Name: Josh Randall
Time of Origin: Earth, approximately present.
Appearances: “Psi-ence Fiction”
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Although Josh began as little more than a means to an end created by someone with a far larger plan in mind, the circumstances that resulted in him being selected for this purpose drove him to a point where he threatened all existence.
Originally a simple university student from approximately the present day, Josh’s life was changed when Professor John Finer, a member of the faculty at the university, beat his daughter Amanda Joslin – his ex-wife had remarried and her daughter had taken her stepfather’s name – to death during an argument, subsequently disposing of the body in a nearby wood. Desperate to undo his actions, Finer began to try and create a time machine so that he could send someone back in time to stop himself from committing the murder, but realised that he had no way of communicating with whoever he sent back, prompting him to begin investigations into parapsychology – the study of mental powers – as a possible means of overcoming this issue.
Secretly funding parapsychology Barry Hutchins’s research into the subject, Finer also dispersed free water samples from the fake company Clearspring Water, the first samples of water including a drug known to cause mild psychosis as a side-effect; one of the psychoses was the illusion that the user had psychic powers, and Finer hoped that the delusion would kick-start the development of actual powers in the truly gifted. Josh Randall was the most powerful subject to result from this experiment, subsequently working with Finer in secret while claiming to the rest of the parapsychology group members – whose powers almost automatically faded after the drugs that were in the first batch of water wore off – that he actually didn’t believe in anything they were studying and only stayed around for a joke, his powers allowing him to complete the ‘tests’ without anyone realising it. During this time, Finer managed to develop his time machine, unaware that Josh’s own mental state was rapidly declining due to constant use of the drug to maintain his new powers, to the point where he only avoided using his new powers to speak because he wanted to limit his contact with his ‘inferiors’.
Shortly before Finer could complete his machine, the TARDIS arrived, having detected the weakness in reality that was being created by Finer’s research, the Fourth Doctor programming the ship to try and repair the slight rift while he and Leela explored the university. Running into Chloe – another member of the parapsychology group -, The Doctor learned about the department’s experiments, realising from the TARDIS’s readings and his sudden willingness to talk to a far greater extent than even this incarnation was used to that something was causing distortions in reality that could affect vulnerable minds. While The Doctor tried to investigate the Clearspring Water company, the Parapsychology department ran another test involving a sensory deprivation tank, only for the entire group to have sudden visions of drowning in blood while Joan Cox – the most spiritually-inclined of the group – committed suicide in her room, after an Ouija board they’d been practising with the night before apparently proclaimed that she would die soon (The pointer having actually been moved by Josh as he ‘played’ with the lesser minds of his fellow students).
Although Leela was able to revive the other students before any permanent harm was done to them, The Doctor became increasingly aware that the situation was graver than he’d expected, his subsequent analysis of Hutchins’s tapes confirming his suspicions that Josh was more than he seemed to be. Confronting Finer after deducing his role in the evolution of Josh’s powers, The Doctor was shocked to learn that Finer had created a primitive time machine, but had unfortunately only created half a machine. He had created the necessary components to break the universe down into a single timeline and thus ‘collapse’ the possibilities so that the traveller could arrive at a specific destination, but his machine lacked the transdimensional containment and semisentient control system, meaning that it wouldn’t stop collapsing the universe once it started and would thus destroy everything.
Although Finer believed that Josh was a willing ally in his experiment – Finer having ‘selected’ The Doctor as the person he would send back in time as The Doctor was a stranger whom nobody would miss -, the drugs that Finer had been giving him had seriously damages his psyche, leaving Josh with a god complex that left him actually wanting to use the machine to destroy reality. Just as The Doctor was sent through the machine, the TARDIS stepped in, continuing its original program to repair the damage the machine had caused to reality by acting as the missing components to Finer’s machine and reinforcing the original damage to the multiverse. Despite Josh’s willingness to destroy existence, after killing Finer to stop him shutting the machine down, the TARDIS’s intervention gave The Doctor and Leela enough time to retreat to the safety of the ship before Josh triggered the machine’s final reaction.
While the TARDIS’s own efforts prevented the complete destruction of reality, the machine had still caused some local damage in the form of erasing the timeline that the Doctor and Leela had just visited. As a result, a new timeline unfolded where Finer turned himself in for Amanda’s murder immediately after it happened rather than panicking and dumping the body, leaving the now-sane Josh and the rest of the would-be parapsychology students to hang around with each other and have a casual discussion about the field that would have defined their lives in another reality.