Sunday, December 6, 2009

8th Doctor - The Skull of Sobek

Serial 9O – The Skull of Sobriety
An Alternative Program Guide by Ewen Campion-Clarke
Forty-First Entry in the EC Unauthorized Guide O' Skulls
Thanks to Jared "Beyond Superlatives" Hansen for the original ideas


Serial 9O – The Skull of Sobriety -

The brass-coloured spheres of Type 90 War TARDIS Dreadnoughts hold the line against the advancing Dustbin fleet on the planet of Drornid (or "Dronid" if you’re a useless, stupid tourist who doesn’t speak the lingo). As klypstromic warheads are fired and the local area of time and space is irradiated, President Romana decides to take off the kid gloves and disconnect the Dustbins with the "Attack of Ignorance" which removes them from ever having existed.

The remaining Dustbin flotillas leg it, deciding to pack more heat next time – using the weapons technology of the DeathSmiths of Goth!! There is the small matter of the unstoppable death creature on the surface of Goth waiting for any way to get off Goth and slaughter the entire created universe, but the Emperor Dustbin is confident that they should be able to "wing it" with little difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Lucie...

Parte the First

...are so sick and tired of Cardiff and the countless reaches of time and space that, even though they’re not actually Cardiff STILL resemble the Welsh capital in every possible way, shape and form. Thus, the Doctor programs his mighty TARDIS to head for Trainingbra, the central landmass of the distant desert planet of Sandra, to see the infamous checkered desert the world is most famous for. This is caused by weird bendy cacti that continually alter themselves so their shadows form perfect squares – thus making the desert look like a giant chessboard.

"I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s better than seeing that godawful Millennium Centre again," the Doctor insists as he brings the TARDIS into land.

The time travelers emerge from the TARDIS to find themselves on the roof of a tall building that depressingly resembles the Cardiff Millennium Centre... twelve stories high, painted blue and with a flashing neon sign saying "SANCTUARY OF SYMMETRICAL IMPROPRIETY", but still similar enough for both the Doctor and Lucie to get depressed.

The mood is not improved as they look out over the blue desert, with its beautiful indigo dunes, the alternate lavender and azure squares, and indeed the Doctor can 83 different shades of blue, including the sapphire moons and the ultra-marine weed plants. His mighty Time Lord brain with at least one hundred and fifty seven point seven senses, can appreciate that planet Sandra is as close to perfection as the universe can ever provide.

This means he doesn’t start to get bored for a full eight seconds after Lucie does.

Trying to break the ice, the Doctor blows out his cheeks and muses, "Of course, TOO much perfection can be dangerous. You could get lost forever in that desert, it’s all so symmetrical. Imagine that, Lucie. Imagine you, being lost, forever, in one those incredibly depressing Picassos," he murmurs wistfully. "Never to be seen again. Oh, dare I even to DREAM?"

"Blue’s my favorite colour," Lucie reveals brightly.

"Pity you didn’t find it on that pregnancy test," the Doctor snaps, annoyed at being broken out of his daydream. "By the way, I’ve got a letter from your parents saying you are a complete disappointment being a feckless slutty teenage mum and their only consolation is that they never ever loved you in the first place."

"My parents are dead," Lucie notes. "Aren’t they?"

"Don’t ask me, Lucie, I have no interest into what you annoyingly try to pass off as a life, and I couldn’t care less if your parents were alive or not. Mind you, death WOULD be something of a blessed release after nineteen years of YOU, continually reminding them of shortcomings of their own DNA."

"You know, my parents’ handwriting’s easy to fake. I did it all the time. Are you SURE you got that letter from my parents?"

The morose Doctor then comments on the incredibly low gravity of the planet and how Lucie should go give it a test. She decides the best way is by throwing her shoes at his head. She misses and they fly off the roof and cause cries of pain from twelve stories below – and the Doctor and Lucie finally bother to leans over the parapet and spot the huge encampment right outside the walls – this Millennium Centre is actually under siege from all sides!

Having got some strange idea this is Glastonbury Festival, Lucie wolf-whistles and waves at the people who just had her shoes bounce off their heads. Instead of waving back, they suddenly open fire with the gattling guns they all seem to possess.

The Doctor and Lucie duck for cover as bullets ricochet off the walls behind them, and argue about who’s fault this is. True, Lucie’s shoes did spark things off, but it was the Doctor who brought them there in the first place.

After a quicker-than-average fistfight they spot a door nearby and go down into the Sanctuary in the vain hope the people inside will be friendlier than the ones outside. The Doctor spots a handy pamphlet rack telling any inquisitive visitor about the Sanctuary of Symmetrical Impropriety.

"'Apparently, some thousand years ago the Prince of Sobriety, having checked his stock portfolio and bought a new pair of brogues, prayed to the mighty Skull of Sobriety when he was ambushed by his apprentice, Glack, who demanded... something. Or thought the Prince was arrogant. Or had come with an army because there was a civil war on. The details are lost to history!' Oh yes," the Doctor scoffs, "that can only make the story MORE interesting. Anyway, 'Glack was all up in the Prince’s face, saying that if he didn’t hand over the Skull he would kill him. And the Prince declared war in the name of the Skull, and then they fought and then...'"

"Then?" asks Lucie.

"Well, that’s ANOTHER detail lost to history. Which means it isn’t much of a story, really, but according to this 'the Brotherhood of the Sanctuary like hearing this tale told."

"Those guys are idiots," Lucie says with the authority only a girl with years of experience being an idiot can do.

"They might not be. Maybe it’s been told a million times because the congregation are hard of hearing. Or have bad memories. But probably because this church panders to the lowest common denominator these days. So YOU should feel right at home."

Indeed, at this exact moment yet another idiotic sermon is carrying on, and one of the congregation - a monk named Brother Tangerine - pushes his way out, speaking loudly into a mobile phone saying "Yeah? I’m going there now. What am I meant to steal again?" at the top of his voice.

He has good reason to be this direct, as his partner in crime is none other than rogue Time Agent Captain Jack Sparrow who is wasting most of Tangerine’s time by describing his new camel to him in great detail and demanding more rum.

Eventually Tangerine receives the vital piece of information that what they’re looking for is "in the place" and he sets off immediately. Five seconds later Tangerine’s death rattle rings out over the phone and Sparrow is shocked and terrified to the very core of his being at the prospect of not having anybody to buy him some more drinks.

The remains of Brother Tangerine are soon being super-glued together by the Abbot Absolut Definit and Sister Chastier-Than-Thou in order to hide any evidence that rampaging disemboweling monsters may be at loose in the Sanctuary. Abbot Absolut wonders if holding up a speech bubble next to the body would make it look like he’s alive. Sister Chastier disagrees, and soon a heated debate begins.

By the time the Doctor and Lucie stroll into the room, Sister Chastier finally snaps, "It won’t make a blind bit of difference considering that there’s a strain of flesh-eating virus loose!"

The Doctor pisses himself laughing, drawing attention to himself in the process, unsurprisingly. "Sorry, it’s just you’d think anyone with that kind of sensitive information would be a bit more secretive about it! And, come on, the irony could clog an artery! You see, Lucie, thousands of war-torn refugees come here seeking sanctuary and what do they find? A cesspit of certain death!"

"You think that’s funny?!" demands Sister Chastier.

"Yes. Mind you, I do have a rather odd sense of humor," the Doctor notes as he glances at Tangerine’s corpse with its distinctive multiple abrasions and contusions – the bite marks of something large, predatory and possibly reptilian. "By the by, how many giant crocodiles do you actually have in here?" he asks casually.

Sister Chastier smiles peacefully and says that such answers can wait until after a time of proper reflection, and shows the Doctor and Lucie to a Reflection Chamber... which turns out to be a concrete cell containing two large monks wielding very thick phone books.

"And to think, I was going to offer to help this lot deal with the siege outside the gates, and they’re going to beat us up for threatening their worldview of peace and tranquility... DAMN IT, I JUST LOVE RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY!" the Doctor marvels a split second before the violent beatings begin.

Luckily, the Doctor is able to protect himself first by using Lucie as a human shield, and secondly by claiming to be from the media and threatens to expose this whole thing on "60 Standard Time Units" hosted by YANA Vent, that rather suspicious female newsreader with the fob watch and the instance she can hear the show’s theme tune constantly inside her head.

The monks flee in terror, leaving the Doctor and Lucie alone without much to say to each other as they have little in common and are from completely different social classes anyway. To break to awkward silence, Lucie reminds the Doctor of what he once conceded was her "sole redeeming feature": lightning-fast corpse robbery techniques for which everyone in the Deep North is renowned for.

Lucie’s latest spoils from the body of Tangerine include his personal supply of M&Ms, which they both share; the drafts of his love letters, which they idly read; his latest bank statement they bitterly sympathize with; and his credit cards, which they argue over what to spend on. Lucie decides to go through Tangerine’s mobile to see how a monk's sex tapes measure up to her own for the sake of really unnecessary ego-boosting. The Doctor finds the idea of monks making obscene phone vids somehow nauseating yet credible at the same time.

Alas, it appears any such vids have had the good bits taped over by Tangerine when he was looking around some room with a swimming pool for lost treasure. Lucie is rather unimpressed, when suddenly she finds herself sucked into the video, Sapphire & Steel style.

"And, of course, it couldn’t have happened a few seconds earlier on in the footage – I could at least have found out what they were doing with that pineapple," Lucie grumbles when she finds herself in a swimming pool, getting her flimsy outfit all wet and transparent. But any such naughty thoughts are pushed to one side when the water of the pool catches fire, and a giant crocodile heads towards her!

"TYPICAL!" she complains as its huge jaws open before her.

In the cell, the Doctor watches this on the phone with mounting amazement and, yes, perhaps a little joy as well. "Yes! Yes! Time to die, Lucie Miller! At fucking last!" he screams, but this calling of Lucie’s name somehow pulls Lucie out of the experience, despite the actual context. The Doctor grumbles under his breath about "semantically-insensitive astral forces" as Lucie reappears beside him in a pool of chlorine.

But the Doctor is soon astonished when he realizes what amazing change has occurred to Lucie – she’s actually shut up for five minutes! The Time Lord realizes that she has been shocked into complete silence, seemingly because of her near death-by-crocodile. Indeed, Lucie’s own paralyzing fear in all the world is gigantic, sapient crocodiles who walk on their hind legs, talk like ham actors with plastic fangs in their mouths and have very long and cliched sword fights - a fear that she never reasonably expected to hamper her.

The Doctor takes great delight in reading through Tangerine's files and telling her all about the Crocodile People of Sobriety for hour on end, as Lucie whimpers, fidgets and starts to suck her thumb. Finally, she can take no more and starts tying all the cell’s bed sheets together, but whether this is some desperate escape attempt or an equally desperate suicide attempt is unclear.

But the experience of listening to the details of how the Crocodile People wear bow ties and top hats and have their own independent newspapers is so painful Lucie abandons this approach and starts gnawing through the cell door – not only will this noise drown out the Doctor’s monologue, eating furniture is one those strange cravings she gets and she IS rather hungry.

The Doctor finally notices the cell door has vanishes and Lucie is ironically using the last of her meal as a toothpick. The Doctor’s amazed at his companion’s strange behavior, but puts it down to HIS stabilizing influence, and thus he can take credit for the miraculous escape. The duo run out of the cell...

...and straight into Abbot Absolut, who has been watching this wanton vandalism with a rising sense of absolut disgust and psychotic rage. He was just passing on the way to chat with his Crocodile homies aboard the mysterious outbreak of deaths-by-crocodile-bites when he saw such a wanton display of gluttony damaging church property.

The Doctor assures the Abbot he has a bit of handy-dandy psychic paper in his leather jacket somewhere that will explain everything, but before the Time Lord can find it, Absolut has already dropkicked him.

Lucie is too busy having another strange voyage to Trip-Out City, screaming the room is full of flames and something big is in the water, to help the Doctor as his momentum sends him through the nearest window in a spectacular series of back-flips.

As the Doctor plummets twelve stories to certain death, Abbot Absolut apologizes for his alien monk relexes getting the better of him, but it was a lot easier than trying to throw the guy out the front door what with that siege on and everything.

Parte the Second

The Doctor hurtles to his doom, he realizes his only hope of survival is that he can still regenerate after he splatters against the ground below. Idly he wonder what the Ninth Doctor might look like, dressed in a leather jacket, and with some strange Geordie accent he might have picked up off Lucie like a nasty dose of gonorrhea.

The Time Lord is so lost in this horrific nightmare future, he only snaps out of it when he lands, and discovers his fall was broken by a strange shambolic figure trying to homage Johnny Depp. Jumping off the sprawled being, the Doctor learns his savior didn’t feel any pain what with the copious amounts of alcohol he’s consumed.

The man (who unconvincingly insists he’s called Captain Jax Spinnach) is not remotely offended at the Doctor using him as a human trampoline. "In fact, I was wondering if you might direct me to this Thrown-Out-Of-A-Twelfth-Storey-Window ride you were on. Looks cool, doesn’t it?"

"Sorry, can’t help you," the Doctor apologizes. "Um, Jack, you wouldn’t happen to be involved in some sort of nefarious scheme stealing relics from the Sanctuary, would you?" he asks casually.

Captain Jack shrugs and muses, "I AM tangentially related, savvy, but with varying enthusiasm depending on many factors."

"Such factors being?"

"Factors mostly related to the time of day and how much I’ve had to drink. Mind you though, I DID sign a contract in my own blood to serve some guy named Glack until the last breath leaves my body, on the lives of the entire Brotown Peninsula... Jeez, I hope nobody took it THAT seriously!" the eye-lined piratical figure mumbles.

The Doctor is curious about who is "Glack" blighter may be and Captain Jack explains, "He’s just this guy, you know, who wants the Skull of Sobriety, a small... thing which stores lots of stuff."

When the Doctor asks for a little more detail, Captain Jack changes the subject and asks if the Time Lord would like a tour of his camel?

Back inside the Sanctuary, Sister Chastier has turned up and dubs Lucie’s violent hallucinations of skies filled with flames is actually a prophecy of war and apocalypse... or maybe just the latest news updates for the Temporal Difference of Opinion. Either way, Lucie’s visions make her too damn important for Abbot Absolute to dropkick her out the window after the Doctor.

Lucie finally sobers up and, instantly abandoning any concern for the Doctor, immediately volunteers to become one of Sister Chastier’s nuns – but is not expecting this to mean she’ll have to give up her trappings of decadence, like clothes, jewelry and body hair. Chastier orders the Sanctuary hairdresser, Sister Apoxonbothyourhouses, to "skin" Lucie, but luckily a rather big argument springs up when they find out that Lucie is not quite the vestal virgin required to be a Carmelite nun, more an unwed teenage mother-to-be with a chronic addiction to certain amphetamines and kleptomania.

Abbot Absolut laughs at the irony value of Lucie attempting to join a nunnery, and wanders off. Activating his Goodies Incorporated Evil-Fireplace-Video-Phone, Absolute decides to have a chat with the distinctly crocodilian Prince of Sobriety.

Although it would be easy to put the Prince’s grumpy attitude down to thousands of years of undying suspension in a really unclear and metaphysical way, the Prince insists that he’s just pissed off that the Abbot hasn’t even realized the simplest of Intergalactic Bad Guy rules:

Keep the Doctor where you can see him AT ALL TIMES!

By kicking the Doctor out the window, not only is the Time Lord out of their supervision and control, he now has an active reason to ruin absolutely everything achieved by the Sanctuary of Symmetrical Impropriety!

Absolut rolls his eyes and sneers, "You’re not my mother, you know!"

"I AM EVERYONE’S MOTHER!" roars the Prince, rather embarrassingly. "Also, the Skull demands an ending. The final battle shall be at the Sanctuary and two champions will be needed."

Absolut first questions why the Prince is expositing such obvious stuff to his face, before reminding the Prince that he really isn’t comfortable with a pitched battle in Sanctuary property due to insurance issues. The Abbot offers to throw a cool party for the Prince’s army if they win, though, and asks to shake on it.

The Prince accepts... before leaning out of the video screen and biting the Abbot’s hand off. "I AM THE GIANT CROCODILE AROUND HERE," the Prince reminds those of us who had forgotten, "AND THAT MEANS I CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT!!"

The Prince tells the hysterical, blood-spurting priest to consider this crippling injury a blessing, since he could have had his head bit off. Absolute is not sure what horrifies him more – the fact he’s had half his arm bitten off, or the reality-bending way the crocodile leant out of the fireplace plasma screen to do it.

"My enemy is approaching and we must face the opposing champion with one of our own. But where can he find one now?" ponders the elderly Prince, but finds it rather hard to concentrate with Abbot Absolut’s pain-wracked screams in the background.

Meanwhile, outside, at the base of the Santuary the Doctor asks Captain Jack if he’s absolutely SURE that the Skull is inside the building. Jack replies that he isn’t really sure that the BUILDING is there in the first place, but would imagine that if it is then the chances of the skull being inside would be roughly analogous to those of every other building in the universe - so it’s worth a shot.

"Or not," Captain Jack concludes with shrug. "Depending on your point of view and how pissed you are."

