Lungbarrow and Doctor Who’s ‘Other’ problem


I thought I would turn my attention to Lungbarrow, Marc Platt’s 1997 novel featuring Gallifrey and the Seventh Doctor (along with Ace, Leela, K9 and Romana). I won’t repeat material found elsewhere (and written by those with far better understanding of the facts) suffice it to say that this story sits on the edge of canon and apocrypha. Sixteen years after release does its status need re-examining? Is it now any more or less canonical?

What’s Lungbarrow about?

This story captures the essence of the Cartmel Masterplan, that all encompassing blueprint that would explain the show (and informed the script for Ghostlight). Key points are (and see also Doctor Who?):

  • Gallifreyans were made sterile by the Pythia and doomed to reproduce via devices called Looms which wove new Gallifreyans according to the House in which they worked
  • Every Gallifreyan was part of a House; Lungbarrow is the House the Doctor was born into
  • Back in the golden age of Gallifreyan history Rassilon and Omega worked with a figure called The Other who stole the Hand of Omega and threw himself into the Looms rather than wide with Rassilon

The book has fabulous amounts of detail on Gallifreyan life and also very strongly suggests that the Doctor is the Other. It also gives us a scene where the Doctor steals a TARDIS, goes back in time and meets Susan who recognises him as her grandfather. It even alludes to the Doctor having a navel, suggesting a human origin for the Other and allowing the Eight Doctor to be part human.

Where are the problems?

Gallifreyan children we see a young Master in Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords. This contradicts the idea of the Loom from which people emerge full adult (as did Jenny in the Doctor’s Daughter).

Stealing the TARDIS in The Name of the Doctor (which I reviewed here) we clearly see the Doctor and Susan steal the TARDIS together. There was no Hand of Omega nor did Susan get collected from the past

We also have the Companion Chronicle The Beginning being produced for November in which the TARDIS gets stolen. I expect this to also not align with Lungbarrow.

Where does this leave Lungbarrow?

Lungbarrow is a wonderful and fascinating read but I have to suggest that the reign of nu-Who has pushed it over the line and out of canon (not that there is any). It is still a great read gives us a fascinating insight into a Gallifrey we don’t get to meet any other way.

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