Ben and Donna would have liked to have asked The Doctor any number of questions, but he was too busy having a long, long and very animated discussion with a man wearing a gold robe and a turban with a huge ruby on top. He was doing so in a language that involved lots of very strange consonants and even stranger vowels and if they listened carefully, the TARDIS’s translation ‘service’ would have told them what was being said, but it was much easier not to bother. Listening felt like hard work. But it sounded rather pretty, and for a little while they had both just listened to the sounds of the words without worrying what was actually being said.

The language itself was something Donna would have liked to have asked The Doctor about, to say nothing of the planet and its people. The scenery they had viewed as The Doctor took the TARDIS in hover mode across a wide plain was spectacular. And so was the city they came to, a shining gem built of white stone and semi-precious materials. Every building had a spire or a tower or a dome made of shining colourful stuff, and that was before they reached the palace that overshadowed it all.

The plains, the city, the palace and especially the great banqueting hall where they sat now reminded Donna of India, even though she had never been to India. Opulent TV dramas set in the days of the ‘Raj’ came readily to mind. The floors were solid marble. The ceiling and walls were covered in silk hangings. The table was covered in fine cloth and the plates and cutlery were all pure gold. Ben had been amazed. Donna noticed him looking at his own reflection in a gold spoon and then putting it down guiltily as if he might have been accused of stealing it. Donna wondered if he might ever get over being thought of somebody who would steal spoons.

Would he get over thinking of himself as somebody who would steal spoons?

The food on the plates was magnificent, too. Donna came from a home where food wasn’t short, and her mother took pride in cooking gourmet meals that would impress her ‘Wednesday club’ friends. But the banquet set before them was impressive. There was a whole roasted ox, or something like an ox, anyway, and something like roasted suckling pigs with fruit in their mouths, although the pigs she knew on planet Earth didn’t have wings. There were baked pastries of all sorts and sorbets and fruit dishes. She resisted the urge to eat everything she could see. Ben, she noticed, ate heartily. He had probably never eaten his fill before he joined them in the TARDIS. The chance to take what he wanted of the best food going was not to be wasted.

The Doctor finally turned to his two companions. He raised a gold goblet of rather potent fermented fruit juices and toasted them.

“I found out why we were greeted so enthusiastically when we arrived here,” he said. “It’s a bit embarrassing, actually. For me, anyway.” He looked around to the raised dais where the TARDIS had been hauled by the palace servants. Garlands of golden flowers were festooned around it. The TARDIS as well as The Doctor and his friends was being treated as an honoured guest at the palace of Pangomiss.

“So… what is it all about?” Donna asked. “Why were they so excited to see us?”

Because they most certainly had been. When The Doctor actually landed the TARDIS outside the city gates he had expected to show his psychic paper to the guards and bluff his way into an invite to the palace. But by the time the three of them stepped out of the TARDIS, an honour guard of the sultan’s men, in red and blue silk and satin uniforms with polished gold breastplates and turbans with jewelled ornaments on top had formed up. They bowed to The Doctor and his friends and proceeded to escort them through the city streets where flower petals were scattered before them and they were cheered and lauded.

Ben and Donna had rather enjoyed the attention but they wondered what it was all about and were surprised when The Doctor didn’t know either. He suggested it was a case of mistaken identity.

But the name that was being called out by the cheering crowds was definitely ‘Doctor’.

“We’re going to see in a few minutes,” he said to Donna as he watched the palace servants rushing to ensure everything was ready for the Sultan and his guests. “Really, it is going to be terribly embarrassing. I don’t really look for this kind of thing, I really don’t.”

“What’s the matter, guv’nor?” Ben asked between mouthfuls of sliced roast meat coated with a spicy sauce and eaten with flat breadcakes.

“We’re about to be entertained with a story from the history of Pangomiss,” The Doctor answered.

“Well… that’s not so bad…” Ben said. “Is it?”

