Bernice persuades the Doctor to travel to 2400 to uncover why the Seven Planets were destroyed. What they find is a dimensional rift that heralds the approach of the demonic Yssgaroth from another reality.
Teaming up with poet William Blake the Doctor travels through the dimensional rift to a variety of locations in space and time, meeting UNIT and Jack the Ripper along the way. Eventually he discovers that this is all Rassilon’s fault.
‘The Pit’ is a big chaotic story that puts the universe in danger and is one of the first books to indicate just how many terrible things the Time Lords had to do in order to become a powerful force.
You can see elements of the Season 5 of Doctor Who, with the dimensional tears echoing the cracks in time. The variety of locations the Doctor and Blake travel to could easily make-up a series of episodes.
Beings from other dimensions become a common theme in the novels, already touched upon in ‘Transit’ and reoccurring in ‘White Darkness’ and ‘All-Consuming Fire’. The discovery of a Yssgaroth skeleton by UNIT reminded me of events in ‘Dead Romance’ where similar creatures bury themselves in Earth’s past.
We also get our first historical companion guest star in the form of William Blake. He doesn’t add greatly to the overall plot, although we do get a good running joke in having everyone who is introduced to the poet asking “any relation?”
It is another story that has a grim ending, with the only way to prevent the invasion from the Yssgaroth is to destroy the Seven Planets, something the Doctor can’t interfere with as it is a part of history.
Personally this story showed me the scope that was possible in the Doctor Who books.
The adventure begins with Bernice wanting to solve a historical mystery that has always fascinated. Although she and the Doctor finds the cause of the destruction of Seven Planets it ultimately means that they are powerless to stop it, since they know it has to happen.
This neatly identifies the problem of being a time traveller. They’re going to have to decide whether they preserve events or whether they’re going to make changes, no matter what the consequences.
It also shows how investigating mysteries means the time travellers are walking straight into danger. Even before they arrive they know something bad happened and they’ll now be part of those events.
The cracks in the universe are the result of Rassilon’s experiments and its suggested that he sabotaged Omega’s own experiment because he knew Rassilon’s secret. Sensitive Time Lords maybe saving the universe to make up for the sins of their ancestors.
The Doctor encounters Kopyion Liall a Mahajetsu, a Time Lord tasked with hunting down the Yssgaroth. He can act as a template for similar Time Lords who make it their business to protect our universe from demonic outsiders.
The dimensional rifts are a way to get player character to rapidly travel through history without using a TARDIS. This would be especially useful in a Torchwood or UNIT based campaign, letting such characters explore regions of space and time that are usually inaccessible to them.
It is easy to get lost in rifts in space. Upon arriving at a new location characters will need to learn about their surroundings, survive and find the next rift. This can lead to a more chaotic campaign model, along the lines of early Who or ‘The Time Tunnel’.
The dimensional rift also establishes how far reaching the threat of the Yssgaroth is. In an adventure the more locations that are threatened the bigger the perceived threat of the villain.
Learning to navigate the rifts and finding their way back to each other and their time ship can be a short-term goal for a series of adventures. This can also be a means to remove a character from play, at least until their companions are able to find them again.
Just as the events of ‘Timelash’ are implied to influence the young HG Wells, so to do the demonic Yssgaroth said to influence William Blake. When using historical celebrities you can similarly look to build adventures around elements that the celebrity will later be associated with.
It is unfortunate that it is Kopyion that defeats the Yssgaroth. Ideally it should always be the player characters that defeat the threat. The only bright side is that the Doctor doesn’t have to live with the guilt of destroying the Seven Planets.
Which brings us to the use of world destroying weapons. The ability to kill millions with a push of a button isn’t something to be taken lightly. The more common place these weapons become the cheaper lives are.
In a future where governments have access to such technology stakes become even higher. Such weapons could be hijacked, lost or just fall into the wrong hands. Not to mention that any dispute between galactic powers can result in the loss of planets.
The consequences of such actions can be huge, not just the loss of life. Destroyed planets could be navigational hazard, closing space lanes. The gravitational shift could affect other solar systems, throwing the whole universe off balance and make navigating even with a TARDIS difficult.
In Victorian London cultists who worship the Yssgaroth use alien drugs in their rituals. In a setting where there are holes in space/time nefarious groups can obtain alien or anachronistic items.
This can be a way for a minor group to gain more power than they’d otherwise obtain. This can act as a hook for an adventure, discovering just how such a group got their hands on such out of place technology.
It also puts extra emphasis on the time travellers as they, just like the Doctor in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chang’, are able to recognise the true nature of these out of place objects. They might even be able to identify them which will help them track down their source.