Sunday, October 4, 2009

6th Doctor - The Wishing Beast/The Vanity Box

Serial 7C/V – The Widow’s Peak
The Widow’s Peak
An Alternate Programme Guide by Ewen Campion-Clarke
An Extract From The EC Unauthorized Programme Guide O' Equinox

Serial 7C/V – The Widow’s Peak -

The TARDIS arrives on a lonely-looking asteroid in the Outer Darkness between the Island Galaxies which no species has ever explored, a world of eternal peril and death. Materializing in a cold, dark forest of general spookiness, the Doctor and Mel emerge to face a sinister and forbidding experience they will NEVER forget! Probably.

The Doctor explains to Mel he has come to this isolated hellhole because he has been invited to tea by two very pleasant little old ladies who call themselves "sisters" but still might have been lovers in their distant youth.

The Time Lord notes that, judging by this story’s serial code, he is reaching the end of his incarnation and his reckless days are over; once, mayhaps, he might have searched the woods for some ancient alien dagger that possesses innocent campers and turns them into homicidal maniacs, but no more!

They set out for the sinister, run-down log cabin in the middle of the woods and Mel soon becomes convinced that something is watching them through the trees and is whispering to them. The Doctor dismisses such phantasmagoria and mocks Mel for her paranoia so typical of higher anthropoids as he walks towards the cabin at a brisk pace, then a trot, then a fast run, and finally a full-blown hysterical sprint.

Finally they reach the door of the cabin as thunder rolls ominously around them and the souls of the damned moan in torment that they have to stay in the woods, as there is no protection inside the house.

The door opens and the elderly Cassini sisters welcome the Doctor and Mel to their humble retreat, saying they’ve spent their lives worshipping the Great Hero From Beyond Time And Space and wish to reward said Hero with some sherry, or tea, or possibly taking them to their Genie in a Bottle and grant them their dearest wish.

The Doctor very loudly notes he’d be delighted at all this worship and free food as deserved recompense for saving the entire universe and everyone in it twenty-three times, but the Cassini sisters note that MEL is the Great Hero of Time And Space and they just assumed he was a badly-dressed Pro-Mel groupie like them.

The Doctor, upon regaining the power of speech, mutters darkly that they’re two decrepit septuagenarians who’ve been living in the back of beyond in a haunted hovel for centuries. "What would YOU know anyway?" he sneers, downing his sherry with milk and two sugars.

As the Melaphiles dote over his companion, the Doctor stalks into the kitchen and smashes all the crockery in mindless anger. He then explains the oh-so-sinister and shimmering ghosts outside the house are to blame. Mel smugly points out there is no such thing as poltergeists and berates the Doctor for his overactive imagination. Smiling at this, the Doctor has another sherry, returns to the kitchen and smashes more of it up.

As he jumps up and down on what was once a priceless china collection, he senses something outside the kitchen window. It may be intangible, invisible, and not even trying to communicate but the Doctor is certain it exists and shouts that psionic ghost or not, if it’s another Pro-Mel supporter, it’ll wish it had never died!

Suddenly, all the doors slam open as a terrific wind blows through the cabin, smashing the furniture the Doctor has yet to destroy, and containing a moaning voice. Mel dismisses this as a poor display of cheap theatrics when a screaming voice shrieks the words "DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!" over and over again.

The Doctor snatches up the Cassini’s vacuum cleaner and, after doing something clever with his sonic screwdriver, transforms it into a Ghostbusters-style nuclear accelerating proton pack which sucks the apparition out of existence, saving them all.

"Hah! Could YOU have done that?" he challenges Mel.

"Easily," Mel retorts.

The Doctor swears loudly and stalks outside, only to be confronted by something evil rises from the swampy bog it was lurking within. Rising out of the mud into the mist, it creeps silently past trees, gliding over small shrubs, moving onwards through the thick woods until this dark and brooding force spots the Time Lord. The undiluted nastiness charges through the trees straight towards the Doctor...

...who, at the last second, spins around and grabs the evil entity by its equivalent of a throat and screams "I AM **NOT** IN THE MOOD!" into its bone-white face.

The phantom apologizes and asks the Doctor if he’s had a rough day. The Doctor grumbles that he’s had better and right now his ego has taken a severe battering by the wrinkled hands of the Cassini sisters. The ghastly creature introduces itself as Mildew and suggests they go for a beer or something to cheer the Doctor up – after all, whatever it is, it can’t be as bad as being unable to taste, touch, eat or feel, and even lie down for long without sinking into the earth.

Sitting on the steps, the Doctor and Mildew bitch mightily, and roll a huge spliff as they do so. Mildew explains he was once a puny mortal in the realm of the living, but after visiting the sisters transcended reality once his soul was captured by their Vacuum Cleaner of Pain, powered by Horrendous Space Radiation that strips away the layers of living essences until only the insane disembodied soul is left.

Inside the cabin, Mel and the sisters enjoy some Kendall mint cake as they discuss the evil spirits the surrounding woods are full of, and how the Doctor is jealous of the attention they give Mel. They are so engrossed in bagging him out, they don’t notice a woman’s corpse flop out of a wardrobe, screams heard from outside, the menacing yet unintelligible voice on the sub-ether radio, or the glowing red eyes watching them from a hole in the ceiling.

Just as one of the sisters then reveals she has laser beams built into her eyeballs (allowing her to boil a kettle with a look), the Doctor storms inside and shouts that the Cassini sisters are not the lovely old women they appear but psychopathic mass-murderers with appalling tastes in objets dart. The sisters respond by switching on their vacuum cleaner and suck him inside...

Inside the bag, which is bigger on the inside and a strange bright void of flying children’s toys, disembodied laughing voices, pounding footsteps, the Doctor is bored shitless. He was kind of hoping that all the Cassini Sisters’ previous victims would be inside the bag as well, but it’s really just him and a growling, skeletal insectoid alien bitching that it ended up in this place when he popped out of his pyramidal space craft for a cup of tea with the Sisters.

Mel realizes her boyfriend has been cancelled out of existence, thus condemning her as a virgin forever! (Anyone who thinks they know some book, comic or audio that proves different, keep it to yourselves – I just ate!)

The Cassini Sisters prepare to vacuum up Mel as well, and then using a complicated mixture of black magic and homemade chemistry sets, transfer that life energy into themselves to become, in their words, "young, strong, perky and less water retentive."

However, the vacuum cleaner’s bag seems full!

The Sisters explain they never really planned for that eventually, and wonder how to actually REMOVE the bag. Mel suggests switching it to 'blow', which simply blasts the Doctor free once more.

"Well, that’s enough of being cautious and polite in my old age – time for some good old fashioned carnage!" the Doctor exclaims. "Eat super-suck, you parasitic paramours!"

The Doctor grabs the vacuum cleaner and aims it at the Sisters, when one of them uses her laser eyesight, but she accidentally blows up the vacuum cleaner. Immediately Mildrew – remember him? – and all the other ghosts are freed... before being violently sucked downwards into Hell, since they neglected to lead worthy lives.

The Cassini Sisters meanwhile dissolve into instant mashed potato and the cabin starts to crumble and rot into splinters, leaving the Doctor and Mel standing alone in the woods on an awful splinter, the last remaining shard of a world.

"And let that be a lesson to you!" the Doctor tells Mel after a long pause, before they both hurry into the TARDIS and take off.

Book(s)/Other Related -
Doctor Who & The Kissing Breast (Canada Only)
Doctor Who: The Macra Traffic Jam
Surviving The Cassinis

Goofs -
What the hell is the Widow’s Peak? Why is in the title?
Why do the Cassini Sisters offer people tea before sucking them into the vacuum cleaner? Where the hell did they GET that vacuum cleaner in the first place? Why does it work on ghosts AND people? How can this process make them young and beautiful? Even if it DOES make them young and beautiful, how come sucking the life out of Mildew and his ghosts hasn’t helped? Are they young and beautiful COMPARED to the palsied harridans before?
How did the sisters contact the Doctor to offer him a cup of tea in the first place, especially when they were after Mel? If they can visit other planets, why do they stay on that mudball instead of visiting downtown New York and hoovering up all the lowlifes? Where do they get their teabags from since they’re light years from any inhabited solar system?!
And WHY are they so interested in Mel?!?

Fashion Victims –
Evil possession leaves the telltale signs of charcoal smeared under the eyes and ridiculous gurning. Be sure to watch out for these things in your day-to-day activities.

Links and References -
The Doctor is still traumatized by his and Mel’s encounter with the Quirks and their pet vespiforms on the planet Virgo, a reference to the TV Comic strip Craig Hinton managed to make canonical by referring to it in every story he wrote, twice a page, daily. We miss you, buddy.

Untelevised Misadventures -
The adventure immediately previous involved the Dustbins, a transsexual named Trevor, Mel obtaining a strange buzzing fertility symbol in the shape of a stuffed owl, and the rogue Bandrils using the TARDIS dynamorphic generator to make cheese toasties.

Groovy DVD Extras -
Murray Gold’s full orchestral score for the spin off gay porno for over-80s fans: "Gridlocked Cassinis".

Dialogue Disasters -

Eliza: I’d like to make a toast for this evening. As a Greek friend of mine once said, "Nis-hat-nis-fert-dis-ruben-tu-tar-im!"
Mel: And what does that mean?
Maria: PARTY ON!!

Doctor: I’m going to get my well-earned cup of tea, no matter what!
Mel: NO!
Doctor: And why not?
Mel: They’re going to laugh at you! THEY’RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU!

Mildew: I’m not the Devil. I’m much, much older. I watched the Beginning and I will see the End. I am the dark behind the stars. I am the dark inside you all.
Doctor: It does rather SOUND like the Devil, though, doesn’t it?
Mildew: So it does. Oh, no wait, did I say "the Devil"? I meant to say "Evel" As in "Evel Knievel". I’m not Evel Knievel. I AM the Devil.
Doctor: It’s so easy to get those two mixed up, isn’t it?

Dialogue Triumphs –

Mildew: Why have you disturbed our sleep, awakened us from our ancient slumber? You will die. Like the others before you. We will take you one by one. All of you ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Doctor: You might be able to steal my soul, but you can’t make me care.
Mildew: Oh well, great! That takes the fun out of the whole thing!

Mel: Oh my God!
Doctor: MUST you keep saying that, Mel?
Mel: Doctor, sometimes your atheist bias can be really hurtful!
Doctor: Atheist bias? Atheist bias?!? ATHEIST BIAS?! I am a 900-year-old Time Lord who does not believe in magic, for whom science is the only truth, who has seen an unimaginably vast array of worlds with their own systems of worship! Do you think I happened to show up by your local church, got handed a pamphlet and instantly thought, "Well, that sounds about right. When do I start worshipping?"
Mel: Yes!
Doctor: FUCK YOU! There is no Devil! There is no God! There is only NOTHING! Absolute and eternal NOTHING!
Mildew: Ahem. I thought we established I was the Devil?

Cassini Sisters: Such pretty flesh. You have pretty skin.
Mel: Why, thank you for noticing. Yes, I do moisturize.
Cassini Sisters: GIVE IT TO US!
Mel: Oh, isn’t there a Body Shop around here?

Mildew: What’ll it be?
Doctor: Three bottles of Voxnic. Time Lord’s burden, my good man. Time Lord’s burden. How’s my credit in this place anyway?
Mildew: Your credit’s fine, Doctor.
Doctor: Excellent! I like you, Mildew. I always liked you. You were always the best of them. Best bartender from Andromeda to Zeta Major – Zeta Minor for that matter.
Mildew: Thank you for saying so. How are things going, Doctor?
Doctor: Things could be better, Mildew. Things could be a whole lot better.
Mildew: I hope it's nothing serious.
Doctor: Women! You can’t live with them, and if you try to live without them they change the locks Words of wisdom, Mildew. Words of wisdom. I haven’t laid a hand on this one. Goddamn it, I didn't. I wouldn't touch one hair of her little red head. Those damn fans. As long as I live they’ll never let me forget what happened! I did hurt one of them once, okay? It was an accident, complete unintentional. It could have happened to anybody. And it was three seasons ago. The little primate was totally ungrateful for me forcing her to drink bat milk! All I tried to do was subdue what I assumed to be an alien spy. Like Kamelion. Or Turlough. Or Liz Shaw. A momentary loss of muscular coordination. I mean... A few extra foot pounds of energy, per second... per second. And suddenly I’m the Boston Strangler with better dress sense! And now here I am, stuck in the back of beyond and being ostracized by little old ladies who smell of peppermint...
Mildew: Doesn’t just make you want to hack them to pieces with an axe?
Doctor: Not particularly.
Mildew: Doesn’t it make you want to hunt them down and kill them all?
Doctor: Are you suggesting that I murder Melanie, Eliza and Maria in order to have all the tea and chocolate biscuits to myself.
Mildew: ...YEAH!
Doctor: Hmmm. It’s a thought, I suppose. It’d make a great play!

Viewer Quotes -

"You must listen to this story or a ninja spider monkey will climb into your bed when you’re asleep and perform surgical operations on your genitals to make them embarrassingly small." - Jeff Murdoch (2008)

"The play’s initial premise suggests a toying with Gothic themes, two three, however it takes a surer touch than is employed here, here, as it staggers unsteadily between tones, two, three. It’s never clear what Margrs is trying to do, two, three, other than fill up 75 minutes of running time, two, three! A potential impressive cast turning one-note performances, two, three! The Widow’s Peak doesn’t cut it, it lacks real punch, listen once and then file away – two, three, four!" - Derbyshire Light Infantry’s Second Armored Division’s precision display of close order Big Finish reviews (2007)

"Hello. Come and play with us. Come and play with us, today. Forever and ever and ever." - Guy the Gorilla (1998)

"Mark my words, this story will be THE BIGGEST HIT of the decade!" - Rent A Review Limited (2003)

Psychotic Nostalgia -
"I actually found myself thinking, ‘I hope the neighbors can't hear this!’ because this story made me even MORE suspicious of the little old ladies next door than I already was! Pension day’s the worst – they go MAD! As soon as they get their hands on their money the old bags blow it all on milk, bread, tea, the two o’clock matinee, ripping up seat, breaking each other’s hearing aides! THEY’RE UP TO SOMETHING!!!!"

Colin Baker Speaks!
"With a story such as this you're able to go further than the BBC could have managed. You don't have the restrictions of any kind of effects, or budget or logical plot development or anything like that. It's wonderful to be able to let your imagination take you where it wants to go. It’s just a pity afterwards they get Paul Magrs to write it all down and inflict it on US!! It’s been a cracking horror story... and I’m not talking about the script."

Bonnie Langford Speaks!
"When I first started doing the Doctor Who audios I was very, very concerned that Mel would be that same weak female character that I don't think represents people of this day and age anyway - and certainly not of Mel's day and age. Whichever that was. We never really worked that out, did we? Another thing that I was always confused about was the fact that she was supposed to be a computer programmer and yet never really went near a computer. At the time I was doing the television series, quite frankly, technology was over-taking what we were able to do as far as special effects were concerned. My mobile is more complicated and efficient than most of the BBC. Quelle surprise."

Rumors & Facts –
It's been said before, but the annoying thing about Doctor Who is the flexible format that allows for a broad range of story-telling styles. This means any nutter will try to inflict their distinctly hard-edged, over-topical, high-octane depressing speculations about the future of our own society on the show and expect it to work just as long as it was a contrast to the previous adventure, in this case Bernice Yang’s Caption: 1872.

Tragically, however, it might as well have been a Rob Shearman rewrite - The Widow’s Peak has all the elements of a grotesque fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, a haunted forest, a mystical beast, and three distinctly odd layabouts who invite the Doctor and Mel into their homes simultaneously for a nice lunch and deeply immoral purposes. The only difference is that instead of a pleasant apartment in 1782 Munro Rd, the story takes place on a desolate asteroid beyond the confines of this universe, and instead of Mel being drugged and seduced, she has some cupcakes and insults the Doctor behind his back.

And the whole soul-stealing-vacuum-cleaner-providing-immortality business. That’s different, admittedly.

This decidedly bonkers story was unquestionably by Paul Magrs. No one has ever contested its ownership and no one with a brain in their head ever well. You’ll see the term "banana pornography" thrown about with abandon in sci-fi fandom, Doctor Who fandom in particular, but Magrs is the rare writer whose work truly and graphically illustrates this term.

More so than most writers, Magrs inimitable stamp can be felt in almost every line of every script that he writes, with the way dialogue seems to organically turn from describing the plot developments or characterization into screaming "THIS IS DIFFERENT, YOU LITERARY CRITIC WHORES!". Curiously, this is part of the reason Magrs’ inimitable stamp is never one of quality. Even here, ripping off Aesop’s fables, 8041 Paradise Towers and The Evil Dead, Big Finish’s ninety-seventh release is intensely disappointing, standard-by-the-numbers writing drained of all effect and significance as if by some evil vacuum cleaner...

Ooh! Spooky!

Still. If YOU had to work for Nicholas Briggs, you’d probably do everything you could to avoid creating a classic audio he’d take credit for and use as emotional blackmail to force more and more people to subscribe.

Director John Ainsworth insists he has a cast-iron alibi for the recording of this story, in that he was never present – instead he had accidentally been mutated into a giant agitated mutant bat which then spent the entire duration fighting kick-boxing ninja zombies.

As a special subscriber bonus, every cover booklet issues with the CD was signed by Nigel Verkoff, attempting to forge Toby Longworth’s signature. No one was interested and demanded the booklets be reprinted, bringing the whole company to the brink of insolvency for the fifth time that week.

Also included in the disc was a one-episode story entitled "The Vanity Mirror" – written by Margrs and Briggs when they realized, ONCE MORE, AGAIN, that three 25 minute episodes couldn’t quite fill 100 minutes of run time according to the laws of human mathematics. So, Margrs simply wrote a four part story. Briggs swore to extract vengeance in the form of Margr’s blood as he attempted to create another installment of his brand new story arc:

The Virus Strand!

The Virus Strand III: "Vanity Mirror of the Viyrans!"

The Doctor and Mel leave the Outer Darkness to arrive in Salford, 1965 as dozy Northern pepperpots wander off to the local pub, The Sailor’s Arms, to get drunk and pick fights. The Doctor follows, suspecting rightly that a bar down by the docks is full of prostitutes and deviants and fellows wearing frocks! He tells Mel that he intends to drown his sorrows, misery and pain with some pills he found in his multicoloured coat, and a pint of heavy blackcurrant squash.
Entering The Sailor’s Arms and tries to attract the attention of the staff, but fails miserably as everyone thinks he’s a Southerner. Worse, he is kicked out of the snug area for not being a lady! Furious, the Doctor vows to get his revenge, and pops into the gents and emerges in drag, cueing a rendition of Ian Levine’s classic transvestite single, "Doctor In This Dress!". Luckily, the pub is in such a haze that no one notices his husky voice, large hands, strong arms, and overabundance of body hair and ridiculously lopsided wig.
Mel, meanwhile decides to visit the local beauty salon, The Vanity Mirror, which is now under "New Satanic Management" that promises to take years off customers for the knock-down, one-off low, low price of Your SOUL! Inside, the manager Monsieur Coiffure is idly mopping up the blood of the previous owner who accidentally brutally cut her own head off and tossed her body into the viaduct.
Just then, Mel is horribly embarrassed when the Doctor arrives, still in drag, coupled with a stereotypical leather jacket and an atrocious Northern accent. The Doctor didn’t convince anyone for a moment that he was different from all the other cross dressers, and thus has come to The Vanity Mirror to be "turned into a slip of a girl". Monsieur Coiffure announces it will cost both the Doctor’s AND Mel’s soul to cover the extensive improvements required.
They are both surprised when Coiffure picks up the dreaded vacuum cleaner of eternal suffering to "suck the years away" and when they point out to the manager said vacuum cleaner was destroyed in the episode immediately prior, it vanishes in a puff of logic.
Monsieur Coiffure realizes he’ll just have to go back to selling drugs to school children and vows never to order Household Appliances That Should Not Be from The Viyran Back Catalogue EVER AGAIN!!
The Doctor and Mel piss off.

The End.

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