7th Doctor
The Death Collectors / Spider's Shadow
Serial 7Z/C
The Death Collectors
The Death Collectors
Written by Stewart Sheargold
Directed by Ken Bentley
Music, Sound Design and Post Production by David Darlington

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Alastair Cording (Professor Mors Alexandryn), Katherine Parkinson (Danika Meanwhile), Derek Carlyle (Smith Ridley / Dar Trader), Katarina Olsson (Nancy).

'There is only death.'

A virulent disease that killed millions. A missing scientist. An ancient race of salvagers who collect and preserve the dead. The quarantined planet Antikon connects them all.

When the Doctor arrives on a sky station above Antikon, a single accident has already set in motion a chain of events that will mean the death of every living thing.

And the only way he can stop it is to die. Again.

  • Featuring the the Seventh Doctor, this adventure takes place after the audio story Frozen Time.
  • Released: June 2008
    ISBN: 978 1 84435 318 7
Part One
(drn: ??'??")

Scientist Smith Ridley walks slowly across the bleak volcanic landscape of the planet Antikon, protected from the lethal atmosphere only by his environment suit. He contacts his colleague Danika Meanwhile, who’s back on the sky station orbiting above the planet, and she urges him to stay calm. That’s easier said than done because he knows what happened to the last six people who stepped onto the planet surface. He also remembers what their mission leader said before he came down - “Death is not the end” - and the thought makes him panic again. He wants to come back up, but Danika assures him she’s getting a clean readout on his suit. Ridley can see the ruins ahead, just over the next rise, so Danika starts directing him to their probes. It’s not long before he finds them, but there are only shards left.

Aboard the sky station, the computer Nancy reports that a high level of decay has just registered on the scanners. Danika contacts Ridley and tells him to collect the probe remains and get back to the capsule as quickly as he can. The decay is coming from every direction and the signal is bigger than anything they’ve detected before. Ridley can’t see anything, but Danika says it’s coming up on him fast so he should forget the probes and just run. Suddenly there’s a flare on the communicator and Danika can’t hear Ridley any more. Then, after a few moments, Ridley calls again to say he’s fine and he got back to the capsule just in time. Danika starts programming the controls to bring him back, but then Ridley cries out that it’s got inside the capsule with him. He starts to panic and says Professor Mors must have known this would happen. Then the signal cuts out completely…

Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor picks up a communication and identifies it as a distress call. Someone is clearly in trouble, so he begins programming the ship…

Ridley’s capsule docks back on the sky station and the computer Nancy confirms there are life signs registering, but only at minimal. Professor Mors Alexandryn asks if the interior is clear of decay and Nancy confirms that there’s nothing showing on the sensors. Danika checks the capsule and says the exterior is completely buckled. The door opens and Ridley emerges, still inside his pressure suit and struggling for breath. He starts convulsing so his colleagues lift him onto a trolley and head straight for the medical bay.

Mors asks what happened and Danika tells him about the decay. Mors wants to know if Ridley managed to get the probes and when Danika points out that he’s dying, he tells her they all are. He examines Ridley and says that although he’s infected, the suit is acting as a quarantine. Danika insists they try to save him, but Mors says he’s already dead. He tells her to get the Dar Traders so they can bring him back…

The TARDIS materialises inside an airlock and the Doctor immediately notices the odd smell of a rarefied atmosphere. There’s no evidence of any distress here, but he decides it won’t hurt to have a quick look around to make sure everything’s alright.

Even though the computer is capable of docking with the Dar Trader ship without human supervision, Danika decides to oversee the procedure as it’s the only stimulation she gets these days. Nancy asks Danika why her presence isn’t required in Professor Alexandryn’s laboratory, but Danika says she doesn’t like to go in there. Although Ridley’s condition has stabilised, it’s been a week now since he returned and he’s still dead. The only thing keeping him alive is the pressure suit and the Dar Trader’s resurrection ability. Nancy offers to play some music and Danika selects her favourite track.

The Doctor discovers the TARDIS has landed on the wrong side of the airlock door and the code he uses won’t open it. The computer checks his body print and confirms that it doesn’t match that of the Dar Traders, so she asks if he’s an additional member of the crew. The Doctor says he is, but adds that the others don’t know it yet. Nancy is curious that the Doctor didn’t realise he was on a Dar Trader vessel and re-states that if he doesn’t enter a valid code she can’t open the door for him as he could be a security risk. The Doctor returns to the entry coder and taps in some numbers, but it still doesn’t work and an alarm sounds as the ship begins docking with the sky station. Decompression will begin in 20 seconds so the Doctor hurriedly tries again, confident that he can’t be bested by a computer. Just then, the sound of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” echoes round the airlock.

Danika looks out into space and finds the blackness and silence beautiful. She thinks the unknown is gentle and soothing, but Nancy says nothing is unknown and offers to break it down into chemical compounds if she wants. When Nancy informs her there’s an unidentified lifeform on board the Dar Trader vessel, Danika activates a scanner and watches as the Doctor complains about obstructive computers. Danika points out that he’ll suffocate if Nancy doesn’t let him out, but the computer insists he doesn’t possess the correct codes. Danika suggests they question him on that point later, but just then, communication with the computer breaks down for a few seconds and during this time, Danika starts to input the codes herself to releases the airlock door.

Inside the airlock, the Doctor is struggling to stay focused as decompression begins. The Puccini track increases in volume, which makes him even more determined to succeed as he refuses to die to the sound of “elevator music“. Suddenly the decompression is halted and the airlock door starts to open. The Doctor stumbles out, coughing and spluttering, and thanks the computer for deciding to be reasonable. He doesn’t think much of the interior decoration inside the Dar Trader vessel. Two creatures approach him and demand to know who he is and what he was doing inside the airlock. The Doctor explains that he’s a traveller who picked up a distress call and although the Dar Traders say they didn’t send one, they recognise the name ’doctor’ as someone who cares for life. They can also see death’s signature on him, which means he must be dead. The Doctor realises the Traders are the people known as ’Death Collectors’, who scavenge the aftermath of battles. This explains why they have such a vast collection of dead things displayed on their walls. The Traders say they are keepers of death and the Doctor knows they’re not really alive themselves. They’re trying to exist in a physical universe and have had to construct metal frames in order to move their carcasses around. The Traders ask him how he can be alive and dead at the same time and he tells them this is his sixth death. The creatures believe that if he’s dead they can salvage him for their collection and when the Doctor insists that he’s not dead, they refuse to accept his word without evidence. They claim his body as spatial detritus and slowly approach him…

Professor Mors asks Nancy for an analysis of his perceptual functions. The computer reports that Ridley’s brainwave activity is currently at 42%, which is within the realms of consciousness, so Mors hopes this time they might actually get to talk to him. He asks for the suit functions to be switched online and prepares to question the first ever human survivor of decay. He asks Ridley if he can hear him, but the only response he gets is the sound of shallow breathing. Nancy reminds Mors that the Dar Traders said perceptual awareness would take some time and perhaps Ridley was on the threshold of death for too long. Mors continues to question him and eventually Ridley is able to repeat his Mors’ name. Ridley says he feels strange and Mors tells him he was infected with decay and that he died, but the Dar Traders brought him back and he’s existing on the threshold of life and death. Mors seems delighted and asks him what it feels like. Ridley struggles to respond coherently and then his voice is overwhelmed by a strange noise and Mors orders Nancy to shut him down. He asks the computer to analyse the noise and Nancy says it sounded like a radio signal transmitting from one machine to another. Mors agrees, but wonders what it was saying.

Danika arrives at the airlock and checks that the compression has equalised, but the computer refuses to open the door until Danika gives the correct code. Danika points out that the computer has access to her bio-print and knows her code, but Nancy still appears to be reluctant to obey her orders. Eventually the computer agrees and the door slides open.

The Dar Traders start to strangle the Doctor, ignoring his assurances that he’s quite alive. The creatures ask him to explain his unusual death signature and he reveals that he’s a Time Lord and his race disobeyed every rule in biology before they learned to walk. The Traders are intrigued as they’ve never collected a Time Lord before, but before they can take any further action, Danika joins them, having crossed over from the sky station. She asks them to stop strangling the stowaway as she’d like to speak to him first. As it’s evident Danika is able to discern the Doctor, it’s clear to the Traders that he still exists within corporeal boundaries, so they agree to release him. The Doctor thanks Danika, but she warns him they’re not friends yet. She demands to know what he was doing in the airlock and he tells her about the distress call and says he was stuck in the airlock because the computer wouldn’t let him out. In fact, he has the distinct feeling it was trying to kill him. Danika is beginning to suspect Nancy might be in need of an overhaul, but she assures the Doctor they didn’t send a distress signal and nor did the Dar Traders.

The Doctor asks her where they are and Danika says the Dar Trader vessel has just docked with their sky station in the stratosphere of the planet Antikon. The Doctor is sure he’s heard that name before and the Traders say the name is synonymous with an infectious virus known as Antikon’s Decay. The Doctor knows that’s deadly - an unstable virus contracted by unknown means that decimated an entire system. He asks what they’re doing here and Danika says they’re on a government funded research base. When the Doctor learns the project is headed by Professor Mors Alexandryn, he recognises his name. As well as being the foremost authority on the Decay disease, he’s also known for his rather dubious theories on death. The Doctor adds that his paper on the resurrection of the flesh was quite remarkable, if utterly flawed. Mors is listed as missing, presumed dead, but obviously this is where he disappeared to. The Doctor asks which government this project is working for, but Danika says she doesn’t know as she’s just an engineer. The Doctor recalls that after the decay incident on Antikon, the planet was quarantined, and when the Doctor challenges Danika, she admits that by law they shouldn’t be here. The Dar Traders say their help was needed after an accident with Mors’s assistant who was infected after he went down to the planet. The Doctor asks to be taken to the Professor as he suspects the man might be in need of his help too.

Nancy finishes analysing the noise that came from Ridley’s suit, but it doesn’t sound like anything she’s familiar with. It’s undoubtedly a signal, but as Antikon has an exclusion zone of 5,000 miles, it can’t come from any known source. Mors is confused about how radio signals could form part of a biological virus and the computer suggests they might be caused by disrupted software in Ridley’s suit. He asks Nancy to try to lessen the interference, but then the computer seems to get stuck in a loop and keeps repeating the same words over and over again. Suddenly Ridley speaks again and Mors asks him what he’s done to Nancy. Ridley simply replies with the words “we are the machine” and then he asks to be connected to the Dar Trader machine.

As the Doctor gets to know Danika Meanwhile better, he reveals that he’s died six times and he used to be the President of the Time Lords in a former incarnation, but she laughs at the thought that he was someone else in a former life. The Dar Traders are intrigued by his abilities and say they’d like to trade with him, but the Doctor says he’s not for sale. Danika explains that the Traders can reanimate anything that’s dead by trading with it. They can hold back the last few seconds of life by introducing their own flesh into the body of the dead. The Doctor realises that’s can’t be a natural biological occurrence and the Traders say it’s an ability they’ve mastered. Danika confirms they brought Ridley back from the edge of death but the Doctor argues that whatever he is now, he’s not alive in any true sense of the word.

Mors orders Ridley to hand back control of Nancy as he needs the computer’s help to route power back to the Dar Trader machine. Nancy comes back on line just as the Doctor enters and introduces himself to Professor Mors. He says it’s wonderful to meet such a brilliant mind and hands out a number of platitudes before destroying Mors’ reputation by saying he’s abandoned all reason. Mors demands to know who this rather offensive little man is and Danika says he’s come here to help Ridley. The Doctor says there’ll be time for proper introductions later once they’re sure they’re out of immediate danger. Mors insists the situation is secure, but the Doctor has seen what Antikon’s Decay can do to a person and it isn’t pretty. Mors reminds them that no one is infected apart from Ridley and all the tests show that he and Danika are clear. The Dar Traders say they’ve developed strong resistance to Decay and Mors says their abilities have been vital to his research. He’s discovered that Decay only kills people in a physical sense, but mentally they exist for a lot longer.

Danika is shocked when the Traders reveal that Ridley is radiating Decay, but the Doctor is more interested when Mors says Ridley was speaking to him before breaking up into radio signals. The Doctor is also surprised to learn that Ridley himself suggested linking his body to the Dar Trader machine and he wonders why Mors is taking instructions from a dead man. Mors becomes angry and insists he wouldn’t put them, or his research, at needless risk. He asks Nancy to switch Ridley on and when the computer responds, Danika notes that she’s never called him by his first name before. Ridley becomes active again and tells them he can see everything and that the dead will rise. Then his voice is drowned out by the radio static which Nancy says is transmitting to the Dar Trader ship. The static increases in volume and Danika begins to panic. The Doctor urges Mors to stop the machine, but he insists it sounds perfectly safe to him. The Dar Traders say they can detect rapidly increasing Decay from inside Ridley’s suit and the Doctor realises there’s death in the signal - and now Mors has released it…

Part Two
(drn: ??'??")

The machine starts increasing the virulence of the Decay in Ridley’s suit and even the Dar Traders insist the experiment has gone out of their control and should be stopped. At the Doctor’s request, the Traders switch off the machine and then Ridley slumps back down, completely unresponsive. The Traders say they’ve acted to keep the Decay back, but they assure Mors that Ridley himself is unaffected. Mors is angry as he believes they were about to learn something, but the Doctor says they were nearly all infected. The Doctor admits that he doesn’t know how the disease is contracted, but that’s precisely why he’d rather not toy with it. Danika asks if the lab has been breached but Nancy reports that they’re clear. The Doctor doesn’t think the computer sounds too healthy and the Traders explain that she was being used to power their machine and the two technologies weren’t compatible. They remind Mors that they’d allowed him to use their machine only when they were present as it can be dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated. The Doctor suggests Mors has a death wish, but Danika points out that things have been going wrong ever since Ridley was brought back. The Doctor wonders whether something else came back with him. The computer completes a full scan and reports there’s an alarmingly high concentration of Decay registering aboard the Dar Trader vessel. One of the Traders returns to their ship to contain it and Danika decides to accompany him, taking the Doctor with her.

The Trader discovers their collection is coming back to life and explains that they’re actually able to collect death itself. The most immediate problem is that there’s a creature made of the reanimated dead currently walking about somewhere on the ship and leaking Decay. The Trader says his people are sensitive to Decay emissions and he should be able to follow its trail. Danika tells the Doctor she only came here to get a bit of peace and quiet and when he says the reputation of Antikon should have alerted her to the risk, she says she came here to help Mors. They’ve been married for two years and she’d have followed him anywhere, even to the end of the Universe, but they recently separated and Mors is now in a relationship with Ridley. All she wants now is a little bit of silence, but the Doctor says there’s only silence in death. The Dar Traders look like preserved husks and are obsessed with death and the Doctor believes they’re teetering on the edge of the threshold and only cling on to life in order to interact with the corporeal. He thinks it’s fascinating that a species could come so close to understanding and manipulating death, but whatever it is that’s inoculating the Traders from the effect, it may also help the people here. The Decay is being drawn to their collection of dead things, which suggests it’s attracted to things of a like nature. The Doctor says they should find it and ask it to leave nicely.

Mors asks Nancy for another readout on Ridley and learns there’s a rapid accumulation of Decay building within his suit. Mors says the Traders promised him they’d show him how to operate it and tells the second Trader that it’s vital to his research that he monitor the Decay’s properties. The Trader asks Mors to trade with them, but he refuses to be part of their collection. He’s more concerned about the build-up on their ship and wonders whether they’ve brought something with them that will threaten his station. The Trader insists the Decay was contained within Ridley’s signal and he believes Mors deliberately sent him down to the planet to get infected. Mors says they needed the information from the probes but unfortunately they’re beyond repair due to a terrible accident. The Trader believes he was pleased when that happened and warns him he’s playing with the dark. The computer alerts them to an extreme movement down on Antikon and it appears that a mass of Decay has lifted from the planet surface. Mors checks the dampening satellites, but Nancy says they’re no longer registering. It seems that Antikon is leaking Decay and it will reach the station in little more than an hour.

The Dar Trader leads the Doctor and Danika to what appears to be a suspended animation chamber. Danika says there are hundreds of Traders aboard, but they’re usually only revived two at a time as that’s all that’s needed to run the vessel. The Doctor realises that although the Sleepers are in a halted physical state, they retain a feverish mental one, which suggests the Decay is probably attracted to them because they exist in a state that’s as close as possible to death. Danika points out that Ridley didn’t come anywhere near this ship after he became infected. The Doctor doesn’t think it was Ridley who came back and says Decay is known to be a biological virus and although its exact nature has never been properly diagnosed, he guesses it’s contracted by touch. Danika says Ridley seems to have spread the infection by broadcasting an alien signal and the Doctor realises this must have been the distress signal he picked up. Danika wonders if something on Antikon is calling for their help, but the Doctor says it could just be a double bluff to get them down there to spread the infection again. The Dar Trader tells them the trail has come to a stop and the Doctor thinks the creature must be here, somewhere among them. Suddenly the Decay emerges from the shadows and they see it’s taken the form of a walking monster made up of Sleeper husks. The Doctor realises it’ll be after him first, so he steps forward and introduces himself.

In the laboratory, the other Dar Trader senses the Sleepers are being attacked. Mors asks the computer what’s going on and Nancy says there are levels of Decay aboard the other ship that are beyond her ability to calculate. Mors asks about Danika but Nancy says her life signs are still registering. More concerned about the station than the Sleepers, Mors decides to take evasive action and says they must quarantine the Dar Trader ship and move the station to a higher orbit until the Decay is controlled. The Trader objects to this and suggests they reactive Ridley to lure the decay here where they can then quarantine it. Mors refuses to risk corrupting his research so he tells Nancy to bring Danika and the Doctor back to the station quickly. To his surprise, the computer refuses to co-operate and tells him he doesn’t possess the correct codes. The Dar Trader realises the computer is infected, so Mors asks him to stay here and try to regulate Ridley’s Decay while he goes to the control room.

The Doctor finds the creature fascinating - it’s made up from the flesh of many different species yet it’s operating as one with a single instinct. He believes it’s after the Sleepers, but the Dar Trader insists they cannot be disturbed. He steps forward to protect them, but the Doctor warns him not to let the creature touch him. It’s too late and the creature makes contact with the Trader and his body crumbles to dust in seconds from cellular disintegration. Danika panics and insists they leave straight away, but the Doctor calls to the creature and realises it’s not mindless after all and that there’s an intelligence at work here. He offers to trade with the creature, but Danika thinks he has a death wish and demands they leave right now. She thinks they can contain it within the chamber, but the Doctor says it’s feeding on the Traders’ collective death and is growing! The voice of Nancy echoes round the room and tells Danika that Mors plans to quarantine the ship, but when Danika asks how much time they have, the computer starts to break down again. Then Nancy announces that it sees everything and begins playing back a recording of the Doctor and Danika talking earlier. For a moment they’re confused, but then the Doctor realises the Decay is trying to communicate with them through the recording. The Doctor refuses to leave the Sleepers to the mercy of the creature, but when he approaches the Decay it doubles in size and starts to divide. The Doctor realises it plans to devour him and the Sleepers, so it’s time for Plan B. He yells at Danika to run for the door…

Mors asks Nancy for access to the control console and this time she complies without argument. She reports that Danika and the Doctor are at the airlock so Mors asks Nancy nicely if she‘s initiated a quarantine on the Dar Trader ship. She says she hasn’t, but promises the Decay will be contained, but Mors doesn’t trust her any more and threatens to switch her off. She warns him not to do that, but Mors accuses her of underestimating him and begins procedures to disconnect the Trader vessel. He initiates the separation procedure and unlocks the docking tube. Then he fires the station’s boosters and begins to take it to a higher orbit.

With one of the creatures not far behind them, the Doctor and Danika make it to the airlock. The Doctor believes the creature is running on pure instinct and is trying to communicate in the only way it knows how - by speaking through their fear of death. Danika says she refuses to die on this ship and the Doctor applauds her spirit. The seal themselves inside the airlock, but then Danika realises Mors has started to separate the ships. She orders Nancy to open the door quickly, but the computer starts to break down again and the Doctor realises she’s been infected by Ridley’s sickness. The docking clamps begin to unlock and Danika calls for help from Mors, but they get no response. The Doctor realises this is where the TARDIS landed and leads Danika towards a nearby alcove, but then he discovers his ship has gone! He suspects the Dar Traders took it so Danika suggests they climb inside some nearby space suits. The Doctor is confident he’s familiar with the emergency measures in old ships like this and says he can blow the airlock doors. They’ll be blown out into space, but it’ll only be a short spacewalk back to the station. Danika would prefer to just hang on and hope the Decay monster gets sucked out, but the Doctor says that would be too risky and in any case they’d still be trapped aboard with the other half of the creature. Then Danika discovers only one of the space suits has oxygen in it, so the Doctor tells her his respiratory bypass system will allow him to survive a few minutes without a suit and he’ll have to rely on her to carry him.

In the laboratory, the second Dar Trader realises something is wrong as he can sense excessive Decay aboard his vessel. Nancy confirms this and says the Decay that’s been building up on the freighter is now uncontrolled. The Trader is worried about the Sleepers and the computer recommends he reactivate Ridley to draw the creature away from the hibernation chamber. The Trader agrees and brings Ridley back to consciousness. The scientist immediately requests to be released and Nancy unclamps the stasis unit containing him. Ridley states that he feels “new” and removes his helmet. He tells the Trader he wishes to trade and within seconds, the alien’s body has succumbed to cellular disintegration. Ridley then asks Nancy where Mors is and he heads for the control room…

The Doctor has nearly finished his work on the exterior airlock door so he calls for Danika to put on her helmet. As soon as she’s secure, the Doctor grabs hold of her hand. He tells her he‘s about to go into a trance and once he‘s under, she has to release the last of the emergency clamps. The Decay creature appears outside the airlock, so Danika operates the controls and the door blows open, dragging them out into space.

Danika grabs the Doctor hand firmly and prepares for the short spacewalk round to the next airlock, but then she realises the entire station is starting to move away. She tries to contact Mors over her communicator to tell him they’re outside the ship, but there’s no response. An alarm sounds within her helmet and the voice of Nancy calmly tells her she has just one minute of oxygen left inside the suit. Danika promises Nancy she’s in for one hell of a re-programming once she gets back on board, but Nancy says she can see everything and tells Danika she’s going to die. The computer begins playing Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” and Danika starts struggling for breath…

Part Three
(drn: ??'??")

Danika starts to come round and hears the worried voice of Professor Mors in her earpiece. He tells her she’s going to be OK and assures her he only moved the station because the computer told him she was safely on board. He says he’s now taken control and prepares to bring her back to the ship.

Mors turns angrily on Nancy and demands to know why she lied to him. There’s no response so he says he’s going to override the controls, but his attempts fail and he has no choice but to plead with Nancy to operate the salvage claw and bring Danika and the Doctor to safety. She doesn’t respond, so Mors starts typing out a sequence on the controls himself. Within seconds the computer has completely shut down, then Mors reboots it. Nancy’s voice returns and Mors repeats his request to rescue Danika, and this time she accepts his order. He heads straight to the airlock.

The airlock is being re-pressurised by the time Mors gets there. The Doctor is the first to recover from their unpleasant experience, but he’s worried when he gets no response from Danika. He apologises for putting her in danger and tells Mors she’s not breathing. The Doctor asks for a knife and says he needs to cut open the pressure suit before he can perform CPR on her. Mors is horrified at the Doctor’s primitive approach and says they have machines that can do that. He pushes the Doctor aside and applies a device which immediately starts to resuscitate Danika, but the Doctor is sure it was nothing more than a shot of adrenalin. Mors wants to get her back to the lab to stabilise her vital signs, then he says he plans to find out how the Doctor managed to survive. Instead, the Doctor accuses Mors of trying to kill them by disengaging and abandoning orbit. Mors tells him he had trouble with the computer, but promises that she’s not misbehaving any more. The Doctor warns him not to be too sure of that.

Ridley tries to communicate with Nancy, but she insists he identify himself as she doesn’t recognise him as a known crewmember. There’s a burst of radio static from his pressure suit and he orders the computer to open a channel. She agrees and the static bursts out again, then Nancy confirms that transference has been achieved and that the Dar Trader vessel has been re-programmed for a docking trajectory with the station. She adds that Decay leakage from Antikon will reach them in another 40 minutes and Ridley tells her to re-adjust their orbit so that the time is reduced to just 20 minutes. With the channel to the Dar Trader vessel open, Nancy’s voice fills the suspended animation chamber and announces that her sensors show the Decay creature is growing at an exponential rate with each Sleeper. Docking with the sky station will occur in 10 minutes, so Ridley prepares to trade…

Mors explains that he had to move the station out of orbit because Antikon is leaking Decay. He says he thought he could quarantine the Trader ship and get them all to safety, but he had a problem with Nancy and assumes that corruption must have set into her circuits. The Doctor says it must have been affected by Ridley’s signal, like a computerised organic pattern, and he thinks it’s high time he spoke to Ridley as he‘s at the centre of everything. Mors is shocked to discover the Traders’ collection of dead things has been reanimated and the Doctor tells him Death has come to collect all its children. Mors refuses to let the creature take Danika too. They arrive at the lab and carry Danika over to one of the medi-slabs. Although the Doctor warns Mors not to trust Nancy, the computer informs them that Danika is stable, although her brain activity is abnormally low. Mors speaks to the unconscious Danika and urges her not to die, if for no other reason than he knows she wouldn’t want to contribute to his research.

They notice Ridley has gone and Mors says he left the other Trader here to look after him, but the Doctor realises they’re standing in what’s left of him. The body has disintegrated from advanced Decay and the metal frame of the Trader is all that remains. Mors is worried that Ridley could be hiding anywhere, but the Doctor thinks it’s likely he’ll be attracted to him because of his unusual death signature. Mors remembers the Traders telling him the Doctor was dead and he wonders if he could contribute to his research too. The Doctor isn’t keen to find himself on an autopsy table and turns down the offer. He says he’s already met many scientists whose ideologies have become mad obsessions, but he thinks Mors is just lost and fumbling around in the dark. He wonders why Mors is the only authority on Decay and Mors tells the Doctor he’s not the only person to look Death in the face. The Doctor realises Mors must have been infected and the Professor admits that he once went to the threshold and saw everything, but he didn’t cross through the door and something brought him back. Mors thought that if he could defeat it, there would be hope for others. He regards it as a science and believes a cure for death can be found if it’s measured properly. The Doctor asks if he can justify sending Ridley to his death, but Mors insists that was an accident. The Doctor guesses Ridley knew about Mors’ secret and was about to tell Control. Mors insists that he values life, but he admits he’s learned a great deal from Ridley’s death. The Doctor suggests Mors examine the probes as that’s where everything started, then he leaves to find Ridley.

