Monday 30 September 2019

Doctor Who and the Adventures in the Far East - Part Two

You may remember the recent revelation that Doctor Who had a secret incarnation in Korean comicbooks... and the there's this:

OK, it's not really a Japanese tokustatsu style TV version of Doctor Who from the seventies. It's a fan project by someone who styles themselves "lepoissonriuge." It's been up on YouTube for five years, but I happened to stumble across it the other day. It's pretty brilliantly done - both the tokusatsu genre and Doctor Who really lend themselves to cheap-looking productions!

I love the Doctor's monster-fighting outfit here, the ridiculous Dalek and the unrecognisabel Cybermen. If the BBC had tried to make a quick quid by selling the rights to Doctor Who to Toei Company like Stan Lee id with Spider-Man, the results would probably have looked a lot like that. Although, naturally, a giant Emperor Dalek would show up for the climax and be defeated when the TARDIS turned into a giant robot.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Who Novelisation Quest 7: "Battlefield" by Marc Platt

After a bit of a breather, we're finally back in time far enough to reach the original Target novelisations (kind of spurred back onto it by DWM's excellent Target Books special, which is out now).

Battlefield was the first story of the final season of Doctor Who in its original run. The choices this time were going to be between this and the previous season's opener, Remembrance of the Daleks, both of which are fascinating steps towards the New Adventures line that would continue the Doctor's adventures in print once the novelisations dried up. (The Curse of Fenric, the series' penultimate story, is also a good choice in this regard.) This was a time when televised Doctor Who was trying new things, sketching in a new mythology for the Doctor and his universe, hinting at unrevealed adventures in both his past and future. The novelisations, often by the same writers as the TV series, took the opportunity to explore these ideas further. While Ben Aaronovitch novelised his own script for Remembrance and hinted further at the Doctor's origins on ancient Gallifrey, Marc Platt took on the novelisation of Aaronovitch's other script and looked in the other direction.

The TV serial Battlefield was an unusual adventure, where the seventh Doctor was manipulated by his own future self. He discovered that, one day, he was destined to become known as Merlin in a sideways dimension of high-tech knights and alien sorceresses, and the adventure he was now experiencing had been stage managed by Merlin to ensure the right outcome. The novelisation took this a step further, opening with a prologue featuring the Merlin incarnation of the Doctor. This red-headed, hippy-ish regeneration was a rare glimpse to a future for the Doctor at a time when it looked like Doctor Who might not even have a future. It's a little extra something to the story that marks it out as being something a bit special.

Battlefield is a lovely example of one of my favourite sci-fi tropes: a lost future. The serial, broadcast in 1989 but set around ten years later, had lots of cute little futuristic dressing, such as car phones and five pound coins, which would be superseded or fail to materialise before the real nineties were out. The novelisation is full of such things too, my favourite being the futuristic crisp flavours such as cauliflower cheese, exactly the sort of ridiculous flavour you get these days. (I'd definitely give them a try.) There's a clear impression that Platt is having a lot of fun playing in Arronovitch's toybox. The book includes a number of scenes that were cut from the broadcast version, and not seen until the much later video release reinserted them. This includes the Clarke's Law scene: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "The reverse is also true." It's an essential moment for the themes of the story.

Other reintroduced elements were never filmed, most notably the original concept of the Destroyer, beginning as an ordinary-looking man anachronistically dressed in a business suit before gradually transforming into the big, blue demon we saw on screen. The book goes further than the broadcast serial in setting up the new UNIT team run by Bambera, while Lethbridge-Stewart receives a job offer and sets to leave for places, and dimensions, unspecified. Battlefield was the last of the traditional format Target novelisations, with the last few being longer, more detailed novels that would evolve into the New and Missing Adventures. Surprisingly, less was made of the new UNIT set-up in the subsequent New Adventures than would be expected. Even Merlin makes more cameo appearances than Bambera does. Battelfield is an important stepping stone to the next stage of Doctor Who's literary incarnation, but not as influential as might have been expected.

First published by W. H. Allen (Target imprint) in 1991
Based on Battlefield, first broadcast in 1989
Audiobook: unreleased at time of writing

Sunday 15 September 2019

"Time-Crossed" - more Doctor Who fiction

Writing fiction is something that I enjoy but not something I find very easy. In fact, sometimes it's downright torturous. It's very hard for me to get something down on the page that I feel happy with, but sometimes, out of perseverance, a strong set of ideas and a bloody good editor, I can end up with something I'm happy with.

"Time-Crossed" was almost one of those times, but I have a certain frustration with it. I wrote it for the charity collection Time Shadows: Second Nature, which was released in 2018 by Pseudoscope Publishing but sadly had to be discontinued very soon after due to copyright issues. I had originally intended for it to feature the second and eleventh Doctors, but there was a lack of the first Doctor in the collection so it was suggested I change it to feature him. In the original outline, the second Doctor was accompanied by Zoe and Jamie, and the idea was to explore the 21st century from Zoe's perspective. This was, after all, her native time, but was a 1960's person's idea of what the 2000s would be like. Juxtaposing that with Amy and Rory's time, the actual 21st century, seemed like an interesting idea.

