Posts Tagged With: fan fiction

How to write really good Doctor Who stories

People often ask me “Where do you get your ideas…?”.

Actually, they don’t. Generally speaking they’ll say “You have too much free time”, or some variation thereof. It usually follows a video; some investment of idiocy where the spit and polish has taken hours. I will point out, as diplomatically as possible, that this is just about the most hurtful thing you can say to someone who’s taken the trouble to create something: that it implies that the time they spent on something constructive is in some way less valuable than time they might have spent scrolling through news feeds, or playing sports, or watching Love Island. We don’t do this stuff in addition to poker nights or binging Netflix box sets; we do it as a replacement. Most of us have no more or less free time than you do – it’s just we use ours differently. In many ways this quest for clarity is a fool’s errand, but it is a message that I will continue to spread because otherwise they will say it to someone who is even more bothered by it than I am.

But I often encounter people who post ideas for ideas and want help. “I’ve got this idea for a story,” they’ll begin. “The Master has kidnapped all the Doctor’s companions and he has to rescue them all.” To which I’ll say well, that’s not a story, that’s a beginning. Or possibly a midpoint. Either way it’s a scene, not a story – an action, not a motivation. Why’s he kidnapped them? What’s his game plan? In what respect might the Doctor be hindered or aided? When and where are you setting this, and why there / then? How do you expect any thoughts when I have, at this stage, nothing to actually think about? Worse still are the ones who submit two paragraphs and then want your appraisal, copy-and-pasted into the Facebook comments. They act all earnest and unworthy, but it is thinly-veiled compliment fishing, the need for an ego boost.

Perhaps that’s unfair. But listen: if you want to write, you write. There is no other way of doing it. You write and you write badly and then you get better. And you write your story, not the one that other people have concocted for you. It’s not a democracy (said Philip Pullman); if you don’t know where the plot is going, how should anyone else? It’s different if you’re stuck, if there are narrative cul-de-sacs or technical problems or holes that you’ve dug around your characters that are seemingly too deep to climb. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you’re backed into a corner, so long as you’re prepared to ignore every piece of advice you’re given and listen, instead, for that still, small voice in your head – no, not the one that says you’re crap, the other one, the one who’s got a solution and an exit strategy. But please. Don’t come to me with two hundred words and then ask me for an opinion. Give me something I can actually work with.

“Here’s one I wrote yesterday; it’s called ‘The Oncoming Storm’…”

At the same time there are things I’ve said to people that I’ve committed to memory and resolved to write down somewhere permanent, or at least semi-permanent, in case they ever come up again. And seeing as there seems to be a plethora of new written material saturating the web at the moment – not to mention a ton of would-be writers following along thinking “Ooh, I could have a go at that” I thought I’d share a few thoughts here on how I go about crafting a Doctor Who story. Notice I said stories, not fiction. Writing a book is a different matter – I’ve done that, and it requires grit and commitment and, more to the point, it’s a whole other article, one I may one day write. Let’s not run before we can walk.

Here’s a disclaimer: I’ve got hundreds of Metro articles under my belt (most of which were dreadful), but that’s largely it as far as the professional side goes. Any fiction is strictly on an amateur basis – I lack an agent, a book deal and indeed any interest from a publishing house. This makes me completely unqualified to tell you what I’m about to tell you, at least it does if all you’re interested in is a list of accreditations that will give my advice some clout (not that you should be looking for clout – there are hundreds of online guides that start with “The author has written in X and Y and has produced stories that were shortlisted for…”; these are often leaky vessels and they must be approached with caution, as many of them will prove far from seaworthy). On the other hand I have learned a thing or two over the years about how to string a sentence together, even if that last one was excessively long. It’s one of the few things I can actually do reasonably well. So please take what follows with the necessary pinch of salt – it is the opinion of one person – but if you find yourself nodding in agreement at least once or twice, then I suppose my work is done.


1. Don’t expect to get published. There are thousands of you and the market is fierce. Always seek to improve but remember, as you grow, that raw talent is only part of this; an enormous amount of success is down to social media presence, timing and the ability to self-market, not to mention sheer dumb luck. There will be many published stories you read that are, you are convinced, vastly inferior to your own. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, so deal with it. Chances are you’re not going to make any money, but that needn’t be a bad thing, so long as you have both eyes open. Anyway, you’re in this to tell stories, remember?

2. You’re not better than Chibnall. Well all right, maybe you are. I mean I don’t know you. But effective scriptwriting is an entirely different kettle of fish to the ability to string a few words together in prose. And even if you’re writing scripts, storytelling is only part of the equation – there are budgets, series arcs and intended audience to consider as well. Don’t go thinking you know more than the people who get paid to write this, because chances are you don’t: I frequently encounter unpublished authors on the internet who are convinced that an online degree and a couple of anthology inclusions makes them the next Michael Ondaatje, and I tend to give them a wide berth. “You must have,” quoth Roald Dahl, “a degree of humility.”

3. Pick your Doctor carefully. There is a novel I read a while back called Ten Little Aliens. It’s standard fare: a group of marines go on what appears to be a routine training mission only to discover a terrible secret. There are angry young men (and women) and budget-swallowing explosions and a lot of people get killed. There is even, in the book’s latter third, an ambitious and not entirely successful Choose-Your-Own-Adventure section. It’s grandiose and over-ambitious and it has a suitably tense finale, so a number of boxes are ticked.

The problem is this: the story is vaguely contemporary and American in feel; it has the ambience of something like Starship Troopers or Aliens, both of whom it closely emulates. And it just doesn’t fit with the First Doctor. This is a world of dank ventilation shafts and vast echoey temples and dismemberment and sweat and testosterone; it’s difficult to imagine Hartnell huffing and puffing along those dimly lit corridors with his cane. Stephen Cole (the book’s author) does his best to give Ben and Polly something to do, but even Ben is completely out of his depth in this world of pulse rifles and high-tech cameras. It felt as if Hartnell had somehow wandered into another Doctor’s story, and the net result is a book that is decently written, but jarring and ultimately unsatisfying. Either Cole was desperate to tell this story and use his favourite character no matter what, or he was answering a commission and got saddled with the wrong incarnation. Either way, it doesn’t work.

In many ways, the adoption of existing characters makes your job much easier – it provides a template – but that’s the sort of thing you’ll need to bear in mind as you approach any work of DW fiction, even a short story. ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ wouldn’t have worked with Capaldi, Bill and Nardole; it is impossible to imagine Troughton in ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’. Some of it is contextual (‘Dalek’, for example, was written within the frame of the Time War), but it’s not just about the setting, it’s about how you’d expect the characters to behave. And if this isn’t an issue for you – if, for example, you’re turning out a very by-the-numbers base-under-siege story that would work for any combination of TARDIS personnel – then are you really telling the best story you can?

4. Keep it PG-13. This is just a personal preference, but I have yet to encounter a DW story or novel featuring sex or bad language that didn’t feel like showing off. You could arguably level that same criticism at series one of Torchwood – at least until it grew its own personality and became something far more enjoyable – but Doctor Who is a family show and while there’s nothing wrong with a provocative outfit, a bit of mild cursing or the odd spark of innuendo, anything stronger is in danger of unbalancing your narrative. The rationale behind this is that if we have to start thinking about characters having sex, we have to start thinking about the Doctor having sex, and that’s a place most people don’t want to go, so don’t. By all means pepper your story with mindless violence, graphic descriptions of dismemberment or disfigurement and plenty of blood; just keep the language mild and the clothes on. It’s a double standard – one that the likes of South Park have lampooned on more than one occasion – but it seems to be the only way to write stories that actually work.