The Doctor grimaced and drank from his goblet. He ate a little more of the food and sat back in his chair. Everyone was sitting back, now, though the food and drink were still in front of them if they wished to eat. Ben was one of those who took advantage of the offer. The dais where the TARDIS was so proudly sitting was extended out left and right and in front, and a troupe of musicians took up positions in front of the TARDIS. They had the sort of musical instruments that, again, Donna would associate with India. One of them looked and sounded like a sitar. At least as far as she knew what a sitar looked or sounded like. The music the little band made was the sort associated with those films called ‘Bollywood’. Then a troupe of dancers bounded onto the stage and performed a complicated dance that was obviously meant to form the prologue to the story that was going to be told. It was colourful and exciting and Donna thought it couldn’t be as bad as The Doctor thought it was.

Then she gasped in astonishment. So did Ben, as something was carried on stage by the dancers. It was a three dimensional papier mache model of the TARDIS. It was nearly as big as the real thing, with the detail perfect, from the little frosted windows to the light on top and the police public call box signs around the top. Even the notice on the phone box cupboard had been copied.

It was obvious from the way it was carried that there was somebody inside. The model TARDIS was carefully raised above the heads of the dancers and carried around the stage several times.

“It’s flying,” Ben whispered. “The TARDIS is flying… I mean… that’s what they’re showing us. The TARDIS flying.”

“Yes, it is,” Donna agreed. “Flying through space and time. That’s what the dancers are trying to show us with those swirling ribbony things.”

“Yes, they are,” The Doctor said. “It’s a very good representation of it. Very clever. I must have explained about the vortex to somebody here. Or somebody from this place came into the TARDIS and travelled in the vortex and told the rest of them all about it.”

“But how?” Donna asked. “You said you’ve never been here before…”

“I haven’t,” he answered. “Never in my life. I didn’t even plan to come here. Ben chose the co-ordinates at random. And he got one of those wrong. He still gets mixed up between 6 and 9 even on a keyboard where the digits are sequential.”


“Let’s watch the show,” The Doctor said. “And see what transpires.”

The ersatz TARDIS was materialising. It did so by turning around and around above the heads of six dancers who gradually lowered it to the ground. Then the music came to a crescendo and stopped altogether as the dancers prostrated themselves around the door. The silence lengthened before the papier mache door opened and a man stepped out. He was wearing something that, while not exactly a brown pinstripe suit, managed to remind everyone of a brown pinstripe suit. It was a long robe of brown fabric with pinstripes painted onto it in very fine gold lines. There was a ‘v’ of white with a brown strip down the middle sewn under the dancer’s chin. That represented a shirt and tie. And he wore a cloak in the same tan colour as The Doctor’s favourite overcoat. His feet were bare, as were all the dancers, but covered in a red chalky substance and white lines painted across them like The Doctor’s rubber soled lace up trainers.

Donna and Ben both risked a glance at the real Doctor. He was keeping a straight face, but only just. He almost lost his cool altogether as the dancer stepped forward and held up a short stick in his hand that looked just like the sonic screwdriver if you really used your imagination and were prepared to suspend disbelief.

The Doctor said nothing. He was watching the performance carefully. Donna turned her attention back to the stage and almost fell off her chair in shock.

The faux TARDIS door had been closed again. Now the faux Doctor turned and opened it and a female dancer stepped out. He took her hand and they danced around the stage before bowing together. Donna by that time was considering crawling under the table, because it was quite obvious that the female was meant to be HER. The dress the dancer was wearing was very much like the one she was actually wearing right now, a loose fitting, pale blue silk-cotton suitable for the dry heat of Pangomiss. The dancer had a waistline Donna would have died for, but the red wig and painted on freckles were unmistakable.

Then Ben stared open mouthed as the faux TARDIS opened up again to reveal a character that was clearly himself. He was utterly speechless. Donna reached out her hand to him in sympathy. There was something so very strange about watching actors on a stage who were caricatures of themselves. Donna watched the female move and knew that she had actually got her almost exactly right in an exaggerated way.