The Doctor explores the corridors of the sky station, calling out to Ridley and telling him they’re both the same. He says Death knows him well, although he constantly disappoints her, and he asks Ridley to come out and tell him what he wants. He hears Ridley’s voice in the shadows, claiming he can see everything. The Doctor says he can see it too and has stepped through that door many times. The first time was the greatest shock as he didn’t know what to expect and he was frightened even though he knew he would return. He says death is a game of chance and you just hope the odds are stacked in your favour, but experience helps and he’s confident Ridley won’t be able to hurt him. He offers to trade with Ridley and eventually the scientist emerges from cover. The Doctor invites him to open his space helmet…

Mors asks Nancy to turn the Dar Trader machine on. If it can measure the last moments of death, then perhaps it can deduce the last recordings of the probe. The recording is played back and when Mors hears the same signal again, he eventually makes out the words “help us” and realises it was a distress call after all. Danika starts to revive and Mors is overjoyed. She thanks her ex-husband and says she’s grateful for his knack of defeating death, but he admits it’s the first time it’s been put to any practical use. Danika says she doesn’t want a reconciliation with him, so he changes the subject and tells her he had to reboot the whole computer system after Nancy misled him. She’s worried when she learns the Doctor has gone to find Ridley, but then Nancy interrupts them and announces that Antikon’s Decay will reach them in about 5 minutes. Mors and Danika are horrified and realise Ridley must have moved them back into the Decay’s path. They race off to do whatever they can to alter the station’s orbit.

Through the static, the Doctor hears the words “help us”, but he says he can’t help until he knows what the Decay is. He’s surprised to learn that it’s an alien intelligence whose natural state is as a virus. All these years they’ve been trying to communicate through death, not realising their method is inimical to others. They too exist on the threshold, which is why they were attracted to the Dar Traders, but the Traders gave themselves to the Decay willingly and submitted themselves totally to the creature. Realising they were killing those they’ve been trying to communicate with, they instead tried to use the probes to computerise themselves. Unfortunately it didn’t work - they killed Ridley when they corrupted the mechanics in his suit, then they corrupted Nancy when they tried to speak through her. Everything they do seems to perpetuate the death state and the Doctor argues that they’re incomprehensible because death is the most alien thing of all to others. But not to him. He asks the Decay how he can help them, but insists that they’ll have to do it his way - by trading with him and giving him everything. The Decay agrees and begins the process, but the Doctor screams out in agony and says it’s too much…

Mors believes the Decay is being drawn from the planet and attracted to its own mass within Ridley and the creature. He takes Danika to the control room only to discover Ridley has destroyed the console. Nancy is still active, so Danika asks her to configure an orbit in the exo-sphere. The computer appears confused as she accepts the order but then tells Danika she doesn’t have the correct code and asks if they can trade. Mors and Danika feel the station shake and realise they must have re-docked with the Trader vessel. Mors suggest they cut their losses and run for the nearest escape pod, but Danika reminds him they’re controlled by Nancy too. In any case, they won’t be able to get away from Antikon’s Decay fast enough, so she recommends they find the Doctor as only he seems to be resistant. Mors remembers him saying there was a creature aboard the Trader ship and Danika points out that most lifeforms retreat from fire. If they start a fire in that rarefied atmosphere, they might be able to kill the creature. Just then, the Doctor arrives and tells them Danika’s solution sounds a bit drastic. He says Ridley has gone as he had to absorb his Decay and although he knows what they’re dealing with now, it unfortunately requires a small sacrifice. He leads them back to the Trader ship…

The Doctor speaks to Nancy with the voice of Decay and asks her to open the station airlock. It works and the three of them move through into the Dar Traders’ ship. Mors is shocked by the scale of damage caused by the creature. The dead trophies on the walls start grabbing out for them, but the Doctor tells them they’re safe as they’re not radiating Decay. In fact, their movement is just for show and they won’t be harmed so long as they stay close to him. The Doctor asks Nancy to secure the airlock behind them, then disengage the ship from the sky station and upload herself onto this vessel. Mors can’t believe a virus is capable of sucking an entire sky station back into a planet, but the Doctor tells him Decay was never a virus, but an intelligence so complex that to comprehend it, you have to die. Danika asks if the Doctor plans to sacrifice himself to it, but he says there’s no time to explain.

The Doctor asks Nancy to lead them to his TARDIS which had been appropriated by the Traders for their collection after they were attracted to its residual artron energy. He tells Danika she had the right idea all along, then he tells them both to put on pressure suits and the three of them head for the suspended animation chamber. The creature has grown in size since the Doctor and Danika were last here, but Mors is fascinated to see his resurrection theories have proven to be correct. Danika reminds him that to get here, he destroyed their marriage, then he killed Ridley, the man he loved, but Mors insists that he never meant for any of that to happen. Danika is curious about the Doctor’s claim that Mors could die again and Mors reveals that he had Decay and survived, even though no one would be able to tell from the test results. The Decay used him to spread itself, which makes him Patient Zero. He realises now that it’s not an infection, but an attempt to communicate. He’s long wanted to get back to the threshold and tells Danika she has no idea how beautiful and silent it is there, but he also admits that he’s been too scared to try again in case he couldn’t get back. Danika realises that Ridley must have discovered Mors’ secret, so he deliberately set him up and used him as an experiment. She becomes angry and refuses to let he ex-husband defend himself. Mors works out that the Doctor plans to burn the creature so that the Decay will no longer possess a physical form and will have to retreat back to its original signal, which he can then absorb via a cable into his TARDIS. Mors asks Danika how she plans to start the fire and she tells him she has a flare. They can only hope that the spacesuits they’re wearing are as fire-retardant as the label says…

Inside the TARDIS, the Decay says the machine stinks of age and corruption, but the Doctor simply says that’s indicative of the ship’s original owners. The Decay recognises that the Doctor is alone and even he accepts there are similarities between them - they’re on their own, balancing on the tightrope between life and death, with only themselves for company because everyone else leaves or dies, but they go on and on endlessly until time becomes a bit much. The Doctor discovers the creature outside has reached critical mass, which means the ship will soon be dragged back towards Antikon. The Decay offers to trade and the Doctor angrily accuses it of continually trying to perpetuate death. Then he offers to give it exactly what it wants and he activates the TARDIS controls.

Danika hopes the Doctor is ready and uses the flare, then she and Mors dive for cover as the huge creature erupts into flames. Danika suggests they do whatever they can to keep it alight in the hope that they can force a transfer, but they can’t get close enough. The creature seems to be weakening already, but Mors can feel the intense heat eating through his pressure suit. Suddenly Danika spots that the creature is dividing again…

In the TARDIS, the Decay realises something is wrong, but the Doctor assures it everything is going to plan. The Decay knows it has been betrayed, but the Doctor says that despite it’s suicidal tendencies it’s survival instincts were too strong and the only way he could defeat it was to destroy its physical aspect. The Decay starts reverting back to its signal form, which the Doctor then draws into the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits. The Decay finds the experience very strange and says it hurts, and although the Doctor concedes that it’s not very pleasant, he says it must accept what‘s happening. With a final wail, the Decay disappears.

