Author's note: This story is a cross-over between Doctor Who and Press Gang, an excellent
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
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.
"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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"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
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".