The Sisyphean Planet
Everyone always remembers the stripper. And so The Sisyphean Planet is not recalled for its themes, or dialogue, or characters, but the minor plot point of an alien walrus lusting after a fifteen year-old school girl. Combined with the author's increasing eccentricities when it came to characters by Hannah Murray - culminating in his infamous desire to be stabbed to death by Cassie from Skins - it's not hard to see why this storm in a teacup became the veritable tsunami. The Sparachivum Universium itself notes "Readers should be warned that this story includes greater-than-average amounts of walrus rape. And I'm talking by Japanese standards. You have been warned."
With a reputation like that, it's not exactly surprising that the story's positive elements have been completely ignored.
Just as the specials/gap year saw a total overhaul of Doctor Who, the same occured in miniature two years ealier to the Chathamverse. There was a new cast, a new head writer and a distinctive new house style. Joshua Wynne, aka LemonBloodyCola aka LBC, was now in charge since sparacus had been forced into retirement. LBC's florid prose, convoluted plotting, unrealistic dialogue and incoherent titles made him seem the perfect choice to continue sparacus' work. His season opener, The Claws of Time, reordered the entire status quo, introduced two brand new characters, a recurring villain and linked the franchise strongly with Torchwood.
This follow up would have LBC's second take not only on the Chathamverse but also the Whoniverse and... it's surprisingly good. Certainly in comparison to his predecessor. While the Doctor may be obsessed with Ben and Donna treated as an albatross around their necks, the characters are actually recognizable - even the dim Donna is truer to The Runaway Bride than the worthless mute sparacus wrote for. It's much easier to imagine David Tennant and Catherine Tate in this story than any other beforehand (though that could be down to its outright plagiarism of The Doctor's Daughter).
Furthermore, The Sisyphean Planet actually has a genuinely thought-provoking premise (albeit one terribly handled): is freedom from pain and misery worth slavery? Isn't this, to an extent, what Ben Chatham does whenever he gets wasted on absinthe? Who exactly gives our heroes the right to interfere with other societies they know nothing about? For once Ben doesn't have the automatic god-given right to do whatever he pleases and take the credit, and the Doctor has no easy answer to the questions. The lines between Craig and Isobel might be vomit inducing, but there is a point to them. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find many sparacus stories that could claim they have a point at all.
Looking back at it, The Sisyphean Planet could have been one of the most intelligent and sophisticated stories in the Chathamverse. But, of course, the trouble is, no one remembers anything about it except for the walrus rape...
- "Sisyphean": derived from the character in Greek and Roman mythology Sisyphus, who was punished for his sins by being forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill for all eternity. Every time Sisyphus got the boulder to the top of the hill, it would immediately roll back down to the bottom, forcing the king to repeat the process again and again... Thus, "the Sisyphean planet" would be a world of endless and fruitless tasks and labor. With this being LBC's second story for the Chathamverse, was he perhaps thinking his own work was similarly doomed and pointless?
- Curiously for LBC's work this episode does not have its own individual title.
In a park in Cardiff, Craig Chatham is spending an afternoon with his girlfriend Isobel.
- Craig Chatham was introduced in Crystal, the son of Ben's sister Nicole. A clinically-depressed, self-harming emo poet, Craig's life had been ruined before he was born by Ben, who manipulated to have Craig's mother kicked out of home and forced to live on the streets, and when they finally met fifteen years later, Ben promplty used her as a human sheild and got her killed. Ben is now Craig's legal guardian, but don't be fooled into thinking he's got any genuine love for his long-lost nephew - later stories reveal Ben took Craig under his care to ensure his parents wouldn't find out about their grandson and thus endanger Ben's grasp on the inheritance...
- Isobel, meanwhile, was introduced in the very next story The Claws of Time - a mute harp-playing artist Craig had worshipped from afar (and also Kyle... long story, wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimy) who was actually an alien survivor of the Time War undercover. Following this revelation she was taken to the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff for "study" by Jack's team. Being deprived of Isobel even for a few weeks would be enough to drive Craig to slash his own risks, so regular visits with Isobel were quickly arranged by Ben. Future stories would reveal Isobel was, in reality, an insanely-powerful godlike alien which could go from a serene loving being (the White Swan) to a sadistic and viscious force of chaos (the Black Swan). LBC cheerfully admits he stole the angle lock and stock from the Uncanny X-Men "Dark Phoenix" saga (issues 129-38, 1980). Following the Second Great Canon-Reset of the Sparaverse, Isobel's true nature was forgotten - leaving her a weak-willed and pretentious damsel in distress that would faint at the slightest provocation.
- Interestingly, while Craig is finally cast as "Dario Coates", Isobel remains unknown. This is deeply ironic, given LBC's psychotic lust for Hannah Murray is now so well known, one can only assume this is the fanfic author equivalent of playing hard to get.
