|“||He will appear out of thin air and kill at random. The blood flows down the castle walls, the very air is dark with death. Oh my god, so much death, so much! Who would have thought I was worth it? Who would have thought an old man would have so much blood in him?||„|
|~ Eugene, remembering the Child|
Eugene Tacitus is the court scribe to Emperor Pepin VII, and secretly the villain behind the events of the Doctor Who Big Finish audio drama The Holy Terror. Initially, Eugene appears to be little more than a doddering old man, a pen-pusher assigned to record his Emperor's thoughts and deeds in exacting detail - no matter how uninteresting. For a time, he even serves as a friend and ally to the Doctor and Frobisher when they arrive at the castle.
However, as the story continues, it is soon revealed that the apparently harmless scribe has far more influence over the castle than appearances suggest, and has actually been directing the fortunes of entire royal lineages over the course of his career - and harboring secrets that even Eugene himself is not consciously aware of.
He was voiced by the late Sam Kelly, who also played The Child in the same audio drama.
As the story later reveals, Eugene Tacitus is not part of the castle's constructed reality, nor was he born within its boundaries, his origins lying in a relatively ordinary world far outside the pocket dimension. Little is known of his past, most of it only being subtly evidenced through the ritualized patterns later established in the castle: from the repeated motif of fathers hating their sons, it can be assumed that Eugene grew up shy and neurotic, often abused by his father for his perceived failings; in turn, when he grew to manhood and started a family of his own, he found himself hating his equally fearful son as a reminder of his earlier weakness. Eugene was aware that he should have loved his son, and in his increasingly rare moments of self-awareness, wished that he could do the "normal" thing and accept his child for who he was. However, these moments of lucidity grew less and less, until finally he could tolerate his son's presence no longer.
One evening, Eugene armed himself with a knife, crept into his son's room, and - after a moment's hesitation - stabbed his son to death in a fit of irrational rage. In the aftermath of the murder, Eugene was overwhelmed with remorse and fled the scene in a desperate attempt to avoid facing the consequences of his actions - a decision that was to result in him leaving his dimension, though it's not known if he left under his own power or if someone transported him away.
One way or the other, Eugene Tacitus found himself arriving in a world comprised entirely of featureless void, without life or physical substance of any kind: externally, this place was no bigger than a police box, but its interior dimensions could contain a theoretically infinite space. More astonishingly, the fabric of this reality responded to his wishes and impulses, allowing him to construct entire environments by will alone. Soon after his arrival, however, Eugene found himself unable to leave, though it's not known if he was imprisoned by some external force punishing him for the murder of his son, or if his incarceration was unwittingly self-inflicted. One way or another, Eugene was trapped and unable to escaped, rendered theoretically immortal by the pocket dimension.
Soon, however, escape stopped being a priority for Eugene: using his newfound power over the dimension's reality in order to build a new world for himself from the void, he transformed his prison into a tailor-made utopia in which he could shelter and forget his guilt.
Eugene's perfect world took the form of a medieval castle, vast enough to provide living quarters for thousands of people but lacking any reality beyond the external walls. Indeed, the people who lived here had no concept of a world outside the castle, nor had they any idea that they were nothing more than fictional entities. Determined to erase the memories of his crime through obsessive rituals, Eugene extended his ritualistic fixations to the world he had authored, forcing his creations to abide by strict patterns in life, death and history as a whole: though this primarily took the form of a long list of laws enforceable by torture and execution if necessary, obedience to the rituals was made integral to the personalities of the castle's inhabitants, meaning that few of them had anything close to free will.
For good measure, Eugene's extremely poor grasp of characterization and limited imagination meant that most of the people that featured in his fantasy were little more than stereotypes: treacherous high priests, villainous half-brothers to the heir, scheming trophy wives, jobsworth guards, decadent nobility, and kindly but neurotic rightful heirs to the throne, to name but a few.
According to the laws, the castle would always be ruled over by an Emperor and an Empress, and from the moment of their coronation, they would both be revered as gods. All levels of society would obey them without question unless specifically commanded by one of the other laws, allowing the royal couple to live in obscene luxury while inflicting torturous punishments on courtiers for their own amusement. United in a loveless marriage, the royal couple would produce a trueborn heir to the throne, gentle and virtuous but also extremely neurotic; having grown up fearful and weak himself, the Emperor would immediately despise his son for reminding him of his past, and abuse him frequently.
