Under Three Hundred

The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Sirius [Demo]

Another great lost Jonathan Morris story... except this one wasn’t really lost at all, as it ended up being reworked as Max Warp. So this outline contains a few ‘spoilers’ for that story. The most striking differences between this story, The Sirius Difficulty, and Max Warp are that Max Warp was reworked to be a parody of/tribute to Top Gear, and that this outline is for a four-part story, while Max Warp is only 52 minutes long. I think it benefitted immeasurably from being massively compressed. (You can read brief blogs about Max Warp here and here and purchase it here).

My copy of this synopsis is dated 8th March 2001. As I don’t have the emails from back then I’m not precisely sure what happened to it. My recollection is that I submitted it for consideration but never heard anything back, which was not unusual (see here). 


THE SIRIUS DIFFICULTY

Cast:

Doctor (7th)
Mel
Reg Halfcastle (M)
Hook Berriman (M)
President Emmuel Varlon (F)
Co-Ordinator Ms Wade Goulbride (F)
Security Officer Muggeridge (F)
Timothy Schooner-Watts (M)

Plus miscellaneous one-line parts and voice-synthesised robots/Kith

EPISODE ONE

Sirius Major is a ringed gas giant, orbited by fourteen moons. Two empires, the Kith and the Varlon, have recently declared peace after decades of galactic warfare. To seal their five-year truce, they are holding the first Galactic Moonslalom, a sports event intended to bring the two empires’ together in peaceful competition or, as President Emmuel Varlon puts it, ‘to bring together the two hands of friendship in a vigorous shake of co-operation’.

The first heat of the Moonslalom is taking place. The race consists of one orbit of Sirius Major, looping around its various moons. There are over fifty competitors, each from different alien races, but mainly Kith and Varlon.

The race is watched from a commentary box by Hook Berriman and Reg Halfcastle. Hook is the show’s smooth anchorman, whilst Reg acts as his sagely co-pundit, full of tactless reminiscences of his time as a Varlon pilot in the war.

The TARDIS is visited by an AgentBot, a cigar-puffing android with a Bronx accent. It turns out that in a previous regeneration the Doctor acquired the AgentBot’s services when he was forced to record advertising voiceovers to save the planet Pekatoon from destruction. Initially the Doctor is worried that the AgentBot is chasing him for its fee – the Doctor has been deliberately avoiding it for several centuries – but it turns out the residual royalties have more than covered fees and the AgentBot now has some more work for the Doctor. He has been invited to appear as a guest ‘pundit’ commentator at the first Galactic Moonslalom.

Elsewhere in the Sirius Orbital Station, President Emmuel Varlon is welcomed aboard by the co-ordinator of the event, Ms Wade Goulbride, and her security officer Ms Muggeridge. The peace between the two empires is uneasy; Emmuel Varlon faces an imminent electoral defeat at the hands of her more jingoistic opponent, and so she is desperate to placate the nationalists whilst retaining the peace. She is given political advice by her SpinBot.

After the AgentBot has described the highly-charged political background of the Moonslalom, Mel is determined that she and the Doctor should attend. The Doctor reluctantly agrees, and sets the co-ordinates. The AgentBot then attempts to coax Mel into a career on stage – ‘All very classy, ma’am, very tasteful nudity’ before she kicks it violently and it is forced to dematerialise.

The race is underway, and Hook and Reg have a live link-up with one of the competitors, Dexter Dreyfuss. Hook attempts to interview him, but Dexter is very, very boring and always gives the same answers to the same questions. He also used to be a pilot in the Kith-Varlon war, and is something of a public hero.

The TARDIS lands on the Sirius Orbital Station where the Doctor and Mel are greeted by Muggeridge and ushered to the commentary booth.

Dexter Dreyfuss finds his craft spiralling out of control and screams as it plunges into the atmosphere of Sirius Gamma. Hook, Reg, Mel and the Doctor watch in horror as Dexter wrestles hopelessly with his controls - and then the connection is lost as Dexter’s ship explodes. Hook and Reg continue their commentary regardless – this regrettable incident is what is known in the sport as a ‘Moonstrike’.

The race ends, and Hook and Reg turn to their guests on their commentary show; the Doctor and his companion Mel. Mel is outraged at Hook’s callous attitude to Dexter’s death. The Doctor is intrigued, and asks to see Dexter’s death sequence again in slow motion. There is something odd about it, but he can’t quite place what.

President Emmuel is advised by her SpinBot that she should posthumously award Dexter Dreyfuss the Award of the Black Circle. Emmuel is reluctant – that is an honour only for war heroes – but the SpinBot suggests it will play well with the voters, so Emmuel agrees.

Mel and the Doctor relaxes in the Station’s bar, where Mel meets one of the competitors, Timothy Schooner-Watts, an upper-class Biggles-type idiot pilot. She learns that Dexter hated the Kith with a vengeance; she also learns that Dexter believed that someone had been tampering with his spacecraft before launch, and shared his suspicions with the other pilots.

Mel shares her information with the Doctor and they visit Muggeridge and Goulbride. Goulbride assures them that security is the top priority; there are competitors from both empires in the race, and accusations of cheating could easily cause a diplomatic crisis. She refuses to believe there is any way Dexter’s ship could have been sabotaged, and suggests the Doctor re-checks the footage of Dexter’s final moments.

Emmuel Varlon welcomes the Kith Ambassador onto the Station; the Kith are extremely odd, liquid-based creatures that resemble lava lamps, and talk via voice synthesizers. The Ambassador offers condolences on behalf of the empire for the death of Dexter, and then asks to be shown to its quarters.

Muggeridge detects a blockage in one of the Station’s disposal ducts. The Doctor and Mel investigate with her, and discover a corpse, damaged beyond recognition, dressed in security overalls labelled ‘Pettifer’. Muggeridge informs them that security officer Pettifer had recently gone missing, and she assumes the corpse is his. Pettifer’s responsibilities included maintaining the security of the station’s communications. The Doctor’s suspicions are aroused.

The second heat of the race is about to commence and Hook Berriman interviews some of the competitors [via a computercom link] as they make the final launch-checks in their spacecraft.

Emmuel Varlon and Goulbride go to the observation deck to watch the race; Emmuel is due to begin negotiations with the Kith Ambassador, but the ambassador has not yet arrived. Muggeridge is sent to locate the ambassador. Goulbride also makes her excuses and leaves.

The Doctor and Mel are in a private video booth re-watching Dexter’s final moments. It appears that he died simply through poor flying – there is no hint of sabotage, and his ship was functioning perfectly. But he was an extremely experienced pilot. And then there is the hiss of gas and the Doctor and Mel lose consciousness. Just before they black out, they notice someone else is with them in the booth. . .

Reg, meanwhile, is due to commentate on the race via an orbital podule, and he exchanges banter with Hook Berriman as his podule detaches from the Station and flies through space towards the slalom area.

The race starts and the spacecraft are launched and begin to loop around the planet’s moons.

Suddenly Hook loses contact with Reg due to some sort of space static interference. Hook is somewhat unnerved at the loss of his co-presenter; the interference also means that he unable to contact any of the competitors for mid-race chats. And his guest presenters have failed to turn up, leaving him to commentate alone. He interviews two Kith competitors.

