4th Doctor
Empathy Games
by Nigel Fairs

Cover Blurb
12.Empathy Games
Written and Directed by Nigel Fairs
Sound Design and Music by Nigel Fairs

The present: Leela is doomed, trapped inside a prison cell of a dead race.

The past: After a disaster aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Leela arrive at the capital city of Synchronis, a world renowned for peace and civility. But an attack by a vicious creature leaves the Doctor in a coma, and Leela is persuaded to fight in the forthcoming Empathy Games, where she discovers that nothing on this world is as it seems.

  • Read by Louise Jameson as Leela and featuring David Warner as Co-ordinator Angell.

    Time-Placement: The linking scenes take place immediately after The Catalyst. The CD cover states that the bulk of the story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock.

  • Released: November 2008
    ISBN: 978 1 84435 353 8
Episode One
(drn: 33'39")

Leela knows she’ll die very shortly, but she’s not afraid. She’s still in the Z’nai prison where she was being questioned - but now the interrogator lays dead at her feet, deliberately infected by the virus she was carrying. At first there was singing and rejoicing from her fellow prisoners, but soon they realised they’d been abandoned and forgotten, and their joy turned to despair. Now there’s nothing but silence. The machines that were designed to torture them are now keeping them alive and they’ve been imprisoned for weeks, months, perhaps even years. Their blessing has become a curse and Leela is too old and frail to break her bonds. She doesn’t fear death - she aches for it!

Leela hears a lone voice crying and she tries to comfort her fellow prisoner. She says she has many stories she can tell, some of them passed down through generations of the Sevateem and others she’s experienced herself. She tells the crying girl about the only time she ever saw the Doctor truly afraid…

The TARDIS was burning. Flames rose from the console in the wood-panelled control room and the fire soon became uncontrollable. As the ceiling started to crash in around him, the Doctor was temporarily paralysed and Leela had to pull him through the smoke. Quickly composing himself, he activated a control on the console, then they ran out just seconds before a loud roar filled the room. In the safety of the corridor outside, the Doctor explained that he’d removed the oxygen from the control room to suffocate the fire. She saw the fear in his eyes and he told her he’d once seen a whole planet burn, an entire civilisation literally going up in smoke. There was death on an almost inconceivable scale and he was powerless to stop it. They returned to the wooden control room and found it had been completely destroyed. As they’d landed, the Doctor suggested they go out to get some fresh air. Leela was worried about the TARDIS, but he laughed and said there were plenty of other control rooms.

Outside they found themselves dazzled by bright sunshine. They were in a large square with a bustling market place. The place was alive with sound and movement, and small glowing lights danced like insects above hundreds of people. Leela noticed immediately that everyone looked happy and it seemed so unnatural that she didn’t feel safe. All the traders had blue skin and they were handling a range of items including exotic fruits, creatures and birds, shining alien stones, paintings, cloths and even weapons. Leela pointed to what she thought was a totem pole, but the Doctor said it was more likely to be modern art. It was made of metal and on top there were three globes connected by winding tubes. The Doctor suddenly declared with delight that they were in Synchronis, the capital city of the planet Paxus Majoritus. He said he’d always wanted to come here, but as a protected world visitors weren’t allowed.

Synchronis was a place where there was no war, no hunger and no poverty, just peace, harmony and magnificent architecture. Towering above them was the Palace of Inner Tranquillity, its gleaming golden roof just visible through the clouds. The Doctor pointed Leela to the Waters of Empathy, which he said was one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. Above the city, the entire sky was moving and was streaked with colour, like a waterfall going upwards, and the clouds were enormous balls of foam. The Doctor said it was the largest water sculpture ever constructed. In the distance they could see large dark structures, which he said were the Buildings of Stability that contained the massive gravitational devices that kept the water up. Leela argued that the Waters of Empathy shouldn’t quality as one of the Wonders of the Universe as they weren’t natural.

As an alarm rang out across the marketplace, the people abandoned their stalls and calmly entered the buildings without a word. Soon, the square was empty and the Doctor and Leela appeared to be alone, but then Leela sensed there was “something” moving nearby. Suddenly a creature leapt out of the shadows and knocked the Doctor to the ground. It was half his size, but had muscular arms, sharp claws and a dirty, hairless head. It tore into the Doctor’s flesh, but Leela jumped on its back and pulled it away before it had a chance to bite. Leela and the creature fought violently, but then she found herself being distracted by a young child who was watching them from an upper window. The creature resumed its attack and Leela felt one of her bones begin to crack…

Leela woke up in a large room above the marketplace with white walls and an open window. Her neck was supported by soft pillows and she felt unusually calm and at peace. She realised there was something different about her, as if something within her had changed. A tall man with a white beard told her he’d confiscated her knife as weapons aren’t allowed within the city boundaries, and when she said she’d seen weapons being exchanged in the market, he told her they were just ornamental. He introduced himself as Co-ordinator Angell and told her she was inside the Palace of Tranquillity. He said her friend was recovering in another room and when Leela insisted on seeing him, she discovered she was being restrained by straps. As she struggled, she felt a sudden pain in the back of her head and realised she was still attached to medical equipment. Angell told her she’d put up quite a fight in the square, which surprised him as she didn’t look like a Cathartic. She demanded to be released and he promised her recovery would be given top priority. Then he added that if what he’d heard about her was true, then he might have a little job for her…

Leela went back to sleep and woke up again to find the room in darkness. She still felt as if something was missing, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She discovered she was no longer restrained, so he got up and started exploring. The door opened to reveal a small girl with blue skin and black hair holding a tray. When the girl said she was an orderly, Leela tried to force her to take her to the Doctor’s room - but the girl overpowered her and pinned her to the ground. The girl revealed that she was a Cathartic and promised to let Leela go if she behaved, but Leela tricked her and knocked her unconscious with the tray.

Leela found the Doctor restrained on a bed with three large globes were connected to the back of his head by a tube. Remembering the pain she’d felt earlier, she realised she too must have been connected to such a device. She tried to wake the Doctor up, but he didn’t respond. His skin was ice cold and she could see he wasn’t breathing. Convinced the Doctor was dead, she followed the custom in the Sevateem and guarded his body to protect it from evil spirits until the first hours of sunlight. She vowed that in the morning she’d hunt down his killers and enact a bloody revenge.

When Co-ordinator Angell arrived, he found Leela still beside the Doctor’s body. He assured her the Doctor was still alive and that they hadn’t done anything to him except provide basic medication. In fact, the Doctor appeared to be in a self-induced coma and it had their medical team baffled. Just then, the Doctor’s face hardened and his hair when white. Angell said he’d heard what Leela did to the orderly and he was beginning to think she was quite a catch. He invited her back to his suite and when she refused, he pulled a gun on her. She reminded him that weapons weren’t allowed, but he said that as Co-ordinator he made the rules and was allowed to break them. She challenged him to shoot her if he had the courage, but he revealed that he wanted her to represent him at the Empathy Games and battle the city’s rodents. The training was due to begin shortly and he hoped the Doctor would be fully recovered by then.

After Angell left, Leela was sure she heard the Doctor’s voice inside her head telling her to be patient and to wait for him. But six days later, his condition hadn’t improved and Leela was actually becoming bored. Every day was the same and she’d sit with the Doctor and eat from a tray brought to her by the blue skinned orderly she attacked earlier. The girl bore Leela no malice and introduced herself as Bacora Kitraan, the eldest of three sisters who all worked here at the Palace. On the seventh day, Leela told Bacora she’d refused Angell’s offer to represent him in the stadium and the girl was horrified as it was the greatest honour anyone could imagine. Leela asked about the rodents and Bacora said they were savages who lived in the tunnels under the city. Every year, during the Empathy Games, the entrance to the tunnels was opened and the Cathartics got a chance to wipe them out. There were thousands of them and every Cathartic could hunt as many as they wanted.

