Sunday, 31 December 2017

Rob's Review of 2017 - Best and worst TV ever?

Well hello.

The year is over. No more of it for you humans. I've talked about my favourite little moment of the year - Jodie Whittaker revealing herself to be the new Doctor Who - here. But there was a lot more great TV this year.

Here are the things I've been watching on TV this year. It has been, for the most part, really good. There's some rubbish, too, obviously. I've included some gripes, in case you think I'm just drunk and in love with everything I see.

There are no spoilers here. I'm just passing opinion, and will not reveal anything which counts as plot information.

The Big Bang Theory

This was the year I officially gave up on this show. It's not been great for a while, but now I'm watching with a sense of increasing tedium. I literally count the seconds, sometimes, to see if they ever have the nerve to run a scene for more than a minute and a half, before panicking and cutting to something else. (They never do).

The problem that's hit the show is that sitcoms just aren't meant to last this long. The joy of a sitcom comes - for the most part - from the interactions of mismatched people. These characters are all incomplete in some way, and their incompleteness manifests itself through hilarious bickering.

When a show goes on for a while, the characters have to develop and grow. When they grow, the initial dynamic is fractured and the whole point of the sitcom is lost. Big Bang has done quite well to ride this wave - mainly through the introduction of interesting and reasonably well drawn female characters - but on the whole it now looks tired and repetitive.


I love it when you come to a series late, and find out there's loads of it for you to watch. Such was the case with Catastrophe. What a fantastic discovery.

It's basically about a couple who get accidentally pregnant after a one night stand, and have to work out how to proceed. Which was all I knew before I watched it, and it didn't sound like any fun. Well, I was wrong. It's incredible.

It's laugh out loud funny, for a start. Rob Delany and Sharon Horgan wrote it and play the main couple, and they are incredibly talented in both respects. The supporting characters are very enjoyable and painfully real - they tread the delicate line between sitcom-funny and real-life-believable.

You'll find yourself talking about everyone in this as if they are real people. It's deep, dark, sad and funny and you should watch it now.


A wonderful and surprising show that is hard to classify. If you've seen it, you'll be nodding in agreement, and smiling, and wondering whether to go and give it another watch. If you haven't seen it, you'll be wondering what the fuss is about.

It doesn't sound great. Two metal detectorists - played by Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones - wander through their days, taking pleasure in the debris they unearth in local fields and chatting about TV. There are some elements of the traditional sitcom - romantic interest, misunderstandings, humorous oddball characters on the periphery. But on the whole it's a gentle, largely uneventful piece of work that takes its time to draw you in.

Draw you in, though, is exactly what it does. There's real love in the writing and the characters we meet are beautifully drawn. The main pair are subtle, human creations - flawed and funny, yearning for better but enjoying their lot regardless. They are surrounded by a gaggle of almost-typical sitcom bit players - one is a bit daffy, another selfish and vain, another bluff and prone to misunderstanding - but each one has surprising and gently sketched out depths. There are moments of sheer wonder and total joy. And the cinematography might be the best I've ever seen in comedy.

The Handmaid's Tale

Lots has been written about this show, so I won't go on for long here. Suffice to say, this vision of a future world, run by religious nutters, where strong women are crushed by weak men, seems almost too apt for this ridiculous year.

Brilliantly written, acted and shot. Instantly iconic. Worthy of much discussion. This is why they make television.

Master of None

Series One of this show is pretty good - a sort of small screen Woody Allen movie, reflecting the experience of Dev, a second generation Asian American trying to find his identity in New York. Aziz Ansari, who created the show and plays Dev, is an engaging and likeable presence and the world he lives in feels real and relevant.

Series Two, which I watched this year, is better. Which is to say, it is a magnificent achievement in storytelling, suffused with love and wonder, taking television into the realm of art.

It's still a comedy series, at heart, with a through line following Dev's romantic entanglements and day-to-day tribulations. But there's a bold, adventurous spirit to the way this story is told. Themes are as important as characters, here.

So one episode follows various background characters, detaching itself from one narrative to follow another as someone passes by and drifting through the night on the back of their different stories. Another episode flits between Dev's various experiences of Tinder dating, making insightful commentary on the way romance has yet to catch up with technology. One standout episode takes us through several years of Thanksgiving Days, observing how a black, gay woman might navigate her family relationships as the years pass, and cultures and attitudes shift.

There are standout moments that have stayed with me all year, which I'll not spoil here. But one of them, featuring a cab ride, lives in my heart in a way that TV rarely manages.

Rick and Morty

This felt like a weird, left field discovery when I first watched it. An oddball piece of non-conformist television which seemed like it was made for me and people like me. The premise was delightfully insane, the jokes were smart and geek friendly and the concepts underpinning the show were so bold that it could only ever appeal to a small group of like minded fans.

Then, it turned out to be massively popular - the stuff of T-Shirts and memes and slogans in everyday conversation. Dammit. I was almost cool, for about 90 seconds. Of course, its popularity immediately became a problem. Once you have a big enough fandom, you will have a chapter of that fandom that is desperate to be a loud, stupid dickhead about everything. Ugh.

Thankfully, the show itself remains an astonishing and daring piece of television. There is darkness and provocative material, sure. But unlike, say, South Park and Family Guy, there's always a point to it, beyond being shocking and 'adult'. Rick and Morty glistens with moments of art and beauty and intelligence and horror. It shows us aspects of the human condition and of the culture we have created, all from the craziest angle possible. People are wonderful. People are jerks. Sometimes they seem to be both at once.

It's also one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Fans don't deserve something so good.

Twin Peaks

How could they possibly succeed in making another series of Twin Peaks? I could only see two ways of doing it, and both would be a disaster.

Number one - try to make it seem the same. Well, that's no good. The point of Twin Peaks was that it redefined how to do television. So if you make it the same, you've missed its point.

Number two - try to make it different. Well, that doesn't work either. How would that be Twin Peaks? Despite all the ways in which modern television has learned from the original series, there is still a unique flavour to those early episodes, and that's the flavour we want. A weird, dark flavour. A thump of the heart that accompanies those opening, ascending  bass notes of the theme.

So. Turns out they didn't do either. Or maybe they did both. It's hard to be sure. They certainly did something.

You may have worked out by now that I have no idea how to describe the sheer impact of this series using normal human words. Good spot. All I can say is, I truly loved this year's new episodes of Twin Peaks. They were playful. Terrifying. Funny. Confusing. Sad.

And revolutionary. Find someone who has seen the new series, and just say, "Episode 8". Or, if you are feeling brave, "Got a light?" Watch their face. See how it flickers with fear and wonder. See how their mouth sort of smiles at a happy memory, while their eyes dart around in case the fabric of the universe comes apart around them.

It's very good. Or should that be doog yrev?

The Walking Dead

I've been with The Walking Dead since the comics began, over a decade ago. And for the most part I've loved this TV show. When others said it was too slow, I found pleasure in watching a story that takes its time to explore a post-zombie world. While people were saying it was too reliant upon gratuitous violence, I was laughing hysterically as Daryl whipped a chain through three zombies at once, sending their heads flying.

This year, though. Sheesh. What on earth has happened to the writers? How can they be sitting in the writers room, looking at their plans, and thinking, "This is excellent television that people will enjoy"?

This last season - season 8, I think - has been utter garbage. Having set up the threat of Negan and his massive army of Saviours (a plot thread I had been really enjoying), this series proceeded to piss it all up the wall.

The timeline is all over the place, as if they've decided to show the season in a completely random order. The geography of the world makes zero sense, with no logic to how the various places relate to each other spatially. As a result there is no clear communication of what the stakes are, or where people are going, or what they will do when they get there.

The base story material is fine. This is just an exercise in narrative incompetence that takes the show's success for granted and, as a result, fails to consider how the audience might be feeling at any given point. An abject failure.

So, that's my TV review of the year. Obviously, I'm being very selective, because your time is precious and anyway, I have to make a shelf. Other TV shows I could have mentioned fit into three basic categories:

They Sucked, but I can't be bothered saying why

Iron Fist, Electric Dreams

They Were Fine, but didn't inspire any strong feelings

American Gods, Luther, Luke Cage, Preacher, American Horror Story

They Were Great, but in similar ways to those already discussed, so all I'd do is just say very similar things

W1A, Black Mirror, Westworld, Better Call Saul, Fleabag, Fargo, Uncle, Game of Thrones, Star Trek Discovery, Stranger Things, The Trip, Motherland. Doctor Who.

So there you go. Watch those. Or don't. It's your life. But the good news is this: TV is bloody brilliant at the moment, and we are very lucky humans. Except when we're watching Iron Fist.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Rob's review of 2017 - let's start with a Good Thing

2017 is coming to an end despite it surely being set in the far future.

And it genuinely is starting to feel like the future. I went to get a burger the other day and was faced, not by a human, but by a massive touchscreen thing, onto which I had to signal all my food choices. Obviously there was a human as well - she had to tell everyone how to work to robot food choicey thing, because we were all totally confused by it - but in principle, it was very much like being in Demolition Man.

Anyway. Another year is wandering to its close, and so I'm compelled to list some of the good and bad things about it, as if I was Time's manager and had to give it an appraisal.

Let's get straight in with something good.

Here's a moment that utterly delighted me this year.

One Sunday, after they'd been showing some tennis thing happening, the BBC cut to a bit of woodland. And through that woodland walked a mysterious figure.

And we knew, because we'd been told in advance, that this figure was going to be the new Doctor Who. What we didn't know was this - who would be playing the best person on television ever?

I was very excited indeed. A new Doctor Who is a thrilling thing to a massive geek like me. And there was a growing feeling that this time the producers were going to take the jump, and cast a woman rather than another bloke.

On my screen, the figure reached out to take the TARDIS key. We saw a hand - female? - and a close up of an eye... yes, it looked like...

She pulled back her hood. Sure enough, there stood the first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker.

It's hard to say quite why it excited me so much, but it really, really did. An amazing, bold, audacious decision from a massive organisation that might easily be forgiven for playing things safe.

It chimes wonderfully with one of the overall narratives of this year - a slow recognition that our culture is Masculine at a molecular level. Our language, our conventions and our attitudes all proceed from a base assumption that maleness = normal. Power is male. History is male. The people who make a difference are male, and that includes pretend people who travel through time in blue boxes.

Some rational opinions from people 
who have decided what's normal and what isn't.

It's a narrative that does none of us any favours. Certainly not the 50% of the human race who have been deemed 'non-normal' and have to cope with the inequality that brings. And not people like me, who find common notions of masculinity very uncomfortable indeed, and a poor fit for the complicated nonsense that goes on in my head and my heart.

We saw the narrative at play in the reaction to Whittaker's casting, as a small bunch of tiny minded people screamed their protest at how 'unrealistic' it was to imagine Doctor Who being a lady. Because he's heroic, isn't he, and a scientist, and a genius and all those things that, generally, men get on with while the ladies make tea and/or scream at the monsters.

We saw it again with the new Star Wars film - don't worry, no spoilers - and indeed in any cultural product where the dominance of white men was challenged by alternative ideas. It gets called 'forced equality' or 'agenda setting' or - all together now - 'political correctness gone mad'." Because we're so used to whiteness and maleness being 'normal' that any deviation from it seems unnatural and weird and forced.

Look at this! Women are literally dominating everything!

So this is my moment of the year. A mysterious figure takes down its hood, and there, where once stood a man, stands a woman. A moment that says, at heart, none of our personas are fixed. We have masculine traits and feminine traits. We're different on a Monday to how we are on a Tuesday and we're different with a group of friends to how we are at work or visiting our parents. We were different five years ago and we'll be different again.

The idea that we are fixed, static personalities, is nonsense. We are varied and complicated and contradictory. Most of all, we are free. We don't need be told how to be a man, or a woman. This wonderful, time travelling alien, standing in a wood and looking into our eyes, says that change is possible and wonderful and inevitable.

I love that. It moves me more than I can say. And the fact that my daft old TV series took a stand this year, on something so fundamentally important, makes me want to cry with pride

Friday, 22 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part Seven

It's time for the final episode of my Doctor Who story. Rejoice!

Previous episodes can be found in the sidebar.


Noel the Silent was terribly, terribly depressed.

For one, there was the whole ‘looking like a monster’ thing. Everyone who met him screamed. Absolutely everyone. Even the morbidly obese people who came into the complex every day. These people must have felt like throwing up every time they looked in a mirror, but still they totally lost it when they walked in and saw Noel. It was dispiriting.

Then, of course, they would spend some time with Noel, and get to know him, and tell him their secrets. And that would be lovely, and they would be happy, and Noel would start to believe in the beauty of the universe and the importance of friends.

And then they would look away, and they would forget all about Noel. And then they would look back and they would scream again and they would shout, “Help! A monster!”


He pulled himself together and pressed the buzzer. The door to his office slid open and in waddled his latest client - a huge, sweating man with a terrible multi-coloured shirt. The client took one look at Noel and screamed.

“Please be seated,” said Noel as pleasantly as he could, gesturing to a large, padded, reinforced seat in the middle of the office.

“Right – sorry,” said the client, shuffling his massive frame towards the chair. “They showed us a picture of you before but…”

“But you forgot, yes. Never mind.” Noel reached down with one long, spectral arm and pulled a flask of Adipose Solution from the crate. “Here.”

The client took the flask and lowered himself into the chair, wheezing and groaning as he did so. “Do you guys freak yourselves out, then? I mean, like, in the mirror? Are you like, whoah, who’s that?”

Noel’s fingers twitched and the slightest blue spark glowed around his fingers. No – must not fry the clients, no matter how unoriginal their observations. The rules were very clear about that. “No sir – we are immune to the forgetting. Now, if you could drink the Adipose Solution and we will begin the confession.”

The client opened the flask and started slurping away at the liquid within. As he did, Noel became aware of something peculiar. Something was moving behind the ventilation grill above the door.

“So anyway…” said the client. “Where do I start?”

“Um,” said Noel, “Just all the bad things you’ve done. Whatever might make you feel guilty.” He peered closer at the grill. A tiny white face appeared through the slats. Was that… was that Flimbleby?

“OK.” Said the Client. “Well, for one, I literally never flush the toilet in a public place. No matter how big the poo…”

That definitely was Flimbleby behind the grill. The little Adipose who had escaped with the Artist Woman. What was he doing back? Noel felt a little flicker of happiness. For some reason the Adipose didn’t forget the Silence, so he and Flimbleby had become quite good friends.

“…and when I’m driving I like to get right up behind people and blast my horn. I drive a really sweet BMW…”

Flimbleby gave Noel a wave. Hmm. The Client was going to be ages. Unless…

Noel interrupted, pointing at the Client’s shirt. “Is that something on your shirt?”

The Client looked down. “What? No, I don’t think so.” He looked back up at Noel. “Aaarg! A monster!”

Noel stood up and lunged over the desk. “Woooooo!” he cried. The Client scrambled to get out of this chair, falling onto the floor and scrabbling towards the door. He turned the handle, sobbing with fear, and crawled out into the corridor.

Noel shut the door and reached up to the grill. He popped it open and grabbed hold of Flimbleby.

“Hello Noel!” said the Adipose happily. “It is me – Flimbo! I have come to rescue you!”

“I am delighted to see you, Flimbo. I’ve been so depressed. How can you rescue me?” Noel set his little friend down on his desk. He was smiling, not that it was very obvious on his nightmarish face.

“Well, first you need to rescue my friend, Doctroo. He is amazing and he will help.”

Noel looked around his office. He really did hate this job. Maybe it was time to move on.

Through the door he could hear the moans of the Client, the popping of flesh and the tiny giggle of newborn Adipose.

“I can do that,” he said.


Rafe Pembroke gazed out at the binary sunset, humming happily to himself. This had been the greatest idea of his life. And he had to do literally nothing. People were queuing up to have their guilt erased and their fat walk away and they paid through the nose for it. The Silence believed they were on some noble religious mission, so they were no problem. And now he’d even realised how to turn a profit from those troublesome Adipose. Pembroke Soap. The future.

There was a noise at his door. A high pitched noise… was it giggling? And the crackle of electricity…

Suddenly the doors burst open and in flowed a tide of tiny white Adipose, all laughing hysterically. Hundreds of the creatures charged into the office, covering everything like a giggling white carpet. At the door Pembroke could just make out Steve and the other Silent guards, struggling under the weight of dozens of Adipose.

Steve the Silent shook himself violently, sending Adipose flying in all directions. He uncurled his long limbs, preparing to fire. The little balls of fat ran away, squealing. Then, before Steve could fire, he exploded into millions of pieces.

Noel strode through the door, blasting another guard with an electric bolt. Behind him walked The Doctor, carrying Flimbleby. Pembroke turned to run, but the floor was made of Adipose. He skidded and slipped, trying to get to his secret door. But it was no good.

He fell, and found himself carried by an army of Adipose. They took him to the feet of Noel and The Doctor.

“Look…” spluttered Pembroke, “Why don’t you just let me go, and we’ll forget all about this…”

Noel looked down at him. Pembroke could have sworn his alien face was smiling. “Yessss….” Hissed Noel. “Forget…”

And that was the last time Rafe Pembroke remembered anything, ever again.


Helvetica Jones looked across the forest outside her cottage. The sun was low in the afternoon sky, and it smelled like it would snow.

The cottage door opened and out walked The Doctor. He handed her a mug of tea and stood beside her, enjoying the view.

“Those things I did…” she said. “I can’t remember them. I was that horrible woman, destroying those things…”

“You were the same person you are now. A person who loved art. And wanted to engage with it. And what more beautiful way to engage with something than to break it?” The Doctor took a sip of his tea. “All art is violence, you used to say. I guess eventually just touching things wasn’t enough for you.”

Helvetica turned to face him. “But those things are gone forever. I smashed them to pieces, then went to that horrible place to have my memory wiped and my fat sucked out, and carried on as if nothing had happened.”

“Nothing that can’t be made again. Art isn’t there to be worshipped.” The Doctor swigged down another mouthful of tea. “Oh – except Bowie. I went and fixed that. I was in danger of losing half my music collection.”

“You met Bowie?”

“Well, technically we both did. You tried to kill him, I hit you with a broom, David and I spent the rest of the weekend in Soho. I think I may be the only one of the three of us who remembers any of it.”

Helvetica giggled and drank her tea. The cottage door opened again, and out scampered Flimbleby.

“Hello! Hello! All your cake is gone!”

Helvetica bent down and picked up the Adipose, brushing cake crumbs from his mouth. “You can have all the cake you want, Flimbleby. Without you that dreadful place would still be running.”

“I am amazing!” proclaimed Flimbleby, spitting currants in her face.

“Which reminds me!” said The Doctor. “I have a reward for all of us. David was very grateful for my intervention.”


A blue light came up on the stage, illuminating a tall, thin man with floppy hair. Flimbleby bounced up and down on seat. He had never been to a music show before. Either side of him, The Doctor and Lady Helvetica leaned forward in their seats.

The man on the stage started to sing, and it was the most wonderful sound. His voice was floaty and mysterious, like if the night-time had a voice.

“Lift me up plees! I cannot see!” he squeaked. The Doctor lifted him up gently, and held him so he could see the stage. The man stood in the darkness, doing the beautiful singing, as if he was singing to Flimbleby himself.

                             “But if you pray, all your sins are hooked upon the sky…
                                               Pray and the heathen lie will disappear.

                                Prayers, they hide the saddest view.

                                                 Believing the strangest things, loving the alien…”

Flimbleby bit into a sausage and smiled. He was the happiest Adipose in the world.


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part Six

My Doctor Who story nears its conclusion.

Previous episodes can be found in the sidebar, should you be so unfortunate to have missed them.

Here, though, is part six!


The TARDIST hurtled through the time vortex.

Inside, Lady Helvetica was sitting on a wooden chair, staring into the distance. Flimbleby was perched on her leg, prodding her arm. “What is wrong, plees?”

Doctroo stood behind them, having a think. “She’s had a shock. She saw herself, from a different point in time.”

“How arr there one, two of Lady Helvetica?” Flimbleby waved his fingers in front of her eyes, but she did not even notice.

 “One of them is from her past. Or her future.” Doctroo shook his head. “But how does it fit together? That was her in all those photos – just too fat to recognise. At some point, Helvetica Jones – art lover – decides to go round destroying the most famous and beautiful works of art in the galaxy. And eating an awful lot of pie. But why?”

Flimbleby had a think. He did not want to tell about the Big Secret. But Doctroo was sad, and Lady Helvetica was poorly and maybe he needed to tell after all to make things better.

“Doctroo?” he said. “I fink I know a bit abowt what happened.”

Doctroo knelt down in front of Flimbleby. “Go on.”

“Well, you know the big fat lady hoo is Lady Helvetica from the future or maybe the past?” Doctroo nodded and Flimbleby continued, “Well, I used to be her frend. Pleez do not be cross with Flimbleby.”

Doctroo did not look cross, but he did make his eyebrows frown. “Go on.”

“Well, rite, I used to live in this place where there were lots of Adipose, like me. But I did not like it so much. I only had one frend, and he was called Noel, and hee had angsiety issues!” Flimbleby climbed up onto the console. It felt good to talk about this.

“Enyway, one day a lady came to talk to Noel and she was beautiful and interesting and when she went away I jumped right in her hat! And she took me away wifout even noticing. I am a sneaky Flimbleby.”

“And that was Helvetica?”

“Yess! Eggsept she was a bit morr fat then, so I did not know. Her face was like a big pie! She found me in her hat and sed I could stay wif her but I must not tell enyone bekos it was a Big Sekrit.” Flimblebly looked across at Lady Helvetica, who was still staring into space. “Sorry, Lady Helvetica.”

Doctroo started to run his hands over the controls of the TARDIST. “Carry on…”

“Rite. Then wee went to all sorts of places. We met Mr. David Bowie and she gave him a right old punch on the hontas. Then to the place wif the singing lady, who you saw in the piktur in the book. And lots of other places. And every time she made a big mess and ate lots and lots of cake and pie. And at the end wee would run away!”

“Until the art exhibition…”

“Yes – then she ran away wifout me.” Flimbleby was a bit sad when he thought about that day.

Lady Helvetica had become ridiculously fat by then. They had arrived through the Magic Space Door, as always, before anyone else had arrived at the exhibition. There were tables and tables of food and wine, and Lady Helvetica and Flimbleby had had a brilliant time, running up and down eating everything and throwing food about. Then she had given Flimbleby some crayons and pens and let him draw on the paintings, while she had smashed up the statues with a massive hammer.

“It was a brilyant day. But then she ran rite off, and the Magic Door closed, and I was by myself. So I did a bit of a cry. But then everyone else came, and yoo came, and I got to be in the TARDIST and yoo are my Dady now.”

Doctroo had listened carefully, staring up into the darkness. Now he looked at Flimbleby, his eyes doing a sparkle.

“Thank you, Flimbleby. Now. That place you came from. I need you to think very hard about it. Can you do that?”

“I do not want to. It was stupid and I did not like it.”

“You’ve been very brave to tell me your story. I think the place you came from is a bad place, run by bad people. If you help me find it, I can stop them.”

Flimbleby looked up at Doctroo. He looked spooky and wonderful all at the same time.

“I will do it.” He said.


The Doctor and Flimbleby stepped out of the TARDIS into a large, expensive looking office. One wall was a huge curved window, looking out over a futuristic city. Twin suns were low on the horizon, casting golden light and long shadows across the room.

A large desk dominated one end of the room. At it sat a tall blue skinned humanoid in an expensive suit. He was staring at the Doctor and his tiny companion.

“Hello!” exclaimed the Doctor, grinning madly and advancing on the man. “You must be the man in charge.” He reached the desk and read the expensive looking name plate. “Rafe Pembroke – Managing Director!” Flimbleby scampered across the carpeted floor and hopped up onto the desk.

“Who on earth are you?” gasped Pembroke. He reached for a security buzzer.

"I wouldn't do that." The Doctor's grin turned to a snarl, and he whipped out his psychic paper. "Doctor John Smith. Bureau of Intergalactic Ethics. You've been running an illegal Adipose operation from this office. And I've come to shut you down!"

 “Yes!” said Flimbleby. “What do you have to say for yourself, you big stupidface? This is serious, big time!” He banged a tiny fist on the desk.

“What… how… this is perfectly legal!” protested Pembroke. “I have a certificate, here!” He pointed at a framed certificate on the wall behind him. The Doctor peered at the writing.

“ ‘I certainly don’t remember seeing anything illegal, signed Tobemory Smith, Federal Regulator’.”

The Doctor stepped away from the desk and fixed Pembroke with a penetrating stare. “All very above board. Except I think the man who gave you that had probably encountered the other illegal thing you are doing here – running a memory wipe business using the Silence!”

Flimbleby jumped up and down, excited. “Noel is a Silence! He is my friend! He is here!”

“Let me guess,” growled The Doctor, stalking around the desk, pointing at the cowering Pembroke. “You advertise your services. Tell people there’s a way they can live how they want – eat what they like, commit any crime – and then you’ll wipe the slate clean. Once in a while they’ll come here to be purged. The Adipose get rid of the fat, the Silence take away the guilt. They leave here as good as new, and you rake in the profits.”

“Curse you both!” shouted Pembroke. He slammed the security buzzer and stood up at his desk. “People want this!”

“People want all sorts of things!” shouted The Doctor. “But what about the consequences? What about the victims of the crimes they commit? And what happens to all the Adipose?”

The doors behind them slammed open. Three Silence stood at the door, hands charged with deadly, crackling energy. The Doctor and Flimbleby raised their hands.

Pembroke stared at the Silent guards in confusion. “Who the hell are you?”

The Silent in the middle sighed heavily. “Steve, sir. Head of security. You’ve got a picture of me in your jacket pocket…”

Pembroke felt in his pocket and sure enough, there was a picture. “Ah, yes. Sorry Steve. I keep doing that, don’t I?”

Steve nodded sadly.

Pembroke walked up to the Doctor, a hard look on his face. “The victims of the crimes my customers commit aren’t my concern, Doctor. As for the Adipose… we’ve been keeping them in storage. But a lovely new income stream has just opened up, as your little friend is about to find out. We’re expanding into the manufacture and distribution of soap!”


The Doctor tapped his sonic screwdriver on the cell door. “No good. Deadlocked. We’re stuck in here, Flimbleby.” He looked around the bare, metal room. “This is a bad place.”

The Adipose looked at his little feet. “It is stupid. It is why I ran away. I do not like it.”

“Brave heart, Flimbleby,” said The Doctor. “Come on – we’re going to escape, and we’re going to help all the other adipose run away as well!”

“How?” said Flimbleby. “We are stuck in here and they are going to make me into soap! I do not want to be soap. I do not even know what it is.”

The Doctor pointed up at a tiny grill in the ceiling. “You’re going to have to go in there. You’re small enough to get through. I’m going to give you my sonic screwdriver, and you’re going to go right into the heart of this place.”

Flimbleby shook his head violently. “No! It is stupid. I do not want to. I ran right off and I do not want to go back.”

“Yes you did, Flimbleby,” said The Doctor, “you ran off. But listen.” The Doctor knelt down and looked Flimbleby in the eye. “I ran away too. When I was little, like you. I ran right away because the place I was in was stupid too. And for a while I hid and was scared. But then I realised that I could help people. And that’s what I do. And that’s what you can do.”

“I am too scared. I am only little and my brain is quite tiny and I cannot even do sums.”

“FlimbIeby the Adipose. I couldn’t have got here without you and your tiny brain and your brilliant smile. You have been a brave and good Adipose. And I can’t do this bit without you either.” The Doctor held out his sonic screwdriver.

Flimbleby looked at The Doctor. If he could have done a wee, this would have been the time.

End of part six

Click here for part seven - the final chapter!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part Five

You can catch up on previous episodes of this story here:

Part One        Part Two      Part Three     Part Four

Now - part five!


Flimbleby jumped up and down, waving frantically at Noel. He was so happy to see his friend again. Noel was tall and thin, like a spooky tree, and here he was, coming to Lady Helvetica’s for tea!

Noel raised his arm to wave back. At least, Flimbleby thought it was Noel. Now he thought about it, all of the three monsters walking up the hill looked like Noel. And the one he thought was Noel did not seem to recognise Flimbleby.

Maybe-Noel pointed his raised arm at the cottage. Blue electric sparked around his fingers. Suddenly Flimbleby was scooped up and was zooming away, carried by Doctroo. The ground where he had been standing exploded in a shower of sparks and earth.

Everything was a blur. Flimbleby could hear Doctroo shouting, and hear exploding noises. The ground and sky bumped about and there, getting closer, was the friendly blue of the TARDIST doors.

Doctroo opened the doors and sprinted for the console. Flimbleby hopped out of his hands onto the console. Behind them, Lady Helvetica was slamming the doors.

“What’s going on?” she shouted. “What did they want?”

Doctroo slammed a row of levers forward and span a dial. Flimbleby prodded a button with his foot and to his delight it lit up orange. Doctroo tapped his foot away and pressed the button again, turning the light off. Boo.

“I think, Helvetica Jones, that they wanted you.” Said Doctroo. The central column rose and fell, glowing like magic. Doctroo pressed his hands together in front of his face and looked at his two companions.

“Flimbleby. If I ask you a question, can you promise not to run away?”

Flim shuffled on the spot. “I doo not want to be in trouble.”

Doctroo leaned down to Flimbleby’s height. A crooked smile cracked across the old man’s face. “You won’t be in trouble, Flimbleby. In fact, I think you can be very helpful, and make a lot of people very happy. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“I wud! Also, maybe I can hav a sosij?”

“Yes, yes I’ll get you a great big sausage. Now, Flimbleby the Adipose, you recognised those creatures back at the cottage, didn’t you?”

“It was Noel. Hee is a Silents.”

“That’s right, he’s a Silence, yes. And is the reason you know Noel something to do with the reason you were in the exhibition hall, when all the paintings got destroyed?”

“Um… yes. A bit. But it is a big seekrit. I promised not to tell and I am a good Flimbleby.”

Doctroo stood up. He looked pleased. Flimbleby was glad.

“It’s alright, Flimbleby. I’m close to working it out, I can sense it. Right, Helvetica.” He turned to Lady Helvetica. “Tell me – if you could go anywhere, to any cultural event in the universe, at any time, where would you go?”

Lady Helvetica walked slowly round the TARDIST, stroking the bookshelves, having a think. “You said we can’t see Bowie… how about the making of Citizen Kane?”

“I’m already there at least twice. Any more and Orson is going to start asking questions, not to mention Equity.”

“Ah! Got it!” Lady Helvetica clapped her hands. Flimbleby realised that Doctroo was looking at her now, so he pressed the orange button again. It was brilliant and made him giggle.

“The Ballet of the SuperVocs!” exclaimed Lady Helvetica. Tears glistened in her eyes at the very thought of this. Flimbleby had never heard of it.

“Wot is a Soopervoc pleez?” he said.


The TARDIS wheezed into existence in the darkness of the backstage corridors. The door opened and light spilled out, illuminating the swirling dust. Out stepped The Doctor, wearing an Edwardian dinner jacket. Helvetica Jones followed, elegant in a stunning gown. And then out hopped Flimbleby, wearing a little bow tie and beaming excitedly.

“Now you be careful with that bow tie, Flimbleby,” said the Doctor, advancing towards a pair of curtains.

“I will! It is amazing,” Flimbleby hopped along, feeling ever so smart.

The Doctor drew back the curtain, very gently. What they saw beyond made them all gasp for breath.

The Ballet of the SuperVocs was unfolding right now on the stage before them. Dozens of beautiful silver robots span and turned in complex patterns, ethereal light reflecting off them in dazzling webs of silver and gold. They swooped across the stage, strong and graceful. Their faces were sculpted and timeless, their costumes simple but elegant. Shimmering music moved through the air, chasing the robots as they moved.

“It’s even more beautiful than I imagined…” breathed Helvetica. The Doctor nodded, caught up in the majesty of the spectacle. He had never been here before – always waiting for the right moment.

All around the stage, thousands of spectators sat in zero gravity bubbles. Behind them lay the stars. The Doctor looked up. There, far in the distance but filling the sky, was the majestic madness of an exploding sun.

“A perfect moment. She won’t be able to resist. Come on!” He edged out onto the stage, keeping far from the whirling beauty of the robots.

Flimbleby followed, pointing excitedly at each robot. “Robot! Robot! Robot! They are amazing!”

“What won’t she be able to resist?” asked Helvetica, following nervously behind. They kept close to the edges, creeping slowly.

“The more perfect the art, the more pleasure in destroying it. That’s what she’s doing – she gets pleasure from spoiling perfection. Our woman is here. And any moment now, she’s going to interfere…”

The music fell to silence and the SuperVocs stopped, facing each other in a perfect circle. An infinite hush settled over the stage. Slowly, majestically, the silver robots began to turn on the spot. Their eyes glowed bright, projecting thick golden beams in intricate patterns. The effect was breath-taking.

And then, from the other side of the stage, charged a humanoid figure, dressed in feathers and tin foil. “Wooo!!! Look at me!!! I’m a dancing robot!!!” it shouted.

“It’s her!” hissed The Doctor.

The figure reached the middle of the circle. It was indeed the woman from the pictures. Less fat, though. Much less fat. She started leaping up and down and howling. Helvetica’s face contorted in fury.

“No! You’re not ruining this!” She charged towards the gyrating woman, dodging through the still-dancing robots.

“Helvetica – no!” shouted The Doctor.


This was the best day of Flimbleby’s life. So many exciting things had already happened, and now they were running about on a stage in the middle of millions of beautiful robots!

“Helvetica! Don’t touch her!” shouted Doctroo, charging after Lady Helvetica, who was running towards the lady who was doing a big shout in the middle of the robots. The robots kept dancing, swooping around the stage and shining lights everywhere.

Flimbleby ran towards them too, dodging the robots and giggling hysterically. The stage was like a big maze made of silver metal and dazzling light. It was very confusing. Everything was a jumble of running legs, silver faces and swooping golden light rays.

Then, for a moment, the silver robots parted and through them Flimbleby saw Lady Helvetica, lunging towards the Shouting Lady. Now he was close Flimbleby could see the Shouting Lady’s face. It was the Big Fat Lady with the Hat! Except she was not so fat – and now she was thinner, Flimbleby could see her face properly. And he realised who she was.

“It is Lady Helvetica! Yoo arr Lady Helvetica as well! Therr arr two of yoo!”

There were indeed two Lady Helveticas. The one they had come with in the TARDIST and the Big Fat Shouting Lady! And now the first one was grabbing hold of the second one!

There was a mighty flash as the two ladies touched. Flimbleby was thrown back and the world went upside down.

When the world stopped spinning, there was Doctroo standing over him. He was waving a kind of magic wand about and doing a right old frown. “Are you alright Flimbleby?”

“Therr werr one, two Lady Helveticas! The Shouting Lady is the same person!” Flimbleby climbed to his feet and looked around. Their Lady Helvetica – the one who had come with them – was standing, looking stunned, next to Doctroo. The other one – the Shouting one – had vanished.

“Yes, Flimbleby. This is serious. We need to leave.” Doctroo took Lady Helvetica by the arm and led her back to the curtains, towards the TARDIST. Flimbleby waddled after them. He looked around the stage.

The silver robots had all stopped dancing and were looking in Flimbleby’s direction. He waved at them. “Hello robots. Yoo arr beautiful!”

Slowly, all at the same time, the robots waved back.

End of episode five

Click here for part six

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part Four

Previously on Loving the Alien:

Part one is here

Part two is here

Part three is here

And part four... is right here.


Helvetica Jones always knew when The Doctor was going to pop by for tea. She could never have told you how she knew – she just kind of sensed it. This morning there had been something about the way the clouds swirled, high and delicate in the blue skies above her cottage. Something about the stillness in the morning air and the crackle of the flames in the kitchen fireplace.

So it was no surprise to her when she came back in from the garden, arms laden with firewood, to see the kettle on the boil and the tall, spindly form of The Doctor sprawled out in her favourite chair.

“Morning Doctor,” she said cheerfully, filling a basket with the firewood. “New face. Like it.”

“It has a certain dignity, doesn’t it?" Replied The Doctor. “Tea?”

“Always.” She sat down at the table as The Doctor poured boiling water into a battered blue teapot. Helvetica regarded the table, observing the two cups The Doctor had set out next to her multi-coloured tea cosy. “Travelling alone, are we?”

“Not exactly.”

The tea cosy twitched. Helvetica sat up in her chair, startled. Then the tea cosy started to move towards the edge of the table. Carefully she reached out. As she touched the tea cosy, it stopped moving.

“Oh no,” squeaked a little voice from underneath the tea cosy. Slowly and carefully, Helvetica lifted it up. Underneath was a small, white blob with short stumpy arms and legs and the cutest face she’d ever seen.

The Doctor poured the milk. “Helvetica, this is Flimbleby, an Adipose of undetermined origin. Flimbleby, this is Helvetica Jones, Art Historian and amazing cook.”

“Hello!” exclaimed Flimbleby, wandering across the table and taking one of Helvetica’s fingers in his tiny hands. She wiggled her finger, shaking his hands gently, and smiled.

“Well aren’t you the sweetest thing ever. I’ve never heard of the Adipose before.”

“We are made of fat!” shouted Flimbleby gleefully. “Cake please.”

“I promised him cake,” said The Doctor.

“You promised yourself cake,” she smiled. She stood up and went over to an old wooden cupboard. “So, Doctor, to what do I owe the pleasure?” 


The Lovely Thin Lady brought out one of the biggest cakes Flimbleby had ever seen.

Not the biggest, of course. When he was friends with the Big Fat Lady With The Hat he had seen a cake as big as the table he was now standing on. It had been white and full of cream and the Big Fat Lady had jumped right into it, which had been funny and the cake had gone everywhere!

But this cake was pretty big, and Flimbleby wasted no time in chomping into it. As he ate, Doctroo told the Lovely Thin Lady about the pictures at the museum that had been smashed up, and the Dinosaur pictures that went on fire, and how he thought it might happen again, to some other pictures. He did not tell about how Flimbleby had helped fight the Nerminates, but maybe he was saving that for later, and maybe there would be another cake.

“I wondered if you had heard of any similar occurrences,” said Doctroo, through a mouthful of walnut cake.

“History is full of art being destroyed, Doctor...” said Lady Helvetica. “Let me see…” And then she had brought out a Big Book and laid it out on the table.

She turned the pages slowly, discussing each one with Doctroo. Flimbleby peered over the edge of the huge book. It was full of photographs and scraps of paper cut out of magazines – pictures of people dancing in beautiful coats, or doing singing on a stage, or carving big shapes out of stone. Flimbleby hoped there would be a picture of a dinosaur or a dog or a cat, but he couldn’t see one. “Stupid,” he muttered to himself. 

Then Lady Helvetica turned a page and Flimbleby saw something he did recognise. It was The Big Fat Lady With The Hat! She was in a photograph with lots of other people, sitting in rows looking at a big stage. On the stage was a Beautiful Lady with Lots of Hair, doing a big sing.

You could not hear the singing, because it was just a photograph, but Flimbleby knew she was because he remembered being there. He could not see himself in the photograph, but he knew that he was right there – hiding under the Big Fat Lady’s hat and listening. It had sounded so lovely that he had wanted to cry. But then…


“… then this woman stood up in the audience – the huge woman in the vulgar hat with all the feathers – and started shouting.” Helvetica pointed out the lady in the audience. Her hat was indeed vulgar, and looked far too big for her head. She was also, indeed, extraordinarily overweight, to the point where her face was nearly as shapeless as Flimbleby’s.

“Shouting? During the solo in the third act?” said The Doctor. “That’s the most beautiful solo ever written. Performed by Mariella Seltrexion - the greatest singer the galaxy has ever produced. To get a seat at this must have been next to impossible – and this woman starts shouting?”

“Shouting at the singer!” said Helvetica. “Ruined things for everyone. The performance couldn’t go on – the spell was broken. Seltrexion never sang again. This was to have been her greatest performance, and this woman ruined it forever.”

The Doctor turned the pages, scanning the clippings and sipping his tea. “Here she is again – beheading the crystal statues in the Citadel of Praal.”

“And here,” said Helvetica, “punching David Bowie in the nose. He never sang the same again after that; destroyed a brilliant career.”

The Doctor peered at the picture – the front page of The Daily Mirror, 1972. A young Bowie, zig-zag paint down his face and in fully Ziggy get up – was reeling under the attack of the woman, who was now fatter than ever.

“But this didn’t happen…” mused The Doctor. “Bowie went on for years…” He shook his head. He could feel the memories shifting, fading. Maybe Bowie had never sung after this… How did Ashes to Ashes go again? “No!” He slammed the book shut, making Flimbleby jump and drop his cake.

“We can’t carry on looking. As we look at these stories, these events become part of our time stream. Once that happens, we can’t interfere. We need to think of somewhere this woman has gone without looking in here. And then we need to find her. And we need to stop her.”

There was an almighty crash from outside. Helvetica and The Doctor span round to face the door. Flimbleby took the opportunity to grab another piece of cake.

Helvetica strode over to the door and flung it wide open. The Doctor joined her, peering out.

The cottage stood alone atop a small hill. As far as the eye could see, stretching to the horizon, was a forest of white-frosted pine trees. Down past the garden, on the edge of the forest, was a newly landed space craft. Three legged, squat and possessed of an eerie beauty.

Three figures appeared through the trees and started walking up towards the cottage. They were tall - spectrally thin with large, bulbous heads and spindly, elongated fingers.

The Doctor clamped a hand on his forehead. “This makes no sense at all.”

“What are they?” asked Helvetica, peering down at the advancing creatures.

“Creatures genetically engineered to slip through your memory. They don’t really have names, but I’ve met them before. They’re sometimes called – the Silence!”

 The Doctor stared at the spindly monsters, willing himself to focus even as his mind told him to forget what he was seeing. “Keep looking at them. If we look away even for a second, we’ll forget they are there, and we’re done for.”

And then Flimbleby burst through his legs, running out of the cottage into the garden. He jumped up and down, waving at the approaching creatures. “Hello!” he shouted. “Hello Noel! How are you?”

End of Episode Four

Click here for part five

Monday, 18 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part Three

Episode Three of my Christmas Doctor Who story.

Part one is here.

Part two is here.

And now, part three.


Loving the Alien: A Christmas Story



The Chief Dalek observed the tall humanoid who had just entered the room. The humanoid was grey haired and wore a black coat, and carried with it an air of arrogance.

“IDENTIFY YOURSELF!” screamed the Chief. The other two Daleks repeated him. “IDENTIFY YOURSELF!” they squawked.

But the humanoid didn’t identify itself. Instead, it seemed to be talking to itself. “None of you are carrying flame units. Definitely not responsible for the fire. Imagine that – three Daleks and you’re not the worst thing to happen today.” 

The humanoid walked around the desk, moving towards the Chief Dalek. For some reason, the Chief found himself gliding back away from it. Which was ridiculous.

“STAY WHERE YOU ARE!!!” barked the Chief Dalek. The other Daleks chimed in, repeating the command. The Chief Dalek really wished they wouldn’t do that. It undermined his authority.

Not that it mattered. The tall humanoid continued to approach the Chief. “It’s alright – I’m not going to destroy you. I don’t need to. In ten minutes you go out into the street and UNIT blows you to pieces. Kate Stewart. Impressive woman. Anyway, if I could just get past…”

Now the Chief Dalek was really irritated. Well, he was always irritated – that’s how he started the day. But this was a whole new level of anger.

“EXTERMINATE!” he shrieked. “EXTERMINATE” chimed in the others, pointlessly. Seriously, why did they have to do that? After this was over, the Chief was going to have serious words about battle etiquette in front of alien life-forms.

The tall humanoid looked down at the Chief’s gun-stick. Its eyes widened and it dived out of the way, behind a hefty wooden desk. Excellent. The Chief liked shooting at things. He let forth a volley of energy blasts, strafing the room. Wood, paper and stone exploded as the Chief fired shot after shot at the fleeing humanoid.

“EXTERMINATE!!!” he shouted again. The other Daleks started firing too. “EXTERMINATE!!! EXTERMINATE!!!” they parroted. Now the Chief didn’t mind the repetition, caught up in the exhilaration of the shared moment.

The humanoid darted from cover to cover as the Dalek fire reduced everything in the room to splinters. Soon there was only one thing left in the room – a tall wooden apparatus bearing a large white canvas. On the canvas, in blue paint, someone had daubed the image of a tiny blobby creature, smiling and waving. The humanoid took the shelter behind the canvas.

The chief readied his weapon. This apparatus would offer no protection. His targeting scope centred on the crude painting of the blobby creature.

Suddenly something very odd happened. The image of the creature was replaced in his scope by the real thing: a white, lumpy creature with a tiny scowling face. It was right in front of his eye stalk!

“You leave Doctroo alone pleez!” shouted the tiny creature. It flicked something at the Chief’s eyestalk. Blue gunk coated his scope, obliterating his vision. The Chief span around, suddenly blind.

“My vision is impaired! I cannot see!” he screamed. He fired randomly, hoping to hit something. An electronic squawk from one of his companions told him that he had, indeed, hit something.

“SORRY!!!” he shouted. His audio receptors brought him the sound of more paint squelching and now, of course, his idiot soldiers were also shouting. “MY VISION IS IMPAIRED…” More firing of Dalek guns, and the patter of tiny feet running off into the distance.

His sensors were screaming, overloaded with information – the noise of the guns, the collapsing of the roof and, he noted, a sharp increase in the local temperature…

And then one of his companion’s blasts found its mark, and the Chief’s world exploded in light, and pain. And then darkness.


Flimbleby sat on the TARDIST console while Doctroo hit switches and pulled levers. The engines sang and the beautiful lights glowed. They were in flight. Doctroo stood back, cracked his knuckles and rolled his neck.

“Well, little Adipose. I think you just defeated a squad of Daleks. How do you feel about that?”

Flimbleby felt quite shaken. The big machines had scared him quite a bit, all shouty and full of fire. He had not liked that they didn’t have faces. Everything had a face – that was how you knew if people were happy or sad. Even adipose had faces, and they were just fat!

“I did not like the big Nerminates” he said. ”They were stupid and cross and they made everything blow right up.”

“That they did. Not any more though. And now we know that it isn’t the Daleks wrecking everything. I saw someone in the smoke – a human, I think. That’s who set the fire. That’s who we need to find.”

Doctroo walked over to one of his many bookshelves and tapped along the spines of the books, searching. Flimbleby hopped off the console and ran up to him, tugging on the leg of his trousers.

“Doctroo? I am quite hungry please.”

“Of course you are. Adipose. Greedy little things.” He flicked through the pages of the book, then a thought struck him. “Where are the other little Adipose? I’ve met your species before. You don’t travel alone, not at your size. You’re born in huge batches. So where is everyone else?”

Flimbleby was about to speak, but then he remembered. He was not meant to talk about this. It was a Big Secret. He would be in big trouble if he told. He had a think. What could he say? Doctroo noticed his silence and looked down at him.

“Flimbleby? Where are the other Adipose?”

Oh no!


The Doctor stood by the TARDIS bookshelf and looked down at Flimbleby, waiting for the Adipose to reply. Its tiny mouth was frowning and its beady eyes darted from side to side.

“Flimbleby?” repeated The Doctor. “Why are you alone? Where are the other Adipose?”

And then Flimbleby was off, scurrying off across the room on his tiny legs. The Doctor sprang after him, but the little creature was surprisingly fast for a waddling blob of fat. He disappeared into a dark corner of the room.

“What’s wrong, Flimbleby?” asked The Doctor. “Come back.”

“No!” Came Flimbleby’s squeaky voice from within the shadows. “You cannot even find me”

The Doctor sighed. “This is why no-one has ever had an Adipose for a companion.” He returned to the console. Back to business. His fingers danced across the controls, sending commands to the heart of his magnificent time machine. The central column rose and fell, casting light and shadows on The Doctor’s angular face.

“Let us assume that our art vandal will strike again.” He observed dials and pulled levers, thinking out loud. “Let us also assume that his or her targets will be remarkable in their nature. Great works by respected artists.”

He sprang back from the controls and the lights in the room steadied to a stop. The TARDIS had arrived. He moved towards the door, and then stopped.

“Flimbleby,” he said, loudly. There was no response. “Flimbleby, I’m going for tea with a very nice lady. Would you like to come?”

“You will ask me hard questions,” came a tiny voice from behind the bookshelves.

“Nooo… I promise not to ask questions. But I thought maybe you would like a little bit of tea? And cake?”

Flimbleby came scurrying out of the darkness towards the door. “Cake please!”

End of Part Three

Click here for part four

Loving the Alien: Part Two

Part one of my Doctor Who Christmas story can be found here.

Now for part two!

Loving the Alien: A Christmas Story.

Part Two


Flimbleby stared at the Old Man with the Crooked Face. He was amazed. No-one had ever understood him before. And Flimbleby had never been able to understand Big Humans talking before. Not even the Big Fat Lady With The Hat.

But he could understand the Old Man. He was called “The Doctroo Aryoo.” Which was a funny name and made Flimbleby snigger.

“What are you laughing at?” said Doctroo, his eyebrows curling up.

“Yor name is funny!” giggled Flimbleby. “Yoo arr called Doctroo! That is not even a name!”

“No – I’m the Doctor. Who are you?” repeated Doctroo. But it was too late. Flimbleby scuttled off across the Big Sparkly Room, giggling.

“Yor name is Doctroo. It is yor name! It is what yoo arr called!” Flimbleby ran around the room, gazing at all the lights and colours. It was like a room made of Christmas. Everything was glowing or twinkling and some of it was mysterious.

Suddenly he was being scooped up and lifted through the air. Two bony hands placed him on the console and then there was Doctroo’s face, right next to him.

“Now then, Flimbleby. You need to calm down. This is my TARDIS and there’s no giggling in my TARDIS.”

Flimbleby gulped. Doctroo looked very serious. He stopped giggling and put on his most listening face.

“That’s better,” said Doctroo. His face was stern, but not angry or unkind. “Now I’m going to ask you some questions, alright?” Flimbleby nodded. He liked questions. Except ones about sums – they were stupid and made of poo.

“Question one – how did you get on my TARDIS?”

“Um, what is a TARDIST pleez?”

Doctroo waved his arm about. “This. This is my TARDIS. It’s a spaceship and you’ve got inside it. How?”

“Oh, Rite. Well, yoo no the place wherr therr was all the trifle and all the pikturs and they all got broke?”

“The art exhibition? You were at the exhibition?”

“Yess. I did a brilyatn drawing of a diningsor and I had a bit of a sosij. And then lots of Big Humans came and they were all like ‘Oh no! Someone has broken all the pikturs’ so I did a hide. And then yoo came and yoo looked at my drawing and yoo had an interesting face and a Big Bloo Box that made a noise like a monster singing. So I decided to come wif yoo.”

Doctroo blinked. He straightened up. Flimbleby shuffled about on the cold metal of the console. He hoped that the old man would let him stay. He was funny and had an exciting nose.

“Second question…” said Doctroo.

Suddenly, with a thump, the TARDIST stopped. The lights steadied their pulsing, the gentle hum of the engines ceased. Doctroo looked up. “Ah – we’re here. Come on Flimbleby.”

And Doctroo sprang towards the door to the outside. Flimbleby bounced off the console and scampered after him. “Wherr arr we going, pleez?”

Doctroo grabbed the door handle. “To meet the most evil creatures in the universe!”


The TARDIS stood on the roof, high above Glasgow. A beautiful old building of stone and glass, standing proud in the middle of the busy city.

The doors flung open and out strode The Doctor, with Flimbleby bobbing along at his feet. The Doctor looked around for an entrance, and spotted a door to the stairs.

“Where are we please?” wondered Flimbleby as they headed for the door. The Doctor whipped out his sonic screwdriver and zapped open the lock.

“This is the Glasgow School of Art. Some of the greatest artists of the future are students here, right now.” They entered the building and descended the staircase, Flimbleby hopping down a stair at a time. 

The Doctor banged through a set of double doors into a large open corridor, lined with half finished sculptures and paintings. “Tonight, this building catches fire, destroying work that would be invaluable to the history of art. Early works by artists that will change the way the human race sees the creative process.”

“Um, I do not really know what that means.”

The Doctor stopped by an open door, peering through. A vast hall, full of workbenches and easels stretched out before them. There was no sign of human life.

“It means that all the pictures made by these people will be gone forever.” He walked slowly, reverentially into the room, past tables piled with papers, brushes, masking tape and jars. 

“They will be all sad?” Flimbleby bounced along, looking about in wonder at all the beautiful things.

“They’ll be sad, yes. All these ideas – moments of inspiration and passion, gone.” He lifted a roll of canvas, showing Flimbleby. On it was a giant orange stegosaurus firing lasers at dozens of silvery robots.

“Dinosaur!” Flimbleby scampered up onto the table, touching the canvas gently. “Hello Dinosaur! I love you!”

“You should see the things he goes onto create. The most wonderful pictures of dinosaurs the galaxy will ever know. Right now, Flimbleby the Adipose, you are touching the first dinosaur he ever painted.” The Doctor lay the canvas down carefully.

“Why did they get burned?” asked Flimbleby, still gazing at the magnificent beast with its fiery eyes.

“Glasgow is about to be invaded by a small squad of Daleks – refugees from the Time War. They’re a ragtag bunch and they’ll be defeated, but this building gets caught in the crossfire. I always assumed it was an accident. But after seeing the destruction at the gallery, I’m wondering if this is part of the same thing.”

He looked around sadly. There was no way to save any of this. Too risky to mess with the time line. 

Then a clattering sound made him turn round. Flimbleby was haring across the hall, leaving little red paint feet marks behind him. The Doctor went back to the painting. A pot of paint was spilled over and the stegosaurus in the picture now had a large red heart painted around it.

“Flimbleby – have you just defaced this painting?”

Flimbleby’s voice came out from behind one of the tables. “It was not even me. You don’t know.”

The Doctor allowed himself a little smile. But then the smile froze. He could smell…

“Smoke. But the Daleks aren’t due yet!” He spun around and broke into a sprint, running down the hall towards the source of the smell. Through an archway, down a corridor, through a pair of double doors…

Smoke billowed out from behind the doors, causing The Doctor to reel back, coughing. He peered through the doors. Sure enough, the fire had started. Paper fluttered through the smoke, crimson edged as it blackened and disintegrated. Flames glowed through the smoke and the crackle of destruction filled the air.

“Too early…” frowned The Doctor. “So this wasn’t the Daleks. Then who…” 

Just for a moment, he thought he saw something through the smoke. A human shape, standing among the flames. Not running away. Just… watching everything burn. Then it turned and disappeared into the inferno. 

There was nothing to be done here. The Doctor turned back the way he had come. Back down the corridor, into that first hall. 

“Flimbleby, we need to go. I was wrong...”

As he entered the hall he stopped in his tracks. There in the hall, among the tables and easels, were three Daleks.

End of Episode Two

Click here for part three

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Loving the Alien: Part One

A departure from my usual ramblings. Here is a story I wrote a few years ago.

It's a Doctor Who story, written when Peter Capaldi was new in the role. I wanted to let a few more people see it, before his time is done.

It is a few 'episodes' long, so I'll be posting it in instalments. Here's part one. Hope you like it.

 Loving the Alien: A Christmas Story.


Christmas was ruined.

Jerome Temberley looked sadly across the exhibition hall, tears in his eyes. All around him was… debris. Broken furniture. Splattered food. Spilled wine and broken bottles. A Christmas buffet for a hundred people, devoured as if by locusts. But that wasn’t the worst part.

The exhibits had been destroyed too.

Tapestries torn in half. Statues smashed. Priceless antiques hurled at walls. Someone had drawn all over the paintings, adding their own creative ideas, many of which were obscene.

Jerome walked up to look at one particular painting. It was from Earth – from the old days. A man in a bowler hat, with an apple for a face. Except now the hat had horns and there was a felt-pen dinosaur in the background. And the apple had a little smiley face.

“Who would do such a thing?” said Jerome. And what would the guests think? They were due any minute now.


“Any minute now!” said the Doctor, snapping on a thin black glove. He stood, alone, by the TARDIS console, a look of feverish excitement on his face. Around him the twinkling lights of the futuristic machine pulsed and glistened.

He picked up a second glove from the console, regarding it with glee. “Any minute now you will be among the most privileged gloves in the universe. You will touch art works that no gloves have touched before.”

He snapped on the second glove and flexed his long fingers. He paused for a second, staring into space, breathing in the moment.

“And the buffet is to die for.”


The little monster was scared.

There were people everywhere. Many people. Certainly more than two. How many more was hard to say. Counting was never his strong point. But there were many, many legs and an awful lot of voices. They sounded like angry voices.

Then there was another noise. A strange grinding sound, like the wind but more beautiful. Some of the legs moved out of the way and cleared a space. Then, standing alone, was a new pair of legs. A long, spindly pair of legs in black trousers.

The little monster moved closer, hiding behind an overturned table to see that the New Legs were doing. Talking. Not a cross voice this time. An asking voice. Probably wondering why everyone was so cross.

New Legs walked over to the wall where all the pictures were. The little monster followed, through the sea of Other Legs, around the broken bottles and smashed statues. He nearly stepped in a puddle of trifle. For a moment, he thought about eating the trifle, but decided it was more important to see what the New Legs were doing.

The little monster ran right up to the wall and looked up, as high as he could. Towering above him, the New Legs turned into an Old Man with a crooked, exciting face. He was peering at one of the pictures, jabbing at it with Long Fingers in Big Gloves.

That was the picture the little monster had drawn on! He had stood on a chair, before everyone else had come, and used a pen and drawn a dinosaur and a brilliant face. The Crooked Man was looking at his picture!



The tall, dark suited man continued to examine the vandalised picture, with its dinosaur and its smiling apple. Jerome Temberley hovered nervously at his shoulder.

“I’ve no idea how this happened,” stammered Jerome. “I set everything up this morning and popped out for lunch. Every alarm system was on when I got back – no-one could possibly have got in.”

The tall man turned his head, slowly, like an owl, to face him. “Someone did get in, Mr. Temberley. Someone got into one of the finest art exhibitions in the entire galaxy, destroyed every single piece of art, ate every single sandwich and then left. All without setting off a single alarm.”

“How could this have happened?” sniffed Jerome. The tall man surveyed the crowd of angry art-lovers, all milling about the hall and complaining to each other.

“The question is not how,” said the tall man. “The question is… why? Why sneak into an exhibition full of priceless art but take nothing? Why stop to eat all the food?”

“It’s a very good buffet,” suggested Jerome. “Some of the finest food and wine available to humanity.”

The tall man stared, wide eyed at the debris around him. “The best art and the best food. All… consumed,” he said. “Thank you, Mr Temberley. You’ve been very helpful.”

And with that the tall man was off, stalking through the crowd of disgruntled art lovers, disappearing into the mass of pretentious suits and hats.


The Doctor slammed the TARDIS door behind him and strode up to the control console. He tore off the black gloves and hurled them onto the controls. With the dextrous fingers of one hand he tapped out a sequence of numbers onto the keys.

“Someone who likes the best art in the universe but only wants to destroy it. Someone who appreciates fine food and wine, but eats so much they must surely be sick as a result...”

The Doctor stalked around the console, flicking switches without looking, his eyes staring into space.

“If I was that person… where would I go next?”


The Doctor stopped. Looked round. He was alone among the girders and bookcases of the control room. He looked down at the console.

“Did you do that? Do you go meep now?”


The Doctor stared at the console for a second, shrugged and continued to pace.

“Who hates beauty? Who wants to destroy wonderful things..?”

His eyes lit up. He punches in a combination of commands on the console. “Of course…”


He stopped. Narrowed his eyes and peered into the darkness at the edges of the room. Was there something in the shadows..?

“Hello,” he said gently, crouching down and reaching for his sonic screwdriver. “It’s alright, you can come out.”

Something moved in the darkness. Something small. Something white. The Doctor moved forwards, very slowly.

“Are you trying to talk to me?”


“Yes, yes you are. Try again. This machine,” he gestured around him to indicate the TARDIS, “…will help me understand you.”

The little white shape in the darkness came a little closer. It was small – not much bigger than the apple in the painting. And like the apple, it had a little, smiling face. Its mouth opened.

“HELLO!” it squeaked.

A cracked smile broke across The Doctor’s face. “That’s it! Yes, hello. Hello. I’m the Doctor. Who are you?”

“HELLO!” squeaked the shape, waddling forward out of the darkness. It was a small, white blob of fat, with tiny legs and tiny arms sprouting from its sides. Its face was in the centre of its body – just two big black eyes and a wonky little mouth.

“An Adipose!” exclaimed the Doctor. “An Adipose on my TARDIS!”

“HELLO!” said the Adipose, hopping up to the Doctor and staring into his eyes. “I AM FLIMBLEBY!”



Click here for Episode Two