Dear Steven Moffat: A Good Man Goes to War

Dear Steven,

I’m a ruin. I mean that both metaphorically and, in a weird way, literally. As a writer you’ll know what metaphors are, so that requires no further explanation, but the latter might. This will be hard for you to understand, in fact I’m not sure I understand it, but I’ve sent this to you electronically using something called an “Amber Interpolator”. You won’t have heard of it, it won’t be invented for another 470 years.

As I write I’m sitting in a cell in Stormcage: that’s right, Steven, the intergalactic penitentiary of your imagination. It’s not quite like it appears on television, it’s somewhat larger, in fact it’s a Foucaultian Panopticon, some 20 miles wide. The walls smell of blood and spoilt meat.

Incredible though it may sound, I’ve crossed into a realm, described to me as a “meta-dimensional sphere”, which the locals call The Land of Fiction. Everything that has been conceived in the imaginarium of our universe is here, and because the mind, not the media, is the source, this is a world without budget constraints.

I can’t really explain how the Interpolator works; the guard told me that it would be pointless trying to understand it, like explaining the internal workings of a clock to a slug, but the Amber of the title is a metaphor for the past, which in this century is accessible in a tangible form, as one might survey the fossil record in our own time. As the Doctor might say, it’s not really like that at all, but y’know, that’s all I have.

Apparently a man with three balls, by the name of Proudfoot, successfully worked out how to send data to yesterday’s devices some time in the 26th century. Anyway, I won’t bore you with all of that, I can’t stand technology conversations, let’s leave that to the fucking geeks.

Despite my predicament (I’ve served 3 years of a 257 year sentence), I was finally, this week, allowed to review an archived copy of what, from your point of view, is the latest Doctor Who episode, A Good Man Goes to War. Anyone who thinks that waiting a week is tough should try waiting three years, and a year is now calculated differently, so I have no idea how much time has actually passed since Amy turned to cum on my 21st century drool box.

The title, in a cruel twist of fate, wouldn’t make a bad one for my own story. The tale of how I came to be here, picking Morphulsian Ticks from my beard (they’re luminescent and have thirty million legs, fine enough that their underside appears smooth), and passing the time teaching my foreskin to read while both freeing and re-stowing my Gentleman’s relish for the lady-guards, seems almost like a dream now. It’s awful here; I’m not even invited to the buggerings.

It’s a curious tale, one th- oh, before I go on, though I’m not strictly allowed to talk about your future, so they may redact this sentence, I should say that Doctor Who ran for another 17 seasons after your “latest”. Many of them were good apparently, but if you’re still in charge when Season 43 premieres, and I’m unable to find out if you were, then be careful, because whenever I mention that series people either roll their eyes or put a knife to my throat.

So, where was I? Ah yes, the beginning. Well Steven, it began with a visit to my GP and like I said, there could hardly be a better title for my story than yours, apart from The Two Doctors, but that’s a bit shit, isn’t it?

The Two Doctors

I haven’t had a great history with my general practitioners. My first was Doctor Antib, who you may have heard of; he was one of the 20th century’s most prolific serial killers. He also did a lot of half-marathons for asthma charities.

Between 1989 and 2004 he murdered 409 patients, injecting them with morphine or, if he was in a bad mood, fat from a James Corden stockpile. I fell foul of the man in February 2004 when I joked that given the death rate in the locale, maybe the surgery was complicit, trying to halve their workload. He took this innocent remark as a sign that I might have some knowledge of his crimes and knocking me to the ground, he then tried to jab me while I fought for my life. During the ensuing tussle, in which chairs were overturned and windows smashed, I was able to get a hand to a peak flow meter which I drove into his brain via the nasal cavity.

After that I insisted on a new appointment and my pick of the remaining GPs.

My first choice wouldn’t take me on, her threadbare excuse being that I’d murdered her husband of twenty two years. My second opted to take early retirement. His name was Bitna, and dyslexic patients were sending him hate mail. That left me with Doctors Melina Kook and Mare. I took them both; I had to, they were conjoined.

It’s a strange situation, seeing a double-headed Doctor. They shared a single body, with the left head (Doctor Kook) controlling the right side and vice versa. At first I had a thousand questions, which I later reduced to three. What was it like sharing a vagina? Could I call them Two Headed Sex Beast, and what happened if one of the heads died?

Things developed in an uncanny fashion. Doctor Kook and I got on rather well, in fact I found her, er, kookiness somewhat endearing. After a while I found myself making appointments, just to see her again. A few months in, I was getting brave, suggesting we go for a drink after hours, but there was a complication: Doctor Mare. Mare, it seemed, had an unhealthy attachment to her headmate. I thought it was the base of the neck but Kook, when her other head was turned, gave me a look that suggested the problem was jealously.

Mare was fiercely possessive of Kook. Aggressive and unstable, unlike her body partner, she seemed to want to have that body all to her herself, butting in when I talked to Melina about drinks. ‘We’re busy!’ she’d say, and the practical difficulties became more apparent. I was only interested in Melina but Mare was an inseparable part of the package. ‘We’re different people,’ Melina said, ‘we live independent lives, we took different names’, but I suspected she was trying to convince herself more than I. What to do?

On my ninth appointment in three weeks, I had a brainwave. Waiting for Mare to blink, I quickly pushed a piece of paper with my mobile number on it, into the Kook controlled hand. She was startled, but immediately understood; from that moment onwards we’d communicate by text.

Over the next couple of weeks, away from Mare’s prying eyes, Dr Kook and I got to know each other quite well. I discovered the true nature of her predicament. Mare had been scaring away potential friends and lovers for years, contriving to see slights against Kook where there were none and lashing out in response.

I asked her what it was like living with a woman that bore all the hallmarks of a jealous shag. “I don’t have many friends she doesn’t approve of” she wrote, going on to say that her other head often creeped her out, mirroring her movements, replicating her cadences and, in a revelation that made me shudder, washing the wrong side of their body with undue care.

I wanted to take Melina to dinner but how to do so without arousing the unwanted attentions of her more masculine and possibly sexually confused torso tenant? Melina texted me with a plan. She’d brokered a deal with Mare whereby time alone for either, though Mare had neglected to take any, was handled using a headphone and black sack system.

Mare would agree to pump loud music into her head and wear a thick dark shroud, essentially a micro-budget version of an immersion tank. This allowed Melina to enjoy time “on her own”. So accustomed were the two to stepping in tandem and co-ordinating movements, that they could literally do it in their sleep, which was fortunate as Mare often snoozed during these shrouded spells.

We arranged to meet on Bank Holiday Monday at The Greedy Bastard, a buffet restaurant in Soho. The meal started well. We were bantering, enjoying an anecdote here and there and all the while that second head was dropped, the faint thrum of electric guitar audible beneath the fabric. I thought I’d cracked it, Steven. I was dreading the sex, I mean, you can imagine the difficulties, but that was for another day; right now we were having a good time. Then, suddenly, disaster. I was laughing so hard that I didn’t even notice Melina’s servile hand suddenly stiffen and swing up toward Mare’s head. Before either of us could react, the shroud was removed and the headphones pulled off the ears. Mare, perhaps having lost track of time, had decided to come up for air.

‘W-what, what the hell is he doing here? In fact, what are we doing here?’ she hissed, and Melina looks terribly embarrassed. I tried to intervene but I could see that Kook was already back in her box.

‘Do you think she’d want you, a sad little man like you?’ Mare said. ‘Let me tell you something, you will never have this body, understand? I’ll stitch it up first.’

Now she was leaning into me, Steven, whispering in my ear.

‘Get up and walk out,’ she said, ‘if you don’t, I’ll slit her throat. I’d rather she was DEAD than shacked up with a maggot like you. We don’t like you and we don’t want you, now fuck off in triplicate.’

I couldn’t believe what was happening, Steven, I was incandescent. ‘Melina,’ I said, ignoring her butch twin, ‘do you want me to go?’ I’d hoped for an emphatic no, I’d hoped she’d stand up for us, but she sat in silence and eventually, after a pregnant pause, looked away and I knew I’d lost her.

Well Steven, I’m sorry to say I left without another word. Melina was in tears, Mare was delighted and I was very low. I don’t know what it was, maybe the fact that I’d be excommunicated by the evil half of a two-headed woman, but I was suddenly struck by a wave of despair, the notion that dark, immoral forces had won out, grinding the face of friendship into the mud.

I walked for hours, Steven. All around London I went, past groups of friends laughing together, past couples kissing in doorways. I walked past the walk-ups to my favourite prostitutes.

Eventually, after what seemed like a day, I found myself at Tower Bridge. Torrential rain was blown into my eyes, my clothes were sodden and heavy. Halfway across that despair took hold, and suddenly, terrifyingly, I experienced a compulsion, hitherto unfelt since the first series of Torchwood: I considered throwing myself into the Thames. I considered suicide.

The Voyage to Xendaris

Perched on the iron rail, with the wind wailing and my tears lost in rain that barracked my cheeks and buttressed my eyes, I looked at the grey water below and knew the moment had arrived. In the corner of my eye I saw a figure, of which I can say no more as I never turned to meet their cry of ‘don’t!’, in fact I might have already pushed away, falling sharply into that murky grave.

I hit the water hard, Steven. I felt no pain, nothing except the sharp lift of my stomach. The river was tough, it had me in its grasp and I was in motion, being carried along , no longer able to see. Something brushed past my feet, something large, and I considered that it might be a headless torso from an honour killing, and how much easier a headless torso would have been to take to dinner.

Now this is the point where things became complicated. I was resigned to my fate, Steven, certain that this was the end but just as I was about to let the river take me and the water fill my lungs, I felt a jolt – something had me, something like electricity passing through my system, and now every nerve in my body was alive and pulsing. Another jolt – I felt myself lift, unquestionably against the current and moreover, unnaturally, vertically but with a curious precision that told my brain that this was no hand on my shoulder, no winch on my back; this was something else.

I broke the surface and was once again in the open air and the rain, suspended seemingly without support. Now I noticed the orange haze around me, a treacle coloured silken wrap. It was extraordinary; it began to wave and thicken. I wondered if it was edible but no sooner had I done so, it constricted around me and I blacked out.

‘Wake up, boy!’ Those were the words I heard as I came to. The man who spoke them had a cat-like face, he reminded me of a young Malcolm McDowell. I sat up, finding myself in a lime green room, overdesigned for my taste; it was functional enough, but why all the extraneous piping, box like wall appendages and consoles? It was fussy. ‘Welcome to The Buccaneer’ said this cat featured colossus. Now I took the time to look at him he really was large, maybe eight feet in height, and suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that his trousers, clad in what looked like tarpaulin, were crotchless. ‘Your, er…’ I started to say, pointing toward his triumvirate of man, but he looked at me as though I were mad.

I’d barely got over that when I noticed the window. I had seen a window before, Steven, that wasn’t it, it was what lay beyond. There were stars, clearer than I’d ever seen, and streaked between them a gaseous belt of red and purple.

‘Don’t gape,’ said the swinging giant, ‘it’s space, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it from now on’. He now pushed a laminated card into my hand, headed “Frequently asked questions”.

‘Read that and follow the instructions.’

I won’t reproduce the entire document, Steven, but these were the key points:

FAQS

Why am I here?

Depending on which century you’re from you may be familiar with the 49th Century Delthusian conflict. If not, don’t worry, all you need to know is that there was a huge war, trillions died and this lead to a significant shortage of manpower for merchant vessels. Consequently the decision was taken to use time travel technology to plug the gaps.

Huh?

You’ve been shanghaied. This is the practice of kidnapping people to serve on board ships. It was very popular on Earth between the 18th and 20th centuries. You are now a member of this crew and are bound by her rules and regulations. Shanghaied crew members are unpaid and are not covered by the Universal Rights Accord of 5034. Consequently you may killed for non-compliance. As a citizen of the past you theoretically don’t exist, you are persona non grata, but you have work to do.

What if I say no?

You’ll be castrated.

I’m delighted to be aboard. What is my position?

You are a crewman, third class. Your job is to do whatever you’re told, without hesitation or thought. If the task requires thought, you may think but not at the expense of the task.

What is our mission?

You’ll be briefed in due course. Now you’ll be taken to your crew quarters where you’ll change into your uniform, lick the sustenance patch provided and proceed to your station.

Now return this card to your handler.

Well Steven, I was giddy, but I’ve been a sheep all my life and thought, fuck it, why mess with a winning system? I followed my orders like a fascist underling. I went to those crew quarters, octagonal no less, and I put on that uniform. My bunkmate, a 18th century joiner named Humbolt, didn’t even flinch as I was forced to disrobe, then pull on those thick plastic trousers with a hole that left my modesty immodestly displayed.

‘I was embarrassed when I first flopped out,’ he said, ‘but you get used to it’. He went on to say that I shouldn’t be prissy; this was how men dressed in the modern age. I had to move with the times.

My station was a small maintenance hatch on the 342nd deck. My handler explained that 90% of the crew had been shanghaied, with those from advanced centuries training cavemen like myself in the basic principles required to perform shipboard operations. When I got to my hatch I was handed, and you won’t believe this Steven, a sonic screwdriver. It wasn’t like The Doctor’s, it couldn’t do whatever you needed it to do at any given moment, it was just for tightening bolts. I had a million to tighten, so should get on with it. A crewman, second class, by the name of Fernoll, would supervise.

Fernoll was a useful, not to mention plot convenient repository of information. He’d been lifted from the 22nd century and consequently I could understand him better than some of the others. Not only were our speech patterns closer together but as a five year veteran of The Buccaneer he had cultural knowledge of the 52nd century that would prove invaluable.

He told me to think of my genital exposure as analogous to the display of women’s cleavage in my own century. These things went in cycles, obviously, but women in this day and age neglected to show any flesh. When I suggested this might be liberation in reverse I was promptly corrected. Women, I was told, were now the dominant caste in human society and they’d chosen to cover up for reasons no one really understood. ‘Perhaps men show their stuff as a reaction, you know to assert their masculinity as it were?’ I suggested, but Fernoll didn’t agree. ‘I think it’s a gay thing’ he said.

Well Steven, I must have tightened 240,000 bolts at least when at last I was summoned to a room of translucent furniture, along with a handful of newbies, for the long awaited briefing. An officer, who wasn’t human, in fact he looked a bit like a rusk wearing a jacket, explained our situation. We were just a few days from the planet Xendaris and this, explained our biscuity friend, was a mission vital to the future of the human race. It was so important that no one on Earth knew anything about it.

The Buccaneer was a ship so large that its weight was calculated in fucktons. It had to be big, explained the officer, because it was loaded with ‘the weapon’, a bomb that no conventional craft could carry. When we arrived in orbit around Xendaris, the weapon would be deployed and its awesome yield would produce a cascading death wave that would incinerate the world’s surface. ‘It’s going to be fifteen atmospheres of awesome’ he explained.

Now came the inevitable and somewhat uncomfortable question; why were we going to destroy this world? Were we at war with Xendaris? ‘In a manner of speaking, boy,’ came the reply, ‘you see Xendaris is home to a force of subversive evil; a devil at the centre of all the known universes, and we are honoured to be irradiating it.’

Many possibilities went through my mind, Steven. Was this a Nazi planet, like in that Star Trek episode? Maybe Xendaris was a world full of bugs, a Verhoven wet dream, or perhaps it was even worse, a world run by First Great Western.

‘But what is it,’ I asked, ‘what is this evil?’ A murmur went through the room. It seemed as if some of my new shipmates already knew the answer. The officer was abrupt. ‘Xendaris is home to The Mamoids,’ he said, ‘Four breasted women who dare to lives sans clothing and each possessing a ravenous sexual appetite equivalent to twenty human females.’

‘W-w-we’re going to destroy them?’

‘They were hunted by some races for their clitorises,’ he continued, ‘each the size of an artichoke heart and desired as delicacies. Now they’ve become human kind’s bête noir. Their visits to Earth have retarded an entire generation of our adolescent males; many of them are technically brain dead. In the last ten years alone, the average attention span recorded in this system has dropped by 76%.’

‘They spread dissent and confusion wherever they go, a message that all activity should be subordinate to weeklong intercourse, that pleasure should be first amongst all endeavours. Our scientists estimate that unless they’re destroyed, there may be no creativity on Earth within 30 years. They make our women feel fat and inadequate.’

‘We’re going to destroy them?’

Mutiny

Oh Steven, when I recall the hours that followed I can barely compute my role in those events. I am, as you know, a pacifist and a believer in the sanctity of human life, else what was watching Star Trek for? Yet, as the briefing concluded I discovered I was host to both seditious and murderous leanings.

After a sexual drought that would have killed lesser men, I wanted to set foot on Xendarian soil and then set hands on those that ploughed it. I’d been kidnapped, though admittedly the act had saved my life but let’s not think too hard about that, and I’d been condemned to never again laying eyes on a society I hated, so surely fate, which I didn’t believe in, owed me this?

Once I started to think about it I realised I couldn’t be alone. With the exception of the female captain and all the senior crew, most of the Buccaneer’s mates were blokes. That’s right, geezers, dudes, gentleman and cannnnnnts. Surely they didn’t want to destroy this fertile planet and its mammed bounty?

I started to talk to them, test the water, and discovered in no time at all that they felt as I did. Within an hour a quad-cocked nine footer with an unpronounceable name and I had a plan. The klaxon for Xendaris orbit would be the signal, upon which we’d take the ship.

Now as I say I’m a pacifist Steven, there’s no question about that at all. I marched against the Iraq War, I take both the Guardian and the Independent and I have Tony Benn’s speeches on compact disc, but there’s something about the prospect of a puritanical genocide involving a planet of beautiful, sexually potent women that brings out the worst in me. Once that klaxon went off, and the beautiful green swirls of Xendaris honed into view, I found that if I played James Horner’s Krull score in my mind and thought about each hand having a choice of two breasts, then murder was easier than snacking.

If you’d told me, an hour before I stood on the grid plate of the Buccaneer’s bridge with dismembered bodies in all directions and blood matting my hair, that I’d charge into the senior officers with an unbridled blood lust, swinging the blade I’d taken from my first kill with animal like savagery, screaming, slicing, stabbing and laughing, well, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, 45 minutes after it all began, that’s where I was, Steven: a killer, albeit one deployed in a good cause.

Krime and Punishment

It seems funny to say it now, but in those heady moments on the bridge, I honestly thought victory was ours. After all, everyone in seniority appeared to be dead, all the handlers were dead, only our band of mutineers, some five hundred men, strong and true, had survived. Yet Fernoll had forgot to mention the speed at which 52nd power structures reassert themselves.

Within 12 minutes of the victory cheer going up, one of our number, an octopodinous man named Krime, had been declared Captain in a quick show of erections. Within 3 minutes of that happening we had a new bridge crew and just 15 minutes after that the new officers voted unanimously to carry out the standing order and destroy Xendaris on the grounds that to do so would carry favour with fleet command and guarantee their new commissions.

The mutineers, confused and initially unsure how to proceed, reasoned that they’d followed Krime and the new command crew into battle and felt obliged to carry on doing so, else the initial mutiny had been a waste of time. I didn’t understand that logic but before I could argue the case I was arrested.

The ringleaders of the mutiny, including me, were now scheduled for an immediate court marshal. The hearing, held in situ on the bridge deck, was completed in under 5 minutes. As the guilty verdicts were read out there was a brilliant flash of red and yellow as the weapon impacted on Xendaris’ surface. As I was lead away to the prison pod, the land 2 miles below my feet burned. Balls were never bluer, spirits never more broken.

So Steven, that was that; I lost my commission, not that I’d ever wanted the damn thing, and was sentenced to the aforementioned 257 years, plus 3 months for various unauthorised entries to senior command areas. As a concession to my status as a kidnap victim, I was allowed to choose my prison; a daunting prospect given the 3 billion such facilities strewn across all of the 130 known universes.

Well Steven, even in adversity I tried to retain a sense of humour. Knowing I was in the 52nd century and with your recent River Song adventures fresh in my mind, I responded with ‘Stormcage’ when the question was put to me. How could I have known that The Land of Fiction was one of those 130 universes? I mean, no one tells you this stuff do they? So expecting a look of confusion, maybe even a chortle from any cultural historians who may have been aboard, I instead received a stern ‘request approved’ and the next thing I knew I was here.

The Cat’s out of the bag and the bag’s in the River

Now I can reveal the strangest part of this tale, Steven. Would you believe me if I told you that they put me in the cell next to River Song? Well they did and yes, if you make her laugh she’s very accommodating after lights out.

River likes to talk. Sometimes, when her energy is up, she can drone on for hours. Often I don’t know what she’s saying, because she’s rather fond of speaking in riddles, but despite this, I did manage to learn a lot about her family, well her Mother. I knew she was Scottish, rather attractive and prone to a cutting quip. Yeah, she reminded me of someone alright; my ex-girlfriend actually.

Because of this, I sort of knew in my heart that Amy was River’s mother while watching A Good Man Goes to War. That, and it was the most heavily signposted cliffhanger in the history of episodic television and consequently even now, with the information known to all and sundry, I still don’t trust it.

You did everything bar having a scene in which Amy asks River for a Mother’s Day card. Melody Pond? I for one thought you were teasing and so was surprised to find myself on the business end of a double bluff.

Unless you’re a much weaker scribe than I gave you credit for, I must assume there’s more to that revelation than meets the eye. Granted, it does make sense of a lot of things; her familiarity with the TARDIS – she was conceived in it and enhanced by it, after all. Her knowledge of Gallifreyian would ring true, as would the bond between her and The Doctor, what with that species link.

I suppose if River is the child and the child killed The Doctor, then this would explain why she said ‘of course not’ when her bullets failed to kill the astronautical assassin. But hang on, wouldn’t she know that already? Why all the theatre if she knew that the Impossible Astronaut was her? Did Eye Patch woman and company succeed in weaponising River before she regenerated, grew up and fine tuned her conscience? On whose authority was she been imprisoned? We know she has a murderous bent; can we therefore assume she’s a conflicted Time Lord? Perhaps she’s the answer to that age old question, how would The Rani have turned out if The Doctor had been her favourite uncle? No, I don’t know anyone who’s asked that either.

Indeed, the questions just pile up. Is River/Melody the regenerating child or not and if so, what bearing does that have on her future activities? What was that kissy kissy stuff all about at the end of the episode? Has the Doctor had sex with Amy’s daughter? Has the Doctor been bumming around space with his in-laws?!!!

I’m going to have to spend some time thinking about all of this, Steven. I’m disturbed by that skeletal hand holding a sonic screwdriver. As The Doctor, in the version of his death we’ve seen, was burned, I suppose we can infer that all bets are off as far as his demise is concerned. Thank God I’ve got an eternity in this cell to mull over it all.

Generally, if you’re interested, I thought the episode was okay. I mostly hated the first half; a bastard’s porridge sweetened with lots of macho posturing and Murray Gold’s hyperactive cues. When it all calmed down at half time, things started to grip and despite spending that final twenty minutes chanting ‘please don’t let River be Amy’s daughter’, at least we’ve got that out of the way now. It may be blind faith over experience but I’m hoping that the second half of this story is where the genuine surprises lie. “Let’s Kill Hitler!”? If I wasn’t interested in an episode with that title, then my insides would be deader than Magda Goebbels’ kids.

Well that’s it, Steven, at least for now. I suppose I could watch Let’s Kill Hitler today if I wanted to but I still hold out hope of returning to my own century and enjoying it in September 2011 along with everyone else. How will I escape from this place I wonder and what will be involved in getting home? As the late Michael Piller once said, ‘I have no idea but hopefully it’ll come to me during the summer’.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

Mid-series catch up:

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