"HAH!" cried Matt Smith. He stepped back, smoothed his hair, regarded himself critically, then lunged forward again, stabbing dramatically with the sonic screwdriver. "HAH!"
If he had been attempting to impress the mirror in the Muppet Theater's dressing room, the result was something less than he had hoped. "No," said Matt Smith thoughtfully. He frowned. "Perhaps something… more dramatic?" He stood up, tensed for action, and threw himself into a fighting stance. "Hah!" he cried, flipping the sonic screwdriver from one hand to the other. "A-HAH!"
"Peter O'Toole," said a helpful-sounding voice.
"I'm sorry?" said Matt Smith. He turned to see a bear holding a large bowl half-filled with some unidentifiable substance. The bowl was large enough that the bear couldn't quite see where it was going, so a king prawn, holding two little lighted sticks, was standing well in front of the bear, gesturing with the sticks like an airport runway marshaller.
"Yeah," said the king prawn. "Definitely Peter O'Toole. Lawrence of Arabia, man."
Matt Smith beamed from ear to ear.
"You know," said the bear. "The bit where he's running around in the desert pretending to be an airplane."
Matt Smith's grin fell slightly.
"Oh, hey," said the bear. "We brought that fish custard you wanted, Mr. Smith."
"Great, great. Just put it there, thanks." Matt Smith turned back to the mirror, waved his arms about, gathered air into his lungs, and lunged again. "Hah," he said meaningfully, with authority and gravitas. "Hah! A-ha! HAH!"
"What's that?" said the bear curiously, once he'd set the bowl down.
"This?" said Matt Smith casually. He flipped the screwdriver. "My sonic screwdriver. Does anything that isn't too important to the plot."
"Oh," said the bear. He paused. "What's a plot?"
"We don't see 'em round here too much," the prawn said. "Mostly we're just sorta happy with an excuse."
As Matt digested this, someone knocked on the door. "Come in!" Matt called. The door opened, revealing a face that was at least familiar, if green. "Um, excuse me," the frog said. "Bobo, Pepe, could you give us just a minute, please? Thank you, thank you --" he added, as the prawn and the bear exited. "I certainly hope they weren't bothering you, Mr. Smith."
"Hm?" said Matt Smith. "Kermit, right? Call me Matt. And no, no, great bunch." His brow furrowed. "A little surprised they didn't at least recognize the sonic screwdriver, though."
"Er," said Kermit the Frog, "the what?"
Matt Smith blinked. Then he laughed. "I get it," he said. "You haven't watched the show, have you? No, that's fair enough; I hadn't either."
"Gee, I'm sorry, Mr. Smith," said Kermit sincerely.
"Matt," Matt Smith said again.
"I'm sorry, Matt, but we're all pretty busy here, so there's a lot of stuff we miss. But we do have one person on staff who's seen every single episode of Doctor Who that he possibly could -- "
The dressing room door flew open, and a short, bespectacled orange Muppet staggered in under the weight of the longest script Matt Smith had ever seen. It was fully as thick as the Muppet was tall. "Kermit!" gasped the Muppet. "I've finished the script! It's a loving tribute to all the Doctors, all the monsters, and every single companion who ever appeared on the show. It's got action, suspense, special effects -- "
"Scooter," said Kermit, "we can't afford special effects."
"That's okay!" said Scooter cheerfully. "Neither could Doctor Who!"
Matt Smith opened his mouth to object, then shrugged and nodded.
"Look, Scooter," said Kermit, "I'm sure this is great, but it's just way too long. We can't possibly do all this in the time we have."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Have you tried telling Animal he's in charge of script pages? That usually solves our time problem."
Scooter howled in anguish as Kermit ushered him, script and all, out the door. "What about Marco Polo?" Scooter wailed. "We can't lose Marco Polo!" His cries were cut off when Kermit shoved the door shut.
"Sorry about that, Matt," said Kermit.
"No, no worries," said Matt. "And look, no problem about not seeing my show, all right? I haven't seen yours."
"Oh, well, then," said Kermit, sounding relieved. "That's -- wait. What?"
"Yeah, when I was growing up, you Muppets were off the air. Funny how often that happens with shows I'm on. But look, my producer told me it'd be brilliant, and that's worked out for me so far." Matt grinned cheerfully. "I mean, you lot are professionals, right? You know what you're doing. What could possibly go wrong?" He turned back to the mirror, practicing his flourish.
Kermit swallowed. "Nice knowing you," he said glumly, and trotted off.
A drumroll sounded, and a spotlight shone onstage. In its center, Kermit appeared. "It's the Muppet Doctor Who Special," he cried, "with our very special guest star, Matt Smith! Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy!" Flailing his arms wildly, Kermit ran offstage as the singers came on.
