Somewhere outside our universe, she is waiting.
A god-like immortal, living in a realm of clocks. The hours tick slowly by as she plots and plans. She is readying her trap. A trap for a very special man in a very special police box.
Hecuba has all the time in the world. But for the Doctor, time is running out.
The Doctor is piloting the TARDIS towards their next destination while Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot play a game of backgammon. Suddenly there is a loud bang and a woman appears on the TARDIS view-screen and cackles. The Doctor cannot figure out who she is although she seems familiar. An envelope floats towards them which contains an invite. A hand reaches out of the screen and crumples the invitation. The TARDIS mysteriously lands and The Doctor then heads out, followed by Jamie and Zoe.
They enter a corridor filled with many different kinds of clocks and a floor covered in sand. They continue on down the corridor inspecting some of the more peculiar clocks. Zoe thinks she hears footsteps. Continuing on they enter a room full of more clocks. The Doctor and Jamie carefully examine a grandfather clock. Suddenly they hear footsteps as well. Jamie runs off to find the source and the Doctor follows suite. Zoe finds herself all alone. She hears strange noises,and edges towards the clock Jamie and the Doctor were inspecting earlier. It feels warm. The large gargoyle at the top bites her and startled, she retreats and begins to run towards a light. Suddenly the Doctor and Jamie run towards her followed by cuckoos. Jamie diverts them through a door in the hall. They enter what appears to be a great hall with a large fountain.
Zoe notices steps appear from the waterfall and a beautiful woman descends down the staircase. She reveals that she knows the Doctor’s identity. Suddenly she snaps her fingers and the walls fall away to reveal more clocks. The Doctor reveals that the clocks on the wall were once people too who he suspects refused to play the woman’s game. The woman claps and a large clock emerges from the ground with 12 animal faces (the zodiac signs). The woman asks the Doctor to explain to his companions her “grand chronometer”. Zoe bursts out how the grand chronometer can make time move backwards or forwards. Jamie, meanwhile, becomes entranced by the woman. The Doctor leaves followed by the woman, leaving Jamie and Zoe behind. The hands of the grand chronometer begin to speed up and Zoe and Jamie, in order to avoid being cut down, must jump over the moving hands each time they come around.
The Doctor and the beautiful woman enter a room together. The Doctor tries to explain that the TARDIS is trapped in a time loop but the woman takes no notice. She leads him down a corridor filled with more clocks, and she explains their origins and how each one is someone who failed one of her challenges. She explains that those who arrive here play games and if they refuse or lose they are turned into clocks. The Doctor asks what happens if one wins to which she replies that no one ever wins and laughs maniacally.
Meanwhile Zoe and Jamie attempt to avoid the grand chronometer’s hands while trying to find a way out. Jamie tries to open some of the doors in the room. Zoe wonders why they have ended up here and why the woman knew the Doctor.
The woman takes the Doctor to a large room with a grand table and cutlery and dishes made of gold. The Doctor asks her if his friends are unharmed and what has happened to them. She reveals a TV screen and shows him the room where Zoe and Jamie are. The chronometer casts metal shards at his friends but they manage to survive while the Doctor is then forced to accept the woman’s challenge. The first challenge revolves around Oysters. They are brought out by strange dragon-like servant creatures. She asks the The Doctor to eat first but he politely declines and emphasizes that the woman should have the first taste.
Meanwhile Jamie and Zoe overhear the Doctor and the woman through the TV. She asks the Doctor if he knows who she is but before the Doctor can reply the sound disappears. Suddenly the woman whispers the names of Jamie and Zoe. She explains that she has stopped the Doctor’s metabolism and that they have 5 minutes to find the clock in the room they are currently residing in and which controls the Doctor’s life in order to restart it. Jamie and Zoe begin to panic as there are hundreds of clocks that must be checked while the woman laughs maniacally and reveals that she is Hecuba, the queen of time.
