Thursday, 30 July 2015

Revisiting the Twelfth Doctor: Robot of Sherwood

Robot of Sherwood

Here we are, already. The point in the series where I felt everything was going horribly wrong. I'll save you a scan through the text and declare, up-front, that I didn't hate this as much as I thought I would. It's isn't good science fiction, drama or history but it's an entertaining enough Robin Hood romp, let down by an ending which is just... I don't even know what it is.

Here's a reminder of what I remember from seeing this story the first time, roughly a year ago:
Oh dear. Honestly? Not even looking forward to revisiting this one. A silly idea, brought to a head with one of the worst dramatic climaxes in television history. I remember lots of arguing for Clara's attention, leading to a resolution which one Who fan referred to as "like pouring petrol on the outside of a car and expecting it to work".
It's episodes like this that cause me to question what kind of show Doctor Who should be. I'm a lifelong fan of science fiction. To me, good science fiction posits a change to something that forms the everyday fabric of our lives and then explores the world that comes out of that change. Often, science fiction takes place in a far future where the whole technological fabric of society is unrecognisable, but the human elements of story and character remain something to which we can relate. In other instances, the sci-fi world is recognizably ours but with a single change, such as the Channel 4 drama Humans, in which the single change is the presence of artificially intelligent android domestic servants.


The basic premise of Robot of Sherwood is sound. An alien ship has crash-landed on Earth during the 12th Century and assimilate themselves into local history in order to repair their ship. It's been done before in Doctor Who - The Time Warrior. The difference in tone between those two stories is vast. The Time Warrior is a genuine insight into the rule of barons in feudal Britain. The human villain is sinister and deadly, but not a caricature. The neighbouring Lord is practical, dour and determined to act in a reasonable way. In Robot of Sherwood, we have a cast of larger-than-life characters, encapsulated by The Doctor's insistence at the beginning that they are fictional characters who never really existed. They're a romantic ideal, not real historical figures. Despite an attempt to inject some pathos into the scenario by hinting at the trauma Robin Hood has faced, it barely comes across as a beat in the midst of bantering, lute-playing and machismo. The fact that the Doctor calls the Merry Men out on these actions doesn't mean this shouldn't be the audience's reaction as well.

Then there's the ending. Spoilers: the space ship taking off doesn't have enough gold to safely clear the planet. Robin fires an arrow, which sticks to the outside of the rocket and somehow powers the engine into space. Firstly, let's ignore the fact that despite being short of gold, the villain gives away a solid gold arrow, which obviously contains enough gold to fix his own problem. Secondly, a gold arrow powering an engine from the outside is one of the worst pieces of science fiction writing I have ever encountered. That a single writer, sitting on their own may construct this bizarre set of events is unfortunate, but it happens. Writers run with bad ideas and make mistakes. Any normal editor would simply make them change it. However, for a production crew, made up of dozens of skilled storytellers, to read this idea, think it was good and go through the weeks-long process of producing it and getting it to our screens is unforgivable. The whole thing could have been saved, if the Special Effects shot had shown the arrow flying through the metal side of the engine or even - and I'd take this explanation, however goofy - somehow flew up into the rocket nozzle and made it into the engine. Those are daft explanations, but they are, at least, explanations. If you're not following why I think this is such a bad piece of science, try an experiment. The next time you're cooking, place a lit candle next to the cooker, on the outside and see if it affects the cooking time.


Ultimately I'm not sure what to take away from this story. There's a central idea that maybe the Doctor doesn't know everything and his assumptions about the truth of history are maybe no more accurate than our own. But while The Time Warrior gives us time to reflect on the responsibilities of those who rule common people and the importance of careful interaction with less developed cultures, Robot of Sherwood leaves us with the impression that its okay to take a revisionist approach to history. So what if the overwhelming factual evidence is against the existence of a historical figure? Maybe that's what they want you to think. Evidence isn't truth. My opinion is that Robin Hood is real, so who are historians to tell us otherwise? While I'm at it, maybe those scientists that tell me medicine is the only answer are wrong. I'll beat my cancer using crystals, or positive thinking. And vaccinating my child is just a conspiracy to give them autism, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is safe, essential for society and the health of other peoples children and that my beliefs are those of an ignorant and dangerous asshat.


There is a place in science fiction for doing away with assumptions and even ignoring the evidence for a more important mechanism. Physics suggests that travelling faster than the speed of light, or even time travel, are impossibilities in our universe. We can put these rules aside, because the value to the story of assuming that, maybe, one day we will overcome these limitations is worth exploring. And it's even perfectly fine to re-address historical events. If history is truly bunk, then the best we can get from it is a new perspective on our present. Robot of Sherwood offers none of this. It is bad science fiction and pretty weak fantasy. And that's coming from the guy who thinks Paradise Towers is a good, solid and engrossing story.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Revisiting the Twelfth Doctor: Into the Dalek

Into the Dalek

Fantastic Voyage meets Carnival of Monsters as the Doctor agrees to help a sick Dalek, because it has seen the light and decided to kill its own kind. Here's a reminder of what I remembered from watching it, nearly a year ago:
A good idea - some nice DW continuity references (the mini-scope) and great casting. I remember not being totally impressed with the realisation of their Fantastic Voyage-style adventure - and some of The Doctor's callousness towards death felt hard to accept.
First off, how great does Doctor Who look now? I'm not just comparing to the classic series with theatrical sets and painted green bubblewrap for monster skin - even since the show has been back on the air, this episode looks and sounds incredible. From the sweeping opening shot of the space fighter being chased by a Dalek saucer to the shots of the miniaturised protagonists against the huge internal working of the machine, this is an incredible-looking episode.

Beyond effects, the realisation of a dirty, gritty war-torn future is incredible. In the scenes where the Daleks pour into the human ship, exterminating as they go, they have rarely looked more threatening. It's easy for the Daleks to end up look a bit camp in battle, but the layered fire, sparks and moody lighting completely convince in making these creatures a terrifying killing machine.

The Doctor's callousness is a bitter pill to swallow (not unlike the pill he gives the doomed soldier which we initially assume is to save him, but turns out to be a device for the Doctor to track his remains). But I got to thinking about the bystanders that died in previous Doctors' eras. Moments such as "Forest of the Dead" where Doctor #10 tells the Vashta Narada "You know what? I really liked Anita. She was brave, even when she was crying. And she never gave in. And you ate her. But I'm going to let that pass. Just as long as you let them pass." There has always been a level of pragmatism in the Doctor's approach to death. I'd forgotted how desperately Doctor #12 tries to stop the squaddie from the action which later causes his death - but it strikes me that if it had been Clara, or another assistanct (for which read: important character) he would have found a way. But as I recall, humans taking responsibility for their own choices is a theme for this series and explains a lot of the Doctor's actions.

Great story though. Gripping adventure - and I enjoyed the contrast with the "real life" storyline in Clara's teaching job. The Doctor's own hatred of the Dalek proving to be the final straw is an interesting development. The Dalek's assertion "You are a good Dalek" would have been more shocking if we hadn't already had a Dalek tell Doctor #9 "You would make a good Dalek."

A couple of unexplored human issues branched out for me with this. When they realise the Dalek isn't good, he's just suffering an injury, it reminded me of how sometimes a person can be a angry/violent/difficult person, but if they suffer a stroke or dimentia it can completely change their personality. I'd have enjoyed more of an exploration between the concept of being good versus suffering forced behaviour change - but that's an aside.

From my comments above, I think I originally found it strange how much empty space existed inside the Dalek. This time, it didn't bother me and of course in the classic era days, characters were forever climbing inside Dalek cases to hide or infiltrate. Memory is a funny thing. Maybe I need Clara to reconnect a few circuits for me.

Still, I remember enjoying this episode and I enjoyed it even more on a second viewing. Definitely one of the stronger outings for the Daleks.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Revisiting the Twelfth Doctor: Deep Breath

Deep Breath

So here it is - the first full story for the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Here's a reminder of what I said in my last blog post I remembered about it:
I'll admit to some distraction here. I was very tied up with seeing how the 12th Doctor's personality would coalesce. I remember very little of the plot, beyond a burning T-Rex and lots of hand-wringing with the Victorian/Lizard/Sontaran crew. I recall annoyance that they spent so much of the episode making excuses for Capaldi's age - especially given that Clara had already seen The Doctor's entire regeneration cycle to date. A parting phonecall from Doctor #11 was a particularly insulting moment, although a clever bit of continuity from The Time of the Doctor.
I enjoyed this more than I expected to. A few inconsistencies and weak ideas, but  actually a very interesting watch.

The apologetics for Capaldi's age now seems to me less self-conscious and more a genuine confusion on Clara's part. She has, as I said, seen his entire regeneration cycle - but this new man is a stranger, even to her. I enjoyed Clara's anger - a common response among the bereaved - and feeling of losing someone she was close to, to be dumped in the care of a man whose behaviour and trust she could not rely upon.


I had forgotten the additional guff about the Doctor now being Scottish. It seems nonsensical to me. He's not human, so gaining a Scottish accent is really just an affectation. But for a character who so recently had been mystified by the existence of "the bedroom" as a concept and couldn't tell the difference between Clara (Human) and Strax (Sontaran) because they were the same height, the Doctor's commentary on Scottish/English rivalry is divisive at best and comes across as the writer showing through, not the characters. It's nice, though, that in Missy/the Master's introduction, she demonstrates her obsession with the Doctor by taking on a Scottish accent as well. It plays effectively into the suggestion that the reason the Master loves/hates the Doctor is plain old envy.

