Tales from /lost+found 107: Doctor Who and the Philadelphia Experiment

8×11 August 29, 2003
DOCTOR WHO AND THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (Serial 124)

Setting: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1943
Regular Cast: Rowan Atkinson (The Doctor), Scarlett Johansson (Alice)
Guest Starring:
Sam Neill (Lieutenant Alderman/Nicolas Flamel), David Hasselhoff (The Eighth Doctor (credited as “The Stranger”))

Plot: Worried about more interference in Earth’s history by the War Lords, the Doctor adjusts the TARDIS to detect damage to the Earth’s timeline, and discovers that history is attempting to rewrite itself without the Earth after 1943. Targeting the epicenter of the disruption, the TARDIS lands at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia. The Doctor and Alice discover advanced technology aboard one ship, the Eldridge, which seems to have a temporal component, but does not look to be of War Lord origin. They are apprehended by the authorities, and are subsequently surprised to meet the project lead, Lieutenant Alderman, who is in reality the immortal Nicolas Flamel. Flamel invents a cover story for the Doctor as “Doctor von Wer”, a specialist from Oak Ridge, here to help with the upcoming experiment. The Doctor notices that his old friend seems unusually put-out, and Flamel admits that the mechanized wars of the twentieth century have worn heavily upon him. The Doctor claims that this is just a passing phase, but Flamel is unconvinced, especially after the Doctor tells him about the War Lords, and their repeated campaigns to push humanity onto a more warlike path. Flamel asks for the Doctor’s help. Expanding an idea he got from Nikola Tesla, Flamel claims to have created a form of impenetrable energy barrier that can protect ships (and later, perhaps, whole cities) from enemy attacks. He privately promises that once his work is complete, he will give the technology to all nations, ending war once and for all. The Doctor is suspicious that the War Lords are meddling in Flamel’s project: his perfect defense could easily have the opposite of its intended effect by triggering preemptive attacks against anyone planning to erect a shield. While he helps Flamel, the Doctor has Alice search for evidence of a War Lord presence. She locates the power source for Flamel’s device, the Philosopher’s Stone. Flamel locks her in the power room to stop her reporting to the Doctor: he doesn’t want the Time Lord knowing that he succeeded in creating a Jewel of Time. The Doctor solves the last of the equations that had eluded Flamel, but this leads him to realize that the design of the shield device is flawed, as the power requirements to generate a stable shield are greater than the power level that would cause a catastrophic overload. He rescues Alice, and realizes that, since he is planning to use a Jewel of Time to power the shield, Flamel never intended to create more than one. Flamel activates the device, causing the Eldridge to be pulled into a space-time distortion. He admits his true intentions: after working on the early stages of the Manhattan Project, he came to believe that humanity’s self-destruction was inevitable. He anticipates a series of escalating nuclear wars, and refuses to listen to the Doctor and Alice when they dispute this. His invention does not create a stable defensive shield, but a bubble that disrupts space and time. It will rapidly expand to encompass the Earth. Humanity will die in a painless instant, rather than slow, lingering extinction from nuclear winter. The Doctor points out that, due to his immortality, Flamel himself might survive even that, to be left stranded alone in empty space forever. Flamel accepts this as fitting penance for his actions. Alice suggests that they could spare him from that fate by giving him a ride in the TARDIS, which would kill him. The Doctor, though confused, consents, and Alice suggests he take them to Armstrong Base. Flamel’s health begins to fail rapidly as soon as the TARDIS dematerializes, but he is able to witness the signing of the peace treaty between the Ice Warriors and a united Earth. Alice had intuited that the powerful imagery of Earthrise on the moon as humanity makes peace with an alien race would restore Flamel’s faith in humanity more than words. However, the timeline in which Earth has been destroyed is quickly becoming dominant, and Flamel does not know any way to stop the overload. The Doctor reminds him that he is still connected to the Philosopher’s Stone, and Flamel is able to use that connection to redirect the energy from the distortion into the vortex. His body crumbles to dust. Returning to the TARDIS after retrieving the stone from the Eldridge, the Doctor discovers that the energy release has created a “rainbow road” along which the TARDIS can travel, bypassing the temporal barrier around the events of the Time War. The Doctor pilots the TARDIS along the road to the war-torn planet Arcadia, hoping to learn how he defeated the War Lords originally. Before they can exit the TARDIS, however, a stranger lets himself in. He wears an eyepatch, holds the Doctor and Alice at gunpoint, and demands to know what they are doing in his TARDIS.

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