Publisher's summary Edit
Too much perfection's dangerous.
Something from another time, from another world, has found its way inside the hallowed walls. Something with a leathery hide, a long snout and sharp pointy teeth. Tick Tock. Here comes the crocodile...
In an unknown religious order, Abbot Absolute and Sister Chalice begin a service, reading from “The Burning of the World”, the last chapter of “The Triumphs of Sobek”. It tells the story of a battle between the Old Prince of Sobek and his would-be heir, Snabb, who fought over the Skull of Sobek and the power it affords. The Prince disinherited Snabb, calling him Snabb the Reckless, and called the skull to witness against him. After the reading, the Abbot tells the brothers and sisters that the sanctuary gates have been barred, and they are alone. With Sister Chalice, he leads them in a prayer for deliverance.
One monk, Brother Tangent, secretly calls a colleague named Dannahill, and says he has an hour to find what they seek. Tangent says the monks have had no visions or other signs for days. With Dannahill still on the line, he goes to the forbidden New Hall, which is filled with water. Suddenly it fills with fire, but Tangent is unharmed; however, suddenly he says “they’re here”, and then is ripped apart.
The TARDIS materialises on a roof overlooking the Blue Desert of Indigo 3, where the natives have 83 words for the colour blue—possibly a coincidence, as a storm sweeps the desert every 83 years. Lucie notes that the dunes are all the same size and shape; the Doctor tells her the monks here, at the Sanctuary of Imperfect Symmetry, believe that too much perfection is a bad thing. He warns her that if you wander into the dunes, you will be lost—and thus the sanctuary is isolated. However, Lucie sees and waves to an encampment outside the wall; but the people shoot at her, forcing her to duck back. With the Doctor, she heads down into the Sanctuary, but they meet an angry blue-faced monk, Brother Proximus, who tells them they are not welcome, as the sanctuary is closed. The Doctor says the sanctuary is under siege, and they are there to help.
Sister Chalice and Abbot Absolute try to put Tangent’s body back together. As they do so, they debate the “guests” outside, and how they are covering up a murder. Absolute proposes that they declare themselves contagious, but Chalice objects, saying it will attract more attention. At that time Proximus arrives with the Doctor and Lucie. Absolute tries to send them away, but the Doctor offers to help, seizing on Absolute’s mention of contagion. Reluctantly Chalice lets him see the body. The Doctor quickly identifies the killer as a reptilian predator, which ripped Tangent in half before he was put back together. Chalice interrupts and has Proximus lock the Doctor and Lucie into guest room three—a cell, as it turns out.
Escape won’t be easy. However, Lucie has nicked Tangent’s cell phone, which is wet with water and blood, but still functional. It contains a video of a dark room filled with flames; when Lucie looks, she finds herself inside the room in the video. She sees something approaching, and screams. The Doctor calls her name, pulling her back to reality, and she tells him about her experience; the vision included two large attackers with helmets, swords, and tails—and they were not blue. The Doctor finds documents and a message from one Sister Thrift, which point him toward the dead planet of Sobek. Sobek was an empire ruled by a crocodilian race. Thrift asked Tangent to meet her at the New Hall before evening prayers. When the Doctor dials it back, the line to Thrift is dead. Tired of waiting, Lucie begins tying sheets together to escape.
Absolute and Chalice are confronted with a vision of the Old Prince, who demands to know who the newcomer is. Absolute tells him about the Doctor. The Prince says that the Skull has chosen the Doctor as its champion for the final battle that approaches. The Prince tells its followers that the time is approaching for revenge, and that Snabb must find his own champion.
The monks commune regarding the visions they have all had: the flames of perfection burning the centuries clean. The monks pray for salvation for the people outside.
The Doctor and Lucie escape from their cell window via the sheet rope and find no one in the courtyard—but the Doctor hears hints of the monks’ thoughts. Lucie heard it too, but thought it was thunder—but the 83-year storm is still two decades away. The Doctor chooses to find the New Hall, commenting that it is the imperfections of life that make things interesting. The Hall contains a “healing pool”; Lucie remembers that Tangent was wet, indicating he died here. They go inside and find the Hall flooded. There is a display of hand weapons, ostensibly from Sobek—they have miniature crocodile jaws on them. Lucie admits to a fear of crocodiles stemming back to a childhood experience with Peter Pan. The Doctor sees Sister Thrift’s body floating, and pulls her in—but Lucie sees something in the water, and the room fills with flames. The Doctor hears the Prince calling him down to their world, though he doesn’t know who it is. Suddenly the door opens, and the visions cease. Sister Chalice chastises them, but sends another sister, Sister Radiance, to get the Abbot. She sends Brothers Benedict and Alleric to get the body. She tells the Doctor the flames in the sky are apocalyptic prophecies, and that the refugees outside are seeking safety here. The Doctor counters by explaining that the visions are coming from the sanctuary. He asks who she is hiding. The abbot arrives and demands answers, and Chalice tells him about the death of Thrift; he immediately blames the Doctor and Lucie. Against Chalice’s wishes, he orders Proximus to throw the Doctor and Lucie out via the nearest window. Lucie plays on Chalice’s sympathies by offering to join the nuns, and thus avoids ejection. The Doctor is thrown out, though the drop is not high enough to be fatal. She then takes Lucie to have her head shaved...
