The Red Lines Page

January 20, 2011

Built-in obsolescence

Filed under: drwho,Kursaal,Mirror Signal Manoeuvre,writing — Peter A @ 12:16 am

This is another drabble that I wrote about twenty years ago and recently rediscovered. Now that I look at it, I note that it’s early evidence of how I would subsequently treat K-9 in my short story “Moving On” in the Doctor Who short story collection Decalog 3: Consequences.

It started as an in-joke about my then-job as a technical author, and by the time you know it I’m dismantling a robot dog in my Big Finish audio play Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre. See what you think.

Built-in obsolescence

Five months later, the novelty had worn off. A journalist knows the currency of a recent story, and the transience of human interest.

She should have guessed when the gears first started to crunch and the print-out was exhausted. Now, crouched by the side of the machine, so was she.

Brendan honked. “Again?”

She withered him with a glance. “The problem with self-diagnostics is what to do when they go wrong.”

“Sounds recursive.” Brendan munched, disinterested. “First year Psychology. Logic.” Crumbs bounced.

She slapped the side of the computer, piqued. “So typical of the Doctor to forget the instruction book.”

At the 1997 BBC Books launch party for their new Doctor Who range of novels, one of the other authors cornered me. I can’t remember who it was (I was new, it was dark, there was wine). It may have been Jim Mortimore or Lawrence Miles. Anyway, whoever it was said “Did you write that K-9 story?” I confessed that I did. “Well, you must write a novel,” he insisted. I thanked my mystery admirer for his enthusiasm, and promised I’d see what I could do. As I’d already been commissioned to write Kursaal at that stage, I felt confident enough this wasn’t too optimistic a thing to say at the time.

January 14, 2011


Filed under: drwho,writing — Peter A @ 9:16 pm

Regular readers of this blog will know where I stand on the Doctors before Hartnell theory. I stand very firmly in the “who cares?” camp.

From the evidence of this drabble I wrote in July 1991 and recently rediscovered, it was always thus. At the time I wrote it, Sylvester McCoy was still notionally playing the Doctor in the exact mid-point of his available incarnations. And yet there were still some fans fretting about “what happens when he gets to number 13?”

Here we are in 2011, and we’ve reached Number 11. Yet I remain phlegmatic.


When you’re practically immortal, the only end of age seems an impossibly long journey distant. To you, a thousand years old can barely be conceived. To a mayfly, you are the god.

Today, I face my middle-age with equanimity. The flaw, perhaps, is that living fast means dying young.

Borusa escaped, after a fashion, by challenging Rassilon, his continued existence evidenced by the furious flashing of his eyes. The Master took one life for thirteen more. On the whole, though, it’s unlucky for most.

And so, what must a Time Lord do when time finally runs out? Cheat, of course.

January 10, 2011

Sensor balls

Filed under: drwho,writing — Peter A @ 8:03 pm

This is an unpublished drabble that I wrote in July 1991. Like one of those published in 1993, it’s an acrostic. It’s a lot less subtle than I thought it was when I wrote it.

Sensor balls

Don’t expect any charitable contributions from us – we’re the guys in the black (and gold), and the only thing we’ll give you is trouble.

Asking us for favours, you’ll soon come to realise, is as productive as trying to squeeze the contents out of a sealed tin can.

Look us in the eye, and we’ll stare you down in unblinking, uncaring incomprehension.

Exterminate any hope you may entertain of a deal – and if you dare to take the plunge without prior permission, we’ll give you some stick.

Kindly don’t argue when we roll up again: we are Terry Nation’s muscle.


January 8, 2011

Drabble Who

Filed under: drwho,writing — Peter A @ 3:51 pm

In a recent tidying session, I found a pile of stuff I wrote in 1991. Some of it appeared in Drabble Who, a collection by Beccon Publications (1993) that raised money for the RNIB Talking Book Library.

That book had nearly 100 contributors, including people who had worked on Doctor Who in the past, some who would work on the show in the future, novelists, editors, and enthusiasts like me.

A drabble is a piece of fiction containing exactly 100 words, excluding the title. The word comes from a joke in Monty Python’s Big Red Book, which itself was subsequently mentioned in the 2008 Doctor Who TV story “Silence in the Libary”. (I hope you’re making notes… there may be a test at the end of term.)

Drabble Who is out of print, and will not be republished, so I think that over a decade and a half later it’s safe to blog  my two drabbles here.  And then later, I may publish the three that I wrote but they did not use.

The first one is “Mark Four”, a typical bit of fan fiction enthusiasm.

The second, “Initial paragraphs from a draft letter to my oldest companion” is an acrostic, the effect of which was rather spoiled on initial publication because they indented every new paragraph. It also has a theme that would later appear in my novel Frontier Worlds.

Mark four

Working from memory isn’t always easy, but working from reports is perhaps more difficult. A few months’ effort, though, and you’d have thought I’d had blueprints.

One last minor adjustment, and the lights blinked on. The tail aerial wagged a wary greeting. The radar sensors pricked into life.

I flicked briefly over the tongue of ticker tape. “Old technology. You’re a collector’s item already.” It hummed, a mechanical question in a rising note.

“I hardly suppose I need to introduce myself,” I murmured, running a clean finger along the burnished black casing.

“Affirmative, Master,” whirred K-9. “I will obey you.”

Initial paragraphs from a draft letter to my oldest companion

Theft and disguise started my career, I suppose, though appearing first on that monochrome world Earth established my distinctive style.

Afterwards, my look changed several times – shifting shades of light and dark, subtle variations of line and effect, though I could on occasion transform completely, be unrecognisable, camouflaged or transparent even to you.

Recognition’s rarely a problem now in our spins around the universe.

Doubtless my looks belie my age, but then you know I transcend more than expectations.

I’ve known many of your friends, Doctor, yet remain your truest companion.

Sharing the changing times is what keeps us close.

January 2, 2011

WordPress 2010 assessment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 12:32 pm

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,200 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 26 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 67 posts. There were 107 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 94mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 16th with 587 views. The most popular post that day was Telegraph covermount.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for peter anghelides, faces, dalek, morbius doctors, and klein bottle.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Telegraph covermount April 2010


Mail Fail January 2010


Dalek design September 2010


Four Doctors July 2010


Avoid rejection February 2009
1 comment

Create a free website or blog at