Grand Theft Cosmos was the fifth release of the second series of Big Finish Productions' Eighth Doctor Adventures audio stories. To date, this is Christopher Benjamin's only appearance in a Big Finish audio story playing a character other than Henry Gordon Jago.
Publisher's summary Edit
Here's to crime, Doctor!
The Doctor and Lucie visit nineteenth-century Sweden and become embroiled in an attempt to steal the infamous Black Diamond.
But the stone is guarded by forces not of this world...
Aboard a train, the Doctor and Lucie talk about their trip and about the train they are riding. The year is 1898, and though Lucie is enjoying herself, she would rather be using her MP3 player. They part ways, the Doctor going to find some food, Lucie going to the observation car. Unknown to either of them, Lucie’s former coworker from Hulbert Logistics, Karen Coltrane, knocks out a guard, then picks a lock to enter the security compartment. The head of security, Henrik, confronts her; she offers not to shoot him if he tells her where to find what she is looking for.
In the dining car, the Doctor meets a man named Frederick Simonsson, who talks with him about the train, and about their destination: Stockholm. Simonsson explains that he works for the king, acquiring art for the king’s collections and for museums. Elsewhere, Lucie bumps into Karen and is shocked to find her alive; before Lucie can find out how Karen came to be in 1890s Sweden, Karen makes a distraction and runs away.
For the Doctor and Simonsson, the conversation turns to art. Simonsson reveals he is trying to collect the works of one Claudio Tardelli, whom he believes to be Italy’s greatest artist. The Doctor knows the name; few of his works survive. Simonsson intends to unite any remaining works; he already has two paintings and one statue, and is just returning from acquiring another piece. At that moment, Henrik arrives and announces that a thief is aboard the train. Meanwhile, Lucie is chasing the thief in question, Karen, who finally reaches the end of the train. At the last door, she finds her partner, the Headhunter, pacing the train on horseback (instead of the expected hover platform)! Karen manages to leap to the horse as Lucie arrives; as Lucie tries to process the presence of her old enemy, Karen confirms that she has what they came for, and the duo rides off.
It seems that Karen was after the Tardelli work. The Doctor offers to help Simonsson retrieve it, but Simonsson declines; he says that the actual work was never on the train, and the thieves have stolen a decoy. He shows the Doctor photographs of the other Tardelli works, some of which don’t fit the artist's usual style and were likely commissions; one, in particular, is an abstract work, years before the abstract movement. Simonsson thinks it will revolutionise scholarly perception of art history.
Well away from the train, Karen turns over the stolen item: a large diamond. She comments that it is unlike other diamonds, and the Headhunter hints that it is not, in fact, a diamond; however, she realises that it is a fake. With their first plan now thwarted, the Headhunter sets out a new plan. Meanwhile, Lucie rejoins the Doctor and reveals that Karen and the Headhunter are present and are the thieves. The Doctor explains that the Tardelli work was the stolen item. He explains that Tardelli is obscure because he, the Doctor, has worked to make it so; he had previously met Tardelli and found that his works somehow warp reality, even to the point of changing the people that observe them. Tardelli, as it turns out, was not human; and he was trying to gain control of the Pope. Although that adventure ended badly for Tardelli, the artist escaped to Florence; since then, the Doctor has destroyed any Tardelli works he could find. Their presence in the home of the otherwise-respected King Oscar of Sweden is a dangerous development; and the Headhunter’s presence is even more disturbing. He decides that they must steal the real work of art before the Headhunter can do so.
Arriving in Stockholm, the Doctor and Lucie examine the outside of the island-based Drottningholm Palace, where the art is supposed to be kept. If they can locate the paintings inside, he can take the TARDIS in and scoop them up in one trip; but they must know, because the TARDIS’s noise will attract unwanted attention. Nearby, Karen and the Headhunter are watching the Palace as well and see the Doctor and Lucie. They move to put their plan in action; Karen goes to approach a guard but recognises him from the train and switches tactics, following another man up the steps. Unfortunately, the man is Henrik, who is checking in on the guards. At the same time, Lucie sets a similar plan in motion, faking a faint at the feet of the guard. When the man goes to help her, she accuses him of robbing her; he offers to get her a doctor, and instead she gets him to accompany her — very reluctantly — to a restaurant. Seeing this, the Headhunter realises the Doctor and Lucie's involvement may work to her advantage.
Lucie manages to ply the guard, Anders, with wine, until he begins to tell her about the situation at the palace. The King is currently away, with most of his guards with him; due to the events on the train, the rest of the guards are on alert for anyone trying to steal the new work of art, which is arriving tomorrow. It is called the Black Diamond, but he admits that it is not really a diamond. He reveals that it is to be kept in the vault, as are all works not on display. The Doctor joins them and extricates Lucie from the situation, and Anders returns to his post, leaving Lucie to share her newfound information with the Doctor. En route back to his post, Anders is knocked out and kidnapped by the Headhunter and Karen.
