THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "THE ROOM
WITH NO DOORS" AND
THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN MARCH
ALL IS NOT WELL ON
Gallifrey. Chris is
Ace is talking to
herself. So is K-9.
Leela has stumbled
on a MURDEROUS
And the beleaguered
foresees the most
tumultuous event in
IS an ancient and
terrible place: the
House of Lungbarrow
in the mountains of
is happening there.
But the House has
Doctor left BEHIND
his family AND that
forgotten House. now
Doctor's final New
Adventure, he faces
a threat that could
uncover the greatest
secret of them all.
READ THE E-BOOK
The mint condition copy of this novel that is currently sitting on my bookshelf wrapped in cotton wool cost me £40.37 on eBay – probably the most that I’ve ever paid for any book, voluminous legal tomes included. Nevertheless, it was worth every last penny as the seventh Doctor’s final New Adventure is without a doubt the boldest of them all, and on
it rests the weight of the entire series.
Simply put, Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow is the keystone of Doctor Who mythology. Fans will no doubt argue forever more as to whether the book is ‘canon’ or apocryphal, but regardless of what they each decide, Lungbarrow will always be the definitive guide Gallifrey and the Old Time. Everything from the fall of the Pythia to the Intuitive Revelation is covered here in vivid detail. Make no mistake, this is the Gallifreyan Bible.
“The house is the people.”
Through twenty-six years of television and almost a decade of full-length coffee table books, every Who fan has wondered about who the Doctor is and where he came from. Even when in the late 1970s and early 1980s a glut of overexposure for Gallifrey left only a few questions unanswered, these few still burned. Lungbarrow answers these fundamental questions, but it does so in a manner that leaves the Doctor even more of a mystery than ever.
However, as much as Lungbarrow may reveal about the Old Time and particularly about the Doctor’s unusual pedigree, the bulk of the novel takes place within the Doctor’s Homestead – the House of Lungbarrow in the Southern Mountain Ranges of Gallifrey. The Doctor’s line about the House being a “wild and beautiful setting for the worst place in the universe” sums up both his attitude towards his ancestral seat as well the tone of the whole novel effectively. It’s no secret that Ghost Light – a television story that saw Ace face up to her darkest fears in what was for her, the worst place in the universe – was adapted from Platt’s original pitch for Lungbarrow, and so to many fans a lot of the themes that run through this piece will feel familiar, only the emphasis has changed. Lungbarrow is not about Ace; it’s about the Doctor. Lungbarrow isn’t about an old house in Perivale; it’s about an ancient and terrible house in Gallifrey’s Southern mountain range. And this is why Lungbarrow is something like a million times more interesting than Ghost Light could ever have dreamed of being.
“You certainly never belonged to Lungbarrow’s Loom. Or do you come from further afield?”
As we’ve learned through
previous New Adventures,
since the Pythia cursed
Gallifrey, the Time Lords
have been a barren race,
unable to reproduce via
conventional means. Further, as has been hinted at in recent releases, modern Gallifreyans are ‘woven’ in great genetic looms. Here Platt takes it upon himself to flesh out the workings of this system; in fact, a key element of his plot depends upon it. At its simplest, each House has a loom, and each loom is allowed to have a maximum of forty-five ‘cousins’ in existence at any given time. Each cousin is then capable of regenerating twelve times and thus living for millennia, meaning that it is only in the rarest of circumstances – i.e. when after thousands of years a cousin finally reaches the end of his thirteenth life – that the loom will weave a new cousin. Now because Gallifreyans are woven more or less fully-grown – hence the oversized loomhouses, designed as such to make their young feel small - the ‘children’ of Gallifrey are then put through years of ‘brain-buffing’, which I gather is an intense and protracted period of one-to-one tuition. I can’t commend enough the level of detail in Lungbarrow; Platt must live and breathe Gallifrey to be able to realise it so vividly; his world building easily matches that of Tolkien. However, all that I have described thus far is merely the backdrop to the narrative; key knowledge that reader requires to make sense of the fantastic tale that is to come.