"It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights! It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight. It's time to put on makeup, it's time to dress up right! It's time to get things started --"
From their box, Statler and Waldorf surveyed the growing crowd. "Catering to the fans, huh?" said Waldorf. He tugged thoughtfully on his moustache. "The management must be desperate."
"They must be," said Statler. "I'm acting in this one!"
He and Waldorf guffawed, the outburst interrupted when Statler realized he was supposed to be onstage, did a double-take, and raced out of the box.
"It's time to get things started on the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational -- this is what we call the Muppet Shoooooowwww!"
Gonzo blew his trumpet, but produced only a strange wheezing, groaning sound. He shrugged and darted offstage.
The curtain rose on a dark, fog-shrouded setting. As the mists swirled and slowly settled, Pepe, clad in a London bobby's uniform, scurried across the stage. In his claws, he held a sign reading "76 Totters Lane - 1963."
Nothing happened for several moments. Then, deep in the fog, someone started coughing. The coughing grew louder and unhappier until Janice, clad in a school uniform, made her way out of the worst of the fog and to the edge of the stage. She coughed a few more times before she managed to get her breath back. "Grandfather?" said Janice. "Like, Grandfather, are you here?"
A series of loud crashes, culminating in the yowl of a startled cat, was heard offstage. Statler, puffing from his hurried descent from his box, stumbled onto the stage and approached Janice. When he reached her, he looked her up and down, then glared. "I refuse to believe we're related," he said.
"Won't be for long, man," said Janice. "D'you know how many freakin' companions there are? I got, like, sixteen costume changes tonight."
"So go make one now."
"It'd get you offstage, wouldn't it?" bellowed Statler. He laughed uproariously. In the balcony, so did Waldorf.
"Psst!" hissed Scooter from the pit. "Psst! " He waved a copy of the script. "Go over to the TARDIS!" At Statler's incomprehension, Scooter pointed to the police box at stage left. "That's the TARDIS! It's your time machine!"
Statler's face twisted. He hobbled over to the TARDIS, inspected it briefly, then lifted his cane and thumped the side of the police box. It echoed dully. "That's a time machine?" said Statler. "How low is the budget on this farce, anyway?"
A voice offstage shouted, "EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"
Animal, seated in a Victorian perambulator, holding a toilet plunger under one arm like a medieval plumber or a singularly deranged knight, rolled across the stage. "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" he bellowed. "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"
Lacking brakes, Animal rolled into the orchestra pit and crashed.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen," said Statler. At the sound of a throat being cleared behind him, he turned to see Kermit and Miss Piggy in 1960s dress. "Oh, wait. I was wrong."
"Excuse me, Doctor," said Kermit. "I'm Ian Chesterton, one of your daughter's teachers. My colleague Barbara and I are very concerned with her education."
"I hate you more than anyone I've ever met," Statler replied. "I think I'll take you with me from one end of the universe to the next."
"Oh, well, that sounds very nice, thank you."
The backdrop split in half, revealing itself to have taken up only part of the stage. Behind the initial backdrop, the main set was revealed: a surprisingly faithful, if low-budget, mock-up of the TARDIS console room. "Huh," said Miss Piggy. "It's bigger on the inside than on the outside!"
Statler leafed through his script. "I'm not going to make a prostate joke," he said firmly. After flipping several more pages, he stopped. "Wait a minute. This is ridiculous. Where's the rest of my part?"
Animal looked up from his landing site in the orchestra pit. "OM NOM NOM," he shouted, around a mouthful of script pages.
"Suits me," said Statler. "I'm tired." He leaned against the TARDIS console and began snoring.
"How about that!" bellowed Waldorf. "The show's not just putting the audience to sleep!" He laughed uproariously, but lacking Statler's accompaniment, trailed off into uncomfortable silence.
"Scooter," said Kermit as he darted offstage, "I don't think this production is going to work."
"Well, for one thing, our lead actor is very old and he's just fallen asleep."
"That's perfect. We'll just skip to the Tenth Planet segment, hit the special effects we can afford, and cue Sweetums to take over for Statler." Scooter pointed at Sweetums and jerked a thumb toward the stage.
"Right!" bellowed Sweetums. He tugged at his bowtie and began moving into place.
"Scooter, he's five times Statler's size!" said Kermit. "He's not going to fit into Statler's costume."
"No, that's fine, we change his costume, too."
"You mean if we need to, we're going to change our lead actor, change the main character's costume, and just keep going like nothing whatsoever happened?"