Changing it to the first Doctor meant I had to lose a lot of that. I went for Steven and Sara Kingdom, mainly because they're both from the future, but it lost the 21st century connection. I still went down the same path with the storyline, but without the link to Zoe, the story lost a lot of its point. Nonetheless, I think the story turned out rather well in the end, although I was never really satisfied with the alien plot that I used to bring the timelines together. It was fun contrasting the first and eleventh Doctors, something that might not have worked so well with Two and Eleven, who are more similar as characters. Exploring Sara's character was fun too. I thought about rewriting this, back in line with the original idea, and maybe I will one day, but in the end I decided I was happy enough with the finished story to post it as it is.


By Daniel Tessier

Sara cautiously stepped through the TARDIS doors. Even though she had checked the exterior via the scanner, she was prepared for the worst. No soldier could ever be too careful, particularly in an alien environment. 

She looked around. The bright blue of the TARDIS was incongruous between the two metallic grey walls that rose on either side of it. She stepped gingerly forward, moving out from the alleyway in which the Ship had materialised. A forest of metal greeted her; spires rose in the distance, gleaming in the afternoon sun. She squinted, raising her hand to shield her eyes from the glare.

A sudden hoot startled her, and she stepped back quickly. A tomato-red hovercar skimmed towards her, travelling rapidly above the road that was criss-crossed with metallic gridlines. It barrelled past her, swiftly disappearing into the silver city.

Sara realised she had been holding her breath. She breathed out, and began to relax. The location was unknown to her, but the environment familiar. This was civilisation; not her own world, but recognisable.

“Sara!” came the brusque voice of Steven Taylor, the man who had, during the astonishing events of the last few weeks, become her travelling companion. She turned back, returning into the alley. 

“Sara, you should wait for the Doctor and me before you go outside. You've no idea where we are or what could be waiting for us.”

She should have been riled by Steven's chiding, but there was something about the way that he looked out for her that she found quite likeable. He was a military man himself, of course, and had been living this strange lifestyle for far longer than she had. It was only natural that he should try to take charge, at least in some little way. Still, she wasn't going to let him forget who he was talking to.

“Steven, how many years have I been in the Space Security Service? How many potentially deadly environments did I visit before I even met you and the Doctor? I am perfectly capable of scouting out a new environment without supervision.” She thought for a moment. “Where is the Doctor, anyway?”

“I'm right here, young lady,” came a strident voice, its elderly owner stepping through the doors of TARDIS, firmly shutting them behind him. “The TARDIS is a complex mechanism, requiring precise and delicate operation, you know. I can't simply barrel out of the doors the moment we've landed! There are checks to be made, measurements to be, ah, measured...”

The three of them walked out from between the buildings, the Doctor leaning heavily on his ornate cane. They took in the spectacle of the city in front of them, the blocks rising high into the sky, tenuously narrow structures of metal and glass. Hovercars of every colour scooted along the roads. The few pedestrians visible in the area walked with purpose, crossing from one roadside to the other by means of an elegantly sculpted steel bridge.

“Doctor,” said Steven, “where are we exactly? I mean, it's obviously Earth, but it could be almost anywhere.”

“Is your eyesight so poor, my boy? If you look ahead of us there, you can see the statue of King Charles the First, and beyond, Nelson's Column! This is the very centre of London!” 

“Of course. You see, in my time,” continued Steven, referring to his native era, some centuries before Sara's own, “almost the whole southern half of Great Britain is taken up by one enormous city that we call, well, the City.”

“Yes, I see,” responded the Doctor, “well, the developments here are no doubt the beginnings of your great City. Although they'll have the Daleks to contend with first,” he added, ominously. “Come along!”

The trio ambled along, the population becoming denser as they reached Trafalgar Square. The archaic structures of Nelson's Column, surrounded by the four iconic stone lions, and the associated statues of historical British figures, still stood. The expanse of the National Gallery crowned the Square. However, the fountains were dry, and the roads leading from the square were lined with impersonal, towering buildings of metal and glass.

The people moved quickly and paid each other little attention, each of them seemingly busy with their own lives, although several did spare a glance for the oddly dressed travellers who had wandered into their midst. 

“Busy sorts, aren't they?” observed Steven.

“There's nothing wrong with that,” said Sara. “It is good to have a purpose.”

“And it is a Monday, my boy,” pointed out the Doctor, gesturing towards the huge digitised date and time that was displayed on the side of one of the many metallic buildings. The bold red digits read: 12:59 – MONDAY – 23 MAY 2012. “These people are most likely taking what little time they have for their lunch break. This is a busy city centre, after all. Not everyone is lucky enough to lead the life of leisure we do.”

Sara wasn't quite sure if he was joking or not. Before she could ask, a fanfare sounded, seemingly from all around them. Many of the people who were dashing about their day stopped, turning to the northwest corner of the square. In their midst, an image appeared, hovering above the empty Fourth Plinth. The face of a mature man, reasonably handsome but unthreatening, in sober clothing. His face flickered, broken up into thin horizontal lines, before stabilising.

“A projection?” asked Steven.

“Indeed,” said the Doctor. “If you look closely, you can see emitters on the corners of plinth.”

