Fallacy Somewhere (Or: If You Can't Steal a Coat from Gilbert and Sullivan, Then From Which 19th Century Librettists and Composers Can You Steal a Coat?) by dbskyler
Summary: You know, I acquired that ulster from Gilbert and Sullivan. -- The First Doctor, "Edge of Destruction."
Rating: All Ages
Characters: Other Character(s), The Doctor (10th), The Doctor (1st), The Doctor (2nd), The Doctor (3rd), The Doctor (4th), The Doctor (5th), The Doctor (6th), The Doctor (7th), The Doctor (8th), The Doctor (9th), The Doctor (Other)
Genres: General, Humor
Chapter 1: Fallacy Somewhere
Chapter 2: Literary allusions and historical notes
Chapter 1: Fallacy Somewhere
Author's Notes: Written for a ficfest at the LJ community dw_historical. Prompt: How exactly did One end up with Gilbert and Sullivan's coat?
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction, offered freely. Doctor Who and all Doctor Who characters belong to the BBC, but Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas are in the public domain. Modified rapture!
You know, I acquired that ulster from Gilbert and Sullivan. -- The First Doctor, "Edge of Destruction."
1. Trial by Jury
It was a man's voice and it came from offstage. Gilbert turned his head sharply towards the unexpected sound. He did not appreciate anyone interrupting his dress rehearsal, especially people who had no right to be here.
"Basingstoke, Doctor?" another man's voice said next in a Scottish accent.
"Yes, Jamie. Basingstoke!" said the first voice.
Gilbert strode angrily in the direction of the unwelcome noise. He would give whoever it was a piece of his mind, and then some.
A small green animal with five legs and three heads came running past him and on to the stage.
Gilbert stopped. With a slow, careful swivel, he turned.
The three-headed, five-legged animal dashed in and around the members of the chorus, hopped over the actor playing the judge, bounced on three of the jurors' chairs then leapt to the floor again.
A short dark-haired man wearing a black coat and check trousers dashed out from the wings and started chasing the animal. He was closely followed by a second man wearing a kilt. The two chased the green multi-appendaged animal over and around the stage until finally the second man cornered it in, well, a corner.
"Good going, Jamie!" yelled the first man. Looking around quickly, he went to the chair where Gilbert had left his coat and grabbed it. He threw the coat over the animal and wrapped it up into a small and struggling bundle.
"Whew," said the second man. "That wasn't as easy as it looked, was it, Doctor?"
Gilbert felt he ought to do something to take control of the situation. Everyone was alternately staring at the two strangers and looking to him for leadership. Unfortunately events like this were rather outside of his experience.
The first man turned to him amiably. "Oh, hello again!" he said. "I'd love to stay and catch up, but I'm afraid I have a small matter to take care of." He shifted his grip on the struggling creature in his arms. "Good to see you, and thanks for the coat!" With a smile, he strode off the stage and into the wings.
The other man hurried after him. "Where was it again, Doctor? Cardiff?"
"All right. Basingstoke it is, then."
After another glance at his stunned cast, Gilbert followed them to the backstage area and was just in time to see them vanish into a strange blue structure with the words "Police Call Box" emblazoned across the top. A light on top began to flash, then with a loud groaning, wheezing sound, the structure disappeared.
He decided he was going to complain about this to Sullivan.
* * *
2. The Sorcerer
"My name is John Wellington Wells, I'm a dealer in magic and spells. . . "
The singer stopped. Sullivan tapped his baton against the side of the music stand. "Start again."
"My name is John Wellington Wells, I'm . . . "
Sullivan sighed and tapped his baton some more. "Again."
"My name . . . "
Sullivan began to feel that tapping his baton was only helping the situation to a very limited extent. Smoke was now drifting into the rehearsal room from outside.
The singer looked at him apologetically. "I'm sorry, but . . ."
"All right, I'll go find out what's going on. Meanwhile, look over the libretto again -- you have the melody down, but the words need to be in the right order."
Sullivan went outside. There was no one there, but he did see a blue box with the word "Police" across the top.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
From around the corner came an oddly dressed man wearing a hat and clutching an umbrella. He was followed by a young girl who was even more oddly dressed.
The man looked wildly around, saw him and smiled. "Oh, it's you, perfect! Listen, I need your coat. Give it here, quick."
Sullivan stared at the stranger and tried to think of the proper thing to say to a person who appeared from around a corner and then inexplicably asked for one's coat. "What?" he said.
"No time to explain! Hurry!" The stranger snapped his fingers.
Sullivan removed his coat and handed it over. The man grabbed it and disappeared around the corner again.
The man came back, dusting his hands. Little bits of coat were on his hat and shoulders.
The girl gave him an amused look. "I thought you said you'd never stoop to using Nitro-9, Professor!"
The stranger looked a little guilty. "I said never?"
The two stood in front of the blue box. "Well, hardly ever. Get in, Ace."
The stranger turned to Sullivan. "Thanks as always. And by the way, I loved 'Iolanthe,' beautiful music, well done."
With a tip of his hat, the stranger disappeared into the blue box. Which subsequently disappeared.
He was definitely going to complain about this to Gilbert.
* * *
3. H.M.S. Pinafore
Sullivan leaned back in the deck chair and took in the peaceful view of the ocean below. Somewhere below decks the cast was rehearsing in preparation for their arrival in New York and the first official American performance of their runaway hit show, "H.M.S. Pinafore." The fact that it would be far from the actual first performance of the show in America was galling, but at least they would stop the Americans from pirating their next show.
Sullivan patted the black bag containing all his notes for Act I of the new work. When it was finished it would premiere in New York, and this time their copyright would be protected.
He closed his eyes and listened to the soothing sounds: the slap of the water against the hull, the whipping of the flag in the wind, the wheezing and groaning of . . .
His eyes snapped open. The wheezing, groaning sound had stopped, but he remembered where he had heard it before.
He took off his coat and laid it over his bag for safekeeping.
A blue box appeared on the deck. The doors opened and a young blond-haired man stuck out his head, saw him and smiled.
"Oh, lovely! Fresh sea air and an old friend to boot."
The blond man strode out. He was wearing a futuristic-looking cricket outfit.
A young girl followed him. She seemed to be wearing several layers of hoop skirts all piled on top of one another, none of which managed to cover her legs. With the way her hair stuck out, there may have been an additional hoop hidden away in there as well. "It does seem nice," she said.
The man smiled at her then called towards the box, "Come on, Tegan! Nothing like an ocean voyage to reinvigorate the spirits, don't you think?"
"As a matter of fact, I don't think, Doctor," said the woman who emerged next. She was wearing pink. "The whole point of travel is to actually get somewhere, not muck around for weeks in between. Speaking of which, when are you going to fix the TARDIS?"
The man ignored her in a way that suggested he ignored her quite a lot. "Nyssa, come take a look at this view." He and the young girl went over to the railing and looked out. Then the man peered into the water and stiffened. "Oh, dear."
"What is it, Doctor?" asked the girl.
The man continued to look over the side. "Tegan, fetch me that coat, will you?"
"This one, Doctor?" asked the pink woman, picking up Sullivan's coat from on top of his bag.
Sullivan watched with horror as the man took the coat from the woman and threw it over the side. Sullivan darted to the railing and was just in time to watch his coat sink peacefully into the waves.
"Hmm," said the man. "Not good. Not good at all. Is there anything else organic we can throw in?" He looked around and spotted Sullivan's leather bag. "Nyssa, can you bring me that?"
Sullivan tried to protest, but he ended up watching helplessly as the man dropped the bag with all its precious contents into the water.
"There!" said the man with satisfaction, straightening up. "That did it." He turned and smiled genially at Sullivan. "No need to thank me, I'm just glad I happened to be here."
Sullivan finally found his voice. "Thank you?" he said. "Thank you? Do you realize what you've done? That was my coat! And that was my bag! And those were all my notes for Act I of the new show! What am I supposed to do now?"
"Act I of the new show? Really?" the man asked with interest. He peered back over the railing at the spot where the bag had sunk. "That's 'Pirates of Penzance,' isn't it?"
