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The Choice was the first installment of BBV's Adventures in a Pocket Universe series, featuring John Leeson as K9 and Lalla Ward as his Mistress.

The story was intended as a sequel to the events of the Doctor Who television story Warriors' Gate, at the end of which Romana II and K9 Mark II left the Fourth Doctor to travel together in E-Space. However, BBV did not have the license to Romana or E-Space, hence the highly similar substitutes employed. Furthermore, while K9 himself appeared under license, BBV did not hold the rights the K9 Mark II design used on television, ended up creating an original K9 design for use on the cover of the story.

Publisher's summary[]

After successfully opposing slavery in the pocket-universe of Ecto-Space, K9 and his Mistress are treated to a life of luxury as the revered guests of Emperor Lukor. However, a life of decadence soon pales for the travellers and after making a hurried departure they discover a society of diseased cave dwellers who are dominated by their unseen masters who they worship as gods. Experience tells the Mistress and K9 that things are not all that they seem and, in a bid to unearth the truth, they place themselves in deadly peril.

Plot[]

In a pre-credits sequence, the Mistress and K9 listen to the wails of anguish amidst a scene of despair and chaos, with the Mistress wondering whether "this" — whatever it is — was all her fault.

Skipping back in time, the narrative properly opens on the Mistress at the court of Emperor Lukor on the planet Jokastarna. She has been the Emperor's guest for some time following the end of her exploits liberating slaves across Ecto-Space, which have made her a living legend — notably her defeat of Kebek and her "conquering disease" on Magronite 4 in the "beleaguered" Hanamar system, although she humbly explains that she merely finished the development of an antidote based on experiments which the locals had already been carrying out. At any rate, she is finding palace life dull, especially as the aristocracy of Lukor's world is proudly illiterate, looking down on the likes of the Court Historian. While the Mistress is forced to attend a dinner party held in her honour, K9 is drilling the Court Historian for ever more details about the history of the Planetary Alliance, explaining that he is attempting to get a fuller understanding of Ecto-Space.

After Lukor baffles and angers her by publicly asking for her hand in marriage without prior warning, the Mistress retreats to her rooms with K9 in a huff, intent on leaving the planet at last, by means of the ship which she and K9 have been building for months. K9 tries to dissuade her from using it, arguing that it is unsafe when it is still incomplete and further tests need to be run. However, when Lukor arrives, chasing after the Mistress for an explanation, she makes it clear to K9 that she is leaving, at once, with or without him, and he reluctantly agrees. They engage the ship's spatial travel facility and dematerialise before a stunned Lukor.

The Mistress and K9 rematerialise in one piece, but, as they clamber out of their smoking ship, they realise it is damaged almost beyond repair. When K9 explains that in addition to all the other damaged components, taking one of the Mistress's joke too seriously, he jettisoned the ship's power source while in flight inside the Vortex, they decide to go look for a temporary power source with which to jump back into the Vortex to get it back. With K9 detecting traces of civilisation some miles away, they begin the journey on foot.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, a young man called Nathanien is having an argument with his mother Lenora, confronting her about her claims to him that his father had been "honoured by the Empress" and was engaged in a "great journey"; he guesses that his father actually died of the plague, and professes disbelief of the legends about the Great Empress "waiting at the edge of the world for the Day of Atonement". Lenora denies it and reminds Nathanien that he himself survived the plagued as a child, which she says makes him a "Chosen One" who will, in time, have "duties to perform". She chides him for having attempted to run away with some friends, going as far as the Outer Chambers; he insists that it wasn't a game and he genuinely wanted to "go outside", to her annoyance. It comes out that Nathanien's newly-enlightened views were conferred to him by Thenora, whom his mother instructs him to forget, saying that Thenora "was a foolish child". Nathanien is shocked to learn, in this manner, of Thenora's death, also of the plague.

K9 and the Mistress reach the source of technological signals they'd picked up and realise it is Lukor's palace: on top of everything else, their jump through the Vortex only took them a few miles out from where they started. Deciding to make the most of it, the Mistress suggests that they do a bit of exploring to get something out of the misadventure, since she'd been wondering what was outside the palace and also wants to give Lukor a few hours to "cool down". They are soon surprised to see a wall around the palace which wasn't visible from the inside, hidden by trees.

