Tricks Of The Light
A short story.
By way of an explanation, this was prompted by Paul Cornell asking for links to fanfic based on his own creations, and he created a Doctor and companion for BBCi before the series returned to TV, so...
Tricks Of The Light
By Craig Oxbrow
with thanks and/or apologies to Paul Cornell
Henry Clayton stepped backwards through the woods, his eyes darting about at every rustle of a branch, every hoot of an owl.
“I know that you are here,” he said quietly. “Show yourselves.”
He stopped abruptly as he heard movement from above and behind him, started to turn, and just had time to raise his hands above his face, start to close his eyes, and scream.
The Doctor tapped at a screen on the TARDIS console. “Ah. Now, this one you might like. England in 1814.”
Alison looked up from her book. “What’s going on there... or would ‘then’ be a better question?”
“Either or. Some sort of anomalous energy reading. Could just be a Vencasai naturalist collecting tree sap with a positron wand, but better make sure. We’ll know more once we get there. And after we’ve had a spot of tea.”
Alison nodded her agreement, and the Doctor started flipping switches and turning dials. The central rotor lit up from within and the docking section connecting it to the ceiling started to rise and fall.
The TARDIS engines wheezed as they forced the battered old police box into reality. Electricity arced down its frame and earthed in the ground before it finally materialised fully, and the Doctor stepped out, adjusting the collar of his overcoat before closing the door.
“I’m here,” he muttered, apparently to himself. “On with the motley.”
He squinted up at the darkening sky, looked around at the rolling hills and hedgerows, glanced back at the rough stone building the TARDIS now stood beside. “Gatehouse. Leading to...” He drew out his watch and peered at the face, tilting it as the second hand spun clockwise and then anticlockwise before finally pointing at fourteen. He gave a slight nod and snapped the watch shut, returning it to his jacket pocket.
High up on the hill, through a break in the woods, he could see a large manor house, lit up by braziers burning along the road leading to it, and movement all around.
Alison looked up expectantly as the Doctor stepped back into the console room. “Well?”
“Well. As is so often the case, the disturbance is centred around the biggest house in the area.”
“I could have told you that,” a weary voice echoed from the balcony above. “Always go to the manor house.”
“Not everyone shares your pomp, Master.”
“And that is their loss.”
The Doctor shook his head and continued. “It looks like they’re receiving visitors, fortunately.”
“So we have to sneak into a big Georgian manor house?” Alison interrupted.
“During a party?”
“Right then.” She grinned as she hurried to a side door and exited. The Doctor and the Master watched her go, then looked at each other questioningly.
The Doctor was still calibrating the scanner in his watch when Alison returned. She had traded her T-shirt, combat trousers and denim jacket for a white silk empire line dress and matching opera gloves, a cape folded over one arm, her braids tied back and draped over one side of her neck.
“Well?” she asked, taking a slow turn.
“You found the wardrobe then,” the Doctor nodded and pulled his watch out of the hatch in the console.
Alison tutted under her breath.
“I think you look charming, Miss Cheney,” the Master said, affecting a winning smile.
“Thank you,” Alison said, with a pointed glance to the Doctor. “I’d been hoping for an excuse to dive in. That trip to 1997 last week wasn’t quite enough.”
The Doctor pocketed his watch as Alison slipped the cape on.
“Not getting changed? I don’t think that coat’s been invented yet.”
“Then I’ll leave it in the cloakroom.” The Doctor looked across the console at the Master. “Keep an eye on things, call if there’s any trouble. I’d bring you back some canapés if you could eat.”
That said, he offered Alison his arm. Smiling, she took it and walked out with him.
The Master sighed deeply as the door closed, taking in air and letting it out again without any need to. “I don’t know what bothers me more. That I can’t leave this battered old machine, or that he trusts me.” He glowered, and the glint of yellow light inside his eyes brightened for just a moment.
“1814,” Alison said, looking around. “Amazing.”
“I watched Pride And Prejudice enough times that yeah, it is.”
The Doctor nodded understandingly.
“Oh... is there any chance Jane Austen’s actually here? Events moving around important people and all?”
The Doctor looked at his watch, opened a latch, tapped the side and shook his head. “Sorry, wrong county. Couple of hundred miles that way. You’d have to get a coach.” He glanced back at the TARDIS. “And there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t get a call and have to leave you behind.” He grimaced at the thought.
“Hm.” Alison nodded slightly. “Wouldn’t be the first, would I?”
The Doctor rather quickly turned his attention to pocketing his watch.
“ Now then,” he said to break the uncomfortable silence, “you are travelling with a chaperone, the Reverend Doctor... Smith.”
“Smith?” she repeated dubiously. “That really the best you could come up with?”
“I have to remember a suitable name for every era of every planet in the cosmos,” he said defensively. “Now, we’re almost there. So, stay in character, call me if you find anything suspicious... put your phone on silent.”
“What’s it using for signal?”
“The earth’s magnetic core. Funny story, people keep trying to steal it...” He trailed off, noticing her doubtful expression. “Anyway, here we are. Look important.”
Alison smirked, then tilted her head back and looked down her nose.
With a sly look around, the Doctor opened the door on one side of a carriage, clambered in and offered her a hand up, then climbed out the other side in view of the hall’s front door.
“Here we are, Miss Cheney,” he said in a voice intended to reach the back of the theatre.
“Thank you, Doctor,” she said as he helped her down. “So this is...”
“And, ah, not before time.”
She held on to his arm with one hand, to the side of her skirt with the other to stop it trailing on the gravel path as they walked to the house. The Doctor nodded casually to a liveried footman and started to walk past him.
“Damn,” the Doctor muttered under his breath.
“So as to be announced,” the footman added.
“Ah, of course,” Alison said. “Miss Alison Cheney, and the Reverend Doctor... Cholmondley-Featherstone.”
The Doctor gave her a look as the footman turned to walk before them. She smirked.
She was still smirking as they stepped inside, then her mouth fell open in wonder.
She gazed around the entrance to the hall, brightly decorated and lit with candelabra and chandeliers. “In character,” the Doctor reminded her. She gave a slight nod and put on her best seen-it-all-before face. Which slipped again as the footman lead the way into the ballroom and she saw dozens of men and woman lined up for a dance.
“Miss Alison Cheney and the Reverend Doctor Cholmondley-Featherstone.” The footman stepped aside, walked around them and exited, leaving them at the door as a number of people turned and looked at them curiously.
The Doctor smiled. Alison looked important.
As he lead Alison to a long buffet table, the Doctor looked around, peering at everything.
“Mingle,” he said.
“Oh, just like that?” Alison replied warily. “Now I’m here I’m very aware that I don’t know how to dance like this.”
“Well then, say you can’t.”
“Right, I suppose - ”
“Miss Cheney, is it? Might I have the honour of this dance?”
Alison turned and saw a young man with dark hair and strong, handsome features offering her his hand.
“Oh, I should be delighted.”
The Doctor sighed.
“Michael Blake. At your service.”
Alison lined up on the side of the hall with nine other women, while Michael joined the line of men standing opposite her. Everyone looked to one end, as the woman in the leading couple called out the tune and steps. The band struck up their instruments, and the first couple started, showing what to do, and Alison did her best to see how the steps went.
As she stepped forward, almost in time with the rest of the line, and stepped close to and around the man, she noticed he was watching her with a smile, and concentrated on her footwork. Sneaking a glance up as she turned around and around, she saw him still looking, and looked away again.
She breathed more easily when the music ended and the couples separated and bowed.
“You dance most gracefully, Miss Cheney,” said the man.
“Thank you. I was taking care not to step on your toes.”
“I am sure Michael would be honoured to receive such,” said the man next to him.
“Even so,” Alison said with a self-conscious smile.
“I glean that you are visiting from London?” the woman partnering him asked.
“Originally, but I... have been living in Linnet of late, before starting my travels.”
“And your chaperone? The tall gentleman of brooding aspect?”
“The Doctor - ah, the Reverend Doctor,” Alison quickly corrected herself. “He comes from... further away.”
“Forgive our rustic manners,” Michael said. “I present my friends Miss Charlotte Price, daughter of Lord Sanditon, and my good friend, Mister Henry Clayton.”
The Doctor moved quietly along the wall of the ballroom, watching Alison’s progress, looking at his watch as surreptitiously as he could. The second hand spun about, fixing at this point and then that. Whatever was producing the energy surge had been all over the house, confusing the readings. He would have to get closer to -
He turned to see a thin middle-aged woman in green velvet looking at him patiently.
“Ahh, yes...?” He glanced at her ring finger, noted her relative age and apparent wealth. “Lady Sanditon?”
“Always a pleasure to host a man of the cloth, and a man of learning besides.”
“Ah, yes, thank you.”
“I must ask, what brings you so far off the beaten track?”
“Well...” He considered possible answers. “Miss Cheney is never one to deny an opportunity to dance. I am here, though, because of... lightning.”
“Lightning?” Lady Sanditon raised her eyebrows.
“Yes... do you have any?”
She looked at him thoughtfully.
“We do appear to have had rather more than our share this past few weeks, yes. I would say it commenced around the time that one of our smallholders uncovered that Roman curio in his field.”
The Doctor smiled. “Really...?”
Alison’s eyes tracked the Doctor as he moved behind the row of men forming for the cotillion, talking with Lady Sanditon.
“I... fear you must excuse me. I need to speak with the Reverend Doctor.”
Michael bowed and stepped away. Charlotte and Henry nodded, Henry giving her a sidelong glance as she left.
“You’ve found something, haven’t you?” Alison asked in a low voice as she reached the Doctor.
“It does look that way. This area has had more thunderstorms in the last month than it did last year. Since someone dug something up. Which is in the house, so I’m going to take a look at it. And I’m picking up a bit of background coronal discharge.”
“Either these chandeliers are electric, or something here is adjusting light.”
Alison started to look around.
“Don’t bother looking, they’re probably invisible.”
“That’s a comfort...”
“Well, they might not be. They might be disguised and hiding in plain sight.”
“So why are they here?”
“Probably something to do with the find. I’m off to check it, maybe prowl around a bit. Call if you find something. Or scream, whichever’s more convenient.”
Alison scowled at him. “You really have a way of taking the fun out of an evening.”
“Centuries of practice.” He smiled breezily as he stepped away.
Alison shook her head as the Doctor strode off, looked back at the other guests, then put on a smile and returned to the ball.
“All is well, I trust?” Michael asked.
“As well as can be expected. The, ah, Reverend Doctor and I share an interest in history, and he mentioned something about a Roman find?”
Henry looked over. “Ah, yes, yes. Some kind of ceremonial item. I had heard that we might be allowed a glimpse of it tonight.”
“If you behave,” Charlotte said with a smirk. Henry acted affronted.
“Perhaps during a pause in the dance,” Michael suggested. “On which point, Miss Cheney?”
Alison took his offered hand and returned to the cotillion line.
Following the compass needle of his watch, the Doctor stopped abruptly as he reached a locked door. Fishing around in his jacket pocket, he retrieved his sonic screwdriver and pressed it to the lock, pausing to catch the rhythm of The Fair Maid Of The Inn and pressing the button as it hit a high note. Opening the door, he slipped inside.
“Ahh. A locked door, always a good sign.”
Lord Sanditon’s study was cluttered with papers, titles and deeds, maps and affidavits, decently stocked bookshelves and, in pride of place on the desk, something that looked fairly like a Roman governor’s sceptre. With the small detail of a white light glowing in the centre of the crystal at the head.
The Doctor glanced at his watch, moving it from side to side and watching the second hand track the crystal, nodded, snapped it shut and pocketed it.
“Well. You’ve been activated, obviously. Exposure to light after sixteen centuries or so buried away, something like that? Probably moonlight since it’s taken a month to be a problem. You’re not just a homing beacon, clearly, so what are you?”
“What are you?” something echoed from the empty room behind him. He turned and looked back.
And crackling light filled the room.
Henry missed a step, turning left instead of right, and nearly collided with Michael.
“Forgive me.” He stumbled back and started walking briskly out of the ballroom.
“Henry?” Charlotte asked, frowning as he did not look back or break his stride.
“I’ll... ah, I will, uh... ask what he did that for,” Alison said, almost managing not to wince at her phrasing. Charlotte and Michael didn’t seem to notice anyway. Of course, the groups of dancers on either side of theirs were now looking at her questioningly. She smiled awkwardly and hurried after Henry.
“You are not of here or now,” a voice hissed from the flickering column of light looming over the Doctor.
“No, but I’ve been thinking of a second home here,” he said evenly, squinting and shielding his eyes.
The lightning rippled, and he could just make out an even brighter core moving inside it. And in the other two lights moving to surround him, backing him against the desk.
“Waiting, unseen, until the intruder steps forward.”
“Tries to take it.”
“Belongs to us.”
The Doctor’s nearly closed eyes flicked from one bolt to the other as they spoke.
“I see. Well, ah, I was sent here myself, I’m not out to steal it, just make sure - ”
The door burst open and Henry Clayton charged in, drawing a cavalry sabre.
“- it doesn’t cause any trouble...”
Alison had to hold her skirt to one side to get up much speed. Still not enough to keep up with Henry as he made his way up the stairs. She paused as she saw a decorative scabbard torn off the wall and lying empty on the floor, then again as she saw lightning flash around an open door, not through the windows in the corridor.
The flickering images inside the columns of light seemed to turn and study Henry as he paused, not bothering to shield his eyes or even blink.
“The gem is mine.”
The Doctor turned to face him, blinking several times. “Really? Can you prove that, Mister...?”
“Clayton. Henry!” Alison shouted as she opened the door, turning her head away from the glare.
“Get back, Miss! This is none of your concern!”
The Doctor took a step towards him.
“Are you aware that there is an unearthly presence inside your mind, steering you like a carriage?”
Henry grimaced. Something sparked inside him, under his skin, and for a moment the Doctor and Alison could see his skull lit up from within, white light shining from his pupils.
“It demands my assistance, and... threatens Charlotte. It refuses to depart until it controls the gem.”
“I see,” the Doctor nodded. “And the others?”
The first column shifted and crackled. “We oppose the intruder. The gem is of us.”
Alison looked at the Doctor questioningly. He shrugged.
“So you’re... related?” she asked Henry.
“They are its... enemies? Rivals? Like Wellington and Bonaparte? I think.”
The Doctor grimaced. “So this is war?”
Henry gave a slight nod. “War. And the gem is a weapon.”
The second thunderbolt hummed. “War to end. Yours to burn.”
A bright flash, a thundercrack, and a bolt of lightning slammed into Henry, throwing him back to the door, cracking the wood.
“Stop!” the Doctor shouted over the hiss of electricity running over the man’s body.
The columns started to move towards Henry, as he pulled himself up by the edge of the door, striking sparks on the floor with the point of his sword. He launched himself forwards, swinging at the closest column. It pulsed and sparked, and the shape inside writhed.
“I said stop!”
Henry paused. The shapes of the light shifted.
The Doctor aimed his sonic screwdriver at the sceptre.
“Now then. If we might have a little calm...”
Henry stood silently. The lights flickered, but did not advance.
“This isn’t powerful enough to be the ultimate weapon itself, I’d say it has a defence mechanism but that’s all. So it’s a key or a control or a map to find it or something like that. Yes?”
“Perhaps...” Henry said.
“Well, I suppose confirming which was too much to ask for. But anyway. The weapon will be enough to blow up a planet or something like that, but this thing’s not very powerful in itself at all. I can destroy this safely enough, can’t I?”
Henry hesitated before shaking his head.
“Oooh, bad poker face there, Mister Clayton. You and him upstairs need to pull together a bit.”
“It would... only kill those on our spectrum.”
The leading column shimmered. “Including human host.”
“We are light. Light speed.”
“Can destroy you before you can destroy.”
The Doctor nodded along. “Mm, yes, probably could, but... only probably. And I don’t care who it belongs to, I don’t want either of you threatening this planet. Or riding around in its people. So, we’re going to go outside now, you’ll leave this nice young man so he doesn’t get electrocuted by your friends, and we can settle this amicably. How does that sound?”
Alison looked over at Henry. “Come on. You don’t want anybody getting hurt, do you?”
“I - ” He trailed off. Then he shuddered in pain and put a hand to his forehead. “Get back! Get away!”
“Do as he says!” the Doctor told her. “He can’t contain it!”
Henry started to lurch towards the closest of the columns. The three crackled, let out a low hum - and vanished.
Henry swung wildly at thin air as Alison and the Doctor tried to blink away the afterimages of the columns.
The Doctor grabbed the sceptre, pulled the gem out and looked at it. “Well, they’re both after this. As well as out to kill each other. So at least we can get them away from all these - ”
The door flew open again as Charlotte and Michael rushed in.
“This has been happening to me all night.”
Henry looked around the room, his vision blurring, concentrating on the patterns of light surrounding the gem as the man with two hearts held it. Schematics and diagrams flashed up with every touch, invisible to his own eyes but seen by the thing lurking behind them. He started to turn, knowing what to do - then he saw Charlotte in the doorway. He could barely recognise her through the alien view that showed the electrical impulses of her brain and nerves flowing through her, but he could hear her gasp his name, see her eyes widen with fear and concern.
“Henry? Whatever does this mean?”
“Charlotte... I... please...”
The sword clattered to the floor and he ran through the door, away.
“Ah... excuse us!” said the Doctor, and ran after him.
Alison muttered under her breath and gave chase.
“I’m really not dressed for running!”
“This is why I don’t usually bother!” the Doctor called back to her as he ran down the stairs two at a time, as she stopped to climb down them carefully.
Henry strode through the servants’ back corridors, unhindered, turning his head as the thing inside him looked out around his eyes. He walked out to the gatehouse, marching towards the large blue box sitting unnoticed in its shadow. He raised a hand towards the doors of the box, and for a moment could see the bones silhouetted as the skin started to glow.
The Master looked up as the TARDIS door flew open.
“He really should accept that he can’t leave the door unlocked everywhere he goes...”
Henry held his hand up, light flickering inside it.
“You. Your body could burn at my touch. Stand aside, sir.”
“Gladly. If I might ask, what do you want?”
“The man with two hearts can find the way to the weapon, this machine can take me there.”
“I rather doubt he would want to...”
The Doctor reached the servants’ door, broken off its hinges, and looked back to see Alison rushing to catch up. “So, a little from Column A and friends are hanging back, waiting to see what occurred to their friend riding Clayton. And... our door is open.”
Henry turned slightly as the Doctor stepped inside.
“Doctor. Miss Cheney. Forgive my intrusion in your...” He trailed off. “It’s like an Oxford college library hidden inside a carriage...”
The Doctor tilted his head questioningly. “That sounds like you, Mister Clayton, not your rider.”
“It feels I might better negotiate for the gem, and the weapon. As both speaker and hostage.”
Alison stepped in and started to approach him, but he stepped away.
“No closer, please... you would make a better hostage still.”
The Master spoke up. “Yes, feel free to keep me as a hostage. It’s nice to feel useful now and then.”
Henry turned back to the Master, raising his hand palm out towards him as he stepped between him and the Doctor.
“It wants this vessel, or the gem, Doctor. Your decision, sir?” Henry’s hand lit up. “Quickly now. Lives dear to me depend upon it.”
“Well, given those options, I’d much rather... not.”
Henry started to nod in agreement, then a bolt of lightning flew from his palm into the Master’s chest. The android fell back, sparking and smoking.
“No!” Alison gasped.
Henry turned and stalked out of the TARDIS.
The Doctor knelt beside the Master.
The android opened his eyes.
“Oh... that hurts.”
“No it doesn’t,” the Doctor told him pointedly.
“Of course it doesn’t! But that doesn’t mean you get to feel less guilty about it!”
The Doctor walked back to the TARDIS door, leaving Alison to help steady the Master. He sighed as he looked down at his body’s blackened inner workings. “This is the thanks I get for not wanting be uploaded to the Matrix.”
“The Matrix?” Alison echoed. “I really can’t picture you with a big leather coat and sunglasses...”
The Master raised his eyebrows, then they both turned as the Doctor failed to stifle a laugh.
Henry stopped outside the TARDIS. Two columns of light blazed into view, tapering off ten feet above the ground, sparks of electricity arcing and hissing as they hit water on the ground.
And Charlotte stood between them.
“Henry... if you could... kindly tell the Doctor and Miss Cheney that... the enemy have taken a hostage as well.”
Light shone out from her pupils.
Henry felt his stomach twist. “No...”
He ran back inside. “Doctor! They’ve taken Charlotte!”
The Doctor looked up and narrowed his eyes. “That... was not a good idea.”
“Doctor, please! Give me what I want, and the thing inside my mind will free her!”
“Is that what it’s telling you? Cooperate and you’ll all be safe?” The Doctor shook his head.
“They do not hold to the honour of soldiers, do they?”
“Hiding behind innocent people, fighting over a weapon that... well, you can tell better than I can, what does it do?”
The Doctor held the gem up to Henry. He could see images running through it, circling around it.
“The weapon is... inside the sun. It would wipe them out... the world where they live... or the world where both hide... the Earth.”
The footman was the first to notice the cracked, singed door. Pushing it aside, he stepped out into the cooling evening air, looked around, and two bright white lights caught his attention. Walking towards them, he saw the heiress of the manor standing between two white bonfires, trembling.
“Miss Charlotte? Whatever is the matter?”
She turned and gasped, started to shake her head, when one of the lights shimmered and threw out a bolt of lightning, striking the man in the heart.
She screamed for longer than he did.
Alison helped the Master to a seat swiped from St. Paul’s Cathedral minutes before a Blitz bomb struck it, and stepped over to the Doctor and Henry.
“So this thing will wipe us all out, if either side gets it back?”
“My... rider claims otherwise,” Henry said, clearly doubting its word. “It says that the gem by itself will strike at the... frequency of its enemies, and leave the world unmarked. But...”
“They are opposing polarities, I’m guessing?”
“I believe... yes... but can you not destroy the gem?”
“Too late,” the Doctor said. “You know too much already.”
“Then why show it to me?” Henry asked angrily.
“To keep you safe from your... guest. On which note, Alison, could you go see how Charlotte is getting on?”
Alison looked at him questioningly, then nodded and walked to the door.
“Charlotte? Are you... alright?”
Charlotte shook her head, looking at the blackened patch of ground where the footman had been.
Electricity sparked around the tears running down her cheeks.
“Some manner of... demon infests me, and another hides within my Henry. This one’s comrades killed Clark as soon as look at him, and... no, please... someone else approaches!”
Michael stepped out of the ruined door, raising a hunting rifle.
“Miss Charlotte, Miss Alison, if you would kindly step away from the... lightning men?”
Alison raised her hands to stop him. “That won’t work. They’ll kill you.”
“My father died at Trafalgar. Every man must do his duty.” Michael drew back the bolt of the rifle and raised the stock to his shoulder.
“Henry, let me see what you’re seeing, so I can see if there’s a way to stop this thing safely.”
“I - I don’t know if I am able. If the fiend will let me.”
“It will if it wants the gem. Because among other things, the TARDIS is a little metal box. A Faraday cage.”
Henry looked confused, then his eyes lit up and the beams of light shone onto the crystal, refracting to show the information coded into it.
“Oh, I see... really... oh, now that’s very clever. Top marks.”
The light snapped off and Henry jerked backwards, rubbing his eyes.
The Doctor half smiled. “I do believe I’ve got it.”
He handed the gem to Henry.
Alison stepped between Michael and Charlotte. “You can’t win this, Michael. We just have to try and find a solution where no-one else gets hurt.”
“Is that possible?”
“It is, actually.” The Doctor strolled out of the TARDIS, followed by Henry. “After all, the beacon to call down this ultimate weapon has been buried for sixteen hundred years, a few more minutes to negotiate won’t hurt, will they?”
The columns of light flickered, and the light in Charlotte’s eyes intensified. “They have no desire to negotiate, sir.”
“No desire. No will.”
“Enemy burns. World can burn with it. Or not.”
The Doctor nodded. “Not the strongest argument, but good point at the end there. Henry, what does your tenant think?”
“It - it would do as you ask, Doctor, and aim the weapon only at its enemies. But it - Charlotte! Get away!”
“Henry! Please, you cannot!”
They started to run towards each other, their eyes blazing with light. The other beings moved to swirl around them as they met in the middle of the courtyard, electricity arcing off them into the ground and into each other.
And then they kissed.
Light shone through their bodies and flew out in a sudden blast in all directions. The other columns exploded away from it.
They went on kissing passionately, holding each other close, as the light faded from them.
Alison blinked and rubbed at her eyes. “What just happened?”
Henry and Charlotte broke the kiss, gazing into one another’s eyes.
The Doctor smirked. “I could tell their control wasn’t a hundred per cent. Just had to give their hosts reason enough to overcome them... while they were in direct contact. If they hadn’t possessed Charlotte it might never have worked, but...”
“So... I’m still seeing spots... all’s well that ends well?”
“Absolutely. Well, apart from the massive planet-smashing superweapon sitting in the middle of the sun. I suppose I’ll have to do something about that...”
Holding Charlotte’s hands in his, Henry turned and looked at the Doctor. “And the gem? Their beacon?”
“Just a jewel now.” The Doctor shrugged. “All the same, maybe have it cut down.”
“Perhaps... a setting for a ring?” Henry asked. Charlotte smiled slightly.
“Good idea,” Alison said. “Your kiss just saved the world.”
Michael lowered his rifle. “Well. Good.”
“Quite so,” said the Doctor, clapping his hands together. “Now then, I have to try and repair a psychotronic containment facility.”
“Would we have time for one last dance?” Alison asked, watching Henry and Charlotte walk hand in hand back towards the hall.
The Doctor nodded. “Just the one.”
“A new world!”
Alison looks up at a dome, at two suns in a swirled purple sky above.
“And... where is everybody?”
The Doctor raising his sonic screwdriver and looking down its length at something, scowling.
Alison running through a corridor, with massive snakelike mechanical arms chasing her.
The Master laughing.
Five people in scruffy fatigues firing laser pistols.
The Doctor and Alison banging on a blast door.
A glowing blue light on the end of a stalk turning to the camera.
Since Scream Of The Shalka and The Feast Of The Stone are both rather dark tales, I wanted to give the Doctor and Alison a bit of a romp, and I figured if those were their first two stories a trip back in time was due.
The suggested hook of a mysterious someone sending the Doctor on missions is a good reason for him to keep getting into apocalyptic trouble, although it does get in the way of his showing-off-to-his-companions side. So here I played it both ways, suggesting that it would give him a tendency to want to keep Alison close in case he gets called away. (I imagine that would happen early in the two-part season finale.)
This particular Doctor is fun to write for - sardonic, a bit smug, at times rather rude, but also burdened, looking for someone to make him smile again.
Alison is young, pretty, independent, curious, and interested in history - something I share at the end, so she was easy to write for.
A bigger change to the classic series formula is the Master’s presence in the TARDIS as a sounding board for the Doctor. And an android. I went with the machine containing the consciousness of the currently-mostly-dead Master, which is a now a free-floating energy thingamajig stuck inside it, rather than an AI recreation, to make him that bit more “real”.
And I couldn’t resist the gag about the Matrix. Sorry.
Mr. Cornell’s ground rules for inclusion stipulated no appearances by real people, otherwise Alison might well have gotten a chance to meet Jane Austen. Maybe next time.