S2-03 "Bedtime Stories"
The Doctor awakes to find himself lying in an untidy bedroom filled with junk that looks like his personal possessions. Confused, he emerges from the bedroom to find himself in an apartment converted from an old gymnasium, early in the morning. It is then that Bad Religion’s 21st Century Digital Boy plays shockingly loudly and the Doctor realizes he can no longer speak while it plays. Suddenly, as if in fast forward he sees Benjamin and Rose emerge from separate bedrooms, rush around, use the bathroom, change their clothes, have breakfast, appear to argue, then leave and return.
The music ends and the Doctor finds himself able to speak. Rose is reading a paper and grunts monosyllables. Benjamin is rather fey and rude to the Doctor, too concerned in his appearance and sex life to care about the Doctor’s questions like what happened, where are they, what happened to the TARDIS.
Suddenly, the phone rings and Benjamin answers it, talks charmingly down the phone and hangs up. The Doctor lifted up the other handset – no one was talking. However, as Benjamin moves away from the phone he suddenly has a panic attack and sets off the fire alarm, finally gaining Rose’s attention.
As he and Rose try to calm down Benjamin and learn what happened, the Doctor realizes his companions can hear him perfectly well – as long as he seems to stick to certain topic, relating to immediate events. The moment he mentions time travel, they seem to not realize he’s talking.
Benjamin finally calms enough to explain that the voice on the phone (which the Doctor couldn’t hear) was the lady at the local tax office. They have an appointment at two o’clock and he’s unwittingly confirmed they’ll be there. Rose and Benjamin find this terrifying news and prepare to flee to Barbados. The Doctor tries them down to no avail, but at least they can hear his voice.
The Doctor insists that the tax office can’t be so troubling and Benjamin bitches that it is unfair that they have to go again so soon. Rose realizes that Benjamin is right - they already went to the tax office to do their taxes a couple of months ago. So what could they want now? Benjamin comes up with more and more ridiculous ideas and despite the Doctor’s urgings, Rose suddenly and dramatically wonders what happened such a long time ago.
Suddenly, the apartment seems to wobble from side to side, blurring and rippling. The Doctor is alarmed as, with the noise of a strumming harp, the apartment dissolves to replaced with a tidy tax office with pot plants, filing cabinets and just across the street from the local pub. He is more concerned to discover not only is everything now black and white but he, Benjamin, and Rose are now wearing bad 1960s funk gear. But before he can mention the fact he has to wait for Jimmi Hendrix's All Alone In The Watchtower to finish playing.
Rose and Benjamin suddenly complain that their trip to the tax office has ruined their 1960s revival night. The Doctor realizes that the black-and-white, bad outfits and period music were just the set up to some rather poor sight gag. He and the others are trapped in some kind of situation comedy. "A fate worse than death," he deadpans.
Benjamin and Rose continue to ignore the Doctor until he plays along. Apparently Benjamin recently filled in multiple dole forms and defrauded the social services out of thirty thousand pounds which he now has to pay back – and he’s down to twenty-six due to the countless get-rich-quick schemes he comes up with every week. However, Benjamin is worried the tax people have called him here specifically for that. Rose reminds that due to the way they pay their taxes directly out of their pay, this is a mere formality. They might even get a refund.
Benjamin is unimpressed and heavily hints the Doctor should try and cheer him up with a magic trick involving a piece of paper in the Time Lord’s pocket. The only paper there is a group certificate made out to ‘Doctor John Smith’ and so not the sort of thing tear up, but Rose insists the Doctor must. With a sigh he folds up the certificate and tears it into pieces with the magic words, ‘I’m sorry, the trick is a fake.’ Clearly the plot requires him not to have his certificate.
The trio enter the office. Rose’s stuff is in order but the accountant can't help Benjamin - he doesn't have one job, and needs an accountant to do his stuff. And she's fully booked for the rest of the year. Benjamin's fury is quelled when he learns there'll just be another appointment next year and he won't even get fined. As the Doctor has torn up his group certificate, he’ll just have to return with Benjamin later.
Impatiently, the Doctor waits as the harm strums and the tax office ripples back to the ‘present’. The Doctor tries to take charge, but Rose continually buts in and steals his words as her own. All is well and all they need to do is just take their accounts up to the tax office, and bob's your uncle. The Doctor rolls his eyes, suspecting the next twist in the tale. The accounts have no doubt gone missing?
Benjamin and Rose head for the cardboard box marked ACCOUNTS and are shocked to find it empty. The Doctor notes that the date under ‘ACCOUNTS’ is so blurred as to be unreadable – obviously, done so the repeats won’t alienate the viewers. What there are of them. It strikes the Doctor that someone must be watching this and gets a shocking headache when he tries to communicate with them.
Giving up, the Doctor rejoins the plot. Since the accounts are not where they should be and no where else springs to mind, Benjamin is panicking and Rose impatiently prompts the Doctor to panic likewise. Deciding to try and speed things up, the Doctor joins in and starts making more and more outlandish comedy gags... only to lose some enthusiasm when it appears he’s not half as mad as the character he’s supposed to be.
The trio debate their options. They could: fake their own deaths; flee the country; deny everything; or try to explain to the accountants they've lost their accounts? Despite Benjamin's suggestions, they decide to do the latter. The trio are suddenly walking up a hill towards the tax office which is just across the road for the pub. A discussion over how the two establishments compliment each other (stiff drink before seeing the tax agents or afterwards) leads to Rose suddenly announcing she got a letter that morning for her tax return. She has a spare two hundred pounds in her kick so Benjamin rudely orders she buy them a round of liquor to act as Dutch courage.
Suddenly in the pub, the Doctor notes that Benjamin and Rose do not like their chosen drinks of a ‘fire engine’ and ‘water’, but drink them anyway. Benjamin suddenly pulls out a newspaper from his pocket and insists they read it and make insightful comment on contemporary issues before they do anything sensible like get all the tax stuff over and done with. Rose notes an article about a racist, bigoted local MP and they mock it until the Doctor suddenly remembers that Jack Harkness recently adjusted the feng shei of the apartment - he must know where it is!
Suddenly they are back in the apartment as Rose rings Jack. The Doctor wonders how he’s become part of the script and realizes that when he drank his beer at the pub he’s been sucked in deeper. He tries to remember the TARDIS and reality, but suffers another brain-splitting headache.
Rose announces that Jack is out of the country and left the phone off the hook. Benjamin mutters that Jack’s got his own series and won’t be back in this little show that spawned his career. Rose berates him, pointing out that Jack was her friend who sacrificed himself fighting the Daleks to save her. Before wondering how she can know that.
The Doctor realizes that their captor, in concentrating on him, is loosening his grip on his companions. Desperately he urges them to help him when suddenly wakes up in bed again. The whole day happens again like a TV recap and in moments time returns to Rose hanging up the phone and saying Jack is out of the country. Benjamin suggests they simply think like Jack and work out where he’d put the accounts.
The Jack Benjamin and Rose talk of is a sensible, level-headed person and not an omnisexual time agent. As Benjamin and Rose struggle to pretend to be Jack and recreate the afternoon in question, the Doctor sees the accounts they need materialize on a shelf no one searched earlier. As the Doctor grabs it, they reappear in the pub.
Benjamin and Rose order another drink and the Doctor angrily tears up their accounts to try and break the pattern. He awakes in bed and time rushes forward until Rose can snatch the pages out of his hands and stop him tearing them up. The Doctor leaps over the bar and smashes all the glasses, suddenly finding himself outside the tax office with Rose and Benjamin in tow. The shop is shut after two and they have missed their appointment.
The Doctor unlocks the door with his sonic screwdriver and finds himself back in the apartment as Rose and Benjamin get HIM to act like Jack and locate the accounts. This manufactured reality is beginning to break down – Rose and Benjamin are getting their lines mixed up and are finding each other to attractive to insult.
Time rushes forward to the end of the episode where the Doctor and Rose dump a bound-gagged-shirtless Benjamin next to a free garage sale and walk off down the hill. Time rushes forward and the episode restarts.
The recap leaves the Doctor, Benjamin and Rose standing in a office. Although their minds are now free, their bodies aren’t and they are helpless. Their drunken forms knock things over, bump into each other. Rose realizes that the characters are drunk and refusing to go home empty handed have broken into the tax office. Benjamin realizes he is trying to write an anonymous note (which he still signs) to the accountant.
Suddenly, the trio are standing on the street again. When Benjamin realized the punchline of the scene they were jerked to the next. The Doctor decides to return to the apartment. But Rose unintentionally spots the gag of this scene – they didn’t break and enter the tax office, but the veterinary clinic next door!
Time rewinds. They appear back in the wrecked office, which is now covered in slander about the MP they read in the newspaper. As they cannot leave the office until the gag is made, the trio deduce that it was the characters deciding to blame and break-and-enter on someone they hated who was nevertheless innocent.
Suddenly the trio are being booted out of the tax office. The Doctor sees a garage sale across the road and together with Rose ties up Benjamin and dumps him there. Just as the episode starts to end they find themselves back in the veterinary clinic being chased by the sound of rabid dogs. Rose finds herself pouring anti-flea treatment all over the Doctor as the trio snap back to real tax office.
The MP is there as well and, determined to get thrown out, the Doctor and Rose have a huge tantrum. How dare the tax agents do the accounts of someone as evil as the MP – they will not be using this again! They storm out and prepare to tie up Benjamin again when Rose realizes that their characters must have known they’ll need a new tax office to do their accounts.
The episode re-starts and zaps to the end before re-winding back and forth. Suddenly the Doctor is standing in the office making an impassioned speech about Britain and how he earned his right to use whatever taxation office he damned well chooses even if he did just insult them so terribly. The Doctor fights against the words and...
The TARDIS crew are standing in a bright white room with the police box in the corner. Three figures in robes (the bartender, the MP and the accountant) are furious. The TARDIS translator system broke through their conditioning and released the time travelers from their programmed course. The robed figures wish to watch the same sitcom episode over and over again, but for maximum impact they needed living beings, not recordings.
So they kidnapped the TARDIS crew, brainwashed them to become the sitcom characters and let them loose in the plot. But now this is ruined. The Doctor and the others will have to die. The Doctor shouts at Benjamin and Rose to tackle their captors and swap places with them. The leader, realizing what is happening, tries to reactivate the room...
The three housemates are in the tax office where Rose is the accountant and Benjamin is the MP. One of them realizes all the accounts needed was already at the tax office! All the stuff is from the next financial year! Taking this calmly, the other two grab the third, drag him outside and tie him up next to a free garage sale. Benjamin and Rose run into the pub where the bartender is the Doctor and the jukebox the TARDIS. They hide inside as, with a blast of 21st Century Digital Boy, the episode restarts.
The Doctor explains that when they swapped positions, their captors were downloaded to become the regular characters rather than extras (who have free will), but with no TARDIS to help them, they will now be unable to escape or even realize they’re trapped. The Doctor prepares to take off, but Benjamin finds the idea of leaving the three of them trapped in an episode of a sitcom rather cruel. Rose thinks that they wanted to watch it forever, now they get to be in it forever. The Doctor agrees. They would have wanted the real thing sooner or later.
DOCTOR: As for us, we get something even better than the real thing!
The TARDIS vanishes from the apartment as one of the robed figures gets a phone call from the tax office...