Publisher's summary Edit
But they are not alone in this labyrinth: a killer is on their trail.
The Eighth Doctor is in court, charged with “Leaving a blue box on a double yellow line” while Lucie is shopping. While waiting, he discovered a localised temporal shift in the area; but this explanation is not enough to acquit him, and he is sentenced—to death, for a parking offence.
The localised temporal shift is more local than he thought, it seems. He has suddenly, in the middle of the trial, been transported to the 17th century, to the dock of the Old Bailey court. Here he is being confused with someone else, but there’s no convincing the judge of that. The judge—“Hanging” judge Jeffreys—admits he may have met the Doctor before, but will not meet him again. Before he has the Doctor removed, the Doctor insists that the judge is not really Jeffreys, based on inconsistencies in his statements. While the Doctor is still present, the next prisoner is brought into the dock: a flamboyant young woman called “Spring-Heeled Sophie”, Sophia Shepherd, a tightrope walker who boasts about her skills while slipping her shackles.
Lucie has become lost while shopping, and stranger still, the city has gone dark. She is nearly run down in the streets by a tram, before encountering an oddly yellow-skinned woman calling herself “Yellow Beryl”. Beryl explains that the strange colour is from the TNT that she works with in a munitions factory, and that England is fighting the Germans and Austrians. To Lucie’s surprise, it is the year 1917. They are forced to take shelter as zeppelins fly over and begin dropping bombs.
Sophie denies involvement in the robberies of which she is accused; the Doctor comes to her defence, trying to prevent her from being hanged, but is shouted down. As the guards subdue him, he is knocked out. Sophie is sentenced to death, and the judge orders the court’s Turnkey to take the Doctor and Sophie to Newgate to await their hanging. They are temporarily placed in the condemned cell at the Old Bailey, where they introduce themselves to each other, with Sophie flirting with the Doctor. She offers to help him find Lucie if they can escape, and they pool their resources to try to bribe the guard. However, the Doctor is surprised to see Sophie’s contribution—a box made of telmonium, a non-terrestrial metal. The box is filled with flashing control lights, which Sophie calls fairies. He tells her it comes from a world called Quagreeg, which is inhabited by reptilian creatures; it seems they are dealing with a more serious problem now. She admits that she has pressed the buttons on the box, which concerns the Doctor greatly; he explains that it controls a system of tractor beams, which may have brought him here through time. He is sure the owner of the box will want it back, and may be dangerous.
Beryl and Lucie make their way to the Underground station at St. Paul’s, for safety. Beryl explains that it’s not just the bombings; there’s a killer on the loose, the Blackout Killer, who takes advantage of the air raids to kill his victims—respectable women in every case—during the blackouts. No one sees him; they only hear the tapping of the stick he carries. At the underground station, the gates at the bottom are locked; and a massive explosion nearby knocks them to the ground. Heading back to ground level, they find the building next door levelled by the bombs. They separate, as Beryl needs to get to the factory, but Lucie wants to find the Doctor; Beryl gives her directions to the Holborn Viaduct, where she last saw him. Lucie almost immediately sees a river appear in front of her; Beryl doubles back and tells her that the river appears and disappears at random, and usually has Fleet Street on the other side, dependent on what “he” wants. She refuses to elaborate, and warns Lucie not to ask too many questions—if you do, things become “fuzzy” and fade away.
The Doctor questions Sophie further, searching for anything strange. She says that she escaped from a workhouse, and in the process she saw a flash and heard a loud noise. She found herself in a Roman temple inside a cave, where she found the box. The description of the temple tells the Doctor it is a temple to the god Mithras; the flash of light is characteristic of the tractor beams, but this one seems to be for space only, not time, as Sophie is from this time period. The temple is at the end of the river; she agrees to take them there, if they can escape. The Doctor considers, and concludes that the 17th century and Roman versions of London are now adjacent—an impressive piece of temporal engineering. As they wait, they hear the Bellman, the town crier, making announcements outside; the Doctor thinks he has heard the man’s voice before.
Lucie asks Beryl where to find the mysterious “he”, but Beryl is no help; she says that “he” is everywhere. Beryl is strangely at ease with encountering people from other times. Lucie intends to cross the river, but Beryl wishes her luck and moves on. Lucie searches for a bridge, and sees modern buildings on the other side; she concludes that the varying times are now geographically related, and she is getting close to one. Nearby, a figure sniffs the air, and a stick can be heard tapping as he follows Lucie.