It was like watching a spitting image puppet of herself.

Ben didn’t have any cultural reference to go by at all. He just stared as the three actors danced together, miming friendship and companionship with lots of exaggerated handshakes and hugs – between the Donna character and The Doctor character and Donna’s character and Ben, anyway. Ben and The Doctor had never hugged.

Then the ‘Doctor’ appeared to notice the prostrate figures for the first time. He walked among them, reaching out to touch them one by one. Finding them unresponsive, he pointed his sonic screwdriver at them. Still there was no response. A sweeping gesture from him explained his bewilderment at finding people lying at his feet in this way.

“Oh,” Donna murmured. “Are they dead? Did something happen? Oh, Doctor!”

On stage, the pretend Donna mimed something similar. The pretend Ben looked horrified in an exaggerated, caricature way that mirrored Ben’s actual face just now. But it wasn’t because there appeared to be dead people on stage, but because he still couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor whispered in reply to her question. “All I know is that the three of us are legendary on this planet for doing something amazing. Just what it is, I’m not sure yet.”

“But… guv’nor…” Ben was the one who pointed out the obvious. “I have never been here before. I’ve only been with you for a month. How could I have done anything? How do these people know me?”

That was what was worrying him. He didn’t know he was so easily read. He couldn’t understand how he could be portrayed by somebody who didn’t look anything like him, but mirrored and exaggerated his walk, the way he held his head, his way of moving his arms. He was mortified by the idea.

“None of us have ever been here,” Donna added. “I don’t understand.”

“I do,” The Doctor said. “At least, I think I do. Just… watch the play. See if you can work it out for yourself.”

Donna would really have liked somebody to just explain what was going on in plain, simple language with not too many long words. But that was the trouble with being with The Doctor. He didn’t do that. He made her think for herself, work things out. And he was doing it now. But between all the food and the fermented fruit juice and the music and dancing, her head was buzzing. She wasn't sure she was up to it this time.

She gave her attention to the play. The ‘Doctor’ and his friends were all desperately trying to get the prostrate dancers to stand up. The scene almost looked like slapstick comedy as they ran around lifting up limp bodies and manipulating their arms and legs but unable to make them stand up. They fell right down again when they were let go. There was laughter all around from the Pangomissans. Ben risked a short laugh when he saw his character propping a dancer up against the faux TARDIS and getting frustrated that it wouldn’t stand up. Donna laughed a little at the deliberately comic elements. But then she saw The Doctor’s face. He wasn’t even smiling. He was sitting forward, his elbows on the table, his hands together next to his mouth almost like somebody praying. He was deep in thought, and murmuring quietly. Donna leaned closer and listened to what he was saying.

“Unresponsive to stimuli… floppy limbs… could be meningitis… possibly narcolepsy… even hypoxia…”

He was actually trying to diagnose the cause of the problem his fake counterpart was puzzling over on stage. Donna’s first thought was that he was being silly. Her second was that he was being absolutely magnificent. Because she thought she had an idea just what was going on now. She had managed to work it out. And that made what he was doing right now absolutely fantastic.

“You can help them, Doctor,” she whispered. “You will help them. You DID help them.”

She whispered it quietly, not really expecting him to hear her. But his eyes turned towards her and he reached out one hand and touched hers, and he smiled.

“Yes, I’ll help them,” he said. “We all will. ” He glanced at the stage and shook his head, smiling wryly. “We don’t actually, have any choice. We HAVE to help them. Ohh, I hate temporal paradoxes.”

Donna only vaguely understood what a temporal paradox was, mainly because she was piecing together what was happening here and this seemed to be a practical demonstration of one of them. She turned back to the stage.

There was a scene change. This was done very prettily by dancers bringing the scenery in sections onto the stage in a chorus line. It depicted the city they were in. By moving the dancers around they demonstrated The Doctor and his companions walking through the city, finding more and more people lying on the ground, and being unable to wake any of them.

The scenery again changed and this time it was obvious that The Doctor and friends had reached the palace and found a throne room full of people, including a ‘sultan’ with a fake ruby in his turban who was slumped on his gold foil and wood throne.

“Everyone is dead?” Ben looked troubled even though the play was obviously non-naturalistic. “Even the king?”

“No,” The Doctor assured him. “I don’t think they are dead. It’s more complicated than that. At least… I hope it is. No, they couldn’t be dead.”

“Sleeping Beauty,” Donna said. “You know… the whole city sent to sleep by the wicked witch so that…” She stopped. “No, that’s stupid, isn’t it? That can’t really happen, can it? Doctor… Sleeping Beauty isn’t real, surely?”

“Not exactly,” The Doctor answered. “But wicked witches and enchantments… magic is just a way of explaining sciences that primitive people aren’t ready to understand. It’s a possibility… I won’t know until…”

He broke off tantalisingly and gave his attention to the play again. Donna wished he would have said more. But she knew it would all make sense eventually. She just had to be patient.

On stage, the ‘Doctor’ wrung his hands in despair in an exaggerated way and then raised them in a sweeping gesture. He and his friends danced a new dance in which they were clearly promising to find an answer to the mystery, and then set off, arm in arm, back through the city of moving scenery again.

“Oh dear, that looks a bit too much like following the yellow brick road to Oz,” The Doctor said. “But I’ll let it pass. As long as you don’t ever catch me wanting to link arms with you both as we go on our merry way.”

The dancing threesome came back presently to the faux TARDIS. The ‘Doctor’ lifted one of the prostrate ‘victims’ and carried the limp form into the TARDIS. His companions did the same, stepping inside with another sleeping beauty each. If you suspended disbelief and didn’t noticed the actors all slipping out through a flap in the back, you could imagine that it was bigger on the inside and now contained six people. The dancers again mimed the TARDIS taking off into the air and six of them carried it high above their heads, while the others waved coloured streamers behind it. They jumped down from the stage and took the fake TARDIS on a journey right around the banqueting hall itself. As it passed, everyone turned and tried to touch it, their faces illuminating with joy when they did. It was almost as if they considered the TARDIS to be a religious icon and that they would be somehow blessed or healed by touching it.

“The REAL TARDIS might well do that,” The Doctor admitted. “Artron energy in small doses would invigorate humanoids. Kill them stone dead if they had too much, but if you hugged the TARDIS for a half an hour or so it would be as good as having a spa bath. Not, that I want that to be commonly known” he added. “I don’t want to have to scrape people off the exterior every time I want to dematerialise!”

Donna laughed and watched as the ‘miraculous’ TARDIS completed its tour of the banqueting hall and returned to the stage. It was set down in front of the real TARDIS as the band and chorus sang a song that almost sounded like the sound of the TARDIS materialising. The door opened. The ‘Doctor’ stepped out, carrying a sphere about the size of a football. Then the formerly limp and unconscious dancers sprang out and began to dance for joy. The actors playing Donna and Ben stepped out of the TARDIS and joined the ‘Doctor’ and they set about attending to the other prostrate figures. The Doctor waved the ‘football’ near each of the figures and they sprang to life and joined in the dance of joy. They followed behind the ‘Doctor’ and friends as they linked arms and danced their way back to the palace, waking everyone in the city until they came to the Sultan’s throne room where they revived him, too. Then everyone joined in with a final triumphant dance in which the ‘Doctor’, ‘Donna’ and ‘Ben’ were raised high on the shoulders of the others and the faux TARDIS, too, was brought into the celebrations.

