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I see that you know... so tell me! Who is my father? WHO IS THE MAN WHO CREATED GOD?!
~ The Child, demanding answers from the Doctor.

The Child is the main antagonist of the Doctor Who Big Finish audio drama "The Holy Terror". Initially introduced as the five year-old son of Lord Childeric, half-brother to the castle's reigning Emperor, the Child has apparently been transformed into a living god following a long period of cruel religious experimentation: raised in near-total silence from the moment of his birth, his separation from human language has supposedly allowed him to develop a divine mentality free of mortal self-doubt, granting him seemingly infinite power - and a mindset entirely divorced from all notions of mercy or empathy. However, it eventually becomes clear that the Child's nature and origins are far more unusual than Childeric has been led to believe.

He was voiced by the late Sam Kelly, who also voiced Eugene Tacitus in the same audio play; for this role, Kelly's voice was digitally altered in order to sound more like that of a child, giving it a distinctly unearthly tone.

History

A Vicious Circle

Unknown to all, the Child is actually the son of Eugene Tacitus and he was originally born in a relatively normal dimension far outside the castle's pocket reality. Little is known of the Child's early life, for no records exist of this time and Eugene himself has all but forgotten it: however, from the continuous pattern of fathers hating sons occurring within the castle, it can be assumed that the aging writer came to resent his son as a reminder of his own past neuroses, slowly becoming more abusive towards him as time went on. Eventually, driven by what Eugene himself could only describe as insanity, he crept into his son's room one night and brutally stabbed his sleeping child to death.

Horrified but what he had done and unable to forgive himself, Eugene fled in a desperate attempt to forget his crime. Eventually, he found himself stumbling into a pocket reality devoid of all life and all matter, in which he soon found himself imprisoned. It's never been established if Eugene subconsciously trapped himself in this dimension in an act of self-loathing or if some alien intelligence chose to punish him for his transgressions by incarcerating him within the confines of this world. Whatever the case, he could not leave, and his prison sentence rendered him effectively immortal.

However, he soon found that he was able to warp the fabric of this reality at will, creating a fantasy world where he could remain in comfort for all eternity, complete with an entire population of fictitious people: taking the form of a medieval castle ruled over by a deified monarch, everything in Eugene's world was ritualized, every set of behaviors from the lowliest peasant to the Emperor himself predetermined by its imprisoned creator and enforced through strict laws. With the help of these rituals, Eugene was able to gradually drive away the memories of his time outside the castle, until he even forgot his powers: coming to believe that he had always been a resident of this world, he took on the mantle of chief scribe and went about serving the Emperors he'd created, his deeply-ingrained sense of denial keeping him from noticing his own immortality.

Unfortunately for Eugene, his crime was not so easily erased: whether given life by his jailers as further punishment or conjured up by the scribe's own subconscious in yet another display of self-loathing, Eugene's son soon reappeared in the castle, reincarnated as a living torture device known only as the Child. Empowered with the ability to alter and destroy local reality at will, this seemingly omnipotent being rampaged across the fantasy world in search of his father, killing anyone in his path - gradually awakening the imprisoned scribe's dormant memories in the process. Still fleeing from the consequences of his actions, Eugene refused to confront his pursuer until it was too late to save his creation from the Child's power, by which time the castle and everyone in it had been rendered down into the featureless void from which it came. Only then did he finally remember both his past life and the influence he wielded over the pocket dimension; believing that the Child wanted to kill him out of revenge for his original death, the Eugene killed his tormentor with a knife, bringing the reign of terror to an end by repeating his original crime.

Once again alone, Eugene rebuilt the castle from scratch, repopulated it with a fresh batch of imaginary people, and retreated back into his fantasy, gradually forcing himself to forget once again over the course of several hundred years. Unfortunately, the Child would not leave him alone: every few hundred years or so, Eugene's writing would start to break down, the rituals he'd created would stop making sense, and the Child would be reincarnated within the fantasy once more.

Taking the form of almost any conceivable character within the prisoner's fiction, from the High Priest to the Queen Consort (each incarnation bearing the distinctive face of Eugene's dead son) the Child would once again massacre the inhabitants of the castle in the search for his father, destroy the castle itself in a fit of pique, then confront Eugene himself - who would remember his past and then stab the Child to death once more. Then, grief-stricken but unwilling to face the consequences of his actions, he would rebuild and repopulate the castle, submerge his memories, and retreat back into the realm of make-believe - until the Child appeared again.

So it was that the Child itself became part of another one of Eugene's rituals, a vicious cycle doomed to repeat itself for as long as the prisoner refused to confront his guilt.

Silent Deification

Towards the end of Eugene's latest fantasy, the Child found itself reincarnated once more, this time under very different conditions. Childeric, the bastard son of Empress Berengaria, had unexpectedly become aware of the nonsensical patterns by which the castle's inhabitants organized their lives - namely the deification of Emperors, most of them petty and small-minded, none of them true gods. Normally Eugene's rituals would have demanded that Childeric, as a hunchbacked illegitimate heir, should plot to overthrow his brother Pepin when he finally ascended to the throne and die in a failed rebellion alongside the equally treacherous High Priest Clovis; however, this iteration of the stereotypical bastard villain chose instead to break the cycle of failed rebellions by creating the castle's first true god.

Deciding that humanity's weakness, cynicism and complacency was what allowed it to become truly divine, he set out to raise a child without ever exposing it to human language or social interaction. After successfully impregnating his wife, Childeric spirited her away to the deepest of all the castle's catacombs and locked her in a cell deep in the foundations; in order to prevent her from spoiling his son's ascent to godhood, he also cut out her tongue - and those of the servants who tended to her needs. When she finally gave birth to the infant that was to eventually become the Child, Childeric gave her a few months alone with the baby to feed and care for it - ultimately immuring her within the cell when the Child was finally weaned.

From then on, the Child was raised exclusively by Arnulf, Childeric's tongueless manservant, who provided him with food, bedding and clothing - all while suffering continuously as a result of the mutilation that his master had inflicted on him. By all accounts, the Child showed none of his usual destructive personality at this time, choosing to remain quiescent and passive until such time as he was finally released. Meanwhile, Childeric intended to keep the young god under lock and key until he turned seventeen, by which time the Child would be able to transform him into a god as well, then they would be take the throne together and rule as father and son.

Needless to say, despite his many attempts to diverge from the patterns of the castle and attain true awareness, Childeric never once imagined that the Child was not his son, nor did he ever imagine his relationship to the doddering court scribe that still haunted the current Emperor's steps.

However, when the Child was five years old, Emperor Pepin VI unexpectedly died, having fallen asleep in the bath and drowned. Forced to accelerate his plans, Childeric hastily set to work on attempts to attain the throne by mundane means, allowing him to rule as a mortal Emperor until he was ready to release the Child from captivity.

However, not long after the audio play begins, Childeric's attempts to seize power by undermining the already-compromised subjects of his recently-crowned brother fail when the TARDIS unexpectedly appears in the throne room. With the Doctor and Frobisher being hailed as angels and Pepin VII being hailed a true living god, Childeric is once again forced to rethink his plans: needing to analyze the Child's current transformation, he orders the High Priest to capture Eugene Tacitus alive and bring him to the catacombs, intending to use the scribe as a means of studying the developing god. However, the Doctor ends up being brought along for the ride as a result.

Are You My Father?

Once he has finished explaining his plan to Eugene and the Doctor, Childeric intends to cut out the scribe's tongue in order to avoid any damage to the Child - and cut out the Doctor's heart, finding the "angel" surplus to requirements. However, Pepin VII's gold-digging wife Livilla soon arrives in the catacombs in an attempt to join forces with Childeric, revealing that the Emperor has abdicated the throne and declared Frobisher his replacement. Not knowing the full extent of "The Big Talking Bird's" powers, Childeric decides to release his son from captivity, believing that only a god can ensure their ascent to the throne now. With Childeric's followers and prisoners having assembled to witness the young god being released from his cell, Eugene suddenly begins to remember as he witnesses Arnulf carrying the Child up the stairs towards them, and instinctively warns them not to wake him up - to no avail.

Awakening from his slumber, the Child reveals that he understands human speech, claiming to have achieved omniscience and declaring himself the true god of the castle. Delighted to hear that the people gathered around him are his slaves and playthings, the Child is immediately amused when Livilla takes exception to her new role, loudly complaining about "playing second fiddle" to Childeric's son when she had intended to provide the prospective Emperor with a son of her own and rule by his side.

To the Child's continued delight, Childeric offers her to him a test of his son's abilities: telepathically invading Livilla's brain and seizing control her body, he reads her mind at length and remarks on the lack of room, sneeringly mocking her limited understand of power as "pretty baubles" and "spite and greed." The Child then unleashes his full power on the fallen Empress, regressing her to what he sees as her true form - that of an infant, which he then begins to play with as if she were a doll. However, the Child's rough games prove too much for baby Livilla, who fatally "breaks" over the course of being toyed with.

Disappointed with the lack of fun he got out of his plaything, the Child immediately demands another one; when his father refuses him, the young god throws a temper tantrum, bombarding the horrified onlookers with a maelstrom of chaotic energies and forcing all but Childeric and Arnulf to retreat. To the Child's immense surprise, his father is able to end the tantrum with a single slap to the face; though he considers making the hunchback's hand drop off, he cannot bring himself to harm his father and chooses to remain obedient instead.

The two then discuss their plans to seize the throne: however, where Childeric suggests acting as the Child's regent until he comes of age and can take the throne, the Child instead suggests entering his father's mind and merging with him, becoming one all-powerful entity ruling the castle as father and son for all eternity - a possibility that clearly fascinates Childeric.

However, the Child is hungry for human minds to devour and eager to kill for amusement, and will not be assuaged by requests to be patient. Instead, his attention turns to Arnulf: upon realizing that his caretaker is mute, the Child uses his powers to regenerate Arnulf's tongue, much to the tormented slave's joy; however, it turns out that he only did this in order to hear his next victim's last words, and Arnulf barely has enough time to beg for mercy before dying horribly - another disappointment to the Child, who was hoping for something more profound.

At that point, the Doctor returns to the catacombs to confront Childeric and his son; interrogating them at length over what they plan to do with their newfound divine powers, he soon discovers that neither of them have any concept of the world outside the castle and comes to the conclusion that Childeric (as a fictional construct) can't harm him. Unfortunately, he also realizes that the Child is a partially real construction, and can harm the Doctor.

Fortunately, the Child is more interested in merging with his father and beginning their eternal rule over the castle; however, at the very moment the two are about to achieve total fusion, the Child discovers that Childeric is not actually his father. Shocked and betrayed by the knowledge and for once unwilling to listen, he tears the villainous stereotype to bloody shreds.

In the aftermath of this tantrum, the Child is immediately sorrowful and begs to know where his father is. Curious, the Doctor suggests that he lower his voice, making him sound like an adult: when the Child finally does so, it's revealed that he sounds identical to Eugene, allowing the Doctor to realize the Child's true nature as a living torture device built to torture the real Eugene. Demanding to know his father's name, the Child is infuriated when the Doctor refuses to answer, and invades the Doctor's mind in an attempt to learn the truth - only to find himself suddenly overwhelmed by the influx of information pertaining to the world outside the castle.

Unwilling to believe that there could be a world that his father isn't at the very center of and unable to find the information he needs in all the data, the Child decides to look for him on his own, and angrily teleports himself away - leaving the Doctor to try to catch up with him on foot. Not long afterwards, he ambushes Clovis on the stairs, demanding to know if the High Priest is his father - soon resorting to taking both the answers and his mind by psychically devouring Clovis alive.

