Wildthyme on Top
edited by Paul Magrs
Cover Blurb
Wildthyme on Top

Iris is an enigma... She’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery. With a shapeless, tasteless hat clamped to her head. She’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery, with a shapeless, tasteless hat clamped her head and she’s puffing on a gold-tipped black Sobranie. And she drives a big red double-decker bus, ostensibly bound for Putney Common.

Except it’s not. She’s been to Putney Common precisely once, and that was by accident. There she picked up Tom, who is now her best friend. Together they journey through the multiverse: boozing and fighting; righting wrongs and buggering things up again. Here, in their first exciting anthology of ludicrous adventures, they meet monsters, klllers, ambassadors, insect-things, detectives, weirdos, psychics, fiends and sundry perverts.

  • This is a short-story anthology in Big Finish’s New Worlds range. The character of Iris Wildthyme was introduced in the Doctor Who short story Old Flames, and has appeared on numerous occasions since.
  • Released: July 2005

  • ISBN: 1 84435 155 6
Most Horrid by Justin Richards

Back in October 1955, three young parapsychologists spent a night in Comarth Grange, the legendary haunted house on the Isle of Comarth: Stanley Harris, John Struther, and John’s girlfriend, Margaret Schuman. That night, Margaret was throttled to death, and although John and Stanley were the only other people on the island, Stanley managed to snap a photo of an old woman with her hands around Margaret’s neck. Experts determined that the photo was not a fake, and concluded that Margaret really had been killed by the ghost of the Old Peddler Woman. 50 years later, Stanley returns to Comarth Grange with the crew of Most Horrid, a TV programme about the most haunted houses in Britain -- but the recording is interrupted by Iris Wildthyme, who stumbles across the crew as they set up fake haunting effects in order to frighten Stanley and get a better reaction out of him. When she sees the infamous photograph, Iris recognises herself and remembers visiting the house 50 years ago to borrow some milk for her tea; when she found Margaret at the table, she assumed that the dead woman was asleep, and Stanley found Iris and took the photo while Iris was trying to wake Margaret up. The irritated Iris walked out of the house, telling the horrified John and Stanley that it could be murder getting a decent cup of tea. Now understanding the significance of an argument she’d overheard before entering the house, Iris dresses up in the makeup woman’s disguise and confronts Stanley, pretending to be the Old Peddler Woman. The terrified Stanley confesses that he made a pass at Margaret and then throttled her to death in a fit of panic when she threatened to tell John. The TV crew gets it all on tape, and Iris leaves, satisfied, after stealing the crew’s sugar for her tea.

The Sleuth Slayers by Jake Elliot

Elderly amateur detective Miss Jane drops dead at Betteredge Hall in mid-deduction, poisoned by her cup of afternoon tea -- the sixth amateur detective to have been murdered recently. A bowler-hatted man from the Ministry and his assistant, Georgie Price Jones, begin to investigate, but the man’s old acquaintance Iris muscles in on the investigation, having witnessed Miss Jane’s murder after popping in to collect a handbag that she’d forgotten at the Hall 40 years ago. Iris and Tom visit Hercule Smith, the well-known Belgian/Yorkshire detective, but he is poisoned in the middle of his lunch, as are several other amateur detectives visiting the same restaurant. Meanwhile, Georgie and the man visit Professor Proven, an expert on detective fiction, but he claims to be no good at solving real-life murders. They also visit Sherrinford of Baker Street, who suggests that enemy agents are pre-emptively killing sleuths to clear the way before committing the crime of the century; Sherrinford intends to wait for the enemy to come to him, as he doesn’t care if some of the amateurs cluttering up his field are disposed of. On their way out, Georgie and the man notice that Sherrinford and Professor Proven share the same housekeeper, Mrs H. When they share their stories with Iris and Tom, Tom realises that the waitress at the restaurant was also the maid who served Miss Jane her fatal cup of tea. The four sleuths return to the restaurant and engage in a fight scene with the waitress and maitre d’, whom the man recognises as an enemy agent; the waitress is knocked unconscious in the melee, and the man inadvertently poisons her when he tries to revive her with a cup of water. The man realises that the teacups bear the same pattern as the cups at Betteredge Hall and Sherrinford’s home, and the four rush back to Sherrinford’s only to find that he too has been poisoned. Mrs H. professes surprise at first, but eventually gives in and admits that she’s part of the conspiracy; the detectives are being killed off by their servants and housekeepers, who are fed up with having to deal with the sleuths’ odd hours and odder clients, and with having to clean up the residues of their ghastly forensic experiments. Having solved the case, the four sleuths return to Professor Proven’s to celebrate with a bottle of champagne, having decided, under the circumstances, not to take tea.

