Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Dark Shadows in a Multi-Coloured World

Doctor Who
Dark Shadows in a Multi-Coloured World
By John Davies

“It was a Saturday afternoon. Thousands of people were busy spending the time bridging the gap between waking and it being socially acceptable to start drinking by attending football matches. Of course, despite the ban on alcohol on football terraces, some still managed to sneak cans in … a little victory against the establishment, another example of “being a lad”. Admittedly, some of them were there for the love of the game, but the ever present, and increasing, level of police surveillance at these events betrayed the rotten underbelly that thrived there, people and groups using the gatherings simply to cause aggravation, indulge in violence and incite hatred.”

The Doctor shut the book loudly, the back draft causing his tight, blond curls to bounce.

Before him, an attractive young woman in a lurid green lycra leotard and hot pants, tilted her head to one side, “Well, Doctor?” she asked, instantly betraying her American heritage, “What do ya think?”

The Doctor’s face started to turn crimson, “Think!” he said, quite calmly, and the woman, Peri, closed her eyes, awaiting the metronomic rise in his tone, “Think? THINK!” He threw Peri’s ideas book onto the chair that was in the TARDIS console room, and stormed across to the central column, “I’ll tell you what I think. I think you,” he said, emphasising the word ‘you’ both in inflection and with a sudden swipe upward of his multi-coloured arm, “have completely misinterpreted the great sport that is Football. Real football, played properly is an art form, Perpugilliam Brown, there to bring people – families – together.”

Only a matter of weeks ago, Peri would have kept quiet, not wanting to antagonise the Doctor, still to her this new Doctor, any further – almost afraid of the vitriolic outburst it may cause. However, time had passed between them, and she had never been a push over, “Oh come on now, Doctor, surely that’s a one-dimensional view. I was simply trying to show that it works on different levels, that some people do use the game for their own ends. Sometimes is takes an outsider’s view on a nation’s passions to see things like that.”

“Ha” the Doctor blustered, theatrically, “You, my girl, have been with me too long – you’re looking for the dark shadows before the sun has risen to cast them. And,” he paused, his face clearly showing the dazed shock he was feeling at the thought coming to him, “Who is more of an outsider that I? Honestly, stick to botany.”

“Or simply get a better proof reader,” Peri muttered under her breath.

Over at the console, the Doctor heard Peri utter something, “Hmm? Got something to say?”

Peri forced a jovial laugh, “No, Doctor. It’s nothing. So, where are we going next, again?” Even as she asked, she could see that the Doctor was actually adjusting the co-ordinates he had set only minutes before.

“Well, I was going to take you to a planet where every species is welcomed with open arms, all sixteen of them … but now …”

Peri drew in a short breath, aware that she was expected to ask the obvious, “Now, what, Doctor?”

“Now,” the Doctor exclaimed, a beaming smile now on his countenance, “We are going to see a football match!”

Peri groaned, and the Doctor’s face deflated. “What?”

“Nothing, go on, have it your way. You usually do.”

“Yes!” the Doctor agreed, happiness once more on his face, “I do, don’t I!”

With that, the Doctor completed to amendments to their destination, and in the Vortex the TARDIS changed cause and started to make its way to Earth again.

Normally, the TARDIS attempted to land in a quiet, remote location in order to avoid the notice of wherever it was materializing. It was almost as if the TARDIS was a snorer aware it snored, and was striving to please who ever was in the bedroom with it. However, this time the TARDIS roared and shimmered into existence near a bus stop opposite a large office block. Even though discarded chip papers fluttered in the breeze whipped up by its arrival, no human being so much as noticed. The air was already saturated with noise as approximately seventy thousand people arrived at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United Football Club.

The doors of the TARDIS opened, and the Doctor and Peri emerged from within the time machine. Peri was wearing a Manchester United Top over her Lycra leotard, but for some reason had elected not to cover her green hot pants. While still inside the TARDIS, Peri had been concerned that the Doctor should change his clothing, but looking around her now, seeing all the painted faces, the bright coloured tops and banners, she realised she need never have worried at all. In this crowd who was going to notice him?

The Doctor locked the TARDIS door, and gestured to the crowds, “See, Peri – feel the anticipation, sense the adrenalin …”

“Notice that man with facial tattoos…”

The Doctor frowned at his companion, and coughed loudly, quickly producing and donning a brightly coloured sunshade cap. “You’re determined not to enjoy this, aren’t you?”

“I’m determined not to get swept up in your enthusiasm, Doctor. I want to experience the whole event, not just your view of it.”

“Oh, can’t you stop being a student for one afternoon? Let go of the analysis, stop searching for those –“

“’Dark shadows’?”


Peri sighed, “Okay, Doctor, I’ll try.”

“Excellent. Well,” the Doctor said, holding out an envelope which Peri took from his grasp, “Let’s go in, shall we?”

As Peri opened the envelope, the Doctor smiled, “I think they should do the trick.”

Peri found she was holding two-life time passes to the ground. “You just had to be a Boy Scout in your youth, Doctor!”

“What, ‘Always Prepared?’”

Peri shook her head, and holding the envelope over her other palm laughed as a small cloth badge slithered from its paper housing and onto her skin.

“Wow! You can tie knots, Doctor!”

The Doctor snatched the badge from her hand, and rammed it deep into his coat pocket. With Peri still gently laughing to herself, they crossed the heavily trafficked road and made their way to the ground.

Their Season Tickets had been inspected and approved, and the Doctor and Peri were fighting their way toward to food stand. After several jostles, and a few ‘accidental’ gropes, Peri exclaimed, “I know some of these people well enough to put them on my Christmas Card list.”

“What? Oh, the spectator scrum? It’s all adding to the atmosphere, Peri. Flow with it!”

“I think some of them would like that very much, Doctor.”

The Doctor’s mind was focussed on procuring food, so he completely missed the subtext of Peri’s remark. “Yes, yes, very likely. Now then,” he said, “Meat and Potato or Cheese and Onion?”

“What are you talking about?”


“Pies? Can’t I just have a hot dog?”

“No way, Peri. We’re going to do this the British way.”

Peri tilted her head to one side, and in a wonderful attempt at mock Received Pronunciation said, “Well, in that case Old Bean, I’ll have Meat and Potato, but without gravy.”

The Doctor gave her a withering stare, “Please, can we drop that ridiculous accent? No-one talks like that anymore.”

Without waiting to see her reaction to his reproach, the Doctor turned to the vendor, and purchased three Meat and Potato pies. Returning to her side, all previous conversation forgotten, the Doctor ushered his travelling companion to their seats in the terraces.

They ate their pies in silence, the Doctor evidently struggling to ignore Peri’s disapproving stare as he started to consume his second. Looking around her, Peri had to admit that seeing so many families here together was a pleasing, reassuring sight. The children’s eyes sparkled with excitement, and proud father’s held their hands tightly, maybe thinking back to times in their past when their roles had been reversed. And yet something was niggling at the back of her mind. Maybe the Doctor was right, maybe all the sights and places she had visited had instilled in her a tendency to look beneath the venire of a situation too quickly, but she had always been an inquisitive person, ever since childhood. We are what are histories make us, she decided, and there’s little you can do to change that.


“Whmm?” The Doctor attempted to speak midway through his second pie.

“When you’ve finished chewing.”

The Doctor finished his mouthful of pie, and repeated the word, this time with clarity. “What?”

“What would you say the appeal really is in football? I mean I know I wanted to write about it in that story you so easily dismissed, but that was an attempt to disprove the theory that you can’t write about what you don’t know.”

“You mean aside from the anticipation, the adrenalin …”

“Yes, those aside, Doctor. You very loudly extolled those virtues outside the TARDIS.”

“Ah, well there’s the camaraderie, the sense of belonging, a group cause. Then there’s pride.”


“Yes, pride, Peri. Pride in your side, your team – your place of birth.”

Peri considered the Doctor’s words carefully, “Doesn’t that run the risk of encouraging animosity.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s paring place against place, isn’t it? Say London FC are playing some team from Bristol … that pride would so easily create tension within each other’s band of supporters.”

“Well, first of all there’s no such team as London FC, and secondarily there’s nothing wrong with a bit a good natured rivalry.”

Peri, however, was following her argument through in her head, “But when it’s country versus country, surely there is a very real risk of the rivalry not being good natured. It could so easily become Xenophobic.”

The Doctor looked as though he was about to say something, paused, and then simply said, “You’re looking for your shadows again!” before stuffing the remainder of his pie into his mouth.

As the Doctor reclined in his plastic seat, Peri returned to surveying the crowds. There was clearly a strong feeling of unity displayed in those around her, but that was here, on this side of the stadium. On the other side, there would be the same level of togetherness, but focussed on their particular team. Just like in the time of war, two sides both united in their cause, but totally opposed to each other … all human, yet bitterly divided.

Then Peri recalled that story of a football match actually uniting Britain and Germany for one day, one Christmas Day, during the First World War. For one day, the differences were forgotten, and they played as one race … Surely that was good, that gave the game meaning. Peri suddenly felt a shiver go through her … she had been comparing football to war, and in the war football had come unbidden to her mind. Were they as linked as her morbid thinking was making her believe? Obviously, she had already been aware of those who used the game as a front to further their own need for rebellion and destruction, but was the game, the actual game, just a glorified front, symbolising war? Chess was born from war, all the strategies inherent in the moves each piece is allowed to have. Was football the same?

Beside her, the Doctor sighed a contented sigh, and exclaimed, “Ah, the Beautiful Game!” before jumping to his feet and whirling a football rattle around his head for several loud revolutions.

“Was that really necessary, Doctor?” Peri asked, clearly embarrassed to be there at that moment.

“You’re just jealous because you haven’t got one of your own.”

Peri laughed, “Oh, I can assure you I’m not jealous, Doctor.”

The Doctor flopped back into his seat, his bottom lip protruding in a child like sulk. “I was going to let you have a go with it, but you can forget that now.”

“I’m sure I’ll live, Doctor.”

The Doctor gave her a sideways look, his face still locked in a sulk. “You can have a go if you want to.”

“Doctor –“

“It may make you loosen up a bit, you know. Sudden blood rush as you exercise your arm.”

“Does it really mean that much to you?”

The Doctor nodded, giving a silent ascent.

“Oh, very well. Pass the rattle. Which side is this group supporting?”

“Manchester, Peri – as your t-shirt clearly announces!”

The Doctor handed the wooden rattle to his companion, and with feigned enthusiasm, Peri stood up, and started waving the rattle above her head. As she shouted, “Go, Manchester, Go, Go, Go!” in a cheerleader mantra, the Doctor’s face paled as he realised that Peri was getting some intense attention from some of the fathers.

“Peri, Peri, I think that’s enough.”

Peri sat down, her face flushed, “You sure? I was actually enjoying that.”

“You weren’t the only one.”

“What do you mean?”

The Doctor waved his hand dismissively, and the moment was gone. Shrugging, Peri gave the Doctor his rattle back and immediately found her mind returning to her theories on football. Determined not to look at the dark side, she focussed her mind on the game as a game: a game of two halves; two forty-five minutes instalments; two teams of eleven men gathering to kick a leather ball around a field, sorry pitch, and attempt to get that ball between opposing goalposts. They might score, they might not.


“You’re thinking again, aren’t you?”

“Just one question?”

“Go on …”

“If someone told you about a film where something may or may not happen, would you pay to go and see it?”

“I did, it was called the Blair Witch Project.”

“Seriously, Doctor… would you?”

“That’s two questions.”

“No it’s not, it’s a repetition.”

“Very good, you’re learning.”

“Don’t patronize me, Doctor.”

“I’m sorry. I assume you are referring to the uncertain outcome of a football match?”


“That uncertainty is where the excitement lies, Peri. The same uncertainty that we have in our travels. Think about it. When we land, we could meet monsters, we could meet friends. We could fight oppression and win, we may even lose … Ok, that last bit is doubtful, but you know what I mean.”

Peri saw what the Doctor meant, and nodded. “Yes, when we’re there, helping, striving against the odds, the outcome in doubt, that’s when we come together. It’s not the outcome, it’s the journey!”

The Doctor smiled, “Congratulations! You’ve got it!”

Peri found herself nodding again, and a warm, tingling sensation coursed through her body. As the teams started to file onto the pitch, and whistles, cheers and claxons started to sound all around them, Peri rose with the crowd. Throwing her arm around the Doctor’s shoulder, they joined in the Mexican wave that swept through the crowd and …

Time froze.

In a surreal moment, a large index finger appeared, slowly tracing a line down the now still form of Peri. However, the finger never actually touched her, rather the screen of the monitor the scene was being displayed on.

Hunched over the computer screen, his patchwork quilt of a coat still bright in the darkened viewing room, the Doctor stared forlornly at Peri’s face. Another companion gone, and yet one more to have actually died while travelling with him. Sarah, Katarina, Adric, Kamelion and now Peri: killed, no, murdered in an obscene experiment to prolong the life of Lord Kiv; erased as the repulsive Sil looked on and made inappropriate, pithy one liners.

The Doctor had been there, but had been unable to save her - taken out of time at the crucial moment to face charges of interference in this charade of a Trial.

Wearily, all his usual exuberance, or should that be bluster, lost and forgotten, the Doctor sighed. “She’s gone, Doctor. And so will you be if you don’t produce some evidence to support your case.” Realising that watching any more of his time with Peri would be too traumatic at that present time, the Doctor elected to try something quite unorthodox.

“Show me an adventure from the future, my future.”

The computer was silent for a while, but then burbled, “Due to nature of trial, there is no certain future for Time Lord known as the Doctor.”

The Doctor leaned back in the chair, resting his hands on the back of his head. “So, show me a probable future, one that may exist if I manage to prove my blatant innocence.”

The computer considered the possibilities, and a green light at the side of the monitor started to blink. Casually reaching forward, the Doctor flicked the play button, and as the screen started to darken to a shot of a large liner passing through space, the Doctor briefly closed his eyes.

“Good-bye, Perpugilliam Brown. Vvroomnick. I won’t ever forget you.”

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