The Story:

The Big Finish ends my story. But it's more of a big beginning than a big finish.

From the layout of the index page you can see that this whole story had a symmetrical chapter structure. It was intended to have a Prologue, to set the scene, a body of 6 chapters, one for each Segment of the Key, and an Epilogue to wrap things up.

Originally, the first part of this chapter was intended to end Segment Six. That one was not originally going to end with Henry and Elannuir leaving and the Doctor being confronted by the Time Agent. Originally Segment Six was supposed to end with the Time Agent entering the TARDIS with the Doctor, leaving the end to be just the part inside the TARDIS, the rendezvous with the White Guardian, and the big ending.

But Segment Six was already long, and I felt that ending each chapter with the appearance of this Time Agent kept up the mystery of her purpose, and since Doctor Who traditionally ends chapters with a cliff-hanger, I thought it more appropriate to end Segment Six when I did, and move the entire confrontation between the Time Agent and the Doctor to this chapter.

The result is a more wordy, chatty chapter, but the exposition is important.

Already, the importance of this chapter's events meant that this couldn't really be an Epilogue. An epilogue, after all, is more of an afterthought, a "Oh, by the way, this happens after the story is over." But in reality, this is the most important chapter of all so couldn't be called an epilogue.

I opted to call this "The Big Finish" for one obvious reason, and for one reason that is obvious only to those who are real fans of Doctor Who.

This is that second reason:

Big Finish is the name of a company that has been producing monthly Doctor Who audio plays on CD for quite some time now. And they've branched out to alternative-universe Doctor Who Unbound, UNIT stories, Cybermen stories, Sarah Jane Smith stories, the works. They've done some awesome work, bringing back much of the original cast, and I felt naming this chapter after them was a nice nod of the head, tip of the hat, to them.

The most obvious reason of course is that... wow... Big Finish = Big Bang!

I couldn't have conceived of a bigger finish for this story. The White Guardian hinted that the Key is not only the most destructive power in the universe, but also the most creative. Obviously, detonating the key in a thriving universe would have caused untold destruction, but detonating it at the very beginning of time (with all time and space coordinates reading Zero) it causes the Big Bang, bringint into existence the entire universe.

It took some fortitude to resist the urge to call this one "The Beginning" but as so many stories have done that now, it seems almost cliché.

I have to say the pretension of this story (that the Doctor began the universe) was a bit over-the-top, but to accept it, you have to consider the whole problem of the Key to Time.

When the White Guardian first approached the Doctor, (in the TV series) he tells the Doctor the universe is out of balance and that the key is the tool needed to restore balance. And as my premise indicates, that was a lie. The White Guardian was simply testing the Doctor to see if he was the right person to find the real key, one whose purpose is much more important than he let on.

So here's this all-powerful god-like Guardian (who you are perfectly free to think is god if you like...) who has a job to get done. He has to build a universe. So it seems perfectly sensible that he must exist in that universe in order to put together and hide a key that's so powerful to actually create the universe in the first place.

It's a time paradox alright, but then again, that's ok too.

And the Doctor has proven that he is the only man in the universe trustworthy enough, and with the right amount of selfless conscience, to take on the task.

I hope it all feels right. It's so hard to tell from my perspective now since it's been so long in production, and I've known the ending long before I wrote down the first word of the script.

Please let me know how it scans. Feel free to e-mail me with comments.

For a while I too thought that the Doctor's importance to the universe is well overdone in this story. Why is it that he be the one to start the universe? Isn't that a bit melodramatic? Surely he wasn't actually there when the universe formed...

Well, on the day I'm writing this, I just watched "Destiny of the Daleks" for the first time in over fifteen years and as the Doctor lies trapped under a piece of rubble that fell on him, he picks a book out of his pocket called "The Origins of the Universe" and says:

"Heh. Got it wrong on the first line. Why didn't he ask someone who saw it happen?"

