The Eye of the Scorpion was the twenty-fourth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Iain McLaughlin and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Nicola Bryant as Peri Brown and introduced Caroline Morris as new companion Erimem.
A so-called "pseudo-historical" story, it mixed science fiction with an ancient Egyptian royal succession to form the backdrop for the introduction of a new companion for the Fifth Doctor: the uncrowned Pharaoh Erimemushinteperem.
The story launched a TARDIS team that had never existed on television — that of the Fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem — and in so doing massively widened the gap between Planet of Fire, Peri's introduction and The Caves of Androzani, the Fifth Doctor's swan song. The team would continue on for numerous stories which covered several years of Peri's life.
Many of the character traits established for Erimem in this story would go on to be running themes explored throughout her run. The story was thus a bit unusual for a companion introduction in that it featured character beats that were typical of that companion, rather than things that were mentioned in her introduction and then mostly forgotten. It's not really possible to understand her actions in later stories like The Church and the Crown, The Council of Nicaea, Son of the Dragon and her eventual departure in The Bride of Peladon without getting a good grasp on her motivations in this tale.[source needed]
Scorpion was Iain McLaughlin's initial effort in the DWU, most of whose work in the DWU went on to feature Erimem. He gave the audio a novel-sized prequel called The Coming of the Queen — meaning that Scorpion is merely Erimem's first story, not her origin story.
Egypt is in mourning. Pharaoh, the great God-King, is dead. The future of the Two Kingdoms of Egypt is shrouded in uncertainty as the Council of Priests debates the claim to the throne of Pharaoh's only heir.
But not all of Egypt's enemies are outside the city. What is the secret of the strange box discovered in the desert?
The brutal Warlord Yanis leads an army of mercenaries to mass outside the Egyptian city of Thebes. He meets with his ally in the city, Horemshep, to discuss their plans. Horemshep claims to have discovered something that can aid their plans. To Yanis, it appears to be nothing more than a simple box: until he opens it. Back in Thebes, in the Pharaoh’s palace, the guard commander Antranak finds the junior priest Fayum staring at the night sky in concern, seeing terrible omens of things to come.
While the Doctor gives Peri a guided tour of the TARDIS, they are interrupted by a violent jerk and a wave of intense heat. Upon returning to the console room, the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS has been reprogrammed: apparently by himself. Upon materialising by an abandoned home in Egypt, circa 1400 BC, they immediately spot a young woman on a chariot being pursued by another chariot driven by an armoured warrior. Managing to knock the warrior off his chariot with some rope, the Doctor uses the warriors chariot to save the shaken girl. She requests that they return her to Thebes, whereupon they discover that she is Pharaoh-in-waiting Erimem.
Erimem orders a banquet be prepared to honour the Doctor and Peri for saving her life. Antranak is distrustful of these strangers and the convenience of timing for saving Erimem’s life, but will do as she wishes. The Doctor, meanwhile, is worried as he is certain there was never a Pharaoh Erimem, meaning something will happen to prevent her coronation.
During the banquet, an assassin pulls a knife and attempts to kill Erimem. The Doctor is able to wrestle the knife away but his hand is scratched in the process. The assassin laughs; he may die but the Doctor will be joining him as the blade was coated in poison.
As the Doctor collapses, Erimem demands to know why the assassin has done this. He claims he did it for “The True Pharaoh.” Erimem orders him to be tortured for information while they tend to the Doctor. Fayum soon identifies the poison but there is no known cure and none who have been poisoned with it have ever survived. He is called away to a meeting with the Council of Priests.
Antranak meanwhile learns that the assassin entered the palace from the palace of concubines. Under their laws, no man, other than eunuchs and the Pharaoh may enter, so they have been unable to question anyone. Peri requests to go herself. Erimem agrees, but she must accompany her. Antranak leaves to assemble the personal guard. He discusses this with Fayum, who in turn tells him that the priests have decided that until this mystery of “The True Pharaoh” can be investigated, Erimem cannot be crowned Pharaoh. Their conversation is monitored by Yanis, seemingly by telepathically listening through a fly that was buzzing around them. He orders his men to surround Thebes and uses the device provided by his ally to send his “smallest soldiers” on a new mission.
At the palace of concubines, the women are in mourning for the loss of Varela, who seemingly took her own life by drinking poison. Antranak reveals the existence of a secret passage into and out of the palace, which Peri and Erimem investigate, leaving the guards behind who cannot enter. They discover the assassin's footprints in the secret passageway when scorpions swarm in, blocking their escape. However, they behave very unusually: even though they are solitary creatures, they work cooperatively to form a ramp of their own bodies to pursue Peri and Erimem when they evade them by standing on a raised alter. They escape by ripping a tapestry off the wall and covering the scorpions where they can escape. They emerge on the outskirts of the city after dawn, where they are quickly located by Antranak. He escorts them back to the palace, but the Doctor is missing. Antranak believes that it no longer matters, as the poison will have killed him by now.
The Doctor, who has recovered, takes Fayum by chariot to investigate the mercenaries camp. As the army is moving to surround the city, the camp is relatively unguarded. The Doctor locates Yanis’ tent and discovers a large metal box that seems to be used as an altar. Upon closer inspection, he realises what it is and they depart. Yanis catches them trespassing, but is surprised that the Doctor shows no fear for him. The Doctor warns him that while he was unconscious his wandering mind detected a strong telepathic presence in the vicinity. The “altar” is a stasis box from a prison ship, and while Yanis believes it will give him the power to rule the world, it will eventually control him. Yanis threatens to kill them, but the Doctor has removed a device from the stasis box: a telepathic inhibitor which, when activated, sends Yanis and his men into convulsions.
The Doctor and Fayum escape the camp on chariot. Back at the palace, the priests summon Erimem to their meeting. Horemshep claims the accusations about the True Pharaoh have been investigated and accuses Antranak of murdering Varela in order to cover up evidence of her secret son, which is the true heir to the throne. The Doctor and Fayum arrive and Horemshep proclaims Fayum is the true Pharaoh. Despite Fayum’s protests, Horemshep grips Fayum and tells him to embrace his destiny. In moments, Fayum proclaims this to be true and he will be Pharaoh. The Doctor ridicules this “evidence”, which so conveniently happened to be lying around at the right moment and claims he can prove Erimem is the true Pharaoh. He demands Horemshep asks Ra, the sun god, to shine his light on the true Pharaoh. When Horemshep asks Ra, the sun disappears. When Erimem asks at the Doctor’s request, it reappears, with the priests acknowledging Erimem as the true Pharaoh. The Doctor had used the telepathic inhibitor to remotely reprogram the TARDIS to fly in front of the sun, simulating an eclipse. Now believed by the council, the Doctor accuses Horemshep of killing Varela and forging the letters in order to replace Erimem with a Pharaoh whom he can easily manipulate. Fayum grabs Peri and takes her hostage and he and Horemshep escape, but Peri escapes them.
Although the mercenary army is advancing, the Doctor recommends withdrawing to the north to rendezvous with the garrison at Giza. However, this would leave the city undefended. To Erimem’s surprise, the mercenaries leave Thebes and pursue them. The Doctor now believes there is a spy, as that is the only way the mercenaries could react so quickly, and he believes the spy to be Peri.
The Doctor tells Erimem of the stasis box and how it holds a gestalt telepathic parasite that can take over the mind of anyone it touches. When Fayum grabbed Peri, who had been infected by Horemshep, she was affected. She is strong willed, so she can resist for a while, but in time the parasite will control her and know all she knows, so it is vital they tell her nothing of their plans. Erimem questions how the Doctor can know all this. Despite his incredible feats of surviving deadly poison and blotting out the sun, she does not believe he is a god anymore than she is.
Through Peri, Yanis, Fayum and Horemshep learn that they are space travellers and if they can fully take them both over they will be free to colonise and conquer other worlds. The next day, the army approaches the pyramids. The Doctor requests that they stall the mercenary army while he and Peri venture under the sphinx to locate an ancient weapon from Atlantis that was buried there thousands of years ago that can destroy the parasite. The mercenary army attacks and Erimem is captured by Yanis.
Following the Doctor, they attempt to take him over, but he is too strong for any one of them. So the entity pulls all its fragments out of everyone it has infected and coalesces its being in Peri’s body, believing the Doctor will not harm her. The Doctor offers to take it to an uninhabited world or one without sentient life, but the entity refuses and is now too powerful to be defeated by the telepathic inhibitor. Instead, the Doctor questions the minds in the gestalt, forcing it think about the many lives it has infected. Peri’s mind can’t handle the conflict between so many separate memories and she collapses, overwhelmed.
A fragment of the entity escapes into a nearby cat, but the Doctor is able to attach the inhibitor until it can be permanently removed. Yanis attacks but they are defended by Fayum, who has also recovered. The fight brings the ancient roof down, killing Yanis. Without the entity, the mercenaries have fled and Horemshep is captured. The city celebrates, but Erimem is saddened by the number of men who died by her orders. She wishes to leave to study, but her face is already known outside Egypt. Peri suggests that they take Erimem with them, and the Doctor gives in when Erimem accepts that she will never be able to return. She and the cat, who is no longer infected, leave in the TARDIS.
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Peri Brown - Nicola Bryant
- Erimem - Caroline Morris
- Yanis - Harry Myers
- Fayum - Jack Galagher
- Antranak - Jonathan Owen
- Kishik - Daniel Brennan
- Horemshep - Stephen Perring
- Slave - Mark Wright
- Priest - Alistair Lock
- Ebren - Gary Russell
- Peri's mother Janine Foster used to worship Paul McCartney.
- When Horemshep claims to have discovered something about "The True Pharaoh", Peri refers to him as Kojak.
- Erimem is the daughter of the late Pharaoh Amenhotep II and Rubak, one of his sixty concubines.
- Peri is a vegetarian and therefore balks at the thought of eating roast boar.
- Peri refers to Lanzarote as where she went to school and how Americans choose their leaders through elections.
- Though the Doctor appears to be telling the truth when he says that "refugees from Atlantis" built the Great Sphinx partially as a way to house a great library of their civilisation — after all, he shows Peri several Atlantean historical artefacts when they're in the underground "Hall of Records" — he may well have been lying when he told Erimem that the Sphinx held a secret weapon.
- Peri mentions Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi, two prominent female leaders from her own time.
- The Doctor can name every Pharaoh that Egypt ever had.
- An illustrated preview for this audio featured in DWM 308 with artwork by Lee Sullivan.
- Due to the fact that he is poisoned, the Doctor largely doesn't appear in the second episode, save for a few lines at the very beginning. Though common for 1960s serials to occasionally have Doctor-less episodes, it's extremely uncommon for audio stories to make this narrative choice. In fact, it wouldn't occur again in the main range until the first episode of 2012's Protect and Survive.
- As with The Church and the Crown, Nicola Bryant gets to play an additional character here, giving voice to the stasis box entity in part four.
- This audio drama was recorded on 21 and 22 July 2001 at The Moat Studios.
- David Darlington's score for the story was released on the CD Music from the Fifth Doctor Audio Adventures, alongside the scores for Loups-Garoux and Primeval.
- This story was originally released on CD. It is now available as a download, as well as to stream on Spotify.
- This story is set between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani.
- The story appears to be set relatively soon after Planet of Fire since the Doctor gives Peri a tour of the TARDIS at the beginning of the story. Given that the Doctor gives a similar tour to Erimem when she joins the crew, this tour seems to be something the Fifth Doctor does to initiate his new companions.
- Peri refers to Lanzarote, where she first met the Doctor and Turlough on 9 May 1984. (TV: Planet of Fire)
- Peri mentions her mother Janine Foster. (AUDIO: The Reaping)
- The Doctor tells Peri that he "was at a bash they threw for Nero once." (TV: The Romans)
- Erimem would later regret not saying goodbye to her mother Rhaoubak before leaving with the Doctor and Peri. (AUDIO: No Place Like Home)
- Almost every detail about the Great Sphinx given in this story is in fundamental conflict with that given in The Sands of Time, which chronicles another Fifth Doctor trip to Giza. The principal difference between the two is over the origin of the structure. There, the Sphinx forms the locus of Osiran power. Here, the Sphinx is said to come from Atlanteans and was actually meant as the library of the civilisation of Atlantis (Although these can be reconciled as during Scorpion the Doctor is lying to lure the entity in Peri into a trap by using terms that his companion will recognise).
- Official The Eye of the Scorpion page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.
- DisContinuity for The Eye of the Scorpion at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide
- Outpost Gallifrey - Interview: Iain McLaughlin (archived)