Tales from /lost+found 110: The Key to Time

8×22 March 5, 2004
THE KEY TO TIME (Serial 133)

Setting: Space Materials Research Center, 2020
Regular Cast: Rowan Atkinson (The Doctor), Scarlett Johansson (Alice)
Guest Starring: Lucy Lawless (Zoey/Zodin), Anthony Stewart Head (The War Chief), Nicholas Brendon (White Guardian), Kelly Donovan (Black Guardian), David Hasselhoff (The War Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (uncredited)

Plot: The Doctor takes the TARDIS to the Space Materials Research Center in the year 2020. Alice is surprised to learn that there is no key segment here. Rather than risk the War Lords finding the last key segment, the Doctor poses as an aerospace researcher in order to use the center’s advanced “3-D Printer” to create a reproduction. While he works on generating a computer model for the missing segment, Alice learns that there is a growing tension among the staff about the use of their fabrication technology to build weapons. Alice befriends Zoey, an engineer who has serious misgivings about using their technology to produce weapons, but fears that a pacifist stance will cripple progress. Later, Alice finds the War Chief has infiltrated the center and warns the Doctor. The Doctor confronts the War Chief, who claims to be on a pilgrimage and promises not to stop the Doctor’s work, so long as they do not interfere with the debate among the center staff. The Doctor is amused at being asked by a War Lord to leave history to take its own course, and agrees that the decision about the center’s future should be left to humanity. The argument among the staff takes a violent turn and Zoey is accidentally killed just before the 3D print of the sixth segment completes. Hoping that a high-quality facsimile will unlock some of the key’s powers, the Doctor assembles the key with the reproduction. Alice, the Doctor, and the War Chief are transported to the domain of the Guardians, creators of the Key. They explain the function of the key: it is a maintenance device for the web of time, able to change the past and rebalance the universe without creating destructive paradoxes. The White Guardian discourages the Doctor from trying to use the key, while the Black Guardian tempts him with the possibility of using it to restore Gallifrey. However, without the genuine sixth segment, it only has enough power to restrain the War Chief from attacking them. The War Chief deduces what the Doctor has concealed: Alice is the final segment. As a fail-safe against abuse, the sixth segment assumes the form of a living, intelligent being, and can only be converted to its true form willingly. The War Chief taunts the Doctor. He can only use the Key by sacrificing his companion. The War Chief reveals the truth about the War Lords: they are not a race, but a philosophy, spread whenever any civilization embraces the belief that conflict is the true driver of history. The Doctor is already too entangled in the war, and if he sacrifices Alice, he will have become a War Lord himself, and would inevitably impose the War Lord ideal on the web of time. While they argue, Alice notices the symbol a piece of SMRC letterhead she was carrying is similar to the War Lord symbol. She flashes back to her final conversation with the War Doctor, and we hear his whispered message. He had decided not to find another way and not use the Key himself. She looks inside the Paradox Box and finds an anachronistic earlier incarnation of the sixth segment. Before either the Doctor or the War Chief can do anything, she assembles the Key, and orders it to undo Zoey’s death. This small act reverses the critical decision by the humans to pursue War Lord philosophy. However, Alice’s change inadvertently undoes an earlier change to history: Zoey had been living a false life. She reverts to her true identity, the War Queen Zodin. She tries to seize the Key, but is stopped by a disembodied voice that declares, “Did you really think I would leave the universe unprotected?”

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