After debating with Lucie about whether their plan constitutes a crime, and whether it is justifiable, the Doctor and Lucie return to their hotel to test some equipment. Meanwhile, the Headhunter hypnotises Anders and gives him directions; tomorrow, he won't remember her but will accept her claims to be an aristocrat, Elizabeth of Bohemia. After playing around with the hypnosis, she sets a trigger phrase in Anders'’ mind: "Elvis Presley". The phrase will make him remember speaking to them, and in this era, no one will say it accidentally.
The Doctor puts together a machine that creates a short-range feedback loop in a subject’s brain. He demonstrates its effect to Lucie; he uses it to cause a book to disappear from her hand, then explains that he actually took the book from her, but the machine caused her not to perceive that event. He intends to use it on the guards.
Lucie, using a borrowed aristocratic identity, meets with Simonsson, who has just checked in with Henrik. She offers him the chance to see and purchase a new item, which may be of interest to the scientifically-minded King Oscar. The item is the TARDIS; Simonsson has it unloaded from a cart and examines it. Lucie persuades him to step inside. He is caught off guard by its internal size; Lucie claims not to know how it works. The King will be happy with it and invites Lucie into the library to discuss the price; Lucie claims to be fearful of leaving it outside and asks him to move it into the vault. He agrees. As soon as they enter the palace, the Headhunter arrives in a carriage and executes her own act; her feigned outrage at the King's absence gets her into the palace.
Lucie uses a walkie-talkie to communicate with the Doctor, who is inside the TARDIS with the door locked. He intends to claim the paintings immediately but may have to come back for the statue, which is twelve feet tall. The Headhunter has her own walkie-talkies and contacts Karen, who is on the roof, trying to bypass the guards en route to the cellar.
While Lucie talks with Simonsson, Anders arrives and explains to Simonsson about "Elizabeth of Bohemia", whose demand to wait for the King's return is simply not possible. Simonsson goes to talk to her and takes Lucie with him; she is shocked to see that "Elizabeth" is the Headhunter. Lucie makes her excuses and leaves; the Headhunter warns Simonsson against associating with Lucie, who she alleges to be lying about her status. Meanwhile, Anders and Henrik supervise the arrival of the Black Diamond. They take it to the Vault, but Anders insists on putting it in a different case than planned to thwart any would-be thieves. Meanwhile, Lucie warns the Doctor about the Headhunter. He already has the paintings and is waiting on the Diamond to arrive; he has the feedback device ready for the guards but warns Lucie to turn on her own neuristor device, which prevents her from being affected.
As Anders and Henrik arrive in the vault, they hear a noise, and suddenly the diamond is gone. They retrace their steps, searching, when they run into Lucie, who runs off. She reaches the TARDIS and goes inside; but when the Doctor checks the Diamond, he finds it is the fake that Karen stole on the train. Where is the real Diamond? Meanwhile Karen makes her way to the vault, where she finds Anders. She uses the "Elvis Presley" phrase to place him in a trance; he confirms that he switched the real Diamond for the fake, as per the Headhunter’s instructions. He gives her the real Diamond, and she tells him to escort her out — but the statue comes to life and starts pacing toward them. They run from it. The Doctor sees the statue moving on the scanner but has to leave that for later; right now he needs to find the Headhunter and Karen. He moves the TARDIS to the main hall, where it happens to materialise just as Anders and Karen arrive. The Doctor and Lucie exit and demand the real Diamond, but Karen sets Anders to delay them while she runs. Anders draws a sword, forcing the Doctor to grab a sword from a wall display and fight back; the Doctor sends Lucie to stop Karen.
The Headhunter is still with Simonsson in the library when Karen runs in with the statue behind her. The statue demands the Diamond and grabs Karen; the Headhunter tells her to throw the Diamond to her, promising to help her later. She throws it, but it lands on the floor just as Lucie races in to scoop it up. Lucie runs back out, taunting the Headhunter and Karen as she does so. The Headhunter shoots the statue with a laser weapon, stopping it; Karen is not amused when the Headhunter explains that she hesitated so as not to hit Karen. The Headhunter knocks out Simonsson to stop him from interfering.
Lucie finds a carriage outside, but the driver is working for the Headhunter to stop anyone else from leaving with the Diamond. In the interim, the Headhunter and Karen arrive and take Lucie hostage, ordering the driver to take them all to the station.
Simonsson awakens and assumes to Henrik that the Doctor and the three women are all accomplices. The guards bring the Doctor in to be interrogated, but it soon becomes clear that they are not accomplices after all. He tells the truth about Tardelli's works; when Simonsson denies any ill effects, the Doctor attributes it to the brevity of Simonsson's exposure to the actual works. The statue starts moving again as it shrugs off the effects of the laser. Faced with a situation he can't explain, Simonsson offers to help the Doctor recover the Diamond. They leave in the TARDIS. Meanwhile, the Headhunter, Karen, and Lucie board a train which will leave for Russia in ten minutes. Karen tells Lucie that this is all business, not evil; the Headhunter explains that she took Karen on as a personal assistant. Karen is still angry at Lucie for leaving her for dead at Hulbert, however. The Headhunter explains that there is a purpose to this heist. She tells the Diamond to "come out", at which point an elderly man appears in the compartment. He is Claudio Tardelli, and the Headhunter wants to offer him a job. He has been inside the diamond — which is bigger on the inside — since the seventeenth century.
