The Useful Pile was a Brief Encounter short story published in Doctor Who Magazine 188. Written by Kate Orman, it dealt with an aspect of regeneration which hadn't been contemplated by professional Doctor Who fiction — what the Doctor did with the clothes of his former incarnation.
Aside from breaking new narrative ground, the story was also somewhat notable for its illustration, which directly referenced the then-in-production Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although references to Star Trek are not without precedent in the DWU, a visual reference to TNG specifically is unusual.
In the aftermath of his inaugural adventure, the newly-regenerated Seventh Doctor is bemoaning the loss of several articles of clothing on Lakertya. He's only just regenerated and he's already down a tartan scarf and his rainbow-coloured umbrella. Still, the TARDIS wardrobe has provided him with replacements: a new paisley scarf and a different umbrella.
The problem now is what to do about his old patchwork coat.
It sits there in the wardrobe, full of the contents of lifetimes, waiting to be cleaned out. The new Doctor sits down, empties his pockets and starts putting the contents into two piles: Useful and well, Not. As he moves his way through the piles, he considers the consequences of regeneration and tries to assess whether he's going to like his new body.
- The Doctor finds in his old coat pockets a telescope, a magnifying glass, a ball of string, a flashlight which needs new batteries, a galactic passport, bifocals, a handkerchief, an Aztec brooch, a yo-yo, a car aerial, some books, business cards, a membership card for the Alpha Centaurian table-tennis club, his recorder, a cricket ball, jelly babies, a pocket mirror, TARDIS components, parts from his pocket-watch, fireworks, cat badges, an unused 1901 Great Western Railway ticket, alien coins, an oil can, a fox mask, a spoon, and a caramel covered in pocket-fluff (the only thing he throws away).
- Like most Brief Encounters, this one has an illustration. Because a big part of this story is the simple list of things that were in the Sixth Doctor's pockets, Andy Lambert's illustration takes on added narrative relevance. Amongst the things depicted in the illustration are: a ruffled-front shirt of the type normally worn by the Third Doctor; the masque costume worn by the Fifth Doctor in Black Orchid; the Second Doctor's stovepipe hat and woolly overcoat from The Abominable Snowmen; a Sontaran helmet; an Earthshock-era Cyberman head; the Fourth Doctor's light grey duster (circa The Sun Makers) and one of his scarves; and a formal Time Lord headdress, likely from The Invasion of Time. However, the object of greatest curiosity is the clearly-drawn Starfleet uniform taken from The Next Generation. TNG was still in production at the time this story was published, and had directly referenced Doctor Who with on-screen graphics in a first season episode, only a few years before.
- The Doctor has just left Lakertya, and is upset that he had to sacrifice his scarf and umbrella to defeat the Rani. (TV: Time and the Rani)