Christmas in Pendle is a second story in which Ten meets up with his friends Roger Nowell and Margery Hilliard, seventeenth century residents of Pendle in Lancashire. They were first seen in the story Mysteries in Pendle.

I explained in the accompanying confidential for that story that Roger and Margery come from a book called Mist Over Pendle, by Robert Neill. Roger Nowell, in fact, is a real historical character who oversaw the infamous Pendle Witch trials, but the character as seen in these stories is more like Neil’s characterisation of him than the real man.

I commented in the previous confidential that I always thought Roger and Margery were a bit like a 17th century Doctor and companion. In this story The Doctor actually says that he would have liked to have Margery as a traveller with him if she was not needed by Roger. I am not, of course, planning to make her a companion. It would be taking the crossover a bit too far. But for this one off story, she got to go in the TARDIS and see the future of her world briefly. Margery, as Robert Neill created her, is the sort of woman who would take that sort of adventure in her stride.

The Christmas traditions described in this story owe a lot to the Christmas described in Mist Over Pendle. The mummers with the papier mache dragon and comedy St. George are a variation on a character called ‘Old Ball’ who appears at one of the parties of the twelve nights of Christmas. The first comer tradition also comes from that book. So does my knowledge of 17th century dances. I also have the recipe for syllabub from there. It’s a very nice pudding made of cream whipped up with wine and honey and we had it for Christmas dinner instead of traditional pudding this year. The recipe for ‘lambswool’ came from the internet. Google is very handy. So was the fact that a Christmas ‘pudding’ in the 17th century was a savoury dish something like haggis.

The elves in this story owe their origin to Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies. The way they come through a circle of standing stones and their ability to cast a charm to appear beautiful is shamelessly lifted from Pratchett, but I gave them a bit of my own spin, and having them wind up in modern East Lancashire with a motorway to make mischief on was part of that spin. It was irresistible, of course, to have a Christmas story with the TARDIS speeding up a motorway. Donna in this alternative universe doesn’t know about his first time doing that, but he was able to have a bit of fun referencing that adventure.

I think I should probably leave Roger and Margery in peace now, after this second outing. I hope Robert Neill, if he is alive, (I’m not sure) or his relatives if he isn’t, won’t mind me homaging his work and his fabulous characters on two occasions.