And that was it. The actors all bowed joyfully and then one by one stepped into the fake TARDIS and out the back flap as they quietly exited the stage. The fake Doctor was the last to go, smiling and bowing as if he was the real thing but with his modesty circuits disengaged. Then the chorus carried the faux TARDIS away and the band ended with a flourish and took their leave.

The Sultan and his guests all cheered and clapped as the performers came back to the stage and took a curtain call. Then the performers all stepped forward and clapped and applauded the real Doctor and his companions as they sat, half dumbfounded and fully embarrassed. The Doctor stood and shook hands with the actor who had played him and said something to him that nobody else heard. But the actor himself was so overawed by his personal interaction with somebody he clearly regarded as an icon, that he nearly had to be carried off again.

“Well, wasn't that something,” The Doctor said as he took his seat again and a more mundane troupe of dancing girls in scanty costumes took to the stage. The drinking and feasting was set to continue by the looks of things. And The Doctor knew there was no polite way the three of the could leave without insulting the Sultan and his entourage, which was a thing he had no intention of doing. He knew very well that sultans were the sort of people who could laud you as a hero one moment then order your head cut off the next for nothing more than eating a grape in the wrong manner. He wasn’t about to risk upsetting this one right now.

Besides, he needed to find out a few more things. He attracted the attention of a man he knew to be the Sultan’s astrologer, a very important position in the court and had a long conversation with him in that peculiar language that Ben and Donna tuned out of while they had their own conversation.

“It’s simple when you think about it,” Donna was saying to Ben as The Doctor chattered on, twisting his tongue around Pangomissan polysyllables. “All of that happened in the past here on Pangomiss. But it hasn’t happened for us yet. We saw a play about something we… you, me and The Doctor, are going to do in the future. Maybe the very near future. It has to be, because we’re with him. And I was only supposed to sign up to spend a year as his secretary. And we’ve never really decided how long you’re going to be with us. But it’s got to be soon.”

“I think I understand,” Ben said. “So… the Guv’nor’s trying to find out more, to make it easy for us to do it… when it happens. So that…” Ben’s face twisted as the enormity of the paradox hit him. The three of them were now destined to land on this planet in the past, find the people in some kind of distressed situation, and solve their problem so that, when they arrived here, now, they would be treated as heroes and given this feast at which they would see a play all about the heroic deeds they hadn’t yet done.

Donna and Ben gave up thinking about it and had some more food and drink while they waited for permission to leave the table.

Unfortunately for them, that didn’t happen until almost dawn the following morning. The Sultan obviously believed that feasting his guests until the sun came up was a way of doing them honour. By the time he finally dismissed the company and The Doctor and companions were able to head for the TARDIS, they were exhausted. The Doctor looked at Ben and Donna as he set the drive control to take them into temporal orbit around Pangomiss. They were holding each other up. Donna’s head rested on Ben’s shoulder, and if his arm wasn’t around her, he would have fallen down with exhaustion coupled with just a bit too much fermented fruit juice and rich food.

“We have a task to fulfil,” he said. “But not just yet. You two need rest. More than rest. Come on with me.”

He led them through the inner corridor of the TARDIS, beyond where even Donna had gone very often. Neither of them could have found their way back to the console room, considering their sorry state. The Doctor threw open a set of double doors and they stepped into a room that had all the dimensions and grandeur of a cathedral, but obviously wasn’t a cathedral. It had a high, vaulted roof and directly opposite the doors where they came in was a great round window with a design that seemed oddly familiar to both of The Doctor’s companions. What must have been artificial sunlight threw the pattern onto the smooth floor at the bottom of the wide stairs where they stood taking it all in. Beyond that was a strange looking thing like a well, but with a cover over it that looked like it shouldn’t be messed with. At the four corners of it were elaborately carved poles or staffs, the purpose of which neither Donna nor Ben could have begun to guess even if they felt more alert.

