There and Back Again
England. Grantham, Lincolnshire. The sitting room of the
Margaret: "Do you know? I've always thought. I could be
Prime Minister. It's not so far-fetched. Bonar Law became Prime
Minister, and he was born in Canada. If a mere colonial can do
it, why not a good English girl?"
Seska: "Why not indeed? Tell me, Margaret, do you think we
might step out for a moment? I have some things to tell you I
think are best said out of earshot."
Mrs Roberts takes this as her cue to actually come through
"Oh! Won't you stay and have some water biscuits?"
"Mother, please! This is important business. It concerns
Seska: "We shaln't be very long."
"Don't let me interfere."
Seska and Margaret step out of doors.
Margaret: "She was interfering."
"You distrust your mother."
"She's well-meaning, but Father rules the roost. As he
should! He's an alderman! I firmly believe that the stronger of
the two personalities in a marriage should set the rules. When I
am married I have every intention of setting the rules."
"Do you really?"
They have come to an open field.
Seska: "You spoke of the future, Margaret. What do you know
"I know that England must prevail in the current conflict,
and then that the world will be organized according to honest
English principles. Except perhaps for those vulgar Americans.
But I see no barrier to the continued growth of the British
Empire once this war is over."
"Margaret, suppose I were to tell you that the future is not
"You have been listening to the alarmists!"
"No. You see Margaret, I have not been completely honest
with you. I am not from Somerville College, Oxford. I am from
"Do you see this? It is called a tricorder. Have you ever
seen anything like it?"
"No. But that means nothing. It may be a secret
instrument, property of the Ministry of War."
"Perhaps. But do you think the Ministry of War has one of
She draws her phaser, points it at a nearby Guernsey, and
evaporates the animal. It has the desired effect. Margaret
stands rooted to the spot, shocked in part by the execution of
the animal, partly by the waste of so many coupons-worth of good
"You're a space invader, a Martian!"
"No. As I said, I am from the future. Or let me say, from
a future, one of two possible futures: one of them as you
describe, dominated by the British state and English values; the
other, the one you must help me avert, very different, and very
very much worse. Help me, Margaret, help me defeat a very evil
man, an inventor of insidious devices, a savant whose most
disquieting visions stand to become horrifying reality."
"What . . . what is his name?"
"He is called: Arthur Charles Clarke."
Margaret grasps a nearby fence for support, stares wildly
about, then closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to calm her
whirling mind. She comes to a decision.
"I will help you. If it help England, anything."
Elsewhere in England. Door Repair Guy is leaning into the
teller's window in a betting shop.
"And for the next five years, Bjorn Borg."
"Bjorn Borg, five years running."
The pound notes crinkle.
"Anything else, sir?"
"Booker Prize winners."
"Booker Prize, sir?"
"Crawlspace. The final frontier. These are the voyages of
The Door Repair Guy. His mission: to install and maintain
proximity-activated entranceways, to stake out new rooms and new
service conduits -- to boldly go where no one with a pass key has
A pair of Maquis raiders shoot by hotly pursued by a
Miranda-class Federation starship.
Star Trek: Door Repair Guy
Door Repair Guy as
The two Maquis shoot past in the other direction now with a
Cardassian Galor-class warship on their tail.
Martha Hackett as
Robert Beltran as
Tim Russ as
Roxann Biggs-Dawson as
The Federation and Cardassian ships nearly pile up chasing
Maquis ships into the middle of the screen. The Maquis loop
around and shoot off, one of them coming right past the camera
and leaving behind a glimmering ion trail which fades to:
"Hey, kids! It's The Mirror Has Two Faces Action Figures
Girl with Barbra Streisand (TM) action figure: "Would now be
enough of a warning that I'd like sex tonight?"
Boy with Jeff Bridges (TM) action figure: spit take.
Mom and Dad exchange concerned looks.]
DRG steps out of a pub and adjusts his belt.
"Quite a nice little bitter. The pale ale is a tad hoppy
for my taste, though. Ah, well. On to Lincolnshire."
He activates his More Than Just You (TM) personal
transporter and disappears.
Meanwhile, in Grantham, Seska is explaining:
"You see, Margaret, just as the seeds of the current global
war were sown in the last, so the next war shall develop from
inventions created or theorized in this."
"What dreadful engine has this Clarke devised?"
"Perhaps he has not yet even thought it up. But he will.
To date, what has been the key to England's survival?"
"And if the Luftwaffe had won the battle of the air over
"Surely invasion must have followed!"
"Imagine then a permanent manned platform in geosynchronous
orbit above the Earth's atmosphere, armed with every manner of
"England would be held hostage! How can we prevent it?!"
"We must find this man . . . and deal with him."
"But . . . where is he to be found? And how shall we get
there? I have no train fare!"
"There is a way to do it quickly and without fuss. I have
his whereabouts in the tricorder's historical database. To get
to his coordinates I need only activate this control."
Seska removes the transporter remote control from her pocket
and activates it. Margaret clutches her hands together in
anticipation. Nothing happens.
Margaret: "What? Didn't it work? What's happening?"
Seska regards the Radio Shack product with intense
dissatisfaction, then decides her ground-activated transporter
programme must have been discovered and overridden on board the
Stargazer. She puts her hand on the revolver in her pocket and
mentally switches to Plan B, glancing around for witnesses. Just
at that moment Door Repair Guy materializes on the other side of
the field. Seska, in a flash of insight, grabs the confused and
disoriented Margaret by the arm and points her remote control at
DRG. The two women disappear in a sauerbraten-coloured
transporter effect. DRG falls flat on his back, unconscious.
"Hey, kids! It's The English Patient Action Figures (TM)!"
Girl with Carravaggio (TM) figure: "Ah, gross! This one has
Boy with English Patient (TM) figure: "Let's set this one on
Mom and Dad: concerned look.]
Chatokay steps onto the transporter platform and consults
his twentieth-century wristwatch.
"Temporal event in eighteen minutes. What word from our man
on the surface?"
Tuvok, at the transporter console: "Sensor readings place Mr
Door Repair Guy in the south of Lincolnshire. Site to site
transporter activity has been detected, purpose unknown."
"We'll just have to trust that he knows what he's doing.
It's time we got into position."
Tuvok: "I propose to transport you directly to the centre of
the area of impending temporal flux. You will materialize within
what would appear to be a large warehouse. Readings show it to
be devoid of occupants at this time. Therefore I would suggest
you concern yourselves with the time travelers exclusively."
Chatokay: "We'll transport with phasers drawn."
Torres digs around in her gas mask bag, at last pulling out
both phaser and gas mask. She holds the latter by the nozzle and
examines it with annoyance.
"Nobody used poison gas in the Second World War. Why did
everybody carry these things?"
Tuvok: "It was the law, Ms Torres. The English of this
period were renowned for their adherence to statutes. However,
in spite of that societal trait, once the first few months of the
war had passed without the use of poison gas the regulation in
question was universally ignored and the Englanders left their
gas masks at home, thereby demonstrating a trio of complementary
or even contradictory national characteristics: namely, a streak
of practicality based on experience; an individualistic or as
they might say, 'bloody-minded', disobedience of authority; and,
in so far as I am able to understand it, an intensely fatalistic
sense of humour. The end result was that the Englanders
continued to carry the empty gas mask bags for the remainder of
the war and for some time after its conclusion."
"For the sake of appearances. And as a black joke."
"And because the bags proved to be so useful. In toto I
find it a signal example of the haphazard nature of Human group
"Unlike the Vulcans who would have just seen the logic of
carrying shoulder bags and then done it."
"As indeed they did."
She discards the gas mask.
Chatokay, drily: "Seventeen minutes to temporal event."
DRG sits up in the cow pasture and sways, small planets
circling his head.
"Man, oh man. What a draining experience."
He staggers to his feet.
"I better catch up to them. Good thing I have a redial
He activates it.
Nothing. He holds his wrist up to his ear.
"Forearm's depleted. I have to get back to the ship."
He taps his lapel, hitting only tweed.
"Oh oh. Must've dropped my communicator."
He walks around in a circle, kicking at the mud.
"I think it must be in one of those pubs."
He scratches the back of his neck.
"So what do I do now?"
He looks up and waves frantically at the sky.
"Hey! Beam me up!"
"Rats. I need a jump."
He checks his pockets, pulling out his tricorder and phaser.
