The Sixth Doctor is lamenting the departure of Evelyn Smythe, as he's eating the last piece of chocolate cake she'd baked him. As he's feeling blue, he decides to pick up Melanie Bush, someone he knows he'll travel / have traveled with (but hasn't yet) and oh dear I seem to have gone crosseyed.
As the TARDIS vwoarps in, the Sixth Doctor steps out, and... so does Mel? Ah, of course. Fresh out of his trial the Sixth Doctor took Mel along to bring her back where she would first meet his future self. Hushing her when she mentions where that will happen. The young Doctor, satisfied, walks off and suddenly notices something very, very wrong. A black truck cab, crushed, driver included.
As he rushes off, Melanie realizes her pet cat is still alive. But he was dead when she left with the Doctor. Then the Doctor is back at the front door. But he's the older Doctor, who then after a chat realizes that the Doctor that meets up with her is older still. The younger Doctor gets knocked off his feet by a younger Mel Bush who doesn't recognize him... and doesn't see the crashed truck behind him. As she drives off, making fun of the coat, he's beset upon by an old lady, who also doesn't see the crashed truck. In fact, what truck? Young Melanie goes to her theatre, where Stapleton Petherbridge and Jedediah are discussing unsavoury things. Including a Bank Robbery.
The younger Doctor meets up with younger Mel at her job at the Air Traffic Control radar station, and notices a lot of radar equipment for a simple ATC station. But they're not scanning for aeroplanes, it's looking for something way up high. And the echo? Oh that's nothing to worry about, Mel says, it's just the Time Explosion. Perfectly normal. This sets the Doctor off to investigate.
As the older Doctor sees the younger Doctor, he runs to stop him from interfering, and winds up in a snare. The younger Doctor scoffs at the older Doctor, wondering why he didn't see what was obviously there. After some bickering the Sixth Doctor and, uhhh, the Sixth Doctor trace their steps back to their respective TARDISes only to find them... gone? Meanwhile, Mel is with Mrs. Wilberforce, a friend of the family, when a loud noise alerts them to the backyard. There, they are eye to eye with an Iguanadon. A herbivore. That's good. And a Baryonyx. A carnivore. That's bad. As they run off, Jedediah beckons them into an open building, and barricades the door.
As the younger Doctor distracts the Baryonyx with a whistle, it starts coming for him. Oh dear. The older Doctor meets up with the younger Mel, for the first time and he finds out what his younger self had already found out. It turns out that everybody in Pease Pottage is time displaced, explaining the dinosaurs and why nobody batted an eyelid at why Mel suddenly looks older. Oh, and an alien invasion force has just arrived. The Doctors reunite and hold a quick conference - the younger Doctor and Mel A (the older Mel) go and stop the Alien Invasion, the older Doctor and Mel B (thereafter dubbed "Mini-Mel" because things are confusing enough already) go and confront Mr. Petherbridge.
The younger Doctor manages to convince the alien Mardacks he's an assessor from their Mega-Corp and blags his way into the ship while sending the older Mel back into the village. The older Doctor manages to discover that everything leads back to... Mel. He ushers her out of the radar hut, and goes to confront Petherbridge. Petherbridge turns out to be a a being who came into existence due to the Time Vortex, attracted to Mel because Mel's travels with the Doctor are so messed up. At the same time, the young Doctor on the Mardack vessel is due to blow up, which can't be good. Petherbridge takes people from their times and promises them their heart's desire. Lost loves, freedom, riches. And he's getting away with everything!...
...If Mel hadn't knocked herself out. The younger Doctor discovers that the Mardacks are the cause of it all: their Phalanxium ages backwards, creating temporal ripples. And it's akin to 300 tons of gunpowder. And Petherbridge tries to strike up a bargain with them. The Mardack leader considers leaving 25 of her men behind in order to obtain a square mile of Earth, where 2 million years of human evolution can be used as slave labour. The older Doctor suddenly remembers where his younger's TARDIS is... And Petherbridge!
