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Recap / Big Finish Doctor Who 035 "...ish"

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The Sixth Doctor takes Peri to a lexicographer's convention, where his old friend Professor Osefa is about to unveil the Lexicon, the most comprehensive dictionary of the English language ever written. The Doctor is immediately welcomed as an honored guest, while Peri sneaks off to go get drunk about two seconds in.

While Peri hits it off with a charming young logophile named Warren, the Doctor discovers something far less pleasant — Osefa has seemingly committed suicide in a locked room, but a suicide note riddled with misspellings and errors raises the Doctor's suspicions. Since calling the police would be pointless (jurisdiction troubles, you see), the Doctor and Symposiarch Bob Cawdrey decide to investigate.


The last person who talked to Osefa was the Book, a sentient computer program designed to collect and index all English words ever written or spoken. Warren, however, is convinced that Book is miserable in its neverending task, and destined for greater things. In fact, Warren is against a lot of things — he takes exception to Cawdrey as well, and curiously enough, he has something against dictionaries.

The Doctor uses Osefa's Bizarre Alien Biology to create a makeshift Virtual Ghost out of her memories. It turns out that Osefa and Book recently visited an ancient tribal culture, whose people believed that all of language was created by a single word. Osefa turns out to have used grant money to investigate a very non-scientific field called transcendental linguistics (which greatly offends Cawdrey). She was convinced that the amount of possible meanings a word can have reflects its lexical status. For example, a word like "as" or "so" can have dozens of meanings, whereas longer words are less frequently used, therefore more rare, therefore the longest word in the universe — the Omniverbum — will only have a single meaning and thus have maximum lexicographical weight. Everyone's all very skeptical about this until the conference's guests get stuck on a Madness Mantra of "...ish". And all the written text around them spontaneously develops errors.


The Doctor gives Peri and Cawdrey devices that bleep out the Mind Virus when it's spoken by them, and discovers that the ...ish is a sentient affix of the so-called Omniverbum. Warren, meanwhile, turns out to be a sentient computer program much like Book, but isn't aware of it. All he knows is that his job is to index things where even Book couldn't reach: the words of the rival lexicographers themselves. It turns out that Cawdrey created him and linked him to Book in order to sabotage rival lexicography projects. But Warren rebelled, believing that the indexing of language destroys spelling variations and, thus, creativity. He plans to instead erase language as a whole, allowing for a completely free flow of thought and creativity without set meanings, and bring the Omniverbum into this world properly... starting with the ...ish.


While Osefa's virtual ghost stages a distraction, the Doctor, Peri and Book end up defeating Warren by very literally Talking the Monster to Death. The ...ish just wants to go home in the end, and Osefa's copy and Book decide to work together on decidedly more traditional linguistics from now on.

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