Festival of Death
The Beautiful Death. The ultimate theme-park ride. For twenty galactic credited, you can find out what it’s like to be dead.
But something has gone wrong. Visitors expecting a sightseeing tourof the afterlife have been transformed into mindless zombies, set on a killing rampage.
The TARDIS arrives in the aftermath of the disaster and, to The Doctor’s baffled delight, he is immediately congratulated for saving the population from certain and terrible destruction.
The only problem is, he hasn’t actually done it yet.
Aided and abetted by a drug-addled hippie lizard, a hard-hitting investigative reporter and a suicidal ship’s computer, The Doctor has no choice but to travel back in time and discover exactly how he became a hero.
And then he finds out. He did it by sacrificing his life.
A young boy named Koel flees in inexplicable terror from a space shuttle’s boarding tube, moments before the tube malfunctions and separates prematurely from the station, killing Koel’s parents. On another world, the Arboretans await the birth of Gallura, the last of their kind, to find out what the future will be this time…
While studying to retake his basic time travel proficiency exam, The Doctor accidentally crosses his own time path and materialises aboard the security transport Montressor, part of a huge station consisting of numerous smaller ships bolted together within a hyperspace tunnel. Leaving K9 in the TARDIS, The Doctor and Romana cross an airlock bridge to the Cerberus, a formerly opulent passenger liner which shows the scars of a long-ago battle. There, they find medics caring for the survivors of a recent disaster, and meet journalist Harkan Batt, who greets The Doctor by name and orders his new cameraman Jeremy to record an interview with this, the man who saved the G-Lock. K9 then arrives to warn The Doctor that, although he cannot divulge the source of his information, he has learned that the hyperspace tunnel will collapse within four hours. To prove his claim he leads The Doctor to the interface where the Cerberus is stuck between real space and hyperspace. The Doctor can see that it is unstable, but before he can do anything he is arrested by Investigators Dunkal and Rige, who have arrived in answer to Executive Metcalfe’s distress call. Metcalfe has informed them that The Doctor is responsible for destroying the G-Lock’s mainframe ERIC and sabotaging the Beautiful Death, transforming over 200 tourists into killer zombies. The Doctor’s warning about the tunnel is dismissed as a delaying tactic, and he and K9 are thrown into a holding cell.
While helping out in the medical bay, Romana sees the body of an emaciated elderly woman vanish into thin air, and is greeted by an injured lizard named Hoopy who thanks her for saving his life earlier. The rush of casualties has exhausted the station’s painkiller supply, but Hoopy claims to have certain pharmaceuticals on his own ship, and Romana sets off to collect them. Before she can return to the sickbay, however, she experiences a vision of a young girl who leads her to a shimmering reality interface. When she awakens, she is arrested by security guards, accused of gun-running, and thrown into the cells with The Doctor and K9. The guard has confiscated The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, telling him he can’t get away with the same trick twice. It is now clear that The Doctor and Romana are experiencing the consequences of past actions they will take in their personal future. Romana therefore suggests that when they return in the past, they should arrange for someone to break them out of the cells, and right on cue, ticket agent Evadne Baxter knocks out the guard and releases them. She was only expecting to find Romana, however, and is shocked to see that The Doctor is there as well — and seems utterly terrified to see K9. Apparently fearful that K9 is going to kill her at any moment, she takes The Doctor to the Beautiful Death’s necroport, as Romana had apparently told her to do earlier — and before The Doctor can stop her, she tells him that this is where she saw him sacrifice his life to save the G-Lock…
The necroport opens up into a small chamber beneath the Great Hall, where The Doctor and his companions find two charred, unrecognisable humanoid bodies, and a dying Arboretan named Gallura who begs The Doctor to avenge his species’ extinction. The Doctor agrees to do so, but doesn’t know where to start, and decides to return to the spatial interface to investigate further. On the way, Evadne tells him and Romana about the Cerberus, which caused the worst traffic jam of history when it got stuck in the entrance to the hyperspace tunnel two centuries ago. The other end of the tunnel was closed off to prevent things from getting worse, but when the rescue teams finally entered, two months later, they found the gridlock deserted with no sign of any of the ships’ occupants. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.
Upon arriving at the interface, The Doctor is arrested by Durkan and Rige once again, but this time even they can see that the interface is unstable. Conceding that they have no actual pro of of the Doctor’s guilt, they take him back to Metcalfe to answer to the charges in person. Evadne locates Harkan Batt, who provides the Investigators with his footage of the disaster — including pro of that while The Doctor was risking his life to save the G-Lock, Metcalfe was cowering away in hiding, leaving the tourists to their fate. Durkan and Rige arrest Metcalfe, realising that he was using The Doctor as a scapegoat to cover his own negligence. The survivors then evacuate the G-Lock, and since Hoopy is being returned to his homeworld, Romana gives Evadne his spaceship, as she had apparently promised to do earlier. The Doctor, Romana and K9 return to the TARDIS and depart, and watch from a vantage point in the Vortex as the hyperspace tunnel collapses into a singularity, crushing the G-Lock. Having witnessed the aftermath of the disaster, The Doctor has no choice but to go fulfill his role in history by going back in time to experience the disaster itself — knowing full well that this may mean his death.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the staff of the Cerberus are preparing for the greatest Beautiful Death ever; this time 218 tourists will be put to death and then revived after experiencing a vision of the afterlife. Metcalfe fears that processing so many tourists simultaneously will result in a jading of the experience and a resulting loss of revenue, but Dr Paddox, the inventorof the process, insists that it is necessary. He does not give his reasons, nor does he appear concerned that Metcalfe is facing lawsuits from the families of forty tourists who have failed to survive their deaths. Investigative journalist Harkan Batt has arrived with his cameraman Vinnie to film a documentary which Batt hopes will restore his tarnished reputation following a scandal over faked footage, and as Metcalfe prepares for an interview with Batt, a man claiming to be a neurelectrician arrives to repair the station’s suicidally depressed mainframe, ERIC…
The Doctor and K9 are separated from Romana in the crowds outside the Great Hall, and as they try to get to the necroport they are arrested by guards who recognise The Doctor as a saboteur. The Doctor is brought before Paddox, who has him restrained while the Beautiful Death is activated. At the moment of activation a psychic storm tears out of the necroport and the generators overload, but despite the danger Paddox holds The Doctor back at gunpoint, refusing to let him shut the system down. K9 stuns Paddox, and the Doctor convinces ERIC to shut down the generators; although ERIC still wishes to die, he agrees to do so, since The Doctor has apparently already promised him oblivion in exchange for his help. The dead tourists, still dead, nevertheless rise from their cubicles, kill Vinnie and corner Batt near the necroport. The zombies then attack the control room to prevent the technicians from interfering with the necroport, and in the confusion Paddox flees. The Doctor sends K9 after him, realising that Paddox has summoned something evil from beyond the realm of death. Batt then arrives, pursued by zombies, and the Doctor lets him in — saving his life, Batt claims, for the second time.
As Romana struggles through the chaos outside the Great Hall, she sees The Doctor entering the TARDIS — which is now in the observation lounge — and leaving without her. She then meets Evadne Baxter, who recognises Romana as an agent of Intergalactic Espionage and claims that Romana and the Doctor sent herout of the necroport just before disaster struck. Romana realises that once again, she and the Doctor are experiencing the consequences of actions to be taken in their future. She and Evadne get to Metcalfe’s office, where the terrified executive is hiding from the killer zombies. Romana senses waves of time distortion rippling out of the necroport, and when they settle down, the chronometers on the station all register two years simultaneously; both the current year, 3012, and the year 2815, when the Cerberus first got stuck in the hyperspace tunnel. Metcalfe doesn’t want to risk his reputation by letting the story of the disaster get out, but Romana and Evadne force him to send a distress call and then set off in search of the Doctor. Outside, they see the zombies transforming into emaciated men and women — who are then possessed by an evil intelligence called the Repulsion, which intends to destroy every living thing in the G-Lock. Metcalfe flees and locks himself in an escape pod with a tourist named Jeremy, unaware that Jeremy’s holocamera is recording him as he cowers within, leaving those outside to their fate.
