Doctor on Set

[need tie-in to continuity: Between leaving parallel Earth in Age of Steel episode and arriving on Rose's Earth]

"There, that should do it," the Doctor said as he stepped back from the control console and pocketed his glasses. "The TARDIS is healing the space-time rift. When that's done, she'll take you home." Glancing at Rose, who seemed pale and shaken, he continued, "And I expect that dinner with Mum will be just what The Doctor ordered." [weak]

Rose smiled weakly [appropriate]. "My mom, back home, she's still alive, isn't she?"

"Of course she is, and you'll soon see for…"

But the Doctor wasn't able to finish his sentence; for once again [i.e. as it did prior to crashing on parallel Earth], the TARDIS shook wildly, sparks flew from the control panel, alarms clanged, and the two companions were toppled to the floor. Then came the familiar wheezing and groaning sound. They were ripping through the fabric of space-time.

"Doctor?" Rose shouted over the clamour.

"The TARDIS is trying to make an emergency landing!" the Doctor answered as he pulled himself to look at the view screen. He helped Rose to her feet.

"But why? What's happened?"

"I don't…" began the Doctor, until suddenly the TARDIS was calm and quiet. And dark. "… know."

[now what?]

Jamie Chesterton sat back and rubbed the stubble on his face as he read the marked-up paragraphs he'd typed on the laptop. Yes, and now what, he wondered? The TARDIS crash lands, but where? Somewhere exotic. Somewhere dangerous. But where would that be?

Yawning, Jamie turned to look at the bedroom clock. Which, at that instant, started to ring. "Bloody hell, I hate that thing!" Jamie cursed as he crossed the room and pounded the off button. Six O'clock. Time to get up. The only thing was, he'd already been up for three hours. And what did he have to show for it? Jamie closed the laptop in disgust. Not even a page, and not a clue where to go next.

Except that Jamie knew where he had to go next—on to the BBC for the last day of filming The Age of Steel. As he brushed his teeth, the reality of that thought hit him. Here he was, 24, working on his favourite programme. If only he could go back and tell this to his twelve year-old self. It would have given him such hope.

With that thought, he cocked his head to the right and stopped brushing. He had the oddest feeling. A memory occurred to him… something… but he couldn't grasp it. With a shake of his head, Jamie rinsed his toothbrush and dried his face. Get on with it, he told himself. Time waits for no man.

Just inside the doors to the studio, Jamie saw Tommy Lee walking from the tech department towards the cafeteria. Tommy, who was working on a project for a later episode. Jamie had tried to find out what it was, but apparently it was need-to-know only. The problem was, Jamie felt that he needed to know.

"Tommy! How's it going?"

Tommy grinned and bumped hands with Jamie. "You mean the project? The one I can't tell you about? You'll see. I have a demonstration planned for later." And, cocking an eyebrow, Tommy set off down the hallway, grinning.

Interesting, sighed Jamie, but duty calls. Scripts to revise.

Looking at his watch, Jamie realized it was getting late. But now they were on the last scene. Billie Piper, tears in her eyes—God, what a great actor—turned from Noel Clarke, who was staying on parallel Earth, and entered the TARDIS.

"And cut!" called Graeme Harper. "That's a wrap."

Camera lights were switched off and the staff applauded and milled about, shaking hands and chatting. Jamie, still engrossed in the script he was revising, glanced up. That was odd. David and Billie still hadn't emerged from the police box.

Harper called out to the blue box, "That's it guys, that's…" but his sentence was drowned out by a familiar sound. A breeze sprang up on the set, the light atop the police box started to flash, and the wheezing, groaning sound of the TARDIS materializing rang through the set. Everyone stopped what they were doing.

When the light stopped flashing and the sound faded away, Harper turned to Jamie. "Nicely done. Was that your prank, Mr. New Guy?"

Jamie turned a deep shade of red almost instantly. "Me? No way, it wasn't me."

Just then, David's head poked out of the police box.

"Well it's about time," someone called. "We were starting to wonder what you two were doing in there!"

David finally stepped out, followed by Billie who was shielding her eyes. Why did they both look so stunned, Jamie wondered?

David finally said something, but it was just, "What?"

Graeme went up to them. "Great scene, you two. Especially you, Billie. Great the way you were choked up when you left Noel behind."

Jamie set down the script. David was upset about something. Was he going to ask for another take? His head was darting left and right and he looked like he was gritting his teeth. Then he ran a hand through his hair. But just as he was about to speak, Billie grabbed his shoulder.

"Doctor? Doctor! Look at the TARDIS."

Turning, David said, "No. No!" He dashed back in, tapping at the walls. "No, it can't be."

"What's happened to it," asked Billie?

"This isn't the TARDIS at all, it's just something set up to look like it."

Billie backed up, shaking her head. "But how can that be? What's happened to it?"

Turning to the staff, David asked, "Look, what's going on here? What are you all doing here?"

The staff, glancing at each other in confusion, appeared just as puzzled as Jamie was. Was this a prank of some sort? Then Billie glanced in Noel's direction and called out.

"Mickey? Mickey! You're here too! How did you get here?" And she ran to Noel until he put out a hand to stop her.

"Whoa, what are you playing at girl?" asked Noel. "Can't drop your character?"

Stepping up to him, Billie asked, "You're… not Mickey?" Then she noticed the manuscript in his other hand and turned her head to see its title: Doctor Who: The Age of Steel.

"What is this?" she asked, staring at the manuscript.

"You lost your copy darling? Here you go," said Noel, handing it to Billie. Then he left, shaking his head. Leafing through the manuscript, Billie walked back to David, who was staring at Noel Clarke's retreating form.

"Doctor, it's all here. Cybermen, everything that happened on the parallel Earth, it's all here."

"What?" said David. He took the manuscript and scanned through the pages. As he perused, his eyebrows rose higher and higher. "It makes no sense. None of this makes any sense. Look at the date on this. 2006. The same year we left Earth. Your Earth."

Graeme, ignoring David, addressed the crowd. "OK, folks, it looks like they want to stay in character. More power to them. Let's wrap this up and go home. It's been a long day. Good work David, Billie, but please drop your characters. That method stuff gets old real fast."

And with those words the crowd dispersed and new people came, removing equipment and furniture.

"It's a movie," said Billie. "They're making a movie. About us. And they think we're actors."

"But how… Come on, we've got to get out of..." and David trailed off, staring ahead of him. He put an arm out to stop Billie.

Jamie, looking in the same direction, smiled as he saw a familiar shape coming around the corner. He still loved the new, coppery look.

"You are the Doctor! You are an enemy of the Daleks. You will be exterminated. Exterminate!"

"Rose, run!" shouted David. "All of you, run, it'll kill us all!"

David and Billie turned and started to run, but stopped when the Dalek called out to them, "Scaredy cat, scaredy cat!"

Jamie and the rest of the staff broke out into laughter. Now that was funny, thought Jamie. Better than David's staying-in-character prank. And a nice nod to the Eighth Doctor audio adventure, all in one.

But then something strange happened. Taking out his sonic screwdriver, David made an adjustment and pointed it at the Dalek. It stopped cold and was silent.

"That shouldn't have happened, said David. "That Dalek is no more real than that police box."

Tommy walked up to the Dalek, tapping at the remote control he'd just completed. "Bloody hell, broken again. Someone give me a hand with this thing, will you?"

"Doctor," continued Billie, "what are we going to do?"

"We need a computer. We need to find out what we're dealing with."

"Right." Billie looked about, zeroed in on Jamie, and walked up to him.

Jamie stood from his chair, putting down the script. Good Lord, he thought, she's coming right up to me.

"What's your name, then?" asked Billie.

"Um, my name? Jamie. Jamie Chesterton."

David was right behind Billie. His eyebrows shot up. "Jamie? Chesterton? Seriously?"

Jamie sighed. "My mother was a big fan of the show."

Billie nodded. "The show. I see. So Jamie, have you got a computer, then?"

Gulping, Jamie said, "Yes."

"Can we use it?"

"Sure, but it's at home…"

"Right," said David, "let's go then."

Jamie blinked. "To my flat? You two want to go to my flat?"

Billie came up to him, put an arm around his shoulder, and whispered conspiratorially. "OK, you know that we're actors, yeah?"

Jamie nodded and gulped.

"So me and… him, we're exploring our characters a bit. It's really important for our… work, see. Now, are you going to play along?"

"Um, OK. I guess I can do that." Jamie gulped again, trying not to think that Billie Pyper had her arm around him.

"Great!" said Billie, slapping his back. "Lead the way."

"Lead the way? Right. Lead the way. So we should get a driver. No sense trying to take the bus with you two, you'll start a riot."

"And why would we start a riot?" queried David.

"Well, you're kind of famous, that's all."

"Hear that, Doctor?" said Billie, grinning, "We're famous."

Following behind, David just muttered, "Oh, brilliant."

The driver pulled the limousine up to Jamie's building. "Let's just wait a minute, shall we?" suggested Jamie. "The street's a bit busy."

When the street was quieter, they slipped in the front entrance. But, confronted with the locked door inside, Jamie cursed and smacked his forehead. "Oh blast it all!"

"What? What is it?" asked Billie.

"My key. I left it back at the office in my coat." Groaning, he said, "We'll have to go back."

"Doctor," said Billie. David nudged Jamie out of the way and took the sonic screwdriver from his pocket. After a quick adjustment, David activated the screwdriver and the lock clicked open. Smiling at Jamie, he re-pocketed the screwdriver.

Billie and David stepped through the door, but Jamie was too dumbstruck to move. "What? That thing really works?"

Billie stepped back and grabbed his arm. "Come on, you, you're supposed to be leading the way."

Leading them into the elevator, Jamie pushed the button for the 9th floor. He'd never paid much attention to the scratches and scribbling on the elevator walls, but suddenly became self conscious when he thought about David Tennant and Billie Piper walking through this decrepit building to his unkempt flat. He sighed as the doors opened, revealing a hallway with drab, blistering paint and worn carpet. Oh well, nothing for it now, he thought. He led them left, down the hallway, to number 917, and opened the door. "After you," Jamie said. "The living room is straight ahead."

David and Billie stopped just inside the living room, staring at the wall to the right. Confused, Jamie wondered what it was. The sofa was old, but it wasn't that bad. Oh. The poster.

On the wall in the living room, over the old leather sofa, was a mounted poster with photos of every actor to have played The Doctor.

Billie was staring particularly at the photo of Christopher Eccelston. "Doctor?" she asked, turning to look at David.

"It's me," replied David, running a hand through his hair. "All my previous selves. My regenerations. How could this possibly be here?"

Turning to Jamie, Billie asked, "And your computer? Where's it then?"

"Um, just in the bedroom, the room off to the right. Don't mind the mess, will you...?"

Billie went straight in and sat at the desk. David followed, then Jamie. Faced with a blank screen, Billie tapped a key to wake the laptop. The desktop was awash with open windows, but it was the topmost window that caught Billie's attention. It was the story that Jamie had been working on early this morning.

"Oh, don't worry about that, just close it. It's nothing important," Jamie said. "Ah, but save it will you, if you don't mind?"

But Billie didn't move. She beckoned to David, who looked over her shoulder at the screen.

"Doctor," Billie began, "this is what happened to us. It's exactly what happened to us before we came here."

David turned to Jamie. "Did you write this?"

Jamie gulped. "Um, yes. Just this morning, actually. It's not very polished yet and obviously it's not finished... Do you like it?"

David just looked at him. "You wrote this. This morning."

Jamie nodded dumbly. David turned back to Billie. "Do a search for Rose Tyler. See what Rose Tyler is up to on this world."

Entering the search criteria, Billie clicked on the first link on the search page. "Doctor, listen to this: 'Rose Tyler is a recurring character, companion to The Doctor's ninth and tenth incarnations, in the television series Doctor Who. Daughter to Jackie Tyler, Rose meets The Doctor in the first episode of the resurrected series in 2005.'"

Turning to David, Billie said, "We don't exist. Neither of us. We're fictional characters. They have my whole life right here."

"Doctor Who? They take our lives and put them in a programme called Doctor Who?" David turned to Jamie. "Someone has a lot to answer for."

"Doctor, this is serious. How can this be? How can they know so much about us? Why don't we exist in this world?"

Pacing back and forth in the bedroom, David thought out loud. "They know about us. From a parallel universe. They know about us and set out our lives as stories. But how? How does a human learn about events in a parallel universe? Events. Information. Data! Ha!"

Returning to the computer, David asked Billie to let Jamie sit down.

"Now," said David, "start another story."

"What? What do you mean? Why? About what?"

"Just start. About anything. Just do whatever you do. Pretend we're not here."

"I'm not sure I can get into the zone just now, it's been a rather peculiar day, all things considered. But I'll try."

Resting his head in his hands, Jamie closed his eyes for a few minutes, then created a fresh document and started to write. As he worked, David scanned Jamie's head with the sonic screwdriver.

Then David's eyes flashed wide open and he laughed. "Humans! I don't believe it. Just when you think you know everything about them, they still amaze you. Brilliant humans." And to Jamie's surprise, David kissed the top of his head.

Turning to Billie, David said, "The brains of imaginative humans create electrical fields that interact with subatomic structures, opening microscopic fissures into parallel universes, allowing information to pass through. In this case, information about us. Perceiving the data as a flash of inspiration, they transform the data into a story."

Jamie turned to look up at David. That actually sounded like something The Doctor would say. And without a script. What great improvisation, he thought. "Wouldn't that be something if it was true?"

"Ah, but it gets even better than that," replied David. "It means that right now, someone in yet another universe could be writing about these events, happening to us right now."

Billie digested this. "OK then, but even if all that's true, how does it explain how we got here?"

David started pacing again. "We spent enough time on parallel Earth to absorb radiation from that universe. That radiation gave the TARDIS indigestion. It had to eject us so it could replenish it's supply of energy from our universe. The fissures between this universe and ours offered the TARDIS a path of least resistance. It dropped us off here for conservation of mass, the empty police box matching its external dimensions, and replacing us with the actors who's energies were more compatible with its own. By now it's had plenty of time to refuel. All we need do is call it back to us."

Jamie couldn't help following up on this, even though it was just improvisation. "So the actors, David and Billie, they're in your TARDIS right now? Can they get hurt or break something?"

"Oh no," replied David, pocketing his screwdriver, "the TARDIS will be holding them in a short time loop. When they return they'll never know they were away."

Mussing up Jamie's hair, David added, "And now, how about a lift back?"

Back in the studio, David adjusted his sonic screwdriver and activated it along one of the walls of the wooden police box.

"That should do it. I've created micro-vibrations along the surface of the police box that should open a conduit to the TARDIS in our universe."

David stepped back to where Jamie and Billie were standing. A few seconds later, a breeze kicked up in the set followed by the wheezing groaning sound of the TARDIS materializing. Jamie's mouth fell open. "How did you do that?" he asked in a whisper.

"Told you," replied David. "Micro-vibrations. Conduit to the other universe. Thought it was quite straightforward at this point."

"What?" asked Jamie weakly.

David stepped up to the TARDIS, inserted a key, and opened the door. And now Jamie had to sit down, for inside the doors was the control room, very much as it appeared in the show.

Billie… Rose grinned at him and beckoned him to follow them in. He did and, with a struggle, managed to close his mouth as he walked about the central console. The Doctor—for he really was The Doctor, wasn't he?—glanced at him while pushing buttons and pulling levers. "You're not going to say it? That it's bigger on the inside?"

"No, well, it's dimensionally transcendental, isn't it?" replied the still stunned Jamie. When The Doctor looked at him again, Jamie turned pale and fell backwards. Only Rose grabbing him saved him from ending up on the floor.

"What is it?" she asked."

"I remember," said Jamie, pointing at The Doctor. "Good God, I remember. It was you. It was really you. All those years ago."

"What was really me?" inquired The Doctor.

"You. You came to me when I was twelve. My parents had divorced. I was in trouble at school. No friends. And then you came to me and told me you had a message. From me. 'It's going to be alright,' you said. And somehow after that, it was. I had the hope to carry on, to make something of myself. Something positive."

The Doctor glanced at Rose. "We've got to be going."

"Right then," said Rose. "Unless you're coming with us, out you go. And thanks."

With a kiss on the cheek, Rose walked Jamie to the door and smiled, shutting it behind him. Standing back, Jamie felt a breeze as the TARDIS came to life, with it's light flashing and the wheezing groaning sound echoing throughout the set.

When it was over, the TARDIS still seemed to be there. Jamie stood, rooted to the spot, unconsciously rubbing his cheek where Rose had kissed it. Then the police box door opened and a puzzled David Tenant poked his head out.

"Is that it then," he asked? "Is the shot over?"

It was a rare hot day in Sunderland, overcast, dreary, and with no breeze. A boy shuffled along the sidewalk of a noisy street, rucksack over one shoulder, kicking at stones. Until he came to a tall man in a blue suit and red trainers. Arms folded, the man stood his ground before him.

Stopping, Jamie craned up at the man. He'd never seen anyone with hair jutting out from his head like that. "Who are you, then?"

"I'm The Doctor," the man replied.

Jamie squinted and replied without missing a beat. "No you're not. He doesn't look like you."

"No, I don't suppose he does, does he? At least not yet. Still, I've a message for you."

"A message from who?"

"From whom. From you. In the future."

"Bollocks," said the boy. "That doesn't make any sense."

"It might," replied The Doctor. "Later. The message is, it's going to be OK. You're going to be OK."

"Is that all," asked the boy? "That's a rubbish message." And he shuffled around the man and continued home. After a moment, though, he stopped. For some reason, he felt tears coming to his eyes.

A breeze came up suddenly. Looking behind him, there was no sign of the man, and Jamie wasn't sure he hadn't imagined seeing him. But as he continued home, without realizing it, his step was lighter, and he hummed the opening tune of his favourite TV show.