Wanting some privacy, the two teens decide to sneak into a police box which is also in the park.
- More evidence of Ben's neglect and lack of interest in his ward - he hasn't so much as hinted his past life aboard the TARDIS to Craig, something Ben in the past revealed to any number of one-night stands (which would certainly not be appreciated by the Doctor). Mind you, Craig's complete lack of interest in Ben's relationship with "the strange rather hyperactive man in the pinstripe suit, with crazy hair; who had urgently called Ben away" wouldn't have helped matters. Presumably Craig was too obsessed with Isobel to pay attention...
- We discover Ben was a fan of The Smiths during his teenage years and has a T-shirt of them which he gave to Craig. A tender attempt to connect with his nephew, or simply Ben being too cheap to buy Craig any new clothes? You decide.
- Isobel is apparently playing her harp under a willow tree. From LBC's comments, it was clear this was a huge orchestral harp... so does Isobel leave in the park? She can't expect to "sneak it" into a police box, can she?
Inside the TARDIS (for it is that same police box) the Doctor, Donna Noble and Ben Chatham are catching up in a recreation room.
- So this was the "urgent matter" the Doctor summoned Ben away for? Or was that just what Ben told Craig to keep him out of his hair?
- The Doctor claims he's missed Ben and yearns for a "cultured conversation" which he could never get from a "dopey mare" like Donna. The only thing keeping this from being the pure sparacassian misogyny is Donna "playfully affronted" by the claim, suggesting they get on famously ala the TV series. Or perhaps the Doctor is actually making fun of Ben's snobbery and Ben, typically, is too stupid to notice.
- The Doctor claims he's heard all about Ben's adventures with Reapers (The Claws of Time) and Zygons (Peace in Our Time). How?! Yet neither the Doctor nor Donna know about Craig, Isobel, or Kyle's status (he's ditched Ben temporarily to look after his mother). Ben certainly doesn't mention he now effectively has a son to look after, preferring to moan about his (non-existent) relationship with Anselm: "He refuses to accept my unconventional lifestyle and to allow me to love him.” Clearly Ben never considered Anselm's feelings in the matter...
Suddenly Craig and Isobel enter, stunned at what they see.
- Presumably the recreation room is very close to the control chamber. Or did Craig wander through miles of corridors before suddenly exclaiming “It’s bigger on the inside, this is madness, MADNESS!!” And for someone who's girlfriend is a godlike alien in disguise currently slumming it in a secret underground base run by an immortal time traveler, shouldn't Craig be ever so slightly more open-minded?
Suddenly the TARDIS dematerializes, gripped by an outside force...
- The Doctor and Donna catching up with an ex-companion when the TARDIS suddenly hurtles off into the wide blue yonder as a cliffhanger? Anyone paying attention will have noticed the similarity to the ending of The Poison Sky... which all the readers at the time did... even the dialogue is identical: "Doctor, don't you dare! Doctor, just listen to me! You take me home, take me home right now!" shouts Martha angrilly as the Doctor insists, "No, no, no! I didn't touch anything! We're in flight, it's not me! It's out of control!". Here the Doctor cries, “It’s not me! Something has taken control of the TARDIS!” and Ben shouts “Doctor! I will not tolerate being inconvenienced like this!” Though we are left wondering what exactly Ben intends to do about this, the ungrateful little bastard...
- Just what causes the TARDIS to take off? Isobel's presence? Some strange property of the events on Sisyphus 5? Or perhaps the TARDIS is, as Ben suggests, trying to lift Craig's "existential malaise" by showing him some of the universe? Your guess is as good as mine. LBC never bothered to explain it...
PART TWO: The Angel of Sisyphus 5
The TARDIS materialises in an underground mining complex on an alien planet. The TARDIS crew emerge and are confronted by blue walrus-like humanoids. When Ben and the Doctor attack them, one of the aliens fires a "lazar blast" at Isobel and Donna, apparently destroying them.
- It's instantly obvious that Isobel and Donna have simply been teleported away, as this plot twist was memorably used in Bad Wolf in 2005.
- Why do the walrus people immediately attack the group? One shouts "Crush the outsiders", so it's probably down to extreme xenophobia but one should notice that - in fine sparacus tradition - the Doctor and Ben are the aggressors, instantly "levelling the creatures with a string of intricate Venusian Aikido moves" without any attempts to communicate. The Tenth Doctor's use of unarmed combat (a complete contradiction to his onscreen persona) is a longrunning and ill-thought out attempt by sparacus to make the character more like Jon Pertwee's interpretation, though the idea that Ben also mastered the art (despite Venusian Aikido only being mastered by a few two-armed beings in the entire history of the universe) is just black-hole-sueing of the highest order.