The technicians in the control room notice that one of the tourists connected to the Beautiful Death has not become a zombie, and the Doctor decides to revive him, hoping for more clues as to what is going on. The Doctor slips out of the control room while the zombies are transforming into more emaciated agents of the Repulsion, and revives the dead Hoopy. Hoopy has gone through the Beautiful Death before and always found himself passing through a tunnel with a bright light at the end — but this time, the tunnel held only darkness, an evil voice trying to get inside Hoopy’s very soul, and a little girl, the one from Romana’s vision, claiming that she didn’t want to go back. The Doctor realises that Hoopy’s description of the tunnel matches the reality interface which he encountered earlier, and sets off to investigate — only to see two zombies throw the captive K9 through the interface, apparently reducing him to his component molecules. Shaken, The Doctor returns to the control room with Hoopy, only to find that in his absence, Batt has gone, someone has turned the necroport back on, and the zombies have broken in and slaughtered everyone in the control room.
Romana and Evadne evade the zombies and enter the necroport, where they find Paddox, the captive Batt, the TARDIS, and three coffins — one containing a dead Arboretan, one containing Gallura, and the third containing The Doctor, who is dead. Romana manages to escape from Paddox, who chains Evadne and Batt to the wall so they can witness his triumph. Outside, Romana is reunited with The Doctor, but is forced to admit that she’s seen his dead body. The Doctor has no choice but to go back in time again, although he still has no idea how he’s supposed to save everyone and end up dead. As they talk, Hoopy begins to look at Romana strangely, and then the necroport explodes. The Doctor and Romana get the injured Hoopy to safety before the fire spreads, and leave his body where they will be going to have found it when they first arrived later. The victims of the Repulsion have been deserted by the evil entity, and as they die their bodies transform back into the bodies of the tourists who underwent the Beautiful Death. The Doctor and Romana return to the TARDIS and travel back in time once again, arriving in the observation lounge of the Cerberus at the same time that theirearlier selves arrive on the Montressor…
Two centuries earlier, the passenger liner Cerberus enters the hyperspace tunnel only to be caught in traffic. As they finally approach the exit, the cheerful ship’s computer ERIC reports that a build-up of geostatic pressure is causing the exit to iris shut. Captain Rochfort, impatient, boosts the engines and tries to accelerate through the shrinking gateway, causing the Cerberus to jam in the opening and resulting in numerous pile-ups and collisions behind him. To cover up his error, Rochfort blames ERIC for not overriding his foolish orders, and although ERIC is not in fact capable of countermanding the captain’s orders, he can’t resolve the emotional conflict and becomes wracked with guilt. The authorities close off the entrance to the tunnel to prevent the traffic jam from getting worse, unaware that one of the ships caught in the gridlock, the Montressor, has been critically damaged by crashing into the Cerberus. The Montressor was carrying genetically modified predators known as Arachnopods, which now break out of containment, and begin to chew their way through everyone trapped in the gridlock with them…
Back in 3012, The Doctor sends Romana to contact Evadne while he speaks with ERIC. Romana finds Evadne closing up the ticket booth, and by repeating personal information about Evadne — which she had learned from Evadne herself, in the future — she manages to convince Evadne that she is an agent of Intergalactic Espionage. Evadne, who doesn’t like her job or her employers, agrees to help Romana break into the necroport, especially when Romana promises her a spaceship for her troubles. Romana thus finally gets a good look at the necroport, and realises that it is not the Beautiful Death’s power source at all, but a giant psychothermic battery which stores the life force drained out of the tourists during the Beautiful Death. But why does Paddox now need to drain the life out of 218 people simultaneously?
As Metcalfe prepares for an interview with Harkan Batt, The Doctor arrives, claiming to be a neurelectrician sent to repair the suicidally depressed ERIC. Metcalfe grants The Doctor a private audience with ERIC — who greets him by name, meaning that once again, The Doctor has been here before. ERIC, who has been wracked with guilt and self-loathing for two centuries, begs The Doctor to let him die, and the Doctor thus agrees to destroy the computer bays behind the necroport. To do so he will need an interface terminal, but the only two functioning terminals are here in Metcalfe’s office, and in the Beautiful Death’s control room with Paddox.