“Good afternoon,” said the projection, in a cultured, English voice. “This is Kalvin Bennett with The Hourly Telepress at one o'clock on Monday, the 23rd of May. In today's headlines, plans for the weather control station have been given the go ahead, and construction will begin on the Moon within the next three weeks. This exciting new development promises more beautiful blue skies than ever before, and rain that will fall precisely on schedule.”

The Doctor stood, gripping his lapels as he contentedly listened to Bennett rattle off his summary of the day's news. Sara felt her toes begin to itch. While she was used to long periods waiting for orders, the SSS were a division dedicated to action, and she didn't like standing around in the open in what was, after all, an unsecured area, however familiar it might feel. They were still technically on a mission, even if they had seen nothing of the Daleks for weeks.

“Doctor, isn't there something else we could be doing?” she asked.

“Shush, shush, shush!” chided the old man. “I thought you would understand the value of reconnaissance, young lady.” He turned his attention back to the projection, a gentle smile upon his face. “In any case, I've long enjoyed the medium of television.”

Steven gave Sara a look of resignation, and she smiled back to him. Inside, however, she couldn't shake her concern that they were always, potentially, at risk while on their travels. 

“Finally,” continued the projection of Bennett, “an unidentified mechanical object has been discovered during the excavation for the site of the new Regent Street PowerTube station in the Westminster District. Services on the Fleet Line are subject to disruption. Construction has ceased awaiting investigation by the British Rocket Group. The Hourly Telepress shall return at two o'clock with an adventure with the Karkus.” The projection blinked out.

“So, this is the City then,” said Steven. “You don't get PowerTubes anywhere else.” He pointed across the square, down the adjacent street. “Look, you can see a station over there.”

“Strictly speaking, we're in Westminster,” said the Doctor. “That is Trafalgar Square station. We can make our way along the line towards the construction site.”

“You mean we're going to take a look at this 'unidentified object' they've found?” asked Sara.

“Of course!” said the Doctor, grinning. “We'd better hurry if we're going to get there before those busybodies from the Rocket Group make a mess of everything. Come along!”

Amy and Rory Williams – or, if you asked her, Amy and Rory Pond – wandered along happily through the crowd of tourists that filled Trafalgar Square, even on a Monday. Neither one of them had anywhere they needed to be. They were enjoying a long weekend away together, and had decided that they were going to do the tourist thing and see the sights. 

Amy sat next to one of the four famous lion statues around Nelson's Column, eating a Solero. Rory stood next to her, slightly awkwardly, relaxation never having come quite as naturally for him as it had for his wife. A traditionalist, he had opted for a choc ice.

A man stood opposite them, peering occasionally over his newspaper, before hiding again. Even if they hadn't spotted his face during his sneaky glances, they would have easily recognised the turned-up trousers held up by braces.

“Come over here, Doctor,” called Amy, with a resigned smile.

The Doctor beamed them a huge grin, and bounded over to them on his bandy legs.

“Ponds!” he exclaimed.

“How did you know we were here?” asked Rory, fixing the Doctor with a quizzical look.

“I searched every city in Britain until I found you.”

“OK, that's a bit weird,” said Amy. An understatement, perhaps, but not much the Doctor did surprised her anymore.

“No, of course I didn't. I saw a receipt in your house in a few weeks time from now. Fancied a trip to London, thought I'd pop in on a day I knew you'd be here. 23rd of May, 2012. An excellent choice.”

“Slightly less weird,” said Amy, “but still pretty freaky. Come here, you!” 

She opened her arms wide and gave the Doctor a huge hug. After a moment of his standard awkwardness, Rory joined in.

“So, what's the plan, Ponds?” asked the Doctor. “British Museum? I accidentally reactivated a robot mummy there once. Or Hamleys! Love a toy shop.”

“Tube station's over there,” said Rory, nodding across to the Westminster station sign. “We could wander around Covent Garden and then up Regent Street.”

“Excellent plan,” beamed the Doctor. “I might get some Lego. This is still before it achieves sentience and declares itself an independent nation, isn't it?”

“I still can't tell when you're joking” said Amy, which was the truth.

“If the British Rocket Group is here,” explained the Doctor, “then there's more to this 'object' than they're saying on the Telepress.” He gestured wildly around the train carriage with his walking stick. “You know, I can tell when there's something fascinating to be found nearby. It's a sort of sensation.”

“Are you being serious, Doctor?” said Sara, who was beginning to realise that the Doctor's claims should be taken with a pinch of salt, to use an ancient idiom.

“Indeed I am, Miss Kingdom! I have a nose for mystery!”

The train came to a halt, and after a moment, the Doctor, Sara and Steven, along with the other passengers exited onto the station. The Doctor took in the silvered map on the wall.

“Now, the new station is being constructed on Regent Street. We can walk there from here. I'm not unknown to the scientific community of this period, so I'm sure we won't have too much difficulty making our way in.”

The Doctor wasn't the fastest person on foot, and both Sara and Steven found themselves having to slow down their pace so as to avoid leaving him behind. It didn't take them too long, however, to reach the throng of people gathered around the, as yet unused, entrance way for Regent Street station. Silver-uniformed guards stood in front of the entrance, preventing the various members of the press from gaining access. One side wielded holocameras, the other stun batons. 

