Doctor Who has been on (and off) the air since 1963, with a myriad of adventures showing the Doctor and his companions traveling to endless corners of the universe.
(Daily Doctor Who #61)
But do you know where they haven’t traveled? Into my other favorite science fiction media properties, that’s where!
But what if they had? What if somehow, this had been possible? What stories would it have been cool to see the Doctor interacting with?
In this series of posts, we’re going to make some suggestions. Thirteen suggestions, in fact…one for each Doctor. The idea is to find something for each that, even if there was no real way for to have happened, was at least remotely possible from a time-frame point of view. So, no meetings between the Third Doctor and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, for example.
We started with the First Doctor, and then the Second Doctor, and now, predictably, we are at the Third Doctor, and the unexpected and unlikely meeting between…
We’re talking about the 1967 experimental science fiction espionage show that was created and starred Patrick McGoohan, as a British spy who resigned without explanation, and found himself kidnapped and placed into a idyllic but dystopian community known as the Village. There he is renamed Number Six, as nobody in the Village is called by their name. Episodes focused on the attempts of the masters of the Village (represented by a rotating series of characters who were simply known as Number Two) and their attempts to break Number Six’s will, in order to find out why he resigned. Alternatively, they focused on Number Six’s doomed attempts to escape the Village. The show ended in a bizarre allegorical nightmare episode in which Number Six is named the Village’s new Number One (a never seen, rarely referred to figure) but finds himself without a voice, discovers that the old Number One is a crazy version of himself that he shoots into space before driving back home in a truck, only to not realize the whole world has basically become the Village…
Anyway, it was pretty weird ending, and hard to not look at as either a big allegory, or otherwise a sign that Number Six had completely lost his mind and was having a series of hallucinations.
The Prisoner only ran for 17 episodes, which was 10 more than Patrick McGoohan originally wanted. The show was over a couple of years before Third Doctor Jon Pertwee debuted, but that doesn’t stop us from imagining a story in the Third Doctor’s run in which he visits the Village.
Incidentally, a cool Doctor Who connection is that both shows have memorable opening themes that were composed by the same guy, Ron Grainer.
The Prisoner deliberately kept many things about its own mythology quite vague, and refused to answer nearly any questions about what was going on in its finale. Our story today does answer questions, but not because I wish The Prisoner did or that I think the answer I’ve presented is the best one possible, it’s just that it seemed to fit Doctor Who better if it didn’t end so ambiguously.
Anyway, our story takes place at the end of Season Seven of Doctor Who, right after the story Inferno, when his companion was still scientist Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, and the Doctor was working with UNIT, led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). It’s a seven part serial entitled, simply…
The story starts, unusually, in the middle of the action, with the Doctor, Liz Shaw and UNIT–including the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton (John Levene) and newcomer Captain Yates (Richard Franklin)–breaking into a scientific complex where mysterious experiments have been taking place. UNIT holds off the guards, but with the help of Yates, the Doctor and Liz are able to get to the central lab where they confront and defeat the insane Professor McKern. However, he has already activated his machine, which is powered by a strange alien meteor will potentially engulf England in temporal chaos. Liz tries to theorize what she can do about it but the Doctor brushes her aside and easily dismantles it. Everyone is grateful that the Doctor has saved the day, but Liz finds the whole experience frustrating.
Later Liz complains to the Brigadier that though she is learning things from the Doctor, she is not contributing in the way that she wants to. Her discontent has been growing for a while, but she intends to resign UNIT and return to Cambridge in a couple of week’s time. (In real life, this was all just backstory mentioned at the start of the following season to explain Liz’s disappearance from the show). Liz attempts to explain this to the Doctor, but he is too busy to pay her any attention. After she leaves for the day, he realizes what has happened, and becomes worried if he is somehow the cause of Liz’s frustration.
The Doctor potters around his UNIT lab, but suddenly begins to feel weak. Too late, he realizes that his room is being gassed. He attempts to get out, but the door is locked, and he is overcomes, falling unconscious….
The Doctor wakes up in an odd apartment, some time later. Everything is very quiet. He goes outside, and discovers that he is in a mysterious community known only as…the Village.
