The Red Lines Page

May 15, 2011

The Wife’s Tale

Filed under: drwho,writing — Peter A @ 9:45 pm

Neil Gaiman wrote a terrific Doctor Who episode that premiered yesterday, The Doctor’s Wife. Follow that link for more information about it, including descriptions of lost scenes and writing tips from the author. Not to mention the shocking revelation (see screen capture) of who the Doctor’s wife really is. You can also check out Neil Gaiman’s journal online.

The episode reminded me of the Drabble I wrote (republished here) called “Initial paragraphs from a draft letter to my oldest companion”.

As fans, we’ve all pondered the relationship of the Doctor and his Tardis, but it’s taken until now for Neil Gaiman’s to convey it so beautifully. As Alexander Pope put it in his Essay on Criticism: “True wit is nature to advantage dressed/What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

Much more prosaically, I recall another poem,  one that I wrote for a fanzine called Frontier Worlds, 25 years ago. I published it because I’d heard that the BBC might change the design of the Tardis. It turned out that it was just another piece of clever press agitation by the producer of Doctor Who, John Nathan-Turner, who had included a couple of sequences in Attack of the Cybermen where the Tardis changed its exterior appearance before finally getting stuck again as a police box. But, as you can see from my poem, the prospect of such a change made my fannish heart go dumba-di-dum dumba-di-dum.  I got so cross that I wrote an acrostic.

Chameleon

Time was/is/will be, home for twenty years

And more of fiction, fantasies and fears.

Relative values, continuity

Doctored to test a taste for novelty –

In haste! And now the binding thread of blue

Suddenly fading finally from view?

Still, when you’re editing the fanzine, you can get away with publishing that sort of thing. A bit like a blog in that respect, I suppose.

Advertisements

May 7, 2011

The Four Doctors: Interview

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Four Doctors,writing — Peter A @ 5:17 pm

To accompany my subscriber-only audio The Four Doctors, I did an interview for Big Finish’s Vortex magazine. Here’s the full version of my original answers.

What was your brief for writing The Four Doctors?

Big Finish originally suggested a Doctor Who version of A Christmas Carol. The CD was coming out as a festive special for subscribers, so that initially seemed like a good idea. Fortunately, I persuaded them I had a different idea. Not least because it turns out that Steven Moffat is doing that for the Matt Smith 2010 Christmas episode, and if it’s me versus Moffat then there’s no contest – in any respect whatsoever!

I liked the idea of a proper time-travel story for the Daleks. Not the sort of run-around we got with The Chase, or the clever but ultimately straightforward structure in Day of the Daleks.

What are the key selling points of the story (aside from the obvious)?

The presence of more than one Doctor invites you to do something a bit different from their previous meetings in The Three/Five/Two Doctors.  Each Doctor has plenty of action, and it’s the combination of all their decisions that drives the story and its resolution.

The TV series has shown that there’s scope for developing the Daleks, too. So I hope I’ve introduced a few new aspects to them, too.

Lastly, it’s four episodes. They’re slightly shorter than conventional episodes, but really not that much. Or at least, they weren’t when I listened to the initial cut.

How hard did you find it writing for all four Doctors?

I’d written the Eighth Doctor before in three novels and an audio story, so I thought I’d find he’d be easier than he was. Thing is, the novelists were able to augment the TV Movie character through the BBC Books. But we didn’t benefit from the active participation of a lead actor growing into the role.

The authentic voice of the Eighth Doctor is now unambiguously the Big Finish version. And never more so than in the scripts written for him by Alan Barnes. Having Alan as my script editor was an absolute boon. His contribution has been essential. Alan’s made me look really good!

Is there one Doctor you have a special affection for?

Tom Baker was the Doctor of my youth. But in The Four Doctors, I most enjoyed writing for Colin Baker. He’s a lovely chap – I’ve met him a couple of times in the Green Room at conventions. He’s finally been done justice by the Big Finish audios, and I was very pleased to be the latest contributor to that.

Four Doctors, Daleks; have you peaked now? What ambitions remain for you?

Thanks for that thought! Maybe I haven’t peaked just yet. Or more probably, I’m like Sisyphus, and each novel or audio is another boulder. I push the boulder up the hill, knowing it will roll back down and I’ll start all over again on something else.

I’ve done novels and short stories and audio plays and talking books for various Doctors and Sarah Jane and Torchwood. I haven’t given the Eleventh Doctor boulder a push yet. That would be fun.

You’ve also written a lot of Doctor Who books; how different is it writing those to writing an audio?

With novels, you work with the commissioning editor, and you may even do some broader planning with fellow authors. Nevertheless, it remains a solitary activity to produce what is, essentially, the final thing yourself. What you write defines the characters, the setting, the visuals, the sounds, the characterisation…

You know with an audio that the script is essential, but it’s only the start. As you write, you’re thinking about what will work in the story, how the effects might play, what the actors and director and sound engineer and composer can bring to it. The final thing is far more collaborative, the product of a wider variety of contributions and talents and variables.

Which of your Big Finish stories has been your favourite?

“The Tip of the Mind” in Short Trips: Companions. It was a Zoe Heriot short story in the form of an Alan Bennett monologue. Mind you, that was published in 2003. Perhaps I peaked even sooner than you suggested.

What other projects do you have coming up?

My Companion Chronicles story Ferril’s Folly comes out in Spring 2011, starring Mary Tamm as Romana. How is it possible that she and the Doctor discover a hitherto unseen segment of the Key to Time? Buy the CD in May to find out!

I’m open to offers. Got any more boulders to push?

May 5, 2011

Earth & Beyond

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Earth & Beyond,writing — Peter A @ 10:33 pm

My short story “Bounty” was first published by BBC Worldwide on the audio tape Earth & Beyond in 1998, Number: ZBBC 2223, ISBN: 0-563-55890-3. It was subsequently republished on the Tales from the Tardis 2 CD-ROM (also BBC Worldwide) in 2004, ISBN: 0-563-52377-8.

The BBC liked my first novel, Kursaal, particularly the way that the Doctor interacted with his new companion, Samantha Jones. They invited me to pitch ideas for an audio story, which would be read by Paul McGann.