“What'd been found down there?” shouted one of the journalists. 

“What is the nature of the discovery?” called another, from a more high-brow publication.

“Is the object alien?” demanded another.

A guard held his arms out in a blocking gesture. “This matter is under official jurisdiction. A full report will be made to state reporters when the nature of the object has been fully explored.”

“State reporters? Come on, what about the real story?” cried one of the journalists, beginning much vocal consternation.

The Doctor took the lead, moving past the ruckus in the hope of bypassing the guards altogether. While the majority of them were distracted by the growing commotion, one, particularly large and burly specimen, clapped a meaty hand onto the Doctor's shoulder.

“May I ask where you think you're going, sir?” asked the hirsute individual, politely aggressive.

“I'm, I'm needed urgently inside!” replied the Doctor, grasping his lapels with all the authority he could muster. “My expertise is required to identify this object! I am a noted expert in the field! You may have heard of me, my name is Doctor –”

The large man yelped, cutting the Doctor off, as Sara jabbed her knee into the small of his back. He fell to his knees, and she followed it up with a sharp chop to the lower neck, felling him completely.

“Sara, that was incredible!” said Steven, “Although he hadn't actually done anything.”

“We need to get inside,” she replied, “and if we don't go now while there's a distraction we never will. Come on!”

“My dear, I was just about to talk him round,” said the Doctor. “There's no need to resort to such brute force tactics, you know. It's all a matter of finesse.”

“Doctor, your finesse was getting us nowhere. Anyway, he'll be fine in half an hour. Now, we'd better get moving before we're noticed.”

They hurriedly made their way into the station, with the Doctor complaining all the way.

Amy, Rory and the Doctor bundled onto the train, happily chatting amongst themselves, with the Doctor and Rory comparing their respective tastes in boys' toys.

“I don't care what you say, Doctor, Micro Machines were and always shall be far superior to Matchbox.”

“Rory Pond, in the Acteon Group they use Miniscopes to time scoop cars and miniaturise them to make children's toys, and Matchbox models are still better.”

Amy laughed at the boys' little dispute, as they sat down clumsily either side of her.

“There really is no telling some people,” said the Doctor.

Without warning, the train ground to a halt. The lights flickered, before going out. The jaded complaints of Londoners began, equal parts anger at yet another unexpected delay and satisfaction at having something to complain about. The stop was momentary, however, and the lights quickly came back on. In a few seconds the train was running again.

The Doctor pulled his screwdriver from his pocket. The other passengers on the train had clearly noticed the eccentric man with his glowing, whirring gadget, because they were all studiously ignoring him.

“Doctor, it's just a fault,” said Amy. “The Tube trains always have something wrong with them.”

“No, this is different,” said the Doctor. “Don't ask me how I know, I can just feel it.”

The Doctor studied his screwdriver intently, and not for the first time, Amy wondered how he could actually read anything from the gizmo. 

“We're getting off,” he said suddenly, leaping to his feet. 

“Doctor,” said Amy, “can we please wait until the train has stopped?”

“Fine,” he said, “but that means we'll have to walk back down the tunnel.”

Sara led the way into an open chamber, which was clearly in the process of excavation. Rubble was still strewn about the ground. In the centre of the chamber sat an object: roughly egg-shaped, is was a pearlescent blue-white, perfectly smooth.

“Undoubtedly alien,” said the Doctor. “No wonder the scientists of the time are keen to get their hands on it. Completely beyond them, I'm sure, but one can't fault them for trying.”

The three moved quickly down to the pod, the Doctor eager to investigate.

“Something's stirring down here,” said the Doctor. “The sonic's going crazy. Temporal energy readings are off the charts.”

“How worried should we about that?” said Rory. “Is this 'run for your life' or 'poke with a stick?'”

“Amy, please tell your husband to calm down. Everything's going to be perfectly fine.”

“Really though, Doctor,” said Amy, feeling her husband, as overly cautious as he could be, had a point, “what are we dealing with here?”

“Well, I don't know. If I did, I'd know if doing this was a good idea.”

The Doctor held the screwdriver aloft in both hands and pressed three buttons simultaneously. A pulse of sound reverberated around the tunnel.

“Doctor,” sighed Rory, “what did you just do?”

“Whatever we're dealing with here, I just gave it a little alarm call,” said the Time Lord, pocketing his screwdriver and straightening his bow tie.

On cue, a soft green glow appeared in the front of them, dimly illuminating the tunnel walls, decades of dirt and lichen highlighted by the energy. The luminescence grew brighter, and slowly, tenuously, solidified.

In front of the trio stood a gently glowing green figure. Eight feet tall, broad and unmistakably masculine, its head was sunk into its shoulders and its arms reached down to its knees. It wore no clothes, but its body was almost featureless, its skin a smooth, almost carapace-like surface.

“Hello,” the Doctor said, in quiet tones. “So sorry to wake you like that, but it looked like you needed a little help. I'm the Doctor, these are my friends, Amy and Rory. Do you have a name?”

The being turned its stubby head to the trio. Slitted eyes stared out at them.

