Georgia was the first to call Peter with the congratulations.
"I heard about the special, Dad! I'm so glad you'll be on screen as the Doctor again."
"What?" Peter pushed himself out of the chair where he'd been taking an afternoon nap. "I don't think- No one's told me-"
"You don't know yet?" Georgia hesitated. "I heard from David, who heard from Peter. The new Peter."
Peter winced. The decision to bring in a 'new' Peter as the latest Doctor had been very painful to him. Especially when everyone decided to worry about how old the Doctor looked now. For Christ's sake, Peter Capaldi was seven years younger than he was!
"Moffat's doing a special," said Georgia. "Bringing back Doctors from the past."
"You're sure it's not just Tom again?"
"Call your agent," said Georgia. "I'm sure she knows."
Peter called his agent. She didn't know.
Peter hung up and tapped out a beat on his chair. Moffat was up to something. Oh, maybe this was for real and the contract had gotten delayed in the mail. But Peter didn't think that was very likely. He started dialing.
Peter, Colin and Sylvester arrived together at Moffat's office to confront him. Peter had tried to get hold of Paul but hadn't been able to, for reasons that became very clear when they barged in. Paul was sitting at Moffat's desk, pen poised over a contract.
"What's all this?" demanded Peter.
"Oh, no," said Moffat. "Not you three again."
"Paul!" said Sylvester. "Are you doing a special without us?"
"Technically, yes," said Paul. "But Steven here says that I will hardly notice."
"What exactly does that mean?" asked Colin.
Moffat took a deep breath and then said, very quietly, "I've recast you."
Colin sputtered. Sylvester squeaked. Peter went dead silent.
"I wanted to bring back the fifth through eighth Doctors," said Moffat. "But it's been a while, hasn't it? I don't want to disturb the kids, making them think that people get old."
"People do get old," said Sylvester. "Fact of life."
Moffat winced and held a finger up to his lips. "Shh. It's like Santa, they're not ready to know the truth."
"What about Paul?" asked Colin. "He's older too!"
"Doesn't look it," said Moffat.
They all looked at Paul. It was true. Peter was convinced that Paul bathed in the blood of virgins. It was probably one of his standard contract riders.
Paul smiled in a very youthful and unsettling way.
"Who," said Peter, "did you cast?"
Moffat shuffled through his notes. "Seventh Doctor, I was thinking Benedict Cumberbatch. Bit tall, but we can fix that with camera angles. Sixth Doctor, has to be Will Ferrell. Perfect likeness, we'll dye his hair. Fifth Doctor..." Moffat sat back and spread his hands, grinning. "This is a coup. Are you ready?"
Peter did not feel ready, but he nodded.
Peter jumped over the desk to strangle Moffat, but was hauled back by Sylvester and Colin.
"Nicolas Cage!" he howled. "You're bringing Cage in to butcher my Doctor! You're a monster!"
"Steady on," said Colin, struggling to pin down Peter's right arm.
"Yes, Peter, don't go on," said Sylvester, as he was lifted into the air by Peter's flailing left arm. "Nic is quite nice if you get to know him. Very kind to his fellow Hollywood actors."
Paul calmly signed his contract in duplicate.
"He's American!" screeched Peter. "So's Will Ferrell!"
"They're actors," said Moffat, rubbing at his throat. "We're bringing in a speech coach. It's too late to do anything about it, Peter, we're negotiating salary right now."
Peter tried to calm down, but it was impossible. Every time he took a breath, he envisioned Nicolas Cage in his beautiful costume, wearing his hat, speaking his lines. It was a nightmare. Peter pinched himself, just in case that woke him up. It didn't.
"Maybe we'd better go," said Colin. "We can come back after you've had your stroke."
Peter shook Sylvester off his arm and ran his hand over his face. Objections lined up in his head. The fans won't stand for this, this is a betrayal of the Queen and the BBC, I'm not old. But it all seemed so pointless. The decision had been made. He might as well go home.
"Sorry," said Paul, checking his watch. "I mean, I realize this is a blow to you, but I do have another meeting, so could we-"
"Shut up, you scab," said Peter, without heat. "You bloody vampire scab."
Someone knocked on the door, and then opened it. "Hi," said Moffat's PA. "Just heard back from the negotiating team. Ferrell won't do it for less than a million dollars, and Cage wants twice that."
"Right, right." Moffat scribbled down some notes. "How much is that in pounds, Dana?"
Dana shrugged. "A lot. Like, really a lot."
"Right." Moffat made some more notes. "And what's our acting budget for this special?"
"Like..." Dana shrugged again. "Five thousand quid?"
Moffat stopped taking notes. "But Benny will do it cheap, right? He's an old BBC actor."
"Nah," said Dana. "He's gone full Hollywood. Four million or nothing."
Moffat slumped. "Thanks, Dana." Dana left, and Moffat turned a broken smile on Paul. "About the contract we offered you-"
"Already signed," said Paul. "Give me a ring when you want to start filming." He left. Moffat turned the broken smile on Peter, Colin, and Sylvester.
"Hey," said Moffat. "Guys. Guys. Would you be at all interested in reprising your roles? We would love to have you. Absolutely love."
Colin and Sylvester looked at Peter. Peter looked at the ceiling. If he had any dignity, he would march right out of that door and never look back. He considered it for a long moment.
Then he realized that he was an actor, and had sacrificed all of his dignity long ago. He'd done a turn in the Legally Blonde musical; there was nothing left. Peter took Paul's vacated chair.
"We'll do it," he said.
"Thank God," said Moffat.
"On one condition," said Peter.
Stick around for a special preview of the Doctor Who Christmas special! This year, Doctors past and present tackle a very real problem - the spectre of ageism. You can't miss it!