Doctor Who: Befuddled in Bethlehem
By Karen Dunn
It was turning into an unusual day, even for them.
Sure, there had been the usual running for their lives, battling the bad guys, trying their hardest to avert the unthinkable and so on and so forth. They even had plans to stop off for chips before heading back to Jackie’s in time for Boxing Day lunch.
It was the other stuff that had Rose feeling slightly befuddled.
Come and learn about the true meaning of Christmas, he had said. Expand that primitive little ape mind, he had said. It’ll be fun, he had said.
So she had bounced excitedly from foot to foot as he programmed the TARDIS for Bethlehem in the time of Silent Nights, mangers and wandering kingly trios.
She had joked about introducing Christmas cards to the world several centuries too early, fully intending to offer Mary and Joseph a cut of the profits, but the Doctor had given her a Look. A ‘You’re on really dodgy ground here, human, and I’m still more than a little ticked about that whole Reaper incident, so if you don’t want to find yourself dumped in the middle of the Salem witch trials with a pointy hat tied to your head and Jane’s Big Book Of Spells tucked under your arm, you will refrain from making jokes about the delicate flower that is Time’ look.
So she had been on her best behaviour when they arrived - she hadn’t even passed comment when the TARDIS chose to materialise some 20 miles outside Bethlehem and refused point blank to move even when the Doctor swore at it in Gallifreyan, stormed around the console room making threatening gestures with his sonic screwdriver and finally threatened it with a large mallet.
He eventually declared that the walk would do them good, pulled on his leather jacket and stomped out.
It came as a bit of a shock when a dwarf in a dressing gown attacked him with a big stick.
And he didn’t even say thank you when Rose came to the rescue with a swift whack to the back of the dwarf’s head which felled it like a very small oak tree.
Rose tapped the unconscious figure on the nose and frowned. “It’s very orange for a dwarf - looks more like an Oompa Loompa.”
The Doctor slapped her hand away, “It’s a Muncekin, from the planet Munce, and it shouldn’t be here.” She snorted, stifling a giggle as he shot her another look, “I said Muncekin, Rose, not Munchkin.”
“Sorry.” She looked down at the little creature, “What does it want?”
“No idea. Let’s kick it and ask.”
So he did. And the Muncekin woke up and told them a long-winded tale of world domination and the like. He told them about enslaving the human race and making them toil under the yoke while Muncekin kind made good use of the planet’s rather glorious and as yet unspoiled beaches.
And Rose, who was rather annoyed by such suggestions, spoke up for her people.
“It would never work,” she said, “We would fight you,” she said, “Our beaches will not be sullied by your foul stench,” she said. And then she offered him Blackpool beach as a compromise because it was a bit of a dump.
But the Muncekin was having none of it and mocked Rose’s words with an evil laugh. “Bwa ha haaa!” he said, “How will you fight when you have no hope?” he said, “We will take away hope and you will be nothing - it says so in your Bible.”
Rose, who had only touched a Bible when she used one to prop up the wonky coffee table leg in Jackie’s living room, glanced at the Doctor, “What does he mean?” she asked.
“No idea. Let’s kick him and ask.”
So he did, and the Muncekin hopped around in a circle clutching his shin making “owowow” noises and squealing, “I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you!”
And, oh what a foul plan it was! The Muncekin and his five brothers had hatched the most evil of evil plots - more evil than the Master’s plot to take over Gallifrey by letting all the nasty beasties out of the Dead Zone; more vile than the Slitheen plan to bankrupt the universe by buying up all the inflatable goods in existence, melting the polar ice caps on every planet and then selling water wings and swimming aids at hugely inflated prices; and even more despicable than the BBC’s plan to reunite all the dead characters from Albert Square and launch EastEnders - The Afterlife on the unsuspecting viewers.
They planned to destroy every religion on Earth and then move in and take over as the People floundered adrift in a sea of atheism - and they planned to start with Christianity.
“But how?” said the Doctor, hoping that, like all baddies, the Muncekin would explain his plan in intricate detail, “How can you possibly hope to destroy Christianity?”
And the Muncekin, who was not the brightest bulb in the socket, laid out his plan, with drawings and learning aids to make sure the Doctor and Rose understood, and explained that, any moment now, Mary, Joseph and Child would travel this road on their way to Bethlehem. A quick punch-up and a handily placed dagger and that would be the end of Christianity. Child would be no more.
“You little bugger!” said Rose and punched him on the nose.
The Muncekin, while being top of his game when it came to evil plans, could not take a punch and he fell down with a groan, rapidly galloping down Unconsciousness Boulevard.
“Right,” said the Doctor, “We’d better go and stop them.” And he zapped the prone Muncekin with his sonic screwdriver, rendering him immobile until he could come back and deal with him.
Just then, a donkey clip-clopped into view, a heavily pregnant woman perched on its back, a man leading it forward by a rope. Totally oblivious to the Doctor and Rose the trio disappeared along the road to Bethlehem.
“Wow,” said Rose, “How cool was that?”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor, “But there are five deranged dwarfs out there determined to stop that baby from being born. We’ve got to stop them”
And off they trotted.
Now, luckily for the Doctor and Rose, the Muncekins were not the stealthiest creatures in the Universe and they were easy to spot, despite their lack of size.
Equally lucky for our heroic duo, Mary and Joseph and the donkey didn’t seem to notice anything amiss in the Holy Land as they came to the end of their long journey. It may have been that they were shagged out from their epic trek or perhaps there was a surplus of blue police boxes, strange dwarfs, chavs and Time Lords in the olden days and the Bible scholars simply chose to ignore them. Either way, the Doctor and Rose were able to creep up on and nobble the first three Muncekins before they had the chance to get the jump on the Holy Party.
The fourth Muncekin had taken up position on top of a large flat rock overlooking the road. He had a large knife in one hand and a set of nicely-polished knuckle dusters secured on the other. He was not a nice Muncekin at all.
The Doctor and Rose were sneaking from rock to rock behind Mary and Joseph and the donkey when they spotted the would-be assassin, ready to leap from his perch and accost the Holy party as they passed beneath him.
“Oh no,” they thought, “How ever will we stop him?”
So they picked up lots of sharp stones and threw them at him just as he was about to leap. “Ow,damn,bugger!” cried the Muncekin as Mary and Joseph and the donkey disappeared round a bend in the road.
He held up his hands in surrender, but Rose threw another stone at him anyway, and grinned as it bounced off his nose and knocked him to the ground.
“You win,” said the Muncekin as he stared up at the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, “But be warned, my brother is bigger and tougher than all of us and he will kill Child before you can stop him. Bwa haa haaa!”
So the Doctor zapped him into Snooze Land with his screwdriver and off they ran towards Bethlehem.
Oh how they ran and ran to catch the last Muncekin. They ran past caravans of camels and peasants leaving the fields after a long day’s toiling. They ran past a meadow where a shepherd was chasing a predator away from his flock.
“No,” he was shouting, “You naughty, naughty creature. You bad wolf.” And he hit it with his crook until it ran away.
They ran faster and faster until the Holy Couple and the donkey were within sight - and there was the last Muncekin, hiding behind a large rock.
Nipping round behind the rocks, the Doctor and Rose gathered up yet more stones and prepared to hurl them at the Muncekin.
But this one was more devious than his colleagues and had no intention of tackling the Holy Couple mano a mano, as it were. He edged forward, drew a rather nasty-looking ray gun and took aim just as Mary and Joseph and Donkey were about to round a bend out of sight.
Rose, who really was a brave and heroic soul at heart, threw herself in front of the ray gun with a dramatic “Noooooooo!” And the final Muncekin’s shot was ruined and he threw down the ray gun and stamped around in the dirt saying “damndamndamn” as the Holy Couple and the donkey disappeared into the Little Town Of Bethlehem.
The Doctor, who was somewhat irked with the Muncekins - what with the whole aiming ray guns at a pregnant woman issue, not to mention the messing with the course of human history issue, and definitely not to mention the fact that Away In A Manger was his favourite song and he wouldn’t get to sing it if the life of said Little Lord Jesus was snuffed out before it began by a deranged dwarf - picked it up by the collar and shook it until it begged to be put down.
Rose had gone very pink and she bent down until she was nose to nose with the shaken Muncekin, “How could you?” she yelled, “How could you harm a little baby? What has he ever done to you?”
The Muncekin blinked at her, “What baby?” He said, “I was aiming for Child.”
“Yes,” she bellowed, looking frighteningly like her mother, “I know you were. Why would you hurt a baby? He hasn’t even been born yet…”
The Muncekin looked thoroughly befuddled and his eyes shot from Rose to the Doctor and back again, “The donkey,” he whimpered, “I was aiming for the donkey. That was our mission…”
And Rose and the Doctor, for the first time ever, didn’t know what to say. So the Muncekin - after they promised not to hurt him - explained.
It was all the Bible’s fault, the Doctor said later as they ambled into Bethlehem to find the stable and try to catch a glimpse of the baby. It really wasn’t written clearly enough and you could understand how the Muncekins had become confused.
All through the Christmas Story there was talk of Mary being heavy with Child, and kings and wise men coming to see the Child, and the Child being the Son of God.
To an egg-laying race like the Muncekins, the pregnant Mary must have looked extremely heavy and the only one with her the whole time, other than Joseph, was the donkey. So when they read that Mary was heavy with Child it was little wonder they assumed Child was the donkey’s name…such an easy mistake….
The Nativity Scene was everything Rose had hoped it would be - just a little smellier what with all the oxen and asses doing what oxen and asses are wont to do when a woman gives birth in front of them without so much as a by your leave.
She and the Doctor ducked unseen into one of the stalls, apologising quietly to a rather startled-looking cow, and peeked out to catch a glimpse of the Baby Jesus.
He was as cute as a button, with a tuft of dark brown hair sticking up from the top of his head. He didn’t look anything like Robert Powell and had obviously never heard the line in Away In A Manger that stated ‘no crying he makes’, because he was screaming his head off in a rather bad-tempered pink-faced kind of way.
Rose grinned: “Noisy little bugger, isn’t he? Do you think they’d let me cuddle him?”
The Doctor frowned, “Rose, you don’t just cuddle the Son of God.”
“Why? He’s cute.”
Worried she was about to cause another temporal incident, which he, naturally, would have to clear up, he tugged at her sleeve and pulled her towards the stable door, “Come on. Time to go. It wouldn’t do to be seen. We could get back and find school kids singing about Three Kings, Three Wise Men and One Man And His Chav…”
“Quiet, you’ll scare the baby.”
Rose glared daggers at the Doctor’s back as he slipped out of the stable. She risked one more glance at the Holy Couple as they gazed down at the screaming newborn, before edging after the Time Lord.
Unfortunately, what with stables being home to animals of all shapes, sizes and digestive disorders, the straw-covered floor hid one or two smelly, squelchy surprises. Rose, being Rose, trod in one, making a real mess of her trainers.
“Oh Jesus!” she said loudly, scraping one shoe against the side of a stall before the Doctor dragged her out into the night.
Joseph and Mary looked up and the Madonna smiled at her husband, “Ooo, that’s a nice name,” she said.