- “Without Isobel my existence is but a torturous life sentence to the grim wasteland of my own consciousness!” wails Craig at their apparent demise. It's easy to understand why Ben isn't exactly devoted to sharing all aspects of his life with his nephew, and why he doesn't waste his breath trying to comfort the git.
More walrus creatures arrive and capture the Doctor, Ben and Craig.
- So, arriving out of nowhere is enough to be dubbed "outsiders" and be "crushed" but brutally attacking the walrus people merits arrest and custody? It's only later established that these "reinforcements" are the good guys of the piece...
Donna and Isobel have been teleported to a palace where they are immediately chained up and interrogated by a walrus creature, who demands to know how the travelers entered the minds and to reveal the location of the "Angel of Sisyphus". It believes they are aiding the rebellion on the planet, Sisyphus 5.
- This sequence seems a rather ill-thought out excuse to put the ladies in bondage and have a walrus in a bathrobe shout at them. The walrus people have access to teleportation technology, so why are they amazed there are intruders that can magically enter the mines? Why exactly did the walrus guards want to "crush the outsiders" when just teleporting them all to the palace (magically binding the victims in chains as they do so) would be more efficient? Why doesn't the walrus interrogator, say, let Donna and Isobel answer any questions?
- The interrogator shouts, "We will not tolerate rebellion here in Sisyphus 5!" which rather implies they don't mind such a revolt elsewhere...
- Despite being a battle-scarred Time War veteren, Isobel immediately bursts into tears and begs the walrus not to hurt her. Donna however threatens to "clobber" the "flabby faced freak" if he tries remotely anything. Even in fan fiction, Super Temp is Made of Awesome.
The Doctor, Ben and Craig learn their captors are the rebel worker's union, waging war against corporate oppressors.
- Hmmm. The haywire TARDIS has dumped our heroes in an underground complex of tunnels where a gorilla war is being faught between factions of animal-headed aliens, with the crew split up between both sides of the conflict and some members assumed dead. And so the plagiarism of The Doctor's Daughter continues...
- The grimy military folk are the "rebel worker's union" fighting a war against "corporate oppressors"? So there's an allied worker's union that deals with all the other oppressors? Surely the walrus folk with their ruthless sadism and xenophobia do a bit more than cut wages and holidays for their workers?
- The rebels believe that the TARDIS is "technologically advanced". What lead them to that conclusion? It's a ruddy police box! Unless they saw it materialize, in which case it's still not as useful as those teleport-zap-guns (which the rebels cunningly left in the grasp of their unconscious enemies). Why don't the rebels point out that their mutual enemy will have Isobel and Donna in their grasp and try to enlist help that way? Mind you, they might have tried - Ben shouts he "doesn't have time for this nonsense" and the Doctor agrees he is too busy getting Ben back home to help out. Um... time machine? Intergalactic troubleshooters? Are they just making up excuses to avoid this derivative story and abandon the girls to their fate?
Suddenly a silver figure with angel wings manifests in a blaze of light. “I am the Angel Of Sisyphus! I bring you enlightenment, freedom and a heaven of the senses!” it declares, unleashing psychadelic waves of energy...
- Presumably in homage to sparacus, the Angel gets the most description of all the characters, particularly how he's a bald, muscular man who makes butch rebels fall to their knees in awe of his beauty.
- Does the Angel always introduce himself like this to people who already know who he is and what he does? Does he make such random visits, interrupting the rebels in the middle of alliance negotiations? Blowing the minds of everyone present isn't exactly aiding the revolution either, is it? Ahh, but these could all be clues as to the true identity of the angel...
PART THREE: Plastic Infinity
- Ironically, LBC dubs this adventure "topical" even though the title has absolutely no relevence to the plot at all.
The Doctor is immune to the energy which leaves Ben, Craig and the rebels in a state of mindless bliss. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor is able to snap everyone out of it, but they are far from pleased.
The sonic screwdriver now has a special setting to interfere with "mind-bending wave vibrations". One can only wonder how often the Doctor uses that function.
- Considering his own addiction to Fox's Glacier Mints (or at least, that's what he tells us those hardcore hallucinogenics are...), it's odd Ben isn't able to resist the power of the Angel. Presumably Craig's moan of “Ohhh, I finally know what it’s like for my mind to be free of all discomfort, let alone pain! I want to stay here forever. Who’s Issssobel?” is supposed to demonstrate how insanely intoxicating the Angel's power is... but instead seems to confirm what a superificial and useless twit Craig is. I mean, he's not once complained about missing his mother who only died a few weeks ago...
