Sisters of the Flame was the seventh release of the second series of Big Finish Productions' Eighth Doctor Adventures audio stories. This audio featured a return of the planet Karn that last appeared in the 2002 novel Warmonger and was introduced in the 1976 television story The Brain of Morbius.
Publisher's summary Edit
The richest man in the galaxy has just bought a backwards planet with no obvious mineral wealth in the outer reaches of the universe. An obscure mystical sect has been revived after centuries of neglect. A new race of aliens are hunting for prey. Why?
As the Doctor and Lucie attempt to discover the answer, it becomes clear that someone is attempting to resurrect the past — and they need a Time Lord to help them achieve it.
In the TARDIS console room, the power cuts out. The Doctor realises the ship is completely dead, as though the Eye of Harmony did not exist. The Eye could be shut down with a stellar manipulator, but the only one in history no longer exists. Suddenly the power returns, but the Doctor denies responsibility. A strange noise is heard, and the TARDIS is tossed around by a black hole ahead. It is moving toward them, causing the Doctor to recognise it as a piece of ancient and nasty Time Lord technology. He manages to evade, but wonders what the Time Lords wanted—and why didn’t they just call? He lands the ship, and he and Lucie find themselves in a cargo hold on a freighter. Over Lucie’s objections, the Doctor wants to look around—but they are overtaken by a group of ten-foot tall centipedes.
Elsewhere in space, an employee reports to his employer—Mr. Zarodnix—that they have found what they were looking for. Zarodnix is pleased.
A spaceship, piloted by Police Marshal Rosto of the Trell, responds to a distress call from a Zarodnix Corporation freighter, the Euretz. The freighter’s captain has a stowaway in confinement, and wants Rosto to deal with the matter quickly. The captive is a human from Earth named Lucie Miller. Rosto can find no record of her, and she has no documentation. Lucie, meanwhile, remains in a cell, until one of the centipedes enters. Using a translation box, it reassures her, and introduces itself as a Trell. She says she has seen Trell before—in fact, two days ago, about twenty of them attacked her and kidnapped the Doctor—but the freighter crew would not listen. He explains that he is the police—Marshal Rosto, to be precise—much to her surprise. Rosto realises that she thinks he must be involved. He tells her she is lucky to have stowed away on a Zarodnix ship—most freighters would simply blow a stowaway out the airlock, but Zarodnix has a reputation to maintain. He demands an explanation, and records her statement, but keeps interrupting her with questions; Lucie grows more frustrated, and finally insults Rosto, calling him a bug. She requests a human police marshal, and he agrees to arrange it, but warns that it will take time.
Once Lucie calms down, she tries again to tell her story. She explains about landing in the TARDIS, and says that the Doctor told her to run when the centipedes attacked. She saw him being overpowered, and when they turned on her, she ran. She mentions that one Trell spoke with a mechanical voice; Rosto notes that this is very strange. She explains that the other Trell were wearing metal accessories and hats with lights. Rosto realises she must have hidden in a waste pipe; the smell hid her scent and allowed her to escape, though it was close. She says she saw that the Trell were accompanied by a humanoid female in combate gear, with a dark visor. She assumes the Doctor was taken off the ship. Rosto leaves to continue his investigation, leaving Lucie to await a prison ship. Once alone, Lucie gives in and begins to cry, suspecting she may not see the Doctor again.
Rosto begins his crime scene report, recorded in Trell and humanoid speech. He concludes that Lucie’s story is unlikely, as history notes that the Trell are a peaceful race. To corroborate the report, he scans for particle traces that would serve as evidence.
Lucie hears the TARDIS, but is let down when it is not the Doctor who appears—it is the Time Lord Straxus, using a Time Ring instead of a TARDIS. He explains that he has been sent to locate the Doctor, who is missing. He realises he is off target by two days, and is happy to have arrived so close, but now must report back and try again. Lucie requests to go with him, but he refuses, as lesser species are not allowed on Gallifrey. He tells her that the less she knows, the better off she will be. Something terrible is happening in the universe, and she should trust no one. Using the Time Ring, he vanishes.
Rosto detects two unusual DNA traces. The first is unknown, but from a highly evolved humanoid species. The second is Trell—Lucie, it seems, has been telling the truth. The Trell DNA includes indication of technological implants; accompanying it is a two-millimetre metal artefact, origin unknown. He returns to interrogate Lucie further. In the meantime, a woman calling herself Haspira enters Lucie’s cell; Lucie assumes she is the humanoid police officer promised by Rosto. Playing the role, Haspira suggests relocation to the nearest Earth embassy, arguing that Lucie’s life could be in danger. AS well, the embassy can circulate a description of the Doctor around the galaxy. Impressed, Lucie leaves with her.
On Gallifrey, Straxus meets Co-ordinator Bulek, who tells him that the Time Scoop is active and Zarodnix is playing with time travel. That makes Time Rings the only safe way to travel. Straxus explains that the Doctor was kidnapped before his arrival in the cell; Bulek demands to know why he did not bring Lucie back with him. Over Straxus’s objections, Bulek explains that she could have useful information. He orders Straxus to go back for her, as she is their only link to the Doctor—and Zarodnix cannot be allowed to capture the Doctor, as the whole universe hinges on it...
Haspira’s ship is unusually luxurious for a police vessel. As the ship departs, Lucie ponders her situation, and realises that whoever captured the Doctor must have been waiting for them; but how could they know where the TARDIS would land? Perhaps the Time Lords are responsible? And if so, who is the mystery woman from the attack? Haspira regrets that Lucie did not see the woman’s face—it could be circulated along with the Doctor’s. As Lucie is tired, Haspira sends her to her cabin to clean up, change clothes, and rest; but as Lucie drifts off, she hears a female voice chanting “sacred flame, sacred fire”. She begins to feel strange, and wonders what is going on, until a banging from the main deck pulls her awake.
The banging is from the airlock, which opens to admit a Trell. Lucie yells that Haspira is a police officer, but the Trell—revealed to be Rosto—says that she is not, as he has not put in the request for a human officer yet. Haspira begs Lucie not to listen, and accuses him of being in league with the Trell from the attack; but Rosto counters that she knows a lot about the case, despite his report not yet being submitted. Haspira tells Lucie to take her gun and shoot Rosto, but Lucie silences them both. Rosto says that he thinks Haspira is the woman from the attack; she is wearing one ear stud, and he found its mate in the cargo hold—the metal artefact he found. Lucie agrees with him; in response, Haspira takes out her other ear stud and throws it down. It bursts, releasing a cloud of gas. Haspira runs to her cabin and locks the door. Lucie shoots the lock, and enters with Rosto, just in time to see Haspira chanting “sacred flame, sacred fire”; Haspira disappears. Rosto assumes it is a teleport, but he can find no mechanism.
With the chant still echoing, Haspira appears in a chamber, and is met by an old woman named Orthena, who rebukes her for returning empty-handed. Haspira explains that she was interrupted en route by Rosto. Meanwhile, the crew of the Euretz had no inkling of Zarodnix’s plans, which is why they reported Lucie as a stowaway. Orthena re-emphasises that Lucie must be brought here, as she may have Time Lord knowledge; Haspira says that Lucie knows Straxus. Fearful that Lucie may unintentionally help Zarodnix, and decides that all links with the Doctor must be destroyed as if he never existed.
Lucie remembers the chanting she heard earlier, and realises she was nearly teleported away herself. Rosto tells her he has found evidence that the Trell are being controlled, and the two apologise to each other. Lucie finds a flame motif on the ear stud, consistent with the “sacred flame” chanting, and suggests researching it. Rosto uses the Galactinet—a faster-than-light information network—and begins searching.
Zarodnix learns from his Trell agents that they have lost their Time Lord prisoner—he was taken by Haspira during the search for Lucie after the attack. When they arrived on the planet Karn, they found the cell empty; a device was sending out false bio-signatures, but the captives were gone. Zarodnix concludes that the device is Time Lord technology, indicating that Haspira is working for the Time Lords. The Trell tell him that their prisoner was the Doctor—a legendary name, known even to him, and known to have been to Karn before. He is angry when he learns that they no longer have the TARDIS, either—the Doctor must have escaped in it. However, they still maintain a lock on its time signature. He tells Operations Control to locate the TARDIS, but they lack the power to do so, having depleted their supplies on the first tracking; he does not accept the excuse, and indicates that the Time Lord Time Scoop will also be seeking the Doctor, making him easier to locate. He tells them to sell another planetary system so as to buy sufficient energy. He begins to rant, saying that nothing is more important than the future Empire they are building. From there, he goes to a processing chamber—it is nearly time for the “final extraction”.
Accompanied by her Sisters, Haspira meets the Doctor in a cell. They unchain him to take him elsewhere, but refuse to tell him about Lucie. Meanwhile, Rosto and Lucie track down the symbol; it is the emblem of the Sisterhood of Karn. Rosto states that Karn is owned by Zarodnix, who is alleged to even live there. He is believed to be the richest man in the galaxy, and possibly the universe. When the planet was bought, fifty-two years ago, the Sisterhood departed it for parts unknown. However, they are known to possess great mental powers, possibly explaining Haspira’s escape. All other files on them have been expunged, probably by Zarodnix. Lucie cross-references for information on the Time Lords, but most of the records on that race have been expunged as well. Lucie suggests going to Karn; while Rosto sets their course, he reassures her that she should not feel guilty for obeying the Doctor’s order to run. Now, they will both seek the truth, each for their own reasons.
Under the surface of Karn, Zarodnix orders that the final extraction proceed without him so as to avoid delays. Space Traffic Control, meanwhile, has detected an approaching ship; Zarodnix tells them to deal with it in the usual way.
Aboard Haspira’s ship, Lucie and Rosto approach Karn. Rosto reveals that he has learned something disturbing: several Trell worlds have been recently purchased by Zarodnix, and their records have been expunged as well. It seems he is using augmented Trell as a private army.
Orthena, the Sisterhood’s Mother Superior, orders the Sisters to bring in the Doctor. He refuses to say anything, as they have not been forthcoming about the situation; he demands to be taken back to Lucie. Orthena says she may be able to comply, in a manner of speaking. She points out a nearby door, and tells him it leads to oblivion.
Haspira’s ship makes orbit, but is caught in an energy web. Before anything can happen, Straxus materialises in front of them. Straxus orders Rosto to stay out of the situation, until Rosto asks Lucie if he should restrain the newcomer; Straxus becomes nervous. Lucie explains who he is, and takes his Time Ring so as to prevent him from leaving again. He demands that she return to Gallifrey with him, but she demands to know about the Doctor.
The Doctor recognises the door as a molecular dispersal chamber—a barbaric piece of technology which, to his chagrin, originated with the Time Lords. Orthena says they need his help to find Lucie; but Haspira’s recording from the cell on the Euretz indicates that they already know where she is. Orthena knows she is on Haspira’s ship now, but when she tries to make telepathic contact, she is stunned to learn it is in orbit over Karn. However, this world is not Karn; she confirms that they left that world many years ago, but refuses to reveal their location.
Straxus blames the Doctor for what has happened—if he had not avoided the Time Scoop, this would not have happened. Lucie realises he is referring to the black hole which the Doctor narrowly avoided. Straxus defends the Time Lords’ choice, saying that communication would have been unsafe. Before he can continue, the energy field begins pulling them to the planet—and Straxus is horrified to learn that it is Karn.
Orthena tells the Doctor that Lucie is in danger, though the Doctor doubts it. She demands that he link his mind to theirs, as he has an affinity for Lucie; she threatens him with the molecular dispersal chamber if he refuses.
Straxus, now panicking, demands his Time Ring back, promising to take Lucie with him. Under pressure, he even agrees to take Rosto if possible. He explains that Zarodnix bought Karn because he is the leader of the Cult of Morbius. Lucie agrees to leave, but before she can give the Time Ring back, she is teleported away by the Sisterhood. She materialises in the chamber with the Sisterhood and the Doctor. She is relieved at first—until Orthena reveals that they will both be placed in the dispersal chamber. There will be no trace of the Doctor. She gives the order to place them inside.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Lucie Miller - Sheridan Smith
- Zarodnix - Kenneth Colley
- Rosto - Alexander Siddig
- Straxus - Nickolas Grace
- Bulek / Eurelz Captain - Barry McCarthy
- Haspira / Trell - Nicola Weeks
- Orthena / Trell - Katarina Olsson
- Galactinet - Barnaby Edwards
- The Doctor and Lucie land on the Eurelz.
Communications technology Edit
- The Galactinet is a supralight microwave information network transmitted across hyperspatial conduits.
- The Trell are ten-foot long intelligent centipedes.
- This story marks the first appearance of the Sisterhood of Karn in an audio play.
- This audio drama was recorded on 20 August 2007 at The Moat Studios.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on 31 October 2008.
- The Sisterhood of Karn and Morbius previously appeared in TV: The Brain of Morbius.
- Straxus previously appeared in AUDIO: Human Resources.
- Official Sisters of the Flame page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Sisters of the Flame at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide