The Red Lines Page

January 17, 2014

Talking to Big Finish

Big Finish Day 4Big Finish kindly invited me to participate in their event this weekend, Saturday 18th January, at the Copthorne Hotel Slough-Windsor. Guests include Paul McGann, Tom Chadbon, Simon Fisher-Becker, Pamela Salem, Andrew Smith, Michael Troughton, Peter Wyngarde, Julian Glover… ooh, there are lots of others, so check out the information about the event via this link.

The range discussions are about Counter Measures, The Avengers, and Sherlock Holmes, with other main discussions about acting for audio, sound design, and a main interview with Paul McGann and his son Jake.

I will be around with some of the other Big Finish writers to sign things, and talk to anyone who wants to ask questions or have a chat. So if you’re attending, I’ll be glad to say hello — and discuss any of the audios, short stories, or novels I’ve written for Big Finish. I’m not sure what, if anything, we’ll be saying on the day about the new full-cast Blake’s 7 audios.

All this reminds me that a while ago I did an interview with Kenny Smith as a contribution to his book The Big Finish Companion Volume 2. That was published in time for last year’s Big Finish Day, so now seems like a nice time to publish my version of the interview here — and encourage you to buy the book. Kenny was asking me about my audio The Four Doctors.

What was your original brief for The Four Doctors?

Big Finish originally asked me about doing a Doctor Who version of A Christmas Carol. The CD was coming out as a festive special for subscribers, and that was therefore quite a good proposal.

They were also quite keen that I kept the Doctors apart, and do something less obviously like previous multi-Doctor stories.

The other part of the brief was about a limit to the number of guest characters, and the amount of air time that we could afford for each of the four Doctors.

I enjoy a challenging brief, and sometimes what appear to be constraints actually turn out to inspire good ideas as you try to solve them.

Did the story have any working titles?

I liked the title “Reverse Engineering”. Looking back, I must have been bonkers to want to call it anything other than The Four Doctors, because that’s unambiguously what it’s about! Plus, it’s what will best advertise the audio. Plus, no-one had used the title before. So, what was I thinking?

Until quite late on, it was in four separate episodes. In fact, it was originally edited as four episodes, with each Doctor taking more of a lead in each. They combined it into one continuous narrative pretty much at the last minute. The episode titles were “Analysis, “Disassembly”, “Decompilation”, and “Reverse Engineering”.

What’s your first reaction when you’re given more than one Doctor to write about – delight, then horror?!

Definitely delight. I’d written an audio for Peter Davison (Key 2 Time 2: The Chaos Pool), but not for any of the other three Doctors. I’d done three novels for the Eighth Doctor, and short fiction featuring the Seventh. But this was my first chance to write anything for the Sixth.

How difficult was it to come up with a new spin on an old idea, by having a story with more than one Doctor, and also have to add in the Daleks?

Part of the brief was to keep them apart, for two reasons. One reason was the availability of the principal actors – you can record stuff separately and combine them later, but that’s a post-production complexity you may prefer to avoid. Another more important reason was to avoid retreading some of the sorts of “dandy/ clown/ fancypants/ scarecrow” dialogue. That’s quite amusing stuff, but it’s much more interesting to explore other things.The Four Doctors

My take on that was: don’t treat them as four separate people (who are really the same person) who interact with each other. Instead, treat them as the same person who interacts with another man, who has to work out that these four people are the same person. And then the fun for the audience is: we already know these four characters as the same person, and we can listen to the newcomer as he works that out.

In my script, the four Doctors work together over an extended period of time (from their perspective) because they are the same person, not because they happen to be in the same place at the same time. I had a variety of excuses about why the Doctor couldn’t meet himself in the story, with the crux being that distanced Fifth/Eighth conversation.

Having the Daleks is great. You can have lots of additional speaking parts for no extra cost, because the director is doing all the voices! I wanted the Daleks at the battle of Bajorika to have “old” voices, and my script suggested something closer to the voices from “Day of the Daleks”, albeit this ran the risk of giving Nick Briggs (a bit of a Dalek expert and purist) having an embolism.

Did you have any abortive ideas before settling on the final one?

After the Christmas Carol suggestion, I’d pondered doing something with the Doctor as Past, Present, and Future. And then I wondered about having the Doctor witness (but not interact with) the actions of his own past, present, and future – having a third party make the Doctor (as “Scrooge”) learning the error of his ways by witnessing his own actions. I also thought that was a bit Trial of a Time Lord.

But all that seemed a rather better fit for three rather than four Doctors. And so I chose the much better idea of having someone else travel through the Doctor’s time line… but in the reverse order to the way that he experienced it, because it’s a story about a Time Lord after all.

All of which turned out to be just as well because, subsequently, we learned that Steven Moffat’s first Christmas special for Matt Smith was inspired by A Christmas Carol. If we’d gone anywhere near that, the BBC would (quite understandably) have rejected the proposal.

I had a number of other ideas, especially for elements of the third section. But I’m going to keep those to myself, in case I can find a use for them in some other audio or novel!

How much fun did you have writing for each incarnation, and was it difficult to write the distinctive nuances for each incarnation?

I had the best time ever. Though it wasn’t straightforward.

I’d written for the Eighth Doctor before in three novels, and even provided a script for an audio story (Earth & Beyond: Bounty) that was Paul McGann’s first new performance as the Doctor after the TV Movie. So I thought I’d find his character would be easier to write for than he was.

Earth & BeyondThe novelists were able augment the TV Movie character through the BBC Books – at that stage, there was only that one story to go on. We had to think our way into how the character would have developed, without losing what made him recognisable from the TV Movie. And while the TV series was off the air, we could “steer” him a little ourselves. One of my favourite, albeit trivial, editorial notes when I wrote the novel Kursaal was from a copy editor asking whether the BBC was prepared to “commit to the idea” that the Doctor lost a tooth in the previous story and that it was slowly growing back.

Over a decade later, by the time I was writing The Four Doctors, the authentic voice of the Eighth Doctor was unambiguously the Big Finish version – honed through all of those other audios they’d done for him, plus Paul McGann’s performance of course.

As it was my first chance to write for Colin Baker, I think he was the most fun to do in The Four Doctors. Colin is a lovely chap – I’ve met him at a couple of conventions as a guest. He’s finally been done justice by the Big Finish audios, so I was especially pleased to be the latest contributor to that.

Fan geek question time. The Dalek Prime appeared in the John Peel novelisations and novels – is that the Black Dalek’s official designation in your mind?

I should hand in my Geek Card, I’m afraid. I had forgotten that Dalek Prime was in John’s books. I’d read them, of course, so perhaps it stuck in my mind. I’d intended it as a new designation, because the story is about the developmental stages of both the Daleks and the Jariden – and I’d incorporated the Special Weapons Dalek as an example of how the classic series had already done that. I couldn’t use something like the Supreme Dalek from the post-2005 series, because Big Finish doesn’t have a license for stuff from the post-2005 TV show. We even had a slightly surreal debate about whether we were allowed to have a Dalek saying “Elevate!” as it went up the stairs after the Doctor and Faraday, because that phrase was first used in Rob Shearman’s new series Dalek story.

And I admit that when Victory of the Daleks was broadcast, and featured the new Dalek Paradigm, I was a bit nervous that my story would be seen as too close to some of the elements of that.

Which one was the Black Dalek again? No here, look, I’ve torn my Geek Card in two. Take it.

The scene at the end is a nice touch – just when I thought we weren’t going to get them meeting up. Was this always planned, or did you ever consider not doing it, just to be different?

Vortex 57Thank you very much. I agree, it’s a nice touch, but it’s also a scene that I didn’t write. Either Nick Briggs or Alan Barnes inserted that  because they decided they wanted to have a “meet and greet” with the four Doctors after all. My version had some “across-the-timelines” parallel dialogue instead. I especially like the gag about the TARDIS decor, so perhaps I should pretend I wrote it after all. Yeah, I planned it all along! 

[Subsequently, Big Finish revealed in issue 57 of BF magazine “Vortex” that it was Nick. I think they lost confidence at the eleventh hour in their original idea that the Doctors should never meet.]

Any thoughts on the final play itself?

It sounds a bit immodest when you say how much you like stuff you’ve written. With an audio, the script is just the starting point – the foundations of the production. No matter how good an actor’s performance is, or how fine the music and sound effects, or how well it’s edited together by the director, a bad script will sink an audio. Yet without all those additional things, even a great script just remains text on a page – so I was really pleased with the end result.

I was a bit sorry that the final version wasn’t in four 15-minute episodes, as we’d originally planned. I’d quite like to have had the different theme tunes crashing in. And as a subscriber-only audio with short episodes it wouldn’t have needed cliffhanger reprises – instead, I had some cunning “Part One” reprises in “Part Four”. Nevertheless, you get well over an hour of adventure. Even those short episodes would have been about twenty minutes long, which is longer than some episodes of The Mind Robber.

There were sundry other changes that Big Finish made for the final version. For example, the Jariden were renamed – I’d called them the Jai-Gerbar, which I thought was a bit more unusual without being too hard to say. And Ulrik was originally called Vaterlaus, a name I thought would sound brutally good when the Daleks were shouting at him. But the Big Finish team are smart folk who know what will and won’t work on audio, so I am entirely phlegmatic about the changes, which were all in the service of a better audio play.

And that’s the nature of a collaborative project like this. For example, in the third section it was originally a Dalek that escorted Ulrik to his cell, and who was subsequently overpowered by him and escorted to the roof to meet the Doctor. Script editor Alan Barnes didn’t like that, because he thought it implausible that Daleks would set up a base where they had to go up-and-down stairs and open cellar doors. He thought I should set those scenes in a Dalek ship near the battle of Bajorika. I said I preferred the different “soundscape” of a mansion, and liked the literal encroachment of the Daleks onto Jariden property. Plus it meant I could place the Doctor up on the mansion roof observing the battle, which would be less plausible if he was sitting atop a Dalek saucer. So Alan said “why not change the Dalek into a Roboman escort”, and then developed that into “why not say the Roboman is Ulrik’s grandfather” (whose mansion I had already decided it was, and whose relationship I’d already established in “Part One”).

That was great, because then I could make the Roboman part of the Jariden’s reverse engineering of the Special Weapons Dalek technology – so that back on the Vault of Stellar Curios in “Part Four”, Ulrik realises that what he was pursuing back in “Part One” is actually the grandfather he was also disparaging in “Part One” but who he set free from the Daleks in “Part Three”. Plus, in “Part Four” after the Roboman says “Awaiting Orders, Colonel Ulrik”, there’s a very straightforward line of dialogue that David Bamber delivers beautifully as he sets the creature on his enemies: “Kill the Daleks, Grandfather. Kill them all.” And that all started from a discussion about whether Daleks could plausibly unbolt a cellar door.

When it comes down to it, how many people get a chance to write a Big Finish audio, let alone one with the Daleks in it, let alone one with four Doctors? It was a wonderful experience, and I’m very proud of the final version.

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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

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