Elsewhere, Nathanien is drilling his mother with questions about the task he is apparently to perform, asking about how he will find the Plantation Chamber (he is told that "the walls will tell [him]").

Continuing their reconnaissance, K9 and the Mistress find a ploughed field, to this surprise given the planet was supposed to be completely barren except for the Palace Gardens. K9 identifies the curious vegetables, "like a cross between a potato and a pineapple", as K'On'Qwa fruits. He also analyses the soil and confirms that it is actually quite fertile and high-nutrient. Before they can ponder the mystery any further, they are suddenly beset by an enemy space-ship — a "class 2 warrior-bird" — which fires on them from above.

They manage to take shelter in a cave, though a shot did "minimal damage to K9's rear sensors" — that is, bent his tail. After she fixes it, K9 analyses the ship, confirming that it is not one of Kebek's. Before they can gather any further data, the ship abruptly disappears. With the racket from above dying down, the Mistress hears a faint babble of whispers coming from the wall. She reaches out to touch it and gets an immediate sense that the wall itself is "alive" and was psychically reaching out to meet her, much to her shock. Looking closer, she realises the walls are all glowing, which is what's been lighting the room. They are confronted by a woman — in actuality Lenora — who, seeing that the Mistress is "not one of the Chosen Ones", begins lambasting her for breaking the rules. When she ignores K9's warning, he stuns her.

Elsewhere, a man called Burns finishes an angry phone call.

Progressing further in the network of caves, the Mistress and K9 find a huge number of corpses being fed on by insects. They then make their way to what turns out to be the Plantation Chamber, where they meet Nathanien. When he tells them the name of the room, the Mistress realises what was odd about the field: it was designed to be harvested from beneath; the Plantation Chamber must be right underneath the field. When she attempts to describe the woman K9 stunned to Nathanien to determine whether she and the mother he talks about are one and the same, the Mistress realises that Nathanien is blind. They are joined by Lenora, now awake, who asks if the Mistress is from "another tribe" and once again chides her for "trespassing" on "sacred land", also accusing her of having come to steal "the gifts from the Gods".

Further dialogue allows the Mistress to realise that Lenora is blind as well, as are all the cave-dwellers; and, in turns, lets Lenora learn that the Mistress has come from the palace, which makes her instantly change her tune as she begins to lavish almost religious worship on her, believing her to be the Empress Helena, although she soon disabuses the two cave-dwellers of this notion. They are confused when she mentions Emperor Lukor; as far as they know, they are ruled by Empress Helena, and the last Emperor was Trist, who was killed trying to climb the "Great Wall". They reluctantly allow her to analyse the "gifts of the gods", which turn out to be supplies in metal crates that are dropped by the warrior-birds, known to the cave-dwellers as the "Firebirds of Wrath". Lenora cuts the conversation short, stating that she and her son must return to the "water pools" with the harvest.

Left behind, the Mistress and K9 realise that while they may not have travelled far in space, they have travelled back in time; they are in "the Year of the Flame, in the reign of the 14th generation of the House of Ditola, second Moon cycle, sixth season", during the reign of Helena: two hundred and thirteen years, one month, four days and seven hours in the past of the point from which they started. Meanwhile, at the water pools, Nathanien ceremonially places the "gifts" into the water so that the others may drink the substance in which it transforms the water.

The Mistress has K9 analyse a porous-looking rock, which he says contains "32% hyprox, 13% H2O, and 41% cypherdurite". This confirms her suspicions; this was was the very alloy that was being experimented with on Magronite 4, which they used as the basis for an antidote to Showard syndrome. She rejoices that they should be able to use it to create some sort of cure to stop the spread of the infection, but K9 is pessimistic, noting that a cure for the infection was not historically discovered until the Year of the High Waters, during "the reign of the 17th generation of the House of Ditola, fifth moon cycle, first season", 104 years later than their current time period. Should the population be healed at the present date, they would rise up against Empress Helena, meaning Emperor Lukor's regime in the future would not exist, meaning the Mistress and K9 would not have been their guests and driven to throw themselves back in time — causing an irreducible paradox.

Meanwhile, the ceremony by the Water Peals is interrupted by Burns's men, who have come for "the selection". They load up the tribe into their transports. Meanwhile, as she tunnels upwards, intending to reach the palace and use K9's technological abilities to browbeat them into accepting her, the Mistress begins to feel faint, having caught the plague. Despite K9's attempts to spur her on, she collapses and ends up being loaded onto the transport by the "elite" guards with the rest of the Tribe. On the way, the panicking Nathanien asks his mother to explain what's going on; she says that they are being taken outside, that she has lived through many selections in her time, and that he, at any rate, as a Chosen One, has absolutely nothing to fear. Nathanien is unconvinced, guessing that these are the circumstances in which his father was taken from him. His mother ends up confessing that she and his father travelled to the outside world in their youths.

The elite guards' transport reaches its destination. K9 goes completely unresponsive to preserve his batteries, and two of the guards, seeing only a "pile of junk", order that "it" be taken to the nearest incinerator. As the guards proceed to the "selection", one of them, Garen wants to dismiss Lenora and, when she makes a nuisance of herself by beseeching them not to do Nathanien any harm, even moves to kill her, but Burns stops him, stating that he wants to run some tests on her because her good health at an advanced age might mean that she has developed "multi-strain immunity", and that, besides, he needs to run experiments on "specimens" of all ages.

When the incinerator activates, however, K9 awakens and shoots his way out before threatening the elite guards with his weapon, demanding that he and the Mistress be taken to the palace. Meanwhile, the Mistress is waking up, with one of the captive underground-dwellers giving her something to drink which immediately improves her condition; she recognises as packed with the healing minerals from the walls, which she supposes must have seeped into the water. The man tells her that he stole it back home before the elite came, intending to give it to his dying mother. Having regained a bit of her strength, she is able to make more of the healing concoction. She notices that she has been branded on her arm; her rescuer explains that this is the mark that makes one an "elder" in the Inner Kingdom, always given by the elite guards during a Selection to those they send back. Meanwhile, however, Nathanien is analysed and dissected alive by Burns in a laboratory.

After he finishes his tests on Nathanien and the boy's body is carried away, the Mistress is captured while trying to pick a lock. She is brought before Burns by the guards, who are amazed at her recovery and the fact that she can see. She tries to bluff them into believing she is one of the Empress's handmaidens rather than a "cavey". Burns disbelieves her and carries on with the analysis, putting her down as "Specimen 4532", and discovers her antidote, to his surprise and dismay, as the "caveys" having discovered a cure themselves would ruin years of "experiments". Before he can do her any actual harm, however, K9 bursts in, having fought his way past Garen, and frees the Mistress. However, she urgently needs a new dose of the antidote and is losing consciousness. K9 proposes to give the recipe to some of the locals so they can prepare it for her, although, as she slips away, she asks him not to for the sake of the timeline.

The Mistress then wakes up back in Lukor's time (the Year of the Mange Beast), with Lukor himself by her side. He tells her that she has been sleeping for a week, and "reminds" her, to her horror, that after somehow returning to the present, she agreed to be his wife after all. After he leaves, she gets out of bed and tries to find K9, stumbling upon the Court Historian. He reveals to her that after she passed out, K9 used his own power supply to jumpstart the ship, taking bock of them back to Lukor's era but seemingly sacrificing himself in the process. When she next meets Lukor, he further claims that K9's last words bade her to marry Lukor after all.

They part briefly, and Lukor, dropping his charming, cultured veneer, cruelly castigates the Court Historian for having added embellishments to the story without his say-so. They are interrupted by the Mistress returning. In a surprising turn, she seemingly opens herself up to Lukor, claiming to love him, telling him that her escape was a product of her fearing that his sentiments with him weren't genuine, that the marriage was simply a political expedient, and he would eventually betray her. Lukor naturally assures her otherwise; she agrees to stay, and they kiss.

At the wedding ceremony the next day, however, she interrupts her vows, shattering the Goblet of Helena, and dramatically reveals the truth. She has, in fact, been fully aware of what happened the entire time, and only faking her week's amnesia: further, she made contact with K9, not actually dead but merely imprisoned in Lukor's dungeon until he escaped. Together, they realised that they never actually did travel in time; the caveys were simply deceived into thinking they lived under the reign of Empress Helena. Lukor himself set up the entire system because he is paranoid about a resurgence of the plague that killed his ancestors, hence the use of the human guinea pigs on whom man-made strains are tested, in order to evolve antibodies for him and the rest of the nobility to leech.

The Mistress publically reveals all of this, before preparing to escape back into her now-repaired ship with K9; but as he is engulfed by the rioting crowd, Lukor sardonically warns her that she will not find the caveys as she left them. Having obtained the perfect cure K9 created from the Mistress's blood-streams, Lukor's scientists had no further need of the great experiment. Materialising the ship back in the cave, a distraught Mistress and K9 find everyone dead, having been systematically killed by a release of irradiated gas. Back to the pre-credits scene, the Mistress collapses in tears at the thought that K9's wanting to save her life caused the deaths of all these people, and, further, that she could have discovered the experiments stopped it all, if she had been faster and cleverer and more patient as a guest of Lukor instead of running away in a fit of pique.

Cast[]

References[]

Culture[]

  • The Mistress acknowledges that her ship looks like "something out of H. G. Wells".
  • "It is easier to get light out of a healing stone" is a Jokastarnan saying.
  • According to K9, K'On'Qwa fruit is "traditionally served raw with the juice of a P'Tangwit buck", though "on ceremonial occasions" it is marinated in Mertul beast blood and presented in the "freshly-removed bladder" of an infant Q'Weg. K9 knows 134 variations on the recipe.
  • The Goblet of Helena is used as part of the imperial wedding ceremony.

History[]

  • In the Year of Flame, "in the reign of the 14th generation of the House of Ditola, second cycle, fourth season", the Great Kingdom was cleft into seven parts, and of those seven parts, only one perished, in the fires of death and decay. Her eyes scarred by the agony of her people, the great Empress Helena retired to her palace, shutting herself away from the plague. Helena was a direct ancestor of Lukor, and remained famous for having "laid down her life for her people". (…) Deep in the realms of the Outer Kingdom known as Interplanetary Space, when the Great Empress Helena was declared dead to a devastated empire,
  • The Dark Times were a period of the history of Jokastarna involving the a Two Hundred Year War that followed from a "planetary revolution". Allegedly, nothing has grown in the soil directly outside Lukor's castle since the Dark Times.

Individuals[]

  • Lukor styles himself "Lukor, Son of Duramm".
  • The Court Historian notes that he has "caressed the souls of newly-crowned emperors" with his words and "calmed rioting peasants" with "a single sentence". He has been the Court Historians for "years".
  • Lenora is "approximately 48 years old".
  • The Mistress states that she is 487 years old. She has been in the universe of Ecto-Space for "many years".

Locations[]

  • Lukor is the ruler of "the Seven Systems"; as part of the marriage ceremony, the Mistress is to swear allegiance to "each of the Seven Systems".
  • Directions, such as "North Northwest", have a different meaning in Ecto-Space.
  • The Mistress and K9 visited Ganamar, where K9 suffered a power failure and the Mistress managed to cure "at least a hundred and fifty people" of an unspecified disease using remedies she created with a primitive mortar and pestle.

Technology[]

  • K9 insists that he is not made of the metal tin.
  • The Mistress's ship is to include an outer skin modulation circuit, but K9 is unable to make it work properly due to his "insufficient understanding" of Ecto-Space's distinctive version of quantum mechanics, which he says will also make the power source unstable.
  • The ship has a time travel facility and a spatial travel facility, although the former is not yet functional.
  • The Mistress jeers that Kebek's men are "barely-able to operate a planet-skimmer".
  • Four thousand five hundred and thirteen components of the ship are damaged in the test flight escaping from Lukor's court. They include the spatial displacement unit, the tachyon drive (the latter is essential to time travel) and the power source.
  • When it overheats in flight, K9 jettisons the ship's power source into "the Vortex". The Mistress wonders what damage it it could do there, "especially in this universe". She implies that all warp drives function by crossing the Vortex, meaning that littering the Vortex with debris endangers space travel for an innumerable number of travellers.
  • Class 2 warrior-birds don't normally have warp capabilities.
  • After they travel back in time even though they had not activated the ship's time travel facility, K9 deduces that the "Space-Time Vortex" has "unexpected qualities" in Ecto-Space.
  • The Mistress converted K9's backup power supply to draw energy from solar power.

Other[]

  • K9 notes that the Court Historian has said "fifteen million three-hundred thousand four-hundred and twelve words in his presence since his arrival on the planet.
  • When it overheats in flight, K9 jettisons the ship's power source into "the Vortex". The Mistress wonders what damage it it could do there, "especially in this universe". She implies that all warp drives function by crossing the Vortex, meaning that littering the Vortex with debris endangers space travel for an innumerable number of travellers.

Story notes[]

As a sequel to Warrior's Gate[]

Romana II's departure from televised Doctor Who saw her setting out to have new adventures in the parallel universe called E-Space with a K9 unit.

When BBV Productions approached the task of centring a spin-off around K9, two proposals were in the running. One would have been a sitcom with K9 in the present day, while the other was "the obviously Doctor Who thing of K9 and Romana and their adventures in E-Space, after the Doctor left them at the end of Warriors' Gate". This was the option ultimately greenlit by Bill Baggs, which evolved into the Adventures in a Pocket-Universe series.

However, the rights to the character of Romana lay with the BBC and could not be obtained. As a result, it was decided to hire Lalla Ward but give her character a different name and avoid directly connecting her to the BBC-owned creation. The matter of the naming of the "new" character was discussed with Ward herself during her initial meeting with Bill Baggs and John Ainsworth, also attended by Ward's then-husband Richard Dawkins. The name of "the Princess" was heavily considered, but Dawkins "said he didn't think that would be a good idea, because princess was an American Jewish name for someone’s daughter, so we ended up with the Mistress", as Ainsworth would later recall. E-Space, owned by Steve Gallagher, also proved beyond BBV's reach, leading to the rename of the pocket universe to "Ecto-Space".

Despite the legal impossibility of making the link explicit, The Choice still contains multiple allusions to the character's intended identity as an older version of Romana II. The Mistress mentions being several centuries old, and, while delirious from the plague, she babbles: "But that's just it. Time to choose. I have to be my own--". This is a near-quote of some of Romana II's last words to the Fourth Doctor as she chose to remain in E-Space: "But it is, isn't it? A moment to choose. I've got to be my own Romana". She also wails: "You gave me no choice — I couldn't go back there, not after all this… Why did you do it to me?", seemingly addressing the Doctor, bemoaning the way her adventures with him made it impossible for her ever to return to Gallifrey.

When claiming to Lukor that she has been betrayed before as part of her deception, she also seemingly references the Doctor, explaining: "I trusted someone. I was ready to give up my life for him. I thought it would last forever. That we would go on forever, as we were. He betrayed me". This notably implies Romana/the Mistress had romantic feelings for the Doctor, something not made explicit on television except in the infamous Prime Computer advertisements, although it does, of course, come in a context of the Mistress presenting a disingenuous version of events to Lukor to trick him into thinking she loves him, which she does not.

The one preexisting DWU element, K9, also posed some issues: the K9 Mark II design itself was not owned by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, unlike the character concept. As a result, the version of K9 in this story, as illustrated by a CGI model on the cover of the sequel The Search, was not quite K9 Mark II; references were made in dialogue to the Mistress having significantly altered K9 to improve his capabilities.

Continuity[]

  • According to another account, the Mistress's adventures on Jokastarna were in the company of the bionic ferret B.E.S. instead of K9. (PROSE: The Choice)

External links[]

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