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Looking for Eccleston – 7. How the Doctor Tried to Avoid a Karaoke Night


7. How the Doctor Tried to Avoid a Karaoke Night

This story is for Romanadvoratrelundar whose request was: The 4th Doctor, U.N.I.T., karaoke night

Sergeant Benton was peering inside the lab from the door. Although it had been deserted for months, nothing had been moved. It was just as the Doctor left it. A new scientific advisor had been appointed but the Brigadier had insisted upon him working in a different facility.

“We already have a scientific advisor,” he had argued, but couldn’t vouch for the Doctor’s whereabouts.

The truth was that he didn’t know if the Doctor would even come back one day. Sentimental reasons had dictated his desperate attempt to stop the recruitment process and Benton had witnessed it with some concern. This was a side of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart he didn’t know. The Brigadier managed to win a small battle and obtained that the Doctor’s lab wouldn’t be used by the new scientific advisor who was assigned to a different section. Lethbridge-Stewart had been quite satisfied by the outcome and Benton guessed that he didn’t plan on using the advisor’s services anytime soon.

Time had passed and the Doctor hadn’t showed up. The Brigadier had stopped talking about him but Benton had kept the habit of passing by the lab every day, remembering the old times with Jo and Sarah Jane. He was still in touch with them, especially Sarah Jane who had unexpectedly come back one day. They had met a few times and she had shared a few stories with him. It had been difficult for her at first, because she missed the Doctor a lot.

“He dumped me,” she told him once.

Time passed and she eventually admitted that she more or less deserved it. Then she too stopped talking about the Doctor to focus on her career.

Then Benton started worrying that the lab might disappear to be converted into offices. New personal had joined U.N.I.T and the building was slowly getting packed. One day, they would realise that an empty lab was a waste of space and they would turn it into something else. The sergeant never stopped thinking about the Doctor. He convinced himself that as long as he would keep hoping for the alien scientist’s return, there might be a chance he would do so. When he heard the familiar noise of a T.A.R.D.I.S materialising, he almost jumped up and down out of joy. This time, he entered the lab, switched the lights on and waited until the blue police box appeared.

The door creaked open and a familiar face came out of it.

“Yes, I think that I got it right.”

The Doctor opened the door and stepped out, freezing as soon as he saw Benton.

“Oh no,” he said with great annoyance. “Don’t tell me you have been ordered to wait for my return because Earth is about to be invaded again.”

The sergeant’s first reaction was to be in shock:

“What? Again? I need to warn Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at once!”

He was about to run away when he realised that he had forgotten to ask an important question:

“Who is going to invade Earth, Doctor?”

The Time Lord’s face expressed a mixture of amusement and mild impatience.

“No one is going to invade Earth, Sergeant. At least not that I know of. It was a manner of speech, a way to ask why you were here when the T.A.R.D.I.S materialised!”

Benton smiled and walked back towards the Doctor:

“Oh I see… Well Doctor, as a matter of fact, my presence here was merely a coincidence,” he lied.

He was about to add something else, but caught sight of a ravishing young lady coming out of the T.A.R.D.I.S. His first thought was for Sarah Jane and he wondered if the Doctor had “dumped” her for this new companion, whoever she was.

“Good day to you, Miss,” he greeted her and couldn’t help but bow.

The girl laughed lightly and addressed the Doctor:

“That’s what I call good manners! It’s nice to see that some people still have some!”

“This is Romana,” introduced the scientist before he started to look around his lab, as if he was looking for something.

“Delighted. I’m Sergeant Benton, from U.N.I.T. May I ask where you are from? I’m sorry, it’s just that I can’t quite make your accent…”

“Gallifrey, like the Doctor,” she replied.

She seemed quite interested in the lab herself and also seemed very keen on checking the various tools.

“Gallifrey?” Replied Benton who was now dying to know how the scientific advisor had managed to find a suitable companion out of his own people.

The Doctor probably followed his thoughts because he replied hurriedly:

“Romana has been imposed on me to assist with a delicate matter. Since she has proven quite efficient, she has been allowed to stay with us.”


The Sergeant deliberately ignored Romana’s angry stare at the Time Lord.

“I’m travelling with K-9, a most reliable companion. Right K-9?”

“Affirmative, Master.”

Benton almost jumped out of surprise when he heard the metallic voice. A robotic dog had come out of the blue box.


“Indeed, K-9 is unique. Well, not exactly since this is Mark II, so obviously there were more of his kind made, but still, as I said, he is reliable, easy going and…”

“Yes, Doctor, I think that you have made your point,” interrupted Romana rather coldly.

She then turned towards Benton and smiled:

“Would you be so kind and show me around while the Doctor finds his tools?”

“I probably should warn Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of your arrival first, but then, well, why not…”

Benton felt that he was blushing. The Time Lady stared at him and he could read amusement in her eyes which made things worse. He wished he could simply vanish, but he was stuck with the two Time Lords. He went straight for the phone, trying to regain his composure as he dialled Lethbridge-Stewart’s extension.

“Sergent Benton, Sir. I would like to report that the Doctor and his companion have materialised in the lab.”

A silence.

“Yes, Sir, with the T.A.R.D.I.S. Permission to show the companion around, Sir?”

He was almost relieved when the Brigadier denied his request. He was growing increasingly uncomfortable around the Time Lords. He hung up and faced Romana, smiling apologetically.

“I’m sorry, Miss, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart would like to make your acquaintance. He is on his way now.”

“Brilliant!” The Doctor clapped in his hands and both Romana and Benton startled. “I look forward to see my old friend.”


Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart entered the lab a few minutes later, while the Doctor was giving a proper tour to Romana. She had been impressed by the equipment gathered in the room.

“It seems that this U.N.I.T organisation holds you high in its esteem,” she noted.

“Indeed. The Doctor is a valuable asset. One that we must secure, so to say,” said the Brigadier who had listened to that last part.

After formal introductions had been made, the soldier pointed at the T.A.R.D.I.S:

“This old box of yours seems to have suffered a bit since the last time I saw it. Where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, here and there…” Replied the Doctor.

“And why are you back?”

The question was so blunt that Benton cringed. The Time Lord didn’t seem to take offense, quite on the contrary.

“My dear old chap! I’ve missed you!” Was the reply.

But the Brigadier didn’t seem moved. Worse, he didn’t seem to believe the scientist.

“And what else?”

Romana was obviously enjoying the discussion. The Sergeant could tell that she was a very clever lady – she was a Time Lady after all – and he wondered if she knew the Doctor as well as the Brigadier did. She seemed to, obviously, as she suddenly decided to take part in the conversation.

“He is here because he has lost his cat.”

“I beg your pardon?” Asked Lethbridge-Stewart, whose face expressed surprise.

The Doctor shot an angry glance at Romana who simply ignored him.

Benton had to refrain from laughing. Now the whole discussion had turned into some sort of a comical show.

“Alright, alright,” the Doctor gave up.

He sat in one of the lab’s chairs, wrapping himself in his coat and explained that Eccleston – his dear cat – had left the T.A.R.D.I.S unknown to him on their last visit on Earth and that he didn’t realise it until it was too late.

“Hadn’t you let the door open… We wouldn’t be here in the first place,” grumbled the Time Lord to Romana.

The Brigadier snorted, thus increasing the scientist’s bad mood.

“Bottom line is, I need to track Eccleston down and the only place I know with the right equipment is this lab.”

“Oh, so you want to use government property for your private use?” Suavely said Lethbridge-Stewart.

The Doctor raised an eyebrow:

“Well, it’s what I usually do, don’t I?”

From the look on his face, it was obvious that the Brigadier hadn’t anticipated such an honest statement.

“Alright, I give up. Do as you please, since that too is what you usually do. But know this; it won’t be long before you don’t have a lab anymore.”

This triggered a reaction from the Doctor. He seemed upset.

“What? Am I to be dismissed?”

Lethbridge-Stewart quietly explained that the organisation was growing, both in personal and importance. Its extension meant a reuse of every available space. The Doctor looked hurt and the Brigadier made no effort to comfort him. He kept insisting that the scientist had chosen a way of life that was no longer compatible with U.N.I.T.

“I wish that you could let me be the only judge of that,” complained the Time Lord.

“Still, you can’t deny that you haven’t been very reliable lately. In fact, nobody knows you amongst our latest recruits. I’ve been trying to contact you a few times through the emergency channel but you don’t even check it anymore.”

“Alright, you got a point,” sighed the Doctor. “I’ve busy indeed and maybe I got carried away and forgot about U.N.I.T… So tell me, what should I do so that you forgive me?”

Lethbridge-Stewat rolled his eyes. The scientist made it sound as if a small tap on the hand would do the trick, which was absolutely not the point here. He was about to give up on the whole conversation when he noticed that Benton was trying to attract his attention. The soldier looked like as if he had something in the back of his mind.

“Yes Sergeant?”

“Everyone will be attending the Karaoke night. It’s mandatory. And since the Doctor is here… well, he has to attend too, right? After all he is still listed as a member of the personal, unless of course he doesn’t want to be part of U.N.I.T anymore.”

“Oh yes, indeed, I’m afraid that you’re right…” The Brigadier said, scratching his chin.

“What is this all about?” Asked the scientist who could sense that he was soon going to be into trouble.

“As Sergeant Benton just explained, U.N.I.T has its annual karaoke night. It will be a great opportunity for you to meet everyone. And everyone will be able to meet the famous Doctor. You certainly are aware that you are kind of a legend here.”

The Time Lord never resisted to flattery. Despite the fact that he knew he was tricked into a social event, he couldn’t say no. Not directly at least.

“I still have to find Eccleston. He really means a lot to me,” he argued.

“I can look for him,” offered Romana. “You go that karaoke night, whatever that is, and I’ll look for your cat in the meantime.”

“Eccleston hates you,” grumbled the Doctor. “You will never find him. Leave that to me.”

He paused and his eyes started to shine as he thought about something:

“Oh, but indeed, that’s brilliant. As long as I’m represented, it should be fine, right? I suggest that Romana attends this event, she is very good with people, she will get along very well with everyone and she will discover some of Earth’s customs! What do you say?”

Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton stared at the Time Lady who wasn’t sure whether she had been tricked or if it was indeed a good idea as she wouldn’t need to search for the grey cat or hear the Doctor whine about the loss of his cat.

She was very attractive and she would probably mingle more easily than the Doctor.

“I suppose that this can work too,” carefully said the Brigadier.


The scientist jumped on his feet.

“Now that this is settled, I should be going!”

He grabbed a few tools and left the lab rather hurryingly.

“That was fast,” noted Benton.

The Time Lady shrugged.

“So tell me, what kind of event if a karaoke night and what should I wear?”


Despite what the brigadier had said, some people did recognise the Doctor. The mechanic who had looked after Bessie during the scientist’s absence was pleased to see him.

“The old girl is waiting for you. I take her for a ride now and then to keep her in working condition,” he said with pride.

“Thank you! I knew that I was leaving in good hands.”

The Time Lord was eager to leave the U.N.I.T headquarters. He suspected that Romana would try to stop him once she learned what a karaoke night was…

Bessie was indeed in perfect condition and soon the Doctor was on his way to the T.A.R.D.I.S’ last location, in an obscure junkyard not unlike the one on Totter’s lane. The scientist checked the grey sky. It would soon be dark and he didn’t fancy looking for his cat with a flashlight. There was still a square mark in the dust, where the T.A.R.D.I.S had materialised and the Time Lord parked on it. He then took the tools and devices he had “borrowed” in the lab and easily managed to build a scanner that would help him track down Eccleston. At least, that’s what he hoped. He had been tempted to use K-9 tracking abilities, but the dog seemed to be in league with Romana against him and Eccleston. Since he didn’t want to attract attention on himself, the Time Lord decided to skip the “calling his cat’s name out loud” part and to use his new device indeed. He boosted the signal with his screwdriver and tried to scan the area. Almost instantly he found a trace that he followed, happy that his plan was working so well. It was easier than he had thought. He was already making plans to sneak in the T.A.R.D.I.S as discreetly as possible to avoid the social event when he came about his first disappointment. A stray cat stared him with fear in the eyes before running away.

“Well, at least the scanner is working…” Whispered the Doctor before picking up a new trail.

That one too proved to be unsuccessful as well as the following ones. It was starting to get dark and the scientist finally resolved to call his cat.

“Eccleston! Where are you? Come back!”

He felt a bit silly, calling like this in the middle of a junkyard. It didn’t take long for someone to hear him and to come around to see what this was all about. A middle aged woman looked at him suspiciously. She was wearing an apron, her grey hair was tucked under a scarf and she was carrying a bucket. She was obviously a cleaning lady.

“Why are you shouting like that?” She asked.

Her voice was husky and the Doctor soon understood why when she lit a cigarette after throwing the content of her bucket – dirty water – directly on the ground.

“Want one?” She offered.

The scientist shook his head:

“No thank you, I don’t smoke.”

“Good for you. Why were you shouting?”

The Doctor tried not to cough when she blew the smoke in his face.

“I’m looking for my cat. His name is Eccleston.”

“Alright. What does your cat look like?”

“He is a chartreux,” replied the Doctor with some pride.

The woman’s face lit.

“So, you’re the bastard who dumped that beautiful cat! And now you regret and you hope to take him back. Well, Sir, it’s a no go! We saved him, we keep him.”

The Time Lord was rarely speechless. But this time, he simply didn’t know what to say. He was in shock. There was so much anger in the woman’s voice that he was taken aback. But then he realised that it was just an act. She was bluffing. She wanted to keep the cat for herself and hoped to impress him. He had to fight back if he wanted his dear Eccleston back.

“So you’re the one who stole my cat!” He said rather menacingly, taking a step towards her.

“Keep away from me!”

“Give me my cat back!”

He saw a brief flicker of fear in the woman’s eyes and he decided to take advantage of it. He locked his eyes on hers and came closer.

The cleaning lady slowly retreated, without looking where she was going. The Doctor was confident that she was already starting to feel the effects of his hypnotism attempt. They reached the backyard of a bar and the Time Lord realised that she had probably led him to her working place. He was already thinking about the moment when he would be reunited with Eccleston when he caught a movement in the corner of his eye. Next thing he knew, a savage blow sent him crashing through one of the bar’s window.

“Ouch, that hurt,” he complained when he landed on the wooden floor.

The woman had kicked him with her broomstick.

Laying flat on his back, the Doctor barely registered that the loud music in the bar had stopped. He was staring as the cleaning lady stepped in through the broken window. He was amazed to see how much she looked like a witch with her angry face and her menacing broom. She pointed it at him and started shouting in that ugly voice of hers:

“Call the police! That man attacked me in the backyard! First he abandons his cat and then he attacks me to get it back!”

She paused then she frowned. The Time Lord had the distinctive impression that a crowd had gather behind him and that the woman had hoped for those people to back her up with no success apparently. The scientist rolled on the floor and managed to get up with grace. He was now facing the so called crowd and he burst into laugh.

“Of all places, you had to choose this one!”

He was addressing to a severe man wearing a dark moustache and a military uniform.

“Care to explain yourself, Doctor?” The Brigadier said.

Romana and Benton were standing next to him. The Time Lady was wearing a fancy evening dress and she didn’t seem too happy to see her companion.

“I was simply trying to convince this lady that I didn’t abandon my cat, but that I lost him and that I wanted him back,” quietly explained the scientist whose eyes were already looking all around the place until they rested on the bar.

“Haha! There you are!”

He went straight for the grey cat that was sitting on the wooden surface. He picked it up gently and the pet cuddled itself in the alien’s arms.

“As you can see, the cat seems to recognise the Doctor,” noted Lethbridge-Stewart. “I think that the matter is now closed.”

The cleaning lady looked down and nodded before leaving, using the service door this time.

“As for you, Doctor, since you interrupted our karaoke night, I suggest that you are the next one to perform on stage,” decided the Brigadier, enjoying the expression of shock on the Time Lord’s face.


Seventh Interlude

I was trying not to laugh as I pictured the whole scene.

“What did you sing?” I asked.

The Doctor shrugged:

“I fail to remember. The important thing is that I found Eccleston. Only I didn’t keep him. That night, I had another talk with the cleaning lady who was the bar owner’s wife. She was very upset because she was very fond of my cat. Since I knew that things would be difficult with K-9, Romana and Eccleston, I decided to entrust him with her. I missed him dearly. Especially after Romana and K-9 left me. Maybe that’s why I started collecting those cat brooches… Or maybe it is because something happened during my regeneration.”

He went silent and I sighed. He had this annoying habit of teasing me, forcing me to ask for more of his stories. I was about to make an acid comment when I realised that his teasing hadn’t been intentional. He and his cat were staring at each other. I got a feeling that they were communicating telepathically so I left them to their conversation to make more tea. 

Looking for Eccleston – 6. I Remember


6. I Remember

This story has been written as an answer to Broken Chameleon’s challenge. I managed to include it in the NaNoWriMo Projet as well…

When you meet the Doctor, it’s usually not a good sign. It means that you are either in trouble or in the wrong place at the wrong time. For me, it was both. How was I supposed to know that the time machine exposed in that Steampunk Convention was going to work after being hit by lightning? I can imagine that the Belgian who made this prop was quite surprised when I disappeared! I wonder if he got into trouble for sending me away in time and space. He probably tried to get me back and failed. But that’s not important. What is important on the other hand is that I didn’t appear where I left, but in the middle of a narrow street that I didn’t have time to examine properly. Almost as soon as I materialised, I heard footsteps and screams. The next moment, someone crashed into me and we both landed on the ground. The first thing I noticed was the scarf. It was so long that it seemed to be everywhere, covering everything. The next thing I noticed were the curly brown hair. That’s when I felt relieved because I knew exactly who had crashed into me. If I was ever to go home again, he would be the only one who could bring me there (one day).
“Doctor?” I asked to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.
He had been fumbling to get up, but between his scarf and my long Victorian dress, it had proven a bit difficult to sort out which bit of clothing belonged to whom. He looked down at me and obviously tried to remember where we might have met. Then his eyes fell on my necklace and he frowned:
“What have you done to my TARDIS?” He asked rather menacingly.
That moment when you realise that you are indeed with THE Doctor and…that he is under the impression that you stole and shrank his ship…
“It’s a flashlight, look!”
Once I managed to prove to him that I didn’t stole his TARDIS but that I was a weirdo wearing a TARDIS flashlight as a necklace, he easily came to the obvious conclusion.
“You’re obviously not from this time period. How did you get there in the first place?”
That’s when we both realised that we had overlooked something rather important. The Doctor was on the run. Instead of chatting it would probably have been safer for us to postpone the introductions to find shelter. I didn’t get to tell the Doctor how a prop sent me wherever I was. We suddenly were surrounded by shiny silver robots. Instead of screaming out of fear, like any good female companion of Classic Who would have done, I took hold of the tip of the scarf and kept close to the Doctor. It was enough that I was in trouble; I just didn’t want to lose my only hope of ever returning from where I came from.
“Well, well, well, Doctor. It seems that you failed in your puny attempt to escape…”
A man broke the circle of the robots to face the Doctor. I recognised him instantly and was pretty much impressed by how classy and dangerous he looked in the flesh. The Master saw that I was staring at him and smiled charmingly.
“And who might that be?” He asked to no one in particular.
He too took notice of my TARDIS necklace and frowned:
“What is this trickery? What are you up to, Doctor? Take them!”
The charming tone had vanished in an instant. The soldiers immediately moved towards us and took formation, forcing us to walk between them. I still hadn’t let go of the Doctor’s scarf, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was looking around him as if to memorise the way we were going.
My first assumption that I had appeared in a random town proved incorrect. As we were walking, I realised that the building were fakes like a movie setting. Only there were no cameras, no staff and those robots were all too real to be props. Our guards escorted us to what reminded me of a holodeck door that slid open, revealing exactly what I feared would be behind. A room made of black walls segmented into squares marked out by yellow lines. I tightened my grip on the Doctor’s scarf, a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed by the Master.
“Well, well, it seems that your companion has a suspicion about what I have in store for you both. Have fun!”
We were pushed inside. The door slid again, trapping us effectively inside. Once alone, the Doctor looked down at me:
“You and I need to talk,” he said.
“You and I need to get out of here, fast,” I bluntly replied.
I walked back at the door, taking shelter under the doorframe where I hoped I would be safe.
“We are in a holodeck, a place where we can experience virtual reality,” I explained in case my companion didn’t know already.
“I see,” said the Doctor, taking place next to me.
We fell silent as the room turned into an unfriendly landscape. Everything looked grey, from the sky to the rocks. Wind brushed dirt and small stones around.
“Fascinating…” Whispered the Time Lord and for a moment I feared that he would be tempted to have a closer look to the setting that seemed terribly real.
And indeed that’s exactly what he had in mind.
“If we leave the arch, we might be trapped in this reality forever,” I warned him.
“Then I suggest that you stay here and act as my anchor,” smiled the Doctor as he started walking towards the rocks.
He didn’t go very far. I was firmly holding the tip of the scarf and as soon as the Time Lord reached the rocks, the wind almost blew it out of my hand. The Doctor had to cover his face with his arm to protect it from the wind, and he did the most sensible thing to do under the circumstances, he backed away to join me in the arch. He brushed his coat to remove the dust that had covered it in seconds. I could tell that the program’s safety had been removed. There were small cuts on the Doctor’s face where the bits of stone had hit it because of the wind. If we hadn’t reached the arch before the program had been launched then we probably would have been killed within minutes. The Doctor obviously came to the same conclusion because he stared at me and smiled.
“You seem to know me but I know nothing about you, except that you are familiar with this kind of devices.”
I smiled back and held my hand.
“I’m Suzanne, how do you do?”
He shook it and kept it a bit longer in his hand.
“You wouldn’t happen to be my granddaughter by any chance?”
“Not that I know of,” I shrugged. “Although I never knew my grandfather, so there is a place to fill in my family tree if you want it.”
The invitation amused my companion who chose not to reply and focused on the arch’s controls instead. A sonic screwdriver had appeared in his hand and, after removing the controls’ panel, he pointed his tool towards the various buttons and switches. Neither he nor I thought about the potential guards stationed outside the door until it slid open. Luckily there were none.
“Where do we go now?” I asked.
The Doctor looked a bit surprised:
“Now you go your way and I go mine. I have to stop the Master.”
“And I don’t know how to go home. So if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stick with you.”
The Time Lord finally asked me where I was from and how I got there in the first place. He seemed rather relieved when I explained the strange circumstances of my arrival, and informed me that I had reached the far future from Earth.
“You probably arrived through a crack in time and space. Nothing to worry about right now.”
“Does this mean that you know how to send me back?”
“Of course!” He answered with self confidence.
“Alright. Then I’ll help you defeat the Master and you send me back home. Deal?”
Did I just offer to assist in what would probably be a very dangerous mission? Before I had time to curse myself, the Doctor had started to run, dragging me along since I still hadn’t let go of his scarf.
“Where are we exactly and what did the Master do this time?” I asked while trying to keep up with the Time Lord who didn’t even slow down when he explained that we were in what used to be the next generation of amusement park.
“Those robots were meant to be the staff.”
It was easy to understand the logic behind the development of such a park. Virtual reality was less expensive to maintain and robots would mean less employment fees to pay, as well as savings.
“What went wrong?”
“Unemployment rates increased so much over the years that people couldn’t afford to go to such amusement parks. Plus they weren’t in the mood anymore. Life on Earth has changed a lot, changing people as well. Welcome in a world where greed and selfishness has destroyed every quality in mankind. The Master has seen an opportunity to try and conquer the planet. My problem is that he might just succeed this time…”
I stopped dead on my tracks, somehow managing to stop the Doctor with me. He turned, showing his annoyance:
“Come on, we need to hurry.”
“No we don’t,” I was smiling. “From what you say, Earth is not a nice planet anymore.”
“It is not,” agreed the Time Lord. “War and destruction is so common now that people don’t even remember how it was when peace existed. They don’t seek for peace anymore, they want to express their anger and despair as much as possible. Words like friendship, solidarity, generosity don’t have meaning anymore.”
“Is it hopeless?”
The Doctor had replied without thinking. He realised what he had just said and stared at me, a twinkle in his eyes. He was expecting my next question.
“How can you be sure that the Master is not what Earth need right now? Someone who would inspire every Earthling to unite against him. They would fight a tyrant who wants to impose his authority on a whole planet, without any consideration for those who live on it. He light just be that common enemy who would help bring peace again.”
“That’s a bit drastic…”
“But you might be right,” sighed the Doctor.
We sat on the floor, next to each other and engaged in an ethical debate whether the Doctor should let the Master do as he pleased or try to stop it.
“He is breaking the rules set by the Time Lords.”
“And yet, that’s what you do when you involve yourself into other planets’ business,” I remarked.
He tried to convince me that it was only coincidental, that he never voluntarily interfered and that his actions were dictated by moral standards. We went on like this until robots eventually found us. We were still talking when the Master showed up.
“So, you didn’t like my little simulation?” He mused.
“Not really, no. Too windy for my taste,” replied the Doctor on a cheeky tone.
“I will have to find something else to entertain you then,” the Master laughed.
“That won’t be necessary,” the Doctor said very seriously. “I’m taking off now, I need to drop this young lady home on the way.”
He got up and helped me do the same. A suspicious expression came across the Master’s face.
“What are you up to, Doctor?”
The tone was a bit menacing, but neither of us was impressed.
“Just as I said; I’m leaving. I won’t interfere this time. One of those days, it will end badly for one of us and I’m not in the mood for that today.”
And with that, the Doctor motioned me to follow and started to walk past the robots that didn’t make a move to stop us. They were obviously waiting for the Master’s orders. The Doctor’s old enemy started laughing but didn’t ask his robots to apprehend us.
“I will give you the benefit of the doubt, Doctor. Go freely with your companion. We shall see if you can resist the temptation not to stop me.”
He was clearly enjoying the thought, unless he really didn’t believe a word the Doctor had said. I too was starting to have doubts. It had been too easy to convince him… And yet, it seemed that he had made up his mind. As we were walking away, retracing our steps, he asked me if I had appeared where we had first met and I agreed. I was expecting him to bring me back with his TARDIS but he claimed that it might be safer if I used the crack in time and space providing that it was still active.
“The TARDIS is not very accurate lately,” he confessed. “I can’t promise that I’ll get you where you want when you want… Unless of course you are not in a hurry, in which case you’re welcome to meet Romana, K9 and Eccleston.”
The TARDIS sounded quite crowded and I decided against it.
“I’d rather go home directly. One day, when your TARDIS is accurate, then I’ll take you up on your invitation. In the meantime, you still can pay me a visit when you are in my neighbourhood.”
We had reached the spot where I had appeared. The Doctor took his sonic screwdriver out of his jacket pocket and used it to find the crack.
“Are you sure that you can locate it?” I asked him after his first attempts failed.
‘If it’s there, I’ll find it,” he assured me.
A few more attempts were necessary but he eventually found the crack.
“When I say run, you run,” smiled the Time Lord.
“Or I can also get ready next to the crack and simply walk through it when it’s open.”
“That will work as well.”
I took my position and watched as the Doctor operated his sonic. Almost instantly the crack became larger, opening until it was big enough to let me go through. While the Time Lord was working, I started wondering if he hadn’t played me all along. I couldn’t picture him leaving the Master succeed voluntarily. The two men were arch enemy; they had to interfere in each other’s life.
“Doctor? Are you going back to the TARDIS?”
“It’s time for you to get through that crack.”
“Are you really going to leave?”
He was now facing me, smiling broadly.
“Of course not. I can’t let the Master win, I have to stop him.”
Having said that, he pushed me hard enough for me to fall back inside the crack. Only I had grabbed his scarf again and it was only a matter of luck if he didn’t fell through the crack with me.
I landed on the ground, right where I had left. The Belgian time machine had been destroyed by the lightning, I could make pieces of wood and plastic scattered around. The Convention was deserted, everyone had packed up. I wondered if it was because of the incident or because it was raining heavily. I realised that I had a part of the Doctor’s scarf in my hand and I used it to protect myself from the rain until I reached my car. There, I looked at the scarf and smiled. Nobody would ever believe me if I told my encounter with the Doctor, but I would always know that it happened for real because of that scarf…

Sixth Interlude
We remained silent for a little while. We had woken up some old memories and we needed to deal with them.
“It’s been quite a while,” the Doctor said softly. “Over thirty years in Earth time.”
“Less than ten on my account, those are the joys of time paradoxes…”
Both he and I were trying to avoid one particular topic. When the atmosphere in the living-room became so awkward that even Eccleston stared at us disapprovingly, I finally asked:
“Did you manage to stop him?”
The Doctor looked down at his feet and asked:
“Do you still have my scarf?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Now it’s your turn, did you stop him?”
“Yes,” the Time Lord replied relunctantly.
“And I can’t tell you the future. Suffice to say that I checked afterwards and regretted that I didn’t follow your advice.”
My heart felt heavy hearing this confession.
“There might still be a chance that all those events don’t happen after all,” I told him without exactly knowing if I wanted to comfort him or myself.
He didn’t react and looked down at Eccleston.
“The TARDIS is now accurate,” he said. “I can bring you back exactly when you left.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
“And still you brought me Eccleston to ensure that someone looks after him when you are away. You always knew that I wouldn’t join you anyway.”
“And I wonder why. My companions usually want to come along. It’s only after some time with me that they want to go back to their homes and lead a different life from the one I offered them.”
“It’s too scary. It might be fascinating to visit other worlds, planets and times, but in the end I would always be afraid to loose you one way or the other. How would I go back home, then? It might sound selfish, but I don’t feel brave enough to take that risk. I’d rather have you telling me all your wonderful stories when you visit.”
The Doctor was still smiling when I was done talking. Strangely I felt as if a burden had been removed from my chest.
“It might be dangerous sometimes, but there are funny moments too, you know. Did I ever tell you about that time when Eccleston got lost and I was forced to attend U.N.I.T’s annual karaoke night?”

Looking for Eccleston – 5. The Man Who Always Got Himself Into Trouble


5. The Man Who Always Got Himself Into Trouble

This story is for TimeyWimeyTardis whose request was: The 4th Doctor and Romana solving a murder mystery on Earth. At first it seems like a normal murder but the perpetrator turns out to be an exiled alien.

A dense fog was covering London on that November evening, turning every building into a blur. Paul and David were on their way to the underground building site. They weren’t looking forward to exchange the cold and damp atmosphere of the streets against the heavy atmosphere of the underground.

“We start in the fog and we finish in the fog,” joked David, referring to their work hours.

Paul simply nodded.

Both men were the perfect team. While David was a bit of an enthusiast, Paul was the quiet type. They were working night shifts and were quite satisfied about it, especially since they were entitled to a small bonus.

“I heard that the Company is already looking for engine drivers,” said Paul. “The Company even provides the training.”

Everyone knew that working for a railway company was the best employment possible, especially since engine drivers were well considered and more importantly, they were well paid.

“Yeah, it might be a good opportunity for us,” agreed David. “Not sure I want to spend my life driving an engine through those gloomy tunnels, though.”

Paul shrugged: “It can’t be worse than what we do now, in case you forgot what we do for a living. Do you see yourself dig tunnels all your life?”

“Nope. Maybe you’re right…”

They had reached the building site entrance. Most workers were leaving for the day, all sharing the same dirty and exhausted face.

“That’s no life, I tell you,” complained David as he walked down the stairs.

His friend didn’t react. It was the same every evening. As soon as they were going down, David would start complaining about how unfair life was. How some had to work hard while others didn’t need to. They met a few more workers on the way and finally reached the platform. Paul looked at the shiny rails. Soon they would be in use and he pictured himself driving one of those underground trains. He smiled and followed his friend towards the black hole of the tunnel. Both men were carrying oil lamps to fight darkness, but it was still impressive. They had to walk almost two miles before they would reach the construction site. At night, with the reduced staff, everything seemed.

“Shouldn’t we see the lights already?” Asked Paul.

“Soon, after we pass that corner,” replied David.

A noise behind him caught his attention and he turned, wondering what it was. Holding his lamp above him, he scrutinised the darkness behind him. Paul had come to a halt too.

“Let’s keep moving,” he whispered. “We’re almost there anyway…”

David was about to agree, when he caught a movement from the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he wished he hadn’t heard that strange noise. His scream was followed by an echo. Paul was screaming too. The two lamps crashed on the floor. Soon it was totally dark in the tunnel again.


The search party found two broken oil lamps in the tunnel. For them, it was proof that their two colleagues had vanished like the others and were probably dead. The workers decided unanimously to abandon the building site and go up, in the foggy street where they feel they would be safe. They walked back to the main entrance, gathered there and refused to go back down despite their manager’s threats.

“You can go there yourself,” shouted one of the men. “We’re not going back. Those tunnels are doomed!”



“Where are we going?” Asked Romana, taking her eyes up from the book she was reading.

The Doctor was in a cheerful mood which indicated that he had probably chosen one of his favourite destinations.

“Earth,” he smiled.

“Of course,” she muttered, immediately loosing interest.

It was common knowledge that the Doctor had a soft spot for this planet and like many others Romana couldn’t quite understand what he found so interesting about this primitive planet. Noticing his companion’s loss of interest, the scientist went on:

“I’m taking you to one of the most fascinating periods of Earth history.”

“Victorian Era?”

The Doctor looked disappointed. Romana tried to hide a wicked smile behind the book. When he didn’t react, she looked up again and saw that he was starring at the console. He was probably trying to decide whether they should go anyway or not.

“I hope for you it’s forth the trip,” said Romana, affecting to be annoyed.

The Doctor smiled, his good mood restored:

“Oh you won’t regret it!” He promised.

There was such a joy on his face that his companion couldn’t help but wonder how he could keep such a childish mind at his age.



Reinforcements had been called, threats had been made. The workers couldn’t afford to lose their jobs and they all went down again. This time, the manager accompanied by two security guards came down as well, to ensure the workers that there was nothing to fear about the underground.

“Superstitious fools,” muttered the manager.

He was on a tight schedule and couldn’t let a bunch of frightened souls ruin his reputation. He was already hoping to get another huge railway building project; but that would only work out if he could finish the underground work on time.

“What now?”

The group had stopped at the end of the platform. The workers were looking at the entrance of the black mouth.

“Don’t tell me that you’re scared!”

“But Sir, eight people have disappeared in a very few days…” Complained one of the workers. “We don’t want that to happen to us.”

They didn’t believe the story the manager had told them when the first workers had disappeared anymore. He had pretended than they had resigned and no questions had been asked. But when the disappearances continued, they no longer believed him and their distrust only grew stronger.

“Oh come on!” Said the manager, losing his temper. “Don’t you understand who is behind that? Those silly dreamers who don’t believe in progress, who hate the idea that an underground will allow every Londoner to travel safer and faster! Your friends haven’t been eaten by a beast haunting those tunnels; someone very alive who knows his way around those tunnels has taken their lives in order to force the Company to stop the works. Someone like him!”

He was now shouting as he was pointing a finger towards a figure that emerged from the darkness.



The TARDIS materialised and the Doctor immediately operated the scanner to check their surroundings.

“Oh nice,” sneered Romana. “You were right, this period is really fascinating!”

“Alright, I didn’t plan on materialising underground, but wait until you see what’s above!”

He ignored his companion’s dubious expression and put his coat, scarf and hat on before operating the doors. Romana was amused by his impatience to go out and explore. She followed him outside and frowned when she looked around her.

“Where are we?”

She thought that the Doctor was about to jump up and down from happiness:

“In the Underground working site!” He replied excitedly. “If we are lucky, we might even witness the first train running in the underground London.”

Romana stared at him as if he were a mad man. He didn’t seem to realise that she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. He kept on showing her shiny metal pieces and wooden structures, explaining what their use was. To the Time Lady, it seemed a terribly primitive way to move around, but she remained silent. She knew that the Doctor would be hurt by such a comment and she wasn’t in the mood for an argument. When he pointed the dark entrance of a tunnel and suggested to go in it, she felt a shiver going down her spine.

“Do we have too?” She asked weakly.

“There is no other way…” Noted the scientist.

He was right. There was no way out from their position, but at least, there was light and Romana felt safe. The Doctor took hold of an oil lamp and led the way. He couldn’t stop talking about railways and how they would shape the modern era. His companion was holding on the tip of his scarf, to ensure that she wouldn’t get lost. The more they walked into the tunnel, the more a feeling of imminent danger was overwhelming her. She tried to reason herself. She had never been afraid of the dark so why this sudden fear? The tunnel was curving and she could see light in the distance. Maybe they were finally reaching civilisation? She had stopped listening to the scientist’s explanations but she noticed when he abruptly stopped talking. Next thing she knew, she was bumping into his back. She carefully looked from behind and realised that they had indeed reached some sort of civilisation. A group of dirty men were gathered on what the Doctor had called a “platform”. One of them, the leader obviously was giving a rather heated speech. All of a sudden, he pointed at the scientist, and shouted:

“Someone like him!”

A big clamour echoed as the workers shouted and screamed.

“You really can’t keep away from trouble, can you?” Said angrily Romana to her companion.


The workers saw a man emerging from the tunnel and soon after the figure of a young woman appeared from behind his back. Both shared the same surprised look. They didn’t expect to meet such a crowd, which was rather odd considering that they were trespassing on a construction site. William, one of the senior workers immediately understood that the manager was blaming the tall man wearing a fancy scarf as a mean to convince them to go back to work. The stranger didn’t look like a killer. In fact, he looked like one of those poets who dream their lives instead of trying to live their dreams. Everyone started to shout angrily at no one in particular and William feared that the couple would come to any harm. They were standing still, and the fact that they didn’t run away convinced the senior worker that they had found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The manager was smiling with contempt. The coincidence was too good to be true. He had found the perfect scapegoat without even asking for one.

“Alright!” He shouted. “Let’s find some constables who will take care of those two.”

“Let’s make them pay for what they did instead!” Shouted someone.

William stepped forward and joined the manager.

“Let me take a few men and bring them down to the nearest police station before it gets messy. Surely you don’t want a riot on your hands.”

The manager considered what he had said. He could tell that the workers wanted revenge, but if he wanted the Company to trust him on a new construction site, he had to deal carefully with the issue.

“Alright. But they are your responsibility,” warned the manager.

William nodded and motioned his team to join him. Two workers came out of the group and everyone else quieted down. The senior worker and his men had earned respect from the others over the years, so no one questioned the decision that had been made.


Romana had let go of the tip of the Doctor’s scarf and was now standing next to him. She was angry at him, despite the fact that it wasn’t really his fault if they had encountered trouble. The scientist was strangely silent. Usually, he would have introduced himself, made some spiritual comment that would have worsen the situation. This time, however, he didn’t say anything. Three men came towards them, all workers from the look of it. One of them, the eldest, had white hair that almost looked grey because of the dust that was covering them. His two companions seemed experienced too. To the Time Lady’s great surprise, the white haired man spoke politely and explained that they were trespassers and therefore had to be brought to the police station.

“I’m sure that everything will be sorted out quickly as soon as you can justify why you were down there,” he said.

Romana wondered how the Doctor would get them out of this situation this time. The authorities would never believe that they arrived by accident. They were most probably going to end up in jail.

“What a fascinating period indeed,” thought the Time Lady.

But her companion was resourceful and he proved it once again when he answered William’s question:

“Isn’t that obvious?”

His steady and deep voice sounded impressive in the underground and Romana wondered what he was up to. There was an air of authority coming from him and the Time Lady saw that the three men were a bit confused.

“Have you come to help us find our mates?” Whispered one of the workers.

The Doctor faced him and smiled broadly:

“That’s perfectly correct. You see, I’m a detective. My job is to find missing persons. Now, I heard about your case and I took upon myself to investigate incognito.”

“I don’t suppose you can prove what you say?” Asked William.

The scientist was still smiling when he answered: “That’s the whole point of investigating incognito. It means that nobody knows what I’m doing… Those are the risks in my profession! By the way, I’m the Doctor and this is Romana, my assistant.”

The Time Lady cast the three men a devastating smile and she could see that they mellowed a little.

“I’m William, this is Patrick and here is Sylvester.”

“How do you do?”

The Doctor shook their hands before his face reverted to a serious expression:

“So what now? I suppose that you have to carry out orders, am I right?”

“Indeed. You are to come with us at the police station,” explained the senior worker.

“Excellent!” The scientist clapped his hands together. “I will be able to clear this little misunderstanding in no time!”

Romana hesitated:

“But what if something happens when we are away? You said that we needed to be there to catch the perpetrator in flagrante delicto!”

She was playing her part perfectly and her companion pretended to think about what she had just pointed out:

“I’m afraid that we don’t have a choice here. We are to accompany those gentlemen at the police station. We might be able to make it quick and come back here, providing that you don’t object?”

He was now addressing William.

“No, of course not.”

“Shouldn’t we check with the manager first?” Asked Patrick.

“Since when does he care?” Shrugged Sylvester. “I say, let them come back. If they disappear like the rest of the guys, then who will ever know they came back?”

“Excellent point!” Said the Doctor. “Shall we go?”

William led the way, followed by the two time lords and the two workers. The manager and the rest of the workers watched as they passed by. As they reached the stairs, the scientist heard as the manager ordered his men to go back to work.

“This time, they will obey,” quietly said William who had heard him bark his orders too. “And when one of us disappears, they will understand that you were only a scapegoat.”

Romana was impressed by the wisdom in his voice. He seemed to know better. The Doctor probably came to the same conclusion, because he offered the old man to assist with the investigation.

“You are familiar with those tunnels. You know them by heart you might be of great help… The same goes for the rest of your team. If you want to help, then by all means let’s join forces.”


On the way to the police station, the Doctor managed to know more about the strange disappearances. It seemed that the victims simply vanished, leaving their tools behind.

“It’s a proper mystery,” said Patrick.

The Time Lord agreed in such in such a way that it felt like he actually enjoyed it. He seemed very confident and looked forward to meeting the local authorities.

“You know,” he suddenly told to the group. “I was thinking that we might enlist some of the constables as well. After all, we need to inform them that eight people have vanished in the underground since I believe that no one has reported those workers missing. It’s a serious case. It’s a shame that your manager thought otherwise.”

William, Patrick and Sylvester exchanged an alarmed glance. Sylvester grabbed the Doctor’s arm, preventing him from entering the building.

“Are you saying that you are going to inform the constables about the disappearances?”

“That’s exactly what I said. That’s what should have been done in the first place.”

“You can’t.”

The Time Lord pretended to be surprised:

“I thought that you wanted me to clean my good name?”

William sighed: “That’s right. We should have thought this better. The manager never reported the disappearances indeed. He doesn’t want the Company to know. If you tell the police, there will be an investigation, the Company will know and we will be sacked.”

“And who is going to employ us at our age?” Added Patrick.

“That’s why the bastard told us the strangers were our responsibility. He was taking no chance. He will blame it on us if things go south,” grunted Sylvester.

“Please, call me Doctor. And there might be a solution.”

The three workers stared at him, while Romana concealed a smile as she understood where this conversation was heading.

“We all want to find out what happened to your co-workers, correct? So why not play the manager’s game?”


“We skip the police station part we go back to the underground and investigate.”

“What if he asks what the police said about the matter?” Asked Patrick.

“We tell him that the constable recognised the Doctor. He won’t check unless he wants to rise suspicions on himself,” grinned Sylvester.

“Alright,” agreed William. “I simply hope that we won’t regret it.”

“Oh no you won’t,” promised the Time Lord.


They knew that something had happened when they saw the workers running away from the construction site. Despite herself, Romana felt frightened as she saw all those strong men beaten by fear. Sheer panic had taken over and they were running for their lives.

“Quickly, we need to know what happened!” Ordered the Doctor.

He managed to get hold of one of the  terrified worker and insisted upon knowing what was going on.

“The manager! He disappeared!”

The Time Lord let go of the poor man who ran even faster after being freed.

“What do we do now?” Wondered Romana. “Shouldn’t we get detailed facts?”

The scientist shook his head.

“Waste of time. They are useless. What we need is to go down there.”

A hand took a grip on his arm, effectively attracting his attention. It was William’s. The senior worker shot him a disapproving glance:

“You might want to risk your life in the underground, but you can’t force this young lady to do the same. She shall remain here in safety while one of us comes with you.”

The Doctor was about to protest when he noticed that Romana seemed a bit frightened.

“Alright. Let’s go then.”

“Doctor!” The Time Lady called. “Be careful!”


Sylvester and the Doctor stopped at the end of the platform. The construction site had been deserted, but the lights were still burning. The platform was surrounded by menacing shadows and the tunnel’s mouth seemed darker than before. The worker had found an iron stick and was obviously planning on using it as a weapon if needed. He was tense but his eyes shone fiercely. The Time Lord threw the tips of his scarf over his shoulder. Stumbling over the long scarf was certainly not recommended in the underground, especially if they had to make a run for it. He was carrying an oil lamp and used it to look around as they entered the tunnel. The little information he had gathered had already convinced him that something or someone didn’t want to be disturbed. Almost ten people had gone missing without any trace and the Doctor had formulated a few hypotheses. None of them had a positive outcome for the unfortunate workers.

“Whatever we find, let me deal with it first,” ordered the Time Lord.

His companion grunted: “Whatever we find, let me hit it with that thing.”

The scientist started to regret Romana’s absence but he kept silent, focusing on their surroundings.

“What are you looking for?” Asked Sylvester.

“The broken oil lamps I saw earlier. I know that they are here somewhere.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes. It was only when they approached the curve that the Doctor found what he was looking for. He kneeled and inspected the ground closely, looking for any clue in the shattered glass.

“Maybe they dropped their oil lamp and ran off,” suggested Sylvester.

“In the dark?”

The Doctor wanted to make sure he didn’t overlook anything and he examined the area thoroughly. That’s how he discovered the narrow passageway in the wall, not far from where the debris had been found.

“I take it that all workers disappeared in this particular tunnel?”

Sylvester confirmed, but stopped the Time Lord who was about to enter the passageway.

“It looks more like a crack in the wall than a proper passage. I wouldn’t advise you to go in there.”

The Doctor folded his hat and put it in his pocket. He stretched the arm holding the oil lamp inside the narrow way and turned to his companion.

“Let’s try it anyway. Something tells me that we might get to the bottom of things through there.”

There was a note of excitement in his voice and the worker suspected that the man actually enjoyed exploring mysterious places.

“If you say so,” he sighed and followed the Time Lord.


To the worker it seemed like an endless descent. Despite himself, he was quite curious to see where it led, since it seemed obvious that the passage had been digged by man.

“Maybe it’s a service tunnel,” he thought out loud.

His companion didn’t react. He was still holding the lamp up and the light shone on his focused face. When he came to a sudden halt, Sylvester almost bumped into him, but remained silent. He looked over the Time Lord’s shoulder, but couldn’t see anything except the endless tunnel. He couldn’t hear anything either. The Doctor took a long cylinder from his pocket and started waving it in front of him. The worker wondered if he had become suddenly mad. The buzzing that came out the strange device startled Sylvester who took a step back.

“Just as I thought,” whispered the Doctor before he started walking again.

This time, his companion kept a safe distance until they reached the strangest cavern he had ever seen. A green dim light came out of the rocks and an altar was set in the centre of the circle shaped cavern.

“Hold that for me, will you?” Asked the Doctor who then walked straight towards the altar.

Sylvester had a bad feeling about it, but he doubted that the Time Lord would listen to him if he expressed it. He followed him carefully while looking around, his hand clenched on his stick. The Doctor was now facing the altar that was covered in strange writings. He motioned his companion to bring the lamp closer. When the worker complied, the symbols suddenly started to come into life, glowing red. Sylvester jumped back and watched as the Time Lord was surrounded by a bright red light that seemed to keep him prisoner as well as inflicting him severe pain. Helpless and terrified, the worker wasted a few minutes trying to think what to do before he turned away and ran as fast as he dared in the passageway with one thought in mind: calling for help.


Romana, William and Patrick were waiting at the top of the staircase. Neither of them was talking. The Time Lady was blaming herself for letting the Doctor go without her. She was also starting to get worried and realised that she would rather be in trouble with the Doctor than waiting and doing nothing. She was half expecting to see some constables rush over the construction site, but no one came. None of the panicked workers had called for help. They had simply fled, abandoning the site and those who had vanished to their fate. Earthlings were such an individual race… She wondered again what her companion found so appealing about this planet and its inhabitants. From what she could see, they were primitive, filthy and selfish. Plus the weather was ugly. The fog was now so dense that she almost couldn’t see her hand when she stretched it in front of her and the cold was pervading her.

She forgot about the cold when she heard someone running in the stairs. When a dishevelled and out of breath Sylvester appeared, her worries turned into proper concern. The fact that he was on the verge of panic was nothing compared to the fact that he was alone.

“Where is the Doctor?” Shouted Romana, before any of her companions could react.

“Down in the cavern,” managed to reply the worker in a jolting voice.

“Which cavern?” Asked William.

They had to wait until the man had recovered a little before he could tell them exactly what had happened and where. When Romana realised that the Doctor was in grave danger, she acted on an impulse. She took the oil lamp from Sylvester’s shaking hand and ran down the stairs, ignoring William and Patrick’s calls. Her mind was entirely focused to her goal and she didn’t even think about the danger she was throwing herself in. She found the narrow passageway and walked as fast as she could until she reached the cavern. She came to an abrupt stop and let out a desperate cry:



The Doctor carefully walked towards the altar. Some strange symbols seemed to be carved on it and he asked Sylvester to bring the lamp closer in order to see them properly. As soon as the worker shone the light over them, the Time Lord realised his mistake. Before he could tell his companion to take the lamp away, the symbols started shining in a blood red light that was all but reassuring. Next thing he knew, the Doctor was attacked by a red energy that imprisoned him in some sort of force field. He witnessed as Sylvester managed to back up from the altar but then he felt as the energy exuding from the altar tried to enter his mind and he tried to block it out. Instantly the force field turned against him and pain overwhelmed him. He closed his eyes, gathering deep within himself the strength to fight back. The pain was agonising and he realised that he had only one solution to shield his mind. That’s when he understood what had happened to the workers who had vanished. Their fate had been even worse than what he had imagined and he was about to meet just the same fate. Or was he? He heard laughter. It was him, laughing at the only person who could have devised such a scheme. Then he blacked out.


As soon as Romana called the Doctor’s name, the red glowing tentacles that were holding him withdrew back in the altar. The Time Lord crashed on the floor where he remained motionless. As his companion was about to run towards him, she felt someone grabbing her and she screamed.

“Calm down!” Said a familiar voice. “We’re here to help.”

She relaxed and the man let go of her. It was Patrick. Behind him were William and Sylvester who had fully recovered from his fright.

“The Doctor, he is…”

The Time Lady couldn’t finish her sentence. She didn’t know what those red tentacles were and therefore couldn’t tell what they did to the scientist. From what Sylvester had told them, it was not a pleasant experience.

While William remained with her near the tunnel, Patrick and Sylvester rushed to the Doctor.

“As long as those things don’t get light on them, we should be safe,” whispered Sylvester.

They quickly moved the scientist to the entrance of the tunnel. From there, Patrick carried him over his shoulder. Sylvester was leading the way. Romana and William were walking behind Patrick. The Time Lady couldn’t taker her eyes off the Doctor’s hands that swung freely like an inanimate string puppet behind Patrick’s back. She was tempted to hold on to one, just to check the scientist’s pulse, but she waited until they reached the platform. The Doctor was laid on the floor, thus allowing his carrier to catch his breath. In the meantime, Romana checked the Time Lord’s pulse that turned out to be almost normal even if it was weaker than usual. His encounter with the strange energy had been indeed quite intense.

“How is he?” Asked William.

“He should recover soon,” replied the Time Lady, who was starting to regret that they didn’t go straight to the TARDIS. They were in the opposite direction and she doubted that the workers would agree to carry the Doctor all the way back and through the tunnel.

“Is there some place we can go and where he could rest?” She asked.

“There is a pub close by,” replied Sylvester. “We can go there, the owners are nice fellows.”


The streets were deserted and the fog even denser than before. Romana was following the three workers who seemed in the same hurry to get shelter than her. Luckily, the pub wasn’t far away and they soon entered in a warm room that was quite empty save for three customers known from the workers. They looked a bit surprised when they noticed that Patrick was carrying an unconscious man and that a woman was with them, but they didn’t ask questions. The owners, Sean and Mary, were a middle-aged couple, and were just as Sylvester had said, nice and friendly. They knew what was going on in the underground construction site and were impressed to discover that a detective and his assistant were taking great risks trying to help the workers. Sean and Mary were only too happy to help and offered to shelter Romana and the Doctor as long as it would take for the scientist to recover. The Time Lord was brought in a guest room that the couple had upstairs. It was a small but cosy room and Patrick gently laid the Time Lord on the bed, while Romana decided to stay at his side to look after him.

“I’ll bring you something hot to drink, love,” said Mary.

Just as she was about to leave, a cat entered and sat at the door, staring at the girl.

“Is it yours?” She asked.

“Nah. It’s a stray cat that comes and goes,” replied the owner.

There was something about the cat that was quite uncommon. It was a grey cat with bronze eyes.

“Hello,” said Romana.

The pet didn’t reply of course, but kept on staring at her until she got tired of it and turned her attention back to the Doctor. She took his hand and squeezed it.

“Come on, wake up. I want to know what happened to you.”

The scientist didn’t react to her soft touch. She sighed and looked around. Apart from the bed and a chest of drawers, there was only a chair in the room, next to a small window. Romana took the chair and brought it next to the bed. The cat used the few seconds when she had her back turned to silently run and jump on the bed. When the Time Lady looked at the Doctor again, she paused. The grey cat was curled on his chest, purring slowly.

She remained standing, unsure about what to do. Should she take the cat away or leave it where it was? She was still hesitating when Mary came back with a cup of tea. The pub owner started to laugh when she saw the pet on the Doctor.

“He seems to have adopted your friend. It’s the first time I see him like this. Mind you, we can’t even touch the cat; he likes our house but not us. Here, love, drink this, it will warm you a bit.”

Romana took the beverage and thanked the woman who went back downstairs. She then sat on the chair next to the bed and sighed deeply. She sipped in the tea, enjoying the warm drink and she was about to let her thoughts drift away when she noticed something that made her jump on her feet. She hadn’t realised it before, but the Doctor had placed a hand on the cat’s back and was gently stroking him.

“I can’t believe this!” She said out loud. “You’re awake!”

“Of course I am,” replied the scientist, keeping his eyes closed.

“I’ve been worried sick!”

“No you haven’t.”

He smiled and slowly opened his eyes. The Time Lady didn’t know if she wanted to hug him or slap him for playing that little trick on her.

“How long have you been awake?” She asked.

“I woke up when Eccleston laid on me.”


Logic dictated that he was referring to the cat, but the fact that he had named it was a bit unnerving. The Doctor straightened to get in a sitting position, ignoring the cat’s protest.

“Eccleston is my cat. I found him a long time ago under rather unpleasant circumstances,” he explained. “Since then he seems to have made a habit of finding me at the most unexpected time.”

The Time Lord looked quite happy. He was using his scarf to play with the cat and Romana got the annoying feeling that she was going to endure the creature’s presence for quite some time.

“Can you please tell me now what happened in the cavern?” She asked.

“Oh yes, the cavern; I made a mistake.”

His companion couldn’t believe her ears. Did he just admit having been wrong? Something was definitively off. She glances suspiciously at the grey cat, wondering if he was using some kind of telepathic influence over the Doctor. The pet glanced back, his golden eyes reflecting both mischief and wisdom. The scientist didn’t take notice of the silent duel in which his two companions had engaged and went on:

“I thought that I recognised the hand of the Master behind this mystery but I was mistaken. The symbols carved on the altar looked gallifreyan but they were not. I suspect that they change shape depending on who is looking at them, acting on the neural patterns of the brain to lure their victims.”

“But how do you account for the workers who disappeared? Surely they weren’t lured into the cavern.”

“Of course not. They probably never realised that there was a passageway leading to a cavern in the first place.”

“Then how did they disappear?”

“They didn’t.”

Romana was starting to lose patience. She hated it when the Doctor was showing off by retaining his knowledge on purpose, a way to force her to admit her own ignorance. Even the cat seemed to laugh at her now.

“Alright, don’t tell me. I will find out using my deduction skills.”

The scientist made a gesture meaning “be my guest” and resumed playing with his cat, much to the Time Lady’s frustration.

“We know that the workers disappeared in the section of the tunnel before the curve based on the oil lamps debris that we found. We also know that the passageway is close by. That passageway leads to a cavern where an altar with neural powers has been set. Now the power within the altar is designed to lure people into coming in contact thus allowing the energy within to bound with the victim. Am I right so far?”

“This is the easy part,” smiled the Doctor.

“Maybe, but you didn’t tell me what happened when the energy took hold of you.”

She noticed that the cat tensed a little. That was quite interesting. So the pet was linked to the scientist after all. There was no doubt in Romana’s mind that the Time Lord had been shaken by his experience in the cavern. Eccleston’s reaction just proved it.

“It tried to…”

The Doctor was searching for the right words.

“It overwhelmed me both physically and mentally like a desperate attempt to make contact. I fought it because I was surprised, because I expected someone else to be responsible. That’s why it hurt me.”

The Time Lady shivered. She could read behind the lines and she didn’t like where that conversation was heading.

“Are you telling me that this…thing…tried to communicate with you?”

The Doctor sternly replied:

“Not only with me, but also with all the workers who disappeared.”

“And it failed.”


“But you didn’t disappear.”

“No, but I’m not human. Furthermore you and the others rescued me.”

Silence fell on the room while Romana sorted her thoughts.

“They didn’t disappear, they were atomised…” She said softly. “It was too much for them, the energy from the altar simply destroyed them.”

She looked at the Doctor. He nodded. Then he took the cat in his arms and sat on the edge of the bed, ready to get up. The Time Lady put a restraining hand on his arm.

“No,” she said firmly. “I’m not going to let you do what you plan to do.”

“And what am I planning to do?” He asked with a twinkle in his eyes.

“You are going back in the cavern. You are going to communicate with the creature because you don’t know how it managed to get through the passageway. And you are going to leave me behind on the false pretext that I should look after your cat.”

The Doctor smiled, put Eccleston on Romana’s knees and got up:

“That’s so nice of you to offer to look after him. I would be really sad to lose him again, especially since we just got reunited. Thank you so much.”

And he left before Romana had a chance to protest.


Downstairs, the Doctor found William, Patrick and Sylvester who were sharing a beer at the bar with the last customers and the owners. They all were listening at the story the workers had to tell. When the scientist appeared, they stopped talking. For a brief moment no one reacted then Mary went straight to him and took his arm, dragging him towards the workers.

“Nice to see that you’re up! Your young friend was quite worried you know.”

“Was she?” Smiled the Doctor loud enough for Romana – who had come down the stairs with the cat in her arms – to hear.

The Time Lady didn’t seem very happy and the workers soon understood why when the scientist asked them to guide him back to the construction site.

“Are you out of your mind?” Wondered Sylvester. “This thing almost killed you and you want to go back there? No way.”

“You don’t understand, it’s very important that I go back; otherwise the killings shall never stop!”

“The killings? What killings?” Asked Patrick while the pub owners shared a worried glance.

The Doctor’s face reflected the seriousness of the situation:

“Your co-workers didn’t just disappear. The energy field that trapped me killed them.”

“All the more reason to stay out of those tunnels,” grumbled Sylvester.

“I believe that I know how to deal with it,” insisted the scientist.

“Liar,” thought Romana but she kept silent.


The Doctor did eventually persuade the workers to show him the way to the construction site. In fact, they gave up because he was becoming so insistent that they had no other choice. The scientist explained that he wanted to deal with their issue before the day shift started. He feared that the situation might quickly become out of hand with an extended staff in the underground tunnels.

Once they reached the main entrance to the underground site, the workers stopped.

“You don’t need to come with me,” said the Doctor.

“But I do,” said Romana. “Someone needs to keep an eye on you, just in case.”

William was about to protest but she smiled:

“Don’t worry, I’m used to mysteries and danger. Being his assistant means I get a lot of both every day.”

And sometimes even twice a day, she thought.

She was about to hand him the cat so that he could look after him while she was away, but the pet struggled and she had no choice but to let go of him eventually. Eccleston landed on his paws and went straight for the underground.


The Doctor looked helpless as his cat ran off inside the staircase and down to the underground. Romana thought that he would run after him, but he just followed on a slower pace. The Time Lady looked at the workers who seemed hesitant.

“As the Doctor said, you don’t need to come with us if you don’t feel up to,” she gently said.

“We can’t let you take all the risks,” noted William. “I’ll come with you. Patrick and Sylvester, you stay on the platform. Wait for us to come back. If we don’t, then just call for help.”

The two workers nodded.

The Doctor had already taken some advance; Romana and William had to hurry up to catch up with him. They reached the cavern and remained at a safe distance from the altar.

“Now what?” Asked the Time Lady.

“Now I make contact.”

Romana didn’t ask how he planned to do that. She knew that the only way was to trigger the red energy beam. After that, it was up to him, really. He looked at her and smiled:

“Would you be so kind as to lighten the altar?”

He then proceeded towards it casually. The easiness with which the scientist went into danger never ceased to amaze the Lady Time. She approached slowly, stretching her arm so the lamp would be at a distance from her. She certainly didn’t want to get caught in the energy beam. As soon as light touched the altar, the symbols seemed to come to life and she briefly looked at the Doctor. Eyes closed, he seemed very relaxed. Romana took a few steps back to join William as the red glow started to turn into tentacles that soon enveloped the scientist. Everything happened in utter silence. There was something rather impressive about the whole scene. Soon, the Doctor was completely enveloped and the Time Lady hoped that he knew what he was doing.


He was ready this time. When the symbols started to glow, he tried to relax as much as he could and welcomed the energy inside his mind and body. He could feel the entity trying to reach him mentally and he greeted it with peaceful thoughts.

“You’re not like the others,” said a voice in his head.

“No, because I’m not from this planet,” telepathically replied the Doctor.

“Are you in exile? Is this planet meant to be a prison for people like us?”

The Time Lord was slightly puzzled by those questions and chose to answer with other questions:

“Are you in exile here? Where do you come from?”

A pause, then:

“My people sent me here as a punishment a long time ago. It was only meant to be for a short time as I was to learn from my mistakes but they forgot about me. Centuries have passed; no one came back for me. I decided to make contact with the inhabitants and start a new life here.”

“Because you realised that this planet was inhabited when the workers started to dig the underground tunnels.”

“Yes. I didn’t realise that this wasn’t the planet’s surface. I thought that I was on an isolated planet with no lifeforms on it.”

“So you took the appearance of one of the workers and tried to communicate with the men, only you realised that it wasn’t working. Earthlings are no telepaths and your energy was too strong for them. Each time you tried, you atomised them. I wonder, why didn’t you stop trying after realising that you were destroying them?”

“I can’t take a solid form. I can only reach out as pure energy. I didn’t mean to harm those beings. I kept hoping that I would find a compatible host.”

A wave of panic briefly brushed over the Doctor’s mind.

“A host?” He repeated.

“Oh yes, I need to find a proper host in order to exist on this dimensional plan.”

“But what about the host?”

“I’m afraid that his conscience will cease to exist. I’m really sorry about that, Time Lord.”

The Doctor realised that by welcoming the entity within him, he had made not one but two mistakes. He had allowed the creature to access to his mind as well as to take over his body. The scientist needed to shield at least a part of his mind if he wanted to fight back. As soon as he tried, he felt the same agonising pain as before, when he had first encountered the entity.

“You shouldn’t fight me; it will only make things worse for you.”

“You can’t do that. You don’t know those people; you won’t be able to fit in their world.”

“Oh but I don’t want to anymore. With your TARDIS, I shall explore the universe.”

It was even worse than what the Doctor had thought. He needed to warn Romana at all costs. With great difficulties, he opened his eyes. He could see the real world through a red fog. His body felt numb and he suspected that the entity had already started working on taking over his entire being. He realised that he was unable to speak, let alone move. By the time Romana realised that something was wrong it would be too late to save him. He tried to send out a telepathic impulse, hoping that she might catch the sense of danger and react, but nothing happened, save for another wave of pain.

“Don’t fight me, Time Lord. You have my word that I will take care of your companion. I won’t harm her. Maybe she won’t even notice a difference between us. We are not a violent race you know. We just want to fit in.”

“Tell me one thing,” asked the Doctor still trying to think about a way to escape. “Why have you been exiled? What have you done? I deserve to know who is going to replace me, don’t you think?”

“Yes of course. My race decided to stop using hosts and to live as pure energy. I was against it because I want to keep sensations that only matter made beings can feel. I don’t want to be pure energy!”

The scientist cursed his bad luck. There was no point in trying to convince the entity, there was no chance that it would change its mind now that it had found the perfect host. He tried to send out another telepathic cry for help but the tentacles holding him sent electric impulse and pain disrupted his concentration.

“Please stop that. I don’t want to hurt you.”

The Doctor was running out of options and was slowly weakening.

“That’s better, just relax, it won’t take long now…”


Romana couldn’t take her eyes out of the Doctor. He looked as if he was in a trance.  His features were relaxed; his attempt to contact the entity seemed to have worked. She wondered what they were talking about. The scientist suddenly opened his eyes and the Time Lady stared at him. She was almost expecting him to talk to her through the energy that kept him prisoner but he didn’t. Romana even wondered if the energy hadn’t paralysed him. She started to worry again. How could she know if everything was alright when the Doctor was in this state? She was considering coming closer to the altar and check the symbols to find any clue about how they worked when something jumped on the altar, startling her. It was Eccleston.

“Go away!” Whispered the Time Lady. “Leave him alone! Can’t you see that he is busy?”

The cat might ruin everything but Romana didn’t dare come closer to the altar. Eccleston was staring at the Doctor as if he was about to jump on him. When he did, the Time Lady let out a cry of surprise. She heard footsteps coming her way and William appeared, out of breath.

“Are you alright?”

She nodded, still looking at the Doctor. The cat had taken a grip on his scarf and was literally climbing on him to reach his shoulder.

“Ouch, that must hurt,” commented the worker.

Yet the scientist didn’t move and his face remained expressionless. That was the proof Romana was looking for. She called out his name but it didn’t work like before. The red tentacles kept their grip on the scientist.  Something was definitively wrong and she had no clue as how to help the Doctor.


Unable to move or to speak, the Doctor was helpless. He saw as Eccleston jumped on the altar and kept his mind empty to hide the fact that the cat probably heard his telepathic cry for help. When Eccleston jumped on him, the Time Lord realised that his face was paralysed too. He could feel the pet’s claws despite the coat and it lasted until the cat reached his shoulder, but he was unable to express the discomfort it provoked other than mentally. The entity’s curiosity was triggered:

“What is this?”

The Time Lord remained silent, focusing on keeping his mind blank. He could feel a third presence and he guessed that it was Eccleston.

“What are you? You are similar to a Time Lord, yet you are very different. How is it possible?”

The alien was obviously talking to the pet and the scientist wondered if the cat was answering.

“So much power… and freedom…”

The entity loosened his grip on the Doctor as it focused on Eccleston.

“A perfect host…”

The voice was fading in the Time Lord’s mind. The scientist didn’t dare resuming the course of his thoughts. The cat jumped back on the altar with agility, despite the red tentacles that were now enveloping him. The Doctor tried to make a few steps towards the back of the cavern, but he was weaker than he thought. He stumbled and fell straight into Romana and William’s arms. Both managed to steady him and helped him walk to safety. William insisted upon leaving the cavern, but the scientist refused. He sat on the ground instead and witnessed the fascinating battle that was taking place on the altar.

“What is happening?” Asked Romana.

“The entity is looking for a host; it seems that I’m not as good as it hoped.”

The Time Lady and William exchanged a glance as they failed to understand what the Doctor meant.

“Those red tentacles you see are a being made of pure energy. It was trying to communicate with your colleagues, in order to host a body and fit in your society,” he finally explained to the worker.

“So it did come out the cavern?”

“Yes and no. From what I see, it’s attached to the altar and therefore can’t be entirely free. It probably stretched its tentacles to reach the tunnel and catch whoever walked by at that very moment.”

The scientist then told them why the entity had been exiled on Earth by its own people. William was having a hard time believing all what he had just heard and yet, he could see with his own eyes that there was something unnatural about the whole situation.

“Look,” whispered Romana.

Something was happening. The tentacles seemed to fade, the energy flow becoming unstable.

“Never underestimate the survival instincts of a cat…” Whispered the scientist. “The entity has found a host that proves too powerful to harness…”

A few moments later, the energy simply ceased to exist. Even the green light from the cavern faded little by little until it was totally extinct, leaving only the oil lamps to lighten the cavern. The Doctor took one and walked towards the altar. The symbols remained black.

“You shouldn’t have any more trouble from this thing. The underground is safe again… so to speak,” he smiled.

He then collected Eccleston and held him tight against him. The Time Lady had the strong impression that the cat was quite proud and satisfied.

“Are you going to take him with you in the TARDIS?” She asked suspiciously.

“What a question! Of course!”


Fifth Interlude

 “You can easily guess what happened next. Eccleston, Romana and K9 together in the TARDIS… Romana and K9 sticking together while Eccleston would stay with me, except when he explored the TARDIS. He was able to find his way through the corridors in no time and he even started to be my guide, saving me a lot of time when I was looking for a particular area.”

“I can imagine that Romana and K9 weren’t too happy to have such a clever companion,” I said, trying my best not to laugh.

The Doctor nodded:

“Those companions were a bit possessive. When Romana and K9 stopped talking to me to make their point, things became even more complicated. That’s when I decided to take a holiday alone.”

He turned and stared at me, smiling. I frowned. Was he trying to tell me something? It hit me suddenly:

“Is that when…?”

I couldn’t believe it.

“Yes, that’s exactly when you and I met for the first time!”

So it was true, I am a part of Eccleston’s story…

Looking for Eccleston – 4. The Daleks Strike Back


4. The Daleks Strike Back

This story is for RassilonsEyebrows whose request was: The 4th Doctor and Romana II encounter some Daleks.

“For the last time, let me check those settings! I tell you that something is wrong!”

Romana was standing on the other side of the console. The Doctor was fumbling with the controls, obviously ignoring her. The series of malfunctions that had plagued the TARDIS for the last hour or so was worrying to say the least but the scientist had been as stubborn as usual. His companion’s patience was starting to wear thin.

“It’s nothing, the old girl is tired, that’s all. She deserves a holiday like the rest of us,” was the Doctor’s comment on their situation.

 When the power loss occurred, Romana insisted once again to check the instruments and once again, the Doctor ignored her.

“K9, please check all systems,” she finally ordered, taking it up on herself to fix the problem.

“Yes, Mistress.”

The robotic dog approached the console but stopped when the Doctor’s deep voice cancelled the order.

“Oh come on, Doctor!”

There was anger in his companion’s voice and he found it wiser to give up.

“Alright, alright. K9, carry on Romana’s orders.”

“Affirmative, Master.”

The buzzing sound of the dog’s antenna was the only noise that filled the TARDIS except for the gentle humming signalling that the time machine was flying. The Doctor sat on a chair nearby and waited. Romana saw his crooked grin and silently hoped that K9 would confirm her theory, just for the sake of being right.

“Minor malfunctions in multiple areas. Cause unknown. Suggest repairs as soon as possible.”

The Doctor jumped on his feet and danced to the console:

“See? I told you. Nothing to worry about!”

His companion shot an angry look at the dog:

“Traitor,” she said through gritted teeth.

Then she realised that the Doctor wasn’t gloating as she expected him to. In fact, he almost looked worried and Romana’s first thought was that he was imitating her, thus mocking her.

“You made your point, Doctor. You were right and I was wrong. No need to make a fuss about it,” she commented rather coldly.

The scientist looked up:

“What? No, I’m sorry, you were right and I was wrong.”

At first, she couldn’t believe her ears; but he was very serious, she could feel it. His tone, the way he checked the readings, everything screamed for imminent catastrophe.

“K9, check the systems again,” she ordered urgently.

“Yes, mistress.”

Romana noticed that more and more lights were flickering on the panel.

“Minor malfunctions in multiple areas. Cause unknown. Suggest repairs as soon as possible.”

“It can’t be! Everything is breaking down, there must be a reason! Doctor?”

She hoped that he would have a theory. After all, it was his time machine. After centuries of travelling with her, he should know her by heart and yet it always seemed like he didn’t know how to operate it properly.

“I don’t understand,” grunted the scientist. “It should be working. Let’s try the Earth method.”

And with that, he slammed his hand against the console. The result was obviously not the one he had expected. More lights started to flicker and Romana rolled her eyes.

“A proven scientific method I presume?”

The Doctor smiled broadly:

“Indeed! And by the way, it seems like we have landed!”

His companion glanced suspiciously at the central column. For all she knew it could be another fault. She then operated the scanner and discovered that they had landed alright. The TARDIS had materialised on a rather inhospitable land. A dead forest by the look of it.

“Do we still have access to the radiation and oxygen readings?” She asked.

“All perfectly normal,” announced the scientist. “We can go and have a look around.”

Romana couldn’t help but grin at the Doctor’s twisted sense of priorities. No wonder the TARDIS was breaking down. He obviously didn’t care for basic maintenance.

“One of those days, you’ll be stranded on a boring planet with a non functional TARDIS if you keep being that careless.”

He looked amused and she suddenly realised how silly her comment must have sounded. What she just prophesised had already happened to him. He had been exiled on Earth by his own people with no means of operating the TARDIS.

“K9, you stay here. Try to fix as many faults as you can.”

“Understood, Master.”

The Doctor opened the doors and walked out of the TARDIS, followed by Romana.


The surroundings were depressing. What had been obviously a green forest full of life was now a petrified and gloomy setting. No sound could be heard, no wind was blowing. An eerie silence enveloped everything and Romana shivered. She had a very bad feeling about the place.

The Doctor was his usual self. He walked around, checking here and there to determine what had been the cause of the nature’s decay.

“It’s quite odd,” he finally said. “I think that I came here once. If only I could remember when it was.”

“Or where we are,” suggested his companion.

“That too. Let’s have a proper look around. Maybe it will come back to me.”


It did come back to him eventually; but when it did, it was far too late. Romana should never forget the horrified look on his face when they saw the city. In fact, it scared the wits out of her.

“Oh my, not again…”

The Doctor had turned pale. He firmly grabbed her arm and dragged her back towards the petrified forest, towards the TARDIS.

“Let’s go, we can’t stay here.”

His harsh tone convinced her not to argue. She didn’t even ask for an explanation. Soon she realised that she didn’t need to. Not after the Daleks surrounded them.

“Oh no, not again,” she moaned.

She felt the Doctor reach for her hand. He gently squeezed it as if to comfort her. It was pointless. The fright of her first encounter with the Daleks was still imprinted on her mind. She was terrified.

“Do not move. You are our prisoners. Do not move.”

It didn’t take long for the scientist to realise that those Daleks were not the ones he encountered on his first visit on Skaro. They had evolved and were now about to move outside the town, a bad news for the Thals if they were still around.

“What are we going to do?” Whispered Romana in the Doctor’s ear.

He didn’t reply. He was focusing on the petrified vegetation behind the Daleks. His companion looked in the same direction with close attention. There, in the dead bushes, she could see the faintest of movements. Something or someone was watching them.

“Alright,” suddenly said the Doctor in a cheerful way. “You caught me. Now what?”

“You are the Doctor. You are the enemy of the Daleks. You shall be exterminated.”

“Right… So what are you waiting for?”


Romana couldn’t believe her ears. Did he have a death wish? She realised that he was gently pushing her on the side. She was tempted to get closer to him, but then she picked that movement in the dead vegetation again. Whoever or whatever was hidden there was getting closer and the Doctor was cautiously pushing her in that direction.

“You will follow us.”

The Daleks started to move in formation. This was the opportunity the Doctor was waiting. He hurriedly whispered to Romana “Trust the Thals” before seizing her and throwing her unceremoniously into the petrified vegetation. She didn’t even have time to scream. The Doctor’s unexpected gesture confused the Daleks long enough for Romana to get into relative safety. As soon as she landed on the ground, someone grabbed her and dragged her away from her position. Seconds later a laser beam hit the dead vegetation where she had landed in the first place. Her saviour, a blond man, put a finger on his lips and motioned her to follow him. They crawled away, out of danger, but still in range to see what was happening.

“The girl is unimportant. We have the Doctor. He shall be exterminated.”

The Daleks start moving, forcing their prisoner to walk in front of them. The scientist looked one last time over his shoulder and Romana saw that he was smiling.

“Your friend is very brave. He gave his life to save yours,” said the blond man. “I’m sorry that you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

The Time Lady shook her head:

“Knowing him, he’s a got a plan. He always gets himself into trouble, that’s his thing. The Daleks and him have quite a history together. He will think of something. Are you one of those Thals he told me about?”

Her companion starred at her quizzically.

“He knows about us? How?”

“I think that he encountered some of your people during his travels…” replied evasively Romana.

The Thal didn’t seem entirely convinced by her explanation, but didn’t contradict her.

“Come now, we should go back to my camp. You need the anti-radiation drug.”

Romana froze as memories.

“Are we on Skaro?” She asked.

The blond man nodded: “Yes.”

“And it’s already been irradiated.”

“Yes. Everything died. Look at the forest. It wasn’t like this before the war started.”

But the forest wasn’t Romana’s main concern.

 “The Doctor…” She said weakly.

“I’m sorry. Even if the Daleks don’t kill him, the radiation levels will soon. There is nothing we can do for him.”

The Thal seemed genuinely sorry for her.

“We really should ger going before the radiations affect you,” he went on.

He started walking and Romana followed mechanically, her mind elsewhere.


The Doctor’s first assumption that the Daleks would escort him to the city proved right. As soon as they reached the first buildings, the scientist recognised his surroundings and memories came back to him.

“It’s been a long time since I went here. Things haven’t changed a bit,” he noted casually.


“How long since you were there? Oh but let me guess, it’s your first time, right? I can tell that you are not from this period of time. How did you get here?”

“Silence. You will obey.”

The Daleks pushed their prisoner and led him through a net of corridors until they reached the main control room.

“Fascinating,” reacted the Doctor when all Daleks were together.

The past was meeting the future. Two versions of the Daleks were represented. They had apparently managed to work together without any trouble, following the Dalek logic that to achieve their goal they had to be as efficient as possible, therefore forging an alliance with themselves. It was clear that a paradox was currently happening.

“Do you realise what you’re doing? Your future selves are going to erase you!” Warned the Doctor to the primitive version of the Daleks.

“We shall conquer. Sacrifices are necessary,” replied the original Dalek.

Nothing surprising here.

“You’re willing to rewrite history? That’s very dangerous. It requires a certain touch…”

“We are rewriting a chapter of Dalek history,” said the Dalek from the future. “We must exterminate the Doctor and erase him from Dalek history. He shall not interfere in our future.”

The scientist just sneered. He was starting to feel increasingly tired. He searched his pockets hoping to find some anti-radiation pills. Sadly he had forgotten them in the TARDIS.

“The radiation effects are starting to show up,” announced the original Dalek. “It should not take long now.”

“I’m sorry, I’m still here and I can hear you. You wouldn’t keep some spare anti-radiation drugs around any chance?”

He passed a hand on his forehead, confirming that he was running a fever. The Dalek was right, the first symptoms of radiation poisoning had started to show up.

“So what is your mastermind plan? And where is my friend Davros by the way?”

The Doctor forced himself to sound cheerful. He had a feeling that Davros was watching everything. There was no chance the Time Lord would show any weaknesses. He couldn’t afford it. His pride was at stake.

“Davros has sent us in the past to deal with you. We shall not fail.”

The flaw in the Daleks’ plan suddenly appeared to the Doctor.

“Oh, how stupid of you,” he whispered.

The Daleks had planned to rewrite their first encounter with him. Only they didn’t expect anything to go wrong, but he was, in his fourth regeneration and his enemies had no idea that they were experiencing a case of mistaken identity. All he needed was to get rid of the Daleks from the future to prevent them from sharing their technology with their ancestors.

“Tell me, how many of you are there? I didn’t see your ship, it must be quite small.”

“There are three of us. It is enough to carry out our mission.”

The Doctor was about to react when his legs suddenly gave way beneath him and he collapsed. He was feeling exhausted and his body ached. He heard one Dalek order him to stand up and he struggled to obey. He was escorted to a cell, not unlike the one he had been imprisoned in centuries ago. He let himself fall on a stone bench and got rid of his hat, his scarf and his coat. He then rested his back against the wall, trying to ignore the disturbing feeling of déjà vu. He was having difficulties to breath. He fumbled in his jacket pocket and took hold of his sonic screwdriver. If he could escape his cell, maybe he could make it out to the TARDIS. He closed his eyes as a silent laugh came out of his dry lips. There was no way he could escape; he didn’t have the strength to get up, let alone to walk. His last thought before he blacked out was for Romana.


The Thals’ settlement was primitive but functional. Romana’s guide, Antonus, introduced her to his leader who listened to their story with great attention. The news of Daleks travelling out of the city provoked quite a shock amongst the Thals who explained that their enemies had been confined to the city until now.

“They don’t have the technology,” insisted the leader, Emmonus.

The information given by the Thals combined with what she had been witnessing convinced the Time Lady that the Daleks had managed to go back in their own past and were decided to change the curse of their history. Something told her that the Doctor had a part in it and she regretted that he didn’t share this story with her. If her theory was correct, she was now facing two problems. First, she had to save the Doctor and second, she needed to find the Daleks’ time capsule in order to destroy it or at least, make sure it would be disabled.

“Did you ever meet the Doctor?” She asked out of curiosity.

The Thals looked at each other.

“Was that the man you were with?”


“No, he is a stranger to us. Well, he was until you told us about him,” smiled Antonus.

Strange. The scientist had urged her to trust the Thals and yet they seemed to know nothing about him. Romana decided to follow the Doctor’s advice and she told Emmonus and Antonus about the two problems she had to solve.

“We can help you search for the ship. If what you say is true, then we don’t want those Daleks to be able to control history. We can’t allow that as it would mean the extinction of our race.”

“What about the Doctor?”

The Time Lady had the disturbing feeling that the Thals didn’t want to consider a rescue party.

“Your friend gave your life to save you,” gently repeated Emmonus. “That’s how you should remember him.”

“But you saw him! They took him in the city!”

“And by then, he is either dead because of the radiation poisoning or because they killed him. Either way, he is most probably no longer with us.”

Romana shook her head:

“No, I can’t accept that. If you won’t help me, then I shall find him myself.”

A heavy silence greeted her words. Finally Antonus broke it:

“He must really be important to you. I see that we cannot change your mind. I will guide you to the city and help you enter unnoticed. I will also provide you with the anti-radiation drug, the same we gave you, just in case you are lucky.”

“Thank you.”

“In the meantime, I’ll lead a search party to look for that Dalek ship and do as many damage as I can,” decided Emmonus.

“Please be careful, it might be guarded. And those Daleks are very dangerous.”


Antonus kept his promise. He guided Romana through the petrified forest until they reached the town. There, he directed the Time Lady to the main control building where he supposed the Doctor had been taken and he watched her make her way through the silent city.

There was something unnerving about the city. It had probably something to do with the fact that all building looked exactly the same and everything was deserted. Romana was no foul; she suspected that surveillance devices had been installed. As impatient as she was to find the scientist, she walked with caution, checking every corner. She spotted the cameras and worked her way around them. It was a tedious journey and she soon lost track of time. She clung to the anti-radiation drug as if to remind herself that she was holding the Doctor’s only hope of survival. She simply refused to believe that she might be too late to save him.


The Doctor slowly opened his eyes. The bright light in the white room dazzled him for a moment but he forced himself to keep his eyes open. His sonic screwdriver was still in his hand and the door right in front of him. He tried to get up and failed, crashing on the floor. He wasn’t going to give up so easily however. He called upon his remaining strength and crawled towards the door. He felt like moving in slow motion and he was out of breath when he finally reached his destination. Getting up was an equally agonising exercise. If the Daleks were monitoring him from the safety of the control room, no doubt that they were enjoying the show. He managed to rest on the wall and held his sonic device against the door with a trembling hand. A smooth sound could soon be heard and the door slowly shifted open. He reached for the opening, but as soon as he left the support of the wall, he collapsed again. His mind was so clouded that he didn’t realise that someone had witnessed his fall. He heard a gentle and soft voice talking to him but couldn’t make the words.

“Don’t worry my child,” he whispered in a hollow voice. “Ian and Barbara will look after me. Go now. Get the anti-radiation drug…”


Entering the building proved less tricky than she feared and Romana guessed that the Daleks weren’t expecting trouble from the Thals. They were a pacifist race and the Time Lady was already surprised that they agreed to search and destroy the Daleks’ ship so easily. At least, it allowed her to focus on her own search. She moved around carefully, well aware that she would probably be killed on sight if the Daleks spotted her. Locating the scientist was another major issue. All corridors looked the same and she couldn’t tell what was behind the many doors from the outside. There were no labels of any sort; she had to open them to check. She had relied on her luck so far and her stress levels were increasing. Sooner or later she would find herself facing a Dalek.

Just as this thought occurred to her a door shifted open and she quickly flattened against the wall. To her greatest surprise, the Doctor collapsed in the corridor. Romana didn’t think twice and kneeled beside him. He was laying face down and she gently turned him around. He looked awful. He was terribly pale with dark circles around his eyes. She brushed his hair to put a hand on his forehead and found it burning with a fever. The scientist moaned and whispered in a hollow voice:

“Don’t worry my child, Ian and Barbara will look after me. Go now. Get the anti-radiation drug…”

“He is delirious, the radiations hit him very badly,” said another voice behind Romana.

She jumped on her feet and turned to face her guide.

“Antonus! What are you doing here?”

She was both pleased and surprised.

