The Little Drummer Boy was the thirteenth short story in the Short Trips anthology Short Trips: Companions. It was written by Eddie Robson. It featured the First Doctor, Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom.
The TARDIS is in flight. The Doctor is apparently asleep, and Steven and Sara discuss the Daleks. The TARDIS lands, and the Doctor denies that he was asleep. They leave the TARDIS, and find themselves in Victorian times at Christmas time. The Doctor asks a boy what year it is, and he replies that it is 1885. They return to the TARDIS, and the boy watches as it vanishes. Then, he too vanishes.
Four landings later, the TARDIS has materialised at Christmas time in 1982, 1946, 1931 and 2069. The Doctor has been feeding the TARDIS random co-ordinates, and can't understand why they keep landing at Christmas. However, they must keep moving to evade the Daleks.
Once again, the TARDIS lands at Christmas time, this time in 1914. They have landed in the trenches of France in World War I. The holiday has brought about a temporary truce, and the Doctor and Steven join the troops to investigate. Sara, lagging behind, meets a boy — the same boy from 1885. They introduce themselves, and he pretends to shoot her. She asks why he is here, and he replies, "Because it's Christmas," before vanishing.
Back in the TARDIS, Sara having explained her meeting with the boy, the Doctor realises the TARDIS has been tracking a distress call. They track the boy to 1956, where he is playing a drum in an orphanage. The Doctor learns that the boy, Robert, doesn't just travel in time — he is a time machine. He opens a door for them to enter the machine. Inside they find a thirty-something-year-old man linked to the machine. They release him, and he calls Sara by name. They realise this is the real Robert, who has been connected to the time machine for thirty years.
The time machine communicates with the Doctor. It explains that it was on a test flight and something went wrong. It landed on Earth in 1966 and shut down, but Robert crawled into it before it could stop him. Robert's brain was linked to the time machine, and all the time machine could do was take Robert where he wanted — Christmas time, the last time he was happy, before his twin brother Christopher died.
Suddenly, Robert is drawn to something in the Doctor's pocket. It is the taranium. He grabs it, and "de-ages" back to eight years old. The Doctor comes up with a plan. Using the fast return switch and the link between the TARDIS and Robert's time machine, they return to 1966 and take Christopher from the house. Robert takes his place, and he is to warn his earlier self not to climb into any strange machines. After a few weeks, Robert's parents are surprised that "Christopher" has recovered from his cancer.
The Doctor takes the dying Christopher to Mars, to let him see the Earth from space before he dies.
- A reading of the story by Beth Chalmers was offered to subscribers in December 2010, alongside the release The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories. It was directed by Nicholas Briggs, with music and sound design by Robert Dunlop.
- On 30 September 2016, the reading of this story was made available for general release as part of the Short Trips Rarities range, with a new cover by Tom Saunders.
- The Doctor replaces Robert's terminally ill twin brother with the future version of the boy. These two versions of Robert presumably spend a number of years together after that, without suffering any ill effects from a temporal paradox or the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, possibly due to the influence of the taranium.
- The Little Drummer Boy occurs between episodes 7 and 8 of TV: The Daleks' Master Plan.
- The Doctor claims he has never slept through a landing, but he slept through a landing in TV: The Rescue.
- Sara would later tell Robert about a small boy, who was also named Robert, dying in her arms on Mars. (AUDIO: Home Truths, The Drowned World)
- Robert grabs the taranium that the Doctor stole. (TV: "Day of Armageddon")