You will not believe the day I have had.
Part 1 of 6
On Wednesday 18th July 1888, just off Beachy Head, the steamship Elysium sank.
It’s one of merchant shipping's biggest disasters, which is how today - 124 years later on 6th July 2012 - I found myself outside an exhibition all about it in Ipswich, sensitively entitled The Crash Of The Elysium. I'm not that into maritime, but I always like to broaden my horizons, a bit like the SS Elysium herself.
There was even the standard-issue gentleman there to talk to us through a slideshow about it all, albeit one which was slightly at loggerheads with one of the plaques, but I digress. (July is not usually celebrated in autumn in this hemisphere, so I will politely assume that he was from the equator)
Anyway, pretty standard local history stuff, until some members of Her Majesty's armed forces came in to curtail his presentation and lead him away.
Ooh, that sentence doesn’t look like it belonged there, so I guess it can't have actually happened then. But, wait, yes it did. I was there. I saw it. It happened right in front of me. Curse you museums for your double-minded discouragement of the use of cameras. Who's gonna remember YOU in the future, huh? HUH???
So I snuck a peek through the window into the adjoining room where the fellow had just been taken. I couldn't make out what was being said, but he looked absolutely dishevelled. Perhaps the shouty army guy was suggesting that his assertion about July being in autumn might confuse countries coming over for the forthcoming Olympics?
But then, as I and the other members of the public milled around the room wondering what to do now, the army turned their focus off of him and onto us.
Said soldiers explained to those of us dumbly looking on that they had just had to interrupt his presentation, because there was a really big national security matter going on, and now we were all going to be evacuated.
Evacuated? More like drilled. Yes, they actually did the Tour Of Duty thing and yelled at us all to "Go! Go! Go!"
If this attitude was supposed to elicit respect from us, it wasn't working.
Still, with Shouty leading us, we forgot our Britishness and duly hurried, single-file of course, out of the building's back door. Museum-guy got led out the front way. I hope they weren't planning to get any information out of him.
Up the stairs, round a corner, down a corridor, through the fire exit, outdoors into the hazy sunshine… given that I had never been to Ipswich before, whatever few bearings I had acquired back on the high street were lost immediately. Apart from anything else, out the back of the museum, there was now a small army camp set up, or being set up.
There were tents. I caught snatches of conversation from passer-by soldiers. There was even a metal hut. This we were all lined-up outside, which seemed a bit of a flourish, given how seconds later they bundled us all inside it.
And then we were given two minutes in which to put on the decontamination suits.
No word of explanation, nothing.
"First one dressed gets a gold star, last one dressed gets a hundred press-ups." WHAT? "I'm only kidding." Whew! "Ten press-ups."
As you can tell, Shouty obviously had a second job as a stand up comic. Further one-liners of his included:
Lady: "Do we have to do them up?"
Shouty: "No, don't worry about that. It's a precaution."
"Lot of space down here nobody is utilising. It's a free country I suppose."
Now all standing there in our white plastic body-length bio hazard outfits, we looked like a fancy dress party for people with no imagination. I even had a freakin' mask on over my nose and mouth.
Then they herded us into what they described as a "briefing room", although the sign on the door ominously read "quarantine area". Here, unexpectedly, events still insisted on becoming even more hypnagogic.
All over the walls were black-and-white photographs of the ground, bagged and tagged soil samples, and a large map of Ipswich. I squinted at the wall next to me. It had cross-sections of the human brain on it.
"Please soak up all of the intel that you can see," said a guy who wasn't Shouty.
Clearly the hazmat outfits were doing their job - already we had been mistaken for a group of other soldiers. Which was understandable, given how dumbly we were doing everything that they told us to. We didn't know what to do. They knew exactly what to do. So we did whatever they told us to. Very military - this is how wars get fought.
Then apparently realising his error, he instead ordered us to assemble ourselves into three lines. Which we did. Unquestioningly.
Their names, it transpired, were Capt. Solomon and Corp. Albright. (Shouty) We however didn't have names any more because being soldiers they found it easier to cope with numbers, and duly assigned us all them from 1 to 17. (I was 15, since you ask) It was starting to look as if we were being either conscripted as temps, or sent off to The Village.
Then they explained everything. They said there'd been a crash out the back of the museum. The vehicle was still here. They said they didn't know what was inside it, but they used the word "critical". I'm not familiar with military terminology, so I had to find it surreal when they also managed to describe it using the words "space" and "ship" close to each other.
Frankly, by this point my brain was starting to hear Doctor Who incidental music behind it all, more specifically the season 31 march with the flutey bit that they got rid of for 32. Their über-motivational speech helped.
"You are now going to face one of the most dangerous situations of your lives, and the fate of the planet depends on what you do next. Are you ready troops?"
"I said are you ready?"
"Then move out!"
"Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!"
With Solomon taking point and Shouty as backstop, we were ordered to plunge out of the decontamination area and into a synthetic tube that was filled with a white gas. Between the white cloud, the white light, and the white of everyone in front and behind me's hazmat suits, I was completely dazzled. This total white-out was an environment like no other that I had ever found myself in. With no visible surroundings by which to orient myself, I found I had nothing but my own willpower to depend upon. Feeling like I was back at scout camp, I grimly focused, outstretched my hand, and blindly pushed on through the void, with no idea how far this tube went, or even what might be waiting for us at the other end.
In the event, we emerged inside a giant fully-enclosed tent, with the floorspace of about two houses. Parking bays were marked-out on the concrete underfoot. Umpteen other hazmatted soldiers were dotted around, some with equipment. A few computers had been set-up in the middle. And, oh yes, filling the centre, about the length of a long lorry, and surrounded by rubble, was indeed the side of a crashed spaceship.
By now they'd broken us up into three groups. Tech Team were assigned to search through the rubble for the spaceship's black box. Data Team had something scientific to do. We in Patrol Team had to check the perimeter for any breaches in security. This probably would have been easier if there had been a bit more light in the tent. Spiralling military budgets I suppose. We found nothing, which still bothers me.
Barely 30 seconds later, the black box had been found and we were all gathering around the screens to view it.
Well. You'll never guess whose improvising face swam into view on the flight recorder.
Yep, that's where the recording cut off. And yes, I do know what you're thinking. The spaceship had the same name as the steamboat that had sunk in 1888. What were the chances?
But there's more. The envelope containing the Doctor's will had somehow found its way outside the crashed ship and been salvaged. However before anyone could do anything with it, the hitherto dormant ship unexpectedly started powering up in front of us.
From my limited perspective, massive red light after massive red light was illuminating in sequence all along the side of the ship. The engines roared. Some of us backed away. Two of the soldiers memorably fled.
In danger? We were all just standing there, awestruck, watching the whole spectacle unfold right in front of us.
With a firework of sparks, a doorway into the ship was cut open, and we were being barked at to board through it. Yes, board. Worst. Plan. Ever. Sheesh, now the dark lights and compulsory conscription were starting to make sense. The military was short on funding, and we - by this point we had the official name 'Alpha Unit' - had been enlisted as canaries.
As Brits, we really should have politely declined.
Part 2 of 6
Despite all the lights coming on outside the ship, inside it was dark. Really dark. A deafening alarm was clanging. We flailed our way through plastic and dangling tubes to find our way down into a room full of glass tanks containing vegetation, lowly lit in green.
Solomon commanded three of us to look around for any signs of life. I felt impertinent reporting back. "There's lots of plant life." He repeated to me to look for life again. He obviously didn't share his colleague's sense of humour.
Data Team stabilised the oxygen levels, and we were told it was safe to remove our masks. I think I was the only person actually wearing it. I suppose we really ought to have been given gloves too, but then I guess we were expendable, and the budget for gloves wasn't.
Suddenly Tech Team had another video message from the Doctor up and running on a screen.
"Hallo. I'm the Doctor. And I'm dead. BOO! Hah! Oh! You should see the looks on your faces! SHE was like WHOAAAH and he was all BLEUGHH, and…"
I looked behind me at where he was pointing. There was indeed a girl standing there. But not quite in the right spot.
"No, I'm kidding, I can't really see you, this is a recording."
