Publisher's summary Edit
River Song always enjoys a good party, even when she's not entirely sure where or when the party is taking place. But the party she ends up at is one where not everything — or indeed everyone — is what it seems...
Being River, it doesn't take her too long to go exploring, and it doesn't take her too long to get into trouble. The sort of trouble that involves manipulating other civilisations, exploitation, and of course murder.
River is confident she can find the killer. But can she identify them before anyone else — or quite possibly everyone else — gets killed?
A male voice berates a female for a ruined dress in a VIP guestroom when somebody buzzes at the door. The male opens, recognises the newcomer and expects money because of compromising materials he has. Instead, the newcomer shoots a gun and murders him.
River Song has been picked up by a fully automated exclusive personal shuttle, as promised in the invitation delivered by the late Bertie Potts. She asks the navigation computer about their destination but receives no answer. After a subtle but still perceptible time jump, she sees a very big spaceship of modular design with enhanced ionic pulse engines. The only thing River manages to tease out of the computer is that this big ship is not going anywhere but rather goes round and round in a very big figure of eight.
After docking at the ship, River bumps into some departing guests who hurry to catch the shuttle back. They have been partying for weeks, and the party on this ship is believed to have been going on for years.
The party is served by voiceless robot waitresses. The food and champagne are exquisite. And a surprise awaits River in the form of apparently not-so-late Bertie Potts. He preserve a vail of mystery regarding the way he managed to escape the tomb but admits that things deviated "slightly" from the plan he had in mind. He also explains that the whole ship is enveloped in a suppression field, making River's vortex manipulator useless. The only means of departure are the shuttles.
Bertie wants to introduce River to some senior people and momentarily leaves to fetch them. At this moment, River hears one of the robot waitresses wisper: "Help me."
Bertie's return prevents River from investigating further. He brings Marcus Gifford and Isabella Clerkwell, who are his superiors in the secretive and private organisation of people who make things happen. They decided not to call themselves "Rulers of the Universe" but still do in private. River is surprised to learn that she is Bertie's pet project. What remains completely unclear is what Bertie wants with her. Not getting any answers, River gets sarcastic and points out a stain on Marcus's cuff suggesting he's been indulging too much in caviar.
Left to enjoy the party for the time being, River decides to explore the ship. A "no admittance" sign sounds almost like an invitation, so she breaks in, quietly enters and witnesses operators effecting a crop failure on the planet Karaknid, whose system remains unaffected by SporeShips, and discussing two planets they have recently lost. These planets have apparently also been managed by them. When the operators finally notice River, they immediately shut down the system and call the security. Only Bertie's intervention saves River from a lot of unpleasantness, judging by the guns being brandished.
Seeing no point in concealing it further, Bertie admits that their organisation manages the development of pre-contact planets across the galaxy, which River does not approve of. Bertie gives her a key card to a guest suite number 15 and asks to stay there and refrain from making more trouble.
On the way to her room, River is intercepted by the same robot waitress, who insists she has to show something to River. The waitress brings her to another guestroom number 3, keys in the code and shows her a dead body in the room. The waitress swears it was not her and runs away.
River finds Bertie and brings him to the murder scene. It turns out that both the suite and the dead body belong to another "Ruler of the Universe", Arkle Jenkins, who has been killed with a phase pistol. Bertie decides to notify Marcus and Isabella.
Both have been working the party but come to Jenkins's room. Marcus arrives first and seems annoyed that Isabella was also notified. His first reaction is to suspect River, but the murder happened before her arrival. Soon Isabella arrives on the scene. None of the "Rulers" seems sorry about Jenkins's fate. Bertie persuades them that River is the best person to investigate the murder. It is decided that Isabella will stay with her to answer questions if need be while Bertie and Marcus make sure things continue to run smoothly on the ship. Before they leave, River asks why they are so indifferent to Jenkins's death. Marcus explains that Jenkins was arrogant and rude, and Isabella adds that he was rumoured to be a blackmailer. Marcus shrugs this off as unsubstantiated and suggests instead that the culprit must the "primitive", to which Isabella agrees.
After Bertie and Marcus leave, River checks Jenkins's pockets but they have been emptied. Isabella is not really keen on helping and uses this opportunity to take a break and relax. She mentions that she met River's husband on the ship. River asks to explain what "primitive" they meant. It turns out that Jenkins had a fascination with primitive societies, a fascination that he expressed in a very cruel way. He would kidnap people from planets managed by the "Rulers", show them advanced technology and the stars and revel in their culture shock. He would then wipe their memories and send them back. At the time of his murder, a young woman kidnapped from Karaknid was staying with him on the ship as a servant or a slave depending on one's point of view. Both River and Isabella feel strangely dizzy by the end of this discussion and realise that the air is being pumped out from the room and the internal lock has been disabled. Isabella faints, while River tries to use the Time-lord respiratory bypass system.
Only the intervention of the robot waitress saves them from asphyxiation. River decides to leave Isabella to her own devices, takes the waitress to her room and demands answers. The waitress's name is Spritz, and she is the "primitive" from Karaknid. Jenkins kept her at the party for amusement. He gave her expensive clothes and jewellery but treated her as stupid. Although Spritz did not kill him, she did not feel sorry for him. However, it was clear to her that she would be the prime suspect. So she hid and got a disguise from a deactivated robot in the storage area. She stayed on the ship because she would like to stop the "Rulers" and free Karaknid from their tyranny. River presses her for the details of the murder, but Spritz did not see anything because she was in a different room after Jenkins had berated her for spilling food on an expensive dress. She heard Jenkins saying that his soon-to-be murderer had already been causing him problems and that he was planning to remove the murderer. Then she heard a shot. She could not identify the murderer. The only thing Spritz knew was that the murderer was male because he was humming while removing the evidence. River says that she believes Spritz because she didn't have a gun. Spritz adds that she wouldn't have known how to use it either. They decide to meet back in River's room in 30 minutes and go back to the party.
There River finds Bertie and tells him about the murder attempt on her and Isabella. To Spritz's horror, Bertie immediately assumes this was also Jenkins's "vixen". If he only knew which section she was in, he would dump the section from the ship and drop it into the nearest sun. Spritz leaves, as agreed. Then Marcus appears and asks about Isabella's health, to which River answers noncommittally. Marcus complains that people are asking about Jenkins, and River suggests to tell the truth. Upon consideration, Marcus agrees that this is indeed the best course of actions. He will do it during his address today. He says that Isabella will be angry not to be the one to break the news as she thinks she is more senior than him, but it is his turn to give the address. Marcus leaves to prepare for the address. As he gets a drink from Spritz, who is still posing as a robot waitress, she recognises his humming.
Marcus begins the address from the broadcast suite, but keeps drinking water and complains on camera that it is too hot, first as a joke, then in earnest and, finally, in fear. River can see something is wrong. But before she can do anything, the build up of ion radiation in the broadcast suite turns fatal for Marcus.
River finds Spritz and takes her back to her room to compare notes. River also guessed that it was Marcus who killed the Jenkins. Firstly, Marcus was too dismissive of the possibility of blackmail. Secondly, the stain on his cuff was residue from the phase pistol. Thirdly, he asked about Isabella's health before being told about the attempt on her life. River thinks that it was Jenkins who rigged the studio trap. He had been planning to remove a problem but instead revenged his own death. Unfortunately, it would be hard to prove this mutual murder to Bertie and Isabella, so Spritz's life is still in danger. River asks to take her to the storage area. She might have an idea.
Some time after, Spritz, still in her robot waitress outfit, brings a trolley with drinks and nibbles to the manipulation suite. The operators are happy about the champagne and, predictably, pay no attention to the "robot waitress".
Meanwhile, River plays on Bertie's prejudices and suggests that the "primitive" killed both Jenkins and Marcus. She proposes revenge as the motive and says that she detected a time bomb on the ship and can use her sonic screwdriver to find its location. Following directions of her sonic device, she brings Bertie to the manipulation suites and shows Bertie something attached to the underside of the trolley. When nobody volunteers to disarm the bomb, River tries but eventually gives up. The bomb is too sophisticated. She persuades Bertie to jettison the section with the manipulation suites saying this is the only way to save the ship. Bertie is initially hesitant: they would lose the ability to control the planets. But in the end he concedes. They evacuate the section and seal the bulkheads.
