The Doctor (Sacha Dhawan) and Mattie (Daisy Ridley) travel to 1790 Vienna to attend the premier of Mozart’s (Adam Gillen) latest opera- but discover sinister forces with their own designs on the composer…
Mozart is at his piano, still endlessly composing. He isn’t in great health, coughing and frail. His wife Constanze comes into his study, voicing fears that the treatments aren’t working, and wants him to bring back his family doctor- but Mozart is barely listening. Mozart’s cold servants, Rudolph and Maria, suddenly appear, bringing the treatments Doctor Schmidt has prescribed, and all but kick Constanze out of Wolfgang’s study. Mozart staggers into another coughing fit, takes another sip of the strange looking medicine, and doesn’t even notice his skin briefly glow and impossible shade of purple…
The Doctor comes up from the TARDIS’ swimming pool, drying his hair, to find Mattie in the console room listening to a classical concerto on a record player. He asks who it is and she says “Mozart”.
“Wanna go see him?” he replies.
“I said all of time and space, didn’t I?”
Cut to the Doctor and Mattie in period dress in a 1790 concert hall, watching Mozart conduct Magic Flute. They are mesmerised. At the end of the performance, as they get drinks, the Doctor remarks that he turned off the TARDIS’s translator circuits because of how operas translate badly through it, but turns it back on so that they can order drinks. Mattie finds she can barely walk in her Georgian court dress- the Doctor warned her, but she insisted on trying it out.
“Can we go meet Mozart?” Mattie asks. “All of time and space, you said.”
So off they go to Mozart’s house. At the front door, the Doctor presents his psychic paper to another manservant- the young and nervous Franz. He looks at it and exclaims “The Ambassador from the Shah of Persia?”
The Doctor, unimpressed, pauses and goes “sure.”
And they’re in. Mozart’s house appears full of life, with lots of domestic staff coming and going, something that surprises the Doctor. Mozart is of course thrilled to receive such an important visitor- even as most of his controlling staff seem furious at this unexpected guest- he hasn’t had guests in a while. Mattie is starstruck and they discuss his music and his tours, as he gives them a tour of his house; there is one ground floor that “Rudolph” is very insistent that the guests don’t go into, as it’s servants’ quarters. Mozart barely notices his staff’s strange, controlling behaviour. He makes scatological jokes and challenges Mattie to billiards. The Doctor noodles around on his piano and eventually comes out with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. “A cheap trick”, Mozart remarks. But Rudolph and Maria are keeping a very close eye on the guests. The sickly Mozart has another hacking cough and for a split second- his skin glows purple.
Before the Doctor and Mattie can react, Rudolph and Maria swoop in and all but kick the Doctor and Mattie out, claiming not to have seen the bizarre discoloration. An agitated Rudolph makes a veiled threat at the Doctor about what people would think if an Ambassador was seen to have gone mad. As they are ushered out, Mattie locks eyes with Franz, who stuffs a note into her coat as he gives it back to her as they’re kicked out.
“Good thing I’m not an ambassador,” the Doctor remarks as they share drinks in a Vienna coffee house. He and Mattie agree that something was supremely off about Mozart’s household. For one thing, Mattie remarks, from her memory of reading about Mozart he wasn’t that wealthy towards the end of his life- no way that he would be able to afford that many staff. She also remarks that Mozart died only months after the Magic Flute premier- the one they saw that very night- and that no-one knows his cause of death. She turns to the Doctor. As they get up to pay, Mattie discovers the note in her coat pocket- it reads “WHAT YOU SAW WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT HAS HAPPENED- FRANZ”
They look at each other. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Mattie asks.
“All of time and space,” the Doctor replies. They smile at each other, pay their bill and head back to Mozart’s house. They’re going to solve this mystery.
After dark, the Doctor breaks into Mozart’s house through the back with the help of his sonic- but they are quickly caught by Franz. “You’re not really an ambassador, are you?” he asks.
