Doctor Who at Newton's laws of television

Escape Route

by Matthew Newton

Author's note: This story is a cross-over between Doctor Who and Press Gang, an excellent British show. The story takes place during "There Are Crocodiles", the last episode of Press Gang and as such it possibly requires a little knowledge of the show in order to fully appreciate it.

For an alternative DOCTOR WHO/PRESS GANG cross-over story, check out Kevin Nauta's Stealing Eden.

At first Lynda was stood rooted to the spot, watching the fire as it spread to more of the newsroom, destroying more of the things that helped Lynda think of this building as more of a home than her flat. But Lynda's sense of self-preservation had not awakened her from unconsciousness in order for her to simply stand and burn, and as the smoke grew thicker Lynda's attention was diverted to trying to find a way out. A burning ceiling joist was blocking the main double doors, preventing an obvious solution. Lynda considered the back door, but this was locked and the key was currently residing in Lynda's desk which was now part of the Junior Gazette's funeral pyre. However there was a third option - Colin's back door. The fire had spread to Colin's office but the path to it was relatively clear so Lynda put her handkerchief to her mouth and fought her way through the smoke. The last time that Lynda had checked, the hidden door was operated by tilting a model of the leaning tower of Pisa - she hoped Colin hadn't changed it since then. Colin normally charged for use of the back door, but Lynda didn't think that he would begrudge her this freebie under the circumstances, although of course as he was now no longer a member of her staff so she may not even see him again.

Lynda kicked open the door to Colin's office and went in. The fire was worse in here than it appeared from outside and a few boxes of merchandise that hadn't been removed were starting to burn. Amongst them, Lynda recognised a pile of cuddly dinosaurs that Colin had purchased from a shady Scotsman. Unfortunately the dinosaurs were roasting nicely and starting to give off a particularly acrid smoke. But there was a bigger problem for Lynda; directly in front of the section of wall that served as the door was a large blue box, some feet taller than Lynda. She didn't recognise it as Colin's and the fact that a sign above what appeared to be a door in the box included the word "police" seemed to preclude his involvement.

Lynda was now starting to cough violently and her attempts to squeeze past the box or move it had little effect. There was no point in continuing. The door was blocked and the dinosaur smoke was getting thicker. Lynda had to get out of Colin's office...find another way out...perhaps a window....

When Lynda opened her eyes she found herself looking at a plain white ceiling. Gently propping herself up, Lynda tried to take in her situation. She was lay on a bed in what appeared to be someone's bedroom. It was not a large room, but there was plenty of floor space even though the room contained a large wicker chair, a dressing table and a hat stand draped with a number of coats, as well as the bed. But the most curious thing about the room was the appearance of the walls; instead of a floral wallpaper in keeping with the rest of the room, the walls were covered in a geometrical triangle pattern. Having surveyed her surroundings, Lynda lay back down: her head was ringing slightly. If she was in hospital then it was the most unusual hospital that she had ever seen.

Suddenly Lynda was aware that the only door to the room had opened and a man was stood in the doorway. The man was physically large - in every sense - and had unruly fair hair. But the most striking thing about him was his clothes. Now Lynda was always the first to admit that she had a somewhat unconventional dress sense, but she was like a mail order catalogue model in comparison with this man and his colourful patchwork coat and yellow and black striped trousers.

Evidently the man had noticed that Lynda was now awake and he approached her, smiling benignly. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

Lynda's first reply was to hiccup. Regaining her composure, Lynda eyed the man suspiciously. "Where am I?" Are you some sort of doctor?"

"I am many kinds of doctor," replied the man. "In fact I am usually known as the Doctor." He offered his hand to Lynda.

Lynda cautiously shook his hand. "I'm Lynda Day."

"Pleased to meet you, Lynda Day." The man who was usually known as the Doctor then went silent.

"Are you going to tell me where I am?" asked Lynda.

"That's what I'm thinking about...It's probably best if I show you more of the ship." He beckoned her towards the door.

Lynda Day and the Sixth Doctor

"Ship?" Lynda didn't exactly trust this strange man but she followed him out of the room, down a short corridor and into another room. However, this was completely unlike the bedroom. The geometrical pattern covering the walls was circular here, and the room was much larger. It was also empty save for a large hexagonal structure standing in the centre.

"You're probably going to find what I am going to say somewhat hard to take," said the Doctor. Lynda searched around for a witty but apt response of the kind that she often traded with Spike but she didn't seem to be able to find any, so she just settled for standing and looking amazed. The Doctor cleared his throat. "I may as well get straight to the point...This is the main console room of my TARDIS, a ship that is capable of travelling in time and space."

Lynda didn't even try to think of an answer to this. She just put her hands to her temples. The Doctor was continuing, saying something about vortices and continuums, but Lynda wasn't really listening so she held up a hand to stop him. "Either you're a friend of Spike's and this is a very elaborate set up, or else I'm dreaming again," she said.

"Would you like to go outside?" asked the Doctor. "We're on a planet called Brentalia." Lynda nodded so the Doctor reached across the hexagonal structure and activated a switch. A section of wall slid open in a manner that briefly reminded Lynda of Colin's backdoor to the newsroom, revealing a white void beyond. Not quite knowing what to expect, Lynda stepped through the doorway.

Lynda was standing on top of a hill, looking down across a huge plain spreading as far as the horizon. There was a lake in the distance and the plain was occasionally punctuated by thin spindly trees. The sun - well, a sun - was high in a clear sky. Another object, probably another planet, was looming large on the horizon, looking as if it was about the drop into the lake.

After a few moments admiring the spectacle, Lynda turned to see that she had emerged from a tall blue box - the same tall blue box that had prevented her escape from Colin's office. She walked around the box a few times, but there was nothing else to it - it was just a tall blue box. Now Lynda really was amazed; if she ever got back to Norbridge she could write quite a story, although that would be if anyone would believe it, and if she still had a newspaper to write it for.

The Doctor had now followed Lynda from the tall blue box. "I think that shows you we've travelled in space. The fact that we've travelled in time is a little harder to proof, so you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that it is the early 19th century back on Earth."

"I really don't know what to say," said Lynda. "And you'll just have to believe me when I say that that is almost a new experience for me."

"Shall we go for a walk?" Lynda nodded in reply and the pair set off down the hill. "You see I was planning to visit an acquaintance of mine in Norbridge in the early 1990s. Unfortunately the TARDIS isn't always one hundred percent reliable and I must have just missed his home and I arrived in this building which was on fire. I was about to leave when I noticed you, but before I could help you were overcome by smoke and collapsed. I was able to get you into the TARDIS and I was planning just to deliver you to a hospital while you were unconscious so that I didn't have to get involved. However your lungs were in a bad way and the medical technology on board the TARDIS is far better than your 20th century human attempts, so I decided to help. Unfortunately you awoke before I could take you home."

"I suppose I owe you thanks for saving my life then," said Lynda.

"You don't sound convinced."

"I don't think I am."

"I'm a good listener," beamed the Doctor.

"Well, the long and the short of it is my life is in a mess. I was the editor a newspaper called the Junior Gazette. That was our newsroom that was on fire. We won't get any insurance money so that's the end of the paper. And even if we did miraculously get a new newsroom then there is the small problem of a scandal wrecking the reputation of the Junior Gazette. And then there's Spike..." Lynda's voice tailed off.

The Doctor nodded. "Yes, Spike."

Lynda glanced quizzically at the Doctor. "You know Spike?"

"No - but you were calling his name while you were asleep. You were close?"

"I don't think close is the right word. But I loved him. And I blew that too. I suppose I wanted to get out of the fire - I wanted to live - but it never occurred to me then how different my life would be afterwards."

The Doctor and Lynda walked in silence for a few moments. "Lynda, your life could be very different from now on," the Doctor suggested quietly. "You don't have to return to Norbridge. I could help you escape from the life you have waiting. There are thousands of other worlds as beautiful as this I could show you. You don't need to worry about a career. And it would be help you to get over Spike - not even being on the same planet as him."

Lynda remained silent. They had now reached the bottom of the hill, but didn't seem to be any nearer the lake, which Lynda had assumed to be their destination, so she lowered herself to the ground and sat cross-legged. It was incredible that she had only known this man for a very short time but she was seriously considering a suggestion that she would have called ludicrous that very short time ago. "It's tempting Doctor. It is. But..." She paused. "I'm just looking at myself since I woke up in your...TARDIS. I've been so quiet. Back in Norbridge, in the newsroom, I'm normally so self-confident. So bossy. So aggressive. So in control."

"Not all pleasant traits. So I've been told..."

"I suppose not, but it's me. At the moment I'm the proverbial fish out of water, and if you were to take to Venus or where-ever I still would be. I'd be playing second fiddle to you all the time. I couldn't be myself. And then there is Spike...I'm sorry Doctor." Lynda looked up at the strange man. "Please take me home."

The Doctor looked down at Lynda and smiled.

Lynda stood under the street lamp and shivered. After the warm air of Brentalia the cold Norbridge night-time was a shock to her system. The TARDIS was stood incongruously in the middle of the suburban street, but it was the middle of the night so no-one would probably notice. This was certainly the right house in the right street, but the Doctor wanted to check that it was the right day and had gone off to find an all-night shop in order to buy a newspaper. Lynda had spent a little time at the dressing table in her TARDIS room preparing her look by ruffling her hair and blacking her face and clothes, and was now waiting for him.

The Doctor soon returned with a copy of the Norbridge Gazette. The paper confirmed this was the day, not just by the date but by the second lead story on the front page. "Junior Gazette newsroom gutted by fire," read the Doctor. "Report by Chrissie Stuart." He quickly read the report, about how serious the fire was and how Lynda Day was missing. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?" asked the Doctor as he folded up the copy of the Gazette.

"Oh yes. Spike can take a joke. And it will be interesting to see his reaction to that story."

"Well." There was an awkward moment of silence. "Are you going to be okay getting into Spike's house?" asked the Doctor. "I'm sure I've got a device somewhere that could open his door lock."

"So have I," replied Lynda. "It's called a key." Silence again. "Doctor, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"If you really wanted to return me back here before I woke up, how was it that you had time to take me to Brentalia? Couldn't you just have taken me straight to a hospital?" The Doctor shuffled uneasily. "It was deliberate, wasn't it?"

"I suppose so," replied the Doctor sheepishly. "You see, I am normally accompanied by travelling companions. I like being accompanied by travelling companions. My life too has been in turmoil too recently, especially since Peri, my last companion, left me. And then there was the trial. And the Valeyard..." The Doctor noticed that his words meant nothing to Lynda. "I suppose I was going through something of a mid-life crisis, and I was lonely. And then I rescued you..."

"And Brentalia was a suitably impressive planet to show a prospective companion in order to encourage her to join you."

The Doctor nodded. "Do you mind?"

"No, not really. It was a pleasure to see Brentalia. And I suppose the experience has helped me clear my mind and give me the opportunity to get my life sorted out."

The Doctor considered what Lynda was saying. "I suppose that could go for me now."

Lynda smiled. "Then it's been worthwhile for both of us. Goodbye Doctor."

"Goodbye Lynda."

Lynda walked off up the path to Spike's house. She didn't look back.

Originally published in Think Tank issue 28 (Summer 1995) and in the Press Gang fanzine "Breakfast at Czar's".

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