Ace finds the Doctor; the Doctor finds a puzzle.
As is perhaps appropriate for this novel, Ace seeing the nature of the city is a wonderful moment of restatement at this halfway point. We are already familiar with the concept for the different time zones laid out next to each other; this brings the idea home in the most literal way possible.
It also echoes Ghost Light as the solution is to be found by journeying to the top of the building, only to be captured again. Coincidence? I think so.
I think we’re inside the TARDIS itself, explaining the gravity pocket or whatever it is that slowed Ace and Shonnzi’s fall. I do like that once Ace is guided by her TARDIS key, she finds the Doctor almost immediately (with the help of some architectural reconfiguration…).
It’s easy to imagine Sylvester McCoy playing the bemused amnesiac Doctor here (or Wilby, as he insists). Was he in a healing coma following his fight with the process? He did say that the Process stole his knowledge of the ship when it destroyed the manual. Was he speaking literally or metaphorically? The attic he was in appears to be somewhat cut off from the outside world- when the trapdoor is closed, no sound from outside can get in. A zero room, then? Somewhere where the Process can’t steal anything else from him? It/They certainly can’t detect him in there.
I understand the reverent use of the umbrellas by the Phazels- it’s somewhat like over-enthused Doctor Who fans welcoming Sylv to a convention. Where did they get the umbrellas though? This seems to be the first time it has rained here- what need do they have of them? Did the Doctor’s reemergence trigger the rain, meaning that the City has a sense of pathetic fallacy? It’s a lovely scene, but I couldn’t help but think these questions.
THe Phazels have continued to be a bit non-descript, so when Reogus dies it isn’t terribly affecting. The revelation that Chersperl and he are expecting a child feels like an attempt to imbue the death with greater tragedy, but it’s just an excuse to confirm that the guards are indeed the Phazels. But if the guards are the Phazels, how could the guard carrying Ace earlier, the shortest one, by Amnoni or Chersperl, who are the tallest of the Phazels- OH MY THAT GUARD IS ACE IN THE FUTURE.
Apologies for the all caps, but that just came to me as I was typing that sentence.
The Doctor’s defiance in the face of Reogus’ death is incredibly stirring. He may not know who he is, or who Ace is, or what a TARDIS, Time Lords or Gallifrey are- but he is still disgusted by death and violence. On some level, he also knows that he is the Doctor- or rather, he will be.
Meanwhile/earlier, on Gallifrey, the Pythia comes to Rassilon’s library to consult with the Sphinx. Whatever time has or has not passed on the city, it’s a full year on the outside, and the Pythia has been without her gift of prophecy for as long. How are the city and the Pythia linked? Are Vael’s mental abilities, similar to the Pythias, somehow stopping her from seeing the future? On the other hand- either the Time Scaphe has drifted into its relative future, or the TARDIS into its relative past. As such, the Scaphe may have been stolen into the future.
Perhaps this is why it’s taking me so long to read this book- it takes me a while to think of all the possible angles!
Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible– Chapters 16-19