Doctor Who, the television series
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We first meet the eighth Doctor when he's teaching history at the London School of Economics in 1967. He has completely forgotten that he's a Time Lord. His memory starts to return shortly before the college is attacked by a deadly sphere of psionic energy. The Doctor realizes that the energy is hunting him, looking to destroy him, and summons the TARDIS so he can escape. When he is overwhelmed by the sudden excess of mental activity, the Doctor is aided by Rhonwen Jones, one of his students, who helps him into the TARDIS, and ends up leaving with him.
The TARDIS co-ordinates have been pre-set, and take the Doctor to his old mentor, Cho Je, Time Lord drop-out turned Buddhist monk. Cho Je explains how the seventh Doctor had visited him some years before, fearful that he was acting increasingly out of character, and believing that some vast personality was taking over his mind. Together, they utilized Cho Je's powers to project the Doctor's eighth incarnation as a separate being ahead of his time, hiding him away at the LSE until he was needed. Cho Je then reveals that he has lost all telepathic contact with the seventh Doctor, which means he has now been completely possessed.
The Doctor and Rhonwen travel to Gallifrey, where the Doctor finds the Inquisitor from his trial has been elected President over a new, more publicly-accountable administration. He also discovers the planet suffering massive seismic upheaval, as a result of mass being inexplicably lost from Gallifrey's sun. This is disrupting the gravitational balance that holds the Eye of Harmony beneath the Panopticon. If the disruption continues, the Eye of Harmony might rupture and release its captive black hole, which would destroy Gallifrey and probably half the galaxy with it.
We learn that there is a conspiracy by Pandak, the deposed President whom the Inquisitor replaced, to seize control of Gallifrey once more. He went into hiding after escaping the revolution, and at least one member of the High Council is helping him. But Pandak is being manipulated by Belphegor, the ancient force that has taken over the body of the seventh Doctor, who seeks to gain far more from opening the Eye of Harmony.
The Doctor enters the Matrix to converse with the image of his former self, and learns that Belphegor was the tyrant who ruled Gallifrey during the Dark Time, who sacrificed Omega to gain the secret of time travel, who set up the Death Zone for his own amusement, and ruled with great cruelty for millions of years until finally Rassilon overthrew him, and imprisoned his consciousness within the Matrix. But somehow, a sliver of that consciousness embedded itself in the Doctor's mind, and has been working for seven hundred years to take control. Now at last it has succeeded.
So the scene is set for the Doctor's final confrontation with Belphegor...
Doctor Who, the television series
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The Belphegor Inheritance arose from a number of different source ideas. Its initial impetus was always an attempt to restore the Doctor to the impulsive idealist of early years, rather than the "Dark Doctor" of the Sylvester McCoy era. See the What is Bullseye Books? section for more background on this. This was an idea that had been kicking around my mind, for some time, even before I started to conceive of the Bullseye series. At its heart was always a scene of a new Doctor encountering the "ghost" of the McCoy incarnation inside the Matrix, who would explain what had happened to change his personality, and how it could be restored. And indeed, this very sequence is the axis around which the whole of The Belphegor Inheritance turns.
It was obvious that The Belphegor Inheritance would by necessity take place on Gallifrey. This gave me the opportunity to examine some of the contradictions in the reported history of the Time Lords. There's a huge amount of fan myth and speculation that's been repeated so often over the years as to take on the weight of apparent truth. One of the most obvious cases being the way that the stories of Omega and Rassilon have been shoehorned together - yet when go back to the original sources, The Three Doctors and The Deadly Assassin, you find that they are absolutely incompatible. It always seemed to me the easy way out, to assume that they worked together on the supernova/black hole project (and even that's not consistent...) The fan myth would have it that Rassilon was the important one, the founder of Time Lord society, and Omega just the engineer who did the grubby work. But the programme makes it clear that Omega is a household name, a revered hero as famous as Lord Nelson, whereas Rassilon was reduced to a shadowy figure of legend, more obscure than King Arthur. They have to get an old history text out of the archives just to discover what he's supposed to have done. There's a lot to question here - no real evidence that Omega and Rassilon worked together - a strange gap in the historical record where Rassilon was concerned. It seemed to me that there was much more going on here. That the histories had been tampered with to hide the most deadly of secrets perhaps. So much so that Rassilon's own history was completely obscured. Couple this with the legends of cruel tyranny in the Dark Time, and I had something to build upon.
The third aspect was an attempt to explore the contradictions of the Doctor's own personal history. Was he an enforced exile, hoping one day to return, as stated in the first episode? Or was he just the restless renegade who got bored with the Time Lord lifestyle, as generally stated later? How could both these accounts be true? Was Susan really his granddaughter? Did he build the TARDIS himself, as implied in the Hartnell era? Was he a secret agent for the Celestial Intervention Agency, as The Two Doctors seems to suggest?
The Belphegor Inheritance came together as a novel when I was finally able to fit all three of these concepts together into a seamless whole. The linking factor was Belphegor. After that, I was able to develop the plot structure very easily. There is a lot of continuity in the novel, but it is designed to be read and understood even by a newcomer to Doctor Who. If you recognize the reference, then fine - if not, it just seems like a new piece of information that's been introduced to further the development of the plot. I think I've managed to be consistent with every previous story, even those which blatantly contradict each other! However, there is one deliberate continuity error in there, which I put in to see whether anyone could spot it. So far, no one ever has. If you find it, email me and there might just be some kind of prize.
Setting the story on Gallifrey gave me the opportunity to explore the political situation there, following the revolution that occurred at the end of The Trial of a Time Lord. It seems incredible to me that the New Adventures more or less ignored this major development, and depicted a largely unchanged Gallifrey with President Flavia still in charge. (Terrance Dicks attempted to rationalize this in his novel The Eight Doctors, with less than satisfactory results.) The whole Gallifrey concept is tired and boring, so why just repeat more of the same? Far more interesting and exciting to show a world taking its first faltering steps into a new democratic age. Show how the Time Lords are riddled with class prejudices, and yet for the first time have to rely upon the votes of the great unwashed. Some Time Lords must surely resent this new state of affairs - some might even wish to go back to the old ways. But could they ever hope to restore their oligarchy? The common people had already risen up to topple one unpopular government - wouldn't they be even quicker to do so again if they thought their new-found freedom was being taken away. So, I could use Gallifrey to explore some of the things that might happen in a newly emergent democracy, such as we witnessed when the Communist states of Eastern Europe fell. Ex-President Pandak's attempt at a couter-coup is perhaps reminiscent of the Communist hardliners trying to get back into power.
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