So there you go. I doubt that stuck in my mind, but that is at lest some confirmation that he was indeed there at the beginning.

(By the way, this was during Douglas Adams' reign as Script Editor on Who, and the book the Doctor is reading is by Oolon Coluphid, who in Adams's own "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" books, wrote the trilogy of philosophical blockbusters, "Where God Went Wrong", "Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes", and "Who Is This God Person Anyway?")



I didn't create a storyboard for this one. Partly because it's a very chatty episode with no action shots, nothing that required blocking or pre-planning for the most part.

The exterior space shots I had created two or more years ago when I was first putting the script together. To test how it would look, I actually uploaded it to my site to a secret URL so I could test it and show it to friends to see if they thought it worked.

The rest was all in-TARDIS stuff, and outside the TARDIS stuff, so I didn't need a storyboard.

Oh, and I shot the White Guardian confrontation a full year ago! It was autumn 2005, not long after shooting some of the other stuff.

I took the shots next to a dam near where I live at the height of autumn tree color. It was a windy day and my figures kept falling over, but I managed to get it all shot. I had this stuff edited and ready to go, dialogue complete, about a year before you saw it.

Some of the dialogue changed, however, because I was worried it was a tad weak in places. So Sean Dickinson and I went over the dialogue in this entire chapter and ironed out some inconsistencies and strengthened the story a bit. That night I published this, the last episode.


The Time Agent

The first appearance of the Time Agent in Segment Two was intended to add an element of mystery, some hint that something outside the main story, is going on in the background.

In Segment Two she is seen in one shot, observing the Doctor's activities.

In Segment Three she shows up in the Egyptian palace just after the Doctor has left.

In Segment Four she has an altercation with the newly bodied Davros. She is obviously aware of who the Daleks are. Is she a Timelord?

In Segment Five she interviews Renn, copilot of the Aegis. Here we begin to see the first hint of her true purpose. She is looking for the Doctor, and mentions various crimes he has committed, so it's fairly obvious she's a cop of some kind. At this point we probably suspect she's an agent of the Timelords, out to bring the Doctor to justice... again.

In Segment Six she attempts to arrest the Doctor.

In The Big Finish she makes her intentions clear. But who is she? Is she, in fact, a Timelord agent?

No. She makes it clear in this section that she knows who the Timelords are, but is slightly surprised to find that a Gallifreyan is interfering with the space-time continuum. She says that Timelords have a license for observation only. This should make the reader believe that the Time Cop is above the Timelords - that the Timelords are not the authority on time travel, just a licensed body allowed to observe. We may interpret from that the idea that their license came from the people the Time Agent is working for.

But she also knows who the Guardians are. And she has some reverence for them, even if she professes to believe them to be mythical.

In this episode she finds that doing her job is not as easy as it first appeared. After interviewing Renn, she knows the Doctor's intent in that episode was not evil. He did what he did to help Renn and her crew. Could this cast doubt on the warrants she has to arrest the Doctor?

Well the Doctor seals the deal. In a conversation with the Time Agent, the Doctor convinces her that she should have faith. That small bit of doubt she has that the Guardians exist erodes, and her faith takes over. The Doctor manages to convince her he is acting on orders from an even higher power than her own, and she agrees to let the Doctor go.

But lest you think the Doctor convinced her awfully easily, keep in mind that she now has had time to see the evidence, and even interview Renn, who was directly involved in one of these "crimes", and can see a larger pattern emerging from the Doctor's behavior.

To her, the Doctor's story makes sense if you assume the existence of the Guardians. Otherwise he'd have to be a serious time criminal.

Once she makes this leap of faith, she desires to be a part of whatever it is the Doctor is doing for the Guardians. She is so convinced, she recalls her Time Portal and humbly joins the Doctor on his quest. I think we can assume she just quit her job, and might herself be in trouble if she ever returns to her people.

