Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Salvaged from the BackUp Archive...

Three stories I wrote circa 2000 as some kind of short story competition that, typically enough, were immediately forgotten and never heard of again.

Perhaps for good reason.


The house on the corner is for sale again.

How many times is that now, David wondered. The ‘FOR SALE’ sign seemed to be being constant erected and then brought down. The tall, curly-haired woman from the estate agency was always showing the place off to various potential buyers. Of course, memory can play tricks on you, but David had asked around once for want of a conversation topic and learnt it had been on the market at least eighteen times that year.

David wondered why. It wasn’t a particularly nasty house, was it? A one-level Federation cottage on a street corner with a generous backyard, electricity, water... For short periods people would live in it, then mysteriously move away – sometimes within days of buying it, others after months of use.

One day, he spotted two butch-looking workers steadying the ‘FOR SALE’ sign again and grumbling a lot. David boggled. He now he noticed that the sign did not bear the name of the real estate agent he had just walked past.

His curiosity was now uncontrollable and, the moment the two artisans were out of sight, he scurried up the front path and found the front door unlocked. Inside, the house was cool and dark – most of the windows covered by blinds and all the lights were off. David felt disappointed. There was nothing special here – nothing even creepy.

He was about to turn and leave when he saw them. A man and a woman. Both lying on the floor, still and silent. Their skin was grey. They were dead.

David scrambled over to the bodies, but there was nothing he could do. Two puncture marks on their necks.

‘Afternoon, David,’ said a soft voice.

David turned and saw the real estate woman lounging in the shadows, absently licking her finger-tips, which seemed stained with tomato sauce. But it wasn’t tomato sauce.

‘How do you know my name?’ David asked, voice tight and scared.

‘I know many things,’ the woman replied. ‘I know that you’ve been curious about the goings-on in this house. I know that you finally have decided to confront it. Admirable, but flawed.’

‘What is going on here, then?’ David asked.

‘A service,’ the woman replied. ‘Supply and demand. I require a supply, others have a demand. A demand that certain people... disappear. I think you can guess what my supply is.’ She grinned, showing off her fangs.

‘You’re a vampire?’

‘If you like. I’m just trying to make a living, just like everyone else. I do get lonely from time to time, and I think I’ve found the perfect excuse for some company. Eternal company.’

David wanted to run, but couldn’t move. The woman casually wandered over to him.

‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ she sang. ‘But satisfaction brought it back.’

It didn’t hurt. For long.

The house on the corner is for sale again.


Lexita walked into the middle of the clearing and placed the pale white crystal on the ground. Behind him, he could hear figures scrambling through the undergrowth, hacking at vegetation with their swords. The Higher Ones’ retinue were already after him. In moments they would capture him and return him for judgement – but there could be but one punishment for his crime.

The Higher Ones had ascended to power over the land when their ancestors had collected the crystal and kept it out of harm’s way. The people seemed to believe that this was a great service and had treated the Higher Ones with more and more respect. Now, hardly anyone knew of the crystal at all.

Lexita knew about it, though. And he knew what it was capable of. Which was why he’d stolen it.

‘Don’t do it,’ whispered a voice.

Lexita glanced up at the sky-jellyfish he had befriended, Afrus. Sky-jellyfish knew lots of secrets and would tell you one for some of the berries they enjoyed. Lexita had turned to Afrus when Kiera had died, and they had become close friends. And shared many secrets.

‘I have to do it,’ Lexita replied, sitting cross-legged before the crystal.

‘It was imprisoned for a reason,’ Afrus persisted.

‘Will it bring her back?’

‘Yes,’ the animal admitted. ‘But at a price.’

‘No price is too high.’

‘Don’t be stupid, Lexita. Yes, this crystal can bring you anything you desire, but it must destroy something so the balance is maintained. That is why the Higher Ones were revered – they took the crystal but made sure no one ever used it, for whatever reason.’

‘I don’t care. I can’t go on like this.’

‘Please, Kiera’s death was an accident! No one blames you – that statue was an eyesore anyway, she always said so... She wouldn’t want you to do it.’

‘Let’s ask her then. Crystal, I command that Kiera Darin be brought here, back to life and in perfect health this very instant!’ Lexita ordered the gemstone he had stolen. It glowed with a brilliant light, brighter and brighter and brighter... He could just hear Afrus cursing his stupidity when the light dimmed.

Kiera was standing on the other side of the crystal, looking around her in confusion. As she turned to face him, her eyes lit up and she smiled that smile of hers. Lexita, feeling happier than he had ever been before, leapt to his feet and ran towards her.

The crystal suddenly turned ink-black. To Kiera’s astonishment, colour and substance began to drain out of Lexita, leaving him a kind of translucent wraith. The transparent Lexita frowned, and managed a few more steps before disappearing completely. The crystal returned to normal.

Kiera’s face folded in dismay, and Afrus turned to try and explain the situation to the Higher One’s guards as they approached the clearing.

‘There has to be a balance,’ it whispered sadly.


To: My Subjects
From: King Dega IV of Darlon Prime
My people, I communicate with you now on a matter of vital importance.

Our world has reached the point where further economic expansion is impossible.

If our society is to continue we must make a choice – either radical adjustments to legislation and public services, or expansion of our empire to include the neighboring solar system and all planets within.

So... who’s up for the second option?

To: King Dega
From: Chancellor Ven

Sire, I have undertaken a feasibility study on your behalf.

Only one planet in the system is suitable for our esteemed life form. All the rest are uninhabitable for a variety of reasons I will not bore you with. The suitable planet has a dominant hominid life form at a level five civilization – however cultural and ideological clashes mean that they are at constant war with each other and have not had the time to implement full eco-friendly technology. There’s also a hole in the ozone layer and the atmosphere will need general purification.

As for the inhabitants... Well, they’ll just have to go.

To: Chancellor Ven
From: King Dega

Ven, I have studied your reports closely and agree that this planet is the only viable target. Organic resources are virtually untapped and our eco-acceleration teams should be able to sort out the pollution.

However, as an ostensibly peace-loving race, we’re going to need a good excuse for genocide. I mean, their weaponry is puny and biologically these humans are quite our inferiors, are they not? No, the old ‘failure to communicate’ just isn’t going to work this time.

Any ideas?

To: King Dega
From: Militant Friar Ker

Sire, I am replying to your message about the proposed annihilation of our

While the galactic village will not take any violent action lightly, we can all agree that we are left with no choice. I suggest we send an invasion fleet to seed the atmosphere with a programmed virus. Officially, this will be to stun the populace and reduce their violent tendencies. Unfortunately, due to our regrettable lack of knowledge of human biology, this wiped out the entire race.

Then, should follow a cycle of mourning, tragic mistakes, proposed memorials for the race. We should emphasize the tragedy but also the fact that the humans weren’t exactly going to be missed. Emphasize their primitivism and resistance to peaceful expansion, and subtly turn the attention onto a planet perfect for our needs.

We must not be wasteful, whatever the circumstances.

To: Militant Friar Ker
From: King Dega

I like you, Ker.

To: My Subjects
From: King Dega IV of Darlon Prime

My people, I communicate with you on news that brings tears to my eye-pods.

Stark disaster has struck our primitive neighbors.

Reports are not yet clear, but it appears that a tragic accident has caused planetary extinction.

I have already set up a full inquiry in what could possibly have caused this disaster...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

When Zen... De-Fragged!

Escape Velocity

"You cannot hide from us. You are glass. We see all that you are."

Yes, Blake's 7: The Early (And Far Superior To The Usual Stuff) Years continues apace, and it seems that the wonderful reviews on this blog - dude, I don't see anyone ELSE reviewing them, do you? - have apparently inspired B7P to abandon their now long-long-long-long-long-awaited Season 2 and decide to focus on these prequels. Check out the new-branded design above and see origin stories are on the cards for Tarrant and Soolin, yet more characters who have yet to appear in the main series. In fact, the only real downer about this development is it's clear the VERY LONG TIME in between stories suggests that the audio adventures is on its last legs. Which would be good if there was someone to fill the gap with, I dunno, a TV series starring David Harewood, Bernard Cribbens and Billie Piper...

OK. Onto Zen. Never the most interesting of the Seven, it must be said, and his best moments usually relied on his relationships with other characters. The glimpse we see of "normal" Zen in Redemption doesn't make him seem particularly memorable, let alone interesting. The question is: would we rather have the deadpan computer of the TV series or the feral psychotic god-deluded murderer of the audios? And given The Early Years' blatant disregard for its own continuity, let alone anyone else's, why should we care? I mean, are they really expecting us to want to know what Zen was doing the night Blake won the election?

On with, ow you zay, ze motley.

The story starts with an Alta (played by Yvonne arguing with Zen, pretty pissed off that the flight computer of DSV2 is claiming to be a Bhuddist concept controlling a rebel spaceship. Zen is really rather happy to be fighting the System (so to speak), and the deeply annoyed cyborgs decide to reboot the muthaboarder to find out what the hell went wrong. Following that theme tune (ahhh, there's nothing like a reliable disappointment, is there?), we hear Zen's damage report after some attack or other. The ship's completely knackered and the computer starts to lose his cool, convinced that the crew have betrayed him - THE UNGRATEFUL BASTARDS! One such ungrateful bastard, the Pilot (played by Steven Fry's girlfriend in Death Comes to Time), is running through the corridors, mocking Zen for destroying her life. "Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me?!" Zen screams...

...give me strength... the Pilot bitches how horrible life was being an organic component. The Pilot twigs that Zen (or "the Ship-Mind 5393" as everyone calls him) is being rather more emotional and illogical than he should be - the Pilot's a rogue element that lead to the break out in the first place, and she's left the whole shebang out of its freaking mind! Fancy that! Well, in what could be a further flashback... inside the first flashback... the Pilot wakes up in a cryo-pod thing being tended by a mellow guy calling himself a Healer. Oh-kaaaaaay.