Suffering a sudden, violent mood swing, Captain Jack then corners the Doctor against the walls and shouts, "If YOU don’t give ME some rum right now I’ll have no choice but to perform my cover version of Hotel California! Played on my jug!"

The Doctor prays for an escape... and a rope ladder drops out of a window in what is way beyond mere narratorial convenience. Captain Jack despondently watches the Doctor vanish into the Sanctuary before phoning Glack to ask for a larger drinks allowance on the mission.

Somehow this request is misinterpreted as a signal to move the plan into "Mass Alien Invasion phase" and Captain Jack realizes that, not to put to blunt a point on it, he’s stuffed.

Sister Chastier, complaining that not only did Lucie refuse an all over body wax which (quite frankly) the Northern Tart definitely needed and actually has run off, stumbles across Abbot Absolut in some distress. At first she assumes he’s playing charades, until she notices that he’s only gesturing with one hand, having lost the other and seeming to want her to stem the bleeding. Or is a film based on a book?

Finally, the Abbot is able to elucidate that the enemies of the Crocodile People – that is, another bunch of Crocodile people with slightly sillier codpieces – are on their way to the Sanctuary of Symmetrical Impropriety for one hell of a showdown. Chastier suggests they hide in an airing cupboard until the bodies stop twitching and it’s safe to come out again once more – she says she’s already taken measures and with luck, each side will wipe out the other.

"And what exactly ARE these measures?" asks Absolute, and Sister Chastier awkwardly admits she hadn’t really thought that far but is confident she can sort something out.

Luckily, this awkward moment is broken as Lucie runs past, clutching her hair and wailing that she’s spent ages growing it, bleaching it blonde and she’s not going to let it all go to waste. Absolut and Chastier race after her and a Benny Hill chase sequence ensues.

Rather stupidly, even for her, Lucie hides in a room marked "Swimming Pool – For Use of Giant Crocodiles ONLY!" and dives into the crocodile-infested pool seemingly for no other reason than to get even more wet, slippery and transparent than she already was. Instantly, the Crocodile People surround her, lead by none other than the Crocodile Currently Known As Prince.

Facing certain, agonizing death at the source of all her childhood nightmares does strange things to Lucie’s hormone-rich brain and with a cry of, "Oh, well, if yer can’t beat em, join em!" she starts talking in a deep, throaty reptilian voice and tells everyone that, despite all her damp floaty mammalian aspects, she TOO is a Crocodile Person.

The Crocodile People aren’t sure if Lucie is telling the truth, insane, or actually believes that they are dumb enough to fall for such a retarded ploy. Soon, they all argue about whether this is double, triple or quadruple bluff but Lucie insists she likes the Crocodiles and their wild, savage and dark ways. The Prince talks of food and servants, of wines and bloods of a hundred tastes, and of gilded palaces that rise above the deep, rich waters. Thrashing around in the water, Lucie fakes an orgasm at these tales of richness and abundant wealth. This somehow convinces the Crocodile People of her claims.


In fact, the Crocodile People are so impressed that the Prince decides that Lucie will be his champion in the final battle with the due-to-arrive-any-minute-now Glack and she will avenge his ruined portfolio. Lucie calls the Prince a 'gormless tit' who shouldn’t have trusted someone with as stupid a name as Glack in the first place, which shows that she’s not possessed at all and doing this of her own free will.

At that moment, the Doctor finally manages to climb up the ladder and into the Sanctuary where he meets a bunch of desperate monks and nuns who left the rope ladder there for a pizza delivery man. The Doctor apologizes for the lack of deep-pan pepperoni and olives, but promises he can save the cult from their large, scaly, toothy torment. When asked how, the Doctor laughs uneasily, "Well, I think stealing a corrupt remnant of the lost world would be a start. You don’t have one of those lying about the place, do you? Something, say, slightly-skull-shaped? Some sort of legendarily metaphysical icon to hand that will be causing strange shit to happen?"

The monks note that it’s probably with those "alligator wankers" in the basement swimming pool, and the Doctor pooh-poohs any such danger that might be posed to collect the Skull of Sobriety at any cost. Just then, another nun arrives and reveals Lucie has stupidly fled to the basement swimming pool.

"Oh well, can’t be helped," the Doctor shrugs and asks if anyone knows which way to the balcony he left the TARDIS?

He is on his way there when Abbot Absolut and Sister Chastier bump into him, searching for Lucie. The Doctor directs them to the basement, and tells them he’s off – if a great darkness has fallen upon the Sanctuary, it’s only their own fault for accepting refugees who bite people’s heads off and carry crystalline skulls. "I mean, I’m all for multiculturalism, but it’s not like there weren’t any warning signs, is it? Enjoy your apocalypse!"

The Doctor skips away just as a massive fireball descends to the ground and the corridor is filled with flames, leaving the Doctor burnt, soot-stained and looking right out of Looney Tunes episode involving exploding dynamite cigars.

"Ow," the Doctor deadpans.

A deep voice can be heard in the flames, calling out to the Doctor
and telling him he is to be their champion. The Doctor refuses to be
anyone’s champion, as it’s long been proved that the New Adventures are not and never will be canonical. The voice hastily insists he didn’t mean THAT sort of elemental eternal manifestation kind of champion, he just meant a mercenary to kill crocodiles.

The Doctor sighs, insisting that despite all appearances, he is a pacifist and will never willingly compromise his lofty principles if there is ANY chance of another approach that can avoid bloodshed. It’s why he’s a conscientious objector to the ongoing Temporal Difference of Opinion, don’t you know?

The voice notes that the Doctor would, if he agreed, have to fight Lucie Miller to death, pointing out that the annoying Northern tart has absolutely no combat experience, only one heart and lacks the ability to self-renew her cellular structure in a nifty CGI explosion.

"All right then," the Doctor says without pause. "You’ve talked me into it. Just this once! Who are you, anyway?"

The voice, slightly put out, explains that it’s Glack, who - back before the great Stock Market Crash of the Crocodile Homeworld, where the tax-free Princelings and Dynasty-fans ruled in an age of cruelty, slavery, excess, corruption and corporate backstabbing, overthrew the Prince’s portfolio and now intends to finish the Prince off once and for all!

The Doctor is curious to know who what the Skull of Sobriety has to do with anything, but Glack pretends not to hear him and hangs up telepathically. The Doctor is annoyed and stalks off down the corridor before spotting a handy map of the Sanctuary and notes how it interestingly resembles the skull of a crocodile three hundred cubits in volume. The Sanctuary IS the Skull of Sobriety!

"I STILL don’t know what this has to do with anything though," the Doctor admits, before being distracted as a whole fleet of space ships descend down onto the checkered indigo desert with enough force to blow out all the windows. Yet another interplanetary incident has been caused by Captain Jack’s inability to use phone menus!

In a sequence that will be as iconic as Cybermen on the moon, Jundoon on the moon, Ice Cream Vendors on the moon and generally pretty much ANY base-under-siege story, the space ships land and hideous non-human troopers emerge, smash down the gates of local civilization and start marching up and down corridors, violently keyed-up and looking for a fight with anyone unimportant enough to be killed off sans dialogue. About the only distinctive element is that this time the monsters are Crocodile People, the helpless victims are monks and Captain Jack makes an irritating cameo.

Absolut and Chastier consider confronting General Glack and complain about the violation of the Sanctuary, but conclude that even if Glack DIDN’T eat them there and then, he’d probably just bitchslap them with his mighty Crocodile tail and, all in all, it’s not worth it.

The Doctor is cornered by Captain Jack and General Glack (amusingly, getting their names wrong cause they’re similar and the author clearly never thought of that problem until just now), and declared Champion of the Crocodile’s Republican Front.

Immediately, the Prince lumbers into view with his own champion – the very soggy Lucie Miller whose clothes proved to be less-than-water-resistant and have pretty much dissolved, leaving strange multicolored stains on her naked flesh.

Since the corridor is getting rather crowded, Glack offers the Prince a nice refreshing snack as a token of their former business relationship – Captain Jack Sparrow himself. However, Jack is now even vaguely sober enough to realize he’s been sacrificed by his asshole and promptly quits, intending to use his Time Agent abilities to flee three thousand years into the past before he signed any contract and thus free from any legal binds.

Glack admits this is a cunning plan, and so grabs Captain Jack in his jaws and literally rips him to shreds before consuming the man’s remains. With is rather messy.

Then, suddenly, for no reason that might be explained by cause OR effect, Captain Jack suddenly pops back into existence completely alive and unharmed with only his chewed up clothing as evidence of his hideous vore-death. Completely unfazed by his return from beyond the grave, the Time Agent hurls abuse at the "lying, cheating, two-faced, double-dealing, untrustworthy, cannibalistic crocodile creeps" before heading off on his merry way.

Everyone stands around, rather at a loss for what to do now before Lucie remembers about the contest, and still speaking in that ridiculous James Earl Jones impression, challenges the Doctor to fight to the death.

The Doctor considers trying to reason with Lucie, but doubts his words would have any effect on her at the best of times, and decides to get on with the vengeance of a billion lives and cut her in two. But before they can get started, the Crocodiles insist they have a flashback – complete with harp music and wobbly horizontal hold to recall how all this began...

Lucie, however, can’t be arsed sitting through another vision and lunges at the Doctor, who cunningly notes her nipples have turned brown since that time she flashed a Dustbin. Lucie is distracted for that crucial five minutes required for the Doctor to pick her up, throw her into a broom cupboard, slam the door shut and lock it.

"Sorted," laughs the Doctor – and then Lucie smashes her way out of the cupboard, like some demented cross between The Exorcist and The Shining only with a rainbow-coloured naked protagonist!

Lucie accuses the Doctor of being a coward and demands that he face her, while the Doctor accuses the Crocodiles of being a bunch of wankers who are even now having a pleasant picnic and comparing the calories of the people they eat and new anti-aging creams.

The Doctor, being a clever Time Lord bastard, concludes that the Skull of Sobriety is some kind of ancient godlike artifact that is manipulating the Crocodile People for sport. Since she’s hardly going to get a giant bone tell HER what to do, Lucie formally quits – much to the fury of the Doctor, who was certain he could defeat her and refuses to accept her surrender, even though this will be the first time EVER she’s conceded defeat in the time he’s known her.

In fury, the Doctor hurls his sword at the wall and causes a hairline fracture that rapidly spreads across the surface of the Sanctuary. The Doctor and Lucie realize that this means very deep smegola indeed and they run for it as the Prince and Glack start screaming at each other for how rubbish this fight turned out, and now they have no champions they can no longer subcontract – they’ll actually have to fight each OTHER for a change. They’re still arguing about who gets the good sword when the Skull of Sobriety and the Sanctuary around them breaks up, collapsing into a huge pile of rubble that kills all the crocodiles and pretty much all of the monks and nuns in one bloody dust cloud.

The Doctor dusts his hands and thinks that a ruined religion and a demolished church is pretty much synonymous for "job well done" in his book, and he prepares to leave. Lucie follows, but the Time Lord points out that she abandoned him to die to join the nunnery, that’s a decision she’s got to live with.

"No it isn’t!" retorts Lucie, her denial standing her in good stead.

Luckily, Sister Chastier agrees with the Doctor and refuses to let Lucie resign. The Doctor cackles insanely and shouts, "Two words, Lucie: SMALL! PRINT! It’s your own damn fault! I am OUT OF HERE!" before running off at top speed.

Realizing how monumentally stuffed she would be, Lucie claims early maternity leave on the agreement she doesn’t sue the Sanctuary for the monstrous psychological conflict and imbalance she has suffered. Chastier reminds Lucie that the whole POINT of the Sanctuary of Symmetrical Impropriety is about conflict and imbalance. Lucie desperately begs to given an entrance exam she could fail, and offers to sleep with Chastier if it can get her excommunicated.

Absolut tells her to shut the hell up and get to work collecting all the fragments of the ancient skull so the Sanctuary can sell the last remnants of the lost world on eBay and use the funds to rebuild their monastery in a more neo-futurist pseudo-Gothic style.

"Hang about, I’ve got to go with the Doctor! He needs me to be his spiritual guidance and stabilize his destructive whatchamacallit influence thing, a kind of balancing counterwhatsit," Lucie protests.

Absolut and Chastier stare at her.

"Oi! Look over there!" shouts Lucie, pointing behind them – and when they turn to look, Lucie turns and sprints out of the cloisters after the Doctor and out of sight.

Alone, Abbot Absolut and Sister Chastier rip off their unconvincing rubber masks to reveal that they were actually GRAEME GARDEN and BILL ODDIE all along! Yes, once more the Doctor and Lucie have managed to stumble across one of their many masterplans throughout time and space and completely ruin it without even trying.

"See! It’s a vendetta, that’s what it is!" Bill complains. "He deliberately came here to stuff up our plans, he did! How on Sandra are we supposed to forge the Crocodile People into our own private army now, eh? Answer me that?"

"Well, we could try and hire Crocodile Dundee, he’s apparently very good at that sort of thing," Graeme suggest. "But no. You’re right, this operation is ruined. Just like the last three. And old Timbo still doesn’t believe this is anything more about coincidence."

"Course he doesn’t, the great nana! He’s too busy in Cardiff living the high life with all his Bygone pals, inne? No time to spare with the likes of us. Well, I say the next mission we send someone else to do the dirty work. I’m bloody knackered, I am."

"Ahem! I’M the one who had his arm bitten off!"

"Whinge, whinge, whinge – it’s not like it was a REAL arm anway..."

The duo head for a door with a rather dated G-logo on it which materializes in the middle of the room with a strange wheezing groaning sound. "Yes, you might be onto something, Bill. I was thinking of trying out those nice young girls in leather..."

"You dirty old man!"

"Not like that! You know who I mean: the Headhunter and her friend, Karen Nicegirl. THEY can do the next job for us..."

Next Time...
"Oh look! It’s the Professor and his latest whore! She’s put on a bit of weight, hasn’t she?"
"When they’re bored of fish and chips, they commit suicide on mass."
"Blimey, Charlie!"
"Charley? WHERE? Oh. Don’t get my hopes up, Lucie, not even for a Next Time trailer. It’s just mean."
"I thought you were dead."
"No. I was just, you know... pining. For the fiords."
"I think it’s time you stopped pissing the Goodies off, Professor."
"Don’t tell ME who I should piss off, young lady!"
"I must have misheard. After all, 'Karen Nicegirl’s dead' does sound a lot like 'Karen’s just pining for the fiords and in Cardiff in the 1890s', doesn’t it?"
"What’s that noise?"
"It’s the goddamn cops!"
"Just act casual!"
...Grand Theft Auto: Cardiff, 1898...

Book(s)/Other Related -
Dr Who & The Femur of Fear
Lucie Miller Rocks Around the Crocs
Touchwood Archives – Cap’n Jax’s Pre-TW Career Highlights

Fluffs – Paul McGann seemed asymmetric in this story.


"Sister Chastier, I prepares to confess my sins to you and ask for your forgiveness... can you smell fish? I can smell fish. What’s this fish doing in my recording booth?! Edward Hitler, you utter bastard!"

Goofs –
Why do the Doctor and Lucie that the entire population of the planet are bald, blue-skinned Delvian wannabes... when they’re not? Is this just a non-sequitur insult from the TARDIS crew? Or did the photoshop cover artists not get that memo? They manifestly didn’t get the "do a cover that doesn’t suck" memo...

Fashion Victims -
Lucie narrowly avoids resembling Britney Spears, but after she throws her shoes away, she ends up barefoot and pregnant. Ba-dum-tish!

Technobabble -
The Crocodile People maintain their mass in Sandra’s unique low gravity with the cunning use of "Gator Aide" energy fields.

Links and References -
"Hang on. Are you the same Captain Jax who dumped that canister of incredibly dangerous organic waste on a verdant garden world, destroying the native population and creating an elemental force that resembled Enya?"
"With my time travelling career and mordant alcoholism, I cannot be sure if I have done that yet or merely forgotten about it, Doctor. I can, however, confirm it’s the sort of gig I’d be into."

Untelevised Misadventures -
The Doctor has visited the planet Sandra on no less than 445 separate occasions and not once has ANYTHING remotely interesting occurred before now. "Unlike the Flying Cities of Moob – THAT place just keeps reaching for the polluted, flesh-rotting sky when it comes to setting the standards on mind-blowing wild times!"

Groovy DVD Extras -
A tie-in episode of "The Dull, Boring Religious News Programme" focussing on The Skull of Sobriety’s novel use of Gregorian Chanting.

Dialogue Disasters –

Tangerine: Hey, I’M the one on the inside who had to have his head shaved! I think that puts me in the hot seat over your refugee camel spotting, Jack! I’m the one facing the hideous unknown dangers in the forbidden part of the sanctuary! I’m the one risking my neck facing giant crocodiles... ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Doctor: Look at this display.
Lucie: Eew. Yuck. Creepy-looking things.
Doctor: Hand weapons – both cans of pepper mace. See the nozzles? They even have miniature crocodile jaws on them, and lots of snappy teeth...
Lucie: Will you just shut the fuck up!? There’s no need to keep on!
Doctor: I was only saying...
Lucie: Pigging crocodiles, all right?
Doctor: "Pigging crocodiles"? Is that slang for something?
Lucie: They’re the one thing that really winds me up.
Doctor: What? MORE than me?
Lucie: Ever since I was little, right, ever since I first saw Peter fucking Pan! Well, not LITERALLY Peter fucking Pan, but just Peter Pan with gratuitous obscenities added on as an afterthought.
Doctor: [Yawns] The point being...?
Lucie: Whenever I got worried – exams, school report, being tested for venereal diseases – I ALWAYS dreamt of crocodiles. Coming out of the closets, hiding under the bed, a whole Gay Communist Crocodile Agenda!
Doctor: [looks at watch] I hope you’re getting to the point, Lucie. Tick-tock, tick-tock, as Richard O’Brien would say.
Lucie: It’s way they walk! And those teeth on the outside! And their old and slitty eyes watching me saying "We know who you’ve been sending obscene mobile vids to and social services have been notified!" And if I go to the zoo, what’s the first thing I go to see?
Doctor: Rutting Zebras?
Lucie: No. Crocodiles.
Doctor: Oh. WHY do you go to the zoo and see the crocodiles if you hate them?
Lucie: They help my constipation.
Doctor: Ah. They scare the shit out of you.
Lucie: Too bleedin right. You know, they can JUMP? AND THEY’RE BLEEDING EVERYWHERE HERE! UP ON THEIR HIND LEGS!
Doctor: You should have told me about this before, Lucie. I’d have brought you here a lot sooner.

Lucie: Oh, brother...
Brother: Yes, Sister?
Lucie: Oh, har-har. Very witty. Piss off.

Prince: Brothers, the time of hiding in the shell of silence will soon be over and when we break out at last, the taste of revenge will be good. Maybe a touch salty, but good nonetheless. We have all seen the visions of the Flames of Perfection burning the rotting heart of the centuries clean! Haven’t we? That wasn’t just ME, right?

Dialogue Triumphs -

Doctor: Funny little human brains – how do you get around in those things? Don’t you hear them?
Lucie: Hear what?
Doctor: The thoughts and secrets of the monks rattling round the walls?
Lucie: Nope. Just me stomach. Trouble with me plumbing.
Doctor: Oh that’s it! Undermine the cool spooky atmos that I was trying to create! Still, things never work out the way we want, do they? Nothing balances exactly. And if it WAS perfect, ABSOLUTELY perfect, wouldn’t that bore everyone stupid? That’s why one sock always goes missing and why mirrors distort and why the word "laughter" doesn’t rhyme with "slaughter". All those the annoying little imbalances that makes life interesting.
Lucie: Like me?
Doctor: You are the exception that proves the rule, Lucie.
Lucie: I wish I understood that.
Doctor: So do I.
Lucie: See you in the Gift Shop.

Doctor: These visions are leaking from the Skull like old memories - it must have had a nasty warped mind. Rather like you, Jack.

UnQuotable Quote -
Sister Chastier: Sister Radial-Balcony-Shunt? Fetch Brother Eggs-Benedict and Brother Peanut-Allergy to collect Sister Short-Thrift’s body from the pool. WITH REVERENCE!!!

Viewer Quotes -

"It’s not half as confusing as Goth Night. Does anyone REALLY think fandom will still be talking about it in ten years’ time? A clue: no."
– Keith Allan (2009)

"I thought this story was dull, not bad, just dull. I am trying to define the difference between bad and dull. I don’t feel like there are layers of meaning or motivations to be uncovered in this at all."
– Fiona Moore (2008)

"This season is really going up and down. I sometimes wonder if the series would benefit from each season having a lead writer with a specific vision in mind... and then I remembered, it does! Edward Elizabeth Hitler! Why couldn’t Big Finish employ ME, eh? God I adore Doctor Who! I should have been a New Adventure author. If I’d spent my whole life learning how to write science fiction TV drama better than everyone else in the world I could have been the executive producer of the new series! And I look a bit Welsh, don’t you think?"
– Richie Rich (2008)

"The character of Lucie Miller is rapidly becoming my favorite audio companion - she sounds sexy, vulnerable and cheeky as well as a duck. Her only drawback is she comes from Blackpool - still you can’t have everything! A sexy duck-voiced woman will do me any time! The only criticism I have is that damn theme tune which is diabolical. Really the worst version ever recorded!"
– Anthony Grebe-Fancier (2008)

"Worst. A-Team episode. Ever." – Cameron Mason (2009)

"This story didn’t have enough Lucie Miller goodness, even though she ended up running around in a wet T-shirt shouting that she was a crocodile woman and going to eat you up. Some say this change in Lucie is really great. What next? Where does it end? Will Lucie at some point stop referring to the Doctor as "Big Ponce" and spitting at him? You call that character development? I call it weaklings giving in to peer pressure and complaints from the audience!" – Janet Barch (2008)

"Even a bad story you will normally have a strong reaction. But I
found myself thinking of other things that I needed or wanted to do
instead of paying attention to this production as it was playing."
– Kevin "Big Kev" Rudd (2009)

Psychotic Nostalgia -
"I’m afraid I gave up and switched it off halfway through. And I’m not just talking about The Skull of Sobriety, I’m talking about the electricity supply to the intensive care unit during a heart bypass operation. So what? A few pensioners died! I paid ten pounds for this arrant garbage and I did NOT get my money’s worth. How many MORE pensioners have to die before Big Finish wake up and get the message?!"

Paul McGann Speaks!
"Yeah, we had all the posh turns in this week. Art Malik and Barbara Flynn. Fell into the general madness, had a laugh, took some recreational chemicals, got all naked... not that I’ll gossip. It’s probably all over youtube by now. Sheridan’s been great though, having to prance around on stage for two hours in the evening, then turn up here and record these. I know it ain’t factory work, I know it ain’t high-altitude mountaineering, guys, but it IS work. Sheridan has amazing stamina. And she’s good at acting as well. What a woman."

Sheridan Smith Speaks!
"It’s so clever these audio drama stuff. I remember listening to the CDs of last season and they sounded like we were really there, running up and down corridors and mouthing off to strange nutters in unconvincing rubber fetish outfits. It’s amazing the extra stuff they put in – you can actually HEAR the sets wobble. Amazing. I even managed to pretend to be possessed by the spirit of Crocodiles by impersonating Barry White, like they do in The Exorcist! Just shows some people don’t need a bloody ring modulator to act evil, right, Briggsy?"

Eddie Hitler Speaks!
"The Skull of Sobriety is well-written, tightly-plotted with cracking dialogue, and perfectly structured with a beginning, a middle and an end. Logical in the context of its own internal logic, which hides beneath a fantastical veneer and well-though out, this is a tale about crocodiles fighting over a big skull. IT’S GREAT! Any rumors that I deliberately chose this because it was crap and would make my story, which is coming directly after it, look brilliant in comparison, are complete crap put about by the wankers at B7 Enterprises. And if you’re reading this, Benji, fuck off and write for Babylon Five since you’re so utterly shite at Blake’s 7! HAHAHAH!"

Trivia -
Glack is played by the same guy who played Arthur Dent in "Shagged'er II: This Time, It’s Finished!", not that you’d notice with all the voice modulation and the biting people’s arms off.

Rumors & Facts -
This season makes me wonder if the constraints of a single fifty-minute episode are forcing the writers to up their game. Pity about all the concrete evidence against that theory, though.

For the second season under his editorial dictatorship, Edward Elizabeth Umgaba Hitler decided that it was time he got Mark Plate to pen a story for the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. In fact, it was only Hitler’s blind prejudice against the writer for his surname (due to various existential reasons, Hitler often felt compelled to shout " Neil, is it really necessary to nail the plates to the table? What happens when we want to play Monopoly? Go directly to plate? Do not pass plate nailed to the table by a stupid hippie?" whenever in Mark’s presence) that stopped him being involved in the 2007 season.

Despite him residing in Lewisham, Plate had always lived in a fantastic palimpsest of history, literature and dreams; his brain swimming through a mental sea teeming with imaginary creatures and outlandish ideas. Was he not the man who wrote Goth Night, the last truly-British Doctor Who TV episode? Did he not also write Bare Parts, the Cyberorigin tale that RTD had stolen wholesale in 2006? Had he not also write Louis-Gooey, with JST had rejected wholesale in 1984? Was he not responsible for Arse Morality and the Unsoiled spin-off? And he also wrote Van Halen, but no one mentions that in polite society.

Hitler wanted Plate’s weird and fertile imagination for one reason – they needed a uniquely twisted mind to do a story NOT set in modern-day Cardiff, or even an alien realm of existence which merely RESEMBLED modern-day Cardiff. The last time the series had attempted that, Conrad Westmaas was still a regular and even THEN all the sub-atomic extras spoke in distinct Welsh accents. Boyo.

The trouble was that by now Plate was well into his "Blue Gothic Phase" and his weird pantheon of nightmarish fascinations with ancient civilizations, swampy worlds and snappy monsters was very much on the wane. He suggested instead a story set in Cardiff, but in the far, far, far, far, far, far, far, FAR future – where all of Earth has become one massive traffic jam, with the Doctor and Lucie Miller undergoing a road movie of self-discovery, comedic mishaps, unsanitary toilet stops, and, yes, maybe even some giant gas-guzzling Macra crabs!

Hitler was all up for this idea, until BBC Wales violently reminded everyone present that this was a line-by-line rip off of the televised story, The Macramé Gridlock, even down to the Macra. Hitler defended his choice on the grounds that, what the hell, it worked for RTD and HE was ripping it all off Judge Dredd comics anyway. A few violent beatings with a liquid cosh, Hitler conceded that maybe the fourth story of the new season could agree to differ and err more onto the side of complete originality.

And lo, Plate suggested a story about not QUITE maintaining the balance of the universe. With some walking, talking crocodiles in it for good measure as he’d just seen "Rogue", the Australian horror film about a giant prehistoric crocodile eating people in dinky-di Aussie gore and thought it the absolute coolest thing EVER!

Anyone remotely sane would have rejected this idea, but Hitler had started on the Mr. Sheen yet again and became convinced that Plate’s script was remarkably well suited not just to the audio medium but also to the tone of this frantic romp of a season. He was also convinced he was the owner of the Copacobana and having sex with an invisible prostitute called "Serena" during the discussion, but no one could be bothered arguing with him and so Plate’s script was retained.

Of course, everyone who HADN’T been drinking cocktails of kitchen bleach first thing in the morning worked out that The Skull of Sobriety was going to be rubbish with the first few bars of the title music with blood oaths and fire and sub-Conan dialogue that, terrifyingly, we were clearly supposed to take it seriously rather than automatically categorize it as rubbish and switch over. And if the pre-credit teaser didn’t do it, the cliffhanger resolution with the Doctor breaking his fall with a regular companion he hasn’t met yet sure did.

With a bunch of boring monks, no interesting or sympathetic characters, a bunch of ranting villains snarling petulantly and the Doctor’s main contribution to the plot telling everyone that this duel bollocks was rubbish in Star Trek: A Mucky Time and it’s STILL rubbish now, rather than actually DO anything interesting. All of this cocooned in a random collection of sound clips of Gregorian Chants, The Lord of the Rings radio series and The Credo of the Moron played backwards.

As with all Mark Plate stories, this bears repeated listening. I’ve heard it twice now and I still haven’t got a bloody clue what’s going on, and the nagging feeling it’s all pretentiously wacky bollocks just doesn’t diminish in the slightest.

No comments: