8th Doctor
Max Warp
BBC Logo

Max Warp
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by Barnaby Edwards
Sound Design and Music by ERS

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Graeme Garden (Geoffrey Vantage), James Fleet (O'reilley), Duncan James (Timbo), Nick Brimble (The Kith), Samantha Hughes (President Varlon), Katarina Olsson (Judd Gilbride).

Welcome to Max Warp! Broadcasting live from the Sirius Inter-G Cruiser Show. Hosted by outspoken columnist and media personality Geoffrey Vantage, with spaceship-guru-extraordinaire O’Reilley and daredevil pilot Timbo ‘the Ferret’.

When a test flight of the new Kith Sunstorm ends in disaster, the Sirius Exhibition Station is plunged into a web of murder and intrigue. Someone – or something – is trying to re-ignite a war between the Varlon Empire and the Kith Oligarchy.

As the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, only two investigators, the Doctor and Lucie, can hope to uncover the truth.

So strap yourself in, engage thrust, and prepare for... Max Warp!

  • Featuring the Eighth Doctor and Lucie, this story takes place after the Big Finish story Dead London.
  • Released: February 2008
    ISBN: 978 1 844 35305 7
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TV presenter Geoffrey Vantage welcomes the audience back to the “Max Warp” programme, being broadcast today from the Inter-G Cruiser Show at the Sirius Exhibition Station. In today’s show, Timbo (aka ‘The Ferret’) will be test driving the new Kith Sunstorm and deciding where it should go on the show’s ’Funky Board’. Fellow presenter O’Reilley will also be looking at the latest quark-drives, and later on, guest celebrity Garfield Lemper will experience the punishing escape velocity of the Umbriel Slipstream.

The TARDIS materialises on the Station and Lucie rebukes the Doctor for being a really poor date - as far as she’s concerned, this sort of exhibition only appeals to middle aged single men having mid-life crises. The Doctor assures her these aren’t just any old spaceships - they’re the latest, sleekest, fastest spaceships ever constructed. In any case, the Doctor says he had his mid-life crisis centuries ago. He spots some hyperion boosters and rushes over to them excitedly. At least Lucie’s prepared to accept that these are “proper” spaceships rather than a shed like the TARDIS. The Doctor is offended and she takes that as proof that he has a classic inferiority complex.

On a nearby TV screen, Lucie spots a presenter with a bald patch and wearing tight jeans who, according to the Doctor’s brochure, is the “outspoken columnist and media personality” Geoffrey Vantage. The presenters of “Max Warp” proudly will be joining Timbo live throughout his test drive of the Kith Sunstorm via a sat-com link. Geoffrey calls Timbo and he says he’s just firing up the boosters now. Geoffrey asks him for his first impressions and Timbo says he’s getting a strong g-force despite the residual dampeners, so the ship is definitely not one for the little old ladies. O’Reilley launches into a speech about the fascinating vector generators, but Geoffrey interrupts and tells him to shut up. Timbo says the power steering is a bit of a swine too and he’s having to compensate for drag as he shifts the ship into orbit around the first moon. Geoffrey dismisses it as typical Kith design - it looks like a brick and steers like a shopping trolley. O’Reilley warns his colleague about his lack of political correctness, but Geoffrey doesn’t care about that and says there’s only one word for Kith design - godawful.

Suddenly Timbo reports that he’s having some difficulties with the flight computer and has been locked out. The Doctor, who’s watching on the TV, seems genuinely concerned. He tells Lucie the Sumstorm‘s orbital path is too sheer and the pilot won’t be able to recover. Geoffrey calls to Timbo, but his colleague says he’s nose-diving into the moon and the controls aren’t responding. Timbo screams to Geoff to help - but it’s too late and there’s nothing anyone can do. The video link to the Sunstorm cuts out and Geoffrey addresses the audience and says there seems to have been some sort of accident. Lucie is in shock and can’t believe she’s just seen someone crash into a moon, but the Doctor is certain of one thing. What they’ve just seen was no accident.

When the Doctor and Lucie explain that they’re investigators here on special attachment, Security Officer Judd Gilbride agrees to meet them. The Doctor produces credentials which gives them both platinum rank clearance, but he refuses to reveal who assigned them to this job. He says he could tell her, but then he’d have to erase her memory afterwards. In fact, he says he may already have done that. Gilbride says she’s guessing it’s not a coincidence that they’re here during the Presidential visit, but the Doctor says he couldn’t possibly comment. Gilbride says that even though they’ve raised the security protocols for the visit, she can’t find any record of the Doctor and Lucie arriving. The Doctor says they like to keep their movements confidential, but he’s interested to learn that Gilbride is normally able to keep track of all the comings and goings. She assures him that nobody can enter or leave the Station without her knowing about it. She asks what he’s investigating and he tells her it’s a murder!

Geoffrey Vantage broadcasts to the fans and tells them the death of young Timbo is a total tragedy and everyone on the “Max Warp” programme is truly devastated. Personally he feels as though he’s had one of his own arms hacked off with a rusty chainsaw, but at least they can take comfort from the fact that Timbo died doing what he loved doing - driving at high speed in a reckless manner. The Kith Ambassador has also extended empathies to the co genitors of the deceased on behalf of the entire Kith Oligarchy, but Geoffrey points out that Timbo would still be alive today if the Kith Sunstorm had been space worthy. The Ambassador insists that their technology is incapable of malfunctioning and the only explanation they can offer is that the ship was deliberately sabotaged by their enemies.

President Varlon switches off her TV set furiously, convinced that between them, Geoffrey and the Ambassador are trying to start another war. The door opens and a huge robot enters, but Varlon is surprised to see that it’s not her usual Spindroid. The robot explains that its predecessor has been recalled for an upgrade but it assures her its own functions are actually superior in many respects. Varlon checks that its been fully briefed, then asks for an update. The Spindroid reveals that her approval ratings are down 14 points and 61% of the public believe the Kith Oligarchy is responsible for the death of Timbo. The public are foaming at the mouth and the Spindroid suggests that immediate and devastating military reprisals against the Kith will improve her ratings by 20%. She asks for alternative options - ones that don’t involve her throwing away her political career - but they’re interrupted by the arrival of Judd Gilbride with the Doctor and Lucie.

The Doctor introduces himself and says they’ve been assigned to investigate the recent ‘accident‘, but adds that they believe Timbo was murdered. Varlon asks her Spindroid for an analysis of this development and the robot tells her that if she announces a formal investigation, her approval rating will improve by 4% (especially if she’s wearing her dark blue suit at the time). The President warns the Doctor that the political relationship with the Kith is delicate and she doesn’t care who he finds guilty at the end of his investigation, so long as it’s not the Kith. Lucie asks who the Kith are, and the Doctor hastily explains that she had her memory erased for legal reasons after their last case. The President tells her the Kith are a highly evolved sponge-like race from the neighbouring system. The Varlon Empire was at war with the Kith and both races were nearly wiped out until a treaty was signed 20 years ago. There are still people on both sides who hold grudges and according to her Spindroid, the Varlon public would prefer a President who declared war with the Kith at the slightest provocation, so it’s proving very difficult for her to maintain the peace. The Inter-G Cruiser Show is an attempt to show that the two races can work together and set aside their differences, but now it seems someone or something is trying to reopen old wounds and start another galactic war!