Franz explains that he’s worked for Mozart for a couple of years, but about six months ago Rudolph, Maria and the rest of the staff arrived- working for impossibly low wages, the only way the Mozarts could afford them. Shortly afterwards Wolfgang sacked his family doctor in favour of Doctor Schmidt, and has become increasingly sickly and isolated from even his close family and friends. But they are interrupted by Maria and the previously unseen Doctor Schmidt- and many of the other domestic staff.
“I think our jig is up,” Dr Schmidt says to Maria.
“Who are you?” the Doctor demands.
“I can be anyone you like,” Dr Schmidt responds, shapeshifting into Rudolph. Maria in turn shapeshifts into the form of George III of England. Around them, the staff all start shapeshifting into different people- different ages, races, genders, people from different periods of history- until eventually they all shapeshift into ten foot tall purple humanoids, impossibly muscled with great big claws.
“Those are Shanbenans,” the Doctor explains. They’re a race of wealthy, time-travelling shapeshifters- and that’s their natural form.
“You’ve seen them before?” asks Franz.
Yeah, the Doctor replies. Learned about them in school.
“They are common to Iran then?”
The Doctor ignores Franz’s question and demands to know what they’re doing here. “None of your business,” “Rudolph” replies, and the Shanbenans begin advancing on the Doctor, Mattie and Franz. The Doctor remarks in reassurance than Shanbena is a society dedicated to culture and great thinking, and has a very low crime rate. This does not stop “Maria” from picking Franz up in her claws and defenestrating him through a third-floor window. does. One of the Shabenans leans out the window, looks down at the ground, where an injured Franz is lying. She barks an order through an earpiece to transport him away. He begins to teleport, but then he screams and disintegrates into dust. Mattie starts running before the Doctor does.
The commotion has disturbed Mozart, still composing late into the night, and the Doctor and Mattie run into his study and attempt to barricade the door. He doesn’t understand why the Doctor and Mattie have returned to late at night, and barely registered they out of breath warnings that he is in grave danger. He is coughing and spluttering non-stop, he glows purple again. Mattie points it out and forces him to a mirror. He coughs again. The next time it happens, he notices. “What’s happening to me?” he says, horrified. The Doctor notices his medicine and takes a sniff- “this shouldn’t be available to humans for another 2000 years.” Then there is a knock on the door.
Ignoring the Doctor and Mattie’s pleas, Mozart answers it. It is Rudolph, Maria and the rest of the household staff, all now back in their human forms. One of them has even taken the form of Franz. They explain that the Doctor and Mattie are imposters and they’ve come to throw them out after they broke in. Before they can, the Doctor adjusts Mozart’s piano with his sonic and does a quick piano rendition of We Will Rock You. “Better than your last one,” Mozart remarks.
“Look!” says Mattie. The sonic-adjusted frequency of the piano temporarily disrupts the shapeshifting abilities of the Shanbenans, and Mozart is horrified to see his servants’ true forms. The slight, frail Mozart advances on the Shanbenans, demanding an explanation. The piano only disrupts their shapeshifting temporarily, and they quickly return to their human forms.
There’s no point keeping it up much longer, remarks “Maria”. She explains that they are Project Firebox- a group of cultured, time-travelling Shanbenans who’ve taken it upon themselves to “rescue” great cultural treasures from across time and space. They explain to Mozart that history records that he will be dead within a year, and that they wish to save him, to let him live and compose forever. His “medicine”, the one that appears to be making him sicker, is in fact slightly changing his biology to be more Shanbenan- the cumbersome transport technology the Shanbenans use to travel through time and space is fatal for humans to use- that’s what the Doctor and Mattie saw happen to Franz. The occasional skin issue is a harmless side effect. Mozart is initially very enthusiastic about this idea, and reprimands the Doctor for intervening. Then “Rudolph” details the plan even further.
He is to be taken back to Shabena to continue to compose forever, as a literal museum piece. This, Mozart protests. He would never leave Vienna or his wife Constanze- both vital to his work. Genius doesn’t happen in a vacuum, he explains.
You are wasted on these backward humans, “Maria” replies. Your planet is too backward to preserve you. They don’t have the medicine to keep you alive. You are wasted on humanity We can keep you and your genius in pristine condition forever.
