"This planet requires an outside source of energy, since our natural resources were depleted in the development of our superior civilisation. It is natural law that this should come from primitive worlds." Following the carnage of LBCgate, sparacus retakes control of The Ben Chatham Adventures, as the Youth of Australia discovers...
The Vampire Planet
LemonBloodyCola (LBC) seemed the perfect person to carry on the work of sparacus. His stories were derivative, plodding, padded, unoriginal runarounds that had a tendency towards alien-walrus-schoolgirl-rape. Yet in retrospect it was clear the Chathamverse was too narrow and limited for LBC to fit in comfortably. His stories bled out into Doctor Who, Torchwood, and even the Marvel Comic Universe. Simply having Ben Chatham wasn't enough, and the final breakdown revealing LBC to be a deeply unhappy and disturbed gimmick poster (later known as Mutie or Tigermilk) seemed the final nail in the coffin. Several stories were left completely unfinished, Isobel and Craig hung like stones around the neck of the franchise. Things had never been so dire.
Sparacus's attempt to restore order to the Chathamverse triggered the Second Great Canon-Reset. The LBC era simply didn't happen any more. Sally Sparrow wasn't a companion, the Apocalypse Chaser no dreaded and persistant foe, Rose Tyler hadn't had her brains blown out, nor had Ben's long-lost dog Ploppy come back to haunt him. All that was left was Craig being a miserable emo obsessed with the even more pathetic Isobel, and the sudden strong links between the Chathamverse and the Torchwood Hub. Nevertheless, some of the positive aspects of LBC stain the story - there's a genuine attempt at prose, and rather than being generic background stereotypes, sparacus introduces some "comic relief" plot devices in the form of Barry Tuck and Shakey Jake. The relationships between Ben and Anselm, Kyle and Ianto, and Craig and Isobel are actually explored instead of being one-line summaries... though it does mean that Katie and Gwen in particular are almost completely ignored. As if clinging onto a comfort blanket, Ben Chatham returns in an implosion of Pertwee cliches and Quatermass plotpoints, with lots of juicy off-screen carnage on a bigger scale than fire demons in Cambridge or cybernaut bank robbers in Cardiff. Kyle even gets the biggest slice of the action and actually thanked for it.
Of course, not all the LBCisms are positive. The Doctor's Daughter gets ripped off again with an internal conflict, aliens based on the Hath, companions assumed dead and a cop-out messy dues ex machina as all the important stuff is smashed. Perhaps worst of all is a central concept that isn't done justice - an alien race that considers humanity the same way Ben Chatham considers the lower classes. In a rare well-written scene, Kyle warns the Chairman "You don't know what you're dealing with!" and gets the bemused reply: "We are dealing with an inferior species. Dispensible animals that it is our right to utilise. It is the law of the universe that the advanced, the developed and the cultured must subjugate the primitive, utilise the by-products and dispose of the waste."
This could have been a unique opportunity to confront Ben with his own double-standards and hypocrisy, and there are more than enough ingredients in The Vampire Planet for an ongoing plotline with a devastated Earth at war with the Hax, Ianto's growing obsession with Kyle, and Craig's growing attachment to Torchwood. Instead, all were abandoned and future storylines became increasing insular, cut off from Torchwood and Doctor Who. It seems sparacus was uncomfortable with this new state of play and abandoned it altogether - as though not wanting toys someone else had just played with...
- The Vampire Planet was a submitted storyline by William Emms, author of the William Hartnell adventure Galaxy Four, in the late sixties. Initially a Second Doctor adventure, it ended up being a strong contender for the final story of Season 7 (ultimately taken by Don Houghton's Inferno). The story concerned a purple planet flying into orbit around Earth and firing metallic 'probes' down on the world. These probes, initially harmless, would land seemingly at random and imbed themselves in the ground and soon the Third Doctor and UNIT would discover that these objects are "sucking the life" out of the Earth and transferring this energy to the purple planet. Confronting "the Master Race" that rules the planet, the Doctor convinces them to abandon their invasion with footage of nuclear weapons test. Believing mankind is too dangerous a risk to trifle with, the Master Race leave in peace.
- Thus, we have sparacus penning a story where metallic probes land across the globe and immediately start sucking the energy out of everything they can forcing the military to use nuclear weapons on them... and even using the exact same title.
A flotilla of silver objects enter Earth's atmosphere.
- In a clear attempt to evoke LBC's purple prose, sparacus ends up misquoting the opening lines of HG Wells' War of the Worlds: "Through the vastness of space they move. Formed by intellects vastly superior to homo sapiens and focused with the certainty of a sleepwalker. As they reach the atmosphere of earth the objects slow for their final descent, homing in on their targets......" Of course, the story will show the intellects are far from superior, and surely sleepwalkers don't have that much certainty in their slow, lumbering movements?
At his apartment, Ben and Craig are lazing around the place when Kyle returns with the shopping.
- One wonders how Ben coped without Kyle to do all the domestic duties for him - given he is, as then, unable to even get dressed or drink anything other than instant coffee on his own. Ben is reading "RJ Griffiths' definitive biography of Henry VI". Probably wishing he'd been smart enough to use his time aboard the TARDIS to check things out in person, presumably.
- Craig is captured quite faithfully, refusing to help Kyle with the shopping (including a magazine Craig specifically requested) on the grounds "It is of no concern. My life is frozen and pointless. I am alone." And he's very likely to stay that way given how he behaves, but being forced to live with Ben Chatham can't be easy - his uncle is totally unconcerned about his mental wellbeing, believing that he should be forced to forget his girlfriend Isobel on the logic "The more time he spends with the girl the more he misses her later" (so either Ben is being stupid or he's deliberately overlooked the fact Isobel's stay with Torchwood is purely temporary - either way, his own relationship with Anselm makes the statement hypocritical to say the least). Given that even short separations from Isobel have driven Craig to self-harm, is Ben actually trying to drive Craig to suicide? After all, it's what he tried with Craig's mother.
Ben turns on the TV and intrigued at news of the silver objects landing across the United Kingdom, and decides to contact Torchwood.
- So Ben thinks three people in Cardiff are the best people to ask about this rather than UNIT, given the global scale of the crisis? Perhaps we should be kind and assume Ben wants an excuse to let Craig and Isobel meet up, but doesn't want to admit it... but that requires him to like being considered a selfish bastard!
- This is an "instaulment", apparently.
Ben, Katie, Craig, Anselm and Kyle head for the Mermaid Wine Bar to meet with Captain Jack Harkness to be "briefed".
- Why not do it over the phone? And how did Jack get to Cambridge so quickly when it was established all the main roads had been closed? We later learn Jack fancied the waiter ("a hot Pole with the ripe ass"), which is apparently good enough reason.
Captain Jack explains the objects are indestructible cylinders without any markings. Ben wishes to eat before examining the cylinder that arrived on the M25.
- Because, of course, there's no possible urgency that might merit some kind of takeaway, is there?
Ben wishes the Doctor were around as "when we need his expertese" yet doesn't think about, say, ringing him up? Has Ben not got some way to contact the Doctor given they repeatedly bump into each other? Or did the Doctor deliberately "block" Ben after his hideous behavior in Crystal? (They seem on good terms in The Sisyphean Planet, but that story never actually happened...)
A waiter called Barry Tuck approaches and immediately molests Katie.
- And so one of the most infamous characters in the Chathamverse makes his appearance, along with "canned audience laughter" to his every line. "Played" by Johnny Vegas, Barry Tuck is a loud, foul-mouthed sociopath with no manners at all who sexually harrasses every woman he comes across and is unique in being the sole character to make Ben Chatham look respectful and motivated in comparison. Yet, bizarrely, despite finding his behavior objectionable not a single person of Operation: Delta complains. Tuck made regular unwanted appearances until The Operation: Delta Interviews, where we find out he was fired from the Mermaid Wine Bar and promptly tried to get a job with Ben's team for no other reason than he wanted the money. It is claimed David Cameron is solely to blame for him getting the job.