“Azarath,” came a deep voice, seemingly from all around. “My name is Azarath. How long have I slept?”

The pod glowed with its own faint internal light. It was just about large enough to hold a single person, although Sara knew now that external appearances could be very deceptive. 

“I don't recognise the configuration,” she said, realising how unhelpful this was.

“There's not really much to go on, is there,” pointed out Steven. “It's pretty featureless.”

“Most definitely extraterrestrial,” said the Doctor, “and quite advanced, I'd say.” He knelt down beside the object. “Most certainly a craft of some kind. There are no controls that I can see, however... I can sense an interface of some kind.”

“Sense it?” asked Steven. “How so?”

The Doctor waved his hands irritably. 

“Oh, how to explain... my people have a certain, mmm, affinity for time, I suppose you'd say. It's part of how I fly the TARDIS, although there's more to it than that. Evidently the pilot of this craft has something similar..”

Sara and Steven looked at each other. Anything that had to do with the Doctor's piloting of the TARDIS was not a source of great confidence.

“Perhaps, if I just...” the Doctor muttered, leaning closer to the pod. Supporting himself with his stick, he reached his free hand out to the object. “Yes... yes, I can feel it!”

The pod began to glow brighter. A sharp line of white light appeared across its circumference. Slowly, it cracked open.

“Doctor, was that a good idea?” said Steven.

Sara felt herself instinctively reach for a weapon she did not have.

“There's something coming out,” she observed.

The glow brightened further, coalescing in the centre of the pod. Rising upwards and outwards, the glow left the pod altogether. It stood if front of the three travellers, resolving into a humanoid form. The Doctor straightened up and backed away, standing firm in the face of an unknown entity. The white light finally took shape. In front of them stood a figure, perhaps six feet tall, with a slender build and an almost featureless body. Nonetheless, from the lines of its body and the structure of its alien face, it was undoubtedly feminine.

“What is this place?” she demanded, in a strident, powerful voice.

“It's alright,” said the Doctor, hands raised placatingly. “I'm not sure how long you've been asleep, but we can find out. Maybe if you can tell me how you got here..?”

Azarath was silent for a time, seemingly deep in thought.

“I came here with my co-pilot,” he said, eventually. “We were passing through this plane on the way back to our own world. However, this world has experienced much temporal activity in this space/time region. We encountered unexpected interference. Our craft was grounded. I was rendered insensible.” He paused again, almost as if he was listening for something. “This world has circled its star fifty times since then.”

“You can tell that?” asked Amy, fascinated. “When you've been down here all that time?”

“Of course!” exclaimed the Doctor. “You're a Trizolian, aren't you?” He swivelled on his feet and faced Amy and Rory, flapping his hands about with excited expressiveness. “The Trizolians are a four-dimensional species. Exceptionally sensitive to time. They make Time Lords look deaf and blind in comparison. They make us look like... well, you lot. Anyway, poor Azarath here is obviously a bit shaken up still, he's only just got up after all, but once he's back to 100% he'll have perfect coordination within all dimensions of space/time.”

“What happened to your co-pilot?” asked Rory.

Azarath's head sank, and he became silent again.

“You're on the planet Earth,” said Sara, stepping in front of the Doctor and Steven, instinctively putting herself into harm's way ahead of them. “This is a city called London, in a nation called...” she searched her hazy memory of history lectures. “Merrie Olde England,” she said, finally. “We mean you no harm. How did you come to be here?”

“What is your name, my friend?” asked the Doctor, an approach that hadn't occurred to Sara.

The being faced them with a piercing gaze.

“I am Coriu. My craft materialised her in error, grounded by the unusual temporal effects in this region. I have slept here for...” she fell silent for a moment, before continuing, “fifty of your years. I can sense the passage of time, both since my arrival, and throughout your worldlines. The three of you originate from different times. Not one of you is native to this space/time.” She focused her narrow eyes on the Doctor. “You, in particular, are alien to this region.”

“As are you,” responded the Doctor, not unfairly. “Your craft is still intact, you can leave whenever you wish.”

“My craft is dead,” snapped Coriu. She reached out a hand, and drew the energy of the pod into herself in a stream of blue light. The craft faded from view completely. “I was injured in the materialisation. I should not have slept so long.”

“Your craft must have materialised within the structure of the ground,” noted the Doctor. “You were unable to wake until these people began digging here. The disruption must have reactivated you and your ship, so to speak.”

“I travelled with a co-pilot,” she continued. “Yet he is not present. What have you done with him?”

“Nothing!” said Steven. “We've only been here a short time ourselves.”

“Azarath... I can sense him. He exists here, now, but in a separate veil of possibility.”

“I don't understand,” said Sara.

“You've got me,” responded Steven.

“I think I understand,” said the Doctor. “You and your associate are separated by quantum probability? Both of you arrived in 1962, but were left, shall we say, out of sync with each other? While one sequence of events has led to this 2012, another sequence of events have led to another 2012 in which he now resides.”

“That is correct. We are lost to one another.” Coriu strode over to the Doctor, and loomed over him. Her eyes blazed. “You must have a craft. You will take me through the veil, and we will be reunited!”

