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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The BBC Canteen

By Murray Jackson


Recapping last issue's exciting episode. The Doctor has dropped off Turlough and Tegan and headed for Earth, well more specifically, the BBC canteen. Unfortunately, he has stumbled onto an Auton Invasion and now finds himself facing a very annoyed (and out of breath) Auton.

The Doctor took a deep breath. This was it. There was no way out this time. The Auton's hand would drop away revealing a blaster that would send the Doctor to oblivion. As he grimaced, the Auton's hand dropped away... followed by its arm and then the whole thing collapsed into a heap of limbs. The Doctor shrugged. ‘I guess they don't make Autons like they used to!’ was all he said. He scrambled for the TARDIS so no Auton got a second chance. He wasn't going to take the chance that they were all dodgy. If he had looked closer at the Auton, he'd have seen that the chances were that they were all rubbish. Tattooed on its arm was the legend ‘Made In Singapore’.

Moving to the console he trained the TARDIS scanner on the building outside. He was sure there must be some sort of transmitter in or on the building beaming the Nestene signal to Earth. He'd have to intercept it - after all, as he'd thought before, he couldn't rely on every Auton falling to pieces.

The scanner did its best but apart from interfering with the sonar of a passing bat and confusing the hell out of it, it found nothing. It was beginning to look as if the Nestenes were using some sort of cloaking system. The Doctor breathed out heavily. He was going to have to do some reckless research on foot inside that factory.

Usually he could rely on a companion or two to offer themselves as an alternative target but this time he was on his own. There was no activity in the reception area as the Doctor walked in. No doubt whoever was operating the Autons was aware of the fact that someone had stumbled onto their secret and that an Auton was now out of service. He'd brought his high-energy emission detector to make the job easier. He should be able the find the transmitter in no time. Smiling, he switched it on and then muffled a squawk.

‘By Rassilon I've forgotten to put in any batteries!’ he moaned doing a small dance, which either indicated extreme panic or a terrible need to visit the lavatory.

Rather than risk the journey back to the TARDIS where he kept his stock of Everreadys the Doctor decided to rely on his extraordinary senses and detecting skills. It was a bad move; in no time at all he was totally lost!

He had just about given up in total disgust; it was always up to him to save the Earth and the thought that his reward would amount up to a gingernut or two and maybe an asparagus roll had began to lose its appeal. He found a window and stared out of it to get his bearings... and saw what he was looking for.

It appeared the factory was almost totally involved in the production of toys. On the side of the building was a massive facade resembling a smiley clown face. From the middle of this face protruded a huge nose some eleven feet in length. As the Doctor watched, the rather nondescript features of two Autons hove into sight manipulating a large control box from which two large wires extended for some way before disappearing into the nostrils of the enormous proboscis.

The Doctor felt a spark of intuition. The giant nose was the Nestene transmitter. His mind raced, how could he destroy it. A lot of wild ideas ran through his head including one involving a giant handkerchief. Finally his mind settled on an old pet project involving the destructive properties of music. The Time Lord smiled. He had a plan and with that he started carefully picking his way back to the TARDIS.

Cliff Richard the rock legend with the ageless face was idly reading his bible to one side of the set while the producer and various floor personal buzzed back and forth. It was Christmas time and Cliff was doing his annual BBC Xmas Special.

This year was no different - an hour and an half of raunchy song and dance with guest star Basil Brush. Cliff and Basil's Xmas Extravaganza was set to take the festive days programming by the scruff of the neck. Things were looking really good. Hank Marvin of Cliff's old group The Shadows had even agreed to play in Cliff's backing band. Then suddenly his whole world fell apart. He was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hurled into a large blue box just as he was getting to his favourite part of Ephesians.

‘Oh gosh, where am I?’ stammered Cliff, silently reminding the good lord how he'd served him faithfully all these years.

‘Mr Richard, or may I call you Cliff?’ inquired the Doctor, ‘this is an enormous pleasure. I'm really a great fan of yours. However right now I need your help... very badly’.

Cliff took stock of his surroundings, remembered that he had been dragged into a small box or rather a big one this size, rubbed his eyes, took stock of the situation again and then fainted.

The Doctor scratched his head. This wasn't going well.

According to the TARDIS databank, Cliff Richard was the key to stopping the Nestene invasion. The Doctor's calculations showed that if Cliff sang his mega-hit ‘Summer Holiday’ and it was converted into high frequency soundwaves and beamed to the Nestene transmitter it had the right resonance to reverse the Nestene Invasion signal and send them back where they came from-permanently. (Two renditions of Summer Holiday would be fatal to the Nestenes and they wouldn't risk that happening).

The Doctor realised the plan sounded flimsy and wished his old friend Nicholas Smeaton, sci-fi fan and physicist from Christchurch, New Zealand could check his facts. However Nicholas lived in dread fear that if he pointed out any flaw in the Doctor's plan he'd not only be lynched by the Doctor but also by a manic, lunatic, no-good writer from Auckland, New Zealand so he shut up and enjoyed the story instead.