The Doctor lands on a tent, scaring off a camel, whose owner is angry. The owner asks him how to get into the Sanctuary, but the Doctor only knows how to get out.
Using Tangent’s communicator, the Doctor makes contact with Dannahill, who saw the Doctor get thrown out. They meet, and the Doctor tells him about Tangent’s death. Dannahill asks about Sobek; the Doctor describes it as a jungle world that fell to a great war. Dannahill agrees, but regards the war as a revolution against slavery and oppression. He says that his job is to hunt down the last fugitives from the royal family, who stole the planet’s great treasure—the Great Skull—as they fled. The Skull is not just a relic; it’s a repository of the planet’s history and memories, using—according to the Doctor—molecular data encryption. Dannahill admits to working for General Snabb, and says that the clues lead here.
The Abbot tells the Prince that the Doctor is out of reach now. In retaliation for Absolute’s disobedience, the Prince bites off the abbot’s hand. But where will he find a champion now? Proximus registers Lucie as a sister, but Lucie refuses to shave her head. Proximus leaves it for Chalice to sort out. Lucie questions him about what the Abbot is hiding, but he evades her questions. Sister Apocrypha arrives to shave Lucie’s head, and Lucie flees the room.
Outside, Dannahill confirms for the Doctor that the Skull is inside the Sanctuary; scans indicate massive cerebral activity inside. The Doctor theorises that the visions are cerebral emanations “leaking” from the skull. Dannahill appeals to the Doctor’s love of freedom, and asks him to help them. The Doctor agrees, as this also helps him toward rescuing Lucie. A rope ladder drops from a window, and the Doctor starts to climb it. Before following, Dannahill quietly contacts Snabb and says it’s time for Snabb to make his move.
Chalice finds the Abbot, who attributes the lost hand to a disagreement with their guests. He refuses to take the time to reattach it, as long as the bleeding has stopped. He intends to try to restore the balance in spite of the looming battle, and Chalice calls him a fool; she wants to let the fighting run its course, causing both sides to destroy each other. She has put plans in place to that end. Proximus interrupts and tells them Lucie has run off.
Lucie returns to the pool and calls out to the Prince, who calls her down into the water. She is surrounded by crocodiles, and finds herself in a vision of the world that was.
Chalice admits to the Abbot that she has gone too far. She has allowed the Doctor back inside. The Doctor arrives and thanks her for the rope ladder. He tells her he is here to find the Skull of Sobek, which he insists is real, despite Chalice’s objections. He explains that it is the source of the visions, and must be found before worse occurs. The Abbot calls the Brethren to prayer while Chalice explains that Lucie is missing and probably in danger.
Lucie is caught up in the vision of old Sobek with its riches, and of the flames that would snatch it away. Soon she is fully in thrall of the crocodiles, and her voice changes to a reptilian growl. The Prince—or rather, the Skull—has chosen her as his champion; and now Snabb is coming. Lucie will avenge the theft of their world.
Abbot tells the monks and nuns of the darkness coming, and shows them his wounded arm. He calls them to prayer, but the Doctor interrupts and challenges him to tell them who he is hiding. Chalice says that the Doctor is searching for the Skull of Sobek, and it is here—the visions are coming from the Skull. Suddenly the room fills with flames. The voice of General Snabb chooses the Doctor to be his champion. The Doctor only reluctantly agrees, to save Lucie.
When the flames disappear, the Doctor tells Chalice that the Prince must have the Skull, and that he must recover it. The Abbot interrupts and reads a description of the Skull from “The Triumphs of Sobek”, which describes it as three hundred by thirty cubits—far too large to hide...or is it? The Doctor inquires as to who paid for the construction of the New Hall; Chalice admits it was the Old Prince of Sobek. The Doctor says that the Skull is the structure of the Hall itself. Suddenly shuttles can be heard outside—Dannahill has brought troops.
The shuttle engines cause the windows to implode, and the gate is blown open. General Snabb and his crocodilian soldiers invade the Sanctuary, rounding up the civilians. Dannahill promises Snabb that his champion will be there soon. The Abbot confronts Snabb about his violation of the Sanctuary, but Snabb knocks him down. Dannahill identifies the Doctor as Snabb’s champion; Snabb tells him to prepare for mortal combat against the Prince’s champion. However, the Prince arrives first to confront Snabb. Snabb offers Dannahill to the Prince as a gesture, and the Prince kills him and eats him. The Doctor reveals that the Hall was built over the Skull, and asks the General to take it and leave. Snabb refuses, and insists that the Doctor win the Skull in combat. The Prince’s champion arrives...and the Doctor sees that it is Lucie.
Her voice is still reptilian. The Old Prince explains that his mind is joined with hers. She is impervious to reason, and the Prince exults in the Skull’s choice of her, as she knows the Doctor well. The Doctor refuses any weapons. Chalice prevents the Abbot from intervening. Snabb allows the Skull to show everyone how the conflict began, and a vision begins...
Within the vision of Old Sobek, the Doctor tries again to reach Lucie, but she attacks him. The Doctor overcomes her and locks her in a cupboard, and he calls out to the Abbot and Chalice. He orders them to destroy the Skull and save themselves, but they refuse to commit violence. He tells them to use the power of prayer, or rather, the resonance of prayer. At the same time, Lucie breaks out of the cupboard, as Chalice and the Abbot try to figure out what the Doctor meant. They gather the Brethren in the New Hall. As Lucie confronts the Doctor again, Snabb and the Prince banter like old friends over the battle.
The Doctor tells the reptiles that the Skull is using them both, but they disagree, considering the Skull a god. He assures them that the Skull doesn’t care who wins—it only wants an outcome. To thwart the skull, he concedes defeat and declares Lucie the winner. The Prince and Snabb tell him the Skull will only accept a death; the Doctor, saddened, walks away. At the same time, the prayer gong sounds.
The Doctor tells Lucie she has won, but she refuses to accept it, and chases him toward the New Hall. He promises to fight her there. At the Hall, he tells Chalice to continue the chant. Lucie arrives, but her connection to the Skull is interrupted, and her voice reverts to normal. The Doctor says that the prayers are balancing out the darkness of the Skull. Lucie breaks free and throws off her weapons; the Doctor urges her to concentrate on the chant and remember herself. The Skull tries to penetrate the Doctor’s mind, bringing back the visions of flames. He tells the Abbot and Chalice to increase the tone of the chant. The resonance reaches a critical point as the Prince and Snabb arrive. The Doctor taunts them, but they decide that in the absence of champions, they must fight personally. They fight as the room begins to crack—the Skull of Sobek is breaking up. Everyone except the two crocodiles flees the room as it begins to collapse.
In the aftermath, Chalice is unwilling to let Lucie resign her admission to the Sisterhood, and counters the Doctor’s arguments, insisting that Lucie needs the Sisterhood. The Abbot intervenes, and argues that the purpose of the Sanctuary is to provide balance—and Lucie provides that balance to the Doctor. Reluctantly, Chalice lets Lucie go—but declares that she is still a member of the Sisterhood, and that the Doctor is in her spiritual charge. The Doctor thanks Absolute, and asks how they plan to pay to rebuild the damaged Sanctuary. Absolute says that the fragments of the Skull will make lucrative archaeological relics, even if they require care to handle. He offers the Doctor confession, and the Doctor makes a hasty exit.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Lucie Miller - Sheridan Smith
- Abbot Absolute - Art Malik
- Sister Chalice - Barbara Flynn
- The Old Prince - Giles Watling
- Snabb - Sean Biggerstaff
- Dannahill - Mikey O'Connor
- Sister Thrift - Katarina Olsson
- Brother Tangent - Unknown
- Brother Proximus - Unknown
Cultural references from the real world Edit
- Lucie has been scared of crocodiles since she saw Peter Pan as a child.
- The Doctor urges Lucie to think of Blackpool Tower.
- The Doctor urges Lucie to think of fish and chips.
- When Lucie is fighting the Doctor, she calls him a "spineless fish." Paul McGann had previously played the title role in the BBC drama Fish (2000).
- This audio drama was recorded on 16 August 2007 at The Moat Studios.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on 9 November 2008.
- Official The Skull of Sobek page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for The Skull of Sobek at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide