"With the greatest respect to the Smiths and the Joneses of the galaxy, there are times when a more individual cognomen has its advantages when one wants to impress."There's a disturbance in the time vortex. The Doctor and Sam materialize the TARDIS in real space to investigate, and find an enormous ship floating halfway between hyperspace and normal space. An Emindian luxury liner and a Nimosian battle cruiser have also discovered the wreck and are in a standoff over who gets to claim it. Emindia and Nimos have a long history of border disputes and generally dislike each other. The TARDIS is spotted by both ships, but the Doctor quickly dematerializes, and they rematerialize on in the cargo hold of the Emindian luxury liner. The Doctor hacks the computer and gives himself and Sam the position of distinguished guests on the liner. The Doctor, for no particular reason, uses his unpronounceable real name on his credentials. The wreck, meanwhile, has proven very dangerous. One Nimosian has already died trying to land on the wreck, and now there are crews of Emindians and Nimosians getting ready to attempt to land on and claim the wreck for themselves. The Doctor and Sam use their position as distinguished guests (specifically as "Federation Moderators") to become part of the shuttle crew who lands on the wreck. This proves to be quite a bit more than a simple mission of claiming a wreck and investigating a strange phenomenon. Everyone has secrets, and this wreck is both more dangerous and more valuable than anyone had previously believed...
Tropes present in Vanderdeken's Children include:
- Continuity Nod: The Nimosian ship is called the Indomitable, which is what the Fourth Doctor called humanity in The Ark in Space
- Help Yourself in the Future: What some of the "ghosts" attempt to do for the passengers of the Emindian luxury liner.
- Portal to the Past: The ghosts are going back to their own past through the wrecked hyperspace bridge, while the Emindians and Nimosians are traveling to their own future the same way.
- Possession Implies Mastery: Averted. The Emindians got a hold of a damaged hyperspace bridge, but have not been able to figure out how to build a working one.
- Retirony: Kerven, the first person to land on the wreck, dies shortly after thinking about how he's going to retire next year
- Some Call Me "Tim": The Doctor, after inexplicably deciding to use his real name on his fake ID, then tells everyone who can't pronounce it to simply call him "The Doctor" like usual.
- Space Cold War: Seems to be what's going on between the Nimosians and the Emindians
- Stable Time Loop: The derelict ship had no beginning. It's been traveling in an endless time loop through the same series of events forever.
- The "ghosts" are somewhat responsible for their own demise.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: One minute, time can't be changed, the next it can, the next only part of it can be changed. Even at the end, it's impossible to tell what's really going on with time.
- The Unpronounceable: The Doctor's name appears to be this. It's just written with a dash in dialogue.
The Doctor: "Tell her Federation Moderator Doctor — wants to see her concerning the alien vessel."