Mors thinks they should put the fire out now, but Danika insists on making sure everything is dead first. They look around, but everything seems to be just bone and ash, so they’re satisfied they’ve comprehensively destroyed any chance the Decay had of coming back. Danika agrees and says they should get back to the Doctor, but then the Doctor’s voice comes over the computer link and asks Danika to get the ship as far away from Antikon as she can as he needs to avoid the Decay flooding the telepathic circuits. Danika tells Nancy to upload the Sinatra Programme, which gives her complete control over the Dar Trader freighter’s engines. Danika explains to an impressed Mors that the Sinatra Programme was something she prepared earlier in case the Traders weren’t as friendly as they appeared. She asks Nancy to get them out of here fast, but as she does so, the computer tells Mors and Danika that her memory of the past few hours seems to be unclear and she apologises if she did anything stupid.

The TARDIS is thrown around violently, but the Doctor assures his ship that she ought to be able to cope with a little bit of turbulence. He suddenly realises there’s a problem with the telepathic circuits and he screams out as he hears the voice of Decay telling him this is his death. He promises the Decay he can give it time itself, to allow it to age and slip over the precipice into final death. He says he understands it and knows it should have died long ago, but now he can give it what it wants and let it die along with him. He offers it his seventh death and pleads with it to accept the trade, but the Decay tells him it’s too long and there’s no one that can help it. The Doctor screams…

Danika and Mors are unsure whether the Doctor succeeded. Danika thanks Mors for his help earlier and says she doesn’t want to stay mad at him forever. She says they need to talk, but then their helmets are suddenly filled with a loud screeching static. The voice of the Decay calls out Mors’ name and then it tells him it can see everything, including its own death in his. It offers to trade and Mors realises Ridley wants vengeance against him…

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor calls out to the Decay to stop what it’s doing and leave Mors alone. He begs it to take him instead, but to no avail.

Danika screams out her ex-husband’s name, but then suddenly Mors stiffens and then relaxes. He tells her it’s alright and that the experience is beautiful. Then he disappears. Danika calls for him to come back, but there’s no response. The Doctor slowly emerges from the TARDIS and tells her he’s sorry. He’s sure he could have contained it for a while, but the Decay was too impatient and it wanted death now. Mors had an affinity with Decay after contracting it earlier, so it leapt into him and killed itself by killing him and finally taking him over the threshold. Danika thinks death is a science after all. There’s a moment of silence and then the Doctor tells Danika that he doesn’t usually travel alone and as there’s nothing for her here… Danika stops him and tells him there is something here - there’s silence. This is what she wants, a quiet life. The Doctor realises that perhaps they wouldn’t be the best of companions after all, so he says goodbye. He tells her she’s got rather a lot of ’meanwhile’ to fill now and he asks her to do something useful with it. Then he goes back inside the TARDIS and the box dematerialises.

Danika stands alone and appreciates the silence. Then the voice of Nancy announces there can only be silence in death. Danika’s voice trembles as she calls out Nancy’s name…

Source: Lee Rogers


Spider's Shadow
Spider's Shadow
Written by Stewart Sheargold
Directed by Ken Bentley
Music, Sound Design and Post Production by David Darlington

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Alastair Cording (Guard), Derek Carlyle (Colonel), Katarina Olsson (Martial Princess Keldafria Alison), Carol Fitzpatrick (Martial Princess Keldafria Louisa), Keveb McNally (Henry), Rebecca Bottone (Opera singer).

It is the eve of battle and the Martial Princesses Louise and Alison are hosting a royal ball. But there are unwelcome visitors in the garden and a sequence of events spiralling out of control. And what's more, the Doctor doesn't even remember arriving.

  • Featuring the the Seventh Doctor, this adventure takes place after the audio story The Death Collectors.
  • Released: June 2008
    ISBN: 978 1 84435 318 7
(drn: ??'??")

The TARDIS is in flight as the Doctor checks the controls and identifies the last residual traces of Decay. He’s confident it shouldn’t cause too much trouble and will dissipate into the Vortex over time. In the meantime, he must travel alone again, with only Death for company. He hears himself repeating the same words again and wonders if he imagined it. Suddenly an alarm sounds on the console and the Doctor becomes worried.

It’s the eve of battle and Princess Alison Keldafrian waits for an opportunity to slip out of the Palace unnoticed with Alec, a soldier from one of the lower ranks. They emerge into a garden courtyard, hoping no one saw them, and Alison tells the Colonel not to be so nervous. He knows it’s unbecoming for a Princess to be fraternising with him, but she tells him she’s never been a fan of stuffy tradition. She adds that somehow their secret meeting seems like a tradition of its own and Alec assumes she means he’s just the latest in a long line of officer sweethearts. He’s confident that tomorrow’s battle will be no different from all the others and there’ll be victorious again over the spiders. Then Alison becomes distant and asks him outright whether it’s really her that he wants or her sister, Princess Louisa. When he protests, she becomes hostile and accuses him of being in love with Louisa. She says she’s seen him looking at her, night after night, and she believes he only came outside because he didn’t want her sister to see them together, or even worse because he’s ashamed of her. Alec is completely confused by the change in her behaviour, especially when Alison convinces herself that he hates and despises her and thinks she‘s ugly. By now Alison is certain Alec would rather let her die if he could have Louisa instead. Moments later, the entire courtyard is filled with giant spiders and Alec screams as they race towards him…

The Doctor suddenly finds himself in the middle of some New Year’s celebrations and is even more confused when the hostess, Princess Louisa, invites him for a dance. He tells her he may be a bit out of practice, but she advises him that it’s never wise to refuse a Princess on the even of battle. The Doctor mumbles embarrassed, but she tells him he’s being falsely modest as his footwork is actually very good and with the blood flower in his lapel, she thinks he cuts a dapper figure. She senses the other guests are watching him, wondering who the mysterious elegant stranger could be. The Doctor looks down at the blood flower, which he says resembles a rose, and remembers the Princess giving it to him in the library…

…and then miraculously the Doctor finds himself back in the library. A young woman looks up from the book she’s reading and demands to know who’s there. She warns him that she’ll call the waiters and says they have very large proton-knives. The Doctor claims to be just a guest who got a little lost, but she refutes his story and says he’d only have to walk through the door to find the ballroom in full swing. She suspects he may be an assassin or a thief, but he assures her he already have signed copies of half the books here. He admits that she’s not a guest and the woman announces herself as the Marshal Princess Louisa Keldafrian, joint commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army. She asks how he entered the Palace and he tells her his transport was drawn here and now it won‘t let him leave. He thinks there’s something strange going on here and he suspects she can sense it too. He asks why she hasn’t called her heavily armed waiters yet, but she says she’s fought nearly 50 campaigns across the Outer Reaches and is more than capable of looking after herself. The Doctor notices some roses in a vase, but Louisa says they’re the royal emblem and they‘re called blood flowers. The Doctor recalls having a blood flower in his lapel earlier, but it’s not there now. He tells the Princess that they’re going to be friends, but when he calls her Louise, she objects and says only her sister calls her by that name and even then only in private. He starts to question the two sisters’ relationship, but Louisa tells him he‘s being impertinent. The Doctor knows Louisa is the elder and is generally regarded as the more beautiful of the two, and he believes this is why she indulges her younger sister. The Doctor demands that Louisa give him the blood flower quickly but she tells him she only gives them as personal gifts to the noblest and closest of friends. The Doctor insists that he hasn’t got time to explain and although she forbids him to touch the flower, he reaches out and grasps it…

