Shroud of Sorrow
While the Shroud’s origins are uncertain, it is clearly a very powerful being. Existing partly in this dimension and partly in another, the Shroud is essentially a sentient wormhole – people travelling through the Shroud essentially travel through its ‘stomach’, experiencing flashes of its previous victims -, travelling from one planet to another, remaining connected to its previous hunting ground even as it links to its next one, generating psychic illusions and manipulating the bodies of its previous victims to further exert its influence over the world.
The Shroud essentially fed on grief, feeding by generating psychic tentacles to latch on to those in the vicinity of its immediate arrival and drawing on their memories to generate illusions of deceased loved ones, amplifying the target’s grief over the loss of the person it impersonated by having the illusions provoke guilt, for example, an FBI agent whose partner died was accused of letting him die to make a move on his friend’s wife, or a nurse who was on holiday when her grandmother passed away was accused of only wanting her grandmother’s inheritance.
Some people were more susceptible than others, albeit for varying reasons, while some took a while to register the faces generated by the Shroud because they had too limited a psychic potential or – particularly in the case of children – had no truly damaging experiences, others were better able to cope with the grief it created due to their professions, such as law enforcement officers or medical staff who encountered death on a regular basis. Although these would be relatively immune, this only accounted for a small portion of the population, which became more of a danger as most of the Shroud’s victims regressed after the Shroud ceased feeding on them, with one of their remaining emotions growing to dominate their behaviour, examples included ‘Wanters’, who constantly sought the possessions of others with no idea what to do afterwards, ‘Ragers’ who were perpetually angry, and ‘Tremblers’ who were afraid of everything.
It is unknown exactly when the Shroud made contact with Earth, but the entity was only able to actually take action on Earth following the assassination of President Kennedy, the surge of grief generated by his death giving the Shroud the chance to latch on to Earth and begin to feed (“Shroud of Sorrow”). Fortunately, the TARDIS was drawn to the Shroud’s arrival due to the reality disruption it created, allowing the Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald to learn about the crisis when they arrived in the hospital where Kennedy’s body had been taken and encountered examples of the various faces. Unable to simply severe the psychic link between the Shroud and its victims directly, The Doctor attempted to cure one victim of the Shroud by entering his mind while the Shroud was linked to him, erasing the memories linked to the event that the Shroud was trying to draw food from – the death of his childhood dog when she was put down from an unspecified illness -, but this resulted in the victim’s death. This helped The Doctor deduce that the Shroud were not simply feeding on grief, but were in fact cultivating it, by forcing the victim to go through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – the Shroud essentially nurtured their victims’ grief to its most potent point and then claimed it for themselves.
Having determined that the Shroud originated from another planet, The Doctor, Clara, and their new allies – nurse Mae Collins and FBI agent Warren Skeet – stole an ambulance from the hospital and used it to travel through the wormhole, although the wormhole surrounded Earth, Dallas the focal point and therefore the best opportunity to travel to its destination. Arriving on Semtis, the Shroud’s original feeding ground, The Doctor and his allies met the remaining survivors of the Shroud, in the form of a group of clowns who were attempting to help those left mentally damaged by the Shroud return to normal by using humour as a means of therapy. Learning that the Shroud had moved on to another world, Wobblebottom – the leader of the ‘resistance’ – volunteered some of his men to help The Doctor stop the Shroud, but even after returning to Earth in a clown car – another example of dimensional transcendentalism – The Doctor knew that they would lack the time to counter the Shroud’s influence before its effects became permanent.
Attempting a new tactic, The Doctor was able to draw the Shroud away by using an emotion-amplifying device he had created to amplify his own feelings of grief and loss at his parting from his companions – including Susan (“The Dalek Invasion of Earth”), Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot (“The War Games”), Jo Grant (“The Green Death”), Sarah Jane Smith (“The Hand of Fear”), Adric (“Earthshock”), Peri (Trial of a Time Lord:”Mindwarp”), Dr Grace Holloway (“Doctor Who: The Movie”), Captain Jack Harkness (“The Parting of the Ways”), Astrid Peth (“Voyage of the Damned”) and Amy Pond (“The Angels Take Manhattan”), as well as him attending the funeral of The Brigadier -, prompting the Shroud to focus its attention on him. With the Shroud now attempting to feed from The Doctor, he returned to the TARDIS and used the Fast Return Switch (“The Edge of Destruction”) to take the ship back to its previous destination in the form of the planet Venofax, which included a sea that was essentially a natural bubble bath that tasted of avocado (A natural anti-depressant). While The Doctor took the Shroud to Venofax, the Clowns fought it inside the wormhole, keeping it distracted long enough for them to eventually tie its interior in knots and leave it to feed on itself while The Doctor entered the Shroud to rescue the Clowns. With Semtis abandoned by the Shroud and Earth safe, The Doctor, Clara and Mae departed – Warren remaining on Semtis to aid in the reconstruction -, although other Shrouds may exist, The Doctor concluded that would be a threat to occupy him on another occasion.