“I can sense her, Doctor,” said Azarath. “She is close, yet so far. We are separated by the realm of probability, unable to meet even as we stand in the same space/time.”

“Two beings, separated by the dimension of quantum probability,” whispered the Doctor. “You poor old thing, Azarath. You must have been left slightly out of phase with one another when you crashed here.”

“We are linked,” continued the alien. “Neither of us can pilot our craft without the other. This is why I have woken now. She has recovered, and needs to find me. Doctor, I can sense that you too, are a traveller in time. You have a craft, yes?” 

“Azarath, I would love to help you, I really would, but you have to understand, I can't just jump across worldlines like that. Unless...” The Doctor smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Oh, stupid Doctor, no, clever Doctor! If we go back to the exact point you crashed your ship in the first place, you can travel back up to now through the other timestream!”

“Doctor, what are you talking about?” said Amy.

“I second that,” added Rory.

“Imagine time as a pair of tights,” said the Doctor, miming stretching something with his hands. “Flexible, malleable, but with a definite structure. Now, if you wanted to move something from one leg to the other, you could poke a pencil through both legs and move it across that way.”

“But then you'd ladder your tights and ruin them,” said Amy.

“Exactly. Tights destroyed, big rips in space/time. But, if you go up one leg and then down the other, you can make the trip without any damage at all. I'll just have to do something very clever at the crotch.”

“That is your worst analogy ever,” sighed Amy.

“Azarath, me old mate, I think we can do this. We just need to get to the TARDIS.”

“You craft?” asked the alien. “I can sense it. I can take us there immediately.”

And with that, all four of them vanished.

“It isn't as simple as that, Coriu,” protested the Doctor.

“Time traveller, you have a choice. You either take me to my mate with your craft, or I will break my way through the veil myself.”

“If you can do that, why don't you?” asked Steven, reasonably.

“Steven, my boy,” said the Doctor, fixing him with a hard stare, “if she tears through the dimensions like that, she'll take this whole city with her! Space and time will be ripped apart!”

“Then we have to help her,” pointed out Sara. “We don't have a choice.”

“My dear, it really is not that simple. I would have to pilot the Ship back in time to the very point of divergence and correct for the phase variance there. And while my piloting skills are certainly up-to-scratch, I fear the TARDIS's navigational system is not.”

“You have problems with your navigation?” hissed Coriu.

“I confess that my Ship has developed a small fault, so that I do not always know precisely where I am going to materialise.”

Sara and Steven looked at each other again, impressed by the understatement.

“I can sense your craft. I can pinpoint its exact location. I can move us from here to there in an instant. Navigating the vessel will not pose a problem.”

There was a shout from the level above. 

“There they are!”

Five well-armed, silver-suited guards piled in, followed by four soberly dressed individuals carrying various scientific instruments.

“Wait!” cried one of them. “They've made contact!”

“Don't do anything!” said another. “The object's gone!”

“This is the British Rocket Group. Please step away from the extraterrestrial immediately.

“Oh, that's all we need,” muttered the Doctor.

“I will not be delayed further,” snarled Coriu. She lashed out with her right arm, sending a tendril of blue energy across the assembled humans. With a vicious crackle it contacted them, flooring all nine. They landed with a heavy thud, unconscious.

“That was unnecessary!” snapped the Doctor.

“The terrestrial creatures shall survive,” responded the alien. “Should we delay further, this city shall not.”

The Doctor sighed. 

“Very well,” he said. “Steven, Sara, at my side. Take us to the TARDIS.

The four of them vanished.

“Blimey, Azarath, what's your hurry?” asked the Doctor, a moment after he and his four companions appeared at the door to the TARDIS, parked behind the Leicester Square Odeon. “Come on then, this is my transport of delight. With your help, we can get to exactly the point we need to be.”

The Doctor opened the door, gesturing Amy and Rory inside before watching Azarath carefully as he entered. Finally, he stepped inside himself and locked the door behind him.

“An impressive vessel,” stated Azarath, casting his eye over the complex and cluttered control room.

“You ain't seen nothing yet,” replied the Doctor, getting to work on the console. “Just a couple of adjustments I need to make.”

Azarath stood stoically as the Doctor worked.

“What was her name?” asked Amy, quietly.

The huge alien looked down at her, his glowing eyes meeting her own. From this close she could feel the bristling energy that emanated from him. He could have destroyed her in a heartbeat.

“Her name is Coriu,” he said, and turned away.

“Don't worry, big fella,” said the Doctor, “we'll get you back to her. Tune yourself into the theta band. We're about to go!”

“Doctor, I think I've had enough of being thrown across space,” said Steven, clutching his head as he fell back against the wall. They had appeared back in the alleyway, in front of the TARDIS.

“I don't see the problem, my boy,” replied the Doctor, “that seems like quite an acceptable way to travel. However, this is something else entirely.”

He unveiled his key and opened the TARDIS door, holding out his hand and gesturing for Coriu to enter.

“After you, madam.”

Sara stepped up to the Doctor and spoke quietly into his ear.

“How do we know she's not just going to take the TARDIS and leave us?”

“Because, for now at least, she has no idea how it functions,” replied the Doctor, “only that it moves through space/time. Without me, she cannot fly it; without her, I cannot land it precisely.”

