The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Power and Control

Another trip into the archive vaults. My latest Doctor Who novel Plague City repurposed/incorporated a plot idea I came up with back in 2010, as a possible Doctor Who Magazine comic strip. So, warning, this outline may sort-of constitute a spoiler for the novel, still available here:

The title is a working title only, but it amused me cos it’s not just a play on words, it’s also the title of a Frasier episode where Frasier and Niles struggle to repair a toilet.

Story 7, 1-part comic strip idea, by Jonathan Morris

Edinburgh, the present day. The Doctor has brought Amy here to visit her old home country. He’s decided to go “incognito” by wearing his normal outfit plus a Tam o’Shanter. But in reality he’s here to check out a scientific research project run from a secret base underneath Edinburgh castle!

The Doctor psychic-papers his way into the base, and meets the scientist in charge of research, Doctor Keenan (F). Doctor Keenan claims to have found a way of tapping into geothermal power produced by the volcano under Arthur’s Seat. She predicts the project will soon produce enough clean, cheap electricity to not only power Scotland, but the whole of the British Isles. The Doctor remarks, “The nationalists will love that!”

Amy, meanwhile, has befriended one of Keenan’s assistants, Pascal. He is showing Amy the tunnels they have excavated under Arthur’s Seat... when suddenly they are confronted by images of plague victims, stumbling towards them like zombies, plus beak-masked plague doctors!

The Doctor confronts Keenan. Whatever she’s discovered, it is far in advance of current technology (which made the Doctor suspicious and is the reason for his visit).  Which means either she’s a genius... or a charlatan. Amy runs in, describing the plague victims. The Doctor is intrigued and dashes off with Amy in tow. Keenan calls security; these people aren’t who they say they are.

Amy leads the Doctor to the tunnel where she saw the plague victims. This time, they are charged at by an enraged mammoth! The Doctor realises it is a temporal projection, the type that can kill you if you don’t know how to bypass it. But examining the power lines, it seems that someone has already found a way of getting past it.

The Doctor and Amy pass through the temporal barrier into another chamber, and find themselves looking down onto a vast spaceship almost filling a huge cavern underneath Arthur’s Seat. The ship has been rigged up with power lines. It’s the source of Doctor Keenan’s miraculous free electricity.

Entering the ship, the Doctor deduces the ship is drawing its power from the volcano under Arthur’s Seat. And it was generating the temporal barriers as a warning, the equivalent of a ‘keep out’ sign.

Why? Because the ship is the only thing preventing the volcano from detonating. It’s effectively acting as a very big plug. Then the ship wakes up. It contains an artificial intelligence, which is a cybernetic anemone/porcupine that uncoils itself from the ship’s fabric.

The Doctor learns that the ship visited Earth during the ice age, as part of an interplanetary survey. It then parked itself on top of a volcano vent for refuelling, the process taking 20,000 years. It was then ready to take off, only to discover that it couldn’t do so without causing the volcano to erupt.

“And what had you humans gone and done in the meantime? Built a city on top of it!”

So the ship decided to stay put in order to prevent causing the deaths of everyone in Edinburgh.  Its programming strictly forbids it from causing the deaths of intelligent beings.

Doctor Keenan arrives with security guards. When the Doctor asks her what she has done, Keenan replies. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. So I’ll tell you.” Discovering the ship, Keenan started draining its power and learning the secrets of its technology in order to advance her career.

As Keenan gives the order to have the Doctor shot, Amy communicates with the ship. It can’t take off without destroying Edinburgh, but Amy suggests the ship releases all the energy it has built up in the past 20,000 years.  The ship prepares to do this and the Doctor, Amy, Keenan and the guards run for safety. The Doctor calls Pascal, who evacuates the secret base, while the ship creates projections to frighten people away from the area around Arthur’s Seat.

But Keenan punches the Doctor in the face, and heads back to the ship, determined to stop it from releasing the energy and destroying her career. The Doctor runs after her, but the tunnel collapses, blocking his way. Seconds later, the ship discharges the energy it has accumulated, incinerating the secret base and turning Arthur’s Seat into a small, but fortunately very self-contained, volcano!

It will take another 20,000 years for ship to refuel, by which time Edinburgh will be unoccupied. The Doctor and Amy watch, another job well done, though Amy is not pleased that Keenan was killed in the explosion.

But she wasn’t. Chiyoko rescued her at the last minute, leaving her by the TARDIS. We see her being drawn into it, screaming in terror... Chiyoko smiles. The final ingredient has been added to the mix.