Sunday, October 30, 2011

H for themselves

The Dr sometimes accuses me of tumbling through life as if a guest on QI, where points are scored for top facts and dodging cliche. A while back, for my own entertainment, I came up with my own QI questions, complete with the cliches that set off a klaxon and lose you 10 points. The "H" series was on at the time.

Which profession is a baboon the god of?

X Actors
X Politicians

Thoth – as a baboon – was god of writers and scribes in ancient Egypt. The thinking is that baboons chattered and babbled like humans, which was a sign of intelligence. And baboons throw poo at each other and bear their bottoms, which is like a lot of writers. The ancient Egyptians also used baboons as police dogs.

Who else died the same day as John F Kennedy?

X Lee Harvey Oswald
X A bodyguard
X Liberal America

Well, lots of people also died on 22 November 1963 – including the writers Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis. Huxley famously experimented with hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline and LSD, and at his own request was injected with LSD while he was dying.

Holy Days
Why do most of us get Sundays off work?

X It's the sabbath
X The Bible says so

Edward VI's father Henry VIII split with the Roman Catholic Church and formed a (Catholic) Church of England. Two acts under Edward VI sealed the split. The First Act of Uniformity in 1548 introduced an English prayer book, imposed penalties for non-observance and ordered the suppression of images and Latin primers. It was the first time religious practice in this country was proscribed by a secular authority. The Second Act of Uniformity in 1552 required every subject to attend church on Sunday at one of the rechristened services or morning prayer, evening prayer or the Lord's supper. It was the beginning of keeping Sunday's special, and accompanied by an act for the control of alehouses – the first time liquor began to be licensed. So, strictly speaking, keeping Sunday holy is an anti-Catholic measure.

What does Honorificabilitudinitatibus mean?

X It doesn't mean anything
X “I'm very clever”

It means “with honour”, and is Shakespeare showing off in Act 5, scene 1 of Love's Labour's Lost:
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not so long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon.
James Joyce then used it in Ulysees. But is that all that it means? In 1910, Sir Edwin Lawrence-Durning pointed out that it's also an anagram “Hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi”, or “These plays, F. Bacon’s offspring, are preserved for the world” - which Sir Edwin argued showed Shakespeare's plays were written by Francis Bacon.

Who's a homo?

X You are
X He is

We all are. All modern humans are examples of Homo sapiens sapiens – note the two “sapiens”, which distinguish us from our late cousins, Homo sapiens idaltu, who died out about 160,000 years ago.

The “homo” bit means “human” or “person”, though “human” derives from the Latin “humanus” - an adjective cognate of “homo”. So the homos came first, then the humans. “Homo” looks like it derives from a Proto-Indo-European word which we now call “*dhǵhem” - that is, “earth” or “soil”. So “Homo” means “Earthman”. Think also of Adam, first man in the Bible, whose name seems to come from “Adamah”, meaning “ground”.

The “sapiens” means “wise”, so we must be especially wise if we're “Homo sapiens sapiens”. But other creatures also have repetition in their names. There's pica pica – the magpie. And my favourite, Meles meles meles – the Eurasian badger.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blake's 7: The Turing Test

Big Finish have announced that my Blake's 7 play, The Turing Test (out in February) will star Paul Darrow as Avon and Michael Keating as Vila. The news story says that in my story,
"Avon goes undercover on a research base… in the guise of an advanced android."
The other stories released alongside mine are by Peter Anghelides and Nigel Fairs. Gareth Thomas is also returning to the series as Blake, and it's been announced that Anthony Howells and nice Beth Chalmers will be in it, too. There will be more Blake's 7 CDs later in 2012 - and books as well. So that's all a bit exciting.

I'll be joining producer David Richardson and fellow scribbler Peter Anghelides at a Blake's 7 convention in Oxford this Saturday to natter about what we done.

Meanwhile, my previous Blake's 7 adventures The Dust Run and The Trial - starring Carrie Dobro, Benedict Cumberbacth and Stephen Lord - are available for £3.95 each or £8.95 on one CD from the Blake's 7 website.

The site also has some blogs I wrote about those plays, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The angels had the phone box

Weeping Angels in Kensal GreenThe Dr spotted these sneaky Weeping Angels in Kensal Green cemetery, London. There's a TARDIS-shaped gap in the midst of them, which can surely be no coincidence. Empirical proof that Doctor Who is real.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Atwood and definitions of science fiction

Margaret Atwood was in the Guardian again yesterday, explaining that her books are not science fiction because she doesn't have the skill set to write about Martians. Her “speculative fiction” is about stuff that could really happen, not lurid fantasy about monsters.

I find this kind of semantic argument about what is or isn't sci-fi a bit wearying – and have no problem with Star Wars, Cold Comfort Farm, Mars Attacks and Frankenstein all being part of the same gang. I've written stuff where I've tried to get the complex physics right, and stuff where I've completely body-swerved real science. I suspect a lot of these arguments are less about defining a genre as attributing value. I get the impression from Atwood's article that what she really means is her stuff is serious, with things to say. It can't be science fiction because that's a pejorative term.

(In responding to Mary Beard's lack of love for Cold Comfort Farm, people have explained it's a parody - as if that automatically makes it good.)

There are reasons why you wouldn't want your bestselling book to be labelled as sci-fi. That sci-fi shelves of a book shop are a special ghetto, where many shoppers will not venture. It's not just a value judgement: the definition also affects sales.

I do, though, think there's a way of reading science fiction. Like a murder mystery, you read the story looking for clues – not to spot the murderer, but to create the world in which the story's set. We're told that a door dilates rather than opens, and that vivid, odd detail is like an establishing CGI wideshot, framing the story in an eye-poppingly alien world. With a lot of sci-fi, we're asked to play an active part – which is what can make it so rewarding and immersive, but can also put off the newcomer. Those who've not learned to decode the clues – usually when they're about 12 – will say they just don't “get” sci-fi.

Oryx and Crake, one of the three books Atwood discusses in her article, I read in August, making notes which I never quite got round to writing up. There's no mention in the blurb that it's anything so crass and silly as sci-fi. Rather, it's “a less-than-brave new world”, “an outlandish yet wholly believable space”.

Which is odd, because it's not exactly believable. Smart, funny, insightful and full of quirky perspective, it's monstrously contrived. Crake, the villain, destroys the world to build a new utopia, and no one – not even those closest to him in this techno-future where everyone knows each other's secrets – ever suspect what he's up to.

I guess there's an argument that it's difficult to stop anyone determined to self-destruct – which reflected a post-9/11 worldview when it came out in 2003, but struck a chord with me as I read it because Amy Winehouse had just died. But there's no sense of how Crake's got away with what he's done. All too often his being autistic and into science effectively means that he's magic.

Snowman, our narrator, also just happens to be at the centre of these huge events – and never through any fault or effort of his own. Oryx, Crake and even Snowman's mother drive everything, and he coasts along in their wake. That he's had a ring-side seat through all the key bits of the plot, and is then the last man alive at the end is a convenience for the author. It's not wholly believable.

Rather than some realistic account of where science might take us, this is a parable, a fable. It feels a little mythic because it owes so much to stuff that's come before. There are parallels with the expulsion from the garden of Eden. There's Mary Shelley's The Last Man, while the end is a bit Robinson Crusoe. The Crakers reminded me of Hothouse.

The plot hinges on a classic love triangle – though, again, Snowman gets the girl because she thinks he looks unhappy, not because he does anything to win her heart. Events are contrived to allow discussion of how we escape the violence of our past: Oryx is reconciled with her abusive upbringing but Snowman can't let it go. That matches the efforts to remove violent instincts from the Crakers, though it looks like dreams, singing, art and religion are too much a part of us to be eradicated – and it's implied that means we'll never be free of the violence either.

There's some fun speculative stuff about sex drives, the Crakers' rude bits turning blue when they're in season. But less than a decade after the book came out, the details of its future make it feel parochially of its time. The dot com crash is referred to as if it were a major moment in history, and “Web site” is spelled with a capital letter because it's new and unusual.

Atwood argues in the Guardian that the book portrays a “ustopia” - her own ugly coinage for something that's a utopia (good) and a dystopia (bad) at the same time. I'm not sure what this new definition adds to discussions of utopian fiction. And I can't help feeling that this worry about definitions is missing the point. Books aren't good or bad because they're science fiction. There's good sf and bad. Definitions don't fix plot holes or poor writing, or change how we respond to a story. They're just a way of saying, "look how clever I am".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

AAAGH! The Wedding of Mrs Tinkle

Another AAAGH!, this one from Doctor Who Adventures #238, published a few days after The Wedding of River Song.

