7th Doctor
Prime Time
by Mike Tucker
BBC logo
Cover Blurb
Prime Time

‘Coming up after the break, the start of a new series of programmes featuring the mysterious traveller in Time and Space known only as -- The Doctor.’

Detecting a mysterious sub-space signal in the Time Vortex, the Doctor and Ace land on the planet Blinni-Gaar.  They soon discover that the native population are little more than zombies, addicted to the programmes of the dangerously powerful Channel 400.  As the Doctor investigates, he finds that the television company has a sinister agenda that has nothing to do with entertainment.

Why is the Director-General of Channel 400 so interested in the Doctor? Who are the mysterious aliens who watch from the shadows of the Brago nebula?  And why is a pack of Zzinbriizi jackals stalking the streets of Blinni-Gaar?

As the Doctor is drawn deeper and deeper into a web of intrigue and deceit he discovers that he has an unexpected ally -- of the most dangerous kind.

  • Featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace, this adventure takes place after the BBC novel Storm Harvest.
  • Released: July 2000

  • ISBN: 0 563 55597 1

The Doctor and Ace visit the planet Blinni-Garr to investigate a rather disturbing signal which the Doctor has detected buried in a television broadcast. Blinni-Garr used to be a happy, agrarian planet, until Channel 400 moved in; now, the farms are all automated, and the population spends their time glued to the insipid games, talk shows and reality programming foisted upon them by the network. Leaving the TARDIS in the fields outside the city, the Doctor leaves Ace in a cafe while he investigates the broadcast centre; however, he is unable to get past the officious Commissioner Reg Gurney. Ace, meanwhile, is chatted up by roving reporter Greg Ashby, who recognises her from the news footage of the recent Coralee disaster and hopes to scoop an interview with the mysterious Doctor. None of them are aware that Channel 400 has detected the arrival of the TARDIS, and that the Doctor is now being stalked by a pack of Zzinbriizi jackals, ruthless predators augmented into intelligence and controlled through torturous electronic implants. Vogol Lukos, Channel 400’s Director, intends to debut a very special programme...

The Doctor and Ace move into a boarding house owned by the Rooth family, claiming to be an alternative comedian and a presenter for a children’s programme. Ace soon befriends the Rooths’ teenage daughter Gatti, who tells Ace that her father used to be a hard-working farmer before the family became addicted to Channel 400’s programming. Gatti offers to take Ace out rock-climbing, and when it becomes obvious that the only way to get into Channel 400 is to break in, the Doctor encourages her to practice. Meanwhile, he takes the TARDIS to the moon to examine Channel 400’s transmission tower, and confirms that it has been augmented with organic alien technology which is adding subliminal signals to its transmissions. As he, Ace and Gatti plan their next move, Ashby and his partner Eeji Tek locate them and convince the Doctor to let them interview him; however, Lukos picks up the transmission and shuts them down. Furious, he sends the Zzinbriizi jackals after Ashby and Eeji Tek, but although the jackals kill Eeji Tek they only maul Ashby severely and then deliver him into the hands of their masters, the Fleshsmiths. The Fleshsmiths do not trust their so-called allies, and therefore augment Ashby in order to make a more loyal servant...

Once Ace is sure she’s ready, the Doctor takes her to break into Channel 400 -- unaware that their every move is being monitored. Lukos has manufactured an adventure for the Doctor and his companion, and is about to broadcast it live to the galaxy. His top talk show host, Roderik Saarl, suspects that Lukos is up to something more than a mere ratings stunt, involving the mysterious clients whose existence Lukos will not discuss. Lukos admits that his real goal is to get his hands on the Doctor’s TARDIS, and use it to take news teams back to the most photogenic disasters of history. His top investigative reporter, Rennie Trasker, has already unearthed much about Ace’s personal history, and Lukos orders her to step in and take a more active role in the adventure. As the Doctor and Ace arrive at the broadcast centre, Lukos begins to transmit his new programme -- and at the Rooths’ home, Gatti’s little sister tells her that her friends are on television. Gatti soon works out what is happening and rushes to the Channel 400 studios to warn the Doctor and Ace, and arrives just in time to see the Zzinbriizi pack enter the building, hunting the Doctor...

The Doctor and Ace have been allowed to break into a studio in which a jungle set has been constructed, but as they advance they realise that the jungle is becoming surprisingly realistic -- and that it’s bigger than the studio in which it has been constructed. Gatti manages to track them down, but before she can warn them that their every move is being broadcast, they hear the howls of the Zzinbriizi pack and the Doctor rushes off to lead them away from Ace and Gatti. As he flees through the jungle, however, he runs into the Master, who is still infected with the Cheeta world’s contagion and will soon be dead. For the moment he and the Doctor must work together to escape from the Zzinbriizi. As they flee, the Master admits that he tried to make a bargain with the race known as the Fleshsmiths so they would construct a new body for him. However, they lured him into a trap, and forced him to take the Zzinbriizi to Blinni-Garr and configure his TARDIS as a jungle studio set for some reason which they have not divulged to him.

Gatti and Ace try to slip out of the building amongst an audience of teenage girls, but they are spotted and pursued by the commissioners. Rennie Trasker arrives and “rescues” them, claiming to be an investigative reporter who was fired from Channel 400 when she stumbled across proof of Lukos’ corruption. As they plan their next move, Ace spots the Doctor on one of the planet’s ubiquitous television sets, and is horrified to see that he’s joined forces with the Master. Certain that the Master cannot be trusted, she tells Trasker to take her back to the TARDIS so she can arm herself with nitro-nine; however, Trasker secretly transmits the TARDIS’ location to Lukos, and by the time Ace reaches the field, the TARDIS has been taken. Ace will have to break back into Channel 400 without weapons. Meanwhile, the thing that used to be Ashby hides in the shadows, broadcasting their movements back to the Fleshsmiths with the camera which his masters have embedded in his head -- but he starts to become confused and angry when he sees Trasker, his former lover, who dumped him for the sake of her career. When the Fleshsmiths augmented Ashby, they tried to remove his emotions while retaining his useful memories, but it appears that they have not succeeded.

Just as the Zzinbriizi pack is about to catch up to them, the Doctor and the Master locate the controls for the Master’s TARDIS in a copper building in the jungle. The Doctor reconfigures the TARDIS into its default roundelled architecture, and programmes an off-set into the structure, ensuring that the jackals end up in a different corridor. He and the Master then set off in search of the control room, and although the Master seems to be having trouble finding it, the Doctor manages to track it down -- just moments ahead of the Zzinbriizi pack. As the pack leader, Barrock, calls on them to surrender, the Doctor attempts to operate the control console to lock them out -- only to find that the controls have been pre-set. As soon as he touches them, the Master’s TARDIS dematerialises, and the Zzinbriizi then break in and capture the Master. The Doctor surrenders to save the Master’s life -- only to find that this is not the Master at all, but a Zzinbriizi jackal in disguise. Now the Doctor is to be taken to the Fleshsmiths...

Ace, Gatti and Trasker break into the Channel 400 building once again, and while Trasker is fetching false ID for Ace, Ace and Gatti meet the eccentric Gartrold Breame, a former game-show host who was banished to the basement by Lukos for not being photogenic enough. Trasker leads Ace to the newsroom, telling Gatti to stay with Breame -- but Breame, who can only communicate through riddles and questions, gives Gatti enough clues for her to work out that Trasker is leading Ace into a trap. The dematerialisation of the Master’s TARDIS with the Doctor inside has caused a break in transmission, but Lukos has planned for this temporary hiatus. As soon as Trasker has Ace alone, she drops her friendly facade and forces Ace into a television studio at gunpoint; there, Saarl puts her on stage before a hostile audience and presents her with a compilation of all the sordid details of her life. Ace is shown to be an arsonist who destroyed the heritage site Gabriel Chase, and is presented with the weeping face of the mother she abandoned -- and finally, she is shown her own gravesite, centuries in the past. Emotionally drained, Ace is then sent under guard to the dressing rooms to await another round of public humiliation, while Saarl prepares for his next broadcast -- a tour of the Doctor’s TARDIS, live on air.

The Doctor has been taken to Scrantek, deep in the Brago Nebula; this is the home of the Fleshsmiths, a once peaceful species ravaged by a natural disaster that has reduced them to monstrosities forced to harvest the flesh and organs of others to survive. The Doctor is brought before the Fleshsmiths’ Surgeon General, who reveals that the real Master is still their prisoner, and that they have made a deal with Lukos to lure the Doctor into a trap. Once his adventures resume after the hiatus, millions of eager viewers will tune in to his return -- and the Fleshsmiths will transmit an enzyme signal buried in the broadcast, breaking down the flesh of those millions of viewers and transmitting it directly into the organ banks of Scrantek. Once this has been done, they intend to harvest the Doctor’s power to regenerate; the Master is useless to them, as he is in a hybrid Trakenite body ravaged by the Cheeta world’s infection. As the time to resume the broadcast draws near, the Fleshsmiths release the Doctor and the Master into an arena through which they will be hunted by the Zzinbriizi pack, following continuity by ensuring they resume the struggle they were engaged in before the programme went off the air.

As the Doctor and the Master attempt to shake off the pursuing Zzinbriizi, they communicate telepathically and come up with an escape plan. One of the jackals tracks them down, but the Master does battle with it, and the cameras automatically track this photogenic action sequence, ignoring the Doctor -- who slips up behind one of the cameras and shorts it out, interrupting the broadcast. The Master succumbs to the Cheeta influence and tears the Zzinbriizi apart, and as he tries to calm himself down and regain control, Barrock and the rest of the pack surround them. Instead of killing them, however, the pack shoots a hole in the wall and helps them to escape. Barrock has made a private deal with Lukos, who has promised to free the pack from their Fleshsmith slavemasters in exchange for their help; Lukos has no intention of allowing the Fleshsmiths to wipe out his entire viewing audience, and instead intends to stop them and become the saviour of the galaxy. As the jackals lead the Master and the Doctor to the organ banks, however, the Doctor realises that the jackals are barely keeping their savage instincts in check; it seems he can’t trust any of his allies...

Lukos’ deal with the jackals did not involve a break in transmission, and he furiously orders Saarl to begin the TARDIS tour even though Saarl has had no chance to prepare for the programme. He also sends his commissioners to collect Ace, only to find that Gatti and Breame have helped her to escape. While Breame distracts the commissioners, Ace and Gatti put their climbing skills to use by climbing up the outside of the Channel 400 building and breaking into Lukos’ penthouse suite; however, Lukos predicts their intentions and is waiting with Trasker when they arrive. He has had enough of Ace and orders Trasker to shoot her, but before she can do so, Breame arrives -- with Greg Ashby, who has shaken off the Fleshsmiths’ control and followed Trasker to Channel 400, accidentally killing Commissioner Gurney on his way in. Trasker guns down the monstrous figure in shock as it approaches her, only to recognise Greg as he dies in front of her. Finally realising that she has allied herself with a monster, she collapses in tears, and Ace takes the gun and orders Lukos to release the Doctor. However, it’s out of his hands now, and as Ace realises this her finger starts to tighten on the trigger. At that very moment, Roderik Saarl opens the doors of the TARDIS before a live studio audience...

The Doctor and his uneasy allies pass through the abattoir where animals and “unsuitable” kidnap victims are kept for use as breeding stock, food, and experimental subjects. There, they are located and attacked by the Fleshsmiths, and the Doctor releases the animals as a distraction -- but, surrounded by carnage, the Zzinbriizi revert to savagery, shaking off their augmented intelligence. The Doctor flees in the confusion, but the Master betrays him and helps the Fleshsmiths to track him down in exchange for the new body the Fleshsmiths had constructed for him. The Fleshsmiths locate the Doctor near their DNA sequencer, and connect him to it, intending to extract his regenerative powers -- but as they begin to do so, his body melts away into a toxic sludge. This is not the real Doctor, but a clone he created with the DNA sequencer before they caught him, and which he infected with a contagium that the Fleshsmiths have just released into their planetary infrastructure. The Fleshsmiths begin to die, and the Master’s new body withers and rots away before he can remove it from the sequencer. Thwarted again, he tries to flee back to his TARDIS, only to be surrounded by the animalistic Zzinbriizi pack...

Just as Ace is about to pull the trigger, the Doctor arrives and stops her. He moved his real TARDIS some time ago, suspecting that he’d been lured into a trap; Saarl has just opened up a hollow police box prop on live television, spectacularly ending his career. The Doctor stopped off on the way back from Scrantek to sabotage the transmission tower on Blinni-Garr’s moon, destroying all trace of the Fleshsmiths’ technology and putting Lukos off the air permanently. As the people of Blinni-Garr wake from their addiction, the Doctor and Ace leave them to their new life... while Lukos receives a final visit from the Master and his new allies, the hypnotised Zzinbriizi jackals.

As they depart, the Doctor assures Ace that Lukos and Saarl were just playing with her emotions, showing her disturbing images in order to provoke her into a breakdown before a live audience. But later, when he’s sure that she’s asleep, the Doctor tracks down the gravesite which was shown on Saarl’s broadcast and digs up the coffin beneath. It’s worse than he’d feared; the body within is not even that of an elderly woman, but that of Ace, the same age she is now. The Doctor returns to the console room, vowing to prevent this from happening -- whatever the cost.

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
  • Following his discovery of Ace’s dead body, the Doctor tries for a while to keep her out of dangerous situations, but after the events of Heritage he realises this is futile and investigates her death directly, leading to the events of Loving the Alien.
[Back to Main Page]