Serial 303 – The Macramé Gridlock
An Alternate Program Guide by Ewen Campion Clarke
From An Entry In The EC Unauthorized Guide O' Popcorn!
"YOA's Discontinuity Guides - Inaccurate But Caring."
Serial 303 – The Macramé Gridlock -
A flying van containing the old couple from "American Gothic" is suddenly attacked by gigantic mutant prehistoric crab and torn to pieces by their massive claws.
The police do not think there is any reason to suspect foul play.
Parte the First
Fleeing the soldiers of Elizabeth R, the Doctor and Martha retreat to the TARDIS as the police box is struck by numerous arrows. As the Doctor sets the time machine in motion. "Yeah, sorry that that one trip turned to complete crap, Martha. But I DID say just one trip in the TARDIS and then home, but I suppose I could lie to myself and stretch the definition, count it as one trip to the past AND to the future. How do you fancy that?"
"No complaints from me!" says Martha dreamily, mentally undressing him. "Can we go to your planet? Planet of the Time Lords, full of fit blokes in tight suits and great hair... that has GOT to be worth a look! What’s it look like?"
"Jings, I dunno. Beautiful," the Doctor shrugs. "Great big temples and cathedrals, the sky’s a burnt orange, with the Citadel enclosed in a mighty glass dome, shining under the twin suns. Beyond that, the mountains go on forever – slopes of deep red grass, capped with snow. And, you know, unicorns and fairies and elves and beautiful princesses and crap like that..."
Martha is utterly enthralled. "Can we go there?"
"No chance," the Doctor says quickly. "And before you ask it has absolutely nothing to do with me using the Handjob of Omigod to send aforementioned twin suns nova and annihilate two civilizations in one big bang. No matter what the minstrels tell you."
"Forget I said that," the Doctor says cheerfully, break-dancing around the main console, tweaking settings as he goes. "How about instead ANYWHERE else in the universe! Where do you want to go first? Mars? The snow deserts of Cialis IV? The halfway-acceptable mountains of Terras Prime? Got it! One of the Nude Earth planets, second hope of mankind, sixty-ninth segment of time! Now, I’ve done Refusis, Frontios and Coffra... so we’ll do Balanystra! How about that?"
"Colony worlds, you see, new homes for humanity after the old ones did the big firework when the sun exploded. Nothing for you to worry about, it doesn’t happen for billions of years yet. Though it’ll be long gone, sixty-eight years ago, by the time we’ll be arriving," the Doctor explains as he throws on his overcoat.
"So we’ve actually arrived?"
"Oh yes! Slap bang in the middle of the Olympian Plains, most beautiful and dazzling cities ever built!" the Doctor crows, shoving open the doors to find themselves in a dark, junk-ridden alleyway, full of dumpsters and old laundry swinging from a line. AND it’s raining.
"Very dazzling," Martha grumbles. "Does this machine go anywhere except Cardiff back streets on Wednesday afternoons?"
The Doctor awkwardly avoids the question and pretends to be more interested in removing Elizabethan arrows lodged in the police box. They then notice a crackling screen on the alleyway wall showing a charming newsreader uncannily resembling Chip Jamison in a blonde wig, calling himself Sally Calypso and giving very dull traffic updates.
"What shithouse infomercials!" Martha notes.
The duo head into another alleyway marked "Pharmacy Town" where proprietors in customized garbage dumpsters offer the time travelers (and their usual Viking clientele) and offer them patches of drug-induced emotions like Happy, Anger, Mellow or the inexplicably popular Pissed Off. "Great, a night out at the theatre with all your mates and then you take me to a crack house," bitches Martha. "I bet you didn’t treat Miss Rosie Fantastico like that!"
A young woman wanders in asking for a takeaway of Forget # 43, so she doesn’t have to remember her asshole family of American Gothic who abandoned her to go carpooling and now are mysteriously dead. The Doctor finds this insanity intriguing, but typically, just as he’s getting the woman to explain what the hell is going on, she takes the patch and ends up more clueless about the situation than the newcomers!
"So that’s the human race five billion years in the future? Off their heads on chemicals – LEGAL chemicals! Oh my god, don’t they realize making it all legal takes the fun out of it?!" Martha notes scornfully.
Before the Doctor can reply two teenagers rush in, grab Martha, drug her unconscious with a Sleep # 14 patch and drag her off, apologizing so sincerely and profusely to the Doctor that the Time Lord feels compelled to insist it’s no problem and holds the door open for them as they run off into the under-city.
"Hang on," the Doctor says as the penny finally drops. "JINGS!"
The Doctor races after them but the kidnappers run down a fire escape and into a waiting black hover-van-shuttle-thingamajig. Throwing Martha in the back, the couple strap themselves in and soon the car rises into the air zooming off, leaving the Doctor alone on a nearby balcony.
"MARTHA!" the Doctor wails unhappily. "Not another companion gone! I’m getting a really crap track record! Oh well," he sighs. "Can’t be helped unless... no... yes... no... YES!"
The Doctor sprints back to Pharmacy and in front of the baffled vendors, shoots up with their ENTIRE supply of Pissed Off until he has passed the point of "Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Anymore" to the level of "RUN AWAY!!"
Now supercharged with righteous indignation, the Doctor demands they tell him who the kidnappers were and why they kidnapped his date. The vendors take a hit of Mellow # 13 and explain everything:
It transpires that the Fast Lane of the local motorway can only be accessed by vehicles carrying three adults, and the duo needed the extra person, ergo Martha has been "carjacked". The Doctor finds this very hard to believe, but a quick fix of Credulity # 8 fixes that.
"Word of advice, all of you: cash up, close down and pack your bags, because as soon as I’ve found Martha, alive and well – and I will find her, alive and well – then I’m coming back. And this street is closing. Tonight! Normally I’d support a thriving drug market, but the service is terrible, the décor lacklustre and, oh yeah, I’M COMPLETELY PISSED OFF!"
The Time Lord then charges straight through a convenient door and emerges into a gigantic metal tunnel, with thousands upon thousands of identical boxy vehicles floating in the air all stuck in jams sounding their horns, few moving and little happening. "Whoa," the Doctor boggles at the sight of the most terrible traffic jam. "It’s like The Fifth Dimension, only much less realistic!"
Just then the Doctor realizes he’s forgotten to engage his super Time Lord respiratory powers and starts to choke on the exhaust fumes. Luckily, the nearest van opens up and a figure drags the Doctor into the more breathable atmosphere within, berating him for being a "daft little street slut". The figure is in fact, a humanoid cat dressed like Biggles, travelling in his van with his human wife Valerie and their two-month-old litter of kittens in a 12-year journey to the laundries of the Island of Fiery Death. It might have an off-putting name, but the job opportunities are spectacular apparently.
"My name’s Thomas Kincade Finnegan, but call me Finnegan – there are plenty of Toms around these parts to make it confusing!" says the humanoid feline in an Irish accent.
The Doctor considers this increasingly surreal state of affairs and decides to take his chances on the motorway than in traffic that barely covers a mile every two years – unfortunately, while they’ve been chatting, Finnegan’s van has moved past the lay-by, and they won’t arrive at the next one for six months, so there’s not much to do but sit back, much on a Babel Fish Finger, and enjoy the ride.
Martha meanwhile awakens inside the van with her kidnappers. Snatching up the gun lying nearby, she threatens to pop a cap in their asses unless they take her back. But her pro-active, feminist-supporting stance is undermined when she discovers the gun – the very gun used to kidnap her – is just a broken hairdryer.
"Fuck," Martha sighs, throwing the gun aside.
Her kidnappers introduce themselves as Milo and Cheen, a blissfully-in-love teenage couple who, after discovering the wonders of faulty contraceptives, are expecting a baby and wish to start a new life. Since they’re under the heady influence of Honesty # 36, Martha believes their story that they just nicked her so they could go in the Fast Lane and will drop her off once they’re done.
"It’s only ten miles," Cheen explains. "It’ll take about six years."
Martha takes this news on the chin and decides it is her duty as a medical student to stop Cheen polluting her pregnant body with drugs, and Martha makes the supreme sacrifice of taking them all instead. Now completely off her face, Martha lightens up and starts munching on large biscuits. Even when she finds out that all the food supplies are recycled by the chemical toilet in the back of the van, she’s quite open-minded about everything.