Arriving back in the castle keep, the Child immediately begins searching for his father once again, interrogating citizens at random and demanding to know if they are his father - killing them horrifically when they fail to answer to his satisfaction. Soon, the entire castle's population is in a blind panic, many of them begging Frobisher for a miracle he can't provide as the Child continues massacring his way through the crowds, enjoying the sounds and smells of death even as he demands to know where his father is hiding.

His search eventually leads him down into the dungeons, where former Emperor Pepin VII is tending to his mother, Berengaria: in a valiant but futile attempt to save his mother, Pepin attempts to shield her, refusing to answer the Child's questions in a desperate attempt to draw its ire. The Child immediately bursts Pepin's skull - though he's a little disappointed that this latest victim didn't scream. He then demands worship and his father's whereabouts from Berengaria, who - in her first true display of free will in her entire life - refuses to grant him either, being all too happy to die by then. Disgusted, the Child kills her and continues his rampage.

Final Deaths

Soon, everyone in the castle is dead, and the Child begins destroying the castle itself: bit by bit, entire swaths of the prisoner's fantasy begin disintegrating back into the featureless void that it was originally built from. However, by that stage, the Doctor has made it back to the throne room, where Frobisher and Eugene are sheltering: here, he is able to explain what has happened, eventually prompting the last of the blocks on Eugene's memory to fade and allowing the scribe to realize who he really is.

Moments later, the Child enters the throne room, the last vestiges of the castle slowly disintegrating around him as he does so. Horror-stricken, Eugene finally confesses his crimes to the Doctor and Frobisher, and tries to kill the Child once again, believing that this is the only way to save the three of them from the torture device's powers. However, the Doctor is able to make him realize that the Child will not kill him: his purpose isn't to kill or even to inflict physical harm, but to make Eugene relieve his crime in exacting detail - which he has. By killing the Child, Eugene will only prolong his sentence in the pocket dimension for eternity.

Despite its purpose, the Child still wants to be reunited with his father, and now remembers its first murder: in a display of childish devotion to Eugene, he asks if he did something wrong to prompt being killed - prompting the prisoner to finally break down in a fit of grief and remorse. When the time comes for him to complete the re-enactment of his crime, Eugene instead hands the knife to the Child, and despite the Doctor's attempts to intervene, successfully guides the Child through the process of stabbing him through the heart.

As Eugene dies, the Child begins aging into his true form - a mirror image of Eugene himself; mournfully remarking on how he thought they would rule forever, the Child then dissipates into nothingness, his purpose having concluded with the prisoner's death.

Powers and Abilities

From the moment of his introduction, the Child displays a near-limitless array of powers: immediately demonstrating the ability to comprehend human language despite having never once been exposed to it, he then displays telepathy, allowing him to read the thoughts and memories of other beings - either fictional or real - and even control their actions to a degree, a process that most victims find painful. He can even consume the minds of others through this power, assimilating their thoughts and memories in a violent alternative to simply reading them.

His power is not limited to the minds of others, however: in his ability to regenerate Arnulf's tongue or regress Livilla to infancy, he displays the power of biomanipulation, allowing him to shape and warp organic tissues at will. He also demonstrates telekinesis in his temper tantrum, the brutal dismemberment of Childeric, and Pepin's apparent decapitation. Much to the Doctor's frustration, he is also able to overcome the physical limitations of his five year-old body by teleporting himself around the castle, leaving the Doctor with over two miles of steps to climb in order to catch up with him. Ultimately, the Child's most ostentatious displays of power involve his ability to render the substance of the castle back into formless void, allowing him to destroy the interior of the prison at will.

However, the Child's most dangerous power lies in the simple fact that he is much more "real" than Eugene's other fictional constructs, allowing him to inflict harm on real people - including the Doctor.

Trivia

  • The Child's habit of asking future victims "Are you my father?" eventually inspired the Empty Child's habit of asking "Are you my mummy?"

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