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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:57 pm

In Another Life: Story Notes

***

I blame [livejournal.com profile] spiderine for this. And [livejournal.com profile] jeanquirieplus just a little.

The whole thing started with a review post: Sam's Three Things about Journey's End. While I didn't really address the prime wankpoint of the episode, Donna's mindwipe, I was definitely interested in the secondary wankpoint, the Doctor leaving his human self in Pete's World with Rose. Spider pointed out that the Doctor was still the Doctor and no doubt there would still be grand adventures even if he didn't have his TARDIS or his Screwdriver (trufax: in the original shooting script, 10.5 gives Human!Ten a bit of TARDIS coral to grow his own with). I imagined him building his own screwdriver, and from there perhaps a spaceship.

There used to be a link here to the original discussion thread, but it was lost when my journal was hacked. I announced I didn't have time to write the fic, and then did it anyway. I really didn't have time, but -- well, fandom finds a way, I suppose.

I don't write much Doctor Who fic, mainly because it took me a while to get up to speed on, you know, fifty years of canon. Besides, it's intimidating to try and get into the headspace of a brilliant near-immortal alien. I think one of the reasons I was able to execute this fic at all was that the Doctor was human. His mind may have been intact, but he still had to learn to live as a human in one place and time with the anticipation of death relatively close at hand, compared to where he stood in regards to death as a Time Lord.

This is one of the hardest stories I've ever written, I think, just in terms of trying to get it completed and up to my standards. I don't know if its reads as raw and sharp-edged as it felt while writing it -- probably not -- but it touched several personal nerves for me. Cathartic, yes, but difficult because of that. I do know that I've had an unusual number of people claim that it inspired vivid dreams after reading, which is gratifying in a strange way.

I hadn't actually seen Rise of the Cybermen or Age of Steel (the Pete's World episodes) when I started writing this, and it had been a long time since I'd seen Army of Ghosts or Doomsday. Once I'd finished the fic I went back and reviewed them, which meant I had to rework a lot of the Torchwood backstory. I'd forgotten that the alternate universe had a Torchwood as well, but I needed something similar to Torchwood to provide some of the story's infrastructure. Originally the Torchwood you see in this fic was Tyler Universal Laboratories, and Ianto was the survivor of a different disaster entirely by a Torchwood that had existed and been destroyed. This is the original story Ianto tells the Doctor:

"They scrounged a warhead from a downed ship. We reckon it was a dud; something wrong in the firing mechanism, probably."

"Messing about with things you don't understand," the Doctor said.

"Well, how else are we going to learn anything? We won't understand it ever if we don't mess about," Ianto retorted. The other man looked surprised. "And I think it's pretty inconsiderate of aliens to treat the place like a junk heap and never send any salvage teams."

"What happened, Ianto?" Ms. Tyler asked gently.

"The team opened it up and started studying the wiring. Or they were going to. I don't know if they got that far or not. The warhead went off...shot straight up, practically vaporised part of the basement. We were lucky...we were on the ground floor, and Lisa was safety captain. We started tunnelling..." He stopped, clenched his fists, fought down the tight sensation in his chest. "A ceiling tile fell when we were almost out. Sheared her arm off at the shoulder. I had to drag her out."


Elements of the destruction of Torchwood probably linger in some situations throughout the fic, but I've done my best to work it up to canon compliance.

One of the things I knew I wanted to incorporate was the Doctor's parallel to Peter Wimsey. I spent a long time considering what name he'd take for himself, because I wanted the story to end with him being named, since as a human he would need one, and it would have to be a climactic event. John Smith was too close to his old self, so I discarded it; I went through various kings and historical figures until I realised the Doctor wouldn't want to be a king and most historical figures are historical for being kind of bastardy.

I finally settled on Peter as a good name without too much romance, but not too plain. I was still iffy about it because yeah, it is a little bit hinky to name your boyfriend after your dad, but it also occurred to me that there was a possibility for a parallel with Peter Wimsey, hero of Dorothy Sayers' mystery novels. Wimsey is a clever, witty English aristocrat whose experiences as an officer during WWI left him severely traumatised, and still reverberate for him years later.

The quotes from Sayers books throughout the fic have sometimes been compressed for pithiness; they cover everything from Whose Body, the first chronological novel (and the first novel written, though short stories predate it) to Busman's Honeymoon, the last. Close readers will also note the appearance of Bernard Black, irascible Irish hero of Black Books, and Mr. Fell, the angelic book not-quite-seller of Good Omens, when the Doctor buys his first books.

I think Peter Hawthorn suits the Doctor. I've always wanted to give someone the last name Hawthorn, and as Rose says it does indicate a certain putting-down of roots.

That British Library card, by the way, is a manip of a real one; it's a "reader's card", and I felt that in all it was the most appropriate one to give to Peter as an endnote. He looks happy, don't you think?

***

Missing Scene Fragments

At one point, before I conceived of Davros as the villain in the piece, I wanted the "three horsemen" to simply be violent invaders from another universe who believe the Doctor can get them home. With that in mind they were more set on personal destruction than they became under Davros, and I had to remove a huge chunk of the story. I kept what I didn't cannibalise for the new version, and you can see some of it below, including I think a rather good account of Ianto interacting with a homebrewed Ghost Machine (hearkening back to the utterly forgettable third episode of Torchwood S1).