"Well, yeah!" said Scooter. "That's exactly how Doctor Who works." He took in Kermit's expression. "You don't like it, do you?"
"Actually," said Kermit, "I'm kind of wishing we could do this for every production. But I think the audience would probably get confused."
"Are you happy with us, Victoria?" said Sweetums gently.
"Oh, like wow," said Janice, "totally. At least, I would be if my sugar daddy was here. But you're so old, it's like, you probably can't remember your family."
"Oh yes I can," said Sweetums, "when I want to. And that's the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they sleep in my mind, and I forget. And so will you." Janice shook her head. "Oh yes, you will. You'll find that there's so much else to think about, to remember," said Sweetums softly. "Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing. Nobody in the universe can do what we're doing. Now you must get some sleep, and let this poor old man stay awake."
In the audience, someone blew their nose.
"Sweetums," said Kermit, as Sweetums stepped off the stage, "that was an incredibly touching performance. I think it's the best work you've ever done."
"Thank you," said Sweetums sincerely. "I love this part, Kermit. It's heart-warming, it's adventurous, it's everything I ever wanted my work with the Muppets to be. I can't wait to be back out doing it."
"Great. Unfortunately, Animal just set the rest of your pages on fire, so now we have to skip ahead to Piggy's part."
In the orchestra pit, Animal held up a thick sheaf of burning script pages. "FIRE!" he chanted. "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!!"
"Awww," said Sweetums. His shoulders slumped in disappointment.
"Who are you supposed to be?" said Miss Piggy, tugging on her velvet smoking jacket and adjusting the ruffles on her shirt.
"I'm Trumpet Girl," said Trumpet Girl. "I'm usually in the orchestra. This is only my second time having lines."
Piggy gritted her teeth. "Who. Are you. SUPPOSED. To be?"
"Oh!" said Trumpet Girl. "Right. Liz Shaw. I'm a scientist! I can be a real collaborator, because I can actually understand more than a small fraction of what you're talking about. Unless all you really want is to have somebody to pass you your test tubes and tell you how brilliant you are."
Miss Piggy considered this.
"Tell me, Liz," she said, "in all your advanced scientific studies, in all the wonderful qualifications you undertook… did you ever study Venusian aikido?"
"What?" said Trumpet Girl.
"Heya," said Janice, as the Whatnots dragged Trumpet Girl's unconscious form away. "I'm Jo!"
"Much better," said Piggy.
"Kermit," said Sam the Eagle, "I have noticed that, as of this time, I have no part in this production."
"Well, no, Sam."
"I cannot help but feel this undercuts the spirit of patriotism."
Kermit rummaged through the papers on his desk. This particular stack was one he kept mentally labeled, "rummage through when somebody starts complaining about their part;" it had served him well since the seventies. "You see, Sam," said Kermit, "that's kind of the issue. You're a proud American eagle, and Doctor Who is a British show --"
Sam's chest inflated to alarming levels. "You mean there is NO ROLE FOR A PROUD AMERICAN?"
"Actually," said Scooter helpfully, "there is!"
"There is?" said Kermit. "I mean, oh good."
Scooter tore a sheaf of pages loose from the later part of his script and stapled them together. "Sam," he said, "can you play a brave, handsome American who's a dashing and romantic hero -- a military man of action?"
"Can I?" said Sam, with an emphasis suggesting that the question was entirely rhetorical and no patriotic American could ever possibly have doubted it.
"Congratulations," said Scooter, "you're Captain Jack Harkness."
"Hiii-yah! Hiii-yah! Hiii-yahhhh!"
The radioactive giant spiders of Metebelis 3 karate-chopped into submission, Miss Piggy brushed a stray lock of hair off of her forehead and turned to Scooter, who was staring in disbelief and shock. "Now what?" she said cheerfully. "Now that moi has defeated the giant radioactive spiders."
"Er," said Scooter. "Actually, you get killed by the giant radioactive spiders, and Dr. Teeth comes in -- "
Miss Piggy glared at him and drew back an arm for another karate chop.
As Sam left Kermit's office, a script tucked under one wing -- or was it arm? Kermit was never quite sure -- Fozzie poked his head around the corner of the doorframe. "Ah, Kermit?" said Fozzie. "Kermit? Listen -- I have a bad feeling about this."
"Fozzie," said Kermit, "I think that line's Star Wars, and we're doing -- "
"No!" said Fozzie. "I just mean, I don't think the actual pay-off of the Sam as Captain Jack Harkness joke can possibly be as good as the set-up."
"I understand," said Kermit. "But I think sometimes that just happens."
Fozzie shrugged. "Yeah, what can you do? Oh, and Piggy's refusing to get off the stage."