They entered, along with Steven. Coriu stood in the gleaming white control room.

“This is acceptable,” she stated, without elaboration.

“Well, I am pleased you find it adequate,” huffed the Doctor. “If you're ready, I am going to set the TARDIS temporal circuits to band theta. We can then begin.”

The TARDIS spun through the Vortex, the Doctor grabbing at the controls.

“Ooh, these precise hops are tricky,” he said, “but even so, there's a lot of turbulence here.”

“Will we be able to materialise?” asked Azarath.

“Oh, don't you worry, I'll get us there in one piece.”

“I say, this is most unusual,” complained the Doctor. “The TARDIS is pushing against some severe interference.”

“You had best not fail me,” warned Coriu.

“Fail? Never! We'll be there in a jiffy!”

The TARDIS materialised.

The TARDIS materialised.

The Doctor stepped out, his cane clicking on the pavement.

The Doctor stepped out, whirring his screwdriver.

“Right, that's as close as we can get without actually being in the ground.” He saw his other self. “Ah,” he said.

Out of one TARDIS came Sara, Steven and Coriu; out of the other, Amy, Rory and Azarath. The eight time travellers all looked at each other, warily.

“What is the meaning of this?” demanded Sara's Doctor.

“Oi, don't blame me for this,” said Amy's. “What are you doing here? I don't remember this.”

“Coriu!” exclaimed Azarath, glowing brightly.

“Azarath, at last,” she replied. 

They clasped their hands together, bold white and unearthly green shining together. They were more than just co-pilots, Amy saw. They needed each other.

“Aw,” said Amy, despite herself.

“Who are you people?” asked Sara.

Before anyone could answer, there was a violent shudder. The assembled humans almost fell to their feet.

“What was that?” questioned Rory, steadying Amy.

“Temporal feedback,” said the bow-tied Doctor. “We shouldn't all be here at once. Two TARDISes, two Doctors, two super-powerful transdimensional aliens. It's all a bit much.”

There was another shudder, and a sudden, blinding flash. When it abated, all four humans were gone.

“What has happened?” demanded the stick-wielding Doctor.

“Oh dear,” said the bow-tied one. “It's all gone a bit Pete Tong.”

Amy, Rory, Sara and Steven found themselves, flat on their backs, in the middle of a gleaming metallic walkway. People, hurriedly going about their lives, stopped, in some cases almost tripping over these strangers who had appeared in their midst. The four looked around, taking in the stone lions, the great column and the statues of noteworthy Englishmen.

“We're back in the Square,” observed Steven.

“Yeah, but when,” said Rory. 

“Where we started, I think,” said Sara, getting to her feet. “This is 2012.” She helped Steven up.

Rory, likewise helping Amy, shook his head. 

“No, that doesn't make sense. We're from 2012. This is the future.”

“Right, said Amy. “We don't have metal gangways, or, or hovering cars, or – what the hell's that?” She pointed at a hulking man in luminous tight-fitting coveralls, who was flexing his exaggerated muscles atop a plinth.

“I think that's the Karkus,” said Steven. “Don't worry, it's just a hologram.”

 “He looks like a superhero, ”said Amy.

“I have seen every Marvel movie to date,” said Rory, “and I have never heard of 'The Karkus.' I mean, what kind of name is that anyway?”

“Wait a moment,” said Sara, butting in to avoid the conversation going off on a complete tangent, “the Doctor spoke of two different histories. One for Coriu, and one for her mate, each beginning in 1962.”

“So one is yours,” said Rory.

“And the other is ours,” finished Amy.

“And somehow, we've all ended up here,” said Steven.

“Without the Doctor, or the TARDIS,” observed Sara. “This poses a problem.”

The four of them stood silently for a moment, unsure of what to say.

“Fancy getting a coffee?” suggested Amy.

“Oh, this is most irregular,” complained the Doctor, pacing up and down, his cane making a racket on the pavement.

“Well, these things do happen occasionally,” said the other Doctor. “You might find you bump into yourself from time to time.”

“How can you be so glib, young man? We are breaching the Laws of Time!”

“Don't you young man me, I'm old enough to be your... well, your ancestor!”

“So which one are you then, hmmm? How many have I gone through before I become this, this... whippersnapper?”

“Well, let's just say it's been a while since I looked as grumpy as you.”

“Oh dear, oh dear, this is a sorry state of affairs. Do I really change so much?”

“You don't know the half of it, mate.”

Coriu and Azarath approached the Doctors.

“Explain this situation,” demanded the female.

“There is an overlap in your worldlines,” observed Azarath.

“Well, obviously,” said the younger-faced Doctor, running his hand through his hair. “That's because we're the same person. We obviously tried the same thing in different potential futures and, well, this is the result.”

“Never mind all that,” snapped the older-faced Doctor, “where are my young associates?”

“And why has no one noticed us standing here having this argument?” asked the other.

“We have projected a temporal envelope to prevent any of the natives of this space/time from interfering with us,” explained Coriu, quite haughtily. “Now that we are reunited, this is well within our abilities.”

“As for your associates,” said Azarath, “they appeared to be downstream, in one of the worldlines from which you travelled. It is hard to tell which.”

