The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018


A belated Christmas gift for you – a Christmas Doctor Who short story I wrote back in 2004 for the Big Finish anthology a Christmas Treasury (now long out of print). If you enjoy it, I would be delighted if you could make a donation to Comic Relief.

Note: in the published version, I was asked to remove the names of real people from the story, but in this version I have decided to reinstate them. This text remains my copyright and may not be reproduced without my permission, and may be deleted from this blog without warning!

Doctor Who
The Clanging Chimes of Doom

 The space craft Valentine ploughed through the inky wastelands of space, its engines blazing a furious cerise. Its surface was covered in unblemished polymer mouldings that belied its awesome size. At the head of the craft a single slit of glass peered out, illuminated from within.

Prince Tarvick hunched over the control panel, his thick-gloved fingers punching at the array of buttons. He gazed up at the porthole, watching the stars glide towards him.
‘Tarvick,’ a voice crackled through the intercom. ‘We have you surrounded. Give yourself up.’
‘Never, in the name of the fourteen galaxies! Never, I say!’ Tarvick ran a glove through his candyfloss-pink mane of hair. An urgent beep-beeping from one of his oscilloscopes interrupted his thoughts. The oscilloscope screen showed three green dots converging on a central green dot.
‘This is your final warning. Surrender or we shall be forced to unleash the warp torpedoes.’
‘You ignorant imbeciles, you think mere warp-torpedoes can stop me?’ Tarvick spat. Although young and fresh-faced, he had the rancour of a man twice his years. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead. ‘I am crown Prince of Frentos. I would rather die than surrender!’
‘Counting down, then. Five, four -’
Tarvick laughed. ‘I shall return. One day, I shall avenge my people!’
‘Two. One.’
Tarvick checked the oscilloscope. Each of the three green dots flared and detached a smaller green dot. These smaller green dots scurried towards the centre of the screen. Tarvick drew in a breath of pure spite and stretched for the control panel-
‘You haven’t seen the last of me -’
The warp torpedoes hit.

For an instant, the Valentine was consumed in a fuzzy, mauve circle. Then its surface buckled as it collapsed in upon itself. A moment later the space craft dissolved into hundreds of smouldering embers.

‘Every Time Lord should have a hobby,’ said the Doctor with an indignant swipe of his scarf. He kept his gaze fixed on the dip and rise of the central column of the TARDIS console.
‘It just seems so pointless,’ Romana sighed.
‘You’d think a Time Lord could find better things to do with their time.’
‘Better things?’ The Doctor boggled in disbelief. ‘What better things? How many planets have I saved this week, hmm? How many?’
‘Eleven,’ said Romana.
‘Plus two space stations,’ piped a prim, electronic voice from knee level. K-9 whirred forward, his ears waggling enthusiastically.
‘Precisely, K-9!’ The Doctor adjusted some switches and pulled himself up to his fullest height. ‘After saving eleven planets and two space stations, I think I’ve earned some hobby-time.’
Romana tugged her cuffs into her red-piped velvet jacket. ‘But it serves no practical function.’
‘That is the whole point of a hobby. Besides,’ the Doctor rubbed his nose as he considered his next line, ‘besides, it does have a purpose. Ah-ha!’
Romana arched an expectant eyebrow.
The Doctor sniffed, then said, ‘You know how, on occasion, I have been known to mention people I have happened across, on my travels -’
‘Once or twice.’ Romana crouched down beside K-9 and rubbed his ears. 
‘One bumps into so many fascinating characters. But whenever I talk about people I’ve met -’
‘-whenever I talk about it, no-one ever believes me.’
‘Do you blame them?’
‘I remember dear old Oscar used to have the same problem.’ The Doctor mused on this for a while, shrugged his scarf into place, then said, ‘I’ve met them all, you know. Shakespeare. Toulouse. Robin Hood. Charles Dickens twice! Well, one and a half times at least. Cromwell. Anne Boleyn, pretty girl, nice neck…’
Romana sighed a heard-it-all-before sigh. ‘Really?’
‘Hence my new hobby,’ said the Doctor. He rummaged in a capacious pocket and dug out a leather-bound book. Without making eye contact, he slapped it on the console as a fait accompli.
Romana leafed through it. All the pages were blank. ‘Autograph collecting?’
The Doctor gave a vigorous nod before returning his attention to the undulations of the central column. ‘Autograph collecting.’
‘Whenever you meet someone famous, they put their name in your book?’
‘To prove that I’ve met them,’ said the Doctor. ‘Not just their names. They can leave messages, “To Doctor, I owe it all to you, Pliny the Elder”. “To Doctor, thanks for the tunes, Johann”.’
‘It seems so… trivial.’ Romana indulged him with a smirk. ‘But if it keeps you out of trouble -’
‘Exactly. We’ve had eleven planets and two space stations of trouble.’ The Doctor checked the dials on the console as it gave the telltale gut-wrenching sound that heralded a materialisation. ‘We deserve some fun!’
‘So where are we going?’
‘To start my collection,’ the Doctor announced. ‘At the best autograph-collector’s opportunity… in the galaxy!’

Leaves sifted and scuttled in the breeze. Reflections of the orange dawn blazed in the windows of the narrow, Victorian houses. The air was brisk and heavy with expectation.
The Doctor strode through the drizzled streets of Notting Hill Gate, his body hunched with purpose. He paused at the end of one avenue to frown at a well-thumbed A-Z, his breath freezing in the crisp autumn smog. Then, without looking up, he rounded a corner. ‘Ah-ha… Here we are, Doctor!’
A small group of photographers had gathered outside the recording studio, each buried in a fleece coat. Bulky cameras swung from their necks.
As the Doctor approached, a limousine crunched up on the pavement. Before it had halted, the passenger door swung open and a short, puppy-faced man emerged. He blinked in surprise at the awaiting press, then put on a smile, running a hand back through his spiky blonde highlights.
The Doctor watched him jog up the steps to the main door. Without acknowledging the reporters, the Doctor bounded after him, shoving aside the door and exchanging the cold November morning for the carpeted warmth of the reception area.
‘Sorry.’ The security guard rose from behind his desk. He cleared the gravel from his throat. ‘No politicians -’
The Doctor halted. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘No politicians. No Tories, no Labour. No S.D.P.’
The Doctor bashfully brushed aside his fringe. ‘Ah, no. I’m not her, you know. It’s not the first time I’ve been mistaken -’
‘If you’re not famous,’ said the guard. ‘You’re not getting in.’
‘Famous? I’m the Doctor!’
‘Never heard of you.’
The Doctor leaned over his desk and fixed him with two large, bulging eyes. He whispered conspiratorially, ‘I am terribly famous and you have heard of me.’
The guard remained in a trance for some seconds, then shook himself awake. ‘Yes, of course. The Doctor. Please go straight though -’
The Doctor nodded his thanks and swung open the inner doors, where a grimy corridor and an airlock of sliding doors led him to the control room. The hush inside was tangible.
A tape scriddled backwards. Three men sat at the mixing desk. One slouched in unwashed denim, unshaven, with at least two cigarettes on the go. ‘We’ll go again, Bono,’ he coughed into the microphone, his Irish accent thick and surly. ‘From “bells”’.
Through the window a figure nodded and adjusted a music stand. A film crew shifted their camera tripod to a better vantage point.
One of the other men at the desk was on the phone. His accent had a soft, Glaswegian burr. He held a hand over the receiver. ‘Bowie can’t make it. We’ll have to give his line to Sting.’
Denim didn’t look up. ‘George’s taxi here yet?’
‘In traffic.’
The third man wore oversized red-rimmed glasses. He made meticulous adjustments to the row of knobs in front of him then tapped down two switches. The tape machine clicked into life.
‘Okay, take… six -’
The room was filled with a thudding, morose synthesiser backing track. Denim pointed at the window and a husky, soulful voice echoed out of nowhere.
‘“And the Christmas Bells that ring there…”’

Romana rested against the control console as she watched the scanner, her arms folded. On the screen, in washed-out video, a man with the hair of an exotic lovebird crooned into a microphone, his eyes closed in concentration, his hands clasping his earphones to his ears.
‘This is what passes for music on Earth?’ said Romana haughtily.
‘Affirmative, mistress.’
‘They’re hardly the Hot Five. Back on Gallifrey that would be lucky to scrape the Top Twenty. The harmonic counterpoints are positively archaic.’
K-9 whirred in agreement.
The picture changed to a gathering of a forty people, grouped in four rows, each row a step higher than the one in front. It put Romana in mind of the sleeve of an album in the Doctor’s collection. Pakafroon Wabster’s Broken Soul Gang Orchestra. The camera panned across the assemblage of smiling faces.
‘Who are they?’ asked Romana.
‘Accessing databanks. Earth. Popular culture. Nineteen-eighty-four. The crowd consists of George Michael, Paul Weller, Kool and “the Gang”, Bananarama -’
‘They’re all famous?’
Romana raised an eyebrow. ‘Who’s that in the back row?’
‘Third from the right. You can’t miss him. Bright pink hair.’
‘Does not correspond to any figure in my pop fact data-bank.’
‘K-9, you have a pop fact data-bank?’
‘Affirmative, mistress. The master likes me to set him quizzes.’
Romana shook her head in disbelief. ‘If they’re not famous… what are they doing there?’

The recording had finished and hands were being shaken. Paper cups of warm champagne were passed around, drunk and crumpled into bins. An atmosphere of camaraderie, of jollity, of Christmas filled the air. The film crew checked the gates of their cameras and folded them into padded grey cases.
The Doctor peered through the glass into the main studio. His reflection brooded back.
‘That went all right, don’t you think, Doctor?’ said Midge Ure, tugging on his jacket. The studio had emptied and the party had reconvened elsewhere.
The Doctor nodded. ‘It will do very well.’ He turned to Midge and offered him his leather-bound book. ‘Could you sign this?’
Midge nodded and scribbled something. When he returned the book to the Doctor, the Time Lord was preoccupied with the window again. ‘What is it?’
By way of a reply, the Doctor tapped on the glass. Inside, one of the singers remained, waiting; a man with a shock of pink hair. ‘Who’s he?’
‘Not sure,’ said Midge. ‘Has he signed your book?’
‘No,’ frowned the Doctor. ‘So, you say you don’t know who he is?’
‘Thought he was one of Heaven 17. You know, the other one.’
‘No,’ said a voice from the doorway, a man with slicked-back hair and an immaculate suit. ‘He’s not with us. I thought he was from Ultravox.’
Midge shook his head. ‘No, he’s not… I’d remember.’ He gave a bemused sigh. ‘Any idea, Trevor?’
Trevor Horn shrugged as he left the studio. ‘Nope.’
‘Bob must’ve invited him,’ said Midge. ‘Why not ask him yourself?’ Midge swung the door shut after him, leaving the Doctor alone in the control room.
The Doctor nodded and made his way through the airlock of slide-doors into the main studio. The pink-haired man looked up as he approached.
‘Hello,’ beamed the Doctor. ‘I was just wondering … who are you?’
The man eyed the Doctor. ‘You don’t know?’
‘Well, I’m not from this time, you see -’
‘You’re from the future?’
‘Sometimes,’ said the Doctor. ‘When I’m not from the past, ah...’
‘I knew it,’ exclaimed the man. ‘I knew you’d come!’ He grabbed the Doctor’s hand and shook it vigorously. ‘It’s me you’ve come to find. It’s me! Prince Tarvick of the planet Frentos!’

‘The planet Frentos?’
‘In the fourteenth galaxy,’ K-9 repeated in his primmest tones. ‘Prince Tarvick fled following the republican uprising -’
‘Then what,’ Romana interrupted, ‘is he doing in a “pop video”?’
‘Insufficient data.’
‘Exactly, K-9. Insufficient data.’ A persistent bleeping filled the air. A series of indicators on the console flashed in sequence. ‘What -’
K-9 trundled over to the console and extended his probe. ‘Chrono-historical stress gauge detects disturbance in the space-time continuum.’
‘Not again.’ Romana rather regretted allowing the Doctor to plug the gauge into the console. ‘What sort of disturbance?’
‘Convergent time spirals, mistress.’
‘You mean someone is travelling through time… to here?’
‘Affirmative. Sensors also indicate,’ K-9 cleared his throat for dramatic effect, ‘the Doctor is involved.’
‘Well, that goes without saying,’ muttered Romana as she activated the door control. ‘He invariably is…’

‘I realise it’s a silly question, probably.’ The Doctor rubbed his forehead. ‘But I’ll ask it anyway. What are you, ah, doing here?’
‘I was forced to flee from Frentos following the republican revolt,’ Tarvick collected a stool and perched upon it. ‘Whilst making my escape, the Valentine was struck by warp torpedoes. My escape podule was caught in a dimensional eddy and flung back in time.’
‘Unlucky,’ sympathised the Doctor.
‘I found myself marooned on this world. I have spent the last four years attempting to “blend in”.’
‘Bit tricky, I’d imagine, with the hair.’
‘Not really. Fortunately this is an era where pink hair is unremarkable.’
The Doctor took a stool. ‘Let me rephrase the question. What are you doing… here?’ He indicated the studio.
‘I estimate that this planet is one hundred and twenty light years from Frentos. The uprising occurs some fifty years in the future. Therefore, any video signals broadcast from this planet will reach Frentos approximately seventy years after my departure.’
‘Go on.’
‘By that time,’ said Tarvick. ‘There will have been another rebellion on Frentos, deposing the republican scum who deposed me! The indolent fools!’ He swallowed. ‘They will then receive the video signals from Earth, determine my location in time and space and send someone back through time to collect me.’
‘A mayday!’
‘Yes. But you know this, as you answered my call…’
‘Ah, yes, well…’ The Doctor flapped his scarf. ‘The thing is… why appear in the video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas”?’
‘It was the most logical course. In order to make sure that the people of Frentos would locate me, I would have to appear in something that would be broadcast as frequently as possible.’
‘Of course,’ said the Doctor. ‘It was, as you say, the most logical thing.’
‘And now you are here, to restore me to the throne of Frentos!’
‘I knew you’d mention that,’ said the Doctor. ‘You see, ah, I’m just here for autographs.’
‘It’s a hobby -’
Suddenly the door to the studio slid open and Romana dashed in, K-9 at her heels, his motors whinnying painfully. ‘Doctor,’ said Romana breathlessly. ‘He isn’t a pop star. He’s Prince Tarvick -’
‘I know all that, I know,’ said the Doctor. ‘He’s explained everything.’
‘I’ve come to warn you. About the convergent time spirals -’
‘Convergent time spirals!’ The Doctor leapt to his feet. ‘You mean -’
‘Someone is on their way…’ Romana said darkly.
As she spoke, the air rippled. Three shapes shimmered into existence, surrounded by a golden halo. Three figures protected by thick, black armour. Steam hissed from the glistening metal.
One of the figures stomped forward. Its red visor scanned to and fro, and alighted upon Tarvick. ‘We have come for you,’ crackled a deep, electronic voice. ‘We are from Frentos one hundred and twenty years in the future.’ It raised a bulbous laser rifle.
Romana drew in a breath. ‘Doctor -’
The figure lowered the rifle. ‘Following a royalist revolution against the junta, we have come to restore you to your rightful throne. Prince Tarvick!’
The other two figures dropped to their knees. ‘Prince Tarvick!’
Tarvick beamed with delight. Then his smile fell.
Three more figures had materialised. Their golden halo faded and they stepped forward as one. They also wore thick, black armour that hissed with steam. ‘We come from Frentos one hundred and fifty years in the future,’ their leader announced. ‘Where there has been another revolution. The royalists have been removed from power and a new republic has been established.’ He aimed his rifle. ‘We have come to execute the traitor Tarvick -’
Before he could finish, another three figures materialised behind him. ‘We come from Frentos two hundred and ten years in the future,’ their leader announced. ‘Where there has been another uprising against the second republic. We have come to prevent the execution -’
Three more figures appeared. ‘We are from Frentos three hundred and eight years in the future from the glorious third republic. We have come -’
‘We hail from Frentos four hundred and seven years in the future. Following the fall of the glorious third republic, we have come to prevent the prevention of the prevention of the execution of the traitor Tarvick.’
There was a brief pause during which no more thick, black armoured figures materialised. The Doctor took advantage of the silence to raise one hand and shout at the ceiling, ‘Any more for any more?’
‘Doctor, this is going to take some sorting out,’ Romana whispered. ‘Any decision we make now could have appalling consequences for the web of time.’
‘Yes, we must be very, very careful.’ The Doctor strode over to Tarvick and handed him his autograph book. ‘You wouldn’t sign this for me, would you?’

‘So where did you drop Tarvick in the end?’ asked Romana.
The Doctor’s gaze remained fixed on the TARDIS’ central column. He absently adjusted some switches. ‘A period in the history of Frentos where they didn’t care about Prince Tarvick one way or the other. In fact, they’d never heard of him. He’ll be happy there, I think. Safe.’
‘But no-one will know who he is!’ Romana protested.
The Doctor mused on this. ‘No, they won’t. But fame isn’t everything. Ah…’
‘Isn’t it?’
‘No,’ the Doctor raised his voice. ‘Besides, he’ll have a form of immortality on Earth. For years to come, people will watch that video and ask each other, “Who is that person at the back, third from the right?”’
‘That’s hardly the same thing.’
‘Well, no, but…’ the Doctor’s face broke into a grin, ‘fame is pointless, after all.’
‘In that case,’ said Romana, ‘why go around collecting autographs?’
‘Ah, well, you see, every Time Lord should have a hobby,’ said the Doctor, and grinned the toothiest of grins.

If you have enjoyed this story, I would be delighted if you could make a donation to Comic Relief.

No comments:

Post a Comment