The TARDIS materialses at the station, disgorging the Doctor, Simonsson, Henrik, and several guards. Simonsson sends Henrik to stop all departures while the station is searched.
Tardelli explains that the Diamond contains a small, artificial universe three light years across, which he created as a bolt-hole. He is from the planet Parrimor but was exiled to Earth. The Headhunter explains that she represents the Emperor Vassilar-G of Ralta, who wishes to hire Tardelli as a well-compensated court artist; but she intends to give the Diamond to a Russian named Yashin, who wants to use it for energy for his industrial endeavours. Tardelli agrees to cooperate in return for a share of the Headhunter's profits. As the guards approach, the Headhunter says that she has already hypnotised the driver of the train to leave at the first sign of trouble.
The Doctor and Simonsson manages to hop the train as it leaves, but Anders and Henrik are left behind — and communications with the next station are down. The statue arrives and follows them as the train pulls away.
Karen reveals that the Doctor and Simonsson have arrived; Tardelli is frightened at the mention of the Doctor. The Headhunter declines to use her ship; the ion engines could fracture the Diamond, which would be catastrophic. The Headhunter tells Karen to shoot Lucie if there is any trouble.
The Doctor and Simonsson find and open the compartment, only to find Karen holding a gun on Lucie. Tardelli comments that the Doctor looks different from their last meeting. The Doctor identifies Tardelli for Simonsson's benefit; but when Simonsson learns about the pocket universe — and the people Tardelli has created inside, but will soon destroy — he is appalled at the artists character. Suddenly the statue breaks in through the roof. Tardelli tells it to stand down, as he is safe; but Lucie realises its orders are to protect the Diamond, not Tardelli. The Doctor uses this to delay the creature; but the Headhunter escapes with the Diamond, leaving Karen behind. Lucie overpowers Karen and takes her gun, and the Doctor gives it to Simonsson to cover Karen and Tardelli while he and Lucie chase down the Headhunter.
The statue cuts her off at the other end of the carriage, trapping her between itself and the Doctor. Lucie manages to kick the Diamond out of her hand; when the Headhunter insults her, Lucie knocks her out. The Doctor tells the statue that the best way to protect the diamond's population is to free them. He rejoins Simonsson, who is discussing art with Tardelli. The Doctor reveals he has struck an agreement with the Guardian to fracture the Diamond; now, in a very short time, it will erupt into the real universe, causing a cataclysm. This forces Tardelli to make a fifth-dimensional jump, allowing the pocket universe to emerge into the gap between universes where it can safely survive. It will then be outside Tardelli's control, which satisfies the Doctor. Tardelli releases the universe as agreed and then gives the now-useless Diamond to Simonsson. Karen snatches her gun back and takes everyone at gunpoint, but Tardelli reminds her that the Headhunter is still obligated to take him to Ralta for his new job. She allows him to leave with her. However, they happen to meet Lucie coming the other way with the Headhunter in restraints. The Headhunter is horrified to learn that the Diamond is now useless to Yashin, the Russian. He will kill her if he can; therefore she cannot return to Earth at this time period. She says her goodbyes to Lucie and leaves the train with Karen and Tardelli to summon her ship.
Simonsson is disillusioned over his artistic idol, Tardelli. He asks the Doctor to destroy the two paintings in his possession, but the Doctor declines; he intends to study them and find out if there is a way to display them without their dangerous effects. Destroying them would make any others that much more valuable. Meanwhile, the Guardian is now free of obligations; Simonsson tells it about legends of stone trolls in the woods near Stockholm, and it leaves for the forest, hoping for a place to fit in.
Lucie apologises for letting the Headhunter escape, but the Doctor dismisses it. He declines to visit the former pocket universe, and he declines to follow Tardelli, as the Emperor of Ralta is known to be very fickle — he has a reputation for eating artists who fall out of favour. Instead, it's dinnertime...and they make their way back to the city.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Lucie Miller - Sheridan Smith
- Simonsson - Michael Maloney
- Tardelli - Christopher Benjamin
- Henrik - Colin Spaull
- Anders - Sebastian Armesto
- Headhunter - Katarina Olsson
- Karen Coltraine - Louise Fullerton
- Lucie has never visited Russia.
- The Headhunter is aware that the Russian industrialist Yashin will be murdered by his own workers in 1905.
- Lucie and the Doctor compare their theft to those done by Robin Hood.
- A number of music cues in this story are from the Cosmic Hobo series The Scarifyers (notably the theme music).
- This audio story was recorded at The Moat Studios.
- The title refers to "grand theft auto," an American term used to refer to the stealing of automobiles. Grand Theft Auto is also the title of a long-running series of UK-produced video games.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on 16 November 2008.
- Official Grand Theft Cosmos page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Grand Theft Cosmos at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide