The Planet Antia, 3852 A.D
Midas Judge looked at the MediaBot as it was presenting its analysis. Marysa
had been one of Talent X’s most popular artists to date, even breaking the
difficult Judoon market, but over the last month sales from X-Tunes and
merchandising had dropped sharply across the whole galaxy. Midas knew that
it was time to find a new talent – someone who he could market as the ‘Next
Big Thing’. He sent out the command to his Press Machines to search for new
talent – Talent X was about to have a new star…
The Doctor strode out from the TARDIS expecting to see the dusty desert town
of Maruul on the planet Antia, but instead he was met by an intergalactic
media circus. Posters were crudely stuck over the walls of the city. Those
walls had once held firm against the advance of the Golash Hordes, but were
now being used as nothing more than cheap advertising space. The Doctor
rubbed the side of his TARDIS, grateful for the fact that it was virtually
impregnable, otherwise by the time he’d come back to her after exploring the
city she might have been converted into a coffee hut.
Midas Judge looked at the screen as he saw a live feed from one of his Press
Machines. She was perfect – her ebony skin and bobbed black hair. Yes, he
was sure she could be marketed very well indeed. He ordered the Press
Machine to sign her up straight away – Talent X had a new face.
The Doctor was trying to explain that the 3 Gaburian Coliths he had handed
over could buy the whole candy floss stand, never mind one stick of it. The
Hovarian trader, however, insisted on Galactos. The Doctor spent a few more
minutes rummaging through his dimensionally transcendental pockets before
finally finding some currency. They were minted with next year’s date on,
but the trader didn’t seem to notice. The Doctor turned around to see where
Robyn could have gone to, but he couldn’t see her initially. He saw K9
squaring up against robots that looked menacingly at the dog through their
face cameras. Behind them Robyn was signing a contract. The Doctor ran over
but he too was blocked by the Press Machines. He could see Robyn was
hypnotised – she was looking slightly dreamy and disorientated, and the
Press Machines had instantly transformed her clothes and make up. She smiled
at his and said that she was going to be a big star – she’d signed up for
Talent X. The Doctor grabbed his sonic screwdriver, ready to disable the
Press Machines, but a huge Triceraton Security Guard – Edmund Trihorn -
blocked his path. As Robyn was led away the Doctor ordered K9 to keep track
of her. A furry paw grabbed the Doctor’s arm. He looked around to see the
bright eyes of Mzzkiti, a Homo felinis, or Catperson, who told him that
Robyn would be safe for the moment, and she knew a better way to get her
The Doctor had been invitied to join Mzzkiti’s friend inside the Jovial
Rutan pub. Mzzkiti introduced her accomplice – Rad the Cockroach, an expert
in hacking security systems. The Doctor asked Mzzkiti how she knew his name,
but the question was soon answered by Rad as he showed the Doctor a small
computer screen. Rad had hacked into the Target Group database and found
that they were searching the galaxy for the Doctor.
The Doctor looked at the webpage: ‘Wanted: [Alive and in Perfect
Condition only]. Alias: The Doctor. 20 Billion Galactocreds.’ The Doctor was
insulted – he’d expect at least 50 Billion. Still, the writing underneath
about him being ‘the stuff of legend’ was flattering, if a little clichéd.
The Doctor asked Mzzkiti to tell him more about this ‘Talent X’.
Robyn felt like her head was pounding. She could sense that she had been
hypnotised and was trying to fight through the fogginess in her mind. She
realised that she was standing on a stage in front of a huge audience. A
panel of judges was sitting in front of her appraising her performace. A
tall fishman was standing next to her. As the Press Machines were focussing
the live feed on the judge’s response he leaned over and whispered in her
ear, telling her not to be nervous – she was going to win. They’d already
rigged the competiton in her favour on the orders of Midas Judge. They’d
ensure the intercom votes for her rival wouldn’t all get through. Robyn was
led away after a rapturous applause from the audience straight into a
recording booth. Midas Judge stood infront of her and said they were going
to record her first album – it was already a record-breaking album on
pre-sales alone. Robyn refused to sing anything, demanding to know where the
Doctor was. Midas sighed as he walked away. Metal bands held Robyn in place
as a needle slowly entered her voice box, seconds later she was released.
The album was recorded and two aides had arrived to get Robyn ready for her
first chatshow appearance in an hour.
K9 had found a small entrance into the huge office block of the Midas
Empire. This was the very heart of the Talent X phenomenon. He found himself
inside a warehouse where matter generators were pumping out posters, mugs,
sound-discs and action figures of Robyn for sale throughout the galaxy. K9
interfaced with one of the computer banks to download the schematics of the
building. He detected a Press Machine patrolling the area and had to sneak
behind some boxes.
Mzzkiti explained that Midas Judge had found a niche in the galactic
entertainment market for a talent show where ordinary people throughout the
galaxy could be elevated to celebrity status overnight. Talent X was a
phenomenon as it appealed to people’s dreams of glamour and being idolised.
But there was price to pay – after the brief moment of fame had gone, and
they were no longer marketable, they were quickly forgotten – a new star
would come along and steal the limelight. Mzzkiti was hired to find out what
happened to the ex-celebrities, but no-one knew any whereabouts for any of
them. That’s why they were glad to have found the Doctor – he could bring
down the Midas Empire and Talent X. The Doctor asked them what they’d found
out about the main office block and Rad showed the Doctor some plans.
Robyn was waiting in her guest room when she heard a scratching behind a
wall panel. Suddenly it came loose and a young dark haired girl was standing
there. Robyn recognised her face from the posters that were scattered around
when they first arrived. She was Marysa – the face of Talent X before Robyn
was ‘recruited’. Marysa asked Robyn to follow her quickly as Press Machines
were hot on her trail. She had something she needed to show Robyn before it
was too late.
The Doctor had climbed down into the underground sewer system. He should
have expected this after he realised that a Cockroach had made the plans of
how to best break into the office block undetected. Fortunately the sewers
were from the ancient city and hadn’t been used for centuries. The group
arrived at a steel entrance that was deadlocked. Rad said that he had been
unsuccessful in cracking the code – it was locked with a Factorial 20 lock.
The Doctor examined the lock carefully and pulled a pad of paper and pencil
from his pockets. He smiled at Rad and Mzzkiti – Factorial 20 was one of his
favourite subjects at the Academy.
Gadrok the Invincible fumed with rage as he stared at his rival. He could
feel the blood rushing through his body – the same royal blood that had ran
through generations of warriors. The little man had the one prize he desired
in his grubby hands and he would kill (or maim) to get it. It was a Talent X
‘Robyn’ action figure, and it had just been released. The little man was
droning on about the improved articulation, but complained that they had
missed off the Golden ‘R’ belt buckle – it was, after all, a part of the
real Robyn’s outfit and the figure just didn’t seem representative without
it. Gadrok didn’t care – if he could snatch that figure out of the hands of
the fan, he could sell it on the collectors market for a lot more. The
little man said that he was glad to have picked this up before the scalpers
had gotten hold of it. Gadrok the Invincible laughed to himself – his
warrior family were renowned for ‘scalping’ and then making rugs out of
them. He reached for his knife. He’d show him what a scalper really was.
Midas Judge listened as the MediaBot updated him with the surge in Robyn’s
marketability. Her action figures were already reaching the shops, and sales
hadn’t been affected by that ZeeBay seller who was selling the leaked
prototypes – but he’d been vapourised anyway. In all but 3 of the 22 market
zones, Robyn was the highest selling singer. Midas Judge shrugged – he was
not too hopeful of cracking the Telos, Skaro and Clom markets anyway. An
alarm suddenly jolted Midas from his thoughts – an intruder was inside the
office block. SecurityCamBots revealed the culprit – it was Marysa, and she
was leading Robyn down a corridor. Midas Judge was furious – Marysa had
somehow escaped her induction into the Hall of Fame. He called for his Press
Machines to find them.
Marysa opened a gold door that led into a large circular room. At regular
intervals along the walls were alcoves, and inside the alcoves were gold
statues. The room was a very impressive sight, and Robyn was sure that she’d
never seen that much gold before – even the Queen would be shocked at that
much bling. Marysa showed Robyn one of the statues. Robyn felt a wave of
nausea rise up through her body and she burst into tears. The statue of the
girl wasn’t a statue at all – her eyes were still moving and they looked
empty and haunted. Marysa explained that Talent X seduced people with the
dreams of stardom. It promised to make ‘your wildest dreams come true’.
People were desperate to leave their mundane lives and become someone who’s
image would be adored across the galaxy. But there was a price to pay,
because once that image and marketability was no longer what Midas Judge
wanted, the person was dropped and became a memory in the ‘Hall of Fame’.
But these aren’t statues – they are the past stars of Talent X. They were
promised that their success would lead to them dripping in diamonds and
gold, and Midas Judge kept him promise. Marysa had escaped this ‘induction’
into the Hall of Fame, and when Robyn was no longer flavour of the month she
would be a victim here too. Two press machines entered the Hall of Fame.
Marysa grabbed Robyn by the arm and pulled her out of the path of a light
green laser beam. Marysa warned that the phrase ‘in the limelight’ took on a
whole new meaning here.
The Doctor saw that the inside of the Midas Empire office block was huge –
not huge in a dimensionally transcendental fashion, but the king of hugeness
that only the filthy rich could buy. The Doctor wondered how many stolen
dreams this whole empire was built upon. Mzzkiti warned the Doctor that
several robots were approaching. Rad’s keratinous wings fluttered in the
Doctor’s face, much to his annoyance, as they hid behind a half wall. Two
press machines were patrolling the area, though the interlopers had not been
detected. The Doctor was very interested in them – he noticed that they were
more than just mobile TV cameras – they seemed to be heavily armed too. The
Doctor said that the Press Machines had alchemitron blasters, but neither
Rad nor Mzzkiti had heard about them. The Doctor’s face was grim as he
explained that an alchemitron blaster turned matter into gold.
K9 trundled along the processing room floor, avoiding the boxes of Robyn
Brooks merchandise that were steadily being built up. His scanners detected
the master and two aliens were making their way through the lower sections
of the office block. K9 changed direction towards where the Doctor was. As
he headed out of the processing room a Press Machine started to follow him.
Robyn ran as fast as she could, with Marysa running just behind her. She
turned a corridor and slammed into Midas Judge, almost falling to the floor.
Judge grabbed her and helped her back up. He smiled at her, and that
instinctively made her panic. She glanced back to see that Marysa was behind
her, but that she was now gold, with only her eyes moving. Robyn cried at
the horror and turned to slap Midas Judge on his face. It didn’t seem to
hurt him. ‘She wasn’t as fast as you,’ Judge explained. ‘She was in second
place - a has-been – and we don’t tolerate that here.’ Three press machines
were carrying the Marysa statue away to the Hall of Fame. A further three
Press Machines surrounded Robyn. ‘Unless you wish to join her,’ Judge
warned, ‘I’d be thinking about getting back up on that stage again.’
The Doctor edged down another long corridor and found a small terminal on
one of the walls. He was able to access it and displayed a schematic of the
building. Mzzkiti asked if there was an armoury anywhere close by. The
Doctor said that there were over 100 Press Machines in the building alone –
all the guns in the world wouldn’t help three people against an army that
size. K9 turned into the corridor and the Doctor beamed as he saw him.
However, just behind him a Press Machine rolled into view. The Doctor
shouted a warning but it was too late – K9’s gun grey body suddenly
shimmered into a bright gold and the robot dog ground to a halt. The Press
Machine warned the Doctor and the others to stay still as it trundled
towards them, past K9. K9’s eyes flickered back into life and the dog
blasted the Press Machine, shattering it. The Doctor ran up the K9 and
patted his golden head saying ‘That’s my dog.’ Rad picked through the
remains of the Press Machine, eyeing it’s still intact central processing
unit. The Doctor said that he had a perfect plan to end the Judge Empire,
but he needed Rad and K9 to act as one team, whilst he and Mzzkiti tracked
down Midas Judge himself.
Robyn looked at Midas Judge and asked him exactly when he started living at
the expense of other people. Judge said that to reach the top of the pyramid
you have to stand on people. Robyn disagreed. Judge said that his empire was
the most successful commercial enterprise in the galaxy – he’d be virtually
guaranteed the Christmas number one with Robyn’s latest song. The people of
the galaxy seemed to thrive on Talent X, and he was just feeding their
demand, and making a record breaking profit in the meantime. Robyn was
furious – she said that all of his acts were left as souveniers just as soon
as their sales started to fall, and that was the worst type of exploitation.
Judge disagreed – he said he gave them exactly what they wanted – to be the
most famous name in the galaxy, even if it was for the briefest of moments.
He promised them fame, and in return he gets the fortune – and the success,
he grinned. ‘But an empty heart,’ Robyn noted, ‘and a life built on
exploiting others. All the riches in the galaxy, but not a shred of
happiness.’ Judge fumed, but he had no reply.
The Doctor and Mzzkiti were crouched behind some thick black drapes just
next to the studio where they were expecting Robyn and Midas Judge to appear
any minute. Press Machines were already circling the front of the studio
ready to broadcast the new show. Mzzkiti said she had hoped that Rad and K9
had done their jobs well enough. The Doctor passed her a jelly baby to
settle her nerves.
Robyn was led onto the stage by Midas Judge. He warned her that the show
would go ahead or she would be adorning the hall of fame as a living gold
statue. Robyn waited for him to stand off stage and for the broadcast light
to go on. She started singing a few lines of a song and Judge relaxed before
suddenly grabbing the microphone and warning that Midas Judge was not as he
seemed, but a vampiric exploiter of people. Judge laughed and said that the
outburst would not be broadcast to anyone – he controlled everything the
Press Machines recorded and his secrets would not reach the public. As he
walked up towards Robyn, a cough was heard at the back of the studios. A
tall man strode out, his face full of a wide toothy grin. ‘Erm, actually, we
are still live,’ warned the Doctor, ‘and the Press Machines are controlled
by me.’ The Doctor explained that K9 and Rad had managed to hack into the
Press Machines and their memory banks and take control over them. The Doctor
wasn’t here to fight a guerrilla war against Judge – he decided to use
Judge’s army and media against him. He added that all of Midas Judge’s
confessions ‘behind the scenes’ were recorded in the Press Machine’s memory
banks, as well as the executions turning singers into gold statues. All of
this was being broadcast as well as the live feed. Midas Judge’s reputation,
his market value and his empire had crumbled.
The Triceraton security forces had arrived en masse and Midas Judge was
taken away for trial, but there was plenty of evidence to incriminate him –
all courtesy of the Press Machines. The Doctor, Robyn and K9 said their
goodbyes to Mzzkiti and Rad. Robyn was especially pleased to see that the
Doctor had managed to reverse the alchemitron blaster changes that had
turned Marysa into a statue, but she was sad that the other statues had been
changed for too long. Robyn thanked Marysa for her help – otherwise she’d be
a statue herself. The travellers entered the TARDIS and their friends
watched as it faded out of existence.
Back inside the TARDIS the Doctor was carrying some
scouring pads, ready to rub away the gold outer surface of K9. Robyn stopped
him. She said she preferred the gold colour – it was better than grey. The
Doctor agreed. He said initially he thought about making him green, but that
would have been a bit silly. Still, the Doctor thought, gold may look
better, but it would make K9 look far too out of place, besides K9’s are
grey – not gold, not green and not glittery red either! The Doctor started
rubbing at the gold again. ‘Are you sure Doctor?’ Robyn asked. ‘After all,
think how much you’d get for a gold K9 on eBay.’ The Doctor smiled.
Copyright Malcolm Orr & Doctor Who Online, 2008.