanie). Respectively, they report to three gods: Saraquazel, Yog-Sothoth, and Lady Tardis. What follows is the Doctor's progression to solve the mysteries of what's happened, why the world's been transformed, what lies beyond the Wretched Wastes (everything outside London), why his memory is still intact but no one else's is, how he can defeat his enemies and turn London back into the proper place it should be before time runs out. But that's not all... the Doctor is being transformed himself all the while, into a man with a black shiny silver-lined coat known as the One Who's Name Cannot Be Mentioned. Of course, someone ends up mentioning that name. Valeyard.
Millennial Rites becomes a fascinating novel, made even more fascinating (which really surprised me) when London is transformed for the second half. I thought it would get much less interesting, but the book held my interest, and is a remarkable character study of the Sixth Doctor. I'd recommend it highly.
Together, even though Head Games wasn't worth all that much to me as far as the main story goes, they form an interesting set of bookends to the Sixth Doctor's tenure. The Sixth Doctor has the potential throughout his existence to become the Valeyard, a fact that is omnipresent during Millennial Rites as he struggles not to. This version of the Doctor is out of control, it seems, and so something must be done to stop that chaos. The Doctor spends a great deal of time in his travels avoiding Melanie, a companion he knows won't turn out the way he wants to, but inevitability sets in and when he finally meets her, he knows all about the adventure with the Vervoids that he must go through. The regeneration is a plan to stop the incarnation of the "Colourful Jester" and create "Time's Champion," a regeneration he knew would be necessary because of the impending chaos setting in over the universe. The Seventh Doctor spends a bit of time avoiding his new responsibilities, but when he sees Ace on Iceworld -- who he recognizes was sent by Fenric -- he understands that the game has finally begun. The Doctor willfully banishes Melanie by implanting the seeds of discord in her mind ("Time that I should be going," Mel said in Dragonfire... a message that was planted in her mind by the Doctor, who wanted to get her out of the way of danger) and takes Ace under his wing. However, Mel eventually leaves Glitz, whom she left the Doctor with in Dragonfire and ends up stranded on a planet for six months where she meets up with the Doctor again in Head Games. By the end of that book, Melanie hates the Doctor and goes back to Earth, and the Doctor confronts, within his own mind, his Sixth Incarnation, where he explains why he had to kill the Colin Baker persona off in order to stop his transformation into the Valeyard he foresaw during the Trial and Millennial Rites and start his mission as Time's Champion.
Okay, it's confusing. But it fills in some massive gaps toward the end of televised Who lore, and it's a welcome addition to the fold. Pity half of it had to be in such a bad novel as Head Games, but read that for the Mel/Valeyard bits. Read Millennial Rites because it's just a damn good novel.