"What? She's supposed to have regenerated by now, isn't she?"
"Actually, it's working out for us, because Dr. Teeth isn't coming out of his dressing room. I think there's something wrong with him, Kermit."
"Oh, good grief. All right. Fozzie, you stay in my office and if anybody comes in, tell them I'm down in Dr. Teeth's dressing room."
Kermit made his way down the corridor, passing the guest star dressing room. Inside, Matt Smith was listening carefully to a cell phone. He saw Kermit and waved; Kermit nodded politely and kept going, but he hadn't gotten far when Matt Smith leaned through the doorway and called after him. Sighing, Kermit turned back.
"Hello, Kermit," said Matt Smith. He'd lowered his cell phone and tucked it against his chest. "How's the show going?"
"Erm," said Kermit. "It's on the closed-circuit cameras. You're not watching it?"
"No, not really. That approach's worked out for me pretty well so far. Is it all right?"
"What would you say if I told you that Jon Pertwee is against regenerating and Tom Baker is held up in limbo?"
Matt Smith's brow furrowed. He lifted his cell phone from his chest and spoke into it. "Steven?" he said. "Did you get that?" He listened, then tucked the phone back against his chest and looked up at Kermit. "Steven asks if we're doing 'The Five Doctors.'"
"Yes -- I mean no!" Kermit waved his arms frantically. "We're doing all of the Doctors, only the Third Doctor is a ham and the Fourth is a musician and I'm supposed to be the Fifth only we're going to have a pile-up because the Third won't get off the stage!"
"Did you get that?" Matt Smith said into the cell phone. Then he nodded and hung up. "Right," he said. "Steven says this sounds worse than 'The Five Doctors.' I'd better help you out."
"Wow, man," said Dr. Teeth. "This is, like, far out." He was staring into space. "I've been on some trips before. Oshkosh, Paducah, Ouagadougou… but I ain't never been on a trip like this."
"Oh, no," said Matt Smith.
"What is it?"
"I've seen this before. He's eaten too many Jelly Babies." Matt Smith looked hard into Dr. Teeth's eyes. "It's common in Britain. If you could see the children coming out of the candy shops, hallucinating -- it's really a pressing social problem." He glanced at the empty candy bags scattered about. "Right. We have to find out what we're dealing with." He grasped Dr. Teeth's head in both hands. "Dr. Teeth?" Matt Smith said. "Can you hear me? Did you eat the green ones?"
"We don't have time for this," said Kermit. "We've got to get him onstage now."
"Why?" said Matt Smith. "What does he have to do?"
"Fall from a great height."
"He's flying high," said Matt Smith. "He couldn't fall from six inches right now. You said you're the Fifth Doctor?"
"Yes. Will the fans be upset if we skip number four?"
"No," said Matt Smith, "no no no, not really, not as such, he's only probably the most popular Doctor, played the part for seven years."
Kermit's face fell.
"Right," said Matt Smith. "You ready?"
"As I'll ever be," said Kermit. "Piggy's taken up a lot of stage time, so we'll have to go through the next few Doctors pretty quick." He glanced onstage, where Piggy and Janice were boating in a hastily-cobbled together cardboard punt. "And this sketch'll just have to remain unfinished." He picked up a bullhorn. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he shouted. "It's our very special guest star, Matt Smith! Yayyyy!" Kermit turned back to Matt as the spotlight hit them. "Dump him," he said.
Matt Smith put a foot on Dr. Teeth's scarf for support, put his hands on Dr. Teeth's shoulders, and shoved. "Ooo," said Dr. Teeth faintly as he rolled over the edge of the catwalk. The scarf, knotted around his body, ran up and over the catwalk railing, which acted as a makeshift pulley. Slowly, Matt Smith began to pay out the scarf.
Scooter's eyes bulged momentarily. Then he dashed to Matt Smith's dressing room, grabbed the star off the door, stuck it onto his own chest, and raced out onstage. "Look out!" called Scooter, pointing. "The Doctor's going to fall!"
The Fourth Doctor, snoring gently, was lowered at a rate appreciably less than that of a falling body. On the catwalk, Matt Smith grunted as he paid out foot after foot after foot of scarf, until Dr. Teeth rested on the stage.
"You're on," said Matt. "Don't forget your celery."
"Celery?" said Kermit. "What's that for?"
"If you want to make a Bloody Mary, later."
"It sounds tempting."
"Look!" Scooter cried, as Kermit dashed onstage. "The Watcher was the Doctor all along!" He paused, then added, "Special effects cue!"
Dr. Teeth, still snoring, fell through the stage trapdoor. A second opened immediately beneath Scooter, to Scooter's surprise and alarm. Both of them vanished with loud crashes.
