My man Jeeves has what some clever blighter once referred to as hidden depths; in fact, he’s so deep he crushes submarines and is inhabited only by those odd-looking fish with the big teeth and the googly eyes. What with me coming through my last regeneration with the old bonce a bit addled, I don’t know what I’d do without him. Meet a sticky end on some benighted planet in the back of beyond somewhere, I shouldn’t wonder.
It began, as many of my hairy escapades do, in the old TARDIS console room. Jeeves was just setting the controls for our latest jaunt across the jolly old cosmos; he’s rather good at that sort of thing; I put it down to his overdeveloped cranium and regular consumption of fish, although he insists he doesn’t touch the stuff. A likely story. I was contenting myself with deciding what I was going to wear for the Lady Romana’s soiree, which was, dear reader, the destination for which we were at that moment destined.
“So, Jeeves,” says I, “what do you think; the white dinner jacket or the black one?”
“I trust sir is having an hilarious joke at my expense,” Jeeves replied, wrinkling up his nose as if I’d just asked him whether I should have a puppy or a baby for breakfast.
“I was leaning towards the white,” I said, and he wrinkled his nose some more, something like the time I’d had the temerity to grow that ‘tache without asking his permission first.
“I was not aware that the Lady Romana’s gathering was in fact a fancy dress masquerade, sir,” he answered. “I take it that you are planning to accoutre yourself as a big band leader, or perhaps a foreign gigolo of low character and morals; a most amusing choice of disguise, if I may make so bold, sir.” I gave him a bit of a frown back; bally genius he may be, but he’s a frightful bore when it comes to gentlemen’s outfitting. Still, the cleverest chap you’re going to meet out in the great beyond; there wouldn’t be a Lady Romana to throw soirees at all if he hadn’t noticed that old ring she used to wear when she was pretending to be human was some sort of Chameleon Arch thingamajig; staring me in the face for about a year and I never cottoned on; the man’s a dashed marvel.
Before we could continue our riveting debate on the subject of men’s fashions, the TARDIS gave a bit of a bump. Now, I wouldn’t trade the old girl for all the tea in China, but she’s a cantankerous sort of machine once in a while; a bit like that motor car old Gussie Fink-Nottle bought off that Irishman, but with somewhat better suspension.
“What the deuce was that?” I wondered aloud, picking myself up from the floor. Old Jeeves has what you might call cat-like reflexes; he had not only stayed on his feet, but was already examining the console for some clue as to what the blazes was going on.
“It appears that we have blundered into the catchment cone of some sort of primitive time corridor, sir,” he diagnosed. “A most unfortunate eventuality, resulting in us now being several parsecs off our original course. We seem to have landed on a rather obscure planetoid on the outer fringe of the Hesperus Cluster.”
“Well, that’s dashed inconvenient Jeeves,” I said, brushing myself off and straightening my tie. “I told Romana I was going to be there in time for aperitifs.”
“Indeed so, sir; and I perceive from the somewhat alarming readings we are receiving that the planetoid itself is some four standard hours away from exploding in a most violent and destructive manner.”
“So, it’s a trap?” I surmised, because I’m not always slow on the uptake, whatever impression I might give in these writings of mine; and it’s not as if anybody is quick on the uptake compared to Jeeves. “Time corridor to reel us in, and a bally great bomb waiting at the end of it.”
“That does seem to be an accurate assessment of the situation in which we find ourselves, sir.”
“The fiends, whoever they are.”
“I am afraid that the distinctive emission signature of the time corridor generator strongly suggests Dalek technology, sir.”
“Daleks?” I furrowed my forehead as I searched the old memory banks for some indication of who they might be; I had a nasty suspicion that I might not want to find out. The last regeneration I went through was a fairly rough one, as these things go, and left my brain as full of holes as a Swiss cheese going over the top on the first day of the Somme. Jeeves, for instance, insists that some of my memories aren’t even real, but rather things I’ve picked up from a series of humorous novels written on Earth in the twentieth century. Genius, mind you, but he does talk some appalling rot sometimes. Still, the name did ring a bell: "Jeeves, these Dalek coves, are they the ones who do nothing apart from travelling around the universe imparting in other poor blighters' shell-likes the information that they would dearly love nothing better than to exterminate them?" Jeeves gave a grim sort of nod of confirmation; then again, everything he did was sort of grim:
"I am led to believe, sir, that it is their primary, indeed some would say their only, activity in life. Truly, theirs must be a most empty and unfulfilling existence, sir." I knew what Jeeves’s idea of a fulfilling pastime was; reading those clever books of his, Dostoyevsky and the Great Russians. Sounds like a music hall act to me; give me a copy of the Racing Post and a good gin and tonic any day of the week.
