Alice Obiefune always wanted to see a space station – one of those proper ones. Maybe with an exotic matter wormhole nearby, if it's not too much trouble.
The views are breathtaking... but so is the formless creature creeping through the station, stealing voices and inflicting comas on those research scientists unlucky enough to be caught.
The United System Research Base is situated on a satellite orbiting an orange planet. Dr Janet Rutherford presents her research to the stations Chief Administrator Peter Cartwright. He has to approve her project on teaching toluan salt-beetles adapt to unknown threats. Her main point is that one cannot destroy something they do not understand. Cartwright's deputy, Rodney Mellors is not impressed, but Dr Rutherford dismisses his opinion, appealing to Cartwright. Her disrespect earns an immediate rebuke from the station's chief of security August Hart.
Cartwright attempts to calm the rising tensions, but is suddenly recalled due to an incident with Dr Ballard. He departs in a hurry, taking Hart with him and leaving Mellors in charge, to the dismay of Dr Rutherford. Before leaving, Hart fires his gun destroying the beetles' hive and points out that he did not need to understand them. As Pamela helps Dr Rutherford to extinguish the fire, Mellors more or less promises to shut down the project with his report. Angry, Janet mumbles that he better watch his back.
As Mellors walks through the station's corridors humming to himself, he hears something behind his back. When he turns to find the source of the sound, he gets very scared and cries for help.
In London, young Alice and her mother visit the grave of her father Ijezie Uwaebuka Obiefune. Ada senses something worries Alice and tells her never to keep something wrong to herself: when you keep to to yourself, the wrong goes on. Alice admits that her schoolmate Maddie Potter taunts her saying her parents should go back where they came from and that Maddie's father said it was good riddance that Alice's father died. Ada asks if Alice told their teacher about this. Alice did, but the teacher dismissed it as simple teasing. Alice says that this so unfair she sometimes wants to go away into space and never come back. But Ada asks what will then happen to those who have to stay behind.
In the TARDIS, John Jones performs his latest work-in-progress for the Eleventh Doctor and Alice. He invites their criticism but then asks them to be slightly less brutal. Alice asks when the Doctor is going to bring her back for her solicitor's appointment to discuss the situation with her landlord. The Doctor suggests to take a holiday first. But Alice doesn't want to run forever. After a short but heated argument about the nature of the Doctor's companions past and present, he seems to give up and agree to take her back home. Jones immediately asks if he can use Alice's toilet. When the TARDIS materialises, the monitors are malfunctioning, but Jones does not wait and walks out the door. When he calls Alice in surprise, she peeps out too, only to find the TARDIS in a huge hangar surrounded by armed men led by August Hart. Hart accuses them of causing the breach and orders to use deadly force at the slightest sign of resistance.
Alice recognises Hart, but he does not recognise her or the TARDIS. Using this, the Doctor produces his psychic paper, where Hart reads that he is an inspector from the Ministry of Science. The Doctor then introduces Alice as his Information Storage and Retrieval Assistant Specialist and Jones as his intern. Hart tells his men to stand down and apparently expects the Doctor to take over the murder investigation.
The Doctor is immediately intrigued and eager to start. But Alice takes him aside and asks how it is that they were going back to her apartment but instead landed somewhere completely different. Avoiding eye contact, the Doctor explains that the TARDIS sometimes does not follow instructions, for instance, to avoid a paradox. He continues hypothesising that it would be a paradox if he and Alice were to stop travelling together in the TARDIS before they actually met Hart another time because during their first meeting he remembered meeting them before. This mutually awkward conversation is cut short by Hart, insisting to proceed.
Hart brings the Doctor to the med-bay where four people, including Mellors and Dr Ballard, are lying in coma. The Doctor is happy to have a murder mystery without anyone actually dying, but Hart reassures him that he will pull the plug on the lot as soon as the paperwork is done. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to measure brain activity of the patients and announces that there is nothing wrong with them. He also says that this is not an ordinary coma and asks Hart how they were found. According to Hart there is nothing to tell. Dr Ballard and his people, Chen and Lars, were in one of the restricted labs, whereas Mellors was found in a corridor. The Doctor explains that their minds were completely wiped clean. Like a computer with the empty hard drive, they do not work even though physically there is nothing wrong with them. The Doctor turns to Hart and asks him the main question: if this is murder, whodunnit?
From his office, Cartwright reports by phone to his superior, Mr Thorne, about the status of Dr Ballard's experiments on the ARC. After Mellors was attacked, they sealed and deadlocked the entire laboratory wing containing the threat inside. But Cartwright suspects that Ballard was withholding information. He is worried about what the ARC is capable of, and the situation is not made easier by the sudden presence of this inspector. As Cartwright lays down the plans to make Janet Rutherford to the fall guy, a strange-looking extremity opens the door to his office from the outside. Cartwright clearly indicates his unhappiness at being interrupted but hears only croak-scream-static-wail-type sounds in response. The sight of the entrant freezes him in his chair. He realises that the ARC got out of containment.
Meanwhile in the base's canteen, Jones marvels at the orange planet in full view while he and Alice snack on protein pills and Vita Burst soda. In between trying out space-themed rhymes, Jones asks Alice what is wrong. She admits that she is torn between the Doctor and her life at home. She again returns to that day when she and her mother visited the grave of her father and remembers how Ada taught her to stay and fight the wrongs of the world. However, in the middle of Alice's soul-searching, Jones asks her how to find a toilet, which he wanted to visit since their arrival to the base.
