Trail of the White Worm was the fifth story in the first series of Fourth Doctor Adventures. It offered an explanation as to why the Master looked different between the version played by Peter Pratt and the one played by Geoffrey Beevers, revealing that the Master managed to partially reverse his deformity after absorbing some energy from the Eye of Harmony, transitioning him from a more skeletal appearance to a slightly rejuvenated appearance in comparison.
The legend dates back to Roman times, at least: a great White Worm, as wide as a man, slithers out of the rocks of the Dark Peak Gap to take animals, sometimes even children, for its food.
When the Doctor and Leela arrive in the wilds of Derbyshire, only to get caught up in the hunt for a missing girl, they soon discover that the legend of the Worm is very much alive — even now, in 1979.
Part one Edit
The Doctor and Leela land on a muddy day in England…and immediately step into the slimy mucus trail of a large snake or worm. Moments later, it becomes clear that the creature is fleeing, as hunters with dogs and guns are following. The hunters cut them off from the TARDIS, forcing them to hide in the high grass. The hunters, Carswell and John, are searching for someone named Julie, and are momentarily stymied by the TARDIS—but the hunt continues. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Leela come to the abrupt end of the mucus trail; it ends at an electric fence, and it appears the creature went over. The Doctor wonders if they are inside or outside the barrier. Knowing they have the scent of the trail on them, Leela borrows the Doctor’s scarf to cross the fence, planning to distract the dogs and hunters while the Doctor escapes. She taunts the hunters, before escaping herself. They consider chasing, but decide against—it’s 9:00 AM, and one Colonel Spindleton is about to arrive…in a tank. Overhearing this, the Doctor confronts them, seeking answers.
At some distance, Leela meets the elusive Spindleton—or rather, his voice, as he speaks through loudspeakers. He warns her she is trespassing, and is about to wander into a minefield. He approaches in a Chieftain tank; he directs her attention to himself, on the balcony of a nearby manor house, and demonstrates that he is controlling the tank by remote. He uses the tank’s machine gun for target practice, narrowly missing Leela, and then orders her to run as he “brings out the big gun”.
The Doctor works his way into the confidence of the hunters, who tell him that the creature took Julie. He offers to help them, but insists on recovering Leela first. Carswell is suspicious of him, and implies that the creature can do unusual things, but withholds the details. They are interrupted when the dogs locate something. Meanwhile, Leela manages to outlast the tank’s fuel; but she takes advantage of its positioning—pointing its guns toward the house—to force Spindleton to help her locate and recover the Doctor.
The dogs have not found Julie. Instead, it’s a man, dead and missing a shoe; the Doctor notes that the man is dead by molecular extraction, essentially dessicated, and that no one on Earth has that capability. As well, the mucus trail is nowhere nearby, meaning that they are not dealing only with the creature, but with a murderer. While viewing the body, they are met by a woman, Demesne Furze, who quickly assesses the situation and realises that the body was killed elsewhere, then transported here. She reveals that she has Julie in the boot of her car, much to everyone’s surprise, and lets her out. She admits to kidnapping the girl, but says she did it to bring her home safely, as the girl was attempting to hitchhike on the highway. Julie tells Carswell—her uncle—that she was trying to run away to London, as she feels there is nothing for her in this town, Dark Peak. Carswell calls off the search, and they insist on taking her home—but there is still the dead man to consider, and the Doctor thinks it may be beyond the constabulary…and what about Leela? Demesne offers to take the Doctor to Lambton Hall, Spindleton’s manor house, as it is on her way back to town.
Leela meets Spindleton at the house, and asks to call the “blue guards,” the police. Spindleton shrugs it off, and shows off his collection of hunting conquests, but he is shocked when she asks him to hunt the creature with her. However, when she calls it a “worm”, he instantly becomes excited, and agrees to help—but insists on telling his manservant first. He shows her to the caves beneath the house.