(Please be aware, by the way, that I am not applying any of this to the murky underbelly that is Rule 34 Fan Fiction, a sub-strand that I accept has always existed, needs to exist and will always exist, at least in some form or another. It was simpler when these things were text only and we didn’t have to have accompanying artwork; nonetheless it’s a part of the fandom and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. I don’t pretend to enjoy any of it, but I know some people devour the stuff like a Spaceball goes for canned oxygen. You do you.)

(As a brief sidetrack, do you want to know why I hold the Rule 34 material in such contempt? Really? Well, it comes from my first exposure to it – way back in the distant past that was 1996, when someone emailed an erotic story they’d found on a Usenet group. It was Sesame Street. It featured Elmo and Maria. Seriously, that’s enough to put anyone off.)

5. Read, re-read and then read once again every single last line of dialogue. I cannot stress enough just how important this is. It’s make-or-break. If you’re not voicing your Doctor or companion appropriately, people will notice. You know what stands out in Shadows of the Empire for me? That one scene I can’t get out of my head? It’s not the space battles or Luke honing his force powers or the final, climactic confrontation with Prince Xizor. It’s the bit where Darth Vader says “I’ll have my servants check it out”. That’s not something Darth Vader would say, ever. Anakin Skywalker, perhaps. But not Vader. His characterisation is in any case completely off in Shadows, but this is the nadir: in a poorly-written novel, it sticks out like a sore thumb on an already calloused hand.

Even a single word can make a difference. Let’s say, for example, that you have a scene where the Doctor says “Wonderful!”. I can hear that from Doctors One through Eight. I’m having a hard time hearing it from Eccleston (unless it’s delivered with dripping sarcasm), or indeed from anyone in the new series, with the possible exception of Smith. If you’re using existing Doctors and companions and you’re not sure whether your dialogue sounds authentic, go back and watch some episodes with the characters you’re writing, or ask for a second opinion. You can always ignore it.

6. Don’t be afraid of the word ‘said’. You know that ‘Let’s Do It’ parody? The one with Tate and Tennant with Barrowman at the piano? There’s a curious conceit between verses: Barrowman goes through an English teacher’s handout (replied, squawked, yelled, proclaimed, ejaculated) to introduce each new section, poking gentle fun at the gossipy natter-outside-the-shops feel of Victoria Wood’s original. It’s greatly amusing, but it’s not something you should copy. No one of any merit is going to chew you out for sticking a couple of ‘said’s into your work. This isn’t primary school. Equally, do not overuse it; it does get boring if that’s the only way your characters actually express anything.

Actually, a better way of handling dialogue is to keep usage both of ‘said’ and its myriad adjectives to an absolute minimum. This does not mean that you should write pages of back-and-forth quotes between characters you do not name. It is fine if you’re Manuel Puig, but it can be hard to follow. Instead, what you do is this: you intersperse dialogue with descriptive text to make it obvious who is speaking. Examine this:

Yates tried to give her a severe look: it didn’t quite come off. “And you know perfectly well that the contents remain top secret until the party,” he said. “All part of the magic, apparently.”

“Says our mysterious benefactor.”

Yates bent down to lift the box again; Jo dropped to a squat.

“Let me help,” she said.

“You really don’t need – I mean, it’s no job for a lady.”

She scowled. “Next time, you can pick it up yourself,” she said.

“You’re right. And I apologise,” he replied, standing and adjusting the crink in his back. “We’ll do it together.”


Which is so much better when you write it like this:

Yates tried to give her a severe look: it didn’t quite come off. “And you know perfectly well that the contents remain top secret until the party. All part of the magic, apparently.”

“Says our mysterious benefactor.”

Yates bent down to lift the box again; Jo dropped to a squat. “Let me help.”

“You really don’t need – I mean, it’s no job for a lady.”

She scowled. “Next time, you can pick it up yourself.”

“You’re right. And I apologise.” Yates stood, adjusting the crink in his back. “We’ll do it together.”

7. Don’t repeat gags. Catchphrases are fine, provided your story does not hinge, revolve or end upon them (there are exceptions to this rule, but you have to really know what you’re doing). But don’t ever drop in the same jokes you’ve seen on TV, unless there’s a damned good reason for it. Yes, it was funny when Tennant quipped “Are you my mummy?” when wearing that gas mask. We don’t need to hear it again, so write something new. Matt Smith’s horse dialogue? Well, that wasn’t funny the first time, so God knows we don’t need a repeat performance. This goes for variations – don’t go thinking you can a fresh laugh by tweaking the odd word. If the Doctor speaks muskrat, keep it to yourself. And please, for the love of sanity, do not use ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’. Ever. I mean it.

8. Screw the continuity. This is a showcase for you, and your abilities as a storyteller. You do not need to wade through the minefield of existing material in order to ensure that your own series of events matches up to What People Already Know. If you’re doing something that’s already happened, or wading into territory that’s already charted, it really doesn’t matter that much. I’m not saying people should behave out of character. Having Jamie rejoin the TARDIS as a prominent astrophysicist, or engineering a story where Mel suddenly starts drinking heavily before hefting a plasma rifle and joining a group of marines? It might be a laugh, but you’ll have to work incredibly hard to make it even remotely plausible.

But Doctor Who has spent years ignoring its own history – and the explanations provided are scant, when they are provided at all. There are at least two or three origin stories for the Daleks. The same applies for the Cybermen, and even then no one can work out whether the new ones are from Mondas or the Lumic factory. TV contradicts Big Finish contradicts the books, the events of ‘Turn Left’ fly in the face of the episodes it references, and there is an endless debate as to whether the UNIT stories happened in the 70s or 80s. Oh, we can pretend it all makes sense, but it doesn’t, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either pulling your leg or understands the show far less than they think they do.

During the writing process for The Child Left Behind, I became aware of a comic that clashed with the events I was talking about in the novel. In other words, there’s a story involving the Pied Piper. It’s not a particularly well-known story; I doubt many current fans have heard of it and even fewer, I suspect, have read it. But its existence jarred with me, and I thus set about establishing a side narrative that worked in the events of that particular adventure to the story that I was writing, so as not to mess up the timeline. I think I managed, just about, but whenever I look at that book now I can’t help wondering whether it really fits. It’s a whole extra subplot that squats uneasily on the fringes, like the socially awkward friend you invited to the party, standing in a corner making each glass of wine last an hour and talking to no one.

So honestly? It’s best not to worry about it. Know your subject and know your characters and try not to retread old ground, but if you do, don’t sweat the small stuff. Continuity should never get in the way of a good story, so don’t allow yourself to get bogged down by details. Leave that sort of thing to Ian Levine.

9. Resist the temptation to show how much you know. Yes, fine, you’re familiar with the history of the Tractators, the names of every Sontaran battlefleet, the specifics of the Cyber conversion process and the ins and outs of Gallifreyan sectarianism. Does it fit the story? Really? Because infodumps are fine if you’re trying to win an argument on a Reddit thread, but they’ll slow up the action and you run the risk of annoying the established fans and alienating the new or inexperienced ones. The next time you blind your audience with technobabble or historical discourse, ask yourself a single question: does it serve a narrative purpose, or are you just marking your territory?

10. If you must write in the First Person, do not make yourself the Doctor. Look, perspective can be a tricky thing. One rookie mistake made by writers is to swap between characters with wilful abandon: writing in the Third Person is going to be your undoing if you keep switching points of view. For the most part you’ll want to pick one person per scene, and stick to it. Aside from a few stray intermezzos, the Harry Potter books tell the entire story from the perspective of its title character and, with the exception of those dreadful flashback chapters (you know, the ones that read like bad Tolkien) they don’t suffer as a result.

You don’t need to do this. But at least within each individual scene you need to leave the “He thought / she thought” seesawing out of it – and what better way of doing this than writing the whole thing in First Person? Well, knock yourself out. J.D. Salinger built a career out of it. But don’t be the Doctor. Be a companion, a supporting character, a villain if you like – but the Doctor is off limits. It doesn’t work. It didn’t work in Eye of Heaven; it doesn’t really work in Scratchman. The Doctor is only ever defined by the people who are along for the ride; even in ‘Heaven Sent’ Capaldi at least had someone to talk to when he was jumping out of windows and punching a wall. You cannot inhabit that head, however well you think you know your Doctor. The whole point behind the show is that we never really do.

As an addendum, it is perfectly fine to write a third person scene (or even an entire story) from the Doctor’s point of view; narrative omniscience affords that luxury. Just remember to write ‘He thought’. Or ‘She thought’, if that’s where you are.

11. Enjoy it, or at least enjoy having done it. I’m channeling my inner Dorothy Parker with this one, but it’s an important point. We were going to open with the old Tegan maxim (“If you stop enjoying it, give it up”) but I don’t think that’s necessarily the mindset you want to be carrying. The unfortunate truth is that writing – any sort of writing – is hard work, and a lot of going back and forth over those fiddly sentences that won’t quite parse the way you want them to, and getting interrupted just as you’re in flow, and periods of blockage and despair and then that Eureka! moment when you’re in the shower or the car and nowhere near a pen, and then getting back to your laptop and feverishly tapping away, all the while having to listen to that small voice in your head – yes, that one, the one that’s constantly whispering “This is prosaic shit, really, isn’t it?”

No, here’s how it works: this will not always be easy. It will not always be fun. But you will achieve a sense of satisfaction when you have achieved something you know is good – perhaps not objectively good, because that’s a pipe dream, but at least something that’s fun and accessible and that tells a complete story.  And if you get nowhere, and your audience is sparse, and you wonder why you’re bothering, there are worse role models than Paul Sheldon at the end of Misery – specifically the end of William Goldman’s screen adaptation, where James Caan is having lunch in a New York restaurant with his agent. “I’m glad the critics like it,” he says benignly, as she gushes over the reception to his new book. “And I hope the people like it too. But I wrote it for me.”

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Child Left Behind – now available!

OK, I think it’s done.


If you want to skip the pre-amble, here’s the download link, but I’ll paste it again after the FAQ to save you having to scroll back up.

The Child Left Behind zip

(Contains PDF, EPUB and MOBI files. The link will take you to a new window where you should be able to right-click and save.)


So what’s all this, then?

The Child Left Behind is an original, entirely unsanctioned full length Doctor Who novel. By me.

So it’s basically fan fiction.

If you like. It’s not some episodic thing I churned out for A Teaspoon and an Open Mind and then cobbled together. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. I prefer to think of it as Fan Fiction, rather than fan fiction.

With the Eleventh Doctor? And Amy?

You noticed. It’s a series 5 story, taking place between ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ and ‘The Lodger’, although that much will become obvious when you read it.

How come you’re publishing it here?

As far as I’m aware, Doctor Who doesn’t accept unsolicited fiction. I’d dearly love to get it published one day, but in the meantime – and on the advice of another writer I met last year – I thought the best thing to do was just get it out there.

At no cost?

Of course not. That’s blatant copyright infringement. All I ask is that if you enjoy the book, you’ll tell your friends. And that if you don’t, you’ll tell me.

Fair enough. So what’s the story in Balamory?

Well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Aww, come on. Not even a hint?

Oh, if you insist. Here’s the blurb from the back cover.

Hamelin was still reeling from an immeasurable tragedy. And then the murders began.

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Amy to thirteenth century Germany, and a community that is grieving for its lost children. The Doctor senses something is amiss, but how can he investigate in a town already suspicious of strangers? What really happened here six weeks ago? Is the forest on the hill really haunted? And what’s that glinting at the bottom of the river?

As the Doctor and Amy watch their lives become entwined with a dysfunctional family, a world-weary bartender and a watchful Constable, they must race to find the answers – before something unspeakable happens to the people of Hamelin…

Cryptic. So the title doesn’t refer to Amy?

No, it doesn’t, but now that you mention it, that’s something that had honestly never occurred to me until it was pointed out.

Cool cover art, by the way.

It’s great, isn’t it? It’s the work of Yvain Bon, an artist I met in a Facebook group who specialises in alternative covers for stories. I asked him if he’d do something for this, and he turned my vague ideas into the image you see above – quickly and brilliantly. In return I promised I’d interview him for The Doctor Who Companion – which reminds me, I really should email him.

This is about the Pied Piper, isn’t it? I seem to remember that’s been done before. 

It has, yes – in various places (although not on TV). Doctor Who has been around for a long time and there is nothing new under the sun. But to the best of my knowledge it’s never been done quite like this.

So who’s the monster?

Not saying.

Not even a hint?


I want a biscuit.

Dinner’s in half an hour. If you’re hungry, have an apple.

So what’s in the zip?

Right, yes: there’s a PDF. There are also EPUB and MOBI files for Kindles and Kobos or whatever else you use. E-Readers have hundreds of different calibrations and settings and I’m not entirely sure what you’ll need, but there should be something in there you can use. I’m not, I’m afraid, an expert on how to transfer files to your device – I’d suggest Googling that if you find you have any difficulties.

One thing – I know that the cover for the MOBI files is a little on the small side. I’m working on it.

How much knowledge of the show should I have before reading?

It’s tricky. The story’s chronology gives context to the way certain characters are behaving (it’s set after ‘Cold Blood’ but before ‘The Pandorica Opens’, if you catch my drift). Basic knowledge is therefore enough. Of course, the more you know about the show’s history, the more you’ll appreciate certain gags and so on. But I aimed for this to be accessible on a number of levels, and if there are certain things that go over your head a little bit, that’s all the more reason to delve into the archives.

Anything else I should know?

Just that it’s never going to be perfect. I’ve proofread and proofread and have got rid of as many mistakes as I can but you can bet I’ve missed something. Please do let me know and I’ll amend it for a future edition. The same goes for technical problems with the EPUB and MOBI files – I’ve sanity checked as much as I can but if anyone has any feedback let me know and I’ll try and improve them.

Oh, and one more thing: if you’re surprised by anything, please don’t spoil it for others!

Can I have that download link again?

Yep –

The Child Left Behind zip

(Contains PDF, EPUB and MOBI files. The link will take you to a new window where you should be able to right-click and save.)

Happy reading!

EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that the public link I posted yesterday didn’t work unless you had a Dropbox account, a change apparently made recently but which had escaped my notice. I’ve therefore re-uploaded the file to OneDrive and updated the link. Hope it’s now OK!

Categories: The Child Left Behind | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weazle Words (part two)

Last Friday, I posted an extract from the first chapter of my novel, with the promise that business would be concluded this week. If you haven’t yet read that post, I suggest you do so now if  you want the following to make any real sense. (It may still not, of course, but you stand a bigger chance.) A brief note: I wrote this before I either knew about or saw a certain episode from last year, and at this stage I’m inclined to leave the last exchange in there, even though it no longer makes any sense.

We rejoin the Doctor and Amy as we left them: trapped in the TARDIS kitchen with a small bundle of blue fur, and facing off against a monstrous plant…


Chapter One, Part Two

Somehow, the Doctor managed to seize the moss ball, spring into a standing position and turn a hundred and eighty degrees on the spot in one fluid motion. It was astonishing to watch these occasional displays of agility, Amy thought, from a man that she had come to know as practically dyspraxic. Or at least that’s what she would have been thinking, had she not been distracted by the gargantuan monstrosity that was now blocking the doorway.

The plant was easily twenty-five feet long, and bright orange: a poisonous, deadly orange that one might associate with a tree frog. The effect was enhanced by jagged black stripes that ran down the main stem, like a sort of reversed tarantula. The stem was two feet thick and made jarring snapping noises as it creaked. A solitary eye the size of a pig sat at the top, staring at them, unblinking. Then the stem protruded downwards, ending at a wide gelatinous base that housed a pool of glowing purple fluid. The fluid seemed to take a life of its own, bubbling and whirling without pattern or reason, but just because it could. Occasionally one of the plant’s many tentacles would reach into the pool and emerge with its end painted a bright, vivid mauve. Each tentacle contained a set of crocodile-like teeth.

For a man whose ship had been boarded by the kraken, the Doctor was unusually calm. “Amy, meet the snapweazle. Snapweazle, this is Amy.”

“Um…yeah. Hello,” said Amy, feeling slightly less ridiculous than she imagined she might. “I hope you’ve had lunch?”

The snapweazle lurched from left to right, tentacles lashing and billowing at random. The great eye surveyed them, moving a brilliant pupil that had the appearance of black marble from left to right and back again, surveying its surroundings. Then it began to rock forwards on its base, and it had done this for about seven seconds when it made the first jump.

It was shuffling through the doorway.

Any started. “Doctor, it’s – it’s walking!”

“So I see.”

“But plants don’t walk.”

The Doctor allowed himself the briefest sideways glance. “Neither does a statue.”


Illustration: Josh

The snapweazle was all the way through now, and advancing upon them It seemed to be growing bigger and more deadly by the second. Amy found herself involuntarily backing up against the Aga. Her hands reached behind the back of her waist to touch the cold metal handle. She noted that the Doctor had joined her, looking similarly panicky. “Please tell me,” she whispered, “that you have a way out of this.”

“Just one,” said the Doctor, as the tentacle reached out its pointed end. “How’s your operetta?”

Amy gave a start. “Truthfully, I’m a little rusty.”

The Doctor nodded, resigned, as if this were to be expected. “Fine. Just take your cue from me.” And to Amy’s astonishment, he cleared his throat, looked up at the menacing plant, and opened his mouth to sing:

“Your seedling hearts, ah, do not steel
to pity’s eloquent appeal
such conduct humble bipeds feel –
Sigh, sigh, all sigh!”

The Doctor glanced at Amy again, but this time it was purposeful. Amy got the hint, and managed a theatrical sigh. Turning back to the plant again, he continued:

“To plant or beast we rarely see
A girl or Time Lord bend the knee
Yet, one and all, they kneel to ye –
Kneel, kneel, all kneel!

We bipeds very seldom cry
And yet – I need not tell you why –
A tear-drop dews each saddened eye!
Weep, weep, all weep!”

He was no Leonard Osborn, but the effect was surprising, dramatic and almost instantaneous. The plant reared up, its tentacles quivering and its central column vibrating. Then it emitted a tremendous screeching noise, and then exploded.

It was about thirty seconds before Amy regained consciousness. The snapweazle’s combustion had included a shockwave that had shaken the floor of the TARDIS, and both Amy and the Doctor had been thrown against the Aga, before collapsing in a heap. When she awoke, a blurry vision of the kitchen swam into view, and she could make out the polished black work surfaces, the open fridge door, and the Doctor, who was still out cold. Amy felt a strange sensation, halfway between pleasant and painful, and looked down to see the moss ball chewing on her index finger.

She withdrew her hand quickly. The moss ball looked up at her, insofar as it was able to do so, considering it had no eyes. It looked almost ashamed of itself.

“There, there,” Amy said, with as much compassion as she could muster. “It’s OK. You’re still hungry? Here.” She picked up the carrot and held it to where she assumed the moss ball’s mouth must be. The carrot instantly became shorter, like a branch being dropped into a wood chipper. There was a moment’s silence, and then the creature belched.

There was movement from the floor beside her; the Doctor was shaking off the last vestiges of unconsciousness and propping himself upright. “Gosh. That was a close one. Lucky I remembered my Gilbert and Sullivan. Singing in the shower, Pond,” he said, wagging a bony finger at her. “More useful than you’d think.”

He jumped to his feet. “Right! Time to clean up, I think. There’s a mop in the cleaning cupboard, which is down the corridor on the left, next to the server room. If you can sort out the surfaces,” he said to Amy, “I’ll sort out the floors.”

Amy was still cradling the moss ball. “What about this one, Doctor?”

“Oh, him. He’ll be fine for a moment. If he’s eaten he won’t want to eat again for at least a week. I expect he’ll be happy just playing.”

“Are you sure? Because I don’t want to be cradling a moss ball in one hand and a J-cloth in the other. Can we not put him in a playpen, or a cot or something?”

“This is the TARDIS, Amy, not a crèche! We’ll just have to do the best we can. Heaven knows what the health and safety people would say if they walked in right now. Well, if I had any health and safety people. Either way, it’s important we clean up this mess before – ”

The Doctor stopped. Or rather he was encouraged to stop by the alarm call from the next room. The klaxon was low, heavy, and resonated into the kitchen. Amy looked up. “What’s that?”

“It’s the TARDIS emergency materialisation alarm. It’s programmed to go off in the event certain carbon-based life forms try and take over the ship. Well, that and leaving the iron on. But the snapweazle’s triggered it. Anyway – ” the Doctor continued, as he sprinted out of the kitchen and into the control room – “Long story short, we’re landing.”

“Well, can’t you shut it off? It’s not as if we need to worry about it now.”

“Can’t. The shutdown mechanism froze up some time ago and I hadn’t got around to fixing it. Easier if we just ride it out. Hold down that lever.”

They were at the controls now, the time rotor rising and falling with a juddering, stuttering motion – not the smoothness that Amy was used to, but at least it was working again, however imperfectly. The juddering apparently had knock-on effects throughout the whole ship, which was rumbling in a manner the young woman found somewhat unsettling. There had been rumbling before, she remembered. Beneath the soil, when she had disappeared down the rabbit hole and found a kingdom full of lizards. She had enjoyed a brush with the future in a context that was yet to be explained. But when she mentioned the Silurians, the Doctor would change the subject.

She wondered why. But not now. Now, the klaxon in her head was setting up a camp bed and getting under her feet, and introspection would have to wait. The Doctor was busy at the desk, spinning dials and punching buttons, his brow furrowed in concentration. The ship lurched, and the two of them almost lost their footing. Outside the TARDIS, it would have been an impressive sight: the battered police box swaying in the mists of the time vortex.



Illustration: Daniel

“Amy!” bellowed the Doctor above the din. “That button! Now!”

Amy saw where he was pointing and stretched across. Skin found plastic. There was one final lurch, and then a sudden stop. The ground ceased to rumble and became stable. The lights went out. Smoke poured from vents, and two electrical cables sparked together in a most dangerous fashion near one of the hatches.

The Doctor looked over, alarmed. “Uh-oh. Better get that fixed, and sharpish.” He strode purposefully across the TARDIS, pulling a pair of rubber gloves from his jacket pocket as he went. Looping one end round a protruding hook in the wall and tying it so that it was secured far away from the other end of the cable, he turned to face his companion. “We made it, anyway. No broken bones, Pond?”

“No.” She rubbed the back of her forehead “Hell of a stiff neck, though. So where are we?”

“No idea. Let’s have a look.”The Doctor swivelled a monitor into view even as he reached the desk. “Hmm. That’s funny. Earth, apparently, in the late thirteenth century. 1285, to be exact. But nothing more specific.”

“So the TARDIS will tell you when we are, but not where?”

“Exactly. The readouts must have got damaged in the landing. I’ll fix them later. Meantime, we go and look.”

“Thirteenth century? That’s around the crusades, isn’t it? Robin Hood, Merry Men in the forest.”

“Yes, I suppose it is.” The Doctor’s face darkened “Ye gods, I hope we don’t run into him. I owe him a mackerel.”

“You owe Robin Hood a – ” Amy realised that continuing the discussion was pointless, because the Doctor was already heading for the doors. “Bring a coat, Amy. It’s October. Liable to be chilly.”

Categories: The Child Left Behind | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Events occur in real timey-wimey

My knowledge of American drama series is, for the most part, very patchy. I get by with a mixture of self-proclaimed ignorance and bluffing. I’ve got no ideological hang-ups with any of it; I accept that the first series of Heroes was great and that Desperate Housewives was like Blue Velvet for teenage girls. I just don’t have the time. There is also a part of me that is, I admit, quite proud of the fact that I’ve only ever seen one episode of The West Wing. It feels deliciously subversive. There is one exception: the only contemporary drama I feel able to talk about with any real authority (seasons one to six of The X-Files aside) is 24.

This is an unpopular view, but I’m of the conviction that 24 never jumped the shark. In eight seasons, largely due to its capacity to endlessly reinvent itself, it dazzled and confounded us with a thousand twists, betrayals and feints. Its political sensibilities are ambiguous and there is, I’ll admit, a part of me that feels ashamed of the glee I experience when Jack Bauer is twisting the knife (metaphorically or, sometimes, quite literally) into the spine of a scheming terrorist bastard. I have been told that I cannot enjoy this show and call myself a liberal. I answer that it satisfies a certain morbid testosterone drive possessed by most men of my age.

Key to the success of 24 is its merciless attitude towards its cast: no one – apart from Bauer himself – is safe, and regular and beloved characters are shamelessly gunned down / blown up / poisoned without a moment’s thought. Sometimes these deaths are signposted, but the most effective are the ones you don’t see coming (the opening of season five, for example, was particularly memorable – if you’ve seen it you’ll know why). In playing with our expectations, of course, the show was also guilty of setting up certain conventions, so that by the end of its run we knew how things worked. For example, a seemingly-deceased character was never actually dead unless you saw the corpse (and even then, that wasn’t always enough to keep them from popping back).

Other conventions were the behavioural patterns of unexpected turncoats after they’re unmasked. We usually learn about them at least one episode before the CTU chief does, and it’s generally accepted that as soon as we find out, their previously impeccable mask of respectability will slip completely, and they’ll suddenly find it incredibly difficult to keep up the pretence. This is usually because one a turncoat has been unmasked to the audience it’s not long before everyone else finds out as well, if only because it keeps the show moving. Indeed, such rapid narrative progression is something 24 does particularly well: seasons are rarely about the stuff we think they’re about, and apparent main antagonists are dispatched with gleeful abandon quite early on in a season, revealing layers of conspiracy that usually go right to the top, and someone with considerable political clout.

So Emily and I devoured it. I can still remember the look on her face the night she discovered the identity of the mole at the end of the first season; she spent the rest of the evening wandering round the house, occasionally muttering “I can’t believe it was them!”. But part of the show’s appeal is rooted in its sometimes unintentional humour. We know, for example, that the beloved Chloe is supposed to be funny, and that her Asperger’s renders her prone to bouts of tactlessness (“I just think we need to be really nice to Michelle, you know, because of Tony getting shot in the neck”). But it’s hard not to chuckle when you hear presidential advisor Lynn Kresge announce that “I just got off with the Secretary of Defence”, at least if you’re British. And how am I supposed to take an assassin seriously when, at the beginning of season eight episode three, we get this?

I know they don’t have a monopoly on the name, but honestly.

All of which set me thinking. A Who / 24 mashup would be difficult, purely in terms of how you’d reconcile the very human political / terrorist threats of Fox’s drama with Doctor Who’s extraterrestrial sensibilities, but perhaps a more telling problem might be how the two protagonists would get on – or rather wouldn’t. Jack Bauer gets the job done, but he kills people. You might as well team the Doctor up with Frank Castle. But if it did happen, and if it was, say, the Tenth Doctor because I find his inanities easiest to write, it might go a little like this…



[A large patch of grass and sand, surrounded by a chain link perimeter fence. Clusters of bushes, shrubs, the occasional oak. The sun is going down in the distance, and the autumn breeze rustles. Six or seven GUARDS patrol, machine guns cocked. There’s no indication of what they’re guarding. Nearby, just behind a tree, a familiar-looking blue box. Floodlights illuminate the area, but their reach only partially extends to the tree and TARDIS.

JACK BAUER is lying flat at the crest of a nearby hillock, a couple of hundred yards away. He surveys the scene through binoculars.]

Jack [into cell phone]: Chloe? It’s Jack. I’m at the rendezvous. I don’t see any sign of Curtis or his team yet.

Chloe [over phone]: I just spoke to him. He’s about twenty minutes out.

Jack: Dammit. That doesn’t give us enough time. We need to intercept now, before they move the nuke.

Chloe: I’ve tracked the energy readings to somewhere in this area. Look for anything unusual. They don’t know we’re coming, so you should be able to see it.

[Jack scans with his binoculars. He stops when he notices the TARDIS.]

Jack: Chloe, I think I have a visual. Moving in but I need a hostile count.

Chloe: I’ve got seven.

Jack: Roger that.

Chloe: Jack? Please be careful.

[One of the guards is standing at his post, surveying the area, when he flinches as he is grabbed from behind. It’s Jack, with a knife at his throat.]

Jack: Now listen carefully. Do exactly as I say and I won’t have to hurt you. I am going to move away from you a short distance, and when I do, I want you to lie down on the ground, face down.

[He carefully disengages and the guard begins to crouch, but in the process of doing so grabs his gun and makes to shoot Jack. Jack swiftly plunges the knife into his neck. The guard can’t help screaming as he goes down.]

Jack: Stupid.

[All of a sudden, there are shouts as the other guards come running. The air is awash with yelled instructions in Russian, and gunfire. Jack swiftly drops to his knees and pulls out a pistol. He fires once, twice. He empties the chamber. He ducks and rolls. He uses the shrubs and trees as cover. One by one, the guards buy the farm.

After thirty breathless seconds it’s all over. Jack gets up, catching his breath, recovering.]

Jack [into phone]: Chloe, it’s Jack. All hostiles are down. Repeat, all hostiles are down. I’m moving in on the energy reading.

[With his gun still drawn, Jack moves across the grass towards the oak where the TARDIS is hidden. Suddenly, he stops. He points the handgun straight. He can see someone, standing, unseen. Reflexively, Jack points his gun at the figure in the shadows.]


[The figure raises its hands.]

Jack: Now I want you to walk slowly towards me. One false move, one sign that you’re not following my instructions, and I will put you down.

[Slowly, the figure emerges into the light. It is, of course, the TENTH DOCTOR, in trademark brown suit and coat.]

Jack: Who are you?

The Doctor: I’m the Doctor.

Jack: I don’t have time to play around. What’s your name?

The Doctor: Just the Doctor.

[Jack fires a warning shot that zips past the Doctor’s shoulder. The Doctor flinches, but not much.]


The Doctor: Just…the Doctor. [He starts to wander forwards.]

Jack: Don’t move.

The Doctor: I’m just getting a little closer, that’s all. I don’t have any names except the Doctor. Not an alias, not a nom de plume, that’s just what everyone calls me. The Doctor. That’s all you need to know. Now tell me your name.

Jack: My name is Jack Bauer. I’m a federal agent on an assignment to locate a nucular weapon in this vicinity. That’s all you need to know. I don’t want to have to kill you, but I will not hesitate to pull the trigger if you can’t give me what I want.

The Doctor: God, what is it with people I know called Jack? You’re the second one I’ve met with a trigger-happy disposition. Mind you, you’re not as bad as the last one. He couldn’t wait to get his gun off. Preferably with everyone he met.

Jack: What are you talking about?

The Doctor: Oh, nothing, really, I suppose I’m just sidetracked. But I’ll tell you something, Jack. You put the gun down…I can help you.

Jack [cocks]: Why should I believe you?

The Doctor: Oh, I think you already do. I’ve met your type before, Jack. You’re the shoot-first type, not because you like it, but because it’s the only way you’ve stayed alive so long. You could count the number of people you really trust, I mean *really* trust, on the fingers of one hand, am I right? And everyone close to you, or at least nearly everyone, has died. You walk through this world and you do good, but you leave a trail of fire and devastation behind you, and there are days you can barely look at yourself in the mirror.

[He is still walking slowly forwards. Jack keeps the pistol trained, but he’s clearly thinking this through.]

The Doctor: The life you’ve lived has made it hard for you to really trust anyone. But the real reason you’ve stayed alive so long, Jack Bauer, is because you’ve learned to rely on your gut. You react purely on instinct. So tell me, Jack. What does your gut tell you…right now?

[Jack stares. There is a long, considered pause. Then he lowers and holsters the gun.]

The Doctor: Now, that’s more like it.

Jack: We don’t have a lot of time.

The Doctor: Yeah, I gathered. Tell me about this bomb.



[The door opens, and Jack and the Doctor step in. Jack stares around him, in amazement, or as amazed as we ever see Jack get about anything.]

The Doctor: Welcome to the TARDIS!

Jack: How are you doing this?

The Doctor: It’s complicated. I’d explain, but I don’t really think you’d –

[The monitor starts to beep.]

The Doctor: Hello, what’s this? [He starts flipping switches.] Looks like a signal, some sort of video conference, but it’s no one I recognise, and I don’t know – hang on.

[He punches a button, and Chloe’s face appears on the monitor.]

The Doctor: Hello.

Chloe: Is Jack with you?

Jack: I’m here, Chloe, and I’m unharmed.

The Doctor: Sorry, who are you?

Chloe: I’m Chloe O’Brian. CTU.

The Doctor: Chloe! Good to meet you, Chloe. [pauses, reflects] I knew a Chloe once. No, Zoe, that was it. She had her memory wiped in the end. Sad day, that one.

Chloe [wearing her I’ve-just-crapped-in-my-pants look]: OK.

The Doctor: Anyway, never mind that. What on earth are you doing on my monitor?

Chloe: I used Jack’s cellphone to run a GPS trace. Then I narrowed down the electrical signals to find a match for nearby closed circuit displays. Then I isolated the feed and managed to broadcast on the same frequency to find you.

The Doctor: …OK.

Chloe: Jack, you look like you’re inside a chamber or something, but according to my readouts the only building within two hundred yards of your current position is a public phone booth. Is there some kind of underground thing that’s not on the blueprints?

The Doctor: Ah. No, that’d be me. It’s my ship. It’s kind of – well, bigger on the inside.

Chloe: Bigger on the inside?

The Doctor: In a manner of speaking, yeah.

Chloe: How is that even possible?

The Doctor: It’s a sort of wibbly-wobbly…timey-wimey…thing.

Chloe: Fine. Whatever…

The Doctor: Anyway. Seeing as you’re here, Chloe, you can help us find this bomb.

Chloe: That’s kind of what I was doing.

Jack: Chloe, we don’t have time for this. Where did you get to on the Geiger emissions?

Chloe: I’ve isolated them and come up with a likely match. The only problem is they’ve already moved the bomb, so you’re going to have to follow the trail.

Jack: Fine. Send it to my screen.

The Doctor: No, wait. Send it to mine.

Chloe: Which one? There’s like seven of them.

The Doctor: The chrono-analysis LED tracker.

Chloe: That doesn’t help me.

The Doctor [exasperated]: Oh, the yellow one.

Chloe: On its way.

The Doctor [dashing over to the yellow screen, takes 3D glasses out of his pocket, puts them on, stares, takes them off]: Right. According to this the emissions were tracking south by southwest at a latitude of seven degrees, so all I should need to do is –

[All of a sudden, the TARDIS shakes violently. Jack and the Doctor are practically knocked off their feet.]

Jack: Doctor? What’s going on?

The Doctor [tapping buttons, running from one screen to another with his ‘concerned’ look]: Some kind of heat signature. It’s ruptured the TARDIS’s readouts and started a small fire in the engine core. For some reason I can’t access the controls, unless I can patch it from here – [he points his screwdriver into the circuitry of an open panel, and it fizzes in a most alarming fashion] – aaaargh! [The Doctor withdraws, clutching his hand] No good. I’ll have to get down to the main circuit room. Probably die in the process. Still, there’s always regeneration. Probably.

Chloe: Give me the details. Maybe I can help remotely.

The Doctor: No, it’s complicated, it’s Gallifreyan and you wouldn’t understand! I haven’t got time to explain it in layman’s terms!

Chloe: I’d appreciate it if you please wouldn’t patronise me like this. It makes it very hard to do my job effectively.

The Doctor [seething, mostly to himself]: Oh, you humans are so awkward! Fine, it’s a basic algorithm from the expanded Fibonnaci sequence, and you have to embed a crossover into the subroutine that’s based on an ASCII array. Then you have to patch the new source code on top of the original binary.

Chloe: Well, why didn’t you say so? I’ve been handling that sort of coding since I was twelve. Hold on.

[She taps rapidly. The TARDIS is lurching and shaking.]

The Doctor: Chloe! You’re going to have to hurry!

Chloe: Working on it!

[Steam is pouring from the vents now, and the vibrations are louder. The cloister bell can be heard in the next room.]

Jack: Chloe, we’re running out of time!

Chloe: I know, Jack! Stop interrupting!

[Her fingers punch the keys with increasing intensity and the sweat pours off her brow. All of a sudden, the TARDIS comes to an abrupt stop, the systems returning to normal. Jack gets to his feet and dusts himself off; the Doctor is leaning on a panel, steadying himself upright, breathing in and out.]

Jack: Chloe, you did it. We’re back in control.

The Doctor: Chloe, I don’t know what to say.

Chloe: Well, ‘thank you for saving my ship’ would probably be a start. Along with ‘I’m sorry for assuming you were a moron’.

The Doctor: Mnyeah, I suppose we could start with the thank you. But no, I mean it, you’re – brilliant. I’ve never seen that sort of technical wizardry in any human. You don’t have a fob watch, do you?

Chloe: Actually yes. It was my grandmother’s.

The Doctor: Yeah? Does it work?

Chloe: Well yeah, of course it does. Why on earth would I keep it if it didn’t?

The Doctor: …Right. Forget I asked.

Jack: Doctor. Now that we’ve fixed things, I need you to use your vehicle to help me track the nucular bomb.

The Doctor: Oh, Jack Bauer, federal agent, I can do better than that. I can take you right there! [He does the hop-around-the-TARDIS dance, twisting dials, pulling levers, holding on to things and pretending it’s a plan.]

Jack [above the TARDIS noise]: What are you doing?

The Doctor: The TARDIS is zeroing in on the Geiger emissions from the bomb. We should be able to get pretty close. Well, within a few yards. Hopefully not right on top, or it’ll be in here. I still remember the last time that happened. Took weeks to clean up.

[The TARDIS comes to a lurching halt.]

Jack: Where are we?

The Doctor [all serious]: It should be just outside.



[The TARDIS door opens. Jack and the Doctor step out into a dimly lit hangar. Jack draws his revolver.]

The Doctor: You’re not gonna use that, are you?

Jack: Only if I have to.

The Doctor: How did your lot ever survive this long?

[Warily, Jack stalks through the hangar. The Doctor follows. A large, coffin-shaped object lies at the side, hidden between a pile of crates.]

Jack: I think we have a visual. Chloe, are you getting this?

Chloe: Yeah. The readings are through the roof. I think it’s the bomb. But I don’t understand why it’s unguarded.

[Jack and the Doctor lean over the edge of the device. The display is marked with complicated, unfamiliar symbols marked out in red.]

Jack: Chloe, we’ve found it. But I don’t recognise the design.

The Doctor: I think I do.

Jack: What can you tell me?

The Doctor: It’s alien. It comes from the Peradon Cluster. They used to use them for mining. You dump the bomb, it explodes, it’s quick radiation dispersal so you can go back in a week, collect the gold, get rich. Devastated the local area, of course. They were outlawed eventually. Obviously a few slipped the net. But that’s not the worst of it, Jack.

Jack: What?

The Doctor: It’s armed. That’s why it’s unguarded. And I don’t know how to stop it.

Jack: What’s the detonation time?

The Doctor: I’d say….within the hour.




Categories: Pastiches | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sherlock to Who

We all know that Benedict Cumberbatch would have made a superb Doctor (and almost did, and still might, one day). We also know that he plays Sherlock (and Moffat writes Sherlock) as a reclusive genius who is not unlike the Doctor. We also know that The Doctor’s aloof genius persona has probably, over time, been derived from that of Sherlock Holmes. We also know that Cumberbatch is friends with Matt Smith. So this latest incarnation is rather like Steve Coogan playing Tony Wilson in the same manner as he played Alan Partridge, who was inspired by the real life Tony Wilson.

But what if we were to make the crossover more explicit, and place Cumberbatch’s Holmes inside the TARDIS – accompanied by Freeman’s Watson – and make him the Doctor? Well, I’m sure it’s been done. It’s certainly been done visually –

(Acquired from this blog, and really quite inspired.)

I’m sure there are plenty of literary pastiches out there as well. And here is mine. It may be similar – indeed, nigh on identical – to a lot of the existing material, but I don’t have the time or inclination to look for any. There’s a danger that if you research similar material too much, it will start to influence your own. This is raw, and probably full of holes, but I wrote it in a hurry and am quite pleased with it.

– – –


[The ship hums gently as it travels through space. We pan across the console; panels fill with diagnostics and lights beep and flash. We can hear – somewhere out of shot – the tones of what may be a violin, but not one of this earth. Pan across: it’s the DOCTOR, debonair and arrogant in appearance, with a shock of black curly hair. He wears a maroon coloured silk shirt and is playing the violin slowly and senuously: an angular, atonal melody. All of a sudden he stops, holds the violin in one hand and picks up a pencil in the other, to make a notation on a piece of manuscript resting on a nearby table.

He has almost finished writing when a nearby console bleeps in alarm, as if giving off a warning signal. The Doctor loses concentration and his pencil slips; irritated, he scrunches up the manuscript into a ball and tosses it at the panel, whereupon the light goes out and the beeping stops. Satisfied, the Doctor lifts the violin once more to his neck and grasps the bow in one hand, but has played three or four notes when the console begins to beep again.]

Enter JOHN WATSON, in striped blue pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers, looking suspiciously like Arthur Dent, towelling his hair.]

John: Are you going to answer that?

The Doctor: Answer what?

John: The distress signal.

The Doctor: Perhaps in a while.

John: It’s been ringing for the last twenty-five minutes. Ever since I went in there.

The Doctor: Twenty-three and a half.

John: Have you been timing it?

The Doctor: No, I’ve been timing you. You always take exactly eleven minutes in the shower, I can tell because of the rise and fall in the water pressure. Allowing for disrobing that’s eleven minutes thirty. Six minutes to dry, of which you spent two shaving; you’ve missed a spot under your chin. Another four minutes to find your pyjamas, you wanted the pale blue ones because it’s Thursday and that always reminds you of the Thursday we went to the marine planet just the other side of Clom, you got sentimental about having to leave the mermaid piranhas so every Wednesday you always wash the pale blue pyjamas so K-9 can iron them in time for Thursday evening. You had to go to the walk-in wardrobe but you got lost because you forgot the TARDIS reconfigured herself last week – the specifics of trans-dimensional architecture never were your strong point. So that’s another two minutes walking round the ship the long way.

John: You know, sometimes I hate you.

The Doctor: No you don’t.

John: Are you composing again?

The Doctor: Yes.

John: After the last time? Music of the Spheres? Do you seriously not remember the fiasco that caused?

The Doctor: I take no responsibility for that night. The appearance of the Graaske had nothing to do with me. And it’s not my fault that the Royal Albert Hall has security to rival Strangeways.

John: Anyway. The distress signal. Are you answering it or not?

The Doctor: No, I’m fed up of solving dull and tedious problems for uneducated rabble.

John: How can you be sure this one is dull and tedious?

The Doctor: It’s the red light. That means it’s within twenty thousand light years. That narrows it down to one of seven planets that we know are either inhabited or contain any sort of life. None of them are interesting.

John: They still may need our help!

The Doctor: [sighs, puts down the violin] Fine. Get me the list.

John: The what?

The Doctor: It’s been going for three days straight, there’s bound to be a list.

John: If it’s been going for three days most of them are probably going to be dead by now, aren’t they?

The Doctor: Try engaging your brain at least sometimes, John, and take a look around you! Where do you think we are?

[There is a pause as John thinks this one through.]

John: Right! The list.

[He snatches a printout from a slot near the machine and begins to read.]

John: Missing colonists on Proxima’s second moon –

The Doctor: Dead.

John: Ghost freighter found drifting in the Delta Quadrant –

The Doctor: Boring. Next!

John: Possible bandits at Ursa Major, ship taking heavy fire –

The Doctor: Meteor shower. It’ll go on for an hour or so and then stop and the residual damage will repair itself. Next!

John: Bees found on Alpha Centuri –

The Doctor: Oh, for God’s sake! I’m better than this. I mean it, really. I am. [looks around] Where’s Mrs Hudson?

John: We left her in the library and said we’d pick her up in a month. You remember?

The Doctor: Vaguely. When was that?

John: Ten years ago.

[There is the noise of a sudden explosion somewhere outside the TARDIS, and the control room shakes violently. Both men are flung off their feet; John steadies himself on a console; The Doctor rebalances himself and then sits down in a battered leather armchair.]

John: What the hell was that?

The Doctor: Some sort of collision. Someone flying through the vortex in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the time stream.

John: [with obvious disdain] Only in this part of the universe.

The Doctor: Please don’t try and get smart, it doesn’t suit you. Just check the screens and see if there’s any damage.

[John punches a few touch-screen displays.]

John: Let’s have a look at you…nothing in the engine room, no sign of shields being impacted, just – ah. Doctor? I think you should come and have a look at this.

The Doctor: Can’t you just describe it to me? I’m not moving for anything less than a spontaneous wormhole.

John: It’s a spontaneous wormhole.

The Doctor: Well. The day just got interesting.

John: And the controls just broke.

The Doctor: What?

John: The panels are dead. Everything seems to have frozen, it’s a total lockout. Almost as if something else –

[There is the shimmering flash of a teleportation device, and a DALEK appears in the control room.]


The Doctor: And here was I thinking it would be a nice quiet evening.


The Doctor: Is that a royal ‘we’?

Dalek: [processes this] EXPLAIN YOURSELF.

The Doctor: You keep using the third person, but as far as I can see, there’s only one of you. Why should I be threatened by only one of you?


The Doctor: Except…

John: Doctor, just…you know, it’s a Dalek. Be careful.

The Doctor: Except…it’s me, isn’t it? I mean, you know me. I’m your biggest nightmare. I’ve defeated you a thousand times. You talk about being the superior race when you’re really just a dustbin with a licorice whirl stuck on the end of a breadstick. You’re absolutely pathetic.

John: [to the Dalek] Please don’t exterminate him. I know how you feel, honest. Sometimes I feel like decking him myself. I’m sure you would, I mean, well – if you had any arms. So anyway, yeah, no exterminating yet, OK?


The Doctor: Or it may be my salvation. Because while you’ve been wittering on, I’ve been moving around you enough to notice a few things. That eye stalk is flickering every seven seconds, which is a sign it’s malfunctioning; you can’t see very much, if you can see at all, and certainly not enough to pilot your way through a wormhole. Faint traces of oil on the lower torso, you’ve undergone maintenance recently but you still leak, you’re battle damaged as the crack on your left side shows – self-repair should have fixed that, unless it’s not working….but the biggest clue of all that you’re not much of a threat to us is the simple fact that you cast no shadow. Which means that you’re not really here at all. Which means that I can do this –

[And before anyone can stop him, the Doctor runs his hand clear through the Dalek, which is obviously a hologram.]

The Doctor: – and oh look. Thin air. You’re a projection.

[And abruptly, the Dalek vanishes.]

John: It was never here? In our heads or something, some kind of hallucination?

The Doctor: Oh grow up, what do you think this is? No, it was real all right, just controlled. We were supposed to think it was here, which would have made it a threat, but it was somewhere else. However. The life readings indicate something’s on board the ship, which means that even if the Dalek itself wasn’t real, the thing controlling it….most certainly…

Voice [off]: Oh, bravo! Bravo!

[Slow clapping as the owner of the voice – a sinister but mildly camp Irish accent – comes into full view. It is of course JIM MORIARTY, criminal mastermind.]

The Doctor: I wondered when you’d show again. I just can’t get rid of you, can I?

Moriarty: I’m like an erect member in the presence of a lovely man. I just keep turning up.

John: [staggered] But…he was dead. I saw the body, I saw his corpse.

Moriarty: Gunshot wound to the head, wasn’t it? John, I’m disappointed. You really didn’t think this through, did you?

John: Apparently not.

Moriarty: Well, maybe your gay lover has figured it out.

John: I’m not –

The Doctor: He’s not –

John:  – I mean, we’re not – well never mind what I mean. What do you mean?

Moriarty: Doctor? Tell him.

[The Doctor is silent, hesitating. He appears not to know the answer.]

Moriarty: Well! This is a turn-up for the books. There’s me thinking you and I were on the same wavelength. I sell you a puzzle and you’re convinced it’s the truth. You’re getting complacent in your old age.

The Doctor: I’m 1153. Still young, by Time Lord standards.

Moriarty: Mmm-hmm. I can relate to that.

[John looks from one to the other in confusion, and The Doctor’s eyebrow visibly arches as he takes in this news.]

Moriarty: And the penny drops. There I was, using my real name and everything.

The Doctor: Except it was shortened. This time you reversed it. And switched to anagrams. Rich Book…Reichenbach. James Moriarty….

Moriarty: Majority…Master.

John: What?

Moriarty: Back from the dead. Regeneration was a bitch this time round. I had to grow a whole new face. Well, that happens every time, but there’s usually something there to start with. It hurts. And I. Will hurt. You.

The Doctor: You were him…but your shortened name missed out three of the letters of Master. That’s why I missed it. Stupid. Stupid, stupid. [Facepalm]

Moriarty: And sloppy. Makes me think of you as terminally disadvantaged, like a kitten with one leg. I almost feel inclined to spare you as a result, but I don’t think I will.

John: What’s your plan?

Moriarty: You, are, basically, this gigantic thorn. Except it seems I can never quite pull you out. Because every time I do, you find a way to worm your way back into my bleeding hands. Oh, there’s a lot of blood on them. Some of it’s yours, some of it isn’t. Have you been to the library lately, Doctor?

The Doctor: The library?

John: Mrs Hudson.

The Doctor: If you’ve hurt her, I’ll –

Moriarty: You’ll what? You’ll get cross and shout a bit and then you’ll go into a three-day fug where you don’t talk to anyone and spend a long time standing on rooftops looking broody. You don’t think I can afford to have people watch you every second? Anyway relax, I’ve not hurt her yet. But I might. You could, of course, turn over the TARDIS and then let me kill you first. Or you could refuse, and while you’re gallantly thinking of a way to stop me I can snap my fingers and the sniper I’ve got rigged up in the library will pull the trigger.

The Doctor: You’re bluffing.

Moriarty: Maybe. Are you really prepared to risk that?

The Doctor: Yes.

Moriarty: I don’t think you are. Nor does your friend there.

John: Just…let her go. You can have the TARDIS, I’m sure we can –

The Doctor: No. [to John] Can you imagine what a lunatic like this would do with this machine? The only way we could stop him from destroying the universe last time round was by taking away his own TARDIS. We can’t even consider giving it to him. Not for a second.

John: But if we don’t, we’ll lose Mrs Hudson. And we can’t go back and rescue her, because that means crossing the timeline.

Moriarty: Ooh, clever. You’ve obviously been teaching him, it’s like watching a dog learn to play piano. So what’s it going to be, Doctor? You give me the TARDIS and you’ll probably find a way to stop me and then at some point I’ll kill you anyway, but God knows how much irreparable damage I’ll have done in the meantime. Or…

The Doctor: I stop you now…and Mrs Hudson dies.

Moriarty: Bimbo. You have ten seconds. Choose.

[Shot of John, looking from one to the other, bewildered. Then Sherlock, anxious, frowning, undecided. Then cut to black.]

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