Serial 7Z/A – Van Halen
An Alternate Programme Guide by Ewen Campion-Clarke
An Extract From The EC Unauthorized Guide O' Alone Again
D O C T O R W H O
Serial 7Z/A – Van Halen
With his past selves returned to their miserable lives and the shadow of his upcoming regeneration hanging over him, the Doctor is left wondering what to do with himself. The cosmos had changed so much: the Bastard has renounced evil and become a female impersonator; the Dustbins obliterated by the Handjob of Omigod (and there are hardly likely to be any long term consequences of THAT!), the Cybermen have been fully assimilated into Earth culture and considered as dangerous as the Asian grocery stores they now run; and everyone’s completely forgotten about the Snotarans and the RU-tans’ culinary carnage.
In this new and incredibly dull-sounding universe, the Doctor must find some way to pass the time before his inevitable regeneration.
Ultimately, the Doctor decides to follow the example of the Bastard and join an eccentric and isolated seaside fishing community full of charming eccentrics and mild social crises, and no invading body-snatchers or time rifts to interrupt the gentle bohemia. Thus, he sets the controls for Pearl Bay in the year 1998.
However, the TARDIS instead arrives in the bustling marketplace on Van Halen, a distant stellar fragment in the corkscrew spiral galaxy confusingly dubbed Dimension X by incredibly unimaginative and stupid astrophysicists. Upon learning this, the Doctor swears loudly at the stupid over-large console room he’s lumbered with.
Van Halen is caught in the middle of the galactic recession thanks to a resurgence of Thatcherite economics and the collapse of the Third Great And Bountiful Human Empire. The Doctor knows that he’s going to be up against most of the galaxy’s population in trying to find a job and so makes a sign to hang around his neck advertising himself for sale to the passers by:
1 DOCTOR – EXCELLENT CONDITION
SIX PREVIOUS OWNERS – ONLY 900 YEARS ON THE CLOCK
EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE IN CROSS-CULTURAL AFFAIRS & SCIENCE
PRACTICAL – WITTY - HIGHLY-FLAMMABLE, IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF
WANTED IN ALL MAJOR STAR SYSTEMS AND MUCH SOUGHT AFTER BY OVERTHROWN FASCIST REGIMES WHOSE GOVERNMENTS I OVERTHREW
AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES – HAS OWN TRANSPORT – MAKES EXCELLENT COMPANION
However, no one is interested in buying a strange Scotsman with a question mark umbrella and the Doctor realizes he’s going to have to try a different approach and heads to the nearest Centrelink branch.
Three weeks later, when the Doctor reaches the front of the cue, the Time Lord still can’t think what sort of job he wants and after watching a repeat of "Fawlty Towers" on daytime TV decides to turn the TARDIS into a hotel. When the clerk points out that he’ll need to employ and train staff, including cooks and chambermaids, the Doctor admits his idea was a little fanciful and admits the odds of getting an idiotic waiter from Barcelona are too low to be worth mentioning.
Depressed, the Doctor insists he’s rubbish at masterminding schemes to defeat alien armies and confronting evils from the dawn of time, but tragically he’s even MORE useless at anything else!
The clerk suggests the Doctor do what everyone else who is completely useless turns their hands to while on Van Halen: local politics.
Indeed, the sheer number of completely unsuitable and talentless nobodies in the political process have lead to weekly riots the populace have to pay to watch, pay more to participate in and pay through the nose to stop. The Mayor of Van Halen actually makes public service announcements where he reminds everyone what a vermin-infested shithole they live in now the gas mines have closed and the Earth Empire have cut all ties the moment they finished forcing every single colonist to have their ID barcode stamped onto their tongues. He then goes on to describe how bad he is at his job and reveals he has been completely screwing over his people for his own ends – as a kind of pep-talk to get some real violence at the riots.
Finally, Mayor Laxton decides to pull out the big guns and introduces rationing, power cuts and insults the mothers of every single citizen in the city of Van Halen, then drops his trousers and bares his arse in front of the whole population as he screams, "Look what’s for breakfast you dozy bastards!"
