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...)
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.
‘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...’