- The most interesting thing about Barry Tuck (bar the disembodied studio audience that find lines like "Right, what grub can I get you lot?" hilarious) is he is the splitting image of a 13th century monk, Friar Tuck from Robin Hood's band of Merry Men who Ben met in Lord of the Reedy River. How seven hundred years of marriage could not only create a man who was physically identical to his ancestor but also have the same name is unknown, especially as Friar Tuck was supposed to be celibate (as much as anyone in the Chathamverse can be). However, Friar Tuck was certainly very different from his namesake, being a slightly hapless but friendly man whose companions spent all day abusing for being overweight. Given their treatment of the nice Friar, it's tempting to imagine what the Merry Men would do to the thoroughly unpleasant Barry... but we can hope it was painful.
- But how does Katie know what Friar Tuck look like? She never appeared in The Lord of the Reedy River! Is her line supposed to be Kyle's, since he actually was in that story?
- Anselm asks Ben if Tuck shares his name with a TV presenter and Ben confides "Different spelling of Tuck". This presumably refers to Barry Took, an English comedian and presenter of Points of View. Exactly why this exchange was needed is unclear. No one's ever pointed out Katie Ryan has the same name (and face) as Eurovision sonstress Kate Ryan, have they?
- Tuck's molestation of Katie (which she actually enjoys) drives Craig to "bury his head between his raised knees and think of Isobel". So his feelings for her aren't as pure and unsullied as LBC liked to think...
At the M25, Captain Jack, Ben and company meet up with Ianto Jones. Kyle touches the cylinder and feels as if the energy is drained out of him on contact. Suddenly a horrible noise "emenates" from the cylinder, knocking Craig unconscious and a flash causes Kyle and Ianto to vanish...
- A typical LBC development, used most memorably in The Sisyphean Planet where characters are teleported away and we're supposed to be upset they might be dead. Why? Because it worked for RTD in Bad Wolf that's why!
- In a rather florid description we discover the noise is "like the sound of a million cats burning to death". For a cat lover like sparacus, this is a horrible turn of phrase. And just why is the cylinder making this noise? If it's some kind of car alarm, why go off now rather than when Ianto was repeatedly attempting to break it open with a variety of drills?
- Why is Craig knocked unconscious when no one else is? Why are only Kyle and Ianto teleported?
Kyle and Ianto are brought before a trio of robed aliens in a metallic chamber. On Earth, Captain Jack takes a sample of yellow dust covering the dormant cylinder and heads off to Cardiff to have it analyzed.
- An obelisk that causes people to vanish and leaves powder remains? People that might have been teleported or just killed outright? Why, its yet another "homage" to The Quatermass Conclusion - following sparacus' outright plagiarism of it in The Zombie Kids of Death (or "Quatermass and the Skins" as it was unofficially known). Ben refuses to accept that Kyle is dead and insists that the cylinder is a "transmat devive", reflecting the blind denial of people in the Kneale serial about what happened to those who were harvested by the aliens. (The Harvesters, oddly enough, was an alternative title for Emms' The Vampire Planet...)
- Jack bemoans the fact Tosh isn't around to help identify the dust. This is hideously out of character and, coupled with his complete lack of concern for Ianto's fate, suggests he has no emotional connection to his team in any way at all - something utterly confirmed in Children of Earth. Yet, if Jack did have so little interest in the lives of his teammates, it seems odd he's forgotten the superior technology in the Hub which can do that sort of thing anyway (in Ghost Machine, for example, the computers can identity the titular device right away that has left the entire team, including Tosh, baffled).
In Wales, Captain Jack contacts Shakey Jake, a drug-addled vegetable farmer who happens to be "one of the greatest scientific brains in the world".
- And yet another new character is introduced: "a scruffy looking man with long hair and stubble and various items of spilt food on his shirt and jeans, smoking a massive spliff". Shakey Jake and his compulsive drug dealings become a regular character and actually part of Ben's branch of Operation: Delta in later years, though he does little more than provide odious comic relief and (it seems) get regularly arrested for possession. We learn little about Jake beyond this story beyond being a 1960s drop out, dope-farmer and addict. He's a dedicated supporter of the Cardiff Tree-Planting Trust, has a psychadelically-decorated van, can repair K9, play a lute, make flapjacks and has a pathological hatred of guns (making his association with Torchwood and Operation: Delta rather odd in retrospect). He eventually gained his own spin off in 2010, The Shakey Jake Adventures which ended after the pilot The Prince of Alaxan. This gave Jake the surname of Reynolds, which deeply offended a GB user Jake Reynolds from whom sparacus had nicked the name. Seemingly inspired by Danny the Headhunter from Withnail & I, Shakey Jake is portrayed by Phil Harding from Tony Robinson's Time Team. This means the one character that isn't an archaeolgist is actually played by one!
- Oddly enough, even though Barry Tuck is apparently descended from Friar Tuck, no connection is made from the drop out guitar-strumming Shakey Jake and Groovy Jake, "amusing" rock star and concert organizer Ben encountered in one of his first adventure, The Love Generation. Being central to defeating an alien invasion and friends with the Doctor would surely explain why Jake ends up on Torchwood's radar. Of course, maybe they are the same person and Ben's increasingly-poor memory (down to absinthe abuse, natch) is why it is never mentioned.
- Craig has to travel in Jack's "vehicle" (not the SUV then?). Clearly none of the others wanted him travelling with them, even though he's just been knocked out by an alien screaming sound and is likely to get incredibly emotional being so close yet so far from his beloved Isobel. Ben really wants him to die, doesn't he?
Inside his farmhouse, Shakey Jake inspects the yellow powder and concludes that Kyle and Ianto are most likely still alive.
- Despite being friendly, helpful and confirming their friends aren't dead, Ben and Katie find Shakey Jake far more offensive than Barry Tuck. Ben is disgusted at Jake's gardening covering him with soil (and Ben's supposed to be an archaeologist?) and smoking illicit substances (this from an absinthe addict?). He tries to bully Jake on his own property and dubs him "bone idle and irresponsible" for living an anti-capitalist rural life. Just in case this pot-kettle-black scenario wasn't obvious enough, Katie dubs Jake of "no use at all" when he is unable to give chapter and verse on the cylinders the moment they meet.
- Jake immediately begins as he means to go on by trying Craig into getting high. Given Craig was moaning about how "Hope is just the refuge of the fool", this valiant attempt to shut the idiot up via "special flapjacks" can only be applauded.
- Given that Jack knows Shakey Jake of old, why hasn't he tried to recruit him to Torchwood before? Especially now that Owen and Tosh are dead!
The group head for the Hub where Craig and Isobel are reunited.
- It seems odd Craig needed chemical help when simply dropping him straight off at the Hub would have the same effect. Maybe sparacus couldn't give Craig and Isobel such characteristic dialogue without one of them being off their face.
- "My love. I've missed you so much," says Craig. "I need you. I don't safe in this world without you," says Isobel. "I'll protect you for ever. Nothing else matters only you," says Craig. "How wet!" says Katie. This is an injection of surprising realism, since in the LBC era such declarations of love would be applauded by all and sundry, whereas here Katie rapidly becomes an audience mouthpiece.
Suddenly the cylinders across the globe start firing energy up into space, and Ben wonders what purpose it could be for...
- Does he honestly expect an answer? And typically, their major clue (even more typically provided by Kyle) that the cylinders drain energy is ignored.
- This adventure is now officially "exciting"
The aliens introduce themselves to Kyle and Ianto as the Hax who explain the cylinders (extrapolators) will drain the energy from the Earth and provide it to the Hax planet, destroying the Earth in the process.
- So... Kyle and Ianto have been staring at the aliens for hours before anyone spoke?
- The Hax immediately show themselves to be snobs disconcertingly similar to Ben Chatham - dismissing "lower" civilizations as worthless and chaotic, yet dependent on their resources as their "superior" status has left them in the lurch. This is identical to Ben using Kyle as borderline slave labor (under "natural law") and constantly telling him off for not being good enough - even though Kyle can survive on his own and Ben can't. You could also note this parasitic behavior reflects sparacus' reliance on 40 year old unmade science fiction stories to provide plots for the 21st century mainstream audience...