"These are fully charged. But how do I access the power?"
He momentarily considers phasering himself, then rules it
"I wish there was a Door Repair Guy Technical Manual. What
would Dax do at a moment like this? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Dax."
He thinks about Dax for a while, then snaps out of it.
"Have to incorporate an energy source of some kind. Think.
How do you recharge your batteries if you're in the middle of a
cow pasture and you're a cybernetic organism?"
Sixty watt light bulb.
"You're a cybernetic ORGANISM!"
He dashes through the gate, down a lane and into the town,
where he stops, looks this way and that, and runs for Roberts'
Grocery. Mrs Roberts jumps as he crashes through the door.
DRG: "Quick! Spinach!"
Surprised and appalled she points.
He seizes a can, ratchets it open with a pocket can-opener,
and barfs down the contents. Popeye the Sailorman fanfare. He
turns towards Mrs Roberts, strikes a body-builder's pose, hits
his forearm, and disappears.
The door tinkles and Mr Roberts enters.
"Hello, love. Quiet day?"
He's just in time to see his wife's feet rise up and fall
down behind the counter where she has fainted dead away.
"Hey, kids! It's William Shakeseare's Romeo and Juliet
Action Figures (TM)!"
Girl with Claire Danes Juliet (TM) figure: "Romeo, Romeo,
like, wherefor art thou Romeo?"
Boy with Leonardo DiCapprio Romeo (TM) figure: "What light
through yonder window breaks, dude?"
Parents: wringing hands.]
Coastal Essex. DRG materializes in another paddock on the
outskirts of a small village.
"More mud. God, I hate this war."
He notices two pairs of footprints heading away from his
"There they go. This'll be easy, at least until we get to
He checks his phaser, takes out his tricorder and turns it
toward the footprints, then follows them through a gate, down a
lane and beyond a neighbouring copse of trees. A farmer enters
the field from another direction and stops at the sight of the
three sets of footprints beginning from nowhere.
The man with the clipboard leans over the fence and asks:
"Excuse me, please. How many cars made it up the long hill?"
"Veree few cahs mayd it up the long iool, you damnable nazi
The farmer seizes the linguist. They struggle.
Cut to DRG who is surveying the terrain from a vantage
point. To his right at the crest of a slope facing the sea a
radar dish rotates, gathering top secret information on the
movements of aircraft over the French coast. A village is
nestled in a nearby vale on the left. He spots the distant
signboard of a pub and hits his transport initiator. He
materializes under the sign. It reads THE WHITE HART. He steps
Chatokay and Torres materialize within the warehouse. They
Torres: "When do they appear?"
Chatokay (consulting tricorder): "Chroniton buildup suggests
fifteen minutes, forty-nine seconds right" -- he points --
Torres: "We should stun them as they appear."
Chatokay: "Yes. We should."
Torres: "All right."
Chatokay purses his lips and stares at the target.
Chatokay: "It seems too easy. Time travellers from the
future should be able to foresee our ambush and avoid it."
Torres: "Maybe they're from the past."
Chatokay: "I hadn't thought of that. We tend to assume time
travellers come from the future."
Torres: "The chronitons are a pretty good indicator,
Chatokay: "Or a pretty good red herring."
Torres: "Hm. Maybe if we stood back to back."
Chatokay: "That's an improvement."
They stand back to back with phasers drawn.
Torres: "Of course they could already be here watching us."
Their eyes search the warehouse.
Chatokay: "In which case we'd look pretty foolish."
"I think we should run for cover."
"Hey kids! It's 101 Dalmatians Action Figures (TM)!
Collect them all!"
Kids: "Mom! Dad! We still only have 57!"
Mom and Dad: biting nails.]
Door Repair Guy enters the White Hart and clomps down the
length of the pub, peering into each booth in turn, and leaving
muddy footprints. Everyone returns his glare except a member of
the RAF who is preoccupied making an entry in a pocket notebook.
DRG slides into the booth.
"You're Arthur C. Clarke, aren't you!"
(Looking up.) "Uh, yes. . . ?"
"Isaac Asimov says Hi."
"Are you from the Soviet Embassy?"
"No! Listen. I wanted to ask you. The monolith. It's a
door, right? An interdimensional gateway? I was really
influenced by 2001. I based my Eleventh Rank piece on it.
