The TARDIS lands in Shadowfell, Scotland in 1995, summoned by the mysterious Grey Man. Within the mansion are Gabriel and Tanith, personifications of pain and suffering, unwittingly unleashed by the owner of the house Professor Winterdawn.
Gabriel and Tanith plan to kill everyone in the universe, one by one, but have started by tormenting the souls of those who never existed. The Doctor and his companions soon find themselves tortured by Gabriel and Tanith, with Benny even being killed for a short time.
This is an extremely dark, and long (over 300 pages), story. The events in this story leave lasting scars putting doubt in the Doctor’s mind whether he should continue travelling with companions.
Some hate it for its dark tone and subject matter but I love it. The introduction of the Grey Man, his Cathedral and the consequence of time travelling had a powerful impact on me. Gabriel and Tanith were frightening opponents and led to some interesting exploration of how Ace and Bernice deal with violence.
This is an example of when the New Adventure series pushed the boundaries of what the could do, taking Dr Who into more mature territories. Read on those terms I think this book is very enjoyable.
The Grey Man, who summons the Doctor, is a member of a race that rose up 15 billion years ago. His people saw things in terms of duality, black & white, good & evil. The Grey Man disagreed, believing that there had to be something in-between.
It is then that he adopted his current name and built the Cathedral. The Cathedral moved throughout space and time seeding the idea of ‘Grey’ (ideas that blurred the line between black and white) through symbols, concepts and artefacts.
This makes the Grey Man and his people extremely important in the mythology of the Dr Who universe. If the Grey Man is any indication they are extremely long lived, powerful and predate the Time Lords.
Were these people the source of the Black and White Guardians? What happened to the rest of his race? What influence did they have over the development of the rest of the universe?
It is unclear whether the concept of Grey would have occurred to other races if not for the influence of the Grey Man. It seems far fetched that no one would have developed any concepts other than duality if not for the ideas seeded by his Cathedral.
It is more likely that the idea of Duality is just more popular and easier to grasp. The Grey Man simply believed that his view of the universe was correct and took action to make it take hold.
Since the Cathedral has been seeding these ideas for billions of years it is very possible that PCs might encounter its influence. They could witness social upheaval on an alien world caused by the sudden appearance of symbols. Eventually the player characters could trace it back to the Cathedral.
It also raises the possibility that similar structures could also exist, seeding other concepts and ideas. What if the Master was able to control such Cathedral and brainwash the universe to worship him or an alien intelligence spread abhorrent thoughts that drove people mad or compelled them to carry out terrible acts?
Gabriel and Tanith come into existence due to an artefact seeded by the Cathedral, called the Metahedron. There could be countless other artefacts like this, either created by the Cathedral of buildings like it.
This is a way to introduce beings like Gabriel and Tanith into an adventure, giving them a focus point and a means of entry into our universe. PCs might have a chance to prevent this if they can locate such artefacts before someone activates them.
At the conclusion of the story the Cathedral is destroyed and for the first time in billions of years the Grey Man travels off to explore the universe. This is a very powerful character to remain loose in the series.
PCs could encounter him and try to find out what his current agenda is. He works equally as an ally or an opponent. He could easily take the place of a Time Lord PC in the group, representing a source of change in the universe without the Gallifreyan background.
In this story it is suggested that time travellers are directly responsible for wiping out potential timelines. Time solidifies around the TARDIS when it lands, reducing all possibilities into a single timeline.
In effect they are the spiders that weave the web of time. This is a concept explored in other books. In particular it is suggested that when the Time Lords created time travel they sent out TARDISES up and down the timeline to protect their position.
The concept that without time travel events would continually be in flux is fascinating. The only reason that there are the concepts of past, present and future is because there is a race that can travel those paths.
This does suggest that without time travel there wouldn’t be the need for parallel universes. Every possible universe would exist at the same time. The invention of time travel would have altered the fundamental nature of the universe.
The Doctor feels an extraordinary amount of guilt due to this information. He is directly responsible for wiping out billions of lives by creating a single timeline. Every time he was protecting historical events it was just so his people would find it easier to navigate through the vortex.
It is impossible to prove if this hypothesis is true or not, since the act of observation is exactly the problem. It might very well be that Gabriel and Tanith were simply drawing people from other parallel universes at the point of collapse.
Still, it is a concept that could be used in a campaign. There might be a way to modify a TARDIS so that it doesn’t solidify time. This would mean that PCs could visit the same date in the future and find something different each time.
‘Timeslip’ explored this idea, with the young protagonists going to alternative versions of the future. In one future the Earth was freezing and in another it was heating up.
This would work well if the PCs have a stable fixed point in time which they call home. Events they encounter during trips to the future aren’t fixed in stone, giving the characters a certain amount of self-determination.
Finally there is mention that Time Lords do go insane, something called the ‘Dark Design’. The suggestion is that Rassilon, Omega, Morbius and Borusa all suffered from this condition.
This could be a Time Lord PCs ‘Dark Secret’ and finding a cure could be an on-going goal for a character. The name could suggest that some Time Lords were designed to go mad. Who might have done this and why? Is this the price of their immortality?
Those Time Lords who did go insane were placed in institutions. This could be a good location for an adventure, with the PCs finding themselves surrounded by insane Time Lords. What would happen if one of the inmates stole their TARDIS?
One of these institutions might have a greater significance after the Time War. They could represent the last of the Time Lords, the reason that the Doctor didn’t ‘sense’ them being that their minds aren’t normal.
What would a Time Lord PC do to protect the last of his people. Would he still protect them, despite their condition? Would finding a cure be even more important, since it could mean that the race could continue?