8th Doctor
The Natural History of Fear
Serial 8Q
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The Natural History of Fear
Written by Jim Mortimore
Directed by Gary Russell
Sound Design, Post-Production and Music by Jim Mortimore

Starring Paul McGann, India Fisher, Conrad Westmaas, Geoff Searle, Alison Sterling, Sean Carlsen, Wink Taylor, Jane Hills, and Ben Summers.


Public Warning
Faction Against Character Theft

  • Featuring the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C'rizz, this story takes place after the Big Finish story The Creed of the Kromon.
  • Released: February 2004
    ISBN: 1 84435 038 X

Three people are sitting in a room with a child’s top, which is spinning so quickly that it seems to be standing still. The people in question sound like the Doctor, Charley, and C’rizz, but they are about to do something for the common good, and the sound of marching footsteps is growing louder. Whoever they are now, they won’t be themselves for very much longer...

Part One
(drn: 28'58")

It is High Productivity Day in Light City, and everyone’s favourite infotainment programme has ended on a heart-wrenching cliff-hanger as the hero’s companion begs him to kill her for the good of the Universe. However, something odd is about to happen in Hutch 204079, Tier M-704 of the South Plaza, where two proles are having a disagreement. The husband isn’t as excited about the programme as his wife, and, indeed, isn’t sure whether he believes in the common good. But even he is shocked when he responds to one of his wife’s comments with a question. Asking questions is the worst crime imaginable in Light City, and though the husband desperately tries to pass this off as a minor slip, his wife activates the emergency alarm and calls in the local Conscience.

The Conscience and sub-Conscience arrive within seconds, and though the husband tries to take full responsibility for the crime, this only compounds his error, for it is the Conscience’s job to determine guilt here. The sub-Conscience scans the proles’ minds at maximum strength, and finds that although their surface thoughts are of obedience, respect, and acceptance, the male seems to think of himself as an individual with a name of his own. The Conscience places the male prole under arrest and orders the sub-Conscience to arrange for the female’s personality to be revised, in order to prepare her for a new, state-sanctioned marriage.

The male prole falls into despair as he is separated from the woman he loves, and angrily bombards the Conscience with questions, demanding to know why what he did was so terribly wrong. He shouts out questions to his fellow citizens, but they can’t even understand what he’s asking of them, because the concepts of freedom and individuality have been removed from their lives. Before the Conscience or sub-Conscience can stop him, the male prole tears himself free and leaps from the parapet, plummeting several stories to the ground below. There is only a moment’s shocked silence, but then the proles who have witnessed this incident go about their lives without asking why it had happened. Nevertheless, when the Conscience reports the incident to Light City’s Editor, the Editor instructs him to submit a list of all 1,000 witnesses for personality revision, including the Conscience himself.

The male prole’s deviance must be investigated, and the Conscience thus visits the Broadcast Lodge to speak with the Disc Jockey, who has set up a filing system so remarkably efficient that he’s the only one who can be trusted to operate it. The Conscience requests a list of all infotainment broadcasts from the past year so he can cross-reference them against the male prole’s brainscan, but this proves more difficult than he imagines; over the past year, a total of 1306 episodes have been broadcast, both repeats to reinforce the basic rules of life in the City and new episodes designed to induce specific sociological and psychological changes.

While the Conscience tries sorting through the information he’s been given, the Editor attends the autopsy of the dead prole (or rather his brain, since the bulk of his body suffered irreparable damage and has been recycled by the Department of Protein). The scan of the dead brain proves inconclusive, since there is no context into which to fit the latent neural images, and the Editor thus requests a copy of the female prole’s brainscan. However, it has been withdrawn from public record, pending censorship, and the Editor thus requests that the prole herself be brought in for direct analysis.

Later, the Editor listens to experimental ambient music while reviewing the tapes of the autopsy, but the use of uncensored music is detected and the Conscience is sent to investigate. The Editor claims to need mental stimulation to help him think creatively so he can protect the state from dangers it couldn’t otherwise imagine. However, when the Conscience offers to overlook this minor transgression, the Editor insists that the Conscience scan him -- and when he does, the Conscience realises that this was a test which he has only just barely passed, to see how the incident with the male prole had affected him. The Editor reminds the Conscience that servants of the state must not think themselves above the laws which govern the ordinary citizens; otherwise, everything they do in the name of the state becomes meaningless. The Editor thus orders the Conscience to attend to him in the Whispering Gallery, where he is about to cross-reference the female prole’s brainscan with that of her dead husband.

The female prole’s brainscan contains images and sounds similar to those found in her husband’s scan, including the words “Don’t let me fall,” the sound of a child’s humming top, and the sounds of childbirth and construction, both of which imply that the female intends to give birth to, or construct, the future. The Editor is astounded by the implications; this female prole is capable of original thought, and indeed presumes that she can change things in Light City by creating a different future. This is impossible for her to achieve alone, which must mean that there is a network of like-minded proles out there. Somewhere, revolution is brewing, and the female prole is part of it. The terrified female prole insists that she loves the state, but when she asks why this is happening to her, the Editor pounces on the mistake. She has just asked a question, and questions lead to answers, to knowledge, to freedom, to dissatisfaction, and to unhappiness. For the good of the state, and for her own good, the female prole can no longer be permitted to exist as she is now. The prole screams as the Editor does his duty, and begins erasing all that ever made her an individual...

Part Two
(drn: 32'04")

The woman who was once the female prole is now a nurse with a happy home life, but she is haunted by strange memories. When new infotainment episode airs, in which the hero tricks an alien invader into believing that the target planet has been struck down by an insanity plague, she finds that she can remember it even though this is the first time it’s been broadcast -- except that her memories differ from the events in the episode. When she tells her husband, he advises her to take her concerns to the Conscience. As usual, their home life is being recorded, and their conversation is taped and replayed during the Nurse’s session with her Conscience.

Without actually questioning her, the Conscience walks the Nurse through the important aspects of her story, and she admits that this is not the first time something like this has happened. She does want to uncover the truth, because she is a loyal citizen of the state, and the Conscience thus offers to hypnotise her, using a child’s spinning top. The humming drone of the top sends the Nurse into a trance, and she tells the Conscience about the other infotainment episode which she remembered in advance. It is the episode in which the Doctor and his companions arrived in Light City, but as the Nurse relates the events which took place, she realises that the characters were asking questions of each other and answering them -- and although they seemed happy, this was because they’d travelled to a new and unfamiliar place. How could this have been permitted in an uncensored entertainment when travel and questions are unnecessary and forbidden? And why is the Nurse now asking questions of her Conscience? The Conscience suggests that the episode occurred on Jubilee Day, a thought which initially relieves the Nurse -- but as she remembers more, she is overwhelmed by the memories of so many unanswered questions.

The Conscience wakes the Nurse from her trance, and though she has no memory of what she said while under hypnosis, the entire session has been recorded and is soon put on display in a public theatre for the edification of the masses. When the Nurse watches the record, she is horrified by her own behaviour. As she sobs, the Editor makes his presence known to the Nurse and reveals that he has been watching her for some time, as he suspects that somebody tampered with records in the Ministry of Tourism, interfering with the Nurse’s recent personality revision. The Nurse listens with growing horror as the Editor explains that the state has lasted for hundreds of generations, using Jubilee to blow off social steam in a carefully controlled manner -- but now a truly chaotic element has entered the mix, and the results could be catastrophic. The Editor believes that the Nurse is linked to that chaotic element -- and indeed, though he has asked questions of her, her responses were not amongst those authorised by the state.

The Nurse is horrified by what the Editor is saying, and when he dares to speak to her of social evolution and change, she snaps and calls the Conscience, accusing the Editor of word crimes. But when the Conscience arrives, he reveals that this was all a test -- which is why an uncensored version of the Nurse’s session was shown in this theatre. The other people attending the showing are servants of the state, there to fill up seats and convince the Nurse that this was an ordinary viewing; even so, they will have to be revised just for having seen this. The Nurse, relieved, asks the Editor if she’s passed the test, but he dismisses her without an answer. As the Nurse leaves, the Conscience recommends that the state terminate any further surveillance of her -- and points out that the Editor himself asked questions and spoke of forbidden words and concepts while trying to get the “truth” out of the Nurse. The Editor refuses to respond to his accusations, and departs -- but the Conscience has noticed something which the Editor apparently hasn’t. Just before leaving, the Nurse asked the Editor a question.

The Conscience thus arranges to meet the Nurse at the city docks to discuss the strange memories in her mind. She meets him reluctantly, believing that this is another test -- but to her horror, the Conscience reveals that he is a member of the revolution, as was she before her personality was revised. According to legend, the people of Light City were brought here generations ago, and placed inside the ultimate prison, one which exists only in their heads. The concept of freedom in Light City is a sham; the citizens think themselves able to choose, but all of the options open to them have been pre-selected by the state. Certain words have been forbidden here, because only with those words can the citizens form the idea that there may be a better way of life.

According to the Conscience, the infotainments are not imaginary adventures; they are the real memories of a hero called the Doctor. But those memories have been rewritten to turn the hero who fought oppression and championed individuality into a supporter of the state, an image to keep the masses entertained while spreading the message of conformity and acceptance. The Conscience and his lover were once members of a revolutionary cell called the Restoration Group, who secretly recorded the infotainments, ironed out the inconsistencies and pieced together the Doctor’s true memories. Now all they needed was someone to become the Doctor...

The Conscience’s lover thus submitted herself for revision after implanting a hypnotic trigger in her mind -- the sound of the spinning top. She became the female prole, and forbidden information was leaked to her husband, setting in motion the events that led to her arrest and revision into the Nurse -- and when the Conscience was ordered to observe that revision, he secretly planted the Doctor’s memories in her mind. But as he is not a trained Editor or DJ, he got something wrong, which is why the Nurse is only haunted by the Doctor’s memories and is not fully the Doctor. The Conscience urges her to recognise the truth and become the real revolutionary hero she intended to be... but instead, the horrified Nurse calls the guards, and has the Conscience arrested for word and thought crimes against the state.

It appears that the Restoration Group’s ambitious plan has failed. The Nurse is not the hero they needed, and without the Doctor to help them, the revolution will fail. However, after torturing the Conscience for information, the Editor secretly informs him that he too believes in the revolution. As the Editor, he must demonstrate total loyalty to the state, and he knew that the revolutionaries would never trust him if he approached them; however, he insists that he’s been helping them all along, by revising them instead of killing them. He informs the Conscience that he allowed the Nurse to witness his arrest and then return home without being revised, and he also claims that he’s been trying to strip away the Nurse’s false memories to reveal the hero beneath. But to do that, he requires the tape constructed by the Restoration Group -- the one containing the real Doctor’s original memories.

The Conscience bursts out laughing, certain that this is a trick, and refuses to tell the Editor anything, even when the Editor points out that the Nurse will go mad if the Doctor’s memories are not fully woken within her. The shipping clerk then arrives to take the former Conscience away for revision, and the Editor, frustrated, signs over custody of the prisoner. The Conscience goes to his revision believing that the Editor was trying to trick him, but if the Editor really was telling the truth, it’s possible the Conscience has doomed the revolution to failure. However, later that night, the Editor is informed that the Nurse has been reported missing. The Editor orders his people to revise everyone whom the Nurse has ever spoken to, erasing her very existence from public memory. Whichever side the Editor really is on, it seems the revolution has begun.

Part Three
(drn: 26'03")

Over the next several days, a number of terrorist attacks occur across Light City, spreading death, destruction and unrest across the state. The South Plaza public broadcast screens are blown up in the middle of the episode in which the Doctor and Charley meet their new companion, C’rizz, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians in what the Editor feels is a symbolic attempt to silence the state. He is present to observe the aftermath because a criminal often returns to the scene of the crime; and as the fire chief supervises the rescue and repair work, the Editor spots a figure lurking in the shadows nearby and gives chase.

The voice of the Nurse echoes about him as he runs, warning him that he will die if he follows her -- but he chases her into the dark, because the state truly loves its citizens, and he genuinely wants to help her by revising her aberrant personality. Unable to see through the darkness, the Editor lashes out at his surroundings, trying to break down the walls around him -- and, perhaps inadvertently, asking the Nurse a question in the process. When she questions him in turn about his own motivations, he flies into a rage, insisting that the Nurse is a social deviant who must be eliminated for the common good. But the Nurse claims to have bugged the Whispering Gallery and heard everything the Editor told her former Conscience before sending him for revision.

Enraged, the Editor hammers out against the walls and brings them down about himself as the Nurse prepares to tell him certain things for his own good. He can see nothing when he opens his eyes, but that’s because there’s too much for him to take in; according to the Nurse, this is a blur of sensory overload, as the citizens of Light City have been blinded to the wonders of a world beyond state control. When the Editor concentrates on what he’s seeing, he can see everything -- a world of infinite possibilities. The Nurse informs him that it’s time to find out who he really is.

Shaken, the Editor returns to Light City and confronts the DJ in the Broadcast Lodge, accusing him of sending out the transcript of the Nurse’s therapy session without censoring the questions out of it. The DJ, affronted, claims to be the cornerstone of the state, as he is the one who edits together the fragmentary memories around him into a cohesive whole. He is the only one permitted to speak forbidden words and think forbidden thoughts; somebody has to, otherwise nobody would know they were forbidden. This means that he is the only one who knows the truth, and he thus gives the Editor a set of headphones, and the Editor, appalled, listens to a fragmentary clip of the Doctor’s arrival in Light City -- and recognises the Doctor’s voice as his own. This truth is too big for the Editor to ignore, and he does what he feels he must, calling in the Conscience to arrest the DJ and ship him for immediate personality revision. The new Conscience is otherwise occupied, and it’s the sub-Conscience who arrives. The Editor advises her to take extreme caution when approaching the DJ, claiming that his ideas are the most dangerous weapons of all -- but when the sub-Conscience’s men find the DJ, they discover that his throat has been slit with a shattered fragment of the record which the Editor was just listening to.

The Editor is brought before the state Classification Board to explain himself. In the wake of the current crisis, the Board has reviewed the Editor’s performance record and found that he often uses forbidden words, questions others in the course of his duty, and works extra shifts rather than observing the state infotainment programmes. The Editor insists that he must be able to think like a criminal in order to predict their actions and control them, especially now that the Nurse is on the loose, her personality in fragments. The Editor believes that the Nurse has gone quite mad, unable to reconcile the memories of her Nurse personality with the incomplete memories of the Doctor, and thus poses a threat to her revolution as well as the state. The Board does not appear convinced, however, and demand to know how the Editor came to possess the spinning top that they found in his office. The Editor claims that it’s a symbol of the revolution, confiscated from the former Conscience; the toy spins in circles without ever going anywhere, which is how the revolution regards the state. The Editor begs the Board to understand the danger they’re in and let him finish his work; once the revolution has been smashed, he will submit himself for any punishment they see fit to mete out.

However, the Board feel that the Editor’s love for the state has become a dangerous obsession, and they thus sentence him to immediate and total personality revision. The enraged Editor insists that he’s the only one who can find the Nurse and stop her; she even managed to convince him that there’s more to life than the state shows, which is exactly why she’s so dangerous and must be stopped. However, the Classification Board then reveals that the Nurse was arrested and revised several days ago -- on the Editor’s own orders. The Nurse did not take him outside the city after all, and the Editor himself is responsible for the bombings which have rocked Light City, simple props to support his delusions of persecution. To the Editor’s horror, the new Conscience arrives to take him away for revision... and is revealed to be the woman who was once the female prole and was then the Nurse.

The Editor is arrested for the murder of the DJ, and as the Conscience and sub-Conscience march him through the streets, he angrily bombards them with questions. He shouts out questions to his fellow citizens, but they can’t even understand what he’s asking of them, because the concepts of freedom have been removed for their lives. And since they can’t even imagine the danger they’re in, only the Editor can save them from it. Before the Conscience or sub-Conscience realise what’s happening, the walkway explodes, having been mined earlier by the delusional Editor. The Editor leaps the gap and flees, vowing to destroy the revolution, stop the Doctor, and save the state he loves -- and to kill anyone who tries to stop him.

Part Four
(drn: 42'28")

As the public infotainment screens broadcast a fable about a wise King who passed the reins of power on to his foolish heir, the former Editor lurks beneath the docks, using his own blood to lure rats to him for food. His activities are observed by the Conscience and sub-Conscience, who resist the temptation to empathise with him and simply collate his habits so they can find out where he goes when he’s not on the public records. But the former Editor himself arrives in the Whispering Gallery and strikes down the sub-Conscience, revealing that he’s bugged the gallery just as the Nurse apparently claimed she had done earlier. The Conscience tries to convince the Editor that the thing he’s hunting doesn’t exist, except within himself, but he strikes her down.

The Conscience awakens in a world unlike any she’s ever experienced, a world outside all of the concepts the people of Light City understand. This is the place the Editor believed the Nurse had shown him, and he’s been out here, cut off from Light City, long enough to develop truly radical notions. He claims that this is why he’s brought the Conscience here, so she can do her job and remind him of what’s right and what’s wrong. The Editor sets his child’s top spinning, claiming that the sound calms him down, but the sound disorients the Conscience as the Editor speaks of what he’s seen out here. The state has forbidden certain concepts and thoughts in order to keep the citizens stupid, because stupid people are resistant to new ideas. Even if the Conscience doesn’t believe what the Editor is telling her, she’s still thinking about it, and that’s causing the idea to spread further. By preventing its people from even considering new ideas, Light City has effectively quarantined itself against evolution.

The high humming tone of the child’s top creates terrible confusion in the Conscience’s mind, and she begins to relive the memories she’d forgotten had ever existed -- not just the memories of the nurse and the female prole, but of Charley Pollard. In her state of confusion, the Editor asks her the most important question: where is the tape with the Doctor’s original memories on it? The woman reveals that it’s been hidden inside the top all along -- and before she can stop him, the Editor smashes the top, retrieves the tape, and smashes it to pieces. He loved the state so much that he sacrificed his sanity to protect it, and now his work is done; the Doctor is dead, the revolution has failed, and at last, the Editor can return to the Ministry of Tourism, submit himself for revision and lose the memories of the terrible things he’s done.

The former Editor become terrorist thus ends up in the Whispering Gallery, where the new Editor informs him that the Conscience has been fully revised as well, though at the end she believed herself to be Charley Pollard and cried out to the Doctor to save her. The terrorist must now answer for his own crimes, which have caused death, destruction and widespread unrest, but all he wants is to be revised so he won’t have to live with the memories of what he’s done. There are no more revolutionaries; they were the real targets of the bombings, and the public destruction was just collateral damage. But this begs a question, although of course the Editor does not ask it directly: how did the terrorist know where those revolutionaries lived and worked? The terrorist finally realises that the hum of the spinning top must have triggered buried memories within his own mind as well, and the Editor, satisfied, allows the terrorist to listen to the tape containing those buried memories -- the root of his obsession, and the real reason for the things he’s done.

These are memories of the Doctor’s arrival in Light City. At first sight it appears a pleasant place, if a bit too bland and bright for the Doctor and Charley’s eyes. The Doctor happens to find a child’s spinning top in his pocket while searching for sunglasses, and Charley sets it in motion while speaking with C’rizz. The conversation drifts onto the topic of religion, and the concept of the afterlife and reincarnation -- and the Doctor is forced to admit that he now knows that C’rizz is a monk, and that the events in the Kromon biosphere have shaken his whole view of the world. Their conversation is interrupted, however, when a passing citizen begins to bombard them with questions, and the other citizens begin to go wild. Suddenly the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz find themselves trapped in the middle of a screaming mob, as the public Voice of Light City announces the start of Jubilee Day. Citizens begin leaping into the fountain, and the Doctor and C’rizz struggle to pull Charley out from beneath them before she is crushed or drowned.

In the confusion, the Doctor is separated from his friends, and eventually ends up in the office of the Censor. Here, the Censor casually reveals that Jubilee is a regular occasion; it’s the one chance the citizens have to act without fear of consequence, and several thousand will die before it’s over. The Doctor only wants to find his friends and leave, but the city’s security officers are all out celebrating Jubilee as well. The Doctor soon realises that the Censor is offering him a trade: his help for the Doctor’s memories. The state needs the Doctor to help it evolve. The Doctor, who would have helped gladly if only he’d been asked, agrees to surrender his memories -- for the sake of his friends.

At last, the Editor become terrorist believes he knows who he is, much to the amusement of the new Censor: the woman who has been, at various times, the female prole, the nurse, the Conscience, and Charley Pollard. The memories removed from the citizens of the state are not destroyed, but kept by the Censor -- and she knows that the Doctor is recording their conversation, using one of the public jukeboxes he used to tap into the cameras in the Whispering Gallery. The Doctor finally understands the significance of the sounds he heard in the female prole’s brainscan so long ago. She is the architect of the future, and he’s the tool used to create it. His actions have sparked the social revolution which the founders of the state realised was necessary to put an end to its stagnation. Like children, the people of Light City have been given structures and rules in order to regulate their existence in a confusing world, but now they’ve grown enough to make decisions for themselves. The Doctor finally understands what he saw outside Light City: a rainbow of infinite possibilities and potential.

Satisfied, the Censor tells the Doctor that the time has come for him to become the new Censor and help guide Light City to a new and better social order. He refuses, insisting that he be reunited with his friends Charley and C’rizz, but the Censor reminds him that the Doctor of his memories was bipedal, while the Editor, like everyone else in Light City, has eight limbs. The Doctor lived for centuries, his friends for decades; the people of Light City live over 100 generations in the space of one year. The former Editor turned terrorist may share the Doctor’s memories, but the real Doctor, Charley and C’rizz left Light City long, long ago. The Censor then opens the window and allows the man to watch the dawning of the new age, but he’s appalled by the violence he sees breaking out in the streets as people begin really to question the state for the first time ever. It may be necessary for the new society to go through some birthing pains, but all the man can see is the death of the state he once loved. Did he really do the right thing?

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
  • The Disc Jockey claims to have records of the Axons and the Zarbi. He also mentions unmade episodes entitled White Noise and Dark Rising; the latter was an unused Big Finish script by Mike Tucker which would have pitted the Seventh Doctor against Anthony Ainley’s incarnation of the Master.
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