Anke Von Grisel owns the Verbier Museum of the Impossible, a collection of things from timelines that never were. Every now and again, the Doctor calls her on her phone and warns her that the objects are dangerous. And every time, she tells the Doctor to leave her alone. But once she acquires the masks, things start to go awry. She gets her final phonecall. The Curator has a warning for her regarding paradoxes.
A museum that shouldn't exist sits in the small alpine village of Verbier. It's only a small house on a long lane with a sign instead of the marbled, grandiose museums that many people think of when they hear "museum". The museum is run by Anke Von Grisel, an elderly woman who suffers from arthritis. The Verbier Museum of the Impossible, established 2044, has one rule: no time travel.
And so the first tour of the day begins with Anke showing the guests around the tapestries and other exhibits, which all sit on her hand-made plinths. Anke is proud of her plinths and is horrified by the thought of Gunther ordering his plinths online.
At the first plinth, she introduces the group to the pipe, roughly fifteen centimetres long and seemingly ordinary. She exclaims that it is made from polyvinyl chloride and agrees that the pipe, which was made in the eighties, is perfectly ordinary in every way. However, she points out that it was made by Marburg Plastic, a company that has never existed. Marburg has never had a plastic factory, despite all of her research.
She takes them to the second plinth, and to an exhibit that she apparently hates. Atop the plinth is a coin from 1954. One side has a double-headed eagle, whilst the other houses the face of Adolf Hitler. She assumes that the group requires no further explanation and moves on.
The third plinth holds a metal sphere covered in circuits. She openly confesses that she has no idea what it is. She states that it was sent to her from a British collector who found it in his garden. Next to it is a small card reading Toclafane. The collector seemed to know the word but not how he knew it.
The fourth exhibit was Napoleon on a stegosaur. She then pauses, realising that she has been presenting these items without explanation. She points to the twelve plinths and explains that they are relics from other pasts that never happened. She continues her tour until she reaches the twelfth exhibit, about which she says nothing. She allows the group to wander around.
Much later, her landline phone rings. She knows that only one person ever rings her. This person always seems to have a different voice, sometimes he sounds old, sometimes he sounds Scottish. Once, she was even female. This did not confuse Anke, as she owns the museum for the impossible.
She tells the caller firmly that they cannot come here and confiscate her items. The person explains that the items merely existing shows that something is wrong with the timeline and they must study them. Gazing across her many, seemingly harmless, exhibits, she strongly considers the twelfth plinth, before hanging up on the Doctor.
The next day, Anke receives the two masks. She notes that, as always happens the day after the Doctor calls, the Mordeela crystals trembled. Other items in the museum are also agitated: the black bowtie rustled, Adelaide Brooke's diary has once again gone blank, as though trying to work out which ending is correct. She places the picture frame back on the twelfth plinth and then brings the new masks inside.
Many people send Anke objects to be assessed, including photographs, newspaper articles and blood tests apparently proving the British royal family to be werewolves. She discards most of it. Opening this box, she sees the two masks and a note: Worn by a long-forgotten cult who worshipped impossibility and contradiction.
She lifts the masks out carefully and sees that the first is male and made from silver. The second is female and made from gold. She thinks them beautiful but also reckons they have the faces of trickster gods from old myth. Over the next few months, Anke works on the plinth, upon which the masks would sit. She researches the identity of this "cult". Anke has also reached the end of her savings and wonders if the masks will ever be displayed.
In November, the Doctor calls once more but Anke argues against him once more. The Doctor warns her of a Time Fracture. He explains that people are manipulating these time fractures, and that these items are like canaries in a coal mine - proof that something is indeed wrong with time. This has the reverse effect that the Doctor intends. Anke is happy that the Doctor considers her objects to be "proof", hence genuine, and intends to keep them safe from the Doctor.
The Doctor pleas with Anke, stating that separate the items are dangerous enough, but together, they threaten to tear reality, which could allow something unknown to come through. Anke snaps "good" and hangs up once more.
Christmas Day rolls along and Anke is eating her dinner alongside her empty place. She notes that it has been twenty years but does not continue the thought. That night, a huge storm unleashes over the mountain. It is not the thunder that awakens Anke, but the phone call. She sees that the storm has toppled over some of the plinths and runs to the twelfth plinth and is happy to see the photo frame is safe.
When she answers the phone, the voice claims to not be the Doctor, but a curator. He warns there is not much time. He admits to her that he has made many mistakes, and has been arrogant in the past, thinking only he had the answers. He explains that once he had tried to fix a bad time, a dark time, and that the things in her museum are evidence of that.
Anke doesn't understand, thinking back twenty years to the man who ran out of the door and completely vanished. Since then, she had been unsure as to what the truth was. The curator explains that he doesn't understand all of it either. He is now worried that by changing things, he has let something else through. Anke explains that that is her reasoning for keeping the objects. She assumed that by collecting and keeping the items safe, that he might come back too.
Upon the next lightning crack, her gaze is drawn behind her where she notes the two masks are not on their plinth. They have also not fallen, but hang instead in the air, unsupported by wires. They are being worn by people that she could not see, and Anke is terrified.
The voice from the telephone calls her name. "Anke," asks the curator as the two masks turn towards her, smiling cruelly, "do you know what a paradox is?"
- Verbier Museum of the Impossible was established in 2044.
- The Shanghai Museum of Propaganda is located in a basement of an apartment building.
- The Darwin Twine Ball Museum is a community centre.
- The Bendery Military Museum is a converted Soviet steam train.
- Anke has arthritis.
- Gunther has a museum "two towns over" from Verbier. The museum hosts a collection of seventeenth century marionettes.
- Anke makes her own plinths.
- The pipe is made from polyvinyl chloride and was made in the "eighties" by a company called Marburg Plastic.
- The coin has a double-headed eagle on one side, and the face of Adolf Hitler on the other.
- The story was also included as the final story of the e-book edition of The Wintertime Paradox, despite taking place before the events of the first story.
- In the real world, Verbier is in Switzerland; however, there is no confirmation of this in the story.
- The version of Canaries printed in The Wintertime Paradox has the Daleks directly interrupting the Eleventh Doctor's phone call with the word, "+ + EXTERMINATE + +".
- One exhibit in the museum is a metal sphere, accompanied by the inexplicable word "Toclafane". (TV: The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords)
- One exhibit in the museum is a crystal from Mordeela. (PROSE: The Knight, The Fool and The Dead)
- The ending of Adelaide Brooke's biography is in flux. (TV: The Waters of Mars)
- British royalty are werewolves. (TV: Tooth and Claw)
- The Eighth Doctor says the museum exhibits indicate that "dark times are coming". (PROSE: The Knight, The Fool and The Dead)
- One exhibit is a painting of Napoleon riding a stegosaurus. (PROSE: The Paradox Moon)
- One incarnation of the Doctor has retired to be a curator. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)