6th Doctor
The Ratings War
The Ratings War
Written by Steve Lyons
Directed by Gary Russell
Music, Sound Design and Post Production by David Darlington

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Toby Longworth (Beep the Meep), Robert Jezek (Roger Lowell), Alistair Lock (Robbie McHale), Jane Goddard (Lucy).

Beep the Meep is back -- and he’s found a new channel for his aggression! A brand new series is about to make television history, but can the Doctor prevent his furry foe from turning a docu-drama into a crisis, or will the fluffy-wuffy animals get it in the neck?  The first shots in the ratings war have been fired, and the next one is aimed at your head...
  • Featuring the the Sixth Doctor, this story was included on a free CD offered with Doctor Who Magazine #313.

    Time-Placement: The Sixth Doctor appears to be travelling alone, and as he encounters a foe from the comic strip continuity, this story would probably best fit near the last Frobisher story.

  • This story features the return of Beep the Meep, the villain introduced in the Fourth Doctor comic strip Star Beast.
  • Released: January 2002
The Ratings War
(drn: 38'10" )

It’s time for the final episode of Audience Shares -- and if you don’t know what that is, then what on Earth have you been watching all this time? Thanks in part to a power failure which has taken this station’s main rivals off the air, over eighty percent of the country’s viewing population has tuned in to see which of the two final contestants, Todd or Lucy, will win the grand prize -- the chance to become the star of their very own TV docudrama. Show host Robbie McHale whips the already cheering audience into a frenzy as they wait to see who will emerge from the studio doors. It’s all thanks to Programme Controller Roger Lowell, who has already overseen the introduction of such innovative programmes as Young Cops in Hospital, Wacky Domestic Mishaps, and Look! Cute Animals!. And tonight, after the final episode of Audience Shares, viewers will see the pilot for his newest series, the childrens’ show Beep and Friends. All indications are that Lowell will have another hit on his hands...

Even as Audience Shares begins, however, the Doctor is barging into Lowell’s office, ostensibly to complain about the poor quality of the programming on his station. Television should inform, educate and entertain -- not pander to the lowest common denominator with a diet of “reality TV”, docudramas, soap operas and quiz shows for people with low IQs. Furthermore, the stuffed toy in the corner of Lowell’s office appears to be moving by itself. The “toy” tries to hypnotise the Doctor, and after a moment he seems to forget its existence, returning instead to his scathing critique of Lowell’s programmes. He may be outperforming his rivals -- but isn’t it odd that so many of his rivals’ major on-air personalities have recently died in a series of tragic accidents? The Doctor apparently gives up trying to make Lowell see reason, but before he can storm out of the office, the “toy” locks the door, having realised that the stranger was not affected by the black star radiation the “toy” is using to control Lowell’s mind. Even so, the “toy” is stunned when the Doctor identifies himself -- for they have met before, and on each occasion the Doctor has defeated this creature, the evil Beep the Meep.

Once Beep recovers from his shock he eagerly anticipates the Doctor’s gruesome death, but the Doctor reveals that he picked Beep’s pouch and stole his laser pistol. Beep tries to act cute in order to play on the Doctor’s sentimental side, but it’s no use; the Doctor knows him for the sadistic monster he is, and he knows that Lowell deliberately sabotaged his rivals’ studio to knock them off the air. Beep admits that he’s infiltrated this station and altered its programming in order to play on the human race’s weakness for cute images and sentimentality, having learned much from the nauseating film in which the Doctor imprisoned him during their last encounter. And as long as his rivals try to compete on his terms by showing more of the same programming, he will never be defeated. The Doctor vows to stop Beep from completing his vile plan, but Beep then reveals that he has hostages, on the set of Appealing Animals in Distress. The programme is broadcast live from a local animal shelter, and if the Doctor takes one more step towards the door or tries to shoot Beep, then Beep will use the remote control in his hand to release corrosive gas into the shelter and kill all of the helpless, cute little animals in the most horrible manner possible.

Back in the studio, Audience Shares approaches its climax. Nine weeks ago, ten young volunteers entered the specially equipped studio, and began competing to show who had the best media skills. The public voted one under-performer out every week, and now only Todd and Lucy remain. Who will win? Lucy, who invented a scandal from her past and “accidentally” let her bathrobe slip open on live TV? Or Todd, who kept everyone guessing for weeks whether he would or wouldn’t? (He wouldn’t.) As the clock ticks towards 8:00, everyone’s in a foaming frenzy waiting for the new stars of the future to emerge through the studio doors. Minutes remain, or is it only seconds? The winner will be out any moment now...