Eventually Leela agreed to take part and she joined Bacora in the stadium where the training took place. There were about 50 participants, all small and blue-skinned. Leela was convinced they’d all be killed during the Games, especially when she discovered how basic the training was. They hunted small animals and fought each other hand to hand, sometimes unarmed and sometimes with spears and knives. However, Leela soon learned that the Cathartics had the strength and skill to rival the best warriors of the Sevateem. The other participants all accepted Leela without question, despite the colour of her skin and her lack of knowledge of their customs.

On the final day of training, the participants were gathered next to a large pool of water, which was connected to a series of higher pools via narrow rivers. The water curled around them and Leela recognised it as the shape of the three globes she’d seen in the marketplace and in the Doctor’s room. Bacora told her it was the Helix of Synchronis, their sacred symbol for peace and prosperity. A flying vehicle approached from the sky and landed beside them, then Co-ordinator Angell emerged to a round of applause. He addressed the Cathartics and said he hoped these Empathy Games would be the most productive yet as he’d received reports of their courage and determination.

When he announced the start of the selection process, Bacora explained that this was when the rodents were assigned to each participant. The ground suddenly started to shake and the water at Leela’s feet flowed faster and glowed blue and orange. Leela felt as though she was being pulled downwards, and although she tried to move, she could do nothing to stop the water rising up and swallowing her…

Episode Two
(drn: 32'37")

Leela found herself standing in the same position, but everything was dark and she could see Bacora’s face twisted into a silent scream. All around her the Cathartics stood on their rocks, not moving. Leela heard Co-ordinator Angell’s voice inside her head, telling her to concentrate on finding her prey, and then she heard the sound of a nearby rodent. She could no longer feel the water around her or see Bacora and the other Cathartics. She was suddenly underground. When she lifted her own hand, she was surprised to see it covered in hair. At first she believed she’d been transformed into a rodent, but Angell told her she’d completed the telepathic link with one of her prey and she could now see through the rodent’s eyes and feel where it was hiding in the tunnels.

Leela didn’t know how many rodent’s mind she entered, nor did she understand how she was able to do it, but with each rodent she was able to see further inside their minds until she could actually feel not only their hunger, but their anger and their despair. Then as swiftly as she entered the shadow world, she left it. She found herself back with the other Cathartics, but now there was only half the original number of participants. All that remained of the other half were piles of smouldering ashes. Bacora explained that those people failed the selection and were driven mad by the water.

Angell declared that the selection was at an end and he congratulated the successful candidates, especially Leela as it meant his decision to choose her as his representative was a wise one. Leela was surprised to see that a huge crowd had appeared to cheer the Cathartics on. Leela and the other survivors stepped onto a metal pathway that carried them through the air towards a platform surrounded by rushing water. The crowd went silent and Angell addressed them, announcing the beginning of the Empathy Games.

The ground opened up below Leela and the Cathartics to reveal a huge dark cavern. The platform began to descend into the pit as the crowd cheered and clapped. They came to a rest deep underground in a small cave, then the roof slid back into place above them, shutting out all sunlight. The cave was lit by the strange red lights that danced in the air above them like insects. Tunnels led off in every direction and at each junction there was a pile of weapons. Leela was the first to arm herself, then the others collected weapons and ran off down the tunnels. Leela thought they should stick together and hunt as a pack, but it was too late. Bacora was about to follow them when her eyes suddenly went pale and her face froze. She started speaking but Leela couldn’t make any sense of her words. Then a rodent leapt out of the shadows and knocked Bacora to the ground. Co-ordinator Angell announced the first catch of the Games.

The rodent was about to plunge its teeth into Bacora’s neck when Leela grabbed a spear and flung it at the creature’s head. Angell said she’d made a foul move and awarded six penalty points to both Bacora and to Leela. Bacora refused Leela’s help and accused her of ruining her chance of having the first kill of the Games. She ran off down one of the tunnels and Leela took the opportunity to examine the dead rodent in more detail. This one seemed more human than the one she’d seen in the market, but as she studied it the creature began to transform and change it shape, becoming less human by the second. She was suddenly hit by the same sensation she’d felt back at the selection and she was aware that she was seeing through the eyes of another rodent - her first prey!

Through the eyes of the rodent she saw was herself approaching with a spear! They stared at each other and she saw that the rodent had started to take on a rough approximation of her own face. The rodent spoke to her, asking why she wouldn’t fight - and when Angell announced that they’d found a ’talker’, the audience applauded. The rodent challenged Leela and they fought hard, but eventually she manage to pin the creature to the ground and raised her spear, ready to deliver the fatal blow - but instead she threw it straight into the nearest dancing light, which exploded into a thousand pieces. The cave was plunged into darkness and the rodent asked Leela why she didn’t kill it. She explained that he wasn’t her enemy and it was the people who made them fight on their behalf who were really the enemy. Two more dancing lights floated into the cave and Co-ordinator Angell told Leela she’d made an illegal move and had therefore been eliminated from the Games. A blinding beam of light burst from one of the globes, but Leela managed to roll out of the way. She destroyed the light with the spear, then the rodent did the same to the second globe.

Leela told the rodent they should gather together an army and the creature led her to another cave with huge waterfalls on one side. Bacora was there, standing over the dead body of her fourth rodent kill. At first the dead creature had Bacora’s own face, but then it slowly returned to its normal animal-like state. Without warning the rodent accompanying Leela attacked her again, but Bacora stabbed it with her knife and it screamed in pain. Bacora waited for Leela to kill the creature, but once again she refused. Bacora was horrified at Leela and asked her why she agreed to be the Co-ordinator’s Champion if she wasn’t willing to fight. Leela said she’d been told the rodents were just vermin, but she’s discovered they can understand her words. Bacora says the ’talkers’ are freaks, but before she can explain further they hear the sound of a klaxon which indicates the Games have been terminated.

Bacora told Leela they’d be filling the caves with gas soon so she ran down a tunnel, followed by several other Cathartics and the rodents. Leela helped her own rodent to its feet, then she saw a massive wave of water knock Bacora off her feet and smash her into a wall. Leela saw her friend’s neck break and her lifeless body was washed away her on a wave. With no time to mourn her, Leela grabbed her rodent’s arm and let the wave carry both of them towards the waterfalls. Then, working together as one, they both swam towards the gaps in the rock, which then landed them painfully in the middle of the stadium.

The watching crowd screamed and panicked as rodents swarmed out of the caves. To Leela’s surprise, the Doctor was waiting for her, now fully recovered and with a smile on his face. The elderly Co-ordinator joined them and accused the Doctor of an act of sabotage. The Doctor denied this and said it was an accident as he was still numb from his coma and he must have tripped the wrong wire by mistake.

Suddenly large cracks began to appear in the ground and the Waters of Empathy roared angrily in the sky above them. The crowd began to run for their lives as a cold wind swept in through the entrance to the tunnels, knocking many of them off their feet. The Doctor explained that when he woke up, he saw the Games being shown on screens throughout the city and decided to rescue Leela. To do this, he disabled the dancing globes by modifying the city’s central nervous system with his sonic screwdriver.

Angell pulled out his gun to shoot the Doctor, but Leela’s rodent knocked it from his hand. Together, Leela and the rodent pinned the old man to the floor, but she had to hold the creature back when it looked like it was going to take a bite out of him. Angell still believed this was the end of their civilisation, but the Doctor insisted he could repair any damage back at the Buildings of Stability and the worst they could expect was a few un-seasonal rain showers. Angell pointed out that the rodents were now running riot and killing people, but the Doctor said the creatures were only scaring people. In fact, it seemed as though they were all heading in a particular direction and the only people getting hurt were those who got in their way.

The Doctor, Leela and the rodent led Angell in the direction of the Co-ordinator’s flying vehicle, but as they passed through a tunnel, the walls suddenly collapsed at both ends, trapping them inside - but as the dust settled, Leela discovered the Doctor was on the other side of the rock fall. He called out and told them he’d find some way of getting them out of there, but Angell was convinced he wasn’t coming back, so he ordered Leela to kill the rodent before it killed them. Leela refused and pointed out that the rodent was afraid, but Angell said that’s the reason it had to be killed. Moments later, the collapsed wall was knocked aside as the Doctor drove the Co-ordinator’s vehicle into the tunnel and freed them all.

As they headed for the Buildings of Stability, they could see the pools and rocks outside the stadium had disappeared beneath a lake of dark, bubbling water. Large cracks had appeared in the ground and water rose in jets of steam from deep inside. The streets were full of people running from building to building and the rodents were all heading towards the Palace of Tranquillity. The Doctor said he’d been in a self-induced coma due to an attack on his brain at a cellular level. When he woke up, he discovered that his fear of fire had literally been removed. Angell confirmed that this was why Synchronis was such a peaceful society - they remove the darkness from people’s minds and put it into the rodents instead. Leela realised she too had had her fear removed - and it had been transferred into her rodent!

Angell revealed that the rodents carried all his people’s diseased thoughts - their evil, guilt, fear and criminal impulses - and the annual Empathy Games was a means of purging their sins by wiping out the rodents. Suddenly, the flying vehicle tipped to one side. Acting on instinct, the rodent was trying to take them to the Palace where the other rodents were heading. The Doctor tried to open the door to the cockpit, but he vehicle fell from the sky and crashed into the steps at the bottom of the Palace. The group climbed out just in time to see the rodent joining the rest of its kind.

They followed it to an enormous room filled with machinery, which the rodents were destroying. The Doctor recognised the equipment of a transplantation factory, where the embryo rodents had the fears and dark thoughts of the people implanted into them. The three globes that formed the Helix of Synchronis were part of a brainwave distributor and the dancing globes were telepathic communication nodes. A rodent stumbled towards them and they saw that it had some of Angell’s own characteristics. The rodent revealed that what Angell really feared was the truth and the end of his power. Angell commanded Leela to kill the creature, but for a moment she saw through the rodent’s eyes and she too could sense the Co-ordinator’s fear. The rodent knew that Angell could have saved many of those that died today during the flood, but he chose not to, just in case the rodents survived too.

The Doctor finished working on the equipment, then the Helix started pulsating. The dancing lights filled the room and swarmed around the Helix, then there was an explosion and each of the lights spread out and landed on the rodents. Leela’s rodent walked towards her and they touched - then Leela felt all her pain and fear returning. The rodent collapsed into her arms and then its face changed back into its natural animal image. There was nothing left of Leela inside it.

Angell also held a rodent in his hands, its face at peace. The Co-ordinator said Synchronis had been destroyed, but the Doctor believed it was a new dawn for the city. He said their Games were a thing of the past and the people had a new race to share their world with - two new races if they included the Cathartics. Angell feared there would be chaos and that without the Games his people would become a race of evil, twisted savages, but the Doctor told him they had to learn to live with their darker sides. He said they should use their fears and conquer them, just as every other race does.

They went outside and saw that the waters had destroyed the Buildings of Stability and created a gleaming ocean, stretching to the horizon. This was the new Synchronis and the start of a new beginning… Leela finishes her story. She tells the crying prisoner that when she was a child, she saw her mother struck down while trying to protect her from a wild animal on Mount Kremnon. She held her as she died and then protected her body and soul until the first hours of sunlight. She told her stories, the same stories her mother had told her when she was younger. From that moment on, she never feared death, but she was still afraid to be alone. She says she has many other tales to tell, stories of a warrior who fought not with knives and crossbows, but with words, truth and honour. And one day, when she passes on to the next world, she’ll meet the Doctor again and they’ll face the new dawn together.

Source: Lee Rogers

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