Metcalfe returns, overhears The Doctor plotting to destroy ERIC, and has him arrested. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to escape, overpowers his surprised guard, and disguises himself in the guard’s uniform. The Doctor then finds Gallura and Nyanna, the last of the Arboretans, in another cell, and they inform him that their species lives outside Time; at death, each Arboretan is reborn at the start of their life, allowing them to correct past mistakes until they live a perfect life. However, Paddox has learned of their secret, and has wiped out their species in search of the Path of Perfection. Paddox then arrives, and, assuming The Doctor to be a guard, orders him to escort Nyanna to the necroport. There, Paddox installs her in the machinery and returns to the control room. The Doctor is reunited with Romana and Evadne, who were hiding in ERIC’s computer bay, but the necroport is then activated, killing Nyanna as it uses her as a medium to channel the 218 tourists into the afterlife. The time distortion which The Doctor and Romana had detected earlier begins to ripple out from Nyanna’s body, and although The Doctor sends Evadne to safety, Romana is caught up in the time distortion and vanishes.
Romana is transported to the Cerberus two centuries in the past, and is rescued from the Arachnopods by Rochfort and his second-in-command, Byson. The surviving passengers have barricaded themselves inside the observation lounge, but they are starving to death, as the Arachnopods have already eaten every scrap of food aboard the ship. Since Romana appears to be well-fed, Rochfort and Byson leave the other survivors to guard her while they search for the food supplies they believe she has been hoarding. Thus they find the spatial interface for the first time, and Rochfort hears a voice calling out to him and enters the interface before Byson can stop him. He emerges moments later, telling Rochfort that he has made contact with an entity called the Repulsion, which has offered to save them by transporting them to a time in the future when the tunnel has been reopened. The Repulsion has told him to leave Romana behind, and he thus orders Byson to restrain her while the others evacuate. Romana is torn; if she interferes she will change history, but if she does nothing, then she condemns all 218 passengers to a living death as tools of the Repulsion…
Metcalfe discovers that The Doctor has escaped, but fortunately the guards sent to arrest him capture the earlier version of him instead, enabling the present Doctor to reach the TARDIS. As the psychic storm lashes out from the necroport, the confused earlier version of Romana sees The Doctor leave without her. The Doctor traces his Romana back to the 29th century, where he evades the roaming Arachnopods and reaches the bridge — Metcalfe’s future office. There, he watches from hiding as Rochfort orders ERIC to internalise his guilt and let it tear him apart forever. Rochfort makes a public announcement directing the Arachnopods to the lounge, where they can feast on Romana while the others escape; fortunately, Byson is not sure if he can trust his captain and has decided not to confine Romana after all. As the Arachnopods chew their way through the morgue in the Great Hall, The Doctor and Romana go to the interface, where the possessed K9 is guiding the survivors into the domain of the Repulsion. Byson drags in young Tarie — the girl from Romana’s vision — even though she protests that she doesn’t want to go. Once they are all through the gateway it becomes a destructive energy interface once again. The Arachnopods hunt down The Doctor and Romana, but The Doctororders ERIC to rotate the ship’s artificial gravity orientation, dropping the surprised Arachnopods down the hallway into the interface. The Doctor and Romana return to the TARDIS and travel back to the necroport, leaving behind them an empty gridlock and a guilt-stricken computer which will be unable to provide a coherent explanation of events to the rescue team when they arrive.
The TARDIS materialises in the necroport just as the zombies rise, killing Vinnie and cornering Batt by the necroport’s entrance. The Doctor and Romana pull him inside, saving his life, and then wait for the zombies to launch their attack on the control centre and leave to question Gallura. Batt remains to fetch his camera, but is once again attacked by the zombies and flees to the control room — where the earlier version of the Doctor lets him in, saving his life, Batt claims, for the second time. Meanwhile, the present Doctor and Romana free Gallura from the cell, and he explains that although his species can reshape their past and maximise their personal potential, their race has lived a decent span and they have chosen not to pollute their past even to save themselves from Paddox. Paddox obviously intends to learn their secret in order to change something in his own past, and requires the life energy of 218 people to power his equipment. However, the equipment has provided a gateway into this world for the evil Repulsion, an entity that exists between life and death and is insanely jealous of all living things. When the survivors of the Cerberus gave themselves up to it willingly, it was able to possess them directly instead of acting at one remove by controlling the zombies through the necroport; now it will wreak havoc throughout the Universe, destroying life wherever it is found.