Demesne and the Doctor discuss the “Great White Worm” and the legends behind it, as well as Spindleton’s Swahili manservant. The legends don’t match, however, as the “wyrm” in the legends is a dragon, not a worm. Demesne drops him at the manor house. In the caves, Leela and Spindleton view his weapon collection; then the manservant, Mwalimu, arrives, and disarms Leela. She notes that he is hooded and cowled; he comments that although they allow a deception about it, Spindleton is the servant, and Mwalimu is the master. The alarm sounds as the Doctor reaches the door, and Mwalimu sends Spindleton to deal with him. On threat of death, he places Leela by a crack in the floor; she recognises that the weapon he carries is not of Earth, and she notes fresh blood on the floor. He tells her it is animal blood, from beasts given as food to the worm—and the worm is coming to feast on Leela.
Part two Edit
The worm appears—and it speaks. It refuses to serve Mwalimu, and tells Leela to let it swallow her; it insists it will not harm her, and that she has no other chance. When she mentions the Doctor, it refers to him as its saviour. She climbs on its back instead, letting slip that she is with the Doctor, which startles Mwalimu; she slides down the creature’s back to escape, and Mwalimu orders it after her. It leaves, but still refuses to obey. Spindleton returns and insists he sent the Doctor away; Mwalimu is troubled, and insists the Doctor can thwart their plans. He sends Spindleton for reinforcements.
Julie sneaks out again in the afternoon, but is caught by John near Demesne’s residence. She ignores his pleas to return, and finds a hidden doorkey, then enters the house, prompting John to follow; she gives him the key. She admits she is there to steal any valuables she can find, intending to finance her next attempt to run away. John refuses to help her, until she informs him that his fingerprints on the key and his bootprints on the floor are enough to link him to her petty crimes. They are interrupted by the Doctor. John assumes he is a policeman, but he demurs; he admits he has been looking for Leela all afternoon, and that he thinks Spindleton was lying about not knowing where she is. As if summoned, Spindleton’s tank arrives, and hails them, telling the Doctor that they are surrounded. A helicopter arrives as well—Spindleton’s reinforcements, a group of mercenaries. In the confusion, Julie runs off; John finds her when she screams, and she tells him she found bodies in the cellar. Meanwhile, Spindleton says he is after Demesne; he insists she is actually the worm. The Doctor is incredulous, until John and Julie return, and their story adds weight to Spindleton’s.
Deeper in the caves, Leela encounters Demesne, who recognises her from the Doctor’s description. She leads Leela out via an exit to the churchyard. Outside, Demesne and Leela see the helicopter Demesne determines to help the Doctor. Leela insists on helping, as the Doctor needs to know about Mwalimu. Demesne knows about him, and says he is a Time Lord, like the Doctor; she says she can smell the vortex on them, though the comment seems lost on Leela. Demesne transforms into the white worm.
Spindleton takes the Doctor, Julie, and John in custody, and begins marching them back to the manor house to meet Mwalimu, giving them a lecture about the social situation along the way. He refers to Mwalimu as “the Master”, though the Doctor doesn’t react to it. The worm overtakes them, and the mercenaries fire on it, to no effect. The Doctor confronts the worm by name as Demesne; she doesn’t deny it, and swallows the Doctor whole. He isn’t killed, however, and finds Leela inside it as well, unharmed. As they confer, he states that the worm is engineered, but to what purpose? Demesne can hear them, and he questions it, guessing most of the worm’s history. She admits its original purpose was to dig tunnels—literal “wormholes”—in spacetime. She knows the Master wants her for that ability, but she does not know why. She does know that creating the tunnel he desires will consumer her completely—an ouroboros of sorts. It appeals to him to take it away from here, and says it will digest them if he does not. He resents the blackmail, but considers it…
Spindleton returns to Mwalimu—or rather, the Master—and reports the Doctor’s death, but the Master is sure he is alive, given that the worm referred to him as its saviour. He realises what the worm must want. He contacts unknown allies, and assures them the wormhole will be open soon.
