(A black, dart shaped ship moves up next to the beacon and docks with it. Later, men in armoured space suits are rushing about - making preparations to blow up the beacon. CAVEN, the leader, stands in the airlock joining the ship and the beacon.)
CAVEN: Dervish!... DERVISH!
(A man, DERVISH, enters)
DERVISH: We're nearly finished.
CAVEN: About time.
DERVISH: The men are just coming. We'll detonate by radio beam.
CAVEN: Right. Hurry it up.
(CAVEN returns to the ship).
( The ship moves away from the beacon and, seconds later, the beacon explodes into fragments.)
by ROBERT HOLMES
first broadcast - 8th March 1969
running time - 24mins 11secs
(A V-Ship moves through space)
(Major WARNE is standing over Technician PENN on the lower communications level of the duel levelled flight deck.)
WARNE: Everything all right Penn?
PENN: Fine sir.
(WARNE makes his way up to the command deck.)
You sent for me sir?
(General Nikolai HERMACK looks up.)
HERMACK: Ah yes. Ian, sit down.
WARNE: Thank you.
HERMACK: Any information on that beacon signal yet?
WARNE: No sir. There's been no response to the secondary emergency circuits either.
HERMACK: No, there wouldn't be.
HERMACK: What do you think has happened to that beacon?
WARNE: Well it's difficult to say sir. It could be a failure in the solar energy store.
HERMACK: No. The emergency power would operate and we'd get a may day signal.
WARNE: Well? (pauses) Oh you don't think this is a mechanical failure sir?
HERMACK: No. No I don't. These beacons are practically fool proof.
WARNE: You got any ideas?
HERMACK: Yes, I have. And I must be right. Argonite! These beacons are almost entirely constructed of Argonite.
WARNE: Of course sir. What are you going to do about it?
HERMACK: (switches on ship wide communications) Attention all personnel. This is General Hermack. Your V-Ship is now fifty days and many billions of miles out from earth. You're entering the fourth sector of our galaxy. In this sector for some time now, Earth Government has been aware that a highly organised gang of criminals have been roaming the space ways, and preying upon defenceless cargo ships. The main target of these criminals is Argonite, the most valuable mineral known to man. And so far only found on the planets of the Fourth Sector. A government space beacon marking the approaches to the planet New Sarum has ceased transmitting its navigation signal. These beacons, as you know, are constructed of Argonite. It is my belief that the criminals are attacking the government navigation beacons and are plundering the Argonite. There can be no other explanation for its failure. This being the case, I have decided to... abandon our present mission and to investigate the missing beacon in the New Sarum sector. I want all section commanders on the bridge at twenty hundred hours sector four solar time. Resume normal duties until then.
WARNE: There are eighteen space beacons quite scattered across this sector sir.
HERMACK: Seventeen, Ian, until the one at New Sarum's replaced.
WARNE: Seventeen. And they're millions of miles apart. So how can we be sure which one the pirates are likely to attack next.
HERMACK: Ha ha. We can't.
WARNE: Well exactly. The odds are seventeen to one against us being in the right place at the right time.
HERMACK: Ah! With our speed, I think we can cut those odds a bit. Now, there are four beacons in the Pliny Solar System here. That is where we'll start our patrol.
(Work is progressing, as with the last beacon. DERVISH is working near the airlock as CAVEN approaches.)
CAVEN: Come on! Speed it up.
DERVISH: Caven, I don't like this.
CAVEN: Nobody's asking you to like it. Just get those Scissor Charges laid into position.
DERVISH: If we attack any more beacons we'll have the whole of the Interstellar Space Corps in this sector.
CAVEN: Look. As of this moment, the Space Corps has its hands full of trouble. Rush Fire wars in three different sectors . There's never been a better time for getting rich.
(A pirate approaches DERVISH with the charges)
DERVISH: Right lads. Now we'll lay four charges along the main axle, then we'll attach booster charges around the hull. OK!
(The pirate moves off.)
CAVEN: You're a good engineer Dervish. Just do your job and leave the space corps to me, eh?
DERVISH: OK. But I worked ten years for Earth Government.
CAVEN: You should've stayed with them. They'd have given you a pension.
DERVISH: Attacking Government property is one crime they make sure never pays.
CAVEN: Sixteen hundred tons of pure Argonite pays all right, Dervish. To me this is like a floating bank.
(CAVEN laughs again.)
WARNE: What range are the forward scanners set for, Penn?
PENN: Fifteen hundred sir.
WARNE: Well reset them at err... two thousand. Right?
PENN: Very good sir.
WARNE: And keep a sharp eye on that screen. There are lots of rogue asteroids in the Pliny System.
HERMACK: Oh and one thing more. Make sure the Minnow ships are fully fuelled, and put the detonation heads on their missiles. Report back as soon as that is done.
WARNE: We're approaching the Pliny system now sir. We've made scanner contact with the four beacons. They're functioning normally.
HERMACK: Ah good. Now this - (indicating the map) the planet Ta here is the main one in the system. We'll orbit here for a few weeks and see what happens.
WARNE: So that's Ta, huh?
HERMACK: Ah. You've heard of it.
WARNE: Yeah. It's the head quarters of the Issigri Mining Corporation. The most productive planet in the entire galaxy.
HERMACK: Hm hmmm. Madeleine Issigri has built quite a place there. Which is one reason for basing ourselves in the Pliny system.
WARNE: Why's that a reason sir?
HERMACK: Well if we're out here long Ian, the men will need somewhere for rest and recreation. Deep space sickness is the one thing we can't chance.
PENN: Major Warne.
WARNE: What is it Penn?
PENN: I've got a contact sir. At... Beacon Alpha Seven.
WARNE: Well hold on it. Any identification?
PENN: No sir. Too far away.
HERMACK: Ah, it's a space ship right enough. Check Central Flight Information, Ian and see if anyone should be out there.
WARNE: Right sir.
HERMACK: Change course for Beacon Alpha Seven. Bridge to Power Room, I want ten seconds main boost.
WARNE: According to Flight Information, sir, there should be no ships in the area for the next seventeen days.
HERMACK: Well whoever they are they've not yet reported to Central Flight Information.
WARNE: Do you think it's the Pirates?
HERMACK: Yes it could be. Though some of these commercial flights don't always like to report their whereabouts, for reasons of their own. Anyway we shall soon know.
(The V-Ship moves off towards the unknown ship.)
PENN: She's backing off sir.
HERMACK: Keep track of her.
PENN: She's moving quite fast sir.
WARNE: Got a good turn of speed for a commercial.
HERMACK: Is Beacon Alpha Seven still functioning?
WARNE: Yes sir. Very strong signal.
HERMACK: Well that's something.
WARNE: Maybe they were just picking up emergency supplies sir. Some of these beacons do carry reserve medical and oxygen equipment.
PENN: Sir I've... got another signal coming in now. It's a UHF.
WARNE: UHF? Well that's reserved for demolition teams.
HERMACK: Well put it on audio.
PENN: Yes sir.
(A signal is heard on the flight deck.)
(Beacon Alpha Seven explodes.)
PENN: Alpha Seven's broken up sir.
HERMACK: Argh. Right under our noses. Main boost.
PENN: Lost the beacon sir. No more signal.
WARNE: No there won't be. It's probably in separate bits by now.
HERMACK: Keep full contact with that pirate ship.
PENN: Yes sir.
HERMACK: At least we can be sure they don't get away. Ian give me a projected arrive time.
WARNE: Three hours sir.
PENN: Maybe I can get a visual on the long range scanner.
(A ship appears on the front view screen.)
WARNE: There she is sir. And that's what's left of the beacon.
HERMACK: Oh we've got them cold Ian. We'll be onto them long before they get rid of that salvaged scrap.
WARNE: Yeah, providing she doesn't see us approaching sir.
HERMACK: They don't know...
PENN: That ship looks fast...
HERMACK: They don't know we're in the same area. What's wrong with the scanner?
WARNE: Seem to be losing visual contact sir.
PENN: The ship's moving away sir.
PENN: Just started to go and the beacon debris's going with her.
HERMACK: Hold that contact Penn.
PENN: It's no good sir. She's going too fast.
HERMACK: They must have twice our speed.
WARNE: Maybe the minnows can hold her?
HERMACK: Not at this distance. They haven't the fuel.
PENN: Lost contact sir.
HERMACK: (frustrated) Oh. Hold the same course. Keep searching.
WARNE: They must have attached rocket units to the beacon, sir, the way it moved off.
HERMACK: Yes. They're very well organised. They cut the beacon into several manageable pieces by means of Scissor Charges, then shoot the bits off to some pre-arranged collection point. Very clever.
WARNE: And quick. It cuts down the time they're at risk. And they just burn out the Argonite at their leisure.
HERMACK: Ian, we shall have to rethink our tactics. We shall never catch them by normal patrol methods.
WARNE: What else can we do sir?
HERMACK: Man the beacons.
WARNE: Man them?
HERMACK: It's the only answer. We'll drop small parties of four or five men on each beacon and give them rations and supplies for two months. Well all these mark five beacons were designed as emergency survival centres.
WARNE: Yes sir, but I don't think anybody has ever tried living on them. Some of these beacons are pretty primitive.
HERMACK: I'm not interested in men's comfort major. Set course for the nearest beacon.
WARNE: Yes sir.
(The V-Ship docks with Beacon Alpha Four.)
(WARNE addresses Lieutenant SORBA and three other men.)
WARNE: Here's your radio lieutenant. It's beamed automatically to main control. All you have to do in the event of trouble is press this button, right?
SORBA: Don't worry, I'll press it.
WARNE: Remember your main job here is to give us the earliest possible warning in the event of the pirate ships approaching right?
SORBA: And after that, we fight.
WARNE: After that, I think you'll have to Joe. Good Luck.
SORBA: Thank you.
WARNE: See you in about six weeks.
SORBA: I hope.
HERMACK: Set a course for Alpha Nine.
PENN: Very good sir.
WARNE: I told Lieutenant Sorba we'd be back in about six weeks sir.
HERMACK: Or much earlier if the pirates raid Alpha Four. How is morale on the beacon?
WARNE: Oh it's pretty high sir. I think they're hoping for the chance of a party.
HERMACK: They understand they have to shoot on sight?
WARNE: Yes sir, I told them. No, anybody poking their nose aboard Alpha Four will find plenty of trouble waiting for 'em.
(The TARDIS materialises. A GUARD hears the noises and runs off.)
(SORBA is briefing his men as the GUARD rushes in.)
SORBA: Now we're going to be here for about six weeks. Settle down and keep your eyes open. Take care about...
SORBA: What? What are you doing here? Why aren't you in the observation tower?
GUARD: There's something in the computer bay sir.
SORBA: Something? Well what do you mean by that?
GUARD: I heard something in there sir. A noise.
SORBA: All right we'd better check it out then. Come on.
(The men run off towards the computer bay.)
(The DOCTOR steps out of the TARDIS.)
DOCTOR: Oh dear.
(ZOE steps out behind him, looking around.)
ZOE: What's wrong?
DOCTOR: Well I... Well I don't think we're... we're quite where I expected. But never mind. This looks very interesting.
(JAMIE steps out and looks around. The DOCTOR is hunched over a piece of equipment, with ZOE standing beside him.)
JAMIE: Interesting? A piece of old machinery?
DOCTOR: Yes. I... I've never seen a computer quite like this before Jamie.
ZOE: It looks like some sort of control room.
DOCTOR: Yes, but what does it control?
JAMIE: Yeah. Well I think we'd better get out of here before somebody catches us.
ZOE: Good Idea. There's a door here.
JAMIE: No Zoe. I meant in the TARDIS.
DOCTOR: Jamie, stop worrying. There's obviously nobody here.
JAMIE: Well how do you know that?
DOCTOR: Well this machine is programmed to operate by itself.
ZOE: Yes, but what does it do?
DOCTOR: Well I'm not sure Zoe, but I... I think we're on an unmanned space craft in a... in a fixed orbit. We're... we're too far away from anywhere to be a weather satellite. Let's see what err... what clues we can find through here shall we?
(They exit the computer bay into the corridor. They hear voices ahead.)
JAMIE: What's that?
(SORBA's men appear and start firing at the trio.)
ZOE: Oh Jamie, run!
(The DOCTOR, JAMIE and ZOE bolt down the corridor, away from the computer bay and the TARDIS)
JAMIE: Nobody here eh?
ZOE: Oh now what are we going to do? The TARDIS is in there.
DOCTOR: There's only one thing we can do.
JAMIE: Well maybe next time you'll listen to me.
ZOE: If there is a next time.
(SORBA's men are in pursuit.)
SORBA: All right there are only three of them and they can't get away. Hunt them down and don't forget - shoot to kill.
(The Pirates' beta dart docks with Alpha Four.)
(CAVEN and DERVISH step into the airlock.)
CAVEN: Alpha Four. Another present from the home planet's tax payers.
DERVISH: Same procedure as last time?
CAVEN: Yes Dervish. But now that you've had a little practice get those Scissor Charges laid a bit quicker eh?
(They hear laser shots.)
DERVISH: Hey, what's that? Caven, those were blaster guns!
CAVEN: Get the crew in here - at the double.
(DERVISH moves back into the beta dart to get the crew.)
(The TARDIS crew run into the room and locks the doors.)
JAMIE: Are you alright Zoe?
ZOE: Yes I think so.
DOCTOR: That should hold them for a little while.
ZOE: But why are they trying to kill us? We haven't done anything.
DOCTOR: I don't know. But we're certainly not stopping to find out.
JAMIE: What's that? Look.
(Guards appear at the other end of the adjoining corridor.)
DOCTOR: Come on. Let's find somewhere else to hide.
(They run down the corridor into another room - a dead end.)
JAMIE: Doctor, there's no way out of here.
ZOE: Oh Doctor, what can we do?
DOCTOR: Well I don't know. If we go down there we'll bump straight into them. I would say we're trapped.
(The pirates shoot down SORBA's men in the corridor in front of the room where the TARDIS crew are trapped. As SORBA collapses, he uses the radio beam to send out a distress signal.)
PENN: Thirty minutes from Beacon Alpha 3 sir
HERMACK: Right. Warn the picket to stand by on C deck, Ian.
WARNE: Right sir.
PENN: Emergency from Beacon Alpha Four sir.
WARNE: Sorba's being attacked.
HERMACK: Set course for Alpha Four. Try and get me a visual on the scanner Ian.
PENN: On course sir.
HERMACK: Bridge to Power House. I want main boost for as long as you can hold it without vapourising the motors.
(CAVEN and his men are standing over the bodies of the space corps guards. CAVEN notices SORBA is still moving.)
CAVEN: This one's still alive.
DERVISH: So the space corps were too busy to bother about us eh?
CAVEN: Shut up!... I'm thinking.
DERVISH: There's no time for thinking. We've got to get out of here.
CAVEN: Four space Guards and an officer. What are they doing here?
DERVISH: There must be a cruiser in the area.
CAVEN: Not a big enough crew to defend the beacon but they must have been put on board for a reason.
(He notices the radio beam device in SORBA's hand.)
DERVISH: Looks like a fixed beam transmitter. Why that's it. Well, they'll... they'll be on their way back here by now.
CAVEN: Then you'd better get moving.
DERVISH: Well you don't still want the beacon cutting up?
CAVEN: That's what we came here to do.
DERVISH: Think about it!
CAVEN: Don't waste time. Get on with it.
(CAVEN takes out his gun and destroys the transmitter.)