Minions of the Moon by Philip Purser-Hallard

The year is 1590, and the Lunaries, inhabitants of Earth’s Moon, have sent emissaries to each of Earth’s capital cities to open diplomatic relations. The Lunaries have already preserved many of humanity’s brightest minds, such as Roger Bacon, by catching their souls at the point of death and creating new bodies for them. Iris and Tom convey the English delegation to the lunar city of Endymion, but it turns out that other countries have developed their own methods of space travel. The Reverend Malcolme Canker is appalled by the Lunaries’ casual hedonism, but the other nobles participate in the lifestyle with great vigour. Tom is attracted to the young page Harry Peerless, as is Iris; to her dismay, however, Harry turns down her advances. Tom later learns that Harry isn’t his type either, when he accidentally stumbles across the young man in the public baths and discovers that he is in fact a young woman in disguise: Olivia, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. The English ambassador, Sir Jack Fuller, is humiliated when someone places the English court’s affinity mirror in his bedchamber, so that when Queen Elizabeth tunes in to receive a report from her delegation, she sees Fuller in bed with two moon maidens; nevertheless, despite her apparent fury, she allows Fuller to retain his position. Iris later accompanies Fuller on a lion hunt, and they run into a Florentine hunting party stalking a venomous hydra. Some days later, Fuller is poisoned, and as the Lunaries tend to the dying ambassador, the furious Iris confronts the Florentine Duke Ferdinand, realising that he was hunting the hydra for its poison. She also deduces that Sir Malcolme is working with Ferdinand because he loathes the Lunaries and does not wish England to ally itself with them. However, Ferdinand admits that he’s just going through the motions of villainy and does not really wish to form an alliance with the Lunaries, as there is no room in their society for a despot like him. Fuller is cured when the late Roger Bacon, realising that Lunary bodies have the ability to heal themselves, implants his own seed in Fuller’s body by means best left to the imagination. Iris forgives Duke Ferdinand, but while making a pass at him she accidentally lets slip Olivia’s secret. Fortunately, no harm is done, as it’s time for the secret to come out; Olivia was the real English ambassador, and she was negotiating with the Lunaries while Fuller distracted England’s rivals. England and Endymion form an alliance, and Iris and Tom take their leave before the utopia begins to pall on them.

Beguine by Stephen Cole

Iris and Tom materialise outside a small shack where an old woman is performing a striptease for a crowd of old men; this is a sterile, puritanical future, and the old are desperately trying to shock the bland young generation. One of the old men sees Iris and Tom, and pees himself in fear and confusion when he recognises Iris from his youth. A group of young men and women then enter the shack and lead away the protesting old men and women, but Iris decides not to continue any further with this particular story. Instead, she goes back in time to meet the old man as a young boy. His name is Ben, and although he wants to be a writer, he is lacking inspiration; thus, Iris kidnaps his dog and then returns it, claiming that it broke out of the back yard by slipping between the dimensional cracks. Iris then informs Tom that this incident will inspire Ben to become such a talented writer that his prose will rip open the fabric of time and space, letting in things from outside. Tom realises that he too knows Ben; later in life, Ben will attend a writers’ workshop and have a brief fling with Tom, but it will go nowhere. Irritated by Iris’ smug attitude, Tom tries to tune the space-time kinetograph to that night of passion so he can relive it, but something goes wrong and he wakes up in his bed at his parents’ home. A hunched figure attacks him, drags him out into the woods, and buries him alive; the figure then lowers a pipe down to him, but as Tom tries to breathe, spiders pour out of the pipe into his mouth. At the last moment, Iris rescues him and tells him that he jumped a time phase when he fiddled with the kinetograph. Back in the future, the old folk are taken back to their retirement home to wait for death.

Blame Iris by Stewart Sheargold

Iris takes Tom to visit the controversial writers Anais Nin and Henry and June Miller. Tom senses something alien about June, but Iris dismisses his fears -- until Henry goes missing and Iris is arrested on suspicion of kidnapping him. One of Iris’ diaries contains an entry implying that she intended to take Henry away with her, and Iris is quite hurt when Tom isn’t sure whether to trust her. Anais bails Iris out, and Iris returns to her bus only to find that someone has stolen her diaries; whoever is responsible could be rewriting her whole life. She thus builds a tracking device out of various bits of rubbish she finds lying around the bus, and to Tom’s surprise, the device works, leading them to the Valhalla theatre. There, Anais, Tom and Iris see one of June’s films playing on the screen -- with Henry in the film. The light from the film transports them to a spaceship folded out of origami, where Iris and Tom discover that June has been turned into a puppet by aliens who intend to conquer the Earth through the power of the written word. The aliens are forcing Henry and Anais to write them into Earth’s fiction through metaphor and allusion, so that humanity will become accustomed to their presence and they will be welcomed when they make their presence known. Iris takes offence when she learns that the aliens have stolen her personal accessories and planted them on the worlds they intend to conquer, in order to convince the rest of the Universe that she is responsible for the changes to history. Iris frees June from the aliens’ control and hypnotises her, and releases Anais and Henry while June is distracting the aliens. They flee from the origami aliens into the “film set,” where, to Tom’s embarrassment, they must re-enact the erotic scenes from the film in order to break the cycle of images and escape back into reality. They thus find themselves back in the theatre, where Iris re-folds the origami buttons grafted onto the projector and traps the aliens in this single copy of the film.

Came to Believe by Craig Hinton

Barry Canley, an alcoholic gossip journalist, is checked into the Mercy Clinic by his publisher. Barry is aware that he is alcoholic and knows that as soon as he leaves the clinic he’ll be back to his old ways, but he doesn’t believe he can change -- although some part of him, buried deep, deep down, desperately wants to. The clinic staff are so regimented and dull that he regards them as robots and his fellow patients as zombies; the only burst of life in the place is Iris Wildthyme, who irritates the staff with her apparent refusal to take the business of sobering up seriously. Barry gets to talking with her and enjoys their conversations, even though she’s clearly lying about the people she’s met; she isn’t of the social class to mix with them, and many of her stories happened before she could have been born. One particularly helpless patient, his nervous system turned to mush after years of drinking, thinks that Iris is a chanteuse he knew in the 1940s, which is clearly impossible. After a couple of days of rest and Librium, Barry is sober enough to comprehend just how much of a mess his life is in. Iris is kicked out of the clinic for refusing to co-operate, but before leaving, she lets Barry cry on her shoulder, letting out all his despair -- and she then reveals that she called in a favour with Barry’s publisher to get him in here. He was only supposed to stay for two weeks, but Iris convinces him to stay at the clinic for a full year. When he gets out, he is clean and sober, and he turns to his first love, writing fiction -- and while on tour, signing copies of his first book, Magnificat, he meets an entirely different woman who claims to be Iris Wildthyme. When she presents him with a reprint of his book from the year 2050, he realises that she’s telling the truth, and she admits that she had already read the book before she met him and arranged for his stay in the clinic so he could write the masterpiece she knew he was destined to write.

Rough Magic by Kate Orman

Tom bribes Iris with a plate of rum balls and convinces her to let him drive the bus to the Hard Place Resort, a resort complex built on an asteroid in the heart of the Time Vortex and powered by energy drawn from the elemental forces underlying time and space. Moments after Iris steps out of the bus, however, a young man appears and apparently disintegrates both the bus and Tom with a blast from his magic wand. Iris finds the resort entirely deserted, apart from a lone grey wolf and the young magician, Suneku, who attacks her when he realises that she’s not the one he’s looking for. Iris evades him and searches the entire resort, hoping that whoever Suneku is looking for will prove to be friendly. She fails to find anyone else, but sees her bus trying to rematerialise in the resort, and realises that Suneku merely banished it back out into the Vortex and that it’s trying to return for her. Suneku and his wolf then confront Iris again, but Iris’ leopard-skin coat unexpectedly comes to life and attacks the young magician. The lights begin to go out in the resort, and Iris panics, believing that this means the Vortex itself is dying. However, the wolf transforms into another young man -- Suneku’s partner, Urufu -- and reveals that, in fact, the elemental forces are tired of being used as a cheap source of energy and are striking back at the resort. Suneku and Urufu evacuated the staff and holidaymakers and have remained to calm down the angry elemental forces; they had placed beacons to warn new arrivals away, but the inexperienced Tom failed to recognise them. Once Suneku has assured the elemental that no one will ever return to the resort, he and Urufu summon back Iris’ bus, allowing her to leave. Suneku and Urufu then depart, and the elemental manifests itself within the abandoned plate of rum balls and reduces the resort back to its constituent particles.

The Mancunian Candidate by Lance Parkin

Some time ago, in the city of Manchester, Iris encountered a large talking squirrel named Bobbins, who got lost in a good book and found his way out in the Manchester Public Library. Iris took Bobbins back to his home, the magical kingdom of Dazzlaria; now, years later, when she returns to Dazzlaria with Tom, she finds that the magical kingdom has changed since her last visit. Good King Jason, a young boy who was crowned king after being transported to Dazzlaria by a ring he found in his grandmother’s attic, has been replaced by the mysterious New Bobbins, a squirrel who has instituted wide-reaching policies of fair and just reform. Tom gets into a fight after inadvertently insulting an elf named Abbafan Girlyface, and he is arrested and thrown into the re-education camp. Good King Jason used to execute all criminals regardless of the severity of their crimes, but under New Bobbins’ management, Tom must sit through innumerable seminars and role-playing exercises designed to make him a more productive member of society. He eventually manages to convince the rather thick weasel guard to let him wander freely around the prison, and while trying to escape, he finds Good King Jason locked up in a cell. Meanwhile, Iris visits the Main Municipal Palace to speak to the mysterious New Bobbins, whom she finds oddly familiar for some reason. New Bobbins agrees to let Tom go as long as Iris leaves with him, but Tom then arrives with Good King Jason, and Iris discovers that the mysterious New Bobbins is in fact her old acquaintance, Bobbins Squirrel. Bobbins protests that he won the election fair and square, but the weasels agree with Good King Jason that change is bad whether or not it improves things. The weasels thus reinstate the rightful King, and Iris and Tom leave Dazzlaria, satisfied that this was a happy ending for at least some people.

Iris and Irregularity by Jacqueline Rayner

At a 19th-century society function, Mrs Grant attempts to introduce her daughters Mary and Julia to young Mr Pemberley, a man of some social standing and greater fortune; however, a certain Mrs Wildthyme is occupying all of Mr Pemberley’s time and attention, and he does not seem interested in making the girls’ acquaintance in any case. One of Mrs Wildthyme’s loud comments is misinterpreted by those in the vicinity, who conclude that Mr Pemberley is already married; thus, Mrs Grant advises her daughters instead to make the acquaintance of Mrs Wildthyme, who has claimed that her ward Thomas is due to inherit a fortune. On their mother’s advice, Mary and Julia visit Mrs Wildthyme at her country home, where she offers to give them the benefit of her advice when it comes to landing a man. When they claim that the men of their acquaintance are interested in fox hunting, the appalled Mrs Wildthyme vows to put a stop to the cruel practice, and leads Mary and Julia out to protest. Despite Mrs Wildthyme’s scandalous behaviour, the girls are oddly exhilarated by the experience; indeed, Mary’s eyes are opened to the cruelty of the sport, and she vows to become a vegan. Mrs Wildthyme then teaches the girls some interesting songs and helps them to make new dresses, with sequins -- and when she realises that the girls aren’t quite sure what to do with a man once they’ve got him, she explains, using illustrated pamphlets. Julia, fascinated, puts her new knowledge to practical use as soon and as often as possible. Mrs Wildthyme and the girls then throw a ball of their own, and Mr Pemberley attends, along with his unmarried acquaintance, Mr Crawley. Mrs Grant holds out some hope that her daughters may marry either Mr Crawley or Mrs Wildthyme’s ward, Thomas; however, it turns out that Thomas and Mr Crawley are more interested in each other than the girls. Mr Pemberley then admits to Mrs Wildthyme that he was quite taken with the girls, but was too shy to ask them to dance; however, by this point, they have decided that society is not for them, and Mary intends to found a vegan commune while Julia heads off to L--- to sing in the nightclubs and practice free love. For the sake of a happy ending, therefore, Mrs Wildthyme decides that for the purposes of this story, Mr Pemberley is the type who prefers older women.

The Evil Little Mother and the Tragic Old Bat by Jonathan Blum

Everybody knows that Medea killed her own sons to avenge herself against her faithless husband, Jason. Moments before she can do so, however, Iris Wildthyme shows up and offers her a way out. Torn between conflicting emotions, Medea allows Iris to transport her into the future, where she watches a number of plays telling the story of her life from different angles, and realises that the lines from the performances have been echoing in her mind all day, even before Iris showed up. Iris claims that the emotional pressure of the famous tragedy is reaching back through Time, influencing the real Medea’s actions and driving her towards an inevitable outcome; if she goes through with it, she will become an archetypal character, freed from the bounds of real history but forced to re-enact her own tragedy from the perspectives of everyone with something to say about it. Iris offers her a chance to escape all that -- but Medea demands to know whether Jason’s story has survived as well, and is infuriated to learn that he’s regarded as a great hero, the star of a story in which she barely appears. Wanting her husband to suffer for what he’s done, Medea demands that Iris take her back home, but Tom, furious, points out that her sons don’t even get names in the play; they’re just innocent bystanders in Medea’s tragedy. Iris admits that she has tried once before to intervene in an archetypal tragedy, but young Juliet Capulet just wouldn’t listen to her. Medea returns home, but rather than kill her children, she fakes their deaths and escapes with them on the bus. Jason still suffers in the belief that his children have been murdered, but they are alive and well, living anonymously with their mother in Athens in a different era. However, since the real Medea chose not to become the archetype, the archetypal Medea has sprung into existence on the bus, manifested by the Universe itself. Iris explains to the archetypal Medea that she’s tired of having fluffy, small adventures; she wants to do big things, and she needs a big Character by her side if she’s to do so. Medea thus agrees to go out into the Universe with her new companions and raise a little hell.

Source: Cameron Dixon
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