As ever it's written by me, illustrated by the amazing Brian Williamson and edited by Paul Lang and Natalie Barnes, who gave kind permission to post it here. Paul takes over the AAAGH! duties for the new weeks. But I shall return. Oh yes, I shall return.

In the meantime, you can read all the AAAGH!s I done wrote.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

M1, NGC 2776 and NGC 4216

As part of my Astronomy GCSE course (which I did 2010-11 at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich), I took some photographs of celestial objects for my coursework.

I used the National Schools' Observatory's Liverpool Telescope on La Palma, using the website to tell it what to look at. I then used image editing software to make the most of the pictures. I had to write a full account of my efforts and an analysis of the images. (And I got an A*, so ner.)

Here are the pics and a few brief notes.

Crab Nebula, M1Here's the Crab nebula - or M1 in Messier's catalogue. It's an exploded star, and Chinese astronomers reported seeing the supernova in 1054 AD. At it's heart there's a small, very dense neutron star. I thought the tendrils of gas looked a bit like the insides of a heart.

The image was taken at 21:00:00 GMT on 20 February 2011, with an exposure of 120.00 seconds using filter HA. Temperature was 6.5C, humidity 23%, pressure 779 mBar. It was a dry night with a wind of 2.5 m/s in a SSW direction.

Galaxy NGC 2776The galaxy NGC 2776 is a lot less famous - or studied - than M1. It's a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Lynx, which appears disc-on to us.

This image was take at 22:19:00 GMT on 28 February 2011, with an exposure of 120.00 seconds and using filter R. The temperature was 8.5C, humidity 9%, pressure 777 mBar. It was a dry night with a wind at 8.6 m/s in a SSW direction.

Galaxy NGC 4216
NGC 4216 is another spiral galaxy, but this time edge-on to us, giving a better sense of the bulge in the middle (containing a super-massive black hole). The dark bits round the edge are probably dust obscuring the stars. NGC 4216 is in the Virgo Cluster.

This image was taken at 04:16:00 GMT on 1 March 2011, with an exposure time of 120.00 seconds and using filter R. The temperature was 8C, humidity 7%, pressure 775 mBar. It was a dry night with a wind at 7.2 m/s in a SSW direction.

There's a more impressive image of NGC 4216 here.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

How to write a speech about someone you know

I sometimes get asked to help my friends and family when they have to write things. In the last few months, I've offered more or less the same advice to a lady writing a eulogy and a gent stuck with a best man's speech. That advice seemed to work out okay, so here's what I said...

You've been chosen to write this because you know the person well.

Maybe you've not known them as long as other people who'll be there. That doesn't matter. You know them and I don't. If I asked you, "What are they like?", you could tell me.

And you probably wouldn't start by telling me how tall or old or fat they are, but the kind of person they are. To do that, you can probably think of something they once did that tells me exactly what they're like. You can probably think of three different things they once did that gives me a rounded picture.

A time that shows their sense of humour. A time that shows what they were especially good or bad at. A time they were kind or brave.

At least one of those stories should involve you. Another story might be one you've been told by someone else about the person. Something that when you heard it made you think, “Yes, that's exactly them”.

(When someone dies, their friends and family tend to tell stories about things they've done. Ask around.)

Write these stories down. Write them as if you're telling them to me over tea and biscuits. Keep things informal and simple.

Some people like to write the whole speech out in full. Some people just want bullet-points on note cards, so they can make it up as they go. If you're not sure which works best for you, write it out in full and then see how easy you find to read it out loud. You can always have notes on the day.

Put the best story last.

Then think about how you're going to start. It might be something as simple as: “What sort of person is X? Here are three examples...”. Or explain, briefly, how you knew the person and why (you think) you've been been chosen to speak.

If you're going to do jokes, put a first joke in early so people know what to expect.

Go over what you've written. Cut it down. Keep it short and to the point.

Read it out loud to yourself. It feels a bit weird but it really helps. Make sure you can read it without running out of breath or stumbling over the words. Time how long it takes - but make sure you're reading at the same speed you'll read it on the day. Don't rush.

Read your speech to someone you trust and who knows the person – and won't go telling people what you're about to say. Listen to what they say afterwards. More importantly, watch how they react while you're speaking. Rewrite the bits that need it.

Don't drink before you deliver it. Make sure someone else has a copy of the speech in case you lose yours.

Speak up, so people at the back can hear you. Don't rush.

Remember that the audience is on your side: they want you to do well.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

AAAGH! and the Cybermats!

Another AAAGH!, this time from Doctor Who Adventures issues #237, published just a few days after the episode Closing Time, where the Doctor battled Cybermats in a department store.

In issue #238, out in all good shops today, Nervil is a guest at the wedding of Mrs Tinkle...

The script of this episode is by me, illustrated by Brian Williamson and edited by Paul Lang and Natalie Barnes. All my AAAGH!s are posted here by kind permission.

Incidentally, there's a review of the event I did last week, discussing Cybermats, Doctor Who and Egyptian archaeology with Christopher Frayling and John J Johnston.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Doctor Who - The Age of Heroes

Here, for your entertainment and delight, is my first outline for what became the Doctor Who book The Slitheen Excursion. Big boss Justin Richards had asked me for something featuring the Slitheen and set in Earth's past.

We knocked this back and forth between us for a few days before agreeing a final outline, but this still contains spoilers if you've not read the book or heard the audio version read by Debbie Chazen.
Doctor Who – The Age of Heroes
Simon Guerrier
27 March 2008

June is 17 and not very confident about her forthcoming A-levels. She’s on a college trip to the Palace of Westminster (not, she has learnt that morning, the “Houses of Parliament”) when she spots the Doctor. He must be important because he doesn’t have a security pass – not even the pastel-coloured stickers that they give to the tourists – and yet the policemen with machine guns let him go where he likes.

June dares to follow him and saves his life when a monster jumps out on him. The Doctor stops the monster by talking nonsense. It feeds on nonsense and illogic – so the Palace is like a restaurant. The Doctor owes June a favour and she asks if he can help with her essay. She’s got to write about the history of democracy.

Chapter 1
The Doctor says he knows a thing or two about history. Seeing history live – touching it, smelling it, getting your fingers dirty – is more exciting than dusty old books. But as they set the coordinates for the golden age of ancient Athens, he picks up a signal from an alien spaceship that’s got into trouble. They’re going to have to make a quick detour.

They arrive in Athens, 1687 AD. The Venetians are at war with the Turks. There’s a Turkish garrison in the temple up on the rock overlooking the town – the Parthenon is pretty much complete and looking good for its 2,000 years. For a brief moment June and the Doctor are separated and June realises she could be stranded in the primitive past. There’s something odd about the war though; both sides accusing the other of using strange and magical weapons.

The Doctor and June are reunited. They get away from the fighting Turks and Venetians and investigate the distress signal. They soon discover a party of Slitheen.

Chapter 2
But it emerges that they’re not there to muck up the war. They just want to keep everyone away from a grotto of stalactites and stalagmites which they’re using for some nefarious purpose.

The Slitheen are, though, fascinated by the Doctor and June – who must, they think, be using some kind of warp-core technology to journey back in time. And even schoolkids know that warp-cores are dangerously unstable. So the Doctor finds himself arrested as a dangerous maniac, when that’s what he normally accuses the Slitheen of.

June helps the Doctor escape, but rather than running away the Doctor insists they find out what the Slitheen are up to. It turns out the stalactites are calcified Slitheen – these Slitheen’s ancestors who were on Earth thousands of years ago.

Chapter 3
As they get older, Slitheen suffer from hardening of their soft tissues – a bit like we suffer from hardening of the arteries. They slowly lose the moisture inside themselves, and mineral deposits build up until they can’t move. The early affects are like Calciphylaxis, with brittle skin etc. And then they harden out entirely and become like statues.

At first the Doctor assumes it is some kind of rescue operation. But the young Slitheen want to know what happened to all the loot they never inherited. When the older Slitheen won’t tell them, they throw tantrums and blow things up.

Chapter 4
The Doctor has to intercede. The Slitheen spaceship, hidden on the top of the Acropolis, explodes. This blows up the Parthenon – history will assume the Venetians did it.

Chapter 5
The ancient Slitheen will not survive long. But they recognise the Doctor and June, having met them thousands of years before. They’re dying, and realise the Doctor hasn’t met them yet. They say he’ll understand what happened to the loot when he goes back to meet them. And they die. June is upset by this, and the Doctor admits he’s not used to feeling sorry for Slitheen. They’re a very strange family.