Finally, their van reaches the bottom of the entire Motorway, beneath the traffic jam where you can reach up to thirty miles per hour. The trio of drug-addled stoners listen to mysterious roaring sounds from outside, but aren’t fussed. "They say people go missing on the motorway. Some cars just vanish, never to be seen again cause there’s something living down there, in the smoke. Something huge and hungry and if you get lost on the road it’s waiting for you," Cheen muses.
"And you didn’t think that this could be a problem?" asks Martha, several chemists’ worth of relaxants the only thing between her and a very nasty homicidal episode.
Milo points out that the creaking groans could be the sound of the air vents at the base of the tunnel – but if there WERE working air vents, the pea souper of exhaust fumes wouldn’t be there, would it?
As it dawns on the trio how massive fucked they might be, aboard the Finnegan van, the Doctor goes stir crazy and decides the time has come for him to swallow his pride and accede to a higher authority than the Last of the Time Lords: the local constabulary.
After three hours with his call being held in a queue, the Doctor gives up. Since the entire freeway is enclosed so outside calls are impossible, the Doctor decides to contact is with outer vehicles on the Motorway – and quickly spots his old pals the Cassini "Sisters", an elderly couple who were amongst the first to join the motorway over twenty years ago.
Despite their abuse that he’s a pest, a menace and a Melanie Jane Bush groupie, the Cassini sisters are car-spotters and able to work out that Martha was car-jacked by Car 465D6, which sounds like a spectacular bra size, doesn’t it?
However the Time Lord still has no way of reaching them, since Finnegan and Valerie refuse to face the hideous demonic forces within the Fast Lane. Annoyed, the Doctor decides to freak them all out:
"Have any of you ever SEEN a police car? Any police? Or an ambulance? Rescue service? Anything official? EVER? What if there’s no one out there? What if the traffic jam NEVER stops? What if there’s no help coming, not ever? What if there's nothing? Just the motorway, with the cars going round and round and round, never stopping? FOREVER?"
While his terrified hosts top themselves up with tranquilizing mood patches, the Doctor decides that it’s time to haul some serious ass and kicks open a hatch in the bottom of the van and jumps through the gap and onto another car roof.
Accompanying the thrilling sight of the Doctor breaking into the roof of the vehicle below, dropping inside and through the floor, Sally Calypso announces the Daily Contemplation. Across the Motorway, a hymn can be heard as the Time Lord slowly clambering through the layers of cars and surprising passengers in each vehicle:
"On this Jacob’s Ladder
The only way up is down!
Three days in the water
Watching all the secrets drown!"
All of the drivers solemnly sing along, their eyes welling up at the Chumbawamba. Even Martha, through her gathering tears, manages to mumble a few lines.
"A thousand lifetimes left standing at the docks
In the bar down at Whitehall, they’re sure the boat won’t rock
In a file marked 'Secret' in a drawer kept closed
Nobody wonders, because nobody knows
About this Jacob’s Ladder
The only way up is down..."
Milo, Cheen and Martha finally stop singing to notice that the empty road shrouded in the sickly mist actually goes nowhere as all the junctions are closed. Milo and Cheen are devastated, but Martha’s frankly more worried about the noises outside gradually growing louder.
Suddenly the vehicle begins to shake and even as Milo insists that nothing could survive outside in the fumes, the car receives a call from another vehicle on the Fast Lane, which is being attacked by something
outside. This allows us a tantalizing glimpse of Javit the Catwoman and her companions, two blonde vestal virgins.
"Are you morons or something?" Javit snaps. "The junctions are ALWAYS closed and there’s something out there in fog? Are you deaf? Can’t you hear it? Oooh, shi—-"
Javit’s warning that they must leave are cut off as her car is attacked and Martha screams at Mil to drive straight ahead as far as possible as the roaring gets closer. Ooh, it’s like Jaws, isn’t it?
After startling an albino monk, two Japanese schoolgirls, a van of nudists, Alexei Sayle in war paint, and his old friend/enemy Smelly Ed, the near-choking Doctor arrives in the car of a well-dressed businessman called Max Normal who doesn’t believe that the Doctor is a plain clothes member of the Motorway Foot Patrol conducting a survey.
Idly noting the distant lights dotting the thick, murky fog outside, the Time Lord opens up the hatch on the floor and jumps down to the last layer before the Fast Lane a thousand metres below.
The Doctor opens the roof of the lowest car to discover a heap of skeletons covered in thousands of tiny little red spider-crab things which immediately start to nip at the Last of the Time Lords. Escaping the scuttling commuter-eating creatures, retreats to Max Normal’s van.
As the screeching roars build up, he and the businessmen watch the fumes recede to show the big, angry huge spider-crabs lurching about in the water of the Motorway gutters. Their eyes are the lights.
"Jings!" the Doctor boggles. "The Macra! Now THIS is what I call a paradox wrapped within an enigma and sprinkled with paradox!"
Parte the Second
A quick cutaway shows that Martha, Milo and Cheen are still alive as they drive flat out, being chased by Macra on all sides, giant CGI claws snap at the tiny CGI shuttle. Martha finally decides that the best thing to do is go silent running and hopefully stop provoking the monster crabs with their mere existence.
Amazingly enough, this works and suddenly all falls silent and still. Martha’s brilliant plan has only one drawback – the air recycling technobabble is offline and they will soon choke to death unless they start the engine, and if they do the Macra will attack.
Milo and Cheen immediately use what little oxygen they have to hurl abuse at Martha for her so-called bright ideas.
Back to the action as the Doctor recounts the events of a long-forgotten black and white episode to Max Normal: "The Macra used to be the scourge of this galaxy. Macramé, they loved it, the more complicated the better. They built up a small empire using humans as slaves and creating macramé for food. Of course that was billions of years ago. Billions. They must’ve devolved down the years and now they’re just savage beasts. Either the Macra escaped from the Balanystra Zoo at the death of civilization, escaped and settled into the sewers like the alligators of urban legend or... actually, there is no "or". It’s just what happened. So any alternative theory is a complete waste of time. But they’re STILL hungry and my new companion’s down there..."
Suddenly "Sally Calypso" teleports into the van. "There you are, Doctor. I heard about someone being stupid enough to climb from car to car, it just had to be you. You haven’t aged at all. Time has been less kind to me. It hates me..."
The Doctor initially fails to recall who 'she' is but when he does he gives her a patented Donna Noble headbutt. "YOU TRANSSEXUAL BASTARD! Last time we met you not only triggered a zombie apocalypse, you made me look a total fool and tried to tamper with your own past!"
"Typical! Focus on that one incident," Joan Collins hisses. "But I found a new career, as a TV anchor Sally Calypso! I’ve not killed anyone in 23 years! And I need your help!"
"And I need you to sod off and die! I’m not going anywhere when you’ve got Macra living underneath this city, Macra! And if my friend’s still alive, she’s stuck down there! And now there’s three of us, we can go down to the Fast Lane!"
"All right. Back to the usual tactics," Joan Collins says, punches the Doctor in the stomach, grabs his wrist and teleports away in a haze of white light as Max Normal looks on bewilderment.
The Doctor and Joan Collins reappear a tumbledown, junk-filled building somewhere above the alleyways of the slums. "And before you start bitching about helping the little mongrels in tins, we can’t teleport people, the bracelet only had enough power for that round trip. Welcome to the over-city Senate of the City State."
S/he turns up the lights to reveal the grand building surrounding them; lined with the skeletons of the dead Senators. "Everyone’s dead, Doctor. A mutated virus in a new mood patch called Bliss Plus became airborne and destroyed everything and everyone on Balanystra, except for the under-city and was sealed off. Those millions of motorists are the only survivors. Just like that Margaret Atwood novel "Onxy and Crake"."
"Oh, yeah, I see the similarities," the Doctor agrees. "So I suppose YOU were the one that developed the virus?"
"Darling, as if I have a head for chemicals? No, I arrived here after the virus burnt-out and started looting. The planet’s still under quarantine so no one’s going to come here to drag me out. But after twenty years I’m sick of doing the traffic reports. Especially when they’re as boring as these ones are. The trouble is, there’s not enough power to unseal the city."
"Jings, woman, you have no idea how a fuse box works, do you?" says the Doctor with disgust, striding over to a control panel and flipping a switch marked "POWER".
Suddenly the power begins to return and the motorway begins to shake. High above the cars the roof slowly opens, sections of the ceiling folding away and daylight floods inside. The drivers look on in amazement as the Doctor’s face appears on the computer screens, telling everyone to drive up into the skies and clear the Fast Lane.
And doing a much better job of anchorman than Joan Collins did.
In the fast lane, the air is almost run out as Martha starts to go quietly insane. "There’s always the Doctor," she mumbles to herself. "That friend of mine. He might think of something. I think. I don’t actually know who he is. There’s so much he never says. I know that it’s not much use, our only hope being a complete stranger, but you haven’t seen the weird shit he can pull out of his ass and save the day!"
Milo and Cheen decide to take their chances and switch the van on, trying to duck and dodge through the minefield of furiously attacking Macra when suddenly they notice that all the traffic has vanished and the van can swing free of the last of the snapping claws and burst up out of the fog, heading for the opening like everybody else.
Martha squeals that she knew the Doctor could save them...
...and within five minutes Milo and Cheen have thrown her out of their van back into the under-city, bound and gagged with a sign around her neck saying "RAVING LOONY".
In the Senate building, the Doctor watches the gorgeous site of cars are rising out of the under-city and flying around abandoned skyscrapers. The Doctor turns to Joan Collins. "Well, that’s that sorted, isn’t it? Once last thing, I’m sure you think you’ve been a really great person, hanging around, giving hope to the masses but..."
He zaps her teleport bracelet and she vanishes.
"No loose ends. I’m that sort of a man."
Joan Collins reappears in the choking fog at the bottom of the motorway surrounded by giant Macra and runs for it, in the hope she can avoid the claws that slash and the teeth that bite until the exhaust fumes clear and all the crabby bastards choke to death on oxygen.
The Doctor meanwhile, returns to Pharmacy Town (now deserted, would you believe?) and idly releases Martha. "Jings, how people behave, eh? Road rage, traffic jams, scary deep emotional attachments to their vehicles... An entire generation of drivers simply never getting out of their cars. Still, it’s not entirely unrealistic. You haven’t been to 1930s Germany, have you? Back to the TARDIS, off we go."
Martha finally gets her gag off. "Doctor, are you going to be a fucking emotard over Rose for the rest of your life or are you going to open your eyes and realize you have all the sista you need right here?"
The Doctor shakes his head, the edges of his mouth twitching as if he is trying not to laugh at her. It’s kind of terrible if you care how it would make Martha feel. "I don’t think so. Sorry."
"Why not?!" shouts Martha, pulling out the hairdryer. "YOU NEVER TALK! How can this relationship go anywhere if you don’t tell me anything?!"
"Jings... okay... er... Oh yes! I was lying to you! About Gallifrey! There’re all dead, and the burnt orange sky’s gone. I’m not just a Time Lord, I’m the LAST of the Time Lords. Give or take."
"TELL ME MORE!" Martha demands.
"Uh, there was a war? A Temporal Difference of Opinion between my people and a race called the Dustbins for the sake of all creation? How’s that do you? Oh, and they lost. Needless to say. Everyone lost. They’re all gone now. My family, my friends, even that sky. So, uh, there’s nothing to tell."
"I don’t believe you!" Martha shouts as he makes a break for it. "I want more details!"
And so, as the Doctor narrates the tale of Battle TARDISes fighting Dustbin Saucers wiping whole planets from time and shredding species from their corporeal existence in the crossfire as the vortex is ripped asunder, of billions of Dustbins blotting out the sky as Chancellery Guard fought to their last incarnation at the steps of the Panopticon, of the red grass on the mountainsides being stained with the blood of Gallifrey’s children, and of both races burnt from the face of creation by an explosion brighter than the sun...
...we see the sun set and hundreds of Macra choking to death as the exhaust fumes finally clear.
Thank God that’s all over.
"I’ve always wanted to go to New York. But it’s always Cardiff."
"It’s the 80s, sweetie. Your heart might break but the insider trading goes on."
"Weevil Mystery becomes slightly less obvious!"
"Who are we performing for?"
"Behold your demographic!"
"Whaddaya mean, 'fake accent'?"
"RUN YOU SILLY MARE!!"
"Legs in the air and no funny business!"
"Um, which one of you is Martha?"
"It’s insane! It’s inhuman! IT’S DERIVATIVE!"
"Dustbins always survive while I lose everything... Oh, well that’s the fucking limit! I’m off to kill myself!"
...The Dustbins on Broadway...