The Doctor knows that he must stop Beep even if it means the deaths of every animal and person in the shelter -- logically, he must sacrifice the few to save the money. But Beep knows that his sentimentality will be his downfall, and soon it’ll be too late. In the past, Beep has always been too forthright, and has drawn too much attention to himself by enslaving too few people to create a power base. But now, thanks to his manipulations, over eighty percent of the TV viewing population is watching his station -- and when Todd and Lucy emerge from the studio doors, the device which Beep has installed in the control booth will beam subliminal messages out through the programme, bringing the entire audience under Beep’s control. And immediately afterwards, the pilot episode of Beep and Friends will programme his army to kill all those who remain free.

Gloating over his victory, Beep loads the first episode of Beep and Friends into a video player so the Doctor can watch. As a clutch of animatronic Meeps frolic happily on screen, singing a happy song about slaughter and carnage, Beep explains that he escaped from the film in which the Doctor trapped him with the help of a darling young girl who worked at the Wrarth Institute. She watched the film repeatedly, and was terribly moved by the plight of the dear little furry friend who heroically rescued the young boy from the mine shaft after the boy’s loyal dog “mysteriously” broke all of its legs. But she didn’t last long after helping her favourite snuggly-wuggly-woo to escape... The Meep delights in telling his story, but though tempted, admits that it would have been a mistake to broadcast tales of his own exploits on his television channel. The audience might have mistaken them for science fiction and had their imaginations stimulated, and that would never have done.

Beep’s plans are about to come to fruition, and as he no longer needs to hold the Appealing Animals hostage, he prepares to press the button and kill them all. But the Doctor shoots the remote out of his hands and reveals that he knew of Beep’s presence all along -- the advance TV listings for Beep and Friends were a small clue... He destroyed the subliminal signal unit long ago, and only came to Lowell’s office to keep Beep occupied so he wouldn’t notice. Beep loses his temper when he realises that he’s spent months supervising cloying, overly sentimental programming for nothing, and orders the hypnotised Lowell to attack the Doctor. Lowell wrestles away the laser pistol and shoots the Doctor, and Beep then takes the pistol back and allows Lowell to regain control of his mind. As Lowell sinks back in shock, realising that he’s done, Beep prepares to depart from the Earth after giving his audience one horrible image to remember him by -- the deaths of their simpering idols, Todd and Lucy.

Todd and Lucy have just emerged into the studio, but Robbie finds it more difficult than he’d anticipated to interview the vacuous Lucy. Beep then arrives, and while Robbie is somewhat thrown by this departure from his script he recovers nicely, assuming that this is a publicity stunt for the upcoming programme. But as Beep tries to give Todd and Lucy the “very special gift” he has for them, the Doctor bursts in and attacks him. The furious audience members pull him off the cute little Meep, ignoring his warnings that the sweet, furry little creature is a homicidal lunatic -- until Beep pulls out his laser pistol, guns down Todd and Lucy, and flees through the emergency exit. As chaos breaks out in the studio, the Doctor pursues Beep -- and reveals that he jammed a paper-clip into the laser pistol’s power pack as soon as he took it. It’s been discharging energy ever since, and only had enough power for a few weak shots. Thus the Doctor was only stunned when Lowell shot him, and Todd and Lucy are recovering even now. Lowell has sent his security guards to arrest Beep, and to twist the knife even further, the Doctor admits that he never found the signal unit after all. He was bluffing all along; Beep had his army, but never knew it. And now that Lowell has control of himself again, he will prevent Beep and Friends from going out, and thus prevent the brainwashed masses from receiving their instructions. Soon they will shake off their conditioning without ever knowing it -- those who haven’t already been shocked back to their senses by seeing Beep gun down Todd and Lucy on live television.

The security guards drag the enraged Beep off; soon a representative of the Wrarth prison will be in touch with them, and Beep the Meep will be back where he belongs. Back in the studio, Robbie reports that Beep and Friends has been put on hiatus for eighteen months, and that the recovering Todd has vowed to make a TV-movie about his experiences. The phones are ringing off the hook -- but it seems that nobody’s interested in Todd or Lucy. Instead, the viewing audience wants to see more of this mysterious Doctor. But the Doctor turns down Robbie’s request for an interview; in its current state, television just can’t do him justice. He needs a new medium in which to express himself fully. But rest assured... we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.

Source: Cameron Dixon

Bonus Material:
  • The Ratings War was offered on a promotional CD along with the first episode of Invaders from Mars. The bonus material for The Ratings War can be found after several minutes of silence on the final track of Invaders.

    • Colin Baker tries to help Alistair Lock sing the Meep song.
    • Beep the Meep’s full rant while being dragged off by security guards, promising vile punishments and tortures upon the entire human race. And its pets.
    • The full Meep song from Beep and Friends, a happy, bouncy chorus of death and mutilation.
[Back to Main Page]