Doctor Who: The Beast Of Babylon

Christopher Morley finds Babylon...

Everybody knows Rose Tyler accompanied the Ninth Doctor in all his televised outings, but if you widen your scope a little, something arguably equally important occurs in the gap when she appears to turn him down but then changes her mind.

A whole new adventure occurs from his point of view- the TARDIS will next materialise on Karkinos, home to the crab-like Karkinians. For one of them it proves a mind-expanding experience! And Charlie Higson's The Beast Of Babylon is ultimately the tale of a could have been companion....

For young Ali will get but a taster of what it's like to accompany the Doctor, who's relatively new to his current incarnation following another regeneration. He wants something she's got- a strange silver orb. Though her possession of it irks him, he's still gracious enough to concede that ''when I first saw you I said to myself, here's someone special''. The man she calls a ''trickster'' knows he can't exactly pull a fast one on her! And having chased a Starman halfway across the known universe he might appreciate a helping hand/claw. Even so he can't resist the opportunity to tell her a little about the girl he thinks he's left behind for good as they begin a trek to ancient Babylon.
"I'd been down on Earth trying to save the old place again. And there was this thing, this creature, call it what you want...Actually it's usually called a Nestene Consciousness. Just another bully, another demigod like the Starman, wanting to feed off the planet and drain it dry. Not nice. I was trying to find it and put a sock in it and I was helped by a girl- about your age, as it goes."
He'd promised himself a ''new body, new start, new companion''. Of course going by what we know now of his previous self that new start was something of a temporal anomaly.
"So I won't remember that I tried to save Gallifrey rather than burn it. I'll have to live with that. But for now, for this moment, I am the Doctor again. Thank you."
The resulting lapse will come at a terrible cost for the man who came forth from the change of face for the warrior who had cast off the very mantle of Doctor- ''Doctor no more''. As he'll later tell Rose,
"You think it'll last forever. People and cars and concrete. But it won't. One day it's all gone. Even the sky. My planet's gone. It's dead. It burned like the Earth. It's just rocks and dust. Before its time."
And his materialisation in a Babylonian temple is perhaps the first hint of ''the lonely god'' as identified by the Face of Boe following another physical overhaul. The place will soon face a horror unlike any other- a hulking great beast, actually an angered Ali. You wouldn't like her that way, either......

But just what is it about Babylon that drew the former member of The Higsons & Fast Show in? Cast your eyes heavenward as we look to the zodiac of the ancient world! As Robert Powell PHD states by way of an introduction to his paper on the subject-
According to the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (second century A.D.), systematic observations by Babylonian astronomers began in the first year of the reign of King Nabonassar of Babylon (747 B.C.).Ptolemy's statement has been confirmed by the excavation of cuneiform texts from Babylon and Uruk, some of which contain recorded astronomical observations of eclipses going back to the eighth century B.C., or the early years of the era of Nabonassar. Diaries of astronomical observations by Babylonian astronomers, dating back to the seventh century B.C., give the positions of the Moon and planets within a zodiacal belt extending between 10 degrees north and 7½ degrees south of the ecliptic.

In these early astronomical texts, the positions of the Moon and planets are given with respect to a set of 31 reference stars, called Normal Stars, the more prominent stars belonging to the zodiacal belt. All 31 Normal Stars used by Babylonian astronomers have been securely identified, and have been found in a zone between 10 degrees north and 7½ degrees south latitude. In the texts the position of the Moon or of a planet is given by stating that it is in front of a Normal Star (which means to the west of the star), or that it is above or below the star, often in terms of the Babylonian units cubit and finger.

The primitive system of Normal Stars, although used throughout the period of Babylonian astronomy, until roughly the beginning of the Christian era, became superseded for most practical purposes by a new system in which the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets came to be given in terms of zodiacal signs. The first recorded use in Babylonian astronomy of the new system, a list of solar eclipses given in signs of the zodiac, belongs to the first half of the fifth century B.C., the eclipses extending from 475 to 457 B.C.

In this system the zodiacal belt is divided into twelve equal sectors or signs, each 30 degrees long, where the signs are defined with respect to fixed stars in the zodiacal belt. The relationship between the Normal Star system and the system of zodiacal signs can be determined from a fragment of a catalog of Normal Stars, belonging probably to the fourth century B.C., and also in conjunction with readings from cuneiform texts giving planetary or lunar positions in both systems simultaneously. For example, the catalog gives the Normal Star α Librae in terms of the system of zodiacal signs as 20˚ Libra, i.e. the star α Librae is located at 20 degrees in the Babylonian (sidereal) sign of Libra.

Similarly, the longitude of β Librae is 25˚ Libra, or 25 degrees in the Babylonian (sidereal) sign of Libra. Peter Huber, using all available data at his disposal, determined the zero point (0˚ Aries) of the Babylonian zodiac,and the Babylonian sidereal zodiac has been reconstructed in its entirety by cataloguing Ptolemy's 1022 stars, listed in his star catalog from the Almagest, in terms of the Babylonian signs of the zodiac.
And within its ''exaltation'' system of categorising the planets, Jupiter is '' the crab'', as attested by Gavin White!
"The location of Jupiter's Exaltation is found between the constellations of the Crab and the Lion (Cancer and Leo) on the most northerly section of the ecliptic, where it's rising coincides with the summer solstice. Jupiter is considered to be the most auspicious planet, indeed the 'King of the Planets', and his omens specifically apply to the land of Akkad, the traditional 'homeland' as far as astrology is concerned. This symbolism is in marked contrast to the malevolent Mars, whose Exaltation rises with the winter solstice and who is associated with the land of Elam, the traditional enemy of Babylonia.

In Babylonian lore the Crab is sometimes called the 'Seat or Abode of Anu' . Anu is the most ancient god of the celestial realms; his name literally means 'heaven'. He is the ultimate authority figure who lends his power to the other gods, and in the human realm he is especially associated with the divinely ordained powers of the king."
And with that we'll be leaving Babylon, and Ali. The end of her travels will signal a new beginning for Ms Tyler- no more boring job in retail! But for now she's left to ponder the implications of what might be the strangest & most exhilarating meeting of her young life. She's always yearned to travel, & this Northerner is about to take her on the furthest journey she'll ever take.

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