Jamie and Zoe search for a clock that has some indication of belonging to the Doctor while avoiding the hands of the grand chronometer. Hecuba tells them through speakers in the room whether they are getting warmer. Zoe tries to figure out which one would be the doctor’s, logically.
Meanwhile the Doctor is stuck, frozen in Hecuba’s room. Hecuba continues to taunt them. Suddenly with only a minute left Zoe has an idea and begins to search for something. Hecuba continues to taunt them. Zoe, unperturbed, finds a simple grandfather clock and shouts “5 to 7”, claiming that this is the clock governing the Doctor’s life. Hecuba begrudgingly admits that the clock is indeed the correct one. The Doctor unfreezes.
Next a tray of drinks in goblets is brought into the room by the same dragon-like servant creatures. The Doctor inquires as to what is in them and Hecuba explains that they are a mixture of lava from Ishtar, ginseng and various other ingredients.
Jamie hears the Doctor’s voice through the speaker and asks Zoe how she figured it out. Zoe explains that if the Doctor’s metabolism had stopped then the clock they were looking for would also have stopped moving. Just then a great grandfather clock in the room begins to beak down. As they peer inside, they find a tunnel and begin to descend down it.
The Doctor looks on in horror. Hecuba, meanwhile flirts with the Doctor despite his protests about his companions. She reveals the next challenge is a puzzle and when the Doctor asks how to leave, she explains that she can only keep the Doctor trapped as long as she continues to get him to participate in the challenges and will continue until he either loses or releases the TARDIS to Hecuba. The Doctor becomes suspicious.
Jamie and Zoe hear strange sounds and try to get out of the grandfather clock but find they are locked in.
The Doctor and Hecuba begin to play. The game is based on knowledge and each correct answer would yield a letter that explained more about Hecuba. The Doctor pretends to go along for the sake of his companions but gets bored and gives the correct answer. The Doctor asks Hecuba about his companions again and she then uses the TV and finds Jamie and Zoe for the Doctor, showing them weary but unharmed.
Hecuba then puts on a record and invites the Doctor to dance.
Jamie and Zoe see the dragon-like servants and ask Hecuba what they are. She simply replies through the speakers “your reward”. They beckon for Jamie and Zoe to follow them and they do.
The Doctor continues to play along with Hecuba’s game until Jamie and Zoe are returned safely. When the music finishes, she turns the TV on again and shows the Doctor that the two are traveling through the tunnel guided by the dragon creatures which she says are named Snap and Dragon. The Doctor is happy to see them safe but Hecuba laughs at the idea that his companions are safe.
Two pink glass dishes of sorbet appear. Hecuba then insists the Doctor come sit next to her. She continues to flirt with him as they watch his companions on the screen.
Jamie and Zoe are continually lead by Snap and Dragon to dead ends after which Snap and Dragon would abruptly change directions. Each time they change directions the dragons leave something like a watch behind for Jamie and Zoe to use to find the next destination. Eventually the dragons leave a sun dial and Zoe is distraught about reading a sun dial in a dark tunnel.
Zoe begins to break down while Hecuba watches and laughs and continues to flirt with the Doctor, brushing his arm and resting her head on his shoulder.
Zoe, thinking logically, reasons that because they can’t tell time using the sundial, they have arrived at their correct destination. Jamie finds something in the dark. Pulling aside a curtain, they find a one-armed bandit game, something which Zoe explains would be found on a 20th century fairground on earth. Jamie, curious, seats himself along with Zoe in one of the cars and pulls a lever. Suddenly they are transported to the Battle of Hastings as the machine reads 1066. They pull again and the machine reads 1769. A little girl runs up to them and throws things at them. They pull the lever a third time and the machine reads 2012. They are suddenly buckled in. Hecuba appears on a screen in front of them where she reveals that they are in a rocket that will explode when the countdown finishes while the Doctor watches on in horror. In a panic they pull the lever again to find nothing happens just as the countdown approaches 0....
The Doctor pleads for Hecuba to let his friends go but she continues to flirtatiously tease him. Eventually she reveals that she has frozen them, admonishing the Doctor for being weak because of his caring nature. She then proceeds to challenge him to the next game. She explains the next game involves conjuring objects that must destroy the previous one summoned by the opposing player, akin to the earth game rock, paper, scissors. A battlefield is then conjured.
In the kitchen, Snap and Dragon prepare the final meal. The Doctor notices the smell and notes that it smells... like death.
Back on the battlefield as seen from the TV screen, Hecuba ponders how to beat the archers from the Battle of Agincourt that the Doctor has summoned. She conjures up the Charge of the Light Brigade which immediately devastates the archers. Hecuba takes sadistic pleasure in the destruction and taunts the Doctor. The Doctor counters by summoning a World War 1 mark V tank. Hecuba retaliates by summoning a laser. The Doctor, distraught by the destruction, decides to finally end the game by proposing peace.
Zoe and Jamie attempt to escape and pull the lever again.
Hecuba reveals the final meal, an animal stuffed with many other animals, to the Doctor’s disgust. The Doctor decides to play along and decides flattery may be the best course of action for the present.
The Doctor watches on in horror as he realizes that his companions will be suffocated to death. He again protests to Hecuba but she merely laughs and grants him a final reward: to give a farewell message to his companions.
The Doctor talks to his companions through the TV set. He bids them farewell as Hecuba demands he do it quickly. He tells them to remember the time they met a little Dutch boy but is cut off mid-sentence. Zoe, unconvinced that the Doctor has truly given up, suspects there is a hidden meaning in what the Doctor said.
Just as Hecuba thinks the Doctor’s companions have been destroyed, she is shocked to see Jamie plugging the hole of the hourglass and stopping the sand falling through. Too much sand accumulates in the upper glass and causes the hourglass to explode, no longer able to contain the sand, while Jamie and Zoe escape, angering Hecuba.
Jamie and Zoe find themselves back where they started in the same hall. They stumble upon a room with many clocks that are not moving. Zoe finds some disks with letters inscribed into each of them and reads them out, touching the one with the letter ‘F’. Suddenly one of the clocks begins to tick. Zoe falls and Jamie, trying to steady her, sees her begin to rapidly age. Hecuba laughs maniacally in the background as Zoe calls out to the Doctor for help...
Jamie sees Snap and Dragon in the corner watching them eagerly. Jamie begins to panic wondering how he can help Zoe. He deduces that 'F' must be 'forward' so that perhaps pressing the letter ‘B’ for 'backwards'...
The Doctor, suspicious that the answer is too easy, suspects a trap and tries to reach out to Jamie, but Hecuba taunts him more, and his cries are not heard.
Zoe realizes this too and stops Jamie, Jamie realizing that if he presses the button, they would both begin to grow younger. He sprints out of the room, saying he is going to get something from another room.
Hecuba and the Doctor await dessert. Snap and Dragon bring the platter in, Mrs. Beeton’s roly-poly custard pudding. The Doctor seems tempted to try some.
Jamie runs back to the shattered hourglass, grabbing a few pieces. He comes back, finding Zoe in a near-death state. Jamie throws the glass shards at another disk with the letter ‘B’ and Zoe miraculously begins to recover... however, she begins to get younger and younger, becoming a child. Jamie surmises that 'S' must be for 'slow' and throws a shard at the disk with the letter 'S'.
Hecuba tries to return the Doctor’s attention to her, since he is distracted by Jamie on the TV. The Doctor begins to laugh, relieved that Jamie has stopped Zoe from aging. However, an enraged Hecuba believes the Doctor is laughing at her. Angrily, she declares dinner over, raises another curtain and reveals to the Doctor a large glass walled box, which she calls a “Time Booth”. She tells the Doctor to enter and while he declines, she reveals it wasn’t a request and reminds the Doctor that his companion is still in danger. The Doctor, taking the hint, enters the time booth. Hecuba again laughs maniacally.
Zoe, now a baby, begins to cry upon hearing Hecuba’s taunting laughter. The pendulum on the clock begins to swing in the opposite direction and Zoe ages again, but this time too quickly, again aging rapidly. Zoe motions for Jamie to hit the disk with the letter ‘N’.
Inside the time booth, with no way to escape, it is revealed that one can summon any moment in history and control it, such as by speeding it forward or in reverse. Hecuba brings the Doctor to the time of Marie Antoinette and challenges him to steal some of the feathers from her hair, but warns him of her violent temper. She motivates the Doctor by reminding him that his other option is to become a meal for Snap and Dragon. The Doctor reluctantly laments.
Hecuba closes the door behind him. She then reveals that there is one other button, a “time loop” button that traps the person in the time event, continually replaying the same event over and over forever. Hecuba says to herself how she will miss the Doctor.
Zoe begins to return to normal as the clock slows down. Her and Jamie begin to escape but take note how they will have to avoid Snap and Dragon.
They burst in on Hecuba but she orders Snap and Dragon to restrain them. She taunts the two and shows them the Doctor in his current predicament stuck inside the time booth. Jamie calls out to him. The Doctor hears them and replies through the glass walls, although faint, that Hecuba cannot win, so long as the TARDIS still exists and that only the hammer of the grand chronometer is strong enough to destroy it. Hecuba reveals that this is exactly what she intends to do. The Doctor then relents and admits defeat, telling Zoe and Jamie that Hecuba is too strong and the TARDIS will be destroyed. Zoe cannot believe it as the Doctor had always said that the TARDIS was indestructible. Hecuba, meanwhile, winds a key on her console and informs them that they will all be turned into clocks shortly.
Zoe, however, is focused on the Doctor. Hecuba distracted, he nods to the lever. Zoe nods her head in understanding. The chronometer chimes but the TARDIS does not get destroyed. Instead it falls onto the face of the clock and becomes lodged in the mechanism, jamming the hand and stopping the chronometer. Hecuba, shocked that the TARDIS has not been destroyed, suddenly freezes along with Snap and Dragon. Zoe escapes and attempts to turn the lever and manages to with help from Jamie, freeing the Doctor. The Doctor carries a frozen Hecuba into the time booth while Jamie brings in Snap and Dragon, sealing them inside. Hecuba’s realm begins to crumble and the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe run through the corridors back to the TARDIS in the grand chronometer room. Zoe and Jamie, despite their treatment at the hands of Hecuba, plead with the Doctor not to leave her like that. The Doctor reassures them that when the TARDIS dematerializes, the mechanism will become unclogged and the hands of the grand chronometer will begin to move again and Hecuba will reawaken, however her world will crumble, trapping everyone in this realm. The trio get inside the TARDIS as the chronometer groans. While they prepare to take off, Zoe asks the Doctor who Hecuba was. The Doctor reveals that Hecuba is from “that family” and likes to play with clocks as much as her brother likes to play with toys. Zoe instantly realizes that the Doctor is referring to another one of his old adversaries, the Celestial Toymaker. The crew take off and time resumes in Hecuba’s world. Just then Hecuba is able to move again and realizing what has happened, screams in anguish and frustration as Marie Antoinette begins to assault Hecuba by throwing her brooch at her over and over. Hecuba screams of getting her revenge as the halls of her realm begin to crumble.
- The Celestial Toymaker is alluded to at the end of this story. The Doctor first encountered the Celestial Toymaker in his first incarnation (TV: The Celestial Toymaker)
- The Doctor enjoys Mrs. Beeton's roly-poly custard pudding.
- Hecuba is referred to as being a sibling of the Celestial Toymaker. The Doctor would encounter the Celestial Toymaker on other occasions, such as in his first incarnation (TV: The Celestial Toymaker), his sixth incarnation (AUDIO: The Nightmare Fair), his seventh incarnation (AUDIO: The Magic Mousetrap) and in his eighth incarnation (AUDIO: Solitaire).