Doom Coalition is, as of this writing, the most recent of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures yet revealed. It immediately follows Dark Eyes and, like Dark Eyes, is a sweeping 16-episode saga told in four parts. I’m always so eager to listen to these that I end up rushing through them and complaining that I don’t do a thorough job on these summaries. This time I’m going to slow down and make a concentrated effort to be more complete, including transcriptions of more of the liner notes than I have been including lately, writer credits, actor credits, etc. . We’re now nearly ¾ through the “Year Without a Doctor” as I call it (17 months, actually, the upcoming Christmas episode notwithstanding), and I want to stretch these out until Doctor Who returns to television for a proper season. Here’s a look at what’s ahead.
1.1 The Eleven by Matt Fitton
When one of Gallifrey’s most notorious criminals attempts to escape from prison, Cardinal Padrac turns for help to the Time Lord who put him there in the first place.
1.2 The Red Lady by John Dorney
A London museum holds the key to many secrets from the past. But some secrets are so deadly they should remain locked away. Forever.
1.3 The Galileo Trap by Marc Platt
With a mysterious plague sweeping through Florence, a rampaging alien behemoth comes between the Doctor and the answers he seeks.
1.4 The Satanic Mill by Edward Collier
Long buried animosities come boiling to the surface of an ancient and powerful satellite, in a final confrontation that could have unimaginable consequences.
2.1 Beachhead by Nicholas Briggs
The residents of Stegmoor Bay have more to deal with than the elements when a flash flood uncovers the remains f a Voord scout ship.
2.2 Scenes from Her Life by John Dorney
Following a clue into the time vortex, the Doctor investigates a desolate city only to discover a horrifying plot to create a monster.
2.3 The Gift by Marc Platt
San Francisco, 1906, and a desperate race to prevent the destruction of more than just the city.
2.4 The Sonomancer by Matt Fitton
River Song tries to stop a mining company from exploiting the Syran people only to discover the miners have uncovered much more than they bargained for.
3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney
The Doctor and his companions find themselves I the middle of a mystery. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. And sometimes the future does as well.
3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton
England, 1938: Lord Thomas Cromwell finds his duties interrupted by otherworldly forces—clockwork soldiers, an unusual nun, and a mysterious scholar calling himself “The Doctor.”
3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton
Trapped and alone, Liv stares death in the face as she meets the enemy who’s been dogging the TARDIS travellers’ footsteps throughout Earth’s history.
3.4 The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney
With the TARDIS crew separated and in terrible trouble, will today be the day the bad guys win? Spoilers…
4.1 Ship in a Bottle by John Dorney
The Doctor, Liv and Helen are hurtling into a future that has been utterly destroyed, trapped inside a shuttle with no possible means of escape. But with the lives of everyone in the universe in the balance, they've got to find one. And soon. When the stakes are this high, you can't just give up. Or can you?
4.2 Songs of Love by Matt Fitton
Left to fend for herself against a bunch of power-hungry plotters hell-bent on destroying the universe, what choice does a girl have but to throw in her lot with the winning side? Using her past to her advantage, River Song returns to the ancestral seat of the Time Lords to make her last stand.
4.3 The Side of the Angels by Matt Fitton
Cardinal Ollistra has plans for New York, plans which involve the Deputy Mayor and her sponsor, one ‘Reverend Mortimer’ – better known to the Doctor as the Meddling Monk. The Eleven arrives to stamp out the resistance, but that isn't the only danger the Doctor finds lurking in the shadows – for New York is a city of Weeping Angels.
4.4 Stop the Clock by John Dorney
The time has arrived. Events are in motion. The end of the universe is at hand and the Doctor and his friends have one hour to save eternity. Starting now.
THE ELEVEN by Matt Fitton:
“The Eleven. A Time Lord whose previous personalities live on in his mind: arguing, plotting, jostling for supremacy... He is also Gallifrey's most dangerous criminal. And he has escaped.
“The Doctor is recalled to his homeworld to lead the hunt. As they search the Capitol's corridors of power, the Academy halls and the cells of the highest security penitentiary, Liv realizes the worst monsters may be among the Doctor's own people.
“For inside his fractured mind, the Eleven has a plan. And its deadly consequences will extend through space and time.”
When the Doctor name-drops or mentions a particular previously untold event from the past, do you ever wonder which Doctor it happened to? For example, the insane Time Lord known as “The Eleven” had been previously captured by the Doctor. Although The Eleven is a new character, listeners don’t have to guess which Doctor had a hand in his capture because the introductory sequence of antecedent action features a special appearance of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.
Many of the episodes in the previous set were loosely based on war films (Where Eagles Dare, Das Boot, etc.). I didn’t read anything about it in the writer’s notes (which I will post verbatim tomorrow), but “The Eleven” is obviously based on Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. (Maybe something will be said about it on the “interviews” disc.) A young Academy scholar, Kiani, has gotten special permission to interview the Eleven for her dissertation. It quickly becomes obvious that Kiani is Clarice Starling, The Eleven is Hannibal Lecter, and the Doctor is Will Graham.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Liv are joined in medias res as they are fleeing for their lives. They have just deposed some sort of spider-god or something, and now the natives wish to express their gratitude by having them for dinner… as the main course. The action jumps back and forth between the Doctor and Liv’s situation on this planet and Gallifrey until The Eleven escapes and the Time Lords (Padrac, Lady farina and Castellan) recall the TARDIS.
The Eleven has used some sort of perception filter to make it appear as if he disappeared, but the filter is set for Gallifreyan optic nerves so Liz is able to see him clearly. Back in his original incarnation, before he began displaying any criminal tendencies and before he began referring to himself as “The One,” The Eleven was an archivist and a minor functionary on the High Council. Using an obscure legal provision, he disposes of the President (somehow), creates a state of emergency, and declares himself acting President.
Mark Bonner delivers an excellent performance as The Eleven. The Eleven has a distinct voice for each personality. You’d swear different actors were providing at least some of the voices, but it’s all Bonner. They are using some studio tricks to meld the voices together, but although this type of thing would be difficult on TV, it is highly effective on audio.
The Eleven had no interest in the Office of the President (i.e., the Presidency itself); rather, he was interested in the Presidential office. Once inside, he had access to multiple weapons and devices. The first thing he did was to use a mind probe to strip the memories of Lady Farina (the direct of the C.I.A.) from her, killing her beyond hope of regeneration in the process. Then he took Liv hostage. He plan succeeded because Castellan had been hypnotized, not recently but years ago, by someone who had knowledge of the future.
The Eleven admires the Doctor in an odd way, and Kiani deduces that he intends to steal a TARDIS and escape with Liv. Kiani is able to convince The Eleven to take her in Liv’s place, but is unable to prevent his escape. The Doctor is able to determine that The Eleven’s TARDIS is heading to 1960’s Earth, and he and Liv take off in pursuit.
“The Master. The War Chief. The Rani. With the advent of Doom Coalition, the roster of Time Lord villains gains a new member: The Eleven.
“When David [Richardson, producer] and Ken [Bently, director] came to me with the plan for the Doom Coalition series and offered me the chance to introduce a brand new Gallifreyan baddie, I couldn’t have been more pleased. A Time Lord whose previous regenerations exist simultaneously in his head—it’s so simple and brilliant a concept, I’m amazed it hasn’t been mooted before.
“Of course, if all the Eleven’s personas were well-balanced and friendly it wouldn’t be so bad; it’s not simply ‘multiple personalities’ that’s the problem, it’s who those personalities are. For all of them to be so villainous brings a clash of egos and it’s irresistible. There’s something brutal and visceral about the Eleven, too, and Mark Bonnar brings that sense of anger to the fore. I can’t wait to hear what he does next. The other toy I get to play with is Gallifrey itself. We’ve had many glimpses of the Doctor’s homeworld across the history of the TV series—old and new—as well as in Big Finish’s audio dramas. After their omnipotent appearance in The War Games, our next real encounter in The Deadly Assassin set the template for the Doctor’s people as a race of political schemers, which naturally ultimately leads to the Time War. An ancient society takes a long time to change and I’ve dropped in nods to several of the Gallifreys we’ve seen and heard before—as well as throwing new elements into the mix too.
“The Eighth Doctor is back for a brand new series of adventures, so it seems fitting for him to return to where everything began, and make the choice to save the universe all over again.”
NEXT: A new companion.
THE RED LADY by John Dorney:
“An anomaly in time brings the Doctor and Liv to London in the 1960s, where they meet a young lady named Helen Sinclair - desperately trying to make a name for herself in the face of sexism and prejudice.
“Whilst the Doctor tried to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artefact, a far deadlier mystery awaits Liv and Helen in the collection of a recently deceased antiquarian.
“Because that's where they find the Red Lady. Because if you do, you might not like what you see.”
An art collector has recently died under mysterious circumstances. His wife and child died at the same time. We later learn that the collector himself has been blind since childhood, unable to see any of his acquisitions. He was struck blind at the same time his own parents were killed. At first blush, his collection seems to be quite eclectic: paintings, tapestries, parchments, etc. But upon closer inspection, all of them have an element in common, way in the background. It is what might be a woman wearing what might be a mask. Whatever it is has red hair and is described as grotesque.
Another odd thing about the collection: apparently each piece was boxed up or otherwise sealed away by the artist himself immediately upon completion, never seen by human eyes. The collector’s will stipulated that, upon his death, his entire collection was to be permanently locked away, sealed forever from view. The executor of his estate, however, couldn’t bear to deprive mankind of these masterpieces, and donated them to a museum.
At the museum we meet Helen Sinclair, a young woman who has just been passed over for a promotion the sexist director who has promoted a grossly underqualified man in her place. Helen’s co-worker and immediate superior, Professor Walter Pritchett, has been tasked with cataloging the new acquisitions.
It is in the midst of this situation that the Doctor and Liv arrive. The artefact they are tracking ends up being a stone tablet, Helen’s current project. They get off on the wrong foot with Helen when she catches them in her office without permission. Oddly, not even the TARDIS can translate the language carved onto the tablet. It is the Doctor who makes the intuitive leap that it is not a carved language at all, but rather a stone record album (such as the Flintstones may have used).
Meanwhile, Professor Pritchett receives a phone call from the executor of the estate and hears him die, of fright, over the phone. Next, the figure of the red whatever-it-is in the tapestry seems to be moving closer and closer and seems to be in the process of removing her/its mask. But Pritchett is the only one who can see it. To Helen, Liv and the Doctor, the figure hasn’t moved.
The Doctor has read from one of the collector’s parchments which describes the red figure as being “far, far away.” When he reads from it a second time, it says she is “far away.” Again, no one else perceives this change. The TARDIS translated for Liv, and the first one she looked at is behaving similarly. The effect of the figure drawing closer is confined only to the individual who set eyes on the piece of artwork first, and only the one he or she saw first. The Doctor instructs that no one else look at any of the other pieces in the collection.
Those under the influence of the works of art are compelled to look at them, with the “Red Lady” (or whatever it is), drawing closer all the time. We learn that the executor of the estate was found dead with a child’s drawing of a house clutched tightly in his hand, but there was no Red Lady in the drawing. We also learn that the original collector didn’t die at the same time as his wife and child, but rather took his own life later due to extreme grief.
The Doctor now has enough information to deduce what’s going on, but it’s difficult for him to articulate because he is falling increasingly under the influence of the Red Lady. When the collector was a child and realized what was happening to his parents, he put out his own eyes in order to break the Red Lady’s influence over him. Prior to that, he figured out that the entity cold be imprisoned by incorporating it into a piece of artwork (which is where the child’s drawing had come from). The creature escaped when someone, presumably the collector’s wife or son, sneaked a look at one of the pieces. The collector’s own drawing as a child was the first piece the executor looked at.
The entity can be “trapped inside” a work of art, but the first time the art is seen, the entity is released. Each piece of artwork over the centuries was an artist trapping the monster, then immediately sealing the art from human eyes. The art itself cannot be destroyed, because that would amount to destroying not the monster, but the cage. As the entity approaches, the Doctor and Liv bind their eyes. Liv writes a poem and the Doctor draws some stick figures, effectively trapping the creature once again.
With the danger passed, Helen gives the all the art to the Doctor to hide. Unfortunately, “losing” the entire collection costs Helen her job, but the Doctor invites her to travel with him ad Liv. The Doctor now has time to “play” the stone tablet Helen had been trying to decipher. Helen is shocked to discover that it is a voice recording from Galileo Galilei intended specifically for the Doctor. The Doctor sets course of Florence, Italy in 1639.
“After having had the honor of helping close the Eighth Doctor’s last epic adventure, Dark Eyes, it was a huge privilege being invited back to help open the next chapter of his story.
“Even more so to introduce his brand new companion.
“Actually, to be honest, everything I do for Big Finish is a privilege. So many writers I know toil away on scripts for years, finding their work in development hell, where it can languish endlessly, unmade, without even a prospect of production. They get paid, sure, but no one gets onto this job for the money. They want to tell their stories.
“So I feel incredibly lucky that the scripts I work on get made. And made with such top caliber casts, too. The trio of regulars we have in this series is a line up any West End show would be jealous of, and that’s before we even get to the guest cast. Yes, I pinch myself at every recording.
“As for this specific tale… well, it struck me that it’s been a long time since we’ve had the Eighth Doctor in a scary story. Epic sci-fi, heart-breaking dramas, yes. But the horrifying? The uncanny? No, it’s been a while.
“Time to have some nightmares again.”
THE GALILEO TRAP by Marc Platt:
“Helen Sinclair doesn't know what hit her. One moment she was trapped in a dead-end job in 1960s London, and now she is transported back to Renaissance Italy over three centuries before. Florence is a city in turmoil. A new plague stalks the streets. A ferocious behemoth rampages through the vineyards. And Galileo Galilei, celebrated scientist, astronomer and old friend of the Doctor, is imprisoned in his own villa for heresy.
“But why has Galileo summoned the Doctor? Who are the mysterious Fortuna and Cleaver? Why have they been sent to Earth? And what is Galileo's secret? Is it the last thing he saw before he went blind?”
Like “The Red Lady,” “The Galileo Trap” is connected to the Doctor’s pursuit of the eleven only tenuously. There are a couple of alien criminals (one, Fortuna, masquerading as Galileo’s daughter), and a couple of alien law officers (well, one cyborg who can download his memories to a new body if killed). Galileo has apparently discovered a new planet, Phaeton, between Mercury and the Sun. It is the sight of this “planet” which has caused Galileo to go blind. The “plague” is actually the result of the other alien, Cleaver, and his pet beast. Fortuna and cleaver are associated with The Eleven in some way. The message Galileo sent to the Doctor was actually a warning, not a summons. The episode ends with the Doctor, Liv and Helen on their way to Phaeton, an obvious trap.
“From the crest of the hill in Florence’s Boboli Gardens, there’s a view of the hills and vineyards of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. All very Arcadian and tranquil. In particular, there’s one village with an eye-catching tower surrounded by pencil cypresses—perfect as a tourist photo-op.
‘When a Galileo Galilei story was mooted for the Eighth Doctor, we wondered when and where to set it over his eventful life. Galileo, in between designing his own telescope, discovering Jovian moons and writing about physics, mathematics, philosophy and astronomy, moved around a bit, from Pisa to Padua to Florence. Since we concluded he was an old friend of the Doctor, I decided to place the story towards the later part of his life.
“It’s 1639, during Galileo’s final years in Florence, by which time he’d put the Pope’s back up with his heretical pronouncements on Heliotropism. By declaring that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of the Solar System, he was disgraced. He was also losing his eyesight (cruel for an astronomer), but he never lost his thirst for knowledge or arguing. He was confined under house arrest in his own villa, although his devoted daughter Virginia, a nun, was allowed home to look after him. The Villa II Gioielli is in the village of Arcetri, just outside Florence—the village with the tower that I had unwittingly been taking photos of about two years before.
“Naturally there are some obligatory aliens too—not just the Doctor. They’re part mercenary, part tourist and making themselves rather too comfortable in Renaissance Italy in an entirely wrong and gruesome way. Some tourists never have respect for the locals.