- The Hax brought Kyle and Ianto to their world for examination and analysis... but then explain the cylinders have already told them all they need to know about humanity in the first place! The fact they teleported two men rather than a man and a woman is odd too - they can't be, for example, rescuing two humans to keep the species alive. And why haven't they collected anyone else from across the entire planet?
On Earth, there are earthquakes in Asia as energy is extracted through the cylinders. Ben knows this will lead to mass loss of life.
- This is because the planetary core "expands" as it cools down, according to Ben who has "some knowledge of geology". Not much, it seems, and also very little understanding of thermodynamics.
Shakey Jake isn't exactly backing up Jack's claims to be a genius. Not only does he announce his theory about Kyle and Ianto being alive was wrong, his theory about the cylinder's purpose (AKA "exactly what Kyle told you all two episodes ago") needs to be confirmed by the Torchwood Computers! Katie was right, he was no use at all! No wonder Torchwood never recruited him... clearly Jack was just plain desperate this time!
- Ben becomes tearful at the thought Kyle might be dead. Is this proof that the chav mugger has become his best friend? Or that Ben regrets he will now have to find another live-in servant he can bully? Either way, he's never got this emotional over any woman, even his own sister...
- In another fig leaf to the audience, Jack orders Craig and Isobel out of the room where they can blubber in private.
Ben believes the only hope is for the military forces of the world to unite in a simultaneous assault on the cylinders.
- Humanity joining forces against lethal beams of energy striking the Earth? More Quatermass copying.
- Exactly why does Ben think that humanity can destroy the cylinders when it's been repeatedly emphasized they are totally indestructible? And why does he assume that there simply won't be more cylinders sent to replace any that are destroyed? The smoothe fool hasn't even asked where all the energy is being transferred to, or wondered why any of this is happening! What's unforgivable, though, is the fact no one else has either. And that no one else on Earth has noticed the connection between the earthquakes and the cylinders...
- When Jack points out that this plan is a tad on the brainlessly optimistic side, noting for example that North Korea is unlikely to cooperate, Ben gives the priceless reply: "Then we'll try and persuade Kim Jong Il or wharever his name is to see sense or get the US to threaten to nuke him otherwise." Yet, nuking is presumably what is going to be used on the cylinders anyway...
Jack goes to arrange a video conference, Ben immediately gets drunk and plays chess with Anselm.
- After dumping Ben at some point prior to Lord of the Reedy River, Ben immediately went crawling back to him in Peace in Our Time. It seems the canon re-set hasn't erased this particular development, but oddly enough Anselm is still speaking like a human being instead of the thesauratic android from the latter story (and his vocabulary would become just as ridiculously sesquepedallion in future tales). This story seemingly re-affirms their relationship as Anselm is "very much" in love with Ben when he's in a take-charge mood and Ben considers Anselm's "overwhelming beauty" making him the most attractive boyfriend Chatham has ever had. Nice to know Ben isn't superficial, as he forgives Anselm repeatedly for cheating on him, abandoning him, ignoring texts and only tries to replace him with someone younger, prettier and into Bowie (Adam Wooten, hired by Operation: Delta specifically to be Ben's sex slave).
Shakey Jake announces the yellow powder is proof that Kyle and Ianto were teleported rather than killed.
- The idea of transmats leaving powdery residue is not unique to Quatermass. It was first revealed in The Twin Dilemma that teleports create "zanium" dust, and the idea was used in Bad Wolf to give the impression those teleported were actually being reduced to dust. Zanium was created "when a solid body dematerialises, tiny trace elements in the atmosphere called nistron carbonise and fall like very fine, grey snow". Shakey Jake tells us the yellow dust is "oxidised residue from molecular conversion interaction with nitrogen in the air".
Ben addresses the world leaders who agree to the plan and bombs are dropped on the cylinders.
- This immense and vital sequence is skipped over in a few lines! For the record: "When the videolink is ready, Ben addresses the world leaders. He calmly explains the situation and what needs to be done and then invites some questions. The President of Russia is rather offhand and dismissive, however Ben points out that the Cold War is over and that they are a minor nation now compared to the USA, Britain and China, all of whom have agreed with Ben's plan."
- Despite the Earth on the brink of destruction and millions threatened with death (if not from the natural disasters then from the military response), our heroes are more interested in watching a DVD of The Third Man rather than, for example, trying to find out where Kyle and Ianto have been sent. Just what is wrong with these people?
- After being mysteriously delayed, the author hoped the readers would "find it worth the wait".
The cylinders remain intact.
- Wow. Those things that were indestructible turn out to be... indestructible. What a moron Ben is.
Ben suggests they "conduct more considered tests" on the nearest cylinder.
- Hello? The world is still ending?
- Apparently the nearest cylinder is on the outskirts of Cardiff... where a bomb has presumably just gone off. How many people has Ben got killed now? He's a bigger danger to the Earth than any Hax!
On the world of the Hax, Kyle and Ianto are stripped naked, strapped to tables and have medical tests conducted on them.
- Another LBC-ism, slightly adjusted to the author's sexuality. Despite having studied the entire human civlization, they wait until AFTER a holocaust has begun before doing any examinations on them. Why do the Hax want to study an inferior species anyway when they're all going to be wiped out? Why do they answer Kyle's questions? And why haven't they worked out how to use solar power, as Kyle points out? It seems the Hax are more deluded than superior...
- The Hax note they devote themselves to scientific study and liesure, and intend to convert organic matter on alien planets into "nutrients" to sustain them. Exactly what the unseen harvesters in The Quatermass Conclusion are apparently up to, and for the same reason. With their ominovorous locust like behavior, the Hax also resemble the Vestians in World on the Edge and its sequel The Zombie Kids of Death... also ripping off The Quatermass Conclusion!
On Earth, Ben suggests using sound waves to penetrate the cylinders and Captain Jack goes to fetch such a device from the Hub.
- Despite insisting that they'd used every device in the Hub on the cylinders! Honestly, Harkness, pay attention!
- Ben's plan is the vibrations will effect the components inside the cylinders... so bombs going off didn't cause any vibrations at all? It seems the delay meant that sparacus completely forgot what had taken place in the previous episode.
Tests completed, Kyle and Ianto are thrown into a holding cell.
- Why not "made into burgers" (as Kyle daintily puts it) right away?
- "Ianto gazes at him and feels a deep attraction. However he is unsure about Kyle and chooses not to say anything about this." apparently. This idea was never built upon and Children of Earth has it clear Ianto was never attracted to any man bar Jack Harkness. But why is Ianto "unsure" about Kyle? Surely it can't be homophobia, since Kyle lives with a whiny, self-hating gay! Is it because he's a common chav?
Back on Earth, the earthquakes have killed two million in China...
- See? This is the sort of thing that happens when the saviors of the Earth want to play chess and watch DVDs! And the earthquakes which were ripping through Asia in the previous episode have now "only just started". Does the author actually remember anything he's just written?
- This episode is not numbered for some reason.
Using an alien "vibrational" device from a wrecked spaceship in the Hebrides, Shakey Jake attempts to sabotage the cylinder in Cardiff but to no avail and the team are suddenly overcome with nauseating dizzyness by the vibrations.
- Why doesn't the cylinder make the sound of burning cats or teleport the others away when they tamper with it?
- Ben really isn't keeping up with events. Only after an internation carpetbombing of the whole world and millions dead does he even begin to suspect that "there is clearly no time to lose" and speculates that the cylinders are "interfering with the earth's core to such an extent that the result is disaster." Is he suffering early-onset Alzheimer's Disease or something?
On the Hax planet, Kyle and Ianto discuss Kyle's relationship with Ben.
- For the first time the question is posed: why does an all-round Made of Awesome guy like Kyle Barry Scott put up with a scumbag like Ben Chatham? Here we learn that Kyle actually suffers crippling self-esteem issues - he thinks he's revoltingly ugly, morally worthless and undeserving of love. As such hanging around Ben is doing him good (if only for showing there's someone more pathetic than he is) and Kyle seems to be able to cope with his miserable life by making Ben as happy as possible. Thus, it's entirely transference on Kyle's part, which Ben has typically and cruelly exploited for his own gain.
- Kyle notes he was "in love with a girl once a long time ago". Could this be a reference to Isobel in The Claws of Time? We just don't know.
- Ianto Jones rocks the Chathamverse with the following words: "Oh never mind Ben! What about you?" reflecting the audience's feelings ever since The Lords of Ancrozar.
The Hax collect the pair to speak to the Grand Council Chairman who is fascinated by their behavior.
- These superior aliens are easily entertained aren't they? Have they collected any other life forms from the planet as a comparison?
On Earth, the vibrations on the cylinder cause it to shut down, and all other extrapolators on the Earth to follow suit.
- "Looks like if one of these buddies is knocked out, they all go!" Jack announces. Bit of a design flaw, isn't it? And this instantly undoes all the earthquake damage, I assume? Or else the Chathamverse has an unstoppable precedent for international cooperation and China is in ruins. Surely sparacus wouldn't ignore those kind of huge consequences to his stories, surely?
- With no one to hug in celebrating, Shakey Jake mutters "something about letting the sunshine in". Um, quite.
On their way to the Chairman, another Hax called Janex of the Grand Council joins Kyle and Ianto.
- Jake, Jack and now Janex. Sparacus is not good at coming up with names, is he?
- Janex reveals that basically every single thing we know about the Hax is wrong - their monolithic citystate is actually "complex and varied" in cultures and the "ideology of Imperial Speciesism is only one strand", with plenty of dissidents being executed. Why do the Hax lie about this to a couple of "animals" they're going to kill and eat anyway? Why are they so eager to lie about their civilization to people, they believe, who don't have one? And what a coincidence that a rebel just happens to be high up in the chain of command to contact two prisoners and inform them of this but not overthrow the Chairman? Is this all some kind of psychological test for human credulity?
Janex hands Kyle a laser gun to assassinate the Chairman in return for the safety of Earth...
- But... the Earth's already safe. True, Kyle wouldn't know that, but surely the Hax must have noticed the supply has been cut off. Why didn't Janex inform Kyle and Ianto of this fact? Is he crudely trying to manipulat them? This does seem to be an act to see what they will do...
- Not much of a cliffhanger, with an unseen alien dictator threatened with death. Are we supposed to be dreading the Hax Chairman's assassination or something?
- The conclusion to the story is "much anticipated" - well, people were wondering "Dear God, when will this end?" a fair bit...
Kyle accepts the offer and enters the Great Hall of the Hax Grand Council. The Chairman explains that the extrapolators have been sabotaged, but refuses to believe that humanity is intelligent enough to be treated as equals.
- ...begging the question of why he wants to talk to Kyle and Ianto. Does the Chairman not believe his own spin? Or has he some sickening fetish for ape-descended hominids - given the way outright flirts with the pair: "Your physical appearance is not quite as unpleasant to my eyes in person as on the screen, which is unusual."
- The Chairman promises a full record of humanity will be made. With two Caucasian males from the exact same tiny part of a whole planet? Why do the Hax want to keep records of their victims anyway? Is some serial killer trophy thing? And why haven't the Shadow Proclamaition stepped in, especially as Earth is a protected planet that would get anyone in trouble if the Shadow Architects ever found out...
- "There are no intelligent creatures other than Hax, merely animals," announces the Hax, recalling the Chameleons from The Faceless Ones who justified their use of humans on the grounds they were dumb animals in comparison. But why have the Hax got such a high opinion of themselves when they aren't as organized a society as, say, the Draconians? Their technology is easily overcome by soundwaves, so they'd be inferior to the average Ice Warrior, and they haven't mastered the art of taking energy from a sun - surely the baseline in sophisticated alien civilizations! Is this actually the first time the Hax have tried to pull this stunt? Because they have been incredibly lucky to get away with it just this far!
Kyle takes the Chairman hostage and threatens to kill him if the cylinders are removed.
- "Primitive violent animals! I see it was a mistake to keep you alive." the Chairman hisses. Very intelligent, the Hax, aren't they?
The Chairman was expecting this betrayal and has his guards turn on Janex, and in the shootout Kyle forces the Chairman to use a remote to destroy all the the cylinders from Earth.
- So these indestructible objects can simply "evaporate"? Why do they have self-destruct functions in the first place?! These are the only things, we are told, keeping the Hax civilization alive - it's like having bottles of poison ready to add to your own water reservoirs!
- The Chairman's spies have been watching Janex for "some time" but don't bother to spot him flouting regulations by joining two prisoners, handing one a gun and ordering him to execute their supreme leader? And why have a species which has access to nigh-on indestructible material not developed the concept of laser-proof armor? And how does Janex's side triumph over the old guard who have greater numbers, weapons and also the threat of condemning the Hax to death if the 'vampire planet' business doesn't continue...
- Despite wanting the Chairman to be publically assassinated, Janex merely takes him prisoner?!
Kyle and Ianto are teleported back to Earth.
- "Delayed transmatogoric reversal," according to Ianto. "As the extrapolators were destroyed it created a sub-atomising vortex effect, reversing the previous transmat procedues. All the energy will have been returned as well." I'm sure this is a great comfort to the millions dead in Asia. And why would this posh-reversing-the-polarity-of-the-neutron-flow affect the teleport? Were Kyle and Ianto transferred to the Hax planet in the exact same way as the energy transfer? How does that work? As Kyle sagely notes "I ain't gonna even try understanding any of that, but it sounds good to me. We got it sorted!"
Reunited with Ben, they all head to the Mermaid Wine Bar to discuss events.
- So they leave Wales and go back to Cambridge just to get some wine and don't mention anything that's just happened on the way? What do they talk about instead? As with so many sparacus works, people seem to be able to teleport themselves to drinking establishments for the sole purpose of exposition.
Why do they go to the Mermaid anyway, after deciding to never go back there thanks to Tuck's behavior? Is Ben's Alzhiemer's getting worse?
- Ben points out that Janex's faction aren't as nice as they sound, since if Kyle had killed the Chairman, it would have been impossible for them to remove the cylinders (as only the Chairman had that power). Thus Janex merely wanted to sieze power rather than save the Earth. A nice subtextual plot... but why did Janex then spare the lives of Ianto, Kyle and the Chairman? Katie, Ben and Jack brood that the threat from the Hax is not over, but any sequel opportunities thrown up by this story were never taken up. Indeed, the next episodic story was abandoned so sparacus could go for his two new interests - the movies, and Matt Smith!
Barry Tuck arrives to take their order, threatening to punch Ben and offering to grope Katie.
- Desite Anselm's abhorance of foul language, it's hard not to urge Tuck on as he retorts, "Look squire, if yer want serving then get off your high horse or I'll shove this fist in yer gob!" and gives Ben the finger.
- Despite his vow to find another wine bar, Ben's clearly unable to do so and doesn't even suspect that when the drinks arrive, Tuck might very well have spat in them...
- For those who are interested, the group drink two absinthes (for Ben and Anselm), three beers (for Kyle, Jack and Ianto) and a glass of white wine for the lady (Katie). So Ianto goes to Cambridge for a drink, but Craig, Isobel and Gwen are left in Cardiff? Sparacus' usual eye for detail completely misses the fact Jack is teetotal and only drinks water...
- "No more threats or foul language please Tuck or I will be speaking to the manager!" Ben warns Tuck... but didn't they already complain the first time? So, Ben Chatham the man who is prepared to threaten Russia and North Korea with nuclear oblivion, who is responsible for the deaths of over two million people... is afraid of making a scene in a restaurant. Just think about that for a while!
Ben holds a toast to Kyle and Ianto for saving the world.
- Ben for once doesn't take the credit (presumably not even he can claim making a suggestion outweighs the death toll in China) but what, precisely, did Ianto do? He simply stood around in silence letting Kyle do all the work. Oh, and feeling "a passionate longing that he has never felt before, not even for Jack" which he dare not speak of. Was this supposed to be some kind of ongoing story arc? If so, sparacus completely abandoned it. Ianto never appeared in the Chathamverse again, and only Jack would make one further appearance. It seems that Kyle remains the sole nice character that cannot be turned homosexual...
- The next story ostensibly was The Case of the Twelve Gold Crosses. We all know how that ended up...
Next Time: Crystal