"Great, Doctor," said the woman. "If we've just destroyed Act I of 'Pirates of Penzance,' won't that cause a paradox?"
"Oh, I don't know," said the man. "Not all paradoxes are bad, you know. Some of them can be quite fun." He flashed a smile at Sullivan, then strode back to the blue box and opened its door, gesturing for his two companions to get in.
"But wait!" said Sullivan. "Before you disappear, just tell me one thing. Who are you?"
The man paused on the threshold, considering. "I am the very model of a Gallifreyan buccaneer — ow!" He rubbed his head at where someone had apparently whacked him from behind. "But I suppose it is time we were off. See you in future, and in past."
The door closed, but Sullivan could still hear voices over the sound the box made as it began to disappear.
"There was no need for that, Tegan!"
"And what do you do for an encore? Launch into 'A Policeman's Lot Is Not a Happy One'?"
"That's good, considering that we're in a police box . . ."
"Right. Haven't we caused enough paradoxes, Doctor?"
"I'm a Time Lord, I'm allowed to cause paradoxes."
"A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox . . . "
"Good one, Nyssa."
The voices and the box faded away.
Sullivan was absolutely going to complain about this to Gilbert.
* * *
4. The Pirates of Penzance
"You really ought to be more careful, Doctor," said Romana.
"Careful? I was perfectly careful. If anyone wasn't careful it was K-9. I really think you should have kept better watch on him."
"I should have kept better watch on him? Who insisted on bringing him to the worldwide premiere of 'Pirates of Penzance'?"
"Well, it's one of the most popular musicals in the galaxy, isn't it? And K-9 deserves to see it, doesn't he? After all, he doesn't get out as much as we do. How many times have we left him behind in the TARDIS just because the terrain's a little rocky, or we don't know what to do with him?"
"That's all very well, Doctor, but when you bring a 51st century robot dog to a 19th century theater . . . "
"Oh, they hardly noticed."
"I think W.S. Gilbert noticed when K-9 lasered his coat."
"That was just an accident."
"Exactly my point. You should have been more careful."
The Doctor sulked.
Romana sighed. "It was a lovely show," she offered.
The Doctor brightened again. "Yes, it was. I think 'Pirates of Penzance' is my favorite of the Gilbert and Sullivans. It definitely has the best patter song: 'This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn't generally heard and if it is it doesn't matter . . .'"
Romana looked at him with amusement. "That song isn't even in the show, Doctor."
"It's not?" he replied as they entered the TARDIS. "That's odd; I could have sworn it was."
* * *
"No, this won't do at all!" Gilbert complained as he held up the blue coat the costume designer was offering. "The character of Grosvenor is a member of the aesthetic movement, but he's also a parody. The costume should make it look like Grosvenor doesn't really know what he's doing. The more outrageous his coat, the better."
A blue box began to materialize in the room. The costume designer stared at it in shock. Gilbert merely sighed. He had become rather fond of his current coat.
A stocky, light-haired man came out. He was dressed in the most ridiculous crazy-colored-quilt of an outfit Gilbert had ever seen. Sensing an opportunity, Gilbert grabbed the blue costume from the designer and held it out.
"Trade?" he asked hopefully.
* * *
"Do you have any idea what just happened to me?" yelled Sullivan.
"No," said Gilbert. "Tell me."
"The blue box! That blue box I told you about before? It appeared again!"
"Really," said Gilbert.
"And do you know who came out of it?" asked Sullivan.
"Strangely dressed people, one of whom was called 'Doctor'?"
"Yes! Exactly! This time he was a white-haired man wearing a velvet coat and cape, and he was with a blond-haired woman who wore the most immodestly short skirt I've ever seen."
Gilbert thought about the skirt for a moment, then dragged his attention back to his upset colleague. "And let me guess. The Doctor did something to your coat?"
"He set it on fire!" yelled Sullivan. "He took out this weird device that made a humming sound, next thing I know I'm in flames! Fortunately the woman managed to get the coat off me before I got burned . . . but now it's nothing but ashes!"
Gilbert nodded sagely. "And did the Doctor give any explanation?"
"Something about reversing the polarity of the neutron flow . . . I didn't quite catch it."
"Hmm," said Gilbert, steepling his fingers. "Hmm."
"Well?" demanded Sullivan. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Look after my coat better than you looked after yours," said Gilbert as he walked away.
* * *
7. Princess Ida
Grace got to the TARDIS just slightly after the Doctor did, panting and out of breath from the run.
"Do you realize, Doctor, that this is the second New Year's in a row where I've been in danger of my life because of you?" she asked as he fumbled for his key.
"Is it really?" He paused, looking thoughtful. "Yes, I suppose it is."
"When you showed up on my doorstep and invited me for an evening at the theater -- on New Year's Eve, in Victorian London -- did you know that the second trombone player would turn out to be an alien?"
"No, of course not," he said, looking hurt. "I didn't know that until intermission. And I only knew then because of the way he dissolved Sullivan's coat. Acidic saliva, you see, and he really should have known better than to try to actually play."
"Well, I think I've had enough excitement on New Year's with you. Do you manage to ever celebrate any holidays without the mortal danger?"
He smiled and opened the TARDIS door for her. "How about next year we do Christmas?" he asked. "Nothing ever happens on Christmas."
* * *
8. The Mikado
"Explain to me what just happened?"
"Well, you remember Margaret the Slitheen?"
"Remember that teleport device she had?"
"Apparently Jack here found it and decided to play around even though he didn't know what he was doing."
"Now that's not fair, Doctor. I knew exactly what I was doing."
"Oh yeah? You tellin' me you meant to teleport half the clothes off all those people?"
"That's what I thought."
"I meant to teleport all the clothes off all those people."
"Now Rose, you have to admit it was funny. Did you see the look on Gilbert's face when his coat disappeared?"
"You're right, it was pretty funny."
"That's it. I can't take either of you anywhere."
"Oh, come on, Doctor. There are all sorts of historical figures I'd like to meet!"
"Jack, don't tell me you're plannin' on doing this again!"
"Are you kidding? I've got a little list."
* * *
"Oh, brilliant! It's snowing."
"Yeah, you would say that. Stick figure that you are, no fat whatsoever and yet somehow you seem to never feel the cold. Did you notice that it was a lot warmer five minutes ago?"
"Oh, that's just a side effect of us stopping the Earth from getting destroyed by aliens who once again based themselves in Central London. Good thing no one's ever thought of invading Manchester instead. Anyway, don't worry, the atmospheric cooling will dissipate soon."
"Great. But right now I'm freezing. Hey, Doctor, could you distract Gilbert and Sullivan over there?"
"I suppose so; why?"
"Because I'm going to go steal their coats."
"I mean it. It's a mile to the TARDIS, it's snowing, your coat wouldn't fit a rat and they'll be fine, they can just go back inside until it warms up again."
"But Donna, you can't steal coats from Gilbert and Sullivan!"
"Watch me, spaceman."
* * *
10. The Yeomen of the Guard
"Sorry, but I need your coat. The buttons on it are the perfect size to fit in the probic vent of these Sontarans."
* * *
11. The Gondoliers
"Oh, wonderful! A coat! Exactly what I need to throw over the eyestalk of the Dalek."
* * *
12. Utopia Limited
"See those Cybermen marching up the street? You know what would be the perfect thing to use to stop them? Your coat."
"How? How could my coat possibly stop them?"
"I'll explain later."
* * *
13. The Grand Duke
Gilbert and Sullivan stood outside the theater, both of them knowing that this show would probably be their last together. The silence stretched between them, but for once it was a companionable quiet, unstrained and agreeably peaceful.
It came as no surprise to either of them when the quiet was broken by a wheezing, groaning noise. The familiar blue box appeared right in front of them.
The door opened and an elderly white-haired man stepped out. He looked at them and clapped his hands in delight. "Ah! Exactly on target! Here you are, Susan. Sir W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, as promised."
The young girl who followed him out looked up at them both with shy nervousness. "It's very nice to meet you. I'm a big fan."
Gilbert and Sullivan looked at her and beyond her to the elderly man. In unison, and without a word, they took off their coats and handed them over. They then turned and headed back into the theater.
The Doctor stared after them, fingering the heavy wool of the Victorian ulsters they had been wearing. "What do you suppose they did that for, Susan? Is it some sort of human custom to give away one's coat?"
"I'm not sure, Grandfather," she said. "Maybe it's considered polite?"
"Maybe," said the Doctor. "Well, now that you've gotten to meet them, where would you like to go next?"
She looked up into his face, her eyes bright. "Can we go to see Janis Joplin?"
Back to index
Chapter 2: Literary allusions and historical notes
Author's Notes: This is not the story. The story is all in chapter 1. This is simply an explanation of all the G&S references for those of you who are interested.
The title is a reference to the G&S operetta Ruddigore. In that show, a good man is cursed to perform a bad deed every day or die in horrible agony at the hands of his ancestors' ghosts. When asked what bad deeds he has performed, the cursed man offers up some dubious examples, including disinheriting his nonexistent son. When questioned, he complains, "If I can't disinherit my own unborn son, whose unborn son can I disinherit?" The ghosts have trouble poking holes in his arguments, although one does note "Fallacy somewhere, I fancy!"
I began with Trial by Jury even though the first G&S collaboration was Thespis. But Thespis was rushed into production and doesn't exist anymore so it doesn't really count. And if you want to argue -- which I know you do, because G&S fans are even more argumentative than Doctor Who fans -- then I'll see your Thespis and raise you a Dimensions in Time. Ha! Beat that! And besides, if you discount Thespis then there are 13 G&S operettas, and in classic Who a Time Lord gets 12 regenerations which means 13 incarnations of the Doctor. Coincidence? I think not.
"Basingstoke" -- Another reference to Ruddigore. A mad character in that show asks her husband to help control her madness by saying "Basingstoke" to her, a word that "teems with hidden meaning."
"Cardiff" -- An in-joke for the Doctor Who fans.
"The words need to be in the right order" -- An in-joke for the G&S fans, especially the ones who have tried to memorize this song.
"Never / hardly ever" -- A reference to a song from the G&S operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. And now that song's in my head. "Give three cheers and one cheer more . . . "
"Complain about this to Gilbert / complain about this to Sullivan" — Despite their very successful collaborations, Gilbert and Sullivan were known for not getting along that well with each other.
The boat trip to New York to bring the first authorized production of H.M.S. Pinafore to the U.S. and premiere The Pirates of Penzance there in order to protect the copyright is a matter of historical fact. A further matter of historical fact is that upon arrival in New York, Sullivan wrote in a letter to his mother that he forgot to pack his notes for Act I of the new show and was thus forced to reconstruct it from memory. I offer here a different explanation for what happened to Act I.
"I am the very model of a Gallifreyan buccaneer" — A song from the Big Finish audio production "Doctor Who and the Pirates." The song is a parody of "I am the very model of a modern Major-General," which is from the G&S operetta The Pirates of Penzance.
"A policeman's lot is not a happy one" and "A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox" are references to two further songs from the G&S operetta The Pirates of Penzance.
"That song isn't even in the show" -- A particularly obscure G&S in-joke. When Joseph Papp did a revival of The Pirates of Penzance in the early 1980's (including a very successful Broadway run and an unsuccessful movie), he added in the song the Doctor references, which is actually from Ruddigore. There were several slight changes to the words to get the song to fit the different show, plus this new ending to one of the verses: "But at present I'm afraid I am as mad as any hatter so I'll sing a song from 'Ruddigore' it really doesn't matter."
"I've got a little list" -- A reference to a song from the G&S operetta The Mikado.
"Second trombone" -- Another reference to the G&S operetta The Mikado. In that show, the Mikado's son disguises himself as a second trombone player. When he confesses to his love that he is in fact no musician, she responds, "I was certain of it, directly I heard you play!"
And that's all my corroborative detail, intended to give an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Thanks for reading all the way to the end!
Back to index