The Doctor and Mel wake up on a spacecraft, flying around Sirius Major. They realise their horror that they are taking part in the race. But, almost before they have time to react, their ship is caught in the gravity field of Sirius Beta. The Doctor takes the controls but is unable to steer their ship away, and they plunge towards the surface of the moon and certain death – a Moonstrike. Their ship’s computer counts down to impact, reaching ‘five, four, three, two, one, z-’

END OF EPISODE ONE

EPISODE TWO

Mel is vocally relieved to discover that they were, in fact, inside a flight simulator. The simulation was realistic down to the smallest detail. The Doctor had suspected as much.

They emerge to meet Muggeridge, who explains that the competitors use these simulators for pre-race training sessions. They can even record their flights and play them back for further study.

Emmuel Varlon is joined by Goulbride and the Kith Ambassador. The Ambassador wants to delay negotiations until after the race; it is likely an excited child.

The Doctor and Mel join Hook Berriman in the commentary box. The Doctor quizzes Hook about Dexter; Hook tells the Doctor how Dexter was such a dull interviewee. The Doctor asks for copies of all the recent interviews conducted with Dexter – for ‘insomnia’ reasons he says.

Their conversation is interrupted by a development in the race. Without warning, two of the spacecraft collide. Due to the space static, Hook is unable to contact the pilots for their reactions, and watches in dismay as they both crash into Sirius Gamma.  Other ships are caught in the fray, but manage to cross the finishing line safely. As they arrive, Hook interviews the winner of this heat, Timothy Schooner-Watts, to get his immediate reaction.

Unfortunately both ships had Kith pilots, and the Ambassador is appalled and immediately accuses Goulbride of sabotaging the race. Goulbride denies this, but the furious Ambassador decides it will not negotiate with Emmuel until the matter is resolved. The situation is tense, and Goulbride orders Muggeridge to investigate.

The Doctor and Mel return to the bar to discuss recent events. They are joined by Reg Halfcastle, whose podule has recently returned to the Station. Reg is distrustful of the Kith and suggests that they have made it look as though someone has killed their pilots simply as an excuse to re-start the war.

Emmuel attempts to delay the posthumous Black Circle award ceremony for Dexter Dreyfuss, but her SpinBot advises against it. The Kith Ambassador is angered further at the thought of this Varlon nationalist figure being honoured.

The Doctor leaves Mel; he wants to go through the tapes of Dexter’s interviews that Hook has given him. He briefly believes he is being watched, but whoever it is disappears before he can make contact.

Mel meets up with Timothy Schooner-Watts, who complains about how he was almost killed during the race due to the Kith’s bad driving. Timothy tries to chat Mel up and offers her a quick joyride around the moons. She agrees.

Goulbride and Muggeridge meet up; following the recent events, all ships will be double-checked before the race in case of sabotage. Goulbride is determined that the next heat of the race must still go ahead.

Mel and Timothy are flying around Sirius Alpha when there is a malfunction with the drive unit. Timothy immediately suspects sabotage – someone was trying to make sure that he would be killed in the next round of the race. But they weren’t to know that he would be taking Mel out for a spin. He manages to get them both safely back to the Orbital Station.

Mel looks for the Doctor to tell him about her recent experiences, but he seems to have vanished. She goes to her room to sleep.

The next morning, Emmuel is conducting the Black Circle award ceremony for Dexter. Everyone in the base, including Goulbride, Muggeridge, Timothy, the Kith Ambassador and Mel, are attending the event. Hook and Reg are, of course, providing a commentary.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Doctor turns up and disrupts proceedings. He shows the gathered audience the tape of Hook’s last interview with Dexter, and then compares it to an earlier interview. In the earlier interview, Hook asked the same questions and Dexter gave exactly the same answers. So, the Doctor explains, in the latter interview, Hook wasn’t interviewing Dexter at all – he was merely talking as someone played back the answers to the earlier interview.

He then replays Dexter’s last-minute struggle with the controls of his craft before it plunged into Sirius Gamma. But he points out a detail that everyone missed – Dexter wasn’t flying into Sirius Gamma at all. According to his computer, he was approaching Sirius Beta.

Hook protests – Dexter’s ship was nowhere near Sirius Beta when it crashed into Sirius Gamma. ‘Exactly’, the Doctor responds. The recording of Dexter’s last-minute struggle was not  a live feed from the inside of his ship during the race at all; it was a recording of Dexter practising in one of the flight simulators.

Mel explains what the Doctor’s evidence means. They can now no longer be sure that Dexter was in his ship when it crashed into Sirius Gamma. Perhaps he wasn’t in that ship at all? The Doctor agrees, and proclaims that Dexter Dreyfuss faked his death and  is still alive and well and somewhere on the Station.

At this news, there is consternation and uproar. The Kith Ambassador believes that this provides the explanation for the two Kith ships crashing – Dexter sabotaged them out of hatred for the Kith people. It immediately orders Goulbride and Muggeridge to hunt down this Dexter person, and then retires to its room for its own protection

Goulbride and Muggeridge immediately order a search of the whole Station, putting it on a top security alert. Emmuel cancels the ceremony on the grounds that she cannot posthumously award someone who might still be alive; her SpinBot informs her that this farrago hasn’t gone down well in the polls. Reg and Hook close their broadcast.

The Doctor and Mel leave the ceremony. Mel asks the Doctor if he is sure that Dexter Dreyfuss is really still alive. The Doctor is not convinced, and quietly explains his recent actions. 

Someone has been deliberately laying clues in order to make them suspect that Dexter faked his own death. Hook, for instance, told him about the repetitive nature of the interviews; and someone deliberately placed them in one of the flight simulators. These clues have been too obvious to be coincidental. Someone wanted the Doctor to think Dexter was still alive; and so, to play along with it, the Doctor announced as such at the ceremony to make it look as though he had been taken in.

He thinks that he was brought to the Station for precisely this reason – to act as somebody’s stooge. Whoever it was knew that the Doctor would quickly realise how suspicious Dexter’s death was. . .

Mel thinks Dexter could be the one who gassed them and locked them in the simulator – maybe he wanted them to find out that he was still alive and at large. The Doctor thinks this is a possibility, but tells Mel his second theory. What if someone is trying to make them think Dexter is still alive in attempt to draw suspicion away from themselves?

Suddenly, there is the sound of two laser shots and a scream and the Doctor and Mel rush to the source of the noise - the Kith Ambassador’s apartments. They arrive with Goulbride and Muggeridge in tow, only to discover that someone has attacked the ambassador under cover of complete darkness. The Kith Ambassador is still alive, but its assailant is dead.

Goulbride recognises the body. It is Security Officer Pettifer.

END OF EPISODE TWO

EPISODE THREE

The Kith Ambassador describes what happened; Pettifer burst into its private quarters and fired at him. The Ambassador was so startled that it returned fire, killing Pettifer. There is a mark above the doorway where Pettifer’s laser blast hit it.

Muggeridge is confused; she had assumed that Pettifer was already dead, having discovered his corpse in the disposal ducts the previous day.

The Doctor rounds on Goulbride, demanding an explanation. Goulbride explains that, as the officer in charge of communications and the simulation centre, Pettifer would have had security access to the competitor’s ships. Presumably Pettifer murdered Dexter Dreyfuss and then mutilated the corpse to the point of being unrecognisable, dressed it in their uniform to fake his own death, and then rigged the race broadcasts so that it looked as though Dexter was still alive, having faked his own death.

The Doctor proclaims that Pettifer is – or rather, was -  their saboteur. The Kith Ambassador is delighted at the news that it has single-handedly brought the saboteur to justice, and agrees to allow the Moonslalom contest to continue. Muggeridge and Goulbride take the body away, and the Doctor and Mel return to the bar to discuss recent developments.

Despite what he said, the Doctor doesn’t believe Pettifer was the saboteur. His theory is that Pettifer discovered Dexter Dreyfuss’s corpse and then dressed it in his uniform to give the impression that it was he who had been killed. Pettifer would then have been able to investigate at will; only the murder would have known that Pettifer was still alive and somewhere on the station. Thus the murderer would eventually reveal themselves. . .

Mel asks what Pettifer was doing in the Ambassador’s rooms. The Doctor points out that the mark above the doorway indicates that Pettifer would have been shooting away from the Ambassador at the time of the attack – which doesn’t make sense. The other possibility is that the mark wasn’t made by Pettifer at all, and was in fact caused by the Ambassador returning fire and missing its target. The first laser shot they heard was someone killing Pettifer.

The Doctor believes that Pettifer, having discovered who the murderer was, was attempting to warn the Ambassador. But unfortunately the murderer killed him just as he was entering the Ambassador’s pitch-dark rooms.

Mel is not convinced; she thinks the Doctor knows far more about what is going on than he is saying. The Doctor leaves her to get some sleep, and disappears for a mysterious walk around the station.

The following morning, President Emmuel is informed, much to her irritation, that Dexter Dreyfuss is in fact dead after all and she reluctantly re-awards him the Black Circle. Her SpinBot informs her that the voters are incredulous at this turn of events, to say the least, and this uncertainty has harmed her electoral chances. However, the atmosphere in the base is calmer, the murderer having been found, and Emmuel and the Kith Ambassador begin peace treaty negotiations.

Reg and Hook return to the commentary booth, as the next round of the moon race is about to begin. To fill in time, they discuss the recent murder mystery; Hook wonders why Pettifer wanted to kill Dexter Dreyfuss, but Reg says it was probably some sort of tug-of-love thing.  Hook then asks why Pettifer would want to blow up two Kith competitors, and Reg decides to stop being an amateur sleuth and turns the conversation back to the imminent competition.

Goulbride and Muggeridge, meanwhile, are making the final preparations for the Moonslalom, discussing the security around the competitor’s ships. Nothing must go wrong this time. Timothy Schooner-Watts has already lodged a complaint, asserting that his ship was tampered with before he took Mel out on a pleasure cruise.

Mel goes to wish Timothy luck, but he is extremely bad-tempered before the race and snaps at her.

The Doctor and Mel go to the commentary booth as the race begins. Hook is unable to get into contact with Timothy during the race, Timothy having disengaged his communication computer. Hook and Reg settle for interviewing some more of the other competitors – in this, the final race of the Moonslalom, there are four Kith competitors and four Varlon competitors.

As soon as the race is underway, the Doctor announces live on air that the race should be stopped and that four of the competitors will be killed. He even names which ones they are – they are the four Kith competitors. Reg and Hook attempt to silence the Doctor, and he is escorted out of the studio. He confronts Goulbride, but she refuses to order a halt to the slalom.

Mel remains in the studio, and watches in horror as, a few minutes later, something goes wrong in the race. One of the Kith competitors’ ships goes out of control a crashes into a moon. Another two Kith collide and also hit moons. And then the final Kith burns up in the atmosphere of into Sirius Major. Four Kith competitors dead – just as the Doctor warned.

The remaining three competitors in the race complete the course without incident – one of which is, of course, Timothy Schooner-Watts, who wins the race and thus the Moonslalom competition.

President Emmuel is due to award Timothy with his medal, but before she can do that she is confronted by the Kith Ambassador. The Ambassador is convinced that the Varlon empire has deliberately been killing off the Kith competitors. The Ambassador prepares to leave in both its ship and in a fit of pique and return to Kith.

The Doctor briefly meets with the Kith Ambassador, and suggests they go down to the simulation booths together for a private chat.

Hook and Reg commentate on proceedings, and describe the Kith Ambassador’s ship as it leaves the Station. They briefly interview the truculent Ambassador. It casually mentions that it considers the deaths of its competitors to be an act of war.

Goulbride is convinced that the Doctor is the saboteur. The Doctor is captured by guards in the simulation centre. He protests that if he is the saboteur, why would he do something so stupid as to warn them?  Surely the real saboteur would never do that? Goulbride retorts that that is merely a clever double-bluff. She then gives the order for Mel to be found and arrested.

Mel is forced to flee from guards; whilst attempting to locate the Doctor, she receives a message, purportedly from Timothy Schooner-Watts. He wants to meet her in the lower generator chamber. Alone.

Emmuel is desperate to placate the Kith and prevent a war. Goulbride advises that she should have the Doctor executed immediately as a sign of goodwill. Her SpinBot advises her that recent events have actually put her ahead in the polls, as the antagonism with the Kith has meant she has gained the anti-Kith vote – so, politically, a war would actually be a very good idea.

Seconds later, and the Kith Ambassador’s ship suddenly and inexplicably explodes.

Mel arrives in the lower generator chamber, and is met by Timothy Schooner-Watts. Seconds later, a shot rings out and Timothy collapses, dead. Mel screams.

END OF EPISODE THREE

EPISODE FOUR

Mel is captured by Goulbride’s guards and placed in the cell with the Doctor. She describes what happened to Timothy. The Doctor tells her that Timothy had probably worked out who their saboteur was and was probably going to tell her; but then the saboteur shot him. Mel asks the Doctor if he knows who the murderer was; the Doctor is irritatingly enigmatic as usual.

The Kith Leadership contact President Emmuel. Following the destruction of the Ambassador’s ship, they will be declaring war. A battle fleet is now on its way to Sirius to blow them to their particulate constituents.

At this news, Goulbride orders a complete evacuation. Emmuel thinks that if they execute the Doctor as the saboteur they may be able to placate the Kith and avoid a war; but, just in case, she gives the order for a Varlon battle fleet to also make its way to Sirius.

Hook and Reg attempt to join the evacuation; but as professional commentators, they are ordered to act as war correspondents and describe the imminent space battle to their listeners.

The Doctor is put on trial by Goulbride and Muggeridge. The Doctor protests his innocence, and then dramatically announces that President Emmuel is their saboteur. Under a legal loophole, Muggeridge is obliged to investigate the accusation. Mel is released, as she is presumed innocent.

Whilst the Doctor is returned to his cell, Mel and Muggeridge confront the President. She denies any guilt, even though the recent events have improved her poll rating immeasurably. However, when Mel asks her whether she knows how the competitor’s ships were sabotaged, the President falters, and admits she suspects how.

During the Varlon-Kith war, the Varlon developed a means of destroying enemy ships without needing to physically engage them. But Emmuel protests that the information about this is confidential, and no-one on the base could possibly know about it. Mel suggests they check the military records as to which pilots were involved with testing this ‘weapon’.

The Kith battle fleet arrives. Reg and Hook talk briefly to the Kith Leader via a computercom link. The Kith Leader is a poor interview subject, as he is in a homicidal rage.