There is an inside joke here. When the Time Agent recalls her portal, she uses the words "Shirov Thiloi". Those are magic words used in the computer game "Asheron's Call" for the spell "Portal Recall". That's the game I was lead artist for for years. A nice homage to my favorite game.

But here's a burning question: What is her name?

I'm afraid you'll have to wait to find that out.


The Cast

The Time Agent was played by Joanna Dark, an action figure based on a video game called "Perfect Dark." This figure comes with two outfits, and I have both. The silver armored pieces, along with the sheer blue body suit really looked great to me. It is unchanged from the Joanna Dark costume, because I felt no changes were needed. The one change I did make was to her gun. Rather than the very earth-like 357 Magnum with Scope that Joanna came with, I thought a more science-fictiony gun was required so I used a pistol from the "Final Fantasy" figure of General Hein.

Joanna Dark
(Click for larger image)
General Hein (his pistol anyway)

The Time Agent's sensor device, which she uses to track the Doctor's movement, is a PDA from a Star Trek: The Next Generation figure. It is not a tricorder, it's a data pad many of the more clerical members of the Enterprise crew could be seen carrying around with them, getting Picard to sign, etc.


The Big Bang

When I originally thought of this story I was sitting in a playground with my daughter. While she swung away, I thought of a short story involving the Doctor and the Key to Time. I scrawled it into my Palm Pilot where that text remains today. The short story had to do with the Big Bang. None of the intricacies of the six chapters were developing yet, just the kernal of the Doctor having a second confrontation with the White Guardian, and that the first time the Key was a fake - a test.

But while I was developing this story I did some research into the Big Bang. After I had written the script for Segment Two, which brings into the picture a French Knight named Sir Guy le Maître. We know of course that this is a thinly disguised Master. I wasn't even trying to hide it.

But while doing some research into the Big Bang I discovered an interesting fact that I was previously unaware of.

I discovered that the Big Bang was first theorized by a Belgian Monk named Georges Lemaître.

Ok... I was writing a story about the Big Bang, and I had inadvertently included a character named Guy le Maître. I opted to call him Guy as that is a perfectly valid French name, and in English it is the generic "guy". The rest of the name was of course French for The Master, and I thought it a natural name for him to take as he disguised himself as a French Knight to find the Grail, which he knew to be a piece of the Key the Black Guardian asked him to retrieve.


The TARDIS Jettison Hatch

You will note that I included a clever little device into the TARDIS. The left front door of the TARDIS contains a hatch. That hatch, in a real Police Box, contains a public phone. But for the TARDIS, I decided it could still have a purpose. It is a miniature version of the TARDIS door, and could be used for jettisoning small objects.

The Doctor, once he realizes the Key is about to explode, can't let it explode on a lush planet, as the Guardian has already told him it is the most destructive force in the universe. So he opts to rush it aboard the TARDIS and get it as far away as possible from anything that could be damaged by it. So he tells the Time Agent to spin the dials and get them out of there - away from anything.

It is more of a coincidence that she manages to take him literally and navigate them to a coordinate of all zeroes, which of course means the dead center of space, and at time Zero. This is of course the location of the Big Bang.

The Doctor jettisons the Key out the hatch and the Key floats gently away from the TARDIS.

The Doctor tells the Time Agent to push Emergency Recall, which is an actual function on the TARDIS. I can't quite recall if it was used in the TV series or in the Big Finish Audio Dramas, but I specifically recall the Peter Davison Doc telling Peri to use it, and it would take them back to where they had just come from.

I guess this means that as the Key is exploding, forming the universe in a Big Bang, the TARDIS has popped back to where the Doctor had his last meeting with the Guardian. Or perhaps to Earth just after he dropped off Elannuir and Sir Henry. (If the Guardian intercepted the TARDIS, the Emergency Recall location may not be that one, but the last one the Doctor actually set his coordinates for.)



In about August, 2005, just after I came back from a wonderful two-week vacation to Newfoundland, I discovered podcasts. I have an Archos Jukebox MP3 player, which is a 20 Gigabyte hard drive MP3 player and I had just heard of podcasts. I listen to a lot of spoken word stuff while I'm working, including the Big Finish audios, Douglas Adams' stuff, Eddie Izzard, whatever's entertaining.

It was while perusing the iTunes store that I discovered a number of interesting science fiction podcasts. These are audio talk shows released over the web usually in MP3 format, which allows people to listen to them on their MP3 players, or iPods. (Hence the term Podcast.)

I discovered two great Doctor Who podcasts. Podshock and Podcast Who.

I recommend giving them a visit and downloading their past episodes and listening to them.

Podshock is a weekly podcast by Ken Deep, Louis Trepani and James Naughton. Ken and Louis are Americans, while James is a Brit. This is a great team because we get a perspective on Doctor Who from both sides of the pond.

Well just about the time I released Segment Six, I decided I'd send an e-mail to the Podshock folks and see if they would mention my story. In the next episode they devoted nearly five minutes gushing all over my story. They were quite complimentary. Embarrassingly so, actually. James did a symopsis of the photo story, while not giving away any of the story, and Louis and Ken chimed in their agreement.

They linked the story on their main page at the Gallifreyan Embassy, which I sure appreciate.

When I released Big Finish, Podshock did another few minutes talking about my story in the most glowing terms.

Meanwhile, Podcast Who, another weekly podcast by Tom Dillahunt, a veteren Podcaster, also said some great things about The Second Key. He spent several minutes talking about the story and how much he liked it. Thanks, Tom.


Let There Be Light

I wanted the ending to be momentous. Not just climactic, but almost a religious experience to those reading it.

What's ironic is that after publishing Segment One, I got an e-mail from a reader who was rather turned off by my using the Doctor to rant about how the Catholic Church edited the Ten Commandments for their own convenience. Not just words put down by man, but words actually etched into stone by God himself, if you believe that sort of thing. What gall! What bloody hubris, to actually edit God's own hand-written text.

The reader was rather incensed that I brought this up. Yet it's true. A gathering of the Catholic Church back in 767AD (if I got my dates right) actually decided it was ok to edit words hand-written by God, just so they could keep their statuary.

But what the reader didn't appear to notice was that I used it in parallel structure with Sir Edmund to show that these things are open to interpretation, such as the White Guardian being God. This is Edmund's obvious conclusion, and later the Doctor asks the Guardian that himself, as he has come to the same conclusion.

Furthermore, the reader, who hadn't yet had a chance to see the rest of the story, was unaware I guess that this whole story is a story of religion and faith. His interpretation was that I was anti-religious, and therefore he claimed he would not read father, as my anti-religious stance would obviously cloud the rest of the story.

His loss.

Truthfully, I am a staunch atheist, but I understand the need some people have for religion, and I am a devout believer in the message of Christ. While I am not a believer of his divinity, his message is absolutely wonderful, and as a man, he has had few equals on this planet.

This story is an exploration of religion, belief and faith, and I'm quite proud of it.

I originally had planned the final line to be "It was the most important event in life, the universe and everything", which would have been an homage to Douglas Adams, but I deemed it was not serious enough. And I had already given the nod to Adams once or twice in the story.

I thought if I could leave it with "Let there be light", it would say everything I wanted to say about the story.


The Universe Will Thank You, Doctor

How, exactly, will the Universe thank the Doctor? Well, by its every day of existence, I guess. But there is more.

You won't see it in this story, but in future stories, I intend to show how the Guardian thanks the Doctor. In an upcoming comical short piece (which I shot almost two years ago, and will be presented in stereo 3D) the Doctor gets a gift.

But even that isn't all. We will have to wait a bit longer to find out what the more substantial gift the Guardian gives the Doctor. I don't even have that story planned out yet, but I know what the gift is.

So don't even ask.