"Well, it's a rum do, Jeeves, and no mistake,” I told him, feeling a little put out at this turn of events; Romana’s parties were always a jolly sort of wheeze, and Brax and Monsieur Le Maitre and some of the other survivors from the old alma mater were going to be there. No doubt, there’d be some thigh-slapping misunderstanding involving someone getting engaged to some horrifying harpy, and Jeeves would have to sort it all out for us. Instead, here was me, stuck to a planet that was about to explode, in the absolute armpit of the galaxy. I was starting to lose my innate good humour, I can tell you. “In fact,” I informed Jeeves, “never in all my puff have I heard of such frightful blackguardry. What have I ever done to these Dalek swine for them to arrange something like this?”
“I’m not sure that the Daleks need much motivation to engage in what you refer to as blackguardry, sir,” Jeeves replied. “It is as natural to them as drinking pink gin and becoming involved in complicated yet amusing social awkwardnesses is to the members of your own imaginary circle.” He gave what might be referred to as a discreet sort of cough: “There is, however, the small matter of the time you engineered the total destruction of their home planet, the repeated occasions upon which you have brought about the death of their creator and supreme leader, and the numerous smaller instances in which you have foiled their persistent, and at times ill-advised, attempts to impose their control upon the universe and its inhabitants.”
“So, what you’re saying, Jeeves,” says I, “is that Daleks don’t believe in letting bygones be bygones.”
“Indeed not, sir; the concept of forgiveness is as alien to them as are those of mercy, tolerance and light comic opera.”
“So Jeeves,” I said, thinking that now was the time to get down to business instead of standing around discussing how perfectly frightful these Dalek rotters were; “what are you going to do — I mean, what are we going to do to get out of this bind we’re in?” If we shake a leg, I thought, we might still make it to Romana’s place in time for coffee.
“I am afraid that we will have to venture onto the planet’s surface, locate the time corridor generator and deactivate it in order to continue upon our previous course.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound too hectic,” I decided. “Shouldn’t be too hard to achieve, what?”
“Of course, sir, there will be Dalek warrior units guarding the generator, prepared to kill on sight anybody foolhardy enough to attempt such a deactivation.”
“Ah. Drat.” I thought on what Jeeves had just said; it may surprise you to learn this, but I am not a complete cloth-head, despite my outward persona of bemused bonhomie: “If there are Daleks on this planet too,” I pointed out, “won’t they, er, be blown to smithereens along with us?”
“A small price to pay,” Jeeves intimated, “from their morally bankrupt point of view, in order to assure the total destruction of their most feared and hated mortal enemy.” I suppose I should have taken that as a compliment; if you manage to become someone’s most feared and hated mortal enemy, I always say, you must be doing something right.
“Still,” I said, trying to be optimistic about the whole thing, “I can't imagine that their bark is as bad as it is cabbage-looking. I'd wager they're not as frightening as my Aunt Agatha; now there's a threat to the bally universe if ever there was one. The f of the s is deadlier than the jolly old m, as they say."
"Indeed so, sir,” Jeeves conceded. “I have the distinct impression, however, that your Aunt Agatha, were she in fact to exist, would not share the Daleks’ enthusiasm, nor, I might say, their peculiar accomplishment, in the fields of planetary genocide and wholesale species enslavement.”
“Well, that's their first clanger, isn't it, Jeeves?” I observed, chuckling a little at the idiocy of what were apparently my most mortal enemies, and ignoring the Aunt Agatha comment; Jeeves did have this bee in his bonnet about some of my old associates in fact being fictional characters I’d once read about. If that was the case, what was he doing here, then? “A chap can exterminate a species, or he can jolly well enslave it; one or the other, but not both." Jeeves just gave a little huff and another one of his grimaces, seemingly quite disgusted by the whole business of genocide and enslavement, planetary or otherwise:
"I fear sir, that the enslavement may serve as an unusually drawn out, and indeed cruel, method by which the aforementioned objective of extermination may be achieved."
“Crumbs,” I commented, thinking about that for a moment too long. “That is dashed nasty, now that you mention it. You know what, Jeeves? These Dalek bounders have
got to be stopped! I’d even go as far as to say stopped for good!”
“I could not agree with your conclusion more thoroughly sir.”
“First things first, though; let’s get off this rock and try and make it to Romana’s place before they all reel off into the night.” Even when confronted with unspeakable evil on a cosmological scale, it pays to get your priorities right, I always find.
So, to cut a long story short, I girded the old loins and we poked our heads out of the TARDIS doorway, peering about at our surroundings with even more trepidation than was usual on one of our deadly little daytrips. The surface of the planetoid seemed to be composed of spiky bare rock, shrouded in white mist. The sky was a murky shade of grey. So, a bit like Yorkshire, then; I was reminded of the time I went up to Tuppy Glossop’s place on the moors for a weekend’s shooting; I felt like Scott of the blinking Antarctic. It was actually a fair old hike towards what Jeeves said was this generator whatsit; luckily, we had fallen to earth not too far away from the gadget in question. I wouldn’t have been in quite so good a mood had it dumped us on the next continent along, for example.
We lay behind a pile of boulders, nervously looking at the object of our excursion; there were maybe half a dozen strange little machines gliding about the perimeter of the site; odd little gold pepperpot shapes covered in shiny bumps. These, Jeeves informed me, were the Daleks themselves; to be honest, I was somewhat underwhelmed by them. After all the talk of what evil, murderous swine they were, I’d assumed they’d be bright green and ten feet tall, all covered in, well, mandibles and proboscises and what have you. As it was, they looked about as threatening as your average lawnmower.
“Sir would be highly ill-advised to underestimate them,” Jeeves gently admonished me when I shared these cogent observations. “They have in fact engineered the deaths of trillions of sentient lifeforms in the course of their merciless rampage across the universe, and the destruction of entire stellar systems.”
“Cripes.” I scanned the scene in front of me. “Jeeves, I think I can see this generator thingamabob,” I said. “It’s that enormous silver dish thing on top of that incredibly high tower thing right in front of us, isn’t it?”
“A most perceptive observation, sir, if I may say so.”
“Righty ho then,” I mused aloud, scratching the old chin in the hope that that might make the mental gears grind a little more quickly, “what are we going to do about it?” Jeeves gave another of his discreet little coughs, a sure sign that a helpful pointer or three would be winging their way towards me in the not too distant future:
"Well, sir, it may be somewhat forward of me to make this suggestion, but might I recommend the sonic screwdriver? I took the liberty of placing it in your coat pocket before we left the TARDIS. I think you might find it most efficacious in resolving our present dire predicament, sir."
“You’re a bally marvel, Jeeves,” I told him, taking out the implement in question and switching it on. I looked at it for a moment or two in the hope that it might provide me with some inspiration. “So, what am I doing with this again?”
“Sir, if I may…” With his usual tact and dexterity, Jeeves leaned across and did something to the little row of buttons running along the length of the sonic whatjamacallit. The teeth-grinding buzzing noise it was making became immediately even more irritating. “Now, sir, might I suggest that you point it at the dish apparatus which currently lies directly in front of you?”
“Right you are, Jeeves!” Not the quickest on the uptake I, but I know better than not to follow my man Jeeve’s suggestions; almost as soon as I pointed the gizmo at the dish, it began to wobble and vibrate, cracking down the middle and then falling off the tower and sending the whole place up in a rather satisfying explosion. Now, that’s what I call adventuring through time and space. Of course, there were still the half-dozen or so, now extremely annoyed, Daleks that had been guarding the place and, let me tell you, Jeeves wasn’t kidding when he said they weren’t too hot on the old forgiving and forgetting:
“EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!” They somewhat reminded me of that old bore Spode and his dashed Black Shorts; they had the same cheerful, friendly manner and generally sunny disposition.
“Maybe you’d stand a better chance of exterminating me if you stopped bally well talking about it so much,” I scoffed to myself as I legged it back in the direction of the TARDIS. Evil and murderous the little blighters may have been, but they weren’t going to win any prizes for shooting; blue beams of light shone past me as I zigged and zagged a little on my way down the slope. The only thing worrying me was Jeeves; I’d thought he was right next to me when I’d taken off headlong away from the metal swine, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. I suppose I should have gone back to look for him, but there was the small matter of the Daleks trying to kill me and, in any case, I knew he could look after himself in a kerfuffle. He was Jeeves, after all.
“EX-TER-MIN-ATE!” They were persistent little beggars; you had to give them that. Reminded me of that story about the chap in the cave with the spider climbing up the side; Bruce Roberts, I think his name was. I ran into the TARDIS and slammed the doors behind me, panting like I’d just run a blinking marathon; which may have been because, as far as I was concerned, I actually had. All in all, though, I was feeling pleased as punch; it had been quite the exciting little spree, I told myself; a bit like swiping rozzers’ helmets after a night on the town. Then, I thought of Jeeves, and what you might call a pang of guilt went through me.
“I trust you managed to make your escape unscathed, sir?” he enquired, solicitously, from where he was standing on the other side of the console, not a crease in his pristine suit or a hair out of place; he certainly didn’t look like he’d just raced across a couple of miles of rocks and potholes with murderous mechanical blackguards hot on his heels.
“Well, since you asked, I’m in the jolly old pink,” I gasped, straightening my apparel and looking at the scanner, where the Daleks were practically hopping up and down with rage at my having escaped them; next time, chaps, I mentally sneered at them. “Did that do the job, Jeeves? Can we get on our merry way to Romana’s place?”
“Indeed we can sir; it was, if I may make merry for a moment, just what the Doctor ordered.” He seemed to be experiencing some sort of unpleasant muscular seizure about the mouth, which could be quite alarming if you hadn’t seen it before; I happened to know, however, that it was the nearest he ever came to a smile.
“One thing, while I think on,” I said, with what I like to think was a shrewd expression and an inquisitive gleam in my eye; “how in the name of Uncle Tom Cobleigh did you manage to get back to the TARDIS before me, without those metal mickeys doing for you?”
“Well sir,” says he, still doing the muscular seizure thing, but with a sort of mistiness in his eyes that could give a chap a lump in the old throat if he thought too hard about it, “as both the Lady Romana, and indeed myself, have endeavoured to explain to you on several occasions, that is because I do not, as it were, actually exist.”
“Oh yes, so you’ve told me,” I responded, not knowing whether to laugh or be concerned for the poor soul’s overdeveloped melon; having all those brains must put an awful strain on the compos mentis, is all I’m saying. “You’ll be telling me Aunt Agatha doesn’t exist again, in a minute; or Gussie or Tuppy.”
“As indeed they do not. I, as much as it pains me to admit it, am merely a mental projection; a personification, if you will, of those of your personality traits against which you seemed to rebel during your most recent regeneration. If the Lady Romana is correct, and she very often is, this should only be a temporary state of affairs; when your regeneration trauma eventually passes you should, as they say, regain control of your faculties, and then you will no longer have any need of me.”
“And what happens to you then?” I asked, as puzzled as I have ever been about anything, which is, where I’m concerned, really rather puzzled indeed.
“Well, then, sir, I suppose that I shall, like the old soldier, simply fade away. Which eventuality will not be a complete tragedy, as I do not really exist now.” I gave this a moment’s thought and decided that it really did not bear thinking about at all; where would I be without my man Jeeves? Ironing my own dashed shirts for one thing; I hastily changed the subject to something more palatable:
"Well, it’s been a pretty hairy day all round, Jeeves; remind me never to have anything to do with those horrible little Dalek rotters ever again."
"As you say, sir; I have in fact already adjusted the TARDIS coordinates to ensure that we will safely avoid the Daleks' known spheres of influence and areas of activity en route to the Lady Romana’s soiree."
"Oh, much obliged, Jeeves,” I said, brightening up a bit as the dark thoughts and forebodings I had been entertaining seemed to fade away again. “You know, I think I’ll have a small restorative after that. A martini, I think; stirred, with an olive, actually.”
“At once, sir; and can I recommend a twist of lemon peel; I find it adds a certain piquancy to the beverage in question.” Jeeves scuttled off in the direction of the drinks’ cabinet, more relaxed himself than he had seemed a moment ago; at least he’d stopped doing that disturbing misty-eyed business.
“And I think I'll wear the black dinner jacket tonight, after all," I said, because I thought he jolly well deserved it after this day’s work. Jeeves’s face went into that seizure thing again, but even worse than usual; that was almost a grin, by his standards.
"Very good, sir."