The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 27 April 2009

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea

Now that my Doctor Who adventure, Hothouse, has been released both as a download and is available on CD, I thought it might be fun to present the synopsis of the original idea. Until I re-read this synopsis, I’d forgotten that it started out as a story for the sixth Doctor, travelling without a companion. The title had been given to me, and is possibly why the end result turned out to be a little bit... well, you’ll see. But what’s interesting about it, for me at least, and the reason why I’ve waited until Hothouse was released before posting it, is because in terms of plot structure, the two stories are approximately the same, so please don’t read this if you’ve not heard Hothouse spoiler warning!

Anyway, this story was rejected for being too much of a broad comedy, and I was told to go away and come up with something more serious, and more of a direct sequel to The Seeds Of Doom – whilst keeping all of the good bits from this storyline. I think, in retrospect, this was absolutely the right decision – goodness knows what people would have made of the following nonsense...

(One other point of trivia. The Doctor's 'companion' in this story is called Keeley, as I had Keeley Hawes character from Spooks in mind. The character who plays a similar role in Hothouse is called Hazel. Because somebody - I think it was Barnaby Edwards - suggested she should have a name that was also a type of plant. Ten points to the first reader who can deduce what mental process led me from Keeley to Hazel...)


50-minute subscriber special

Synopsis draft 21 November 2007

We open with an excerpt from a TV show – Hector Mandelbaum’s In Pursuit Of Flavour. Hector Mandelbaum is the world’s greatest vegetarian chef, famous for his ‘Molecular Cuisine’ approach to cooking, which involves a vat of liquid nitrogen, blow-torches, a particle accelerator, an MRI scanner and an array of other hi-tech equipment. He is also famous for his ability to make one vegetable taste of another i.e. his legendary tomato peas.

This takes us to Hector’s restaurant, the world famous ‘Chubby Carrot’ in Chelsea, London. Busy at work in his laboratory, Hector is informed by the head waitress, Marianne, that there is a critic in the restaurant.

This food critic turns out to be the sixth Doctor. He, and the other patrons, are waiting in the dining room for the first course of Hector’s new veggie menu.

The waitresses bring out the Starters and lift the serving dish lids to reveal… Krynoid pods. Open, steaming, covered in cranberry sauce and ready to eat.

Recognising the pods, the Doctor tries to warn the other customers – these things are lethal! The other customers disagree - they are delicious! And totally harmless as the ‘stings’ have been removed. The Doctor asks for a doggy bag for his ‘pod’ as he’s suddenly lost his appetite. Particularly when the main course arrives – slices of roast Krynoid tendril in a white wine sauce.

We cut to the Doctor dissecting the pod, back at the World Ecology Bureau, with WEB scientific advisor Doctor Keeley Bright. The Doctor, we learn, had been called in to investigate the restaurant after the WEB grew suspicious after sighting a Krynoid pod in a TV programme about Hector discussing his never-ending search for new and exotic flavours. (We hear an excerpt of this).

The Doctor, still posing as a critic, confronts Hector at the restaurant. He tries to warn Hector of the dangers of Krynoids, but Hector denies all knowledge – his supplier provides them with the ‘stings’ removed; he’s never had any trouble. He refuses to divulge the name of this supplier. And he will not stop serving them – they are his most popular dish, with people travelling from all over the globe to sample his Krynoid cutlets.

After the Doctor has left, Hector discusses the situation with Marianne, his assistant/lover/head waitress. The Doctor is becoming a threat. He must be dealt with. Hector knows just the thing… he has something spicy in mind!

Back at the WEB, the Doctor and Keeley discuss where Hector is getting the Krynoids from. WEB have been monitoring the restaurant for the last few months and have never seen any being delivered. He must be home-growing!

They work late into the night, and an extra-large vegetarian pizza is delivered while the Doctor is working in the TARDIS. Thinking the Doctor ordered it, Keeley tucks in – and goes into shock, severely poisoned. Emerging from the TARDIS, the Doctor discovers Keeley on the brink of death, and manages to rush-diagnose the nature of the poison – super-hot chilli peppers – and save her life. He then explains that he didn’t order the pizza – so who did?

It must be Hector. And there is nothing that arouses the Doctor’s suspicions more than someone attempting to kill him… the Doctor suggests they break in to the ‘Chubby Carrot’ and find out what is really going on there. Keeley isn’t sure – it would be against WEB policy – but the Doctor persuades her. It can be their little secret – no-one need know they are there.

Later that night, we hear them exploring Hector’s laboratory. The Doctor is bemused by the amount of scientific equipment at Hector’s disposal – whatever happened to good old-fashioned pots and pans?

They venture downstairs, through a sealed door, into a hydroponic chamber. There they discover the horrific truth – dozens of human beings, strapped to the walls, all infected with the Krynoid virus, all green and half-vegetable. Hector is using people as growing-beds for Krynoids! But conscious and aware of what is happening to them. They cry out to the Doctor for help.

The Doctor identifies some of the human beings – critics who gave Hector bad reviews, plus fat American tourists whose only crime was to ask for ketchup to put on their chips. They explore further and discover more of Hector’s experiments – Krynoid cows, Krynoid sheep, Krynoid pigs.