Some nice dark moments with the new Doctor experimenting with the boundaries of callousness and pragmatism. As I've said, this rings throughout the series. He tries to take the coat from a cold homeless man ("I'm cold too, there's no point us both being cold") but this is an effective device as later when the Doctor abadons Clara in the "larder" ("There's no point us both being captured") we genuinely think he may have cast her adrift. The same when he leaves without her at the end.

I can't believe how much of this story related directly to The Girl in the Fireplace - my favourite episode of all time, modern or classic. I'm surprised that didn't stick in my memory better. perhaps because I don't really see how it relates. Hard to believe that the clunky wrought-iron android is from the same factory as the beautiful and delicate clockwork men.

A nice dramatic face-off between Clara and Madame Vastra. Lots of wit and sexual chemistry, which is always nice. Valid commentary about Vastra keeping Jenny as a bit of a sexual object. ("Doesn't exactly explain why I'm pouring tea for you in private.")

In terms of weaknesses, I don't really get how the androids are fooled by people holding their breath. If they're programmed to use human components to replace ship parts, they must have sensors which register something other than breath movement as a means to determine living tissue. Maybe I'm being harsh - maybe because they are part human means that the only difference between cyborg and human is the need to respirate.

The phone call from Doctor #11 grated less, now I knew it was coming. I didn't hate it second time around, in fact it was a nice character touch. But it strikes me that Moffatt is prone to sentimentality and finds it hard to let things go. In the same way that Amy's appearance in The Time of the Doctor felt like Doctor #11 couldn't let go of his big love, the phonecall in Deep Breath feels like a hanging on - an inability to accept that Matt Smith's time has gone.

But overall I enjoyed this way more than I remembered. A good Victorian crime romp, great wit in the script and some good character development. A slightly indifferent story plot, but with a great dilemma for the audience at the end. Did the villain jump, or did The Doctor push him to his death?

Seems pretty obvious to me that he pushed him.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Revisiting the Twelfth Doctor

I recently acquired the boxset of Doctor Who series 8, Peter Capaldi's first series as The Doctor. I quite often revisit DW after a little break - partly because I'm a cheapskate and wait for the prices to tail off a little, but mainly because leaving things for a time helps to get past those initial gut reactions to a piece.

I do it with my own writing - and I'm not alone. Many writers speak of putting away first drafts in a drawer, to allow it to be seen later on with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.

Strangely it's the same experience with new Doctor Who episodes. Maybe it's hype, maybe it's the complexity of getting to grips with strange new settings and ideas, but I don't always enjoy DW on first viewing. Conversely, the episodes I did enjoy first sometimes offer little rewards on repeated viewing. But it struck me recently that I was surprised at just how much I now enjoy series 5 & 6, with Matt Smith, despite some misgivings about the stories contained within. Furthermore I even revisited "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" and "The Lodger" and found a lot there to enjoy.

So, I decided to put down my thoughts somewhere, while I revisit series 8 for the first time. Here seems as good a place as any.

First, though, I'd like to set down my memories and expectations. Once I've reacquainted myself with an episode, it's hard to recapture my feelings from the first viewing. So, what follows is what I remember from watching Peter Capaldi's first season for the first time.

Series 8 overview 

The TL;DR version? Loved Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Abrasive, alien, unpredictable - everything the Doctor should be. Hartnell at his most uncaring, Troughton at his most enigmatic, Baker 1 at his most inscrutable, Baker 2 at his most blasé, McCoy at his darkest and most manipulative. (I've missed a couple, there. Pertwee and Davison were just too much like nice guys for a reasonable comparison!)

However, I remember some of the episodes as very shaky. Probably about half I didn't really enjoy. I remember some truly incredible moments of writing - some of the best Doctor Who has ever had. Danny Pink's clever tirade against the Doctor as an "officer" figure; Capaldi's description of Clara as his carer: "She cares, so I don't have to"; dimensional hiccups with the size of the Tardis - all brilliant. However this was interspersed with some of the worst writing I've encountered. A golden arrow on the side of an engine? Fully-functional Cyberman reconstituted out of water? Really?

Deep Breath

I'll admit to some distraction here. I was very tied up with seeing how the 12th Doctor's personality would coalesce. I remember very little of the plot, beyond a burning T-Rex and lots of hand-wringing with the Victorian/Lizard/Sontaran crew. I recall annoyance that they spent so much of the episode making excuses for Capaldi's age - especially given that Clara had already seen The Doctor's entire regeneration cycle to date. A parting phonecall from Doctor #11 was a particularly insulting moment, although a clever bit of continuity from The Time of the Doctor.

Into the Dalek

A good idea - some nice DW continuity references (the mini-scope) and great casting. I remember not being totally impressed with the realisation of their Fantastic Voyage-style adventure - and some of The Doctor's callousness towards death felt hard to accept.

Robot of Sherwood

Oh dear. Honestly? Not even looking forward to revisiting this one. A silly idea, brought to a head with one of the worst dramatic climaxes in television history. I remember lots of arguing for Clara's attention, leading to a resolution which one Who fan referred to as "like pouring petrol on the outside of a car and expecting it to work".

Listen

I remember this being really creepy. A very clever idea and some good cheeky continuity with the 50th special. However, the actual detail of the plot hasn't stuck in my mind. The ending was a very original concept, but I remember feeling distinctly deflated. Overriding memory? A lot of tension, but nothing actually happened.

Time Heist

I recall really enjoying this one. Classic Ocean's Howevermany style robbery caper. Slightly awkward re-use of sets not masked very well and a sense that the team that had been essentially were largely superfluous redshirts, once it was revealed what actually needed to happen, but a good romp, nevertheless. Creepy monster and a palpable threat.

The Caretaker

Strong feelings about this one. This episode contains a lot of interpersonal stuff about how the Doctor treats people - And whether he uses them to die for him. Danny confronts the Doctor in amazing style, with all his experience from being a soldier. The robot was a bit cheap-looking and kiddy (it would have looked great in a Sarah-Jane Adventures story) and the main plot was a bit of a non-starter, but the character drama took centre stage.

Kill the Moon

Need to try not to think too hard about this one. Lots of weird inconsistencies and coincidences. For example, there are large creature living on the moon which are essentially germs, so they can be killed with a spray of anti-bac? Either I or the writers don't understand how anti-bac works, because I'm pretty sure that couldn't happen. Anti-bac spray creates an environment in which germs cannot survive. A large creature with complex anatomy isn't going to be felled like that. Also, it is a bit of a coincidence that a) that character happened to be holding a spray and b) they even thought to use it. And, while I like the idea that the moon is an egg for a space-creature, the idea that the creature leaves behind a brand-new egg, with exactly the same mass,  on the day of its birth is a bit of a stretch. That said, it was a genuinely new and brilliant idea, a great moral choice at the heart of the story and - from what I have written here - has stuck in my mind far more than many other episodes. I think if I can ignore the plot holes, this could be a great story.

Mummy on the Orient Express

Tricky one, this. Could be exceptional, but for The Doctor's callous attitude to other people's death. Need to reconsider that on a second viewing. But otherwise this was a great bit of period-charm silliness, a scary monster and a chilling tale. Seem to remember this story leaving unresolved issues.

Flatline

Probably my favourite episode from the series, so it has a lot to live up to. Playing around with the dimensionality of things, with monsters that only live in two dimension, while The Doctor is stuck in the Tardis, because the outer shell has materialised in too small a size. Good, creepy monster. Great settings and a good cast of characters.

In the Forest of the Night

My main memory of this is wondering why an overgrown London suddenly only seems to have about three people living in it. There was nothing in the plot about human disappearances, so why is the centre of the city suddenly no more than a quiet walk in Epping Forest? That aside, this is the episode where Doctor Who finally managed to include children in a story without them being really irritating. There was some controversy, as I recall, over the Doctor's assertion that children with behavioural problems shouldn't take their medicine. I think the plot was a bit ho-hum?

Dark Water

I can't think of this without it being coloured by the travesty that was Death in Heaven, but honestly I remember a very gripping, interesting set-up story. I can't remember what actually happened to fill 45 minutes, but I remember enjoying it. The final revelation of Missy as being The Master was a bit of a squib. It couldn't realistically have been anyone else, although I remember a brief moment of doubt during the episode when I thought it could be a Romana turned bad.

Death in Heaven

I was very disappointed by this, although again it's hard to remember why. Lots of silly plot holes. Cybermen from rainwater without any further explanation (if someone had even bothered to say Nanites I'd have at least felt they were trying to make it logical), also if the cybermen can be built from virtually nothing, why need people at all? The Master escapes and kills a character while armed soldiers in the background do nothing to stop her. Danny breaks his Cyberman programming because of his love for Clara - because of course all the other millions of Cybermen in history never loved anybody important. And a Cyberised Alasdair Lethbridge-Stewart appears, also having broken his programming. It seems hard to imagine the Cyber legions could maintain discipline with so many rogue units among their numbers. That said, I liked that the Master did it all as some kind of ill-judged gift for the Doctor - and, more importantly, I liked how tempted the Doctor was to use his new army. But overall I felt this episode was very badly judged and disappointing. But having said that, that was also my reaction to The Curse of the Black Spot and Let's Kill Hitler, both of which I have warmed to.