Meanwhile, the Empress would select a member of the royal entourage to carry on an affair with, eventually resulting in the birth of another child (and the unfortunate lover's execution); in direct contrast to his trueborn half-brother, the illegitimate son would always be deformed, malevolent, and cruel. At some point, the rightful heir would marry a beautiful woman who despised him but accepted his proposal for the sake of her ambitions, leaving the two of them trapped in a loveless marriage identical to that of the Emperor's.
Following many decades of degenerate hedonism, the Emperor would die, immediately revealing himself as a false god: the Empress would be executed by her predecessor for deceit, depictions of the false god would be destroyed all over the castle, one tenth of the castle's population would be put to death for heresy, and the trueborn heir would be declared the new god. For good measure, his godhood would be proved through a ceremonial assassination attempt by the captain of the guards, in which the heir would casually shrug off an apparently fatal gunshot (in reality, the gun would always be loaded with blanks, with the understanding that real bullets would be pointless against an immortal).
Following the coronation, the bastard half-brother would join forces with the treacherous high priest and attempt to claim the throne in a violent uprising that would always end in humiliating defeat by the Emperor's guards and the execution of both conspirators. Meanwhile, the new Emperor gradually grew accustomed to the role of god and gradually put aside all previous neuroses, becoming every bit as monstrous as his father before him. And so the cycle would continue.
However, rather than making himself an integral character in this ritualized cycle, Eugene made himself the court scribe, a functionary with next to no authority and zero prestige; indeed, the position was so boring that nobody ever noticed that its current occupant was immortal. As scribe, Eugene was charged with the writing of the current god's bible, and was to follow the Emperor around at all times in order to record his every word and deed; even acts as banal as bathing were to be recorded for posterity.
For good measure, he was usually obliged to ensure that the bible made the Emperor appear as divine as possible: the cheap conjuring trick performed at each coronation was to be replaced with a suitably apocalyptic miracle, such as an earthquake or a plague of locusts, and any uncertain events were claimed to have been foreseen or prophesied all along. When the Emperor finally died, the bible would be invalidated and Eugene would have to start a new one altogether; for good measure, nobody ever read the bibles except for Eugene himself, who kept the various tomes stored in his bedroom for safekeeping.
Over the centuries, Eugene became so involved in the role that he eventually forgot his crimes, his life before his imprisonment, and even the role he'd played in the creation of the world. Though he retained his powers as the author, he lost awareness of them: even after spending thousands of years in his fantasy realm, he remained oblivious to the fact that he did not sicken or die like the rest of the castle's inhabitants, or even that he had clearly outlived the last few dozen Emperors he'd served. And because the role of scribe was so powerless inconsequential, nobody else happened to notice Eugene's inexplicable longevity either, so the fact was never brought to his attention. Indeed, he came to believe that he was always the latest in a long line of court scribes, with his son already set to take the role if he died - though he could never recall his son's life or account for his absence.
A Cycle Of Destruction
However, the scribe's comfortable existence did not remain so forever: after many centuries spent dutifully chronicling the lives of the Emperors he'd unwittingly created, Eugene found himself puzzled when the world he'd created and the history he'd written abruptly "stopped making sense." People throughout the castle began acting against established characterization, traditions began breaking down, the ruling order struggled to maintain stability in the face of repeated disruptions, and Eugene himself began to wonder at the increasingly mysterious details found within the bibles in his library - including the fact that texts written several hundred years prior to his "birth" were somehow written in his handwriting. Though he was troubled by these confusing elements, his memories did not immediately return as a result; instead, it was up to an external force to restore the prisoner's fading memory.
Shortly after the disruptions began, Eugene was abruptly startled from complacency by the sudden appearance of a monstrous creature wearing his long-dead son's face. Known only as the Child, this being was possessed of seemingly limitless power, and unlike all the other fictitious people in the pocket dimension, could actually inflict physical harm on the prisoner. As Eugene fled in terror, the Child followed him through the castle, murdering everyone in his path and not stopping until the entire populace had been slaughtered; then, he began using his powers to slowly destroy the castle itself, reverting it to the shapeless void from which it had been built. Finally remembering the murder of his son and his life prior to becoming the scribe, Eugene then killed the Child in a desperate attempt to save his own life.
Left alone in the void once again, Eugene set to work on rebuilding his perfect world, creating the castle anew and populating it with another multitude of fictitious people. Eventually, he settled back into the role of scribe and once again forgot himself. However, several hundred years later, the Child appeared once again and Eugene was forced to repeat the grisly process of remembering, murdering, rebuilding and forgetting once again - dooming himself to repeat the tragedy once again in another few centuries.
Once again, it is uncertain if the Child was deliberately created by Eugene's hypothetical jailers and sent after him as a continuation of his punishment, or if the entity was just another creation of Eugene's subconsciousness empowered by his own self-loathing. Whatever the case, the prisoner continued through the cycle for an unknown period of time possibly exceeding several thousands of years, encountering the Child on numerous occasions and killing him on every single one before rebuilding the castle from scratch once again.
In each instance, the Child's arrival would always be heralded by a slow breakdown in Eugene's creation that even the self-deluding scribe could not fail to notice, and while the Child would appear in the form of any character within the setting, he would always be recognized by the face of Eugene's son.
Eventually, following the latest conclusion of the cycle and a period of time in service of such archaic kings as Clothair the Great, Eugene found himself serving as court scribe to the royal line of Pepins, serving all the way through to the illustrious Pepin VI. However, on one of Eugene's nights away from the Emperor's side, Pepin VI fell asleep in the bath and drowned - kicking off the events of the audio play.
The Holy Terror
Eugene is first introduced being interrogated following the Emperor's death, as part of a series of ritualistic arrests conducted against previous followers of Pepin VI; after being threatened with eyeball mutilation, execution and the desecration of his mortal remains, the court scribe bemusedly recants his allegiance to the previous Emperor and swears allegiance to his son, Pepin VII - whereupon Guard Captain Sejeanus releases him immediately with a full recantation invoice, oblivious to the fact that the the torture and execution would never have worked on Eugene.
Several days later, Eugene begins accompanying Pepin VII around the castle, recording his "great thoughts" for the new bible as they prepare for the coronation ceremony. However, Pepin seems even more neurotic than most of the rightful heirs before him, and harbors intense doubts of attaining godhood, requiring additional coaxing from High Priest Clovis and a good deal of brow-beating from future Empress Livilla before the ceremony can begin.
While Eugene transcribes the events of the coronation, Pepin interrupts his own inaugural speech to confess to all and sundry that he is not actually a god, finding himself unable to carry on the same lie as his predecessors; as the crowd angrily turns on him, Eugene can only watch in confusion, muttering "that's never happened before" - oblivious to the fact that it has, and he is once again witnessing the breakdown of his own badly written characterization.
Childeric, the illegitimate half-brother to the Emperor, takes this opportunity to lead an angry mob against Pepin in the hopes of claiming the throne in defiance of tradition, insisting that the self-denying god produce a more believable miracle than the usual conjuring trick - or die a blasphemer. However, to Eugene's continued surprise, the TARDIS suddenly materializes in the throne room, and the Doctor and Frobisher are immediately hailed as angels, proving the true divinity of Pepin to the congregation. However, the neurotic Emperor once again insists that he cannot be a god, immediately guaranteeing a swift execution for himself, Livilla, and the newly arrived "angels".
Fortunately, Eugene finds himself compelled to intervene for the first time in centuries, insisting that past Emperors have experienced confusion upon ascending to godhood, a lie just convincing enough to secure Pepin's place on the throne. With the ceremony over, the Doctor and Frobisher lead the newly crowned Emperor away to a bedchamber where he can recover - closely followed by Eugene.
As Pepin sleeps, Eugene swiftly befriends the two time-travelers, happily transcribing their appearance in the throne room for posterity as he does so. However, the ritual of the assassination attempt immediately puts a dampener on the introductions, especially when the Doctor discovers that several guards had to die for real in order to add authenticity to the faked assassination attempt. From here, the time-travelers separate: Frobisher remains with Pepin and tries to coach him through his leadership-related anxieties; the Doctor teams up with Eugene in order to inspect the library of bibles.
However, though the two of them notice the distinctive handwriting commonalities and the fact that each book selected for the bible just happens to be the perfect length for the history, neither of them have a chance to act on what they've learned so far: Clovis arrives in the middle of their investigation and forces them to accompany him to the dungeons, where Childeric is waiting for them - or more accurately, for Eugene.
While leading them deeper into the castle catacombs, Childeric reveals that he intends to attain true immortality by transforming his son into a real god and learning the secrets of perfection from him: to this end, he has raised his son in total silence beneath the castle, where he has been attended to by tongueless servants for the first five years of his life, ensuring the weakness of humanity inherent in mortal language cannot taint him. Eugene has been acquired in order to produce a bible for the new messiah and examine how Childeric's son is progressing along the road to godhood; of course, to this end his tongue will have to be cut out first. The Doctor, being surplus to requirements, will have his heart cut out instead.
At this point in the story, neither Eugene or the Doctor are aware that the fictional inhabitants of the castle cannot hurt them: as such, Eugene makes the decision to have his tongue removed first in order to grant his new friend a few precious seconds of life. In these few seconds, Childeric interrupts before Clovis can begin cutting: having discovered from Livilla that Pepin has abdicated and declared Frobisher his successor, Childeric has had to cancel his plans for the bible and release his son from captivity early in order to dislodge the new "god" from the throne.
However, when the new messiah is finally carried up from the vaults, Eugene immediately recognizes the face of the sleeping five-year-old: it's the Child, reincarnated as Childeric's son. Panic stricken and slowly beginning to remember the truth, Eugene tries to stop the conspirators from awakening the Child, but is ignored. Now playing the part of the young god that Childeric has created, the Child proceeds to regress Livilla to infancy and kill her in a grand show of his powers, before throwing a temper tantrum that forces most of the surviving onlookers to flee. After questioning the scribe as to how he remembers the Child's face, the Doctor decides to remain behind and investigate in person. Consumed by the memories of past trauma and firmly believing that the Doctor will be killed, Eugene flees for the surface.
While the Child finally realizes his true parentage and begins murdering his way through the castle populace in search of his real father, Eugene seeks refuge in the throne room, hiding under furniture as he struggles to come to terms with his memories. However, Frobisher finds him and drags him out of hiding. Unfortunately, the Child's massacre has reached the upper levels and there is nothing that the new Emperor can do to save his subjects; he can only wait in the throne room with Eugene while every last inhabitant of the castle dies once again.
Having remembered the role he played in the creation of the castle, Eugene remains under the impression that Frobisher is another one of his characters, and rambles at length as to how the Child will kill his only remaining friend before Eugene can end the menace and rebuild the castle. However, to the scribe's confusion, the Doctor arrives in the throne room, alive and well. Having discovered the truth behind the fiction, the Doctor then reveals everything to Frobisher and does his best to help restore Eugene's remaining memories.
Then, the Child appears in the throne room, having almost completely destroyed the castle by now. Confessing his role in the murder of his son, Eugene prepares to kill the Child once again in an attempt to save the lives of himself and his new friends, but the Doctor finally reveals that by doing so he has only been condemning himself to another cycle of self-inflicted hell. In the confrontation that follows, Eugene realizes that the Child does not want to harm him at all, but merely wants to be reunited with him - for even as a monstrous torture device, it still possesses the same love for him as Eugene's son did in life.
Unable to bear the guilt of what he's done, Eugene finally decides that there's only one way to make amends for his crime: instead of killing the Child with his knife, he gives the Child the knife and instructs his son to stab him through the heart. The Doctor moves to intervene, at first attempting to convince Eugene that they can find a way out of the prison dimension together, then actively trying to snatch the knife out of his hands; however, Eugene uses his powers to separate the Doctor from the fiction he's created, making the knife and himself effectively intangible, leaving the Doctor and Frobisher to watch helplessly as the Child fatally stabs Eugene through the heart.
Whispering one final apology to his son, Eugene dies at long last; with the Child's purpose over, he dies as well, and what little remains of the prison disintegrates back into formless void.
Amiable, self-effacing and nonthreatening, Eugene's retiring personality has allowed him to slip very easily into the role of court scribe and beneath notice; despite his godlike power over the prison's contents, he possesses no desire to rule the castle or establish himself as a deity, instead preferring to busy himself with the day-to-day chore of chronicling the emperor's life, and rarely ever complains, not even on the occasions when the guards drag him out of bed for an interrogation following the Emperor's death. Content with living in a one-room apartment and drinking nothing but tepid water, he does not seem bothered by the fact that nobody will ever read his bible, or that none of his superiors respect him or his work - another thing he has no desire for. He does not even seem particularly troubled at the prospect of having his tongue cut out, musing that "death and torture are bound to happen to all of us - best just to grin and bear it".
Indeed, if Eugene wants anything in life, it is simply for everything to remain as ordered and routine as possible: his fantasy within the prison always features a predictable, ritualized world where everything follows the same patterns over and over again, and the court scribe can go on documenting without ever having to intrude or make a spectacle of himself. Through this method, Eugene has been unknowingly exorcising his inner demons through these very rituals, externalizing his guilt and pain by having it re-enacted by generation after generation of fictitious people, and it has been so effective that he has completely forgotten his life outside the prison.
Indeed, Eugene tends to become confused and upset when something breaks the usual pattern of events, at first merely being silently bewildered by Pepin's refutation of his own godhood, then angrily snapping at the Doctor when he tries to discuss Eugene's past, and suffering a complete meltdown when the Child appears. In most cases, he often calms his nerves by falling back on chronicling, adjusting to the Doctor and Frobisher's arrival by writing them into the bible; as such, it's when his histories are destroyed along with the castle that he truly loses his grip on his comfortable fantasy and begins remembering at last.
As his conversations in the dungeons reveal, Eugene appears to suffer from extremely low self-esteem: according to him, scribes like himself have never appeared in any of the bibles, claiming that people of his station "don't matter enough" and "we're worthless," and admits that he hoped that if he did not make any fuss, people would simply forget all about him. It is unknown if he was always this way, or if he adopted this perspective after millennia of imprisonment, though given the repeated motif of neurotic parents lashing out at sons for displaying similar foibles, it is possible that he suffered from such insecurities long before he found himself in the castle.
Though not inclined to play the hero and often responding to the ritualized murders with extreme apathy, the scribe does possess a compassionate side: when Pepin's denial of godhood results in the emperor, his wife, the Doctor and Frobisher being condemned to death, Eugene saves their lives by lying for them; similarly, when the time comes for the Doctor to be killed and for Eugene to have his tongue removed, the scribe offers to go first if it means granting the Doctor a few more minutes of life.
However, for all of his self-effacement, his humility and gentle heart, Eugene ultimately has a dark side that overwhelms any good deed he performs: among other things, he has no problem with creating living beings with real personalities and condemning them to spend their lives enslaved to his ritualized history, either not realizing or not caring that the characters in his fantasy can suffer just as much as any real living being. Furthermore, though the madness that drove him to murder his son has left him, he still refuses to face the consequences of his actions, and insists on running away at any opportunity.
Cowardice defines Eugene's actions from the moment the Child reappears: he flees, seeks shelter while the palace guards die trying to stop his pursuer, and hides while everyone in the castle is slaughtered; then, only once he has nowhere else to run, he murders the Child - even though the Child does not actually want to kill him. Indeed, it is not even fear of dying that prompts his retreat, but a fear of having to confront his inner demons in person, for even after millennia of being subjected to the same nightmare, he still cannot face up to what he has done.
Once this is over and done with, Eugene retreats back into his fantasies, once again running away from the truth. Indeed, he is so determined to avoid his fate that he does so far as to assault Frobisher when he tries to let the Doctor into the throne room with the Child hot on his heels. It's not until the Doctor makes him realize the trap he's set for himself through his cowardice and denial of responsibility that Eugene Tacitus finally faces his demons - this time for good.
- Eugene is in many ways a dark play on the cliched Doctor Who "companion of the week" - an inconsequential ally of limited utility, commonly existing solely to tag along and end up getting killed over the course of the adventure. Initially, Eugene gives every indication of being just as unimportant... up until his true power over the setting is revealed. By the end of the story, even the Doctor cannot stop him from enacting his will upon reality.