The story was to be unique to audio, and it was never planned for publication in book form. So I produced what I thought would be a compelling storyline, with plenty of action and dialogue for the Eighth Doctor. This was the first new adventure for the Eighth Doctor performed by Paul McGann after his appearance in the 1996 TV Movie. I also decided to make it Sam Jones’s debut adventure, as she had appeared only briefly in her introductory novel The Eight Doctors (by Terrance Dicks).

The original proposal to the BBC was for a 5,000-word story, but we eventually agreed that it should be 6,000 words. Several scenes were chopped completely to make the story pacier; in total, the script went through five drafts. The intro scene was rewritten to make it more punchy, too.

I was delighted with Paul McGann’s performance. It was great to hear him bring my words to life. And my favourite word in the whole story, because of the way McGann says it, is “sploop!” (Sad but true!) It was great to write the first original material for Paul McGann to perform as the Doctor after his debut in the TV Movie. The reviews seemed to share my enthusiasm.

The excerpt you can read here is from the early part of the story.

One of the other stories on the Earth & Beyond tape is “Dead Time” by Andrew Miller, later published in the BBC Books collection More Short Trips. Andrew’s story introduces the Gallifreyan Flowers of Remembrance, which make a startling reappearance in The Ancestor Cell.

Here’s the Blurb from the audio’s cover:

EARTH AND BEYOND, read by PAUL McGANN

 THREE GRIPPING DOCTOR WHO ADVENTURES READ BY THE EIGHTH DOCTOR HIMSELF!

BOUNTY by PETER ANGHELIDES

Seventeen-year-old Sam Jones’s first trip in the TARDIS is to the Seychelles in the present day – and involves a deadly encounter with alien bounty hunters. Can the Doctor stop them making Earth their battleground.

Earth & Beyond: Excerpt

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Earth & Beyond,writing — Peter A @ 10:32 pm

This is an early scene from my short story on the Earth & Beyond audio. Unlike the other two stories on the tape, it has never been published in book form. You can also see how it fits in to the original proposal.

The Doctor found the bicycles where he and Sam had abandoned them at the top of the beach. He was soon skittering along the dirt-track road after Metal Detector Man.

The road curved upwards, growing steadily steeper. Ahead, the Doctor could see a thin man jogging uphill, braided ropes of hair jostling over his dark shoulders. At first, he thought it was a Seychellois man, until the figure turned its head. “Splay-nosed,” panted the Doctor to himself as he pedalled on, “and bracycephalic. What should that remind me of?”

Around the next bend came a group of islanders, carrying boxes of bright fruit down the steep hill. They seemed unmoved by the sight of the strange alien. The Doctor looked at the creature again, and was surprised to see it shimmering like a heat-haze on the hot road surface. Now it did look like a Seychellois, and instead of alien equipment in its hand it was carrying a simple fishing rod. “Of course!” said the Doctor, “I should have guessed – it’s a Rhiptogan.”

The islanders came past him, nudging each other and laughing at the strange, wild-haired figure on a bicycle. The Rhiptogan had paused briefly, looking back at the sound of laughter. “Wait!” called the Doctor. “I only want my key back.”

But the Rhiptogan had already started to run. The Doctor stood up on the bike pedals and gave chase.

The road flattened as they reached a village clearing between the tall palms. A small group of Seychellois were stepping out into the long, cool shadow thrown across the street by a church’s tall, white bell tower. The Rhiptogan shimmered, feinted right, and slipped into the growing crowd.

“You can’t hide,” the Doctor shouted, skidding his bicycle to a halt. “You can’t fool me as easily as you can humans.”

He saw a blur of movement beyond the congregation at the corner of the church. He hopped off his bike and wheeled it swiftly between the islanders. Several nuns in white habits were emerging from an arched door in the side of the church. Three of them were whispering to each other. Two more smiled at him as they sat down on a sunny bench. To their right was a battered Seychelles mini-moke, its black fabric roof half-rolled back and its rear seats full of decorating equipment. At the wheel of this vehicle was another nun, staring straight ahead through the grimy windshield. She was panting.

The Doctor grinned, and stepped forward. At which point, the nun gave him a furious look, gunned the engine, and accelerated towards him, her wimple flapping in the rush of air.

The Doctor threw himself to one side as the Rhiptogan swerved past him onto the winding road. He leapt to his feet, scattering nuns like frightened geese and scrabbling his way back towards his bicycle. It lay in a tangled mess by the roadside, its wheels buckled and useless where the mini-moke had driven over them.

The mini-moke disappeared down the hilly road in a cloud of red dust. Through its open metal frame, he could see the Rhiptogan driver’s rope-like hair flapping in the slipstream.

The Doctor stood at the roadside, arms akimbo, and stared helplessly into the blue sky. Behind him, the church congregation buzzed with amazement. But he could also hear the drone of an engine returning. He peered through the dense foliage beyond the road perimeter, and saw the grimy yellow shape of the mini-moke swerving along the roadway below.

The Doctor remembered how he and Sam had pushed their bicycles up to the village earlier that day. The hillside was so steep that the road had to undulate up it in long, almost parallel stretches. If he cut through the foliage in a more-or-less straight line, his path would intersect with the road at three or four points. Maybe he could reach the mini-moke, and recover his key before the Rhiptogan reached the TARDIS further down the hill.

He dived into the undergrowth, feeling the low, thorny plants snatch at his legs. Tall grass and low casuarina branches whipped across his line of vision, and he half-ran, half-slid down the sharp incline. The sandy road surface loomed ahead, and he sprang out onto the dirt track, skidded straight across it, and plunged back into the trees.

The engine noise faded, and then started to grow louder again. Through a clearing, the Doctor could see grey tarmac where the road joined the island’s main thoroughfare. Briefly blinded by the sun, he pushed through a large spider’s web, stretched between two tree trunks. Its sticky strands clung to his cheek. The spider dropped onto his right shoulder. Its body was the size of his hand, and its legs clung tentatively across his neck. He twisted into the roadway, flicking at the creature with his left hand. The insect dropped off him, and scuttled out of view. The Doctor fell heavily onto the tarmac, just as the mini-moke screamed past.

The oily smell of exhaust filled his nostrils. The Doctor’s white shirtsleeves were spotted with blood from his plunge through the razor-sharp palm leaves. He spun round to watch the mini-moke approaching the next turn, two hundred metres from where he was lying in the road. Ahead was the TARDIS, half-covered by a drooping takamaka tree. The Rhiptogan was slowing down as it approached. The Doctor staggered to his feet, desperate to prevent the alien from getting there first. But the mini-moke accelerated, swerved into the bend, and roared past.

