Doctor Who and the prisoner
Ever on guard defending himself and his very sanity from the obscure machinations of Number 2 - to break him, to invade his inner privacy, to learn his secrets and to make of him no more than another rotten cabbage, a pathetic shattered collaborator - Number 6 never relented in his continual escape attempts from the Village. Yet all to no avail. Remote, guarded by armed forces, by optic surveillance watching his every move, by all manner of astonishing advanced technology, and by Rover, ever lurking. Rover, the great howling, bounding, bouncing, implacable and inescapable white viscous spheres of very nature unknown and mysterious, alive or mechanical? leaping and rolling in terrifying relentless pursuit and bringing to heel any and every attempted escapee across land or sea.
And as the days of eerily soothing captivity passed and blurred one into the next, somewhere beyond the shimmering waves and the bright horizon lay the entire ordinary world, fading from every sense of reality, that stolid Number 6 feared to his very marrow, never, ever, to see again . For any tactic was acceptable, including brainwashing, threats, drugs, torture, and more. Undermining Number 6's resolve and identity, even playing upon his monumental vanity often by turning his own escape attempts, however ingenious and valiant, against him. But all within certain limitations, as, for whatever reason, the somewhat egotistical Number 6 actually was considered too special and important to the mysterious powers behind the Village to kill outright or completely crush his mind to uselessness. At least for the time being.
Until one fine day, in the surreal false tranquility and constant sameness of the Village, the beautiful and comfortable yet dangerous and enigmatic strange and twisted Utopia of coercion and consensus, sinister model for the future less of conspiracy than sheer visionary complacency, a secret forced retirement shoreline community and interrogation center for spies from both sides, Number 6 came to notice a new and incongruous feature studiously ignored by everyone else, warders and inmate residents alike.
It was an old fashioned blue police call box. And, not surprisingly, Number 6 found the call box locked up tight. But Number 6 dared only the most furtive attempts to gain entry.
This time the arrival of the new Number 2 seemed jarring and unexpected. Grinning affably, he even had to flash his identification, opening a small black nondescript wallet. Number 6 observing from nearby, noticed however, that the card was blank. But such touch of the surreal was common place almost beneath notice, here in the Village.
And when, as per what seemed the usual protocol, Number 6 was summoned for tea to the Green Dome, the new Number 2, somewhat agitated, actually pretended affable, stupid boredom. But to Number 6, Number 2 actually seemed frightened of interaction with Number 6. What deep machinations might even a Number 2 so dread however minutely to disrupt? What where they all waiting for? What lay in store for Number 6?
And in the days to come the rising tension in the Village was all but palpable to Number 6, though little could he suspect the reason. For within the Green Dome, the computer system suddenly began to over-clock, printing out datum correlating the face and form of the mysterious new Number 2 with The Doctor, an dark and obscure figure reappearing at times of historical disaster. Evidently, an inherited title and an uncanny family resemblance! And whispers began to rise of a harbinger of doom.
And so there was great relief when, quite suddenly, Number 2, AKA the Doctor, was suddenly gone again. But encounter with the New Number 2 was not long in coming for Number 6:
"Did I say to sedate him?" "You never said not to, Sir. All the same to me, Sir." "Take some pride in your work!" "Yes, Sir." "No, I wasn't talking to you." "Sir?" piped up another voice. "Never mind." Number 6, limp and in a haze, felt himself immobilized, strapped into place. "Gaze into the Eye of Harmony" he was instructed, as a great white light opened and spilled into him. "Forgive the imposition, friend, I just need to make some minor adjustments..."
And then, the strangest thing: Number 6 had awoken in his bed, stretching peacefully, as his a accustomed wariness reasserted itself with a start. But he didn't feel dull or groggy, either, as he rose, dressed quickly and rushed out.
And now here he was, confronted by this odd and out of place old police call box, locked from all his prying urgency. Number 6 felt strangely convinced as though he had seen inside! What an odd dream, if dream it was. Surely, there was nothing the like in the so called Therapy Zone!
Meanwhile, Number 6 was summoned once again to the Green Dome for tea. When the little taxi pulled up, Number 6 knew well enough to get in. That damn blue box would just have to wait!
But to the surprise of Number 6, the little Village taxi proceeded to the helipad where the new Number 2 was seeing off a nervous little man with a briefcase. Oddly enough, the new Number 2 seemingly recognized the helicopter pilot and made a point of giving the chap bad gardening tips!
As the helicopter rose from the pad, the new Number 2 shouted explanation over the wind and chopping thunder of the helicopter blades to the somewhat puzzled Number 6 standing right there beside him: The helicopter pilot's future wife will be a neighbor trying to help him with his deplorable gardening! A botanist destined to make an important contribution...
But when the taxi finally drove them both to tea within the Green Dome, all the advice that the new Number 2 really had to offer to the quintessential rugged individualist Number 6 himself, tinged with his own deep secret emotions, was that, to coin a cliché, no man is an Island.
"I'm all for that!" retorted Number 6, rising to depart the Green Dome, and getting in the last word, as it came to pass, before yet another new Number 2 took office very soon afterward.
Each of these strange new Number 2's that were to follow one upon the next were different enough so that Number 6, even observing all they had in common, could have no inkling that each replacement Number 2 was, indeed, a successively younger self of the same man, the alien called the Doctor. Indeed, sometimes they might even appear older. But always physically distinctly different men.
The cunning little Scotsman, no less melodramatic, was the most mysterious. But it seemed that he was here to retrieve something of his own to make ready for some dire personal last battle. And most markedly, that over active gaudy little prick was followed by the well and mild and mannered prep school boy. The classic hot and cold treatment, so Number 6 ever warily surmised!
Number 6, however, could have little inkling at all that the eccentric new Number 2 was not a human being of this Earth, but a Time Lord known as the Doctor, a being who does not die, but regenerates, beginning again in a new form and continuing with not only a new face but a distinct new personality to go with it and to keep from stagnating in such a long life. For the Regeneration of the Time Lords is known to be veritably like unto reincarnation but without amnesia or the transmigration of spirit!
For, unbeknownst to Number 6, each previous regeneration of the Doctor traveled through time to in turn take office as the new Number 2! The Doctor was experiencing their encounters in reverse order. And the ultimate destiny of these two men was fast approaching Number 6, even as it stretched into long past experience of the Doctor.
Still, Number 6 could hardly be oblivious to a different line of questioning emerging. No longer the usual and ceaseless why did Number 6 resign, but, instead, why do you want to escape? From what? To what else? Indeed, what is liberty really, and and what is any individual's acceptable personal cost of freedom? Such where subtle shift in the content or implication of interrogation, beginning since the appearance of the incongruous antique police call box.
But Number 6 deflected these new questions with his accustomed irony, his understated flippant scorn, half expecting to be strong-armed into another session in the Therapy Zone.
Yet Number 6 observed and kept to himself how each of these eccentric new Number 2's in succession, however brilliant, seemed to be less seasoned if more vital, understand less, and bringing more of the same questions!
Naturally it occurred to Number 6 to wonder just what is the relationship between these eccentric new Number 2's, one after another, and just what were they trying to convince Number 6? Just what was their game?
Then came another of the flamboyant entries, the one in the rainbow scarf and fedora, all teeth and hair, like Harpo Marx, but ever so talkative! Number 6 invited him to his favorite London confectioners, to stock up on those jelly-babies he was so fond of. But this new Number 2 was too careful to answer freely. So who's side was this one really on?
Number 6, ever observant, soon became aware of how this odd Bohemian new Number 2, having discovered a secret maintenance passage and worked out the timing to evade the automated surveillance, was hence able to dash to and from the blue call box unseen and at will. Indeed, fedora and scarf would disappear briefly and then turn up again just as soon as he was missed. And this clearly agitated the warders, little as they dared object. Strolling back into view, casual and bon vivant, the eccentric new Number 2, struggle mightily as he would to conceal it, often seemed flushed, agitated and spent, as though he'd only just fighting for his very life. Yet all about was serene as always.
Then again, if hair & teeth, so forceful and cheery, ever spouting nonsense with conviction, was only playing along, he did it with some gusto. Because there were the grueling interrogations. And all of the questioning always came down to diatribes about how Number 6 had better behave, had better be focused if he ever got his absurd unlikely wish of meeting Number 1, the feared and revered unseen authority of the Village, whom no one had ever really met personally. They both knew that they were under tight surveillance, of course. This cunning new Number 2 was trying to get Number 6's cooperation and lower his guard in the interrogation by pretending to try to slip him some sort of secret message or plan! How very clever.
But Number 6 had yet no inkling that the Doctor was moving back and forth in time through the tesseracting hyperspatially torqued corridors deep within the TARDIS, to sabotage the Village security systems in the near future from behind the scenes, while trying desperately to prep this mule stubborn Number 6 beforehand for his pivotal historical role in the mass escape from the Village and it's destruction, the break out, that the Doctor had already seen under weigh in the future and was helping even now to engineer. If only the I-Ching lines won't collapse, leaving all his hard work undone in time!
Tensions seems to grow between the mysterious unseen Number 1 and the flamboyant new Number 2, until, one day, like the last jelly baby at the bottom of the bag, he was all gone and nowhere to be seen in the Village. Had he been dismissed, or , as Number 6 fancied, was that overbearing eccentric actually holed up inside that ridiculous blue box? But Number 6 had not long to wait for a replacement Number 2. Indeed, it was not long before Number 6 spied an angry and irascible white haired dandy throwing away his numbered identification lapel badge, angrily marching away from the the functionaries of the Green Dome chasing after him like flustered mother hens, as he shouted "I've resigned, leave me alone"!
Seizing the opportunity, Number 6 reaching into the heights of his famous chutzpa, ran to catch up with the irate new arrival to bluff the role of a warder seeking to intimidate and interrogate him, and learned, getting an ear full of indignant threat and complaint, of how just that day the third Doctor had awoken in the Village, the very last place he ever wanted to see again, after having been gassed in his lab at UNIT HQ! The sheer audacity. And just what is it that you find so funny, young man? Oh, right. It's you again! How droll.
But, even as Number 6 puzzled over that last, suddenly, noticing to his surprise and delight, the incongruous blue call box, the Doctor, for that's who it was, yet again, of course, made a dash for it, then cursing only to discover his key missing, sighing, petulantly, reached for the spare in a hidden compartment above the letter 'P' of the word "POLICE".Number 6 dashed to join him, but in a flash out of nowhere, Rover was there to bar his way...
Number 6 could only watch in frustration as another man emerged from the call box to accept his post as the new Number 2. A dourly appointed fussbudget mop top, all in black, scarcely any more pleased to be here than that irascible dandy! "It won't be long, my good fellow" he assured Number 6. "For all the good..."
That night, all the security systems of the Village started going haywire, and a reluctant Number 6, who was ready to take advantage of the confusion for another escape attempt, instead found himself dragooned by the dandy into assisting the mop-top in discharging himself from the Therapy Zone!
And the irascible new Number 2 was immensely pleased with himself. "Well, that was stupid!" Number 6 admonished him. "Yes, positively petulant, however educational, and I'll pay for it by and by" replied the mop-top, with a smirk. "If not sooner" retorted the irritated dandy, scowling.
And then, one day soon enough, a slender frail but intense white haired old gentleman also in black formal wear and cane but neater than his energetic predecessor, turned up in the Village with his granddaughter Susan, somewhat confused and alarmed by the warders as they converged upon the intruders. Number 6, seeing Rover coming, leapt into action, helping the crafty old man bluff that he was someone or other called the new Number 2.
If course, Number 6 seemed secretively motivated by more than the Chivalry that he allowed the warders perceive. And the warders, clearly having been instructed in advance, accepted the flimsy ruse and the Doctor as the new Number 2.
And when Number 6 was, in due course, invited once again to the Green Dome for tea, things seemed different yet again this time. The inquisitive old man, though he beat about the bush, actually seemed to be trying to milk the no less cagy Number 6 of his own impressions, yes, of all things, for information about the Village! Now this is another new tack, mused Number 6.
And Susan even seemed genuinely friendly. Indeed, she and her grandfather were both so poor at concealing their urgency to enlist the advice and assistance of Number 6. The pressure from the mysterious Number 1 was surely mounting. Whatever Surreal mind games they were about would surely come to a head soon. And Number 6 stubbornly reminded himself that he dared not be drawn in. That he still wasn't interested in anything or anyone except getting free of the Village.
Then the image upon the main monitor of the Green Dome zoomed in on the location of the mysterious blue police call box. "Ah. I see that you are curious about my TARDIS, young man." announced the old gentleman. "Splendid! Come, come, I'll show you what's inside." An offer Number 6, despite himself, and so with wry humor, could not refuse.
But even as they departed, the old gentleman snatched and pocketed an envelope off from a silver platter proffered the mute yet obsequious dwarfish butler.
The Doctor then withdrew the envelope from his suit jacket pocket, opening it with a letter knife proffered to him by Susan, and read the small page folded inside.
Number 6 looked at the Doctor, inquisitively. "A note to myself" explained the Doctor cryptically. "Reminding me of an errand I must run. That this contrived little Village of yours may likely call upon me for long term study. An historical mystery still shrouded in secrecy for some time to come."
The Doctor, preening the lapels of his dark suit smuggly, went on to spin his fabulous exploits as an explorer of history and the cosmos, and, at the console, priming the TARDIS for launch, offered Number 6 to share with him the freedom of wandering time and space.
Then the phone rang. The Doctor handed Number 6 the telephone receiver. It was Janet Portland! sobbing, and begging Number 6 to forget her and save himself. But then they where cut off. And so, Number 6, over wrought, finally declined the Doctor's offer, Finally confronted with the humbling and bitter realization of the limits of vaunted self sufficiency, Number 6, after all his flippancy, Chivalry, determination, open hostility and stiff upper lip, was not merely stir-crazy, but no less homesick than the time wanderers themselves. The Village held from him something Number 6 wanted, after all. -The Village so smug that every individual eventually needs to belong badly enough to accept whatever terms imposed. Even after the theft of freedom, isolation from everything cherished and familiar was that threat ever to be held over his head to always keep him in bondage to unseen tyranny of which he had sworn might even annihilate him but would never make him bend and even eat his own previous words. -Atypically seditious remark assiduously cataloged and never forgotten in the Village.
Their first step to wearing him down was now accomplished. As a visibly defeated and angry Number 6 made ready to disembark the TARDIS, on the main monitor, transmission from inside the Green Dome began. The shadowy new Number 2 was curled up within that hemispherical seat of office like some dehumanized mutant Kaled inside it's armored Dalek fighting machine, number 2's official walking sick leaning against it.
"Did I not promise you" demanded the Doctor, glancing furtively at the note still in his hand "that your Number 6 would balk at the real cost of freedom, hm?"
At this, the Rovers surrounding the TARDIS discreetly withdrew for Number 6 to step forth back into the Village.
Copyright Aaron Agassi 2002 - 2009
"the prisoner" and "Doctor Who" are copyrights and trademarks of Carlton International Media Limited and the BBC respectively, completely unauthorized non profit appropriation thereof upon their sufferance.
'ENCOUNTER AT NIGHT' by Jean-Marc LOFFICIER suffers from cardboard motivation, and inspired me to improve upon its dramatic obstacle. While 'Who Goes There' by Paul Gadzikowski just can't get off the ground despite launching itself from a perfectly serviceable plot device. -which I therefore subsequently liberated...