Recycle Bin, Writing

Recycle Bin: Doctor Who

August 3rd, 2009 by Jeff | Dump Core

This edition of the Recycle Bin touches one of my all-time favorite science fiction series: Doctor Who. Only Star Wars could compete with the Doctor for my prepubescent affections, and both equally influenced me as an imaginative youngster with the potential to become a future writer. (Notice I never said I was a good writer.) Like most “Yanks” across the Pond, I was forced to acquire my “Whovian” fix piecemeal as my local PBS station lazily acquired several-year-old copies of the show shipped over from the BBC. While Peter Davison would have been most accurately my contemporary Doctor, it was Tom Baker who I saw the most, followed close behind by Davison and Jon Pertwee.

I’ve had tons of Doctor Who ideas over the years, starting with little stick-figure comics similar to the Star Wars ones I mentioned earlier. I will only mention the tentative title “Jeffrey Who: Time Lord” in passing and never bring it up again. Before I learned of Russell T Davies’ revival of the series in 2005, I too was working on my own relaunch; not that the BBC was ever going to hire me to do it, of course, but the other Recycle Bin entries should prove that such a minor detail would never stop me. My revival was to be a complete reboot of the series, starting back with the pilot “An Unearthly Child” and reworking it from there, trying to remain as faithful as possible to the original while updating it for newer audiences. This post, however, is not a chronicle of that idea; once I saw Davies’ revival, I pretty much abandoned that idea completely to build on his work.

No, this post is for an entire season (or “series” in UK-speak) of the new series, written specifically for David Tennant’s Doctor and occurring sometime after the fourth season/series of the show (i.e. the Donna Noble/Catherine Tate ones). Yes, I’m well aware that Matt Smith has already been tapped as the new Doctor, slated to take the reins in 2010. If the BBC isn’t going to hire me to put my version of the show on the air, I can cast whoever I darn well please, can’t I? 😉

As with all Recycle Bin entries, this one is mostly a rough synopsis and covers mainly plot details. It is likely to be full of a plethora of plot holes and glossed-over summaries. However, I tried to remain as faithful as possible to the spirit of Davies & company’s work. Like the seasons/series before it, the entire seasons/series comprises of one big interconnected story, with clues woven into every story leading to a major climax at the end. It also builds heavily on episodes of the “classic” series, specifically certain events taken from Tom Baker’s tenure as the Doctor. (Additional notes will be included as we go.)


  • The Doctor: Everyone’s favorite Time Lord, specifically David Tennant’s incarnation (the 10th), although it should not be impossible to rewrite it to fit with Matt Smith’s Doctor if necessary. The last of the Time Lords, the Doctor travels through time and space righting wrongs and saving countless lives. At this point in the Doctor’s personal time line, he plans to not take on another companion given the events of the finale of the fourth season/series (“Journey’s End”), in which the Doctor is confronted with how he has both positively and negatively impacted his various companions’ lives. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and Time Lords….
  • Dylan (no last name yet): An 20-something American actress, best known for playing the starring role in the science fiction television series “Candi the Monster Slayer”. She is a total geek; she is just as deeply involved in the random background trivia of her show as her loyalest fans are and she frequently runs the sci-fi convention circuit just because it’s fun. She is sharp, witty, and bit sarcastic. She has a black belt in several martial arts and thus does most of her own stunts, meaning she’s also ready rush in where angels not only fear to tread, but run away in utter terror. What she wants most of all, however, is to be known as a true hero and not just play one on TV. She rather impulsively becomes the Doctor’s next companion, much to his surprise.
  • Romanadvoratrelundar (Romana): A Time Lady (female Time Lord) best known as one of the Doctor’s companions back during his fourth incarnation (Tom Baker). Romana was assigned to the Doctor by the White Guardian when he was tasked to find the Key to Time and ultimately stuck around for a number more adventures. Romana eventually left the Doctor to remain in E-Space rather than return to Gallifrey (“Warriors’ Gate”), but apparently found a way to return to N-Space and eventually become President of the High Council of Gallifrey during the Great Time War with the Daleks. She was presumed killed during the War.
  • Morbius: A former member of the Time Lord High Council, Morbius attempted to transform the Time Lords from mere observers to conquerors, nearly sparking a Time Lord civil war. One of only two Time Lords ever sentenced to execution (the second being the Doctor himself), Morbius was believed to be disintegrated by the Time Lords. However, noted and fanatical human scientist Mehendri Solon salvaged Morbius’ brain, keeping it alive in a jar while he attempted to build a Frankenstein-like body to allow Morbius to enact his revenge. The Doctor encountered Solon and Morbius on planet Karn, ultimately defeating Morbius and supposedly leaving him to die at the hands of the Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame. During this adventure, Morbius’ brain was repeated damaged.

