The reason for this story is a mundane one. I wanted to put a little breathing space between the high emotion of ‘Misunderstandings’ and the high emotion of the story in which we finally DO discover what happened to Christopher de Lœngbærrow. It was an opportunity to write a story in which David gets a bit more to say and do and to bring in a couple of ideas that the new TV series had opened up. For instance, U.N.I.T HQ at the Tower of London. Of course, this story is set in the early 23rd century but much that is familiar is still in existence. The Tower of London included. U.N.I.T., it is to be hoped, got its act together in the aftermath of the Dalek Invasion of Earth of 2164.
The reminiscences of Susan and The Doctor about the Apollo space programme of the 1960s, when they lived on Earth together and she went to Coal Hill School, are one of those little moments when the connection between the two of them is cemented, and also the connection between Doctor Who now and in the past.
And so to the main plot. And YES, I have seen the film “Outbreak”. That’s why Rose has this line:-
“There were loads of films with this sort of thing as a theme a few years back. There’s things like this that spread by water droplets – people sneezing or coughing, that sort of thing, and ones that spread by touch - and usually the virus would mutate into an airborne form and then the hero’s girlfriend would get sick and he’d have to go to the rescue.”
The plot of Outbreak summed up in a sentence, and the difference between Homage and Rip-off rolled into one. Of course there is a similar element in the fact that The Doctor has to find the cure before there is nobody left to cure, and before Rose is one of the victims. That’s the main story. The subtext is The Doctor’s hubris as he blames himself for being less than a hero this time. Because of his own action the TARDIS is disabled and without it the cure will take longer to get there. He is a hero with feet of clay who has to prove himself to his friends, his lover, and most importantly, to himself.
The title came to me by way of a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, but Terry got it from the common expression for a hero brought low by a fatal flaw which comes originally from the Bible – Daniel Chapter two, verses 33-45 according to Wikipedia at least.
"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image ... his feet part of iron and part of clay. ... And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken."
The Pratchett novel is about golems. (They’re made of clay!) Possibly I might do a story about golems some time. As long as I can think of a plot that differs from the one the X-files did and certainly from Pratchett’s.