Starring Carol Ann Ford as Susan and Stephen Hancock as The First Mate
Written by Andy Lane
Directed by Lisa Bowerman
The TARDIS crew materialize on a space exploration vessel crewed by sentient plant life. The ship is using an innovative, yet extremely dangerous, method to create navigational lanes through space.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Doctor Who become influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, yet the influence is a beautiful one. The scope of Doctor Who is limitless, all of time and space. However, what about the dark corners of unexplored space? What about those beings that exist just outside of our reality? This is the subject of Here There Be Monsters.
At it’s core, this story takes a bit of inspiration from tales of sea exploration on our planet, it just switches them to space. Humanity, looking for safe navigational routes, opened up the table to any and all plausible ideas. One idea led to the genetic development of sentient plants that would grow through the ship like vines, eventually creating a jungle that populated the ship and could monitor ship functions. One plant could run a ship without the need for a human crew. The plants would also work with a singular focus that humans could never achieve. As Rostrum, the plant captain of The Nevermore, says, plants spend their entire lives reaching toward the sun but never getting there. Boredom is where plants thrive. Humans have the tendency to go insane on long, deep space voyages. Humanity gets to stay home on Earth and put their minds to other activities, such as creating art or being philosophically contemplative. This isn’t quite the raw deal that the Golgafrinchans on Ark Fleet Ship B got, but still seems a bit uneven.
The only problem with the method The Nevermore uses to explore is that it punches holes in the fabric of space. It rips a hole here, and another one there, alternating every few hundred light years. Presumably it operates a bit like a tesseract, only instead of folding space and stepping over, you fold space and rip a hole in it. A bit like sewing, perhaps? Regardless, these holes weaken space, and The Doctor is furious because things lurk just below the space in which we exist. Imagine space being the surface of water. Creatures exist below the surface, but due to the nature of space, they are unable to break into our reality. The benchmark method of exploration used by The Nevermore is weakening space so that these creatures are able to break through in all their tentacled, Lovecraftian glory.
Other questions arise in the story. Rostrum is dying due to some disease. As he dies, his memory fades. Then there is the mysterious First Mate, who is working in the areas where Rostrum has died. These two mysteries are, of course, connected. As the tears in space widen, The Doctor realizes that the only possible way to repair them is to use The TARDIS, which would in turn destroy the time machine. This isn’t the most ideal solution so far as anyone is concerned.
This was a good story. It was a bit slow in places, and Susan didn’t seem to do much beyond walk to the bridge where The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Rostrum argued and then walk back to The First Mate. This was a necessary device since Susan is the narrator, but on the face of it, it just seemed odd that all she did is walk back and forth. However, the characterization of Susan is some of the best the character has had. She only had a handful of good episodes (An Unearthly Child, all of The Sensorites, and Flashpoint), and this story builds on that. She makes the observation that her grandfather loves to travel and might feel that she is holding her back (perhaps a subtle reference to Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman?). She also states that the whole reason The Doctor left Gallifrey was because he disagreed with the non-interventionist policies of his people. In his opinion, events should be experienced, not merely observed. This is an interesting interpretation of why The Doctor left. I can’t help but wonder if there is an episode that supports this. If so, my money is on The War Games, mainly because I haven’t seen it yet.
The other universe, while hinting at Lovecraftian horrors ultimately turns out to be not much different from our own. Yes, the creatures look different, but they have the same hopes and fears as we do, even fearing our universe as much as we fear theirs. Yet, while we have no real malice to one another, we cannot coexist. Like matter and anti-matter, intersections between our universe and the other universe are dangerous, even fatal. Naturally, the rip is sealed in the end. I won’t give too much more away with regard to how. All in all, a decent story. Andy Lane is a good writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed his Missing Adventures novel The Empire of Glass. He has a good grasp of The First Doctor’s mannerisms, even if Carol Anne Ford has a bit of difficulty capturing the character at first. She does get there in the end. This is certainly a good story to check out if you are a fan of Susan or The Companion Chronicles.