The Vabatheth started from wanting to explore the idea of very small ‘monsters’ that was derived from an episode of an American TV series, Poltergeist The Legacy which actually has a lot in common with Torchwood. Legacy had a group of people from different backgrounds all working for a secret organisation that researched and fought supernatural elements such as poltergeists, ghosts, succubae and other nastiness. I rather liked it, despite it being on Channel 5 and never having a clear picture. But Buffy rather stole its thunder, doing much the same with a cute blonde Buffy and the stunning and mysterious Angel on the side and it was largely forgotten. One episode, however, had the San Francisco HQ of the regular Legacy heroes infested by ‘fairies’ who turned out to be miniature medieval knights with the curse of immortality and a grudge against the Human race. After Small Worlds dealt with another aspect of ‘fairies’ I had it in mind to look at the small, demon fairy idea from a Torchwood point of view.

Other parts of the idea came together from there. I also had in mind a story in which Estelle’s old house featured, and still intend to write one in which it features significantly. But for now I wanted to introduce the idea that Jack inherited the house, and rented it to a pair of young women. Apart from anything else I already had another idea of a package that came through the post causing trouble at the Hub, so having this package cause havoc in another location came to me.

Another thing I wanted to do was an adventure that completely moved the team out of Wales. Cuckoo allowed for a brief trip to Lancashire and I do think, one of these days, a major field trip to Glasgow might be interesting. For now, I took Gwen, Jack, and eventually Owen, to Lulworth Cove.

Anyone who has digested enough Doctor Who lore will know that Lulworth was the location for The Curse of Fenric in 1989. But then it was pretending to be Whitby. Hambury Hill with its bronze age passage tomb, overlooking the Durdle Door, was a perfect place for the Vabatheth to be hibernating.


Donald and Freda Tolley, play much the same role that Estelle did in Small Worlds, the well meaning amateur, categorised, as Jack noted, as mostly harmless.

Yes, the bit with Jack being upset about the injured sheepdog is really a nod to John Barrowman, who is passionate about dogs and supports the Dogs Trust. I can’t imagine that Captain Jack is very much different from John in that respect.

The Doctor being somehow involved in the Vabatheth being trapped in the hill in the first place next came into the picture. The postcard from Dublin already introduced him as a background presence in Jack’s mind, so when he reads the shield and discovers that somebody called “Medicus” left the message in the Roman era, Jack knows, first of all what he has to do, and how, and second, that his old friend will regret the necessity of doing so.

Mirrors or polished metal shields used to reflect light into dark tunnels and caverns DOES originate with the Egyptians. It HAS been mentioned more than once on UKtv History, a Freeview channel. It is also demonstrated in the features films The Mummy (1999) and at the start of The Fifth Element (1997).

There is a section taken out of this story. I originally intended there to be an overnight stay at the Tolley cottage with the trek up the hill taking place at dawn. The Tolleys, believing Jack and Gwen to be an item, would give them a double bed to sleep in and they would have a ‘will they, won’t they’ moment, considering whether to have sex or not. But although it was a nice scene it didn’t fit the tone of the story, and in any case the same idea was touched on in Bad Nights not so long back, so I discarded it quite quickly.

The name, Vabatheth, incidentally, was invented using a random fantasy character name generator. It doesn’t have any special origins. But it IS extraordinarily difficult to SAY.

Nunc Est Bibendum has a mildly funny personal story attached. I noticed it in a list of Latin phrases while looking for one referring to time for a Doctor Who story. A fortnight later I was on a church walk with the parish priest and a few other people who should have known that much Latin when we spotted a barge on the Leeds Liverpool canal named Nunc Est Bibendum and the priest and deacon puzzled over the name until I supplied them with ‘Now Is The Time To Drink.” In memory of that little moment of triumph over those who had a genuinely classical education against the ‘modern’ course I studied it got a brief, passing mention here.