Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Strange Case of Dr. Who


Inspired by recent revelations in the Target novelization of The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat. Written at the request of Alyssa Franke, a.k.a. WhovianFeminism, whom I can deny nothing because gurl.


* *

"Do you have any idea what's going on in the kitchen?"

Barbara looked up from her book. "I've just been in the kitchen. No one's there."

Ian glanced back over his shoulder. "Third door on the left down that hallway?"

"That's the library, Ian, not the kitchen."

"Can't be. There's always coffee waiting for me when I go in."

"Mm." Barbara smiled, going back to her book. "Maybe the TARDIS figures you'll never find the real one."

Ian was about to retort, but the sound of a door opening and loud voices interrupted him. "Never mind that. We'll find out for ourselves."

"Please talk some sense into Grandfather!" Susan was the first out, fast-walking her way into the console room with the ghost of a perturbed expression. "He's being utterly impossible."

She was clearly barking up the wrong tree -- of the three of them, Susan was the closest to speaking the Doctor's language. But her frustration was of an odd sort. Ian could tell (as could Barbara, given the look on her face) that there was no immediate danger. It was a disagreement; but one she felt strongly about.

"I haven't the faintest what she's told you," came a familiar voice from the hallway, "but all of it is wrong." The Doctor shuffled out, gripping a piece of paper that seemed to have taken the brunt of whatever row had been going on in the library/kitchen earlier. Susan sighed, lowering her shoulders in exasperation.

"I haven't told them anything, Grandfather. I was just about to. And you know they'll agree with me."

The Doctor smiled dubiously. "I think you'll find that in cases such as this, my dear, common sense will prevail."

"So what's this all about, then?" Ian took up his and Barbara's expected side of the conversation; she was still reading, seemingly waiting for the payoff before she reacted. "I could hear you both squabbling from in the kitchen."

Susan crinkled her face in confusion. "We've just come from the library, though."

"Let me see." Barbara closed her book, reaching for the paper. The Doctor handed it to her, and she skimmed it quietly.

"Utter nonsense," the Doctor burbled as she read.

"Since when is there a mail slot on the TARDIS?" Ian asked.

Susan shrugged. "I have a postbox near the junkyard I check once a week to keep up with some pen-friends back home. It was in there, addressed to Mr. Foreman."

"Which in itself is questionable," the Doctor cut in.

Barbara was still reading. "British Lion... they're the ones who did Lord of the Flies, aren't they?"

Ian chuckled. "What, are they looking to buy your story, Doctor?"

"Yes!" Susan cried. "That's exactly it! Isn't it wonderful!"

A look passed between Ian and Barbara.

"You see, child? Utter nonsense. They're as against it as I am."

"I don't know." Barbara looked over the letter again. "I think it might be rather fun."

"Fun!"

"Well, yes. You must admit we've had some rather cinematic exploits. Why not let them make something of it?"

Ian grinned. "I wouldn't mind having a go, personally. I've always thought I had a face for film."

"They'd be recasting you," Barbara said gently. "They'd be recasting all of us, wouldn't they? I'm sure they'd make a few other changes here and there. It's not as though we'd be sacrificing our privacy."

"No. No, absolutely not." The Doctor snatched the letter back. "Because tell me this... who told them about our time on Skaro, hmm? Who told them about the Daleks? Who gave them a clear enough picture of what we did that they want to pursue it?"

A silence fell over the group.

"I don't recall any of you running off to talk to movie producers," he continued, his tone clipped, "but I invite you to speak up if you have."

"It's a fair point," Barbara murmured.

"Well, it wasn't me." Ian glanced at Barbara and Susan. "I've not had time to run off and try to break into show business. I don't think any of us has."

"It's not as though what we did was particularly small," Susan protested. "We saved an entire race of people! Somewhere, somehow, it got back to Earth. Is that so surprising?"

The Doctor's expression showed that he most certainly thought it was.

* *

Popping back to the date on the letter was simple enough. Given the enthusiasm with which the missive was written, Susan assumed it was likely sent out the same day as the concept was introduced to them -- whoever or whatever had done so.

Landing the TARDIS snugly in a broom cupboard took a few minutes of finagling, but the Doctor and Susan soon slipped out into the hallway outside the studio's office. There were a few chairs on hand and little else. The Doctor sat, hands propped on his cane. Susan sat next to him, eyeing the handful of people coming and going.

"I still wish you'd go along with it," Susan said under her breath. "People would think it's a lovely bit of science fiction. And they did ask for your permission."

"Hmph."

"You could pick whoever you liked to play you, you know."

"Not whoever. Very limited in 1965. Half the really good talent hasn't even been born yet."

Susan sat back in her chair, pursing her lips. "Well now you're just being contrary."

"Am not."

Time passed, with a kind but bewildered secretary offering them tea and asking who they were there to see. Susan's insistence that they were "just waiting, thank you" would only hold out for so much longer.

"Whoops, pardon me. Man on a mission. Coming through." Footsteps stumbled up the hallway, past the Doctor and Susan, and through the office door in a flurry of tweed and limbs, before they -- or anyone, apparently -- could stop the man on his mission.

Susan leaned in. "You think that was him?"

"Could be."

"Did you recognize him at all?"

"Barely caught a glimpse of him." The two scooted closer to the door, which had been left slightly ajar in the rush.

"Right. So. How does this go again? A man walks into a talent agent's office and says, 'Have I got an act for you!'... Wait, no, that's not right at all, that's... actually quite bad. Forget I said that."

"I'm sorry, who are you?"

"I told you, I've got a story for you. For one of those science fiction-y movies you do. Wrote you a letter and everyth...ing. Hang on." There was a rumpling of fabric and paper. "Oh, sorry, no. This is the letter right here. There you go. Hand delivered!"

"Sir-"

"Hear me out. Five minutes. I promise you, it's a whopper. Hit of the year. You'll be begging me for the rights by the time I'm done."

Somehow, the man's words worked their magic... and the Doctor and Susan listened as the story was laid out. Not completely correctly, granted. A few things were left out here and there, a few rather obvious changes in place... but all of them only changes one would make for privacy's sake. Age changes. Personality tweaks. As if the speaker knew everything, and knew just what needed changing for the people behind the story to be left well enough alone.

"And just sort of throwing this one out... you'll want that Grand Moff Tarkin fella for the hero."

"The what now?"

A pause. "Oh. Erm... no, what was it... Dr. Terror. That's the one you did, yeah? Oh, he'd be A-plus. A double-plus, even. I won't go triple-plus, I'd have to see him in the costume, get a feel for what his persona's like, what the team is like, you know. Can't really judge until I've seen him in action."

Something like understanding passed over the Doctor's face. He leaned toward the door, attempting to peer through the crack... but the conversation stopped. A young face with a flop of hair curling above one eye peered back.

"Don't look at me like that," the young face said. "Just go with it. You'll be glad you did." And the door creaked shut.

"Grandfather?"

The Doctor rose to his feet slowly. "Well, my dear. I have given the situation some thought, and I do believe it may be in our best interests to accept the offer."

Susan's eyes grew wide as she jumped from her chair. "You're sure? Really?"

"I'm quite sure, yes."

"But the letter. How they found out. What about-"

The Doctor patted Susan's shoulder, gently pushing her in the direction of the closet. "Weren't you the one insisting nothing seemed suspicious?"

Susan looked over her shoulder at her grandfather thoughtfully. "You knew him. It's someone you trust, isn't it?"

"Trust?" The Doctor laughed. "My dear, he's the greatest liar I know."


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