Doctor Who: What I Did On My Christmas Holidays, By Sally Sparrow

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What I did on my Christmas holidays, by Christopher Morley.


It may seem unthinkable now, but there was a time when the Sontarans were so much more than comic foil - see Strax of the Paternoster Gang. The humanoid potato-heads of course made their triumphant return to televised Doctor Who in the Tenth Doctor two-parter The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, though they would also inadvertently form what is in retrospect a minor detail in the comic book story which would inspire Blink.

At the time, those of us who were too busy seeking a change of pants after Steven Moffatt made us wet them with the introduction of the Weeping Angels, probably had no idea that in a sense he was revisiting territory first mined with the Ninth Doctor short story What I Did On My Christmas Holidays By Sally Sparrow.

Originally published in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, and later reprinted in the Cruel Sea anthology of the Ninth Doctor's comic story appearances, it tells the story of a young girl who finds that a strange bloke with big ears and a way with minimalist dress sense has been seeking her help since before she was even born! So far, so Who-esque. Christmas Eve 1985 forms the first piece of the puzzle as the Doctor is snapped at a festive do with a ''Help Me, Sally Sparrow'' sign.


Further instruction to her comes via messages written in the wallpaper, which lead her to a video. Playing it allows her to speak to him, allowing the Doctor to explain that the TARDIS has ''burped'' and taken itself twenty years ahead of the man who stole it all those years ago. Leaving him stuck in '85. And the ship, as he'd first called it in their early days together, is in no better state languishing in the Sparrows' shed.

In his video message to Sally he lets slip that he's recently been involved in a sword fight with two of the aforementioned spud lookalikes. The art of swordplay, of course, being a skill he first learned way back when he dubbed his faithful police box ''old girl'' & had indeed travelled with a young-looking old girl in both shapely forms of Romana. Here, though, he's companionless- making this and The Beast Of Babylon the only stories in which his Ninth incarnation travels minus Rose Tyler, crab-like Karkinian Ali filling in during Charlie Higson's contribution to 12 Doctors, 12 Stories before she inspires him to return to Rose having departed for a few seconds at the end of the story which bears her name, believing her to have chosen work, food & sleep over all of time & space.



Now then, back to that swordplay. Not until The Masque Of Mandragora would he get chance to show off what he'd learned from a guard to possibly the most famous Queen of Egypt.
"You know, the finest swordsman I ever saw was a captain in Cleopatra's bodyguard. He showed me a few points. That's it."
Those lessons would come in handy a full six selves later in his re-acquaintance with the warlike sons of Sontar, as told to young Sally.


Of course, in Blink she's all grown up and played by Carey Mulligan. But the basic plot devices remain the same - the messages in the wallpaper survive intact, with the video swapped for a DVD.
DOCTOR: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
SALLY: Started well, that sentence.
DOCTOR: It got away from me, yeah.
SALLY: Okay, that was weird. Like you can hear me.
DOCTOR: Well, I can hear you.



Sally will prove invaluable to the Doctor, having knowledge of his future.
SALLY: Okay, listen. One day you're going to get stuck in 1969. Make sure you've got this with you. You're going to need it.
MARTHA: Doctor!
DOCTOR: Yeah, listen, listen, got to dash. Things happening. Well, four things. Well, four things and a lizard.
SALLY: Okay. No worries. On you go. See you around some day.
DOCTOR: What was your name?
SALLY: Sally Sparrow.
DOCTOR: Good to meet you, Sally Sparrow.
So Nine became Ten as the short story made its way to screen, and, perhaps inspired by the success of Blink, Ten became Eleven for a small screen adaptation of another comic outing. That, of course, was The Lodger, which in its original format, as part of DWM 368, had Mickey Smith taking on a new flatmate post The Christmas Invasion!


One of the Eleventh's earliest exchanges with Mickey substitute Craig Owens shows the lengths to which both Doctors would go to to seem normal. A little kitchen wizardry never hurt anyone.
CRAIG: Yeah, this is Mark's old room. He owns the place. Moved out about a month ago. This uncle he'd never even heard of died and left a load of money in the will.
DOCTOR: How very convenient. This'll do just right. In fact.No time to lose. I'll take it. Ah you'll want to see my credentials. There. National Insurance number. NHS number. References.
CRAIG: Is that a reference from the Archbishop of Canterbury?
DOCTOR: I'm his special favourite. Are you hungry? I'm hungry.
CRAIG: I haven't got anything in.
DOCTOR: You've got everything I need for an omelette fines herbes, pour deux.
Both also show an aptitude for football, though where the Tenth appears knowledgeable about the beautiful game the man he becomes evidently hasn't a clue. Matt Smith has, though, having had spells in the youth teams at Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City before injury forced him to give up on initial aspirations to make it as a professional. Footy's loss was Doctor Who's gain, at least.


DOCTOR: Bow ties are cool. Come on, Amy, I'm a normal bloke. Tell me what normal blokes do.
AMY : They watch telly, they play football. They go down the pub.
And of course the chance to get Smith back out onto the field of play proved too good for writer Gareth Roberts to resist, as he adapted his own original source material as part of a one-man drive to normalise the Doctor.

Ah, the wonderful world of comics. As big a part of Doctor Who now as ever before thanks in large part to the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. Back in 2005, the Ninth Doctor's first appearance in comic form was in DWM with another Roberts credit (shared with Clayton Hickman) - that would be The Love Invasion. Roberts also later adapted elements of his second and final Ninth Doctor comic, A Groatsworth Of Wit, into The Shakespeare Code, and he's a handy link back, in a sense, to our original Sally Sparrow short story, as you might not know but it was Roberts who gave us Strax in the first place. Steven Moffat based the character on a disgraced Sontaran called Skrom from an unused Series 5 script by Roberts tentatively titled Death to the Doctor.

Sontar-ha!

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