In a small cell, Donna and Isobel are addressed by an unseen voice that they are accused of espionage and terrorism in "right honorable General Carnage’s Zinikclod mine" and should they be found guilty they will be executed by being thrown into the "pit of demons".
- Why exactly were Donna and Isobel knocked unconscious so they could be placed in a cell and shouted at over a communicator? Why didn't the interrogator just tell them that in their outdoor bondage patio in the palace? It would be interesting to know why the walrus people think they're spies and terrorists, considering Donna and Isobel are unarmed, have no idea what's happening and are completely the wrong species to be part of the rebellion...
- No sooner has Donna once again proved her superiority in every way to Isobel by suggesting that - rather than sit around waiting to be rescued, they actually save themselves - the unseen voice booms, “Oh no, you won’t!” Panto season already, luvvlies?
The Doctor protests that the Angel is hindering the resistance rather than aiding it, and the Angel vanishes, angering the rebels even further.
- In a surprisingly characteristic outburst, the Doctor declares “Look! I don’t know what’s going on here and believe me I’m as open minded as the next lord of time, but people zonking themselves out of reality is neither good, nor healthy!” to which Ben hastily agrees, “That was most unpleasant! Psychedelics are best left to bearded low brow hippie types...” Which is, of course, chutzpah personified by someone who spends all day lying on the sofa drinking absinthe like tap-water.
- The Doctor refers the Angel as "that Silver Surfer wannabe", a typical LBC Marvel Comics reference.
The rebels explain that General Carnage and his corporate work force seized control of Sisyphus 5 in a military coup, forcing the entire population to work 20 hour days in the mines. The totally obedient are allowed to return to the surface briefly every seven days.
- So the corporate oppression is actually a military dictatorship which allows worker unions? Methinks LBC is getting confused. Ben certainly doesn't see the downside, “Surely though education and good old fashioned elbow grease one can rise up to higher standings in your society? Stop bellyaching!”
True, life under the General doesn't sound pleasant, but there's no mention of something like "if we don't agree they all kill us". Why don't the oppressed natives appeal to the Shadow Proclamaiton? Or simply sabotage the mines? Is the Angel's regular rave parties keeping them all idiotic...?
- The "angry walrus man" despairs they must work in "the underground mines". So who works in the mines above ground? There must be such places, given his deliberate clarification.
The rebels consider the Angel to provide blissful salvation from their lives, opening their "doors of perception".
- And this helps the resistance how, exactly?
No sooner does the Doctor insist that the rebels cannot hide from reality in illusions, a squadron of Carnage's troops storm the hideout and slaughter everyone present...
- There's irony for you...
- In some sparacassian gore, we get loving descriptions of the massacre: "a round of laser fire bolts hits the Walrus Man in front of our heroes; his head explodes, fragments of his brain and skull shatter into a thousand pieces". Lovely. Presumably this is the 'corporate oppression' that the worker's union were determined to overcome with their widened perceptions?
- For the troops to strike the rebel base, they must have known where it was. How did they get this particular information? And why do they only act now, when the Doctor points out the rebels are just spending their days getting stoned? It's almost as though the Angel, frustrated at the Time Lord's interference, called in the army and scrapped the whole charade...
...except for the Doctor, Ben and Craig.
- Because... um... well, the story would end otherwise, wouldn't it?
PART FOUR: The Nightmare Rides On
- It's unclear to what the title refers, but seems to describe the readers' opinion of the story.
The Doctor uses his psychic paper to convince the troopers they are Inter-Galactic Intelligence Service Agents sent to Sisyphus 5 to locate the Angel.
- Though it would be easy to criticize this as a cheap way to get out of the cliffhanger, this is, in fact, the first ever use of the psychic paper in the Sparaverse. LBC proves he's much better at welding the New Series and the Chatham adventures together than his mentor.
- Some more confusion as to the state of things on this planet - the military dictatorship is happy to let the equivalent of UN spooks in to investigate their seemingly-illegal slave labor and mines? And they're not worried that they've slaughtered dozens of innocent workers in front of them? Is their society even more corrupt than we thought? Given both invaders and invaded are the same walrus-type humanoids, is it that Sisyphus 5 is located in a galaxy dominated by walrus races? But they apparently also employ more convention human-types for their spying rather than less conspicious walrus people?
The Doctor requests safe passage back to the TARDIS and asks if the troopers have seen Isobel or Donna. Suspicious, the troopers decide to take the "intelligence agents" to their leader to prove their security clearance.
- It seems that the troopers know of Donna and Isobel's trial as spies, which is why they are suspicious when the Doctor asks about two non-Walrus women.
- The misogyny kicks off in deadly earnest now, as the Doctor clearly only thinks about Donna and Isobel on the off-chance they might be alive - so he was cheerfully accepting that they were dead? What's more, he describes Donna as "a slightly less pretty, slightly older humanoid" than Isobel. Charming! On top of that, the Doctor is seemingly determined to return to the TARDIS and leave Sisyphus 5 to its fate - which must surely go against every bone in his body!
- The Doctor calls the "maniacal" walrus soldier "Mr Cuckoo-ka-cho”, a reference to the Beatles song I Am The Walrus. Presumably the Doctor actually listened to it after The Three Doctors where niether the Second nor Third Doctors were aware of it.
- Another sparacus homage as Ben shouts, “Hands off! This jacket cost two hundred pounds!" You'd have thought someone with such an extreme lifestyle as Ben would not waste cash on clothing likely to get torn up by alien monsters, wouldn't you? Clearly he's spending the budget for Craig's outfits on himself and giving his nephews cheap cast offs. What an asshole Ben is.
The trio are taken to the surface where General Carnage is attending the show-trial of Donna and Isobel at a coliseum.
- The description of of Carnage as "a large Walrus man in an imperial robe" leads one to assume this was the interrogator from earlier, but it seems to be that imperial robes are all the rage in this military coup.
- “I am General Carnage!” “Hello, I am generally pleasant!" - an exchange that, by Chathamverse standards, is terribly witty. But it seems LBC has forgotten to put the "right honorable" in front of the villain's name at every opportunity.
Isobel is sent out into the colsieum.
- But not Donna? And this "show trial" - surely required to con the workers into thinking that Sisyphus 5 is a free and equal democracy - not only occurs on the surface where the fewest amount of proles will see it, but consists of executing people without even mentioning their crimes?!
- And this is where is all goes downhill... Isobel is forced into "the traditional ceremonial custom for Sisyphean executions (Two strips of white cloth, resembling in Earth terms, something close to a rather undignified bikini)". Given that normally those being executed would be walruses, are we meant to believe that they were all squeezed into white bikinis as well before being brutally murdered? How exactly did that tradition get started?!
- And it gets worse: "Carnage sets his cold eyes on Isobel’s gentle shape, her silky skin, her flowing blonde locks, her pert little bottom and heaving bosom barely covered by the ripped ceremonial cloth. Suddenly something soft comes over Carnage, and he leaves to go and interrogate her personally." It's at this point people began to notice that LBC's fetish for detailing Isobel in her underwear was becoming more intense and disturbing than sparacus dealing with Ben's chest. Ben, at least, is over the age of consent and nude of his own free will...
Craig wants to try and save Isobel but Ben refuses to do so without a solid plan.
- “When you are as experienced at dealing with hostile alien life as me, you’ll know that square jawed hero stuff only works in the movies," Ben announces. And what was the first thing he did on Sisyphus 5? Beat the living snot out of the first aliens he met!
- What is Ben's plan, anyway? Considering they were on the far side of the coliseum and Isobel inches away from death, what "solid plan" could possibly have helped? Why not simply shout "We need to interrogate those spies as part of our mission?" or something like that. Given his behavior in the next episode it becomes clear Ben actually wanted Isobel dead. (Don't judge him too harshly... have you actually heard what she's like?) But her death would surely destroy Craig who outright says "There is a gaping chasm in my arms where Isobel should be. Oh, if I never see her again my soul is at a grim and desolate end!” So Ben is trying to rid himself of both nauseating adolescents in one go, on an alien planet where no one will find them...
Carnage enters the coliseum and decides to spare Isobel's life.
- Craig observes their discussion, and he has "a thousand ideas what Carnage must be saying to her, none of them pleasant." A brilliant deduction from Craig as the answer is: “Oh, you are much too pretty a trophy of war to damage - you will be taken back to my palace to dance at my throne!” Carnage "leers", stroking the stuttering girl's cheek and cackling.
However, Donna will get no such mercy. Carnage orders her thrown into the pit of demons - red, three-headed carnivores...
- The origin of the demons is never explained. Presumably they are the sort of things corporate oppressors happen to keep around in case they're needed.
- Exactly why a humanoid walrus would find Isobel so sexually alluring is a bit of a mystery - anatomically, she's not exactly different from Donna. One can only assume that, like all evil bastards, Carnage prefers blondes. We are not told if Donna was forced into a bikini as well, presumably since the daughter of London would have WAY more cleavage than the White Swan ever could...
PART FIVE: Shadowplay
- The title presumably refers the shadowy manipulation of the rebels... but somehow "Rampant Sexism" would be a better name for this installment.
Isobel demands that if Carnage has Donna killed, she should be killed as well.
- A moving plea from a "gentle heart", but not even the image of a bikini-clad Isobel "throwing herself" onto Donna can detract from the sheer awfulness of the dialogue: “If you must kill this most kindly and brave lady, then you must kill me too. I can not abide the guilt of being allowed to survive, if she must perish.” No wonder one of the guards decides to do just that...
