Monday, 15 November 2010

Actual Play: The Hammer Of Time

The TARDIS stops in orbit of Earth, above the Moon.

The Doctor: Fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Amazing. Pity there's so little in space these days...

He trails off as something hits the side of the TARDIS with a clang, throwing him off his feet.


Red and white laser blasts tear through space.

A battered Federation T-Wing fighter painted with red stripes roars through the stars, chasing a grey Torlan Scimitar fighter shaped like a pair of curved blades.

We pull in to the T-Wing cockpit, where a young pilot looks over at her gunner.

Drummond: They're getting away!
Eckner: Whatever they just fired scrambled our navigation. I don't even recognise the system!

The camera whips around to follow the ships, flying towards a massive battle between two fleets, human and alien. Human fighters surround a bar-shaped carrier, the others swarm around a repurposed asteroid bristling with technology.

And it pulls back to show the two sides are in the shadow of the Moon.

Eckner: Getting an anomalous blip on the scanners.
Drummond: Looks like... an escape capsule or something?

She squints at the blue box hanging in the middle of the battle, just as a Scimitar wing smacks into the side of it.

Eckner: Tough, whatever it is.
Drummond; Maybe it's local, we might be able to find out where we are.

She peels away, and we see the fighter silhouetted by the Earth behind it.


Inside, the Doctor gets up, and another jolt throws him about.

He reaches the doors and pulls them open.

The Doctor: Oy!

Drummond and Eckner share a look - and we go to the credits.

David Tennant as the Doctor

Nora-Jane Noone as Drummond

Chris Robson as Eckner

Sinead Moynihan as Karen

Phillip Rhys as Rajiv

Sam Riley as Alex


by Russell T Davies and Craig Oxbrow


The Doctor stands in the TARDIS doorway, looking at Drummond and Eckner as their T-Wing screeches to a halt in front of him.

The Doctor: Yes! Hello!
Drummond: Ah... This is a restricted area. No civilian spacecraft. There's a war on, you know!
The Doctor: Yeah, so I noticed. And there really shouldn't be!
Eckner: Er, yes, we seem to have moved system, the Torlan fired some kind of weapon...
The Doctor: The Torlan? Really? So... where are you from?
Drummond: Fifth Fleet, Terran Federation.
The Doctor: So, that planet over there, does it look familiar at all?
Drummond: Eh?

She turns and looks at the Earth.

Drummond: Blue water, basic Class M...
Eckner: I suppose it looks a bit like Earth... but where are the flight stations?
The Doctor: That is Earth. In the year Two Thousand Nine.
Drummond: Say again?
The Doctor: What year are you from?
Drummond: Uh... Three Thousand Six Eighty-One, by that reckoning.
The Doctor: So you'd agree there's a problem?
Eckner: Um...
The Doctor: Tell you what... take me to your leader.

Drummond grimaces, twists her controls and starts flying towards the carrier. The Doctor gets back in and follows.

Drummond: We're going around the back. Shouldn't be so many Torlan shooting at us.
The Doctor: Blimey, that’s a big spaceship. Overlord class, isn’t it? Very nice... bit showy...


The fighter and the TARDIS land in a hangar bay. Pilots and deckhands run about urgently, mostly human but some of humanoid alien species, pausing to look at the blue box standing in one of the spaces.

A middle-aged man in uniform strides over, flanked by two human and two non-human guards.

Drummond: Admiral, this is...
The Doctor: Oh, hello. I'm the Doctor.
Cutter: I... see...
The Doctor: Admiral, what was it...
Cutter: Cutter.
The Doctor: Right, 'allo. The Torlan fired something, right, something you haven't seen before, and suddenly you're somewhere else, right?
Cutter: Right...
The Doctor: Right. Well. I have to find out what the Torlan did so I can undo it. Have you met the Torlan?
Cutter: We've been fighting them for eighty years.
The Doctor: But have you met them? Lovely people really, bit territorial but...

He trails off as something launches out of the Torlan asteroid base, towards Earth.

The Doctor: Gotta go, gotta find out what they just did!

He runs for the TARDIS, and the Admiral's guards point blasters at him.

Drummond: How about we take him in our ship?
Cutter: Don't let him out of your sight.
The Doctor: Admiral! (points to the TARDIS) Not a scratch!

He follows Drummond and Eckner.


Meanwhile, many miles below, Karen Owens looks up at a rumble from above, like thunder.

Karen: Aw no...

She looks over at her house, into her shopping bag to confirm she didn't bring an umbrella.

Then something like a thirty-foot bullet plummets out of the sky and slams into her house.

Karen: WHAT?!


The Doctor looks down over London, frowning.

Drummond: This city, it's so small...
The Doctor: And yet it's so much trouble. Take us down.


Karen: My house!
Alex: Karen!

A young policeman runs up to Karen as she looks at the thing protruding from the crater she used to live in.

Rajiv: PC Rajiv Sherma. Did you -
Karen: This was my house...
Alex: Oh, uh, I live across the road. Know her from college.
Rajiv: Maybe you could take her inside, get her a cup of tea. Look, the fire brigade's on the way. (quietly) And the bomb squad.

The Doctor: And Special Branch.

The Doctor strides up, with Drummond and Eckner following, looking around warily.

Rajiv: Special Branch?
The Doctor: Yep, that's me, (flashes his wallet) definitely Special Branch.
Rajiv: You don't look like Special Branch.
The Doctor: That's what makes me special. (grins)
Rajiv: And they're...?
The Doctor: Also here.
Rajiv: So do you know what this thing is?
The Doctor: Weeeeell, it's...

He trails off, runs over to it, and listens at the side.

The Doctor: ... drilling.
Karen: Drilling?
The Doctor: Yup, definitely drilling. Definitely drilling down. Deeper down. Down down doobie doo down down.
Karen: What for?
The Doctor: Well, I don't think there's oil in Ipswich. Hmm... It's...

He looks at his watch.

The Doctor: And when they left it was... so they would have been expecting the Earth to be there, so... they were aiming for the Marianas Trench and forgot to carry the hours as well as the centuries. (tuts) Rookie mistake.
Karen: Okay, again, why are they digging under the hole where my house was?
The Doctor: Based on how they're talking, my guess would be to plant a bomb.
Karen: WHAT?
The Doctor: Big enough to crack open the world.


Rajiv overhears and blanches.

Drummond and Eckner reach for their sidearms.

Rajiv: Hey!
The Doctor: That's not gonna help.
Eckner: You're right. Must have an antiphasic defence system inside that thing.

He presses the trigger, and his gun doesn't fire.

Eckner: Signal jammers.
The Doctor: Well then, let's see what else is in there. Somebody gimme a boost?

Alex points to the fire engine's ladder.

The Doctor: Oh, very good, what was your name -
Alex: Alex, Alex Dudek. I'm studying science.
The Doctor: Well then, Alex, good to meet you, come and have a look. You too, Karen, if you like.

Crouching down, he takes his sonic screwdriver to an access hatch on top of the drill.

The Doctor: There we go...
Rajiv: Do they teach bomb disposal in Special Branch?
The Doctor: Oh, you pick things up as you go.
Rajiv: Uh, I think everybody should get back.
Drummond; No way, we're not leaving -

A white light surrounds each of the six, and they disappear.

Drummond: - until...

She trails off as she looks around, to see a dozen armoured warriors, pointing blasters and pikes at them. They're roughly humanoid but around seven feet tall with clawed hands and muzzled heads.

Rajiv: Uh...
The Doctor: Oh, 'allo, tripped a perimeter defence or something did we?
Rajiv: Wh-what-
Eckner; These would be the Torlan.
Torlan: Shathnach gu Kral, Humana!

The Doctor grins.

The Doctor: If you insist.

The squad parts, one runs a clawed hand upwards over a panel by a door and it opens upwards, and the group are marched out into tall corridors with rock outcrops here and there. They pass an open door into what must be a medical bay. Torlan in overalls treating burns and trauma.

The Doctor: Is there anything we can do?
Eckner: They wouldn't do anything for us.
The Doctor: That's no reason not to in my book.
Torlan: Gu vesa!

He nudges them on. But Karen pauses as she sees inside another room, smaller Torlan huddled around larger ones.

Karen: Are those children?
The Doctor: Oh yes. This isn't just a warship, it's a city. Maybe their last city.

Finally they reach the bridge. Standing in the central aisle is a taller Torlan with his claws clasped behind his back. He turns, and we see he's wearing skull-like warpaint.

The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor. Welcoming committee for the Twenty-first Century. And you would be...?

The Torlan leader presses a button on his space armour collar.

Kral: Warlord Kral of the Torlan Deathfleet.
The Doctor: Nice. Very... Er, like the warpaint, very... anatomical. So what's the pay like as a warlord?

Kral bares his teeth in a sneer.

The Doctor: Okay then, down to business. War or no war, you have no right being in this place or time. Because this isn't your century, is it? You jumped back.
Kral: With the hammer of time, we can end this war before it begins.
The Doctor: By killing every ancestor of the other side?
Kral: Yes. Before they even leave their world.

The Doctor nods and smirks.

The Doctor: Weeeeell, you're fifty years out - time travel isn't something you're known for, is it? But the theory's sound, assuming it doesn't cause self-perpetuating paradoxes and you don't subscribe to the many world theory and - (the smile drops) - no-one stops you.

Kral's hackles rise.

The Doctor: (quietly) Leave now, and I can ensure the Federation won't bother you again.
Kral: We have trusted the word of people such as yourself before.
The Doctor: Oh, I'm not human, don't worry about that. Cross my hearts.
Kral: Even so, you stand in the way of saving my people in a stroke, and for that...
The Doctor: Well, yes, obviously you could kill us, but there's something very very important that you have to realise, and that is - RUN!

The Doctor blasts the lights with his sonic screwdriver, Eckner grabs a pike from Kral's guard and shoves him over, and everyone runs.

The Doctor: Right then, we need to find their time hammer!
Eckner: I know the way back to the teleport chamber, but we'd need a map to find engineering.
The Doctor: Okay, everybody look for a map.
Karen: Like this?
The Doctor: Ahh... yes! This way!


Kral: Find them! Kill them! Protect the drill! I want that world dead!


The group burst into a cavern filled with Torlan technology, and up above them, something wired into the power grid.

Drummond: Everybody up against that wall!
Eckner: (quietly) You know our guns aren't gonna work in here, right?
Drummond: (Quietly) All the more reason for us to be quick.

The Doctor starts climbing up towards the blackened bronze object.

The Doctor: This shouldn't be here. This shouldn't be anywhere, actually.
Alex: What is it?
The Doctor: A weapon from another war, even more out of place here than the ship we're on now.

He very carefully starts cutting the connections.

The Doctor: Guys, be ready to catch this when it comes loose... And then be ready to run.

He severs the last connection. It sparks and fizzes, and the hammer of time falls. Alex, Rajiv and Eckner catch it between them.

The Doctor: And now we're running. Eckner - what are your first names anyway?
Eckner: Tomasz.
Drummond: And I'm Grace.
The Doctor: Good to meet you both properly. Lead the way, Tomasz!

They charge through winding corridors.

Eckner runs his hand up a panel, and leads the way into the teleport chamber.

The Doctor: Right then, get this back to my TARDIS -
The Doctor: My spaceship.
Rajiv: Big thing, lasers and missiles and shields?
The Doctor: ... Don't get your hopes up.

He looks at his watch.

The Doctor: Right then, set this thing to pull the fleets back to the Thirty-seventh Century in half an hour or so.
Karen: Why half an hour?
The Doctor: Because that's how long we have before the Torlan destroy the Earth.

Everyone looks at him. He smiles reassuringly. They don't look reassured.

The Doctor: So, you know, shake a leg!
Eckner: Okay, can't send us straight to the Overlord, but recalling last position -


The group blink at the light around them, rub their eyes, find themselves back in Karen and Alex's street.

And Torlan Scimitars swoop overhead.

The Doctor: Ah.

Torlan troops pushing the crowds back, defending the drill.

Rajiv: Okay, we need to stop the drill, right?
The Doctor: Right.
Alex: And there are dozens of...
Eckner: Torlan.
Alex: Torlan in the way.
The Doctor: Right again.
Drummond: We can draw off the fighters, scatter the ground troops.

She starts to run.

The Doctor: Grace!

She pauses.

The Doctor: Be careful where you shoot!
Drummond: Don't worry about that, they'll probably jam our guns as soon as they can.
The Doctor: Hmm...

Drummond and Eckner run off to their fighter.

Rajiv: Right then, we just need to get to the drill, and you can turn it off?
The Doctor: I'm almost certain.
Karen: ALMOST?!
The Doctor: Weeeeell, there are no absolutes in science...

They start sneaking around the debris.

The Doctor: Now then, what was that signal...

He adjusts the settings on his sonic screwdriver, gives it a few practice beeps, and aims it at the nearest Torlan guard.

Just as Alex loses his footing and the guard looks around, raising his blaster.

The Doctor aims a blast of sonic power at the guard - and his blaster pops and fizzles.

The Doctor: Oh yes!

The guard presses a button on the side of the blaster, and a bayonet springs out.

The Doctor: ... Oh. Yes...


Drummond grips the controls of her fighter, knuckles whitening as she looks ahead.

Drummond: Are they following us?
Eckner: Yeah, they're on our six high. Around that building that looks kind of like a mirrored gherkin.

Two space fighters swoop around the highly reflective London landmark firing at each other.

Eckner: Watch out for that big clock tower!


Alex shouts over to the Torlan.

Alex: Hey! I demand honourable combat!

The Doctor and the Torlan both look at him questioningly.

Alex: You're going to destroy my planet, so...
Torlan: You wish to die before it?

He advances on Alex.

The Doctor: Come on, you don't want him!

The Torlan stops and turns to face the Doctor.

The Doctor: Come an' get me! Alex, you work on stopping the drill!

With that, he grabs a fire hose and dives into the hole the drill has made.

Reaching the bottom, he finds two Torlan guards standing on the drill.

The Doctor: Ah. Evening!

He closes one eye as he aims the sonic screwdriver, lets go of the hose and plummets into the control panel and through, picking it up and putting it back in place.

The Doctor: Not a lot of room in here...

He looks up as the guards bang on the panel above him, and pats down his pockets to find a phone.

The Doctor: Grace? How you doing?


Drummond: Never better.

Behind her, a dozen Torlan Scimitars swoop through the air over London, firing off laser blasts.


The Doctor: Glad to hear it! Could you lock onto my signal and teleport me back to the Overlord? Be ever so grateful... And pull the others up as well, your friends are trying to kill them.

He prises apart a casing, housing a brassy sphere.

The Doctor: (muttering) Very clever, Kral, repurpose a Dalek crosstime missile into its time machine and bomb components. Not today, though.

With that, he disappears in a flash of white light, just as the Torlan guards rip the panel above off its hinges.

Admiral Cutter and his men cover the Overlord's teleport station.

The Doctor: Hello again, just passing through. Call your fleet in, would you? It's about to get a bit busy around here.

He looks around at Karen, Alex and Rajiv.

The Doctor: Alex! You made it then. Good! With me!

He tosses him the sphere.

The Doctor: Quick as you like, I have to pilot this outta here, need a spare pair of hands.

He runs into the TARDIS.

Alex: Is this one of those coffee kiosks?

The Doctor pulls Alex inside, and the TARDIS dematerialises.

Cutter: Remind me not to visit this century again.


Alex: How does all this fit in that? Or... is the door like a teleport, takes us here?
The Doctor: Something like that.

He pulls a lever.

The Doctor: Right then, that's us moved about nine hundred miles towards the sun. Now, open the door, get ready to throw this thing.
Alex: Into the sun?
The Doctor: Into the sun!

Alex grits his teeth, opens the door... squints at the fiery light in front of him, and throws the sphere.

The Doctor: Shut the door! And hold on to something!

The sphere explodes, knocking the TARDIS sideways in space.


The TARDIS materialises in the Overlord fighter bay, its front covered in soot.

The Doctor: Sorry, old girl. Have to put you through the car wash, eh?

Drummond runs over to him.

Drummond: The fleet's converging. So is the Torlan fleet.
The Doctor: Right then. There a way I can call them up?

He runs over to a viewscreen. Behind him, we can see out of the docking bay into space. And the Torlan fleet converging on Earth.

The Doctor: Looks like they're gonna try the old-fashioned way.
Karen: Shoot the Earth from orbit?
The Doctor: Pretty much, yeah...

She looks appalled. He flashes a reassuring smile, then turns back as Kral appears on the viewscreen.

The Doctor: Warlord Kral, hello again, not been your best day so far, has it?
Kral: Victory is still within our reach.
The Doctor: Look, you lot have been fighting this war since before any of you were born, right? Why? What do you want?
Kral: We want the humans dead.

The Doctor sighs and shakes his head.

The Doctor: Then you're in for a disappointing day.

He taps his watch - and the Overlord trembles and the view outside brightens and blurs, and resets to show the two fleets somewhere else.

The Doctor: Welcome back to the Thirty-seventh Century. And for those joining us from the planet which is now safe sixteen hundred years ago, welcome to the Thirty-seventh Century for the first time.
Rajiv: But - but -
Karen: How do we get back?

The Doctor taps the side of the TARDIS.

The Doctor: Time machine.

Then he looks for somewhere to wipe the soot off his hand.

Drummond: Yes, but there's still a Torlan armada.
The Doctor: Yes, true, good point.

He runs over to her, points to her fighter, and she hits the controls to open the cockpit. He clambers inside, and she follows.

The Doctor: Pity these laser-jammers don't work on whole fleets...

With that, he pulls open a panel and starts rooting about inside, flicking his sonic screwdriver on and off, jamming it into a gap and turning it on.

The Doctor: Oh wait, yes they do. Right then. Grace, you want to save your people, right?
Grace: I do.

The Doctor grins.

The Doctor: Well then, I need a lift.

He climbs in the gunner seat as Drummond straps herself into the pilot's chair, then waves back to Karen, Alex and Rajiv.

The Doctor: Won't be five minutes.

The canopy lowers and the T-Wing blasts off into space, joining the battle.

All around them, fighters and gunships roar and blast, firing off streams of bolts and missiles.

But everywhere their fighter goes, each ship it passes, Federation and Torlan alike, slows and its weapons fizzle.

Soon, the battle falls silent, two armadas of warships floating slowly, inert, as it swoops and banks through the battle, spreading peace wherever it goes.


Drummond and the Doctor climb out of the cockpit, met by Karen, Alex, Rajiv and Eckner, leading a charge of cheering pilots and deckhands.

The Doctor: Right then. Battle's over. You've got plenty of time to pull your ships back in, and fly off in two different directions.

He looks over at Cutter, still looking out of the hangar bay.

The Doctor: Admiral. You might consider arranging a peace treaty. Kral might be a bit more willing to listen now.

Kral and four guards appear in a flash of light.

Eckner goes for his gun, and is disappointed to find the antiphasic field is still on.

Kral stalks towards the Doctor, pointing an accusing talon.

Kral: You! You ended this battle with deceitful, underhand tactics!
The Doctor: And you went back in time to destroy humanity before they even left their home solar system! Some people would call that cheating as well!
Admiral Cutter steps forwards.

Cutter: Warlord. We are willing to discuss terms. To withdraw from Torlan space in exchange for your withdrawal from Federation colonies outwith that area.

Kral looks from the Admiral to the Doctor. The Doctor pointedly arches an eyebrow.

The Doctor: Or I could always bump your fleets into two different centuries. How's that sound?

Kral and Cutter both look worried.

The Doctor: Hmm?

Kral snarls, turns on his heel, and he and his guards vanish in a flash of light.

Outside, the Torlan fleet starts to pull away. A ragged cheer ripples through the deckhands and pilots.

The Doctor: That goes for you and all, don't go chasing after them, I can go off people who do that.

Drummond hugs him. He grins and pats her back as she walks with him to the sooty TARDIS.

The Doctor: Right then, three for the Twenty-first Century is it?
Karen: Uh...
Rajiv: Yeah...
Alex: I suppose so.

The Doctor: Go somewhere else if you like.
Karen: Any chance of a few hours before the bomb hits my house? So I can get some of my stuff out?
The Doctor: ... Oh, I suppose just this once, it was a paradox attack anyway. Come on then.

He smiles and waves to the Federation crew. Drummond salutes, laughing, Eckner shrugs, then salutes as well.


The TARDIS materialises on Karen and Alex's street, undamaged, at night.

The Doctor: Oops, bit early. Don't go in till after you've gone out, meeting yourself is always messy.

He looks up.

The Doctor: So, yeah. Fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Amazing.

Pan up to the night sky, and was that a shooting star or...?

Roll Credits!


Doctor Who Confidential

This was my Conpulsion 2010 Saturday one-shot, with a group of players I didn't know. The Doctor went to the guy who said "I am a doctor" and was wearing a T-shirt saying "I think I'll try SCIENCE!" so he seemed a good choice, as indeed he was. Drummond and Karen's players were the most reserved, so I tended to pull them into the action more.

The "by Russell T Davies and Craig Oxbrow" credit comes from this being based on a story idea that nearly became the 2009 Easter special, and was discussed in some detail in RTD's behind-the-scenes book The Writer's Tale. The Doctor finds himself in the middle of an intergalactic war, teams up with a female fighter pilot after she pulls him over, and stops the war with a laser-stopping device from inside a fighter - enough to hang an adventure from, and the basis of the Doctor and a new PC. It was played a week before The Eleventh Hour was televised, so it was built for the Tenth Doctor. The stuff about future and present Earth, the details of the aliens and their plans, Eckner and the modern PCs were whole-cloth additions, where I did my best to make everyone useful.

As a guide to the special effects department, Torlan look rather like Turians from Mass Effect with Kral looking like Nihlus as I liked the skeletal warpaint style, Scimitars look like Takret gunships from Enterprise to look suitably mean and T-Wings look like Star Wars V-Wings to look suitably battered and Star-Wars-y.

Character stats here

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