edited by John Binns
Imagine you could never breathe fresh, unfiltered air again, or look up into a clear blue sky.
The characters in Steel Skies lead their lives in confined, isolated spaces - from Britain's first underwater prison, to an early human colony on an inhospitable world, and the last ship to fight for Earth in the bitter Draconian War. Confined, isolated, often far from home, they live with loneliness, paranoia, and despair.
And then they meet the Doctor - and for better or worse, their lives are changed forever...
1: restraint within limits; imprisonment; any restraint of librty; seclusion. 2: restraint within doors, e.g. by sickness.
There are many places that most of us can never see: places that are sheltered, locked away, cordoned off from the outside world. But to the Doctor, and those who travel with him in his TARDIS, there is no such thing as a locked door. Anywhere in space and time is open to them to visit even if sometimes it might be better to leave such places well alone.
Steel Skies is a collection of stories based in enclosed and artificial environments: places constructed to keep the dangers of the universe outside, perhaps, or to keep their inhabitants locked in. It is divided into four sections, each exploring a different kind of confinement:
Section One, Flight, comprises four tales of travellers who left their homes for far-away destinations to explore, to start a new life, or to fight for the survival of their species.
Section Two, Frontiers, explores the corridors, living quarters and ventilation shafts of four futuristic environments designed to shelter men, women and children from harsh natural forces, or from the threat of nuclear war.
Section Three, Incarceration, tells four stories of punishment and imprisonment, from San Francisco¹s infamous Alcatraz, to the cage of a flightless angel in the dilapidated ruins of Heaven.
Section Four, Isolation, deals with the loneliness and despair of being cut off from the world outside, by physical or mental incapacity, by the ravages of war, or caught between destinations aboard the TARDIS itself.
A recurring theme in all four sections is the effect of the Doctor's arrival in these enclosed environments sometimes positive, sometimes less so.
Section 01: Flight
'Corridors of Power'
by Matthew Griffiths
When the TARDIS apparently lands inside a floorless corridor, Steven ignores the Doctor's advice and goes outside to explore; he discovers that the ship has materialised inside a large spherical chamber, with two circular corridors leading off it. The time travellers become separated, and while the Doctor attempts to decipher some strange symbols on the walls, Steven and Vicki leave the construct and find themselves inside a huge hanger aboard a spaceship, where a giant energy canon is being built by alien technicians. In return for the alien's assistance in retrieving the TARDIS from whithin the weapon, Steven and Vicki help with the completion of the device; however, the Doctor manages to decode the inscriptions and realises the truth: the symbols are a contract to build the energy weapon, but the aliens are trying to procrastinate so that the device will not be ready in time for their clients' deadline. The Doctor tries to stop his companions from interferring, but he is too late; the trio make a hasty exit in the TARDIS just as a party of humans arrive to collect the weapon from their contractors...
*Featuring the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki
'A Good Life'
by Simon Guerrier
The Doctor and Charley arrive in a peaceful countryside, which the Doctor places as Kent, England, on Earth in the Sixteenth Century. The two enjoy a relaxing stroll through their surroundings and soon arrive at a quaint and innocent-looking village, but, much to Charley's annoyance, the Doctor typically suspects that all is not what it seems. His suspicions are proved correct when the barmaid immediately asks if they come from space; Charley then meets the village leader, a friendly man named Bryn, who tells them that the village is really an Earth colony located in deep space; he invites the two of them to stay the night and then throws a banquet in their honour. But after a night celebrating Bryn reveals the truth to the two travellers: the village and surrounding countryside are actually situated inside the giant hold of a massive spaceship; this knowledge is kept from the villagers until they turn eighteen, when each is given the choice of staying in their idyllic surroundings, or of leaving for an Earth colony on a nearby planet. The Doctor is furious at the pointlessness of the villagers' existence, until Charley convinces him of the paradise that they enjoy. Realising his friend is right, the Doctor agrees to stay for a holiday.