Carnage strikes down the guards and agrees to spare Donna's life: "As you wish my pretty one, your friend will work as a servant girl in my palace.”
- The respect given to Donna is long gone now as not only is Donna "squawking" indignantly about being a servant (and having to be reminded the alternative is to be torn apart by demons) but she is also given the ultimate insult of being described as "fiesty".
- Aparently the duties of being a servant and exotic dancer require our heroines to be "correctly dressed". This cannot lead anywhere good.
The Doctor, Ben and Craig discuss this turn of events.
- “Hmmm, they haven’t been killed yet. How curious,” ponders Ben laconically. Good grief, he really is in a foul mood! Even for a woman-hating sexist snob like Ben, this complete lack of interest in the fates of Donna (a fellow TARDIS traveller who saved his life on more than one occasion) and Isobel (the girl that stops his nephew killing himself) is extreme even for him! And the misogyny don't end there folks as the Doctor is amazed that two women could possibly rescue themselves while he needed psychic paper and natural charm. He also considers Isobel "that little smasher". This lack of concern for Donna really does destroy all the good work LBC did in previous chapters in regards to the Doctor's character.
- Ben refused to make any move into rescuing Isobel on the grounds it would blow their cover. But he doesn't think he, the Doctor and Craig getting into a suspicious-looking "strategic huddle" might draw attention?
A high-ranking walrus soldier arrives and orders the trio to mingle with the rebels and lead the military to the Angel himself.
- Um... OK... For a start, the troopers just slaughtered the entire rebel worker's union. Is there some other worker's union now? And why are they sending in the Doctor and the Chathams - whose identity hasn't been confirmed by Carnage at all - to infiltrate the cell when they are distinctly non-walrus shaped people? The soldier then threatens to kill the trio if they fail, missing the points that a) if they fail, the chances are the rebels will kill them anyway and b) the TARDIS crew are supposed to be incredibly important secret agents and Carnage would be bound to get reprisals for this. LBC seems to have homaged sparacus too well, and completely forgotten the plot he established in earlier episodes.
- “I’m afraid we don’t have time for your petty inter-species politics,” Ben complains. Yeah, that won't blow your cover as secret agents will it?
The Doctor, Ben and Craig infiltrate the rebel camp.
- Another plot hole. The rebels act like the TARDIS crew have made up their minds to aide their cause... rather than being the only survivors of a massacre that left no survivors because they sided with the enemy and spent all the time before that criticizing the Angel!
- The Doctor is undecided to help the rebels. So he thinks that Carnage might have a legitimate claim to rule the planet and slaughter people in show trials, as well as using his companions as sex slaves?
The Doctor demands to know the true identity of the Angel, who immediately materializes in the camp. He explains he "shares the secrets of the universe" with the oppressed and miserable out of kindness.
- The Time Lord demands to know why the Angel is "sending these beings into a state of alternated reality”. Um, wasn't he just making them high?
- Ben gives a big speech at this point, clearly added to address his hypocrisy at the rebel's lifestyle: "Listen to me! An artificial escape from reality is not the solution to pain. Believe me I have a lot to cope with. The stress of my responsibilities to my home planet, the shit my useless boyfriends give me: and yes, on occasion I’ve been known to drink to numb the pain. But I tell you it solves nothing. All my heroic deeds have been achieved by FACING my problems, and giving them a bloody good old fashioned Queensbury rules thrashing!” Ben is certainly 'adjusting the truth' here. What responsibilities does he have to his home planet? He's an independent advisor at best and has no desire to protect the Earth, and his 'responsibilities' to his family are rapidly turning into calculated infratracide! He also describes his boyfriends as useless (what, even the ones he got killed?), which rather begs the question of why he moons after such specimens all the time. Obviously Ben wants total control over the lives of others, and the habit of people who know his true nature ending up dead suggest Ben is actually a surprisingly competent serial killer... And as for facing problems, one can't forget Ben is an advocate of sitting on the couch texting professionals! He turned Craig away the first chance he got, refuses to get out of bed in the mornings and blames everyone else for everything! On top of this, he once again shows a disturbing lust for violence against enemies...
The Doctor points out that the Angel's "psychedelic wibbly wobbly stuff" is keeping the rebels docile and not upsetting the status quo. With the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor breaks through the Angel's disguise and reveals the true identity of the benefactor...
- Another sparacus cliche, of not revealing someone's identity till the next episode.
- The Doctor pulls a similar unmasking stunt in The End of Time with the Vinvocci's shimmers.
PART SIX: Salvation of the Wounded Galaxies
- No idea what that title is about. Maybe it's part of the Angel's cover-story, but there's no salvation in this episode, that's for sure...
The angel is revealed to be General Carnage all along.
- "The atmosphere almost drowns in a sea of audible gasps and pure disbelief." Quite so. While it was obvious that someone was manipulating both the military and the rebels, rather like Morgus in The Caves of Androzani, why on Sisyphus did General Carnage need to do it in person? Can't he get someone else to dress up as a bald bodybuilder with wings and zap people? It must be a lot of hard work teleporting to all the rebel communities and getting them all shitfaced, especially when he'd much rather be back at his palace drooling over Isobel...
Ben attacks Carnage and the Doctor threatens to kill the General unless he tells them where Donna and Isobel have been taken. Carnage bursts into tears at the thought Isobel was actually one of the rebels.
- What the hell? None of this makes sense. Isobel was on trial for espionage, terrorism and aiding the rebellion. And Carnage is heartbroken to find out that she... is friends with some other people who have stated time and time again they aren't involved with the rebellion, and only tried to take on the Angel because Carnage's own men ordered them to do so on pain of death?! It seems that whatever psychadelic energy Carnage was using has affected him as well. Apart from anything else, if he didn't want to be discovered as the Angel, why turn up on request and answer all the Doctor's questions?!
- Ben, still bristling with psychotic hatred, laughs at the misery of the defeated Carnage. "Ha! A beautiful and cultured girl like Isobel? The idea a repugnant freak like you would ever cause her to feel anything but disgust, or at best pity is the more mirthful notion I’ve heard in years! Now explain this Angel Of Sisyphus charade if you wish to live..” Obviously Ben's bloodlust dims his faculties, as the answer is bloody obvious. The Doctor's explained it twice now.
The rebels, realizing Carnage was tricking them, promptly open fire and slaughter him without mercy.
- None of the TARDIS crew object to this cold-blooded murder - not even Craig, who was sympathetic to the heartbroken walrus dictator.
- Is Carnage really the bad guy here? True, he has a rather ominous name and is cruelly taking over planets and strip-mining them, but he's shown to be a big softy when it comes to innocent children being slaughtered and his entire scheme has been to prevent bloodshed between the military and the workers in a conflict he, himself, describes as "war". But the rebels kill him in a needlessly nasty manner without any kind of trial or justice, even though having the enemy leader captive would be a surefire way to end the conflict without any more casualties. Maybe all the rebels are going cold turkey, but it doesn't make what they've done any more morally acceptable...
Free of the Angel, the rebels make the first determined effort to wipe out the military. Since Isobel and Donna are in Carnage's palace, the site of the rebel's final assault, the TARDIS crew must stay and aide them, but Ben is doubtful.
- “I don’t think we should get involved in the affairs of other races,” Ben complains. Why worry about this now? It's never bothered him before - in The Imperfect, for example, Ben lead a revolution on an alien planet entirely off his own bat. The only reason that springs to mind for this sudden reluctance is he doesn't want to get Isobel and Donna back safely. This guy is definitely a psychopath - he even reprimands Craig for following his earlier advice of facing personal problems head on with gratuitous amounts of uneccessary violence...
Refusing to stay behind during the final assault, Craig steals a gun and joins the rebels despite the protestations of the Doctor and Ben.
- Notably Ben doesn't so much as lift a finger to stop Craig. The little runt getting killed in crossfire would be precisely what Ben would want...
Craig gleefully joins the slaughter and breaks into the palace to find Isobel and Donna...
- ... "chained to the throne in exotic bellydancer-esque garb" apparently. How exactly is Isobel supposed to dance and Donna supposed to serve when they're chained to a chair? Good grief, where do the walrus people get all this kinky outfits to fit human women anyway?
However, loyalists troops open fire on Craig, hitting him in the leg. As he collapses, the troopers prepare to finish him off.
- Another demonstration that the sickening infatuation Craig and Isobel have is their own worst enemy. Isobel's so convinced her sweetheart will rescue her she simply sits around taking whatever's thrown at her in blind faith, while Craig indulges in reckless, suicidal behavior and then forgets all about being in the middle of a fucking warzone when he sees her...
PART SEVEN: Solace For Pain
- The solace, of course, being the fact the story is over.
At the last moment the TARDIS materializes in the throne room and the distraction allows Craig to fire on his assailants and kill them all.
- Presumably the Doctor was intending to use the TARDIS to collect Isobel and Donna all along. So if Craig had ignored Ben's manipulations, they would have all escaped with less loss of life. There's ironic.
- According to the prose, "the fiendish troopers are stunned, as blue police boxes appearing out of nowhere, is unheard of on Sisyphus 5". Except the rebels know all about the TARDIS's arriving, as does Carnage. Why are they so shocked in any case? The military use teleportation lasers that magically restrain people in transit, so something appearing out of thin air on Sisyphus 5 can't be that uncommon!
- And since Carnage's forces have teleports, disguises and gizmos that leave the enemy stoned out of their heads and drooling on the floor... why haven't they used it? OK, Carnage might have lied about the last two, but ordinary troopers have acces to the first. Or at least they can set the demons onto the rebels. Was this why Carnage went to such lengths to hold the rebels back, because he knew they'd effortlessly defeat him right away?
- More gore: the "wasted" enemy troopers "screams in agony as the laser blast burns the skin from his face". And this is meant to be a good thing that Craig is a mass murdering combat veteran is it?
Craig, Donna and Isobel flee into the TARDIS and take off as the battle continues.
- ...how did Donna and Isobel free their shackles? And LBC seems to have forgotten Craig's injured leg as well...
- This is a rather unusual ending for a Doctor Who story. Sisyphus 5 is plunged into bloodshed and slaughter, and we don't find out who won or what will happen next. This sort of "leg it while chaos reigns" is an ending more common to Blake's 7. Surely the Doctor at least would be curious to find out the outcome of the chaos? Perhaps LBC had a sequel planned... In any case, this is the crucial difference to The Doctor's Daughter. While there, the Doctor unwittingly gave one side the edge to win the war, he also ended the conflict with as fewer casualties as possible. Here, he does precisely the opposite.
Ben wonders if it was right for them to interfere with events on the planet, but the Doctor insists there was no choice.
- Presumably Ben's conflict is just trying to convince everyone he actually was troubled by this rather than using it as an excuse to get Donna, Isobel and Craig murdered. He certainly seems more troubled at the thought of any interference rather than the fact they sparked off a massive war that engulfed an entire planet, and even the Doctor has to remind Ben that "that kind of comes with the job description of Last Of The Time Lords". Nevertheless, the Doctor notes he is glad of Ben's "sensible conservative perspective". Does the Doctor really believe that, or is he just lying to keep Ben from another murderous rampage? If so, the Doctor is basically doing exactly what Carnage was doing with the rebels...
- "The conditions these creatures were forced into were simply not cricket," Ben muses. How the hell does he know? The workers were kept in the mines, rewarded for good work and while they had to work 20 hours a day it must be remembered they aren't human nor are they on Earth. Sisyphus 5 could have days lasting over 100 hours for all they know. Certainly, the workers were unionized and their culture was shown to have a long practise of sacrifice and execution.
- "The futility of the endless work that made up their existence brings to mind The Myth Of Sisyphus; Albert Camus’ existential philosophical work, ironically enough,” Ben notes. How exactly is it ironic? The fact that there are at least five planets in the Sisyphus system and one of them got turned into a slave labor camp? Besides, their work wasn't "endlessly futile", since all the minerals were exploited by Carnage. Sisyphus was compelled to carry out an endless, self-defeating task while the rebels were constantly putting off the revolution until tomorrow. Ben is clearly talking out of his arse, as evidence when Donna notes she likes Camus' work he accuses her of assuming Camus is "a cute cartoon camel".
Isobel meanwhile kisses Craig passionate as rewards for his heroic deeds.
- So shooting enemies in the back in rabid bloodlust fever doesn't horrify Isobel or make her faint? And considering she only fell for Craig because of his pure soul, she doesn't consider all the people he murdered back there to taint it at all. “Sir you do possess such kind eyes, I shall take my refuge there. You are like a knight in books of old.” Well, that makes up for triggering mass slaughter then, doesn't it?!
- Craig claims he knew the "Angel of Sisphyus" was a fake because he wasn't Isobel. This is utter bullshit, especially as we know as a fact he couldn't remember who Isobel was while under the influence.
- Even though all the signs are the two young lovers are finally happy, Ben announces that Isobel will be dragged back to Torchwood to be stripped and probed the moment they return to Cardiff. He is apparently "not looking forward" to informing Craig about this basic fact that both Craig and Isobel should be aware of, but doesn't seem to care about the misery he'll cause.
The Doctor sums up the moral of the story: “Well I think we’ve learned a lot today. It is worth it for young Craig to face the grim reality of his separation from Isobel, for the sweet reality of their time together. Reality is a cruel mistress, but it is the landscape in which we must abide. I know on Earth there are a number of illegal, dangerous and addictive substances that function much like the Angel Of Sisyphus’s mind waves, divorcing us from reality.” And the friends toast Ben, Craig, the joys of clean living and responsible alcohol consumption.
- ...with alcohol. And what did Ben do to merit a toast? Kick Carnage down and let him get murdered? Or is this another ploy by the Doctor to stop a further murderous episode from the smoothe scumbag?
Next Time: The Case of the Twelve Gold Crosses