The Doctor and Keeley are then disturbed – as Hector and Marianne discover them. The Doctor suggests to Keeley they run for it – but then Keeley turns a gun on the Doctor. She is working for Hector! She was the one who provided him with the Krynoid cutting in the first place (WEB took cuttings at Harrison Chase’s house after the events of The Seeds of Doom). It has all been a trap!

Hector explains. In his ‘pursuit of flavour’ he has been trying to make the most delicious Krynoid possible. He has worked out to best way to prepare one – it involves submerging the whole Krynoid in liquid nitrogen before smoke-drying it over an aromatic applewood fire. He has tried making Krynoids out of every type of animal, and has found that ones made from human beings taste best – sweet and crispy. So whenever someone visits his restaurant he disapproves of, he makes sure they eat something that disagrees with them – before sending them downstairs to be eaten by something that disagrees with them.

Now it is the Doctor’s turn. Hector he has the Doctor strapped to the wall and places a Krynoid pod beside him – complete with sting – to begin the infection/experiment. He gently thaws out the pod and it begins to open…

The Doctor shouts at Hector that he is mad. Not only is what he doing horrific and immoral, but technically Krynoids made out of human beings aren’t strictly vegetarian! If he’s not careful, he could lose one of his stars for this!

Hector and Marianne then leave, heading upstairs, with Keeley guarding the Doctor. The Doctor points out to Keeley that although she is in Hector’s employ, Hector was prepared to kill her (with the pizza). No doubt when she is no longer useful to him she will be the next to ‘Go Veggie’. But if she sets him free, he will keep quiet about her treachery.

At the last possible moment, Keeley decides to help the Doctor. But as she releases him, the Krynoid stings her and she becomes infected. She finds she can communicate with the other ‘Krynoids’ present and they beg the Doctor to let them die – Hector has been force-growing them, injecting them with growth hormones, force-feeding them. All in pursuit of a better flavour.

The Doctor attempts to reason with the Krynoids, who want their revenge on Hector, but he is knocked unconscious by Keeley. When he awakes, she has gone – and he is alone, on the floor of the kitchen, with Hector about to throw him into the nitrogen vat. There is a struggle, and despite the Doctor’s best efforts, Hector falls in and is frozen to death. The Doctor muses that Hector has received his ‘just desserts’ and that ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.

The restaurant is now open, and Marianne heads downstairs to fetch fresh Krynoid supplies – only to become possessed by the Krynoid. She sets the creatures free, and they run amok in the restaurant. As Marianne makes her escape, the Doctor shouts to the patrons to run for their lives before he overloads the various devices in the kitchen and causes the restaurant to explode - destroying all of the Krynoids inside in the process.

But it’s not over yet. The Doctor catches up with Marianne, and de-possesses her of the Krynoid, but not before he has found out where Keeley (infected, and rapidly turning into the ‘giant green turnip’ stage of the Krynoid) has gone.

The Royal Hospital! Where the Chelsea flower show is taking place...

And sure enough, live on TV, people visiting the flower show are attacked by the flowers. And the revenge of the plants is spreading – Blue Peter presenters are attacked by the Blue Peter garden and there is death on Gardeners' Question Time. Alan Titchmarsh is missing, presumed compost.

The huge Krynoid that used to be Keeley is now towering over Chelsea and nothing the army can do can stop it (as we are near the Royal Hospital, the army is led by a sprightly Clive-Dunn-esque Chelsea pensioner and retired Brigadier called Geoffrey, who has taken command in this moment of crisis).

It is almost time for the Krynoid to release its spores across England.

At the flower show, Marianne is killed by some rogue plant life. The Doctor arrives, and appeals to Keeley’s human side to fight the Krynoid side. If there is still a human part of her left, she ‘knows what to do’. As he says this, he presents her with Hector’s ‘special’ pizza. ‘It’s cold, but it’s also hot hot hot…’

The Krynoid swallows the pizza, which causes its metabolism to overheat as the human part of it is poisoned and spontaneously combusts. (If you think the super-spicy pizza is too silly, the Doctor could be using hi-tech anti-Krynoid equipment from Hector’s lab). The Krynoid collapses and the army surround it and destroy it with flamethrowers.

All over London, plant life returns to normal. The threat is averted.

Geoffrey thanks the Doctor for his contribution, and asks him if there is any way the people of Chelsea can show their gratitude.

The Doctor considers for a moment. ‘Yes… I’d quite like a bacon sandwich. I’ve had quite enough of vegetables for a while…’

(Possibly this whole story could be narrated in the first person by the Doctor to Geoffrey as they tuck into their meal)



  1. Sadly, I wasn't able to finish this article, as I haven't heard "Hothouse" and so you told me not to.

    So, I'll have to post an even-more-uninformed-than-usual response.

    "Hothouse" is a very good SF novel by Brian Aldiss. Am I safe in assuming this isn't an adaptation?

  2. I'd have loved to have heard this version of the story - the Hector Mandelbaum idea is great, as is the 'serving Krynoid pods' idea. This is a really enjoyable read.

  3. 'Missing, presumed compost'. That is BRILLIANT