“Of course, this story is part of a bigger story and there’s been quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between the writers. Doom Coalition is composed as a number of smaller pictures making up a bigger picture. A sort of ingenious, but flexible and interlinked, four-dimensional sci-fi mosaic wit bits scattered across time and space. I guess this comes closer to reflecting the nature of TV Who as it has become—both putting the arc in Arcetri and Arcetri in the arc.”
THE SATANIC MILL by Edward Collier:
“The Satanic Mill - a vast Victorian factory floating in the deep of space.
“As the Doctor closes in on his quarry, long buried animosities come boiling to the surface on this ancient and powerful satellite, in a final confrontation that could have unimaginable consequences.
“And even that is only the beginning...”
The Doctor, Liv and Helen land on Phaeton and quickly become separated. The entire world is some sort of energy producing factory. Being separated from the Doctor gives Liv and Helen the chance to get to know each other. Meanwhile, the Doctor has met a man named Paine who becomes his assistant in this episode. The workers are referred to as “work units” and they all have their “allotted tasks.” The Doctor soon learns that Paine has no memory of yesterday, and no concept of “tomorrow” (or of “hope,” “rest,” or even “food” for that matter). These workers are somehow awoken each morning, work constantly throughout the day with no break or meals, then reduced to biological components at the end of the day. Each work day begins with a kind of ritual, partially in Latin (“Hard work is its own reward”) and partially in a language the Doctor can’t identify. The “language” turns out to be a form of neural linguistic programming, which is how The Eleven keeps the workers docile.
The energy is being generated to power a stellar manipulator, using a blend of Time Lord technology we have seen before both in previous audios ad on TV. The Eleven plans to use the death of a Time Lord (the Doctor) to power the stellar manipulator. Doing so will not only kill the Doctor beyond hope f regeneration, but it will also create a black hole which will destroy the solar system. The action is still set in 1639, before the Enlightenment, which means none of the great men and women the Doctor admires and none of his companions (well, many of them) will ever be born.
At least one of The Eleven’s selves has a big mouth, though, and he lets slip that this elaborate scheme really has nothing to do with him per se, that there’s a bigger scheme involved. Unfortunately, the Doctor doesn’t learn what the big plan is or who or what’s behind it. The Doctor sends Paine off with his sonic screwdriver to rescue Liv and Helen. Paine frees them, but is killed in the process. Liv and Helen in turn save the Doctor. The Doctor has been separated from his TARDIS so often recently that he has programmed an “automatic recall” function into the sonic screwdriver to find him wherever he is. The Doctor escapes the Eleven’s trap, but The Eleven gets away.
“Doom Coalition started life on a canal. Well, to be fair, not actually on a canal but on the path beside it. Every recording day, Ken Bentley [director] and I meet at Paddington Station and—coffees in hand—walk along the canal to Moat Studios. It’s become something of a ritual, and one that involves lots of talking about work. We throw around ideas, plans, characters, stories. One of these big ideas that was being thrown around for several weeks was an epic for the Eighth Doctor called Doom Coalition—a massive, 16-part story told over four box sets.
“We planned it all out in quite intricate detail—we knew the end at the same time that we knew the beginning, and we knew big story beats for all the box sets and how we would reach them. We conceived a new companion called Helen—someone in the mold of the early classic Doctor Who companions—and we created a new villain. I remember the moment that he popped into my head, as we rounded the corner at Paddington Basin. ‘A Time Lord villain. He has eleven personalities… so he’s called The Eleven.’ It was a sudden inspiration, and one that captured bot of our imaginations as we pottered along.
“We also knew we wanted Nicola Walker back as Liv Chenka because, frankly, Nicola is one of the best actors in the country, and Liv I a great character with loads of potential. Also, Nicola makes us laugh. She bounds into the studio with a massive smile, loads of hugs, fits right in to the Big Finish family and is proud of her place in Doctor Who lore.
“But who to play the Eleven? My first choice, from the very moment the character was conceived, was Mark Bonnar who had wowed me in The Line of Duty, and then showed his versatility on a couple of our Doctor Who audios with Tom Baker. Like Nicola, he fits right in like he belongs here.
“And then there’s the Eighth Doctor himself, setting out on a new quest with two companions by his side. Paul was rubbing his hands with delight with these scripts, and we were carried along by his energy.
“So welcome to the start of Doom Coalition. We know where it’s going, and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”
Interesting. Sounds like one of those ideas they could do on audio that wouldn't have worked as well on TV.
Yes, they speak about that on the interview disc. Both The Eleven's MPD and the depiction of "The Red Lady" would have been difficult to achieve on TV, but the listener's imagination is unbound.
BEACHHEAD by Nicholas Briggs:
“In an attempt to recharge his batteries after his confrontation with the Eleven, the Doctor takes Liv and Helen to the sleepy English seaside village of Stegmoor. But they find the village in turmoil and, to make matters worse, their arrival uncovers a mystery from the Doctor’s past which threatens the future safety of the planet. Can the Doctor prevent the Voord from invading Earth? And more importantly why have they come in the first place?”
This one is a sequel, of sorts, to an untold Third Doctor tale of the U.N.I.T. era. The conceit of the backstory is that the Doctor and U.N.I.T. arrived on the scene to deal with the problem at hand. The Doctor sent for some equipment, and shortly thereafter a lorry carrying a police box was seen driven into town. Details are vague, but when the problem was solved, the Doctor left failing to detect the presence of a Voord spaceship hidden beneath the rock and sand at the seashore. What’s worse, he failed to take seriously the report of a local resident who reported seeing aliens about.
The main action takes place in 2017. The Doctor, Liv and Helen arrive in Stegmoor just in time to be caught in a flood of the local reservoir. The TARDIS is directly in the path and gets swamped. The Doctor is knocked unconscious, giving Liv and Helen the opportunity to poke about on their own for a bit. The townsman who reported seeing aliens all those years ago has since died, but he suffered a continuous headache for the rest of his life. Now his daughter, who was a toddler at the time of the Doctor’s first visit has now begun to suffer headaches.
The flood has partially uncovered the buried Voord ship. It’s still completely submerged, but is now plainly visible beneath the water where the rock and sand has been washed away. The Voord have been in stasis, but have now awakened. Their home planet has been destroyed, and they have come to Earth to colonize it. They’re ship remained hidden by drawing rock and sand to it, then mimicking its atomic structure. The Doctor defeats them by setting the camouflage system to the max then disabling it, drawing a great amount of rock ad sad to it, perhaps even crushing it with the Voord aboard. Or perhaps the Voord went back into stasis.
The episode ends on a note of mystery. The Doctor happens to know that the Voord homeworld is not supposed to be destroyed at this point in time. The obvious conclusion is that someone has been been mucking about with the timeline. But who? And for what purpose?
“It was delightful and rather flattering that David (Richardson) and Ken (Bentley) asked me to write one of the Doom Coalition scripts. After I’d proudly launched Bright Eyes on its way and left it in the capable hands of Matt (Fitton) and David, I was concentrating on other duties at Big Finish. David and Ken had sent me all the Doom Coalition ideas and storylines, which I approved of enthusiastically, but I hadn’t imagined I’d be writing a script as well. Then they dangled the carrot of a seaside setting and a Voord in front of me. I couldn’t resist.
“Initially, they’d suggested an island setting, because they’d noticed I loved blowing up the Isle of Wight in my stories, and I’d just been on holiday to the Scilly Isles, I think they even expected me to set the story on the Scilly Isles. But those lovely islands are so small that everybody knows each other. Without actually using the real place names and real names of real people living there, the whole thing would be so non-authentic as to irritate me. So I opted for intervening somewhere—always the best policy. And, after a fossil-hunting weekend visit to Watchett on the Somerset coast, I was inspired to create my own coastal venue. Other West Country inspiration came from the terrible events of the Boscatle Flood of 2004. But most of my inspiration came from wandering along the coast near Watchett and wondering what might be beneath the sand and rock. I’m guessing that’s what normal people usually do…
“As for the production itself, I took the unprecedented step of not being at the studio and not listening to the sound edits. Indeed, as I write this, I haven’t yet heard the episode. So I’m rather looking forward to it.”
Ah, the Voord...
SCENES FROM HER LIFE by John Dorney:
“Investigating the appearance of the Voord on Earth, the Doctor, Liv and Helen follow a trail which takes them to the other side of the universe. There they discover a mysterious and almost deserted gothic city lost in space and time, in which the grotesque inhabitants are conducting a vile and inhumane experiment. The Doctor and his companions must hurry to save the lives of those in danger before the experiment is a success and the unimaginable consequences become all too real.”
The Doctor, Liv and Helen investigate the destruction of the Voord home planet. The trail leads them into the vortex, where they find a huge, city-sized orb anchored there (which should be impossible). The object turns out to be an exploded TARDIS (which we have seen once before, but I can’t recall where). Just before the Doctor’s TARDIS impacts on the surface, he manages to materialize aboard it. They are greeted by two “upper crust” inhabitants, Lord Stormblood and Lady Sepulchra, who are quite mad. But the question is, did living in the vortex drive them mad, or did they choose to live in the vortex because they’re mad? Are they Time Lords? They have lived there longer than they can remember, and Lady Sepulchra seems to remember a world with orange skies from long ago, but that may have been a dream.
There are a great number of prisoners aboard this TARDIS (which is an even older model than the Doctor’s), overseen by a man named Swordfish. Swordfish occasionally takes prisoners away for “tests,” but they never come back. One of the prisoners is Caleera, a Time Lord who worked in the archives the same time The Eleven did back in his first incarnation. She was extremely gifted and talented, yet (in a situation mirroring Helen’s on 20th century Earth) found herself an assistant assigned to a junior archivist. She has some sort of mental powers, of which she says she has been “cured,” but which her superior says have merely been suppressed.
She is wired into a device designed to amplify her mental powers in such a way that even the Doctor cannot at first find a way to extricate her. The destruction of the Voord homeworld was a test of her amplified mental powers. Encouraged by Helen, the Doctor finds a way to free her using her own power. The twist comes when we find out it is not Stormblood and Sepulcha who have been conductng these tests, it is Caleera herself. All along we’ve been led to believe that Stormblood was working for The Eleven, but it’s been Caleera all along. Stormblood had been the junior archivist Caleera had been assigned to. Her mental powers corrupted her, and they were suppressed by the Time Lords to keep her docile.
Now that she’s free, Stormblood asks Calmeera if he and Sepulchra might not be released, which she does… directly into the vortex! Calmeera’s mental powers protected her from the vortex, but it drove the other two quite mad. Calmeera departs under her own power and her TARDIS begins to break apart. The Doctor tries to rescue the prisoners, but Calmeera’s TARDIS breaks apart. The Doctor detects that Stormblood and Sepulchra are still alive in the vortex, at least for now. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as the Doctor sets about rescuing them.
“It always feels a bit of an honor to write for the Eighth Doctor. Before Doctor Who returned to TV, the 8th Doctor audios were effectively ‘the current series.’ With the adventures of Doctors 5-7 having to slot into established continuity, the Eighth Doctor range was where writers could drive the story forward, explore in new directions and see how far they could push the show without breaking it. It was all about creating a new mythos.
“We’ve had Doctor Who back on out TVs for over a decade now, but somehow that sense of a blank slate, of scope and experimentation, lingers on. The Eighth Doctor continues to break new ground all the time. And we, as writers, have to match him.
“Scenes From Her Life is my fourth time taking him to new places, but I’m always very conscious that every script I write should be new places for me too. I was fortunate that my previous work for the Eighth Doctor has been well received, but that isn’t a reason to merely do it all again. This range is not about repetition, it’s about momentum. You don’t coast, you move onward.
“So the last time The Red Lady was driven by a desire to scare. This box-set’s tale is hopefully as big a contrast as I could make it, taking the Doctor and his companions to a very strange place to meet some very strange people indeed. Unusually for me, the key moment in conceiving the tale you’re about to hear was the notion of when it would be set. Something familiar twisted and expanded and changed into something new. Which feels very appropriate.
“As for next time and Doom Coalition 3… well that would be telling.”