The Doctor stumbled over to the TARDIS, and leant heavily on its warm blue surface. The Rhiptogan had not tried to enter it, perhaps unaware of its purpose. But the Doctor still had to recover the key, or he would never get back into the Ship. And then getting Sam back to London would be the least of his problems.

© Peter Anghelides 1998, 2011

Earth & Beyond: Reviews

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Earth & Beyond,writing — Peter A @ 10:32 pm

Reviewers were almost invariably enthusiastic about Paul McGann’s reading on the whole of the Earth & Beyond tape, perhaps a reflection of their delight (like mine) that he had returned to the role—albeit only on audio.

Newsstand

Dave Owen in Doctor Who Magazine said: “Peter Anghelides’ ‘Bounty’ … is the introductory story which Sam Jones should have had. His word game-based character sketches are a delight.” However he disliked the “chase-dominated and generic” story, concluding: “The lesson is that stories for audio need little action but much exposition and characterisation.”

Online bookstores

On alphabetstreet (site now defunct) Paul Holgate rated the whole tape 9/10: “the stories are well suited to the audio format, and it is a joy to hear them read by the Doctor himself”.

The audio isn’t officially distributed in North America until May 2001, so there are no reviews on amazon.com. But US fans could get copies through amazon.co.uk. On the UK site, jcavanau from Fitchburg, MA said: “McGann’s Performance is Perfect! … In print, ‘Bounty’ …  would be fun but forgettable… Fortunately, this is an audio book, and Paul McGann is a splendid storyteller. His narration is flawless, and he performs each part with style. As with the TV movie, McGann’s performance transcends the material he is given to work with.” He rates the collection 4/5.

Web

“Zepo” at baldwinw.edu gave the tape 8/10, despite being disappointed that there was no theme music. But Zepo went on to say the stories were “well written and well read by Paul McGann and even feature wonderful sound effects in key parts.” Of “Bounty” in particular, Zepo said: “ The story is compelling and interesting… A very well done interplay between the Doctor and Sam is one of the strengths of this story, but even more compelling is the dangerous atmosphere… perhaps the best characterization that I have ever seen (heard?) of the McGann Doctor.”

Richard Burman at Aberdeen University in Wales thought the story “fair enough… a good start to the collection”, while JGW somewhere in Canada said “I love the way Paul reads the question game that the Doctor and Sam .”

On the Ratings Guide site, Stuart Gutteridge wrote: “the interaction between the Doctor and Sam (in what deserves to be her introductory story) as they play word games is a joy to behold. Less so however, is the fact that it features chase scenes aplenty…  difficult to visualise in talking book format.” He thought the story “has a lot going for it” and “could make for easy listening on a hot summer’s day”.

Conversely, Naomi Claydon (at the GallifreyOne review site) said the story was “very pleasant listening on a winter’s night”. She wondered why the BBC had taken so long to release Sam’s debut story, “possibly because the dialogue between Sam and the Doctor probably wouldn’t be so effective on the page. Once the aliens make themselves apparent story loses part of its charm.” She was enthusiastic about the reading: “Paul McGann reminds us why he’s so perfect in the role of the Eighth Doctor, even though he reads these tapes in the third person. His delivery is understated when need be… his characterisations are equally impressive.”

Earth & Beyond: Proposal

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Earth & Beyond,writing — Peter A @ 10:32 pm

This is the original proposal submitted to BBBooksC  for my short story “Bounty” on the Earth & Beyond audio. You can also read an excerpt from my final script.

13 April 1998
First Draft

Bounty

Proposal for a 5,000-word Doctor Who short story by Peter Anghelides
Draft 1, 13 April 98 (2,450 words)

“That cloud,” said the Doctor. He was pointing one long finger vaguely into the almost clear blue sky. “That one looks a lot like a Vandeyan Arctic Plant.”

Sam levered herself up onto her elbows, scrunching the warm white sand beneath her, but didn’t turn over. “Yeah, right.”

“Or a Chookian ice ape.” The Doctor squinted at her. “Now you’d find them fascinating.”

The Doctor is casually trying to convince Sam that the TARDIS really can travel in time and space. The problem for him is that the ship has only transported them across the world from Coal Hill School to the Seychelles Islands (in the Indian Ocean). Sam had thought at first that they were on an alien world – black rocks, white sand, stunning blue sky. Then she spotted the palm trees, an old man painting at an easel further down the beach, another man scanning the beach with a metal detector. Two of the palm trees sweep almost horizontally across the beach, just like in the TV advert for the chocolate bar. A couple of palm trees beyond the rear of the beach seem to have been crudely chopped off – storm damage, probably, though they never show that in the TV ads, do they?

Sam is actually a little awed by the Doctor and his reported experiences, but is too cool to let him see this. So she teases him, as though he’s bonkers: why should she believe this nonsense about travelling in space and time, when he could have just drugged her and flown her across the world? Never mind, she says sarcastically, maybe after this he can fly her somewhere out of this world, like Venus, or Alpha Centauri, or California. “Oh no,” says the Doctor, “I said one trip, and that’s it – straight back home to London.” (So this short story will be, in part, about Sam’s decision to travel with the Doctor, and the Doctor allowing her to do so.)

Sam is writing a postcard home to her parents, trying to think up a plausible story about how she got here. Maybe she’s sneaked off with her local Greenpeace group to see the famous black parrot in the Vallée de Mai, or to explore alternative transport options here on the island of La Digue where there are no motor vehicles, only ox-drawn carts. Whatever she writes, it should provoke a reaction from her parents, a response – anything other than their current complacent acceptance of her.

If the Doctor really has travelled the Universe, then maybe she can win at one of her school friend’s games called “Well, I never did”. You declare something you’ve never, ever done – if the other person has done it, you score a point; if they haven’t either, they score a point. In this game, the winner gets to choose their next destination.
Sam: “I’ve never been to the Seychelles before.” Neither has the Doctor, so a point to him. His turn.
The Doctor: “I’ve never been a member of Greenpeace.” Two points to him.

Sam: “I’ve never been to… er… Pluto.” Lucky guess, a point to her. She realises that she will have difficulty working out what he has done, where he has been.

The Doctor: “I’ve never kissed Danny Watson.” She’s somewhat taken aback. And it’s another point to him.
Sam has a long think. “I’ve never killed someone.”

The Doctor is quiet for a long time. Then he affects to spot another cloud shape. “That one looks like a grumpy Draconian,” he says.

She gets up in the sand, about to remonstrate with him, when she finds she’s kneeling on a hard object. It’s about the size of a pocket calculator, with lots of interesting dangly wires and scorch marks. The Doctor says it’s an alien artefact. How can he tell it’s alien? Well, she would recognise plastic if she found it in sixteenth century France, wouldn’t she? Besides, what do you know on earth that does this – and he activates what appears to be a homing signal.

So what is it? “I don’t recognise all alien artefacts instantaneously,” says the Doctor. “My hero has feet of clay,” says Sam, looking at his the Doctor’s bare feet in the sand. Beside them, she spots another small, dark shape.

She doesn’t get chance to comment on this, however, because the man with the metal detector has come across to join them. And, much to their surprise, he is pointing something else at them that the Doctor recognises as alien – a weapon! Metal Detector Man snatches the artefact, and scarpers. The Doctor tells Sam that there’s something odd about the man (“what, apart from the fact he’s shoving an alien gun up our nostrils?”) and he’s going to follow him to see what’s up. But he won’t let Sam come with him, much to her disgust. Off he goes, trying not to let Metal Detector Man see him.

“Well, lucky I found this bit, then,” says Sam, to herself, examining the other artefact that she now picks up from the sand beside the Doctor’s footprint.

* * * * *

The Doctor follows Metal Detector Man, keeping pace with him on a bicycle. Something seems different after he catches up with him, though – the man has turned into a splay-nosed, brachycephalic alien with ropes of hair like Seychellois braids. Then they pass a crowd of Seychellois, and the alien’s outline shimmers into a real Seychellois. Once out of range of the crowd, it transforms back to the alien shape. Passing a couple of nuns, the shape changes to a local priest… the creature is blending in like a chameleon, and the Doctor now recognises it as a Rhiptogan. At one point, as they continue their progress, the Doctor passes the TARDIS where it is parked neatly behind a clump of palm trees.

The Doctor continues to follow the Rhiptogan on his bicycle to a local church, a cheap but cheerful Seychelles make-do building beside the beach. The Doctor pads around the back, being careful not to get his rolled-up trousers wet in the salty rock pools. He peers through one of the tall windows.

Inside, the Rhiptogan is opening up a heavy oak cupboard, engraved with Christian religious symbols. But the cupboard is bristling with the usual flashing-lights paraphernalia of alien technology. Unobserved, the Rhiptogan is in his natural state. Much to the Doctor’s surprise, however, another (female) Rhiptogan has sneaked in. This new arrival is called Ruduse, and the one who was previously Metal Detector Man is called Lirpa. They are clearly rivals.

Ruduse wants to know where to find someone called Anolis. Lirpa refuses to reveal this, saying he needs to find and protect him. Ruduse is not convinced – she wants to kill Anolis and win the price for bringing back his severed head.
Ruduse discovers that Lirpa has been able to recover and reactivate the tracking device – but has carelessly only recovered one part of it. Nevertheless, this can trace its companion component (which we will guess is the other bit that Sam found earlier). She takes it from the oak cupboard, and then shoots into the other equipment, which explodes. The aliens start to fight.

The Doctor scurries round to the front of the church, planning to stop the brawl and to deal with the ensuing fire. By the time he has reached them, however, they are throwing themselves about with inhuman strength. Ruduse gets the upper hand, and forces Lirpa out through one of the windows, where he falls into one of the rock pools. The Doctor leans out to see if he can help him, but Lirpa is thrashing about in the pool, his torso gushing steam as it dissolves in the salt water. The Doctor turns to face Ruduse, but she flings him through the same window.

* * * * *

Sam has been examining the second alien artefact. As it’s past 11 am, and blondes burn easily, she has moved to the rear of the beach to get into the shade. After a while, the artefact started to bleep and flash (the way artefacts do). When she shuffled further up the beach into the shade, the bleeping intensified. After some experimentation, she decides it must be a tracer, and uses it to work her way into the undergrowth. She moves beyond the storm-damaged palms, and discovers a furrow of torn foliage with fresh growth all through it.

She eventually makes her way to the entrance of a dark cave, with lots of odd, pale foliage all round it. She steps through this, and when her legs brush against the foliage she feels a stinging sensation. She pulls down her rolled-up trouser legs and puts on her deck shoes, and continues into the cave – which appears to be glowing. It’s a small vessel of some kind. She’s excited to have found a spacecraft, and as the door is open she goes inside. There she runs into a Rhiptogan, who is rather surprised to see her.

After an unsuccessful attempt to talk to her in French, it makes an equally disconcerting attempt to talk to her in English. “I am Anolis. I come in peace. I mean you no harm.”
”I bet you say that to all the girls,” she replies, trying to stay calm. The creature tries to calm her by changing its shape, but after it appears to turn into her father she asks it not to bother – she can cope with its natural appearance, and disguise seems a bit pointless.

Anolis explains that his ship crash-landed several weeks ago, and that he and his fellow fugitive Lirpa have been trying to get it working – searching for parts that fell loose in the crash. It’s painstaking work, since the beach is not safe for them, and a bounty hunter from their own race is chasing them. He just wants to pack up and leave.
There’s a noise from the doorway, and Sam sees the Doctor coming into the ship through the brightly-lit doorway. She shouts a warning about the stinging plants, but he explains that they are not harmful – he remembers that from his previous trip to the islands.

Sam looks at him – sees a flicker of doubt cross his face (what previous trip?). Behind her, Anolis makes a Rhiptogan “oh shit” “oh no” noise. Sam turns back to look at the Doctor. First she notices his eyes blink – like a reptile’s! Then she sees he is holding something behind his back – it’s the severed head of another Rhiptogan! This is not the Doctor, it’s really Ruduse – who now throws Sam out of the ship and into the stinging plants. Sam can feel her hands and neck stinging.