Across the city, people shout out in protest – unaware that Laxton is now hiding behind his desk, sobbing uncontrollably and wailing that he doesn’t want riots and doesn’t like showing his bare buttocks to his constituents. To his horror, he discovers the doors to his office have been locked – he is entirely under the thrall of his Personal Organizer who secretly runs the entire planet and is in league with alien beings from beyond our ken!!
The Doctor suspects that the Mayor is actually trying to warn his citizens to stay at home rather than riot – since the man is so patently rubbish, if he is inciting a riot he must logically be trying to prevent one!
Suddenly, there is a power failure – just as the Mayor revealed, and all the other jobseekers at Centrelink are more determined than ever to attend that night’s riot and take the opportunity to smash the oppressive Personal Organizer. The Doctor meanwhile is horrified to discover the office has an infestation of termites – and concludes that the TERMITES are the ones sabotaging the underground electricity grid.
At this point the clerk tells him to get the hell out of his office and never come back or he’ll call the cops. The Doctor snootily points out he actually had a prior appointment, actually.
Outside, he forces his way through the crowds buying tickets, body armor, weapons and light refreshments from stall-holders and into the sewer system under the city – a task made all the more awkward by his huge For Sale sign which he insists on wearing about his neck.
Inside the tunnel system, the Doctor finds some curious graffiti saying EVERY COLUMN IS MANY AND ONE and THE HIGHER WE ARE THE BETTER WE SEE. The Doctor tutts at how pompous and new-agey graffiti has become since Ace pioneered the art in 1963, spray-painting ACE WOZ ERE on the inside of Dustbin low-orbit shuttlecraft.
There he bumps into a grubby and strangely-accented maintenance worker called Jevvan who is bitching about the fact it is her birthday but no one sent a card, that she has to work on the toughest part of the electricity grid alone, that she’s missing the riot, the deep rumbling noises in the shadows, the fact her pal Tin-Lid has disappeared into the old refinery deep underground, and pretty much every single aspect of everything everywhere annoys the hell out of her.
When the Doctor finally gets a word in edgeways, she is annoyed at his unauthorized presence. The Doctor dismisses her behaviour as self-indulgent and seems determined not to become involved, he eventually relents and runs into the dark and finds that Tin-Lid has apparently been turned into liquefied gore dripping off the walls of the demolished tunnels up ahead.
Jevvan believes the Doctor is responsible and accuses him of killing her best friend, so he smack her round the face and tells her to use her brain for once in her miserable life. Apart from anything else, the recognizable body parts are in a uniform marked LOLZ – so it’s not actually Tin-Lid who was torn apart like the metal walls and solid rock around them.
Jevvan stamps her foot at not even managing to get a murder victim’s identity right on her birthday, causing the floor beneath them to crumble. The Doctor sensibly stands back and eventually saves Jevvan from plummeting into the dark hole of certain disemboweling, as he thinks dying on your birthday would just plain suck.
As the Doctor and Jevvan return to the surface, he asks her why she
came to Van Halen and she tells him to mind his own business. The Doctor laughs evilly, suggesting she’s one of those losers who originally left Earth to explore but ran out of beer money and hitched her way to Van Halen a century after the Gas Rush.
They emerge into the streets to find everyone has disappeared in mid-riot, leaving only a few severed limbs and some litter. The Doctor muses on the whole Night of the Comet vibe this is giving him, but it seems it’s more of a case of Them! as an army of giant termites sweeps through the ominously-deserted city.
"A sudden insect rebellion against humanity. AGAIN!" the Time Lord muses. "I hate it when that happens..."
Termites flow from every ducting and the streets are empty because everyone has either been captured or eaten. And just when things can’t get more disturbing, the army of termites marching in step start to sing happy, happy songs!
Jevvan freaks out and the Doctor, bored of her hysteria, heads for the nearest café to chill out over a cup of tea and a plate of hot chips. Jevvan follows the Doctor so he has someone to talk to, answer questions, and get captured by bug-eyed monsters. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Tom Baker called the Talking Cabbage, and I suspect that a bit of produce that has somehow acquired the power of speech would be much more endearing and entertaining than Jevvan.
Don’t believe me? Remember Frobisher, huh?
The Doctor is annoyed to discover that the Café of Good Hope is empty, run down, splattered with human remains and crawling with termites. "I hate false advertising," the Doctor scowls and batters the termites off the premises with his umbrella and barricades the door. The Doctor tells Jevvan to make herself useful for once in her misbegotten life and prepare a meal for him – then, thinking twice, the Doctor decides that he probably wouldn’t be able to cope with her cooking, and goes to make the tea himself.
Left alone in the café, Jevvan is not in the slightest surprised when her work-mate, one-time-shag and comic relief sidekick Gerium is in fact hiding in the pot plants, dividing his time between looting everything not nailed down and running for his life from the giant termites slaughtering everyone they meet.
In the kitchen, the Doctor decides to ring up the Mayor and ask if he’s noticed all the overlarge white ants treating Van Halen with less respect than Godzilla to Tokyo. However, he gets the Personal Organizer instead, who makes curious moaning noises and offers to "send an escort to pick the Doctor up", but the Doctor refuses to co-operate without consulting the pimps beforehand. He hangs up, eats a biscuit and scowls at how stupid life has become of late.
The phone rings again – this time it is Tin-Lid who reveals all the survivors have fled to the Space Dome to evacuate the entire planet, and once this ship leaves there won’t be another. The Doctor realizes that they must escape a monster-filled city in order to get to an evacuation point, and finds this disappointingly familiar as he watched a DVD of "Cloverfield" the other day.
Suddenly a worker termite appears outside the window and although it’s searching the area, it doesn’t appear to have seen them yet. Eventually it passes by and everyone relaxes – only for the phone to ring AGAIN, attracting the worker termite to the café. They are thus forced to flee as it scratches its way through the door to get at them. On the way out of the café, Jevvan and Gerium insist on returning home first to pick up some of their belongings, and their squabble leaves them open to attack from the termites who are even now tearing buildings apart and eating the masonry.
"How depressingly predictable!" the Doctor despairs.
Gerium and Hevvan spots an abandoned minicab which can get them to the Space Dome, but first they have to get around a termite that blocks their way. And then they have to find their way around all the road blocks and fences erected for the abandoned riot. And more termites.
It becomes clear that someone is trying to stop them getting to the Space Dome as every time they head in the right direction, they’re turned back – and the Doctor suspects they’re being tracked by the barcodes on their tongues. The Personal Organizer rings them up on the car phone and reveals that they are being escorted as promised, and all three have a paranoia attack, hurl the phone from the cab and drive away from it very, very quickly.
Just then they see the shuttle take off from Van Halen, leaving a crowd of passengers at the Space Dome and everyone else to their horrible termite-related death. The air is filled with a deep booming growl and the Doctor warns Gerium to drive for his life or they’ll never get off this rock alive... just to keep his spirits up.
Parking outside the Space Dome, the Doctor tells Jevvan – the level three electrician – to bypass the electric fence and allow them within, but she is too busy wallowing in self-pity and reminiscing about how she used to skive off work to mooch around the departure lounge to watch space ships arriving and leaving...
The Doctor calls them both 'useless sassenach bastards' and starts working on the gate himself – but all he manages to do is get 430 volts of direct current through his super-conductive Time Lord body, and the gate remains shut as the termite army (remember them?) draws closer and closer... chasing a limousine driven by the frantic Mayor Laxton as he flees the monsters, his official responsibilities, his secretary and his bladder control.
The Mayor drives his car straight through the gate, which – on the bright side – allows the Doctor’s party to gain access and – on the down side – also allows the marauding termites to gain access as well. This latest act of criminal stupidity leads Tin-Lid to turn the entire crowd to into a mob that instantly lynch the poor sucker.
The city is off limits, the dispenser machines have tripled their prices, and the termites are closing in on the last survivors in the Space Dome. As civilization on Van Halen begins to circle the drain hole of oblivion, the Doctor wonders if the Queen of the Giant Termites might need a marketing consultant since these giant bugs are clearly unnatural with their building-eating proclivities.
Jevvan and Gerium scream at the Doctor to save their asses, but the Doctor lies through his teeth and says that they can look after themselves – are they not human beings with boundless inventiveness and resourcefulness? He’s been saving humanity from insectoid vermin for nigh on eight centuries.
"Maybe it’s time for change?" the Doctor suggests, and immediately decides to make an appointment with the Termite Queen, Our Mother the Fourteenth, who is the silent partner behind the Personal Organizer!!!
The Doctor rings up Our Mother and agrees to chat to her on equal terms on the condition she releases all the humans and lets them live. He realizes that he’s bargaining for humanity out of sheer habit and apologizes to the termites for endangering their children’s financially-secure future. "Humanity’s time at the top of the stack is now over!" he rants, hoping this will make amends.
Alas, this does not work.
Termites are soon crawling all over the human refugees, turning them upside down and carrying them away on their backs to be complete cocooned, while still more termites ripping up the entire city so that the streets and buildings are no longer recognizable... or, to put it another way, they can use COMPLETELY inappropriate models and stock footage and it is all dramatically justified! What’s more, the termites are actually dragging the buildings across the landscape, so the sets are SUPPOSED to wobble!
The Doctor decides that the going has got tough and if you can’t join them, discretion is the better part of living to fight another day. So saying, he flees to the Space Dome car park, where sits the Doctor’s battered blue police-box-shaped TARDIS.
One of the termites physically eats its way through the asphalt of the car park and the Doctor tells the panicking Gerium and Jevvan to address the creature politely, but neither of the humans falls for it and literally force their way inside the TARDIS.
The two maintenance workers are amazed at the sight that greets them inside the ship, with the ridiculously huge décor making them feel ironically tiny and ant-like in comparison. The Doctor snaps he’s had enough of the constant stream of non paying guests, freeloaders and sightseers he seems to pick up – no more temporal taxi service for him! In fact, he has no intention of either himself or his TARDIS going anywhere for the foreseeable future...
...just as swarms of giant termites pick the time machine up and carry it away.
The Doctor swears loudly as the three of them are thrown around the control room which is larger than Albert Hall, and falling through a side door counts as a 'bottomless pit'. The Doctor can’t take off for the dematerialization controls are a good five minutes’ jogging away from his position. Luckily, he CAN reach the Gyroscopic Internal Pitch Stabilizer (GIPS), which stops the interior shaking before the audience can get bored.
However, all this turbulence has scattered the Doctor’s various possessions and stolen goods around the control chamber, including a sales catalogue programme the Doctor received as junk mail on another planet 200 years in the future. To his incredibly surprise, this random bit of garbage turns out to be vitally important to the ongoing plot –
It is, in fact, a list of every single living thing on the planet Van Halen, all of whom are up for sale as part of "an exciting new human resource trade-off opportunity" AKA "glossy hi-tech slave/lab specimen/foodstuff market".
Since the Doctor got this in the future, he knows what is going to happen to the people of Van Halen, but refuses to tell them out of sheer spite. Instead, he will negotiate with Our Mother using this precious foreknowledge for his own benefit and no one else’s!
Even as Jevvan realizes that the Doctor is intending to completely screw them over, he runs out of the room – leaving Gerium to notice that the Doctor is also listed on the catalogue under the "Special Officer – Head On A Silver Platter Available Across Eternity" section.
The Doctor returns wearing a silly hallowing bug mask and spraying himself with cans of Lynx. This, he reveals will allow him to trick the termites into believing that he is one of their own! Jevvan and Gerium take one look at the Doctor’s "disguise" and immediately laugh so hard they pass out from oxygen starvation.
When they recover, they are so dazed they don’t protest as the Doctor gives them identical outfits and throws them out of the TARDIS. To his joy, his disguise works and the termites do not immediately tear the duo limb from limb but instead yell at them to stand to attention when the Queen ascends from the bowels of Van Halen to throw open the gates for business...
Pretending to be a gormless upper class twit and superior officer of termitedom, the Doctor makes a scene which detracts from the hideous beached-whale sized Queen Termite bursting out of the ground. Furious that her entrance has been undermined by a bonehead, she turns her worker termites onto the Doctor.
"Ah. I think I may have miscalculated. Yet again."
Thinking quickly, the Doctor rips off his unconvincing disguise, to the amazement of the assembled termite hordes. He then denounces Jevvan and Gerium as traitors and they are forced to flee for their lives in a chase sequence which pretty much fills up the rest of the episode.
As they watch the old buildings of Van Halen be cannibalized and rebuilt into a termitary, Our Mother has a strange and perverted desire to explain the whole plot to the Doctor to pass the meantime.
Pausing only to emits a long drawn-out moan, the Queen explains they are descendants of a nest of genetically-modified termites that were released onto the planet centuries ago by rabid Van Halen fans as a protest to having a mere quarry planet named after their favorite band. Alas, the planetary fluxes in gravity caused them to grow huge... somehow... and evolved enough to hack into the computer systems of the Personal Organizer and stage a perfectly legitimate takeover when the Earth turned its back on this dull colony world.
Meanwhile, Jevvan and Gerium team up with Tin-Lid and decide to stage a riot against the termites – but that only succeeds in getting them beaten up, overcome and being cocooned by the irritated invaders.
Back at... wherever the hell they are... the Doctor wholeheartedly endorses the termite slave trade to the whole universe. Until Our Mother announces that she intends to put the Doctor on the open market to see how he fares, whereupon the Time Lord vows to close their operations down no matter what the cost!
The Doctor snatches up a loudspeaker and shouts that the Our Mother the Fourth has died peacefully in her sleep – and the gullible hive fall for it utterly, and the all the termites fly off in a desperate attempt to establish a new Queen in a mass orgy... despite the fact the Queen is still on her throne shouting she is alive and well and she feels happy and isn’t dead...
...at least until the Doctor jabs her with his sonic screwdriver set to "bug zapper" mode, killing her instantly. Like Time itself, the Doctor has a tendency to sneak up behind people and mow them down.
The Doctor watches the termites swarm in the sky and muses he’ll have to find some other planet to look for nice, straightforward, uncomplicated jobs or maybe put the TARDIS up for sale on eBay. But then he realizes that there’s still much for him to do, and frankly waiting in queues to be served at the post office is dull even WITH invasions by giant mutated irritable termites.
With the next generation of termites unlikely to take up the slave trade, the Doctor considers this a job well done and heads back to the TARDIS where he meets Jevvan, the only human still alive on the planet. Out of habit he does his 'worlds out there' speech, inviting her to join him in his travels aboard the TARDIS, promising to get her home before her birthday yesterday, but the ungrateful bitch turns his offer down and decides to take her chances on Van Halen.
Sighing, the Doctor strides into the TARDIS and, by the time he reaches the console, has completely forgotten all about Jevvan and resolved to learn how to play the trombone.
Book(s)/Other Related –
Dr Who & The Countdown to Grace: 1999 (Canada Only)
Doctor Who – The Gallifreyan Face of Unemployment
Of Mites And Men
Fluffs - Sylvester McCoy seemed antsy in this story.
Jevvan randomly has a Swedish accent in some scenes, German in others, Russian and Norwegian in alternate reprises and Glaswegian the rest of the time. And ALL her accents are rubbish.
"I remember the good times of Serial 7D..."
Why is there a three-fingered claw on the cover? Termites don’t have three-fingered claws... not even giant space insects! Either way, it looks like the shadow of a menacing twiglet was looming over the city, and that CAN’T be what the people paying for the illustration asked for... can it?
Fashion Victims -
The Doctor’s red cashmere jumper which oddly enough matches his bloodshot eyes. He really should give up the booze.
The Van Halen Mayoral Personal Organizer works according to the "Paperclip of DEATH Matrix Overload" principle.
Links and References -
The Doctor is still regretting leaving Bev Tarrant to drown in quicksand in The Tarrants of Time as he’s SURE she’d have made a better companion than Jevvan.
Untelevised Misadventures -
The Doctor hasn’t seen these many giant termites since he stupidly visited the planet Isopterus. This is yet ANOTHER reference to the story "The Planet of the Fucking Huge Termites".
Groovy DVD Extras -
Scratch and Sniff the cast of Van Halen. No one’s been brave enough to try this option... and live to tell the tale.
Dialogue Disasters -
Gerium: Pah! The Doctor? Knew he’d leave. You won’t see him again. Told you he’s no scrumming use. Thought you weren’t bothered! Scrumming scummer bastard! Hahaha. Did I already say that?
Termite: Hey yo, wussup homie?
Doctor: Are you talking to me?
Termite: Yeah, I be talkin to you. I’m the brutha with the hype-shit happenning. I got it goin’ on!
Doctor: I don’t understand a word you’re saying!
Termite: Aw shit! You dissin’ the man. Ah’m gonna haf to bust yo honky ass! YOO SUCKA!
Tin-Lid: You know how you have that morbid fear of spiders and mice? Well, now they’re breeding! Six-legged spice! Now they’ll smother the city in their webs and steal your cheese! You’re scared now, huh, aren’t you? Happy bloody birthday, Jevvan!!
Doctor: Van Halen, eh? I was expecting For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Dialogue Triumphs -
The Doctor’s withering critique of Centrelink:
"This is the home of creatures that scuttle in the dark."
Doctor: I was a Doctor once. I didn’t resign, I wasn’t struck off, I’m not on the run. I just... think I should retire. It’s just that these days, well, I find it hard to settle down ANYWHERE! I’m endlessly busy, always on call, I find it impossible to sit still! I can’t leave things alone, hundreds of things at once, all tangled like wet washing and, you know what? I think it’s a phase I’m going through... Well, I’ve had enough! I’m fed up with it! And I’m giving it up! All of it! Someone else can take responsibility. I’m not involved, not any more!
Jevvan: So... what are you going to do instead?
Doctor: All I want to do is have a little fun before I die!
I wonder if I’ve ever had a day of fun in this whole life?
Cause all I want to do is have some fun!
I gotta feeling I’m not the only one!
But all I want to do is have some fun!
I gotta feeling the party’s just begun!
And all I want to do is have some fun!
I won’t tell you you’re the only one!
All I want to do is have some fun...
Until the sun comes up
Over San Francisco’s Walker General Hospital!
Jevvan: Why San Francisco’s Walker General Hospital?
Doctor: Oh, apparently I die there. Time travel, predestination paradoxes, things like that. Pretend I said nothing.
Queen: You shall pay for this, fleshy one! You shall pay!
Doctor: Oh? What’s it going to cost?
Queen: Your life!
Doctor: Hah! Good luck! The warranty on this one runs out before Y2k hits! Take your best shot!
UnQuotable Quote -
Doctor: Oh, don’t all show your enthusiasm at once.
Viewer Quotes -
"Hey poofter! Nice characterization!" - Bloke in Car (2010)
"Oh yes, Big Finish are just on fire at the moment aren't they? And that explains why they haven’t sent me Van Halen! Oh. Wait. You mean metaphorically, don't you..." - Leonard Teale (2007)
"Finally, a story that plays to Sylvester McCoy’s strengths – a subdued and pensive Doctor contemplating retirement, tired of responsibility, needing something to take his mind off the eternal, weighty problems of the universe... On second thoughts, I think I preferred him when he actually gave a damn. Which I think was two seconds into the third episode of The Cyb-Fest." - Ali Bayan (2008)
"The Doctor can’t even get the girl any more! No fist! If this was the Tenth Doctor, he’d have had to prize her off his crotch with the jaws of life! Rather like me in that respect."
- Nigel Verkoff lying to himself yet again (2007)
Psychotic Nostalgia -
"I was so furious when everyone knew what was in Big Finish stories before I sneaked into the local HMV and knifed the shop assistant to death to get the latest plays, that I decided to subscribe! I’m even MORE behind everyone else now! Why don’t they ever arrive? Do they post everyone else’s CDs, then go to the beach for a couple of days before posting mine? Are they sitting on a beach somewhere laughing at my lack of Van Halen!? DO YOU FIND THIS AMUSING, BOY?!?!"
Sylvester McCoy Speaks!
"Doing radio as-it-is it’s a great medium as an actor and I suppose to have the privilege to make lots of it is such a great thing, when you’re not a completely visual actor like me. In an ideal world, I’d be a silent movie Doctor, and instead they put me on audio, which is... ironic. I suppose. Also, from the Doctor’s point of view, you can get inside his head and hear what they’re thinking, which you can’t do on visual, and I don’t really like that. Because, well, my Doctor anyway, scares the living daylights out of me when he’s just talking, and to know what he’s THINKING as well, that’s just terrifying..."
Only one other one-story-only-companion was disliked more than Jevvan. And that was Kylie Minogue. Go figure.
Rumors & Facts –
Mark Plate’s murky 1989 television story Goth Night is well respected if seldom understood; his two mid-1990s novels are both worth an incredible amount on eBay; and his two fifth Doctor audio dramas Louis-Gooey and Bare Parts tragically still stand up as two of the very best that Big Finish have ever produced. But how does his latest effort compare? Why should I tell you? Do I have to do everything? Goddamn it!
It is rare to see anyone say anything bad about Marc Plate. Unlike Paul "Shagger" Cornell, Nick Briggs, Steven Moffat and many other writers who attract the flack from people who RIGHTLY feel justified in using a dislike of their work as a justification to cast doubt upon them as people, Marc Plate seems to be universally liked. Marc Plate, Bernie Fishnotes and no one else.
But after Van Halen, it was just Bernie!
For a story all about undercutting pomp and circumstance and illustrating the difference between what we’d like people to THINK and what they actually SEE, it’s quite fitting that the guy reputed for coming up with the most epic and complicated of stories comes up with a traditional straightforward tale with no twists, turns or anything that shakes to the core the fan base of Doctor Who. In Goth Night, Ace turned out to be a regenerated Susan Foreman; in Bare Parts, the Doctor turned out to be the template for every single Cyberman ever; in Louis Gooey, the Doctor puts the moves on a werewolf; and in Van Halen; the Doctor fight giant termites.
You can understand why so many fans automatically assumed crediting the story to Mark Plate was a printing error. With a clichéd dystopia, giant insects with a love of money, riots against cruel overseers and a brown cover, you might almost think Phillip Martin had penned the story. Come to think of it, did anyone actually SEE Plate handing it in? Could it just be some sort of penname?
According to official sources, Van Halen’s genesis took place in way back in the dark days of 2005...
Gay Russell decided, on a whim, to commission Mark Plate for a third BF audio, this time for the Seventh Doctor, alone, in a futuristic city plagued by warring gangs, with a young electrician called Jeavan, a post office, an audio boat race, a tickertape parade and the largest umbrella ever. It was two years later that Nicholas Briggs decided, on a whim, to commission Mark Plate for a third BF audio, this time for the Seventh Doctor, alone, in a futuristic city plagued by giant termites, with a young electrician called Jevvan, a job centre, an audio car chase, a ticketed riot and the largest matriarch ever.
Plate handed over a script he had been tinkering with since 2001 about the endearing human habits of exploitation and of not noticing other worlds right under our noses until those worlds burst out and bite us and everyone looks surprised. And giant termites.
This story was accepted and became the first story for five months not to feature giant insane robots trashing a forgotten outpost of Earth civilization. It featured giant insane termites trashing a forgotten outpost of Earth civilization, but you can’t have EVERYTHING, can you?
The reason why Briggs was eager for a solo Seventh Doctor story in the first place was quite simply that Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Philip Oliver had escaped again. McCoy had lost them somewhere in Singapore and was now in Australia with Ian McKellen going on the biggest Shakespearian pub crawl known to man. Luckily, they had managed to record over four hours of material from McCoy’s stage play "Me & My Goat" to work into the story.
Thus, Plate was forced to rewrite his story so McCoy’s "out of character" performance could be worked into the plot and still make sense. Plate thus quickly based the plot in an examination of what makes the Doctor work, his compassion, his inability to sit still and a realization that having pursued one particular career, there are an awful lot of other hobs he may have missed out on. There was also some truly brilliant material about the titular goat that McCoy kept mentioning, but this was lost in editing.
Nevertheless the end result was darker, fascinating, broad, deep and with ticketed riots and car chases nicked wholesale from Bertie Basset Doesn’t Take Shit From Anyone, not to mention a very dystopian run-down squalor done a thousand times before. Think Blade Runner and work your way outwards.
God this is a complete waste of my time, now I come to think of it...