The Turnkey delivers the Doctor and Sophie to Newgate, and hands them over to the chief warder, Jack Ketch. Ketch makes Sophie uncomfortable, and says he intends to take the Doctor’s coat after the execution; he doubles as the hangman. The Doctor is unimpressed, and tells him to drop his disguise; he recognises Ketch as the same man who was posing as the Judge, the Magistrate (in the modern court before the time shift) and the Bellman. He is sure the man is really a shape-shifting alien, probably from Quagreeg, given the source of the box. He deduces that the alien transferred him here to avoid disrupting his 2008 version of London when he deals with the Doctor. The Doctor assures him he won’t get the TARDIS if that is what he wants; in reply, Ketch says he will make sure the Doctor takes a long time to die. He puts them in a carriage to take them to the gallows at Tyburn. The Doctor tries again, this time speaking in the Quagreeg language; Ketch obliges him and changes into a reptilian creature from Quagreeg. The creature says that he and his other avatars are called Sepulchre here, after St. Sepulchre’s church.
Lucie realises she’s being followed. She finds herself near a modern pub, clearly in 2008; she asks some people outside if there is a bridge she can use to cross to their side. One young man offers to help, but is called away, and asks her to join him if she gets across. She is then accosted by the Blackout Killer. She runs from him, but finds herself at a dead end; the killer taunts her, and tells her he is also a lookout for the Zeppelins, and hearing her in her hiding spot is no trouble for him. He confronts her, and says that “they” need new blood, then transforms into a reptilian creature, similar to the one confronting the Doctor. She manages to push it into the river and escape. She makes her way to a bridge, but upon crossing, she finds she is not in 2008—she is in the 17th century.
Sepulchre explains that his race is a hive mind. He has transported many of the poor—who won’t be missed—from various eras into re-enactment chambers, where they are killed over time. He insists it’s not for pleasure, but is necessary for their race’s well-being. The Doctor intends to put a stop to it; Sepulchre, for his part, is thrilled to have captured a Time Lord, as his death will greatly enhance the Quagreegs. He resumes the image of Ketch, and says he doesn’t understand the Doctor’s care for the humans. At the gallows, a crowd waits. Ketch prepares them for execution, and Sophie spits in his face. The Doctor gives a speech, but it’s not the rant Sepulchre expects; the Doctor’s lack of fear confuses him, and the Doctor reminds him that this is not real, just a re-enactment. Sophie realises that the area is breaking down; Sepulchre seems to be losing control of this re-enactment. The Doctor makes a rather overblown speech, irritating Sepulchre, but he continues, allowing Sophie to slip her chains and undo the Doctor’s chains as well. She pulls the trapdoor, on which Ketch happens to be standing, and he falls through, allowing the Doctor and Sophie to escape.
They escape to the River Fleet, where Sophie had previously hidden a boat. The Doctor realises the river connects the various re-enactment chambers, and asks Sophie to take him via boat to the temple where she obtained the control box. If he is right, it will be Sepulchre’s base of operations; and the real being may be present, instead of his avatars… Sophie at first refuses, but the Doctor talks her into it; while they talk, she discovers someone watching from the shadows, and so they give the illusion of continued arguing. Sophie lassoes the figure, and finds that it is Lucie, who is overjoyed to be reunited with the Doctor; she admits to waiting to approach so that she could be sure of his identity, having already met one shapeshifter. As a group of rough-looking men approach, the trio flees in the boat.
Judge Jeffreys—another avatar—finds and awakens Ketch. Their meeting is a break in protocol, but it’s allowed for now, as Ketch failed to kill the Doctor. They go in pursuit of the Doctor and his companions.
