The Pied Piper of Whitechapel was the inevitable follow up to the departure of Ben and Donna in the previous story. Ben asked The Doctor to find his sister and nephew and make sure they were financially secure. The diamond he offered as security would, obviously, keep a woman and her child in luxury for a long time, but The Doctor, even more obviously, needed to find a way of giving her the money that would not be suspicious.

 

Now, I don’t even know the East End of London that well in present day, so much of the geography is put together with Google Earth and Wikipedia. The starting location, Cable Street, was chosen because it is also the name of one of the significant streets in Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

 

It is from the Discworld, by the way, that I got the crude joke about seamstresses and needles. In Ankh-Morpork, a seamstress is a euphemism for a prostitute, and it most likely meant the same thing in the East End of London in the 1890s. But there would have been proud young women like Elsie and Nancy who did mending and objected to the idea of anything else.

 

Both women are vaguely modelled on Sean O’Casey’s grotesquely poor but honest mother as described in his Autobiography of growing up in poverty stricken Dublin in much the same era. But thanks to Charles Dickens and Lionel Bart, an East End story has to have a Nancy. Slowly the pieces come together.

 

Young Ben is very slightly based on a boy who goes to the same church as me and who will remain nameless.

 The wall in which everyone was lost, is inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, an amazingly spooky fantasy story about a world that exists behind and below London, within the walls and pavements as it were. It was a six part TV series in 1996, and made an impression on me since I still remember it a decade and more later. JK Rowling ripped it off big time with Diagon Alley and other bits of her Witches and Wizard world within London. I have often wanted to do something similar, but have never really found a way to homage Neverwhere fully. This world inside the brick wall is the closest I have ever got.

Watney Street, off Cable Street, is now the location of a station on the Docklands Light Railway which passes over it on a bridge. In 1895 that would have been a smoky, grey place, ideal for Ben’s home above the old Jewish second hand clothes store.

 

Thomas Street, is now called Fulbourne street and is an industrial area of Whitechapel. In 1895 it was the location of the workhouse, as I found out by googling for information about the area. I settled on that as the location of the alien-haunted brick wall.

 

The idea of getting everyone back into the real world but in a much later time, came to me as I looked at Google Earth and realised that Shoreditch, where Totters Lane is allegedly located, is only a little bit further away from Whitechapel. It came to me that something involving the old TARDIS in the junk yard might be interesting. I then found a nice picture of what Canary Wharf looked like before the modern skyscraper city was built there. Everyone knows, of course, that One Canada Square is Torchwood Tower!  Logically, the old Canary Wharf offices of the Fruit Line company at West Wood Quay was Torchwood One’s old HQ.

 

ABC Tea Shops, were respectable places where a working class woman in her Sunday best would not feel out of place.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadwell
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limehouse
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neverwhere
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_Street
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cable_Street
http://www.workhouses.org.uk/index.html?Whitechapel/Whitechapel.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canary_Wharf
http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/regions/shadwell/watney-street.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerated_Bread_Company