Anolis and Ruduse fight inside the ship. Sam staggers to her feet, and tries to pry them apart. Anolis seizes a chance to flee into the forest, apparently oblivious to the stinging plants. Sam stands in front of Ruduse in the doorway to prevent her following. The world starts to blur before her. Ruduse laughs – Sam’s been poisoned by the ship’s defence shield, the rows of Rhiptogan adike plants growing around the vessel. She seizes Sam, and starts to throttle her.

A shadow falls on them from the doorway. It’s the Doctor! He is brandishing a fire bucket. He was delayed trying to contain the blaze at the little church, and now he’s here with a bucket of sea water. Let go of Sam or he’ll drench Ruduse with salt water, which will destroy the alien. After that, he wants them to take their Rhiptogan fight off this planet.

A standoff. Ruduse says she has the components to reactivate this shuttle, and that she plans to leave. The Doctor sets down the bucket, and Ruduse pushes Sam past the Doctor. As the Doctor catches Sam, Ruduse moves forward, kicks over the bucket, and seizes the Doctor.

Ruduse starts to throttle the Doctor. Is there a bounty on his head too, perhaps? She can add the Doctor’s head to her collection anyway, just in case. The Doctor was a fool to try and save Sam, when it’s obvious that the adike plants have done their work and she will soon die.

Sam, however, has struggled down the beach, filled the bucket, and struggled back spilling most of its contents. Now she hurls the remainder over the Doctor and Ruduse. Ruduse’s left arm and the side of her face start to smoke, and she screams. Then she races for the controls, and slams the flight deck door. The Doctor and Sam stumble away towards the beach.

Behind them, the shuttle powers its way up into the sky and vanishes.

The Doctor drags Sam across to a purple VW Beetle, standing incongruously at the beach. He carries her into the sea to ease the urticaria on her skin. Sam explains that her legs, arms, and neck are really painful, like nettle stings “Nettle stings! Of course!” says the Doctor, and hares off to find a locally-growing alien flower (rumex) growing near to the adike. The salt water will help, but he can provide an antidote with the rumex.

They roar off in the VW Beetle. “I hate this car… it’s so much smaller on the inside,” says Sam. “Can I have a go in this later?” The Doctor points out she hasn’t got a driving license. “Lucky we didn’t get any further than Earth then, eh?” she says sarcastically, “then I’d have no chance.”

She’s fading. The Doctor tries to keep her conscious by talking – telling her how well she’s coped with seeing aliens for the first time, how most Earth people cannot do this so easily. Sam wearily challenges him: what does he actually know about Earth? He travels around the Universe, maybe dropping in occasionally to this planet, meeting a handful of its billions of people, visiting a small number of the millions of places in each of its hundreds of countries at any time in all its history. What does he really know about Earth? “Let me tell you about my family,” he begins, but she interrupts “No, I’m sick of family.”

The last thing she sees before losing consciousness is the VM Beetle driving towards an impossibly small gap in the TARDIS doors.

* * * * *

They’re sitting on the beach again, watching the sun set. Sam is recuperating. She finds the postcard in her pocket, takes it out, folds it in half, and puts it away again.

“Your turn,” says the Doctor.

“I’ve never churned up a beach in a car,” says Sam.

The Doctor coughs apologetically, and looks at the ruts in front of them. “Two points apiece. The decider,” he says. “My turn. I’ve never fought off a dangerous alien with a bucket of sea water.”

Sam looks glum. “You win,” she says. “London here we come.”

“Yes, I get to choose your next destination,” the Doctor smiles. He starts to pack up their deck chairs. “I understand you’ve never visited Pluto. Well, there’s no time like the future, is there?”

The End

© Peter Anghelides 1998, 2011

May 4, 2011

BF tribute

Filed under: Audios,Mirror Signal Manoeuvre — Peter A @ 11:11 pm

I was catching up on the Big Finish podcasts, and came across this one that I’d missed from the end of last month: Big Finish April 004 2011

At the 12-minute mark, Nick Briggs provides a thoughtful, heartfelt, and moving tribute to Elisabeth Sladen. When I think of highlights from her Big Finish work, I particularly recall that moving speech at the beginning of her first Sarah Jane Smith audio Comeback. I was mesmerised when I heard it recorded. I had the pleasure of meeting Lis in the Big Finish studios for the recording of that first series of audios, on the day when the majority of my audio (Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre) was recorded.

Nick chose that Comeback speech for the podcast. As he says when introducing it, some people may think it an odd clip for him to pick, because it’s about the death of a loved one. I think it is perfect. It’s not something that everyone may have had the chance to hear before; it shows Lis at her best; and it unexpectedly speaks to the feelings that many of us have for her.

Thank you for that, Nick.

May 2, 2011

The Four Doctors animation

Filed under: Audios,Four Doctors — Peter A @ 5:07 pm

A clever fellow has animated a Dalek sequence from my Big Finish audio The Four Doctors. You can check out others like it at rdjackson87’s YouTube site.

</object>

May 1, 2011

Moving On

Filed under: drwho,Short fiction,writing — Peter A @ 5:23 pm

My first professionally-published short story, “Moving On”, appeared in Virgin Publishing’s 1996 book Decalog 3: Consequences (ISBN: 0-426-20478-6).

Commissioned by editors Justin Richards and Andy Lane, this story was designed to tie in with the stories “… and Eternity in an Hour” by Steve Bowkett and “Tarnished Image” by Guy Clapperton. In the end, instead of writing 10,000 words as contracted I wrote 17,000 words (which is very bad behaviour and poor planning by any writer). Ordinarily, this would be a problem. As it was, some of the other stories ran short, and so I was allowed to cut it to only 15,000 words (with much frowning by the editors).

My original proposal, submitted before the story was commissioned, was rather lengthy for a short story proposal, but it was the first one I’d written.

By an interesting coincidence, there are similarities between some small elements of this short story and a few minor scenes in Lawrence Miles’s book Interference. You know what they say: “Brilliant minds think alike. And fools seldom differ.”

In a subsequent interview, I talked a bit about the way the story was commissioned and edited.

The online excerpt from the published story is from the middle of the story. It contains a joke that I stole from editor Andy Lane. It subsequently appeared, in a different form, in the movie Men in Black—brilliant minds again, eh?

Reviews were generally kind, though some people thought it wasn’t funny enough. Funnily enough (or not), I hadn’t written it to be funny.

I have also blogged three unused scenes that I deleted before publication.

Here’s the blurb from the book’s back cover:

Ten stories – Seven Doctors – One Chain of Events

“The consequences of having the Doctor crashing around our universe can be colossal… The Doctor is a time traveller. Never forget that, because it is central to an understanding of what makes him so terribly dangerous. Most of us, in our tiny, individual ways are involved in the writing of history. Only the Doctor is out there rewriting it.”

But even then the Doctor may not see the threads that bind the universe together. Perhaps, instead, he cuts right through them. Who knows what events he sets in motion without even realizing? Who knows what consequences may come back – or forward – to haunt him?

Ten completely new tales from the universe of Doctor Who. Seven Doctors’ lives, inexorably linked in a breathtaking chain of consequences.

As always, the editors have assembled a dazzling array of writing talent, from award-winning TV script writers to acclaimed New Adventures authors. And, as before, there are the usual contributions from talented new writers.

Moving On: Proposal

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:23 pm

This is the original outline for the short story “Moving On” that I submitted to the editors at Virgin.

I have also blogged a particular excerpt and an unused section. 

YESTERDAY: “She hated Scott Wojzek. She hated his mean self interest, his Lotus Esprit, his easy familiarity with the secretarial staff. She hated his phoney sincerity and long lunches. She hated his male pattern baldness. And she had no guilt when she felt the same after he’d died in a traffic accident. So when she saw him walking towards her across Kensington High Street, she knew at once what had been happening to her for the past eight weeks.”

TWO MONTHS AGO: Sarah Jane Smith is sitting in her study at home, staring gloomily into a drawer which contains her unfinished novel. She has been features editor on Metropolitan now for a few years, having re-established herself on the magazine Metropolitan since she left the TARDIS. (She tells her colleagues that she went away to research her novel – she is always evasive about what she was actually doing over the missing time, though she jokes that returning to work has “brought her down to Earth with a bump”. )

Sarah’s day doesn’t start well. She sees that she’s getting grey hairs, and remembers some things her Aunt Lavinia said about middle-aged women. She discusses some of these on the phone with her oldest girlfriend, college contemporary Katy Pickering, as they are planning a lunch date. Talking to Katy always makes her feel guilty that her house is such a mess, so afterwards she tidies up – finding a toy dinosaur left by her editor’s toddler son the previous day. She puts it in her handbag, so that she can return it.

K-9’s has become increasingly erratic lately. Never very adept technically, Sarah feels even more lost than before she went away – electronic gadgets seem to have sprung up for everything, and she has barely mastered the microwave, let alone robot diagnostics. She struggles to replace K-9’s tickertape, and doesn’t understand the “on-line documentation” that K-9 displays on his monitor, and is starting to realise that K-9 is slowly falling to pieces. (Brendan is no help – he’s at University.)

Meantime at work, her editor has asked her to write an article on new technologies, and their effect on traditional working life. Rather than struggle with concepts like e-mail, desktop publishing, and office software suites, Sarah has turned the idea around and is going to write about the work and family lives of new technologists in Britain. She has identified three people: a typesetter, coming to terms with changes in his industry; the international sales manager of a plush toy company, who talks to her clients and her family with a videoconferencing system; and Scott Wojzek, the young director of an IT company called Tonska, which is developing new communications technologies.

After only one brief telephone conversation with Wojzek, Sarah decides she dislikes him. She arranges an interview with him in his London offices, and suffers several indignities with video cameras and badge-locked doors before getting to Wojzek’s office. There, he doesn’t endear himself to her any further: “Inside every thin woman journalist, there’s a fat book struggling to get out” he declares at one stage. “Invariably, that’s where it should stay.” Does he enjoy his position of control and autonomy in the business? “Do bears shit in the woods?” he retorts.

However, he gives her a demonstration of some of Tonska’s technology, including desktop conferencing, video telephony, three-dimensional imaging, and remote control of robots with virtual reality technology. Sarah tries the robot controller, and is impressed technically – but she can’t help feeling that everything is designed to eliminate human contact rather than facilitate real communication. She declines Wojzek’s lunch invitation, but he insists on showing her out of the offices and to her car in the company car park (also deserted). He helps her into her car, guiding the back of her head patronisingly so that she doesn’t bump it on the door. Sarah reacts as though stung. Wojzek meanders off at once, Sarah assuming he can’t believe that his clumsy pass failed.
Sarah gets into her car, and drives around the block. Everywhere seems deserted. She drives around the city for a while, and sees no traffic, no people… Eventually, she drives back towards Tonska’s offices, and parks on a double yellow line in Tottenham Court Road, looking around in disbelief. A shattering roar from above one of the buildings makes her look up – it’s a tyrannosaurus rex. She freezes as it sniffs the air. A voice behind Sarah says: “Oi lady, you can’t leave it there.” She turns her head and sees a traffic warden pointing at her car. Tottenham Court Road is full of people and noise again.

Sarah promises to move her car at once. There is a commotion at the end of the street, and she sees that someone has been run over by a bus. She investigates, and sees it is Wojzek, who is plainly dead. It seems that he just threw himself out of an office window into the street.

Sarah takes her keys from her handbag to get back into her untidy car – and finds the toy dinosaur she put there earlier. She sits there, shaken, for a long time.

LAST MONTH: Sarah is struggling with the fuse box in her house. She also worries about her cordless kettle, pre-fitted plugs, her grotty old toaster. Her vacuum cleaner is so old, they’ve stopped making parts for it. She realises that the problem with K-9, however, is that they haven’t started making parts for him. Her laptop seem to be on the blink – she thinks it may be a computer virus, though it could also be that she accidentally trashed her system files last week (she leaves all the system stuff to the tech boys in the office). When she switches on her TV, though, the same pattern of interference appears there too.

She feels absolutely exhausted, despite a week of early nights. Nevertheless, she goes to lunch with Katy Pickering, who has started working for breakfast television and now has a fund of irreverent stories about her more famous colleagues. Katy’s life has changed around – she has put off having children, she has broken up with her trade press boyfriend, and is starting to question whether she’s given up too much for her career. The two women rate the men in the restaurant, as they used to when they were cub reporters. “What a dire bunch,” says Katy, just a bit too loudly for Sarah’s comfort. “Not one of them above a 7.” They discuss their ideal men, and Katy teases her that Sarah’s dream man – intelligent, mature, someone she could learn from and talk with – might as well be her father. Or her college tutor.

Katy is still as obsessive about tidiness as ever, to Sarah’s amusement. Sarah goes round to her flat, and threatens to rearrange everything in her cupboards while she is out of the room. “I know you’re joking, Sarah. And I’d laugh myself if I didn’t know that, this evening, I won’t be able to stop myself checking every cupboard – just in case…” Sarah realises that she’s obsessive about some things, as Katy points out – “you never talk much about your time away, Sarah.”

Sarah talks instead about the article she has just published about IT, and the mystery of Wojzek’s sudden death. Through press contacts, she has spoken with the dead man’s brother and widowed mother. They explain that Wojzek’s business partner, Kendrick, died in similarly bizarre circumstances, and that Wojzek hadn’t been the same person some months after that. The business partner was the one who had brought him some of his leading technological innovations – including the robotics and imaging technology. Wojzek had, unexpectedly, cut off all contact with his family and friends a year ago; they had only learned about the death of this once-popular and gregarious young man through the police or the press. “Work changes you,” Katy suggests.

Back at home, Sarah walks into her living room and sees Brendan opening a box – it is the box that K-9 was delivered in. Sarah relives the experience of seeing K-9 for the first time again, and also the mixed emotions – the Doctor did remember, but this is a parting gift with all that such a present entails. She asks Brendan a question, but only K-9 answers – and she realises that she has been daydreaming.

LAST WEEK: Sarah has just returned from a business trip abroad, feeling greatly refreshed . Things have changed almost imperceptibly since she went away – the temperature, the latest silly season story in the papers, the Top Ten. Her editor, Jane Highsmith, has dropped in to see her at home in the evening. Sarah is fascinated by her editor’s flexible working pattern – working from the office, or from her car, or from home. Sarah ponders how people’s attitudes and behaviours changed while she was away – whether it’s their work patterns, or their dress sense, or their personal aspirations, or their views on the weather. How did she change? Other people had moved on, but had she? She had tried to slot back into her old life, but her old life no longer existed. Others had changed slowly, even if they hadn’t wanted too – or even realising that they didn’t want to.

Jane and Sarah discuss personnel changes at Metropolitan. Sarah says that she has been thinking about her own future. Jane asks her about her novel – telling Sarah the sort of bonkbuster she should be writing, and how Metropolitan could serialise it.

Jane connects her laptop to her mobile phone, and tries to link through to the office. She and Sarah see the sort of interference that Sarah saw previously. Sarah also remembers that her neighbours were complaining about their TV reception. Sarah asks K-9 whether he can account for the problem, but he is strangely evasive. The interference seems to have cleared, however, so Jane connects to the office, and has a video conference with Scott Wojzek. Sarah doesn’t want to be involved, so she goes out into the garden…

…but instead of stepping onto her back lawn, she is on a suburban high street. She turns to look at her back door, and sees instead the TARDIS fading away. The Doctor has just left her on Earth before returning to Gallifrey – and has not even got her back to South Croydon. All the old feelings of abandonment and loss well up in her. It starts to rain, and she is completely lost. She meets a stranger in the street, who guides her to a bus stop where she can catch the right bus home. She hasn’t got the money, but he gives her some change.
Sarah goes upstairs on the bus, but realises that it isn’t raining on the top deck – even though it is raining on the bottom deck. She rushes downstairs to check – yes, water is pouring down the windows. She goes to the driver – it is the same person who guided her to the bus. A woman behind her says “Hello?” as though she wants to step past. Sarah turns to see Jane Highsmith looking at her strangely from her own back doorstep. She is back in her own garden.

LAST WEDNESDAY: Sarah has been taking a few days off work, at Jane’s suggestion. She has started to file tired and wretched again. She tries to write some of her novel, scanning through it. Then she throws it in the bin – it’s the kind of book her editor wants her to write, not the kind of book she wants to write herself.

She starts to delete files on her computer, but it switches off. A house fuse has blown, so she takes a torch and goes down into the cellar with a torch to fix it. She gets to the bottom of the cellar steps and hears a hoarse breathing sound behind her. She whirls around, but drops the torch which switches off. In the darkness, she realises that…
…she is blind, and back on Karn. Sarah is terrified and alone in her worst memory. She stumbles across her nightmare landscape to the Sisterhood, where she asks them where the Doctor is. They tell her that the Doctor has already left the planet. She realises something is amiss when one of the sisterhood uses an Earth colloquialism: “Does the Pope wear a pointy hat?”. At this point, whatever Sarah has been holding in her hands turns out to be a torch, which snaps on to reveal she is back in her cellar.

YESTERDAY: Sarah recognises the electrical interference is coming from K-9 intermittently. She discusses problems with him – he confesses that he is suffering irreparable damage. She challenges K-9 about the problems. And the signal he’s emitting. K-9 won’t tell her, and only says that off-world technology can save him.

She meets Wojzek in the street (as at the start of the story), and she recognises his involvement in her recent dreams. Is this a dream? She reluctantly goes with him to a coffee shop. She notices that the same people appear to be wandering past the shop window, as though on a loop of film.

The creature talking to her now is an alien from a race called the Tonska. He knows that she is a friend of the Doctor, whose technological intervention in the previous Decalog story caused the Wojzek creature to be trapped on Earth. Wojzek has been trying to escape, using what little technology was available on Earth today. By adapting leading edge technology, he was able to attract the brightest and best minds to come to him. He scanned their minds with the virtual reality machinery, and then used their knowledge to develop further technologies. When by chance Sarah came to him, he discovered to his great surprise that she knew the Doctor, and owned some advanced technology in the form of K-9. The computer could help him escape from Earth.

The alien wants Sarah to get K-9 to help him, but Sarah is suspicious. Wojzek is dead – and what happened to the real Wojzek that his family described to her? What happened to his former partner, Kendrick? At which point, Sarah gets up and leaves the restaurant.

Wojzek trails behind Sarah, taunting her. He says that she needs his help, just as she needed the Doctor’s help. She has never escaped the Doctor, and never will. He used her, as he uses all his companions, because he knows no better. She is still waiting for him to return, and she knows that he never will. Out of sight, out of mind. Frustratingly, every time Sarah turns a corner in the street, it seems that she has turned back onto the street with the coffee shop (which is impossible).

