Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lord Lethbridge-Stewart

In August 2004, I attended the recording of the first Doctor Who audio play I'd written, about the Doctor's friends at UNIT.  The story, "The Coup", was given away on a covermount CD with Doctor Who Magazine #351 later that year and is now available to download for free from the Big Finish website.

"The Coup" was a pilot for a new UNIT spin-off series. In my episode, the Doctor's old friend General Sir Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart (more often known as "the Brigadier") called out of retirement to announce that UNIT is being merged with another security force, just as Silurians attack London.

While we were recording it, I got to chat to actor Nicholas Courtney about whether he'd been asked to appear in the new TV version of Doctor Who (which had started filming just a few weeks before). We also chatted about where the Brigadier might go next, and - since I'd recently started freelancing for the House of Lords at that point - talked about the Brig being made a noble and gallant Lord in honour of his services to Britain and the earth. Nick seemed rather taken by the idea, and mentioned it when he appeared on Doctor Who Confidential in 2005.

I wrote up a rough idea in case Big Finish wanted ideas for a second series of UNIT. I pitched it a couple of years later when there was a suggestion of featuring our new UNIT characters in one of BF's new main-range Doctor Who stories. I've reworked it and repitched it to a few other people, but it was never quite what they wanted and/or wasn't practical because of Nick's declining health.

Since it will never happen now, here's the outline as it was the last time I pitched it. At that time, I was asked to pitch it without a specific Doctor or companion in mind, hence the generic "Sharon":
Doctor Who: The Little Monsters 
Outline by Simon Guerrier 
The Doctor and Sharon arrive outside a primary school in Bolton, some years into the future. The school is surrounded by soldiers, the press and people wielding placards. The Doctor pushes his way through and introduces Sharon to his old friend the Brigadier – now in the House of Lords but in charge of this morning’s operation. 
The Doctor quickly explains UNIT’s mandate to Sharon: investigating alien activity on Earth and protecting the humans. And then spaceships drift down through the clouds above them. A vast war fleet of different species, says the Doctor, united in a common aim. 
There are cries of outrage from the local people as Lethbridge-Stewart welcomes the visitors. This is all his doing, explains the Doctor. Alien children are arriving from all across the galaxy, and this is their first day at school. 
The Doctor helps UNIT (Chaudhry etc. from the UNIT series) to look after the school and handle the media. People object vociferously to humans being taught alongside aliens, and it’s ironic that UNIT be the ones to protect the aliens. 
Things aren’t helped when a human child and an alien have an argument, and the human child gets badly burned. The media are on it, and it takes all Chaudhry’s PR savvy to keep the school open the next day. Children can’t be held accountable to the same standards as adults, and there’s still a lot to be learnt. Anyway, now Earth has made itself known in the galaxy, parents can’t afford to be parochial about education. This is the only way for humans to thrive.
Despite this, there are fewer pupils in the next day, many being kept at home. They’re short on teachers too, so the Doctor helps out where he can. 
Sharon goes with Lethbridge-Stewart to London, where he is answering questions in the House - what they are doing is still accountable to the British people, as well as being watched with interest by the world. The noble Lords give him a roasting, but no one can deny Lethbridge-Stewart’s history of saving the planet, and his commitment to keeping it safe. They seem to have won the moment. 
Sharon is on the news. She’s able to explain that yes, it is a bit weird with the aliens. She gets scared too, and it’s worse seeing places she knows threatened. It brings out instinctive feelings, but they need to be stronger than that. 
There’s amazing things to be seen in the galaxy, and amazing things to be learned. And she feels sorry for anyone who’s going to miss out because their parents are too scared to let them.
And then, in the Doctor’s class, there are some disruptive elements. There’s a fire in the school, and then human parents storm the place to rescue their children. They don’t mean to, but it ends up with them taking a whole load of alien children hostage. They are good people, just anxious about their own children. 
With the Doctor and Chaudhry caught up there, Lethbridge-Stewart and Sharon are in the House of Lords when there’s an alien invasion, and the Commons is taken over. But unlike the career politicians cowering in there, the Lords is full of old men with military experience. Lethbridge-Stewart and Sharon rally them into a resistance, and they take back the Palace of Westminster. 
The Doctor and Chaudhry also put together a resistance, but they’re combating human parents. They are caught up in the hostage negotiations, and seem to be getting somewhere when the news comes through that Lethbridge-Stewart demands a surrender from the aliens. It looks like he may have just declared war. 
And then Sharon’s mum is on the news. She’s much older than Sharon knows her, because this is the future. And she seems to know what Sharon’s future is… (depending on which companion this is, we could foreshadow all sorts of good stuff). 
The press have tracked her down, and she explains that yes, she fears for Sharon’s safety, but that she can’t wrap her up in cotton wool. Better she’s allowed to go and explore, than she never sees anything ever. Sharon’s mum says she’s proud of her daughter for wanting to do all she’s done. And she, Sharon’s mum, has to think about what’s best for her, and not be scared that she’s growing up. 
The alien and human parents back off, to find their children are already getting on with each other while their backs were turned. Apparently it is cheating to use you ability to fly in hopscotch. An armistice is agreed, and the Doctor makes sure the children see their parents apologising to each other. That is his lesson for the day. 
Everything seems fine with Lethbridge-Stewart’s legacy for the future. Chaudhry is much happier that UNIT is safe-guarding finger-painting rather than hunting down monsters – it’s a much easier sell to the press. And Sharon’s mum knows better than to tell Sharon what’s in store for her – even though it’s heart-breaking.

No comments: