I (sometimes) call myself Mr. Pondersome. I'm a rather wordy, weirdy person. I say hullo a lot. I write a lot more. While you're here, why not give some of it a read?

Saturday, 23 November 2013


            The TARDIS wheezed and ground to a halt in the dusty space in front of the biggest window. The Doctor walked out through the doors purposefully, companion in tow. He had changed again, this time slightly taller and distinctly more scholarly in appearance. His companion however was stylish in her red shirt and grey jacket.
            'You're sulking again, aren't you?' she said.
            'Not sulking,' the Doctor said, pulling his brown tweed jacket back over his shoulder, 'Proving a point.'
            'All I said was that you've been so busy tweaking the TARDIS it seems like you might be procrastinating.'
            'That wasn't the word you used, Clara.' The Doctor turned around to her. 'That wasn't the exact phrase you used.'
            'All right, so I said you were wasting time.'
            'To a Time Lord!'
            'I didn't say it wasn't ironic.' Clara glanced around the old bus station. 'Why are we here? If you're saying we're catching a ghost bus...'
            'We're not catching a ghost bus. I am proving a point.' The Doctor hurried over to the ticket office and opened the door. He glanced at his wrist watch. 'Wait a minute.'
            'I really don't see how waiting in an abandoned bus station for a minute is proving a point. You're being silly.'
            The Doctor ducked down beneath the counter. 'I am not being silly.'
            'You are being so silly.'
            'All right, so I am a bit silly in general but I'm not being anywhere near as silly right now. In fact, I'd say it was a stroke of brilliant genius bringing you here.' The Doctor looked up from behind the counter. 'Accusing a Time Lord of wasting time. Tsk.'
            'So what's going to happen?' Clara said, folding her arms.
            'You'll see in about thirty seconds.'
            'You're really being that way? Fine.'
            'Trust me, Clara, this will put things into perspective for you.'
            'Like the time you 'proved' I wasn't the fattest, most disgusting thing by taking me to a Slitheen Vomit Banquet? Most repulsive sight you've shown me by the way. Thanks for that.'
            'Well I don't know what to do when you get all shouty and...um, sore.'
            'You act as if you've never lived with a woman before.'
            'I technically haven't.'
            'Just because you sleep in your car doesn't mean that it's not your home.'
            'Clara,' the Doctor said, 'What time is it?'
            'You've got a watch.'
            'And so have you, I want to check.'
            'All right, it's...' Clara pulled her sleeve back. 'Ten o'clock. Already?'
            'I know. Two hours lost.' The Doctor smiled.
            'Doctor, how did you get over here so fast?' He had managed to get out from behind the counter, leave the room and shut the door behind  him within only a couple of seconds.
            'Maybe the question you should be asking is, why are you suddenly standing by the window?'
            Clara glanced around her. Somehow she had managed to move a few metres away without even noticing it. She didn't even pick up her legs. 'Two hours?'
            'All gone within the blink of an eye.' the Doctor fiddled with his bowtie. 'Truly a waste of time.'
            'Oh!' Clara said.
            'Anyway, I didn't exactly come here just to prove a point, there's something I've been meaning to sort out but just haven't got around to yet.' He rushed back into the room and returned to the counter. Clara followed him to a small upside down oval device that had its wiring exposed. The Doctor pointed his sonic screwdriver at it and clicked. A brief buzz later and the device dropped into his other hand.
            'That's a Time Lord device?' Clara said.
            'Yes. One that they should have retrieved and destroyed a long time ago. It's a dangerous little pest, notorious for malfunctioning like this.'
            'How long did it take you to find it and figure out what to do with it?'
            'Not long. Well three lifetimes technically but I did it all on the same day. Today.'
            Clara rolled her eyes and made her way back to the TARDIS.
            'Time Lords,' she said, 'You still procrastinate, you just disguise it with a time machine.'
            'At least we never waste time,' he shouted back, before mumbling, 'but fair enough.'
            The Doctor rolled the PPM between his fingers and tossed it in the air. He'd have to do something with this before it could fall into the wrong hands, throw it into an event horizon or something similar. In the meantime he dropped it inside his jacket pocket and hurried back to the TARDIS.
            Closing the door behind him, the TARDIS began to hum and groan. Barely a second later it had vanished, blowing the surrounding dust away. The rest of the old Paterhurst bus station remained virtually the same. If anything it was quieter, safer perhaps.

            There was still nothing to it but at least it would be remembered. At least it saw a little change before the big, final one.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A WRITER AND A WHOVIAN (a.k.a. Why I'm Suddenly Writing Doctor Who Fan Fiction and Other Stuff)

A cantankerous grandfather, a lovable space hobo, a suave scientist, a bohemian with a long scarf, a naive cricketer, a brash cynic, an 'r'-rolling schemer, an Edwardian-garbed romanticist, a leather-wearing tough guy, a skinny charmer and an excitable bowtie enthusiast.
            Sounds like a right old team. Except all that describes one man. A Time Lord to be precise. A genius, a hero, a madman with a time-travelling box.
            Now I know everyone is talking about the Doctor this month, it being Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary, but I still want to weigh in with why this particular writer chap is a true blue Whovian. I might even explain how the show has influenced my writing, namely my choice of subjects and style but that depends on if I actually stop gushing with fan boy love first.

RECAP (Feel Free to Fast Forward)

            So let's get the preliminaries out of the way for all you people out there who haven't ever seen a single episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels around space and time in the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) which just so happens to look like a blue police box because its Chameleon Circuit jammed in the 1960s and hasn't been fixed since. The Doctor has battled and occasionally reasoned with Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Silurians, Ice Warriors, the Silence and many other (mostly bipedal) alien species as well as a few rogue Time Lords such as the Master, the Rani, Morbius and Omega. However the Doctor doesn't always survive the battle causing him to change his body via a process called regeneration. He is currently on his eleventh (or maybe twelfth?). Needless to say, this chap certainly complicates things:

FAN BOY FAVOURITES (This Particular Fan Boy, that is)

            My favourite Doctor is the second (as played by Patrick Troughton) because he was daft but capable and managed to carry the show through all the controversy of recasting the titular character. My favourite enemy is the Master because his presence was frequently malevolent, occasionally helpful but always levelling. My favourite companion is Romana because she was a Time Lady and, as such, engaged the Doctor at the same level of intelligence. My favourite serial is the Genesis of the Daleks because it establishes the state of the Doctor's relationship with his arch enemies and saw the first appearance of Davros, their megalomaniacal creator. There. That should do it.

IT BEHOVES A WHOVIAN TO SAY... (Doctor Who in Relation to Me)

            Anyway here's the part you've come to expect from most blogs: the borderline self-indulgent discourse on how something has impacted on moi in a thousand words or less. So here goes: what I love about Doctor Who is the very idea of the Doctor. I admit that I had the grave misfortune of growing up during the 'Wilderness Years' (1989-2005) where the only screen Doctor was played by the brilliant Paul McGann in the rather unfortunate TV movie. The concept of the show was carefully explained to me by my parents and I really wasn't interested at first. Then again very little actually did interest me at that time; I called this period in my life the 'Snobbish Years'. The one facet of the show that truly fascinated me though was the concept of regeneration: that the same character could be spread across several actors in a linear sequence seemed bafflingly brilliant. The varying characterisations of the Time Lord made me happy too because, after all, who would want to play a character in exactly the same way? The Doctor's key personality traits were that he was eccentric and a genius and, as I'm sure we all know, there is so much wiggle room that an actor or indeed a writer can have fun with there.
            I'm constantly impressed with how actors walk into the role and, despite having eleven canonical Doctors and a few non-canonical ones as well, can find a niche that becomes unique to them. Just recheck the list at the very beginning of this blog post: do any of those character descriptions sound too alike? Granted I emphasised clothing as much as personality but is it not true to say that dress sense is one of the first signifiers of a person's character? If you saw a man with a ridiculously long scarf and a hat, would you think he was just another guy who works down the office? Of course not, you'd probably think he was overcompensating for a diminished sense of individuality or at least that he was slightly insane. I believe that the Doctor is always a little of both. And yet people gravitate towards him, especially attractive women in search of high adventure.
            Then again one might put this to the fact that a man with a time and space machine would make a very appealing travelling companion. And yet the Doctor doesn't seem to have ever been chased into the TARDIS by a gay man or woman yet (except Captain Jack Harkness who is gratuitously omnisexual and we all love him for it). Even during the Russell T Davies era. Huh.
            Anyway the TARDIS is the other main reason why I love Doctor Who. It's a spaceship but it's not a spaceship, it's a time machine but it's alive. Every Whovian fan would kill to be able to dash around the console, flipping switches and tapping buttons. They might even be tempted to stroke the time rotor and mutter 'old girl' or even 'sexy'. Yes there is blatant objectophilia involving the TARDIS but still no onscreen gay companions. Then again, is it technically objectophilia when your time machine temporarily becomes Suranne Jones? (The Doctor's Wife - my second favourite episode by my all time favourite writer Neil Gaiman. Go check it out.) Needless to say the sexual politics of the show are a bit haphazard, especially since the start of the modern series.

THE POWER OF QUIRKS, NOT QUARKS (How Has Doctor Who Helped Me as a Writer?)
            Well for one thing it ignited my interest in science fiction, which then stretched out to speculative fiction which brought me to practically all that I write today. Observing the subtle characterisation of the Doctor, every Doctor, has taught me how to write exciting characters that are partly grounded in my experience whilst also being unique in a way that I personally would never attempt in my own life. The writing style of most Doctor Who episodes, most notably the dialogue, has given me permission to be quirky in ways that I never thought I'd be able to pull off. In short, Doctor Who has taught me that it's okay to be quirky and to enjoy quirky science fiction. It has liberated me from a potential life of writing stolid stories about real life, walking in the same deep footprints left by my literary forbears. Why write about the daily life of a university professor who struggles to commute between campuses when you can write about the daily life of a university professor who commutes via transferring his mind to another tutor at another campus? Both have obvious value and potential emotional resonance but only one is clearly mad and amusing.
            Doctor Who; be it on the small screen, big screen, radio or book, also tends to be mad and amusing. It can also be emotionally resonant, valuable, clever, simple and so many other things. It's longevity is its constant liberation: the Doctor can quite literally have any sort of adventure, in any sort of location, at any sort of time. The potential for stories is limitless: the Doctor can visit 18th Century France eighteen times in both canonical and non-canonical fiction and there is no guarantee that all the adventures he has there are too similar to one another. This is why Doctor Who is one of the few existing television shows that I'd write fan fiction about and the only one I would gladly post on this blog. He may not be my own character but he is one my favourite characters to write for, permission or no.

            In closing Doctor Who has saved the day for me in so many ways: it baffled me, entertained me, taught me and made me both the man and writer that I am today. So, if you haven't ever thought about it, why not go and watch a little of it yourself. Maybe it will baffle you, entertain you, teach you. It may even make you better.
            So hats off to you, Doctor: fez, Stetson and astronaut helmet. You carry on pointing and clicking your sonic screwdriver until all those doors are open and the alien threats saved from themselves. As he himself once said in The Waters of Mars:


The TARDIS returned in a cacophony of rasps and metallic clangs. As soon as it landed, the doors flew open and the Doctor ran out. He was quite literally a different man this time: taller with curly brown hair and a distinctly Edwardian style of dressing though without a petticoat or even a cravat. He looked haggard with torn sleeve cuffs and five o'clock shadow creeping around his high cheekbones. He ran forward trying to maintain an air of refined dignity to his pace. The Eylemanusfly closed in behind him.
            The Eylemanusfly was a giant white insect with three sets of wings and sharp, elongated pincers that tried to snap at the back of the Doctor's head. He fell forward and it lunged after him.
            The Doctor kicked the fallen shelf in front of him and tipped over the small box that was sat on top of it, causing it to spill out various cleaning appliances. In desperation he snatched the window cleaner bottle and sprayed it on the Eylemanusfly's head. The tiny spurt missed its eyes but caught one of the feelers, causing the insect to momentarily lose balance.
            The Doctor stood up and ran back towards the ticket office.
            'Charley!' he shouted, 'Shut the...' The TARDIS doors were already shut. The Doctor couldn't help but feel a little hurt by the pre-emptive action: now he was entirely alone.
            He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and activated whatever electronic mechanism remained in the once automatic door. It slid partly open and he squeezed through the gap just as the Eylemanusfly's pincers tried to cut off his middle finger. He slammed it shut and pulled out his pocket watch.
            The Eylemanusfly is a rather tragic creature with a remarkable lifespan. A matter of seconds after breaking free from its pupa, the insect takes off in flight and starts ageing by the minute. By the first hour of its life it has matured and reached middle age, all the while never once slowing its wing beats. This period of its life sees an abrupt change in temperament, it determinedly seeks out a mate and reacts violently towards any and all perceived obstacles. It often does this by using its pincers or swinging its hardened abdomen around like a battering ram.
            The dusty glass cracked at the Eylemanusfly's last resort. The Doctor watched it patiently, keeping one eye on his pocket watch.
            '3:57,' The Doctor muttered, 'Poor thing.'
            This particular Eylemanusfly had only just reached middle age, it had spent an hour chasing both the Doctor and his companion Charley around the TARDIS after it got in at their last destination. He had warned her to not leave the doors wide open but she insisted on taking in another lungful of the planet Authen's salty air. Recalling the insect's two hour lifespan, the Doctor had rushed around the console, putting in the appropriate co-ordinates a little at a time. He now glanced behind him and saw the red light flashing and the accompanying beep.
            The Eylemanusfly thrashed against the same spot on the glass. The Doctor stepped back and started to count down the seconds. He tried not to look too harshly on the insect; it was quite beautiful after all, even its giant eyes were endearing in their own way. Charley certainly didn't agree.
            The Doctor heard a resonant tick and checked the pocket watch. When he glanced back up, he couldn't see the Eylemanusfly. Realising that he was now behind the counter, he slowly approaching the shattered glass and looked down at the ground. The feelers had shrivelled, all its wings had returned to their casings and even one of its pincers had been broken at the tip. The insect was dead.
            'Effective but horrifying,' the Doctor said. He turned fully around. 'Such a dangerous device.'
            He hurried over to the PPM and pulled out his sonic screwdriver again. 'Well, if the Time Lords aren't going to get around to it anytime soon...' A few seconds of buzzing and the red light stopped blinking. He tugged two specific wires simultaneously and the steady beep faded too.
            'Doctor?' Charley shouted through one partially opened TARDIS door. He could just about see her short blonde hair poking out. 'Is it safe now?'
            'It's dead! So yes.'
            The Doctor stepped out of the ticket office. 'Have you got a piece of cloth handy?'
            'Hang on.' Charley shut the door and then came out with a scarf. 'Will this do?'
            'I should say so.' The Doctor knelt down in front of the dead Eylemanusfly, wrapped it in the scarf and picked it up.
            'Why didn't you say you were going to use it for that? That's my mother's old scarf.'
            'I'm sorry.'
            'It's all right. I don't think I'd have ever convinced myself to wear it.' Charley chuckled. 'So are you going to give the bug a proper burial?'
            'At sea, I think. It's only right I return it to Authen.'
            'I agree. This place is hardly prepossessing, rather like a tomb.'
            'It's a shame really.' The Doctor said, glancing around the bus station and then down at the dead Eylesmanusfly again.
            'It's actually a good thing we're going back to Authen.'
            'The air?'
            'I was thinking of the eggs actually. The ones currently underneath the console, that is.'
            'It was a female?' The Doctor rushed past her into the TARDIS and groaned. 'Of course it was. I should have known from the size of the abdomen.'

            'Charming.' Charley said, shutting the doors behind her. A minute or so later the TARDIS hissed out of existence.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

DOCTOR WHO - ACCELERATING SUNDAY - PART 1 (a.k.a. Still Fan-Fic-Tastic)

This is a work of fan fiction featuring characters from the Doctor Who television show, which is trademarked by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). I claim no ownership over the Doctor or any of the companions featured in this short story (including Charley Pollard whom, incidentally, is trademarked by Big Finish Productions). The venue of the story, Paterhurst Bus Station, is my intellectual property though so don't you go nicking it. Any of you.


Paterhurst Bus Station. Most people referred to it as the old bus station long before they built the bigger one where the frozen foods supermarket used to be. Only days after shutting its doors, the dust had crawled out from all the corners, dragging grime against the walls and dropping long lines of cobweb from the ceiling. It quickly earned the title of 'old' though it now seemed to be pushing for 'dilapidated' as well.
            The wall tiles, which had always been a little yellow, now resembled long rows of rotting teeth that jutted out and seeped white and grey gunk from their sides. The floor was decently clean but seemed to have shrunk due to all the chairs, stands and other objects that had been ripped from their place and shifted around. There were only a few windows boarded up, most of the bigger ones had somehow avoided breakage despite all the frustration and impatience that must have surrounded them the years before. The ticket office was the only closed off space and, in being so, remained virtually untouched despite a slight flash of green light that occasionally blinked from somewhere underneath the counter.
            This light could only be seen in darkness which was rare considering that most of the intact windows were angled towards it. No-one actually saw it though, not even the squatters who resided for only very brief periods in the bus station. There was something about the experience that spooked them, something that they never chose to talk about but seemed to be all too familiar with.

            Official visits concerning rebuilds on the land had been postponed for a while now. Renovations were still happening on the new bus station, the one with the glass ceiling that nearly everybody paused to marvel at, in spite of making their connections. They may as well have forgotten about the old bus station. There was nothing to it anymore, it was a greasy cold box filled with ugly lines and stagnant memories. They said it was a waste of time. No-one even bothered to check.

Part 1

At first the dry silence of the bus station gave way to a few barely audible creaks and groans. The sound seemed to signify fatigue, a shelf on the verge of finally collapsing, but it then paused for too long.
            The walls of the bus station were surprisingly thick meaning that any significant sound that might be created within would almost definitely miss the ears of passersby outside. Nevertheless the rasping and thrumming that suddenly started up beside the ticket office seemed thunderous in the empty derelict, so loud that it might actually escape through all the windows simultaneously. However there was nobody around to be stopped by it, let alone investigate. A large blue police box suddenly materialised, rattling the dust beneath it.
            A few seconds later a man stepped out. He was short, middle-aged and wore formal clothes in a rather loose-fitting way. His light blue shirt collar was pulled out over his black jacket and the bowtie he wore was crooked. There was a handkerchief lolling out of his jacket pocket  too but he wore a warm smile on his face.
            'Come along, Zoe. You too, Jamie,' he shouted into the police box.
            He ran a finger across the top of a set of plastic seats and scrutinised the dust. A young woman with neck length brown hair, dressed in a purple and white outfit stepped out, glancing around the limited space and shivering slightly. A young man followed her, pulling a light brown coat with a fur trim over his shoulders and bringing the hems together in front of his tartan kilt.
            'It's a chill wind, Doctor,' Jamie said.
            'In a building?' Zoe said, 'That just means the heating's off. Can't we find a better place, Doctor?'
            The Doctor turned around, pulling a cobweb out of his short black hair. 'Oh I'd say this would suit our purposes just fine. We only need a few hours for the TARDIS to complete its defrag, I think we can sit in squalor for a little while. Who knows, we might even be able to spruce the place up a bit.'
            'Where are we exactly?' Zoe said.
            'Hmm? Oh, it's a bus station, I think.'
            'What's a bus?' Jamie peered out of a window.
            'A primitive Earth form of public transportation. Or, in your case, rather advanced.' The Doctor stood beside him and glanced out. 'Hmm, not even a double-decker. Quite clearly abandoned.'
            'Surely there was a reason,' Zoe said, approaching the door to the ticket office.
            'Well it's, let's see, 2013. That would mean buses are still in use so it's probably a case of rebuilding or something like that. This structure does seem rather old.'
            'It seems ready to topple.' Jamie pointed up at the buckling roof. 'You see those cracks there?'
            'Yes, well, perhaps we should just not stand beneath it, Jamie.'
            'So what are we going to do in the meantime?' Zoe said.
            'Did you bring the party games?' The Doctor reached into his pocket.
            'No. That was supposed to be Jamie's job.'
            'Well I didnae know which ones to bring,' Jamie wiped one of the plastic chairs and sat down in it.
            'Fortunately I have cards,' The Doctor pulled out a pack and shook it. 'Who fancies a game of Go Fish?'
            The Doctor looked around him. Somehow Zoe was now sat in front of him and Jamie was just walking out of the toilets.
            'No flush.' Jamie chuckled. 'Just like back home.'
            The Doctor looked down at Zoe. She was frowning too. 'What time is it, Doctor?'
            He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his watch. 'Two o'clock.'
            'And what time did we arrive?'
            Jamie stopped beside Zoe and looked down. 'What's wrong?'
            'It was 12 o'clock,' The Doctor said, scratching his chin. 'I'm sure of it.'
            'But that means-?' Zoe stood up.
            'What?' Jamie stared at them both.
            'Somehow, Jamie, we lost two hours.'
            'I'm not sure.' The Doctor folded his arms. 'There is one suspicion in my mind though.'
            'What is it, Doctor?' Zoe said.
            'Well two hours seems to be a very specific amount of time to lose,' he said, 'I only know one device that can pause time for that long. A PPM.'
            'What's that?'
            'A PPM. A Portable Period Manipulator. A device made and used by my people.'
            'You say it pauses time?' Zoe said.
            'Yes and then it hyper accelerates it back to the most logical point in the sequence of events. It catches up, so to speak.'
            'Where do you think this thing is?'
            'I suspect its somewhere over here.' The Doctor hurried over to the ticket office. He reached for the small gap between the automatic door and the frame. 'Jamie, could you-?'
            Jamie joined him and they forced the door open far enough to squeeze through. The Doctor approached the counter and then turned back. 'Do you by any chance still have that torch with you, Zoe?'
            'Oh, yes.' she passed it through the doorway.
            The Doctor examined the faded red counter, gradually making his way around it. He stopped near the middle and knelt down in front of a small bronze oval stuck underneath. 'Ah yes, here it is. Jamie, would you mind holding the torch?'
            The Doctor reached into his other jacket pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. He pointed it at the side of the oval and turned it on. The top of the oval dropped off and landed on the carpet. The Doctor touched one of the exposed wires inside the oval. 'Perhaps if I-' A small red light suddenly winked into life. The Doctor tucked away his screwdriver and tried the wires again. The PPM started to let out a slow wavering beep. He stood up. 'Hmm, yes, perhaps we should leave.'
            'Why, Doctor?' Zoe said.
            'What have you done?' Jamie said.
            'That sound you hear is a distress signal, well part of it anyway. It's going straight to the Time Lords.'
            'Isn't that good?' Jamie knelt down to examine the light.
            'It is. I just don't want to give them the impression that I'm the one who's distressed.' The Doctor said, 'Trust me, Jamie, this is a rather annoying problem for them and you really don't want to be around when they've sorted it.'
            'The problem is well in hand, Zoe. We've done our bit. Now let's get back to the TARDIS.'
            'But what about the defrag?'
            'We'll find some other place, somewhere warmer perhaps. Come along now.'
            Zoe and Jamie let the Doctor herd them back into the blue box. They shared a bemused look as they shuffled through the doors.
            The Doctor slammed them shut. A few seconds later the TARDIS started to fade, it's thundering noises depleting with the slow dimming of the light at the top. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

DOCTOR WHO - THE GROWTH ON THE RIVER (a.k.a. It May Be Fan Fiction But It's Fan Fiction For The 50th Anniversary Of My Favourite Show So Please Shush)

This is a work of fan fiction featuring characters from the Doctor Who television show, which is trademarked by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This particular incarnation of the Doctor, the ninth, was created by Russell T Davies and portrayed by Christopher Eccleston in 2005 and, as such, I do not claim ownership of it. I do own Risecc though, mostly because no-one else wanted the bugger.

The fisherman wrapped in his own grey body hair counted his fishes on the grass. They were all malformed: blotches of fur bursting out from underneath gills and even around eyes and lips. He picked up a large flat one with red sideburns and smashed it against a nearby rock.
            'All right, a ginger fish is quite unnatural,' the thin man said, 'but it can be explained.'
            The fisherman searched for the long strand of his beard hair that was specially knotted at the end. He whipped his big-eared captive across the chest with it.
            'You're going in the water again, Doctor,' the fisherman muttered, 'The river again soon enough.'
            'But it doesn't do anything! It's rather cold but that's all. Not even icy.'
            'The first time.' The fisherman fastened a strap on his chest hair vest. 'The first time feels like nothing. The second time...'
            'Look, Risecc, is it? Without proper testing, I can safely say that this down here is normal water. Two big hydrogen atoms, one lonely little oxygen. It's a bit salty but it's definitely water. Now if you'll just let me...' The Doctor flexed his wrists, fighting against the hair bands that held him tightly over the water. 'Where does this hair come from anyway?'
            Risecc smiled and looked down at his crotch. The Doctor grimaced.
            'How about this, Risecc? How about you let me stick my toe in the river and I'll prove to you that it doesn't burn?'
            'Of course, it doesn't. It makes you hairy.'
            'You're right. I apologise for misjudging your intelligence. Now why not continue doing the intelligent thing and let me down so I can help you?'
            Risecc whipped him across the chest again. The Doctor bit his lip. He had come to the planet Authen for a nice little fishing trip and yet once again here he was, bound and threatened. Fortunately Rose was back in London enjoying a spa weekend with her mother. She might have stood a better chance of explaining things to this bemused fisherman. Either way a different approach was needed. 'How long have you been here, Risecc? This particular spot?'
            Risecc stared at him. He raised his hair whip again.
            'It's just a question. Nothing offensive meant. When did you first land in Authen?'
            'Feels like I've always been here.'
            'You didn't keep track of the time? Chalk marks on stone, that sort of thing?'
            'Years ago.'
            'Okay. You're a Kholmian, aren't you? A hairless species, quite fascinating.'
            'Kholmian?' Risecc glanced at his long mauve arms. 'Yes. I was.'
            'So you came here to do some fishing, that's obvious. Did you work as a fisherman back on Kholm?'
            'No. It was a, was a break. A holiday break.'
            'Like me then. Authen is a fantastic planet for fishing, isn't it? So tranquil. And this river with its glimmering magenta waters, it must have looked so inviting.'
            'I fell in.'
            The Doctor laughed good-naturedly. 'Of course, you did. Happens to the best fishermen, you lose your balance and...SPLOOSH! But did the hair start growing as soon as you hit the water?'
            'An hour or so later?'
            'When did the hair grow?'
            Risecc paused. 'While I slept.'
            'Right. Now tell me, Risecc, what else did you do before you went to sleep?'
            'Read and ate fish.'
            'Which book were you reading?'
            'Accursed Rains by Bede Pod?'
            'Good writer, shifty bloke. I don't think it was the book that did this so why don't you tell me a little bit about the fishes you ate? Were they like the ones on the grass there?'
             Risecc walked over to the fishes and started picking each of them up in turn. He squinted at their lips and tails. 'Yes.'
            'With all the hair?'
            'With all the hair.'
            'So you shaved them before eating?'
            Risecc sighed. 'Obviously.'
            'And did they taste different to you?'
            'They were too soft. Floppy.'
            'Floppy. Right, now we're getting somewhere. You fell in the river, Risecc, but the water didn't make you instantly hairy. You then ate a fish and the next thing you knew you were hairy. What does that tell you?'
            Risecc chewed on a chunk of his low-hanging eyebrow hair. 'The fishes!'
            'Right!' the Doctor smiled. 'Now, if you'll let me down I'll perform a thorough examination of those fishes. How does that sound?'
            Risecc loosened the hair rope. The Doctor came crashing down into the water.
Rather than flailing about, he dove straight under. A few seconds later and the hair rope rose to the surface, frayed and soggy. Risecc peered into the water just as the Doctor burst back up to the surface.
            'See?' he said, 'Still clean shaven.'
            He swam over to the bank and climbed up. He opened his hand in front of Risecc and revealed a short stubby grub with a rouge belly.
            'This is the cause. A Gopil Grub,' the Doctor said, 'The larval stage of the Eylemanusfly. There's a lot going on in that little grub, growth hormones that are working a hundred times faster than in most other creatures. Did you notice any other effects? Sore bones?'
            Risecc nodded.
            'The Gopil Grub does that too. You've used it for bait in the past?'
            'Bad idea. The fishes ate it, got away. The next day they were probably slower because of the new fuzz and that made them easier for you to catch. And then, of course, you shaved and ate them, causing your new fuzz. Typical food chain problem: the ultimate prey changes and the ultimate predator is effected the most.'
            Risecc stared at the Gopil Grub, letting it writhe across his hirsute knuckles. It's movements were slow and limited, each segment seemed to stretch a tiny bit forward only to be followed by the next and the next one after that. When it finally returned to his palm he crushed it.
            'Okay,' the Doctor said, 'Let me just grab my coat and we'll head off to the TARDIS. You'll need a bath then a haircut then...well, everything else.'
            The Doctor jumped and pulled a worn leather jacket down from a nearby tree branch. 'I don't suppose you've been to Astrocuts before?'
            Risecc shook his head. The Doctor approached him, cutting loose the hair whip with a pocket knife. 'Alonso will love the challenge.'

             The Doctor pointed Risecc eastwards and let him lead the way.