Donna and Ben were sitting close together on the sofa as The Doctor did what he always did around the console. He watched them for a while, and approved thoroughly. It was unexpected, he had to admit. Of all the careers he would have thought Donna was fitted for, adult literacy tutor wasn’t one of them. Yet she seemed to have found an unlimited reserve of patience and effort and it was rewarded when Ben read a whole sentence of text without stumbling over it.

“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”

“H G Wells’ Time Machine?” The Doctor raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Interesting choice.”

“Well,” Donna pointed out. “I’m not going to start him off with ‘See Spot Run’. Besides, this book comes from his time. Published the year Ben came from when he joined us. And anyway, we’re in a time machine. So why not?”

“Why not, indeed?” The Doctor agreed enthusiastically. He did secretly wonder if either of them knew what the word ‘recondite’ meant but decided to keep that doubt to himself. Donna was doing a good job with him, equipping him with a skill he desperately needed to hold his head up in a universe that looked down on the illiterate.

“Remind me to take you both to tea with Herbert some time soon,” he added. “But if school is over for the day, how about we visit a new and exciting planet. This one looks interesting.”

Donna watched as he typed something into the drive console and then pulled a lever. It looked as if he had just selected a planet at random for them to visit. Just for the hell of it.

“Well, of course I have,” The Doctor said, as if he had actually been reading her thoughts. “It’s not as if I have a schedule. I go where I please, when I please. And today, we’re visiting Aneroa in the Perseus sector, home of the Great Library of Aneroa, a symbol of learning and culture throughout the galaxy second only to the Prydonian Academy Library on Gallifrey.”

“What’s the Prydonian Academy?” Ben asked.

“His old school,” Donna answered. “He hated the place, but now it’s not there any more he gets all sentimental about the good old days. Just humour him.”

The Doctor grinned at her. He knew that was her way of stopping him from brooding about what couldn’t be helped, and he appreciated it.

“Come on, then,” he said as the TARDIS materialised. He grabbed his coat from where it was slung over the gangway railing and headed for the door. Donna and Ben found their own coats and followed.

They emerged into a city street that reminded Donna of pictures of ancient Greece. A clean white stone was the dominant building material and it was used to create fantastic edifices with great columns and collonades and porticoes with classical figures carved into them.

Donna ran out of ways to describe it. She would be the first to admit that she didn’t know a lot about classical architecture.

“It’s really something, isn’t it!” she enthused.

Ben said nothing. He was looking up at the sky. Donna looked up, too. It was a pale green colour with a huge moon in it. Really huge, maybe ten times as big as the Earth moon.

“It’s actually a twin planet, Roanea,” The Doctor said. “I don’t think it’s inhabited. The TARDIS database had little about it except the name.”

“I’m on another planet,” Ben said. “I really am… on another planet. The sky…”

“The colour is caused by the Aneroan sunlight refracting through cassillonium, an element in the upper atmosphere not yet included in the universally recognised periodic table,” The Doctor said. He was going to talk about cassillonium a bit more, but Donna was rolling her eyes at him for being a science nerd and Ben actually looked scared. He had been to the moon briefly, and the Hall of The Architects, but this was the first time he had properly looked up at any sky but the one he was born under.

The Doctor tried to remember how he felt about his first alien sky, but he had probably been too young to understand. He took space travel for granted. He wasn’t the best person to help somebody like Ben come to terms with the idea of being under a new sky.

He didn’t have to. Donna stepped beside him and whispered something. The Doctor didn’t hear what it was, but it seemed to help. Ben looked a lot more relaxed.

“All right, let’s go see the Great Library,” The Doctor said when he thought Ben was ready. He turned and headed towards the grandest looking building of all. There was a flight of marble steps at least the length of three London buses rising up to a building of the same length and height. A colonnade of ionic pillars held up the triangular pediment on which allegorical figures fought a battle between learning and ignorance, with learning triumphant.

“As it should be,” The Doctor remarked as he walked confidently up the steps and between the columns to the grand entrance to the Great Library.

The foyer was as magnificent as the outside. More marble, this time in shades of deep red, green and purple, as well as the white, formed a mosaic floor. Again learning triumphant over ignorance was the theme.

“Well, I can see the point,” Donna said. “I mean, look at Ben. If he had a better education, maybe he wouldn’t have had to be a thief.”

“I didn’t have to be a thief, even without education. I could have broken my back as a navvy, building roads and railways or libraries for those who have education,” Ben replied. “Or sweated all day in a factory for a pittance. With reading, maybe I could have had a job in a shop or a office… sweating all day for a pittance, tugging my forelock to the manager and in fear of being dismissed for some small infraction. I may be a thief, but I answer to no-one. I do nobody’s bidding. And as long as I don’t get caught, I am freer than anyone with an education.”

“Yes… but…” Donna began. But she couldn’t think of any response to what he had said. In some ways he had a point. She remembered school history of the industrial revolution, and the terrible working conditions in factories. She remembered learning about the building of roads and canals and railways in the same era and while the curriculum may have glossed over the realities of life as a navvy breaking the ground with spades and pickaxes she didn’t need too much imagination to fill in the gaps. But did that mean there was no alternative to that life than being a thief?

The Doctor said nothing. He just turned towards the magnificent staircase to the upper floors of the Great Library.

The whole thing was built in a rotunda style. From the third floor, The Doctor, Donna and Ben looked down over the parapet at the mosaic floor below and the reading desks set around it where citizens of Aneroa could study any of the great works kept in this building.

“It’s not THE greatest library, of course,” The Doctor said. “There’s one so big it covers a whole planet. It’s just called THE Library…”

“The way you’re THE Doctor?” Donna teased. “Because you have an ego the size of a planet?”

“Something like that,” he answered with a grin. “Shall we go further up? Is anyone scared of heights?”

Donna wondered if it would have mattered if either of them had said yes. The Doctor headed for the wrought iron winding staircase that led up to the next level. She and Ben followed him to the fourth and then the fifth floor where they looked down and saw the mosaic floor below looking even smaller and up to see the magnificently decorated ceiling with frosted glass windows all around it that let in diffused light that wouldn’t fade the books or dazzle the readers.

On every floor, of course, there were aisles full of books and tables where people were reading quietly.

“It’s impressive, all right,” Donna said. “But I don’t think my Chiswick public library card is valid here and you’ve got plenty of books in the TARDIS. Is there any point in going up and up and up?”

“I want to go to the top,” The Doctor said. “Come on. It’s only five more floors.”

“Don’t they have a lift?” Ben asked. “I’ve seen inside a library once… and it had a lift with a man inside wearing a uniform. He threw me out because I wasn’t clean enough… but…”

“Oh, they don’t use lifts in the Library of Aneroa,” The Doctor said. “They don’t have computers, or any new-fangled technology. They love paper and leather bindings and doing it the old fashioned way.”

“Glad I’m not in charge of the index, then,” Donna remarked. “I worked as a temp at Chiswick library, once, helping to change the old card index system over to the computer database. It was the most boring job I ever had.”

“What are all these books about?” Ben asked. He ran his hand over one leather bound tome on a shelf. “Are they story books or...” He took the book from the shelf and looked at the title. “The Cat… ee….che…… of law…”

“Catechism,” The Doctor corrected him gently. “It means… well, a list of rules or instructions. It must be a law book.

“This one has the same title,” Donna said, picking a book off the other side of the shelf. “It must be a set text at the local uni. They need lots of copies.”

“Very likely,” The Doctor said. “It wouldn’t be your cup of tea, Ben. Best pop it back where you found it. Stick with H G Wells for now. Meanwhile…”

The Doctor headed towards the winding staircase. Ben and Donna followed him, but rather reluctantly. If there really wasn’t a faster way down, then they didn’t see any point in going up more flights of stairs to look at more galleries exactly like this one.

They came with him as far as the eighth floor. There, they staged a minor mutiny and refused to go any further.

“My feet are killing me, and, seriously, Doctor, this place is boring,” Donna said. “Anyway, look. You can’t go any further without a special pass.”

The Doctor grinned and waved his psychic paper.

“Clever clogs,” Donna responded. “All right, you go on and see what’s so special up there. I’m going to have a sit down.”

“I should stay with Donna,” Ben said. “It would not be right to leave her alone in a strange place.”

“Ok, no problem,” The Doctor said. “I’ll try not to be very long. Half an hour, hour, tops.”

“Twenty minutes, and we’re heading on downstairs and looking for a café,” Donna told him sternly. He grinned again and waved as he headed for the roped off stairwell. Ben sat down at one of the polished desks. Donna turned to look at the bookshelves, figuring she might as well kill time with a book, seeing as they were in a library.

“Wait a minute,” she murmured as she looked at the titles on the shelf. “That’s weird.”

She picked up a book at random and opened it. She read the first page. She read the back page. She turned to page thirty-seven, page eighty-five, page ninety-six. She picked out another one and read the same pages. Then another, and another. She walked along the aisle and came back up the one behind it, selecting books at random to read. She moved quietly and as inconspicuously as she could around the tables where Aneroan citizens were reading quietly. She glanced over their shoulders at the books they were reading.

“Hello,” she said in a quiet voice to one of the Aneroans. She flashed her Chiswick lending library card quickly. “Deputy librarian in charge of books. Sorry to disturb you, but I have to take that copy of the book you’re reading. There’s damage to the spine and it needs to go down to the restoration department. Here, use this copy instead. Sorry to interrupt and all, do carry on.”

She took the book that the surprised Aneroan was reading and gave him one at random off the shelves. He opened it at the page he was on and carried on reading. Donna looked at the book she had confiscated and then shoved it back onto the shelf before going back to sit next to Ben to wait for The Doctor to return.


The Doctor walked up the winding stairs to the ninth floor, the last floor on which there were books and reading tables. The Tenth floor was a narrow gallery some seven feet below the frosted glass windows with an elaborate fresco all around it. The Doctor had intended to go on up and take a close look at it. He was rather impressed by the architecture and the decoration of this building and he really wanted to examine it. But something about the ninth floor struck him as odd.

He was aware that in some libraries very rare and valuable books were sometimes chained to the desks. He remembered when he was a senior, sitting for hours in the Prydonian Academy library at a special desk where the first and only edition of the Memoirs of Rassilon was kept fastened down by no less than three strong chains. He had read it wearing thin cotton gloves so that the natural oil in his fingers couldn’t mark the pages. A junior library assistant stood over him for the duration of his study lest he commit any act of defacement on the priceless manuscript.

He remembered writing a very good essay that proved the Memoirs was a fake written some eight hundred years after the ‘death’ of Rassilon by the grandson of one of the Great Time Lord’s followers. It had gained him an A+ in his Rassilonian History, but almost got him barred from the library.

He shook his head and admonished himself for digressing from the matter in hand.

And the matter was, that although some libraries chained up their rare books, he had never seen a library where the readers were chained to the desks, too. He noted the manacles that bound the left hands of every man and woman seated on this level. He stooped as if tying his shoelace and glanced under a desk. The ankles of the readers were fettered, too.

“What are you doing here?” asked a voice. The Doctor straightened himself up and looked around at a man who could have had ‘librarian’ written through his centre like a stick of Blackpool rock. “This floor is for designated learners.”

“Yes, that would be me,” The Doctor answered, presenting the psychic paper. “I’m a designated learner. Love learning. Books are my passion. I’m here to look at… at…” He made a pretence of looking for something in his pockets. “Oh, you know what, I’ve forgotten my reading glasses. I can’t read a word without them, I have the worst case of hyperopia my optician ever saw. He said he was going to write a paper about my case for Opthalmetrist’s Weekly.” He held out his hand to take back his psychic paper and turned to go back down the steps before the mild hypnotic state he had induced in the librarian while he was talking about eyesight wore off.

“Hey,” he said to Donna and Ben when he reached them. “I think we ought to get out of here. I may have outstayed my welcome.”

“Not yet,” Donna said. “We found something funny about this library. I think you’re going to want to see this. Ben… grab any book from the shelf, and give it to The Doctor, please.”

Ben did as she asked. The Doctor glanced at the title of the book.

“The Catechism of Law?” His eyes narrowed questioningly. He opened the book and looked at the first page carefully. Then he flipped the pages quickly. His pupils dilated rapidly and Donna and Ben both realised he was reading the book at super-fast speed.

“Ok…” he said. “Boring, dull, like most law books. And believe me I’ve read quite a few in my life.”

“Yes. But…” Donna nodded to Ben. He turned and picked another book off the shelf and gave it to The Doctor. While he was super-reading that one Ben went three aisles along and brought back another book.

“Every single book in this library is the same. There are tens of thousands of books here, but they’re all the same book, the same subject. The Catechism of Law.”

“The ones upstairs aren’t,” The Doctor said. He went to the nearest shelf and pulled two or three books at random. It wasn't that he disbelieved the evidence Ben and Donna had presented to him, but he just wanted to see for himself.

There were voices from above and rapid footsteps on the iron staircase, making far more noise than careful patrons would be making. The Doctor quickly sat down at a desk and opened a book. Donna and Ben did the same. The librarian from upstairs and two men who looked like security guards went by looking urgent. The Doctor kept his head down as the guards went around the floor looking in each of the book aisles and then carried on down to the next floor. The librarian walked around the eighth floor gallery once and then headed back up to the restricted area.

“Let’s get out of here, now,” The Doctor told his companions. “Walk slowly, but not too slowly. Try not to look like you can’t wait to get out of here.”

Ben, The Doctor noted, was very good at walking inconspicuously. It was a useful skill in his profession, of course. Donna was over-egging it a little. But even so, they managed to get down to the ground floor and headed slowly out through the porticoed door. They walked down the steps to the street. The Doctor got his bearings and turned in the direction he left the TARDIS.

Nobody challenged them. Aneroan citizens walked past them without comment, without noticing them as strangers. Of course, The Doctor recalled, excessively raised voices were forbidden in the streets of the City. It was one of the catechisms he had read. Aneroans were required by law to be quiet and serene in their daily business. Raising a hue and cry was not in their nature.

They reached the TARDIS unmolested. Donna declared that she was gagging for a cup of tea and took Ben with her to make it. The Doctor said he had something else he wanted to do. When they returned with tea, sandwiches and cake on a tray he was busy at his console with a soldering iron, a peculiar set of spectacles with something like eight adjustable lenses, and three metal discs with ribbons attached. Donna thought they looked like swimming medals.

“Perception filters,” he said. “Wonderful bit of Time Lord technology. Just what we need for a bit of snooping. Something very odd is going on in that library, and I want to know what it is.”

“Why?” Ben asked. “I mean… these people only have one book to read. But why does that matter?”

“It matters because the one book is a list of rules for living in a society where it matters what things look like, not how they really are. That great big library, their high ideal of learning triumphing over ignorance, and it’s all a lie, a façade, hiding something false and rotten and…”

“Learning triumphing over ignorance,” Ben commented. “Never thought much of that, actually. All that means is that those with learning get to bully those without it.”

“No,” Donna began. “That’s not what it means. It means that if people who are in ignorance are given the chance to better themselves….” She stopped and looked at Ben, and then at The Doctor. “Or… is it…”

“I come from a society where education, learning, striving for knowledge is our driving force,” The Doctor said. “To me the allegory in the murals, the mosaic, the relief carvings, was a positive one. The darkness of ignorance illuminated by the light of knowledge…”

“Yeah,” Donna said. “And until I travelled with you, I wouldn’t have known what an allegory was if it jumped up and bit me. It was you taking me to operas and museums and art galleries. I wonder… if I’d seen those pictures before I knew you, would I have seen the same thing Ben did… the educated people dumping on the uneducated.”

The Doctor considered that for a few moments and then shook his head sadly.

“I think… you’re both right,” he said. “That’s why I need you around me, both of you. To look at things with a different pair of eyes than mine and remind me when I’m seeing them wrong.”

“You weren’t wrong, Doctor,” Donna assured him. “You just saw it from a Time Lord point of view instead of a Human one. Anyway… what about this snooping you said we should do?”

“That’s why you need a perception filter,” The Doctor said, handing one of the medallions to Donna and one to Ben. They held them curiously and watched as The Doctor slipped his over his head, then gasped as they saw him disappear from their view.

“If you concentrate, you can see me,” he said quietly. At first, they didn’t hear his voice, then it crept up on them as if it was a corporeal thing. Ben saw through the filter first and exclaimed in surprise, then Donna figured it out, too.

“It’s like… those pictures made up of dots and if you squint a bit you can see the bunny.”

“That’s right. Now, both of you put yours on. We should be able to see each other because we know we’re here. And we can talk to each other. But when we get to the library, as long as we don’t do anything silly like jumping up and down and shouting they won’t know we’re there and we can get an idea of what this is all about.”

“Guv’nor!” Ben said with a wry smile. “You have made us into the perfect thieves. We cannot be seen or heard and yet we can move freely.”

The Doctor laughed softly.

“I’m trusting you not to put that to the test,” he said.

And that was all he said. Ben looked at him solemnly for a long moment. The Doctor looked like an eccentric with his crumpled suit and strange shoes and his excitable manner, but he somehow carried within him more authority than any magistrate Ben had ever had the misfortune to come before. It wasn’t immediately obvious how he did so, but he did.

And Ben, who spent his life defying authority, found himself desperately wanting to obey The Doctor. He wanted him to trust him, to like him, even.

He wanted that trust to be well-placed.

“I’ll not let you down,” he promised.

“Good man,” The Doctor replied with a warm smile before he dashed around the console and set the TARDIS for a very short hop to the library.

The TARDIS materialised among the stacks on the fifth floor of the Great Library. The air displacement and the noise must have caused a disturbance, but when the three ‘invisible’ snoopers stepped out and walked quietly past the reading desks everyone was busy studying their catechisms again. They probably wouldn’t have taken much notice if they had been visible.

“I wonder if there is some kind of mild hypnosis going on, keeping them at this endless study?” The Doctor wondered aloud as they walked past and headed for the stairs.

“They must be,” Donna commented. “Otherwise they must be so bored reading the same book all the time.”

“I’ve never even read a whole book,” Ben said. “And if there was nothing to read except a book of laws, I don’t think I’d want to bother.”

“I agree,” The Doctor said to him. “Law books are tedious. You should see the ones I had to get through when I qualified in Gallifreyan Law. They’d make your head spin. As for…”

The Doctor talked. Donna and Ben listened, faintly amused as they climbed the stairs to the top floor. There, the scene was the same as it had been when The Doctor came up earlier. Dozens of people were sitting at reading desks, studying from huge, heavy books, and both readers and reading matter were chained to the desks.

“They’re not reading the catechism, Doctor,” Donna said as she glanced over the shoulder of one of the readers. “This is a book about the bird life of this planet. And the one next to him is reading a book about their solar system.”

“This one has a novel,” The Doctor said looking at another desk. “And this one…” He stepped towards an empty desk. The book was chained to it, but the seat was empty. He opened the book and saw that it was a history of Aneroa. He flicked the pages rapidly, taking in the entire written history of the planet in a few minutes.

“Ri…ghhht,” he drawled slowly. “Now I understand. Donna… Ben… I know why…”

He looked around. Donna and Ben were backing slowly away towards the stairs. Two of the security guards were closing in on The Doctor. The perception filter only worked if nobody knew you were there, if you didn’t do anything to draw attention to yourself. But reading through a book at a page a second was just the thing to get everyone’s attention. The chained readers were all staring straight at him, and the librarian was bearing down on him with a look of thunder on his face.

“You were here before,” he said. “You escaped the last time. You will not do so again.” The Librarian nodded to the guards and they took hold of The Doctor.

He could have fought them, of course. Ben could probably have dealt with one of them for him. He looked ready to jump in with fists and feet, but Donna held him back. Neither of them had been perceived yet. They were still unknown to the Librarian and his guards.

Besides, The Doctor had learnt long ago that getting caught wasn't a bad way of finding out who was at the bottom of any kind of mystery. As long as there was a back up plan to get him out of captivity again. And with his two companions still concealed he had that.

The Librarian looked at The Doctor closely then reached out and snatched the perception filter medallion from around his neck. He looked at it curiously but there was nothing about its Gallifreyan micro-technology that he could have understood. He put it into his pocket.

“Bring him to the Head Librarian,” the Librarian snapped. The guards pushed him forwards towards a door marked ‘Head Librarian’. The Librarian himself led the way. The Doctor risked one quick look behind him and saw that Ben and Donna were following as they passed through the door.

“Hey!” he exclaimed as he looked around the very small space they passed into. “This is a lift. The Great Library doesn’t have lifts, or computers or…”

It was a lift, and it began to descend. The Doctor carefully ignored the space by the door where his companions were standing. They kept very quiet and tried to avoid touching anyone in the confined space. The perception filter was more than just an invisibility cloak, of course. It hid them from all senses – sight, hearing and touch included. But the Librarian and the guards were uneasy and tense after discovering him. If one of them got the sense that somebody else was there then the game would be up.

The lift reached the bottom of what seemed to be a very long shaft and the doors opened. Ben and Donna stepped out backwards and then stood aside as the two guards pushed The Doctor forward out of the lift. The Librarian followed. Ben and Donna kept close.

“This is some basement,” Donna whispered to Ben as they looked up at a high, vaulted ceiling lit by huge chandeliers that glittered brightly. “It’s like… no, never mind like… it IS… a whole other library. It must be underground, beneath the one the public see.”

“But there’s nobody here,” Ben said.

“Only him…” Donna pointed to the man sitting in a big leather chair behind an old-fashioned wooden desk. He was an old man, with deep lines upon his face and pale blue eyes that must have been so thickly covered in cataracts he couldn’t possibly see anything.

“Head Librarian!” The Librarian stepped forward. “I regret I must inform you that we found an unauthorised reader on the tenth floor.”

“Somebody tried to gain knowledge without permission?” The Head Librarian’s face twisted with anger. “What has he to say for himself?”

“Step forward,” the Librarian said to The Doctor. “If you wish to save yourself a great deal of pain, then beg for forgiveness.”

“I will do no such thing,” The Doctor replied. “I beg to nobody, least of all a madman who has subverted and corrupted everything this planet once represented.” He stepped forward, away from the guards, away from the Librarian and closer to the Head Librarian’s desk. “My world was a meritocracy, too. But we had separation between education and government. The great thinkers and philosophers were revered. They had acolytes who listened to their every utterance. But our laws were made by our politicians, separate to them. Here, the greatest philosopher and thinker is the political leader. Head Librarian is the Aneroan equivalent of President. You rule absolutely, the most intelligent man on the planet.”

“What of it?” the Head Librarian replied. “Who else should govern but those of greatest knowledge and intellect?”

“Who, indeed,” The Doctor replied. “And perhaps, once, you were a good leader. Many decades ago, before you went mad. Before you decided you would not let anyone usurp you. That was when you banned the ordinary people of Aneroa from reading any books except the catechism. The Great Library, where once all the knowledge in the galaxy was freely available to any who sought it became a place where knowledge was stifled. The people were forced to memorise your catechism and obey it. Within three generations, living such a proscribed way of life had turned an enlightened and liberated people into intellectual zombies without even the will to protest about their subjugation.”

“How does he know this?” The Head Librarian demanded as The Doctor paused for breath and, quite possibly, dramatic emphasis, and looked around him. He noticed that the guards weren’t doing much to stop him talking. The Librarian was startled, too.

“Your Sagacity,” the Librarian replied. “He… read the great history of Aneroa. The book was open before him when he was captured. He… read it from cover to cover in a few minutes. He knows everything.”

“We…ll….” The Doctor grinned. “I wouldn’t say everything. But I’ve knocked about a bit. I know nearly everything. I certainly know when something isn’t right. And this planet isn’t right. And the rot begins here, with you, Head Librarian. By the way, has anyone else been paying attention to me? You know what I said about three generations… He came to power when he was in his thirties. A generation is roughly twenty-five years, of course. But he’s lived a quiet, simple life, issuing orders for reprints of the catechisms, reading all the books he wants down here in the real library, where all the real knowledge of Aneroa is. And up there, you’ve been doing his dirty work, Librarian, along with your guards here. You’ve been making sure all the citizens behaved themselves and studied their catechisms, and you made sure that the very few every year or so who actually questioned the Aneroan way of life were sifted out. Oh, yes, there were bound to be some. Any repressive regime will always breed a few rebels. People who see a sign that says ‘restricted area’ and will go and find out what’s so interesting up there. And do you know what makes it so interesting. You don’t punish them by putting them in prison and taking away their books. You imprison them with the books. You give them the knowledge, but they’re chained to the desk so they can’t do anything with the things they know. They can’t use it to better themselves, they can’t pass on the knowledge to anyone else. It’s actually quite a brilliant idea. Punish them by giving them what they want. Brilliant, but totally barmy. And there you go. That’s why I’m here. Because I’m one of the curious people who can’t resist a ‘restricted section’. So… what do you intend to do about it?”

“He knows too much,” the Head Librarian said. “Take him back upstairs. Chain him up. Let him read our history until he’s sick of it.”

“Yes, Head Librarian,” the Librarian said, bowing obsequiously to him and backing away. The two guards took hold of The Doctor again and pulled him towards the lift.

Everyone except The Doctor was surprised to see that the lift wasn’t at the bottom of the shaft. The Librarian pressed the button to summon it.

It didn’t come.

The Doctor smiled faintly. Yes, there was a sort of low level hypnotism around here, something that stopped all but a strong minded few from rebelling. It probably came from the Head Librarian himself. But The Doctor was pretty good at that sort of thing, too. Not as good as his old adversary, The Master, but pretty good. Good enough to capture everyone’s attention while he was talking, so that they didn’t notice when Ben and Donna got back into the lift and took it back upstairs again.

He smiled even more widely as the lift continued to be conspicuous by its absence and the Librarian’s frustration was matched by that of the Head Librarian who howled in anger.


On the top floor, where several copies of the useless catechism were currently holding the lift door open and preventing it from going back down to the basement, Ben’s skill with a picklock had been put to good use freeing the prisoners in the restricted section before they started back down again. On each floor Ben and Donna and the freed Aneroan intellectuals snatched away the catechisms from under the noses of the studious citizens and threw them over the balcony to the floor far below. They started to pull copies of the ubiquitous book off the shelves and throw them over. The people sitting at the desks looked at them in horror at first, then, as if waking from a dream they stood and began to do the same. They moved down, floor by floor, throwing the copies of the catechisms over onto the mosaic of Knowledge Triumphing Over Ignorance. On each floor more people joined the rebellion. Even some of the guards were joining in, now. Those that didn’t, at least didn’t stand in their way. The spell had been broken, and the people were awakening to the reality of their situation.

By the time the Librarian and his guards reached the ground floor with The Doctor as their prisoner, there was a mountain of discarded catechisms.

“Burn them!” somebody cried out. “Burn them all.”

“No,” The Doctor answered. He stepped forward. He was no longer anyone’s prisoner. The guards didn’t even try to restrain him. “No, don’t do that. Get a lorry. Take them to the paper manufacturer. Have them recycled into better books, ones that are worth reading. Meanwhile… there is a treasure trove of literature and art and history down in the basement that you can put on the empty shelves. And a Head Librarian who is well past retirement age. Treat him kindly. He’s an old man. But he needn’t have any power over you all any more. And…”

“Where’s the other one?” Donna asked. “The other Librarian that was in charge up on the top floor?”

The Doctor looked around. Then he smiled and reached into his pocket. He adjusted his sonic screwdriver and pointed it. As he cancelled out the perception filter, The Librarian was immediately seen, trying to get out through the main door. He was pushed back by the mass of citizens who were trying to get in from outside. News of the rebellion inside the Great Library had spread. They had all brought their personal copies of the Catechism to add to the pile.

“I’m sorry,” The Librarian moaned as he was taken in hand by one of his former prisoners and one of the former guards. “I was just doing my job.”

The Doctor looked at him with a hard expression. He had heard that excuse on a thousand planets, from a thousand prison guards, torturers, executioners. It cut no ice with him any time. At least this revolution seemed nicely bloodless, so far. There was that much to be said for it.

He nodded to Ben and Donna. They followed him back up the stairs to where they left the TARDIS. They didn’t need a perception filter now. Nobody was paying them any attention at all. They were too busy taking their destinies into their own hands.

“Well, that was educational, don’t you think,” he said as he went to the console and initiated their dematerialisation. Donna and Ben sat on the sofa again. Ben picked up the book he had been learning to read. “Keep on learning,” The Doctor told him. “It’s worth it in the end. Don’t let that lot put you off.”

“I won’t, guv’nor,” Ben answered. “Just as long as nobody ever chains me to a desk and makes me read. And so long as I get to choose which book I read.”

“Good man,” The Doctor told him.