We'll see.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Doctor Who (Game B) Session Write-up - Land of Ghosts, Part One

N.B. What follows is a prose narration of the events that took place in a roleplaying game session. It can be regarded as a kind of Doctor Who fan-fiction, except that all the events are driven by occurrences in-game and is presented in first-draft quality. It is not intended to fully recreate any events or characters from any previous Doctor Who episode, book, radio series or comic, with the exception of some iconic villains. Even The Doctor is a reinvention, starting out as a first-regeneration Timelord with little history; Perhaps how the Doctor may appear in a different reality. It cannot, therefore, be wrong on any canonical continuity. It exists within itself and is presented purely for reading pleasure and to inform role-playing experiences. Thank you :)

    Preface

    Firstly a huge apology to those who have been reading these adventures. What with a number of outside commitments, some of the previous adventures never received a lovingly-crafted write-up, but since I prefer to allow my players the chance to recap the previous game session, I have skipped over a missed adventure. In Game B's continuity, all that is missing is the Christmas Special, “Gods of War”.
    I hope that this adventure can still be enjoyed in a standalone fashion and I will catch up with missed adventures as soon as is practical.

    Chapter 1 – Back on the Trail

    “So,” said The Doctor, thumping his hands on the Tardis console, “where should we head to?”
    It was a leading question, both Georgie and Conrad knew, but they humoured him. After what they had seen in 1936 there could be no question that they would be heading further back to track the events and individuals that had caused that nightmarish version of events to pan out.
    “I think we need to go further back,” Georgie suggested, “do we not? To find the source of those terrible war robots?”
    The Doctor nodded, satisfied that his companions understood the gravity of the situation. At least they could face the challenge with a fresh determination, he thought. He had feared it would be too much for the humans to bear, emotionally, after what they had already seen so far.
    It was true that, as terrifying as their most recent adventure had been – separated from each other in time and space, pitted against the terrible machinations of the Daleks, threatened with death in this universe and all the parallel universes in existence – it had at least given them a little distance from the terrible events they had experience in that German castle: Forced slave labour, advanced weaponry and medical experimentation. The most heart-wrenching moment had been the discovery of the missing children; modified and mutilated to fit inside robotic battle suits and brainwashed to follow the orders of their captors.
    “Yes,” The Doctor agreed, “that there was no way that technology originated on Earth. It was too advanced and the German scientists had not seemed to fully understand it, themselves. Someone else has been influencing Earth's history.”
    It was a very strange concept for both Georgie and Conrad, in different ways. Conrad had never known a different version of history. For him, the complete destruction – and subsequent evacuation – of Great Britain and North-West Europe in 1916 by fire and bombs which seemed to fall from the sky was a matter of historical record. It had led to the isolationism of his own United States and the sudden growth of an extreme right-wing regime across all of Europe. That was why President Howard Hughes had invented the Rocket Pack and why Conrad himself had signed up for the U.S. Rocket Corps.
    But, he had ultimately lived through dark times and in a strange way, Conrad took comfort in The Doctor's assertion that history had been meant to play out differently.
    Georgie also took comfort. She had, at first, been amazed that her unexpected journey with The Doctor had taken her 20 years into the future. That amazement had turned to horror when she had seen the terrors of the Nazi war machine (literally embodied in the black-metal robots which seemed almost unbeatable) and she, too, was relieved that that was not how things were “meant” to turn out.
    “Commandant Jurgens – while he was being possessed by the glowing alien energy – had said that he had not seen me for 20 years...” The Doctor said, trailing off.
    “But you've never met him before?” Captain Seager asked.
    “No,” replied The Doctor, thoughtfully, “which suggests that I will meet him – or it – somewhere in my own future.” He tapped the console, his brain spinning through the possibilities. “Well!” he announced, suddenly, “there's no time like the present!”
    Conrad and Georgie watched in fascination once more as the alien's hands skittered over the controls on the altar-like bank of switches, lights and baubles. There was a groaning, wheezing noise as the brightly-illuminated column in the centre of the console rose and fell rhythmically. Georgie braced herself; the last journey she had taken had injured her quite badly.
    “But, Doctor,” Georgie asked, “if we're travelling back to 20 years before the castle... well that's about when you picked me up!”
    The Doctor nodded. “That hasn't escaped me,” he said, “I'm very aware of those strange ghosts you said had been chasing you through the streets. It can't be a coincidence.”
    “So we're heading to England?” Georgie exclaimed, hopefully.
    “London,” The Doctor assured her with a smile. “Or at least,” he gave the Tardis controls a gentle pat, “as near as I can get us.”
    There was a beeping sound coming from the controls. The Doctor frowned as he studied a small screen.
    “What it is, Doctor?” Conrad asked.
    “I might not need to be accurate,” the Doctor muttered, his frown deepening, “there's what looks like a Vortex Beacon sitting right near the date and coordinates I wanted to take us to.”
    “A Vortex Beacon?” Georgie repeated, confused, “what's that?”
    “Well,” the Doctor scratched at his forehead, trying to puzzle out the possibilities, “societies with time-travel use them all the time to mark important destinations. If you want to ensure visitors get to the right time and space coordinates every time, a Vortex Beacon acts as a sort of homing transmission. Even Time Lords use them from time to time. I can just point at it and hit 'go' and we'll land on top of it without even trying.”
    Georgie could see the worry on The Doctor's face, “so what do we do?”
    The Doctor shook his head, “that beacon shouldn't be there, in terms of Earth's history. Either it's meant for me, in which case I don't particularly want to be expected, or it's meant for someone else, in which case I don't want to bump into them until I've had a chance to look around. I think I will put the Tardis nearby, but a little distance away...”
    His hands moved over the controls once more and Georgie braced herself. The Tardis lurched, although only slightly, and settled. Georgie let out the breath she had not realised she was holding.
    The metallic wheeze of the time motors ceased and The Doctor declared they had landed. He read some obscure symbols on the display. “Not as many life signs as I would expect for this period and this date,” he mused, grimly, “and there's a weird background energy.”
    “Radiation?” Conrad asked.
    “Mmm,” nodded The Doctor, “but not from any of the kinds of energy you use here on Earth. That rules out nuclear weapons. It's definitely an alien energy.”
    “Can we see what's outside?” Conrad asked, cautiously.
    “Yes,” the Doctor told him, “let's look at the external screen.”
    Georgie followed their eyes to the strange looking-glass on the wall of the Tardis. It glowed into life, showing some kind of picture. “What is that?” she asked, confused.
    The Doctor tilted his head this way and that. “I'm not sure,” he announced, eventually, “wooden slats of some sort. There seems to be light flashing behind them. Maybe we should just look out of the door?”
    Conrad picked up his weapon belt and strapped it around his waist. He checked the glowing charge indicator on the back of the Radium Pistol. It was fully armed and ready.
    The Doctor tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a familiar-looking box. “Try not to break it again,” he said, with a wink.
    “You fixed it!” Conrad exclaimed, eagerly slipping his arms through the Rocket Pack's shoulder straps. “That was quick!”
    “Well,” The Doctor replied, modestly, “I'd have managed it quicker, but I had a terrible time picking all the bits of Dalek wreckage out of the motor.”
    Conrad smiled as he clipped the harness tightly across his chest.
    “You might look a bit less conspicuous if you hang this over the top,” The Doctor suggested, handing Conrad a canvas cover. It slipped over the rocket-pack perfectly, transforming the bulky metallic shell into an ordinary-looking backpack.
    “Do I look less weird?” Conrad asked, his voice grating through the metallic grille of the bug-eyed flight helmet.
    “Well,” Georgie interjected, giving a polite cough, “I might carry the helmet under your arm, if I were you.”
    Conrad chuckled and agreed, “oh, right!"