Mel returns to the Doctor; she has the evidence they need and the Doctor can be freed. She explains that Timothy Schooner-Watts was involved in tests on a secret weapon during the Kith-Varlon war, and so he was presumably their saboteur – and some philanthropist killed him before he could kill Mel. The Doctor doesn’t believe a word of it, but has cunningly used this information to get himself found innocent and get released.

Emmuel boards her own private ship and leaves the station to direct the Varlon battle fleet, which has now arrived.

As the battle increases in ferocity (though no ships are destroyed), Reg decides to go and join in the battle. As a former pilot, he claims he will be useful in the conflict. Hook is rather confused.

The Doctor and Mel arrive in the commentary box, and are joined by Muggeridge and Goulbride. The Doctor decides to put an immediate end to the war.

He contacts the Kith Leader via a computercom link. The Doctor informs it that they should shut down the engines of all their spacecraft immediately or they will be destroyed.

Some ignore his advice, and lose control and crash into the moons.

The Doctor explains. The communication link between the commentary booth and the ships is made not via normal radio, but through a station-computer-to-ship’s-computer interface – a computercom link. Through this link, it is possible to transmit a computer virus that will make the ship’s guidance computer fail and make any movement or use of weapons potentially fatal to the infected ship. And every single Kith ship has been infected with this computer virus.

The Kith battle fleets come to a halt, suspended in space.

President Emmuel congratulates the Doctor for stopping the Kith fleet; however, the Doctor then informs her that he has just transmitted the virus to her ship and, thus, to every single ship in the Varlon battle fleet as well. They are all forced to come to a halt too.

The computer virus, the Doctor explains, was developed as a secret weapon by the Varlon during the Kith-Varlon war, and was top secret, known only to President Emmuel and the test pilots who used it during the war. In the end use of the computer virus was abandoned, as no cure could be found and it was too dangerous. However, one test pilot who used the weapon was Timothy Schooner-Watts. He must have realised how the competitor’s ships were being destroyed, but was unfortunately killed just as he was about to tell Mel who the saboteur was.

The saboteur was, of course, the other former test pilot on the station, Reg Halfcastle. From his position in the commentary booth, he had an ideal opportunity to guide the transmissions of the virus into competitor’s ships. His intention was quite obvious – Reg Halfcastle is utterly mad and deeply xenophobic, and is still fighting the Kith-Varlon war in his head. He intended to re-ignite the conflict and create a battle where he could use the computer virus to wipe out the Kith once and for all. It was Reg who had transmitted the virus into the Kith fleet, when talking briefly to the homicidally enraged Kith Leader.

His plan was to use Dexter Dreyfuss as a ‘smokescreen’ – by creating the impression that Dexter was still alive on the station, suspicion would be directed towards Dexter and away from Reg. However, Dexter’s freshly-murdered corpse was accidentally discovered by security officer Pettifer, who swapped the uniform on the corpse with his own. As Pettifer realised Reg was the murderer, so Reg had no choice but to kill him too, seconds before Pettifer was about to warn the Kith Ambassador of Reg’s plans.

Mel asks how Reg could have gassed them when he was not on the station at the time – he was in his observation pod. The Doctor says that Reg was, in fact, on the station at the time – the communications from the observation podule were merely pre-recordings, just as Dexter’s last interview and dying moments were pre-recordings.

The Doctor informs the battle fleets that he will begin working on an antidote to the computer virus, but it will take several hours, if not days. In the meantime, he suggests they talk to each other and sort out some sort of truce. Emmuel and the Kith Leader begin negotiations from their two ships, frozen in space a few miles apart.

And Reg? The Doctor spots his ship in orbit around Sirius, preparing to leave the system. Reg has shut down his computercom unit, so the Doctor can’t transmit the virus to his ship.

Suddenly, Reg’s ship is caught in the gravity well of a moon and plunges to his death. Moonstrike. It seems he wasn’t quite the pilot he used to be.  The Doctor, however, is not completely convinced Reg was on board the ship at all – maybe he is still alive somewhere else. . .

Seconds later, Reg enters, holding a gun. He announces that he intents to kill them all, and then he will use the Station’s weaponry to blast the Kith Battle fleet out of the sky. He insanely declares that he has singlehandedly won the Kith-Varlon war.

And then a shot rings out and Reg is killed. It is the Kith Ambassador. It turns out that, on the Doctor’s advice, the Kith Ambassador went to the simulation booths and has been hiding there ever since. When Reg thought he was talking to the Kith Ambassador, he was in fact talking to the Kith Ambassador sitting in a simulation booth, and the Ambassador’s ship was empty as it blew up on remote control.

Several days later, and the Kith Ambassador and President Emmuel have ratified their peace treaty and agreed to further co-operation. With the race over and the threat of war forgotten, life on Sirius Station returns to normal. Muggeridge and Goulbride agree it will be a long, long time before they decide to have another Moonslalom.

Their work done, the Doctor and Mel drain their drinks at the bar and return to the TARDIS. Just before leaving, the Doctor fires his AgentBot.

END OF EPISODE FOUR

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Fear

Time for another blast from the past. The great lost Jonathan Morris Doctor Who novel. Well, not quite. It’s not that great, and it’s not that lost, as I re-used all the setting and the monsters for the Doctor Who audio story Cobwebs. See here. Nothing is wasted, only reproduced. And, looking at it now, it is not hugely original – it’s basically Doctor Who does The Fly.


The odd thing with this is, I’m not sure when I wrote it. The file I have is only dated from when it was copied across. I know I worked out this story back in the early 1990s, as a New Adventure, and that I got as far as writing a sample chapter before giving up. But that sample chapter, and that version, is lost to posterity. However, it seems that around 2000 I somehow exhumed that story idea and rewrote it as a story for the 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. I’m pretty sure I submitted it, but that Justin Richards asked me if I’d like to come up with an idea for an 8th Doctor novel instead, which I did, and which became Anachrophobia. But most of my emails from back then are long-lost so I’m not sure.

But anyway, here it is. The book I never wrote.  

The Fear

by Jonathan Morris

Brief synopsis:

In the 36th century, all of humanity was ruled by the Iron Empire, a totalitarian fascist regime which ruthlessly subjugates and exterminates all other races. A mysterious and deadly flu-like virus, dubbed the Fear, appears, seemingly out of nowhere. After an undetectable and symptomless incubation period of anything from a few hours to a few years, it causes a depressive psychosis, intense paranoia and then death. The virus wipes out almost the entire human race, destroying the Iron Empire’s grip in the process. The remnants of the human race turn their back on the Empire and live in peace.

This is what should have happened.

The 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive at an Iron Empire base where scientists are gathered to work on a cure for the Fear. The idea is to create a treatment by splicing together the subject’s genes with those of the only creature known to be naturally immune to the virus (the vicious insectoid Chactids). The Doctor and his companions contract the virus and so the Doctor is forced to assist in finding the cure – and he suceeds. However, this means that the Iron Empire will now be able to continue, and history’s course will be altered for the worse.

As the members of base variously turn into Chactids or suffer lingering deaths at the hands of the Fear, the Doctor and his companions are caught in a desperate struggle to prevent details of the cure being broadcast back to Empire Control.

The Doctor also faces a moral dilemna. He is prepared to sacrifice the millions of innocents for the greater good of history by withholding the cure - but he isn’t prepared to sacrifice his companion’s lives for the greater good by not coming up with the cure in the first place. The exploration of this dilemnia is the story’s raison d’etre.

Because of its archetypical ‘base-under-siege’ nature, this story could be easily adapted for other Doctor / companion combinations; for instance, substitute a homicidal Turlough for Zoe and Tegan for Jamie for a 5th Doctor adventure set during the ‘Black Guardian trilogy’. Or, who knows, the 8th Doctor, Fitz and Anji.

Detailed synopsis:

PART ONE (OF FOUR)

1

The TARDIS lands on a misty, desolate planet and, having detected an energy source nearby, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe decide to explore.

Two soldiers, Lundberg and Dupont, discover Shackleton’s corpse in a gloomy corridor. They assume he was killed by Gregory, a fellow soldier who has developed an extreme form of mental illness. Gregory must have escaped from the restrainment cells; using trace sensors, they set off in pursuit.

Gregory is on the run; he hallucinates that he is being chased by some invisible terror.

The Doctor and co. spot a building in the distance, a gothic-looking structure. A spacecraft is moored nearby. They encounter Gregory, who collapses close to death. The Doctor recognises something about Gregory’s uniform and advises that they all should leave immediately, without giving any explanation.

Lundberg and Dupont detect the Doctor and co on their scanners and head towards them, rifles at the ready. They also sense other life forms converging on the strangers - the native species of the planet, the Chactids, a type of extremely dangerous and aggressive giant beetle/scorpion.

The Doctor and co are prevented from returning to the TARDIS by some unseen but malignant-sounding creatures. As the creatures approach, Lundberg and Dupont arrive and scare off the Chactids by firing into the gloom. They then shoot the Doctor and co.

2

The building is an abandoned prison which is now being used as a scientific research base. In the laboratory the neurotic chief scientist, Collings, and his cold and emotionless assistant, Judge, are busy with their research when the officious deputy leader of the base, Bragg, brings in Gregory’s recently-recovered body. Gregory is still alive, just.

The Doctor and his companions recover conciousness to find themselves locked in a cell. Zoe develops a strange flu-like symptoms. The Doctor refuses to explain why he wanted them to leave so urgently, though he is quietly apologetic.

Their conversation is monitored by Hawker, the leader of the base, who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He orders Bragg to bring them to the control room for interrogation.

Zoe is too ill to be moved, and Jamie insists on staying with her, so only the Doctor is taken to be questioned by Hawker. Turning the questioning round, the Doctor finds out that they have arrived on an unnamed planet on the very edge of the galaxy. The Doctor wonders aloud what Hawker and his subordinates are doing in such an isolated place.

Jamie and Zoe are visited by Lundberg and Dupont. Lundberg is amused by Zoe’s condition and suggests that she will make good experimental material. After the soldiers leave, Jamie and Zoe talk, worried about the Doctor’s behaviour.

In an effort to threaten the Doctor into co-operating with the interrogation, he is taken to the laboratory where Collings and Judge are finishing the preparations for an experiment. The Doctor recognises what the bulky, medieval-looking machine in the middle of the lab is; it is a primitive and half-derelict genetic splicer. Guessing what is about to happen, the Doctor protests but Collings ignores him and the experiment goes ahead.

Gregory is shut inside in the machine and it is activated. After a few moments, the machine is opened to reveal Gregory’s mutilated, mashed remains. Collings declares the experiment a success - sensors show that what is left of Gregory is still alive.

3

As Collings disposes of Gregory’s corpse, he argues with Hawker and Bragg about the Doctor. They are all convinced he knows more about genetic manipulation than he is prepared to admit. Hawker thinks he is a spy or saboteur, but Collings thinks the Doctor may be able to  help him in his work.

It is now late evening and Lundberg and Dupont retire to their rooms, Dupont drinking himself to sleep as usual.

The Doctor is returned to the cell with Jamie and Zoe. He is intrigued about what Collings is trying to do with the genetic splicer.

Judge leaves Collings to work on the genetic splicer alone. In the main control room, Hawker and Bragg have another argument. Bragg suggests that Hawker is no longer fit for duty and that he should take over. This is too close to the truth for Hawker, and he throws Bragg out.

Dupont is awoken in the night by someone’s footsteps. Investigating, he visits the communications room and finds it occupied. Before he can find out who is transmitting a coded radio message, he is knocked unconscious.

Zoe’s condition is deteriorating. The Doctor and Jamie call for help and Bragg arrives, in a malicious mood. Bragg explains that there is nothing that can be done for Zoe. She has contracted the Fear, an incurable virus which causes the sufferer to experience sensations of intense terror and paranoia. She is in the first stages of infection now; within a matter of days she will be dead.

Dupont wakes up alone in the communication centre and runs to Lundberg’s room to tell her what happened. She doesn’t believe him.

Bragg explains to the time travellers that everyone on the base has the virus, including the Doctor and Jamie. The virus is as contagious as a cold, but can remain dormant in the body for days, months or even years. The research base originally had a crew of 30. Now there’s only 6 of them left.

4

The next morning Hawker attempts to contact Empire Control on the radio, but fails to get a response. Either the communications systems aren’t working, or Empire Control has fallen to the virus. They are, to all intents and purposes, alone.

Collings has been working through the night but the genetic splicer is still barely functioning. He believes the Doctor could help him repair it. The Doctor is brought to him and is informed that Collins intends to find a cure for the Fear virus using the machine. The Doctor agrees it is an excellent idea, with only one minor drawback: ‘It won’t work.’ Collings replies, telling the Doctor that he isn’t yet aware of the full scale of his plans.

Dupont takes some breakfast to Jamie and Zoe. Jamie is interested in the attack in the communications room, and asks about Gregory. Apparently Gregory escaped from his restrainment cell and then killed Shackleton in an insane rage. Dupont assures Jamie that when Zoe becomes violent he will be moved to a separate cell. Jamie is not impressed.

The Doctor is returned to the restrainment cell and finally tells Jamie and Zoe why he wanted them to leave the planet after seeing Gregory’s uniform. They have arrived during the final days of the Iron Empire.

At this stage in its history, the human race is ruled by a totalitarian fascist regime. Over the past centuries, this empire has utterly exterminated all rival races; whole planets have been fire stormed, destroying millions of innocent lives and whole biosystems. This is a period in human history the Doctor has never wanted to visit.

According to the historical accounts, the Iron Empire had been expanding rapidly, inspiring terror throughout the galaxy, when it mysteriously disappeared almost overnight. The Doctor now realises what caused this. It was because of the Fear. The Fear virus will go on to wipe out the entire human race.

5

Jamie asks the Doctor if he would be able to find a cure. The Doctor explains why he is reluctant to do so; if he did manage to discover a cure, he would effectively be saving the Iron Empire and allowing it to continue. Jamie argues that the Doctor can’t just let Zoe and everyone else die, but the Doctor has a different perspective. Given the choice between altering the course of history for the worse and sacrificing his companions and himself, he would rather choose the latter option. Jamie is disgusted with the Doctor’s attitude.

This conversation has been monitored by Hawker, Bragg and Collings. Collings is convinced the Doctor does know of a cure for the Fear. As Collings is secretly also suffering the early stages of the infection, he is becoming desperate to find a remedy before it is too late for him too.

The Doctor and Jamie are no longer talking when the Doctor is again summoned to the laboratory.