In a flood of tears, Princess Alison runs back into the Palace and almost bumps into the Doctor. He asks if he can help her and she tells him there are spiders in the grounds. She says they’ve started attacking people and it looks like there’s a whole nest of them, but when the Doctor looks outside he can’t see anything. Alison is confused and they both go out into the courtyard. She looks for Alec and the Doctor says he knows she was meeting him here secretly. Alison asks him who he is, but then she notices he’s wearing a blood flower. She realises they’re only given out by her sister and she becomes angry again. Despite the Doctor’s warning, she reaches out and touches the flower…

…Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Alison and Louisa that neither of them exist while they’re within the dimensions of his ship. Alison insists that he can’t keep them here and Louisa asks why he’s doing this as she thought the Doctor was her friend. The Doctor is intrigued to learn this and then remembers that’s why she gave him the blood flower…

…In the library, the Doctor tells Louisa she’s the elder sister and generally regarded as the more beautiful of the two, which is why she pities Alison. Louisa demands to know who sent the Doctor here, but he insists he’s a free agent, although he adds that everyone is a slave to their own conscience or their sense of duty. Louisa says she and her sister have a sworn duty to their people and the Doctor asks if this is why they fight the spiders? He implies that he’s not from this world, but she refuses to accept this and says that would make him a ravening monster, part of a mindless horde that threatens their survival. If this is the case, she and her armies would cut him down and see his conquered lands soaked in his own vile blood. He remembers her saying she’d fought over 50 campaigns and that tomorrow there’s to be another battle, so tonight’s ball is a celebration on the eve of battle!

The Doctor suddenly finds himself back in the ballroom, accompanied by the cheerful Colonel. Alec had seen the Doctor dancing with Princess Louisa earlier and in turn the Doctor says he saw the Colonel talking to her sister Princess Alison. Alec tells the Doctor there’s no need to gloat and he knows Louisa is the fairer prize, but Alison - for all her plainness - is still a Princess and every officer has his career to think of when it comes to courtship. They watch as Alison leaves the room and Alec says that’s his signal. He makes an excuse and follows the Princess, but outside the Palace he soon finds himself under attack from the spiders.

In the ballroom, the Doctor asks if anyone else heard the screaming, but his attention is distracted by Princess Louisa who insists he join her for a dance. He ignores her and rushes outside, but when he gets there he finds Princess Alison alone. She demands to know who he is, then she tells him about the spiders and orders him to call out the Guard, but the Doctor is confused and says the order of things are wrong. Alison insists there are spiders on their world attacking them, but the Doctor points out that there aren’t any here. The Colonel has already seen the Doctor dancing with Louisa, then he left to meet Alison in the garden, so how can it be that Louisa has only just asked him to dance with her for the first time? Alison accuses her sister of mocking her and asks why she can’t allow her just one moment of happiness, to feel beautiful for just one night. She screams and asks why Louisa always has to punish her, but the Doctor assures her that Louisa didn’t have anything to do with the spiders. Alison turns on the Doctor and then notices the blood flower on his lapel. The Doctor wonders what’s so important about the blood flower and how is it that he knows Alison shouldn’t touch it? Despite his pleas, she rushes forward to crush the flower with the intention of throwing it back in Louisa’s beautiful face…

Alison storms back to the Palace and demands that Louisa explain what she’s done to Alec. Louisa doesn’t understand and then Alison accuses her of sending the Doctor to play a cruel trick on her. The Doctor finds himself back with them, and once again he’s wearing the rose. Louise admits that she gave him the blood flower and Alison takes this as proof that the two of them are close and have been conspiring against her. Louise suggests they retire to the library, but Alison refuses to be patronised and pitied. She’s fed up of everyone feeling sorry for the “ugly sister” and tells Louisa she’s taunted her for the last time. Now it’s Louisa’s turn to find out what it’s like to be ugly. Alison smashes a vase and prepares to cut her sister’s face, but then Louisa asks Alison to listen as she has something important to tell her, and she thinks the Doctor knows what she’s going to say…

…Back in the library, the Doctor tells Louisa that she indulges her younger because she pities her. She calls him impertinent, so he challenges her to summon her waiters with the proton-knives. She asks who sent him here, but he insists he’s a free agent, although he adds that everyone is a slave to their own conscience or their sense of duty. Louisa says she and her sister have a sworn duty to their people but the Doctor asks if they have a similar duty to each other? He asks if it’s true that Alison lives in Louisa’s beautiful shadow and she demands to know who he is. He says he’s already told her his name, more times than he can remember, perhaps even a million times, although it may have been just once. One thing’s for sure though - they’ve both been here before. The Doctor can feel it in his bones and he thinks Louisa can too. She says he’s talking nonsense and thinks she should have him removed, but the Doctor says they’ve played everything out before, but it’s not always the same way. He’s used to time travel and says he wants to show her how he got here, but when she asks why she should trust him, he tells her she already does trust him because she trusted him earlier. Louisa has the faintest flicker of remembrance, like déjà vu, and she suddenly realises she does trust him, although she has no idea why.

The Doctor takes Louisa to the conservatory and says this is where he landed his craft, but she tells him that would be impossible. He proudly shows her the TARDIS and takes her inside. She’s amazed at the scale of the interior, but then she realises she’s been here before. At first the Doctor is surprised, but then it becomes clear that everything they’re doing is all part of their gilded cage. He says he thinks Louisa has been imprisoned in a moment of time, but now it’s starting to fold back in on itself. He shows her a glowing spiral on the scanner, like a spider’s web, and tells her it’s a chaotic time loop. They’re trapped inside while it corrupts and destroys itself. Louisa argues that time flows from one moment to the next, but he insists it can do anything it pleases, if given the right encouragement. The TARDIS shakes and the Doctor says it’s another fold in time, which means they may not even be safe inside here…

…The Doctor finds himself in the middle of the New Year’s celebrations and is confused when Princess Louisa invites him for a dance. He warns her he may be a little out of practice, but then he remembers this happening before! He encourages her to remember too, but she’s not sure and as they move closer, the Doctor points out that she’s crushing his flower. When she tells him it’s a blood flower, he realises that sometimes the time shifts are spontaneous because of the time loop folding in on itself, but at other times it’s when the blood flower is touched. He touches it…

…and then he finds himself back out in the gardens. He watches as an angry Princess Alison storms away from the Colonel, claiming he would rather let her die if it meant he could have Louisa instead. Moments later, the entire courtyard is filled with giant spiders and Alec screams as they race towards him. Alison flees for her life and then the Doctor calmly approaches the spiders and asks them what they’re doing here. In fact, he already knows they’re not really spiders at all as they all have different numbers of legs. The spiders appear to become aggressive towards him, so he decides to touch his blood flower again…