   The Tardis door opened onto a gloomy and narrow corridor. Light flickered in through gaps between the wooden panels on each side. As soon as Georgie stepped out of the Tardis' own influence she could feel the rocking of the floor under her feet. They were on a train!
    “Ahh,” announced The Doctor, noting the carefully stacked wooden crates spread neatly out before them to the other end of the carriage, “a train. And we're in freight compartment, if I'm not mistaken.”
    “What's in the crates?” Conrad asked, peering at the boxes in the dim light.
    The Doctor looked them over, exploring the surroundings. “Looks like... food rations, blankets, emergency bedding... There are some weapons, but it looks mostly like emergency supplies,” The Doctor gave a sad sigh, “relief for the most desperate.”
    The Tardis was blocking the rear door leading out of one end of the train, but the group could see that all that was outside was rails extending away, behind. Whatever train they were on, they were in the rear carriage.
    “We should move up the cars,” Conrad suggested, firmly, “we need to establish what kind of train this is.”
    The Doctor and Georgie agreed. They picked their way through the boxes up to the door between this carriage and the next. Conrad pulled it open and stepped carefully between the carriages, noting how fast the tracks were flashing past underfoot. He held out a hand and helped Georgie and The Doctor pass carefully through.
    The next carriage was as full of people as the previous one had been of boxes, although it was by no means crowded. Groups were huddled together, holding each other for comfort and warmth. Some of them had tied parcels. The Doctor presumed that these were as few possessions as these dishevelled-looking people had been able to bring with them. Whoever they were, they had left in a hurry.
    It looked like a refugee train, rather than evidence of conscription or forced labour.
    One man caught the Doctor's eye. He was travelling on his own, sitting on a simple roll-bag of kit. Unlike many of the others, he seemed to be wearing a thin smile.
    “You seem in good spirits?” The Doctor suggested, approaching the man.
    “Oh, no offence meant,” the man replied, “forgive me. I'm just really happy to be on this train. Thank God we got away.”
    “Do you mind if I ask exactly where we've come from and going to?” The Doctor asked. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, he added, “it was a bit hectic coming aboard, if you know what I mean?”
    The man nodded sympathetically, “understood. We're clearing out of the Midlands, heading for the sea. I think this train is taking us to London, first.”
    While The Doctor chatted away, Georgie headed over to a woman who was clutching a small child. The woman looked fearful, but Georgie reassured her. “It's okay,” Georgie said, her mind racing for a suitable story, “I'm... a journalist. My paper wants to record the experiences of the people involved in this... event.”
    “A paper?” the woman replied, surprised, “are there any papers still running? I assumed everything had shut down.”
    “Oh... well,” replied Georgie, caught off-guard, “my paper is still going.”
    “Where are people going to get them?” the woman continued, intrigued.
    “We are.. umm.. distributing a limited amount to people in the city who want to know what has been happening further afield.”
    “Well, please, ask your questions if it will help,” the woman told her.
    “Where were you when – it – happened?” Georgie asked.
    “At home,” came the quiet, slightly choked, reply.
    “You were at home?” Georgie confirmed and the woman nodded. “What time was it that you realised something was amiss?”
    The woman looked at Georgie like she was being stupid and said, “I don't understand what you mean?”
    Georgie placed a sympathetic hand on her arm. “Please,” she pressed, “it will be important for our readers to hear it in your own words.”
    “Well,” the woman replied, “it was a terrible morning. I'd just got breakfast ready and on the table. All of a sudden there was a huge flash and the sound of thunder from outside. I looked out of the window and saw...” The woman broke off, her lip trembling as she remembered. “It was like the sky was on fire,” she said, “I gathered up my things and my little girl and we ran up the hill, towards the church.”
    “Did you see anything peculiar?” Georgie asked.
    “Stranger than the sky being on fire?” the woman asked, incredulously.
    “These are strange days,” Georgie encouraged her, “and our readers will want to know every detail. They deserve the truth.”
    “Oh, things sound like they must be very different in London,” she said, suddenly hopeful, “do they not have the walking dead in London?”
    “Yes,” Georgie guessed, taking this new information in, “they do.”
    “It was very strange,” the woman said, drifting away, “the sky burnt out and then... the people who died, they just... got up and started moving around.”
    “What did you do?”
    “We just huddled together in the church hall,” the woman explained, “we thought it would be a good place to hide. We could make sure that everyone was catered for, that they had enough food and clothing. But when the dead started walking, we realised that we had to get out. That's why we were so relieved when we heard about this train.”
    “The people who were dead,” Georgie asked, “what were they doing?”
    “They just walked towards where people are,” the woman told her, “and people ran away from them. They shouldn't be walking and talking, it's not natural!”
    “They were talking?”
    “Old Mary said she heard one of them talking, but I've never been that close,” she explained.
    “What did old Mary tell you that that they said?” Georgie pressed, eager to get the detail.
    “They were saying something like 'give me life',” the old woman replied, bemused.
    “'Give me life'?” Georgie repeated under her breath, searching for what it could mean.
    The Doctor leaned in. He had since finished his conversation and been listening to Georgie's interview with great interest. “How fast do the dead move? Have they caught anyone? What did they do?”
    The woman looked at him. He could see that she was straining to remember details. “They don't walk,” the woman said, “so much as drift. They seem to float along, somehow. I'm not even sure I've heard of anybody being hurt by them.”
    “This sounds unnervingly close to the phantasm that chased you into the Tardis?” The Doctor said to Georgie. Georgie nodded in agreement.
    “How did you hear about the train?” Conrad interjected, quizzing the old woman further.
    “A man rode through the village on a bicycle, looking for survivors,” she said, “He told us that there was a train evacuating folk to London.”
    “How many survivors are there?” Conrad asked her.
    “Not very many,” the woman sighed, “between the burning sky and pestilence, there are so few of us left.”
    “The pestilence?” The Doctor inquired.
    “Yes,” the woman replied, “the pestilence, the sleeping sickness. You know, the comas?”
    “What happens?”
    The woman shrugged, helplessly, “I don't know. They just stop. If they're walking along, they fall down where they are.”
    “Has anyone recovered?” The Doctor leaned in, determinedly.
    “Not that I've heard of,” the woman said, shaking her head.
    The Doctor realised he was unlikely to get any more out of this bewildered woman, so he changed tack. “What agency is responsible for this train?” he asked, “who is in charge?”
    “There's one or two soldiers around,” the woman explained, “oh and there's that posh toff wandering about, telling people what to do. He seems to be in charge. Butkin, I think his name is.”
    Georgie stood up straight and addressed The Doctor. “Shall we go and find this Butkin?” she said, decisively.
    The Doctor nodded, “I think that could be very worthwhile, yes.”
    The woman pointed up the carriage, saying, “he'll be further up the train, near the front, I should imagine.”
    Georgie took the woman's hand and shook it, warmly. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to us,” Georgie said, “you've been very helpful.”
    The woman waved them away, as cheerfully as she could muster.
    They moved up the carriage towards the door to the next car. The Doctor stopped Georgie and Conrad, saying, “do you think we need some sort of cover story before we approach this gentleman? He seems to be quite a humanitarian sort of chap, but how are we going to introduce ourselves without startling him?”
    “Maybe we should send Georgie?” Conrad suggested, “if you're right about this being where she is from, she should fit in.”
    “That's a good idea,” Georgie agreed, “I could introduce myself as a nurse and see if they need help, in any way?”
    The Doctor concurred and gestured for Georgie to lead the way into the next car.
    Inside, they found a much greater proportion of soldiers, milling amid the stricken civilians. The soldiers also seemed worn and tense, although they didn't appear to have signs of battle. This was a deeper fatigue, set in through the effort of protecting their civilian cargo in a world stripped of its civilisation.
    Georgie strode up to one of the soldiers. She asked, “would you please point me in the direction of Mr Butkin?”
    The soldier looked up, wearily. “His Lordship?” he sneered out of the corner of his mouth, “you'll find him in the next carriage, I expect.”
    Georgie nodded a curt thank-you to the soldier and strode confidently on, heading for the next carriage.
    Butkin was certainly in charge. That was clear from anybody who saw his manner, heard his tone of voice or witnessed the pedantic efficiency with which he checked particulars against his crammed clipboard.
    “Hello,” said Georgie, cheerily. “I'm Georgie. I work as a journalist... but prior to that I was a nurse,” she stumbled, suddenly losing track of the lies amid the truths of her story.
    Butkin cut her off, “Georgie? Georgie... Georgie...” his finger tracked down the rows of names on his clipboard, “I don't appear to have a 'Georgie' on my list. Where did you board the train?”
    “You might have me under my married name,” Georgie lied, quickly. She tried to peer down the list, searching for a suitable pseudonym, but could not see one. “Smith,” she decided.
    “Are you travelling alone?” Butkin questioned, his eyes narrowing. Clearly he was not totally convinced by Georgie's story.
    “I'm travelling with a Doctor friend of mine and an American,” Georgie offered.
    “An American?” Butkin repeated, surprised. “Unusual, he's not with the Americans making the rescue effort?”
    “No,” Georgie replied, quickly, “he was here before it occurred.”
    “Very strange,” Butkin said, studying his list, “very strange indeed. Can you introduce me to your friends? I want to make sure everybody is on this list. Your name is Georgie... Smith?”
    Georgie nodded, biting her lip, as Butkin made a quick scrawl on his clipboard.
    “Wait there, just a moment,” Butkin instructed her, firmly. She did not dare move.
    Butkin gave her a suspicious glance, before turning and surreptitiously examining the contents of a wooden crate. He seemed to be fiddling with something.
    He turned back to Georgie. “Right then,” he said, “lead the way to your friends.”

    Chapter Two – The Admirable Butkin

    The Doctor and Conrad were making conversation with a group of soldiers when Georgie returned, leading an officious-looking, smartly-dressed gentleman bearing a clipboard.
    “This is Mr Butkin,” Georgie introduced him to The Doctor, first.
    “Hello,” said Butkin, wearily, “and where did you get on board the train?”
    “I'm not totally sure,” pleaded The Doctor, “I can't remember. I think I bumped my head.”
    “Ahh, yes,” Butkin replied, “it's been a terribly dangerous business. What name?”
    “The Doctor,” he said.
    “Doctor who?” Butkin insisted.
    “Oh, my,” Georgie interjected, “you must have hit your head terribly, mustn't you? Doctor Smith?”
    Butkin and The Doctor looked questioningly at her. She explained, “he's a … another relative?”
    “Your uncle?” Butkin offered, the knowing tone re-entering his voice. Georgie nodded. Butkin commented, “well, he doesn't look like the child-rearing type.”
    He turned to Conrad, asking Georgie, “and this is?”
    “Conrad,” Georgie answered quickly, “he's from the – uh – German side of the family.”
    “Name?” Butkin insisted.
    Conrad looked between The Doctor and Georgie. “Smith?” he offered.
    “So,” Butkin replied, licking the end of his pencil, “a whole family of... Smiths?”
    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad nodded enthusiastically.
    Butkin could raise his eyebrows no further, but explained, “as you can see we're not struggling too badly for room. Sadly we have not found as many survivors to take to London as we had hoped. Do you have your own blankets and rations?”
    “Not as such,” The Doctor replied, carefully.
    “It was such a rush getting to the train,” Georgie interjected.
    “I'm sure,” Butkin sighed, “can you manage until we get to London?”
    The Doctor nodded. “I expect so,” he said, “what exactly is happening in London?”
    “Evacuation, I should hope,” Butkin explained, “but first we need to check everybody for contagion; we need to organise who is going where. But ultimately there will be further transport to the coast and with good luck a ship to the United States. London is something of a checkpoint, all our organisation is there. That is where my business concludes.”
    “I see. “ The Doctor took all this in.
    Conrad leaned over, “is London the same?”
    Butkin frowned, “the same as what?”
    “Is it full of the dead?” Conrad asked, loudly, drawing glances from the soldiers around the carriage.
    “Hmm, yes, the dead,” Butkin mused, “it does seem to be something of a problem. We'll do everything we can to protect people.”
    “What is Parliament doing?” asked Georgie, a strong believer that it was the business of the government to protect its people.
    “Parliament is gone!” Butkin scoffed, “and probably for the best. We'd have likely got nothing achieved if that lot were in charge!”
    “So who is organising you?” Conrad inquired, “who do you work for?”
    “Oh,” replied Butkin, a little taken aback, “my Mistress is co-ordinating efforts.”
    “You have a mistress!?” Georgie replied, the shock clear in her voice.
    “No,” sighed Butkin, irritably, “not my mistress. My Mistress. Mistress Cali. I am her Butler. Her family home has survived much of the worst damage seen in London. It has become a rallying point for the refugees, as well as a health centre and a place to check for contagion. Mistress Cali is organising the rescue efforts. She sent me north, on the train, to look for survivors personally.”
    “Is there any way we can meet Mistress Cali?” Georgie inquired, “as I said, I'm trained as a nurse and The Doctor knows his business.”
    “Oh, I'm sure you three will meet her,” Butkin replied, a touch coldly for Georgie's liking.
    “Thank you,” Georgie replied, unsteadily.
    “There are rules on the train,” Butkin explained, a touch of weary finality creeping into his voice, “don't touch anybody else's stuff; don't eat anybody else's food; don't open any of the crates.”
    “Don't touch the crates?” Georgie asked, “why not?”
    “Because there's nothing in there for you!” Butkin snapped.
    “What do you mean?”
    Butkin was beginning to get a little impatient. “Just leave the crates alone!” he insisted, sucking air between his teeth, “all of them.”
    Georgie was about to ask more, but Butkin shut her down, saying, “as for the rations, people were expected to bring their own food and clothing with them. We can't distribute any emergency supplies until we get to London and we don't want people stealing each other's food. Theft will be dealt with most severely.”
    “Can we eat our own rations?” Georgie inquired, hopefully.
    Butkin fixed her with a wary look. He asked, “Do you have your own rations?”
    “No,” Georgie had to admit.
    The weary Butler looked like he was about to say something. He opened his mouth, then thought better of it and simply sighed and turned away. “Make yourselves comfortable,” he waved with a dismissive hand and made to walk off, up the carriage.
    “Wait,” The Doctor called to him, stopping him in his tracks, “what can you tell us about the flashes in the sky and the fire that fell to Earth?”
    “Information is very sparse,” Butkin admitted, “eyewitness accounts are not terribly helpful. Some 'things' seem to have fallen from the sky with extreme force and caused huge explosions and in some instances broken through the crust and caused lava to pour across the surface. The atmosphere was so hot, in places, that the air in the sky literally burned. It's not just England, of course. Northern France and some of Spain have also been badly hit. The authorities currently have no understanding of the pestilence which has spread following the impacts. Some gentlemen from the Royal Academy have suggested that there is some sort of natural pathogen within the Earth's crust which has been released into the atmosphere. I personally think that is rather fanciful. It seems much more likely that this contagion has come from space.”
    “Is there any remnant of the Royal Society still present and investigating in London?” The Doctor asked.
    “There are one or two that have not yet departed,” Butkin told him, “they are working at my Mistress' house prior to their own evacuation.”
    The Doctor nodded a polite “thank-you” and Butkin clicked his heels and walked away.
    “Doctor, did you hear what he said about the crates?” Georgie asked.
    “Yes,” The Doctor mused, “he did seem unusually touchy on the subject.”
    “Conrad,” Georgie began, turning to the American, “do you think you and I should have a little look, see if anything is amiss?”
    “Is that a good idea?” Conrad responded, uncertainly.
    “I suppose we should weigh-up the ramifications,” The Doctor suggested, “I'm not sure we should risk getting ejected from the train.”
    “Very well, Doctor,” Georgie acquiesced, “we shall wait for London.”
    “What about the Tardis?” Conrad asked, concerned, “will that leave with the train?”
    The Doctor considered. “I think it's safe to assume that this train will not return the way it has come,” he offered, “and with a little luck the soldiers will unload the Tardis with the rest of the crates. She can be surprisingly light, when she wants to be.”
     The train lurched suddenly and The Doctor, Georgie, Conrad and all the other standing occupants were thrown off their feet. Brakes squealed from under the carriage as the train was brought to an abrupt, almost violent, stop.
    “Don't panic!” came the call of Butkin running down the side of the train, followed by a group of soldiers carrying heavy-looking equipment, “everything is under control! The driver believes that the track ahead may be damaged. We'll get an engineering detail to look over it at once!”
    The Doctor and Conrad helped Georgie to her feet. All at once a ripple of fear spread through the passengers as there was a new screeching noise.
    It was not coming from the brakes, but from high up in the sky. Georgie and Conrad watched as The Doctor's eyes widened with a look of worried recognition.
    “No, no!” The Doctor yelped and bounded over to a window, searching the dark skies about the train.
    “What is it, Doctor?” Georgie asked, desperately.
    The Doctor's eyes were scanning the heavens. Eventually he saw a familiar-looking shape, wheeling high about the train. Then he spotted two more, before seeing a fourth.
    He pointed a finger up and Conrad followed his gaze. There were four flying creatures. Broad, leathery wings stretched out to clawed hands, while four more arms dangled down from the creature's torso. As the gliding creatures descended lower, Conrad could make out a triangular skull and a row of glittering teeth.
    “What are they?” Conrad asked in hushed tones.
    There was a another piercing cry which caused more panic to radiate throughout the train.
    The Doctor replied, fearfully, with only one word. “Reapers.”
    “Reapers?” Georgie repeated, questioningly.
    “Time-sensitive predators,” The Doctor explained, “also known as Vortisaurs. They feed on temporal energy.” He could see her and Conrad looking confused, so he explained, quickly, “As a result of time-travel, there are potential futures which never play out: Redundant time-lines. On top of that there are paradoxes – glitches in time which prevent causality from continuing normally. Reapers feed on anything which is causing a paradox or is the result of a paradox.”
    “Are they dangerous?”
    The Doctor raised an eyebrow, “given the extent of the damage we've seen to history, I'd say they would be capable of eating pretty much everything and everyone here. But I wonder what has drawn them, specifically.”
    The soldiers began taking up positions by the windows, firing up into the sky at the Reapers.
    The Doctor fished his Sonic Screwdriver out of his pocket and began scanning around the carriage. “There's a huge amount of temporal energy coming from further up the train,” The Doctor explained. He stopped as the Sonic device squealed loudly as he moved the tip past Georgie. “Ah,” he murmured.
    “What is it?” Georgie exclaimed, seeing The Doctor's sudden, obvious worry.
    “I think the Reapers can sense that you don't belong in this time-line,” The Doctor told her.
    “What should I do?” she asked, desperately.
    “Head back to the Tardis,” The Doctor said, handing her a small, metal key, “get inside. You should be safe there. The Reapers shouldn't be able to get in.”
    “What about me, Doctor?” Conrad asked, “I'm out of my time, aren't I?”
    The Doctor drew in a breath, trying to explain quickly, “no, no, Vortisaurs aren't bothered by time-travellers. If they were, Time Lords wouldn't keep them as pets. I might get one myself but they make a terrible mess and tend to nibble on the Time Rotor. It is people that are outside of proper continuity that they are drawn to. So, Conrad, even though you are out of your era, the events that are taking place right now will ultimately lead to your version of reality, not Georgie's. Signing up, going to Germany, fighting the robots, all of those events are still due to happen.”
    “But, Doctor...” Georgie protested.
    “There's no time!” The Doctor exclaimed as a Reaper swooped low over the carriage, seemingly undeterred by the barrage from the soldier's rifles, “get to the Tardis!”
    With that, The Doctor turned and raced away, up the carriage in the direction of the source of the temporal energy.
    Conrad turned to Georgie. He gave a helpless shrug as he planted the metal dome of his flight helmet over his head. “I'd better assist The Doctor,” he rasped through the face grille as he pulled the Radium Pistol free from its holster, “will you be okay?”
    Georgie nodded and watched as Conrad raced away through the panicking passengers and soldiers.
    A moment of clarity came over Georgie as she watched the stricken people screaming and staring out of the window. A Reaper swept past, almost scratching its claws along the side of the train. Someone needed to keep these people safe. “Everybody down!” she shouted, “get near the floor in case the creature comes through the glass.”
    Many of the people in the carriage did as she said, huddling down beneath the windows and out of sight of the Reapers.
    Georgie spied a crate marked 'Rifles'. She called out in the carriage, “does anyone here know how to fire a rifle?”
    An uncertain hand went up from a nearby gentleman. Georgie stuck her walking-cane into a gap near the crate's lid and cracked the top off the box. She reached in and snatched up a rifle and threw it over to the man, who cocked it expertly and began searching the crate for ammunition.
    “There's grenade in here, too,” Georgie exclaimed grabbing one herself and stuffing it into the folds of her clothing.
    Right, thought Georgie to herself, gripping the Tardis key in one hand and keeping her other hand reassuringly around the top over her walking-cane, I need to get to the Tardis.

    The Doctor leaped through the carriage, nimbly ducking between the stricken bystanders. He looked suddenly as a screech pealed out from just outside. The Vortisaurs were circling closer, now. One fly so closely past the window that he could see the hunger in its beady, red eyes.
    The hum of the Sonic Screwdriver was increasing steadily as he made his way towards the front carriage, where Georgie had first encountered Butkin. The Doctor burst through the door and saw that the Sonic Screwdriver was being drawn toward a large wooden shipping crate sitting in the centre of the floor, in a clear space.
    He aimed the Sonic Screwdriver and fired a beam of oscillating energy at the crate. It peeled open like the petals of a flower and the wooden sides dropped away to reveal a conical metal device, with ornate and fluted metal-working around the sides and an intricate control panel with gilded lettering.
    “What is it?” Conrad asked, coming up behind The Doctor and seeing the machine.
    “As I suspected, this is a Vortex Beacon. This is what the Tardis picked up en route. It's just like the one the Timelords use.” The Doctor leaned down and inspected the letters on the device, frowning. “But this isn't like a Timelord beacon. This is a Timelord beacon. The writing on the readout is old Gallifreyan.”
    “What does that mean?” Conrad asked, keeping half an eye on the circling Reapers outside the window.
    “It means my people were trying to make sure I got here. Or someone else got here.”
    “Can you turn it off?” Conrad asked, concern in his voice.
    The Doctor mused, tapping the end of the Sonic Screwdriver unconsciously. “Currently, the Reapers are being drawn to Georgie and the Vortex Beacon,” he explained, “if I switch it off, all the Reapers may make a beeline for Georgie.”
    “Can you find out from it who set it up?” Conrad asked.
    “Hmm,” The Doctor considered, “I could probably take a look.” The Doctor aimed his Sonic Screwdriver at the device and flipped the switch.
    All of a sudden, The Vortex Beacon started glowing. It was piercingly bright and The Doctor instinctively knew something bad was about to happen. He tried to turn to Conrad to warn him to get clear. Before he could speak, there was a flash from the Beacon.
    The Doctor and Conrad both vanished.

    Chapter Three – Another London

    There was a ear-piercing cry from high above the train. Georgie stopped running towards the Tardis and looked out out of the window.
    Something had spooked the Reapers. They were wheeling away up into the sky, crying out terribly. But, thought Georgie, at least they were heading away from the train; away from her.
    Relieved, she bade goodbye to her gentleman volunteer and headed up to the front of the train to look for The Doctor. She could not find him anywhere. Amid the chaos on the train, she took to calling out for him and Captain Seager. No response came.
    She saw Butkin running back along the side of the train, slapping the sides and instructing everybody to get ready for the train to start moving. “Just a bit of fire damage to the rails,” he explained at the top of his voice, “we've patched it up and can move on.”
    “Mr Butkin,” Georgie said, breathlessly, approaching the man as he climbed up into her carriage, “have you seen The Doctor?”
    “Your travelling companion?” Butkin queried, confused, “Where were they?”
    “They went further up to the front of the carriage to see if they could help,” Georgie explained.
    A worried look suddenly flashed across Butkin's face. He sounded very suspicious as he said, “Why? Why did they go to the front?”
    Georgie shrugged, feeling that she was heading into unknown trouble. “I don't know!” she protested, “They're men, aren't they? Probably something to do with engines.”
    “So they were near the front of the train and now you can't find them?” he said, a knowing smile bursting in to his expression. “How very interesting.”
 
    The Doctor and Conrad stared about themselves, amazed.
    “Wow,” Conrad almost shouted out, “it's London... but, like, London in the pictures. I never saw it before it was destroyed.”
    “Indeed,” considered The Doctor, “there is certainly no evidence of a flaming apocalypse here.”
    It was the very stone and marble beauty of Georgian London. The streets were full of people going about their daily business, stepping carefully across the street as horse-drawn hansom carriages sailed up and down the road.
    The Doctor looked all about him, taking in the scene. “Where-ever we are,” The Doctor announced, “the Vortex Beacon hasn't come with us.”
    Conrad sighed. “Can you pick up anything with that wand of yours, Doc?” he asked.
    The Doctor agreed, flashing the Sonic Screwdriver around. “Oh,” he exclaimed, suddenly, listening to the sound the device was making.
    “What is 'oh'?” Conrad asked, concerned.
    “I'm picking up Artron Radiation,” The Doctor said. Seeing Conrad's confusion, he explained, “it's the power source that drives Timelord technology... and someone has it, here... that way!” He pointed down the street and ran off in the direction indicated by the Sonic Screwdriver.
    They walked briskly through London's streets for a few minutes. The Doctor was fixated on the Sonic's readings, but Conrad suddenly saw something in the road which made him grab the Doctor's arm for attention.
    There was a ghostly grey figure, walking across the road; seemingly it was unaware of their presence as it stumbled along. It was almost entirely transparent, with just enough shape to indicate that it was the outline of a human being.
    The Doctor looked carefully at the apparition.
    “Isn't that what Georgie told us she had seen?” Conrad asked. The Doctor nodded in response.
    They watched the spirit shamble along, heading towards a figure currently attempting to flag a hansom. The person did not see the spirit. Before either The Doctor or Conrad could call out, the grey ghost had wrapped its arms around the unseeing pedestrian; in a moment, both the bystander and the ghost had vanished.
    “I think,” The Doctor pronounced, “we should give those spirits a wide berth until we know a little more about them.”
    Conrad agreed. “London is very, very strange,” he declared, “I think I'd rather be in Germany, facing bombs and guns.”
    They walked carefully through the London street, watching out for roaming phantasms. They saw quite a few, but the people around did not seem to be aware of them. They came upon one or two more spontaneous disappearances as a ghost embraced a passer-by. Equally, however, they saw a good number of ghosts completely ignore the people around while some seemed to be determinedly following a particular individual.
    The Doctor and Conrad were lead by the signal to a huge town-house along one of the big carriageways. It had big stone columns and a high black metal fence along the front, by the street.
    Striding up the path to the front door, The Doctor knocked loudly and said to Conrad, confidently, “what do you think? I feel we should ask for Mistress Cali, don't you?”
    Conrad's mouth made an 'O' and he was about to speak when the front door was opened. Standing in the doorway was none other than the train-organiser, Butkin.
    No recognition came over the Butler's face as he intoned, dourly, “yes? Can I help you, sir?”
 
    Back on the train, Georgie followed Butkin up the train as he pushed urgently through the throng.
    “Mr Butkin!” Georgie called after him, “it's really very important that I meet your Mistress, I think!”
    “I'm sure you'll meet her soon enough,” Butkin turned and said, giving her an ominous look. He clicked his tongue irritably and demanded, “What exactly were your friends doing in the forward compartment?”
    “They were going to seek help,” Georgie repeated, irritably. She was starting to feel very worried at the Doctor's disappearance. What would she do if he and Conrad did not come back? What could she do on her own in this situation? How would she ever get home?
    Butkin looked liked he was expecting more of an explanation, so Georgie continued, “it appeared that we were under attack and they wanted to see if there was anything around here they could do to help you and the soldiers.”
    “Right,” Butkin said, seemingly making up his mind, “come with me.” He noticed the rifle slung over Georgie's shoulder and commented, “I can't imagine you're going to need that.”
    Georgie placed a comforting hand on the rifle stock and told him, “I'd rather keep it, for now.”
    He raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue any further. “They'll probably take it off you when we pull into the station,” he told her.
    They moved into the front compartment. In the middle of the floor they could both see the Vortex Beacon, with the pieces of the packing crate littered on the floor around it, but there was no sign of The Doctor or Conrad. Georgie could not identify the Vortex Beacon, but she new enough to guess that it was otherworldly and probably something to do with their disappearance.
    “Did you friends touch this?” Butkin demanded, indicating the metal device.
    “All I know is that they left me here to protect the passengers while they went off to help!” Georgie protested.
    Butkin leaned down and fiddled with a plaque on the front – or at least what looked like a plaque to Georgie; it was not dissimilar to the many looking-glasses which decorated the 'console' in the Tardis.
    Butkin sighed deeply, “this is just creating work for me, now. Not what I need!” He looked at Georgie's bewildered face and could see that she seemed as confused as she was claiming to be. “Leave it with me,” he said, giving her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, “I'll sort it.”
    He knelt down beside the device and continued fiddling with the controls.

    The Doctor and Conrad stared into the impassive face of the Butler, standing the doorway.
    “Butkin!” Conrad declared, in greeting.
    The Butler turned and gave him a blank look, “have we met, sir?”
    “Yes?” ventured Conrad, “on a train?”
    “I don't recall travelling on any trains recently, sir,” he replied, politely, “Can I help you gentlemen?”
    The Doctor ventured, “can with speak with Mistress Cali?”
    “Is she expecting you?” Butkin asked, in a slow and habitual drawl.
    The Doctor considered the possibilities for a moment before replying, “No – or possibly yes.”
    “Very well,” Butkin responded, grudgingly, “I will ask her to come and see you.”
    The Butler lead them into the reception hall of the big house, before giving a little bow and disappearing up the main stairs.
    The hall itself was a grand example of the era. Hunting trophies of creatures from nations all around the British Empire decorated almost every surface, as well and curios and ornaments from almost every nation on Earth. Beside the stairs, a Grandfather clock ticked quietly, sounding away the inevitable passage of time. The Doctor began to think of Georgie and what might be happening to her.
    The Sonic Screwdriver was still buzzing insistently in his pocket. He fished it out and scanned around the hall. The Artron Radiation seemed to be coming from a cupboard beside the grand staircase. The Doctor gave a nod to Conrad and walked quietly over to the cupboard door. He reached out to open it.
    Before his hand could close around the handle, there was a voice from the stairs, “it is not customary for visitors to be so nosey.”
    The Doctor looked up and caught the gaze of an extremely elegant lady, gliding down the stairs in an elaborate gown, her neck and wrists festooned with jewellery and even her curled and fulsome locks of hair adorned with a fragile tiara.
    She saw his face and a smile crept across her mouth. “Ahh,” she exclaimed in delight, “Doctor!”
    The Doctor was not sure whether he was pleased or whether this added to his growing irritation that people he met kept expecting him. He was going to reply when he felt a strange tugging sensation in his ribcage.
    He tried to ignore it, but it became uncomfortable. It grew out from his chest until it felt like his whole body was being dragged. He saw Mistress Cali's eyes grow wide with alarm as there was a flash of blinding light.
    The floor raced away from The Doctor's feet, seemingly dropping away into a vast chasm. Suddenly The Doctor was aware of a new floor, walls and ceiling almost infinitely far away, but rushing towards him. He was going to be crushed!
    The strange surrounding coalesced into reality and The Doctor found himself standing beside Conrad, face to face with a slightly grubby Butkin and a delighted Georgie. Between them sat the Vortex Beacon.
    “Doctor, you're back!” Georgie declared, relieved, “where have you been?”
    The Doctor watched Butkin for a reaction and said, “the house of Mistress Cali.”
    “What?” replied a shocked Butkin, “that can't be right! You shouldn't have interfered with this equipment. It makes things terribly complicated. You set off all the safety protocols!”
    The Doctor tried to look confident. “Well,” he said, “that was entirely deliberate.”
    Butkin looked him up and down and scrutinised his face. “I rather suspected it might be you when we met,” Butkin said, “so, Doctor, what do you think is happening here?”
    “I was hoping you might be able to answer that question,” The Doctor retorted, “or perhaps Mistress Cali. I was about to have a conversation with her when I got dragged back here!” The Doctor felt the need to turn the tables back on these strangers who seemed perfectly aware of who he was; he ventured, “is she another Timelord perhaps, like you?”
    “Yes, yes,” sighed Butkin, impatiently, “we're both Timelords.” He gave The Doctor an exasperated look, “we can't give you any information. We set the Beacon up to bring you here in the hope you could explain the situation to us. Why couldn't you just land next to the Beacon? It would have made things so much easier.”
    The Doctor gave him his best unimpressed stare. “I've learned to take a cautious approach,” he said.
    “Well, unfortunately you set off some of the Beacon's security systems,” Butkin explained, “it's released a wave of temporal instability. You've gained an affinity with an alternative course of events. You'll probably find yourself a little unstable in this time-line. If you leave it unchecked you'll be popping back and forth between here and the other London willy-nilly. Is your Tardis here?”
    “It might be, “The Doctor replied, cagily.
    “Do you know how to construct a Timeline Probability Stabiliser?” Butkin asked, rhetorically, as if it was a matter of course that The Doctor would know how.
    “I haven't done one in the past,” The Doctor admitted, embarrassed, “but I could have a go.”
    Butkin harrumphed with irritation. “Fine!” he exclaimed, passive-aggression brimming to the surface, “we'll see if we have something at the house. We can't have you disappearing every five minutes. At some point we're bound to be in the middle of a sensible conversation.”
    The train braked and began to slow. Butkin peered out of the grimy windows and declared, “ah! We've arrived.”
    The carriages pulled into a gloomy terminus. There were many platforms, but they all stood empty. At the far end part of the roof had collapsed down, rendering one of the lines unusable. The debris itself was burned black. What must once have been a busy station was now devoid of life, save for the soldiers who made themselves busy off-loading crates onto the adjacent platform.
    Butkin turned to the Doctor and said, pointedly, “if your Tardis is in the freight car, I've instructed the soldiers to bring it with everything else. I'm sure that's where you've left it, isn't it.”
    The Doctor gave a bashful nod.
    “Come with me, then,” Butkin instructed.
    They walked out of the station through a breach in the wall, which opened out onto the street running alongside the railway.
    “Be careful!” Butkin said, suddenly grabbing The Doctor's elbow and pulling him to one said. He hissed a warning under his breath, “the dead!”
    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad stared at the creature. The description had been accurate: it half shambled, half drifted along the ground – almost as though it was not connected to the floor. It didn't seem to see or notice them and floated by.
    Looking up and past the apparition, they could see that the streets were filled with the ambling dead. Some drifted hither and thither, seemingly unconcerned with their direction or purpose. Others seemed to be moving with more intent, heading towards a specific point. They did emit a low, mumbling speech, but the group were too far away for the words to be made out.
    Georgie gripped the rifle – which she had managed to hold on to – for comfort and readied herself to either fight or run.
    “What has happened to them?” The Doctor asked Butkin.
    “We're not sure,” Butkin replied, honestly, “it seems to be related to the sleeping sickness somehow. Most of the identified walking dead had previously suffered from it.”
    They watched the mass of unliving creatures and shuddered.
    Conrad asked, turning to The Doctor, “Are they definitely dead? Shall I try hitting one?”
    The Doctor hummed, saying, “I'm not totally au fait with the ethical implications of shooting the already-deceased. Are we wanting to kill them, if there is a chance for a cure?”
    “All I meant,” Conrad explained, “was that I could try throwing a stone at them and see what happens.”
    “Oh,” The Doctor replied, “that would be fine, then.”
    Conrad picked up a large, angled piece of broken masonry and hefted it towards the nearest unliving creature. It bounced off.
    “Solid, at least,” The Doctor observed, “although it doesn't seem to be bothered about the hit.”
    The creature seemed to stop and lifted its arms, saying something they could not hear. There was a flash and, where the unliving creature once was, there stood a normal human being; they were dressed in the filthy rags of the dead creature and they were staring all around them in horror, vocally wondering where they were.
    Butkin called for the nearby soldiers, who rushed over to the stricken individual and led them into the comparative safety of the station.
    “Did we do that?” Conrad asked, amazed.
    “I don't know,” The Doctor said, “but it was interesting. Try to hit another one.”
    Conrad picked up another small brick and hefted it in the direction of another walking corpse. It hit them full in the face and dropped to the floor.
    Nothing happened.
    “Oh,” expressed The Doctor, disappointed, “a coincidence, then.”
    “Maybe it will happen after a delay?” Conrad suggested.
    The Doctor turned to Butkin, “have you seen the dead recover like this before?”
    “Once or twice,” Butkin nodded, “but we can't determine any causal reason as to how or why they recover.”
    “Well,” announced The Doctor and turned to Conrad and Georgie and said, “the lesson learned there is not to shoot them. We may be able to find a cure.”
    Butkin turned and began to walk over to a bulky, black car. “Shall we go?” he said, opening the side door and indicating for the group to get in. The Doctor admired the classic vehicle's curved wheel guards and running boards. The canvas roof was dusty with ash.
    They climbed into the car, which started smoothly and, with Butkin driving, wound its way along the road, skirting between the debris of fallen buildings and clustered militaristic piles of sandbags. They rode in silence, each staring at the ruined city and considering the implications for themselves.
    The car drew up in front of a large town-house. The Doctor and Conrad shared a look; it was the same house from the 'other' London.
    Unlike the clean classic frontage of that house, however, this one was scorched with fire damage and evidence of looting, although the front was now barricaded with sandbags. Two soldiers sat behind the sandbags, keenly watching the street along the iron sights of their rifles.
    The group exited the car, led by Butkin who opened the front door with a big iron key and welcomed them across the threshold.
    Standing on the grand staircase – almost where The Doctor and Conrad had left her – was the elegant and attractive form of Mistress Cali. Unlike the damage which the house had suffered in this time-line, Cali was still the picture of aristocracy: bejewelled, gowned and her hair flawless.
    “Doctor!” she proclaimed, her voice full of practised warmth, “I'm so glad you came.”

    Chapter Four – The Cupboard's Secret

    Mistress Cali floated down the stairs and took up The Doctor's hand in a ladylike, but firm, shake.
    “Well,” The Doctor began, momentarily lost for words, “your beacon was somewhat … unmissable.”
    Cali smiled and said, “we were hoping you'd spot that. The Council had picked up a Type 40 travelling in this part of space and we had a bit of a root through our records and decided it must be you.”
    The Doctor frowned. He asked, “How long have you and Butkin been living here? Undertaking these humanitarian efforts?”
    Cali swept away from The Doctor in a dramatic fashion and turned back to speak, as if addressing an attentive crowd. She said, “well, obviously we are very happy to be helping humans to escape from this dreadful situation.” She sounded like a politician at a rally. She continued, “But of course the rescue efforts are a by-product of our more important and secret work – that of medically screening all the refugees before they are allowed to escape the infection zone. So that they do not pass on alien contagion into the wider Earth population. There is an alien presence here, Doctor and we are here to ensure that the presence is contained within a very specific area and a very specific range of actions.”
    The Doctor swallowed. “And you need me to help, how?” he asked, cautiously.
    “We need somebody to work out where this thing has come from and intervene,” she began to explain and then stopped, becoming hesitant. It was as if she needed to say something important, but couldn't clearly spit it out. “You must understand my position, Doctor,” she continued, eventually, “I am very well regarded by the High Council of Gallifrey...”
    Butkin leaned over to The Doctor and interrupted, saying, “she'll be President, one day, Doctor. It's always been on the cards.”
    Mistress Cali managed to force a show of modesty and said, “well, be that as it may... it wouldn't seem very good if I were to be seen to be involving myself directly in this problem. It would rather fly in the face of our policy of non-intervention. We're looking for somebody who is more... what is the word, Butkin?”
    Butkin stirred. “Deniable, my lady?”
    She smiled sweetly, “the very word. My hand cannot be seen to be directly involved in this.”
    The Doctor sighed. This was a typical Timelord approach – they were so concerned with not taking sides and being seen to be peaceful and serene. He asked, “so, this alien presence: Do they have a base of operations or a place where they first landed?”
    Cali showed her palms in a disinterested gesture, “that's for you to establish, Doctor.”
    “Do we know what they look like?” The Doctor pressed, a little exasperated.
    “All we're getting,” Cali told him, “is very strange energy readings.”
    “Are these readings remotely detectable?”
    “Oh yes, certainly,” she explained, brightly, “You should be able to pick up the alien energy patterns with the equipment in your Tardis.” She added, diffidently, “Oh and I'm so glad you are getting on well with Butkin; He's going to be an enormous help to you, I'm sure. Hold on there just a moment and let me fetch something for you.”
    The Doctor opened his mouth to speak, but Mistress Cali had stepped into a cupboard door beside the stairs. He realised that it was the same cupboard that had been giving the power readings in the other version of London.
    His hearts sank. With a familiar wheezing, groaning noise, the cupboard de-materialised in front of the surprised onlookers, leaving behind an empty corner of the hall. Mistress Cali's Tardis had been there all along, its chameleon circuit giving it the appearance of an innocuous cupboard. The Mistress herself had abandoned them and, presumably, stranded Butkin.
    Butkin tutted under his breath. “That,” he muttered, “is typical. She always does this. I can't believe she's left me here, with you.” He was pacing, now, irritably around the hall, gesticulating with his arm, “I mean, you're quite capable of dealing with this without me.” He stopped himself and sighed, giving the Doctor a wan smile. “Never mind,” he said, “Let's get on.”
    “Well,” said The Doctor, ignoring Butkin's obvious displeasure at being left with them, “we should pop into the Tardis and look for this alien energy. What did you say would be done with it?”
    Butkin looked to the grandfather clock and considered. “It's probably outside by now,” he decided, “I told them to bring it to the house.”
    They went outside and, sure enough, the Tardis was in the street in front of the house, perched atop a cart being drawn by a tired-looking horse.
    Butkin looked at it with a worried expression. “Well,” he began, “hopefully we can use the scanners on this...” He stopped, searching for an appropriate but inoffensive word – it was not acceptable behaviour among Timelords to criticise another's Tardis. Eventually he decided on “classic,” although The Doctor decided that the way he sucked the word through his teeth rather undervalued the sentiment.
    “-- without tearing a hole in the fabric of space and time,” Butkin finished.
    The Doctor climbed up into the cart and stepped into the Tardis, followed by Georgie, Conrad and a very wary Butkin. At once The Doctor began hitting switches and studying displays, before he let out a little “Eureka!”
    An image appeared on the large wall-screen, showing a rough outline of Britain. A number of glowing red lights were dispersed throughout the map. It zoomed in on the closest to their current location.
    “Ahh,” exclaimed Butkin, pleasantly surprised, “these are the epicentres of the explosions. We'd already estimated that this is where a lot of the damage was done.” He peered closer at the display, “the alien energy appears to be emanating from the core of the explosion.”
    The Doctor turned to him, asking, “has anybody tried returning to the ground zero of any of these sites?”
    “Most of the authorities and civilians have been in utter panic, Doctor,” Butkin explained, a hint of disapproval creeping into his voice. He continued, “it's been an absolute shambles. What this place needs is strong leadership; someone to take charge and make sure everybody is doing that they are supposed to be doing.” Butkin sighed, disappointed, “but that is none of my business, I suppose. We're just here to sort out this time-distortion mess.”
    He turned to face The Doctor, for the first time a mischievous smile on his face. “Doctor,” he said, conspiratorially, “you didn't half give me a surprise when you turned up in the other time-stream. Obviously the Mistress and I went there first to see how history was supposed to play out and found ourselves this nice little building in London. Then you turned up, before we'd even realised we needed to call you! I know I'm a Timelord, but even I get a headache when I think about it.” He frowned and said, “are you always like this?”
    The Doctor shrugged, “it does often seem to go that way.”
    Butkin rolled his eyes and muttered, “well, I'll look forward to that, then.”
    He studied the screen again, before announcing, “there's one about 10 miles from here.”
    Georgie chipped in, “shall we investigate, then?” The Doctor simply nodded in agreement.
    “How do you propose we travel there?” Butkin asked, glancing suspiciously at the Tardis' ramshackle controls.
    The Doctor gave an embarrassed cough. “I would have to admit,” he explained, sheepishly, “that accurate travel in the Tardis – even short distances – is not guaranteed. I suggest we take another form of transport.”
    Butkin seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness for that!” he exclaimed, “I thought we were going to have to fly in this thing. I'll get one of the soldiers to bring the car around.” Butkin stepped out of the door. He reappeared a moment later, saying, “oh and Doctor, sort everybody out with a Timeline Probability Stabiliser each, would you?” before leaving once again.
    Georgie stepped up to The Doctor, looking to ensure that Butkin was out of earshot. “Doctor,” she said, “did you hear what he said about this country needing strong leadership? That – and his Mistress wanting to be President. Is that not suspicious?”
    The Doctor did not respond, initially. Eventually he explained, “my people can be a little authoritarian at times... to a fault. They generally have a view that they could fix the universes problems, if they wanted to. Therefore anything that goes amiss, they feel it is because they have chosen that it be so. It can be very frustrating.”
    He stopped talking as Butkin's head re-appeared through the Tardis door. “Are we ready?” he called, to no-one in particular.

    Georgie fiddled with the Timeline Probability Stabiliser on her breast. It was a little like a brooch, with ornate castings around the edge and a gem of purest green in the centre. If she looked closely into the gemstone, she could see tiny moving lines which Butkin had haughtily informed her were something called Quantum Micro-circuitry.
    The device was, she thought, much like the Tardis. It held incredible power, from her point of view, but also seemed to be a work of art, a living this and a presence, all at the same time. She wondered if all Timelord technology was this way.
    Butkin and Mistress Cali seemed, to her, like strange Timelords. The Doctor – and The Doctor's apparent counterpart from a parallel dimension – had obviously been the only Timelord she had previously met and she had somehow assumed that they would share his measured manner, care for the weak and respect for life.
    But, this odd Butler seemed to have a fire within him for order and discipline which roused an anger where he met inefficiency. On top of that, his strange Mistress seemed to manifest more of the boorish indolence which she found so frustrating in the politicians of her own age. To think she had been so excited, at first, to meet a woman who would be President. The idea that she might be no better than the men of her era was a depressing one. Perhaps the Timelords were not so far removed from human-kind, with all its failings. She thought of the many Women's Suffrage meetings she had attended and all of their passion and hard work. Would it simply come to this?
    As they travelled out to the source of the signal, the landscape became progressively bleaker and bleaker. It would have been hard to imagine a more death-filled landscape than the streets of London they had seen, but these were an order of magnitude worse. Buildings were burned-out husks; Tree-trunks stood bare, like pillars of charcoal; everywhere they caught sight of the aimless and meandering dead, searching for... What? Georgie thought, a purpose?
    They left the road and began to drive up an uneven slope. It was hot here. Underneath them seemed to be streak of what looked like cooled lava. Whatever explosion had taken place here had obviously had volcanic repercussions.
    The Doctor felt troubled, although he tried not to show it to his companions, least of all the judgemental Butkin. But the sight of this crater and the evidence of pooling lava could not help but drag his mind back into history; back to the worst day of his life.
    He wanted to shake the memory away, but certain images forced their way to the front. He remembered again the heat and the screams; he pictured the uncontrollably swelling lava and his own attempts to direct his ailing Magma Board...
    ...Magma Boarding was considered a well-controlled and comparatively safe sport, so what could have gone wrong?...     He remembered – her – screams, as her own Magma Board failed and began to sink into the liquid rock, boiling with a furious intensity. He remembered chasing across the hot surface, desperate to get to her...
    ...and it was always her – he had lost other companions that day – but he had chosen to try to save her, his love, over them...
    The memory ended the same way it always did: she seemed almost close enough to save, before a guttering, spitting wall of fire and lava reared up in front of his, burning his suit as he reached out for her; and, when the plume had subsided...
    ...nothing.
    “Doctor! Is that it?”
    The Doctor was brought back from his mental wanderings by Conrad, grabbing his arm and pointing at the centre of the crater.
    There was an odd, reddish glow coming from bottom of the pit. The Doctor strained his eyes to see through the darkness. Something was obscuring his vision.
    He realised with a start what it was at the same time as Georgie and Conrad cried out in alarm. A row of dead figures were in the pit, ambling towards them.
    One of the dead figures looked different from the others. It was outlined in a dancing light, as thought alive with blue fire. The figure looked directly at them. Its eyelids snapped open and they could see that its eyes were glowing with a fierce, blue intensity.
    It's just like Commandant Jurgens, in Germany, The Doctor thought, something alien is inside that corpse, controlling it.
    The creature's mouth yawned open in an expression of pain and a choking, guttural voice emanated from deep within the dry throat.
    “Ahh, Doctor,” it rasped, “you have come back to us.”