Mrs Sauskind's Cat And Other Relevant Facts
Entry 282 posted in: b. Dirk Gently
This is another answer on my question: How Does Dirk Gently Really Ends?
An explanation by Glyn (1995-ish)
A spaceship comes to earth to colonise it. The entire crew make a preliminary landing in a landing craft, which is damaged by a meteorite on the way down. The pilot makes some repairs, but relies on his Electric Monk to verify that it is safe to take off. Unfortunately the Monk trusted a little too much - the landing craft blew up. In addition, the explosion caused the start of life in the river of sludge in the valley where the spaceship stood. That life eventually became man.
The pilot has become a ghost since he has an unfinished task - he needs to reverse the explosion and stop man being created (man occupied the planet the alien and his mates wanted). His strength and influence fade in and out.
In the eighteenth century it is particularly strong. The ghost inhabits Coleridge - quite easy since Coleridge frequently uses laudanum allowing for manipulation of his mind. While in Coleridge's body it visited Reg (they lived in the same college) and came across the time machine. It now realises that it might be possible to correct the mistake, so as insurance against a time when the ghost may be weaker and able to remember less it gets Coleridge to write down the launch check instructions in the form of a poem. The poem, Kubla Khan describes the site of the spaceship (valley, river etc.), and the second verse contains the engine-check/flight details. The ghost's miserable existence also becomes the essence of a poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.
The ghost loses its power for two hundred years. However, in 198* it regains enough power to have a stab at occupying Reg and persuading him to go back to a time before the explosion, in the time machine. The ghost isn't strong enough to manipulate Reg (or Richard for that matter) but hits pay dirt with Michael Wenton-Weakes. By reading Rime, Wenton-Weakes becomes aware of the ghost's plight, and in identifying it with his own situation attunes his mind to that of the ghost, allowing him to be totally possessed. The ghost then prepares him for the task ahead by getting him to read Kubla Khan.
Therefore, they all go back in time.
Then Dirk realises that if the explosion doesn't occur then neither will humankind. Therefore, he travels to Coleridge's house and disturbs him and the ghost long enough to prevent the second verse of Kubla Khan being written. Without the aid of these instructions Wenton-Weakes is unable to prevent the explosion and humankind is saved. This doesn't get rid of the ghost, but there now exists a time loop between 1798 and 198* which forever eradicates the ghost's ability to correct its mistake. The ghost lives on but is powerless to change things.
And just to make absolutely certain that the ghost can't ever get back to the mother ship, while Richard waits for Dirk to emerge from Coleridge's cottage Reg sneaks off and destroys it. (Note: In real life there is no second part of Kubla Khan. Coleridge genuinely was interrupted by a visitor while writing it, and was detained long enough that he couldn't remember what came next so it was never finished.)
Now the albatross. Part of the same time loop. The ghost inspired Coleridge to write Rime. In the ghost's story a meteorite struck the ship. It doesn't have the Albatross. (And consequently doesn't have the main point about redemption and finding the slimy things to be beautiful). The joke here is that Richard didn't understand Rime so he asked Dirk to question Coleridge on the meaning of The Albatross. However, Coleridge wrote Rime after Khan, so he didn't understand the question. He hadn't written the poem yet. Dirk's question actually inspired it! Richard's non-understanding of the albatross was what created it. When the ghost as Wenton-Weakes reads the poem he doesn't like that bit since it messes up his own story.
Finally Bach. In the alternate reality Bach is unknown. Reg went back to the mother ship to destroy it; he also copied some of the music from the ship (this takes some considerable amount of time, which is why Richard noted that he'd gained), and gave it to Bach who subsequently passed it off as his own work. This explains why Richard hadn't known about Bach before when he finds the sheet music in Susan's flat.
It also explains the comment about "a major season of Buxtehude is clearly long overdue". Bach and Buxtehude were once competitors for the post of resident organist and composer at the cathedral in Leipzig), a competition which at the time Buxtehude won hands down. Of course, Bach is now one of the best-known composers and Buxtehude is relatively obscure, and in our world would be much less likely to merit a major season. Without Reg's intervention it seems Buxtehude continued to be regarded as the major composer of his day.
Oh, and since you asked about Mrs Sauskind's cat, in the alternate reality Dirk was hired to find the missing cat. In changing the past they wiped that sequence of events and when Dirk tries to chase Mrs Sauskind for his bill he finds she never hired him and her cat had died several years ago.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: This Satanic Trip