Promisingly, this time he had recorded this inside the stationary TARDIS. Less promisingly, he was asking us to find the wreckage of his TARDIS and destroy it to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. (or whatever appendages any hypothetical baddies might have) He even pointed out where the doomsday button was on the console for this purpose - right next to the other button of the same colour for putting the bubbles in the lemonade. I suppose if we picked the wrong one then at least we would have some nice lemonade to drink. Oh, and still be alive.
How he could have recorded a message inside the TARDIS, about how to destroy it, because he couldn't get to it, was a bit of a conundrum. This could have been an automatic message transmitted by the TARDIS in the event of his death, or maybe for his own reasons he had recorded it at a point in time after his and its eventual rescue. I'm with the latter theory. I don't think the TARDIS even has a doomsday button. This one'd be falling onto it five times a day.
More comprehensible news was that, thanks to the nearby TARDIS' translation field, we ought to be able to read any alien languages around us. Also, a copy of the TARDIS' key had been in the envelope with the will, and in an emergency like this one (presumably his anticipated death) would only work in the hands of a human child. At this, Solomon was very positive-minded, telling us, "You all seem like big kids to me."
Well, takes one to know one, soldier.
There was also half a photograph of a lady called Dolly, dated 1884. 'The first woman on the moon.'
Solomon asked us if we were clear and okay about destroying the TARDIS. A few people mumbled their consent. I kept my unease a secret. Shouty tried to as well. "Let's go, let's go, let's go," he muttered quietly in great disappointment as we moved on. I think I'm going to go back to calling him Albright again.
In retrospect, I think we both had the right idea though. Being Brits, we really should have politely declined.
As we pressed on deeper into the ship, I felt even uneasier when I heard the cloister bell start tolling (quonging) for about a minute. Oh, well, that happens for any old reason nowadays. Maybe the Elysium was a TARDIS too.
Albright's scanner registered a lifesign coming and going beyond a door. We went in. One of the soldiers removed a cloth sheet from a stone statue of an Angel.
Well, forget the firework display outside the ship moments earlier, we really couldn't take our eyes off of this.
Part 3 of 6
Fortunately Albright knew what a Weeping Angel was, so Solomon dutifully watched it for us as in seconds we all shuffled around it in front of him. Well, now we knew why the interior of the powered-up ship had all its lights off - the Angel didn't want to be seen, and I suppose had put the cloth over itself when we had approached with torches for the same reason.
This was all fine until, in the next corridor, Solomon took such an inordinately long time to catch up with us. I suppose we should have gone back for him.
Once he had caught up, we were all crouching in the darkness, with the door behind us safely shut. We heard the cloister bell have another go at quonging and stop again. We 'sounded-off' our numbers in ascending order by way of a role call, but only made it as far as three, following which there was a really spooky long silence. Grimly Albright radioed back to base.
"Alpha four is down."
Darn it, he was only a kid.
Something else was bugging me though. "Should we check the other numbers are here as well, in case anyone else is missing?" Thankfully, no one was, although the delay to check may not have been so smart, as upon finishing we heard the nearby TARDIS begin to dematerialise.
Albright meanwhile was still berating himself for the loss of number four. We all let him. I must admit I now regret not being there for the guy. It was all a bit like being in Alien except there was no Ripley. Perhaps the army should have accordingly sent along a kindly Medical Lieutenant to help its employees cope. Where was Albright's earlier sense of humour now. Perhaps I should now start calling him Alldull.
Alldull, two and nine checked out the flight deck, before reporting back that it was safe. Upon our entering it however, Control radioed through the warning that the apparently lifeless 'suits' were in fact the ship's automated defence system, attracted by light. Now just how did they know that?
In worse news, burn marks on the floor were concluded to indicate that this was where the TARDIS had been parked, until I had delayed everyone from entering the room by suggesting that we continue counting. Now who's berating himself? Well, hang on, now that I think about it, I suppose that maybe I had just saved the TARDIS, albeit from ourselves. Go me!
As we began to look for any clues that the Doctor might have left behind, I picked up a couple of circuit diagrams and examined them. Without the TARDIS present, all the 'alien' writing was revealed as being in English anyway! Result! Unless of course, again, we were also inside a TARDIS, or there was another one somewhere else around. Now that I think about it, I find myself wondering how I recognised whether technical gobbledegook was in English or not anyway. Same characters I suppose.
There was also a small wooden box with a round metal handle, which resembled an oversize padlock.
Alldull was beginning to cope with his guilt by spontaneously developing a sixth sense. In fact, from this point onwards, he and Solomon both seemed to be in something of a race. When one of our number discovered a box with an 'X' on it, they both chanted in unison at him "Open it now!!!"
After we had followed a whole set of clues that the Doctor had left for us to follow, Alldull read off a list of several colour-coded wires for Solomon to plug into the correct sockets, upon completion of which the latter declared to us "Alphas - well done!" I suppose the broader task had been a team effort.
Immediately (what appeared to be the middle of) a third video message was playing on the screen facing the chair that they told us was the driver's seat. Now the Doctor's image (again from inside the TARDIS) was filling us in that, whenever someone tried to break in, the TARDIS was programmed to perform an emergency time-jump thing to an old friend of his for safety. An option of the HADS I guess.
It therefore seemed as though the TARDIS had just dematerialised to escape from a threat that might still be in the room with us. However it also makes sense that an Angel would probably have tried to board the TARDIS before the spaceship Elysium's crash, equally prompting the same emergency dematerialisation. So, had the TARDIS in fact returned after the crash-landing, and then left again a moment ago?
Whichever, Alldull spotted that one of the gasmasked suits was now standing up behind us. He advanced towards it, and within half a minute they were again barking at us to "Go go go go go!"
We ran on deeper into the ship, or more likely closer to the other side of it. The end of the next corridor was blocked. Now it was Alldull seriously taking his time to catch up. I suppose we should have gone back for him too. Presently he too caught up, closing the door with himself on our side.
Not that it did any good.
It was very dark, so the Angel had overtaken the suit-zombie, in the process presumably either breaking its neck or sending it back in time depending upon what type of Angel it was. (Angels are much faster than suit-zombies y'know)
Not that it made much difference to us which one of them we were being stalked by. The flickering of the lights would enable either enemy to slowly advance upon us.
We were almost huddling against the bulkhead, but being British we were still avoiding touching each other. Good job they didn't ask us to hold hands and use the buddy system or anything.
The darkness itself seemed to be flashing. Lit by such strobing flares, the Angel got into the corridor. It appeared to glide towards us, advancing like a really old silent movie. We cowered. There was nowhere to escape through, and no way back around it.
The Angel bore down on us. We were all completely trapped. One of the girls from the museum grabbed my arm in fear. This time, as a Brit, I really should have politely declined.
Our wider female contingent began screaming, apparently in an attempt to harmonise with all the other deafening noise roaring through the walls at us.
And then… the return of pitch darkness and peace again, broken only by Alldull's pained voice urgently cutting through it with a disastrous admission.
"I think the Angel might have touched me Sir…"
He was really not having a good day.
Part 4 of 6
The bulkhead itself seemed to open and melt away, so we unquestioningly bundled through where it had been, and into… huh?
The ship had vanished. However instead of being back on the makeshift military camp, we were now surrounded by various misty fairground sideshows. In the distance, carnival music was playing. The soldiers' radio couldn't get a signal. Either this was the soldiers' very elaborate rec room, or… no!
A lass who one of our team thought was Dolly from the earlier photograph was walking up to us. She could have got out of the army on grounds of insanity, had 'Dolly' not answered Solomon's insightful question about today's date with 6th July 1888…
Yes, the Angel had transported us en masse back in time 124 years to the very day, and in so doing presumably harvested the rest of our lives. After all, that's what these Weeping Angel types do. Check your facts all over again, Dan Brown.
With the carnival-tent closed for the night, Dolly was dewey-eyed to see us. I can't recall now, but she probably had the other half of the photo. We all sat down on some hay-bales. With Alldull's help, Dolly took another photo of herself (with number four I think) that we'd already glimpsed of her back in the future on Mr Willard's screen in the museum.
She told us how, as a kid, she had first met the Doctor while metal men had been invading the city. Later, for her 21st birthday, the Doctor had taken her to the moon. She said the Doctor had asked her to look after the TARDIS if it ever came to her without him. This sounded positive. Although all we talked about was how to send the TARDIS forward to save the Doctor from the crashing spaceship, we had to somehow get back to the future ourselves too.
She told us that, as time-travellers, we were now charged up with artron energy, which I suppose was a synonym for chronon energy. She lead us in charging up the TARDIS key with it. So far so good. However THEN she said we had five minutes in which to enter it into the TARDIS' lock over in the nearby Cabinet Of Curiosities attraction, after which the charge would fade. (I really think we should have located the TARDIS first, but hey, like I was being any use here)
Sadly, in the five minutes that we got to spend with her, no-one in our group - not even the insightful Solomon or Albright - thought to ask her to get a message to the crew of the steamship Elysium to warn them of their impending deaths in a force 12 storm in 12 days' time on July 18th 1888. (source: plaque number one at the museum)
Frankly, I blame Mr Willard for
a) fudging when the crash had taken place,
b) suggesting that the photo of Dolly with one of our number had been taken contemporaneously with the fairground's pitching near the ship's wreckage after her crash (which was impossible whichever crash-date was correct), and
c) not coming with us. (he should have rendered the soldiers unconscious with another delivery of his speech or something)
In fact, for a raft of subtle reasons, I'm tempted to accuse Willard of being a fraud. Had we asked him any questions, I really think he would have just stood there and made something up. That said, the fact remains that I did not weigh his historical statements against more primary nineteenth century evidence while I had the opportunity to. Had the steamship that he was talking about ever even really existed? Hrrm.
Still, hypothetically, assuming that the SS Elysium was going to sink in 12 days' time in 1888, then IF we had found a way to avert this, then I suppose it might have taken another 12 days for the crash's consequent museum in our present to accordingly disappear. I'm just sayin'.
However if I'm honest then I'm shifting the blame here. I am much more responsible for this potentially deadly oversight. But the stress-break to sit down and listen to Dolly natter on for a few minutes had clean taken all the adrenaline out of my system. I was tired. I was sweating. That blasted cloister bell was still quonging in my ears. I couldn't concentrate. Dear God please don't let those crewmen's deaths prey on my conscience every night until I join them.
But enough of what we didn't achieve in the nineteenth century...
With Dolly having rather unhelpfully hung back, our unit now stood surrounded by a large circle of red curtains, with about twelve signs dotted high around the circumference like the numbers on a giant clock. These signs read things like 'The Sprite's Chamber', 'The Dog Faced Man', and 'The Lost Temple Of Nostromo'.
I had no idea what they were or meant. Perhaps I should have invested some of our five minutes in investigating further, but with Solomon and Albright there, there just wasn't much opportunity. We really should have torn around all over the place like children.
Perhaps the curtains hid other works of art sent back by the Angels in the future, or suit-zombies, but we'll never know now. The soldiers' scanner took us straight to the curtain with the TARDIS behind it, with barely a sentence wasted. Good thing too. Surely only Dolly could have found it quicker.
The key was put in the lock, and thanks to the artron energy, it duly dematerialised. I've no idea what attraction Dolly normally keeps behind the 'Box Of Delights' curtain, but I'd like to think that it's the ten-year-old John Masefield reading a book.
So, our only means of escape from the year 1888, other than taking the slow way round, had just gone.
We accepted this disastrous development remarkably well.
Part 5 of 6
Suddenly radio communications with base were working again, unless you count the Doctor's voice sneakily cutting in over them to thank us all for returning the TARDIS to him and saving his life!
Where the TARDIS had just dematerialised, it had somehow left behind a vortex manipulator, a fez and a written note from the Doctor with instructions on how to get home via the nearest time rift. I'm not sure how he had set up the TARDIS to leave those things there at a point in his life before we had saved him.
Another lone nasty had snuck up behind us to stand menacingly looking at us. None of us could work out what it was doing in this time zone. It was either an Angel or a suit-zombie, I can't even remember which. It was just time to run, well, hurry away again. Whichever it was, there wasn't much chance of it catching us.
We headed as quickly as was practical through the mirror maze, briefly passing an Angel trapped looking at its own reflection. How had that got back here to 1888? Had it met another Angel and thoughtlessly gone and shaken hands? Had it threatened the TARDIS on the spaceship Elysium and come back with it clinging onto the outside? Anyway, good luck Dolly when it gets dark, which since they were closed for the night ought to have been very soon after we passed it.
Safely arriving non-stop at the other end with no-one getting snatched at the back or stopping for any other reason, Solomon and Albright kept their sanity to make further leaps of deduction to confirm that we were now once more back in the year 2012, and inside the spaceship Elysium's warp core. (maybe the Angel in the mirror maze had simply been walking in the opposite direction) Unfortunately the monitors, rather than showing us another message from the Doctor as usual ( :( ), were instead displaying more Angels just outside the door. ( :(( )
One of the group (number two I think) dared to recall that we shouldn't look at them because an image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel. This has always struck me as double-think, so I ignored her and looked straight at them.
The soldiers' babbled plan was to power up the warp core and suck the Angels into the walls. Hm, an intriguing plan Sir, with just two minor drawbacks - one, the ignition wasn't on, and two, we didn't have enough power anyway.
Well, not unless you counted Alpha Unit's second dose of residual artron energy! (we had just travelled in time again)
One last push. Joining hands around and against the massive stone column that was the core, we began to concentrate as we had done moments earlier with the TARDIS key. The engines roared. The enormous heavy stone column shook about under our hands like it was in an earthquake. Was this really going to work? If only we had found some kind of instructions to follow, instead of relying on what seemed to be a guess.
Perhaps we should not have doubted. For at that moment I think our younger selves were outside the ship, watching it mysteriously powering up, and backing away in wonder. Yes, I think we had taken a left turn in time too many, and arrived back in the present twenty minutes too early. (a fitting conclusion to such a counter-clockwise hour) If only we had practised some method of focusing our swift hurry back through the time rift.
Then suddenly, there was silence, and a calm computer voice.
"+++CHRISTOPHY WARP DRIVE ACTIVATED+++"
There was cheering, clapping, and jubilation! And saluting! Captain Solomon was no longer such a solemn man. Albright was all bright again! They told us that the world would never ever know what we had done in saving it, and I didn't burst their bubble by pointing out that I wasn't sure either.
I reckon we should have ended on a song, but she would probably have just told us not to give away any spoilers. Spoilspoilsport.
We bade Solomon and Albright farewell, each headed through the now open door, and down a corridor lined with fragments of Angels melded into the walls. We were still being careful not to get touched by any of them, although they don't seem to be a danger while you can see them.
In a moment that somehow summed up the day, it was one final task for which we each had to depend upon our own determination.
Part 6 of 6
We emerged back onto what still appeared to be a military base outside, and de-hazmatted ourselves in a similar metal hut to the earlier one where some of us had left belongings. From my perspective, 53 minutes had passed since we had entered the museum.
As we removed our uniforms, one of the staff asked "Does anyone have the letters from the Doctor?"
Yes, The Doctor had typed each one of us a letter to thank us for our help… including me!
These hadn't been left by the departing TARDIS from 1888, so I can only stab at quite where and when they had been happened upon. I'm guessing that the Doctor had left them for us to find in the warp core room.
As I headed away from the military encampment into Ipswich's silent back streets, I had absolutely no idea how to get back to the museum to check if Mr Willard was okay or facing a military court martial. But now I also had a significantly earlier train to catch home than the one I had been expecting to.
The sun above me was shining again, and with the events of the past hour echoing in my head, I opened the unique envelope which the Doctor had written my own name on…
(Of course, after posting this, I learnt that we do have a shrubbery after all. Who knew.)
We never found out what had happened to the steamship Elysium. Or why she had borne the same name as the spaceship. Or whether our visiting the carnival shortly before/after the ship had sunk was a coincidence, although I believe the Doctor lied to us about destroying the TARDIS and planned for us to get sent back in time by the Angel.
Had pirates boarded the steamship Elysium and accidentally released a cargo of Angels, who had then built the spaceship Elysium from the wreckage and other freight? And as for Willard's talk contradicting his own exhibits... was that the Doctor's doing too? Had he set events up in each of our lives to draw each one of us here this day? If Willard wasn't genuine, then was the entire exhibition similarly false, perhaps just to get us there to save him and the whole of planet Earth from yet another contingent of Weeping Angels? Did the steamship Elysium ever really exist? Is this a good time to mention that my ticket to the museum had been another of THIS year's birthday presents?
I shudder to think what he meant in the letter about NEXT year's birthday being "amazing"...
Basically I still had this deep, nagging feeling that there was a great deal we simply missed out on here. And the more I realised we had missed, the more it felt like we had failed.
Perhaps if I quickly review it all again a second time, only this time from what I perceive might have been the TARDIS' point of view...
1. On the crashing spaceship Elysium, the Doctor is separated from the TARDIS, and records a mayday message on the ship's black box flight recorder.
2. A Weeping Angel tries to enter the TARDIS, causing it to dematerialise for the safety of Dolly in 1888, taking the Angel with it.
3. In 1888, the Angel leaves the TARDIS, enters the mirror maze, and becomes trapped looking at its own reflection.
4. We arrive in 1888, meet Dolly, and send the TARDIS forward to the Doctor by putting the artron-powered key in its lock.
5. On the Elysium, the Doctor sees the TARDIS arrive from 1888.
6. Taking the black box with him, he uses the TARDIS' fast-return to travel back to 1888, arriving after we have left, and hopefully dealing with the Angel by the mirror and any other potential nasties.
7. He meets Dolly for the first time (too much of a coincidence otherwise), and is told by her about us, including Solomon and Albright, each of whom he will probably never meet.
8. He goes back in time four further years and takes Dolly to the moon for her 21st birthday, having their photo taken, and putting half of it in his wallet. He asks her to look after the TARDIS for him when it will one day return to her without him, and he educates her about Artron energy.
9. He goes back in time again to when Dolly was a kid and makes all the metal men run away from him and the city. (she was too young for it to have been The Next Doctor) I guess the metal men all settled on the coast.
10. He travels to the recent present and fabricates the museum, including the steamship Elysium, which River probably helped with, being an archaeologist. He gets his friend Mr Willard to front it, without briefing him AT ALL. He gets a list of all our names from registration.
11. Using his UNIT credentials, he briefs the military about the suit-zombies, and convinces them to conscript the people on the list.
12. He plants his wallet in the rubble outside the crashed spaceship Elysium, together with the black box flight recorder. He might even don a hazmat suit to do this without getting noticed, and may even walk past us.
13. He returns to the nearby TARDIS, uses the list the write us each a thank you letter (presumably including Solomon and Albright), and records his second and third video messages. This includes lying to us to destroy the TARDIS, so that if someone bad gets the message by mistake, they will still unwittingly put the key in the TARDIS' lock and it will leave again. He also plans for us to get sent back to 1888 by the Angel, to fulfil Dolly's testimony that we had come from the future. While he prepares these, the TARDIS' proximity outside the Elysium enables its translation-field to keep the circuit diagram inside appearing in English.
14. He hops back in time in the TARDIS to land inside the spaceship Elysium, after it has crashed, but before we have boarded it, and parks it in the drive room.
15. He leaves the second video message in the room with the plants.
16. He leaves the thank you letters in the warp core room. (yeesh, we might have seen him)
17. He sets up the clues and third video message in the drive room, while encountering an Angel and staring at it, keeping the Angel more or less in its statue form. This first protects it from getting sucked into the walls with the others, and then causes Albright's scanner on the other side of the door to register the Angel's lifesigns only intermittently. The cloister bell is caused to ring first by the Angel's proximity to the TARDIS, and then second by a suit-zombie.
18. He departs in the TARDIS, which we overhear.
19. In the TARDIS, he sits back to enjoy a jammy dodger and a milkshake, telling himself out loud that they are cool.
I've no idea when he sets up the fez, vortex manipulator, letter and radio message in 1888 (anytime), but I'd like the think that he did them last. We just didn't see or hear him again after that. (yet)
As for at what point in his life all this had taken place for him, well he never said. For example, maybe it was while he was looking for River between A Good Man Goes To War and Let's Kill Hitler. Or perhaps while time was so muddled just before The Wedding Of River Song. I'll have to think about where to put it in my Index. Sheesh, this must be what River has to go through...
Which is all why I've written this post, to sort out a version of it all in my head that works. It may not be the way it all actually played out, but I need a version of my life that makes sense, if only to me.
Overall, an awesome day, though if I could do it again, I know I'd do it all differently.
For a start, I think I'd have to take a deep breath, deny my introversion, and ask more questions.
A lot more questions.