Totally indestructible, 92% naturally-occurring titanium recessed
into the subspace realm. The Trans Am of doors. Impervious to
disruptor fire! The Door Fek'lhr trashed it of course, but
'Never offend the Door Fek'lhr' as they say. What kind of beer
is that? Do you mind? Mmmmm. They know how to brew 'em in
England. Hey, I just read _Glide Path_. How're things going
with that Ground Controlled Descent?"
Clarke's ears prick up and his eyes dart around.
"What do you know about that?"
"Radar thing. For landing planes in the fog. Pretty basic
concept when you think about it, but a big thing in its time!"
"A big secret thing in its time. Do you mind shutting up?"
"Huh! Authors. Too stuck up for their own good. Well,
just for that, I'm not going to ask you to autograph my copy of
"Hm. Earthlight. That's a good title."
He makes a notation.
A young woman slides into the booth.
Margaret: "Are you Flight Officer Arthur Charles Clarke?"
"Uh, yes. . . ."
She pulls a revolver on him.
"Abandon your evil geosynchronous monstrosity!"
"My . . . what?"
"England will not be held hostage to orbiting incendiary
"You're as mad as that idiotic Russian!"
"I am not mad, I tell you! I am a patriot!"
"You're off your chump. And what exactly do you mean by
'geo-'. . . ."
His voice trails off and he grabs his notebook and pencil.
"Of course! An artificial satellite situated at some
specific height above the earth would revolve above the earth at
a rate of one orbit per day, in effect remaining above the same
point at all times! We could bounce radio waves off it, and
broadcast to half the globe without the usual problems of
atmospheric interference! What an intelligent girl you are!"
Margaret: "Why, yes, I am, rather."
"Are you in university?"
"I soon shall be, I hope. I've applied to Somerville
"Urgh, Oxford. I would think Cambridge would be more the
thing for someone interested in science."
"Hmph. One or the other. What does it matter?"
"Does the word 'hidebound' mean anything to you?"
"Why are you being so mean?"
"You're the one with the revolver."
"Well, you're the one with the . . . orbiting bomber."
"But . . . wouldn't the bombs detonate at high altitudes
from the heat of atmospheric reentry?"
"What do you mean?"
He takes out a match and scrapes it against the box.
"I hadn't thought of that. What a fool I've been! That
woman had me completely blindfolded. From now on I shall never
listen to anyone else again!"
She throws the revolver on the table, hunches over with her
arms crossed and pouts.
Clarke: "I hope I haven't put you off space exploration
entirely. There are many admirable reasons for venturing into
"What possible benefit could be gained from treading around
on the sands of Mars?"
He blinks and makes a notation in his notebook.
Clarke: "Suppose Captain Cook had said the same thing about
"Hm. The threat of transportation to Mars could serve to
lower the crime rate."
"That wasn't quite what I had in mind."
"That's just what's the matter with some people. They think
the Government is there to hand out huge wads of pound notes just
so they can fly to the Moon or Mars when they have no idea how to
put that borrowed wealth back into the Exchequer."
"You're going to stand for Parliament when you grow up,
She thrusts out her chin defiantly.
Across the room Seska is monitoring this conversation with
increasing dissatisfaction. It now appears that her plan to have
the future prime minister shoot the future inventor of the
communications satellite is off. She puts her communicator on
her lapel in preparation for a quick exit, then draws her phaser,
first to stun all witnesses with a wide setting, then to
incinerate the two insufferable youngsters. Unbeknownst to her,
however [yeah, right, what a YATI] DRG has been playing darts
around the far corner of the bar and watching her in a reflective
surface. With sleight of hand unperceived by his darts partner
he releases the Edward VII copper penny into the air on a
trajectory calculated to bring it into glancing contact with the
communicator before putting a crack in the nearby window.
Seska's head snaps toward the window.
Dennis Madalone: "Communicator signal in Essex."
Tuvok: "It must be Seska. Energize."
Seska appears on the transporter platform in a seated
position and tumbles over backward.
Shot of Tuvok gazing down toward the camera.
"May I offer you a hand, Ms Seska? Your absence has caused
considerable concern. How have you been occupied?"
She glares back.
"With a phaser? That is hardly 'sporting'."