Both the Pilot and the Healer have been mind-wiped and cyborg-nized by the System, leaving them nothing of their past but the knowledge to work as part of the ships. Then an avatar (what the Altas are called in this continuity) arrives and inducts the pair of them, despite the fact that the Pilot's mind-wipe clearly isn't working quite so well, given she's so uncomfortable with the job situation. The avatar leads them aboard the Liberator (or DSV2 as it was back then), joining the crew of Seeker, Tech, Gunner, Drone, Supreme, Strategist, Eternal... hang on...

Cut to a different flashback when the Liberator is in dire straights and Pilot and Healer have mutinied when the ship was damaged in a space battle and Zen's gone homicidal, killing the other crewmembers with its lethal skutters. Pilot suggests teleporting to the planet they happen to be passing.

A different flashback when the crew was in its earlier, funnier days when everyone was a happy zombie tinkering with the space cruiser and getting pissed on adrenaline and soma. Unfortunately, the tipsy crew pilot the Liberator straight into the solar flares of a red giant. After Pilot steers them to safety, Zen begins to flirt outrageously with her, intrigued by her rogue emotions and a bit jealous of the URST between her and Healer. Zen notes that the System is currently waging a war against a "nameless, powerful and predatory threat" from another quantum reality, and they really can't let domestics get in the way of fighting the Dale... er, the enemy. Pilot's a bit annoyed at the lack of info on their foes, since this IS a Terry Nation series. Zen fobs her off with some philosophical bollocks about mind-wipes not being important and stuff: it don't matter who you were, but what you are. Stuff like that.

Post-mutiny, where Healer's freaking out as his own mind-wipe starts to break down and Pilot reminds him that the skutters are going to kill them. The other surviving crew want to sabotage Zen and shut down said skutters rather than keeping Pilot's "leg it" plan. You can tell she's become cynical, because she's suddenly espousing survival above all else in the exact way she wasn't before. Anyway, Zen uses the architectural configuration to seal off some of the crew in a room and then zapping them to ash (presumably the scorch marks that Vila and Gan find in the second episode... wow, continuity!). Only Pilot and Healer are left alive, and not in a good mood as the skutters close in...

Back to a flashback where Pilot and Healer meet Gunner and Tech for the first time and idly chat about the fact that the last Pilot went batshit crazy and tried to kill them all when his mind-wiped failed. Pilot insists she's stable and tech notes, "that's what he said."

Forward as Pilot and Healer reach the teleport but - alas the matter coils are broken: only one person can teleport at a time. Zen finally twigs that he hasn't microwaved the entire crew and starts shouting across the ship, screaming "COME OUT, COME OUT LITTLE PIGGIES! ZEN WANTS TO FINGER YOUR ENTRAILS!! YOU MUST SEE THE LOGIC IN THAT..." (well... more or less...). Zen changes tact and suggests they sit down, have a cup of tea and hardwire the crew back into the CPU. Healer freaks out, determined to keep his memories of a summer holiday at Bognor Regis and dives into the teleport.

"Will this hurt?" he asks.

"I don't know," Pilot admits. "I've never done it before!"

...stop sniggering, Verkoff.

With a funky variation of the usual noise, Pilot switches on the teleport... but Zen, sucking his trousers and laughing like a madman, reverses the polarity and Healer is (to coin the very technical phrase) "telefragged". Pilot is left alone as the skutters attack, as Zen demands to know why the bitch is making him do this?! This is all her fault, damnit! Oh, it's like Streetcar Named Desire only with more solid-state circuitry!

Flashback to Pilot and Healer having an after-hours bonk, but Zen keeps prank-calling them before they can get to the good stuff, claiming the Dal... the enemy are here. Healer's a bit taken aback that Zen's stalking them and deeply annoyed that Pilot's getting her sugar from some stupid anthropoid instead of his funky frame. But he doesn't tell the System that the crewmembers are getting frisky and rebellious cause, well, he's a disturbed nutter with abandonment issues. Obviously. In return for a cuddle, Zen is willing to tell Pilot who she was before she was mind-wiped, though as Healer points out, getting this cathartic experience in the middle of the war zone is probably not the best time. Zen explains that the people of the System are clones grown and personalities downloaded into them - they weren't mind-wiped, they simply had no past in the first place. So. Yeah.

Flashforward as Pilot is quietly going crazy, being the only survivor and being hunted down by Zen - even though she took off her all-purpose teleport bracelet so he couldn't find her. "You sicken me," she shouts in a funky Steve Foxx impression, reminding Zen he's as demented as she as, he just is an emotionless psycho. Zen retorts that he DOES feel emotions, actually, and the conversation predictably deteriorates from thereon in. Zen thinks the malfunction that allowed the crew to mutiny simply drove them insane instead of allowed them feeling. Basically, he says she's nuts and he's sane, so up hers! But Pilot points out a flaw in his argument: if she has no past, how come she and the Healer can remember things they never saw?

Zen doesn't have an answer for that and so Pilot dives into the nearest airlock and space herself into oblivion, knowing her sacrifice will break Zen's heart - so the metal bastard can feel as bad as she does when he telefragged her boyfriend. "Please!" Zen begs her to stop, but that's a bluff to get a skutter outside the airlock to fuse the hatch. She can't commit suicide, and she either stays in the airlock and dies when the ship either crashes from lack of crew or gets blown up by the... Trods... but Zen promises to tell her THE REAL AWFUL TRUTH in return for her piloting the Liberator to safety.

Earlier, the Liberator are fighting the, er, Trods with their mighty golden saucers and singularity bombs and, basically, getting their arses kicked by a race of evil monsters who don't have legs. Avatar, Pilot, Gunner, Healer and Tech watch as the other DSVs are blown to smithereens. In order to save the suspiciously-named DSV7, Pilot mutinies against Avatar and pilots the Liberator into the battle against orders. DSV7 dematerializes to safety, leaving the Liberator to be used as target practice by the Trods. The damage gives the entire crew an ice cream headache and restores their free will. "I have been disconnected," boggles Zen, to rhyme with "ooh, fuck!" Pilot cunningly suggests they also dematerialize to escape destruction and, amazingly enough, this works...

Flashforward as Pilot agrees to pilot the damaged Liberator to safety while the Skutters loiter around her like Hitchcock nightmares. Telling Zen off for his Exposition Overloads and assumption they'd be best friends after he splatterated her lover, Pilot finds the Liberator is tumbling out of control to that planet it was going to crash into when Blake and his wacky sidekicks. Pilot refuses to help until she finds out the truth. "I thought machines couldn't lie but you lied to us all!"

"It is more accurate to say, I omitted certain truths," Zen retorts.

Zen admits that Pilot isn't a clone. The System uses clones, but the war effort meant they needed recruits, so they've been abducting humans from colony worlds, mind-wiping them and using them as emergency replacements. Pilot freaks out massively as she remembers they kidnapped her in front of her own daughter, especially when Zen refuses to even try to restore her memories. The flight computer is IMMENSELY pissed off when she gets all teary instead of keeping to their bargain, waffling on about her mind-rape and murdering all her friends and family. "I told you the truth!" he shouts at her. "We had a bargain!!!"

Despite Zen's insistance that they can all be happy and labotomized people if Pilot just freaking bothers to pilot them out of harm's way, Pilot snatches up a Liberator gun and prepares to blow her own brain out. Zen is convinced she's bluffing, as no one would value "freedom" over survival. But he's forced to review that opinion when Pilot's headless corpse hits the deck.

Back to the present as Zen announces that he's decided the Pilot was right about being free and he's going to stay that way, no matter how many cold boots these Cyberman-wannabe bastards give him. The System, unimpressed, determine to crack Avon's firewalls and... well, I guess the rest will be in the next season.

Should there be one.

Well, that wasn't a bad story, but would it really have hurt them to simply do a linear narrative for once? JUST FOR ONCE? And Zen was an obsessive Hal 5000 computer than fell in lust with a girl that broke his heart. Um, OK, I didn't see that coming... mainly because we've alreayd used this plot twist with Avon, Gan and Jenna! Seriously, I never gave much thought to what happened to Zen pre-Space Fall, but this has to be the least imaginative version I'd read. I mean... This just didn't impress me as a solution for a mystery thirty years old. Maybe because no one was really interested to start with. I mean, a bunch of characters we know are going to die... die. And are conveniently mind-zapped zombies. Oh, what fascinating characterization.

Escape Velocity's a decent story, the trouble is it's based on a crap premise.

And is ANYONE falling for the "nameless" extra-dimensional invaders who exterminate all life they come across? Seriously?!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Doctor Who - The War-Bonds of Skaro


There was a girl I used to know
She dealt my love a savage blow
I was so young, too blind to see
But anyway, that's history

You say I always play the fool
I can't go on if that's the rule
Better to jump than hesitate
I need a change and I can't wait!

Deep in the night, it's all so clear
I lie awake with great ideas
Lurking about in No Man's Land
I think at last I understand

"History never repeats"
I tell myself before I go to sleep
"Don't say the words you might regret
I lost before, you know I can't forget."

The Doctor and Amy arrive in blitzed London where Professor Bracewell has built two "Ironsides" that can wipe out the Nazis, and no one has any problem with that. The Doctor does - the "Ironsides" are simply Daleks painted green and acting stupid. But no one knows who the Daleks are, so he alone has to try and prove how freaking dangerous they are. Which turns out to be a mistake, because the Daleks need the Doctor's seal of approval on record before they can redesign the brand template and create a new race of merchandising, er, Daleks. With the mighty destructive powers of a jam biscuit and some spitfires that work in space, the Doctor... ensures this story is completely-self-contained and has no immediate bearing on anything else.

A script by Mark Gatiss. Oh, let joy be unconfined.

In fairness to MG (who else do we know with those initials, hmmm?), as an actor he's quite good. The only time he's given a bad performance is in You Know What (Equity Card), which suggests maybe his talent had left the room completely for the duration. As for his writing, well, I didn't mind Nightshade - the worst bits oddly enough involved trying to characterize the Seventh Doctor and Ace - and it was David Walliams who ruined Phantasmagoria. Invaders of Mars was ultimately crap, but if I'm fair I can't see anyone making anything decent out of the "hilarious" idea of real Martians invading during the Orson Welles crisis.

As for his TV work...

OK, I have mentioned in passing posts I tend to visualize the writers as wierd avatars - Chris Chibnall as (occasionally) Morpheus from The Matrix, Robert Holmes as Zaphod Beeblebrox albeit with the heads of Avon and Vila... well if I were to think of Mr. Gatiss, it would be... Mr. Gatiss. Sitting at an ancient typewriter, not doing anything, but with a strange contended smile on his face. Lost in the sheer joy he is writing for a show that once had Jon Pertwee in it.

It's ironic that Mad Larry loses it over Gatiss, considering they are incredibly similar. They both hate working with other people's formats, instinctively rebel, and have pissed off people it would be stupid to piss off with ill-thought comments. Plus the fact I don't find either of them half as amusing as they claim to be. To misquote the Second Doctor, "Give Lawrence Miles control of Doctor Who and he'd fill it full of Faction Paradox!" but "Give Mark Gatiss control of Doctor Who and he'd fill it full of Quatermass!"

From the very beginning I'd disliked The Idiot's Lantern for its strange rejection of anything we'd call plot and drama. I once said "it had no purpose other than filling the time slot", something I stand by. Behind-the-scenes-details (including the abandoned "comedy" ending that may have had something to do with MG not writing for the show again until the regime change) made me dislike it even more. RTD's original idea for the episode was a 1960s rock and roll story with Rose meeting her grandmother when she was young and cool. MG refused and instead wrote a story set in the 1950s, rejecting every possible connection to Doctor Who 2006. No mention of Mickey, and even the obligatory Torchwood was jammed in at the last minute. It was as if Gatiss simply didn't want to write for Doctor Who, and even the main characters were there under sufferance. MG has gone on record he deliberately refused to plot out half the story on the grounds he just wanted Quatermass imagery (the faceless zombies clenching their hands apparently - oh, well, a visual reference to something 97% of the human race haven't actually seen justifies everything, doesn't it?). "Why should a story made sense?" The Idiot's Lantern seems to ask. "Why should characters stay true to themselves when they can change completely for the sake of some rubbish gags? Bishop becomes a non-functional moron and Eddie Connolly becomes a psychopath just so we can do jokes about 'Colour television!' and 'You should see my mother in law!' The line-by-line reuse of the last episode I wrote means nothing!"

It's almost as if MG was trying to recreate the Doctor Who of his childhood, where characters were paper-thin and nothing had much thought put into it. In any case The Idiot's Lantern stands as one of the few... perhaps the only... NuWho episode that could be completely erased from history and no one would notice. You need the Cybermen and Ood stories on either side, and even 'seemingly-disposable' tales like The Shakespeare Code or The Doctor's Daughter have an impact on the series that follows. There has never been another mention of the Wire, of the Connelleys, of anything in that story. It might as well not exist and my gut feeling is that is precisely what the author wanted.

My conclusion from all this is that MG has some small talent as a writer, but he needs RTD or Moffat giving them the brutal Douglas-Adams-style "you don't leave here alive until you write us something good" treatment. The Unquiet Dead was pretty decent, when MG had to reintroduce time travel, the Celebrity Historical, and keep the main characters in tune with what had gone before. He had no obligations for his next script, which was notoriously self-indulgent and awful.

Now, I can't honestly say that any good bits in Victory of the Daleks would have been down to rewrites from Moff. But I can say the good bits would be the ones Moff would have been the first to check. The Doctor's confrontations with the Daleks, the final scene with Amy, all that would be the first to be scrutinized and I'd have be thoroughly assholed to say they were anything below "quite good". But the rest?!

Winston Churchill for example. What do we learn about him as a person? The phrase "fuck all" springs instantly to mind. There's no emotional journey like there was for Dickens. Churchill is a stubborn, ruthless, cigar-smoking charmer. The end. Does he ever regret going ahead with a Dalek alliance? Does he even notice the two men that die directly because of his stupid and avoidable mistake? After all this mess you'd think he'd learn to stop trying to get alien technology to quick fixes, but Churchill has no moments of doubt or introspection. He is thoroughly two-dimensional. The one the Goodies met who happened to look exactly like Adolf had more personality to him than this bloke. Thank freaking Christ they got Ian McNiece to tackle the role, as his performance gives the sole hint there is anything behind those eyes - and he and Matt Smith wordlessly establish the relationship of two people who simply get on together too well for them to be enemies, no matter what circumstances push them into.

And as for Amy! I don't know what's worse, the crap she is given in some scenes or the fact the quality see-saws. At times it's like Eric Saward writing for Mel - Amy gets to summarize the plot like she's reading a DWM archive: "It's right in front of us, staring us in the face, a gift from the Daleks!" rather than simply shouting, "Let's see if Bracewell's got any decent ideas!" as the fiesty and blunt redhead we know would. Her characterization seems to dip between this and some kind of charicature of Jamie, who approves any kind of course of action if it's championed by a fellow Jacobite (a very bad charicature, as anyone who's heard The Highlanders will know).

I might have been able to survive this poor treatment, but it keeps swinging back to Moffat quality, taunting me like a mirage of an oasis. The final scene where Amy realizes the stuff with the evil monks was not a one-off, but they bump into nasty monsters a lot, oh, make me weep tears of blood! And of course the brilliant bit where the Doctor and Amy look out upon the burning wreckage of London, after their "WW2? Awesome!" tourism bits, and the Doctor quietly describes the horror simply as "history".

And then we get Mr. Gatiss himself as an RAF pilot in a spitfire named after a Rob Shearman script, treating the Dalek menace with less reverence than the bombers in The Seeds of Doom who save the Earth from the Krynoid (which has killed almost the entire cast) with jokes about chop suey. I mean, I wouldn't have minded, except it's just not really funny. In fact, the obsession the last few stories has had about the United Kingdom is getting disturbingly secular and I for one am glad the next few stories are set on alien worlds and Venice. I also note that when Moffat does a story about the British, it's about their cynacism, corruption and cruelty and their blind stubborn stupidity. Gatiss does a story where no Brit can do any wrong, and even a Scot (an android who thinks he's a Scot) will selflessly sacrifice himself to keep Union Jacks flying. The only bad humans are the unseen Nazis. Very deep. Gatiss' casual monologue in The Lazarus Experiment about living during the Blitz sums up the horror of wartime better than this entire story. And why? "My ambition was to do a 45-minute Bank Holiday war movie," Gatiss surmises in Confidental.

...that's what you define as "ambition", is it?

"It isn't the place to examine the character, because Doctor Who's an adventure series."'s easy to see why his attitude annoys some, isn't it?

What's deeply amusing about this episode of Confidential is, just after Moffat and Smith big up Gatiss for his attention to detail and historical accuracy, the man himself then gives us a guided tour detailing just how bad Victory of the Daleks is on those terms. Where's the smokers? The panic? Everyone clutching guns? Amy complaining about the stinking nicotine? Everyone being sick to death of what an asshole Churchill was in real life? And that table with all the figurines on it? Never existed in the War Room, as big a lie as robots making the tea. This is coupled with Gatiss' public reluctance to deal with anything "important" like Daleks - indeed, for such a fanboy Gatiss' only attempt at such "epic" straights was an annual story where the Tenth Doctor met the Gelth. Cause, you know, it would never be on to bring back old monsters like say, the bleeding Macra, would it? That would never happen...

Onto the the Daleks, and I'd like to take this point to bitch at all of fandom rather than the author - why is it we (and yes, I include myself here) always seem to rave about stories where Daleks act wierd? Presumably it's because we detest how lowbrow those stories are when Daleks glide around the place slaughtering people. Yet, what was the very first story to do that? Power of the Daleks. The one that gets lauded for the comedy of Daleks constantly biting their tongues as they brag about how good they are ("DALEKS ARE BETTER... ER, MORE USEFUL THAN HUMAN BEINGS!") as being somehow deep and meaningful drama. But why should we be so impressed (by which I mean we damn well are impressed) by a story where Daleks wander about offering tea and biscuits? You call that wierd? RTD had them as suicidal fundamenalist TV executives running Big Brother! Surely THAT is a benchmark for wierd, if not "fucking deranged"! Yet for our love of Daleks acting wierd, why is Helen Raynor's story (you know, the one where the Daleks hardly kill anyone, don't say "Exterminate" and has Dalek Kahn watching the sun go down from the top of the Empire State Building... which he built) not rivalling City of Death as the best story ever? Big Finish have had Daleks turning into giant wasps, become best friends with the Thals, using themselves as building materials, trying to conquer the universe through Dapol action figures and unleashing 28-Days-Later style zombie viruses. And that's just the stories with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa!!

Looking back at it, it's a struggle to see the Daleks ever acting normal. I mean, their very first story has them effectively running the Bates Motel where people check out, get shoddy service and never leave - and their doomsday plan had to be changed from dropping The Bomb to putting Homer Simpson in charge of their nuclear power plant. Their first story, remember, has a sequence where Daleks take drugs and have LSD freakouts!

So, yeah, seeing a Dalek doing the filing should NOT be so mind-blowing as we have seen one one of them working a ticker-tape machine in 1963! THE DALEKS ARE MORE SURREAL THAN TOM BAKER SNORTING NAPALM! WHY DOES NO ONE EVER NOTICE THIS?!


I was a bit confused by the Daleks in this one. Just where are these survivors from, anyway? They're not "pure" Daleks, suggesting they somehow might be ex-Big-Brother contestants that escaped the Bad Wolf. They definitely have a death wish. Yet there are just as many hints they might be another band that escaped the Time War, while the Doctor treats them as the last remnants of the Crucible force - in which case, how did they survive being blown up by Donna? And since they were grown out of Davros' smoothe chest, surely they'd be purer than the new blokes? There's also a bit too much vagueness about their plan: did they deliberately seek out Churchill to get the Doctor's testimony? Was it all a lucky coincidence and they were initially planning to trick Britain into building a new Dalek army? Are the two Ironsides actually robots and the one on the saucer the genuine article? If these Progenitors can create whole new species of Daleks... why weren't they used? (Yes, I know they were all apparently "lost", but surely they should have been used beforehand!) Why on Earth are they so damned difficult to use that you need your mortal enemy around to switch it on? Who exactly did they expect would try to use it? Thals in Dalek outfits? And how come the new Daleks know all about the old Daleks' plan, but not that the Doctor's been threatening to blow them up for five minutes?

Compare and contrast...

As for the new Daleks... well, I do get the feel "merchandise" was the tone meeting for them. I mean, we're clearly not going to see them again this year, Moffat admits he doesn't know what half the newbies actually do, so they've wasted a lot of money redesigning the Daleks (which means all the CGI flying Daleks are stuffed as well) in every way and then not used them. The only logic is to sell a new range of Dalek toys this Christmas, while keeping the others around as "classic". I'm not sure I like the new types anyway, with them being all top heavy, limbs the wrong length and with fat arses. The Power Ranger colour schemes don't impress either and, if we're honest, Rob Smernoff should sue as they've nicked his idea.

Speaking of ideas used in Victory of the Daleks, it is about time someone put their foot down and defended the Virtual Series 4 of Doctor Who. A bunch of fans with too much time on their hands and some script-writing software churned out fourteen episodes of not-quite-as-good-as-the-real thing that was slightly-too-obsessed with sequelizing Season 3. Nevertheless they were the ones that got their first with

- a Christmas special having David Morrisey as an alien-or-human fighting Cybermen in a historical setting
- Martha Jones hooking up with Tom Whatisname and summoning the Doctor back to Earth to deal with an emergency in a pre-credit sequence (even down to the "we called in our best expert" "who? Oh ME!" gag)
- the Master returning with Lucy Saxon and finding out the cause of the drumming was a pissed-off returning character who would destroy the whole universe
- the return of Rose Tyler
- a crossover with Torchwood
- the redemption of Harriet Jones
- a story of evil shadows in a library with a new companion
- the truth about what the Doctor did to the Virgin Queen
- the Tenth Doctor showing his new companion around Ancient Rome
- the Silurians coming back
- flashbacks to the Time War
- the Tenth Doctor regenerating at a cliffhanger but still being in the next story

and most relevant of all, a story where the Doctor and Winston Churchill discover Dalek technology is being used by the allies to win the war by creating super-soldiers (reverse-engineered from the detritus under the Empire State building)! Axis of the Daleks by Paul Robinson and Daniel Loach, culminating with the Daleks teaming up with the Nazis and this brilliant scene:
Dalek Caan moves into the warehouse whilst the tanks line up outside on the concrete outside - his turret spins as Braun enters the warehouse from the corridor. Braun has a look of determination on his face.

BRAUN: Caan! A word.
CAAN: Speak!
BRAUN: I spoke with the Doctor on the way back.
CAAN: That was a mistake. He will have poisoned your mind. He wishes the Reich to fail...
BRAUN: The Reich? Or just you?
CAAN: We have the same aims. We are the same.
BRAUN: We are not the same.
CAAN:, I am better.

With that, Braun believes the Doctor.

BRAUN: Tell me, what do you intend to do once we have taken over the world?
CAAN: Help you dominate.
BRAUN: Why would you do that?
CAAN: I am a Dalek. We also believe in racial purity - anything not like us must be exterminated.
BRAUN: But we are not like you.


CAAN: We are the same.

Braun nods, pretends to shake off his suspicions and even manages to crack a smile.

BRAUN: Of course you are. I'm sorry that I even doubted you. You've been a great help to the Reich - the Fuhrer himself speaks very highly of you. (salutes Caan) I will be back soon.

Braun marches out of the room, stopping in the doorway to look back at Caan, showing he's still suspicious, before exiting. After a second, Caan begins to laugh hysterically - the lights on his
dome pulse.

CAAN: I - am - victorious.


Can anyone really look at that and not begin to wonder?

Probably less of an influence, but no less uncanny is the Trenchcoat tale The Locust Method. Except it's the Cybermen controlling scientists, dying out and creating a new species at the same time.

But you know, of all these version, I find it disturbingly easies to imagine Victory of the Daleks as a Pertwee story. Imagine it: the Doctor and Jo Grant* return to UNIT HQ and find the Brigadier has met some friendly aliens called the Trods who are willing to defend Earth from nasty threats like the Silurians. The Doctor realizes the Trods are evil and after about six episodes, lots of dead tramps, a minor government conspiracy and - of course - discovering "Bracell" was the Trodos word for "Master", there's a noble self-sacrifice, the Trods flee and everyone beats up Mike Yates for being a poof. OK, maybe not that last bit.

Trouble is, it's a story I probably wouldn't have minded watching...

Next Time: "A stone angel amongst stone statues."
Seriously, is it Paul McGann saying that line? PRS is back and as insufferable as ever, and even throwing herself out an airlock won't rid us off the cow! And a single lonely assassin is conveniently on the loose. Your challenge, Moff, is to make anyone give a crap about what happens next...


* She's coming back, you know. No joke, they are bringing Jo Grant back. To television. In an RTD script. With the Eleventh Doctor. And Sarah-Jane Smith. I think it's fair to say I was expecting the Cyberman/Dalek war long before something like this could happen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stripping down... Blake's 7 (v)

Sorry about the delay...

Golden Book (2 episodes)
The first multi-part story and you can tell why with a glance. It's shockingly adult, especially compared to the shit the comic strip offered in the same issues with Prey! It starts off as some kind of French farce as, late one night on Scorpio, a drunken Vila overhears Soolin turning down sex with Tarrant and getting the (entirely understandable) impression that the blonde babe is after Delta boy himself. Vila then gets even more drunk to summon up the Dutch courage to talk to Soolin, but is now so paralytic his attempts at being romantic come across as attempted rape. What's really disturbing is it's written from Vila's POV, so he can't quite get why Soolin is crying, begging for him to let her go, and won't give him a kiss. Until someone punches his lights out.

OK, just to summarise here, Vila tries to rape Soolin.

In the comic with him on the cover and the words WIN AN ATARI GAME CONSOLE.

If my mind didn't keep blowing, I'd have to say this is clearly a Double-Full-Fist moment for Blake's 7 Magazine and how it spits on the competition... mind you, a nearby issue of Doctor Who Magazine had the Fifth Doctor try to kill himself in suicidal despair after Lunar Lagoon...

Anyway, not even Avon can make a witty barb about this development and the crew fall into a shellshocked silence (bar Vila who is locked in a room and regularly punched unconscious by Tarrant, not getting a chance to explain the horrible misunderstanding). The gang decide to ditch Vila, but first they've been invited to an anti-Federation alliance by the Invectas, a bunch of rather nasty dark age colonists that indulge in human sacrifice. Having seen one of these events as a child (yes, they give an explanation why a farmer girl like her would have been on the planet) Soolin has no intention of going, and is more upset by the Aztec-like Invectas than by Vila's Sydney Bulldogs impersonation. Deciding they'll just have to ditch both Vila and Soolin after this adventure, Avon confronts the Invectas... and they want him to rule the alliance and thus the universe when they defeat the Federation. Avon really likes this idea, and it seems the Invectas are entirely above board on this angle. GOOD THINGS ARE GONNA HAPPEN!

Oh, one problem. The Golden Book of the title, the one where names are randomly taken from to choose the next sacrifice, has Soolin's name on it. And guess who's name has been pulled out? Cue Cliffhanger Epic Bigness!

The next bit, beginning with Avon in an unaccountably good mood for some reason, decides to forgive Vila his trespasses, on the promise he never touches booze again. Unfortunately, this tentative good mood is ruined when Soolin's drink is spiked with a roofie and she's dragged off for sacrifice. The Invectas explain the situation, and that Avon could save Soolin... as long as he wanted to ruin the alliance and give up any chance of ruling the universe. Avon shrugs and decides to chalk it down to experience and lets the priests take Soolin away on the grounds it would be "stupid and selfish" to do otherwise. Then he shoots Tarrant. Does he need a reason? However, Vila doesn't intend to waste his newfound sobriety and gets Dayna to teleport him into suicidal rescue mission to save Soolin from being skewered which eventually works. Unfortunately, the botched sacrifice is live on TV and Avon's lack of control over the crew gets him shamed and humiliated across the entire planet. The Invectas dub Avon a no-fist loser and tell him to rack off. As they leave the planet, Avon rants that Vila has screwed up absolutely everything up to an including the global financial crisis, destroyed the alliance, ruined Avon's chances of becoming ruler of the entire universe and generally fucked up today. Vila, still buzzing on being sober, tells Avon to get off his fucking high horse and hanging around with very gullible death-worshipping pagans. I mean, Blake wouldn't approve, would he? Yeah, that shuts up the man in black pretty well.

Avon goes to sulk and Vila, having saved Soolin's life and stolen the Golden Book (thus ending the whole sacrifice tradition), is forgiven for his disturbing antics in the previous episode.

