The Devil in Ms. Wildthyme
by Stephen Cole
The Devil in Ms. Wildthyme
Written by Stephen Cole
Directed by Gary Russell
Post Production and Music by Joseph Fox

Katy Manning (Iris Wildthyme), Ortis Deley (Tom), David Benson (Panda), Michael Hobbs (Doctor Marwick), Lizzie Hopley (Alice Elbaum), Simon Guerrier (Spectres).

‘So in this adventure, we meet Dr Zachariah Marwick. Dear Tom finds out that he has started a special clinic for people with mysterious lumps -- but how come he knows exactly what they are before he’s even examined them? And why is he so insistent that his patients join an exclusive speed-dating club?

Trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme, meanwhile, is not herself. She’s scared of her own shadow, it seems. Indeed, she’s even afraid to leave her wretched bus. I, naturally, am terribly worried about her -- and about Tom as well. You see, he seems to have straw coming out of his head, like old stuffing. How can that be? And then they have the temerity to accuse me of getting all emotional about everything? Me! I ask you...

Anyway, together we three brave heroes must face demons from Iris’s past, as an outrageous presence begins to assert itself over reality -- one that seems to have been reading far more Dennis Wheatley than is strictly necessary.’

          - Panda (X)

  • This is the second audio in Big Finish's New Worlds series featuring Iris Wildthyme.
  • Released: November 2005

  • ISBN: 1 84435 165 3

Alice Elbaum has developed a cyst in her midriff, and she visits Dr Zachariah Marwick’s Harley Street practice after finding his flyer in her own doctor’s waiting room -- unsurprisingly, as the sinister Dr Marwick planted the flyer there himself. She thinks this will be a routine examination, but Marwick is upset to find that the cyst is hard and pointy, as he’d been expecting it to be soft and smooth. Alice also claims to be having weird dreams, and is surprised when Dr Marwick accurately describes the woman who’s been appearing in them. Marwick has been dreaming of the same woman, and is frustrated but not terribly surprised to learn that Iris Wildthyme has somehow gotten under his patient’s skin as well...

(drn: 65'57")

Tom and Panda are growing frustrated, as Iris had promised them wild and implausible adventures, but has since done nothing but pilot her double-decker bus through the Time Vortex while getting drunk and recapping the story so far. It’s difficult for her to do so, since her memories have gone, and all she has left are momentary flashes of light on her past, like little lucifers that keep flickering and going out. She eventually forces the bus to materialise against its will, but her stomach starts playing up and she must rush off to the loo -- rather like her former companion Jenny, who always used to get the runs when travelling through Time. Tom is disappointed to see that the bus has materialised in London, right back where they left; nevertheless, he agrees to visit a chemist’s to fetch some stomach medicine for Iris. Both he and Panda are feeling ill as well; Tom has a headache, and Panda, despite being a stuffed toy, seems to have developed a nasty case of heartburn.

As Tom searches for a chemist, he is confronted by Dr Marwick, who claims that Tom has a lump in his forehead. Insisting that Tom will find all the help he needs Down There, Marwick pushes Tom down a flight of stars into a bar called the ID club (short for Inner Demons). Tom falls at Alice Elbaum’s feet, and, dazed, compliments her fantastic ruby slippers. Alice is here attending a speed-dating service at Marwick’s insistence, but the club’s very few members all appear to be Marwick’s patients, and at least one of them has the same birthday as Alice. She gives up when her attempt to chat up Tom fails, concluding that Marwick must own stock in the club and that he sent his patients here to make up the numbers. She offers to show Tom to the nearest chemist’s, and as they leave, Tom realises that he does have a lump on his head and can hear faint, evil, whispering voices -- although this is hardly surprising, considering that he was just pushed down a flight of stairs.

As Iris complains about her amnesia and her upset stomach, Panda realises that he has acquired some of the memories that Iris lost -- including a sordid memory from her youthful, Jane-Fonda-esque incarnation, of a tawdry encounter with two hitch-hikers, both named Doug. Panda also recalls Iris’ former companion, Jenny, but for some reason, he pictures her as a sheep. Tom returns with Iris’ medicine, but they start to argue again, and Iris finally confesses that she returned to London deliberately in case she changed her mind and wanted to drop Tom back home again. She apologises, but then notes that they’ve been acting strangely since the crystal shattered; what if it was damaged beforehand, and something went wrong with the memory recordings? Noting that Tom does seem to have a rather large lump on his head, she takes him out to have it seen to. Panda is upset to be abandoned so cruelly; in fact, he seems to be acting quite emotionally, and in addition to his sense of heartburn, he can feel a strange thumping, pulsing sensation in his chest...

Iris jumps the queue to use the X-ray machine at a local hospital, and she and Tom are thus forced to flee from hospital security and hide out in the morgue. There, Iris studies the X-rays and discovers that Tom’s head is literally stuffed with straw, some of which is coming out of his ears as they speak. The bodies in the morgue then come to life and chase Iris and Tom out of the hospital, speaking of “shedim” and of the demon Asmedaj. The terrified Iris nearly abandons Tom in her panic, which is strange behaviour even for her, supporting her theory that the damaged crystal has somehow affected their minds. Tom recalls their visit to the gift shops of Marleon; Jenny accidentally knocked over a display cabinet when she was caught short, and perhaps this is what damaged the crystal. Panda finds himself oddly sympathetic towards Jenny, a full, rich, complex human being who’s now only remembered for one thing. Tom, more concerned with the present than the past, decides to visit Dr Marwick for answers after a good night’s sleep. However, Iris is too scared to leave the bus, and she begins to suffer panic attacks, fearing that Panda will assault her or that she’ll choke to death on a soft tea biscuit. Why is she so frightened of everything around her? Why does she keep thinking of sheep? And why is Panda now convinced that he’s in love with her?

