Publisher's summary Edit
With the high-ranking Time Lord Seratrix behind enemy lines, the War Doctor finds himself assigned to a rescue mission. But any room for manoeuvre is severely restricted by an area of space known as the Null Zone.
Times have changed on Keska, and a countdown to destruction is beginning.
But who are the Taalyens and what is their part in the great and terrifying Dalek plan?
After the Doctor’s extraction from Keska, Rejoice meets with her father, and tells him that the Doctor is gone. She mourns his loss, but her father is glad she was left behind.
From the Doctor’s perspective, the story continues immediately. He meets with Cardinal Ollistra, who orders him onto a strike team led by Veklin, the agent who came for him on Keska. Also on the team are Bennus and Arverton, the two agents whom the Doctor rescued from the Time Destructor before landing on Keska. Ollistra wants them to go behind enemy lines—that is, into an area of space called the Null Zone, which is held by the Daleks. The area is so called because time travel is impossible inside it; only spaceflight can be completed. They will be looking for a missing Time Lord strategist named Seratrix. The Doctor—who still declines to be called by that name—insults Ollistra and Veklin, then summons his TARDIS and escapes, refusing to be part of any team. Veklin, Bennus, and Arverton follow him in a Battle TARDIS. Meanwhile, the Daleks are preparing to execute their plan.
The Doctor hits the border of the Null Zone, and is forced to land on Keska, although he doesn’t know that’s where he is. He finds himself in a slave camp, and meets a man named Garv, who informs him of the planet’s identity, leaving him stunned. The Taalyens have somehow conquered the planet; and now, a massive drilling machine is being built. But why? And how? Moreover, there are a thousand worlds in the Null Zone, and all of them have received the same treatment. Meanwhile, Veklin’s team also lands, though not nearby, and finds several life signs: Keskan, Taalyen, Gallifreyan…and Dalek.
The Doctor promises Garv that he has fought the Daleks before, and will defeat them here. When asked for a name, he calls himself John Smith. He is separated from Garv’s slave group, who are sent down to the drill level. The Daleks mention a pre-launch sequence, sparking the Doctor’s curiosity. Veklin and her team pursue the Doctor—and, hopefully, Seratrix—into the machinery, carrying demolition packs.
The Doctor meets a Taalyen guard, and passes himself off as a slave elite. The guard challenges him, but he is saved by a real slave elite, the woman in charge of that group of slaves. Once free of the guard, she becomes emotional, because she recognises the Doctor, though he does not recognise her at first…it is Rejoice. They bring each other up to date, but Rejoice thinks he cannot save the planet this time, as the Daleks are supporting the Taalyens—in fact, it was the Daleks who helped them get inside the planetary shield. The Doctor assures her that there is a connection between the situation here in the thousand worlds and the greater Time War...and he intends to figure it out.
Veklin’s team infiltrates via the fuel-pumping tunnels of the machinery, but they must hurry; periodically, fuel is purged through the tunnels, and will kill them. They are detected by the Daleks, who send a Taalyen squad in after them. They defeat the squad, but are caught by a fuel purge; Arverton sacrifices himself to get them to safety. He refers to Bennus in his last moments as “brother”; this piques Veklin’s curiosity. Bennus attributes it to a unit they served in, under Seratrix and Ollistra. Meanwhile, the Daleks think they were all killed in the purge.
The Doctor and Rejoice help serve food at a celebratory feast for the Taalyen leadership; the Prime Dalek is also there, with the Taalyen commander, Traanus. Seratrix is also there; the Doctor learns, to his horror, that Seratrix is working with Traanus and the Prime Dalek. He is outed as a Gallifreyan, but Seratrix vouches for him and saves his life; he knows that if the Daleks recognise him as the Doctor, they will kill him.
The drilling machine is launched. It will drill into the planet’s core, and destroy the core; it’s a plan the Doctor has seen before. Seratrix insists that he is working for the greater good; this plan will lead to peace with the Daleks, who now rule the Null Zone. The Doctor is shocked to silence, as the Daleks chant “Peace in our time”.
- The War Doctor - John Hurt
- Cardinal Ollistra - Jacqueline Pearce
- The Nursemaid - Lucy Briggs-Owen
- The Slave - Carolyn Seymour
- Veklin - Beth Chalmers
- Seratrix - Alex Wyndham
- Bennus - Kieran Hodgson
- Arverton - Barnaby Edwards
- Traanus - Mark McDonnell
- Garv - John Banks
- The Daleks - Nicholas Briggs
- When Ollistra says the Doctor will be sent behind enemy lines, he asks her if she watches a lot of war films.
- Seratrix traversed the Null Zone in his battle TARDIS.
- The Doctor has adjusted his sonic screwdriver so that it can materialise the TARDIS around him.
- The enslaved people of Keska believe the Daleks have enslaved a thousand worlds in order to build their machines.
- Rejoice discusses meeting the Doctor on Keska with her father. (AUDIO: The Innocent)
- The Doctor recalls setting off a Dalek Time Destructor at Omega One. (AUDIO: The Innocent)
- The Doctor states that the Time Lords have become Daleks. (TV: The Night of the Doctor)
- Ollistra states that the Doctor has defeated the Daleks many times (TV: The Daleks et al.) and that they fear him. (TV: The Parting of the Ways)
- The Daleks have enslaved numerous worlds before. (TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, AUDIO: Invasion of the Daleks et al.)
- The Doctor once again uses the pseudonym of "John Smith". (TV: The Tomb of the Cybermen et al.) He would later use it again towards the end of the life of his "War" incarnation. (PROSE: Engines of War)
- For the Doctor, he met the younger Rejoice very recently, but for her it has been decades. (AUDIO: The Innocent)
- The Doctor says one could feel the consequences of war for several lifetimes. (TV: Rose et al.)
- The Daleks are drilling through Keska's core in order to destroy the planet. The Doctor says the plan sounds depressingly familiar. (TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth) The Doctor lost his great-grandson Alex Campbell and companions Lucie Miller and Tamsin Drew during one such undertaking on Earth in the 22nd century. (AUDIO: Lucie Miller/To the Death)