Extended Synopsis

The first episode of the season/series begins with two young women being chased by a pack of gruesome monsters in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. They reach a dead end and are eventually forced to stand their ground. The one in the lead takes a defensive martial arts stance while the other appears to be casting a spell. The monsters attack, with the first girl fending off the beasts hand-to-hand while the second girl continues to chant. Ultimately, the first girl kicks the head off of one of the creatures and a voice off-screen bellows, “CUT!” A bell rings and all action stops. We discover that this isn’t a warehouse but a studio set, in the middle of filming. The director begins berating the actress with the hyperactive foot that her overzealous action will take hours for wardrobe to fix. Suddenly, there’s a scream from behind them. A stagehand stands beside the headless “monster’s” body only to discover that there’s no actor inside the “suit”. It really is a monster, and now it’s a monster without a head.

Cue the TARDIS, which materializes somewhere within the same studio’s back lot. After several amusing moments of the Doctor exploring his way through the studio (including being told he’s due in make-up for his next scene), he eventually stumbles upon the director, writer, and two actresses from the previous scene. The Doctor immediately recognizes the creature laid out on the table and his insatiable curiosity takes over. After the prerequisite questions about who he really is, the Doctor examines the creature’s decapitated body with the lead actress hovering nearby. They strike up a sideways conversation as they both are fascinated by the body. Eventually introductions take place, and the actress identifies herself as Dylan. She’s actually shocked when the Doctor has no clue who she is, seeing that she’s the star of one of the hottest new shows on television. (“I hear the BBC’s been rerunning the first season already.”) The Doctor identifies the creature as a [insert sci-fi funky alien name here], a sort of worker drone for a hive-like alien species indigenous to a planet far from Earth.

The middle part of the first story is a bit vague but involves more of the drones attacking throughout the studio. There is no clue given as to how the creatures managed to reach Earth, since the Doctor states they have no technology or civilization and are thus incapable of star travel. The climax results in discovering the “queen”, a massive slug-like creature with a giant maul the proceeds to chase the Doctor and Dylan throughout the studio. The Doctor determines that the safest way to save the studio workers is to lure the queen into the TARDIS, travel to the creature’s home planet, and let it loose there. (Killing it is not an option, since a nuclear warhead only has a slight chance of making it “a bit upset”.) There is a thrilling chase throughout the interior of the TARDIS (which has been largely ignored thus far in the series revival) while the TARDIS dematerializes and re-materializes. The TARDIS lands at the edge of massive cliff and the Doctor and Dylan leap out the door, catching the floor and dangling over the cliff as the creature bounds over them and plummets to the rocky ground below. When Dylan asks if the creature is dead, the Doctor replies that such a fall would only give it a mild headache and their rapid departure might be a smart idea.

Thus begins the usual initial companion reaction to the revelation of who the Doctor is. Well, somewhat usual: when the Doctor begins his “yes, I know, it’s bigger on the inside” speech, Dylan interrupts and provides a very plausible explanation full of inter-dimensional jargon. When the Doctor’s jaw drops, she simply replies, “Hello? I work on a sci-fi show. Episode 26, ‘Portal to Nowhere’.” She reasons out that the Doctor is a member of an ancient time-and-space traveling race and that the TARDIS is his ship. When the Doctor attempts to return her to Earth, she announces to her director that it’s time for the “Acreol invasion scenario” and bounds her way into the TARDIS, refusing to leave. When the Doctor asks about the “invasion scenario”, she explains that it’s a story arc written into the show to allow them to film without her in case she gets injured, pregnant, or otherwise needs an extended vacation. And that’s exactly what she plans to do.

