The nugget of the idea behind Destination Alpha came from a film I saw years ago in which time travellers were taking people from aeroplanes moments before they crashed in order to repopulate a post-apocalyptic future Earth. I had completely forgotten the name of the film, which I haven’t seen since the mid-1990s. I managed to recall the name of the lead actor and narrowed it down to the 1989 b-movie, Millennium the plot of which is summed up thus on IMDB:-

“An investigator seeking the cause of an airline disaster discovers the involvement of an organisation of time travellers from a future Earth irreparably polluted who seek to rejuvenate the human race from those about to die in the past. Based on a novel by John Varley.”

So, ok, that was my idea, more or less to a T. Except I made the time travellers aliens looking to populate a new planet and I moved them from an aeroplane to a ship. Specifically, the Lusitania, which sank in 1915 with tragically huge loss of life. And I chose that ship because I wanted to bring in a very specific character for this story.

Sir Hugh Lane is not a name that most people would instantly know unless they come from Dublin where the gallery is or from Cork where he came from or you’re interested in early 20th century Irish cultural history. If you come into any one of those categories you’ll know all about the argument between Britain and Ireland that lasted for most of the twentieth century. Anyone who doesn’t, the links down below are worth following through. It’s an interesting story. The scene in Dublin at the end was completely unnecessary to the plot, but I just wanted The Doctor to explain Hugh’s story to Donna.

The Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is only one of many fine paintings in the Hugh Lane collection. It is possibly one of the most recognisable and it fits the weather on any average day in Dublin.