But far away, the Doctor retorts. Where only you can see them. Because what, the people who made this culture don’t deserve to have it but you do?
Couldn’t have put it better myself, “Rudolph” says.
Mozart takes a stand- I’m not leaving Vienna.
Rudolph sighs. You don’t have much of a choice in the matter, he replies, as he and the rest of the staff revert to their natural forms and advance on our heroes.
Mozart leads the Doctor and Mattie outside of a side door to his study and they are chased by the Shabenans through the house. The commotion has now woken up Constanze- who is quickly overwhelmed by the sight of her husband and these two strangers being chased through their house by these monstrous beings.
What happened to the staff? She asks.
They’re chasing us, Mozart replies. You were right Constanze, they were too good to be true. He apologises to Constanze for his neglect of her, and blames his previous philandering on his mind being scrambled by the monsters having poisoned him.
It won’t have done that, the Doctor remarks to Mattie. The Shabenans wouldn’t give him anything that would disrupt the brain. That’s what they’re after.
The Doctor explains that he is trying to find the Shabenan transport room- their time travel technology is cumbersome and their equipment takes up a whole room. They come down the locked study and Mozart’s skin glows purple once again. The doctor sonics the lock, and they go inside the room- filled with advanced computers, beyond anything Wolfgang and Constanze can imagine. The Shabenans gather outside and demand to be let in. “Rudolph” says that they can activate the transport remotely, and kill everyone inside.
The Doctor, fiddling with the controls, pressing buttons, even at one point appearing to type up an email on one of the interfaces, stalls for time. He points out that the threat is a bluff, that they would never do anything to harm their precious Mozart.
Do you want to take that chance? “Rudolph” asks. The Doctor hemms and haws, and then flicks some switches to activate the transport, to the horror of Mattie, Constanze and Wolfgang and the protests of the Shabenans outside. Then it activates, and the occupants of the transport room find that they’re still there- but they can’t hear the Shabenans. They go outside to find them all gone.
The Doctor explains that like with Franz, the transport can teleport anything within roughly a mile radius of the transport equipment. So he reprogrammed it to transport the Shabenans back to their ship, currently resting in the asteroid belt. But not before sending the Shabenan authorities’ details of Project Firebox’s operation- changing time like they were trying to do is a very serious crime on Shabena.
It is dawn now. The four of them leave the house and walk through the Vienna streets as the city comes to life. Wolfgang and Constanze embrace. Wolfgang takes the Doctor aside. You’re a time traveller too, aren’t you, he asks. The Doctor doesn’t deny it. Mozart is thrilled that not one but two sets of time travellers would come to see him.
Were they lying about me dying soon? He asks. No, the Doctor says sadly. The skin discolouration goes away within hours of not ingesting the Shabenan drug, but he still dies in three month’s time, of unclear natural causes. Wolfgang is saddened but unsurprised. He has another coughing fit. His declining health had nothing to do with the Shabenan plot. He has never been in good health, he remarks, this was bound to happen sooner or later. He looks back sadly at Constanze. He’ll have to make the best of what he has left. They look up at the dawn sky and see a star. Mattie whistles “twinkle twinkle little star”.
Is that my most famous composition, in the future? Mozart says suspiciously.
Probably, Mattie admits.
I’m not surprised, Mozart says, laughing. They reach the TARDIS on a street corner and say their goodbyes.
Inside the TARDIS, Mattie wonders if the Shabenans ever targeted Louis Armstrong.
Only one way to find out, the Doctor says. He fires up the TARDIS, and it dematerialises from the Vienna street corner.
The 2018 Quebec general election was held on October 14, 2018, to elect members to the National Assembly of Quebec. The election saw a decisive victory for the Parti national populaire (PNP) led by Maxime Bernier winning 70 of 125 seats, giving the party a majority and unseating the New Democratic Party of Quebec. The NDP became the Official Opposition with 31 seats. This election was the first won by the PNP since 1986, and only the second majority government since the 2001 electoral reform referendum.