The river takes the group underground, and Sophie lights a lantern. The Doctor explains how the river connects the zones, serving not just for transport, but for information transmission, like a neural pathway. He expects to find the real Sepulchre at the temple, and can use the box on him—but only on the real being. In the temple, Sepulchre is watching their progress with several avatars. He intends to see the Doctor killed before he can arrive here, and decides to route them to another time; Ketch suggests the attack on London by Boudicca during the Roman era. However, Sepulchre realises the box is missing, and can’t send the Doctor without it. Though this represents a danger, there is another way to send the Doctor…
A lock gate opens, sending a flood of water into the river, and pulling the boat away from the Temple. It carries them over a waterfall. The boat is smashed, and they find themselves above Roman London, trapped with a hundred others inside a giant Wicker Man. Sepulchre intends to burn them, then recover the box from the Doctor’s ashes. The Doctor wants Sophie to use the rope she brought from the boat to set a line for them to walk from the Wicker Man, but she refuses, as the Doctor and Lucie are amateurs with no tightrope-walking experience. Lucie sees a man with a torch, who ritually sets the Wicker Man aflame; the Doctor recognises him as Boudicca’s arch-druid, and also an avatar. Sepulchre, satisfied with this fate, sends Ketch and Jeffreys back to their own eras, and goes to watch the burning personally. As the smoke begins to choke them, the Doctor has Sophie lasso part of the city gate instead, creating not a tightrope but a zipline, which they can navigate with their belts. He uses the sonic screwdriver to weaken the wicker, allowing them to break out. The Doctor insists the other captives aren’t actually in danger, and they slide down the line; and the Wicker Man vanishes. The Doctor reminds them that the re-enactments are contingent on Sepulchre’s authority; if something unexpected happens, they break down. Sepulchre appears and congratulates the Doctor on deducing the situation—but the Doctor has missed one critical piece. The river isn’t just like a neural pathway, it is a neural pathway; and they are all inside Sepulchre’s brain! The box’s tractor beams, like the TARDIS, are dimensionally transcendental—Sepulchre’s mind is bigger in the inside.
Sepulchre demands the box, and Lucie tells the Doctor to use it on Sepulchre instead. He refuses, knowing it would kill not only Sepulchre, but everyone inside his mind. Instead, he berates Sepulchre for treating humans like cattle; and he uses his sonic screwdriver to shut off various neural connections. The re-enactments will still function, but they are now disconnected from each other. The group finds themselves back in the 17th century re-enactment. Sepulchre can no longer hide behind his avatars; and the crowd sees him as a demon. Militia officers arrive and take custody of him, placing him with Ketch and Jeffreys. He swears revenge on the Doctor. The Doctor is optimistic; he can’t remove the people from the re-enactments, but as long as Sepulchre lives, they will as well, and will be free of his tyranny. Sophie, of course, has to stay, but intends to learn to write and become a novelist—with her first book based on herself, of course. The Doctor and Lucie find their way back to the 2008 re-enactment, and find the TARDIS, which is covered in parking tickets. As they leave, Lucie listens to the city, which now sounds very much alive.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Lucie Miller - Sheridan Smith
- Sepulchre - Rupert Vansittart
- Spring-Heeled Sophie - Clare Buckfield
- Clerks - Richard Laing
- Yellow Beryl - Katarina Olsson
The Doctor Edit
- The Doctor mentions the bad fashion sense of his previous incarnations, in particular the brightly coloured clothes of the Sixth Doctor.
- The Doctor mentions once being grabbed by a Sea Devil.
Real Life Edit
- Don Quixote is mentioned.
Clothes and Fashion Edit
- Lucie Miller wears a Beatles t-shirt.
- Quagreeg is a marsh world in the Sirius system inhabited by unpleasant reptilian life forms who are a gestalt being.
- Spring-Heeled Sophie is a funambulist.
- Telmonium is an incredibly durable and rare extra-terrestrial metal that can only be found on Quagreeg.
- This audio drama was recorded on 21 August 2007 at The Moat Studios.
- This story introduces a third variation of the Eighth Doctor theme tune, composed by Nicholas Briggs and based on the theme tune from the Fourth Doctor era. This replaces the David Arnold theme used from Storm Warning through to Human Resources.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on 19 October 2008.
- The Doctor mentions the cult of Mithras. (AUDIO: Seasons of Fear)
- Different time zones has been created in a similar fashion as in TV: The War Games.
- The Doctor uses his cravat to create a zip wire and slide in a rope from the Wicker Man in the same fashion he does in COMIC: The Forgotten, shouting Geronimo (one of the catchphrases of the Eleventh Doctor).
- Official Dead London page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Dead London at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide