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A member of a non-corporeal space-dwelling race known as the Prime Cluster, Vatuus was forced to flee from the Cluster after he was found guilty of terminating multiple life-essences among the Cluster. When passing by Earth, Vatuus was somehow brought into contact with Silver Crow, a warrior of the Sioux tribe from America in the 1890s, who had been attempting a spiritual ritual known as the Ghost Dance, the trance state he was entering in that ritual apparently drawing Vatuus to him. The strength of Silver Crow’s mind essentially forced Vatuus into a corporeal form that resembled a giant red jewelled egg, which Silver Crow found lying next to him when he woke up and assumed was a gift from the spirit world.
Later in his life, Silver Crow became acquainted with Nathaniel Whitlock, an amateur explorer whose family had made their money exporting tea to East India, Silver Claw accompanying Whitlock on his expeditions to see more of the world. While standards of the time meant that Silver Crow was generally seen as Whitlock’s servant, his interaction with Whitlock and Whitlock’s daughter Phoebe generally came across as more of a friendly rather than professional bond. Silver Crow even allowed Whitlock to display the ‘Moonflesh’ as part of his collection of artefacts found in his expeditions, which included a Zulu shield and an Aborigine bullroarer.
However, as his family’s money began to ran out, Whitlock turned to other means of gaining money to finance future expeditions, becoming particularly known for arranging exotic hunting parties based on animals captured in his travels. In 1911, Whitlock’s latest hunt was attended by Hannah Bartholomew, a young woman with a habit of wearing trousers and generally acting like a man, and the Tremayne family of industrialist Edwin Tremayne and his son Hector. After the TARDIS materialised in the park, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa were invited to join the other guests, claiming that their airplane had developed engine trouble and had to land in the area. The night before the hunt, Hannah took the Moonflesh to her room to take a few small samples of the gem for study. A member of the Order of the Crescent Moon, a spiritual group who perceived life as a brief period of light before they returned to the shadows to guide the living, Hannah had learned about the Moonflesh due to a report in the Royal Society, and her order believed that it was a gift from the spirits. However, the minor damage she caused to the Moonflesh collecting those samples was enough to rouse Vatuus, although it decided to flee the house when Nathaniel pointed a gun at it, allowing it time to re-establish its identity rather than lashing out in confusion.
Although Vatuss initially attempted to attack the humans by possessing local animals, such as attacking the initial hunting expedition as a gorilla and breaking Edwin’s leg, The Doctor insisted that it was still possible to talk to the entity, eventually gaining this chance when it possessed Phoebe back at the house. Vatuus presented itself as a refugee seeking to escape prosecution from his would-be executioners, claiming that it had once been the heir to the Prime Cluster before forced out by rebellious elements and becoming trapped on Earth. The Doctor offered to take it home in the TARDIS if it would abandon Phoebe as a host, although Nyssa was forced to take on the responsibility of hosting Vatuus herself when The Doctor’s natural mental barriers proved to be too strong for Vatuus to possess him even when he was willing to let Vatuus in. Taking Vatuus back to the TARDIS with Silver Crow as a guide, The Doctor gave the entity a quick ‘test’ when he pretended to direct it to the TARDIS telepathic circuits, apparently giving Vatuus a chance to try and take direct control of the TARDIS. Since The Doctor had already been suspicious of Vatuus, contact with the telepathic circuits actually diverted it into a spare circuit, which The Doctor hoped would give him time to find another solution.
However, Vatuus escaped far more quickly than he had expected, although the entity had to flee the TARDIS by possessing a horse as The Doctor, Nyssa and Silver Claw were all too strong-willed to be possessed. By the time the three returned to the house, the wounded Edwin had already departed after bribing Hannah to drive him away in a carriage, while a group of trackers of Vaatus’s race had already possessed the other residents of the house. However, once the trackers explained that they had taken hosts just to quell their violent urges, The Doctor and Silver Crow argued that Phoebe and Hector were not naturally violent people, The Doctor suggesting that they just use Nathaniel as their mouthpiece to explain the situation as a show of good faith. With the others freed, the trackers revealed that they were just a minor scouting party hunting the criminal, but now that Vatuus had been found, a billion more of their people would soon come to Earth to capture him.
Recognising the danger of these numbers on Earth, The Doctor asked for Silver Claw to help him enter another Ghost Dance, hoping that they could repeat the process that had trapped Vatuus in the first place. While the others guarded their physical bodies, The Doctor and Silver Claw experienced a spirit walk in a mental landscape resembling the plains where Silver Claw’s tribe existed. Their spiritual quest began with the two of them hunting a red buffalo that broke away from the pack that was defeated with bows and arrows provided by another spirit. The second stage saw them escaping attacking snakes by climbing a mountain and being rescued by birds, the birds carrying them to a nearby river. The final trial saw them confront a giant octopus whose eye was the gem, which The Doctor literally tore out of the creature’s head, he and Silver Crow subsequently waking up with the manifestation of the gem in The Doctor’s hands. As The Doctor provoked Vatuus into attacking them again, its essence was drawn into the conceptual manifestation of the gem, which was surrendered to the rest of Vatuus’s people once it became solid again. With Vatuus defeated, The Doctor and Nyssa departed, the now-orphaned Hector working with the Whitlocks and Silver Crow to turn their former hunting ground into an early safari park while Hannah sneaked into the TARDIS to become The Doctor and Nyssa’s new companion (“Tomb Ship”).