Janet Rutherford is handcuffed to a table and awaits an interrogation by Hart and the Inspector from the Ministry. Hart explains their version of events: she threatened Mellors right before he entered his coma, and with whole Ballard's team out of the way, she expected to get priority funding. However, the Doctor unlocks her cuffs and inquires how stupid Hart must think him to be. Hart is appalled at such a breach of protocol, which reminds the Doctor that upon arrival they were accused of causing a breach. The natural question is what kind of breach happened before their arrival. Hart refuses to answer, but the Doctor clearly sees the coverup, so he enlists Rutherford's help.
She is not familiar with Ballard's work, which was restricted. However, she hypothesises that Cartwright and his superiors do not want the Ministry of Science to know about whatever it is. At this point, Hart admits pointblank that the base is run by SERVEYOUinc and points his gun at the Doctor, who, in his opinion, now knows too much.
Meanwhile, the relieved Jones is washing hands in the toilet, humming to himself. He hears strange croak-scream-static-wail-type sounds and turns to see who it is. The bulking strange shape towering above him keeps saying: "ARC, ARC." Clearly impressed, Jones asks if it can play guitar.
- Eleventh Doctor
- Alice Obiefune
- John Jones
- August Hart
- Dr Janet Rutherford
- Rodney Mellors
- Peter Cartwright
- P. Lars
- N. Chen
- Dr Ballard
Flashback: London, 20th century Edit
- Ada Obiefune
- Alice Obiefune
- Dr Janet Rutherford experiments on toluan salt-beetles.
- The Doctor and Alice already visited two ice planets and a dinosaur civilisation.
- Jangra IV is orbited by a resort planet, where it is always the perfect sunset. There is a slight chance it has been overrun by killer robots.
- August Hart reads on the psychic paper that the Doctor is an Inspector from the Ministry of Science.
- According to the Doctor, the sonic screwdriver can put up shelves, open most doors, act as a television remote and detect brain activity.
- John Jones drinks Vita Burst.
- On the wall of the United System Research Base canteen, there is a poster advertising Chunky Dories.
- Ada and Alice left a Union Flag at the grave of their husband and father.
- A headstone set in the cemetery where Alice's father is buried is engraved with the name: W Hartnell. This is a tribute to William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor.
- This comic contains examples of xenophobia, seen when Alice mentions a girl who taunted her mother and father over not being local.
- There are several references to David Bowie, the inspiration behind the character of John Jones:
- The discussion between Alice and Jones in the canteen of the United System Research Base with the view of the orange planet is filled with references to Bowie's song "Space Oddity", including Jones saying "sitting in a tin can, far above the world", Alice offering him to take a "protein pill", Jones trying and failing to rhyme "not-planet-Earth is orange" with anything, which is a reference to the lines "planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do" from the song, and the food dispenser machine in the canteen being called "Major Tom";
- Chunky Dories are a reference Bowie's album Hunky Dory;
- The lyrics Jones hums in the toilet is once again a reference to "Space Oddity": "Mission control to Colonel John" reminds of "Ground Control to Major Tom".
- The Eleventh Doctor mentions a review from Which planet-saver he would never forget: "Very rude, tasteless coat, two stars." This is a reference to the widespread criticism of the character of the Sixth Doctor.
Original print details Edit
to be added
- The Eleventh Doctor and Alice Obiefune discuss her dispute with her horrible landlord. (COMIC: After Life)
- The Doctor tells Alice he's taken a lot of "strays" over the years. The TARDIS, in the form of Idris, also referred to the Doctor's companions as "strays." (TV: The Doctor's Wife) When Martha Jones described how the Doctor picks up companions to Professor Yana, she realised they sound like "stray dogs". (TV: Utopia)
- The Doctor uses his psychic paper. (TV: The End of the World et al)
- The Doctor says running away worked for him (AUDIO: The Beginning, TV: An Unearthly Child et al) and for a lot of other people. (TV: The Rescue et al)
- The Doctor took a lot of stowaways over the years. (TV: The Time Meddler, The War Machines et al)
- Upon seeing the inside of the United System Research Base instead of Alice's apartment, John Jones asks if she has redecorated. Several incarnations of the Doctor, including the Eleventh Doctor, often used the same phrase when seeing the TARDIS of his future incarnation or some other room. (TV: The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, Closing Time et al)
- The Doctor and Alice previously met August Hart on Rokhandi, which is for him ten years in the future. (COMIC: The Friendly Place) This is why they recognise him, but he does not recognise them.
- August Hart previously served in the Wheel Wars. The Doctor, Alice, Jones and ARC later find themselves in the middle of the war with Amstrons of the Great Wheel. (COMIC: The Eternal Dogfight / The Infinite Astronaut)
- Peter Cartwright reports over the phone to Mr Thorne, the CEO of SERVEYOUinc. Ten years later, after the incident on Rokhandi (COMIC: The Friendly Place), Thorne will lament the Doctor ruining the ARC experiments run here by Dr Ballard. (COMIC: The Rise and Fall)
- The Doctor had to fight against employees of SERVEYOUinc twice: Hart himself on Rokhandi (COMIC: The Friendly Place) and the Talent Scout in the Mississippi Delta. (COMIC: What He Wants...)