Doctor Who Logo 'The Fires of Pompeii'
(Story Code 4.3)

by James Moran
The Doctor and Donna

“Some things are fixed, some things are in flux – and Pompeii is fixed. That’s how I see the universe, all the time, every waking second: what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That’s the burden of a Time Lord, Donna…” – The Doctor

Arriving in what they believe to be ancient Rome in the year 79AD, the Doctor and Donna are shocked to discover that the TARDIS has in fact brought them to Pompeii on the 23rd August – the day before the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, is due to erupt and destroy the entire city. The time travellers are unaware that a mysterious woman, a priestess of the Sibylline Sisterhood, is watching them… Donna is all for warning the citizens of Pompeii of their impending destruction, but the Doctor knows they cannot, as history must not be compromised; the two time travellers race back to the TARDIS, only to learn that a nearby stallholder has sold the ship to a Pompeian noble as an example of modern art. Elsewhere, the noble in question, Lobus Caecilius, inspects his new acquisition in his home, ignoring the derogatory comments of his wife, Metella, and his son, Quintus. After a volcanic tremor rocks their home, Caecilius encourages his family to appease their household gods, and then leaves Metella to oversee their daughter, Evelina, as she inhales the mystical vapours of the mountain that are channelled into their home; looking down into the vent, Evelina sees a huge, stone-like monster staring up at her… The Sibylline sister reports the strangers’ arrival to her fellows in their temple, noting the appearance of a blue box as foretold in their ancient scrolls; the information is of importance to the sisters’ high priestess, who foretells of an endless empire of Rome. As another tremor rocks Pompeii, the Doctor and Donna arrive at Caecilius’ home and offer to remove the TARDIS as a safety hazard. Donna tries to warn the Pompeians about the impending destruction of their city, but Caecilius and his family have no idea what she is talking about, having no understanding of what a “volcano” is. Just then, the city’s Chief Augur, Lucius Petrus Dextrus arrives to collect something that Caecilius has created for him – something that looks exactly like a stone version of a computer printed circuit board. The Doctor is intrigued, but is stopped from questioning Lucius further when the soothsayer and Metella begin to foretell elements of his and Donna’s lives: knowing the Doctor is a Gallifreyan Time Lord, they warn him that “she is returning”, and that there is something on Donna’s back... While Metella is shocked to learn that Evelina’s arm is somehow turning to stone, Caecilius shows the Doctor the vent into Vesuvius; remarking that the gods of the Underworld are stirring, he explains that all the seers are able to foretell the future after inhaling the fumes of the mountain; the Doctor realises that they are breathing in particles of rock from the volcano itself… That night, the Doctor coerces Quintus into taking him to Lucius’ house, where they find a number of stone circuit boards; before they can investigate further they are stopped by the arrival of Lucius, who states that he is “building the future as dictated by the gods”. Donna tries to warn Evelina about the forthcoming eruption, but the girl refuses to listen, unable to foretell anything unusual in the forthcoming day; when Evelina telepathically links with the Sisterhood, the high priestess of the Sibylline learns of Donna’s “false prophecy”, and gives the order for her to be killed. The Doctor rearranges the circuit boards to form an energy converter, but Lucius sees this as an insult to the gods and calls his guards; discovering that Lucius’ body is also turning to stone, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to create a distraction, allowing himself and Quintus to escape. As Lucius invokes the Lord of the Mountain, a huge lava monster rises up from the earth and sets off in pursuit of the Time Lord; the terrifying monster closes in on the Doctor as he reaches Caecilius’ house, where servants throw water on the white-hot creature, instantly cooling it down and causing it to shatter into pieces; unnoticed in the commotion, the Sisterhood sneak into Caecilius’ house and capture Donna, taking her back to their temple for sacrifice. But Donna’s imminent demise is interrupted by the arrival of the Doctor, who releases his friend and then confronts the high priestess, learning that she, like the rest of her sisters, is also transforming into rock. Realising that their inhalation of Vesuvius’ dust is causing the people of Pompeii to turn to stone before the volcano erupts, the Doctor demands that the high priestess reveal the name of the alien creature seeding itself within her; in response, the priestess triumphantly declares that the Pyrovile are awakening… Using a water pistol to threaten their attackers, the Doctor escapes with Donna into the volcano’s subterranean vent system; as they flee into the tunnels, the high priestess summons the Cult of Vulcan… Elsewhere, Lucius and his guards take the circuit boards to a cave on the mountainside as an offering to Vulcan, where they call up a giant rock monster. Emerging from the tunnels into the heart of Vesuvius, the Doctor and Donna find a spherical stone escape pod attended by lava monsters. Lucius and his men appear, and after denouncing the intruders as heathens and defilers, they summon up more rock monsters to deal with them. Holding off the stone creatures with his trusty water pistol, the Doctor learns that the aliens’ homeworld of Pyrovillia has been lost, and that they now want to create an ‘Empire of Rock’ on Earth. With the fate of the whole planet at stake, the Doctor and Donna seal themselves into the escape pod; as the Pyroviles attempt to burn their way in, the time traveller discover that the aliens are using the power of Vesuvius to fuel their fusion matrix so they can convert everyone in the city into their own kind. Realising that if the Pyroviles’ plan were to be allowed to happen, Mount Vesuvius will never erupt, the Time Lord faces a terrible decision: either allow the aliens to take over the Earth, or ensure that history takes its course, thereby condemning twenty-thousand people to die in the volcano’s eruption. Knowing what he must do, the Doctor reverses the systems on the Pyrovile ship, changing the future by causing the volcano to violently erupt; the resulting explosion blasts free the escape pod, sending the Doctor and Donna crashing onto the streets of Pompeii. As Vesuvius begins its terrible eruption, the citizens of Pompeii flee in panic. Racing for the safety of the TARDIS, the Doctor and Donna arrive at Caecilius’ house, where the Time Lord is forced to ignore the pleas of the senator and his family, knowing that his duty to history demands he leave them to die. However, Donna’s compassion and determination convinces the Doctor to make an exception, and he allows Caecilius and his family to escape in the TARDIS before the city burns. Watching from the safety of a nearby hilltop, Caecilius vows never to forget the citizens of Pompeii, and as he embraces his family, the Doctor and Donna slip quietly away…

Six months later, Caecilius and his family are living in safety in their new home in Rome – they also have a new set of household gods to worship: the Doctor, Donna, and the TARDIS…

David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Phil Cornwall (Stallholder), Karen Gillan (Soothsayer), Sasha Behar (Spurrina), Lorraine Burroughs (Thalina), Peter Capaldi (Caecilius), Tracey Childs (Metella), Francesca Fowler (Evelina), Francois Pandolfo (Quintus), Victoria Wicks (High Priestess), Gerard Bell (Majordomo), Phil Davis (Lucius Petrus Dextrus)

Directed by Colin Teague
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive Producers Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner
A BBC Wales production


TX:
12th April 2008 @ 6.45 pm

Notes:
*Featuring the Tenth Doctor and Donna

*The seers’ enigmatic comments refer to Rose’s appearance in ‘Partners in Crime’, and the cataclysmic events of ‘Turn Left’…