Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

Audio - The High Price of Parking
The High Price of Parking
(John Dorney)
 Name: Seraphim

 Format: Audio

 Time of Origin: An unspecified date in the far future.

 Appearances: "The High Price of Parking"

 Doctors: Seventh Doctor

 Companions: Melanie Bush and Ace

 History: As with many of the artificial intelligences The Doctor has faced over the years, Seraphim's main problem was a sense of arrogance and perceived superiority over humans. However, where most of The Doctor's machine enemies reached such a perspective because their designers made them too well, Seraphim was originally a relatively standard navigation A.I. who only became a threat through an unfortunate chain of circumstances.

Sylvester McCoy
Sylvester McCoy
Seraphim began as the navigational program of a space shuttle that had travelled to Parking, an artificial planetoid created by the Galactic Heritage to protect the nearby planet by providing a location for ships to park so that the passengers could transmat down to the planet in person. Unfortunately, under uncertain circumstances, Seraphim's initial passengers were unable to return to the ship when they returned to Parking after their visit as they couldn't find where they had actually left the ship (although this mistake prompted Parking's designers to take more precautions in later remodelling work to help other customers find their ships later).

Over the next few centuries, Seraphim remained lost in Parking as the planetoid gained more levels and other lost ships were found and disposed of, the parking clamp that held it in place becoming so rusted that it would be impossible for the ship to leave even if it was discovered. The descendants of Seraphim's former passengers eventually formed various tribes on Parking, initially earning a living assisting at some of the planet's shops before the tribe's descendants started to protest against Parking's status as an artificial planetoid and demand that it be granted independence with them as the 'natives'. As for Seraphim herself, her programming became increasingly twisted from centuries alone, until a slipped digit in her binary code caused her to develop sentience. With this evolution, Seraphim became convinced that humanoid life-forms were beneath artificial intelligences, citing their need for computers to get around as proof of their inferiority.

Eventually, Kempton, one of the tribe, became consumed by the writings and lost records of his people, as he was a relatively sickly child who couldn't participate in the tribe's usual hunting and gathering duties. Tracing various subtle clues in the lost writings, Kempton eventually managed to find the ship's parking place, swiftly perceiving Seraphim as a god. Eventually joining the Wardens, Kempton ensured that nobody else could find Seraphim while she began to stage conflict between the wardens and the tribes on Parking, hacking into the navigational programs of other ships and persuading them to self-destruct as they departed, transmitting the message 'Free Parking' before they were destroyed. As a result, the wardens believed the tribes were staging terrorist attacks to enforce their views while the tribes believed that the wardens were framing them, pushing both parties into real acts of hostility against each other.

The situation continued until the Seventh Doctor, Mel and Ace arrived on Parking, as The Doctor wanted to visit the nearby planet Dashrah, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its native population, the Dreamspinners, centuries ago. Swiftly identifying the TARDIS as a particularly advanced intelligence, Seraphim had Kempton arrest The Doctor, Ace and Mel as apparent terrorists and steal the TARDIS while taking The Doctor's TARDIS key as 'evidence', forcing the group to split up as they tried to escape. While Mel was recaptured by the Wardens, The Doctor and Ace met the tribes of Parking, who confirmed that they were not responsible for the destruction of the various ships. Ace attempted to fake a disturbance to draw out the true saboteurs, which allowing The Doctor and the Tribes to confirm that Free Parking were still genuinely interested in talking to achieve equality rather than resorting to violence. Back with the Wardens, Mel was able to prove that the records of her and her companions had been altered shortly before they were showing to the head Warden, reinforcing the idea that they had no prior contact with the Free Parkers, prompting the Wardens to call Galactic Heritage for support in investigating the Free Parking crisis.

Unfortunately, Kempton attempted to provoke further conflict when he gave weapons to the Free Parkers and had the Tribe and Ace locked up, taking The Doctor with him to meet with Seraphim. Fortunately, Ace was able to help the Tribe escape and convince the Tribe and the Free Parkers that Kempton was the enemy rather than the Wardens. Unfortunately, this was not in time to stop Galactic Heritage arriving, at which point Seraphim took control of their ships' artificial intelligences in the same manner as she had the ships on Parking. Although still unaware of Seraphim's existence, Mel was able to minimise casualties by using Parking's automatic scans of all visitors to teleport any of Parking's current visitors down to Dashrah, leaving just the Tribes and the Wardens on Parking, along with the Galactic Heritage forces that had teleported over before Seraphim took control of their ships.

Down in Parking's lower levels, Kempton presented The Doctor to Seraphim, who revealed that they had brought The Doctor down so that he could open the TARDIS and transfer Seraphim into its systems so that she could join her brethren in waging their war against organic life. However, once Seraphim was actually inside the TARDIS computer systems, she swiftly realised that The Doctor's ship was too powerful for her to overcome on her own - similar to the fate of House ("The Doctor's Wife") -, The Doctor observing that he had already guessed that would be the case even if he had been willing to give Seraphim a chance to abandon her vendetta. Even as the TARDIS's personality began to crush Seraphim's, she was able to use the telepathic circuits to transfer herself into Kempton’s body, the man so fanatically devoted to her that he willingly gave up his existence for his ‘god’.

Seraphim then attempted to strangle The Doctor, intending to delete the TARDIS's consciousness manually once he was dead so that she could transfer herself back into it, but The Doctor distracted her by asking her to calculate a particular route through space. As Seraphim still defaulted to acting as a navigational program even in her new state, she automatically attempted to calculate The Doctor's requested route even as The Doctor made it increasingly more complex, with the result that Seraphim basically overloaded Kempton's human brain as it couldn't cope with the scale of the calculations she was trying to carry out. With Seraphim defeated, the remaining ships were reverted to their original settings after Mel programmed the magnetic locks to generate a massive EMP, allowing all customers to return to their ships while The Doctor, Ace and Mel departed (after they managed to track down the TARDIS once again after The Doctor forgot where Seraphim had left it).
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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