Sunday, December 21, 2014

Doctor Who Weekend (II): How Strax Saved Christmas





The following is a work of fan-fiction that takes place during Series 8 of Doctor Who 
between episodes 10 and 11.

____________________________________________________


How Strax Saved Christmas

by David Long

It was late-October and there was a crisp chill in the night air, an early autumn herald of the winter that was to come. It was the kind of chill that invigorates the spirit to walk a bit more spryly, to perhaps hum a tune to one’s self and cast a bedazzled eye to the star canopied sky above.

The Doctor did not care for it.

As he exited the blue police box form of his TARDIS, the Doctor’s thin, black clad form shivered against the cold.

“Great Britain”, the Doctor muttered to himself. “Why can’t I ever find a companion in, I don’t know, Hawaii or the Caribbean?”

But it was not the warm soil of a tropical paradise that the Doctor walked across but the cold hard ground of this Earth, this realm, this England.

London, to be precise.

14 Wallington Rd to be even more preciser. 

It was a nice home with gilded lanterns by the door and a warm glow from the bay window. Well, it looked warm. 

Shivering, the Doctor approached the front door. He reached into his jacket and began to withdraw his trusty sonic screwdriver. But he stopped and puzzled a moment.

“Wait, what is it that humans do?” the Doctor wondered. 

Then he put the screwdriver back in his pocket and knocked on the door.

With a sudden whirl of motion, the door was thrown open. Standing in the doorway was Clara Oswald. The Doctor assumed she looked pretty; he really wasn’t the best judge of these things. But he could tell she looked harried.

“Doctor! It’s about time you got here!” Clara exclaimed.

“What? You just called me a minute ago!” the Doctor replied.

Exasperated, Clara retorted, “You have a time machine! Why couldn’t you get here before I called?”

“Now, Clara, that’s not how time travel…”

The Doctor trailed off as he caught sight of a figure sitting in a chair with his head in his hands.  It was "P.E." or as Clara insisted on calling him, Danny Pink. He was Clara’s…boyfriend? Were they engaged? He really needed to keep track of these things better.

“P.E.? Are you all right?”

Danny groaned a baleful groan and lifted up his head. His face was all puffy, his cheeks punched out like a chipmunk and he was squinting through swollen eyelids. 

“Huwo, Docker,” Danny tried to speak through pursed lips.

“Whoa! Clara, what did you do to him?”

Grabbing her purse and rushing to Danny’s side, Clara replied, “I didn’t go anything to him!”

“Ahm awirjik to Brushuhl shprots,” Danny tried to say.

“What?” asked the Doctor.

“He’s allergic to Brussell sprouts,” Clara translated.

“Brussel sprouts?” replied the Doctor incredulously. “Who is allergic to Brussel sprouts? For that matter, who actually eats Brussell…”

“Not important,” Clara interrupted as she helped Danny to his feet. “I need to get Danny to hospital so I need you to watch the kids.”

“The kids?” The Doctor was shocked. What had he missed? “You two have kids?”

“No, Doctor, we’re not even…look, Danny and I agreed to look after Mr. Chesterton’s grand kids. Then…well, Brussel sprouts. I called one of my students, she’s on her way with her mum but I need you to watch the kids until she gets here.”

The Doctor looked frantic. “Wait a minute! Kids? Don’t you have any other friends you can call?”

“Yes, lots,” Clara said as she bustled Danny towards the door. “But you’re the only one I know who has a time machine.  ‘Bye, Doctor. And thanks!”

And with the door shut behind her as the Doctor stood in the foyer, helplessly watching the closed door fail to re-open and Clara fail to come back in and explain it’s all a joke.

“Kids,” the Doctor said. Then he turned from the door and reacted with a start to the three children behind him.

“Ninja children?” the Doctor mused. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Hi, my name is Timmy,” said one of the children, about maybe 7 or 8 years old with a mop of brown hair on his head.Timmy was dressed in dark blue pajamas that were rigorously defended by several Spider-Men.

The Doctor looked down at Timmy and said, simply, “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m Jillian,” said a little girl from under her halo of brown curls, dressed in her My Little Pony night gown. “I’m 4,” she added.

“Four?” asked the Doctor. “Four what?”

“I’m four years old.”

“Oh.”

“You’re silly,” Jillian said with a giggle. “Your eyebrows are funny!”

“My eyebrows are not funny, they’re angry,” clarified the Doctor but it just made little Jillian giggle again.

The third child looked up at the Doctor, a young boy, close to Timmy’s age, wearing pajamas adorned with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He had a head full of disheveled red hair. No, it was more like a wild creature had escaped from the planet of the monster red hair and was resting on his head.

“Jillian’s my baby sister. Timmy’s my cousin. I’m Phred,” he said to the Doctor.

“Fred?”

“Phred. With a PH.”

The Doctor sighed , “Phred with a PH, okay.” 

“What’s your name?” asked Timmy.

“I’m the Doctor,” came the reply.

“Doctor who?” Jillian rather reasonably inquired.

“Just…the Doctor.”

“Doctor is not a proper name,” noted Phred.

“The Doctor,” the stern man in black corrected the child.

“The Doctor is not a proper name,” noted Phred more precisely.

“It certainly is a proper name, “ the Doctor retorted. “It has ‘The’ in front of it!”

“Your first name is ‘The’?” Timmy asked.

“Why don’t we go into the living room?” said the Doctor and he guided the three children there where were comfy chairs and a nice warm fire happily crackling in the fireplace.

“So what should we do to pass the time until your human babysitter arrives?”

Timmy and Phred looked at each other and mouthed the word “human”. Who was this odd fellow that Miss Clara had left them with?

But before they could pursue that line of questioning, Jillian made known her choice of activity.

“Tell us a story,” she said, firelight dancing in her wide, innocent eyes.

The Doctor looked down at the little girl, apparently unmoved by Jillian’s precocious smile. “A story? No, I don’t think so,” he replied.

Timmy and Phred joined in. “C’mon, Doctor. Tell us a story!”

But the Doctor would not hear of it. “No, I’m not much of a storyteller, I’m afraid.”

“That’s OK,” said Timmy, “I want to get out my paints for a while, anyway.”

“And I need to practice my recorder for music class,” Phred noted.

“Doctor, would you play dress up with me and my dollies?” Jillian asked. 

Then the Doctor’s face brightened with a smile.

“I know,” he suggested, “why don’t I tell you a story?”

“Well, you don’t have to,” offered Phred.

But the Doctor was insistent. “No, I would love to tell you a story!” Then the smile disappeared as he pondered. Then he asked, “What kind of story?”

“A Christmas story!” Jillian said very brightly.

Timmy concurred. “Yeah, a Christmas story!”

The Doctor was a bit confused. “Christmas? But Christmas is more than 2 months away!”

But Phred answered, “No, Christmas starts right after Halloween.”

“Sometimes before,” Timmy added.

Jillian pleaded, “Tell us a Christmas story! Please?”

And for a moment the Doctor wondered how Jillian’s eyes could be so round and wide, briefly considering she might be some kind of mutant changeling.

As much as he wasn’t a person for telling stories beyond “Once upon a time” and “The end”, the Doctor knew the alternative would be paint splattered all over this lovely home and the air fractured with the high pitch squeaking of a poorly played recorder. It also would end up with him in a dress playing dolls with a little girl and he swore over 800 years ago he would never do that.

Again. 

“Fine,” said the Doctor with a barely contained sigh. “I’ll tell you a story. A Christmas story.”

So the boys sat on the floor by the Doctor’s feet while Jillian crawled up on the sofa and sat real uncomfortably close to the Doctor.

The Doctor looked down awkwardly at the child. Clara would have much to answer for, he thought.  

As the children looked at him earnestly, the Doctor began to tell his tale.

“It was the night of Christmas Eve,” the Doctor began, his voice surprisingly gentle and warm. “Christmas Eve right here in London but over a hundred years ago….

The year was 1893 along a tree lined street with fine houses all snuggled up close to one another against the December cold. The darkness of night had fallen but the world was still alight with the glow of street lamps and Christmas candles. Snow was falling, a proper Christmas snow, painting the streets and grass with a coat of soft luminescent white. There were people about, last minute shoppers for gifts and tree tinsel and Christmas pudding, hurrying across streets and down sidewalks.

But this activity is not what concerns us at this time. No, we must turn our attention to what was happening on one of the rooftops. For a strange man was puttering about, a strange man from another world.

He was a squat little fellow, not much more than 5ft tall. He wore a proper ordinary black Victorian suit but the head that jutted out of the top of that suit was far from ordinary. It was large, wide and thick with an odd brown color. He looked very much like a potato. An alien potato. But this being was no mere potato. He was a Sontaran warrior and his name was Strax.

Now if you fear that Strax did not belong there, on that rooftop in London in 1893, well I must correct you. Strax did indeed belong there. He shared the home beneath his booted feet with the woman who employed him, the mysterious Madame Vastra, a detective of some considerable skill who hid behind a veil of dark lace. What she hid was a subject of rumor and speculation, a face disfigured by accident or disease or perhaps it was the face of a being from beyond space, beyond time.  

Also residing in this abode was a young woman named Jenny. Jenny was clearly human and served as Madame Vastra’s maid but more importantly she was Vastra’s friend and confidant.

It was Jenny who came up to the roof in the chill night of Christmas Eve to see Strax puttering about while casting anxious glances at the sky.

“Oi, Strax!” Jenny called out. “What are you doin’ up here then?”

Strax turned and answered, “Why, I’m preparing our defenses against the coming attack, boy!”

Jenny folded her arms, the sternness of her expression clear to be seen in the pale starlight. Even Strax had to notice.

“Er, I mean, girl.”

“Attack? What attack?”

Strax pointed at the star flecked sky, “Attack from above! He is coming, you know.”

“He is coming?” Jenny asked, not really sure she liked where this was going.

“Yes, boy..er, girl, a being of immense power who can traverse the globe in mere seconds. His warp capabilities must be astounding!”

“Strax, I don’t think…”

But Strax pressed on. “But he uses this power as an unchecked intruder, invading homes with mysterious ‘packages’ which I surmise must be bombs or at least some form of mind control devices!”

“Strax…”

“He is called….”

Strax furtively looked from side to side then leaned in closer to Jenny and spoke with a conspiratorial whisper, “Father Christmas.” 

“Father Christmas?!” Jenny exclaimed as Strax shushes her.  “Not so loud! My sources tell me this Father Christmas has an incredible spy network that exceeds the known technology of this world and time!”

“Strax, you really don’t …” Jenny began again but Strax interrupted her again.

“This ‘Father Christmas’ is clearly bent on dominating this world. So I will intercede to stop this being’s reign of terror and secure his incredible power for the glory of the Sontaran Empire!” 

“Oi, Strax! How do you intend to do that?”

Strax began excitedly walking the perimeter of the snow covered roof. “Yes, I have rigged up these catapults to hurl cauldrons of burning acid into the sky and remove the threat of this Father Christmas forever.”

But Jenny had had enough of this nonsense. “No, no, Strax!” she said forcefully, “that’s not how Christmas works!”

So Jenny set out to tell Strax about the true meaning of Christmas and about how it all works. And after 10 minutes of patiently explaining…

“…and so Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls.

Strax was still confused so Jenny explained it again. And when she was done…

“…and so Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls.”

Strax continued to not understand the meaning of Jenny’s words so she went over it one more time. And when the story was done once more…

“…and Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls.”

And again.

“: …and Father Christmas brings…oh, never mind!” Jenny threw her hands up in the air in frustration.

“Look, just don’t catapult cauldrons of acid into the sky! And Strax, do NOT kill anyone without express orders from Madame Vastra or myself.” And before Strax could object, Jenny turned on her heel and headed back to the stairwell to the home’s interior.

But then she stopped.

“Strax,” Jenny said, casting a backward glance at the Sontaran, “Did you prepare any kind of ground defense?”

Strax paused. “Uh. No?”

Jenny arched an eyebrow in Strax’s direction. “Vastra and I would feel much better if you…checked. Just in case you…forgot something, eh?”

Jenny proceeded to descend the stairs from the roof to the interior of the home while Strax stood there in the lightly falling Christmas snow trying to make sense of her words. A Sontaran warrior forgets NOTHING! Why would she think he would forget…?

Then the wheels in Strax’s mind turned ever so slowly as he came to what was for him a sudden revelation. Then he sighed heavily as his shoulders slumped. “I best get downstairs then.”

So Strax took up his Sontaran blaster because…well, a good Sontaran warrior never knows when good fortune will provide an opportune war.

Strax trudged down the stairs until his path deposited him on the snow covered street. It was a beautiful scene of lightly falling snow with the echo of Christmas carols resounding through the chill and the dark. 

It was times like this that Strax really missed his flamethrower.

But then Strax became aware of a disturbance in the soft and gentle quiet of this Christmas Eve. This was caused by an altercation taking place in front of a home across the street. A tall man in a tall hat was harshly addressing a group of people in front of him who were in turn arguing back to him. Thanks to Strax’s reconnaissance of Earth, he recognized the group as a “family”, with a “mother”, a “father” and “children”. This was a concept that Strax had struggled to accept; after all, the clone batches on his home planet of Sontar were far more efficient.  

With this very heated argument going on so close to Madame Vastra’ home, Strax decided to investigate in case these humans posed some kind of a threat. 

Oh, how he hoped they posed some kind of a threat.

Strax approached the gathering and demanded, “What goes on here?” Perhaps it was the dim illumination of the Christmas Eve night or they were still too distracted by their own concerns but there was no sign of alarm from those assembled there on the matter of being addressed by a talking humanoid potato in a suit. 

The man in the tall hat answered, “These people… are past due on the rent and I have been instructed to remove them from this dwelling!”

“But Mr. Dickenson, how can you be so cruel?” the father pleaded. “It’s Christmas Eve, sir!”

But the man named Dickenson dismissed this appeal. “What? Christmas? Bah! What of it? It’s just another excuse to get something for nothing. Well, you can’t stay here one moment longer without paying the rent!”

As the children clutched at her skirts, the mother begged, “Oi, but we have nowhere to go!” 

Strax, struggling to follow along with this melodrama, asked of the one in the tall hat, “So these beings are in violation of the established authority of this city?”

“Yes, they are!” Dickenson answered most emphatically.

Strax turned towards the family. “And you say you have nowhere to go?”

The father shook his head sadly and said with an air of utter hopelessness, “Nay, we don’t.”

Strax allowed a slight smile to cross his potato-like visage as he announced, “Well, the solution is quite simple!”

Strax raised his alien weapon and aimed it at the hapless family. The Sontaran blaster began to hum and glow.

Immediately, the family’s panicked screams cut through the chill Christmas Eve air as Mr. Dickenson admonished Strax.

“Good God, man!” Mr. Dickenson exclaimed. “What is that thing? What are your intentions, sir?” 

Strax was confused. “But they have nowhere to go. And you say they can’t stay here. So a good, quick disintegration will sort everything out quite nicely.” He added a smile at the end of that sentence. Humans liked smiles. 

But these humans were rather unappreciative of the Sontaran’s kindness as the father pleaded, “What? You can’t kill us!”

“Can’t? Bah!” Strax grimaced. “Good sir, I am a Sontaran warrior. I am quite perfectly capable of killing all manner of biological life forms!”

The mother gathered her frightened children about her, the father stood firm with them as they all began to sob.

Mr. Dickenson stood defiant in front of Strax and protested, “You can’t just murder these people! How can you be so cruel? It’s Christmas Eve, sir!”

Then Mr. Dickenson stopped with a realization as cold as the night air around him. Those very words had been said to him mere moments ago.  “It’s Christmas Eve,” he said again, this time in a hoarse whisper as a tear began to fall down his face. He began to sob, his crying mingling with the cries of the family behind him.

And it was at that moment that Strax made a fateful decision.

Perhaps Strax was moved by the poor family’s plight.

Perhaps Strax was moved by Dickenson’s remorse. 

Perhaps Strax was moved by their tears. 

Perhaps Strax finally understood what Jenny was trying to explain to him.

Perhaps Strax understood, at last, the true meaning of Christmas.

Or perhaps…

“Strax,” spoke Jenny from a distant memory that echoed through his domed head. “Do NOT kill anyone without express orders from Madame Vastra or myself.”

Strax lowered his weapon. 

And in the relief that followed, tears born of terror became tears of joy mingled with laughter. Still quivering from nervous laughter, Dickenson spoke to Strax. “Deuced if that wasn’t a daring strategy,” he said to the Sontaran. “But it made me see how wrong I was. Thank you, sir! Thank you!”

Strax puzzled on that for a moment then replied, “You’re…welcome?”

Then Dickenson turned towards the family. “Oh, please, please forgive me! I will do whatever I can to make sure you have a home for Christmas, all of you!”

The family was warmed by laughter and smiles as Dickenson guided them back to the house. One of the children exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!”

Strax stood in the snow covered street and pondered what had just occurred.

“Humans,” he muttered to himself. “Hmph!” And Strax returned to his home on the other side of the street.

And that year, it was a most glorious Christmas and everyone enjoyed themselves quite a lot, especially after Strax remembered to remove the acid moat.

With that the Doctor brought his hands together and said, “And that is the story of how Strax saved Christmas.”

The Doctor looked down at his side where little Jillian was snuggled up close, fast asleep.

Timmy was incredulous. “Wow! A Christmas story with an alien from outer space? Cool!”

Phred scrunched up his face. “I don’t know. 1890's? That was back in, what, the Dark Ages or something? Surely someone would realize that Strax was…”

Phred’s train of thought was interrupted by the front door opening and closing. It was a woman and a young girl. The girl was Courtney Woods, a student from Coal Hill School who had travelled with the Doctor and Clara before.

“Oh, Doctor! Miss Oswald told my mom she arranged for someone to watch the kids,” Courtney said with a bemused expression, “but I didn’t expect it would be you!”

“Hello, Courtney,” the Doctor replied. “I was just finishing up telling the children a story.”

“Yeah!” said Timmy excitedly. “A Christmas story with a space alien in it!”

“And acid!” Phred added.

Courtney arched an eyebrow at the Doctor who shrugged. “Ah, you know, it was just a story.”

“I bet,” Courtney answered.

Mrs. Woods gathered the two boys to her. “OK, boys! Off to bed with you.” Then to the Doctor, she said, “After I get the boys settled in, I’ll take little Jillian off your hands.”

The Doctor looked at Courtney’s mother for a moment, his face an expression of stone. Then slowly a slight, surprisingly gentle smile drew itself over his lined face.

“I’m fine,” said the Doctor. “Go, take your time.”

Mrs. Woods nodded her understanding as her daughter joined in to direct the boys from the room.

 “OK then,” said Courtney. “Off we go, boys!”

“Good night, Timmy,” said the Doctor, “Good night, Phred with a PH.” 

“Thanks, Doctor! Good night,” Phred and Timmy both replied as they were guided upstairs to go to bed.

“Good night,” said the Doctor softly. Quietly watching the crackling flames dance in the fireplace, the Doctor put his arm around the slumbering Jillian. The little girl snuggled even closer to him in her sleep, dreaming her most fantastic dreams, safely in the company of the Doctor.


The End


Merry Christmas 
from Dave-El and the gang here at I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You*!

*Wouldn't it be cool if I got a gang for Christmas? 
I always wanted a gang.

All Things Must Pass

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