Now that he knows his enemy, The Doctor is able to work out a plan to defeat it. He thus returns to the control room to fetch the interface terminal he will need to communicate with ERIC in the necroport. After fetching the terminal and reactivating the necroport he invites Batt to accompany him, to record events for posterity; however, he must leave the technicians behind, even though he knows that the zombies will soon break in and kill them all. In the necroport, Gallura takes the place of the dead Nyanna, to act as a medium and guide The Doctor through the Repulsion’s domain. Romana then places The Doctor in the third cubicle and activates the controls, sending him into the Beautiful Death. She then goes to the interface, leaving Batt on guard — but as he records the introduction to what he is sure will be an award-winning documentary, Paddox arrives and takes him prisoner.
The Repulsion’s domain appears to The Doctor as a wasteland composed of cliches about Death, but this is mainly because he refuses to take it seriously. Death is what people perceive it to be, and many of those who came here have chosen to stay — including young Tarie, which is why Hoopy survived his Beautiful Death, as the Repulsion was short one replacement. Gallura guides The Doctor to K9, who has served his purpose by luring the passengers of the Cerberus into the Repulsion’s clutches, and is now free of its control. Gallura stabilises the interface between worlds once again, allowing K9 to return to the G-Lock, where Romana is waiting to take him back to the necroport. The Repulsion then confronts The Doctor, who gave himself willingly to the Beautiful Death; therefore, it can possess his mortal body and use his powers as a Time Lord to wreak destruction throughout all space and time.
Romana returns to the necroport with K9, narrowly avoiding herearlier self on the way, and causing Hoopy some confusion when he sees two of her at once. Upon arriving in the necroport, K9 stuns Paddox, and Romana then connects K9 to the necroport in The Doctor’s place. When the Repulsion tries to possess The Doctor, it instead finds itself in K9, and, enraged, it opens fire, stunning Evadne. Before it can do any more damage, Romana plugs ERIC into K9’s memory banks and orders ERIC to download the Repulsion into himself. She then revives The Doctor, who, as promised, short-circuits ERIC’s brain centre, granting him the death he seeks and destroying the Repulsion in the process. The Doctor and Romana usher Batt, K9 and the unconscious Evadne into the TARDIS as the chain reaction spreads, but the recovering Paddox refuses to leave and instead connects himself to the necroport to undergo his own Beautiful Death with Gallura as his spirit guide. The TARDIS dematerialises as the necroport explodes.
The TARDIS rematerialises in the observation lounge in the aftermath of the disaster, and as Batt heads for the sickbay to interview the survivors, he encounters a tourist named Jeremy who claims to have some very interesting footage of Executive Metcalfe. Evadne revives, still terrified of K9, and believing that The Doctor gave his life to save the G-Lock. Romana does not correct Evadne, and simply tells her instead to wait for 48 minutes and then rescue her from the holding cells. The Doctor, meanwhile, goes to the Montressor, where the TARDIS has materialised for the first time; there, he contacts K9 and tells him to warn the earlier Doctor that the tunnel is about to collapse — but not to reveal the source of his information. The Doctor then returns to his own TARDIS and departs with Romana and K9, having tied up the last temporal loose end and survived in the process.
Using the stored psychothermic energy of the 217 dead tourists, and with Gallura as his guide, Koel Paddox successfully returns to the moment of his birth and starts his life over again. But unlike the Arboretans, humans live within Time, and Paddox finds himself a prisoner within his own past. He will be trapped in his own life for all eternity, forced to watch helplessly as his parents die, as he commits genocide in a pointless and selfish quest to change the past, and as he enters the necroport and goes through it all again, and again, and again, and again…
- Festival of Death was the thirty-fifth BBC Past Doctor Adventures novel. It featured the Fourth Doctor, Romana II and K9 Mark II.
- Romana states that if not for his sonic screwdriver, he would probably still be trapped in a cellar in Paris in 1979. (City of Death)
- The Doctor failed his Time Travel Proficiency test at the academy because he didn’t turn up for it.
- The Doctor has met General George Armstrong Custer.