The Doctor discovers that the Village is completely closed off from the outside world (residents don’t acknowledge that there is an outside world). Everything is automated and monitored to ensure everyone’s peace, comfort and docility. The Doctor sees that the apartment he woke up in is addressed “6” (it’s the same house that Number Six lived in in The Prisoner). He meets his neighbor, an older lady who calls herself Number 214. She is not helpful in answering the Doctor’s questions, simply repeating that they are in the Village, and inviting the Doctor to play a game of lawn bowls with her at the upcoming Village carnival. She tells the Doctor that if he wants to know more than he should go to the green-domed Residence where Number Two lives and works, which is in the Village center.
The Doctor is being watched on monitors by an unseen figure who sits in a darkened room and murmurs in satisfaction at his progress.
The Doctor goes to the Residence and is ushered in by a short mute man known only as the Butler (Angelo Muscat). He meets Number Two, an officious man who appears cool and collected but is in reality nervous and uncertain of himself. He welcomes the Doctor to the Village with great pomp, and explains that in the Village names are not necessary. Usually people are numbered, but since “Doctor” is not really a name, he will allow it for the time being.
He then proceeds to access files about the Doctor’s activities on earth. However, it is apparent that Number Two is reading some of this for the first time, and that there are large gaps in his knowledge. When the Doctor refuses to reveal more, he is suddenly hit by a beam of light from the ceiling, which causes him to writhe in pain…
A bit panicked, Number Two has the beam turned off. It was a mind probe, he reveals–an instrument of torture–but it wasn’t supposed to be used at that moment. The Doctor, of course, doesn’t believe him, and storms out. In doing so, he catches glimpse of the Control Room, where Number Two’s staff operate all the automatic systems of the Village and monitor its inhabitants. Once he is gone, Number Two angrily asks his subordinates what is going on.
The Doctor explores the Village, and finds everyone docile but friendly, answering all his questions in frustratingly vague ways. He returns to his apartment and finds that it’s being cleaned up by a young maid who calls herself Number 63. Number 63 apologizes that the apartment was dusty when the Doctor arrived, but that they weren’t told he was coming, and that nobody has been in there for some years, not since…but she refuses to say more. With more questioning, the Doctor eventually finds out that there is a helipad the sealed-off courtyard behind Number Two’s Residence.
The Doctor goes to investigate. He has to get past several security points to do so and finds that the complex’s “automatic system” seems to be working to his benefit—doors open, etc, which lead him past guards and so on. However, when one hidden door opens in front of him, he refuses to go through, instead making his way to the courtyard where he finds a small helicopter, takes control of it and takes off.
Up in the air, the Doctor is confused by what he sees—the Village is surrounded by water and by mountains, which seem to stretch out to a blurry horizon. Then the helicopter controls seize up and begin to take the Doctor automatically back to the ground. He tries to pull out the wiring to retake control of the helicopter, but he just ends up disabling it and the helicopter crashes.
Surviving the crash, the Doctor stumbles from the helicopter, and continues to make his journey on foot. He is being watched by Number Two and his staff, and Number Two activates “Rover”.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is also being watched by the other unseen figure, who now expresses amused disappointment in the Doctor.
The Doctor is inured, but moves as quickly as he can along the beach looking for the end of the Village, when Rover–a huge autonomous balloon-like ball rises out of the water and rolls at him while making a terrifying roaring sound…
The Doctor surrenders to Rover, and is taken to the Village hospital to tend to his injuries from the crash. Number Two visits him there, and seems genuinely confused as to why the Doctor would be trying to leave the Village, since it is so pleasant and charming. Rover, he explains, is just the Village security system designed to keep everyone safe.
The Doctor tries to find out more–he theorizes confidently that the Village is an artificial environment of some sort–maybe even a computerized or psychic simulation. Up in the helicopter, he saw the horizon and saw that it seemed artificial. He demands to know what the Village is and who is in charge. A glance from Number Two at a Tower visible out the window indicates that that might be where the enigmatic Number One lives.
Number Two then turns the tables on the Doctor and starts questioning him. He explains that they have been doing filling in the gaps on their files of the Doctor, and they now know everything they want to, with one exception–why did he leave his home planet and come to earth in the first place?
The Doctor is surprised that they know he is not from earth. Number Two says there is little they can’t know if they want, but this issue of why the Doctor left his own world and came to there’s is still the outstanding point. He implies that if the Doctor could just fill in this one piece of information, they could make his life very comfortable in the Village. The Doctor realizes this is the one hold he has over Number Two, and the Doctor refuses to give it to them. This makes Number Two angry, and he orders the nurses to let the Doctor sleep. They drug him and he passes out.
The Doctor awakes some time later, groggy and in pain, to hear hospital staff discussing him. He gets up to look around, and is astonished to realize that one of the nurses is Liz! She “shushes” him so that he won’t give her away, and the Doctor acts like he’s still unconscious.
Later, Liz confers with the Doctor and says that UNIT was able to track him down and are here to get him out. She’s brought his sonic screwdriver which he should be able to use to scramble the cameras that are always watching them. The Doctor does so, and he and Liz flee the hospital. They overpower some guards along the way, and make their way to the roof where Liz is able to signal the Brigadier to come and get them. Once that’s done they hide in a maintenance closet on the roof and await rescue.
Liz asks the Doctor who runs the Village and what they wanted with the Doctor. He tells her, but becomes suspicious when her continued questions seem to be trying to get him to give away the secret of why he left his home planet. When he tries to change the subject, Liz grows more agitated, until she actually pulls out a gun, and threatens to kill the Doctor if he does not talk.
Liz continues to threaten the Doctor, but also pleads with him to talk. She claims she only has one chance at this and the Doctor doesn’t tell her than they’ll kill her! The Doctor wants to know who is threatening her but she grows more panicked and unstable, until finally she collapses onto the ground, clutching her head, writhing in agony. The Doctor is shocked, and leaves the closet to get help…
…but finds he is not on the roof as he’d thought, but in a small makeshift shed on the ground, in the middle of the Village. Number Two and many of the other Villagers sit there, watching the shed as if watching a show, and they all clap and laugh at the Doctor in his agitation. He yells at them to help Liz, but it’s too late…Liz is dead. But then the Doctor sees it is not Liz at all, but the Number 63 (the Maid) from earlier. The Doctor is confused, but realizes that his head is still groggy. Number Two boasts to him–the Doctor thought the Village is a big simulation, but it’s not. They easily have the power to create such a simulation if they wanted to (as they have just proved). The truth is they control everything for the Doctor, so he had better just start getting along.
Chagrined and confused, the Doctor returns to him apartment, wondering what to do. He sees the “6” on the building, and gets an idea. He joins his neighbor, Number 214 for a game of lawn bowls at the Village carnival, chatting with her about her time in the Village. He tries to find out about the previous resident of his apartment, but whenever she is about to tell him, she suddenly gets confused and is unable to recall anything. So the first chance he gets, the Doctor corners her in a little supply tent at the carnival, and uses his abilities with hypnosis to try to clear her mind.
In the control room, Number Two’s people have temporarily lost track of the Doctor’s location. They work frantically to find him. They let Number Two (present at the carnival) know they’ve lost the Doctor, and he begins to look around the area.
The Doctor finds out from the confused Number 214 about Number Six, the one man who did not give in to the Village. The Doctor wants to know what happened to him–did he escape, and if so, how? Number 214 says that Number Six didn’t escape, but the rumors were that he went underground, pointing to Number Two’s residence.
The Doctor emerges to continue his game of lawn bowls, allowing the watchers to find him again. The Doctor bumps into Number Two, but apologizes knowingly, for “showing up unexpectedly.” Number Two looks shaken, and the Doctor presses his advantage…he knows that Number Two wasn’t expecting him. What else does Number One do without consulting Number Two? Maybe, speculates the Doctor, Number Two is just as much a prisoner as he is.
After the Doctor leaves, Number Two looks angrily at the Tower, asking “Why?” bitterly over and over again.
Later, the Doctor is summoned to Number Two’s residence. He is welcomed in once again by the Butler. The Doctor enters Number Two’s office to find a middle-aged woman there, who introduces herself as the new Number Two. It seems that Number Two’s change regularly, and the Doctor wonders if the job is a reward or a punishment. The new Number Two is no mood to play games with the Doctor, and says they will be stepping up his interrogation program. Two guards enter to restrain the Doctor but he defeats them with Venusian Akido, and runs deeper inside the complex. He sneaks past what looks like a special hospital room with a patient being guarded inside. He returns to the odd hidden door that opened for him earlier. It does again and he enters, making his way into some dark tunnels.
Finally, the tunnels open up to room–the darkened monitoring room that we’ve glimpsed earlier. There, the Doctor sees the man who has been secretly monitoring him, and occasionally apparently interfering with the automatic systems to aid him. He is played by Patrick McGoohan and says, “Welcome Doctor. They call me Number Six.”
The Doctor finds out about Number Six–he was a spy who resigned, but refused to reveal why. As a result, he was kidnapped and thrown into the Village, and repeatedly tortured so that he would spill his secrets. He refused to do so, and eventually both the system and his own mind broke in the conflict.
He was still unable to escape, even though for a while he thought he had. After time, both his own self-identity and the Village rebuilt themselves, and in that process Number Six was able to establish this second, secret Control Room beneath the main one. Since he can access the Village systems, he has been able to avoid being discovered.
The Doctor realizes that it was Number Six himself who sent out the order to bring the Doctor to the Village, the system being so bureaucratic that it was possible to do that without anyone knowing. Number Six says that even though the Doctor is an alien, he has still left a massive data-trail on the earth, allowing him to be easily tracked and traced–the Doctor is angry, as he gets enough of that from the Time Lords. It was Number Six who activated the mind-probe earlier, to confirm that the Doctor was who he believed him to be.
The Doctor suggests that Number Six simply simulate an order that the Doctor is to be released, and he will bring UNIT back with him to shut the Village down–but Number Six refuses. He himself escaped to London on several occasions, but each time he was brought back, and each time the route he took changed–sometimes it was by land, sometimes by sea. Number Six thinks, improbable as it might sound, that the Village actually moves periodically. The Doctor is amazed at the idea, but says its more credulous than one might think.
Meanwhile, back at UNIT HQ, the real Liz Shaw speaks to Benton and the Brigadier about the Doctor, who just disappeared without a trace a week ago. Liz is worried, but the Brigadier is not concerned–he expects the Doctor has just gone out and found some trouble to get mixed up in.
Back in the Village, Number Six tells the Doctor that he brought him to the Village so he could destroy it. He needs someone of the Doctor’s intellect and abilities to help defeat the mysterious Number One that seems to live in the Tower. The Doctor feels that the first step is for him to understands what the Village is and who is in charge. Thus, they have to break into Number One’s tower. However, there is no visible entrance, but the Doctor believes he knows where he can find someone who might help.
The Doctor sneaks to the private hospital room, where he beats up the two guards. The Doctor enters and confronts the private patient. As he thought, it’s the original Number Two (at least, original as far as the Doctor is concerned), who is now quite addled and distraught, possibly having been tortured. The Doctor demands that the old Number Two tell him how he can enter the tower and confront Number One, and Number Two says he will show him.
With Number Six helping to prevent their detection, the Doctor and the old Number Two sneak to the Tower. However, before they can arrive, the old Number Two sees some other Villagers nearby, and shouts for help. In the Control Room, the new Number Two sees them and orders Rover to stop them.
When Rover shows up, the old Number Two panics and screams, running away. The Doctor gets him to go to the Tower with him where the terrified Number Two shows him the secret entrance. Rover catches up wtih them at that point, and Number Two is engulfed and crushed by the creature.
The Doctor tries to run, but to no avail, and Rover overwhelms him…
Overwhelmed by Rover, the Doctor has a series of hallucinations, featuring Liz and the Brigadier, and then expanding backwards to feature his previous incarnations and companions. In the Control Room, the new Number Two watches these images on her large monitor, gleefully announcing that now they will discover the truth of why the Doctor left his homeworld. However, Number Six is also monitoring the situation, and quickly works to sabotage Number Two’s efforts by causing a power blackout at her Residence.
Number Two scrambles her people to find and intercept the Doctor, but when they do they find the Doctor well, having tamed Rover. He says that Rover attempted to get into his head, but instead he got into its. Rover holds off Number Two’s guards while the Doctor enters the Tower which supposedly holds Number One.
Inside the Doctor finds a ball of glowing energy–similar to the experiment of Professor McKern’s that he shut down at the start of the story. The Doctor is astonished, but finally realizes the truth about Number One.
Meanwhile, in Number Six comes upstairs to the Control center and confronts Number Two. He easily defeats the last of her attendees in a fist fight, leaving Number Two and Number Six face to face alone.
He does not fight her, but instead attempts to persuade her that they are all prisoners and the Village should be shut down. Number Two appears to be considering his suggestion, but then pulls out a pistol. Number Two gloats that once he is dead, order can be restored. She is about to shoot Number Six, when he is unexpectedly saved by the Butler, who though not speaking, evidently believes that it is time for the Village to be shut down. Number Two is now the prisoner. Just then, the Doctor arrives, announcing he knows the secrets of the Village and the identity of Number One.
