The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Some Other Time

In the third of three little ooh-look-what-I-found-on-my-hard-drive glimpses into the writing of Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel, here are the two original pitches that became the story. Two? Yes, two. When I was invited to pitch novel ideas, I actually sent in five; below are ideas one and two. The third became The Curse of Davros, the fourth was utter nonsense and the fifth, I think, was a pretty strong idea which I still hope to use one day. But anyway, shortly after sending in the five ideas, I had a phone call from editor Justin Richards suggesting I put together a synopses, based on my first two pitches combined, but with the Weeping Angels as the monsters...

Spoilers lurk below so don’t read until you have bought and read the book in question!


DOCTOR WHO NOVEL IDEA #1: CLOSED CIRCUIT

Tone: Timey-wimey Sapphire & Steel extremely scary ghost story. Earth, 2011/1925.

You’re in a shop, and spot yourself on a closed-circuit surveillance screen. You see yourself, shot from above, in fuzzy black and white. 

There is something standing behind you. A shadowy, goblin-like creature, the size of a child but with an aged, gnarled face. You turn to look – but there’s nothing there. You look back at the screen – to see that the creature is still there, closer. Looking up at the monitor, looking directly at you, smiling mockingly. You turn again – there’s still nothing there. You look back at the screen – and the creature is perched on your back, as though about to bite.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in a deserted studio. Something terrible has happened. They discover that the studio was restoring some newly-discovered old footage; the very first television broadcast. But there was something else in that broadcast. A creature, trapped in a recording like a fly in amber. A creature with the ability to move from television to television through wires, tapes and broadcasts. A creature which is now part of a ‘live transmission’, so it can interact with, and kill, anyone who is appearing on a television screen it has access to.

It’s been removing people from existence, leaving them trapped inside video recordings. The Doctor and Amy examine the recordings. They spot the creature, then rewind it for a closer look, only to find it’s not there the second time. They free one of the technicians responsible, a man driven half-mad and terrified of ever being captured by a television camera.

The Doctor is determined to trap this creature again, but then Amy makes a discovery. One of the tapes features a recording of the three of them! The three of them are freed and say they are the Doctor, Amy and Rory’s future selves. Apparently at some point in the future they travel back in time to the invention of the television and end up trapped by the creature. So the Doctor, Amy and Rory have to work out whether the ‘new’ Doctor, Amy and Rory are their future selves – or sinister creations of the creature designed to trick them?

It’s the latter, of course. The duplicate Doctor not only frees the creature, but makes a copy of it, so there are now hundreds of them. It escapes into the outside world – meaning that anyone who is picked up by a closed-circuit surveillance camera is now under threat. Our heroes are trapped, because there’s hardly anywhere you can go without being spotted by a camera. 

How to defeat it? The clue lies in the fact that the creature made duplicates of the Doctor and co., meaning they must have been present at the time the creature was trapped. So they travel back in time to see this moment – and meet John Logie Baird. They also find out that the creature took its form from the first thing seen on television – a melted ventriloquist’s dummy, Stooky Bill. The second people to ever be seen on television are, of course, the Doctor, Amy and Rory.

As people turn on their televisions to see this creature in the background of BBC Breakfast and other shows... it’s up to the Doctor to defeat it by setting a trap in 1925 that will only be sprung in the year 2011.


DOCTOR WHO NOVEL IDEA #2: THE PARADOX MAN

Tone: Timey-wimey tear-jerking love story with alien robot mantises. Earth, 2011/1983/1999.

Harold Fletcher is obsessed with a mysterious figure from the latter half of the 20th century, a Mr McIntyre. There are four odd things about McIntyre. One, he appeared as though from nowhere in 1983. Two, he vanished in the year 1999. Three, he became extremely wealthy through numerous prescient investments, yet used his wealth to keep the fact of his wealth secret. And four – he looks exactly like Harold’s father. Or an older version of Harold himself.

Harold is in his early 50s and greatly misses his wife Jane, who died around the year 1999. 

In an archive on McIntyre, Harold discovers a folder of notes addressed to him, detailing how to find the Doctor... and to inform the Doctor of all his suspicions.

The Doctor is quick to realise the truth. McIntyre is not Harold’s father – he is Harold himself, who has somehow found a way to travel back in time to 1983. But how did he get back there? The Doctor, Amy and Rory head back to 1983 in the TARDIS to discover the answer – little realising they have a stowaway in the form of Harold.

Finding himself in his own past, Harold at first makes the mistake of trying to contact his earlier self/his parents – creating a brief temporal schism. The Doctor warns Harold of the consequences of changing his own past. But that doesn’t mean that Harold (as McIntyre) can’t leave himself notes, because he already has a folder full of such notes which means he has no choice but to do so – and these notes allow him to stay one step ahead of the Doctor.

Except we soon learn that it wasn’t Harold who left these notes for himself. The notes are, in fact, leading him into a trap. Because the temporal schism has attracted dreadful aliens that resemble man-sized robotic praying mantises. They are searching for an anachronistic Time Traveller. Why? Because they want a time paradox to be created, because the resulting energy is just the right sort of energy they need to survive. These are creatures that evolved during the time-war, feeding on temporal energy. They will stop at nothing to force Harold to change history – and have intercepted his notes-to-self and substituted them with their own.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory encounter these creatures and prevent them creating a paradox, but then they are blasted forward in time to the year 1999. There they see Harold/McIntyre, now as an old man. He is wealthy and has spent the intervening years quietly influencing the destiny of his younger self, Great Expectations-style, to make sure his younger self becomes obsessed by this mysterious ‘McIntyre’ figure and thus completes the time circuit.

However, Harold remembers that 1999 was the year his wife was killed – and he can’t resist the opportunity to save her life. But this will cause a paradox – which is precisely what the robotic mantises want to happen and just what the Doctor doesn’t want to happen. Can the Doctor to convince Harold to do the right thing? In the end they do, with Harold prepared to sacrifice his own life, and allowing his wife to die as before, in order to defeat the monsters.

But Harold doesn’t sacrifice his own life. The Doctor instead, as a reward, takes him back in time in the TARDIS to see his younger self meeting the girl who will become his wife for the first time. Harold even has the opportunity to speak to her, though she doesn’t know who he is. Then the Doctor deposits Harold back in the present day, 27-odd years older but wiser.

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