mistress of the magical bus

Number 22 to Putney Common

    Number 22 to Putney Common


Cabinet of Changes - Phillip Purser-Hallard


Cabinet of Changes is a sequel to the novel The Blue Angel and relates the story of the Doctor, a middle-aged gay man, following his discovery of the eponymous cabinet and his attempts to put on a magic show for his friends and flatmates.

In terms of its place in the general continuity of both Iris and the Doctor, The Blue Angel is the second part of the story arc which began in Interference in which the Doctor's companion, Compassion, becomes a timeship herself (with the Doctor's TARDIS being destroyed in the process), and the Time Lord President Romana attempts to track her down in order to breed baby timeships from her. Iris, in The Blue Angel, tries to hide the Doctor and his companions in the Obverse, peopling that space with thinly diguised versions of former friends and colleagues, and placing him under the medical supervision of one of his former selves.

The entire story, with the author's comments, can be read online at Phil's site, or the book in which it was originally printed can be purchased from the publisher.

Many thanks to Phil for pointers regarding the text and the authorial intent behind elements of it.


P157 - "He seems a bit more cheerful since his leg cleared up" - in The Blue Angel, Iris fixed a recurring pain in the Doctor's calf by splitting his leg open with a sharp shard of ice, and releasing a small blue baby which was curled up inside.

P157 - "He hadn't trusted [Canine] an inch since...it talked to him" - Canine, Sally's terrier dog, is the Obverse version of the Doctor's mechanical dog, K9 and can, therefore, talk.

P157 - "Why not Tasha or Deanna?" - Tasha Yar was the security chief on the Enterprise in Star Trek:The Next Generation and was killed, wonderfully pointlessly and stupidly, by what was basically a tar beast. Deanna Troi was the Betazoid Councilor on the same ship. One possible reason for picking Wesley as a a name over either of these two is that they're both woman, whilst Wesley Crusher (and presumably Wesley the Cat) is a boy.

P157 - "He knew Compassion and their other guest didn't get on" - Iris makes a habit of not getting on with the Doctor's friends - she also dislikes Jo Grant, although she is neighbour and friend to Sally.

P157 - "Andy Pandy, Muffin the Mule, Bill and Ben" - Three classic television series for children from the sixties, all of which are fondly remembered by people of the appropriate age, and all of which - to modern eyes - are rubbish. Each show started off as part of "Watch with Mother". Andy Pandy [1950, remade 2003] involves the adventures of the sailor-suited doll hero and his mates; Muffin the Mule [1946] was a wooden mule puppet who interacted on a table top with a posh woman; while Bill and Ben [1952, remade 2000] was another puppet show, but with fairly obvious drug overtones ("weeeeeed" and the like). The fact that the Doctor's TV will only show sixties programmes suggests either that the Doctor has been placed in an actual Obverse 1960s, or that Iris has used memories of his original arrival on Earth, as part of her attempt to protect him from danger. In passing, Sarah-Jane Smith in some of her 70s dungaree outfits could usefully be described as Andy Pandy-esque.

P157 - "NYPD Blue" - A popular and gritty US police show which focuses on the personal and professional lives of the members of the detective's squad in the New York Police Department's 15th Precinct.

"Before it premiered in the fall of 1993, the series got a lot of publicity because of its daring use of nudity and profanity -- men's buttocks, women's breasts, and the word "asshole" all appeared for the first time in an American prime-time series on NYPD Blue. However, people who actually bothered to watch the show (and not protest it blindly) discovered that there was a lot more to it than just tits, ass, and swear words. It's a dark, moving series about trying to hold onto your morals and ideals in a corrupt and evil world." (from the NYPD FAQ)

P157 - "Dixon of Dock Green" - A British TV show [1955-1976] which spun off from the film, The Blue Lamp, and which starred Jack Warner as an honest and reliable policeman. Of some interest is the fact that PC Dixon is killed at the end of The Blue Lamp and was then resurrected for the TV series, which is rather like someone else we could mention. It is, however, about as far from NYPD Blue as you can get.

P157 - "Compassion" - Either a companion of the Doctor's, or - in the Obverse reality - a lodger of his (and if we want to get really complicated, also possibly a living timeship rejigged to contain all sorts of interesting things in yet another Universe).

P157 - "Fitz" - Either a companion of the Doctor's, or - in the Obverse reality - a lodger or partner of his.

P157 - "Sally" - Either a journalist companion of the 3rd and 4th Doctors (as Sarah Jane Smith) , or - in the Obverse reality - an author friend of his.

P157 - "Canine" - Sally's talking dog, of course.

P157 - "Stars in their Eyes" - Dreadful British TV show in which the public impersonate popular singers (and older people impersonate singers you've never heard and so you just have to accept that they sound exactly like, say, Paul Robeson) .

P157 - "Wesley" - Compassion believes that the cat is named after either Star Trek Ensign Wesley Crusher (who was in turn named after the middle name of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and easily the most obvious Mary-Jane in the history of TV); or Wesley Wyndham-Pryce from the excellent TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, a slightly ludicrous "rogue vampire hunter" turned genuinely dark demon killer and former Watcher. In fact, thought, the cat is named after John Wesley [1703-1791], the founder of the Christian movement, Methodism. Compassion's irritation with the name arises either from the fact that the cat is female whilst either Wesley is male, or from a simple antipathy to the Star Trek character.

"I figured there was this holocaust, right, and the only ones left alive were Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, and the Cleavers." - Wil Wheaton [Wesley Crusher] explains why everyone in Star Trek : The Next Generation is so nice.

"As a point of courtesy, I like to get to know my opponents before I engage them in mortal combat. Do, uh, do you have any hobbies?" - Wesley Wyndham-Price about to start fighting in Buffy

P157 - "the terrier" - a small, tough, breed of dog.

P158 - "a half-full bottle of Gordons" - Gordons is a very popular brand of gin.

P158 - "angel fish" - The Angel Fish lives in the Amazon River, among the bullrushes, which are so thick that it is very difficult for fish to get between their stems. The Angel Fish evolved a long, thin body, enabling them to swim freely in and out, thereby protecting themselves from predators who cannot get through. Gill, from the movie Finding Nemo is an Angel Fish.

P158 - "a big arc lamp" - An arc lamp produces light by the sparking (or arcing, from voltaic arc) of a high current between two carbon rod electrodes. The rods are touched and then slowly drawn apart; as the rods separate the current is "struck" and arcs across the gap in a bright, ionized path. The arc produces a temperature of several thousand degrees, and the tips of the carbon rods are heated to incandescence, creating light. The rods are slowly vaporized during the process and need to be regularly adjusted to maintain the arc. The concept was first demonstrated by Sir Humphry Davy in the early 19th century , using charcoal sticks and a 2000-cell battery to create a arc across a 4-inch gap. [definition from the Wikipedia].

P158 - "shiny top hat" - A tall, flat-crowned and broad-brimmed hat worn by men, particularly in the 19th and early twentieth centuries. They were generally made from stiffened felt made from beaver fur or from silk. Nowadays, you only really see them in people's hands at weddings.

P158 - "baize card table" - A small wooden table, generally with legs which folded up for storage, covered in green baize (the stuff you get on snooker tables).

P158 - plywood - Plywood is made of very thin layers of wood called plies or veneers glued together to provide a tough, yet light, construction material.

P158 - vivarium - A fishtank for reptiles.

P158 - carriage-clocks - Those horrid gold clocks with a little handle on top, so often seen on people's grandparents' mantelpieces, and beloved of managers stuck for a retiral present for a long-serving member of staff.

P158 - opera-glasses - A small set of binoculars with a stick to one side with which to hold them to the eyes. Useful, presumably, at the opera for reading the English translations which come up above the stage.

P158 - dusty gramophone records - In the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie, the seventh Doctor plays just such a record.

P158 - The little pump engine from a Hornby train set - Hornby were at one time probably the most famous producer of model trains in the world and still retain a huge following from collectors and railway enthusiasts (the 4th Doctor is apparently a model railway enthusiast for a while). The whole concept of converting your attic into a giant railway system in miniature and then spending hours painting the trains, model people etc, prior to sitting watching them chug round pre-ordained paths seems a little peculiar to me, but I own hundreds of Doctor Who books, so who am I to scoff at anyone? The company's website can be found here.