"Yes," said Kermit, affixing his celery. "I'm the Fifth Doctor, and you, Piggy, are my companion, Perpugilliam Brown. We'll travel the universe together."
Piggy made a high-pitched sound of delight. Her eyes were shining. "Oh!" she cried. "Oh, Kermie! This is so wonderful! Where shall we go first?"
"Androzani Minor," said Kermit. "While there, we're exposed to poison, and I only have enough antidote for one of us, so I decide to save you."
Piggy sighed. "It sounds terribly romantic."
"Not for me, especially, but there you go."
Piggy drank the proffered antidote. "Now what?" she said.
"Now I fall over," Kermit said, and did it. "Special effects cue!" he shouted.
In the wings, Scooter nodded to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, who kicked Beaker, who plugged in a slide projector. Faces of past companions, all of them Janice, appeared on the backdrop. "Like, wow, Doctor," said Janice's pre-recorded voice. "You totally have to live! Like, wow, Doctor, you totally have to live!"
"Now!" said Scooter. Beaker activated the second projector. On the backdrop, in enormous size, appeared the face of Charles Durning as Doc Hopper. "No," cried Doc Hopper. "No, Doctor! Die! Die, Doctor! Die, Doctor, die, die, die!"
"Cue lights!" called Scooter. As Doc Hopper laughed maniacally, the stage lights turned up, and up, and up --
"Oww!" yelled Miss Piggy. "I can't see a thing!"
Scooter said, "Cue Fozzie!"
The lights went out.
They came up again, slowly. Miss Piggy, blinking, knelt down on the huddled form at the edge of the stage. "Kermie?" she said. "My Kermie? Are you okay?" No answer came. "Kermie?"
The huddled shape threw off the sheet it had been lying under. "Heyyyyy!!!!" said Fozzie, leaping to his feet. He dusted off his coat, which looked as if it had been designed by the Electric Mayhem, and spread his arms. "Wakka wakka!"
Miss Piggy said, "Oh, like I'm sticking around for *this,*" and stormed off.
"Oh, this is great!" Fozzie said. "I have SO MANY good jokes. Okay! Okay! What did the elephant say to the hipporocemous? Eh? He said -- "
"Ahem," said the voice of someone very short, who was tugging on Fozzie's coat.
"Not now," said Fozzie. He turned back to the audience and spread his hands again. "The elephant said -- ow! WHAT?!"
"Sorry, Fozzie," said Rizzo the Rat. "We're moving along. The script's going downhill, the audience isn't happy -- the producers just want something different."
"…whhhhhaaaaaaaat?!" yelled Fozzie. "None of this is my fault!" Aghast, he looked desperately from side to side. "If they want different, I can do different! Different how? You mean -- they want SOMEBODY ELSE? Who?!" Rizzo looked guilty. "YOU?!"
"Fozzie, it's a job! It's nothing personal!"
"Fine!" said Fozzie. "You know what? I'm going to go do audiodramas. And people will like me there, because I'll have better writers!" He turned on his heel and stormed off.
"Come back!" called Rizzo. "You still have to do your regeneration scene!"
"YOU do it!" shouted Fozzie from offstage.
"FINE!" Rizzo yelled. He turned to the wings. "Somebody gimme a wig."
An questionably Fozzie-colored wig was thrown onstage. It struck Rizzo with enough force to knock him over, in part because it was large enough to cover his entire body. "Thank you," Rizzo said from under it. He flailed around in a very unconvincing portrayal of regeneration. "Now," he said, crawling out from underneath the wig, "I just need a companion, and -- "
Crazy Harry, in drag, popped up from behind the TARDIS console, and cackled wildly as he raised his detonator. "No!" shouted Rizzo. "No! No Nitro-Nine!"
Crazy Harry depressed the plunger.
The explosion sent Rizzo flying across the stage, where he collided with the TARDIS prop and fell heavily to the floor. Immediately, a medical team composed entirely of chickens scurried in from stage left. They were professional, and swift-acting; in seconds, they had Rizzo on a stretcher in a very cheap operating room set and had crowded about to examine him. They clucked at each other in distress at his injuries, and shoved one another in their efforts to get closer.
"Hey," said Rizzo, "what're you doing? No, don't cut that off, I need that! Hey, that tickles! -- ow! Careful with the feathers, I -- arrgg! Okay, okay! Enough! I'm outta here! Scooter! Special effects cue!"
In the wings, Scooter nodded to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, who flipped a large switch labeled "Transducer." Lightning arced everywhere. The chickens all jumped back, clucking frantically, as the gimmicked operating table rotated, revealing Gonzo strapped into place. The chickens scattered, except for one. Cautiously, she stepped forward and pecked at the straps, freeing Gonzo.
Gonzo leapt to his feet, grasped the chicken's shoulders, and kissed her. "I'm half chicken," he said. "On my mother's side."
The chicken's eyes widened. Then she kissed him back.
They kissed again, and stumbled into the TARDIS. The door slammed shut behind them.
And after that blur of Doctors and regenerations, for a very long time, nothing happened.
"Kermit?" Fozzie said.
"Not now, Fozzie."
"Oh," said Fozzie. "Okay." He paused. "Er, Kermit?"
"WHAT, Fozzie?! What is it?"
"Oh, nothing," said Fozzie, "it's just that the show's kind of stopped and nothing's been going on onstage for a while, that's all."
"WHAT?!" Kermit leapt up from his desk, where he'd been trying to determine whether Matt Smith's guest-starring contract included a "great humiliation and unprofessionalism" provision, and turned to the closed circuit monitor. What Fozzie had said was true. There was no movement onstage. The audience was gone; the security cameras showed them milling about in the lobby and the restrooms. Kermit sprang forward and grabbed Fozzie's shoulders. "How long has the audience had no Doctor Who, Fozzie?"
"Well, it seems like sixteen years, but it's probably only been about twenty minutes."
"What, what, WHAT?!"
"It's okay! The audience thinks it's intermission! We're doing pretty good on concessions sales, at least."
"Fozzie, find Rowlf! Get him on! We'll just have to skip to…" Kermit consulted his memo "…Christopher Eccleston."
"Who's the companion?"
"Yeah," said Fozzie, "but who --"
"Fozzie, I really don't think that matters now! A companion is a companion is a companion. It's not like any of them have a deep relationship, or like they're romantic partners, or anybody in the audience is really invested in the relationship between the companion and the Doctor, right? It's not like the next companion is special or something!"
Scooter, who was lying on the office couch with an ice pack on his forehead, cleared his throat.
Kermit yelled, "Oh, GREAT!"
Rowlf, clad in a sweater and leather jacket, ambled onstage and knocked at the TARDIS door. There was no response. "Er," Rowlf called, "I don't think they're comin' out, Kermit."
"That's okay, Rowlf," said Kermit from the wings. The audience was still settling, but they were back, mostly, and that was something. "We'll just skip the regeneration scene. Just go ahead with your part."
Rowlf stepped past the TARDIS and into the console room set. He flicked several switches on the console, which slid open to reveal a piano. As he began to play, Janice, guitar in hand, approached and draped herself over the console. "Wow, Doctor," said Janice. "You're kinda dreamy."
Rowlf shrugged. "I'm no Paul McGann, but I get by." He ran a quick scale. "Not bad, though," he said. "Except for the ears. But they come in handy. Y'know how you're a kid and they tell you the earth's moving, and you can't believe it?"
"You can feel it?"
"No. But I hear 'em when they tell me it is, 'cause I got great ears. You probably think that's silly."
"I think you're great. Hey, man, you wanna jam somethin'?"
"Why not?" said Rowlf. "Let's rework an old standard. Two, three, four! ...
"When you've got a Doctor, then you need companions,
enough of 'em to fill up the whole dang Grand Canyon,
mostly shapely redheads, brunettes, and blondes,
and sometimes somethin' better comes along."
Janice picked up the next verse:
"When you've got companions, then you need a Doctor,
and he might not suit you as well as he oughtta,
sometimes you miss the old guy, and change seems wrong,
But sometimes something better comes along!"
"It's a strange sensation," sang Rowlf,
"when a new regeneration
leaves you blue and feeling sad
you might not be feelin' chipper, if you're a die-hard shipper --"
Janice chimed in: "But think of Time Lord baby booms,
gettin' weaved up in the looms!"
Rowlf said, "Actually, Scooter says that may not be canonical."
"What does that mean?" said Janice.
"Beats me. Two, three, four!:
The regeneration keeps things always hoppin',
with some bits succeedin', with other bits floppin',
the show keeps on runnin', both weaker and strong,
But sometimes somethin' better,
But sometimes somethin' better,
But sometimes somethin' better comes along!"
"These lyrics," Sam observed as he entered, "are not especially patriotic."
"Hey, buddy," said Rowlf. "Who're you?"
"I am Captain Jack Harkness," said Sam. He set down a glowing box filled with bubbling water and what looked for all the world like a severed forelimb. "I'm supposed to give you a hand."
"Is that a set-up or a bad joke?" said Rowlf.
"Both, I think."
"Uh, Rowlf?" said Kermit from offstage. "You're supposed to regenerate now."
"Aw, man," said Janice, "he just got here! An' he's so cute with the floppy ears!"
"Really?" said Rowlf, intrigued.
"I know, Janice," said Kermit, "but Scooter says that's how it works. It's like you two were just singing about. Apparently you'll be really upset at first, but then you'll meet the new guy and you'll just love him. -- special effects cue!"
Rowlf was suffused in a golden glow, threw back his head, and when the lights lowered --
-- Beaker looked around, blinked, and said, "Meep! Meep! Meep meep meep meep."
Janice said, "Ohmigod you're right!" and pounced.
"Meep!" cried Beaker, desperately wriggling free. He managed to extricate himself, barely, just in time for Animal to roll across the stage in the perambulator again. "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" chanted Animal. "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" Laughing, he ran over Beaker and kept going. Still lacking brakes, Animal rolled off the edge of the stage and into the orchestra pit, landing with another enormous crash.
Beaker sat up shakily, but he was already suffused with a golden glow. Janet gasped in shock. "Nooooo!" she cried. "Don't! Not yet! Like, think about baseball or cricket or whatever!" She grasped Beaker and shook him. Jerking away, Beaker stumbled and grasped the bubbling tank containing the severed hand.
A great shock went through him, and a blinding flash of light overtook the stage. When it cleared, two Beakers were standing next to each other, meeping in confusion. "Meep meep meep mee-meep?" said the first. "Meep meep mee-mee-meep!" said the second.
"Oh wow," said Janice breathlessly. "I've only done this, like, five or six times, but I'm game for anything."
"Meep meep-meep meep!" said the second Beaker happily.
"MEEP!" cried the first, alarmed. Hurriedly, he bundled Janice and the second Beaker into the TARDIS, and locked it. Then he leaned against the door, gasping for breath. Slowly, he began to relax.
Then came the sound of four knocks.
Panic-stricken, Beaker glanced over. "Oh, dear," said Dr. Bunsen Honeydew cheerfully. "I appear to have locked myself into a radiation chamber and require someone to sacrifice themselves to save me!" He looked meaningfully at Beaker. "Hello."
Beaker's face twisted with anguish.
"Meep!" cried Beaker. "Meep meep meep mee-mee-meep!" He beat his chest with one hand. "MEE! MEE! MEEP! Mee-mee-mee-meep meep meep! Meep meep meep! Meep meep MEEP MEEP! "
After a long pause, he sighed and said, quietly, "…meep."
Slowly, slowly, Beaker trudged over to the radiation chamber. He got into the empty chamber next to Honeydew, closed the door, and pressed the activation button. "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!" he cried, and fell to the floor.
Honeydew stepped out of the chamber and walked casually away.
After several moments, Beaker, looking worn and battered, sat up. "Meep," he said sadly.
Then he got up, pushed open the door of the radiation chamber, and trudged off to meet his fate.
Kermit was beating his head against his desk.
"Don't feel bad, Kermit!" said Fozzie. "It's not that terrible a show!"
"Fozzie, we went through five Doctors in five minutes and then took a twenty-minute intermission! We went from having a time crunch to having dead time, and now we're out of script! What're we going to do now? Have Beaker walk around staring at everybody?"
Fozzie tapped Kermit on the shoulder.
Beaker stood in the doorframe, silently staring at them.
"Oh," Kermit said. "Hi, Beaker."
Beaker didn't say anything. He stood there, silent, staring, sad.
"Hey," yelled Fozzie, "come in and shut the door! Or beat it, willya!"
Beaker trudged away.
"This is," said Miss Piggy, "the most thoroughly ridiculous production I've ever been involved with."
"Yeah, man," said Janice. "I, like, went through all these hair colors and wigs, and I didn't even get to wear my leather bikini!" She paused. "Hey, look!"
Beaker was staring through the dressing room doorway.
"Oh, how disgusting!" said Piggy. She leaped to her feet and stormed to the doorway. "If you come back here, mister, you're getting SUCH a karate-chop!" She slammed the door in his face. "Weirdo," she said.
"I am disappointed," said Sam, as he exited the theater lobby. "Are there no patriotic Americans here?"
Beaker, standing silently in front of Sam, pointed across the street.
"Excuse me," said Sam politely, as he crossed the street and stepped onto the opposing sidewalk. "I was told that the two of you might be patriotic Americans possibly looking for patriotic fellowship."
"Oh," said Ernie, his arms full of grocery bags. "Sure, but right now we were just doing some shopping."
"Yeah," said Bert. "Too bad we can't find a market that's not full of weirdos."
Sam drew himself farther upright. "You also are not fond of weirdos?"