Six hundred and seventy-three years after he fled Gallifrey in a stolen Type 40 TARDIS, the Doctor is recalled to Gallifrey by President Romana and the Celestial Intervention Agency’s Lord Ferain to undertake the most secret of missions. Only something goes wrong. With the Doctor’s mind literally full to bursting after recent events, the TARDIS shunts his unconscious thoughts “into the nearest available database” – his long-suffering companion, Chris Cwej.
In what is, hot on the heels of The Room with No Doors, one hell of an inspired move, Chris finds himself having the Doctor’s dreams and sharing the Doctor’s most intimate thoughts. As the novel progresses, Chris begins to believe that he is the Doctor, and it is because of Chris’s thoughts about home that the TARDIS returns to Lungbarrow: the House where the Doctor was woven; the House that the Doctor fled almost seven hundred years ago, shortly prior to its entombment. Accordingly, when the Doctor emerges to be greeted by his long-since buried “cousins”, his welcome is not a warm one.
“I only wanted to be part of the Family. I went through all the correct procedures…”
Cousin Glospin is the Doctor’s main detractor and the villain of the piece. It was Glospin who murdered Quences (Lungbarrow’s erstwhile Housekeeper, and potentially the ‘father’ whom
the Doctor refers to in the TV movie) and framed the Doctor. It was Glospin who instructed the loom to weave a new cousin even though the Doctor was still very much alive, exceeding the loom’s quota and condemning the House to entombment.
In the novel we meet only a few more of the Doctor’s cousins. I mean, let’s face it - forty-four cousins would have been difficult enough to keep track of on television, never mind in print. Amongst the most memorable are Innocet, who is by far the most endearing; the illegal runt of the litter, Owis; and Satthralope, the mad old crone of a Housekeeper. Each cousin that we encounter is interesting and unique, though in truth I did find that whilst reading the novel the more lingering passages set within Lungbarrow itself were lacking pace, Platt focusing too heavily on its inhabitants at the expense of the Doctor and Chris (and Ace and Romana and Leelandredloomsagwinaechegesima and Andred and the two K-9s…) Fortunately the more languid passages are interspersed with almost preposterously dynamic set pieces, such as the epic Ace versus Leela duel, which could have been torn straight out of a Star Wars movie.
What I did enjoy about the Lungbarrow passages though was their mystery. Chris gets one last chance to return to his Adjudicator role as he investigates the murders of Quences, and in doing so he begins to unravel the history of the Doctor…
The Doctor once worked as a “Scrutionary Archivist”, though he always dreamed of being
a Doctor (it is unclear whether he wanted to be a medical Doctor or a scientific one, though considering that this is Gallifrey we are talking about, I would assume the latter). Quences frowned heavily on this ambition, instead wanting his “favourite son” to go into politics. The Doctor eventually became a Time Lord to appease Quences, but even then the rest of his family still hated him.
Glospin always believed that the Doctor did not belong to Lungbarrow’s loom. Along with many of the other cousins, Glospin would constantly bully the Doctor, teasing him with cruel names like Wormhole, Snail, and Bellybutton which reflected the fact that the Doctor had been loomed with an extra appendage - a human belly button, which of course implies that the Doctor was not loomed at all, but was of natural birth, and had infiltrated Lungbarrow’s loom thereafter.
You will note that throughout I still refer to
the Doctor as ‘the Doctor’ – Platt is very
careful not to give the Doctor’s true name
away. Kate Orman’s earlier novel Return
of the Living Dad has suggested that the
Doctor’s name has thirty-eight syllables,
but beyond this it remains a mystery. His identity, however, is another matter.
“Once, long ago, he lived on Gallifrey and he was known as the Other.”
Through Chris’s dreams we learn that following the Intuitive Revelation, Gallifrey was ruled
by a triumvirate – Omega, the scientist whose experiments made the Gallifreyans Lords of Time; Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society; and another whose name history forgets, who served as counsel to both Rassilon and Omega. Omega, as we know, was banished to a universe of anti-matter, which allowed Rassilon to grow more and more powerful until he eventually became corrupt. By this point “the Other” no longer wished to serve him, and so
as Rassilon put the rebels that opposed him to the sword, the Other kissed his wife and his granddaughter Susan goodbye and then cast himself into one of the earliest progenerative chambers to be reborn long after Rassilon had fallen from power.