Seska: look of intense irritation.
"Hey kids! It's Star Trek: First Contact Action Figures!"
Boy with Zephram Cochrane (TM) figure: "That'll do, pig.
Girl with Babe the Gallant Pig (TM) figure: "Squueek!
Resistance is futile! Oink oink oink!"
Parents: exchange Huh? look.]
Shot of Torres and Chatokay crouched behind wooden crates in
separate corners of the warehouse but within visual contact of
each other. We hear a personal transporter sound effect.
Torres: "What was that?"
Chatokay glances cautiously over his crate with his phaser
held at the ready. Shot of DRG as seen through a gap in the
DRG: "Hey! Where are you guys?"
Chatokay: "Get over here and pipe down. We're trying to
avoid a temporal ambush."
"You mean, like, one time traveller with a phaser could be
about to appear from fifty different times and wipe us out in a
"Something like that."
He thinks. "Nah. It'll never happen."
Torres: "Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?"
"Nobody's that organized."
Chatokay considers this, then cocks his ear, stands, and
gazes at the rafters.
"Sounds like company."
It's true. A low distant drone of bomber engines can be
heard. Sirens begin to wail. Antiaircraft fire starts up.
He continues: "It's just like last time. How long now?"
Torres: "Thirty seconds."
Chatokay (to DRG): "Did you find Seska?"
"Oh, yeah, I forgot, I did."
"What was she up to?"
"Matchmaking from the look of it."
Torres: "Here they come!"
Two figures appear in a swirling transporter effect. They
look around. They are dressed in twinkly bronze body suits with
ziggarat-shaped hats. Chatokay steps forward.
"Vorgons! What is your business here?"
First Vorgon: "We are harvesting."
"Harvesting? What are you harvesting?"
"Yes. We are book dealers from the 27th century. This is
the warehouse of the publishers George Allen and Unwin."
"Aren't you aware that your thefts can have a deleterious
effect on the time line?"
"On the contrary, we are very sanitary. In two minutes
these volumes would be burning wreckage."
The drone of engines has increased. The Maquis and Vorgons
eye the rafters nervously. The first Vorgon pulls open a
cardboard box and extracts a hardcover book.
"Look. _The Hobbit_. 1937. It is the second impression,
but the first to include the colour plates by the author, who as
usual was too disorganized to get them to the publisher in time
for the first printing. See? 'Bilbo comes to the Huts of the
Chatokay: "Are you telling me you are risking life and limb
in the middle of a major global conflict to smuggle fairy tales
into the future?"
Vorgon: "Medievalism is one of the eleven herbs and spices
of 26th century culture."
Second Vorgon: "Yes. 'Quest or jest.' That's the Nike ad."
Chatokay: "This is ridiculous. I can't believe we wasted
over a day on this wild goose chase. Let's get out of here."
First Vorgon: "Agreed. Destruction is imminent. Have a
good time in the Delta Quadrant."
Chatokay: "Pardon me?"
Second Vorgon: "Shh!"
First Vorgon: "Oh!"
The high-pitched whine of a falling incendiary device
prompts a flurry of communicator tapping followed closely by
multiple transporter effects, the Vorgons disappearing with
several cartons of books. As the transporter shimmer dissipates
we see an avalanche of rafters surrounding a Volkswagen-sized
bomb drop to the floor and blossom outward in an orange fireball.
"Hey kids! It's Fly Away Home Action Figures and Ultralight
Girl with Anna Paquin (TM) figure in Ultralight Plane (TM):
"Okay, birds! Your flying days are over!" Makes machine gun
Boy with Canada Goose (TM) figure: makes long crash landing
sound followed by explosive sound effect.
Parents: console each other.]
The screen whites out and then clears to reveal the starry
constellations, a nearby sun, and the Stargazer drifting toward
our vantage point.
Cut to the bridge. Crew members are slumped in their chairs
or lying across their consoles. Chatokay in the command chair
comes to, blinks and glances around.
Nearly no one is. The members of the bridge crew stir
groggily from their time-warp-enduced stupor amid a low chorus of
mumbles and stale-tongued mouth smacks. Torres sits up and wipes
her chin with the side of her hand.
