Two things arrive on the same night in Central Park, New York, 1976, The first is a fireball from space, bringing with it a new identity for one Alice Trefusis. The second is the TARDIS, carrying the Doctor and his friends on the trail of an unusual comic book cover.
The Doctor's strength is sapped by something in the New York air – but what could cause such a malaise? As he and Mike are first mixed up with the police and then taken on an aerial ride over the city, Mrs Wibbsey comes face to face with the legendary Talkies film star Mimsy Loyne.
And all the while, long multicoloured scarves and floppy felt hats are climbing the stairs of the Dakota building...
New York, July 11, 1976: New York City resident Buddy is working a street pretzel stand, as his girlfriend, Alice Trefusis, watches from her office window. Alice’s supervisor, the elderly and awful Mimsy Loyne, employs her as a literary secretary, helping with Loyne’s memoirs; Alice hates the job, but needs the money. Nearby, a cult meets to perform bizarre rites. That night, a meteor crashes into Central Park; Buddy and Alice search for it, but fail to find it. The next day, the Doctor, Mike Yates, and Mrs. Wibbsey arrive in the TARDIS; the Doctor is almost immediately struck with an ill feeling, which he attributes to something in the atmosphere. He notes the now-empty pretzel stand, and then they go into the park.
Buddy, meanwhile, has abandoned his post to take Alice on a walk in the park while Alice vents over her boss. They stumble upon the meteor; Alice says it is singing to her. She touches it and is knocked back; Buddy sees her glowing with strange golden light. The Doctor and his companions come upon Buddy and Alice, and offer to help; but Alice fears him, and tries to get rid of him. Suddenly, energy bolts shoot from her eyes, and she can’t control them. Wibbsey points out that this is all in the comic, which says Alice will become a loved superhero called Ms. Starfall—indeed, Alice seems to embrace the idea, before passing out.
The Doctor carefully collects the meteor (wrapped in a coat), and Wibbsey helps Buddy take Alice back to Loyne’s apartment, with Wibbsey recognising Loyne’s name as a once-famous actress. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor feels better; while analysing the meteor, it splits open, revealing half a golden heart, which is stamped “SEPUL”—short for “Sepulchre”, presumably. He realises that Mrs. Wibbsey is in danger, and takes Mike to find her. Along the way, they find the brutally-murdered body of a young man, who has been desiccated like previous victims. At that moment the police arrive, finally alerted to the strange happenings, and—jumping to entirely the wrong conclusion—arrest them both.
At Loyne’s apartment, Buddy at last meets Loyne, and takes Alice to her own room. Alice awakens, and says that she feels amazing. Loyne sees the police entering the park, and demands to talk to Buddy; Wibbsey goes to talk to her instead. She accidentally leaves behind the comic, which is dated for today, and includes all of them, as previously described. Alice likes the idea—and suddenly discovers she can fly. She takes an old Hollywood Valkyrie costume from Loyne’s collection, and notes it is the same as in the comic; she puts it on, and starts exultantly using her powers, flying over the city. Buddy looks again at the comic, and sees that the writer’s name is the same as his. In the window, Wibbsey sees the Doctor and Mike escorted out of the park by the police. As she prepares to go after them, Loyne orders Buddy to bring back her secretary, then leave.
Alice is using her powers to stop petty crimes and avert minor disasters. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Mike are in a squad car; the Doctor continues to feel worse now that he is away from the TARDIS. They discuss the Demon; the Doctor says it is “a potpourri of physiognomy and DNA”, and could be anyone around them. They witness Alice flying around, and then watch as she lands in front of them and demands their release from the police. When the police refuse, she disarms them, and removes the Doctor and Mike from the car. At the apartment, Loyne gloats over the progress of the situation, shocking Mrs. Wibbsey; Loyne puts her out, with Buddy. While exiting, they see glimpses of the Doctor, and return to the apartment in search of him—but the glimpses begin to pile up, as if there are multiples of him. Buddy and Wibbsey hide on the stairs to watch as the figures go past, but none of them are the actual Doctor. The figures go into the door at the top of the stairs.
Alice brings the Doctor and Mike back to the apartment through a window, landing in Loyne’s bedroom. The Doctor feels his worst so far, and thinks he is near the epicentre of the effect. Upstairs at the attic level, Buddy and Wibbsey listen at the door where the figures entered, hearing what sounds like ritual chanting; they peek in, and see a weird, dancelike ritual in progress. The Doctor-like figures are dancing around the final piece of the spatial geometer, which is glowing. The figures discover they are being watched, but they continue the chant.
The Doctor confronts Loyne, and says that he knew her in 1922, on Sunset Boulevard, when he had a different form. Alice demands to know where Buddy is, and says she will find him; the Doctor asks her to bring back Mrs. Wibbsey as well. When Alice leaves, Loyne changes demeanour and tries to paint Alice as her captor, and possibly the Demon, as well; she also admits to remembering the Doctor. He does not believe her claims, though. She claims to have heard Alice consorting with demons. The Doctor expounds his own thoughts briefly, and then sends Mike to make tea. While Mike is out, the Doctor admits that he never had a past acquaintance with Loyne, and therefore she is lying about remembering it—and is the Demon. She admits it, but says that he is too weak to resist—and she needs him.
Mike returns and finds the Doctor weakened on the floor, and Loyne absent. The Doctor insists that they must find the true epicentre of the debilitating effect. The cultists in the attic admit to working for a mysterious boss, presumably the Demon; they say that she has ordered them to complete this ritual as the Doctor dies. Alice arrives and breaks in to rescue Wibbsey and Buddy. She easily overcomes the cultists, knocking them out; Wibbsey takes the opportunity to go after the spatial geometer component. The cult leader intercepts her. Loyne arrives and claims leadership over the cult. The Doctor and Mike also arrive, and confront Loyne; the Doctor suddenly appears recovered, which he attributes to the interruption of the ritual. Loyne is not dismayed; she changes to the form of the Demon, announcing that her preparations are already complete anyway. She admits to having been all the villains of the preceding stories; she also claims to have been responsible for the meteor which gave Alice her powers. She intends to dispose of the others as irrelevant now that she has the Doctor; the Doctor points out that they are never irrelevant, as Mike has just reclaimed the geometer component while she was distracted. In retaliation, the Demon grabs Mrs. Wibbsey and drags her into the dematerialisation chamber. The chamber dematerialises, but not before the Demon announces that the Sepulchre is prepared for the Doctor.
The group returns to the TARDIS; the Doctor says they must go after Mrs. Wibbsey. The Doctor tells Buddy and Alice they must stay in New York; but unfortunately, now that the Demon is gone, Alice’s powers will fade in a few hours. Buddy is not dismayed; he plans to write a comic series about Alice, or rather, Ms. Starfall.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Mrs Wibbsey - Susan Jameson
- Mike Yates - Richard Franklin
- Buddy - Trevor White
- Alice - Laurel Lefkow
- Mimsy Loyne - Lorelei King
- Cop - Rupert Holliday Evans
- Cultist - John Chancer
- Mike mentions kryptonite.
- This story was recorded at Fitzrovia Post.
- This story was later included in The Nest Cottage Chronicles.
to be added
- Official Starfall page on bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Starfall at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide