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The Invention of Death was the first story in the audio anthology The First Doctor Adventures: Volume Two. It was written by John Dorney and featured David Bradley as the First Doctor, Claudia Grant as Susan Foreman, Jamie Glover as Ian Chesterton and Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright.

Publisher's summary[]

After an experimental flight, the TARDIS crew find themselves on one of the strangest worlds they have ever encountered.

Alien life takes many forms, and on Ashtallah the travellers find all their preconceptions tested.

But this world is about to make a discovery – and it could mean the end of everything.


A World Without Fear (1)[]

As the TARDIS sails away from New York City, the Doctor explains, in layman's terms, that he is attempting to pull a "time slingshot", spinning the TARDIS, in a chronological sense, 180 degrees and back to Earth in Ian and Barbara's time. Confident in his math and bristling at Susan's worry, the Doctor arrogantly flips the switch. Without missing a beat, the TARDIS control room begins exploding before the ship crash lands. Activating the TARDIS scanner, the four see a blue/green landscape much like Earth but the other readings indicate that they are on the other side of the galaxy. When the Doctor tries to take off for Earth however, the engine refuses to turn over.

Elsewhere on the planet, Brenna and Sharlan discuss their observations of a disturbance in the ether, concluding that the new arrival is on the hill.

As Susan reads off the fault locator's seventeenth reading, the crew settles in for a long repair period. Confident that the natives can supply them with the resources to repair the ship, the Doctor and Ian set out, asking Susan and Barbara to remain behind in case the species, again, proves hostile. Enjoying the countryside, the Doctor and Ian spy a collection of buildings and make for them. As they walk, Ian discovers a translucent amoeba-like humanoid sleeping in the sun. Deciding not to wake it, the Doctor and Ian set off to find more of its kind. After finding five more of the creatures, all slumbering, the Doctor eagerly points out a kite, clearly the sign of an active intelligence and runs towards it.

Confident that they'll get into trouble, Susan and Barbara follow soon after but have barely left the TARDIS before Brenna and Sharlan arrive. At Susan's urging, the two duck behind a bush but are quickly found, introducing themselves as being from beyond the mountains.

Approaching the kite flyer, the Doctor only manages to scare them off. As he and Ian discuss the oddity of the species, the kite flyer returns with more of their kind, all fascinated by the opaqueness of the visitors. The Doctor asks to be taken to the leader but the creatures do not understand the word.

Guided by Brenna and Sharlan to the settlement, Susan and Barbara learn that this is the planet Ashtallah populated by the Ashtallans. As Susan and Barbara spin their cover story, Brenna and Sharlan reveal that they are primitive and complacent people but that they are their people's scientists. As they walk, the Ashtallans explain that their culture is a stagnant one of passive leisure, the very idea of fear is unknown on their world.

In the village, as the Doctor and Ian continue to be prodded, they note the bizarreness of the species. The Ashtallans have no visible age, no visible distinctiveness from one member to another, their willingness to so eagerly approach the unknown suggests a lack of the basic survival instinct and Ian even doubts, thanks to the aliens sleeping on the ground, that the buildings are habitats. As they theorise, the Ashtallans throw a spear at them. Confused at their anger, the Ashtallans explain that it was but a game, with the Doctor pondering if they even have a fear of death.

Entering the village, Susan and Barbara catch the Ashtallans' attention. Eager to play, an Ashtallan grabs the spear and lobs it, fatally impaling Barbara. As she bleeds out, Ian demands to know what the Ashtallans have done in the name of some game.

The First (2)[]

As Barbara dies, the Ashtallans question why Barbara does not heal like they do. At this, the Doctor understands the Ashtallans' lack of fear, they can heal instantly. After managing to impart enough understanding on the Ashtallans, Brenna detaches her hand and places it on Barbara's wound, closing it before the travellers' astonished eyes. And she will grow a new hand soon enough. When Barbara needs shelter, Brenna and Sharlan lead the way to their laboratory.

After Barbara is taken to one of the laboratory's antechambers, Brenna questions Ian about emotions while Sharlan demonstrates their manipulation of light to the Doctor and Susan. Amazed at the Ashtallan biology, the Time Lords question if it possible for Ashtallans to die, another concept that Sharlan is ignorant of. The Ashtallans have always existed. And they always will exist.

In the antechamber, Ian and Barbara discuss death with an equally ignorant Brenna who cannot grasp the idea of a lifespan. When Ian and Barbara ponder the loved ones they could see if humans were immortal, Sharlan asks what "love" is. After the teachers explain, Brenna asks if Ian loves with Barbara but this only leads to a discussion on the various types of love that can exist.

After going over Ashtallans society and biology, the Doctor praises Sharlan for breaking from their species' complacent lifestyle, noting that asking questions is a milestone in Ashtallan history. Sharlan however wishes that it was not just her and Brenna. Their people could be so much more and yet they play games all day. The Doctor however is confident that, one day, the rest of the Ashtallans will be asking questions. After all, being immortal, they have the time.

