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Playback was the first story in the anthology Decalog. It was written by Stephen James Walker. It featured the Seventh Doctor.


Bart Addison is sitting in his office afternoon when a stranger enters. The man claims to have lost his memory, and thinks he was brainwashed or hypnotised. He does remember that he needs to find a cylinder of some importance. Addison suggests he check his wallet. The man searches through his pockets, bringing out dozens of items, but no wallet. Addison has an idea.

The two head for the home of Silverman. The gate is locked, so they climb over. As they make their way into the house, Addison is attacked by a large man. The stranger is about to hit the man with a rock, but Addison stops him. The man is Ramon, Silverman's guard, and he apologises profusely to Addison for attacking him, as he did not recognise him. They enter the house.

Addison explains his client's problem to Silverman. Silverman is a psychic who can use psychometry on the stranger's possessions to determine information about them. He chooses one item after another and tells Addison and the stranger the history behind each.

One after another, Silverman examines a mechanical duck, a phial of mercury, a pamphlet with a drawing on it, a crystal scarab and a nugget of gold, and tells a story connected with each one. The stranger seems to be a person, called the Doctor, who can apparently change his appearance. When Addison suggests a newspaper with a headline about UFOs, the stranger objects, and Silverman chooses a piece of chalk instead. He then examines, against the stranger's wishes, something that looks like a lightbulb, followed by a computer disk and a saxophone mouthpiece.

At this point, Addison has had enough, even though the stranger wants to continue. They leave, with Addison driving and the stranger becoming more and more agitated. When they stop, Addison confronts the stranger, accusing him of being Mykloz, a Malean that the Doctor encountered in one of the stories. Mykloz admits it and wonders how Addison knew. Addison claims that the Doctor he has learned about from the stories would never kill someone as the stranger tried to do to Ramon. Suddenly a spaceship appears, and Mykloz grabs Addison's gun while he is distracted. They drive to an abandoned house and go down an elevator into a control room. Mykloz puts Addison into a locked room in which there is another prisoner — the real Doctor. He has the cylinder that Mykloz wants. It's a genetic stabiliser.

There is a screen on which the two prisoners can watch events in the control room. Two "men" come down the elevator and confront Mykloz for not completing his mission of clearing the humans from Earth. They decide it needs to be destroyed, but Mykloz protests. They accuse him of having compassion for aliens, something forbidden by their species.

The Doctor sets controls to blow up the house. Addison breaks them out of their prison, and after a brief skirmish with the three Maleans, the Doctor and Addison escape. They put some distance between themselves and the house, which explodes, taking the Malean spaceship with it. The Doctor and Addison return to the site, where nothing is left but the TARDIS, undamaged by the explosion. The Doctor gives Addison the cylinder as a souvenir and departs.



  • Addison mentions Sherlock Holmes, but the stranger isn't familiar with the name.
  • Some of the things in the stranger's pocket are a catapult, a telescope, spectacles, an egg-timer, a bag of jelly beans, and a newspaper.
  • As the Doctor enters the TARDIS, he calls out to Benny.


  • This story is made up of linking material for all the stories featured in the anthology Decalog.


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