Doctor Who And The Vikings

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With Series 9 of Doctor Who seemingly offering a Viking adventure, Christopher Morley looks back at the Eleventh Doctor Norse themed novel Dark Horizons.


Man the longships as we sail into Dark Horizons! Jenny Colgan's first Doctor Who novel- she would go on to contribute the short stories Into The Nowhere & A Long Way Down to the recent Time Trips anthology- sees the Eleventh Doctor travelling solo into the heart of a battle for survival between the villagers of Lowith, off the coast of Scotland, some shipwrecked Vikings & the Arill, a race of living fire with the ability to possess selected human hosts.

For the princess Freydis, an unwilling passenger on the Viking ship who had been promised in marriage to Gissar Polvaderson, her meeting with the chap in the bow tie takes on an almost spiritual dimension. Just like Katarina who had believed that the Doctor was Zeus during her brief time within his ''temple'', the ''lonely god'' takes on another lofty mantle here. In the eyes of the lovely Scandinavian maiden he's Loki, the trickster who by turns helps & hinders the other deities of the Norse pantheon!

But of course, if you're acquainted with Marvel's Thor you probably knew that, right? We can also delve a little deeper into the further history of the trickster thanks to norse-mythology.org-
"While treated as a nominal member of the Aesir tribe of gods in the Eddas & Sagas, Loki occupies a highly ambivalent and ultimately solitary position amongst the gods, giants and the other classes of invisible beings that populate the traditional spirituality of the Norse and other Germanic peoples."
Within these great ancient tales he is often presented as-
"...a scheming coward who cares only for shallow pleasures and self-preservation. He’s by turns playful, malicious, and helpful, but he’s always irreverent and nihilistic."
Could the same be true of the man with first-hand access to what Freydis thinks is Valhalla, a sort of mythological heaven. All together now-


"We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!"
Somehow the Doctor is able to resist using the TARDIS sound-system, as so ably demonstrated in The Rebel Flesh to blare out that particular Led Zeppelin classic as something of a war cry against the Arill, who've come to Earth seeking to feed off the electricity of human brainwaves. Tasty.

And after his attempts to bargain with them fail, time to stand & fight! No mean feat when they're taking new soldiers from both villager & Viking ranks in a bid to continue ''the line''.......


All of this is taking place during the thirteenth century, which is actually fairly close to the end of Scandinavian colonisation of parts of what would come to be known in time as modern-day Scotland. The first recorded longship incursions north of the border date from around six years prior to the Doctor's visit here, & those who had driven the sturdy vessels into new lands would leave two years after ''Sexy'' departed. Their initial visits seem to tie in with subsequent accounts of a period of great expansion for the Norsemen, as recorded in the travel pages of the Daily Telegraph!
"The Norse Viking age peaked between the 9th and 12th centuries, when Scandinavian seafarers conquered new lands, settling Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, and establishing colonies in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, North America and Russia."
That's as may be, but they weren't universally welcomed by the natives.
"As the Norsemen became as keen on trade as marauding, they were particularly nervous about sailing up the west coast sea lochs they referred to as the "Scottish fjords"."
One account suggests that a party of them was met by a kinsman of King Malcolm II who greeted them on none too friendly terms!
"You have two choices. You can go ashore and we will take all your property, or we'll attack you and kill every man we lay our hands on."
No doubt his old mucker Jamie would approve of their course of action.



And before his first regeneration the Doctor himself gained some first hand experience of the ways of the chaps in horned helmets after landing bang on the money for the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Settling down for a while with some lovely mead in Northumbria, he hears how a raiding party of Vikings has recently been fended off with no help from King Harold!
EDITH: Course, there are bad things, too.
DOCTOR: Oh, of course, of course, my dear. The Vikings, for example?
EDITH: Not that we've seen much of them, this year. Except for that one raid that was beaten off just north of here.
DOCTOR: Yes, I had heard about that battle, yes, yes. The King, er, greatly improved the position no end.
EDITH: The King? Harold Godwinson? We received no help from him.
DOCTOR: You know, it seems like yesterday that the good King Edward was laid to rest. When was it?
EDITH: It was the beginning of the year.
DOCTOR: Oh, of course. Yes, yes, yes, the beginning of the year, yes, yes, yes. How silly. Yes, it's most refreshing.
EDITH: Oh, I'll get you more.
DOCTOR: Oh, thank you. Yes, thank you, my dear.
A fellow Time Lord, the Monk has designs on meddling with the outcome of the battle- intending to bring about a Norman defeat.
DOCTOR: What? What was that? I've already told you, my dear, that I've learned of varied plans from all the places that I've visited before.
EDITH: Plans of a Viking invasion?
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, I'm afraid so.
EDITH: So that's why Harold Godwinson's struck on forming an army. Our men have travelled south already to join it. I thought it was William of Normandy's invasion across the channel, not a Viking invasion he feared.
DOCTOR: The Monk in this situation just can't be a coincidence.
EDITH: The Monk? Did you say the Monk?
DOCTOR: Yes, I must face him. I realise that I've got far short a time than I thought I had. I'm always leaving you in a hurry, I'm afraid, but the matter has some urgency.
So, the Vikings themselves are old news to the Doctor- but what of the helmeted cows? Perhaps Series Nine will yield the answer to that.........

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