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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The BBC Canteen

By Murray Jackson


The TARDIS ambled along, careering through the Cosmos carelessly, pausing every now and then to check where it was going where it was supposed to be going but knowing damn well it probably wasn't.

Within its walls was the mysterious being known as the Doctor and at present he had the features of someone's favourite grandson; a wide grin, a face full of boyish expectancy and a tall lean body garbed in cricket gear. (I realise this is a bland description done a dozen times before by better writers - but what else could I write? The Doctor was bland looking except for the matching moles on his right and left buttocks perhaps?)

He was at that moment enormously happy. The reason for his joy was that he'd managed to get away from his companions for a few days. First he'd got rid of Turlough who had finally come out of the closet, admitted he was a trouser bandit and persuaded the Doctor to drop him off at a gay counseling seminar on one of the Orion pleasure planets. The Doctor had suspected Turlough for some time. After all he had spent a great deal of time at an all boys school. Tegan had also requested a bit of shore leave and had last been seen heading for a very expensive bodily hair shop called ‘Follicles’. It was the first time the Doctor had been alone for quite a while. He actually quite liked it that way. Companions were really only good for two things (well, two printable things anyway).

One: Inflating your ego and making you look important in other people's eyes by asking a lot of questions e.g. ‘What's that two-headed hairy beastie, Doctor?’

Two: Falling over rocks and spraining ankles just as the said two-headed hairy beastie is about to attack.

He smiled, in spite of this he preferred company occasionally - like when there were clothes to be washed or dishes to be done. Nowadays however he found it harder to find companions to travel with him. It had something to do with there being no lavatory in the TARDIS. *

He was at present heading for Earth because it had come to his attention that he bore a striking resemblance to Earth actor Peter Davison and he found that he was always treated with great respect if he popped into the BBC canteen for a cup of coffee and a few asparagus rolls. Besides which it gave his ego a helluva boost to be able to turn down all sorts of film and miniseries offers from eager young producers.

The TARDIS landed and the Doctor, feeling peckish and hoping that Michael Grade hadn't nicked all the gingernuts form the coffee lounge, sauntered outside. He was not in the BBC parking lot. He was not even in Shepherds Bush, London. That vindictive machine of his had landed in a quarry in Surrey. The Doctor had often puzzled about how it was that so many alien planets he had landed on looked very much like this very quarry in Surrey. He strode back into the TARDIS, muttering an ancient Gallifreyan curse under his breath and hit the demat control. The TARDIS dematerialised leaving a shunned and by now very depressed quarry to ponder on how badly it had been treated.

Once again the TARDIS landed and the Doctor, once again, sauntered outside. It was still not the BBC parking lot. The sign on the building outside bore the legend ‘International Plastics’. No chance of getting any gingernuts here decided the Doctor. However he maybe able to pick up directions to the BBC.

He walked inside and found the reception area, which to his annoyance was deserted. He spotted a small bell besides which there was a sign that read ‘Please ring for attention.’ He ignored it. It was his experience that no matter how many times he rang the damn thing the receptionist would be too busy smoking a fag, drinking a coffee and discussing marital problems with the secretarial staff while passing round the latest knitting patterns.

Hearing voices further down a corridor to his left he headed off down to see if he could bend someone's ear. He came to a door and heard voices behind it. He was just about to enter and announce his presence when he heard something that made his blood freeze.

‘... This time the Nestene Invasion will succeed.’

For a moment the Doctor could not believe his ears. Then he resigned himself to the fact that he'd stumbled onto yet another alien invasion of Earth and that his holiday was over for now.

If Earth actor Peter Davison had known this he would have breathed a sigh of relief. His career was safe from the Doctors meddling for now at least.

If Tegan and Turlough had been there they would have noticed a thoughtful expression on the Doctors face. They had always interpreted this as meaning the Doctor was formulating some great plan. However more often then not the Doctor was thinking: ‘Sod it, what do I do now?’

He was at present rapidly reliving his previous encounters with the Nestenes, a collective intelligence hell-bent on conquest. They usually employed the use of Autons - automatons with Nestene energy to direct their actions. He leaned forward to see if he could catch more of their conversation. Something moved behind him and a shadow fell across the door. The Doctor turned around slowly hoping it was not an Auton he'd come face to face with. It was!!

Suddenly the Doctor gasped and glanced beyond the Auton. It was an old trick but it was stupid enough to fall for it. By the time it had ascertained there was nothing behind it the Doctor had a good head start.

The Auton did not take long to recover. It lumbered off after the Doctor and started catching up with him at an alarming pace. Whereas the Doctor had to open doors, the Auton merely ran through them. The chase headed out into the streets.

Colin Beaks was having a bad day. As a junior legal executive for Pratt, Pratt, Pratt & Spackhead he was given all the really grotty jobs to do. He'd just been discussing legal costs in an office in the Silky Sexy Stockings buildings and his interview with Mr Silky had gone very badly. For one thing the man had been very rude, no coffee or club sandwiches from that bastard he mused. And for another, his secretary had the most incredible set of legs he had ever seen. This had been nice to start with, but the trouble was he soon began to unconsciously drop the words ‘legs’ and ‘white thighs’ into his conversation and that hadn't gone down well at all.

To top it all off he'd got his tie caught in the lift coming down and had almost hung himself. The only thing to save him was the fact he was rotten at tying ties and it had come off with ease. He'd walked out of the building minus his tie thinking the only other thing that could happen would be him stepping in a doggy's calling card. He was wrong, for although he did step in a canine deposit it was not the last nasty thing to happen to him that day. He was still cursing his rotten luck as he walked around the corner in time to see someone diving to their left behind him and was even more surprised when he was struck by a high energy particle beam.

The Doctor couldn't believe his good fortune. Pity about the mousy looking chap who'd just copped it but he wasn't going to hang around to offer condolences. He scarpered.

Colin Beaks suffered the final ignominy as the Auton stepped in the smoking puddle that was himself and made off after the Doctor. If Colin Beaks had had any consciousness left he would have been thinking ‘Life's a bitch and then you die’.

The Doctor soon lost the Auton in the twists and turns of the London backstreets. He stopped, caught a breath and thought.

Autons! He hadn't battled Autons since his third self had foiled the last Nestene invasion. A Nestene invasion was dangerous - too dangerous for him to carry on his holiday, ignoring the danger over tea and bickies.

Picking his way through alleys and slipways he worked his way back to the TARDIS. What he needed was something to defeat them with. The Nestene invasion would be directed by way of an electric pulse from the Nestene home planet. He had no doubt that a receiver was being built or set up in that factory at this very minute.

His musings were interrupted by a blast of dust and smoke at his feet. He looked up into the face of the Auton that had pursued him. Obviously it was smarter than he had bargained for. The Doctor swallowed nervously - it was looking pretty pissed!!!

To be continued...

* See The Trouble with Adric in the 25 Years of a Time Lord TSV special

Go to part 2

This item appeared in TSV 17 (January 1990).

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