Trickster’s Brigade, Pantheon of Discord
First Seen In:
Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?
Paul Marc Davis
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Although the Trickster is unquestionably a powerful enemy, he and the Doctor have only faced each other once, the Trickster tending to focus his attention on The Doctor’s old companion Sarah Jane Smith rather than The Doctor, apparently unable to use his powers to directly attack a Time Lord.
The Trickster’s full history is unknown, but it would appear that The Doctor has heard tales of the Trickster since his first incarnation’s youth, although he never believed they would actually meet. The Trickster is a member of the Pantheon of Discord – the name and purpose suggest that the Trickster is connected to The Doctor’s old foe the Black Guardian, but no definitive link between the two has been established, powerful beings who were banished from the universe long ago, the Trickster frequently coming to Earth to make bargains that will result in chaotic changes to history, the Trickster drawing on that power to grow stronger. However, like the Black Guardian, the Trickster is unable to use his power directly for unspecified reasons, his attempts to make deals thus focusing on people who are about to die so that they would be more inclined to accept his terms. Although he is capable of such powers as independent time travel and mutation of time – such as being able to create a time loop, the Trickster is not completely invulnerable, The Doctor commenting that the Trickster is vulnerable to the artron energy that powers the TARDIS.
The Trickster’s first recorded appearance on Earth occurred when he went to 1964, visiting an accident where Sarah Jane Smith witnessed the death of her best friend Andrea Yates when both were teenagers (“Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?”). In the original course of events, Andrea died when she fell off a pier after wandering into an out-of-bounds area, her death having a keen impact on the young Sarah Jane, but thanks to the Trickster’s interference, a desperate Andrea agreed to a deal that saved her life at the cost of Sarah dying in her place. Although the Trickster prevented the alien invasions that Sarah would have averted on her own, this was only in order for him to draw on the power he would gain when meteorite K67 struck Earth, the random natureof the incident granting him more power than an intentional invasion of Earth.
Fortunately, Sarah Jane’s friend Maria Jackson was able to retain her memories of Sarah thanks to an alien puzzle box Sarah had given her, allowing her and her father to confront Andrea about what she had done. Accepting that she had to die – either on the pier as a child or when the meteor hit Earth in the present, the adult Andrea ended her deal with the Trickster, restoring Sarah to existence and allowing her to use the supercomputer Mr Smith to divert the meteorite. Despite this failure, it was clear that the Trickster would try to attack again, particularly after he revealed the full extent of his plans to Sarah while she was trapped in limbo, by erasing her from existence, the Trickster hoped to draw the attention of the Doctor, causing untold amounts of chaos by erasing the Time Lord from existence (“Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane Smith?”).
The Trickster returned to Sarah’s life when, seeking revenge for her previous defeat of him, he created a time portal that sent Sarah and her adopted son Luke back to 1951, giving Sarah a unique chance to meet her parents, who had died when she was an infant. Despite her best intentions, Sarah gave into temptation and deactivated her father’s car, preventing the accident that killed her parents by changing a fixed event in history. As the village where the accident took place was built on a fault in time, Sarah’s actions opened this fault and gave the Trickster enough power to physically manifest on Earth creating an alternate time line where he drained Earth of its natural resources with the aid of his Graske minedition, Krislok – Krislok forced to serve the Trickster after his own deal with the powerful being, forcing the remaining humans to mine for minerals to give the Trickster power to escape into space and enslave other planets. Fortunately, Luke’s friends Clyde Langer and Rani Chandra were able to escape the changes in history thanks to the puzzle box, subsequently making a deal with Krislok to open the time portal in exchange for the box, allowing Krislok to escape from the Trickster while Rani travelled back to tell Sarah what had happened. Forced to confess the truth to her parents, Sarah bade them a tearful farewell before they drove off, deliberately sacrificing themselves to save the future (“The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith”).
During the Trickster’s third appearance, he attempted to trick Sarah into giving up her life of defending Earth by saving the life of lawyer Peter Dalton after the accident that killed him, claiming to be an ‘angel’ who would give Dalton the love he had never had. After meeting Dalton while researching a story, Sarah and he quickly fell for each other, Sarah accepting his proposal after only a few months of dating, only for the wedding to be interrupted when the Tenth Doctor charged into the room just after the request for objections to the marriage (He had learnt of the Trickster’s role in events earlier but the Trickster had blocked his attempts to materialise in that time earlier)attempting to prevent interference, the Trickster was able to initiate a temporal trap, taking the hotel where the wedding was taking place into limbo and subsequently trapping Sarah and Dalton in one second while leaving The Doctor, K9, Luke, Clyde and Rani stuck in another second so that they couldn’t help Sarah.
Although The Doctor had a plan to attack the Trickster using the artron energy of the TARDIS – which was attempting to ‘home in’ on its pilot after the time trap had separated the two, the TARDIS was unable to break completely into the loop, The Doctor only just managing to get inside the ship before the TARDIS vanished again. Fortunately, Clyde became temporarily charged with artron energy when he ran into the TARDIS as he was trying to get inside it, giving him the idea to provoke the Trickster into manifesting in their second – claiming that he wished to share a secret with the Trickster, allowing him to attack the Trickster. With Clyde’s attack weakening the Trickster’s influence long enough for The Doctor to make contact with Sarah and reveal how to stop their foe, Dalton willingly revoked his deal, informing the Trickster that Sarah’s love for him had given him a strength he’d never known before (“The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith”). During this confrontation with The Doctor, the Trickster commented that this ‘historic’ first meeting between the last of the Time Lords and the Pantheon of Discord – stating that he ‘embodied multitudes’, suggesting that the Pantheon consists primarily of mere aspects of the Trickster rather than independent entities in their own right – created ripples that reverberated back through Time itself, also showing a degree of foreknowledge of the Doctor’s upcoming regeneration when he commented that ‘the Gate’ was waiting for The Doctor (A reference to the ‘Immortality Gate’ that The Master would use to turn the entire human race into duplicates of him in”The End of Time”).
Although the Trickster himself did not appear directly, the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble encountered a Time Beetle – a giant beetle that could change a key event in a person’s past – that The Doctor described as a member of the ‘Trickster’s Brigade’ in “Turn Left”, the Brigade apparently normally making small ‘tweaks’ to the universe by changing a person’s life (It was unspecified if the Brigade is just another name for the Pantheon). When Donna had her fortune told during a holiday on the planet Shan Shen, the fortune-teller – a member of the Trickster’s Brigade – was able to plant a Time Beetle on her, the Beetle influencing Donna to change her past by taking a permanent job at an office rather than the temping job that would have resulted in her meeting The Doctor (“The Runaway Bride”). As a result of the scale of this change, an alternate timeline was created where The Doctor was killed in the confrontation with the Racnoss, Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith suffocated while preventing the Plasmavore setting off an explosion that would have destroyed half the Earth (“Smith and Jones”), and Torchwood – led by Captain Jack Harkness – was decimated during the Sontaran invasion of Earth (“The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky”) without The Doctor there to assist them. Aided by UNIT and the returned Rose Tyler – who had witnessed reality beginning to collapse due to some unknown future catastrophe, her team’s analysis of the timelines confirming that the timelines were converging on Donna as a key player in events to come, the alternate Donna was able to go back in time and divert her past self to take the job that would lead to her meeting The Doctor (Albeit by sacrificing herself), allowing Donna to play her part in thwarting the Dalek theft of Earth (“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”).
On another occasion, during his century-plus ‘exile’ on Earth as he worked for Torchwood while waiting for The Doctor, Jack Harkness and his ‘companion’/lover Angelo were able to trick a group of mobsters who had been ‘recruited’ by the Trickster’s Brigade into using them to move a parasitic life-form from its current storage facility, Jack destroying the parasite before it could be used to infect Franklin Delanore Roosevelt with one of its young (The parasite’s growth in Roosevelt would have caused him to make gradually irrational decisions until it reached a point where Roosevelt’s condition would delay American involvement in the Second World War and allow the Nazis to prevail, obviously creating further chaos for the Trickster to feed on) (“Immortal Sins”)