Ianto was one of the first people the Doctor saw when they pulled up to the lab complex -- he was sitting on the back of an ambulance in the car-park, an oxygen mask strapped to his face, blood spatter on the sleeve of his left arm. Beyond him the labs were burning, flames licking out of the nearest windows, threatening the big hangar where Rose worked. Firemen were running back and forth, shouting orders.

Ianto looked up as they leapt out of the car, and immediately pulled off the oxygen mask, tossing it down carelessly.

"Ms. Tyler's safe," he said, before either man could say anything. "Mrs. Tyler and Tony as well. None of the equipment was stolen. The fire isn't in our lab."

"Where's Rose?" the Doctor demanded. "Are you all right?"

"Dunno where she went, but I saw her get out okay. It's not my blood," Ianto said, nodding at his sleeve.

"What happened here?" Pete asked. The younger man chewed his lip.

"They were looking for you," he said quietly, to the Doctor. "They came in with guns and said they were looking for you, and then they started shooting people."

"Doctor! Dad!"

Pete caught Rose up in a tight hug before he even managed to turn around; when he did she all but leapt from her father's arms to his, holding his body tightly.

"I was so scared," she whispered in his ear. "I thought they'd shot you."

"I told you this morning, I was home today," he answered, skimming his fingers through her hair, down her throat and over her shoulders, looking for injuries. "Are you hurt?"

"I wasn't thinking logically, they had guns! I didn't even see them. I'm all right," she added, when he tipped her head up to check the dilation of her pupils. "Mum and Tony are fine too. They're doing headcounts now. Oh, Ianto," she added, dismayed, catching his left arm and holding it up. "What happened to you?"

"Spatter," Ianto said distantly. "I'm fine."

***

At the final count, that evening, there were seven dead. Mary Ellen had been shot without even a question; two people in the hallway as well. He didn't know the names of the people nearest the entryway as well as he did his immediate neighbours, but he'd seen them coming and going and been faintly amused by their toddler-like rummagings in the world of physics and technology. Now two of them were dead, as well as Nelda and Mary Ellen and Stanley and Stanley's two assistants, Mike and Tracey. They'd taken a wrong turn into Stanley's lab, which was all that had saved Ianto from a bullet to the head. Instead Ianto had fetched up the as-yet uncalibrated sonic modulator and switched it on from their own lab.

Some of the blood on the shirt had to be his, because he'd been bleeding out his ears when it finally failed and died.

***

"Right then. Keep back against the wall," the Doctor ordered, and bent down, pressing a large button on the top of the ghost machine.

Immediately the dim hallway brightened, and Ianto thought for one insane moment that perhaps it was just a superpowered lightbulb. Then he began to hear it -- the low murmuring not of crime-scene officials but of lab techs and machinery. And, strangest of all, he could see himself standing at the far end of the hall, taking a coffee break with Mary Ellen. He glanced sidelong at Rose, who was standing nearby, and the Doctor, who had begun to walk down towards the phantoms.

For that minute, perhaps a little longer, everything was crystal clear, but as soon as the Doctor reached the other end of the hallway and there was a clatter that signified the opening of the front doors, it was as if reality...blipped. It jumped like a bad television cut; he was standing in some dark underground place for a second, and then back in the hallway, and then back in the cave.

Not a cave -- some kind of building, damp, smelling the way Cardiff had on days the wind blew the salt in off the water. He turned around and saw another version of himself, standing over some kind of table. No, a drawer. A morgue locker-drawer. Writing on a clipboard as another man approached -- Captain Harkness, the Doctor's friend.

Distantly, he heard shouting; Rose and the Doctor, something about slippage and pulling him back. But he couldn't move -- this wasn't any memory he'd had and yet at the same time it was intensely familiar. There was a body lying in that drawer, waiting to be tucked away.

"Thanks for doing this," Captain Harkness drawled in his American accent.

"Part of my job, sir," he heard himself say.

"No, I should be doing it, but..." Harnkess sighed. "One day, we're gonna run out of space."

Before he could figure out what the hell was going on, the world jumped and shorted out again and he was back in the hallway, reeling with nausea. Ahead of him, four people in black masks were aiming weapons -- not at him, he realised, but at the lab techs. Nelda, standing in Ianto's doorway, asking to borrow some printer paper -- the spray of blood from her wound spattering his sleeve. He breathed deep through his nose as Rose grabbed his hand and held tight.

"ROSE, NOW!" the Doctor shouted, and she kicked a switch on the ghost machine, turning it off. For a second all three of them were blind in the dim light, until their pupils began to dilate.

"I knew it," the Doctor said vehemently. "You slipped through."

"What?"

"You slipped universes. Something resonated across reality for you -- you nearly broke the machine."

"I didn't do it on purpose," Ianto said defensively.

***

"Time doesn't exist in a line," the Doctor said, sitting in the front seat of the car. "It's more like a big ball of...stuff. Something traumatic, something important, it ripples backwards and forwards. It stays. For a while. Some longer than others."

"Like a pond," Ianto said.

"Precisely not," the Doctor answered, glancing in the rearview mirror at him. "But good try."

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