“Oh, don't give me that,” said the younger. “Two Trizolians are better than one, right? If anyone can find them and get them back, it's you two.”

“Perhaps,” said Coriu, “but why would we? There whereabouts are of no interest to us.”

“Coriu,” said Azarath, quietening his deep voice, “these creatures helped us become reunited. Is it not right that we do the same for them?”

“You always were too sentimental, Azarath.”

“It's lucky you had some money in your pocket,” said Rory, sitting down at the transparent perspex table. “We never know if we've got the right cash on us when we're travelling with the Doctor.”

“Or even when we're just supposed to be out in town for a couple of days,” added Amy. “Why are they using pounds, shillings and pence? That stuff went out in the fifties or something.”

“1971,” said Rory.

“Which is after the two histories diverged,” noted Steven. “Luckily, we were in 1965 not that long ago.”

“This is all quite fascinating,” said Sara, cautiously sipping her coffee, which was quite unlike anything available in her own time, the coffee plant having become extinct some centuries previously. “You say you don't have these holographic displays in your version of London?”

“That's right,” said Amy, “but we do have wifi and a mobile network, which might make getting hold of the Doctor a bit easier.”

“If he's even in this timezone,” pointed out Rory.

“He's coming,” she stated, and left it at that.

“What we definitely don't have,” said Rory, changing track, “is a Space Wheel. Seriously, the news here is amazing. And people just work up there?”

“Well, it's very hard to get a placement on those things,” said Steven, “but are you really telling me you don't have space stations in your time?”

“Well, we have the ISS,” offered Rory, “but it's not quite the same.”

“And you're from this time yourselves?” asked Amy.

“A little further ahead,” said Steven, not elaborating.

“I joined the Doctor and Steven in 4000, Common Era,” explained Sara, to be met with wide eyes from both Amy and Rory. “What?”

“You're from the Year 4000?” said Rory.

“A Year 4000,” said a young voice. The four looked up. The Doctor stood there – Amy's Doctor – with a broad smile on his face.

“Where's our Doctor?” asked Sara.

“Yes, I think I might need that part explained to me again,” said Steven.

“Well, we're both versions of the same person. We're the same Doctor, only different. I'm a little further ahead – well, a lot further ahead – as you can tell from my superior sartorial taste.”

“So what happens now?” asked Rory. “Are we stuck in a parallel universe?”

“Not at all,” smiled the Doctor, clapping his hands together. “Together, Azarath and Coriu are far more powerful and more precise. They're able to gently shunt us across to our own worldline, no harm done. Kind of like tying the ends of a pair of tights together, only not very much like that at all.”

“Thank you,” said Steven, “that's all much clearer.”

“Look, it's quite simple,” said the Doctor, pulling up a transparent chair. “At any point in time, there are many possible sequences of events that might play out. Technology might progress rapidly in one area, but not another. Someone comes to power in one history, his opponent in the other. Both versions of 2012 are equally possible from the point of view of someone in 1962, and both are equally valid, equally real – they're just separate.”

He nodded at Amy and Rory. 

“You two should never have been able to see this version of events. But it's fine, you should slip back into your natural timestream with a little help from the Trizolians. Because you're supposed to be there, it'll make things a lot easier.” 

He stood up.

“Now, you two drink up your coffee. We'd better be going. The TARDIS is waiting outside. We'd just best be careful to into the right one.” He turned to the others. “Bye Steven. Good seeing you again.” He grabbed his hand and gave it a firm shake.

He looked at Sara, and she was taken aback by the sadness in his eyes. Although he looked so much younger than the Doctor she knew, she could see the weight of years bearing down on him.

He put his hand on hers.

“Goodbye Sara. Take care.”

The Doctor was waiting behind the café, standing by his TARDIS impatiently.

“Really now, what took you so long?” he chided.

“It was that other version of you,” said Steven. “He doesn't half like to chat.”

“Yes, well,” sighed the Doctor, “I suppose I have all that to look forward to.”

The two Trizolians appeared in front of them.

“What are you going to do?” asked Sara. “Your ship was destroyed.”

Azarath and Coriu spoke together.

“We are our ship.”

They placed their hands together again, only this time, their glow grew ever brighter, green and white coalescing into one pearlescent mass of solid light. In time, there was only a pod left, glowing faintly, which then vanished with a flash.

“Well, then,” said the Doctor, “I suppose I shall have control of my Ship back.”

“Such as it is,” said Steven. “At least it looks like you'll be able to fly it better one day, judging by your other self.”

The Doctor looked at him , dumbfounded.

“My other self? What are you talking about?”

The TARDIS materialised. Amy and Rory stepped out to a London filled with red double deckers, Nando's adverts and truly foul-looking pigeons.

“Good to be back,” said Rory.

“See?” said the Doctor. “Nothing to it. My earlier self will be forgetting about our little misadventure, everyone's back in their right timestream, and our Trizolian chums should be happily on their way.”

“What now then?” said Amy. “Home?”

“We haven't finished our little holiday yet,” said the Doctor, placing his arms round their shoulders. “Let me take you to lunch, and I'll tell you a little about my friends Steven and Sara.”