*Featuring the Eighth Doctor and Charley
*Time-placing: Charley has only just realised that she loves the Doctor, so this probably occurs towards the end of their first series of adventures, especially as she seems unaware of the implications surrounding her rescue from the R101 as revealed in Season 29
'Reversal of Fortune'
by Graeme Burk
The Doctor arrives on the starship Amandala, where he meets an old man named Mikhail lying on his death bed, who curses the Time Lord with his dying breath. Journeying back into the past to find out why the man hates him so, the Doctor once more meets Mikhail as he carves names into a huge monument to his dead crewmates; when Mikhail again seems angry to see him, the Doctor travels back further and further into the past. He saves the Amandala from a core reactor rupture suffered during an asteroid storm, but the resulting EM theta pulse causes the entire crew to be killed, apart from Mikhail. Travelling back further still, the Doctor meets Mikhail just after his wife has given birth to their daughter, Pristina, and later gives a young Mikhail cause to consider pursuing a career in engineering when he grows up. Finally, at a party to celebrate his saving the ship from space privateers, the Doctor meets Mikhail when he is just an infant. Seeing that the Doctor is sad about something, the innocent Mikhail offers the man his balloon to cheer him up…
*Featuring the Eighth Doctor
by Huw Wilkins
The Doctor is travelling on the starship Uluru when the vessel is attacked by an Earth ship named the U.E.S. Monitor. After he, Captain Adams and several other survivors are brought aboard the Monitor, the Doctor learns from the ship’s captain, Carey, that their vessel was mistaken for a Draconian ship designated the Empire Covenant; the two ships had been engaged in battle, and are now locked in a game of cat and mouse in the accretion disc of a local star. Captain Carey’s dogged pursuit of the Covenant has brought the Monitor crew to breaking point, and unless the stalemate is broken soon, a mutiny may soon occur. Concerned that the destruction of the Covenant will result in a retaliatory strike that will kill billions of humans, the Doctor attempts to reason with Carey, revealing that the Uluru was on an humanitarian mission to give aid to the Draconian survivors; however, an outraged Carey immediately extrapolates the Uluru’s course, enabling him to determine the location of the Covenant. But as the captain prepares to make an attack that will break the stalemate, Captain Adams and several of his crewmen team up with members of the Covenant’s crew and attempt to storm the bridge. All seems lost until the Doctor manages to convince Carey of the folly of such an attack, and the captain allows the Covenant to leave the area unharmed. Although Carey is convinced that his career is over, the Doctor reassures him that his act has resulted in a major turning point in the terrible war being waged across the galaxy…
*Featuring the Seventh Doctor
Section 02: Frontiers
by Paul Leonard
Jovian Pallis lives on the Earth colony situated on Mars, and looks after the day to day running of the colony’s air supplies. After two seemingly innocuous accidents occur a strange man named the Doctor arrives, presumably sent by Earth to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths. However, the Doctor suspects murder, and soon exposes Jovian as the killer. Realising that the only way to keep the colony stable is to prevent more killing, the Doctor leaves Jovian on an uninhabited planet to live out the rest of his life in remorse.
*Featuring the Second Doctor
*Time-placing: seeing as the Second Doctor is travelling alone, this story must take place in Season 6a
'Light at the End of the Tunnel'
by Mark Wright
Having stirred up a rebellion between the N’Tians and their oppressed slave workers, the Doctor and Peri are pursued through an underground base by the authorities. The two travellers manage to evade their N’Tian hunters by entering a ventilation system, and slowly make their way to the surface; the dirty crawlspaces are infested with flies and, much to the Doctor’s dismay, countless spiders. Fighting off his phobia, the Doctor continues to lead the way, but it isn’t long before he and Peri become lost. They are then attacked by a service drone, but the Doctor manages to deactivate the machine just before it kills his companion. As Peri begins to have doubts about continuing her travels with the Doctor, sterilisation gas suddenly begins pumping through the ducting. But the Doctor realises that the spiders are heading towards the surface, and so he and Peri follow the creatures to safety. Emerging into the night air, Peri is amazed to see the beautiful luminescent flowers all around her, and she decides to stay with the Doctor to experience other such wonders.
*Featuring the Fifth Doctor and Peri
*Time-placing: Peri notes that the events of 'Planet of Fire' ocurred two days previously
by Kate Orman
The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrive at a stranded Earth colony whose small population is suffering from sterility. When Tegan becomes badly ill, the Doctor and Nyssa carry out extensive tests on the colonists and the local environment; they discover that an unknown race of aliens has deliberately infected the colonists with a deadly virus, causing them to act as carriers for a disease that will kill any human with whom they come into contact. Furthermore, the Doctor and Nyssa realise that when the Earth authorities learnt of the infection, they deliberately treated the colonists’ seeds sent with a contraceptive, ensuring that the settlers would be able to spread the disease. The colonists are furious at this revelation, and force the Doctor at gunpoint into taking them to Earth in the TARDIS; the Doctor agrees, leaving Nyssa behind as a hostage while he takes Tegan back to the ship for treatment. But once inside the TARDIS the Doctor immediately dematerialises the ship, leaving Nyssa to explain that he actually destroyed himself and Tegan rather than let the colonists leave the planet. The next morning, Nyssa rendezvous with the Doctor, explaining that the colonists saw through his deception, but have now accepted that they have no choice but to stay and die. The Doctor and his companions vow to spread the tragic story of the colonists so that they will never be forgotten…
*Featuring the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan
by Jeremy Daw
The Doctor and Peri arrive in a strange house, garishly decorated as if for children. Here they meet an old man named Roger, and his two companions Emily and Carl; oddly, these elderly occupants believe themselves to be children, and are living in a state of terror after two of their friends, Jennifer and Andrew, were killed in mysterious and grisly circumstances. While the Doctor and Peri investigate, the ‘children’ have milk and biscuits, only to watch in horror as Emily also meets a gruesome demise. The Doctor realises that they are in an underground bunker on the planet Eldair, an Earth colony that completely wiped itself out in a war between its two superpowers; the elderly people in the bunker are the children of the politicians who were in charge, and they have been looked after by the house itself. However, over the years the house has gone insane, and is now intent on killing its occupants. The Doctor tries to take Roger and Carl to safety, but they decide to stay in the only place they can call home, even if it means their deaths. Forced to respect their decision, the Doctor and Peri leave the two men to their fate…
*Featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri
Section 03: Incarceration
by Richard Salter
The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Jo to an underwater prison cell, where the female inmates have spent the last few years in complete isolation at the bottom of the ocean. Jo implores the Doctor to release the prisoners, but he reminds her that although the means of their incarceration may be harsh, the women are still criminals. However, after recalling his recent exile by the Time Lords, the Doctor agree to help the inmates, but not to release the; he rewires the emergency radio to transmit a signal that releases the docking clamps keeping the prison cell anchored to the sea bed, telling Jo that when the metal box floats to the surface, the authorities will realise that this method of imprisonment is flawed and will then move the women to a land-based prison. As the cell breaks the surface, the prisoners open the docking hatch and step out into the sunlight, only to see thousands of other similar cells also floating on the water. Satisfied at his handiwork, the Doctor leaves with Jo as the helicopters arrive to pick up the prisoners.
*Featuring the Third Doctor and Jo
by Cavan Scott
After meeting an enigmatic young man, Travers recounts his time spent as a prison warden at the infamous Alcatraz Island. After stopping a break-out attempt by the brutish Chinese criminal Wai-Chan, Travers encounters inmate 280, otherwise known as Richard A. Fells, a strange Scottish prisoner with a very unnerving manner. Fells later baits Wai-Chan, causing the criminal to incite another riot; as events escalate out of control, Travers is forced to release a deadly gas in a last attempt to quell the fighting. But as the gas kills the inmates, Travers finds that he, Wai-Chan and Fells are still alive, held inside a telekinetic bubble. Fells confronts Wai-Chan, believing him to be the host for a Threckon, an alien creature that feeds off negative emotion which he imprisoned under San Francisco centuries ago until a recent seismic shift along the fault line freed it. However, Travers looks on in astonishment as the corpse of his superior, Leech, is suddenly reanimated, and the Threckon within promptly kills Wai-Chan. As the creature then attacks Fells, Travers pushes it outside the bubble, where it is destroyed by the gas. Without the alien to maintain it the bubble collapses, but Fells somehow manages to prevent Travers from dying. As Travers concludes his story he tells the man that the events have left him with cancer, and the young man sadly walks off into the darkness...
*Featuring the Seventh and Eighth Doctors
by Lance Parkin
After luring a group of Time Lords to a remote moon to investigate claims of temporal disturbances, Shepard and his associates, Adams and Morgan, steal the impellor to their TARDIS's time rotor and then make their escape. But when the three crooks arrive at the space station where they are to meet with their buyer, Shepard encounters the Doctor, who urges him to hand over the stolen device or suffer the consequences. Shepard ignores the Time Lord's advice, and together with his associates, he makes their rendezvous with a Sontaran, exchanging the impellor for a device that can to transmute everyday objects into gold. Later, Shepard meets with his woman, Celeste, and spends the night with her, but when he next wakes up he is startled to find himself back on the moon, once more stealing the impellor with Adams and Morgan. Dismissing Shepard's concerns, they escape with the device, but on reaching the space station, they again find themselves back on the moon. As the time between each cycle halves again and again, Shepard realises that the Time Lords have imprisoned them in an eternal time loop, and the only way to break it is not to steal the device; however, this realisation comes too late, as the cycle breaks down to a fraction of a second, dooming them to an eternity of repetition...
*Featuring the Fourth Doctor and the First Romana**
**It is not completely clear who the Doctor's companion is, but seeing as she is described as wearing "a neat designer dress straight from the pages of a magazine" and seems quite haughty, I've interpreted this to be the first incarnation of Romana
'The Ruins of Heaven'
by Marc Platt
Following a tour group, the Doctor and Peri arrive on Heaven, located on the planet Sheol in the Ramshorn Spiral. As the party makes its way through the highly-commercialised afterlife, the Doctor becomes increasingly angry at the inaccurate commentary given by the guide, St. Albans; annoyed by his loud and opinionated comments, St. Albans hands her group over to the Doctor and promptly storms off. Leaving the Doctor to give his own guide to the local sights, an exasperated Peri wanders off on her own; finding a local market, she decides to make up with the Doctor by getting his watch repaired; however, she soon becomes overwhelmed by the brash and tacky tourist trap, and when she learns that even the angels are merely actors with anti-gravity devices she decides to return to the TARDIS. But on the way she is attacked by a hoard of bloodthirsty cherubs, and falls to her death into a dark, disused warehouse. As a ghost she encounters a fallen angel named Yy, imprisoned inside a filthy cage; he tells her that Sheol really was the original location of Heaven, but when it was discovered and turned into a tourist attraction the heavenly host left to start a new Heaven; Yy was charged with announcing this to all of creation, but he became corrupted by commercialism and sold his wings for a cheeseburger. Learning that only the dead can see angels, Peri realises that the cherubs deliberately sent her to help; she convinces Yy to complete his work, and is restored her to life by the cherubs. Helping Yy into a wheelchair, Peri and the angel rush through the crowds of astonished tourists; Yy finally closes the Gates of Heaven, earning him his closure and allowing him to begin his search for the new Heaven. After Peri is reunited with the Doctor, she finds that the watch she holds has now been mysteriously mended; the Doctor is delighted, and in return gives her a fake halo as a present.
*Featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri
Section 04: Solitude
by Rebecca Levene
The Doctor, Ace and Bernice arrive near a moonbase and meet a woman named Jen; when she asks them if the Human-Earth Reptile war is still being waged, the Doctor seems ill at ease, but to her relief informs her that humanity won. Jen invites them inside the base and tells them that she was a singer responsible for entertaining the troops, but was later conscripted into the war and put in charge of the weapon situated at the base. The Doctor sets about repairing Carl, the station’s robot who was blinded in an accident; meanwhile, Ace deactivates the station’s weaponry, and Bernice discovers an unborn baby held in stasis inside Jen’s room. Jen becomes increasingly anxious of her visitors, and questions their information concerning the war; she finally snaps, turns off the lights and then uses night-vision goggles to locate and then attack Ace. But Carl interrupts their fight and attempts to kill Jen; Ace manages to shoot the robot, and the Doctor stops Jen from killing Ace by threatening her baby - an act that shocks Jen into remembering that she not human, but is in fact an Earth-Reptile. ‘Jen’ recalls that she is actually a soldier named Qurra, who single-handedly killed the station’s human crew; however, one of the humans, a woman named Jen, managed to activate the weapon situated there before she died, killing everyone on the planet below. Traumatised by the countless deaths that she caused, Qurra’s mind snapped, and she took on the identity of Jen, blinding Carl so he would be unaware of her true race. Wracked with guilt, Quarra walks onto the lunar surface to her death before the others can stop her. The Doctor leaves Jen’s baby with a human couple on a remote Earth colony.
*Featuring the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Bernice
*Time-Placing: Ace is in her 'gun-toting soldier' phase, and seems quite curt and aggressive, so this probably occurs not long after her return in 'Deceit'
by John Binns
The Doctor, Romana and Adric arrive in a labyrinthine construction known as the Structure, with is maintained by an administrator named J. The interior of the Structure is a dark, dank and dirty maze of corridors and rooms, while outside lies a wasteland that is threatened by the Encroachment, a hoard of giant, vicious monsters. While the Doctor and Romana explore, Adric helps J by using a remotely-operated robot to destroy some of the creatures outside. The Doctor discovers that the rooms in the Structure are actually larger rooms sub-divided off by prefabricated walls, which he proceeds to tear down, making the building more open and less oppressive. He then decides to explore the grounds outside, and, together with Romana, discovers a huge garden filled with beautiful flowers, beyond which lie other, more brightly-lit, buildings. The Doctor realises that J’s virtual reality equipment has been zoomed in on the residue of ash on the flower beds, and that the Encroachment is nothing more than greenfly. Romana encourages J to overcome his fear of the outside world, and as he prepares to venture beyond the confines of the Structure, the Doctor and his companions leave in the TARDIS.
*Featuring the Fourth Doctor, the Second Romana and Adric
by Peter Anghelides
The Doctor visits his old friend, Greenaway, a man whose unstable memory and physical frailty stops him from venturing outside the confines of his room, not even to see his daughter, Martika. The Doctor returns to visit Greenaway on several other occasions, each time wearing a different face, and each time saddened to see his friend’s condition deteriorating further. The Doctor reminds Greenaway that together they once saved his village from an invading sea monster, but at the cost of Greenaway’s legs. When the Doctor returns once again, he tells Greenaway that his mind no longer wants to keep him alive, and that the life support machine that he is now attached to is unable to maintain him any more. In an act of mercy the Doctor turns off the machine and leaves in the TARDIS; however, Greenaway’s stubborn determination causes him to make a recovery, and he sadly wonders if the Doctor will ever learn that he is still alive…
*Featuring the Second, Fifth, Eighth Doctors, as well as an unspecified future incarnation of the Doctor
*Time-placing: The Second Doctor is alone, so this proabably occurs during Season 6a; the Fifth Doctor is also travelling alone, so I'm placing this after 'Omega', another solo story; the Eighth Doctor is travelling alone, placing the story during the middle of Season 28; finally, we also meet a future incarnation of the Doctor...
by Jonathan Blum
The Doctor and Sarah are travelling to Geshtinanna, a world of historical importance; however, Sarah is astonished to learn that their journey will take nine weeks. At first she and the Doctor amuse themselves exploring the limitless confines of the TARDIS, looking through its countless rooms and contents. But after forty-three days of travelling the ship’s corridors, planning her science-fiction book and listening to the Doctor’s stories, Sarah becomes bored to the point of tears, and even the Doctor has grown tired and listless. It seems that the journey will never end, until they notice that the clocks aboard the ship have all stopped; the Doctor then detects the remains of another TARDIS adrift in the Vortex, and fears that they may be on a collision course with it. Unable to change the TARDIS’s set course, the two travellers have no option but to wait out the hours until they reach the ghostly vessel, and their destruction in the forces unleashed within its remains. Finally, they pass safely by the ill-fated ship, realising that the clocks stopped as a mark of their ship’s respect to a fallen comrade. Ironically, when the TARDIS finally materialises on a jungle planet, the Doctor and Sarah discover that they are light years off course, and nowhere near Geshtinanna at all…
*Featuring the Fourth Doctor and Sarah
*Published by Big Finish
*Each story has a special, astrological introduction by Jim Sangster