Tuvok: "Time warp has succeeded as anticipated. We have
returned to sector 21504, approximately five weeks from the
moment of our disappearance in sector 001, a period of time
commensurate with normal warp-speed travel between those two
Chatokay: "With luck Starfleet won't have recognized our
temporal escape route. It'll come in handy for surprise attacks."
The bridge shakes.
Torres: "Two Galor-class Cardassians on the starboard bow!
Direct hits to Engineering and Weapons Control!"
Majel Barrett Roddenberry: *Engine synchronization programme
is off line.*
"Shields collapsed on the first salvo!"
Chatokay: "Evasive manoeuvres! Helm, set a course for the
Badlands! B'Elanna, get to Engineering and keep those engines on
"Next time let's steal something a little sturdier!"
"Bring it up at the next meeting!"
Shot of the Stargazer turning and dodging away under fire
from the Cardassians.
Essex. Arthur and Margaret stand looking out over the
English Channel. Arthur is emptying the chamber of the service
revolver and acting big-brotherly. Margaret has assumed a
belligerent adolescent slouch.
Arthur: "You'll never get anywhere in life if you don't try
to get along with people."
"How are you going to get home?"
"I don't know."
"He's a fiver. There's a train station two miles from
"I don't want your charity!"
"I don't see that you have a choice."
"I'll send it back to you by the first post."
"Instead, why don't you do some needy person a favour in the
"OOOoooo!!! This is so humiliating!"
"Look, I have to report in. You're sure you'll be fine?"
"Very well, then. So long!"
He heads off.
Margaret raises her chin and watches him go, making up her
To herself: "I *will* become Prime Minister, and when I do
there shaln't be one British penny spent on that horrid horrid
The Badlands. Asteroids veer and tumble across the screen
amid tendrils of swirling plasma. The Stargazer edges into the
shot, much the worse for wear.
Bridge. Consoles are sparking and smoking as the bridge
crew battles the controls.
Chatokay: "Lost them at last."
Tuvok: "To no avail it would appear. Warp drive is down,
weapons inoperative, transporters off line. Hull integrity is at
45%. Our fire suppression systems have failed. I am receiving
multiple reports of uncontained fires."
Chatokay: "There's a Maquis supply depot fifty-three
astronomical units from here. Aim for that."
"Life support systems have just crashed. Backup systems not
responding. We are venting atmosphere at an increasing rate.
Computer analysis indicates that the Stargazer will not be able
to reach the supply depot before the complete depletion of oxygen
"Well, that's that. To the lifeboats. All hands abandon
ship! Repeat. All hands abandon ship!"
Shot of lifeboats launching from the bruised and burning
Stargazer. The camera closes in on one of them.
Cut to the interior. Several too many Maquis are crowded
into the confined space.
Suder: "Nobody touch me. Just nobody touch me."
Jonas: "I could use a little help with these controls here.
Hey, Door Boy!"
DRG (shifting around to get a better light on his book):
"Not my department."
The camera moves in over his shoulder and closes up on the
page. We read:
'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.'
Written by Douglas A. McLeod, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes on There And Back Again:
Andrew Bonar Law, British Prime Minister for seven months from autumn 1922 to spring 1923, was born in New Brunswick.
Björn Borg, Wimbledon champion 1976 to 1980.
The English Patient was burnt to a crisp in an airplane cockpit, but his pocket copy of Herodotus' History survived, as did his parachute. I call Yati.
The Hobbit was went temporarily out print in 1942 when Allen and Unwin's warehouse was burnt down in the Blitz.
Here is where I ran out of Star Trek jokes.
What should come next is a ST/Hobbit crossover episode. Then perhaps a half season in the Delta Quadrant. And then maybe a stint in Star Trek Phase II, the Seventies TV series that was never made. That would have been enough to get to episode 65, and syndication.
What if you simply must have more Door Repair Guy? There is a DRG-like character named Dwayne in Shaolin Cricket and Wonderful Hell, two stories I wrote around 2005. Or hunt up Turvey by Earle Birney, or Artie Greengroin, Pfc. by Harry Brown. The character Hoshino in Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore is extremely DRG-like, especially in chapter thirty of that book.
If you were to read only one DRG episode, which would it be? I recommend either #7 "The Doors of Perception", #19 "Chekov's Brain" or #21 "Stomping Ground".