After the section is sent into the centre of a sun, River suggests that the "primitive" must have been jettisoned with it. Indeed, she must have been close to keep an eye on the bomb and no one saw her evacuating the section.
While Isabella thanks River for saving the ship and Isabella herself, she does not fully buy the theory that the "primitive" is already dead. Isabella says that River's husband was searching for her and gives Bertie the green light to involve her.
With the excitement of the moment gone, Bertie had time to analyse the situation and asks River pointblank if the bomb was fake. River admits that this was her clever plot to get rid of the manipulation suites, which she considered to be immoral from the very beginning. But Bertie is amused rather than mad. Now he too is persuaded that River is right for the job he was planning for her.
When left alone, River sees Spritz to the shuttle. Spritz thinks she would be able to sell the dress and jewellery as a small consolation for everything she had to endure. River additionally gives her Jenkins's currency stick. They say their farewells, but Spritz is unsure if she wants to return to her planet after everything she has seen.
River returns back to Bertie to finally discuss what she is here for. Bertie points out that somebody is looking at River, even waves to her. When he comes over, he acts as if he knows River. But she has no idea who he is. The stranger then turns to Bertie, introduces himself as River's husband and tells River: "Hello, Sweetie!"
- River Song - Alex Kingston
- Bertie Potts - Alexander Vlahos
- Marcus Gifford - Alexander Siddig
- Isabella Clerkwell - Imogen Stubbs
- Jenkins - John Voce
- Spritz - Letty Butler
- Mr Song - Samuel West
Uncredited cast Edit
- Navigation computer - John Banks (BFX: The Diary of River Song Series One)
- Departing guest - Aaron Neil (BFX: The Diary of River Song Series One)
- A suppression field prevents anyone from teleporting in or out the party ship of the Rulers of the Universe, including River's vortex manipulator.
- The Rulers of the Universe manipulate the development of many planets including Karaknid, Glory Animus and Setune Beta.
- Isabella Clerkwell excuses herself to go talk to Hans and Dorothy.
- Marcus Gifford is talking to Henrik Crusard when Bertie calls to tell him about the murder.
- Isabella was talking to Maxine Pursar before coming to Jenkins's suite.
- A manipulation suite operator thinks that the champagne and nibbles were sent to them by Lindslaid.
- Marcus mentions a president named Percy.
- A manipulation suite operator hopes that another natural disaster on Karaknid would be the last straw for President Matterly.
to be added
- River uses a sonic device to break into a room guests are not allowed to enter. Later, she tells Bertie Potts that she has a sonic screwdriver (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, The Husbands of River Song) that can detect reverse feedback from a timing device. She has used a sonic trowel on other occasions. (TV: The Husbands of River Song, AUDIO: The Boundless Sea)
- River remembers meeting Bertie before. (AUDIO: The Boundless Sea)
- Bertie asks Marcus if he has ever read any Melody Malone, in order to convince him that River is the best person to investigate Jenkins's murder. (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan, PROSE: The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery)
- Along with her other Time Lord traits (TV: Day of the Moon, A Good Man Goes to War, Let's Kill Hitler) River has a respiratory bypass system, but has not had much time to practice using it. (TV: Four to Doomsday, TV: The Two Doctors, AUDIO: Return of the Krotons)
- River tells Spritz to "be amazing" as she leaves to explore the stars. The Eleventh Doctor similarly told Amy and Rory that River would "be amazing" before they left her room at the Sisters of the Infinite Schism. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler)
- After Mr Song declares that he is River's husband, he tells her, "Hello, Sweetie." (TV: Silence in the Library et al) River would later learn more about his identity. (AUDIO: Signs)
- River later adopts the pseudonym of Spritz in order to conceal her identity from the Eighth Doctor. (AUDIO: The Rulers of the Universe)
- The Kamishi posing as the Doctor describes these events as Murder on the Orient Express with cocktails in space. (AUDIO: Signs)
- The SporeShips mentioned in passing by a manipulation suite operator will later be investigated by River Song (AUDIO: Signs) and the Eighth Doctor (AUDIO: The Rulers of the Universe)