Following his disappearance, the Other would become a dark figure in Gallifreyan history. It was said that he stole away the Hand of Omega and, in contravention of the law protecting the “preteritive time of Gallifrey”, took it with him into the “forbidden past”, jeopardising the present in which the Time Lords exist. It was even said that the Other was not Gallifreyan at all, but an alien from a primitive planet. Every year on Otherstide, Gallifrey would celebrate the day the Other went away, taking superstition and the old ways with him. And then aeons later, one Otherstide Eve, the Doctor was loomed…
“Transportation into the Backtime of Gallifreyan continuum is forbidden.”
Following the events described in this novel, the first Doctor broke into an antiquated Type 40 Time Capsule with the intention of fleeing Gallifrey forever. He circumvented the planet’s transduction barriers and temporal locks and broke the Time Lords’ most cardinal law – he travelled into Gallifrey’s relative past. There the Hand of Omega attached itself to him as did a young woman, Susan, who took the Doctor to be her long lost Grandfather. Together they fled the planet.
The implication is obvious,
but to his credit Platt never
makes it expressly clear.
Both the Hand of Omega
and Susan had instantly
taken the Doctor to be the Other, just as Patience did
in Cold Fusion. But is he?
And if he is, does he know
about it? And was this Other human, Gallifreyan, or something else altogether? In answering the most basic of questions about the Doctor’s past, Platt has made him more of an enigma than ever he was.
The end of the novel flows effortlessly into the TV movie. Chris remains behind on Gallifrey, the reasons for his departure well-documented in the preceding novel; the TARDIS’ interior goes through a spectacular renovation; and the Doctor is harged with a fateful mission to Skaro…
Looking back over the New Adventures, the seventh Doctor’s journey has certainly been a long, dark and utterly absorbing one, but the man left alone in his TARDIS at the end of this novel is finally at peace with himself. He can see his impending demise, but no longer fears it. Things have been mended with Ace. Chris is coming to terms with Roz’s death. Gallifrey and Karn are unified once more, and the Pythia’s curse has been lifted. Indeed, Leela shall bear Gallifrey’s first child for aeons – and a half-human child, no less. Most importantly of all though, just as the Other once cast off his “dark and brooding self”, by way of his return home to Lungbarrow, the seventh Doctor has managed to do much the same here. And now he’s eighth man bound...
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.
Lungbarrow explains that the Doctor was loomed one Otherstide Eve in the House of Lungbarrow, somewhere in Gallifrey’s Southern Mountain Ranges. In his formative “brain-buffing years”, the Doctor didn’t get along with his family. A lonely and depressed youth, the Doctor was bullied by many of his cousins, who would call him cruel names like “Wormhole” and “Snail” which reflected the fact that he had been loomed with a human belly button. The Doctor’s cousins took this to mean that the Doctor was born naturally at some point prior to his looming, and had subsequently undergone genetic weaving to “infiltrate” their family for his own (presumably nefarious) ends.
After stealing an antiquated Type 40 TARDIS, the Doctor took refuge in the one place that his people wouldn’t ever look: the forbidden past, just after the Intuitive Revelation. There he encountered a young woman, Susan, who instantly took him to be her grandfather, the Other. The Doctor also found that, for reasons that he could not explain, the Hand of Omega bound itself to him. And so with this young woman and the Hand of Omega on board his stolen TARDIS, the Doctor went on the run from his own people.
Lungbarrow also attempts to reconcile the Doctor’s half-humanity established in the TV Movie with continuity by suggesting that the Other was a human being from Victorian times who ended up stranded on Gallifrey in the Old Time. It is strongly implied that the Doctor is a reincarnation of this Other, potentially explaining both
the Doctor’s anomalous genetics as well as the human mother referred to in the TV Movie and the novel The Infinity Doctors. It would also go some way towards explaining the Doctor’s unlikely fondness for Earth and humans.
Finally, this novel was originally intended to segue directly into the TV Movie, however an increasing number of audio dramas appear to be set in between. In Excelis Decays, for instance, the completed overhaul of the TARDIS console room is referred to in the opening scene, suggesting that it follows the end of this story, in which its regeneration begins. It would seem, then, that after this novel the Doctor put his fateful mission to Skaro on hold for a little while. Time is relative, after all...
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.