On November 4 I released Big Finish. The hits on my site went up as they usually do when I publish a new chapter and send around to the usual hangouts letting people know it's there.

On the days following the release of any of these chapters, I would get anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 hits.

But for some unknown reason on November 16 my hits suddenly shot up to 25,000 hits! On Friday alone!

I don't know why my site suddenly got all this attention. But I did some checking:

I got blogged. I checked my site's stats and found a bunch of blog sites had linked to The Second Key. Suddenly it was being blogged left, right and center.

One particular site, MetaFilter, had quite a few comments from people who actually went to my site and read the story!

Some of the best comments:

wow this is real great!
posted by [] at 5:23 AM PST on November 18

Wow, awesome. The art gallery is especially good.
posted by [] at 5:27 AM PST on November 18


This is Awsome!
posted by [] at 5:34 AM PST on November 18

I wish I could come up with an adjective other than the all-pervasive "awesome"...but this is awesome. Great link, thank you. These models are very cool, anyone know what they are?
posted by [] at 6:02 AM PST on November 18

holy **** on a **** ****. I love this. thank you thank you thank you.
posted by shmegegge at 6:11 AM PST on November 18

[I removed the real words used there... but he seemed enthusiastic! - Ed.]

[], Their Inside the Tardis section gives background on how it was done and what they used.
Also there are quite a few other stories on that site.
posted by [] at 6:52 AM PST on November 18

Holy **** that ****ing rocks.
How does one go about doing something like this? Are those background photos fake? Are those all real dolls and minatures?
posted by [] at 6:58 AM PST on November 18

I like this. It's the same creative method that's now even easier to produce with things like Half-Life 2 and Garry's Mod. Some people have come up with some Humorous and Impressive stuff.
Beats the hell out of Sprite Comics, anyway.
posted by [] at 8:44 AM PST on November 18

This is awesome. Daleks, the Master, the Guardians, lots of geeky goodness! It almost makes me forgive him from saving annoying Adric from death in his previous story :)
posted by [] at 9:14 AM PST on November 18

[That was perhaps my favorite feedback comment! - Ed.]

I wasn't sure about this, but it won me over pretty fast. Decent photography, and a nice eye for how the series looked and felt.
Metafilter: Whump, whine,whump/ whump, grind, groan
posted by [] at 9:33 AM PST on November 18

Wow, so much better than I expected.
posted by [] at 11:40 AM PST on November 18

Hah, love the crop circles! It seems odd that the Doctor didn't do more to help the Egyptian boy with the fever, though. He was very sorta "not-my-problem" about it.
posted by Eideteker at 2:03 PM PST on November 18

[note: I didn't do the crop circles. I took that from a Fark photoshop contest. I particularly liked the crop circles on the Wyeth. - Ed.]

Best of the web in my book! Thanks, nthdegx.
posted by [] at 2:21 PM PST on November 18

The wordiness and exposition-in-dialogue almost killed the first couple of parts, but then they hit their stride.
I really liked that they didn't feel the need to make the Doctor look overly like any of the canon Doctors (although Elannuir was a bet of a Leela retread). I loved the use of scale in the 20th-century city segment especially. The occasional subtle use of animated GIFs was superb. The interrobang/stair diagram ... was sublime.
posted by [] at 9:24 PM PST on November 18


That's All Folks

Seriously, I want to thank you for reading The Second Key. I created this story, as I do all my stories, for myself, and it's a great feeling to know that someone elase has read it, and an even greater feeling when someone else has enjoyed it.

I got this e-mail from a lady in Germany. I think I could have received no better reward.

I hope you don't mind me not writing an eloquent commentary, but English is not my native language... ;)
I followed your Dr. Who story from the beginning and I'm most impressed. I didn't see this end coming up unto the panel where the coordinates including time were all zeros, but the last picture - maybe I'm a sentimental idiot, but I almost felt like weeping.
Thank you for the enjoyment your story (and the others as well) gave me.


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