Negative numbers in the navigation equations take the Tardis slightly off-course – to a bleak island off the Irish coast where, with the aid of vacationing students, a monastic cult has been attempting to identify God through mathematics.
No, this isn’t going to end well, whichever way you add it up…
The second – and last – story in the recent Fifth Doctor boxset sees a much more settled Tardis team. Though Adric is still the “lonely boy”, awkward in the corner as he always seemed to be, Tegan has stopped wanting to go home. So it’s ironic that the Tardis lands in Ireland in 1981 – so close, yet cut off from the mainland… and the bleak island hides an alarming secret.
Like the previous tale, this one doesn’t run too happily. The supporting characters bicker, an ill-fitting assortment of cops and smugglers, with terrorism never quite mentioned. Constant and true Jerome Khan does get the girl, but in keeping with the feel of the Fifth Doctor stories it doesn’t work out the way the Doctor calculates.
It certainly feels windswept and horribly-British-weather. The details that emerge, as the team investigates the house, are a bit gruesome and definitely not teatime TV stuff. Which is to say that they’d be perfectly suited to that slot, of course. But the central mystery is that of the extra-dimensional creatures that make up the i, the minus one, the mathematical impossibilities that the monastic cult has managed to contact.
There’s a clear homage to Arthur C Clarke in the telling of this story. Specifically, to The Nine Billion Names of God, a short story in which Tibetan monks commission the construction of a super-computer to list all of the names of God. At the end of the story, with the task complete, the stars begin to go out… At first Iterations of I sounds to be going down this path, but John Dorney has other plans: where there’s one physically impossible creature, there must be others – and the scene is set for a race for survival, a chase across the island, and for Adric to jump from a helicopter!
Unfortunately this tale isn’t quite as successful as its predecessor. Once the creepy nature of the house and island is set aside for rapid-fire hand-waving explanations of the theoretical maths, and the i-creature itself is revealed as essentially benign, this turns away from being a sort of haunted house tale (if it had gone Fang Rock, it would have been absolutely ace, in my opinion) to a frantic action piece with shotguns. Fun, but not quite as memorable as Psychodrome. Still, it’s a nice piece of storytelling that showcases the talents of all three companions while still allowing the Doctor to breathlessly lead the investigation.
More Fifth Doctor please!
Now, if I wanted to, I could expand this mini-season by adding in the Companion Chronicle The Darkening Eye (narrated almost entirely by Sarah Sutton, but featuring this particular Tardis team). That play however, doesn’t have quite the same feel as these two full-cast stories and stands quite apart from them. As you’ll see in the next few weeks however, I am beginning to include certain Companion Chronicles in the Folly chronology – specifically, those Chronicles that have been designed to fit into Main Range story arcs. Indeed, when we reach Sly’s tenure, we will encounter a Companion Chronicle that relies heavily on Main Range continuity.
Next week, we return to another full season of old Sixey. This time there’s a theme: all the guest stars are old companions… or, disturbingly, his warped future self….