P158 - orchids and lilies - Two types of flowers, both often see at funerals.

P158 - "a trove Aladdin or Batman would find scandalous" - Aladdin's cave full of treasure and Batman's Batcave, filled with technological marvels, are both well-known examples of treasure troves.

P158 - "Patchouli" - The essential oil made from the patchouli plant has a "pungent, powerful, mossy, musty" fragrance. The viscous, orangey-amber oil is extracted from the leaves of a two to three foot perennial bush with purple-tinged white flowers, native to tropical Asia. The Seventh Doctor is described as smelling of patchouli in the novelisation of Battlefield and certain of the New Adventures

P158 - "sandalwood" - A small tree 20 to 30 feet high, with many opposite slender drooping branches, bark smooth grey-brown. The trees are felled or dug up by roots; the branches are worthless, so are cut off. It is usual to leave the trunk on the ground for several months for the white ants to eat away the sap wood, which is also of no value; it is then trimmed and sawn into billets 2 to 2 1/2 feet long and taken to mills in the forests, where it is again trimmed and sorted into grades. The Eighth Doctor is described as smelling of sandalwood in Kate Orman and Jon Blum's EDAs.

P158 - "I'm just an old hippie at heart" - Long-haired wasters who were scared of a day's hard work, according to my grandfather. All you could ever want to know about hippies can be found at The Hippy Museum.

P158 - "Tarot decks" - A deck of 78 picture cards, used to predict the future.

P158 - "crystal balls" - Crystal balls have long been regarded as a symbol of divination, by both Eastern and Western traditions. The balls' reflective surfaces are believed to help mystics gain knowledge and information about the future.

P158 - "Phrenology heads" - The Victorians believed that one could divine a person's character by "reading" his head. A traditional phrenology head mapped out the portions of the brain important to the phrenologist.

P158 - "sigils" - A sign or an image considered magical.

P158 - "Fezzes, berettas, top hats, even tall steepled things with starry sequins" - Types of hats.

P158 - Description of the shop owner - The shop owner is intended to be the Merlin incarnation of the Doctor as described in various sources, including the novelisation of Battlefield, the seventh Doctor adventure, Transit, and various short stories by Peter Anghelides. The author has said that 'specifically, the shop owner is the form "Merlin" takes in the Obverse -- cf the various other incarnations of the Doctor who wander in and out of The Blue Angel, playing various roles.') Alternatively, and co-incidentally, the shop owner could be an amalgam of the Doctor's previous incarnations - crumpled tweed trousers and rumpled socks suggest the Second Doctor; the scholarly face, the First; the Third Doctor had a dragon tattoo on his right arm; whilst the Fifth Doctor was often described as having a young/old face. The moth eaten coat could belong to the Fourth or Sixth Doctor; whilst the weight of ages could hang on any of them, although the Sixth, perhaps seeing his impending sacrifice or the Seventh, having sacrificed his previous incarnation, seem the most likely candidates.

P158 - "the Narnia books" - A series of children's books written by CS Lewis and featuring a group of children and their adventures in a mythical land entered via a variety of different means, most famously through some moth-eaten coats at the back of a wardrobe. Many elements of the books were intended as a Christian allegory (most obviously in the first published book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Paul Magrs' planned children's book trilogy, "Tales of Hyspero" is reportedly in part a Magrsian look at the Narnia mythos.

P159 - "Mother" - In the Blue Angel, it is established that the Obverse Doctor's mother is a mermaid.

P159 - "mermaids' husbands keep their seal-skins to stop them fleeing back into the ocean" - In the lovely Shetland Islands story, "The Mermaid Wife", a fisherman does just this to keep his mermaid wife. The full tale can be read online.

P160 - "cigar-store Indians" - Wooden figures carved in the shape of stereotypical Native Americans, and placed outside shops (cigar stores, most often) in 19th century and early 20th century America with cigars clasped in their hands.

P161 - "cup-and-ball trick" - Three cups, one ball (or pea). The magician places the ball under one cup and then moves the three cups around quickly with passers-by betting that they can guess which cup hides the ball. The trick is somewhat ruined if you can see through the cups.

P161 - "teletext" - To be exact Teletext was the text based information system available via the analogue channel ITV on British television (Ceefax being the far better BBC version).

P161 - "a stuffed and mounted mer-parrot" - Apropos of nothing, this is the only mention of a mer-parrot anywhere on the internet according to Google, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo. Which is an achievement in itself, IMHO, given that the phrase "autoerotic asphyxiation" appears almost 4000 times.

P162 - "I can't imagine how they fit the junk it's thrown at me has already overflowed the attic, and started filling up Compassion's floor as well. It's stacked up to the ceiling in huge toppling piles, great towers of lumber and mirror and brass. It's not safe to go in there any more." - A reference to the cluttered and chaotic state of Who continuity, perhaps?

P162 - "I did resent her calling me old" - In the Obverse, the Doctor thinks of himself as middle-aged and Iris as old, hence his confusion.

P162 - "gaudy Russian dolls" - A series of dolls, each smaller than the next and stored one inside the other.

P162 - "swordfish" - With an average size of 48 inches and 200 pounds, swordfish have been greatly over-fished in the past decade or so, as their flesh is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. Should you ever be menaced by one, it's worth knowing that large swordfish are all females and that except when spawning, females prefer cooler water than that favoured by males. Swordfish feed on squid, octopus, and pelagic fishes of all kinds, so try not to swim round them with any of the preceding stashed in your trunks.

P162 - "The Black and White Minstrel Show" - A truly awful and cringingly embarrassing episode in British TV history which ran from 1958 to 1978 (unbelievable - it was still showing in 1978), in which white singers and dancers blacked up and sang and danced as 'amusing' negro caricatures. Interesting trivia - Lenny Henry was the only black performer in the Minstrels at one point.

P162 - "full of stars like that sinister Monolith from 2001" - 2001 : A Space Odyssey is a film directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the Arthur C Clarke short story, "The Sentinel" (and his novelised expansion of that story, 2001). The mysterious black rectangular Monolith is described by astronaut David Bowman to be, in one of the best scenes in sf film history, "full of stars". To wander off topic a little, the mysteries of the Monolith are not explained in the movie, but are later reduced to the relatively mundane by a couple of sequels. In a similar way, Clarke's wonderful Rendezvous with Rama (and to a lesser extent Frederik Pohl's Gateway) is completely ruined by subsequent novels which turn a fascinating unexplained mystery into a dull as ditchwater alien story. This may appear to have nothing to do with "Cabinet of Changes" and in truth it doesn't really, but the 2001 reference reminded me of how annoying it is to read criticism of The Scarlet Empress based solely on the fact that there is no readily verifiable explanation for Gila's mutation from half-man, half-lizard into full blown reptile. Some things neither need explanation, nor are made better by having one. Ahem, sorry about that digression...

P163 - Glass Men of Valcea - An alien race, vaguely recalling the Daleks, from the Obverse. Their civilisation was destroyed during The Blue Angel.

P163 - Romy - Either a Time Lady companion of the Doctor's (and one time President of Gallifrey), or - in the Obverse reality - the vicar of a local church. The Time Lady Romana was prone to wearing uniforms of one type or another, for what that's worth. More pertinently, her role as President of Gallifrey in the primary Whoniverse and that of a vicar in a church full of stuff elders in the Obverse do have obvious parallels (thanks to PPH for pointing out that out).

P164 - "two scarlet hearts" - In the 'real' universe, Time Lords have two hearts. As he fails to comment on this fact, we can safely assume that the Obverse Doctor has only one...

P164 - "His faces are all different" - ...and also that he does not regenerate.

P164 - "the shield bears a point d'interrogation gules upon a field argent" - Which can be translated as a red question mark on a silver background.

P164 - "I see that the figure is made up of smaller images, tiny pictures complete in themselves, all merging to form the figure of the great glass knight" - As a metaphor for the character of the Doctor, this stained glass window is, if you ask me, simply excellent. It's just such a lovely, carefully crafted and multi-layered image.

P164 - "harmoniously blending into his armoured body like tattoos" - This is possibly a reference to The Scarlet Empress, with its tattooed guards, and even to Paul Magrs' first novel Marked for Life with its completely tattooed hero.

P164 - "woman in white silk with a flower necklace and corn-gold hair" - A reference to the Doctor's wife, "Patience", as seen in The Infinity Doctors..

P164 - "bone-brittle dinosaur glowering and snapping from a dark earth wall" - A reference to a Permian, from the fifth Doctor's adventure, Land of the Dead.

P164 - "mansion-house straddled by a jack-i'-th'-green plant-giant" - A reference to the fourth Doctor's adventure, The Seeds of Doom.

P164 - "buttery clock softening and melting dripping time down the wall" - A reference to the first Doctor's adventure, Edge of Destruction.

P164 - "bright globe with verdant countries smiling against a landscaped sky - A reference to the planet of Whynot, which orbits inside the Worldsphere in The Also People.

P164 - "shiny fool's-gold handbag with an angry disney scowl" - A reference to the Gracie Fields Iris' handbag, as seen in Verdigris, which was actually an alien lifeform.

P164 - "bloated sun raining fire on a new desert of burning metal" - A reference to the destruction of the Dalek home world, Skaro, in the seventh Doctor's adventure, Remembrance of the Daleks.

P164 - "man of scraps and fragments his arm a crab's claw his head a fish-bowl" - A reference to the intended repository for Morbius' brain in the fourth Doctor's adventure, Brain of Morbius

P164 - "flaming tiger crouched to spring in snowy woodland" - A reference to the Beryl Reid Iris' adventure with the fourth Doctor, "Old Flames".

P164 - "Boots the Chemist plc" - A popular pharmacy (drugstore, for those readers from across the Atlantic) in the UK.

P164 - "a raffia mat" - A mat made from raffia palm fronds, allowed to dry in the sun and then hand woven into shape.

P164 - "transmogrification" - The process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another.

P164 - "now those depths are on the outside, what else might there be to discover inside her, I wonder?" - The Cabinet has transformed the character of Compassion, filling out her at times overly austere personality. The Compassion of the primary Whoniverse, of course, becomes a living timeship and thus has plenty of hidden depths to be discovered inside her (or is that too obvious a point to claim as an annotation?)

P164 - "my private doctor" - In The Blue Angel, the Eighth Doctor's private Doctor appears to be his own third incarnation.

P164 - "young-old" - A description of the Doctor much favoured by Terrance Dicks in his Target novelisations.

P165 - Anji - Either a one-time companion of the Doctor's, or - in the Obverse reality - the Doctor's new house guest

. P165 - "smart new catflap" - A hole cut into the base of a (usually) exterior door, with a plastic flap covering it, just large enough for a cat to get through but too small for any but the slightest and most lithe of burglars.

P165 - "the Doctor's friend Benny" - In the primary Whoniverse, Berncie Summerfield is a self-proclaimed Professor of Archaeology, rather than simply working in a museum, although in later life she does end up doing something fairly similar at the Braxiatel Collection.

P165 - "A man the Doctor's age, moustached and dressed in a smart blazer" - the Brigadier, presumably.

P165 - "a young couple with a baby from Romy's church" - Given that the church and Gallifrey are linked, who else could this be but Leela and Andred, with the baby mentioned in Lungbarrow in tow.

P165 - "muscular young neighbourhood policeman, who was wearing an earring now he wasn't on duty" - Tricky. Any mention of a muscular young man in Doctor Who generally tends to suggest Jamie, but he has no obvious reason to be represented as a policeman. On a very literal level, only Bernard Cribbens' Tom Campbell from the movie Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. was actually a policeman, but this is in fact a reference to the seventh Doctor's companion, Chris Cwej, who started off as an Adjudicator, and who had his ear pierced in Damaged Goods.

P165 - "His name is Jonny?" - The Obverse Doctor's mother calls him Jonny in The Blue Angel.

P165 - "an abandoned junkyard" - And rather cleverly the end of Cabinet takes us back to the start of Doctor Who: a junkyard, then as now apparently deserted and forgotten.

P166 - "[T]he old black-and-white telly" - Another reference to the start of Doctor Who.

P166 - "I should burn the cabinet, ignite it on a pyre ... That would be a show to give my audience." - It would be nice to think that this is a reference to the destruction of Gallifrey and the loss of the Doctor's memories - but that would be a little too strange, since it hadn't happened at the time of writing.

Fonda Iris