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1963: Fanfare for the Common Men was the one hundred and seventy-eighth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Eddie Robson and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.

The first story in the 1963 audio trilogy celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the story shone more light on the musical group John Smith and the Common Men, first mentioned in the very first episode of the series, giving them an "origin story".

Publisher's summary[]

If you remember the Sixties, they say, then you can't have been there.

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. That's why he's taking Nyssa on a trip back to November 1963. Back to where it all began. Back to the birth of the biggest band in the history of British music. Back to see those cheeky lads from Liverpool...

Mark, James and Korky. The Common Men. The boys who made the Sixties swing with songs like "Oh, Won't You Please Love Me?", "Just Count To Three" and "Who Is That Man".

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. And there's something very wrong with the Sixties, if the Beatles no longer exist...

Full audio of part one[]


Part one[]

The Fifth Doctor takes Nyssa to 31 October 1963, just to watch the Beatles exiting a plane. Much to his surprise, though, it's not the Beatles that emerge — but the Common Men, just returning from a tour in Sweden.

A bigger problem ensues, though. As Nyssa pins down a man with an impulse laser in the crowd, she and the gunman seemingly faded out, courtesy of a matter dematerialisation device. The Doctor deduces that this has to do with the change in history — the seeming erasure of the Beatles — and so agrees to go out for a drink with his new friend Rita and the Common Men: Mark, James and Korky.

Meanwhile, Nyssa appears in Hamburg earlier on, in 1960, and meets the same group before their success. They think they're at the peak of their career, which will last maximum one year — "then they'll find a new group, with longer hair or tighter trousers."

Back in 1963, the Common Men reveal to the Doctor that much of their success came from other groups having to go in for national service. They quickly drop the subject, though, when they find out that Rita's brother Greg died in training. But national service ended in 1960, right? Someone's been meddling in time.

He decides to take Rita to 1957, when mandatory service began to wind down. But the 1950s are time-locked; someone has changed history, and is now preventing the Doctor or anyone else from changing it back.

Back in 1960, Nyssa watches the Common Men play "Who Is That Man". Also at the performance is a fan named Sadie.

Going back to 1963, the Doctor and Rita research the Beatles in this new timeline. John's in his own group called the Famous Five with two Petes and a Chaz. Paul is a clarke at a shipping office. Both Paul and George did their services. George is back already, but apprenticed to his father. Ringo wasn't enlisted because of health problems. George, Paul and Ringo all knew the Common Men from the pubs in Hamburg.

The Beatles don't exist. The question is, can the Common Men keep it up like the Beatles did? "I suppose we'll see on Monday how good they are."

The Common Men play "Just Count To Three" for Nyssa, who claims to have liked it, despite being used to more classical-type music in Traken. In 1963, they play "Oh, Won't You Please Love Me?"; the entire audience is entranced into loving them. Rita suddenly becomes even more obsessed; she feels like she could kill for them. Even the Queen starts dancing the twist!

The Doctor's forced to drag Rita out of the theatre, and hypnotise her into focusing. So what is giving the crowd an artificial obsession for the group? The two find a machine making a similar sound to the gunman's, and the Doctor uses it to trace exactly when he took Nyssa.

Before they can get to the TARDIS, though, the crowd grows restless. Rita having misquoted the Doctor as calling the Common Men rubbish earlier, a riot ensues around them. "Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!"

Part two[]

"Wait, I've got an idea." Rita's got a backstage pass, access to all areas. She throws it in the air, and the entire crowd fights over the ticket, forgetting them.

Back with Nyssa, she admits to the Common Men that she came to Hamburg unprepared, and doesn't even have any money. Korky offers his bed; he's prepared to sleep on the floor.

The Common Men already have over a million fans in England alone. Soon, they'll spread all over the world. Will they all go insane like the ones they just encountered? The Doctor abandons Rita in 1963, getting her to research the band as an excuse.

He arrives in 1967 Wales, and tells James that he may be in danger. He and his band mates are getting a private seminar with a guru named Paravatar, who reportedly can change your perspective on life. Suspicious, the Doctor joins the seminar, and demands a private talk with the man. He can see that Paravatar is clearly a time sensitiveTime Lords can sense that with ease — and Paravatar gives in, revealing to the Doctor that he's a retired time traveller who too noticed the problem in time. He did not cause it and has not time-travelled in years.

They participate in a meditation session; Paravatar puts the Common Men under hypnosis. None of them have deliberately interfered with Earth's history, nor do they know who did.

Nyssa, meanwhile, performs a blood test on Korky and finds out he's an alien. Paravatar confirms that they all are. Mark Carville, real name: Myamus, is from the Court of Caldee; his mother was the Queen there while his father was a simple miner. James, real name: Jecomen hails from the Convents of Health; his parents own the place, and it'll get passed onto him eventually. And finally Korky's real name is Kappaban, and he's from the Wheel of Contact; his father's one of the ambassadors there. They all come from the planet Byulna... and they don't even know it.

Korky wonders why she came halfway across the galaxy just to see the Beatles, and Nyssa fills him in on all the details. Suddenly, though, the man with the impulse laser appears. He's found them.

In 1967, the crowd gets in, and the Doctor and Paravatar are forced to end their hypnotism session early. Lenny Kruger then approaches them as a friend, and gets the mob to leave, promising them autographs as the Common Men leave the building. As the Doctor outside assures Paravatar he was helpful, the Common Men strike a deal with their new manager Lenny.

Back with Nyssa, the American man from the airport catches up to her and Korky, and threatens to kill them...

Part three[]

To escape, Korky pretends that Mark and James have arrived, and kicks the man's gun out of his grasp. They run to "the docks". While Korky suggests moving to a busier place, Nyssa refuses — she doesn't want innocent people getting hurt.

Sometime later in history, Rita is interviewing Mark at his house in New York; they've been talking already for six days. They've already used up all 20 tapes she's brought! He tells her that he now actively ignores the Doctor, since the incident with Paravatar. As he talks about the Doctor, the information changes; time is being rewritten. While out to get more tapes, Rita bumps into the Doctor. The Doctor inquires about the Common Men's manager, Lenny Kruger, and tells Rita that he's clearly trying to use them for his own purposes.

Meanwhile, Nyssa and Korky manage to get ahold of the American's gun, and the tables turn. They demand to know everything, before Sadie points a gun at Korky and demands that the American be released. A hostage situation is formed.

Rita returns to Mark's house with milk and eggs... and the Doctor. Despite protests at first, the two talk. Mark decides that Rita must make their interview into a book, to let the public know how things really were. Maybe then the crowds will leave him alone.

A few years earlier in November 1970, Lenny brings the Common Men to New York City. He plans for them to do three shows in London, New York and Los Angeles.

At Mark's place, the Doctor is shown images from a gig in Hamburg; he recognises Nyssa in one of the photos. Apparently, the girl disappeared a few nights after she arrived, never to be mentioned again by Korky. What happened to her?

Back in Hamburg, Sadie ties Nyssa and Korky up. The man is revealed to be from the same planet as Korky and the others — Byulna. After revealing his plans to insert them into Earth's history, he and Sadie wipe Korky's memory so that he can't remember the man or his alien status.

While he discusses old photos with the Doctor, Mark Carville is suddenly transformed, into his true form. In a different voice, he orders the Doctor to give him the photographs, and throws him to the other end of the room. He's drawing energy from the photos, and suddenly remembers the truth about himself. But where is the energy coming from? Everyone across the globe is thinking about them, looking at pictures of him, reading about him. The attention, the popularity, gives him unimaginable power.

James and Lenny then barge into the house, and discover the transformed Mark. Lenny has planned this all along, but hoped that all three would transform at the same time. As the Doctor notes, though, Lenny didn't put himself in the spotlight, preferring to remain behind the scenes. He's using the Common Men to acquire power, but yet at the same time is afraid of that power. Mark complains about James' controlling nature, and then kills him in anger. When his life is threatened too, Lenny flees, leaving Mark alone with the Doctor. Mark wants to burn everything that refuses to be his... "And I'm gonna start with you."

Part four[]

The Doctor escapes death by lighting a match after purposely leaving the gas on a couple of minutes earlier. The photographs are set on fire; Mark loses his main source of power, and the Doctor flees.

Meanwhile, Sadie and Lenny discuss how they're going to kill Nyssa. It has to look like an accident, so that people don't suspect Korky of being the murderer. As Lenny's about to do the deed — by making her "accidentally" slip, fall down stairs and break her neck — his time machine suddenly appears, piloted by an older Lenny.

The TARDIS materialises, and the Doctor returns to retrieve Nyssa. The two discuss the situation, and swap notes. The Doctor thinks that there must be a risk involved in what Lenny is making the Common Men go through; otherwise, he'd do it himself. They find a lovely doughnut shop named the Pfannkuchen, and go in.

Old Lenny discusses events with young Lenny and Sadie. As he explains, Mark "ascended" and killed James, so they need to further manipulate with time and change history — make them all ascent together, before they can split up. They insert instructions into Korky's head on what to do if the others threaten to split up, hoping he can stop it from happening. Old Lenny then travels to 1970 to see how his plan worked out.

At the Pfannkuchen, they meet Mark and James, and try to explain to them that they're not human. Suddenly, though, a space-time ship appears overhead. Lenny phones the restaurant, and informs him that the ship has come from a future where he won, and became the most powerful man in all of Mutter's Spiral. He urges them to leave, leading the Doctor to decide that Lenny doesn't want them to discover something. "Does anyone know when this club was built?"

Lenny orders a commander to draw the TARDIS team out. The Doctor orders everyone except the Common Men in the club to leave the premises, to save them from whatever comes next. He then discovers something very interesting indeed... The Pfannkuchen is only a disguise. In reality, it's a spaceship — the spaceship that originally brought the Common Men to Earth. They flee in the ship, and go to Liverpool. Just as the Doctor begins to figure out how to use its time travel capabilities, though, they get caught in a tractor beam and Lenny appears. He threatens to wipe their memories of everything they've learned; he has the power of controlling them by subliminal suggestion. He leaves, taking Mark and James with him. But with the two Common Men gone, Lenny's army has no reason not to destroy them...

The Doctor and Nyssa manage to escape though, and arrive in June 1966. They go to a gig of Common Men's. They've just gotten back together, but Lenny tells Sadie that they'll be taken soon. He's shocked to see the Doctor greet him. The Doctor's plan then goes into action. The police arrive, and try to arrest Lenny for the murder of James O'Meara, when he pulls his gun. He orders his men to slaughter everyone on the premises, but the Doctor tells him that they're now in a different track of history, where he didn't gain an army. He achieved this by getting Korky to remove the batteries.

Lenny kills the police officer, and escapes. He shoots everyone in his way. Rita has spread a false story about Lenny killing James back in May 1966. A body was supposedly found, and identified as James. As a newsreader announces to the public, Lenny subsequently replaced him with a look-alike. The newsreader interviewed the other Common Men, who admitted that they knew of the swap, but were told that the real James had simply undergone a mental breakdown. All of this, of course, is a lie created by the Doctor to weaken Lenny. The corpse was actually a lifeless dummy produced by him using the genetic modifier onboard the Pfannkuchen. As bad press about him spreads across the US, and soon the world, Lenny dies within a day.

The Doctor gives him an offer. If Lenny gives him the key to the time lock on 1957, the Doctor will go back and undo what he did. None of his hard work will have happened — he won't even remember it — but he'll live. And the Earth will be restored to its proper timeline. Lenny reluctantly agrees, and gives him the codes.

With the Earth restored to its proper timeline, the Doctor and Nyssa go to one of the Common Men's gigs. The musicians briefly think they recognise the two time travellers, but dismiss it. The group isn't doing too well without Lenny's influence, and are "interested in anything that pays". The Doctor suggests that they become a backing group for "Chris Waites", real name Aubrey, from Chris Waites and the Carrollers. And thus is born John Smith and the Common Men...

Reflecting back, the Doctor recalls that his granddaughter Susan had several of John Smith and the Common Men's records, and used to play them in the TARDIS. As he explains to Nyssa, this had always been the flow of time, what should happen; Lenny always brought the group to Earth, and was always defeated by his own people. The Common Men always grouped with Waites because of the Fifth Doctor, who always did so because he heard of the combined group from his past and their future. Mark, James and Korky weren't returned to their home planet Byulna as well, because no one knew they were there.

In the Top Charts, John Smith and the Common Men have reached #34. In three weeks' time, they'll be in #2, only ranked under the Beatles themselves. As he explains all this to Nyssa, Rita appears next to them. In the corrected timeline, she calls the Common Men "a bit naff", and is now obsessed with the Beatles instead... And here they come on stage!



The Doctor[]


Planets and species[]

  • All three Common Men — Mark, James and Korky — as well as Lenny come from the planet Byulna, and belong to a race known as Byulnians.


  • The gunman and Nyssa travel in time by matter dematerialisation circuit.


Cultural references to the real world[]

Music from the real world[]


With the Common Men.jpg

Homages to The Beatles albums With the Beatles and Abbey Road, used to promote the story.


External links[]