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The Stuff of Nightmares was the first story in the Hornets' Nest arc, a series of five audio dramas featuring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor alongside Richard Franklin as Mike Yates. It was the first time Baker reprised the role since Destiny of the Doctors in 1997.

Publisher's summary[]

Wanted: retired army Captain for light household duties and fireside companionship. Must tolerate mild eccentricity and strong scientific advice. Knowledge of Giant Maggots, Super Intelligent Spiders and Prehistoric Monsters a positive boon.

Responding to an advert apparently worded for him alone, Captain Mike Yates (retired) is reunited with a ghost from the past. But why has the Doctor, that mysterious traveller in time and space, sent for his former UNIT acquaintance? Trapped by a horde of vicious creatures in an apparently innocuous English country cottage, the two old friends are on the brink of an enormous adventure. As the Doctor relates his recent escapades, it becomes clear to Mike that they — and the Earth at large — are facing an enemy of unimaginable power and horrific intent. The nightmare is only just beginning...


Mike Yates is travelling on a train to visit a small cottage after being attracted to an odd advertisement. He senses something supernatural about the whole thing and isn't looking forward to the visit. He arrives at Nest Cottage, where he knocks on the door. The housekeeper, Mrs Wibbsey, answers and escorts him to the living room. There he is met by a familiar face, the Doctor.

Both friends catch up on their history. Mike can't believe how the Doctor doesn't seem to have changed at all. The Time Lord explains that it has been a while since he last met Mike; he has now been adventuring with giant rats, killer robots and a skull from the dawn of time. After a quick recap over their past lives, the Doctor explains to Mike that he needs him for help with something important.

Mike is introduced to the Doctor's dog, Captain, and some stuffed animals. He is then taken to a guest room. Inside his room, Mike is watched by a stuffed owl. He sits at dinner with the Doctor, talking about old times. Suddenly, a weasel pounces onto the Doctor ferociously. After shooting the creature, Mike is blamed for saving the Doctor's life.

During the night, Mike can hear strange sounds around the house. He wakes up in the middle of the night and finds that the owl is alive and starts to attack him. The Doctor controls it. The Doctor explains that he needs to use his brain to keep the stuffed creatures calm. In the morning, the Doctor outlines the explanation in a simple fashion. Mike listens intently.

The Doctor tells about stuffed creatures coming alive at night. The Doctor tells Mike about odd deaths. They were all incidents caused by soulless animals. Investigating further, the Doctor found a company who had bought stuffed animals from a museum. The Director was Percy Noggins, whom the Doctor watched as he ordered and catalogued stuffed animals being loaded onto a truck, which was about to be taken away. Stowing himself away on the truck, the Doctor and the hollow animals were taken to a factory.

When looking at the factory thoroughly, the Doctor deciphered that it was well guarded and seemed very secretive. Once, a wild boar was released into the road which escaped quickly.

Deciding to enter, the Doctor managed to get into the compound quite easily. Finding his way through the corridors, he found an underground tunnel, which held many live animals. One was a baboon that tried to lash out at the Doctor using sharp claws. This sound aroused the guards who grabbed hold of the Doctor and escorted him to Percy Noggins' office.

The Director wanted to know why the Doctor was snooping around, to which the Time Lord retorted with a sharp remark. The Doctor began to ask him questions, about the work that they were doing in the factory and about stuffed animals coming alive suddenly. The Director was reluctant to answer and let the Doctor go on a simple warning.

Living alone inside the cottage, the Doctor was aroused in the middle of the night by loud sounds. Stuffed animals were invading the house from everywhere, ready to strike him down. Using anything he could find, he managed to batter a badger to an emaciated pile of rubble. Once everything returned to normal, the Doctor examined the destroyed body of the badger and found, inside its head where the brain would be located, a nest, to be more exact, a hornet's nest. There was something odd about the insects though, they were smaller than the usual hornets of Earth.

Becoming interested in the stuffed animals, the Doctor began to collect them, to try to control them, using his mind. Percy Noggins noticed the Doctor's actions and met him, just for a meeting. The Director was acting strangely as if he was being possessed by some unknown being.

Returning to the compound and Percy's office, they both started talking, Percy becoming nervous by the second as if he was worried of being overheard. Realising what was going on, the Doctor addressed the hornets inside Percy's head. Just like the stuffed animals, he was a host. The hive found the Doctor tempting and used their telepathy to try and reach into his mind, to control it. Instead, the Doctor offered for them to come to Nest cottage. And so they were placed inside stuffed animals, which came alive.

At the end of the Doctor's story, Mike is shocked to the core. He doesn't have much time to think over it though as the animals begin to feel restless. All of them are waking and the Doctor and Mike are chased through the house. They are forced down into the basement, where it is dark.

Trapped inside, the only thing they can do was wait and talk. The Doctor decides to recite the rest of the stories — all his short trips while trying to figure out how to destroy the hornets. His first trip was the mystery of the dead shoes...




  • This story was recorded at Electric Airwaves and Motivation Sound Studios.
  • The character of Mike Yates appeared on numerous occasions during the Third Doctor's era. However, this is the first time the character has appeared alongside the Fourth Doctor.
  • This was the first time that Tom Baker played the Doctor in an audio drama since Doctor Who and the Pescatons in 1976.
  • This story was later included in The Nest Cottage Chronicles.
  • A free download of this story was given away with The Guardian newspaper on 21 February 2011.[2]
  • The inside of the booklet provided a mock-up of the advertisement that the Doctor placed in Country Time Magazine and a short story styled to read as a letter from the editor in response, informing the Doctor of the issues that came from his advert, as they had received many strange phone calls in their offices.



  1. AUDIO: The Broken Crown, set the year after Hornets' Nest, is set around 150 years after 1861. Additionally, in PROSE: Happy Endings, Mike mentions that he's currently friends with somebody called Tom by 2010, and in PROSE: Bafflement and Devotion and AUDIO: Baker's End it appears as if Tom Baker is the same individual as the Fourth Doctor, thus setting Hornets' Nest sometime in the early 2010s.
  2. The Guardian. Press Reader (21 February 2011). Retrieved on 19 March 2021.

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