Outside, the Worm expels the Doctor and Leela in the churchyard. Leela finds Demesne’s skin; the worm takes it back like clothing, and resumes human form. She offers to take them back to the TARDIS, but the Doctor insists on dealing with the Master first. He sends Leela to find the police and summon UNIT, giving her a string of code words. As she goes, a thunderstorm looms; Demesne seems unusually unnerved by it. En route to the village, Leela encounters John and Julie, who nearly make her forget the code words; Leela gives them the (now slightly altered) message, and sends them in her place, then returns to help the Doctor. Meanwhile, Demesne insists to the Doctor that the storm is not natural. The Master meets them, backed up by Spindleton in his tank, and demands the worm. Leela arrives, and is shot at by Spindleton, but dodges the shell. The Master gloats that UNIT will be too late, and reveals a device that summons the storm; he summons lightning to strike Demesne, electrocuting her and triggering her transformation, not just into the worm, but into the wormhole. As Demesne dies, the wormhole opens.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Leela - Louise Jameson
- The Master - Geoffrey Beevers
- Colonel Spindleton - Michael Cochrane
- Demesne Furze - Rachael Stirling
- Carswell / Mercenary - John Banks
- Julie - Becci Gemmell
- John - Mark Field
- The Doctor was once imprisoned in the Tower of London on the Duke of Exeter's daughter.
- After finding the TARDIS, Carswell claims that he has not seen a police box since going to Derbyshire in 1952.
- According to the Doctor, Time Lords are not descended from primates.
- Leela uses the Doctor's scarf to swing over an electric fence.
- After discovering the corpse of a fellwalker (which only has one shoe, suggesting that the body was moved), the Doctor determines that it was not killed by any Earth creature.
- Although Carswell believed that it was his niece Julie Ledger had been killed by the Great White Worm, she was planning to hitchhike to London as she wanted to hang out with punk rockers such as Sid Vicious and Siouxsie and the Banshee in Carnaby Street. Demesne Furze kidnapped her, put her in the boot of her car and returned her to Dark Peak.
- Colonel Spindleton has the mounted heads of a tiger named Terry and a gorilla named Gerald, both of which he killed personally.
- According to legend, a knight named Sir Edgar killed the Great White Worm by cutting it "in twain" during the Middle Ages. In Old English, "wyrm" does not mean "worm" but "dragon".
- The caves under Lambton Manor were used as a place of worship by Romans during the occupation of Britain.
- Demesne Furze is able to smell the Time Vortex off the Doctor. She transforms herself into the Great White Worm.
- The Doctor gives Leela a message to "UNIT, Doctor, TARDIS, Master, Zygons, Krynoids, Axons too" in the hope of attracting the attention of his good friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
- This is the first Big Finish audio drama to feature the Master since the audio story Master in October 2003.
- This is the first Fourth Doctor story in performed Doctor Who to feature the Master since the television story Logopolis in 1981.
- The Master stays true to form and initially adopts an alias. In this case, it is "Mwalimu," which is Swahili for "teacher" or "master."
- This story leads directly into the audio story The Oseidon Adventure.
- This audio drama was recorded on 18 August 2011.
- Leela mentions that she has met Romans. (AUDIO: The Wrath of the Iceni)
- Leela once again refers to the police as "blue guards." (TV: The Talons of Weng-Chiang; AUDIO: The Renaissance Man)
- The Doctor refers to the Zygons (TV: Terror of the Zygons), the Krynoids (TV: The Seeds of Doom) and the Axons (TV: The Claws of Axos).
- The Doctor notes that the Master has a slightly less "putrescent" appearance than when they last met on Gallifrey. This can most likely attributed to his own theory that the Master was able convert the energy from the Eye of Harmony and effectively heal himself, albeit partially. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)
- Official Trail of the White Worm page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Trail of the White Worm at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide