Ian Stuart Sharpe’s new book, The All Father Paradox, is like a Norse love child of American Gods and Doctor Who! Please welcome Ian to Once and Future, where he explains the connection. And be sure to check out The All Father Paradox, book 1 of the Vikingverse series!
MONK: Mischief? No, no. A master plan. A master plan to end all master plans.
DOCTOR: Oh, is that so?
MONK: The whole course of history changed in one single swoop.
DOCTOR: By wiping out the Viking fleet?
MONK: Exactly, Doctor, exactly. Of course, obviously, I don't have to remind you that the main reason William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, was because King Harold had to march to Stamford Bridge and defeat the Vikings first.
DOCTOR: So you plan to save him the journey?
MONK: That's right. Precisely. A fresh army, no desertions. Why King Harold will kick William back to Normandy before knows what happened. It's quite a plan, eh?
The Summer of 1965. William Hartnell’s original Doctor Who confronted Peter Butterworth’s Meddling Monk over a dastardly plan to rewrite the course of English - and therefore World – history. Arrive in Northumbria. Position atomic cannon. Destroy Viking fleet.
The writer of the episode, Dennis Spooner, had great success writing for Thunderbirds, The Avengers and even Remington Steele but it was his story The Time Meddler that really changed the paradigm of Sci-Fi TV as we know it. A gag in the previous story, The Chase, had been that Daleks were responsible for the disappearance of the Mary Celeste. In The Time Meddler, Spooner made the whole plot revolve around actual historical events, the battles of 1066 becoming a backdrop for a contest of wits between the Doctor and his opponent (Trivia fans might like to know that the serial also represents the first time that another member of the Doctor's race, not yet identified as the Time Lords, appeared).
My own novel, the All Father Paradox, features a similar plan to rewrite history, although in my case, to the benefit of the Vikings. Any alternate historian has to find a suitable POD or Point of Divergence, and with the closeness of the subject matter (“Omniscient Being Meddles with Time”), I was intrigued as to how much thought had Spooner had put into his “master plan to end all master plans”. Would changing the timeline in September 1066 really make a huge difference?
Let’s evaluate the first premise, that the Battle of Hastings was lost because Harold had to defeat the Vikings first.
Harold’s ascent to the English throne as Harold II had taken place just a few months the events in this episode. The new king had hardly begun to enjoy his rule when he was faced by enemy invasion: the famed Viking Harald Hardrada landed in the north, marching in collaboration with Harold’s rebel brother Tostig. No sooner had Harold won a stunning victory at Stamford Bridge, which left both Hardrada and Tostig dead, than news reached the English king of a second invasion, this time in the south, by the Norman Duke William “the Bastard”. Harold raced from Yorkshire to Sussex to meet the challenge and the armies clashed at a site known to this day as Battle.
William’s defeat, and death, was certainly a plausible outcome even if the Monk hadn’t interfered. Hastings was an unusually long-lasting and hard-fought battle, with two evenly-matched armies. Harold was an experienced general commanding battle-hardened soldiers, and unlike the Normans, who were isolated in hostile territory, he could have expected reinforcements as further Saxon troops arrived from Yorkshire. Remove the long march from the equation, and, assuming the Monk had a plan to deal with rogue arrows, the POD is very plausible.
The next question is why the Monk wanted to make Harold king. The plan was altruistic, it seems. The Monk states that Harold would be a good ruler. “There wouldn't be all those wars in Europe, those claims over France went on for years and years. With peace the people'd be able to better themselves. With a few hints and tips from me they'd be able to have jet airliners by 1320! Shakespeare'd be able to put Hamlet on television”.
What, then, if it had been Duke William’s lifeless body stretched out on English soil, not Harold’s? Had Harold survived and won, would he be celebrated today as one of England’s greatest warrior kings, on a par with Richard Lionheart and Edward I? Would we be talking of King Harold the Great, and the great dynasty of the Godwinsons?
The English language would be different, certainly, shorn of French influence – much more Norse in tone and content. And it is true, England as a whole would have been much less focused on continental Europe and countries like France and Spain. As in Canute’s time some fifty years earlier, the nation would have been a part of the Scandinavian political sphere. Harold’s sons would have intermarried with Nordic princesses, rather than French heiresses like Eleanor of Aquitane. Ironically, having eliminated the Viking fleet, the Monk might have given birth to a Great North Sea Empire, with the resources and appetite to explore far off Vinland, discovered just decades previously by Leif Erikson.
But the peace the Monk hoped for might still prove elusive - King Harold II after Hastings would have faced dangerous enemies and rivals – not least the young Edgar, a grandson of the earlier king, Edmund II Ironside, and so a direct descendant of Alfred the Great – with a strong claim to the throne. And because Harold had been excommunicated by Pope Alexander II, who supported the Norman cause, had the Godwinson’s remained on the throne, there’s every likelihood that the relationship between England and the Catholic Church may have strained to breaking point far earlier than the 16th century. The Monk would have to meddle further to ensure that 1066 was not a short-lived triumph, riven with civil war and religious strife.
It is ironic that, considering the Monk was trying to advance England, without King William’s conquest we might know much less about the country and its people. The single greatest store of information about 11th-century England, Domesday Book, was made to record the victor’s winnings. King William had a blank slate – he created a new aristocracy that owed everything to him and delivered new laws to the ancient land.
If there is one lesson to be had from all this meddling in time, it is that it is hard to see all of the repercussions. As we learn in the All Father Paradox, time isn’t a river, flowing from one place to another. It is a great, eternal ocean, lapping on all our shores at the very same time. Like ripples emanating from a single, solitary drop, the waves will roll through history. A really effective Time Meddler starts at the source…
About The All Father Paradox:
What if an ancient god escaped his fate and history was thrown to the wolves?
Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the 1,000-year-old Viking memorial there. But when things start changing and outright disappearing, Michaels realizes there is more to this old man than meets the eye. Now, Michaels finds himself swept up in an ancient god’s quest to escape his destiny by reworking reality, putting history—and to Michaels’s dismay, Christianity itself—to the Viking sword. In this new Vikingverse novel, storied heroes of mankind emerge in new and brutal guises drawn from the sagas:
A young Norse prince plots to shatter empires and claim the heavens...
A scholar exiled to the frontier braves the dangers of the New World, only to find those “new worlds” are greater than he imagined...
A captured Jötunn plants the dreams of freedom during a worlds-spanning war...
A bold empress discovers there is a price for immortality, one her ancestors have come to collect...
With the timelines stretched to breaking point, it’s up to Churchwarden Michaels to save reality as we know it...
About Ian Stuart Sharpe:
Ian Stuart Sharpe is the CEO of a tech start up. As a child he discovered his love of books, sci-fi and sagas: devouring the works of Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and George MacDonald Fraser alongside Snorri Sturluson and Sigvat the Skald. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. He lives in British Columbia, Canada.