Thus, the Doctor and Dylan begin a series of misadventures typical for the show. Unfortunately, most of this middle sequence is largely unscripted. A few critical things become apparent, however. First of all, Dylan reveals that the reason she’s always so gung-ho and devil-may-care is that she’s always wanted to be a hero, and not just play on on TV. She reckons that the Doctor is just the type of tutor she needs, and he more than lives up to her expectations. Of course, she eventually learns enough about his past to hear about him being the last of the Time Lords, of the Great Time War, and how much he’s lost, yet he continues to fight to save people who will never know they were in danger.  This drives her to become more like him, and by the end of the season/series she shows many of these traits herself, as well as being a little more cautious.

As they travel, they discover more and more instances of monsters, people, and things being out of place and out of time, seemingly with no natural means of travel there. It’s as if something were scooping random items from one time and place and dropping them somewhere else, like a robotic dragon in feudal Japan. The further they travel, the more bizarre the misplacements become.

At the same time, the TARDIS seems to repeatedly return to one place: the planet of the “queen” creature from the first episode. Several episodes begin with the Doctor promising to land in one location, only for the TARDIS to land just over a hill from the last time it landed on the planet. Even when the Doctor promises to take Dylan to modern Tokyo, they land in the city’s feudal ancestral town Edo in the 1590s. The Doctor realizes that this is the same time in which they landed before on the “queen’s” planet. He eventually pieces things together: the TARDIS is trying to tell him something, that it has discovered something on that planet at that time that it wants him to see.

They eventually return and, after waiting for their other selves to leave (so they won’t cross their own time lines), being to explore the surface. They eventually discover an ornate column, an oddity for a planet with no civilization or technology. Upon closer examination, the Doctor becomes shocked. It’s not what it appears; it’s another TARDIS, its chameleon circuit stuck on its last location. As they enter inside, they discover it is weak and running on its depleted batteries, with all of its remaining power funneling to some unknown subsystem deep within the infrastructure. Before they can leave the control room, however, they hear the familiar cry of the “queen” from the first episode. The door was ajar before they entered, and the Doctor suspects that the “queen” may be loose inside with them.

As they continue, they eventually find the TARDIS’ Zero Room. The Doctor explains that the Zero Room is the point within the TARDIS where the outside influences of the universe are essentially nullified, making it the perfect place for a Time Lord to recuperate after regeneration. To their surprise, they discover a regeneration capsule, a device designed to help a Time Lord recover from a failed regeneration. The device, however, has been heavily altered, feeding back upon itself in an endless loop. This is where all the power of the TARDIS is going and it is impossible to tell exactly how long the device has been in operation. Knowing that the Doctor believes himself to be the last Time Lord, Dylan asks if it’s possible that another Time Lord could be in there. Reeling from the possibilities, the Doctor admits that if someone were in the capsule, they would be in a state of “suspended regeneration” and he would never be able to detect them.

There discussion is cut short of the cry of the “queen” creature. The Doctor tricks Dylan into staying in the Zero Room, then seals her in with his sonic screwdriver while he attempts to lure the creature away. Meanwhile, as Dylan pounds on the door, the regeneration chamber opens. When Dylan backs away from the door and bumps into the device, a hand lands on her shoulder and startles her. A naked woman tumbles out on top of her, looks her in the eye and asks drunkenly, “Do I know you?” She then passes out, landing in Dylan’s lap.

The Doctor eventually returns to find Dylan struggling to lift the woman back onto the chamber platform. After she chastises him for gawking, he helps lift the woman to the platform. When she comes to, there is a moment or two of awkward glances and “Do I know you?”/”I don’t know, do I know you?” before the woman’s face beams with recognition. She states his name, and after a minute his own eyes light up. “Romana!” he shouts. After the two laugh and babble at near light speed, Dylan coughs noisily, resulting in the necessary introductions.

The two Time Lords fill in the missing details of each others’ lives. Romana explains that at the end of the Time War, her TARDIS was damaged and crashed on this world. Near death, she knew she would not fully survive regeneration and so she hacked the regeneration chamber to run in an endless cycle, suspending her regeneration between forms in hopes that another survivor would find her. Without the Eye of Harmony, the Time Lords’ power source supposedly destroyed when Gallifrey was destroyed, her TARDIS slowly began to die, giving almost all of its power to save her. The Doctor explains about how both Gallifrey and the Daleks were destroyed and how he believed himself the only survivor. At one point, Dylan becomes jealous of their self-absorbed reunion and quips that “at least the Time Lords as a race will now survive, since you now have a breeding pair” before storming off. There is an awkward moment where the Doctor and Romana realize the implications of the statement.