“I felt bad leaving you on your own to look after your friend. Give him the antidote; it won’t be long before the Daleks realise that he is gone.”

Romana complied while Antonus entered the cell to fetch the Doctor’s coat and scarf. When he came out, his face was expressing some concern.

“We have even less time than I thought. He was under surveillance. Let’s go.”

Romana found herself carrying the coat and scarf, while the Thal carried the Doctor. He didn’t seem bothered at all by the extra weight and walked a quick pace, hoping to reach the exit before the Daleks caught up with them.


“How long will it take for him to recover?”

Antonus answered without slowing down:

“It depends. He needs to rest.”

Romana thought about the TARDIS. If they could bring him back there, he would be able to recover in a familiar environment. A disembodied voice interrupted the course of her thoughts.

“Stop or you will be exterminated.”

Two Daleks were behind them. Antonus and Romana stopped and turned slowly, facing the two Daleks from the future. The Time Lady realised that destroying the ship wouldn’t be enough. They would have to get rid of the enhanced Daleks to prevent them from sharing their knowledge and technology with their ancestors, and change history despite behind stranded in the past. She glanced at the Doctor, but he was still unconscious. Now more than ever she needed his advice and he was in no condition to give it to her. Her eyes fell on the sonic screwdriver he was still holding in his hand and an idea formed in her mind. She motioned Antonus to obey the Daleks and came closer to him, trying to take hold of the sonic device as discreetly as possible.

“When I tell you to duck, do as I said. Don’t ask questions,” she whispered quickly.

They placed themselves between the two Daleks. Romana’s mind was racing; she knew that their chances to succeed were very low. She took a deep breath, held the sonic screwdriver in front of her and screamed:


Antonus ducked instantly, holding the Doctor tight in a protective manner. Romana had flattened down as well, her eyes fixed on the Dalek she had aimed with the sonic device, hoping that she didn’t miscalculated the creature’s logical reaction.

As she expected, the Daleks felt threatened and fired instantly. Instead of firing on their targets, they fired on each other, effectively destroying themselves in the process.

“For improved creatures, you can be so stupid,” muttered the Time Lady.

She was already up, when her companion spoke:

“Romana, your friend is awake. I think that he will make it if we can get out of there.”

She immediately kneeled down. Antonus was supporting the Doctor whose clouded eyes were open.

“Doctor! How do you feel?”

The scientist tried to speak but was unable to get a sound out of his throat. Frustration appeared on his features and Romana guessed that he had something important to tell her. He was still very weak and it took him a great deal of efforts to point at one of the destroyed Daleks.

“Yes, we did that,” said his companion warmly.

Again, he looked frustrated.

“That’s not what you want us to know…”

He pointed at the Dalek again and traced the sign “1” on the floor. Puzzled, Romana exchanged a glance with Antonus.

“One Dalek?” Asked the Thal.

The scientist smiled weakly. He seemed worn out and his companion feared that he might lose consciousness before she understood what he meant to tell her.

“One Dalek? What does that mean?” Sighed Romana. “There are probably hundreds, even thousands of them in the city!”

“Maybe he is referring to those Daleks from the future?” Suggested Antonus.

The Doctor grabbed the Thal’s arm and starred at him intensely.

“One Dalek from the future… We destroyed two of them…”

Romana was thinking out loud. Suddenly, everything became clear.

“Of course! There are three of them! That’s what you mean, right? We destroyed two and there is one remaining that we need to destroy as well.”

Relief washed over the Doctor’s face and then he fainted.


Antonius placed the Doctor’s motionless body over his shoulder and resumed walking, Romana at his side.

“How are we going to find that Dalek, let alone destroy him?” He asked with concern in his voice.

His companion had already an idea about it:

“We need to find their ship as quickly as possible. The Dalek is probably there. Also, we need to prevent him from calling for help.”

“And how do you propose we achieve that?”

Romana smiled: “By jamming the ship’s communication systems from the TARDIS.”

Seeing the Thal’s confusion, she explained what the TARDIS was.

“The Daleks are not the only ones mastering the ability to travel in space and time,” she concluded.

They remained silent during the rest of their journey, crossing the town with the same care as before. When they reached the safe pathway leading in and outside the city, they were surprised to find a welcome comity. Emmonus and a group of Thals were expecting them.

“When Antonus didn’t return, I suspected that he went after you,” explained the Thal leader. “We decided to come and check for you. I’m glad to see that you’re alright.”

He then announced that they had located the Dalek ship.

“We don’t have the technology to destroy it,” he sadly confessed.

Romana urged the group to accompany her to the TARDIS. She explained her plan on the way and was pleased to see that they all agreed on carrying it on.

She glanced at the Doctor. She had the feeling that he wouldn’t have approved such drastic measures, but he was still unconscious, leaving her in charge.

“He will recover soon,” Antonus comforted her.


Once in the TARDIS, Romana didn’t waste any time and started working on the controls in order to jam all communications from the Daleks, hoping that she wasn’t too late already. The city would be unable to contact the ship that in turn would be unable to contact anyone beyond space and time.

The Thals had installed the Doctor in Romana’s bedroom as it was closer to the main control area.

When she was done jamming the communications, the Time Lady worked on the next step of her plan, all the while hoping that the Doctor wouldn’t suddenly wake up and interfere.

“I can leave someone behind to attend to your friend,” offered Emmonus as they were ready to go.

“That won’t be necessary. He should be perfectly safe in the TARDIS. But thank you.”



Fourth Interlude

 I looked at the Doctor, waiting for him to tell me the end of the story, but he had fallen silent forcing me to ask:

“And? What happened next?”

“I don’t know,” was the answer.

I frowned. My first thought was that he was playing me, but he sounded sincere. He himself didn’t seem to know what happened next, and this was quite unnerving, worrying even.

“All I know is what Romana agreed to tell me,” he went on. “When I woke up, we had already left Skaro. I tried to know what happened to the Dalek ship, but she insisted that history had been restored and that it was all I needed to know.”

“But you kept asking her, right?”

He smiled:

“Of course I did. I was certain that she would give up eventually and tell me everything. Only she didn’t. She claimed that since I kept secrets from her, it was only fair that she had some of her own. All she agreed to say was that sacrifices had been made and lives had been lost. That’s when I remembered that I had never encountered the two Thals she was talking about.”

I took a few moments to think about what the Doctor had told me. A new thought occurred to me:

“What does this story have to do with Eccleston? You never mentioned him in your story.”

“Oh that! It’s just that I was displeased with K9. He was unable to make the necessary repairs in the TARDIS and as a result we experienced a few more malfunctions. That’s when I told him that I should have kept Eccleston because he was more intelligent than a tin dog. In the end both Romana and K9 were upset and they stopped talking to me.”

“Wait, why did Romana stop talking to you? It doesn’t make sense. You saved her life on Skaro! And you stopped insisting on knowing what happened!”

I was finding it hard to follow him. He made a funny face, turned towards me and smiled:

“Oh I’m sorry, I was already thinking about what happened after Skaro; that is my next story…”

Looking for Eccleston – 3. A Chance to Reconnect


3. A Chance to Reconnect

This story is for The Classics Are Ace whose request was: The 4th Doctor meets his former companion Jo Jones and discusses with her what happened with the crystal he’s got from Metebelis III.


She paused at the main gate of U.N.I.T Headquarters and wondered for maybe the hundredth time if she wasn’t going to regret this little escapade. She had seen an opportunity to visit her friends and former colleagues when her husband had been invited to give a series of lectures in the vicinity. She had been counting the days, looking forward to this impromptu reunion with all those wonderful people she had worked with. As she was about to enter the premises, she felt a bit unsecure. The guard took the decision for her when he opened the door and motioned her to enter. She took a deep breath and stepped in. Despite the fact that she hadn’t been around for a long time, she still managed to find her way in the building. She stopped in front of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s office and knocked on the door. A familiar and authoritative voice ordered her to enter. The man hadn’t changed a bit. He was sitting at his desk, barking orders on the phone. He certainly meant business. He seemed briefly surprised to see her, but it was only when he hung up that his face lightened a little.

“How are you Miss Grant? I mean, Misses Jones?”

He got up and shook her hand, before inviting her to sit on one of the chairs in front of his desk. Jo felt a bit disappointed. She had hoped for a less formal meeting. Lethbridge-Stewart had been in the military too long and had forgotten how to be natural.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she replied.

The Brigadier asked her about her life, her work as a humanitarian and her travels. She spoke freely, sharing anecdotes and stories while her former boss listened politely, obviously amused by the fact that she was still the same go-ahead person she used to be when she worked for U.N.I.T.

“And you? How are you doing?” She finally asked.

The reply was as disappointing as the welcome. The man couldn’t speak openly. She was no longer a member of the staff, therefore she wasn’t supposed to know about U.N.I.T’s missions and projects.

“At least, can you tell me how is the Doctor? Is he still around?”

A shadow crossed the Brigadier’s face and Jo suddenly feared the answer to her questions. She still recalled vividly the last time she had seen him. The mixture of pride and sadness in him had moved her. That evening, when she was celebrating her engagement, he had stepped out of her life and she had feared that he had gone away for good, leaving Earth with his TARDIS.

“Yes, he is still around, sometimes. When it suits him,” finally said Lethbridge-Stewart. “You know how he is. Since his machine is fixed, he comes and goes. We don’t see him for weeks sometimes.”

The soldier noticed Jo’s anxious look and immediately reassured her:

“Yes, he is presently here. You may find him in his laboratory. I’ll ask Sergeant Benton to escort you down there.”

The former U.N.I.T member was about to protest, but she remembered that she was no longer part of the family and the rules were clear: no stranger was allowed to wander alone in the building. At least, she would get an opportunity to see a friendly face. And indeed, Benton looked very happy to see her. Unlike the Brigadier, he welcomed her warmly and chatted on their way to the laboratory, sharing general news about her former colleagues as well as a few harmless anecdotes.

They were approaching the laboratory and Jo noticed that her companion had slowed down.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

She wasn’t worried yet, she just felt uncomfortable.

“Nothing is wrong, not really,” clumsily explained the sergeant. “It’s simply that…”


He stopped to face her.

“I really don’t know how to tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“Maybe you should see by yourself.”

His hesitation was driving Jo crazy. As he was about to resume walking, she grabbed his arm firmly and forced him to confront him.

“You better tell me now. I know that something isn’t right. The Brigadier acted strangely too when I mentioned the Doctor. So now is your chance to tell me exactly what is going on.”

Benton sighed heavily:

“Alright. The Doctor. He is not the one you knew. He is…changed.”

“Changed? How?”

Her companion pulled a face and pointed towards the laboratory:

“You really should see by yourself.”

As they walked the few meters that separated them from the laboratory, Jo did her best to mentally prepare herself to anything. All sorts of scenarios went through her mind. Maybe one of his experiments had gone wrong and the Doctor had been horribly disfigured. Maybe he had decided to change his wardrobe and had cut his beautiful hair. When Benton knocked at the door, a deep voice shouted “Enter!”. Jo’s first thought was that the Doctor’s new assistant had quite a nice voice. Both the sergeant and she entered. The woman’s eyes fell on the TARDIS still parked at her usual place. The familiar sight brought a smile on Jo’s face. Then she saw a tall and thin man starring at her. He looked totally out of place in the environment, mostly because of his strange choice of clothes. He had an agreeable face however, brown curly hair and his eyes betrayed an acute intelligence.

“Who are you?” Asked Jo. “Where is the Doctor?”

“Jo, he is the Doctor,” Benton said gently.

He felt sorry for his former colleague when he saw the expression of shock on her features. The scientific advisor didn’t seem otherwise moved by her reaction. Instead, he smiled broadly and took a paper bag from his pocket:

“Care for a jelly baby?” He offered.

There was something touching about the way the Doctor behaved. He seemed unable to decide how to deal with his visitor who looked like she was about to start crying. She managed to get hold of herself and took a few steps towards the Doctor who was still smiling. She placed a hand on his cheek and whispered:

“Is it you? Is it really you?”

“Oh course it’s me!”

The Time Lord gently took the woman’s hand away.

“It’s Jo, right? Jo Grant, my assistant.”

“Your former assistant. And it’s Jo Jones now.”

She read confusion in the Doctor’s eyes and she went on:

“I married Clifford Jones, remember? And I quit U.N.I.T. We travelled to the Amazon.”

“And you returned me the blue crystal from Metebelis III…” Said dreamingly the Time Lord.

Benton realised that the conversation was about to take a very personal turn and that his presence wasn’t required anymore. He motioned Jo to give him a call when she would be ready to leave and he silently left the laboratory.

“What happened, Doctor?” Asked the scientific advisor’s former assistant.

“Oh, nothing very important. Did you know that it was really a silly mistake to steal the crystal in the first place? It always comes back to you eventually! That’s a lesson I should try to remember.”

Jo realised that the Doctor seemed to focus on the blue crystal. She remembered the warnings of the locals when they had first set their eyes on the blue stone. She had been scared which enough to return the crystal to the man who had offered it to her in the first place. She tried to remember what she wrote in her letter. She had explained the reason why she was forced to part with it, because she felt that she should be apologising to the Doctor. The crystal had been a testimony of the happiest time in her life, one that was strangely tainted with sadness at the same time.

“What happened, Doctor?” She insisted.

The Time Lord winced in pain and Jo realised that his efforts to remember were causing him a great distress. She looked around and saw two chairs against the wall. She quickly fetched them and they both sat, facing each other.


He starred at her. Confusion could be read again on his face. Just as she was about to speak, something jumped on the Time Lord’s lap and Jo startled violently. Next thing she knew she was laughing nervously. A Chartreux cat was now resting on the Doctor, his golden eyes fixed on her. There was something quite disturbing about the way he looked at her and she got the feeling that the pet was very protective about the scientific advisor.

“Since when do you have a cat?”

“Oh, meet Eccleston. I found him a long time ago.”

Puzzled, Jo wondered what he meant by “a long time ago”. Her Doctor never had any pet…

“Metebelis III was my mistake,” the Time Lord suddenly said. “And I had to fix it.”

“Your mistake?” Repeated Jo. “I don’t understand.”

The scientific advisor sent her a warm smile. Suddenly he seemed quite himself again.

“I’m sorry if I’m confusing you. Let me explain properly. Giant spiders came on Earth to retrieve the blue crystal I had stolen on Metebelis III long before they crashed.”

“What? Who crashed? And where did those giant spiders come from? I don’t follow, Doctor!”

“Oh my, I forgot how patient I had to be with you. Some things never change, do they?”

Jo wasn’t entirely sure whether he meant this as a token to his affection for her or if he was insulting her. She decided to ignore his comment and tried hard to make sense of what he had said before.

“Let me get it straight. You stole the blue crystal and some giant spiders from Metebelis III followed you on Earth to retrieve it.”

The Doctor made a strange face but nodded:

“Yes, that’s more or less accurate. Now, I had to go back to Metebelis III to…”

“…defeat the giant spiders!” Finished Jo. “See? I got it!”

The Time Lord looked down at the cat and started petting him. Silence fell on the laboratory and Jo wondered once again if coming here had been a good idea. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened and that she was in part responsible. Furthermore, the Doctor seemed distant and it hurt. She recalled her time with “her” scientific advisor and a feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed her.

“I have missed you,” she finally said. “Life with Clifford is exciting and he is a lovely man, but he is not you.”

As soon as she spoke the words, she realised how stupid she sounded. The Doctor had changed and she found it very hard to acknowledge the fact that he was the same person only in a different body. She decided that it was best for her to leave. She felt out of place. Even the cat seemed more at ease than her in the laboratory. She got up and the Time Lord raised his head, a quizzical look on his face.

“Regeneration is a tricky business. It’s not easy to adjust to the change.”

Jo sat back.

“I don’t understand. What happened to you? Why did you change?”

“In order to defeat the giant spider as you named it, I had to go in her lair. My previous body couldn’t stand the radiation levels. You might say that I died of radiation poisoning.”

“But, if you died, then…”

The scientific advisor winked.

“I’m a Time Lord. We regenerate in a new body. Call it the secret of our extended lifespan. But trust my word on this, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We usually experience confusion, dizziness, sometimes even memory losses. For instance, I don’t remember how Eccleston got back here. I know that he is my cat, at least that’s what he claims…”

“And this doesn’t bother you?” Asked his former assistant. “I know that I would hate the feeling.”

The big smile was back. One thing was sure, this Doctor seemed a lot more cheerfull than his previous self.

“I didn’t say that I liked it, I still need to find my balance, so to speak. Your visit triggered some old memories and I need to sort them out, put them in the right order, preferably chronologically.”

Jo couldn’t help it but started laughing.

“I am so glad that I dropped by. I’m glad that I met the new you.”

“Well, you know, there is still room for you on the TARDIS if you miss your old life. The old girl is still in working order.”

The cat didn’t seem to like what he heard. He jumped down and walked towards the time machine, much to Jo’s amazement. He then disappeared inside.

“Of course, Eccleston might be a bit difficult at first. He is very picky when it comes to assistants and he likes being consulted beforehand, hence his reaction right now. He probably didn’t like the fact that I invited you without consulting him.”

“Oh, I see,” smiled Jo. “It’s okay. I’m afraid I have to decline the invitation anyway. I’m really touched, but Clifford might not be very happy to loose his assistant and wife you see.”

“Of course, I’m sorry, I was being selfish again.”

“It’s quite alright. I better get going. We are running on a tight schedule.”