Slowly, Brenna tries to break down human sexes and reproduction, finding the process terribly inefficient. When Brenna reveals that Ashtallans do not die, Ian theorises that this is why they do not have children. Pondering this, Brenna asks if she loves Sharlan, but the teachers note that they must decide what kind of love that is. As the temperature drops, Ian goes off to build a fire.

Sharlan meanwhile insists that the Doctor and Susan explain more about death, the Doctor being willing to if they will aid him in repairing the TARDIS. When Ian enters, the travellers decide to have a camp out with the Doctor hoping to retrieve some scientific equipment with which to take a sample of Barbara's blood for analysis.

As the four sit around the fire, the Doctor reveals that Barbara is almost too healthy. Thanks to the Ashtallan cells, Barbara might theoretically have become immortal. To the Doctor's dismay, the campout is a very traditional one, reluctantly joining in singing London's Burning.

Hearing the campout from afar, Brenna and Sharlan observe a sample of Barbara's blood under a microscope before Brenna reveals that they love Sharlan. When Sharlan asks what that entails, Brenna cannot answer.

The next morning, Sharlan joins the Doctor and Ian in repairing the TARDIS while Brenna shows Barbara and Susan around town. Arriving at the TARDIS, Sharlan gapes at the interior, wondering how beings who live so little a time compared to them could achieve such a feat. Ian notes that this is the paradox of a lifespan.

As the women walk, Brenna notes how quiet it is before the three hear a commotion. Running after the sound, they find several Ashtallans surrounding an inert Shal, their body having turned a pinkish hue and losing cohesion. Barbara has only one conclusion to draw, despite its impossibility.

For the first time in history, an Ashtallan has died.

The Dying Art (3)[]

Before Susan and Barbara's appalled eyes, the Ashtallans do not take death seriously, regarding it as a mild curiosity that Shal can heal from. After convincing Brenna of the seriousness, Barbara sends Susan to find the Doctor. Privately, Susan and Barbara if they are the cause of the death. The timing is a bit too convenient to be a coincidence.

In the TARDIS, Sharlan marvels at the ship, still curious about the link between such a technological marvel and the short lifespan of its builders. After a brief discussion, Susan enters to inform everyone of the dead Ashtallan, beckoning them to follow her to the laboratory.

No sooner have Barbara and Brenna moved the body does the Doctor arrive, being shown the rapidly liquifying corpse. Examining the cadaver, the Doctor cannot ascertain the cause of death without conducting experiments on Shal. Susan voices her opinion that the travellers are the cause of death but the Doctor dismisses the death and their arrival as but a coincidence. Prodding the body further, the Doctor notes that his people have regenerative systems but that those abilities are limited in duration, postulating if the Ashtallans share that handicap. Deciding that the deceased should be left alone, Ian flags a flaw in the Doctor's theory. If Ashtallans are mortal, their lack of offspring will spell a quick extinction. Susan suggests, after an explanation to Ian and Barbara, that the Ashtallans turn to cloning as a means of reproduction. As the group heads off to gather cloning equipment, the Doctor notes that they will need to collect more equipment to study the corpse. If one death has occurred, others are sure to follow.

Talking with Brenna, Susan is convinced that the death is related to the travellers, confident that she is missing a vital clue before Barbara brings news of another death. Rekan has also died, their corpse identical to Shal's. As Susan and Barbara move the body, panic and fear begins to grip the Ashtallans.

As the Doctor and Ian arrive at the laboratory with their equipment, Susan enters with news of the death, Barbara dragging the corpse inside. Entering, Brenna marvels at the cloning equipment and offers her flesh for the process. The Doctor explains that the machine will bombard the flesh with radiation conducive to cellular growth while accelerating local time. Suspecting that the process will take a few hours, he leaves Susan to watch it while he and Brenna examine the corpse.

Still unsure about Ashtallan biology, the Doctor, despite his lack of qualifications on post-mortem, procures a tissue sample from the corpse for examination, asking for more of Brenna's flesh as a control sample. Hearing more commotion outside, the noise of another death, the group sets to work.

Returning to the main room, Susan notes that Brenna's flesh is self-repairing but not growing into a new being. Ian notes that life on other planets begins from a variety of factors, postulating that the DNA of another Ashtallan might be the key to producing a new lifeform, Brenna being sure that Sharlan would donate the flesh. Susan suddenly notices that Sharlan is missing, Ian volunteering to go get them.

Continuing his examination, the Doctor is confident that the death was a result of a poison, an alien chemical substance added to the Ashtallan biology but that the breakdown has left the foreign contaminant unidentifiable. With the Doctor still hoping this a coincidence, the group wonders if someone deliberately poisoned the Ashtallans or if the plague is natural.

Getting directions from an Ashtallan, Ian heads off to find Sharlan. Entering a building, Ian hears someone begging, running to find a dying Ashtallan begging for help before they expire. Sharlan emerges and states that they can explain, confessing that they have been killing their people, using a sample of Barbara's blood. Advancing, Sharlan tries to explain her reasoning as Ian backs away. In the struggle, Ian falls out of an open window. Noticing the empty street and a lack of witnesses, Sharlan briefly eulogises Ian before leaving him.

The Invention of Life (4)[]

Examining Brenna's flesh, the conclusion that it is stagnant is inescapable, the Doctor noting that they must turn to Ian's idea of a second genetic donor. Before that, Barbara notes that they must determine what the poison is and where it comes from, but he needs the TARDIS' more advanced systems to do this.

When Sharlan enters, they claim not to have seen Ian, attempting to bar Susan from searching for her teacher. After an explanation, Sharlan agrees to donate her flesh for an attempt at reproduction. With the new genetic material, the flesh begins to multiply, rapidly growing into an infant lifeform. After explaining the Doctor's analysis to Sharlan, Barbara notes that Susan has not yet returned.

Looking around for Ian, Susan finds Ashtallans crowded around another body, horrified to find a barely conscious Ian. After Susan tells the gawking Ashtallans that Ian will die, as they are, if not given Ashtallan cells, the crowd willingly offers their DNA to heal him.

In the laboratory, the infant grows a face, Brenna and Sharlan stumbling their way through parental feelings and instincts. After Barbara notes that the child needs a name, and having his suggestion of "Doctor" being shot down, the Doctor heads off to the TARDIS to identify the poisonous substance, allowing Sharlan to accompany him.

Pushing through his pain, Ian leads Susan back to the laboratory, insistent that they must stop Sharlan as more Ashtallans die. Hearing a commotion, the group steps out of the lab, noticing the death of Grol dies something that Sharlan notes is impossible, accidentally revealing their culpability. Ian and Susan arrive, revealing Sharlan's actions.

Confessing, Sharlan reveals that their actions were initially an experiment. If a human could be positively affected by an introduction of Ashtallan biomatter, why could the reverse not be true? Seeing that the injection was fatal, Sharlan reveals that, after seeing the technological wonder of the TARDIS, they sought to use a lifespan to scare their people into action. Barbara questions why Grol's death was impossible, Sharlan revealing that they did not inject Grol or the Ashtallan that died before Ian and Susan. The poison has now become communicable.

Ian and Barbara send the Ashtallans home, hoping to limit the spread of the virus. Working with Brenna, the Doctor manufactures a vaccine, scolding Sharlan for dismissing their gift of immortality before the argument wakes the infant Ashtallan. At Susan's advice, Brenna and Sharlan remove it from the incubator. As Ian and Barbara try to dodge more questions, the Ashtallan questioning them begins to slowly break down, running to Sharlan and Brenna in hope of the cure. With Ian unable to run, Barbara heads off to try and stop it.

Still panicking, the child tries to escape outside, Sharlan running after them. Running across the infected Ashtallan, Sharlan physically restrains the infected from touching the infant until they liquify. Sharlan has saved the infant but they are now infected. Accepting their fate, Sharlan says goodbye to their friends, happy to have saved their child. Finally understanding death, but mourning a lack of time to study it, Sharlan accepts their wrongdoing, wondering what comes after death, and dies contently. Mourning for their love, Brenna asks what they shall do now.

Days later, the vaccine has been fully distributed with the Doctor having left instructions and equipment in the event that soil of Ashtallah proves infected. Believing that enough damage has been done to this world, the group mournfully leaves Ashtallah, though Susan notes, shaken from their stasis, the Ashtallans may benefit from this. Turning away from such thoughts, the Doctor enacts his new idea to return to 1960s London.

Unmoving from their spot above Sharlan's corpse, Brenna soothes their child, assured that their love will return to them.

Showing off the cherry blossoms, the Doctor boasts about returning to Earth. Unknown to them, warriors spy the anomalous form of the TARDIS, summoning the Samurai to deal with these barbarians intruding on their land.



  • Ian has confiscated several slingshots from the student at Coal Hill School. He took seven from Thompson in Third Form.
  • Ian at first thinks they might be in the Peak District.
  • According to the Doctor, "no one dangerous flies kites."
  • The Doctor says that his people mastered the art of making vaccines a long time ago.
  • The Doctor also makes reference to how they have their own healing abilities and Ian interprets this as a simple reference to humans' own ability to heal from injuries, although the Doctor's flustered reaction suggests that he was actually referring to his and Susan's ability to regenerate.
  • The Doctor suspects that the Ashtallans dying is due to the red cells of human blood attacking the Ashtallan system.


Alternate cover.


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