The shocking truth is that there is no “Number One”, not in the sense that anybody thinks. The Doctor explains that the energy in the tower is generated by an alien mineral which has the ability to telepathically enhance people’s thoughts and use it to reshape time itself. This is the same mineral that the insane Professor McKern was attempting to use (it was the “activation” of this same material in Part One which allowed Number Six to become aware of the Doctor in the first place).
A large portion fell to earth some years ago and over the years connected to the subconscious desire for order and control that exists across the entire planet. It created a gestalt entity that has come to be known as Number One, and then bent time around that notion and created the Village. It regularly made adjustments to time itself in order to maintain its own existence and security. Number Six has literally been fighting the whole world to maintain his autonomy as a man.
Number Six tries even harder to convince Number Two to push back against this system, and for a moment, she is uncertain. The Doctor uses that moment to get to the controls and attempt to communicate with the outside world. As soon as he does, “Number One” pushes back, and Guards enter, freeing Number Two, and attempt to kill the Doctor, the Butler and Number Six.
While Number Six and the Butler hold off Number Two and her guards, the Doctor manages to make contact with Liz Shaw. Liz is started to hear from the Doctor, but he tells her to get to his lab and make an adjustment to Professor McKern’s machine that will disrupt the gestalt Number One’s ability to manipulate time. Once that’s done, she must send UNIT to his location.
The Butler is injured, but the Doctor and Number Six retreat from Number Two and head back to the Tower. Sensing danger, the gestalt that is Number One pushes back even harder and multiple Rovers begin to emerge from the ocean, converging toward the Doctor.
The Doctor uses the original Rover, still under his influence, to defend himself–so he and Number Six can get to the edge of the Tower, but because of the fierceness of the battle, they cannot enter.
Back at UNIT, Liz is able to figure out how to use the equipment, which sends a feedback pulse to Number One and disrupts its influence over time. The Rovers start acting chaotically and killing people indiscriminately, and the Doctor realizes that Number One is using its last energy to protect itself from the more devastating effects of the feedback pulse. Number Two and a group of loyalist security forces continue to try to kill the Doctor and Number Six.
UNIT forces arrive, including the Brigadier, Benton and Yates.
They fight back, but can do nothing against the Rovers. Number Six enters the Tower, and confronts Number One–the subconscious fears of a world against a single individual who refuses to break. Number Six’s actions weaken Number One sufficiently for the feedback pulse to work. As Number Six writhes against the power of Number One, he says through gritted teeth, “I am not a number, I’m a free man!” and the Tower explodes. The Rovers collapse, and Number Two is shot down by the UNIT forces.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Doctor speaks with the Brigadier, and pays tribute to the hero who helped to defeat this menace. The Butler emerges, obviously deeply saddened at Number Six’s death. But when Captain Yates emerges from the rubble of the tower which he has been investigating, he can find no trace of a body. Unseen by the rest, the Butler sees something in the distance and goes to investigate.
The Brigadier wonders how anyone could have survived, which the Doctor does not know…although he wonders aloud if Number Six might have been a creation of the same substance which gave rise to Number One and the Village.
After all, Number One came from the world’s collective desire for order, safety and conformity, whereas Number Six represented the ultimate non-conformist, the unbreakable human spirit that refuses to be reduced to a number. The Brigadier says he has no idea what the Doctor is talking about, and the Doctor shrugs, admitting that he’s probably wrong, but that if he’s right, the man might never die.
The Butler arrives at the side of the road, and a UNIT car shows up, its driver unseen. The passenger door opens, as if automatically, and the Butler gets in.
Sgt. Benton rushes to the Doctor and the Brigadier and informs them that a car has been stolen. The Doctor sees it driving away, in the distance. The Brigadier voices the thoughts that are in the Doctor’s head, and says if that was his friend Number Six, why is he running away? Why not stay and file a report? The Doctor smiles to himself and says, “His life is his own.”
We see the jeep speeding down the road, with the Butler in the passenger seat, and Number Six behind the wheel, smiling to himself.
The Doctor returns to UNIT, where he thanks Liz for her help, and then says farewell to her. She wonders if he wants to know why she is resigning, and he replies, “Only if you want to tell me.” The two sit down for a cup of tea together.
Cue the Doctor Who Theme music!
And that’s the story. Could be better, I know. I feel like it could use some major reworking, if only to find a way to include a scene in which the Third Doctor and Number Six can drive side by side in their trademark cars!
Next up: The Fourth Doctor and an American kids’ show!