Ship in a Bottle was the first story in the audio anthology Doom Coalition 4, produced by Big Finish Productions. It was written by John Dorney and featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka and Hattie Morahan as Helen Sinclair.
The Doctor, Liv and Helen are hurtling into a future that has been utterly destroyed, trapped inside a shuttle with no possible means of escape. But with the lives of everyone in the universe in the balance, they've got to find one. And soon. When the stakes are this high, you can't just give up. Or can you?
In an escape shuttle hurtling into non-time, the Doctor effectively switches on the brakes, leaving them adrift in the Time Vortex, carried forward by temporal momentum. Liv and Helen take inventory of everything aboard the shuttle whilst the Doctor attempts to work out how to operate it. In response to Helen questioning whether or not they want to get back, he tells her that Cardinal Padrac has changed time by destroying the future and that they can revert it.
Liv admonishes the Doctor for leaving them behind, which he explains as being a precaution to keep them safe and retaliates by asking how she and Helen could believe that the Nine was him. He remembers how the Eleven did not immediately recognise Liv and Helen, confirming that Cardinal Padrac has changed history and created an aberrant timeline. Liv makes him apologise to herself and Helen, before continuing to take inventory.
The Doctor locates the steering controls, finding that the time rudders are improperly attached, puts on a pressure suit to exit the shuttle and fix the problem. Helen thanks Liv for sticking up for her and admits that she sometimes feels redundant due to Liv and the Doctor's history. Tethered to the shuttle, the Doctor climbs around and finds that the rudders are missing, meaning that it cannot be steered.
Helped out of his pressure suit by Liv and Helen, the Doctor tells them that he has let them down and that he has been unwittingly helping Cardinal Padrac ever since, as the Seventh Doctor, he stopped the Eleven. After he says that this is the end of them, Liv looks at the schematics and finds that the shuttle has sails which they can unfurl to arrest the momentum. They do so and lose one due to the time winds, prompting them to vent some oxygen tanks in an attempt to stabilise the shuttle, but lose the other two sails. Whilst they manage to regain control of the shuttle, the sails took some of the outer shell with them.
Whilst the Doctor feels defeated, Liv refuses to give up and tells Helen that she insists on exhausting every possible action before giving up. The Doctor, reminded to think like a doctor and keep trying, encourages them to think outside of the box, leading Helen to suggest that they think about what they could do that Cardinal Padrac would not think to try. The Doctor realises that Cardinal Padrac would never risk his own life and that they should do what Helen first suggested - taking a leap of faith.
The trio put on pressure suits and prepare to jump into the Vortex and ride a shock wave into the past by exploding the shuttle. In attempting to deactivate the force field, the Doctor's tether breaks and Helen explodes the ship with a temporal flare, hoping that she and Liv will land near the Doctor and find him.
Liv and Helen, finding themselves floating in real space and losing oxygen, fire off another flare hoping to attract a spacecraft. Liv tells Helen that they are a team and will survive and defeat Cardinal Padrac, with Helen adding that she was crossing her fingers.
- The shuttle is carried forward by temporal momentum despite the Doctor effectively turning on the brakes.
- The shuttle has a food machine.
- Helen says that bananas are a valuable source of vitamins.
- Gallifreyan fire extinguishers look exactly the same as Earth ones.
- Liv finds a first aid kit, pressure suits for work on the hull and temporal flares.
- The Doctor says that he felt like a goldfish in the pressure suit.
- Discussing how the Seventh Doctor believed himself to be a master of chess, the Doctor says that he could barely win a game of snakes and ladders compared to Padrac.
- The shuttle has sails to catch the time winds.
- The Doctor says that he will take the shuttle to Lake Windermere if it behaves.
- The Doctor says that the shuttle practically has the British Library.
- Helen talks to Liv about her grandmother.
- The Doctor reads Dylan Thomas' poem "Do not go gentle into that good night".
- The cover artwork feature the first instance of imagery from the Twelfth Doctor era being used by Big Finish. The shot of Helen in a space-suit is adapted from the iconic image for Kill the Moon but with Peter Capaldi's face replaced by Morahan's.
- The Doctor experiences "déjà vu" and says that he would like to, for once, be in a non-crashing timeship. (AUDIO: Scenes From Her Life/The Gift)
- Liv mentions how the Doctor left her and Helen, flying off with "Sister Cantica or Malone". (AUDIO: The Doomsday Chronometer)
- The Doctor mentions Octavian and realises that he was the Eight. (AUDIO: The Eighth Piece, The Doomsday Chronometer)
- The Doctor mentions the Master's use of pseudonymns. (TV: Terror of the Autons, etc.)
- The Doctor asks Liv if she remembers the Seventh Doctor, which she says that she does. (AUDIO: Robophobia)
- The Doctor recalls his capture of the Eleven, (AUDIO: The Eleven, Dark Universe) turning Caleera into the Sonomancer (AUDIO: Scenes From Her Life, The Sonomancer) and putting the Doomsday Chronometer together. (AUDIO: The Doomsday Chronometer)
- Liv mentions Molly O'Sullivan and Martin Donaldson. (AUDIO: Eye of Darkness, A Life in the Day)
- The Doctor says fresh fruit once saved his life. (AUDIO: A Death in the Family)