Collings explains to him that they have found on this planet the only known race which is immune to the Fear virus. The Chactids have a gene which naturally destroys the virus. Collings’s intention is to splice together a human and Chactid at a genetic level, thus transferring this immunity from the creature into the human – and thus curing them. The Doctor points out that the two species are completely genetically incompatible and the idea is scientific gobbledegook, but Collings is convinced it could work. The Doctor adds that if the Iron Empire hadn’t destroyed so many other life forms, a cure would have been much easier to find. He steadfastly refuses to help.

Bragg suggests a way to get the Doctor to co-operate. Lundberg fetches Zoe from the cell and they all go to visit the Chactid enclosure.  One side of a giant pit opens, and the Chactids stream in.

They are small, hideous creatures, combining all the worst aspects of crabs and scorpions. They scuttle about on six legs, communicating through clacking their pincers.

Bragg threatens to throw Zoe into the pit. At the last possible moment, the Doctor agrees to help Collings find a cure and Zoe is saved.

PART TWO

6

To demonstrate how vicious the Chactids are, Lundberg throws a slab of meat into the pit. The meat is instantly devoured by the Chactids, who are in turn set upon and eaten by other Chactids. They are a naturally cannibalistic species, constantly eating each other whole, partly as an aid to digestion, partly as a means of reproduction, and partly to control their population. Fortunately they are secured in their enclosure by an electric force field.

The Doctor starts helping Collings and Judge with repairs and improvements to the genetic splicer and quickly becomes engrossed in his work. He notices that Collings is developing the Fear infection. The Doctor surreptitiously fiddles with a vital piece of equipment.

Hawker is extremely concerned that Empire Control still isn’t responding - what if they have already succumbed to the virus? He is taking sedatives to calm his nerves, but they are becoming increasingly ineffective. In a paranoid panic attack, he smashes his office.

Visiting Jamie, the Doctor takes a blood sample from Zoe. Jamie is still furious with the Doctor, even though he is, under duress, now helping to find a cure.

A fuse blows in the laboratory and the base’s generators cut out. Dupont and Lundberg dash down to the generator room to restore the power.

While the power is off, the Doctor confides in Jamie. He didn’t tell him the whole truth before because they were being monitored. The virus will not destroy the entire human race - small colonies, away from the Empire’s influence, will survive. The Doctor also tells Jamie that he should be able to find a cure and save Zoe - but he doesn’t want Collings and company to know that he knows how to find a cure. The plan is to cure themselves without anyone else finding out, to prevent details of the method from leaving the planet.

7

With Judge’s help, the power is restore. The Doctor returns to the laboratory, the very picture of innocence.

Work on the genetic splicer continues apace for rest of the day, despite Collings’s worsening condition. The Doctor and Collings discuss the ethics of using Gregory and other people for experimentation purposes. Collings argues that he is prepared to sacrifice a few lives to help to eventually save the lives of millions. The Doctor disagrees - one life lost is too many - that there is always another way. Collings thinks the Doctor is just being naive. He explains that he has seen his family, his friends and his colleagues all suffering and dying from the virus. He will stop at nothing to destroy it.

Zoe is developing acute paranoia and terror. Despite Jamie’s best efforts, she becomes increasingly aggressive and suicidal. Jamie is also secretly concerned about his own safety now that he has insisted to remain with her.

The genetic splicer is tested on Shackleton’s corpse and appears to work. A Chactid is fetched from the enclosure and secured in the laboratory. It violently hurls itself against the bars of its cage, but nevertheless the Doctor attempts to befriend it. He christens it Harry.

Late in the evening, another experiment is conducted on some living human tissue, combining it with some tissue taken from Harry the Chactid. The genetic splicer successfully combines them, creating a hybrid human tissue which is naturally immune to the Fear. Collings is ecstatic that the final breakthrough has been made; his joy is short-lived, however, as he soon has an attack caused by the Fear virus, which rapidly overcomes him. As Hawker and Bragg enter to observe the experiment, Collings warns them off, threatening them with a gun.

Zoe is brought to the laboratory from her cell by Dupont and Lundberg. But Collings is determined that he should be the first to be cured.

The Doctor is not sure that the splicer is ready to be used on a living subject, but his objections are swiftly overruled. Collings and Harry are placed in separate booths of the genetic splicer and their DNA is combined. Part of the machine explodes. Collings gives a bloodcurdling scream.

Seconds later, Collings emerges from the machine, alive and whole. Judge runs a quick medical check on him - there is no trace of The Fear virus - it has been utterly eradicated. Collings has been cured.

8

Harry is returned to the Chactid enclosure by Lundberg.

A cell sample is taken from Collings and the Doctor and Judge immediately begin work on repairing the genetic splicer. Zoe remains in the laboratory with them, and Jamie leaves with Dupont.

In the communications centre, Hawker reports to Earth Control that a cure has been discovered. He still receives no reply. Hawker thinks they are now the only humans left alive in the universe, and becomes hysterical. Bragg overpowers him and locks him in his quarters. Bragg takes command.

Jamie asks Dupont to take him to Gregory’s cell, which is identical to the cell that Jamie was kept in. The door is still as it was when Gregory’s escape was discovered - apparently smashed open from the inside. Jamie points out that the force required to break open the door would have pulverized Gregory’s arm. He deduces that Gregory did not in fact escape from his cell - he was set free, and the door was smashed afterwards. Dupont can’t think why anyone would do such a thing. Jamie has a cunning theory - somebody murdered Shackleton and then set Gregory loose as a cover. Shackleton’s body was moved after he was killed and deliberately placed nearby Gregory’s cell to make it look like Gregory was the killer.

Dupont remembers that Shackleton had said he was suspicious about one member of the base’s crew, and that not all of the deaths had been as a result of the Fear...

The Doctor and Judge have almost finished the repairs on the splicer and Zoe is prepared to be the next subject. Judge passes the Doctor a cell sample. He replies, ‘No, I asked for Collings’s, not Harry’s.’ Judge corrects him, she did pass him Collings’s cell sample. Collings’s and Harry’s cells are now almost indistinguishable. Collings is turning into a Chactid.

Collings visits the Chactid enclosure alone and silently watches the creatures.

9

Whilst Judge searches for Collings, the Doctor puts some finishing touches to the splicer. The original method for curing the Fear is obviously unworkable, but the Doctor hits upon an alternative idea - rather than combing the human genetic material with the Chactid, the machine will transfer the Chactid immunity gene into only those cells already infected with the virus. Zoe’s condition is critical, so the Doctor immediately treats her with the splicer and an unwilling Chactid. It works perfectly, and Zoe emerges groggy but cured.

Judge is concerned to find Collings’s quarters empty.

Dupont mentions Jamie’s cunning theory to Lundberg that there is a murderer amongst them - Dupont is convinced that Bragg is the killer.

It is now the middle of the night, and the Doctor fetches Jamie from the cell to cure him too. After he and the Doctor have been de-infected Dupont and Lundberg enter unexpectedly. The Doctor has no choice but to cure them, and then also Bragg and Judge. Bragg will not permit Hawker to be cured, however; he has a grudge against his former commanding officer and wants to see him suffer.

The Doctor and Jamie intend to surreptitiously sabotage the communications centre to prevent the cure being broadcast back to Earth Control, but they find that somebody else has already sabotaged it before them! The innards of the radio have been removed. As they are about to leave, Bragg arrives and captures them at gunpoint.