It's too late though, the Phalanxium has gone unstable, and guess who's fault that was? He snaps a Mardack's neck, and is about to blow everybody to kingdom come!... If the older Doctor hadn't fished him out of his time and place into his "radar shack", which isn't really an Air Traffic Control station, but an Alternate Timeline Control station!. The Doctor tries to put Petherbridge back into his regular time, but Petherbridge starts tearing the Doctor's timeline apart, killing him. But wait! Mel the younger shows up, and unravels everything for Petherbridge and sticks him in a loop where he dies, and lives, and dies, and lives, and dies... But it burned out Mel's mind. She dies in the older Doctor's arms. He promises to one day again wear the coat the younger Doctor wore because she liked it so. She feels cold...
The Doctor meets up with the Doctor, and Mel the older, who still exists due to the Time Pocket existing out of normal time. The older Doctor says he's dropped off younger Mel in the village. The younger Doctor and Mel A say their goodbyes to the older Doctor.
But wait!! The Doctor realizes that Mel can't have died... The Blinovitch Limitation Effect! She must merely be erased from time! The Doctor runs to the radar room, but realizes he can't do this because he hasn't met her yet! But who can? Wait, doesn't the Doctor have a sentient Time Machine? The Doctor dashes into the TARDIS and reassembles Mel, who's put back into her normal time, doesn't remember a thing that happened, and the Doctor muses about how he'll love to travel with her, one day.
- Actor Allusion: Mel, who's actually a programmer, is first encountered in a panto rehearsal. Actress Bonnie Langford was actually a stage actress before she joined Doctor Who.
- Anachronism Stew: The Pease Pottage of the story has become one, with people from different time eras and even dinosaurs.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mardacks, an alien species dedicated to the worst occupation in the universe.Mel A: "What are they? Robbers? Arms dealers? Pirates?The younger Doctor: "Worse. Business consultants.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: The younger Doctor pulls one on the Mardacks, who think he's a member of Homecorp.
- Beware the Nice Ones: The older Doctor expresses this opinion on Mel when she one-hit-KOes ... herself.
- Who could have thought the younger Mel would have it in her to trap Petherbridge in a cul-de-sac of death?
- Call-Back: When the Doctor thinks he's crossed his own time stream, he mentions it's not a version with scarves, frills, or celery but rather him him.
- For the younger Doctor anyway, the older Doctor suggests he studies a bit of history and go visit Sheffield Hallam University.
- The younger Doctor refuses to listen when Mel tells him he should drop her back to where she was taken from, Oxyveguramosanote , not Pease Pottage. Maybe if he'd listened to her and not insisted on returning to Pease Pottage...
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The older Doctor is wearing his blue coat, and his younger self the patchwork one. Given that this is an audio adventure, this isn't as helpful as you might think, but they do make sure to call the Doctor "Indigo Jones" or ask if he's auditioning for Joseph every so often to make it a bit easier.
- Continuity Nod: The Doctor mentions having met Mel at his trial.
- The younger Doctor uses K9's sub-sonic dog whistle.
- The older Doctor mentions the Blinovitch effect.
- Continuity Snarl: It just wouldn't be Mel without adding some more Continuity Snarl. Mel says she's supposed to meet the Doctor on Oxyveguramosa, in the novel Business Unusual. Which is the middle part of a trilogy - Business Unusual features an entirely different first meeting between Six and the Brig, and the third, Instruments of Darkness, an entirely different meeting between Evelyn and Mel.
- That said, the timelines are reconcilable; Business Unusual told of Six and the Brig's first meeting from the perspective of the Brigadier, while Spectre features their first meeting in that incarnation as far as the Doctor is concerned (although the Evelyn and Mel paradox relies on someone losing their memory to be reconcilable)
- Character Development: The younger Doctor is described by Mel as a lot more bolshy. The older one tells her (or one her) that it's because he's "learned to ask nicely. Most of the time" since then. He doesn't elucidate, but we know it's because of Evelyn.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Doctor mentioning The Blinovitch Limitation effect.
- Chronic Back Stabbing Disorder: Nobody should trust Petherbridge.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: The younger Doctor has a quick Sherlock Scan of the area and suddenly realizes something is very, very wrong. He lampshades this as he dashes into what can only be danger.
- Doctor: Note to self - never, ever drive a taxi.
- Clock Roaches: The time pocket is fragile and falling apart in the end, allowing some to creep closer to the Doctor.
- Demonic Possession: Stapleton Petherbridge, who died in 1812, is being possessed by a "Time Demon".
- Do Not Go Gentle: Petherbridge shouts this as the Doctor as he is dying. Young Mel doesn't either, as she forces Petherbridge to his fate.
- Eureka Moment
- Everything Fades
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Unless they're in the rhododendrons.
- Evil Twin / Evil Knockoff: The younger Doctor briefly thinks the older Doctor is this, mostly because of the mourning colours, and inability to remember certain things. He changes his tune rather dramatically after a bit of telepathy.
- Failed a Spot Check: The Doctor thinks Mel the younger has this when she can't see the wrecked truck.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Mel, and everybody else in the story.
- Grandfather Paradox: The younger Doctor is about to die, causing the older Doctor to become a target for the Clock Roaches.
- Ground Hog Day Loop / Fate Worse than Death: Petherbridge's final fate is to die and die again in random places.
- Have We Met Yet?: There's two Sixth Doctors with two different Melanie Bushes in this story, one who hasn't met the Doctor yet and one who's already travelled with him extensively.
- Later several of Petherbridge's flunkies are just cut and pasted from a random part in their respective timeline, not knowing when and where they are.
- Henpecked Platonic Life-Partners: The older Doctor says to Mel at their departure that if anybody can make him (his younger self) listen, it's her.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Jedediah has a thing for Melanie Bush several times over, and when he gets brought back to his original timeline he marries a redhead.
- Human Alien: The Mardacks are basically purple humanoids. They used to be grey, but bio-engineered themselves to a colour they thought would be more appealing. The fact they they shouldn't wear beige suits with this doesn't occur to them, incidentally.
- I Hate Past Me: The older Sixth Doctor is a lot more mellow, after having spent time with Evelyn, and as a result he finds the younger and more brash Sixth Doctor pretty annoying.
- Insistent Terminology: The Mardacks speak entirely in corporate bullshit-speak. They're not "slaves", they're "non-voluntary microbudget fuctionary stakeholders."
- The Inspector Is Coming: What Vaneesh thinks is happening with the Doctor. The pilot Kallak turns out to be the real assessor.
- Insufferable Genius: Six. Both of him.
- Invisible to Normals: The Mardacks can't see Mel.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: Both Mels begin singing different versions of "Pease Pottage Hot" as the Doctor's time runs out, with the time mentioned at the end getting shorter each time, till finally they're singing of it being 5 seconds old.
- Meet Your Early Installment Weirdness: The older, calmer and wiser (if no less prone to righteous indignation) Big Finish Sixth Doctor meets his brash, aggressively alliterative and just plain aggressive younger television self.
- Mega-Corp: The Mardacks have this as their hat.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Subverted Trope, The older Doctor meets up with the younger Doctor.
- This is later enforced with the two Mels, after Mel nearly ends up erasing herself from the timelines by punching her younger self.
- Older Than They Look: The people from Pease Pottage. Because they've been plucked out of time.
- Phlebotinum Analogy: Several.
- Photographic Memory: Mel has this. And it's far more than an Informed Ability in this story. She even mentions that when she was eight she memorised 150 dinosaurs.
- Pocket Dimension: Peas Pottage is stuck in its own little bubble of "cauterised time", according to the Doctors.
- Psychic Powers: The older Doctor does this with the younger Doctor to prove his identity.
- Pun: Both the Doctor and Petherbridge launch a few at each other. Amusingly the Technicolour Dreamcoat Doctor (who loved wordplay and alliteration) does this much more than the older, calmer Indigo Jones Doctor.
- The Reveal: This story finally explains why the Doctor was wearing his patchwork multi-colour coat when he travelled with Mel again, instead of his nice blue one.
- San Dimas Time: A very odd version of this trope, and one that actually makes sense. Because everything is happening in a pocket of cauterized time, the older Doctor only remembers what happens to the younger Doctor after it happens to him, because "what happens in cauterized time, stays in cauterized time". It also means there's very real possibility of his younger self dying.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The Sixth Doctor and the Sixth Doctor.
- Shout-Out: Mel thinks Sixth's Doctor's coat is for an audition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
- Mel calls the older Doctor Indigo Jones, and he keeps angrily correcting her with "It's Inigo Jones!"
- The younger Doctor names the two Mels Mel A (older) and Mel B (younger). The younger Mel asks what if another one shows up? Will she be Mel C?, the Doctor stops this by saying: "No! That can not be allowed to happen! After all, it's ten years too early for the Spice Girls." She later gets nicknamed Mini-Mel instead.
- The Doctor namedrops Harry Houdini.
- Skewed Priorities: Vaneesh is more concerned with the Phalanxium and the money that can be made with it than the fact they need to get rid of it now or they'll all die.
- Stable Time Loop: The Mardacks are here due to detecting Phalanxium. However as it decays backwards they are actually the source of the Phalanxium they detect - it's the residue it left on their bodies.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Phalanxium perforates the time vortex in order to bring things from location A to location B. But is highly volatile. The older Doctor lampshades this that this regeneration blows a lot of stuff up.
- Take a Third Option: Mini-Mel provides the older Doctor with one.
- Tap on the Head: Mel knocks herself out. Not herself but herself mind. In reality, that punch nearly causes a paradox that wipes her from the timelines.
- The '80s: The older Doctor calls Mel a child of the 80's, after she mentions she prefers his patchwork coat.
- Time Master: Petherbridge and later Mel Bush.
- Time Paradox: Paradoxes are actually possible in the Pease Pottage cauterised time pocket, as they won't properly take effect until it's "punctured". Which means the younger Doctor has no guarantees of surviving even though he's teamed up with his older self.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The Sixth Doctor drops off Mel after not having met her yet, so that the Sixth Doctor who knows he still has to meet her comes back to collect her. Except he turns up at the wrong time. So technically you've got the "present", blue-coated Doctor, his past self who arrived with Future Mel, and the "local present" Mel, who's really a Past Mel that hasn't met any Doctor yet to the other three.
- The nature of cauterized time means that the older Doctor only remembers what happens to the younger Doctor when it happens to him.
- Title Drop:Mel:"You're the wrong Doctors in the wrong place at the the wrong time!"The Doctors: Story of our lives.
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: When Mel A walks in on the younger Mel B/Mini-Mel making out with Jed he says, "Has Christmas come early?"
- Took a Level in Kindness: The Mels point out the difference in the two Doctors - the older Doctor is much kinder thanks to Evelyn
- Unobtanium: Phalanxium, an element that creates instant teleportation through the time vortex, but due to being chronically unstable (in the most literal sense) it decays backwards.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: There's dinosaurs about. This only warrants a "Oh they wreak havoc on the rhododendrons!" from Mrs. Wilberforce, though considering the temporal manipulation going on she's seen enough of them for the shock to wear off.
- What Could Have Been: In-universe: Petherbridge feeds upon this.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Subverted, both the Mardacks and Petherbridge try to have the Doctor shot the moment they confront him.
- Also subverted when the Mardacks try to stop Petherbridge. Unfortunately for them, he's immune to laser blasts. Ironically, he's defeated almost immediately after being shot anyways.