"Hate 'em," said Bert.
"Why don't you come over to our place?" said Ernie. "We can have dinner and play some board games."
"Thank you," said Sam. "That's very kind."
Beaker looked after them sadly for a moment, then stepped away.
"Get on with it!" yelled an audience member from inside the theater.
Beaker walked up to the concession stand. Sadly, he pointed to a large bucket of popcorn.
"Yeah!" yelled another voice from the audience. "Get on with it!"
Beaker, popcorn in hand, looked sadly at the crane game in the theater lobby, and fumbled in his pocket for a quarter.
A host of voices from the audience chorused, "OH COME ON!"
Beaker, still holding his popcorn bucket, had re-entered the theater and now walked, looking crestfallen, through the audience, which by now had begun to turn against him in earnest. There were murmurs of confusion, angry mutters, and occasional shouts of derision. "Is this going to go on forever?" somebody yelled. "Yeah," called somebody else. "Isn't he going to regenerate?"
It wasn't long until the turning point. Someone seeking a logical explanation said, "He must not have taken enough damage."
A dangerous silence fell, as the crowd digested this. Then a collective cry arose from several throats: "GET HIM!"
"MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!" cried Beaker, and ran. He made it as far as the stage, but by then the crowd was on him and broke over him like a wave, and he disappeared beneath a seemingly unending array of swinging fists and stamping feet.
From underneath, a golden glow suffused the rampaging horde. Confused, the assailants hesitated, and a moment later the glow died down and Matt Smith leapt into view. "Hello, everyone!" he called, waving his arms.
Kermit dashed onstage. "It's our very special guest star, Matt Smith! Yaaaaayyyyy!!!!"
The audience, its bloodlust temporarily sated, applauded.
"Matt," said Kermit, "you may be the youngest actor to play the Doctor, but you've got all kinds of experience. You've done films, and television, and now Doctor Who, and you've done plays, too, haven't you?"
"Yeah, Kermit, yeah," said Matt Smith. "Love the theater, it's brilliant… actually, my theater experience leads me to ask a question of you."
"Shoot," said Kermit.
Matt Smith glanced at the horde of Muppets packed tightly around him. "What's the loading capacity of your stage?"
Kermit said, "Why do you --"
An ominous creaking sounded.
Immediately, a general panic broke out. Kermit was swept away on a tide of Whatnots. The TARDIS prop deconstructed in spectacular fashion, revealing Janice, who darted to freedom holding hands with the second Beaker, and Gonzo, who struggled through the crowd holding aloft a bedraggled but self-satisfied chicken. "Excuse me!" he shouted as he strived to move forward. "Excuse me!" Nobody listened to him, probably because all of them were screaming at the top of their lungs. Matt Smith tried to fight his way through, too, but his flight was checked at every turn until he vanished, trampled beneath a horde of stampeding Muppets.
And then the stage collapsed.
Slowly, slowly, the dust settled. Among the coughing, and the occasional frightened moans, one calm voice could be heard. "Is everybody all right?" said Kermit. "Janice? Sweetums? Rowlf? Beaker, Dr. Honeydew, other Beaker? -- hey! Quiet down a minute!" Kermit looked left, looked right. "Is there anybody not accounted for, other than Matt Smith?"
Murmurs of "no" rose from the crowd. "Good!" said Kermit. "Then we can -- oh, no! Matt Smith! Ahhhh!!!"
Flailing his arms in panic, Kermit raced to the edge of the great hole in the Muppet stage. "Matt!" he called. "Are you all right in there?"
Matt Smith, half-buried under debris, smiled wearily. Raising a long arm, he gave Kermit a weak thumbs-up. Then he blinked, and looked harder at his hand. He lowered the hand and brought it in front of his face, for a better view. The hand was glowing with a golden energy.
"Oh no," Matt Smith said wearily. "Not again."
"Well," said Kermit the Frog, as a torrent of golden light blazed up from the depths of the colossal hole in the stage behind him, "I guess that's it for the Muppet Doctor Who Special. We'd like to thank our very special guest, Matt Smith. Or Paterson Joseph. Or Joanna Lumley. Or whoever comes out of that hole. Thanks for joining us, everybody! Goodnight!"
Kermit dashed away as the end credits began to roll.
Statler said, "That was the clumsiest, most amateurish, most ridiculously shoestring excuse for Doctor Who I've ever seen."
"Except for the originals," added Waldorf.
They burst into guffaws of laughter.
In a quiet walk-up apartment on Sesame Street, Sam the Eagle cleared his throat and said, hesitantly, "Are you SURE this is patriotic?"
Bert and Ernie said together, "Absolutely."