They are taken to  the control room. The power his going to Bragg’s head and he is emotionally unstable. He court-martials the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe for sabotage and condemns them all to immediate execution. .

10

Dupont and Lundberg arrive and rescue the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. They lock Bragg in the control room and make good their escape. Dupont reminds them that their first priority should be to get Hawker cured.

Judge puts a schematic diagram of the method of the Doctor’s cure onto disc, ready to be transmitted back to Earth control. At this point the Doctor and company arrive in the laboratory and consider what to do next, with Bragg screaming furiously at them over the intercom. They decide to split up - the Doctor with Zoe, Jamie with Lundberg and Dupont with Judge.

The Doctor and Zoe head towards the control room, where Bragg is becoming increasingly annoyed about being locked in.

Jamie and Lundberg find Collings near the Chactid enclosure - he is starting to transform into an Chactid, and is frightened by what is happening to him. He begs pitifully for help.

Dupont and Judge go to fetch Hawker from his quarters.

Bragg is monitoring them from the control room, and threatens them that if Dupont and Judge open Hawker’s door, he will permanently cut the power to the entire base.

The Doctor and Zoe attempt to break into the control room (locked from the inside) to stop him, but they are too late. Bragg cuts the power.

Throughout the base the lights go out. The force field keeping the Chactids in their enclosure is deactivated and they flood out, snapping their evil pincers.

PART THREE

11

Dupont and Judge find Hawker in his room. He is suffering badly from the Fear. They lock themselves in the room with him as the Chactids swarm past.

The Doctor and Zoe attempt to restore the power, but it is hopeless - the power lines have been completely blown. They stay in the control room with Bragg, wary of the Chactids clacking viciously outside. Bragg has calmed down somewhat, but is still dangerously insecure.

The Doctor is still worried that the formulae for the cure may get out, and so he resolves to destroy the genetic splicer machine itself. Zoe disagrees - having suffered  from the Fear herself, she believes it would be wrong to condemn anyone else to such pain when there is a method of saving them available. The Doctor explains to her that he has already changed history by finding the cure and that he isn’t prepared to sit back and allow the Iron Empire to continue as a direct result of his interference.

Zoe points out that perhaps the Empire has already been damaged enough and that perhaps it will end anyway, but with less suffering? She asks the Doctor - if you saw a child dying of a terrible disease, but knew that there was a chance that the child would grow up to be an evil dictator if allowed to live, wouldn’t you still try to save that child? She reminds the Doctor of his earlier statement about the ends not justifying the means - surely the Doctor cannot justify allowing millions of innocent people to die simply because he wants to prevent the Iron Empire from surviving?

The Doctor, however, points out that their choice is between making *sure* that the Iron Empire will end (by suppressing the cure) and allowing the it *possibly* to continue. And he is not prepared to take responsibility for that happening. It is paramount that history should remain unchanged. The Doctor argues that he doesn’t have the right to decide whether any empire should rise or fall. Zoe retorts, ‘Who does then, Santa Claus?’ but eventually, reluctantly, he agrees with the Doctor’s plan.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Lundberg have been forced to hide from the Chactids in the ventilation ducting, although it only offers temporary safety as the creatures soon find a way in.

12

Hawker is becoming violent so, against Dupont’ wishes, Judge locks him out o his quarters. They hear him pounding on the door for a while and then there is silence.

Jamie and Lundberg end up in the generator room. Whilst Lundberg fails to get the generators started again, Jamie discovers some explosives hidden behind the generators, primed to be detonated by remote control. He also finds some blood stains on the floor, and deduces that it was where Shackleton was killed, because he had discovered the explosives... Jamie is surprised by Lundberg creeping up behind him.

Judge suggests to Dupont they both try and get to the (solitary) escape spacecraft which is located at the other end of the base. Although the base’s communications have been destroyed, the spacecraft has its own radio, and the contents of her disc could be broadcast from there. Dupont is persuaded to go with her, against his better judgement, and they emerge from Hawker's quarters to make their way to the spacecraft. En route, they encounter Collings, now rapidly turning into an Chactid.

The Doctor and Zoe reach the laboratory and dismantle the genetic splicer - since the power has been permanently cut, there is no chance of it being able to work again, but the Doctor just wants to make sure. Then he notices that the schematics have already been transferred to disc - the Doctor quickly guesses Judge’s plan and so they too set off for the spacecraft.

13

Lundberg, not being the murderer, has not attacked Jamie. They decide their next course of action should be to find the Doctor, and they head for the control room, carefulling avoiding the Chactids on the way.

Dupont and Judge back away from Collings nervously. Collings ignores them and returns to the laboratory in a vain attempt to cure himself with the splicer. Discovering that the machine has been sabotaged, he collapses in tears, and then notices a single Chactid scampering past. He eats it hungrily.

Jamie and Lundberg find Bragg still locked safely in the control room. He immediately takes them both hostage at gunpoint and they also head for the spacecraft.

The Doctor and Zoe find their progress blocked by Chactids, which seem to be rapidly increasing in number. The only place they can find which is free of the creatures is the empty Chactid enclosure, and they rest there briefly.

Making their way through the crew quarters, Dupont dashes into his room for a pack of cigarettes. He has barely crossed the floor when numerous Chactids scuttle out from all around him. Retrieving the cigarette packet, he runs for safety with Judge. He later discovers the pack was empty anyway.

The Doctor and Zoe are disturbed by a movement in the enclosure. It is Harry, the Chactid spliced with Collings. Harry is undergoing a similar transformation - but is turning into a human. Harry is now half-Chactid and half-foetus.

14

Harry is distraught. The Doctor attempts to soothe it, but to no avail. They hesitantly leave it whimpering in the enclosure.

Dupont and Judge finally emerge from the base and board the spacecraft. Judge, surprisingly, decides not broadcast the formulae back to Earth control. Instead, she shoots Dupont in the stomach.

Judge activates a beacon within the spacecraft and sends a message to her superiors. She tells them she has the cure on disc. Her superiors are delighted and inform her that they are now on their way to collect it.

Dupont watches her with interest as he lies bleeding on the floor. Judge has been working for the Special Guard, the Iron Empire’s equivalent of the gestapo. Judge’s mission had been to get the cure for the Special Guard but also to make sure that it did not fall into the hands of the Iron Empire. It was Judge who murdered Shackleton and who sabotaged the communications centre.

Triumphant, Judge leaves Dupont to die in the spacecraft.

Minutes later, Bragg, Jamie and Lundberg arrive at the ship. Bragg locks Jamie and Lundberg in the hold with Dupont, where he tells them what has happened as they tend to his wounds.

Bragg activates the spacecraft’s countdown, ready for takeoff.

The Doctor and Zoe arrive, and quickly free Jamie, Dupont and Lundberg from the hold. Upon hearing about Judge, the Doctor immediately urges them all to get out of the spacecraft as rapidly as possible. There can only be one reason why Judge did not leave in the spacecraft herself when she had the chance. She has booby-trapped it.

The Doctor and company manage to flee from the spacecraft with moments to spare as the boarding hatch slams shut. They dive for cover as the spacecraft rises awkwardly from the launch pad. It falters, out of control, and crashes, exploding into a thousand fragments.

PART FOUR

15

The Doctor, Jamie, Zoe, Lundberg and Dupont recover in a disused storeroom.

The Doctor resolves that they have to find Judge and get the disc from her before the Special Guard arrive. Lundberg adds that when the Special Guard do arrive, they will have to try to take over their spacecraft, and use it to broadcast the cure back to Earth control- if Earth control still exists. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe pretend to go along with this plan, at least for the moment. Dupont, however, is adamant that he would rather that the cure was destroyed than for it to fall into the hands of the Special Guard. The Special Guard are a feared, corrupt organisation; the secret police of the Iron Empire. Although powerful, they do not control the empire - it is run by the military - but they would certainly like to.

Using a radar scanner, Lundberg finds that Judge is now near the base’s control room. The base between them is, however, still literally crawling with Chactids.

Whilst Lundberg keeps watch outside with Jamie, and Dupont sleeps, the Doctor and Zoe discuss what to do next. They have to prevent the disc falling into the hands of both the Iron Empire and the Special Guard. Unknown to them, Dupont overhears their conversation.

Leaving Jamie looking after Dupont, the Doctor, Zoe and Lundberg pick their way through the corridors to the control room. On the way they discover Hawker’s remains. He has been eaten alive by Chactids.

Judge is running through the base in a panic, trying to evade the Chactids. As she reaches the control room, she discovers that Collings is waiting for her. His metamorphosis has been completed.  He munches enthusiastically on Chactids as he happily describes the virtues of his new body. 

16

Judge attempts to escape, but Collings is too quick for her.

Jamie and Dupont are forced to run from their hideout as Chactids find a way in. Dupont points out how ironic it is to have got shot barely a day after being cured of the virus.

The Doctor, Sam and Lundberg finally reach the control room, to find Judge at Collings’s mercy. The Doctor and Sam rescue Judge, confiscating her disc in the process. They escape as Chactids swarm into the room. Unfortunately Collings overpowers Lundberg and sickeningly eats her alive. But then the Chactids cover Collings and eat him alive in turn.

After witnessing this, the Doctor, Zoe and Judge manage to hide in the laboratory. The Doctor is about to destroy the disc when Judge, somewhat ungratefully considering the circumstances, pulls out a rifle and threatens to shoot Zoe. The Doctor hands the disc back to her.

Jamie and Dupont are now completely trapped by the Chactids in one of the crew quarters. There is no way out.

Judge leads the Doctor and Zoe out of the base as her prisoners. On the way they pass the room where they had left Jamie and Dupont, which is now deserted.

They watch as the Special Guard’s spacecraft lands nearby and Judge’s colleagues emerge.

17

The Doctor and Zoe are imprisoned by the Special Guard in the hold of the spacecraft. Judge is congratulated by the Special Guard’s leaders, Ash and Norton, and hands the disc over to them.

In the spacecraft’s hold, the Doctor and Zoe are dishearted. It looks like they have lost Jamie and that the Special Guard will now be able to cure the Fear and take command of the Iron Empire.  Zoe is particularly furious with the Doctor for getting them into this situation, even though the Doctor was forced to hand over the disc to save his life. Now it looks like they will be taken from this planet and lose any chance of returning to the TARDIS too.

They are taken for interrogation. It transpires that the Fear is an artificially engineered virus, deliberately created by the Special Guard. They spread the virus throughout the Iron Empire to destroy its strongholds - all the inhabitants of Earth control have recently been wiped out, for instance - to allow the Special Guard to rise to power. However, the virus proved more effective than they had expected, and mutated, and soon the Special Guard’s power bases also became infected.  ‘That was a bit careless of you’, comments the Doctor.  But now that the cure has been found it means the eugenically-pure Special Guard will be able to take command after all. Ash tells the Docror that the Iron Empire had become weak and vulnerable - but now they have cut away all the dead wood, it will be revitalized under their leadership.

18

Before broadcasting the formulae back to the rest of the Special Guard, Judge reminds Ash and Norton that they will need to collect sufficient supplies of Chactids, as they are also necessary to perform the cure.

The Doctor and Zoe are returned to the hold to wait whilst the Guards hurriedly round up the creatures. One of the first Chactids to be thrown into the hold with the Doctor and Zoe is rather familiar - it is Harry, the half-human Chactid, who has come to rescue them. With Harry’s assistance, the Doctor and Zoe manage to break out of the hold.

They follow Harry to a hideout in a cave near the base, where Jamie and Dupont are waiting for them. Harry had rescued them at the end of chapter 16, and has brought them safely to the Doctor, the only human who has ever treated him with any kindness.

The Doctor asks Harry how he can return the favour. Harry has only one wish. He asks the Doctor to put him out of his misery. Whereas Collings was delighted to become half-Chactid, Harry has no wish to become half-human. The Doctor sympathizes with Harry - at this moment in history, Chactids only eat each other and other creatures for food while on the other hand humanity commits ritual mass genocide. Which race would you rather be a part of? The Doctor solemnly shoots Harry dead.

The Special Guard have collected all of the Chactids that were in the base and the surrounding area, luring them into captivity with the scent of food.  Judge announces that they have gathered enough, and Ash prepares their spacecraft for launching.

Whilst the Doctor had been moralizing with Harry, Dupont has quietly slipped away. Jamie is the first to notice he is missing, and quickly guesses where he has gone.

The Doctor dashes to the generator room, where he finds Dupont tampering with the explosives. The Doctor tries to persuade Dupont not to detonate the explosives, as he would kill himself in the explosion. Dupont argues that his one life will eventually save the lives of millions. The ends do justify the means.

The Doctor attempts to find a way to detonate the explosives by remote control or with a timing device, but there is not enough time. Dupont threatens to shoot the Doctor unless he leaves immediately. The Doctor exits reluctantly.

Dupont listens as the Special Guard’s spacecraft’s engines are activated for takeoff. He connects two bare wires and detonates the explosives.

Jamie and Zoe run for cover as the base explodes, taking the Special Guard’s ship with it. A mixture of twisted metal and toasted Chactid rains down from the sky. The Doctor emerges from the wrecked base coughing into his handkerchief.

The Doctor and his companions return to the TARDIS safely. The Doctor reminds Jamie and Zoe that the human race does eventually survive the Fear, and that it will have learnt its lesson. Out of the evil will come something good.

THE END

Thursday, 31 May 2018

We're Scared Of Bob


The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, issue 526, out today, contains a couple of things by me in it. Firstly, there’s a 5-page article on how script editor Robert Holmes put together the stories of the 1975 series, and how it influenced the show today. It’s called The Holmes Master Plan. Researching it required checking every relevant interview/piece of correspondence I could find with Holmes, Terrance Dicks, Philip Hinchcliffe and Barry Letts, and working out a timeline of when things were commissioned and by whom. Important to get this stuff right, even when there are conflicting accounts, although it’s more of a thesis than a run-through of facts.


There’s also another Blog of Doom on the last page. I think it’s my funniest one yet, it has jokes and everything. Whether you think that is damning with faint praise is up to you. Anyway, this time it’s about everyone’s favourite Muto, Sevrin.


And in other news, here’s the cover for the River Song box set which contains my story, The Bekdel Test. I can’t wait to hear the finished thing; every now and then I re-read the script to make myself laugh.


And my Doctor Who novel Touched by an Angel has just been released in German. It's already been released in Italian and something approximating English. I'm hoping for French next.