Scene number 13 of this play consists of Dr Marwick soliloquizing nefariously about his pawns, Alice and Tom, who are entering his waiting room like lambs to the slaughter... but he breaks off, irritated, when he realises that sheep keep creeping into his metaphors. Out in the waiting room, Tom is beginning to behave oddly, as if his head is packed with straw -- and in fact, the unnerved Alice can see some poking out of his ears. Marwick takes Alice into his consulting room and puts her behind the X-ray scanner, and then loses his temper when it shows him that the lump in her midriff looks exactly like Iris’ double-decker bus. Alice hears demonic whispers in her head, calling her “shedim,” as the furious Marwick reveals that the lump in her midriff is supposed to be the eye of the demon Asmedaj; Alice’s innocent blood was polluted with his foul essence long ago, but now that the time has come for the harvest, the evil eye of Asmedaj has been transformed into the number 22 bus to Putney Common. The frustrated Marwick advances on Alice with a scalpel, intending to cut her open and find out what the devil is going on -- but the terrified Alice clicks her heels together, says “There’s no place like home,” and unexpectedly vanishes into thin air.

Meanwhile, Iris wishes aloud that she had the nerve to leave her bus, and suddenly realises that she’s behaving just like the Cowardly Lion. Alice then appears in the bus, wearing a pair of ruby slippers -- and when Panda begins to flirt with the startled newcomer, Iris and Alice take a close look at the stuffed toy and realise that he’s somehow acquired a living, beating heart. Iris realises that when the crystal broke, bits of her life somehow got mixed up with bits of another story, and both stories got mixed up with elements of The Wizard of Oz. Alice’s ruby slippers once belonged to Iris; Iris has become the Cowardly Lion; Tom, with his head stuffed full of straw, is the Scarecrow; and Panda, who didn’t have a heart to begin with, has acquired the one the Tin Woodsman was looking for. Iris now wonders what possessed her to hide out in the hospital morgue, and realises that she was shepherded there -- another sheep metaphor, which seems connected to a vague recollection that she once did something important in a farmhouse.

Marwick orders his secretary to contact the ID Club patrons and send them out to his country estate for a compulsory get-together, while he drives the dazed Tom there himself. On the way, he explains that he and his followers once tried to summon the demon Asmedaj, but they were foiled and the demon’s corporeal body was torn apart. However, Marwick collected the scattered body parts and planted them in the bodies of newborn children. Tom and all of Marwick’s current “patients” were born in the same hospital, on December 1978, and for the past 30 years, the demonic body parts have been growing within them. Marwick convinced his patients to join the ID Club so they could mingle and the body parts within them could grow accustomed to the idea of being together. Now the time has come to harvest the fragments and reassemble the demon... but, thanks to Iris’ interference, something is going weirdly wrong with the process.

Meanwhile, Iris tries to follow Marwick, but she’s too scared to drive the bus over 20 miles per hour. Fortunately, the bus begins driving itself, as apparently it’s picked up some of Iris’ memories as well and knows where to go. By now, she and her companions have worked out what Marwick has done, but they’re not sure what Iris has to do with it, or why sheep and The Wizard of Oz are involved. The bus catches up with Marwick’s limo, but he has been warned of its approach by the demonic whispering voices, and he sideswipes Iris as she tries to catch up with him. Iris has managed to overcome her fears as they near the story’s denouement, but her newfound courage isn’t enough to stop the bus from going off the road.

Iris awakens, dazed, to find herself back in the farmhouse where she last saw The Wizard of Oz -- Marwick’s country estate. Iris was the one who defeated Marwick back in 1978; she disguised herself as one of his acolytes, infiltrated his inner circle, and deliberately chanted the wrong words during the summoning, banishing the demon back to wherever it was he came from. Afterwards, she celebrated her victory with the two hitch-hikers named Doug. But a part of the demon’s mind remained in this dimension, and it attacked Iris later that night -- and got stuck in her mind while she was trying to get to sleep by watching The Wizard of Oz and counting sheep. It remained in her mind until the crystal shattered, freeing it. Since she was responsible for the demon’s current condition, it has had to use her memories to put things right again; this is why its body parts have taken the forms of items from Iris’ memories, and why it had to use elements of The Wizard of Oz in order to set this trap for her, turning her into a coward in order to keep her off her guard until it’s too late.

Iris decides to skip the boring bits and get right to the climax of the story, which involves Marwick sacrificing a virgin to bring about Asmedaj’s rebirth. Iris points out to Marwick that Panda is a virgin, and that he now possesses a living heart that hasn’t been transformed into something silly like a bus or a silk stocking. Panda protests vainly as Marwick seizes him, cuts him open and removes the beating heart of Asmedaj -- but Iris then reveals that Panda had absorbed some of her tawdry memories, which tainted the purity of his “virgin” heart. The assembled ID Club members scream as the demonic body parts emerge from their bodies and are reassembled... but since the exhausted Iris had been counting sheep when Asmedaj attacked her mind, his spirit has become trapped in the form of a sheep. The demonic whispering voices begin to moo as Asmedaj bleats powerlessly, and Marwick realises that all his schemes have come to naught, yet again. Alice gives Marwick a good kicking for what he did to her, and then suggests that she and the rest of the ID Club members, now free of their demonic taint, hold the party they thought they were coming here for. Tom and Iris have also fully recovered, and are ready to resume their madcap adventures -- as soon as Panda is stitched back together.

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
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