Fictional Hypothesis is the first story from Jeffrey Coburn's second series as The Doctor. It only has two episodes, and both are slightly varied in total duration.
To begin with, I felt that the storyline was a fairlygood one. Even though the fact of one man alone can control almost everything is an unoriginal and populary used idea, I still thought that the serial gained a unique identity of its own. This is what makes this particular story from The Doctor Who Audio Dramas a special one.
I have sometimes thought that the two parts of the story could be combined into one. There are other singular episodes from The Doctor Who Audio Dramas that run over the total duration of the story! However, this is only one negative comment of very few that I can make about the serial.
It should also be noted that Fictional Hypothesis didn't feature Dara Hamilton's character. As she is one of my favourite companions from these productions, I was quite dissapointed at this. However, it did make a change from writing out Comdr. Mark Triyad's.
A lot of history lies with me personally about this story, as it was the first serial that I produced cd cover artwork for. Because of this, I knew that I had to pay extra special attension to all the aspects from the story, as I wanted my artwork to make a big first impression! When my covers proved to be a success, I eventually went on to create much more artwork for The Doctor Who Audio Dramas.
As a final comment, I think that Fictional Hypothesis worked well enough as a story, even though I still feel that it could have been expanded further. Although, all the ideas presented within the storyline came across very well, and so the serial is still personally considered by me as a success!
The TARDIS accidentally falls into an artificial dimension acting as a prison for Albert Ynotz who has the ability to control everything in that universe to pass the time. Since heís effectively God, he has no inclination to leave, and decides to trap the Doctor and Mark there to keep him company and telling him how clever he is at running this universe. After subjecting the duo to the horrific torture of continuity-based angst flashbacks, Ynotz gives them the Survivor treatment by dumping them on a desert island. Ynotz goes mental when they refuse, then the Doctor recites Who trivia until the false universe vanishes. The Doctor offers to take Ynotz out of his private universe where every fantasy is played out for him. Ynotz unsurprisingly tells the Doctor to sod off. The TARDIS returns to reality.
A story about a single deranged criminal imprisoned in a fantasy land of his own making and threatened by the arrival of the TARDIS crew is a theme Rob Shearman touched in his audio play Punchline, then again in The Holy Terror, before focussing on various elements of it in Jubilee, Scherzo and The Chimes of Midnight. It is a simple but powerful idea, and itís a shame Fictional Hypothesis doesnít have the time to explore it properly. Instead it comes across as a blur of The Celestial Toymaker and The Mind Robber Ė false TARDISes, a lonely god wanting company and entertainment, scenes forcing the main characters to live unpleasant memories, tests for the TARDIS crew to endure... even Ynotz crime is reminiscent of The Ribos Operation and The Pirate Planet, and his emotional state just like Kane in Dragonfire.
However, some matters stretch credulity Ė the Doctorís mindless acceptance of weirdness in the first episode, and the inconsistent behavior of the Prisoner in the second pale against the idea of a society imprisoning a white collar criminal in a fantasy land for two centuries. If they have the technology to reshape reality, they should really be more responsible for it. The storyís use of comedy and continuity is entertaining in its own way, and itís sad that a story showcasing the Eleventh Doctor and Mark should be so short and ultimately pointless.
Personal Appreciation: **
A traditional Rob Shearman story before such concepts existed.
This Doctor is obsessed with 2013 Washington DC hot dogs, which are delicious. Heís something of an expert in this time period, knowing its history off by heart Ė though he hasnít been there for 500 years time, his time. He helped construct the Roosevelt Monument and his fourth incarnation visited 2013 Texas and taught the locals how to cook a steak. He doesnít seem to be acting the fool this week, but IS a fool to the point Mark snaps and yells at him. He recently allowed the TARDIS to take off without them, an incident Mark is still sore about, and once went to Exo-Space with a companion called ďFenderĒ. He can do bird impressions that sound like Ron Grainer and the Radiophonic Workshop. He prefers his hot dogs with mustard and pickle relish. He always claims there is time to spare. Heís still got his sonic screwdriver, jelly babies, loves fishing for gumblejack and is furious at black segregation or slavery, especially in the enlightened future. Heís still got the knack of Venusian karate. He has an unforgivably dark past he is trying to forget and has gone to great lengths to hide it. He is upset even to be reminded said past exists. Perhaps significantly, he is reminded of it by a paperback edition of Lies of a Time Lord by Anonymous.
This week, he definitely is a future Doctor Ė else reminding him of Adric and Periís demise in Earthshock and Mindwarp respectively wouldnít hit very hard (we also have the TV Doctors appearing in the Audio Dramas Ė is that a first?), along with flashbacks to Trial of a Time Lord, Logopolis, (maybe) Adrift, Planet of Fire. He remembers Katarina, Mike Smith (Remembrance of the Daleks), Kaftan (Tomb of the Cybermen), Commander Lytton (Attack of the Cybermen), Oscar Botcheby (The Two Doctors) Professor Tyler and audio companions Sara (not Jane Smith or Kingdom), Roy, and Kathy. The Doctor defends his actions by recalling his success in Terror on Terra, The Invasion, The Two Doctors and does the old Curse of Fenric trick by reciting companion names: Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Melissa, Sara, Tasha, Frodo (?!), Professor Jackijj (The Caves of Androzani), Victoria, Liz, Susie-Jo, Ben and Mel.
Mark is sick of troublesome alternate universes and the Master (suggesting either heís in a really cranky mood and exaggerating or else thereís plenty of missing adventures.) He loses patience with the Doctor and tries to steal the Doctorís key to the TARDIS. He knows how to cancel the TARDIS coordinate buffer (effectively a handbrake stopping the ship from taking off without them aboard.) He doesnít know what hot dogs are, except they are made of meat. He has a more or less clear conscience over the men heís lost, but the Prisoner is able to snap his confidence, but he never shirks from accepting responsibility of command. Once again, the idea of the Doctor fishing winds him up surprisingly quickly. He considers a peaceful life without Zylons or battle plans. He is prepared to slaughter the Prisoner given the chance.
Dara is a vegetarian and seems confident that she can quit the TARDIS for an afternoon at the Louvre and ever return. Sheís right. ****.
Daraís not in this one! Oooh, ECSTASY! She never appears! OOH! NIRVANA! They even abandon her in France in the last episode! LET JOY BE UNCONFINED!!!
Too many continuity references too quickly... the Master, City of Death, a swipe at Fox studios, Bill Clinton, the story being set during Doctor Whoís fiftieth anniversary, Dalek merchandising, the E-Space trilogy, Inferno, Battlefield... once the Doctor starts whistling his own TV theme tune, we surely approach MAXIMUM FANWANK!
ďEither that or we fell through the looking glass.Ē Are you trying to tell us something?
Why hasnít sensible Mark demanded his own TARDIS key yet?
That android policeman is pretty slow on the uptake, isnít he? ďYou have your own intelligence and must be destroyed,Ē is actually rather creepy if you think about it, but itís down to the music.
Speaking of which, the music segues from The Awakening (spooky ghost music and cheerful May Queen tune depending on the mood of the scene), The Curse of Fenric, Ghost Light and Resurrection of the Daleks more times than can be healthy.
And we are supposed to expect that the theme music is in fact, Gallifreyan birdsong?
So an alien being with an infinite life span and the powers of God... canít stand people with colour?
Mark has nightmares of Chip Jamisonís voice... Iím right there with you, man.
Seriously, how many unseen adventures are mentioned in this story?
Rule for inter-dimensional travelers Ė do not judge the whole universe on the availability of hotdogs.
Preposterous Plot Points:
Youíve landed in a parallel universe. You KNOW youíve landed in a parallel universe. STOP ACTING SO **** SURPRISED AT EVERYTHING!
And both the Doctor and Mark have heard all about Albert Ynotz?
How can the Doctor remember scenes he was not present?
Surely Kathy didnít die? She was found alive and well? Did she directly afterwards? Bad karma, there.
Presumably, the Prisonerís telepathy allows him to reshape his universe into a skewed version of where the Doctor was intending to arrive. Else, it starts to look a bit unlikely. Yet, he cannot read the Doctorís mind to learn who King Midas was.
In a shock move, at no point is the title referred to in the dialogue or even alluded to.
DOCTOR: Washington DC, year 2013. Good year for a hot dog, wouldnít you say?
DOCTOR: Yes, quite an interesting year Ė the Disney Companyís just released another in a string of feature films. FOX, they just axed the most popular program on television. Everybody hates the President. And thereís a wonderful four-inch Dalek toy inside every box of Fruity-Tooty Crunch Cereal.
Why bother with dialogue when you can just exposit?
PRISONER: I am... I was... Albert Ynotz.
DOCTOR: Ynotz? Where have I heard that name before? Werenít you involved in the... er... something or other?
MARK: The planetary counterfeit scandal of Senex V?
DOCTOR: Yes, thatís right! I read about you at the Academy!
PRISONER: Precisely. I was sentenced to live in this parallel dimension for two hundred years. My only means of entertainment was this helmet, which allows me to create imaginary worlds... universes... all subject to my will. Once my sentence was complete, I was free to leave. Instead, I decided to stay, having found that my reality was the only one I could live with anymore.
DOCTOR: The ultimate choice. To have a world, a world all your own, the only price being your freedom...
PRISONER: Iíve been here so long, I no longer think of myself as a person any more, but as an entity. Just the Prisoner.
Pay close attention to this, cause itís something of a running theme...
DOCTOR: Lies of a Time Lord by Anonymous. Very interesting indeed. Yawn.
PRISONER: Why donít you read the first page?
DOCTOR: All right... How did you know that?!
PRISONER: Your own mind told me. Yes, everything you know I know. Your deepest, darkest secrets, Doctor. It seems your past is...
DOCTOR: THE PAST!
PRISONER: Yes, but still a part OF you, no matter how much youíve tried to deny it. Or hide it.
DOCTOR: (PAINED) Why do you revisit this to me?
Doctor? A moment of inward reflection? Oh, I had to look long and deep
to find this, you know. You buried so far beneath even you
had begun to believe it was a terrible nightmare, a story that you
heard long ago that happened to someone else. Youíd believe ANYTHING as
long as that bit of history was dead and buried.
DOCTOR: You canít know. I made sure...
PRISONER: You made sure of what, Doctor? That no one else would find out? But I did! This faÁade you cover yourself in masks the real you, but you canít keep it hidden forever. You know that, donít you?
DOCTOR: We have all done things in the past that we regret.
PRISONER: Regret?! Is that what you would call it?! Do you honestly think that makes acceptable restitution?!
DOCTOR: Itís all I can offer.
PRISONER: But there is more, Doctor! You who took must now give! Your lives, Time Lord. Would you give your lives to bury the past?
DOCTOR: I cannot undo what I have done!
PRISONER: Your lives. Give them up and youíll finally be free.
PRISONER: Would you not give your immortality up to be free from the spectres that haunt you? Say it! ďI want to be free! I want to be free!Ē
DOCTOR: YES! Let my past die with my regeneration...
DOCTOR: A person cannot be tempted by something he doesnít want.
- The Doctor suggests to Mark they head back to the TARDIS rather than hang around the loser in front of them, and Ynotz announces he intends to keep them with him Ė forever. A bit like... well... far too many cliffhangers to recount, but start with Stones of Blood cliffhanger three and work your way outwards.
- France, 1996. But when the local fast food outlet claims they have no hotdogs, the Doctor and Mark panic and flee to the TARDIS, thinking it is another false reality. In fact, the angry Frenchman was simply out of hotdogs, not that they never existed. Still, thatís the French for you.
The title sequence is changed again. This time the Dominic Glynnís Trial of a Time Lord theme tune and the photo of the Doctor is no longer so painfully embarrassing but now we crash zoom into his right cheek instead of the eyes as is traditional. The middle eight is still punctuated with slivers of the Tom Baker title sequence flashing over the starscape in time with the music, but there are no more twists and turns. The logo is different too.
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:
- Lose the Doctorís stupidity in episode one.
- Keep the music a bit more centred rather than from all over the 1980s.
- Give it some plot and better characterization of Ynotz.
The Party Line:
Alice Through the Looking Glass fans would love this story. Anyone else might find it all a bit too silly. The Doctorís eccentricity is OTT, but admittedly very funny. The story suffers terribly from the minimalist interpretation given; it seems almost that this was something done at the last minute, which it was. Due credit is given to the writer for coming up with whatís here, but it definitely needed the time for some extra fleshing out. David Segal gives a great performance as the tortured Prisoner. The scene at the end where the Doctor tries to convince the Prisoner to leave his world and the Prisoner deciding to stay is worthy of an award.
The Awful Truth:
A rather derivative story, clearly written at the last minute. The Prisoner changes mood randomly according to the plot Ė and fantasy worlds with lots of continuity angst is pretty much the easiest fan fiction to write. When the Prisoner is actually written as pitiful, itís rather moving, but itís hard to give a **** about him. Certainly the farewell scene is not much cop, being totally predictable and a dramatic copout as the self-imposed exile... remains a self-imposed exile. Nice concepts, but very much a stopgap story.