She got up and reached for the phone. She still remembered Benton’s extension number and she was glad when he picked up instantly.

“Would you mind coming down and escort me back to the main gate?”

Jo was grateful to the sergeant who showed up in less than five minutes. She was standing near the door while the Doctor remained sitted. An awkward silence had filled the room.

 “Goodbye, Doctor.”

“Goodbye, Jo.”

For the faintest of moments, the Time Lord sounded like the one she had been used to, up to the way he looked at her. There was kindness in his eyes.

Jo followed Benton into the corridor and they walked in silence until the sergeant couldn’t bear it anymore.

“You don’t look very happy…”

“I’m sorry,” Jo sighed. “It’s just that I didn’t expect him to be so different.”

“He is not that different, you know. A bit sillier, maybe, but one gets used to it.”

That was just the thing. Jo wasn’t part of U.N.I.T anymore, there was no chance she could get used to the change. She didn’t even find him silly. To her, he looked like a confused man struggling to fit in a new environment.

As they were about to reach the main door, they saw a young woman enter the building. She smiled at Benton when she walked past them and he smiled back. She seemed a bit in a hurry and Jo wondered who she might be. She was not wearing the mandatory U.N.I.T uniform and she wasn’t behaving like a soldier. She also didn’t look like a member of the administrative staff.

“That was Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor’s assistant. She is a journalist,” explained Benton. “And a fine one with that.”

“Oh, I see.”

Jo suddenly wished that she hadn’t come. It had been definitively a bad idea.


Third Interlude

“Did you ever see her again?”


“Your former assistant, Jo.”

The Doctor nodded.

“Yes. Years later I got a chance to see her again. She has led a very interesting life, you know. One could even say that she fulfilled her dreams.”

I glanced at the Doctor. He looked nostalgic. He was probably thinking about Jo, how time had passed for her without him.

“I know that they always leave me. She chose Clifford and I was proud that she followed such a brilliant mind. But I don’t like goodbyes and I didn’t know how to react when she dropped by. I think that I drove her away. I wasn’t ready for that discussion.”

And you still aren’t, I thought for myself.

For the first time since I knew the Doctor, I realised that the most unstable person in the galaxy, the perpetual traveller, was desperately looking for a form of stability in his life.

My eyes fell on Eccleston. I briefly got the feeling that the cat was smiling. There it was; the stable element in the Doctor’s unstable life. I smiled too and petted the Time Lord’s furry companion who purred in answer.


Looking for Eccleston – 2. Chaos in the Laboratory


2. Chaos in the Laboratory

This story is for SpacePrincess whose request was: The Second and Third Doctor are forced to work together when the TARDIS is stolen.


It started with a general breakdown. Those who didn’t believe in coincidence claimed that if was a plot orchestrated by the military. Their assumption was however incorrect as the military forces were experiencing the same problem. They were blind, deaf and mute. All surveillance systems were down along with communications. All electronic devices were impacted and no one could explain what was happening. The only certitude was that almost nothing was working anymore. The country was on the brink of disaster and the state of emergency was declared.


When the news reached Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, his bad mood increased and he openly cursed all “those incompetent bureaucrats who don’t know what they are doing”. Those present in the room didn’t dare contradict him. He was the leader after all, which meant that he probably knew what he was saying. Lethbridge-Stewart was a man of action. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. There was only one man he trusted to explain what was happening: his scientific advisor.

The Brigadier considered himself an expert when it came to the rather unconventional scientist working with U.N.I.T. He was rarely surprised by his odd behaviour or actions, and that was his pride. To him, it also meant that he knew the Doctor well enough to anticipate said behaviour or actions. When he went down to the laboratory, he expected the Time Lord to be working on the mystery they were all facing. He wasn’t yet prepared to what he found. The laboratory was a mess of tools and devices, as usual, but this time, it seemed that the scientific advisor had decided to add parts of his (broken) time machine to the collection. Lethbridge-Stewart paused at the door and looked as the scientist hurriedly plugged cables, switched buttons, and checked the results of his apparent random actions on two monitors. He was working fast and with high focus. At first sight, he looked like a Dandy from a decadent aristocracy with his velvet suit and ruffled shirt. Some wrongly identified him as a poet because of the mop of silver hair that gave him a distinctive look. For the Brigadier however, he was the Doctor, an alien exiled on Earth by his own people and an incredible scientist who had helped U.N.I.T many times in the past. The soldier was confident that this time would be no exception. If someone could discover what was happening, it was his scientific advisor.

“Doctor?” He asked to get the man’s attention.

“Shh, not now. Busy.”

“I can see that. But I need answers.”

“Don’t have them now. Come back later.”

And with that, the Time Lord waved his hand dismissively. Lethbridge-Stewart smiled but didn’t leave. He too could be quite stubborn. He walked in the laboratory and stopped next to the Time Lord.

“Is that your TARDIS console?”

Cables ran from the blue box to the object on which buttons, lights and levers of unknown use were displayed.

“It is.”

“How do you manage to keep everything working?”

“Not the same technology as yours.”

It was amazing how the Doctor managed to answer while concentrating on a monitor at the same time.

“Ha ha!” He shouted.

Lethbridge-Stewart waited patiently for the explanation that would follow. It was custom that whenever the Time Lord had a breakthrough he would love an audience to extol his knowledge.

“I may not have found the source of your problem yet, but I can already tell you that it’s due to a massive time-space distortion that has been converted into a disruptive energy beam. If I manage to reverse the polarity of the flux, I might be able to cancel its effects. Everything should be back to normal afterwards.”

“Right. Sounds good,” said the Brigadier who – as usual – hadn’t understood a word, except the part relating to the fact that things would be back to normal.

“In fact, it’s so easy that I can do it right now. It shouldn’t take long to work the settings,” the Time Lord announced happily.

The Doctor fumbled with his control and turned towards Lethbridge-Stewart who had taken a few steps back to give some room to the scientist.

“Ready?” Asked the Time Lord.

“I’m rather impatient to put all this behind. It’s been a proper bureaucratic nightmare,” complained the soldier.

The Time Lord had already lost interest in the Brigadier’s problems with his chain of command. He pulled a lever and jerked.

Lethbridge-Stewart didn’t need to be a scientist to see that something was wrong. Very wrong. A blue serpentine light had appeared as soon as the Doctor had touched the controls. The soldier guessed that it was some sort of energy flux or current. As a matter of fact, the scientist seemed caught in it. He was shaking and shivering like a man experiencing an electric shock. The Brigadier had no idea how the equipment worked but he knew that he had to do something. Time was of the essence. He did the only logical thing he could think about. Running to the power generator at the entrance of the laboratory, he switched it off.

The blue light vanished in an instant. The Doctor staggered back and collapsed. The Brigadier caught him on time and eased him gently on the floor. Eyes open, the Time Lord’s face expressed a mixture of shock and surprise. He was still slightly shivering.

“Doctor? Can you hear me?”

Lethbridge-Stewart checked his pulse. It was racing. The soldier looked around and saw the phone. Then he remembered that all communications had been cut.

“Blast!” He cursed out loud.

He had to leave the laboratory to get help but the Time Lord’s current condition prevented him from doing so.

 “Doctor?” He called again.

The Time Lord seemed miles away. He was whispering incoherent words and the Brigadier started to fear that his brain had sustained damage from the shock. At least he wasn’t in a coma – yet. Still, he needed medical attention and quickly. Lethbridge-Stewart got up and ran in the corridor. He started shouting, hoping to attract his men’s attention. When he looked back inside the laboratory, his eyes widen in surprise. The Doctor’s body was splitting. The Brigadier rubbed his eyes, but it was no illusion. Another silhouette was clearly superimposed on the scientific advisor. The soldier went back in the laboratory and realised that the TARDIS was affected too. There was a second time machine trying to materialise more or less at the same spot as the one already there. Looking down at the Doctor, the soldier saw two bodies resting on the ground. He couldn’t help but smile when he recognised the newcomer.

“Doctor,” he called on a friendly tone.

Both Time Lords opened their eyes, sat upright and noticed their other self.

“You again,” they said in a perfect chorus.

“Here we go again…” Sighed Lethbridge-Stewart as he affected annoyance.

But deep inside, he was quite happy. Things would improve from now on, providing that the two Doctors would be able to work together this time…

They stood up, still facing each other.

“How did I arrive here?” Wondered the short raggedy Doctor with black hair.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t summon you,” said his other self.

“That doesn’t really surprise me. I guess that you’re not even curious to know how I ended up here… again!”

“Gentlemen,” intervened the Brigadier who had the strong feeling that he was about to become their mediator. “What if you tried to find an explanation to all this together.”

“My dear friend! I’m so happy so see you!”

The raggedy Doctor jumped towards the soldier and shook his hand vigorously.

“I’m happy to see you too, Doctor. Too bad it is not under happier circumstances.

“Oh? How so?”

“We are experiencing some sort of unknown crisis.”

“I see, maybe it would be best if my other self brought me up to speed.”

Both Doctors faced one another and closed their eyes. Lethbridge-Stewart looked in amazement as the Time Lords created a telepathic link.



It took them only seconds to share their knowledge. When it was done, they both turned towards the Brigadier:

“We need your help. We must know exactly what happened when I pulled the lever.”

The soldier knew that he better be as accurate as possible. He told them everything, from the blue light to the splitting of the Doctor and the TARDIS.

“Wait, what? The TARDIS?” Interrupted the current science advisor.

“Yes, it was as if there were two TARDIS fighting for the same space.”

The two Doctors rushed inside the time machine and almost got stuck in the doorframe as they tried to enter at the same time.

Lethbridge-Stewart rolled his eyes. This was leading to some major headache. He waited until they came out of the TARDIS. Both wore the same worried expression on their face. Because the Brigadier hadn’t heard any dispute or shouting between them, he started to worry too.

“Is it that bad?” He asked.

He wasn’t sure whether he referred to the general breakdown, the two Doctors or the TARDIS thing.

“I’ve been played all along,” confessed sternly the Doctor with the silver hair.

His gloomy mood wasn’t a good sign.

“You couldn’t know,” his counterpart tried to comfort him.

That too wasn’t a good sign.

“Would someone care to explain?” Ordered Lethbridge-Stewart.

“Whoever organised the breakdown was clever. It was a trap. It was meant to catch my attention. The disruption of all electronic devices led me to investigate and try to find a solution to the problem. That too had been anticipated. Remember when I told you that a distortion in time and space had been converted into an energy beam? Its purpose was to get something from me.”

“And what would that be?” Carefully asked the Brigadier.

“A working TARDIS,” concluded the raggedy Doctor. “My TARDIS.”

“What? You mean that…”

“Yes, someone deliberately forced me to materialise on this timeline with no regards to the potential consequences on Earth or on myself for that matter.”

“All your systems should be working properly from now on,” sighed the science advisor.

And indeed the phone started ringing. The soldier picked up and listened to the report one of his men gave him. When he hung up, he informed the two Doctors that they had been right. All surveillance and communication systems were back online along with all electronic devices.

“It’s as if nothing ever happened,” he said. “The state of emergency has been cancelled.”

“That’s already good news,” smiled the raggedy Doctor.

“Now let’s focus on your TARDIS, shall we?” Suggested the other Time Lord.

“If there is anything I can do to help…” Offered the Brigadier.

The Doctors exchanged a glance.

“As a matter of fact, there might be something you could do… How many men can you spare?”

Lethbridge-Stewart saw the same twinkle shine in the Doctors’ eyes, a fact that amused him. He suddenly felt sorry for the poor bastard who had stolen the TARDIS.

“What’s the plan?”

“If we can trace the source of the energy beam, there is a fair chance that we might find the TARDIS in time.”

The Brigadier frowned.

“Wait, I don’t follow. You said earlier that it was the working TARDIS that had been stolen. What if the thief manages to operate it.”

“Oh I doubt it. You see, first he needs to gain access to it. As you know it can prove quite challenging,” explained the raggedy Doctor. “And then of course, there is Eccleston.”


Lethbridge-Stewart saw the change on his scientific advisor’s face. His eyes mellowed and even the wrinkles seemed to soften.

“My cat,” he said.

There was tenderness in his voice and the soldier realised that he had never seen this aspect of the Doctor before.

“I didn’t know that you had a cat,” he noted.

“That’s because this face never saw him.”

This time, there was sadness in his voice and the Brigadier felt sorry for the Time Lord. He didn’t dare ask the reason why the science advisor hadn’t seen his cat. It felt inappropriate, especially since the raggedy Doctor had put a comforting hand on his counterpart’s shoulder. This was not the time for asking personal questions.

“When we find my TARDIS, you will see him again.”

A hopeful smile blossomed on the scientific advisor’s lips.

“Then let’s not waste any more time. We need to locate the source of the energy beam.”

They started to work on the console while Lethbridge-Stewart organised the search team. He was confident that the two Time Lords would succeed in their efforts to find the missing TARDIS. One question remained unanswered. He wondered what the raggedy Doctor had meant when he had said that even if the thief managed to enter the time machine, there would be Eccleston. How could a cat prevent anyone from using the TARDIS and leave Earth?

“I’ve got an idea,” suddenly said the raggedy Doctor. “Using your TARDIS, we might be able to call back mine!”

“But that would only increase the paradox…”

“Not if we act quickly. As soon as it materialises, all you need to do is…”

“…reverse the polarity flux. I get it.”

Still the scientific advisor didn’t seem very excited about the idea. His other self noticed it and came to the same conclusion as the Brigadier.

“You wish to see Eccleston… I’m sorry, I should have thought about it. It might still be possible. Let’s give it a try, shall we?”

They worked in silence while Lethbridge-Stewart watched as their movements were perfectly synchronised. For an untrained eye, it would have been rather unsettling, but the soldier knew better. Despite their physical differences they were one and the same person and the way they acted was proof enough.

“I would advise you to keep back,” said the raggedy Doctor. “We are about to try and sort this out.”

The Brigadier walked away and stood under the door frame. He was starting to feel nervous about the whole thing but forced himself to keep calm. The Doctors shared a last glance and operated the lever that had provoked the blue light together. At first, nothing happened. Then a muffled sound could be heard. Lethbridge-Stewart looked at the TARDIS. It seemed that another one was trying to materialise at the same spot, just like before.

“It’s working!” He shouted despite himself.

The Doctors turned towards the time machines, apparently satisfied by the result of their experiment.

The raggedy Doctor approached the TARDIS. Instantly his frame started to blur.

“Quickly, we don’t have much time!” He urged to his counterpart, who joined him.

The Brigadier should never forget what he saw next. A Chartreux cat was sitting on the threshold of the time machine. The scientific advisor came closer and kneeled in front of him. When he started to sing, Lethbridge-Stewart felt his heart melt.

“Klokleda partha mennin klatch, 

Haroon, haroon, haroon,

Klokleda shunna teerenatch,

Haroon, haroon, haroon.”

Did the cat recognise the Doctor? The soldier should never know. But Eccleston started to purr. As the TARDIS became increasingly unstable, the raggedy Doctor quickly walked through the entrance, picking up his cat in the process. Before he closed the door, he waved at Letbridge-Stewart.

“Goodbye Brigadier! I hope to see you soon!”

The soldier didn’t have time to reply. The time machine vanished. The scientific advisor got up and went back to his console. He started to tidy it as if nothing had happened.

“We shall not need your help after all,” he said matter of factly.

And with that, he waved his hand dismissively. The Brigadier smiled and left the laboratory, leaving the Doctor to his experiments. He couldn’t help but think that he had learned a great deal about him and that one the mystery around him would disappear for good…


Second Interlude

The Doctor was singing softly. Eyes half closed, Eccleston was purring in delight.

“Tell me,” I said, unable to conceal my curiosity. “What could your cat have done to prevent the theft from the TARDIS?”

The Time Lord stopped singing and looked at me.

“Oh that’s easy. As I mentioned earlier, Eccleston is very clever. It is common knowledge that Chartreux cats can be taught some tricks. I taught him how to operate the safety measures on the TARDIS. That way, should I be disabled, he would still be able to protect my ship and maybe myself…”

The way he spoke was quite moving and I decided that it was time for me to take a break and make some tea, therefore allowing the Doctor and Eccleston to spend some quality time together. When I returned, the cat was curled against the Time Lord who smiled at me. I was ready for his next story.

Looking for Eccleston – 1. The Day the Doctor Said No


1. The Day the Doctor Said No

This story is for Mark J. Simmons whose request was: Second Doctor, 21st October 1966, Welsh Coal mine Aberfan


Polly was pretending not to pay attention to the raggedy short man with his pudding basin cut. He was fumbling with the controls, his black hair dancing on his head as he jumped up and down in a strange way. Ben was openly laughing, but their host didn’t seem to notice. In fact, he probably didn’t remember that he got company, just as he didn’t seem to remember how to fly his own TARDIS properly.

“It will come back to me eventually. Just bear with me,” he kept telling them, while the confused look of his new face said otherwise.

In the meantime, Polly and Ben enjoyed the show, cheered the Doctor up and tried their best not to laugh at his desperate attempts to get the ship under control. This time however, Ben had been unable to refrain from laughing. It was just too funny seeing the Doctor acting in a silly manner.

“I got it!” He suddenly shouted and pulled a lever.

The TARDIS instantly lurked forward, throwing all her passengers on the floor.

“Ouch,” complained Polly.

“Sorry for that,” apologised the Doctor. “Are you alright?”

He looked genuinely concerned and helped the girl up.

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“I think that we have landed,” noted Ben.

They starred at the central column that had come to a halt. The Time Lord managed to operate the scanner that revealed depressing surroundings.

“I wonder where we have materialised this time…” Whispered Polly.

The Doctor checked his controls.

“Radiation levels are within the norm, the air is breathable and…oh… how silly of me!”

Ben and Polly sent him a quizzical look.

“I know where we are!”

“Well?” Asked Ben.

“We’re back on Earth!”

“When?” Polly wanted to know.

“Why don’t we find out?” Offered the Time Lord while he operated the door.


“It’s depressing,” sighed Polly.

The Doctor simply nodded, his attention elsewhere. The smell of rain was hanging heavily in the air. It was sunny, and yet there was something unnatural about the way the sun shone. A dark mud was covering the ground, making a sulking noise when Ben, Polly and the Doctor walked. It was clear to them that it had been raining a lot in the past hours or days. Polly shivered. Everything seemed so wet that she was starting to feel cold.

The Doctor abruptly stopped and starred at a spoil tip set on the edge of the hill’s ridge.

 “There must be a coal mine close by,” Ben said.

He was standing next to the Time Lord, wondering what was so interesting about the pile of debris. Polly looked around her, but all she could see was a black landscape.

“I often wonder why safety is always overlooked on that planet.”


Ben frowned, trying to understand the meaning of his companion’s sentence. The Doctor moved towards a small road and pointed in a specific direction. The couple joined him to discover that they had materialise on a ridge above a small village partially drowned into fog. Ben then understood what the Doctor had meant with his previous statement.

“Considering the amount of debris, this spoil tip must have been there for decades,” Ben pointed out. “Surely local authorities have been consulted regarding the danger of setting a spoil tip on that particular location.”

“Oh come on,” reacted Polly. “Surely you can’t be that naïve. Since when do mining companies consult local authorities on anything? All what matters is their own profit.”

“Never the less safety should never been overlooked. This configuration is too dangerous to be ignored.”

“Oh, I see now,” smiled Polly. “It’s your way of telling us that we should go down to the village!”

“Exactly, my dear!”

There was a twinkle in the Doctor’s eye. The girl took his arm and they both started to walk down the road that soon turned into a slippery path of wet dirt. Ben followed them closely. The walk proved to be quite physical mostly because they had to be very careful not to slip and fall to their death.

The Doctor looked up at the spoil tip and his features darkened.

“I know what you think,” said Ben. “It’s even more impressive from down there. Now I really understand what you meant about safety.”

“Safety against profit, it’s usually a lost cause.”

“And what do you suggest we do about it?” Asked Polly sternly. “I bet people in the village already complained but no one would listen. It’s the usual story.”

“It doesn’t mean that we should give up, right Doctor?”

Their companion nodded absentmindedly. He was still starring upwards. A muffled sound could be heard, like the rumbling of thunder. Only the thunder was growing in intensity and was starting to show the symptoms of an imminent earthquake since the ground under the travellers’ feet was vibrating. A sense of immediate danger overwhelmed Ben who looked at the Doctor only to discover that he too was starring at him as if to get confirmation of what he feared.

“When I say run…” Whispered the Time Lord.

Polly’s piercing scream of fear became the signal. They started to run as the rumbling became a violent thunder. They left the path, climbing clumsily on rocks, clinging on roots and whatever they could find as long as it would help getting out of the way of the thousand cubic meters of debris and mud that were collapsing from the top of the hill.

Ben looked up only to see the black monster created by men about to swallow him. Then he looked down and saw the peaceful village.

“A lost cause,” he whispered, thinking about the lives that where about to be destroyed within minutes.

The Doctor had taken hold of Polly’s hand and was dragging her behind him. The girl stumbled a few times, but managed to restore her balance. She forced herself to look straight ahead, focusing on where she put her feet. She knew that her survival depended on whether she could make it on time to a safe zone and she trusted the Doctor to lead her there. She never expected him to fail and yet she saw him slip even before he realised that he was falling.

“Keep running!” He screamed desperately, before letting go of her hand. “Keep running!”

Polly’s eyes widened with horror as she saw him fall freely, unable to hold on anything. Her survival instincts kicked in at that moment and she ran as fast as she could, but it wasn’t enough. She got caught in a wave of soil, mud and debris and she lost her balance, hitting the ground so hard that she was instantly knocked out.


The silence was almost unbearable. Polly’s first thought when she opened her eyes was that she was deaf. She was laying on her back on the ground, half covered in mud and debris. The sound of her efforts to get free convinced her that she wasn’t deaf, but when the silence returned she felt helpless and lonely. She managed to stand and looked downwards. She started to sob as soon as she saw that the cottages on the way to the village had disappeared, engulfed by the landslide. She refused to look further down as she knew that the village itself would have sustained heavy damage, not to mention heavy casualties.

“Ben! Doctor! Where are you?” She called out.

All she could see was the muddy substance that had once been a spoil pit at the top of the hill now covering everything. She forced herself to keep her mind blank, dismissing her knowledge about landslide or tidal wave effects, catastrophic events usually occurring at the other end of the world. The chances of survival were awfully low. Yet she had survived. She clung to the hope that her companions had too. She tried to define where she had last seen the Doctor, but it was quite impossible to recognise anything. Even the path had vanished. She tried to retrace her steps the best she could. At some point, she wondered if she should go back to the TARDIS and search for a device that could help her locate her friends. A bitter laugh came out of her mouth as she realised that she would have no idea what such instrument would look like anyway.


She startled and turned around. Ben was getting up, a few meters away from her. He looked awful, as if he had been buried in the mud. Polly was so happy to see him that she hugged him anyway.

“Wow, someone is happy to see me! Where is the Doctor?”

“I don’t know, I couldn’t find him…”

Ben’s face expressed his concern:

“We need to find him quickly. Can you remember where you saw him last?”

His friend shook her head and explained how they got pulled apart.

“Alright. Let’s work it from my position then.”

Polly couldn’t help but feel impressed at Ben’s composure. Despite the dramatic situation, he managed to remain calm and she wondered if it was just an act. They started to walk slowly, looking carefully everywhere, calling out the Doctor’s name.

“I think that I can see him!” Suddenly said Polly, pointing downwards.

“You stay here, I go and check.”

Ben ran as fast as he dared, his eyes locked on the ground. There was indeed something almost completely buried straight ahead. As he came closer, the young man recognised the Doctor’s jacket. He didn’t waste any time and pulled the piece of cloth. As he expected he encountered some resistance. The Doctor had been buried alive.

“Polly! Come down and help me!”

He pulled harder and soon the Doctor’s short frame came into view. With Polly’s help, Ben managed to lay the Time Lord on his back and brushed his face that was covered by a mixture of soil and mud. The girl waited anxiously for her friend to check if the Doctor was still breathing, but before Ben could do so, the Time Lord opened his eyes and sat upright before he started coughing.

“Oh my word, what a dreadful experience!” He finally complained.

He then took notice of the couple and smiled:

“You look awful.”

“Speak for yourself,” Polly smiled back.

She was starting to relax now that they were all together.

“I say, we should go back to the TARDIS and get cleaned up,” offered the Doctor.

“No, we can’t.”

Polly shivered when she heard Ben’s serious tone. Even the Time Lord seemed surprised before he looked down at the village. He then considered Ben, and the girl was moved by the sadness in his eyes.

“I understand, but I’m afraid there is little you can do about it,” he said sympathetically. “It’s already too late, history is on its course.”

“Nevertheless, I can’t turn my back on them. It’s my duty to go and try to help save as many as possible.”

The Doctor opened the mouth as if he wanted to add another argument against Ben’s idea, but decided otherwise. Instead, he reached for Polly’s hand and the girl helped him get up. Both followed Ben who was leading the way, his face expressing his determination.


As they approached the village, they got a proper sense of the catastrophe that had occurred only minutes ago. The disaster was beyond imagination. From where they were standing, Aberfan looked like a ghost town.

“It reminds me of Pompeï…” Said the Doctor softly.

Ben shot him an angry glance:

“Only this time, it’s mankind killing men, not a volcano.”

“One could argue that building a town near an active volcano is very similar when it comes to disregarding general safety…”

The young man seemed very upset, but as he was about to snap back, he remembered that the Doctor had probably witnessed so many disasters that he was able to detach himself from the tragedy. Ben sped up a bit both to reach his destination faster and to put some distance with the Time Lord.

“I should probably follow him,” whispered Polly. “Someone has to look after him. I’ve never seen him like that before.”

“That’s a good idea. He will need your support. He doesn’t know what awaits him down in the village. Neither do you… I wish you could be prepared for what you’ll see… I wish I could prevent you from going there.”

The Doctor seemed so worried that Polly felt a sudden urge to hug him. Then, she ran as fast as she dared behind Ben.

“I’m so sorry,” sighed the Doctor.


The first word that came in his mind was “chaos”. Panic had taken over what remained of the village, or so it seemed. People were running in utter confusion screaming and crying. They all had the same words in common:

“The children! The children!”

Ben didn’t like the sound of that. He joined a group of men armed with shovels. Their strong features and the air of determination on their faces suggested that their intention was to help those in need. Soon, Ben was carrying a shovel too and was walking towards the heart of the catastrophe. Polly had managed to reach the village, but she had to struggle to keep sight of her friend as people came in her way, blocking her progress. As they came closer to the site that had suffered the most, the atmosphere became heavier. Despair, pain and horror were gathered together in one place. They were so strong that Polly got the sickening feeling that she was breathing the emotions and that she would soon collapse. If hell existed, then she had found it. When she discovered that a school full of children had been on the path of the murderous wave, she couldn’t walk further. She leaned on the remains of a wall and remembered the Doctor’s words. He was right, she wasn’t prepared for that kind of catastrophe. It was too much to bear. She took refuge under a porch and watched as everyone tried to rescue those trapped under the thousand cubic meters of debris from the spoil tip. She heard words of hatred towards the National Coal Board, she heard desperate screams as the first bodies were pulled out. She felt something wet on her cheeks and she realised that she was crying. Suddenly she wished that she didn’t leave the Doctor. There was nothing she could do here. She wanted to be with a friend, but most of all, she needed to feel secure. She retraced her steps, looking for the Time Lord. No one paid attention to the girl covered in mud. It was as if she was invisible. She entered a narrow street to avoid a crowd of rescuers and her eyes caught sight of a familiar figure sitting on the ground. He was like a ghostly apparition in the last vestige of fog. Polly ran towards him and kneeled in front of him.

“Doctor! We must do something!”

The Time Lord was sitting cross-legged, head down as if he was sleeping. But the girl soon realised that he was petting a dirty kitten.

“I found him trapped in the debris,” he explained. “The poor little creature was shivering from cold and fear.”

Polly recognised the cat’s breed, a Chartreux from the look of it.

“Doctor,” she insisted. “We must do something!”

“And what exactly do you propose we do?”

The Time Lord raised his head to stare at her and she instantly sensed that he already knew what she was about to say.

“Let’s take the TARDIS, go back in time and warn the village. We could save them!”

 “No, I’m sorry,” gently said the Doctor.

“Why? We can do it, we have the means!”

“That may be but we can’t interfere.”

“Oh come on! That’s what you do all the time!”

“To a certain point. This time there is nothing I can do.”

Polly sank on the ground and spoke with anger:

“It’s not that you can’t do it, you don’t want to do it! It’s different! You’re looking for excuses but in fact you simply don’t care about them, about us!”

“Now, that’s not fair,” said the Time Lord on that quiet and irritating tone. “I understand that you let your emotions speak but try to think about the consequences. Major disasters like the one you witnessed today have consequences. As a matter of fact new laws will be implemented. Safety rules will be implemented too. The lives lost today will save countless lives in the future. If we save those children, who knows what disaster will occur tomorrow. Would it be fair on those who weren’t meant to die and who will because of a decision we took today? No. We just experienced a fixed point in time; one that we have no right in amending.”

“But it’s so unfair…”

“I agree. And I’m deeply sorry that I brought you and Ben here. I should have realised sooner what was about to happen. I should have protected you from all that.”

“It’s alright Doctor. You couldn’t know that hell would break loose today. And I’m the one who insisted upon trying to save some of the victims. ”

Polly jumped on her feet when she heard Ben’s voice behind her. His face was drawn and he looked older.

“Please let’s go somewhere else,” he added.

The Doctor got up, the kitten safely tucked in his arms. They walked in silence, leaving the village behind them. It took them some time to climb the hill to reach the TARDIS. As she was about to enter the time machine, Polly cast a last glance to their surroundings.

“I feel bad for those poor people. In a way, we abandoned them to their fate,” she whispered to herself.

When she reached the control room, she saw that the Doctor had put his jacket on the chair with the kitten on it. The pet was starring at her and Polly read a deep wisdom in its eyes.


First Interlude

“What happened to the cat?” I asked.

We were still sitting on the couch. The Doctor was deep in his thoughts as the memories came back to him.

“Well, we named him Eccleston and kept him with us until Polly and Ben left. I decided that it would be best for them to look after him. I missed him a lot, because he was such a great companion; smart, clever, all that sort of things. I kept in touch for a while. I think that he died of old age in a good house. I can’t be sure of course, but that’s what I like to think.”

“But if he died, then…”

“Oh sorry, that was a poor choice of words. He regenerated of course and our paths crossed again after I had experienced one regeneration myself.”

Looking for Eccleston – Prelude




He never takes “no” for an answer, especially when his mind is set on something. How can you say “no” to such fantastic character anyway? The battle is doomed to be lost in advance…


I knew something was wrong when he used the doorbell instead of materialising in my attic/cellar/garage/garden as he usually did. I was tempted to ignore him, but he started banging at the door and since I didn’t want to get in trouble with my neighbours, I opened the door. There he was, standing on my doorstep with a very suspicious smile on his lips.

“How are you?” He asked. “I hope that you don’t mind me popping up unexpectedly like this!”

Either it was one of his jokes or there was something terribly wrong in the universe.

“Are you alright?” I couldn’t help but wonder.

He looked sincerely surprised by my question:

“Why, yes of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because you never use the door let alone the doorbell.”

“There is a first to everything!” He said happily before stepping inside in a rather authoritative manner.

That’s when I noticed the pet carrier he had tried to conceal from my view. My worries took a different turn as I realised that he hadn’t been joking at all. He had been playing me in order to get something from me.

“Oh no,” I grumbled, running after him in the corridor. “No, no, no, no!”

I burst into the living room just in time to see him gently put the pet carrier on the carpet. Then he knelt in front of it, obviously intending in opening its door.

“Just forget it!” I screamed rather angrily. “Whatever creature/monster/alien you want me to look after, it’s no! You have some nerves popping in like this! The least you could do was to ask for my permission before bringing this…this…”

The last words died in my throat as I saw what he had brought to me. The pet carrier’s door was now open and a grey-blue furry head cautiously came out of it, sniffing the air while the black and white whiskers moved like antennas. Big bronze eyes starred at me and then the purring began.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the sofa next to the Doctor and we were petting a chartreux cat that was lazily laying between us.

“Please meet Eccleston,” announced the Time Lord, who seemed very fond of the cat.

“Is it yours?”

Somehow I already knew the answer, but I still couldn’t bring myself to picture the Doctor with a pet, especially considering his way of life.

“It is,” he replied very seriously.

There was something in his tone that preventing me from asking more questions. He explained that his cat needed a new home and that he had thought about me. I must confess that my first reaction was to feel flattered. He probably noticed it because he added a few compliments that were definitively meant to ensure my cooperation in his plan. He had probably thought every possible reaction through and there was virtually no point in me fighting the decision he had made for me. I was to take care of Eccleston.

“Why can’t you keep it?” I finally asked. “If it’s your cat, it’s your responsibility. You can claim it’s yours if you give it away…”

The Doctor sighed:

“I wish it were that simple. First, I didn’t chose him, he chose me. You know cats.”

“They are just as infuriating as Time Lords.”

My visitor seemed hurt by my comment but went on:

“My TARDIS is not a cat person. She is an old girl you know; she finds it hard to adjust to Eccleston’s presence. She happens to be even more difficult than when I introduce her to a new companion.”

I almost burst into laugh hearing him whining about his TARDIS. Since when did he introduce her to his companions?

“Speaking of companions,” he continued, “they too have issues with Eccleston. The only ones who didn’t mind about him were Polly and Ben.”

There were regrets in his voice but I barely noticed. I was in shock. I had managed to make a list of the Doctor’s companions and I recalled that Polly and Ben belonged to a distant past.

“Are you telling me that you’ve had this cat since your second regeneration?”

A feeling of unease crept over me as I looked down at Eccleston.

“Indeed, but he too went through a few regenerations. Only his face never changed so it was easier to recognise him once it happened.”

I felt the urge of pinching myself to check if I was still awake. Suddenly this whole conversation seemed totally grotesque, unreal even.

“On which planet did you find him?”

This time, it was the Doctor’s turn to look shocked.

“Here, on Earth, of course! Where else could I find such wonderful specimen.”

“Of course,” I muttered. “And let me guess, you understand cat language?”

“Of course!”


Once again, I cursed myself for giving up so easily. There was no point in me arguing anyway. I couldn’t resist Eccleston’s cuteness… But I insisted upon knowing the Doctor’s pet companion story and the Time Lord agreed to tell me…