(The signal cuts out.)
WARNE: Could be their radio's packed up sir.
HERMACK: Yes. Give me a projected arrival time.
PENN: Two hours twenty minutes.
HERMACK: I should have left a stronger picket.
WARNE: Oh no sir. We haven't the man power. Besides Sorba knew he could only hope to delay things.
HERMACK: I am going to get that gang of murdering thieves if I have to spend the next ten years out here.
(SORBA lies in a heap on the floor, with CAVEN standing over him.)
CAVEN: Yes Lieutenant, you're the last of the toy soldiers.
SORBA: Shot in the back.
CAVEN: Ha ha! You mean we're disqualified. You don't want to play any more?
SORBA: You can laugh now. But you won't get away with this.
CAVEN: Who's going to stop me Lieutenant?
SORBA: How did you get those decoys aboard?
SORBA: Those three that lead us into your ambush.
CAVEN: Concussion lieutenant, or stalling for time?
SORBA: You know who I'm talking about. They ran off into the aft companion way.
CAVEN: None of my men down there. Must be some of yours.
SORBA: Sure. We were having a private training session with loaded Thermite Guns.
CAVEN: We did hear firing in the airlock. You mean there really is someone else in there?
SORBA: I thought you'd planted them there.
CAVEN: Whoever they are, we've got no time to bother with them now.
(DERVISH runs up to CAVEN.)
DERVISH: I've laid the charges. Just fixing the rockets.
CAVEN: Good. If he can walk get him out of here. If he can't leave him.
DERVISH: What are you doing ?
(DERVISH helps SORBA up, as CAVEN uses his gun to weld together the edges of the door to where the TARDIS crew have taken refuge.)
CAVEN: Just sealing a coffin, Dervish.
JAMIE: I wish we could hear what they're saying.
ZOE: I think they're trying to burn through it.
DOCTOR: Just a minute. I think they've gone away.
ZOE: I don't understand. Why didn't they come in here after us?
JAMIE: Aye, they must've known we were trapped. Why not finish us off?
DOCTOR: They didn't seem very friendly did they?
(The DOCTOR tries to open the doors, but jumps away.)
JAMIE: What's the matter?
DOCTOR: Well it's hot. You try.
JAMIE: No thank you.
ZOE: I told you they were trying to burn through it.
JAMIE: Well why haven't they?
(They hear a noise outside the cabin.)
DOCTOR: There's something moving out there.
ZOE: It sounds as if somebody's on the hull.
(They move towards a portal on the far wall. The DOCTOR looks through it.)
JAMIE: What are they doing?
DOCTOR: I don't know Jamie. Perhaps they're cleaning the windows?
JAMIE: Oh. Hey?
ZOE: Look why don't we sneak back to the TARDIS and get out of here?
JAMIE: Aye, while we've still got the chance.
DOCTOR: Sensible idea Zoe. Err, umm. You sure there's nobody out there?
ZOE: Well I haven't heard anybody for ages. Come on.
DOCTOR: Mind out, it's hot.
ZOE: Well it's not hot any more.
(ZOE tries the doors, but they won't budge.)
ZOE: Oh, but I can't unlock it.
JAMIE: Let me do it Zoe. You'll have to eat more porridge.
(JAMIE gives it a try, but to no avail.)
DOCTOR: Jamie, I don't think it's any use. You know what I think they've done?
DOCTOR: They've welded the lock. We're prisoners.
(The Pirates' Beta Dart leaves the beacon.)
PENN: They're leaving Beacon Alpha Four sir.
WARNE: It's exactly what happened before.
HERMACK: What is our arrival time?
PENN: Still ninety minutes to go sir.
HERMACK: We're going to be too late again.
WARNE: The beacon should blow any second now.
(Beacon Alpha Four explodes.)
(The TARDIS crew are thrown to the floor, screaming.)
Theme Music by
and The BBC Radiophonic Workshop
TREVOR LEE (TLee@earthling.net)
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