But now it seems he and June have to go back in time to meet these Slitheen in the first place.

The Doctor looks through history for the Slitheen signals. He finds them – roughly the same place but about 3,000 years before. And that’s worrying because mankind is quite impressionable back then. Sophisticated, space-faring aliens mucking around with the ancient Greeks could do terrible things to the development of human history.

Having landed in about 1,500 BC, the Doctor does a scan for aliens. And there are nearly 2,000 of them in the area. They step out into a world where aliens are living amongst the humans quite openly. Spaceships and high technology can be seen everywhere.

Chapter 6
There’s a great tourist industry running to the place, all kinds of aliens getting to mix with humanity when it hasn’t even sussed out basic architectural stuff like the arch. These aliens aren’t changing history. They’ve always been there – they’re the Gods and monsters of Ancient Myth.

At first it seems fun, but June is horrified by how the aliens pretend to be Gods to the locals. And some aliens are very badly behaved, frying the humans with laser guns just for a bit of a laugh.

The Doctor just runs off. June tries to stop some aliens picking on the humans. The aliens turn on her. She is going to be fried.

Chapter 7
The Doctor arrives dragging some Slitheen with him, insisting he and his friend didn’t pay for their tickets expecting to get fried. He waves his psychic paper around and people assume he’s a tourist, too. And the Slitheen intercede: it’s not done to fry fellow holiday-makers.

June recognises these Slitheen. The ancient Slitheen they met in 1687 turn out to be running the tourism. They are young and sprightly hucksters, and don’t take kindly to the Doctor and June interfering.

They invite the Doctor and June back to their office for a glass of something to make up for the inconvenience. The Doctor is keen to find out more of what they’re up to so agrees to go along. On the way, the Slitheen explain the terrible complexities of this project – how they use accelerators to grow food very fast to feed the demands of the tourists, how the bookings system keeps breaking down… all the rigours of a small business.

But the invitation to drinks is really a trap. The Slitheen know psychic paper when they see it. And they assume the Doctor is some kind of anti-time-travel protestor, and the one who has been causing all the earthquakes. For the sake of saving humanity, the Slitheen will now execute him and June.

Chapter 8
The Doctor and June escape death at the hands of the Slitheen when a half-man, half-snake called Cecrops comes to complain about how some of the other tourists are treating the locals. The Slitheen insist they’ve got a contract with the local kings that strictly agrees the terms of tourists’ behaviour.

Humans are to be respected. The Doctor uses this point of law to get himself and June released. The Slitheen get very nervous the moment anyone mentions lawyers.

Cecrops is very embarrassed about the tourist trade. He is a real humanophile, though his enthusiasm for how the little ape people slowly puzzle out problems doesn’t go down very well with June who finds him patronising.

The Doctor asks about these anti-time-travel protests, which people assume are some sort of politically correct statement that humans should be left alone to develop. Cecrops explains that he’s got problems with that ethos, too – the humans’ lives are nasty, brutal and short. June is surprised to discover she would be considered in late middle-age by being 17.

But anyway, Cecrops hasn’t seen and sabotage. He’s seen natural phenonema – earthquakes and things. It’s just the earthquakes have been really bad recently. And, as if on cue, there’s a terrible earthquake.

Chapter 9
The Doctor, June and Cecrops try to help people. But the Doctor insists this isn’t any ordinary earthquake. It’s a warp shift; the side effect of unstable warp core technology. June remembers the seventeenth-century Slitheen saying even children knew that was dangerous.

They investigate. Yes, the Slitheen here are using some dodgily acquired warp core technology to bring their tourists here. And they’ve been greedy; the system is exhausted and sagging at the edges. There are earthquakes and other strange phenomena. The Doctor tries to fix things, but the Slitheen catch him and it’s them trying to stop him that pulls the plug on everything. There’s not an explosion; instead the whole world seems to be falling apart.

Chapter 10
A widescreen disaster movie. The huge explosion causes a massive flood right across the Mediterranean. As described in the Greek legend of Deucalion, the rivers swell over the coastal plains and engulf the foothills, washing everything clean (the legend might also be the same route as that of Noah and Utnapishtim, but we’ll skirt round saying so explicitly). From the Acropolis they watch the great tidal wave coming in, and thousands are killed.

(I’ll probably expand this action stuff; have June separated from the Doctor and having to be a bit of a heroine. Have the Slitheen show that, though they’re greedy and dangerous, they don’t actually mean any harm.)

Chapter 11
The floods pass; the climate and timeline just diffusing the kinks in the system. The warp core technology is wrecked so all the alien holiday makers who’ve survived now find that they are stranded. Facing this mob, and the thought of insurance claims etc., the surviving Slitheen throw themselves off the Acropolis into the receding waters – ostensibly to their deaths.

June can’t believe they wouldn’t have had an emergency escape plan, and the Doctor is delighted. He leads the aliens to the cave where, in 2,000 years, there’ll be Slitheen-shaped stalagmites. There is a small vortex pod hidden at the back of the cave. The Doctor messes with its dimensions until it’s big enough to carry everyone.

But Cecrops is one of a few aliens who want to stay. If they don’t help clear up some of this mess, he says, the humans here are all going to die.

Chapter 12
June is suspicious of the Doctor – he seems happy to let the aliens believe that if they don’t take the vortex pod they’ll be stranded here forever. Why won’t he mention the TARDIS? But she has come to know him and she supposes he must have a good reason. Anyway, it looks like the aliens could do these humans some good.

Cecrops adopts the daughters of the dead Athenian king Actaeus. (In legend, the half-man, half-fish Cecrops, first King of Athens, taught the Athenians marriage, reading, writing and ceremonial burial.)

But with the waters all round the Acropolis, how are humans going to survive? The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to draw water from the rocks – a spring of not very pleasant-tasting water, but water all the same. And June has seen how the Slitheen provided food for the tourists. She points their accelerator at the rock and up springs an olive tree. It’s not quite what she had in mind to feed everybody, but the olives will serve as an appetizer. (This makes the Doctor Poseidon and June Athene, I think.)

There’s a party later that evening. It looks like things are going to work out. With the loss of the aliens and creatures, a new age begins. One not of Gods and monsters but of extraordinary human beings. The age of heroes.

But the Doctor is still not content. He’s not sure history is quite on course as it should be. And anyway he promised June he’d show her real democracy at work.

Chapter 13
The TARDIS arrives in 480 BC to see the Parthenon being built and the golden age of Athens in full swing. June is appalled to discover that 17 is still considered quite old here. And that women aren’t going to get the vote until 1952 AD.

The Doctor and June soon get separated, but June has learnt a lot in her adventures thus far and is okay now to explore on her own. It seems the Gods and monsters are remembered as legends. But the town isn’t known as Athens – it’s called Cecropia.

She thinks the Doctor will make for the Acropolis to see the building work going on. And she’s curious to see the view of Cecropia up there. At first the male builders don’t see what business it is of hers, but their old, fat foreman seems pleased by June’s interest and offers to show her around.

But as soon as they’re on their own, the fat old man unzips his forehead. Creaky and old folk, it’s the last of the huckstering Slitheen – stranded on Earth for 1,000 years.

Chapter 14
The Slitheen have been hidden on Earth for 1,000 years. They had tried to get rescued at first, and then they’d seen the difference Cecrops was making with the primitive humans. They helped out – not pushing them or inventing anything for them, but getting them to write things down so the things humans learnt could be passed on. They’ve got people telling stories, sharing ideas.

And it’s hard work because humans keep having wars and things. The Parthenon is being built on the ruins of a previous one razed to the ground just a few years ago. And the Slitheen are running out of time. They’re calcifying, becoming the stalagmites June has seen in the future. If they could reach their people there are possible cures, but they’re just going to dry out.

June knows it has to be like this because she’s seen what happens. But the Slitheen are glad to have played their part, to have written themselves into history even if no one will ever know. They’re glad that June knows.

She leaves the grotto of dying Slitheen to find the Doctor waiting for her. He left her to discover the truth for herself – just as the aliens had let humans develop their own way. Now the lesson is over and its time for June to go back home.

The Doctor takes her back to the Palace of Westminster the same moment that she left. But she’s a different person now; better and wiser for what she’s seen.

Only when the Doctor’s gone does she realise she can’t use any of what she’s seen in her essay. She hurries off to rejoin her college mates.