Checking his calculations hurriedly the Doctor realised with sudden horror there was something awfully wrong with his plans. It was then that he realised the awful truth - for his plan to work, Cliff would require musical accompaniment. For all the TARDIS's size all he muster musically was a small plastic trumpet he'd found in a packet of Cornflakes some eons ago.

‘Eurrggh,’ said a voice in the corner. Cliff was coming round.

‘Hank,’ mumbled Cliff deliriously, ‘I've been mugged by skinheads again.’

The Doctor pricked up his ears and smiled. Cliff had provided him with the answer.

Back at the BBC set Hank Marvin was stunned. Cliff had never up and walked out on a gig before. It must be the influence of those terrible layabouts from The Young Ones series. He was pondering Cliff's disappearance when he was suddenly yanked into a large blue box that he could've sworn wasn't there a minute ago. A second later the door to the blue box opened and a hand grabbed Hank's guitar. Hank was impressed. Whoever had built this amazing machine he was now in must be able to produce a pretty amazingly advanced guitar. So he was slightly put out when he spotted Cliff sitting in a corner. No doubt Cliff had beaten him to striking up a deal with the strange young chap dressed in cricket gear. The Doctor decided that these two wanted answers to a few questions. He opened his mouth to speak but Cliff and Hank beat him to it.

‘What the heck is going on?’ they chorused.

The Doctor sighed. He hated this bit. Omitting irrelevant details he filled the two superstars in on what was happening, then he set about attempting to convince them to help. The TARDIS materialised outside the plastics factory. Both Cliff and Hank were convinced that the Doctor was beyond medical help but his promise of a magical youth serum for Cliff and several ideas for Number one singles for Hank had convinced them to help him out anyway.

‘What happens now Doctor?’ asked Cliff.

‘We wait for the alien signal to come through and while we wait I'll hook up this amp to the external beam transmitter and align it to face the Nestenes transmitter.’

‘I wish I hadn't asked.’ murmured Cliff.

‘It appears we have company,’ observed the Doctor drily. Both Hank and Cliff clocked the scanner in time to see several Autons surrounding the TARDIS. They didn't know what these things were but they didn't feel they could win them over by offering autographs.

‘What are they doing?’ inquired Cliff.

‘Waiting,’ came the reply.

‘Waiting for what?’

‘Waiting to vaporize us if we step outside.’

‘Oh,’ was all Cliff said reflecting on how badly life was treating him today.

Hank had by now decided that if this was how Cliff spent his time as a superstar he was welcome to it. He would complete this nightmare job and go right back to working in those shitty little coffee bars.

They waited. The Autons waited. Everyone waited. The Doctor had finished his tinkering and made Cliff and Hank one of his worst cups of his excruciatingly bad coffee.

‘I think I'd rather face those Auton things.’ complained Hank bitterly.

‘It's the closest to taking hard drugs I've ever been!’ moaned Cliff.

‘Better than sex!’ breathed the Doctor contentedly.

All of a sudden a red light atop the console started flashing angrily.

‘That's it, that's the Nestene signal!’ cried the Doctor excitedly.

Hank and Cliff exploded into action like the seasoned professionals they were. Cliff grabbed the microphone the Doctor had set up and started what was his most impressive performance ever, snarling and spitting out the lyrics.

‘We're all going on a Summer Holiday.

Fun and laughter for a week or two.’

Meanwhile Hank had grabbed his guitar doing his best Jimi Hendrix impersonation, fingers dancing over the strings with all manner of heavy metal riffs filling the TARDIS walls.

‘We're going where the sun shines brightly / We're going where the sea is blue / You've seen it in the movies / Now let's see if its true.’ yelled Cliff, the deep lyrics of Summer Holiday penetrating the very core of his being.

The Doctor - while involuntarily foot tapping checked for a reaction by the aliens - and noticed it immediately. Outside, the Autons were pogo-ing up and down nutting each other. Even these automatons weren't immune to such a classic performance. Suddenly, without warning, one by one they exploded. The light on the console winked out angrily but eventually stopped oscillating altogether.

‘We've beaten them!’ screamed the Doctor at the top of his voice.

Hank and Cliff fell silent.

‘They only managed to withstand half a verse.’ observed Cliff dejectedly.

Back on the Nestene planet the intelligence realised it had been beaten. The powerful heavy rock had almost destroyed it. It collected its wits about it and decided it would have to work on immunizing itself against such an attack before trying to invade Earth again, the new Kylie Minogue album would be a good start!

Checking outside with the scanner the Doctor noticed that the Nestene transmitter had exploded under the force of the sonic onslaught. Bits of the giant nose ran in rivulets down the side of the factory.

Satisfied that all was once again safe he turned to his two musical friends.

He shook Cliff and Hank's hands, thanked them for their help and pushed them out of the TARDIS. They stood there scratching their heads for a moment before suddenly realising that the Doctor hadn't given them the rewards he'd promised. Cliff pondered on the fact that it'd mean more monkey glands and hormone injections and Hank realised he'd have to go on playing ‘Apache’ for another twenty five years.

In the background the TARDIS heaved and groaned before disappearing altogether into the Space/Time continuum. It knew its course - the nearest corner dairy where the Doctor would buy a packet of gingernuts and avoid a lot of future hassle.


This item appeared in TSV 18 (May 1990).

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