However, two problems still face our heroes. First of all, the “queen” still roams Romana’s TARDIS, hunting the trio. Secondly, the Doctor realizes that Romana’s brilliant self-rescue has come with a price: while the “suspended regeneration” was able to keep her in stasis all this time, now her body can no longer stop, burning through her regenerations at an alarming rate. He projects that she will die shortly, perhaps within hours or minutes, if she doesn’t re-enter the machine. The climax ultimately results in both a show-down with the “queen” creature and a race to return Romana to the stasis chamber, where the Doctor fears she’ll be trapped for eternity… or at least until her TARDIS’ batteries die.

Suddenly, the Doctor leaps to his feet. “Of course!” he shouts. “Why didn’t I think of it before!” He and Dylan race back to his TARDIS, which he dematerializes and re-materializes around Romana’s. After snaking a few power cords between the two ships to let Romana’s draw power from his, the Doctor announces that he knows of one last chance. He sets course for Karn, a planet Dylan has never heard of.

Upon reaching Karn, Dylan follows the Doctor as he races across the barren rocky ground. She notices a beautiful nebula lighting up the entire sky. When she mentions it, she notes that the Doctor refuses to look at it. He explains that the nebula is all that’s left of Gallifrey, his home planet, as Gallifrey and Karn share the same star system. At the heart of the nebula is a temporal storm that will rage for eternity, a hole in the fabric of space and time that can never be healed. Dylan can see that coming here has inflicted great pain on the Doctor and she remains quiet as they resume their search. As they continue their race across the planet’s surface, Dylan stumbles upon the derelict casing of a dead Dalek. The Doctor announces that there are potentially thousands, if not millions, of such metallic corpses littered across the planet, relics of the War. He assures her that they would have been dead before landing, and while Dalekanium lasts virtually forever, the Kaled mutant inside has long since rotted away.

Ultimately, they arrive at their supposed destination: a ruined temple. The Doctor looks crestfallen as he opens a door in the wall to reveal an empty recess. He explains that the temple once belonged to the Sisterhood of the Flame, a society of Karnanite native women who attended to the Sacred Eternal Flame and its byproduct, the Elixir of Life. The Sisters once shared the Elixir with the Time Lords; the Sisters used it to achieve virtual immortality, while the Time Lords used it as an emergency medicine. The Doctor believes that the Elixir may have been able to restore Romana, but as the Eternal Flame has burned out, the complex chemical reactions it induced to produce the Elixir would not be easy to reproduce, and with a sample the Doctor would be unable to synthesize it artificially.

Suddenly, they are surrounded by… Daleks! The Doctor utters a few curses under his breath (something about being “harder to kill than cockroaches”) before they are ordered to be taken away. But the Doctor can tell something isn’t right. These Daleks are even more mechanical than usual, with absolutely no inflection in their digitized voices. He whispers an explanation to Dylan: these aren’t real Daleks. Someone has turned them into robots, replacing the deceased Kaled mutants with computers which are likely centrally controlled. The Doctor attempts to probe the “Daleks” as they walk, asking them questions. The “Daleks” only reply that they must answer to “the Master”; Dylan notes that the Doctor bristles at the mention of the name and he states “That’s impossible.”

Eventually they reach a control room. From the shadows, a voice questions their appearance. The “Daleks” respond that their scans identify them as “Female, human. Origin of species: Earth. Male, Time Lord. Origin of species: Gallifrey.” At this, the man from the shadows stops what he’s doing and takes notice. He demands that the Doctor identify himself. Seeing little point in hiding things now, the Doctor does so. The man from the shadows at first does not recognize the name, but eventually takes devilish delight upon recognition. When he finally steps into the light, he marches right up to the Doctor and looks him eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose. There is a feverish, mad glint in his eyes and his wild, untamed hair frames his chiseled, gaunt face like a electrified mane. “What’s the matter, Doctor?” he growls. “Don’t you recognize me? Last time we met, I was trying to get a head of you. Or can’t your feeble mind conceive of my resurrection? Can’t wrap your brain around this little mystery?” He begins to dance around madly, cackling and laughing, while sober recognition finally dawns on the Doctor’s face. He says one quiet word: “Morbius.”

Morbius explains himself: After the Sisterhood forced him to fall from the cliff, his manufactured miss-matched body lay broken at its base. However, despite the fall and all the damage inflicted by his conflict with the Doctor, his brain somehow survived long enough to be discovered a short while later by one of the Sisters exploring the hills. He retained just enough power and cognitive thought to overpower her and force her to bring him to their temple, where he stole the Elixir of Life and poured it onto his dying brain. The regeneration was painful and laborious, but ultimately he was completely physically restored. Now returned to his full Time Lord faculties, he outwitted and defeated the Sisterhood, killing them all but their leader, Ohica, whom he enslaved and forced to create large quantities of the Elixir for his on purposes.

Somehow (remember, this is a rough outline), the Doctor manages to acquire a bottle of the Elixir and engineers Dylan’s escape, while he stays behind the confront Morbius. He instructs her to give Romana the Elixir and then for the two of them to escape as far away as possible. Morbius can’t be allowed to get his hands on a TARDIS at all costs. Dylan does the first part with ease and fills Romana in on the situation. As a well-read student, Romana is well acquainted with Morbius’ past and likely heard all about the Doctor’s encounter with him during their travels together. The two women settle enough of their differences (Did I fail to mention they didn’t like each other?) to agree that they must work together to save the Doctor.

Somewhere in here, we learn about the mysterious misplaced creatures and items we’ve seen throughout the season/series. Morbius has managed to acquire/build a time scoop (see “The Five Doctors”) and is using it to build himself a new army of followers. Combined with the repaired, converted Dalek drones left over from the War, he will use this army to conquer and subjugate the known universe. And now that the Time Lords and Daleks are out of the way, only one force stands in his way: the Doctor. (The Doctor lies to Morbius  and tells him they are the last two Time Lords in existence, “neglecting” to mention Romana.) In part as a bid to claim additional resources for his war and in part as a form of retribution against the Doctor, Morbius targets Earth as his first victim, unleashing his motley army upon the planet.

Somewhere in here (man, I hate rough outlines), the Doctor, Romana, and Dylan are reunited. Something occurs to incapacitate the Doctor; my original idea was an injury not severe enough to trigger regeneration but serious enough to stop him from saving the day himself, such as a broken leg. I have since waffled back and forth on this, at times favoring having the Doctor otherwise restricted temporarily but not injured, such as being retrained, trapped, or confined in some way that’s not impossible to escape but which would be difficult and time consuming. At any rate, the Doctor is somehow prevented from directly confronting Morbius. Dylan takes this as her opportunity to repay the Doctor for all he has done for her. “You’ve shown me what it means to be a true hero,” she tells him. “Now it’s time for me to return the favor.” Knowing full well that she will likely die, she rushes off to confront Morbius, leaving the Doctor incapacitated with Romana at his side. As the Doctor shouts after Dylan, Romana stands up and begins to walk away herself. She tells the Doctor that there’s no way Dylan can stop Morbius on her own and, besides, someone has to dismantle the time scoop and reverse the invasion. This is an equally suicidal task, seeing as the scoop is guarded by legions of zombie Daleks. The Doctor has the means of reversing his incapacitation (i.e. using his sonic screwdriver to free himself or having the ability to heal his wounds more quickly), but he won’t be able to become mobile in time to stop both her and Dylan. He’ll have to make a choice: save Dylan, a mere human in his care (and whom he thus feels responsible for) who has raced off to face a mad Time Lord, or save Romana, his old friend and maybe the Time Lords’ only chance for rebirth. She smiles at him and says, “I know who you’ll choose. I know you’ll do the right thing,” before racing off to sabotage the time scoop.

And… that’s all you get for now. I will tell you this: The Doctor gets free. Morbius is defeated and killed (properly this time, to ensure no further resurrections). Earth is saved. One woman dies, the other survives. But beyond that, I won’t say any more. I’ve mentally explored both possibilities rather thoroughly, so I know what I would do in writing either scenario. I also believe I’ve settled on my favorite, and I know which way I would pick for the story to end. But I think it would be much more interesting to end this entry here and let you decide for yourself. Who do you think the Doctor would help? Would he rush to save Dylan, a young woman in way over her head, from her own suicidal bid to save Earth? Or would he chase after Romana, his last chance at true companionship with one of his kind? It’s kind of a “The Lady, or the Tiger?” situation, if you will. Maybe, if the BBC actually decided to pick up my idea, we could put it to a fan vote.

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