Lucie notes that the President seemed to do everything the shiny robot told her to do. The Doctor agrees and says Spindroids are full of interesting opinions, but you have to take them with a pinch of salt as they’re notoriously flighty. He tells her Stage 1 of their investigation will be gathering evidence, but when he says he’s looking for signs of sabotage Gilbride says this would’ve been impossible as access to all prototype spacecraft is prohibited and no one can go anywhere near them without her knowing about it. She’s sure no one went near the Sunstorm, but she offers to double-check anyway. When she leaves, Lucie names Gilbride as her number one suspect on the grounds that she had the means to break into the ship and cut the break cables. The Doctor isn’t sure that’s sufficient evidence (especially as spaceships don’t have brake cables) so Lucie suggests instead that it might be the President, trying to start a war and improve her ratings with the voters. The Doctor reminds her that Varlon would only do what her Spindroid told her to do, so Lucie begins to suspect the Spindroid itself. The Doctor plays back a recording of Timbo’s crash and says he can’t help thinking they’re missing something really elementary. They listen as Geoffrey Vantage calls Timbo ’the Ferret’ and Lucie wonders if the word might contain some form of computer virus that causes ships to crash. Lucie knows she’s not making any sense and blames it on a hissing noise that‘s distracting her. The Doctor tries to filter the noise out of the recording, but then they discover the hissing isn’t coming from the tape. Lucie begins to pass out and the Doctor realises they’re being gassed. He calls for her to wake up…

…Later, the Doctor calls for Lucie to wake up. He tells her they were both knocked unconscious and now they appear to be in the cockpit of a spaceship. He identifies it as an Epsilon Nova 90 and activates the forward scanner. The ship is heading on a collision course for a moon - just like what happened to Timbo - and the Doctor tells Lucie her there are no escape pods, no lifeboats and no parachutes. He frantically tries to override the computer, but the course is locked in and they can’t change it. Lucie calls out the word ’ferret’ in the hope that it might give them control of the ship and when that fails she tries the name of every kind of vermin she can think of. The Doctor tells her to hold on tight as they get closer and closer to the moon - but just as they crash into it, all the lights come on and they realise they’re still alive. A computer voice tells them they’ve crashed into the fourth moon of Sirius Alpha and the ship has been completely destroyed. They have therefore failed their driving test. The simulation ends and the Doctor and Lucie emerge to find they’re still on the Station. The Doctor explains they’ve been inside a flight simulator and tries to pretend that he knew all along, but Lucie isn’t fooled. This must be where the pilots were trained during the war. The question now is why would anyone go to the trouble of gassing them and leave them in a flight simulator? The Doctor suspects this is somebody’s idea of a clue. The next step in their investigation is Stage 2 - interviewing suspects!

The Doctor and Lucie meet the Kith Ambassador and ask him where he was at the time of Timbo’s death. The Ambassador is outraged at being accused of murder, but the Doctor assures him he’s already under strict instructions to find him not guilty so he suggests the Ambassador just point the finger at someone else and they can move on. The Ambassador says the Kith Oligarchy has many enemies amongst the Varlon who’d like to see the peace process fail, but he refutes Lucie’s suggestion that there are probably some on his side who feel the same way. Although the Kith home system was almost obliterated during the war, the Ambassador claims they held their ultimate weapons in reserve and he’s confident they would never have been defeated. However, they paid a terrible price and he personally lost all four of his pre genitors, but he says this is why the Kith are so keen to cooperate with President Varlon and put the past behind them.

Gilbride reports back to the Doctor and confirms that an exclusion bubble had been placed around the Kith Sunstorm and their scans show that no one at all went anywhere near it. The scanners detect heat, electricity, radiation and it would be impossible for anyone - even a robot - to tamper with them without her knowing. She’s satisfied there was no sabotage and believes the Kith always intended the spaceship to crash in an attempt to provoke the Varlon into war. She says that despite their talk about reconciliation, the Kith have a thousand-strong battle fleet while the Varlon Empire has nothing. If there was a war now, the Varlon would be annihilated, so no one here would provoke a war unless they wanted to get everyone killed. Gilbride leaves and the Doctor tells Lucie it’s time for Stage 3 - going undercover!