Wojzek says: “Come on, you know that K-9 will deteriorate until he’s a write-off. And he’s already told you that no human technology can repair him…” Sarah realises with a jolt that there’s no way Wojzek could know what K-9 told her earlier, unless Wojzek is somehow in her mind – like a virus that can spring up at any time. Sarah awakes at home with a shriek.

Out of sight, out of mind, she ponders.

TODAY: Sarah has been considering Wojzek’s words all night, aware that there is no-one she can discuss this with without going back to a life she has tried to leave behind – Harry, UNIT, etc. She challenges K-9 again, pointing out that she is acting in loco parentis. K-9 is happy to explain that she herself forbade him to tell her what was happening, which puzzles Sarah. K-9 explains that the Doctor programmed into him a sub-space transmission for when he couldn’t self-repair, or when replacement parts were unavailable. (“Lucky that didn’t break down first then, eh?”) Sarah gets K-9 to play her the transmission – it is a hologram of her, stooped over as though talking to the robot. “Terrific,” snorts Sarah. “Help us Obi Wan, you are our only hope. Well not this time, Doctor. Stop transmitting, K-9.”

Sarah asks when this was recorded. K-9 gives her a date and a time – the middle of the night several weeks ago. She asks more, and K-9 explains that she has been trying to repair him throughout several nights, without success, finally stumbling upon the Doctor’s communications program. Repairs in her sleep – no wonder she has been so tired. But how did she manage when she can barely program her video. K-9 is explaining about alien symbiosis, that Sarah is currently the host for the Tonska’s physical form, when the TARDIS arrives in her home.

The Doctor has returned for her after all, having received K-9’s emergency signal. He asks her to join him again back in the TARDIS. She goes into the TARDIS with him, and is puzzled by his attitude – he doesn’t start the TARDIS, he asks her questions – does she remember how it felt to be in the TARDIS, to experience the Space-Time Vortex, etc. Then Sarah recognises that one of the Doctor’s gestures is familiar, but not for the Doctor – pushing invisible glasses up his nose with his middle finger. She realises that this is also a dream, and “the Doctor” is really the Wojzek-alien. Through controlling Sarah’s mind, strongest when she is sleeping, he introduced the virus into K-9 which has been destroying the robot dog. His intention is to get the Doctor to return to Earth, but now Sarah has stopped the emergency transmission which would make this happen.

The alien has been growing within her since the day she first met him – it left the husk of its parent form in Wojzek’s body which, suddenly released from any higher-brain control, had blundered to its death – like Kendrick’s before it. The alien’s struggle to establish control over Sarah means she has been experiencing very vivid flashback dreams. Although these flashbacks of her most vivid memories are a side effect of the Tomska’s parasitic invasion, the alien has been able to begin manipulating her dreams as it has grown in size and strength. Sarah recognises that the alien has not been able to disguise all its involvement in her dreams, and that she must have some control of the dreams herself. So she concentrates, trying to make the TARDIS vanish; suddenly, she is back in her own kitchen with K-9 and the alien (still looking like the Doctor).

The Doctor-alien tells her that she can achieve so much more with her life if she allows it to develop this symbiotic relationship – it knows what she thinks of herself, because it’s been living in her mind for long enough. She doesn’t fit into her old life – having experienced other worlds and times, she knows that she needs more. And she deserves better than the Doctor gave her: “The Doctor dumped you when he tired of you. You could expect no better. What had you hoped for, what could you really expect? What can any companion of the Doctor expect? The nagging knowledge that you led a second-hand life, that’s what. Shadowing someone else’s needs and desires. Just another time groupie with a hole in your life, looking for an easy escape from the trap you yourself created. And after all that, no thank yous. No rewards. Except maybe an unheroic farewell, or a grave too far from home.”

Sarah retorts that it is an unequal relationship, not a symbiotic one; power and control, not a partnership. The alien cannot survive without controlling her completely, and when it has no further need for her it will drop her without caring what happens. She realises that this sounds familiar… She takes her pent-up feelings of dependence and betrayal by the Doctor, and focuses it on “the Doctor”. She blasts him into nothingness, and the real alien appears at the last minute as a starfish-shaped parasite, surrounded by a series of electrical flashes – like a spoon left in a microwaved coffee. This is her visualisation of the creature inside her. Sarah feels a searing pain at the back of her neck, where Wojzek implanted the alien’s spoor months ago. The image of the starfish-creature sparkles into nothingness. Sarah looks round her boring old kitchen – it’s like seeing somewhere you know really well but haven’t been for ages.

Can she be sure the alien is gone? Only by taking control of her own mind. She asks K-9 to show her the message again. K-9 skips through several hologrammatic projections, a mixture of Sarah’s recorded plea and a variety of events he has scanned from commercial and private satellite communications traffic. Sarah tells K-9 to erase the recordings, and to delete the program which broadcasts the signal. She also asks K-9 whether she is free of the Tonska; he explains that the creature inside her is dead, and that her body will eventually break down the remains (ugh!). Then K-9 says: “Program erased, mistress.”

Sarah starts to plan ways of repairing K-9: she caused the problem in the first place, so she should be able to fix it.

TEN YEARS FROM NOW: Sarah is on television, reading from a novel. The lines are the same as this short story begins with: “She hated Scott Wojzek. She hated his mean self interest, his Lotus Esprit, his easy familiarity with the secretarial staff…” She is reading from her final “Doctor” novel. The programme’s interviewer asks her about the character who has made her an international bestseller over the past decade. Sarah talks about “the Doctor”, and how she has used his unspecified alien background to allow her to explore what it means for other characters to be human. Aren’t some of the Doctor’s assistants rather feeble caricatures of helpless women, asks the interviewer. Sarah explains that they can allow themselves to be led, or choose to use the Doctor’s strengths and weaknesses with their own initiative – and offers a few examples from her books and short stories.

So why bring the series to a close now, when it has been such a great success – and with Amblin expressing interest in developing a TV series? Sarah explains that, while it’s good to allow your characters a life of their own in your writing, it’s also important to retain some control over them. It’s like a job, or a house, or a hobby, Sarah says: no matter how fond you are of them, you should make your own choice when you realise that it’s time to move on.

Last page: publisher’s list of novels and short stories by Sarah Jane Smith.

The End

© Peter Anghelides 1996

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.