Thursday, 6 October 2011

Peril in Mechanistria

The Doctor is surprised to see the title of this story written in large letters on the side of a mountain.

The Tardis materialises on a planet and the scanner shows the Doctor only "feature-less blackness" until he has a sleep and then tries again.

"When he woke up and switched on the screens again the solution came to him at once and he laughed to himself. As simple as that. He had landed during the night of this world and now it was daytime."

The Doctor then goes outside where everything is metal. He sees the "gigantic metal mountain" but it is not clear if it actually has the story's title written on it. Then the Doctor is ambushed by a giant metal monster.

"It was round and it was black. It had wheels and it had legs. There were portholes in the thing and from within lights flashed on and off. It was coming towards him but he could never be certain afterwards whether it came on the wheels or the legs. He stood rooted to the spot and watched it approach, like a hypnotised rabbit watches the approach of the cobra."

The Doctor is too hypno-eyesed to run back to the Tardis. He sees robot tentacles coming to get him.

"This thing must be a monstrous robot, a gigantic grappling machine, alongside of which the dreaded Daleks would seem like children's toys."

Oh noes! The Doctor has been grabbed by something even scarier than Daleks! How will he escape?

It turns out the tentacles did not come from the robot, but from a flying machine sent by friendly mannys to rescue the Doctor.

These mannys don't wear any clothes except for their tool-belts, and they all have moustaches or beards, and they have deep voices for shouting over the machines. They are clearly all very manly, but they don't know a lot of things because they don't know about other worlds, or soil, or seas, or grass, or trees. The Doctor confuses them when he talks about these things, and they think he is mad.

Wait, those mannys don't have beards or moustaches, so it looks like they don't all have them. I think they do all have deep voices though. Or maybe they're just loud voices.

Anyway, the one with the beard ("the bearded one" - none of them have names yet) is in charge of these mannys, but they have sent for Wise Ones to come and speak to the Doctor.

The bearded manny gives the Doctor some food and tells him his name is Drako. I know someone called "Drayko," but he spells his name with a "y" because he is a hamster and a ninja.

Drako has seen the Tardis and he asks the Doctor about it. The Doctor says:
""That is my Tardis," he said primly. "Many, many years ago - I suppose you could say many millions of years ago, she was built by a race of men so advanced and so great-minded that she was designed to travel anywhere in the space of the universe and backwards and forwards across the great span of time, time past and future time. In my Tardis, I came to your planet-""

The Doctor stops and says he is tired, but really he is scared they will steal the Tardis.

The Doctor contemplates the possibility of having several manly mannys as his companions in the Tardis, because he can't possibly choose between them.

Drako and his mannys won't let the Doctor go. The Doctor has a sleep, but Drako wakes him up so they can talk. He tells the Doctor that the machines are in charge of their planet but the Doctor doesn't believe him.

"Drako looked at him strangely. "You do not know our world, that proves what you told us, that you came from... from... elsewhere. The machines of Korad are the true masters of this world, stranger. All of us people, we the mechanics and the Wise Ones also, serve them and live only because they have use for us.""

Drako says this has been the case for as long as any manny can remember. He wants the Doctor to help some of his mannys escape in the Tardis. The Doctor thinks about it.

"Well, all his life and all his wanderings had been the taking of chances. And suddenly, he felt a fellow-feeling to these poor semi-humans, slaves of these monstrosities, even spending their lives building more of them right now. He must do something to help them. Something? What should he do?"

He and Drako are about to go to the Tardis when one of the Wise Ones shows up and is not friendly.

He is called Beran of the Wise Ones of Haven One. And he has a gun. He thinks the Doctor has three eyes because he has a monocle. So he isn't actually very wise.

Beran wants to destroy the Tardis. He tells the Doctor that Drako is wrong about the machines being in charge of the Wise Ones.

"We call our world Mechanistria. The machines you speak so airily of are our-selves, fools. Into each of them was built a human brain."

He then rants a bit more about how they want to take over the universe.

"He ended arrogantly and Dr Who drew in his breath. This was truly a staggerer and all this could not be properly taken in at once."

There's definitely nothing rude at all about that last sentence, I don't know why it provoked sniggering from Gamma Longcat and the monkeys.
(Oh yes, the story calls the Doctor "Dr Who" again. But it is obviously the Doctor as played by William Hartnell as you can see from the pictures so I am just calling the Doctor "the Doctor" now.)

Drako steals the gun from Beran and takes him hostage. The three of them get into a flying machine called a "soarer" and Drako takes them back to the metal mountain where the Tardis is. The next bit is very strange:

"Drako looked coldly at Beran. "I cannot kill a fellow man," he said. "You will leap from the soarer now. Leap or I kill you, if I must.""

That doesn't make any sense to me. So can Drako kill Beran or not? I am confused. The next bit is even stranger:

""Poor fool," laughed Beran and he stood up. "You really must try and harden yourselves. You should really kill me, you know." With a loud laugh he leaped from the soarer and plummeted down. Dr Who shuddered as he watched but then as he saw the Tardis down there, he forgot everything else."

The word "plummeted" is not a good word. Beran had been established as a baddy, but now Drako is definitely a murderer. Drako then turns on the Doctor, pointing the gun at him and forcing the Doctor to take him to the Tardis. The Doctor is scared of Drako, and I'm not surprised given what he has just done.

Drako is himself scared when he sees that the Tardis is bigger on the inside. But he gets inside when a "horde of mechanical monsters" charges towards the Tardis. The Doctor makes the Tardis travel in time but not in space. Drako asks how long their journey will take.

"Well, really, no time at all, you know. When one is moving in time, no time at all is consumed in the journey. Can you understand that?"
"No," laughed Drako. "By no stretch of my imagination can I understand that.""

The Doctor thinks he has gone back in time ten million years. Drako announces:
""I am going out into my world when it was very young. I am going to save it from a future that only now, at such a staggering distance in time, I can at last recognise as horrible and inhuman. You have my thanks, strange man from out of the universe. I will not betray your trust. If Korad can be saved from growing up as Mechanistria, I will do it.""

Drako sees green grass and blue skies for the first time. He leaves the gun behind in the Tardis, saying he will not need it. Then the Doctor closes the doors and "the Tardis slid ghost-like through the dimensions." The Doctor ponders what has happened:

"Was it possible that mere men could outwit the Fate that ruled all things? If Drako was to succeed, where then would be the Mechanistria he had seen and experienced himself? Could Drako succeed against the mighty forces of Destiny that shaped the universe?"

But because Drako left the gun behind, the Doctor gets an answer - the gun vanishes.

"That might mean only one thing. That Drako had, or would, succeed, and that Mechanistria, with all its inhuman horrors, would never arise.
As he settled himself for sleep a last drowsy smile crept over his lips. Sometimes, the frightening paradoxes were not as frightening as one had first thought."

And with the Doctor having his third sleep of the story (almost as many as a cat!) that is the end.

At 14 pages (some of which don't have any pictures!) this is a long story, but because it asks deep philosophical questions and is not afraid to give unambiguously straightforward answers to those questions it raises, it needs to take the time to develop its setting and characters so we know that Mechanistria must be stopped, no matter the cost.

And, apart from one completely gratuitous murder committed by an otherwise sympathetic character, it is successful at that. But then not every story can be as morally complex as Blakes 7 - mentioning Daleks does not make the writer Terry Nation.

1 comment:

  1. I recognise that artwork - it's the same as a lot of the strips in the Dalek Outer Space Book