The Kith Ambassador contacts the Oligarch back on his homeworld. He tells his leader that he’s been monitoring the Varlon vidi-news and public opinion suggests the people hold the Kith responsible for the death of Timbo and are calling for military action to be taken against them. The Oligarch says the President has given him her personal assurances, but the Ambassador says the Varlon don’t share the Kith’s enlightened system of government and if the President doesn’t achieve public support, she’ll be replaced by one that does. He believes democracy is an erratic and spurious system and it’s his opinion that the Kith have no choice now but to put their battle fleet on imminent conflict alert.

Geoffrey Vantage introduces the latest edition of the “Max Warp” programme and reviews the Magellan Danube 4000 - a man’s spaceship, literally fuelled by testosterone and not suitable for shandy drinkers. He tells the viewers to listen to the throb of the ellipse converters and says this ship screams out to the ladies to bring a toothbrush and a spare pair of knickers. On the other hand, his fellow presenter O’Reilley introduces the superb Nebular Toscanini, a ship for the more discerning customer. It has the latest in gamma burst regulators and a detachable soft top for maximum class, efficiency and sophistication. Guest presenter Lucie Miller then introduces the Freefall Sunstriker, which has the same engine as the Moonstalk, but at a fraction of the cost. Suddenly Geoffrey steps in and stops the recording, saying the programme just doesn’t sound right with a girl presenter. O’Reilley reminds him it was the producers who’d sent them a new presenter - Miss Lucie Vauxhall Nova - because they wanted to broaden the programme’s appeal. Geoffrey insists this show is watched by blokes throughout the Seven Galaxies and the last thing they need is to broaden their appeal, particularly with a female of the weaker gender. Lucie insists that she knows a bit about spaceship and reels off some vague references to hyperion boosters, but it’s clear she’s making it up and Geoffrey dismisses her as someone at the mercy of her hormones. Lucie retaliates by pointing out that he’s too old to be wearing jeans. Geoffrey says they can’t have a woman on the programme - they’ll be looking at the latest in atmospheric re-entry shielding and she’ll be wanting to talk about her emotional problems, then before you know it the programme will be all about shoes.

Nevertheless, the producers have insisted on Lucie joining the team and if the others refuse to accept her, they’ll be out of a job, so Geoffrey reluctantly agrees that she can’t do too much harm if they put her next to the ’Funky Board’. He tells her to stand by the board, smile and stick out her bits while he gives her the ground rules. Rule 1: she’s a woman so there’ll be no driving. He says everyone knows what women are like - one minute they’ll be checking their lipstick in the mirror, the next they’ve reversed into an asteroid belt and knackered the clutch. He says it’s a scientific fact that men don’t get into accidents because they don’t have the ‘accident chromosome‘. Lucie reminds him about Timbo, but Geoffrey says that wasn’t an accident it was a deliberate Kith death-trap. Rule 2: she’s not allowed to give opinions. He doesn’t want her putting a ship on the ’Funky Board’ just because it’s a nice colour and it matches her handbag. Rule 3: no matter what happens, Geoffrey is to get the last word because this is his show and he refuses to be upstaged by a girl. Lucie agrees, so they begin recording again. This time, Geoffrey introduces viewers to the Skythros Warpshock and asks whether it‘s the last word in super luminary style or the last word in looking like a total Morok. O’Reilley says he’ll be putting the new Thorndon 90 through her paces and asking whatever happened to the old Cobra Mark Three? Then Geoffrey goes to introduce Lucie, but he stops the recording again and says it’s still not working because she doesn‘t look dumb enough.

As the main Exhibition Hall prepares to close for the night, President Varlon summons the Doctor and asks if he’s found the murderer yet. He explains that these things take time and you can’t just point the finger of blame at the first person who looks a bit shifty. She thinks that’s a pity as her Spindroid says her approval rating has sunk through the floor, the opposition is calling for her impeachment and there’s even been rioting on the outer colonies. The Doctor wonders why the Spindroid isn’t by her side during a time of such crisis and Varlon tells him it’s probably recharging because she keeps forgetting to switch it off at night. She calls the Spindroid to the Presidential Suite, but gets no response. The Doctor is concerned and tells Varlon he thinks there’s about to be another murder!

After the recording, O’Reilley tells Lucie not to take the things Geoffrey said about her too seriously as he puts on a lot of the blokey stuff for the cameras. In fact, he thinks Geoffrey quite likes her because he’s normally much more patronising. The three of them go to a bar and Geoffrey buys a round of drinks for everyone. He grudgingly welcomes Lucie to the show and O’Reilley asks her how she feels stepping into a dead man’s shoes. Geoffrey is sure she’ll last longer than the last one and she just needs to get a few more shows under her belt. It turns out Timbo had only joined the team about three months ago and he was assigned to the programme the same way that Lucie was, courtesy of a memo from the producers. They’d never heard of him before and he had no TV experience, but he knew everything there was about spaceships. Lucie asks whether they were suspicious about him turning up out of the blue, but Geoffrey says he seemed nice enough and was certainly enthusiastic. Lucie asks if they know any reason why someone would want to kill Timbo, but O’Reilley says most of the death threats they receive are for Geoffrey and come from feminists, environmental campaigners, animal welfare activists etc. Lucie asks Geoffrey how he got into presenting as he’s not really the media type. He says he used to be a pilot during the war and flew experimental star-jets and tested the latest weapons systems. He didn’t actually do any fighting, but sometimes he wishes he did. He was considered too important to the research effort to be sent with the others into the mindless slaughter and that’s why he’s still alive today. Lucie realises there’s no love lost between him and the Kith. Geoffrey says if the war had lasted another few weeks, they would’ve had victory, but instead they have to pay the Kith compensation and apologise for their heroes. He says they can’t even speak their minds without causing offence and asks if that’s what their boys died for? He believes all this talk about peaceful cooperation with the Kith is a joke. Lucie wonders if he’d like to see the war start again, but he says he remembers seeing a tide of flame sweeping across the surface of a planet - and there’s no way he’d want to put anyone through that again. He tells her it’s been a long day and he’s still upset about Timbo so he decides to go back to the hotel, but before he leaves he warns her that O’Reilley will probably try to chat her up by talking about catalytic filtration systems. O’Reilley returns with another round of drinks and seeing Lucie alone, he asks what she thinks about catalytic filtration systems.

The Doctor descends into the lower levels and calls out for the President’s Spindroid. He’s surprised to find Judd Gilbride is already there, apparently hiding in the shadows. She asks what he’s doing here as this is a restricted area and when he tells her the Spindroid has mysteriously gone missing, she says this isn’t the first time it’s happened. They soon stumble across a pile of bits and pieces and the Doctor identifies it as all that’s left of the President’s Spindroid.

Lucie and O’Reilley return to their hotel and he continues his rather tedious discussion about quark drives and plasma outfits. The lift arrives at Lucie’s floor and she hastily says goodbye, but he tells her they’re both on the same floor and he resists all her attempts to get rid of him. Eventually he plucks up the courage to invite her back to his hotel room, but she turns down the offer. Suddenly the hear a loud noise like a gun shot coming from the next room and O’Reilley makes a feeble excuse to leave. Lucie is left to investigate on her own and as she approaches the next door, she hears the Kith Ambassador calling out for help. She joins him inside and finds the room in complete darkness. The Ambassador claims that someone tried to assassinate him and points to a nearby scorch mark on the wall where a laser beam apparently just missed him. Lucie hears a strange noise that she thinks she recognises, then moments later, the Doctor and Judd Gilbride arrive. Lucie tells them what happened and Gilbride arranges to check the nearby corridors and get a security lockdown. The Kith Ambassador tells the Doctor he’d just returned to his suite and switched off the illuminations in readiness to enter his spore cycle, but as soon as he began to phosphoresce, someone burst in and attempted to shoot him in cold blood. It seems like he had a narrow escape, but the Doctor is curious about something. Gilbride returns and says there’s no sign of any intruders and the security cameras have all be deactivated. The Doctor asks her to look after the Ambassador and says he now knows what the murderer plans to do next…

As the Doctor and Lucie leave, she tells him she thought she heard the President’s Spindroid while she was in the Kith Ambassador’s room, but he tells her he found the robot in several small pieces a while ago and someone has made sure it won’t be giving any polling results ever again! The Doctor points out that if the Kith Ambassador was beginning his phosphorescent stage inside his protein replenishment tank at the time of the attack he would have been glowing bright green. As the room was completely dark, the assassin would have had an easy target - so why did he fire at the lamp fittings instead? Lucie suspects the Ambassador must have faked the attempt, but before they can discuss it further they arrive at the “Max Warp” TV studio. Lucie has her own pass key and the Doctor says they should hurry as they have a real murder to prevent…

President Varlon urges the Kith Ambassador to reconsider and says they both have too much invested in this event to abandon it now. The Ambassador insists that he has no option but to remove himself from danger and even wonders whether she herself may have been behind the assassination attempt. He demands that his star schooner be prepared and made ready for launch by the time he gets there. The Ambassador then contacts the Kith Oligarch and tells him he has desperate news. He declares that the Varlon are trying to kill him and requests the immediate dispatch of the Kith battle fleet…

Lucie asks the Doctor what he’s looking for, but he’ll only say that he’ll recognise it when he finds it. He asks if she noticed anything while she was here and she tells him O’Reilley smells of loft insulation and Geoffrey was wearing foundation. He clarifies that he meant did she notice anything suspicious. The Doctor stops in his tracks and is horrified to discover the programme makers have put the Umbriel Slipstream in the ‘unfunky’ section! Don’t they have any idea about spaceships? On a point of principle he moves the ship to the ’Funky Board’. The Doctor returns to business and starts to examine the vid-cameras, the autocue and the sat-com link interface, but he’s so focused on what he’s doing that he fails to hear a noise behind him. Suddenly laser shots fire out and the Doctor and Lucie dive for cover. The Doctor orders Lucie to get out and not worry about him, so she races from the studio, dodging laser bolts as she goes…

Once again, President Varlon urges the Kith Ambassador to reconsider, but he tells her his decision is final and says he’s returning to the Oligarchy. He even refuses her offer of a safe escort and says the Kith’s own battle fleet will be coming to collect him. The President is horrified when Gilbride informs that the Kith have already crossed the exclusion perimeter of the Sirius System and there are literally thousands of ships! As the Ambassador’s star-schooner leaves the docking bay, the door bursts open and Lucie races in, begging for help. She tells the President and Gilbride that the Doctor is trapped in the TV studio and someone is trying to kill him, but they tell her it’ll have to wait as they have an entire battle fleet closing in on them. They watch the Ambassador’s schooner heading away from the Station, but then an alarm sounds. Gilbride reports that the ship is ejecting its super-saturated plasma fuel supply. The Ambassador contacts them and says his ship has been sabotaged and the controls have locked. He tries to engage his warp drive but Gilbride warns him that’ll ignite the plasma fuel and cause an explosion. They suddenly lose contact with the Ambassador’s ship and Gilbride reports that it’s disintegrated. The President realises this means the end of any hope for peace. Lucie realises the saboteur must be the same person who was responsible for Timbo’s death, but the Kith are bound to interpret this as an act of war.

Lucie returns to the “Max Warp” studio and calls for the Doctor. She’s surprised to find O‘Reilley there and asks what he’s doing. He claims that he couldn’t sleep and came back to finish some work on a report there were doing, so she asks if this means he’s only been here a few minutes. Another alarm sounds and O’Reilley identifies it as a battle readiness alert, which can mean only one thing - they’re at war!

A loudspeaker announcement is broadcast around the Sirius Exhibition Station warning all personnel to go immediately to their defensive positions as there’s an imminent attack alert. Members of the public are politely advised to remain calm as everything is under control.

The Kith Oligarch contacts President Varlon and says that due to the murder of their Ambassador, they have no alternative but to take military reprisals. Varlon pleads with the Oligarch to listen, but the creature insists that the entire Station and all its inhabitants will be summarily annihilated. He gives them five minutes to make whatever legal or religious arrangements they need. Lucie returns and is shocked to see just how many spaceships are approaching. She says the Doctor seems to have disappeared and the President is resigned to the fact that they have no hope. She tells Gilbride to activate their Requiem procedures, but just then the Doctor arrives and tells them to wait. He uses the communications system to call the Kith Oligarch and orders him to immediately power down every ship in their fleet. He says that when he opened the sat-com link he automatically transmitted a computer virus that’s infected every one of their flight computers. The Oligarch laughs, but the Doctor says he can easily put it to the test, but he wouldn’t recommend it as the slightest move will send them crashing into the nearest moon. The Oligarch receives a report from his Kith technicians claiming their flight computers have started reprogramming themselves and all their control systems are locked. Reluctantly, he orders his ships to disengage their power supplies, then he closes the sat-com link.

On the screen, Varlon and the others can see that the whole battle fleet is now motionless. The Doctor says that if they so much as switch their flight computers back on, they’re dead. Varlon realises the Kith are defenceless and this presents her with a choice. She can either wipe out the entire Kith race - which would, of course, increase her approval rating dramatically and guarantee her the next election and probably the one after that - or she can send them help. The Doctor challenges her to make a decision and when the President asks for a moment to consider her options, he mocks her for being unable to do anything without her precious Spindroid. After a brief pause, Varlon tells her security officer to send recovery ships to the battle fleet immediately and offer full medical assistance, adding that no Kith are to be harmed. Gilbride leaves to carry out her orders and the Doctor tells Varlon that the best way to win a war is not to start it in the first place. On the other hand, Varlon says she’s probably just committed political suicide. Lucie asks the Doctor how he knew about the computer virus and he asks Varlon for permission to gather all the suspects together…

Later, the Doctor addresses President Varlon, Security Officer Gilbride, Geoffrey Vantage and O’Reilley. He tells them the computer virus was the murderer’s plan all along. It was a trap and somebody intended to lure the Kith battle fleet here in order to destroy it. He says it was a masterpiece of programming, but it was untested in the field so the killer needed a guinea pig. Lucie realises Timbo was just an innocent victim, but the Doctor says Timbo wasn’t innocent, nor was he just the presenter of a TV motor show. He was an undercover Kith agent sent to investigate someone who the Kith suspected of acting against them. Someone with unfinished business, who had access to the new viral weaponry developed during the last days of the war. None other than outspoken columnist and media personality Geoffrey Vantage!

Geoffrey laughs and says he’s find this all utterly hilarious, but the Doctor reveals that when Timbo somehow gave himself away, Geoffrey decided to make him his first victim. He contacted him via a sat-com link and transmitted the virus into his ship. Once he knew the virus worked, all he had to do was scare the Kith Ambassador into leaving, establish a sat-com link with his ship and cause another fatal accident. Then, when the Kith battle fleet arrived, he would cause them all to plunge into the nearest moon too. But the Doctor tells him the whole affair was based on a false premise. He and Lucie came here to investigate a murder when no murder had actually taken place. What Geoffrey didn’t realise was that Timbo knew he was living on borrowed time, so he put himself out of harm’s way by faking his own death. He was never on board that spaceship when it crashed. He reminds Gilbride that her scans showed no one had gone near the Sunstorm, when they should have shown at least one person in the area - Timbo. As he was a Kith agent, he could easily pilot the Sunstorm by remote control while sitting safe and sound inside one of the flight simulators.

O’Reilley asks what happened to Timbo and the Doctor explains that he adopted a disguise - one that would allow him to get close to the President to protect her and make sure she did nothing rash. The Doctor summons the President’s Spindroid and reminds her it was a replacement for her original advisor. He removes the robot’s head to reveal Timbo underneath. When Timbo learned that two investigators had been called to look into the circumstances of his death, he gave them a clue - which is why the Doctor and Lucie were gassed and placed in the flight simulator. Timbo accuses Geoffrey of murdering the Kith Ambassador and Geoffrey whips out his laser pistol and starts to back away. The Doctor tells him he can’t win, but Geoffrey takes the President hostage and orders everyone to stay back. He begins a rant about how boring it’s been presenting a motoring programme for middle aged men and working alongside O’Reilley, a man whose idea of an interesting conversation is gravitic thrust converters. He says he’s finally had enough and backs out of the room, taking his hostage with him.

Geoffrey tells the President he has a Magellan Danube 4000 waiting for him in the docking court, all fuelled up and ready to go, but first he wants her to give the order to destroy the Kith battle fleet. Varlon stands firm and tells him she’d rather die than be responsible for the death of a single innocent. Geoffrey accuses her of turning into a bleeding-heart liberal, but suddenly a weapon fires and Geoffrey drops his pistol. The Kith Ambassador stands before him, very much alive and obviously having faked his own death too. When Geoffrey surrenders, the Ambassador tells the Doctor and Lucie that it’s safe to come out now. The Doctor reveals that when he discovered what Geoffrey had planned, he spoke to the Ambassador and made sure he was also in a flight simulator instead of his spaceship. Geoffrey begins another rant about the Kith and swears vengeance for the millions of good people who died because of them. He planned to destroy their entire race to prevent another war because he never wanted anyone to go through that again. O’Reilley joins them and becomes so angered by Geoffrey’s politically incorrect posturing that he tells his former colleague to shut up. For ten years he’s had to put up with Geoffrey’s whining about do-gooders, and now he’s determined to have the last word for a change. With a smile on his face, he orders Timbo to take Geoffrey away.

In front of a crowd of cheering fans, O’Reilley introduces a brand new edition of the “Max Warp” programme. In this week’s show they’re going to be putting the new hydrogen fuel feed filtration converter through its paces, comparing different types of luggage rack, exploring the history of the humble traffic bollard, taking a vote on residual dampeners and presenting the top ten tips for caravan holidays.

Lucie is convinced that O’Reilley is going to get the programme axed, and although the Doctor thinks people might actually grow to like the show if it’s actually about spaceships, he eventually agrees with her. Of course it would have been difficult to keep the programme going as it was, what with Geoffrey in prison. Lucie is worried about President Varlon as she’s hardly the hero of the hour, but the Doctor spots her being interviewed on the TV News. The interviewer asks her whether it’s true she could have destroyed the Kith fleet but Varlon points out that relations between their people and the Kith have never been friendlier. Also, following the success of the Inter-G Cruiser Show, they intend to cooperate on further initiatives. The Kith Oligarch reiterates his commitment to the peace process and says that by way of demonstration, he’s prepared to make a substantial financial investment in the Varlon Empire. The President adds that as a result of this new arrangement, her government will be abolishing all forms of income tax with immediate effect. The Doctor thinks she’s going to be fine and says it‘s amazing how effective politicians can be once they‘ve stopped listening to their Spindroids! He adds that he loves a good murder mystery and you could never get a better twist in the tale than the revelation that no one actually died. Lucie says it’s all very well having sleek and powerful spaceships with hyperion boosters, but she’s decided she prefers the TARDIS after all. It can go anywhere in time and space, it’s bigger on the inside, but the thing she likes most about it is it’s a really nice shade of blue.

Source: Lee Rogers
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