…then the Doctor suddenly finds himself flitting between all the different scenarios, one by one, quickly moving from one confrontation to another…

The Doctor leads the two Princesses away and Alison demands to know why Louisa is listening to this strange man. He takes them to the conservatory and says this is where he landed his craft, but Louisa tells him that would be impossible. He proudly shows her the TARDIS and as he takes them inside, he notes with interest that there are three of them this time. Louisa is amazed at the scale of the interior, but then she realises she’s been here before. Alison assumes this is another of her sister’s tricks and she bangs on the door, trying to get out. The Doctor ponders which of them is the prisoner and which is the captive, then he tells the Princesses that neither of them exist while they’re within the dimensions of his ship. Alison insists that he can’t keep them here and Louisa asks why he’s doing this as she thought the Doctor was her friend. The Doctor is intrigued to learn this and then remembers that’s why she gave him the blood flower. This time he remembers how the story plays out. He originally thought one of the sisters had imprisoned the other in the loop, but he realises neither of them would be capable of creating such a thing. So who is?

Louisa argues that time flows from one moment to the next, but he insists it can do anything it pleases, if given the right encouragement. The TARDIS shakes and the Doctor says it’s another fold in time, which means they may not even be safe inside here. The dimensional shell of the TARDIS is being breached and the interior is suddenly filled with the huge spiders. The two Princesses demand to be let out, convinced the spiders are attacking and when the Doctor asks the spiders if they’re here to kill them, Louisa insists they’re mindless, crazed, evil beasts. The Doctor points out that they’re not actually spiders at all as such creatures could never penetrate the TARDIS. He looks closely at the creatures and says their legs look more like nerve endings. He theorises that if Alison and Louisa were both killed, the spiders could leave in peace without fear of being cut down and seeing their conquered lands soaked in their own vile blood. Then the Doctor turns to the spiders and says if they’re really nerve endings pressing themselves into this dimension, then they must be part of something much greater, something intelligent.

Before their eyes, one of the spiders begin to “give birth” to another gigantic creature, which then towers over the Doctor. It declares him an intruder and a problem, but it also says it can predict what he’s thinking. The sisters demand to know how he could have come out of the spider - but then they freeze mid flow and the creature says he’s suspended their time dimension. The creature realises the Doctor is likening it to an antibody and will be thinking about creating a virus to attack and destroy it. The Doctor concedes that he’s an intruder, but asks why he’s a problem? The creature reveals that it’s a minute part of a pan-dimensional being that’s far greater than anything in this reality. The Doctor asks what he should call it, but the creature doesn’t care, so he decides to name it ‘Henry’. He asks Henry why he’s letting his nerve endings protrude into our reality and, using images from the Doctor’s own mind, he compares it to a dog putting its nose out of a car window or people paddling in the sea. The Doctor is now realising the TARDIS was drawn into the time loop and it’s his presence here that’s disrupting the loop and causing it to collapse.

The Doctor asks why Henry created the loop in the first place and learns that because the Princesses regard the ‘spiders’ as ravening monsters, they’d sent their armies to cut them down. So to stop the soldiers destroying the nerve endings, Henry wove a dimensional cocoon of time to trap everyone. Henry says they don’t believe in capital punishment, but if the Princesses were left in a time loop, their irrational jealousy, played over and over again, would grow until finally they destroyed each other. But the Doctor’s intrusion has fractured the dimensional cocoon and interfered with the plan. To solve this ‘problem’, Henry is arranging for the TARDIS to be destroyed, then he will destroy the Doctor himself. Although they don’t believe in capital punishment, he regards the Doctor as nothing more than a bug in the system which needs to be purged.

The Doctor wonders about the blood flower and Henry explains that they grow on the plains where the Keldafrians had cut down their nerve endings. The flowers are infused with the creature’s life fluids and are still connected to the central nervous system of the pan-dimensional being. That’s why touching them affects control of the time loop. To test the theory, the Doctor touches the blood flower in his lapel…and finds himself flitting between all the different scenarios, one by one, quickly moving from one confrontation to another…

…until he eventually arrives back in the library at the moment he was telling Louisa that everyone is a slave to their own conscience or their sense of duty. Louisa says she and her sister have a sworn duty to their people and the Doctor asks if they have the same duty to each other? He points out that Alison lives in Louisa’s beautiful shadow and she’s unhappy because she knows the man she loves, Alec, is always gazing at her elder sister. He thinks Louisa ignores Alec simply because she knows it would break Alison’s heart if she returned his affections. Louisa admits this is true but says she doesn’t know what else she can do. The Doctor suggests she tell her sister the one thing she herself is tired of hearing - that’s she’s beautiful…

…Alison says she’s fed up of everyone feeling sorry for the ugly sister and tells Louisa she’s taunted her for the last time. Now it’s Louisa’s turn to find out what it’s like to be ugly. Alison smashes a vase and prepares to cut her sister’s face, but then Louisa asks Alison to listen as she has something important to tell her, and she thinks the Doctor knows what she’s going to say. The Doctor sincerely hopes so. Louisa turns to her younger sister and tells her she’s beautiful. Alison can’t believe what she’s hearing, so Louisa repeats it…

…and then the Doctor finds himself back before Henry. He now knows the ’problem’ was the moment his presence disrupted the loop by convincing Alison and Louisa not to hate each other. As a result, they didn’t go outside and so Henry’s nerve endings didn’t attack. The Doctor wonders what’s so bad about that, but then he realises the only ’problem’ that remains is that he’s still here - with Death for company! He immediately begins to purge the remaining Decay from the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits. He tells Henry that although he might be pan-dimensional, his nerve endings are very much in this dimension, and there’s nothing here that can resist Death. The effect of the Decay is instantaneous and Henry howls in agony as his nerve endings are reduced to dust…

Inside the Palace, the two Princesses are enjoying each other’s company when they hear a commotion going on outside. They ask the guards to investigate, but then the main door opens and the Doctor strides confidently in. The Princesses don’t recognise him, but they can see he’s wearing a blood flower and wonder how that’s possible. The Doctor is also surprised as he expected that the blood flowers would have faded away when the spiders vanished. This one obviously survived because of the time displacement, but slowly even this flower begins to vanish. Louisa asks the Doctor what his business is and he tells them he’s come to congratulate the beautiful Princess Alison on her forthcoming wedding and to join with them in celebrating the end of the spiders and the start of a new glorious era of peace. The sisters are unimpressed and the Doctor offers to leave, but Louisa has a question for him - where did he get the rose? He points out that only he referred to the blood flower as a rose, which makes her wonders if she’s ever met him before. She becomes confused because she doesn’t know who he is, yet she knows his name. The Doctor dismisses it and says it’s just that he must have one of those honest, trustworthy and unforgettable faces. He asks Alison if she’s wearing her wedding dress and Louisa emphasises how beautiful she looks in it.

Source: Lee Rogers
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