Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DWM Preview! The End of the Road

It seems as if the Doctor and Peri have finally reached their destination at The End of the Road, the four episode season finale to the longest and most action packed year of Doctor Who ever. From Earth to Telos to Varos to Hexagora to Celleste to Savini Minor to Pentacasta, facing Cybermen, Hexagorans, cannibals, zombies, space whalers, Movellans, mythological beasts not to mention the Rani and the Master, the Doctor and Peri have had the trip of a lifetime and survived it as well. But, like all good things, this too must come to an end.

So, what happened to Lytton? Last seen marooned on the barren rock of his home planet, his one goal in life robbed from him, he has obviously survived - but at what cost? Has this ultimate twist of fate robbed him of his sanity - or might we see a more virtuous Lytton, less willing to kill as he finally realizes that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. And just what sort of universe is he now trapped in? Warhead of the Daleks, Veangeance on Varos, Bid Time Return, Twilight of the Living, The Legacy of the Borad and The Song of the Space-Whale (all to some extent set in his home time) showed a disenfranchised cosmos of corruption, decay and mass famine following an outbreak of mysterious plagues and viruses only held in check by the work of the mysterious 'Healer' of Nekros?

Ah, Nekros, another name that has been haunting the Doctor. Not only is it the base of the unknown benefactor, whose intervention saved the Ghaleen, it is also a place the Doctor has been before and, it seems, is destined to return to. In The Enemy Within, the Doctor mused that if the Master stole his body it would be the evil renegade that had to face Nekros, and its appearance in In The Hollows of Time left our hero uncharacteristically lost for words. But what does it all mean?

One thing is certain - Nekros is not the ideal spot for a holiday. A frozen ice world, Nekros is known as the Planet of the Deceased, boasting a galactic funeral home within walking distance of a protein refinery plant, one being run by a failed movie star and the other boasting a deranged radio DJ transmitting 1960s rock and roll to an audience of the dead. Just why have these industries been created on such an inhospitable planet? Why has no one ever seen the Great Healer? How does Lytton know the recluse's true identity? Why are the authorities allowing people to attempt to steal the dead bodies from Tranquil Repose? And why is the Doctor determined to part company with Peri?

The End of the Road will contain not only the answers but some truly shocking revelations as the Doctor and Peri face their ultimate adventure, a winner directed by the capable hands of Graeme Harper who also directed The Enemy Within and The Caves of Androzani. Roger Limb provides the music for The End of the Road, as he did in The Keeper of Traken and Black Orchid.

The cast includes Maurice Colbourn making his fourth appearance as Gustave Lytton, Roy Tromley as the Great Healer, William Gaunt as Vargos, Robbie Coltrane as Takis, Ray Brooks as Lilt, Anna Carteret as Kara, Clive Swift as Jobel, Nerys Hughs (last seen in 1982's Kinda) as Tasambeker and another Young One in the rotund shape of Alexei Sayle as the DJ to the Dead.

The final story of the twenty-second season of television's longest running science fiction program, the first full season of the sixth actor to play the Doctor, is going to make 'Tranquil Repose' totally redundant.


Detective is flat
No longer
Is always flat out
Got the number of the getaway car
Didn't get very far...

Jerzei was going for a stroll. He’d thought it best to end his first day on The Planet of the Deceased with a walk around the graveyard. And that’s what it was – a high-class graveyard for all the sad rich people who’d caught such sophisticated plagues and diseases they hadn’t lasted long enough to be put into suspended animation like the paying clientele of Tranquil Repose. Of course, Tranquil Repose had the edge of no disappointed customers being able to complain, or even ask for their money back. Despite all the work of the Healer, (or Great Healer as the Chief Embalmer continually insisted), you still couldn’t take it with you.

The large man in his brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirt wandered aimlessly through the tall, bone-white memorials placed against the black marble pavement. The sky above was still a brilliant cobalt blue laced with candy floss clouds, and all the trees were cloaked with verdant green leaves... despite the fact not a single one of them was still able to provide any food or nutrition.

Jerzei kicked at a fresh weed plant worming its way between the base of the monument at the head of the pond, its purple bells as out of place as his entire wardrobe. It was then Jerzei stopped dead as he saw something totally unexpected. The chunky portable tape player, specially customized by his grandfather, continued to play the cartridge as he stared.

It’s lucid as hell
And these images
Moving so fast
Like a fever
So close to the bone
I don't feel too well

It was a box. A wooden box large enough for a person, or maybe two, to stand inside. Its pyramidal roof was topped by a grubby, unlit metal lantern, but there was light behind the eight off-white windows that lined the upper walls. Was it some new memorial to be added to the Garden of Fond Memories? Had someone just decided that the usual ivory domino-shape was passe – as well as being impossible to appreciate during the Long Cold?

As Jerzei approached it, he realized he was not alone. Standing at the far end of the pond, staring into the still, dark water, was an old man with long white hair, dressed in a black jacket and checked yellow trousers. He was leaning on an elaborately carved cane, but seemed to be doing it out of bad temper than weakness.

Jerzei plucked the earphones from his ears flipped down the volume. “Ey, canna help ya?” he asked in his normal tones, immediately wishing he’d put on a more formal tone.

“I doubt it, young man. Yes. I doubt it,” the newcomer sighed, eyes still locked at the water.

Maybe he was ill? “You all right?” Jerzei asked, reigning in his accent slightly.

The old man tore his gaze from the water and gave a weak, sad smile to the larger man. He did not seem to notice the garish clothes, the thinning hair or the double chins. “Some days, my friend, are better than others. And today has not been a good day. No. I should say not.”

Jerzei awkwardly shuffled in the old man’s direction. “D’you wanna talk about it?” he offered, half dreading a positive reply.

The old man sighed. “Not particularly... my young friend... no. Yes, I’m quite, quite consent to stay here in silence. Some friends of mine died very recently. In front of me. I wanted to get away from it all, and where does my aimless TARDIS take me? A graveyard!”

“It’s the Garden of Fond Memories,” Jerzei offered, more to break the silence.

“Yes, an apt title. My memories of them are not fond. You see, my memories are of them dying, of how I should have helped them... but I didn’t. And now they’re dead. And poor Steven... it’s hit him hard. And I cannot console him.”

“Time wounds all heals,” Jerzei said in his best American drawl.

“Quite, quite,” the old man nodded, then frowned and looked at Jerzei suspicious. “Eh?”

“Things’ll get better,” the large man said quickly, with a confidence he didn’t feel.

The old man was staring at the monument at the other end of the pond, the very first statue erected in the garden. It showed the head and shoulders of a man with curling hair, large eyes and full lips, with a dotted cravat and patterned jacket.

“You don’t say,” the old man said, studying the other face. “Momento mori,” he tutted. “The one fate we all share. The one we can only hope to delay, never escape. Sara and poor Katarina... I... I wonder how long before it is my turn.” With another sigh, the old man nodded to Jerzei and made his casual, dignified and above all lonely way back to the blue wooden box.

“Thing will look better in the morning,” Jerzei called after him.

“Hmm. But which morning, hmm? And where? Have you thought of that?” the old man tutted. “But you’re right. A change is needed... Perhaps in more ways than one. Goodbye, young man.”

“Hey, just call me the DJ,” Jerzei offered in his on-air voice.

The old man blinked, but his smile remained – still seemingly genuine. “DJ. Yes, quite so. I am the Doctor. It was good to meet you but, er, I must be off. Goodbye.”

The old man returned to the blue box and studied it for a moment.

“’Doctor’, eh?” Jerzei echoed.

Jerzei cranked up the volume and looked at the statue again. He didn’t hear any wheezing or groaning, but a faint flash of blue made him glance over his shoulder and see the blue box had vanished in the mysterious manner it had arrived.

Sleeping alone
For pleasure
The pineapple head
It spins and it spins
Like a number I hold

Jerzei looked back at the two words expertly carved into the base of the ivory rectangle.


“Just a coincidence,” he decided, and made his lonely way back to his studio.

Don't remember
If she was my friend
It was a long time ago

* * *

The camera that followed Jerzei relayed its images through a complicated series of data stores and transmitters, finally creating a green-tipped ovoid hologram in a chapel just proud of the catacombs it opened onto.

The thing that watched the hologram laughed.

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