Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Monsters of Death

Still have to reply to Liadnan on his response to yesterday’s post, but will get there. I'm not beaten yet, oh no...

In the meantime, here’s a bit of fun from which I sent to a mate in late 2001. The idea was to write it up properly and send it to Big Finish, in the hope they might turn it into a CD. Some chance.

The mate – who'd also just leant me Sapphire and Steel, which I’d never encountered before – pointed out the rather awkward resemblance to Gaiman’s High Cost of Living. Which I’d not then read. Have done now. Damn.

I’m also told it’s similar to one of Terry Pratchett’s books – again one I’ve not read. And then there’s what Joe did in Master.

Like I said, damn. Anyway, here it is:
Dr Who & the Monsters of Death

One of the things about Sapphire and Steel I've noticed already is the juxtaposition of these strange, incredibly powerful godly persons, who stalk the night and talk in riddles to each other, and the lowly, jumper-wearing, earnest British everyday folk who get caught up in the machinations of these gods and never quite understand what's going on. So that's the feel I'm going for. The companion (and I'm think 7th and Benny) spends her time with the humans, and she and the other cast, while being the 'focus' of the events, are actually just so much chaff.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is having talks with Death.

Death, you see, isn't that skeletal grim reaper, nor is he a teenage goth chick. Death is a craftsman, a farmer. Benny describes him as ‘having big, powerful hands... and eyes like the Doctor's.’ Death is a harvester of men – and, in fact, is known as The Harvester in the story - because the bit about him being Death isn't explicitly stated. He just gets on with his job, out in the open, reaping. And reaping is about life and feasting and progress, and it's all organic and environmental and natural, and part of the great cycle of life.

Except, like a farmer who starts to be bothered by the squealing of pigs at the abattoir, Death begins to wonder about this job of his. He watches humans throw everything they can to postpone or hide or beat the inevitable; all their clever technology, their ingenuity... and it's all entirely futile. And Death thinks that's terribly sad and misguided of them.

But he's curious. So he decides to try some time as a mortal. He sets up one of his trusted henchmen-monsters in his place, to run the shop while he's away. He tells the monster to come looking for him if he should be away too long, just to be on the safe side, and sets out. And then he disappears.

Because Death rather likes life. He finds delight in snow and sunflowers and bad jokes. He even falls in love.

However, he knows his monster will be looking for him. And he knows that his monster will be there when anyone dies. So Death has to avoid being near people who die. Which is harder than it sounds.

Especially when his beloved wife first mentions that she's ill. Death just walks away from her.

Anyway. The plot. The Doctor and Benny, perhaps by coincidence, find themselves in the middle of nowhere during a storm. They head to a house to shelter and call a taxi, with Benny muttering about living in Horror Movie clich├ęs, and the fact that wherever the Doctor goes, something horrible always happens.

The old man who lets them in has already had unexpected guests that night, and insists they stay for dinner. The Doctor is taken by the old man somehow, and despite Benny's reservations they agree. The old man cooks beautifully - he is, of course, in love with the smells and textures of cooking, and could give up all his powers just for the smell and crackle of bacon on a grill.

Benny gets to know some of the other people who've turned up. One's an old friend of the old man's wife, who's finally tracked him down having nursed his wife to her grave. We later discover she's going to kill him, furious at the way he just walked out on the dying woman, gave up their love and left her to die slowly and miserably in despair. Another visitor is interested in the way that killings and unlikely deaths have followed this old man wherever he's been. Anyway, the humans are all sure that he's up to no good, and determined to unravel his secrets.

Death, meanwhile, is preoccupied. His monster is chasing him, and strange and unusual deaths are getting closer as the monster moves in.

Anyway. End of part three. The assassin attempts to kill Death, and Death, confronted, is appalled to be judged for the love of his wife. He kills the assassin, which obviously summons the monster. And, it turns out, Death's got just as inevitable and unavoidable an end as all the little people. He'll have to go back and do his job, his role.

Except, the Doctor isn't having that. He identifies with Death, and helps him escape. And the Doctor has a quiet word with the Monster - who's actually very affable - and asks him whether he's not due a promotion...”


Anonymous said...

Something else it has similarities to...
You said: "But he's curious. So he decides to try some time as a mortal" and "Because Death rather likes life. He finds delight in snow and sunflowers and bad jokes."

Which reminds of what God does in Dogma

0tralala said...

Oh damn. Yes, that's true as well. I'm only bloody channelling Alanis Morissette.

Scottie said...

Dare I mention Meet Joe Black?

On the plus side, it seems a great deal better than some of the Pratchett stuff. Just a shame Joe's already done it in the Doctor Who universe. Damn that talent of his!

0tralala said...

Gah! I've had enough of this thread already.

Steve said...

Hey, I only thought it had overtones of The Nightmare Before Christmas, so what do I know? (I actually thought it sounded rather a charming little story.)