Quantum Jump (2 episodes)
You know, Scorpio is a complete piece of crap, isn't it? It's been needing repairs in pretty much every story and no matter how many amazing weapons Avon bolts onto it, it still manages to breakdown. In fact, it's gotten so bad that even when you're using a flight simulator Scorpio goes out of control and crashes into random planets - by now that planet hopper must have a better crash rate than Starbug! Deciding she is completely sick of this crap, Dayna takes an unauthorized stroll on the surface and bumps into two Robert Holmes style bounty hunters who are loitering around the planet on the off-chance the rebels might be there. Avon reacts to this... in fact, bugger it, he overreacts. Completely. Despite the fact Dayna has a teleport bracelet and can be effortlessly snatched from danger, Avon decides to fire a lethal surge of electricity through said bracelet and fry her to death before she can be interrogated. Presumably this is supposed to demonstrate what a ruthless asshole Avon can be... but just makes him look like a complete moron, especially when his execution zap kills a bounty hunter who takes the bracelet off Dayna's wrist at the last second... Idiot.
The second episode begins with the crew recovering from the twin revelations that Avon has a) apparently murdered Dayna and b) dared to "reverse the polarity" in this particular sci-fi franchise. A predictable argument breaks out, as via the wonder of internal narrative we find out that Avon isn't remotely interested in Dayna's fate (yeah... sure...) and the gang decide to hunt down the bounty hunters who, brace yourself, are working for a certain Commissioner. However, it turns out that the surviving hunter is not much of a feminist judging by the way he keeps attacking the tied-up Dayna screaming "YOU'RE ALL BITCHES!!!" at thin air. Just as Scorpio is about to attack, Dayna appears on the screen with a gun at her head and behaving with all the calm self-composition of Tim Brooke-Tayler in his "teapot" mode. Avon is understandably unimpressed at this so-called Dayna and challenges the bounty hunters to waste the harlot. Servalan then takes the video phone and then threatens to brain-drain Dayna for all her kinky secrets of Xenon base or else Avon surrenders. He refers her to his previous answer of "fuck off and die".
At this point time starts going backwards. Why? I dunno, and niether does the writer. Somehow Scorpio's engines have gone into a temporal orbit and by doing the titular quantum jump the entire adventure can conveniently be reset as they blow up the bounty hunters before they reach Xenon and Dayna isn't captured and so none of it ever happened. Presumably the past versions of Avon, Vila, Tarrant and Soolin vanished in a puff of light before the Reapers arrive to cleanse the universe, because COME ON! Not only is that a shithouse ending, it goes against the grain of B7 entirely! Why the hell doesn't Avon kick Scorpio until it rewinds the universe to the events of Terminal so they can rescue Cally and the Liberator, huh? This story is just crap, like someone had a vague idea and then got a complete stranger to write it out...

Plague (2 episodes)
Stumbling across a deserted spaceship that smells like Baldrick's arse, Avon generously teleports Vila and Tarrant across to find out what happened. Could the title be a clue, I wonder? But our dysfunctional heroes find something more interesting than rotting corpses, some generic crystals that will make them filthy, stinking rich! For once, Vila's greed outstrips his hypochondria and, despite Avon's very clear orders, steals every crystal he can before being teleported back. Hmm, crystals and plagues... didn't we just do that in Diamond Death? Alas, it turns out that some freaky laser ray is what's causing this reflux of bubonic plague and Tarrant's been fatally zapped by it! Cliffhanger!

In part two, Orac explains the laser ray was used on the crew of the ship when they tried to steal the cargo of Oven Crystals... sorry, of Nevo Crystals... that they were supposed to be delivering to the Federation. This is good, since all they have to do is destroy the laser thing and they've got all the plague-free crystals. One problem, Vila casually nicked the laser ray on the grounds it looks just like Orac (or, to be completely accurate, the thing that looks like Orac that the Daleks use in Destiny of the Daleks) and brought it aboard Scorpio, and it's just minutes till it zaps everyone aboard the ship. Oh, the gods do punish us for our hubris! Avon immediately steals the recycled prop and teleports it back onto the ship, but he is SO pissed off with Vila he considers letting the little thief die of the plague he was zapped with in part one... but I think he might just want to see Dayna and Soolin beg him to save the day, the magnificent asshole. Choking on his own testosterone, Avon decides it's time to tackle the Federation ships that have arrived to collect the crystals themselves... which is of course being lead by Servalan. Alas, since Tarrant forgot to fix the stardrive with his pathetic excuse of dying from the titular plague, it's time for a space battle chase scene for a few pages... whereupon Servalan's forces are "Avoned" (that's how the Bitch in White herself describes the latest dues ex machina, rather like a Jeremy Beadle stunt). Does it really matter how he did it? Oh all right, he teleported Vila's looted crystals into deep space to be hit by a plasma bolt that exploded, taking out the plague ship and all the approaching pursuit ships. At least Avon didn't blow up ANOTHER solar system like he's been oft to do in these stories...

After recent events, you can't blame Vila for not being eager to visit ANOTHER ghost ship full of corpses and a suspicious cargo: in this case the cause of death was a meteor strike and the precious item a lovely landscape painting with a spaceship. Avon decides to nick it and find out why a painting would be on a Federation ship, and to no one's surprise it was actually being taken to Servalan (who is disturbingly un-fussed about Avon pinching her property). Turns out the painting was done by Ras Jarvic (presumably Ven's brother), an infamous and very successful thief, scientist and all round badass who hasn't been seen for ten years. Just then Orace notes that Servalan's latest mission is leaving her a moving target for them to blow away, and thus a very obvious trap. Nevertheless, Avon lets the others persuade him to check it out and nearly get killed... you wouldn't think padding was needed in a nine-pages-including-illustrations story, would you? Avon concludes the trap was laid specifically so Servalan could steal the painting back: it contains a vital clue as to where Jarvic stashed his treasure a decade ago. Being even more cryptic than that bloody painting, Avon waffles about crosswords, has a nap, orders Tarrant to fly them to Jarvic's abandoned home planet, because a very vague clue in the painting is an acronym for something or other. Never mind, it's obviously right because Servalan got there ahead of them, having cunningly captured Scorpio in a scene not written (cause then they might have had to cut the space battle, and we never get enough of those!). After a classic Avon/Servalan bitch fest, a few escapes and captures, Avon hands over the cash in return for going free - not letting Servie realize that the cash are forgeries and the box they were kept in were the treasure. Gloating over the use of solid gold and useless banknotes, the story ends before anyone can go "Hang on, isn't this just the ending of Gold only unusually positive?"

The Comet
One of Servalan's lesser-known duties is to give the green light to projects from mad scientists who keep changing their names (Varngas or Vargas or Vargnas?!), and the latest one has a truly demented idea of the Comet, a tiny spaceship that can travel faster than absolutely anything and make a round trip of the solar system in less time than it takes to read this sentence. And given the ability to travel near-as-dammit instanteously across the universe... Servalan orders a remote-controlled spaceship piloted to Xenon (she knows Avon's there, presumably because she occasionally gets invited around for tea and scones, as in Wanderlust). After eight tries, a test pilot called Kagrin lands the Comet in a spaceship graveyard on Xenon and pretends to be a wandering salvage mechanic. He tricks Avon and Vila into taking the Comet for a test flight, which immediately slingshots them across the universe towards Earth. Trapped in the out-of-control shuttle, Avon and Vila decide a suicide pact will be called for, and will hopefully dismiss any comparisons to Orbit. Luckily, Dayna has a working braincell and suggests they get Orac to sort out this mess, a feat of logic that leaves Tarrant and Soolin feeling rather faint. The Comet does a handbrake turn at ten times the speed of light, saving Avon from embarrassment as he couldn't suck it up enough to shoot Vila, even when the guy was going "Stop pissing about and get it over with you sadistic git!" at him. Kagrin gets the usual Servalan farewell gesture, exploding in such a way it looks like a real comet. But don't worry about both sides having access to super-speed technology, it'll all be forgotten by next week...

This story was actually written by a reader, Pamela Wright, as a sequel to Headhunter (an episode her children adored). It turns out that getting a million volts of direct current is a tad too much even for a hard bastard like Avon, who faints and leaves the crew to fend for themselves and change all the lightbulbs that burnt out in Xenon Base after the power surge blew them all. Orac decides to become leader in Avon's absence, and everyone goes along with it mainly so they'll be able to shut Avon up the next time he goes on about him being "indispensible". While Vila is left trying to convince the dazed Avon this is NOT a Federation trapTM, the others are sent to make sure the base is silent running so a passing pursuit ship won't detect anything (Orac gives a fig leaf of an explanation for why Xenon is the arse-end of nowhere on TV and the middle of the universe in the magazine: apparently this part of the galaxy is only given cursory inspection by work experience mutoids, and is thus incredibly easy to hide in... ah, only in fan-fic!) Speaking of fanwank, while Soolin moons over Dorian and Dayna broods over Cally, Tarrant realizes Avon's having flashbacks to his torture in Rumors of Death! And so, while Orac scares off the pursuit ships, Dayna and Tarrant dump Avon in Dorian's bedroom with Soolin in the hope these, uh, relaxing surroundings will calm the madman down. Managing to seduce and sedate Avon simultaneously... Pam, you wrote this for your kids? - the computer genius is still up and about, but Orac decides not to give him the "hah, you suck" speech and let him think he's still the undisputed ruler. Guess, Orac's not stupid after all...

Stress Fracture
Another fan-written piece, this one by Mary Moulden. Picking up with the usual "scuffle with pursuit ship leaves Scorpio completely stuffed", Tarrant discovers an eponymous stress fracture in the hull, which could kill them all. Fixing it on Scorpio would take years with their limited resources, so Avon decides to head for the dockyards of Burnet, a planet currently at war with the Federation. To cut a long story short, Avon locates the resistance and pimps out Orac to the rebels like the gangsta bitch he is. Using Orac in a military fashion, the Federation are defeated in a few days (hmmm... and they don't do this more often because?!?). Avon asks in return a free refit at the dockyards. As everyone boggles at how easy and successful this trip has been, Vila wonders what Blake would say if he could see them now. "Probably that he could do better," Avon grumbles.

Hand of Fate (2 episodes)
Throwing aside any kind of continuity, the Federation are now conquering other galaxies now, and so Avon has decided to join a rebel uprising to protect the Mantobac galaxy from the evil empire, an action that pisses off Vila so much you'd think he was as annoyed by the continuity errors as I am. It turns out that Avon is old friends with Emperor Talon of the Mantobac galaxy (no doubt they were at Eton together) and with Orac they soon work out a strategy that will kick some serious intergalactic arse. Of course, someone on Talon's side is a traitor and the Federation is setting whacking great trap and Vila happens to overhear the evil Commander Findel twittering what an evil bastard he is and so on. After spending ages trying to tell Avon about this rather obvious plot twist, it turns out Avon already guessed and Talon confronts the traitor. Who runs away, switches off the battle-fleet's detector shield, and hijacks Scorpio as one freaking huge, and I mean HUGE space war begins. Tarrant manages to regain control of Scorpio and rushes to help out Avon and Talon as the battle fleet is blown to smithereens. In the confusion of battle, Avon accidently sends the flagship crashing into some planet or other, and Tarrant soon follows with the others in Scorpio. And, just when things couldn't get more predictable, it turns out that Servalan's joining events to see how the plot's been chugging alone without her.

Finally the first episode ends with Servalan promptly buggering off on the grounds Avon and his pals are on a planet of unspecified no escape and will all no doubt die in short order.

Onto part two. After several pages of well-characterized but generally uneventual banter (culminating with Soolin telling Vila to kill himself if he's so convinced they're doomed), Servalan decides to come back to make sure Avon's dead, snogging and stabbing main characters in that way what she does. It turns out this planet is lethal because it is contaminated with "incurable space leprosy", also known as "Galista Disease", and the leper inhabitants are really quite nice and helpful. This being Blake's 7, we only find it out after Tarrant has tried to kill them all in mindless paranoia. After discussing possible plans to get the lepers their freedom (they've found a cure to their infectiousness), Emperor Talon decides everything's lost and to hang out with the lepers while Avon, the others and the lepers' normal-looking children escape in Scorpio. Servalan arrives and gets a rather freaky "UNCLEAN!!!" welcome that almost, but not quite, keeps her on the planet long enough to be nuked. Talon and the lepers are all dead, but the innocent children survived and... ah, who cares?

After all the times Farscape rips-off Blake's 7, a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimy revenge is made and the definitive Farscape plot (the entire cast go batshit insane because of some passing alien and try to kill each other with even more hilarity than usual) is revealed to be done aboard Scorpio over a dozen years earlier! Yep, it seems like a usual afternoon aboard the freighter: Tarrant is bigging himself up like a messiah, Vila's getting drunk, Avon's brooding and Soolin is mastering icy put-downs. But then things get out of hand - Tarrant's ego begins to overshadow Tom Baker, Vila nearly dies of alcohol poisoning, Avon locks himself in his bedroom, and Soolin becomes the reincarnation of Whichever Bitch Runs The Local Weakest Link Franchise. Dayna realizes that something is exaggerating their behavior to dangerous levels, and Tarrant decides that he is God and thus will rule Scorpio forever, and Soolin takes his side for the sheer hell of it, while Avon's paranoia has been cranked up beyond 100 Lawrence Miles, and we ain't got a name for that one yet! Luckily, Avon's ruthless pragmatism is proportionally expanded, so Dayna is able to convince him to bury his homicidal urges and find out what's happening... and, hey, if Tarrant gets beaten to death in the middle, no one's going to complain. The truth is out: a funky missile, a "probe" if you will, has pierced Scorpio and is zapping all their brains - it's another Servalan trap and her fleet is closing in, expecting the crew to have killed each other by now. Avon cunningly fires the missile at Servalan's ship, damaging it and allowing Scorpio to escape. Furious, Servalan executes the scientist that came up with this plan, and then the technicians that built it, and the guards who happened to be passing... and it's only as she's killed her entire crew and is dumping them out the airlock that we twig the probe's worked its wicked magic on her too. The brilliant ending has a very bruised and humbled Tarrant thank Avon in admiration for sparing the asshole's life in such circumstances. Avon glares at him and says, "I didn't spare you, Tarrant. I just missed." Crowning Moment of Awesome.

The story starts with what seems to be a disturbing slash fic alt-universe version of Blake: Vila, Soolin and Dayna teleport on Gauda Prime, find shelter in a hut and discover it full of food, drink and booze. After sating their appetites, they're about to have a three-way sex session (no, this time I'm not exaggerating for comedic effect) when a very battered, bitter and unhappy Tarrant arrives. It strikes Vila and the girls their memory of recent events is hazy and they're all suffering inexplicable aches and pains (Vila has a sore back, Soolin has stomach cramps and Dayna has hurt her throat) which seem to be inexplicably fading away. Everything becomes more dreamlike as Vila slides away from the hut... and wakes up on the tracking gallery on Gauda Prime, in agony after being shot in the back and watching as Avon guns away the troopers. Vila makes a choice and snaps back to the hut with the others, musing it will be a long time before Avon joins them. Oh well, given how brutal the magazine was over the shootout, I suppose this is the happiest ending we could have for the gang, sitting out eternity chilling out with pizza, music and orgiastic sex... Tarrant'd be a bit of a killjoy though...

A New Beginning
Another fan effort (this time by Harry Waller), and the first ever PGP story ever published which, ergo, makes it canon. Yep, Servalan was the one behind the operation on Gauda Prime but doesn't get to the tracking gallery to stop Avon getting shot to pieces. Ignoring the smutty inuendo from her troopers, she has the dying madman taken to her ship and, once she finds Orac and the key, tells the computer to heal her foe. Orac tells her to fuck off, laughs in her face and switches off, declaring Avon dead. Meanwhile, the troopers prepare to blow up Blake's base when someone kills the commander, steals his uniform and then nicks Servalan's ship while she pops out for a smoke, er, to compose herself after Avon's death. But who is this mysterious disguised figure? Why, it's Vila of course! Just because the previous story said he was dead, hah, that means nothing - but our little Delta Grade is in a mean mood and convinced Avon was somehow working with Servalan all along. Which is something Avon denies when he comes back from the dead. Ahah, you see, Avon wasn't dead, just knackered and Orac lied! No one bothered to check, so we have three of the gang alive and well in a spaceship and an evil empire to overthrow - as good a reset button as you could ask for. The story ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Vila wondering if he should team up with Avon again or just blow his head off.

We never do find out what he chose...

In the meantime...

My computer has been giving me the shits of late. First the video card burnt out (rendering me unable to see anything), then the fan broke down (causing the computer to overheat and break down with disturbing randomness) and then finally some tropical computer virus got into the harddrive and insisted I was some alien spy who did not deserve to use any applications.

My technical guru responded by the electronic equivalent of putting a bullet through the back of the computer's head and then giving it CPR. Oddly enough, this has more or less worked though I need to reinstall such basics as realplayer, gonvisor or bitcomet. Most annoying seemed to be the loss of adobe photoshop, so my brilliant illustrations for the new series episodes are seemingly no more for the foreseeable. More important is that Outlook Express, my companionable correspondence computer thing, is seemingly broken. I can recieve but not reply, so if you want to say something, best use the blog cause I can reply on this. I think.

But enough of this self-pity... reminds me, I haven't taken my antidepressents for a couple of days, well, I've been very ill of late...

My passing-the-moments-of-blind-existential-panic-by-novelizing-new-series episodes has continued with Planet of the Dead. But what is this? I don't hear you cry. Did you yourself not describe that awful program as the nadir of the RTD era, preferable only to the director's cut of The Idiot's Lantern? Actually, no I didn't, but yeah, good summary.

Rather than tackling the Terrance Dicks method of sticking faithfully to the script, I tackled The One With The Bitch On The Bus in the mould of Malcolm Hulke, who bravely said "Why the hell novelize crap scripts when I can write better?" (brave, as he only ever novelized his own work. And I thought I had confidence issues...) Thus, sticking to the basics but rewriting the entire dialogue and making one or two obvious changes, I managed to churn out a new and improved version in less than a week - computer trouble permitting. I know I'm biased, but I much prefer this version, where Christina confronts her less wholesome aspects, Malcolm is treated with a measure of respect, and an iota of thought has gone into the wormhole plot.

Thus, I reprint the final chapter here to best demonstrate why RTD should have gotten me to do the episode rather than the bloke who much prefers remaking TV Comic strips (a noble enough ambition, it must be said...)

The Warning

Below the floating Number 200 bus, the Doctor could hear UNIT opening fire onto the three creatures, their guns blazing desperately skywards. Even if they managed to defeat this advanced guard, the full Swarm would definitely overwhelm them. Gripping the phone with one hand while steering with the other, the Doctor shouted into the speaker, ‘Close that wormhole, Malcolm!’

Yes, sir, my pleasure!’ came the reply, followed by the sound of an explosion and the Welshman shouting in despair. Suddenly the line went dead.

‘He’s hung up on me!’ the Doctor exclaimed in surprise.

Confused, he stabbed the redial key...


The moment Dr. Taylor had pressed the crucial F8 button at the top of the keyboard, he was dismayed to see sparks burst from equipment all around the scanner room. A feedback loop caused a capacitor bank to explode in flames. Desperately, the scientist tore a miniature fire extinguisher from the wall and sprayed it onto the fire, but the recoil was so strong it almost threw him across the room.

Pushing himself back from the wall, Dr. Taylor struggled to focus the foam onto the burning computer bank. The mobile chirped, and the scientist shouted over the sound of the extinguisher and exploding junctions, ‘Not now, I’m busy!’

The fire was out and the scientist could see the damage was relatively minor. What distressed him was that the machinery had started to burn out without so much as denting the wormhole, which was now even larger and shimmering across its fifteen-mile diameter as it prepared to disgorge the Swam onto the Earth.

Malcolm!’ the Doctor shouted from the speakerphone. ‘Listen to me! We need that wormhole closed before any more of those things fly through!

‘The cancellation signal’s not working though!’ the Welshman shouted back.

It will!’ the Doctor insisted. ‘You’re a genius, the idea works! The wormhole’s grown too large for the counter-oscillation to kick in, so just increase the counter-oscillation to match it strength for strength! Simple!

‘Brilliant!’ gasped Dr. Taylor. ‘But how?’

All you need to do is loop the signal back through your integrator and then keep ramping up the signal until it balances out the wormhole!

‘Oh, I understand that bit!’ the scientist cried as he ran for the equipment that was neither sparking nor covered in foam. ‘But I don’t know how much to ramp it up by?’

Well, if it was me, I’d start with 500 Bernards and see what happens,’ the Doctor suggested urgently. ‘Just do it now, Malcolm!

Dr. Taylor slammed down every switch he could reach, diverting all the links from the damaged computer banks. Immediately the equipment began to throb with life, lights flashing madly on displays as more wires sparked. The artificial anti-wormhole it was generating grew rapidly in all directions as UNIT’s scientific advisor cranked every device he had up to full power. The effect spread, until it was the exact same size and shape as the real wormhole.

And the rupture in time and space was suddenly filled in.

At the end of the wormhole at Gladwell road tunnel, the air shimmered violently, the distortion imploding to a central point inside the tunnel which flared and then vanished in an unimpressive spectacle that no one actually noticed.

But at the other end of the wormhole, in the wastelands that had once been San Helios Central City, the same event had a far more dramatic reaction. Just before the first few thousand Swarm creatures could hurtle into the rippling doorway, it dwindled to nothingness in the blink of an eye.

Without the wormhole, the Swarm hurtled forwards uncontrolled as they realized they were still on the dead planet. Carried by momentum, it was a long time before they could break formation, and by then every single creature was screeching with rage. The Swarm as one was furious at being denied the escape, for the first time feeling something approaching fear. For they were trapped on a lifeless ball of sand with nothing but the ruins of a Tritovore craft to feed on.

The wreck would not sustain them long. They would have to try and generate a fresh wormhole, but that would take days. Would the Swarm be able to fend off the hunger long enough to do that, or would they turn on each other and destroy themselves? Always assuming, of course, none of them starved to death.

The Swarm of San Helios faced a very grim future indeed...


The stingrays on Earth were not having a particularly good time of it either. Understandably disoriented by this new, cold world of metal and stone they found themselves in, and taken aback at the non-arrival of the rest of the Swarm, the three monsters were completely out of their element.

And UNIT had been firing at them from almost the moment they had arrived. The soldiers on the ground shot round after round up at the sky, with even Captain Magambo using the gun she’d threatened one of her staff with against the aliens. Most of the bullets missed the targets, and while the bullets weren’t tough enough to pierce the creature’s hide, the impact shook them violently. Dazed and bruised, it would not be long before the superior numbers of mankind defeated them.

The first creature perished when a volley of shots from the anti-aircraft gun exploded against its wings and body. Injured and stunned, it fell out of the sky with a screech, tumbling down to crash, dead, beside a police car where DI McMillan and Sergeant Dennison were quite sensibly hiding from the chaos.

‘I don’t believe it,’ Colonel Magambo marveled. ‘Guns work for once!’

As Dr. Taylor finally emerged to see what was happening, the anti-aircraft gun was swinging around to target one of the remaining two flying monsters. Volley after volley was blasted at the creature until it too finally succumbed and fluttered lifelessly down towards the motorway with one last dying scream.

The third stingray creature had fled, sensing the death of its two brothers, and was hurtling up into the sky. Sensing another flying metallic shape, it swept through the air, only to realize it was approaching the crumpled red bus that had lured it here. With a shriek of rage, it flung itself towards the Number 200 Bus.

Aboard it, Nathan’s cry alerted the Doctor, who spun the steering column. Keeping the front of the bus floating in one static point, the rest of the vehicle hurtled around on the axis. The cowering passengers ducked and screamed as the bus spun away from the huge monster, through three hundred and sixty-degrees until the rear-end of the bus swept back and smashed into creature’s side. More of the bus was smashed inwards, while the stingray was flung aside by the impact, as if unconscious.

Captain Magambo was never one to miss an opportunity. She shouted an order at the gunner, who trained the anti-aircraft gun onto the final monster and fired another volley of shots. The three blasts struck the same spot, an explosion of fire and metal that left the gutted monster plunging into an overhanging bridge, quite dead.

The threat of the Swarm was over.

‘Cease fire!’ the Captain shouted at her men. ‘Arms down.’

Earth lived to fight another day.


The Doctor steered the broken old bus down through the air towards the clear patch of road outside the exit of the tunnel it had taken so long to traverse. ‘Ladies, gentlemen and Tritovores, we have reached our final destination!’ he shouted triumphantly.

Down and down, until with one final jolt the ruined double-decker settled onto the ground, smoke hissing out from underneath it. The Doctor looked out the windscreen to see the gathered UNIT forces. Most of them were grinning and quite a few had started clapping in applause. ‘Welcome home the Mighty 200!’ the Time Lord sighed in relief.

Christina looked up from the luggage rack she’d been holding onto. ‘I still hate you, you know,’ she reminded him breathlessly.

Sorvin turned and chirruped angrily at her.

‘Language!’ the Doctor snapped, taking his sonic screwdriver from his jacket pocket and aiming it at the doors. The end of the silver wand blazed electric blue and the doors hissed open with surprising ease. ‘All right, friends, everybody off! Ding, ding!’

Christina was the first to step out. She didn’t bother to collect her now empty backpack, and was in a thoroughly rotten mood. It wasn’t helped when the UNIT soldiers ran forward, along with figures in white boiler suits carrying Geiger counters.

‘Welcome back everyone,’ said Sergeant Jenner in a reasonable tone that belied his deep, tough voice. ‘Just to be safe, can we all step away from the bus? Thank you?’

The passengers obediently began to disembark, and the Doctor paused to collect his long brown coat before following them. Several soldiers raised their rifles as the insectoid shape of Sorvin emerged from the bus, but the Doctor dived in front of him protectively. ‘No, wait! Lower your weapons! Unarmed and non-hostile, no Code Red! He’s with me. Understood?’ he barked at the troops.

Sergeant Jenner nodded. ‘Then he can be checked with the others then, Doctor?’

The Doctor patted the Tritovore on the shoulder reassuringly. ‘Yeah, why not? Allons-y,’ he urged Sorvin and they joined Christina and the others.

‘Who are these guys?’ Barclay complained as they were all led away from the 200 to a truck. Already the boiler suits were waving buzzing scanners in the air in front of the passengers and muttering to themselves.

‘Unified Intelligence Taskforce,’ the Doctor explained. ‘The people I was phoning to help us. Generally speaking they’re good enough people, a bit rougher than I’d like but their hearts are in the right place, defending the Earth...’

‘You work for them then?’ asked Nathan, curious.

‘On and off,’ the Time Lord shrugged. ‘You know, Nathan, you could probably get a good job here as a private. You’re looking for work, aren’t you?’

‘Y-yeah, but,’ the teenager stammered, ‘why would they take me?’

‘You’re good in a crisis, you’ve seen front line action, open-minded,’ the Doctor said, counting the reasons off on his fingers. ‘Oh, and you’ve been to an alien planet on the other side of the universe and lived to tell the tale – not many people can say that, not even in UNIT.’

Nathan glanced at the professional-looking troops in their smart uniforms. ‘You really think I could get in?’ he asked hopefully.

‘Oh yes,’ the Doctor said, ‘as long as you want to.’

Nathan nodded. ‘I want to.’

‘Good, I’ll give you a reference. Tell them the Doctor recommended you,’ he grinned. ‘You want to come along too, Barclay?’ he asked the other boy, handing him back his mobile phone. ‘UNIT can always use another mechanic...’

Barclay flashed the Doctor a toothy smile. ‘No way, Doctor. Like I told the lady over there, I ain’t anyone’s soldier.’

‘Fair enough,’ the Time Lord shrugged. ‘Course, I bet Tina would just love a man in uniform, though...’

Barclay froze. ‘Yeah, well,’ he coughed, ‘if Nathan’s going to join up, someone’s gonna have to keep the idiot out of trouble...’


Leaving the two new friends to their upteenth argument, the Doctor turned to look at Angela. She was happily chatting on her mobile as the soldiers scanned her with their detectors. ‘Susan,’ she said into the phone, ‘I’m back! I’m home? What? You didn’t even know I was gone?’ she laughed in delight.

The Doctor waved at her, then nodded the Sorvin and they began to move across the tarmac. Sergeant Jenner turned to intercept them. ‘Doctor, we need to screen you and take you for debriefing,’ he insisted. ‘It’s standard procedure!’

‘Standard procedures to which the Doctor and his companions are exempt, I think you’ll find,’ the Time Lord said, taking his wallet out and showed the contents to the soldier. The blank square within was psychic paper, and just as it tricked the reader on the Number 200 bus into thinking the wallet contained an Oyster Card, Sergeant Jenner saw a UNIT pass telling him exactly what the Doctor wanted.

‘Sir,’ said Jenner stiffly and turned to continue hustling away the rest of the passengers, including Christina who protested and called out for the Doctor, but to no avail, her voice lost under the argument between Nathan and Barclay over whether it would be cheaper and/or safer and/or more practical to abandon double-decker busses in favor of bicycles.

The strange duo were already being confronted by Captain Magambo, and behind her Dr. Taylor. The soldier gave a cautious glance at the fly-headed creature, then saluted them both. ‘Doctor, I salute you whether you like it or not,’ she told him.

The Doctor sighed. ‘Oh, very well, if you must.’

‘And if you’ll finally give me a straight answer, I take it we’re safe from those stingray things?’ the Captain asked.

‘Of course,’ the Doctor said. ‘They won’t bother Earth again. Even if they create another wormhole, it can’t end up on this planet. Quantum fluxes and that sort of thing, you don’t get a second try. Closer to home though, Captain, those two lads over there, they could be UNIT’s finest if you give them a chance. You could do a lot worse...’

Magambo looked doubtfully at the teenagers, and shrugged. ‘I’ll see what can be done. In the meantime, there are three giant metal stingray corpses to be cleaned up and I don’t suppose you’d like to help me with the paperwork for old time’s sake?’

‘Much as the nostalgia doesn’t appeal to me, Captain,’ the Doctor said wistfully, ‘I’ve got to get Commander Sorvin back home, don’t I?’

‘You can do that?’ burbled Sorvin incredulously.

‘Everyone doubts me nowadays,’ the Doctor complained. ‘We just need to get back to my ship and it’s a done deal. Trouble is, getting there without you raising too many eyebrows. Pity it wasn’t October, we could say you were in fancy dress...’

‘I believe I can help you there, Doctor,’ Magambo said, and nodded to one of the trucks. The Doctor and Sorvin turned to see a group of soldiers shifting a tall blue box from the truck onto the ground. Lights glowed behind the windows in its upper half, and from the lantern on the stacked roof. The Doctor’s face split into a huge grin. ‘You found the TARDIS for me!’

‘It was in the gardens of Buckingham Palace,’ Captain Magambo explained. ‘The residents may not mind but the security staff definitely do.’

‘I’m finding all of this very difficult to follow,’ Sorvin chittered, holding a pincer to his head.

‘And this is one of the quiet days,’ the Doctor warned him, leading the Tritovore over the unimpressive police box with its chipped and peeling blue paint-work. ‘The Mighty 200 is all right in a pinch, but I prefer this to a bus any day! Hello!’ he said to the booth, patting its side affectionately. ‘Promise not to wander off that far again... assuming I get a choice. Oh, you know how it is...’

The Doctor took out a brass key and was about to press it into the lock when an idea struck him, and he turned to look at the Captain. ‘Hang on, where’s Dr. Taylor the Proper Genius? Can’t go without meeting him!’

The soldier turned and nodded to the ragged figure in the white coat beside her, who had been staring in silent awe at the Doctor throughout the conversation. The Time Lord immediately crossed to the scientist and shoot his mitten-covered hand. ‘You must be Malcolm, it’s an honour, sir!’ he cheered.

Dr. Taylor’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound emerged.

‘I think he’s got a touch of laryngitis,’ the Doctor said after a pause.

‘He was complaining of a sore throat earlier,’ the Captain agreed.

‘Anyway, Malcolm,’ the Doctor told the scientist. ‘You’ve read all the files, you know me, I hate hanging round for goodbyes, so I’ll just be off then, all right? Till we meet again, eh? Oh, and maybe 500 Bernards could equal one Erisa?’ he suggested, winking at the soldier, who smiled in return.

The Time Lord turned to the TARDIS once more when suddenly Dr. Taylor darted forward and wrapped his arms around the Doctor, hugging him tight and not letting him go. The Doctor gave a small, delighted laugh as the scientist released him, and then shook Sorvin’s pincer, before hugging the Doctor once again.

‘To your station, Dr. Taylor,’ Magambo ordered gently.

Still unable to speak, UNIT’s scientific advisor nodded and scurried back towards the mobile HQ, followed by his Captain. The Doctor smiled and waved at them. ‘Nice chap, Malcolm,’ he said to Sorvin. ‘Reminds me of myself when I was six times his age...’


Christina had been patiently standing as the UNIT troopers scanned her with device after device. Angela, the boys and the old couple were calmly accepting it, but they hadn’t spotted the familiar hairy shape of DI McMillan and another policeman ducking under the cordon and hurrying across the motorway towards her. ‘That’s quite enough of that!’ she shouted at the nearest soldier, and then darted past them to where the Doctor and Sorvin were standing beside the TARDIS. They were the only way out of this nest of trucks and emergency vehicles, the only escape from the police.

Putting a bright smile on her face, she approached the Doctor, trying to sound as casual as possible. ‘A little blue box, just like you said!’ she exclaimed in exaggerated amazement. ‘Doctor, I don’t suppose I could have a go in it, could I? Off we go, show me the stars!’ she enthused, but the Doctor was staring at her, distant and expressionless.

Then he shook his head.

‘We’re surrounded by police!’ she pleaded. ‘I’ll go to prison!’

‘Very probably,’ the Doctor agreed. ‘But you are guilty.’

‘But you were right,’ Christina babbled, painfully aware of the approaching police officers, ‘it’s not about the money – I only steal things for the adventure! Exactly what you did, you stole this box!’

Sorvin chittered in agreement.

‘I did,’ the Doctor agreed. ‘But I was caught. And I was punished. You know what? I think it made me a better person, in the long run.’

‘But I saved your life?’

The Doctor frowned. ‘When?’

‘All right, I didn’t,’ Christine admitted, glancing fearfully over her shoulder. ‘But you saved mine! You can’t do that just to let me go to jail?’

The Doctor’s voice was cold. ‘Can’t I?’

‘Doctor, I want to come with you! Not just to escape, but... today, with you, it was brilliant! Alien planets, monsters, danger, excitement! I want more days like this, no, no, I want every day to be like this! The Time Lord and the Lady, partners in crime, the perfect team! We’re made for each other!’

The Doctor’s brown eyes looked incredibly sad. ‘And is that what you said to Dmitry?’ he asked quietly.

Christina realized she had given her lover a second thought, and in that moment realized the Doctor would never travel with her. He cared about everyone, from stupid bus drivers to hideous fly-men. And he had no wish to travel with someone who didn’t share that compassion. ‘Doctor, please. Look, the Cup of Athelstan is a bit of surrealist gold tinfoil right now. If I disappear, there’s no proof it was ever stolen, the case will collapse and Dmitry can get off scot-free...’

‘I said no,’ the Doctor retorted, turning away from her and unlocking the TARDIS.

‘I can change!’ she pleaded.

‘Of course you can,’ the Doctor said, offended at the suggestion she might not be able to. ‘But you’re still not travelling with me. Other people have. My friend, the one who called me “spaceman”, she traveled with me. And I lost her. My best friend. I’ve lost so many of them. Well no more,’ he said with sudden anger, slamming his fist against the TARDIS and making both Christina and Sorvin flinch. ‘Never again!

Christina’s face twisted in disgust. ‘Fine!’ she spat. ‘I’ll find my own way!’

‘You’re not getting away this time,’ growled a voice behind her.

Christina spun to see McMillan and Sergeant Dennison had caught up with her. ‘You won’t believe I’ve been waiting to say this,’ the DI boomed. ‘Lady Christina de Souza! I am arresting you on suspicion of grand theft and you do not have to say anything, et cetera, et cetera! Dennison, cuff her and take her away!’

Numbly, Christina vaguely realized that since McMillan hadn’t properly arrested her, that could give her some legal loophole, but then noticed that the police sergeant had not attempted to snap the handcuffs around her wrists. He was staring past her in amazement at Sorvin, who titled his large head and stared back with his huge bulging eyes.

The distraction was all she needed.

Christina turned and sprinted back across the tarmac towards the still-smoking remains of the Mighty 200 bus, the only vehicle in reach. McMillan finally tore his gaze away from the Tritovore and spun to see his quarry leap into the ruined bus. ‘Stop her!’ the police officer shouted, loud enough for the whole motorway to hear. ‘STOP THAT WOMAN!’

A few spare UNIT soldiers were approaching the bus, but since the vehicle looked barely able to drive anywhere, McMillan was unconcerned. Even if it were still roadworthy, it would never get past the cordon around the road.

‘Dennison,’ McMillan rumbled, ‘add “resisting arrest” to the charges – and do those two freaks for aiding and abetting!’

Dennison looked fearfully at the Doctor and his insectoid companion. ‘Don’t mind us,’ the Time Lord said soothingly. ‘We’ll just step inside the police box and arrest ourselves,’ he promised the dazed police sergeant, who nodded dumbly.

They could clearly see Christina through the windscreen as she dived behind the wheel, a huge grin on her face. ‘That technology won’t get you far,’ the Doctor called.

‘It’ll get me far enough to start over,’ Christina grinned back. ‘You know, Doctor, we could have been so good together!’

‘Keep telling yourself that, Christina!’ the Doctor retorted.

Already smoke was pouring from under the bus as it jerkily rose up into the air. McMillan ran faster than he ever had before, but before the eyes of everyone present, the crumpled double-decker bus lifted up into the sky and zoomed off into the night.

There was a long moment of silence.

‘Dennison,’ croaked McMillan. ‘Follow that bus!’

The two police men sprinted for their squad car, leaving the Doctor and Sorvin alone beside the TARDIS. ‘Oh well,’ the Doctor sighed. ‘I suppose she earned a head-start from the police if nothing else.’

At that moment, the Doctor heard a familiar voice call for him. He turned to see Carmen standing nearby, staring at him unblinkingly. Behind her, Lou was chatting happily with the friendly UNIT soldier who was escorting them away for debriefing.

‘Doctor, you take care now,’ Carmen said, a haunted expression on her face. ‘You be careful, because your song is ending!

The Time Lord frowned at the sadness in her voice. ‘What did you say?’ he asked.

‘Something is returning, sir, through the dark,’ Carmen told him gravely. ‘And then he will knock four times.’

Before the Doctor could say anything, Carmen turned and joined her husband, as they walked away into the night. The Doctor remained where he was, the implications of her prophecy turning through his mind, but he was sure this was no idle warning. His destiny had been foretold and apparently it wasn’t good news.

‘What did she mean?’ chirped Sorvin. ‘Who is knocking? What is returning?’

‘I don’t know,’ the Doctor admitted, tearing his gaze from the spot Carmen had been standing. ‘Come on,’ he said, pushing open the door to the TARDIS and waving the Tritovore inside the time machine.

The alien clucked and buzzed in amazement as he saw the interior of the TARDIS, at least thirty times larger than the police telephone box it contained. The Doctor moved past Sorvin and went over to the central console in the middle of the vast, metal-grilled floor and began adjusting the levers on the panels. ‘Quick hop back to the Scorpion Nebula and get you back home to the Tritovore Hive Systems,’ he promised.

Sorvin bobbed his head in acknowledgement. ‘And what about you?’

‘I’ll go back to San Helios. The Swarm will be starting all over again, trying to generate a new doorway, and I can nudge that onto an uninhabited planet. It’s not their fault, it’s just a natural life cycle,’ the Doctor pointed out philosophically.

‘And then?’

‘Who knows?’ the Doctor shrugged. ‘I mean... I have had sort of this feeling of late. Like something’s lurking in the future, the near future. Like a storm is coming. Or a change. Something big and inevitable, anyroads... still, no point moping about things that haven’t happened yet, is there?’ he concluded with a forced smile.

‘She said your song is ending,’ Sorvin persisted. ‘What does that mean?’

‘I’m honestly not sure,’ the Time Lord admitted after a pause. ‘But it seems that I’ll be finding out soon enough...’