“The Cloister Room,” The Doctor said. “The real heart of the TARDIS. You know how I was saying about small amounts of artron energy revitalising humans… A couple of hours sleep in here will feel better than a week in bed. And neither of you will have a hangover from all that fermented fruit juice.”

“Sleep on what?” Donna asked. She didn’t see where The Doctor produced two big cushions from, but he placed them within the pattern of light from that window and told them both to lie down. Lying on the floor with just a cushion under her head didn’t seem like a way of getting a good night’s sleep to Donna, but to her surprise, it actually felt good lying there.

“It’s like being in the sauna,” she said. “Only… not hot, and I’m not in a towel.”

Ben didn’t know what a sauna was, and he very carefully tried not to remember that Donna was wearing a towel the first time he set eyes on her. He had slept rough more often than he had slept in a bed and the clean, smooth floor of the Cloister Room counted as luxury to him.

As his two Human friends dropped to sleep, The Doctor knelt in the centre of the Seal of Rassilon symbol formed by the light patterns on the floor. He cleared his mind of every concern, including how he was going to deal with the Pangomiss Paradox. He, too, would be better able to deal with it once he had overcome the effects of too much fermented fruit juice. Time Lords weren’t usually affected by alcohol. He had never actually been drunk in his entire long, eventful life, though he had pretended to be when the occasion called for it. But there was something in the fermentation process the Pangomissans used that actually came close to getting him that way.


In any case, when he opened his eyes again after several hours in deep, dreamless meditative trance, he felt invigorated. He almost bounced to his feet and didn’t even feel stiff from kneeling for so long. He reached and touched Ben’s shoulder and he woke quickly. He stood up and stretched his limbs as The Doctor woke Donna.

“I should ache in every bone in my body,” she said. “I usually do when I go camping… like I used to with gramps, years ago. But I feel fine.”

“Told you,” The Doctor said. “Anyway, are you ready to come and rescue the Pangomissans from a terrible fate?”

They were. They followed The Doctor back through to the console room and obeyed his instructions as he set a very precise time co-ordinate.

“Time was,” The Doctor said. “I could never have got the TARDIS to behave this well. It would take me just about anywhere but where I wanted to go. But she’s much better calibrated now. And I gleaned enough information from the Royal Astrologer to know exactly when their problem began. The Sultan who was affected was the present Sultan’s grandfather, incidentally. He wasn’t born at the time. But the story was carefully and fully recorded in the annals of Pangomiss. Generations of Royal Astrologers kept careful note of the alignment of planets and stars and the information allows me to pinpoint the exact date and time when the whole of Pangomiss was put under the ‘sleeping spell’ – for want of a better word for it.”

“Clever clogs,” Donna said. Ben’s eyes had started to glaze over with the first sentence. Anyway, The Doctor gave a wide grin and looked at the viewscreen. They were still in temporal orbit, but had travelled back in time to the reign of the Sultan’s grandfather.

“What’s that?” Ben asked, pointing to the screen as the view slowly revolved away from the planet to reveal a spaceship in the same synchronous orbit as the TARDIS. It was a long cigar shaped ship with no obvious bulkhead doors or cockpit windows. But that didn’t surprise The Doctor. He had seen just about every sort of space ship in his life. Some he recognised more easily than others.

He knew this one by reputation, at least. He began to understand what was going on.

“We can deal with the planet later,” The Doctor said. “We need to get onto that ship, first. It will be shielded. The landing will be bumpy.”

Even Ben knew what to expect now. He grabbed a handhold. So did Donna. They were ready to be thrown about as The Doctor forced the TARDIS through the shields that were meant to make it impossible for anyone to transmat aboard that ship, and certainly not to materialise anything like the TARDIS within it.

“That wasn’t too bad,” they both agreed as they let go of the handholds. “Now what?”

“Now, you stay here, Donna, while Ben and I go out there and sort some alien troublemakers. And don’t give me that look. There ARE some jobs that are best left to men. Especially men who know how to be stealthy. That’s Ben and me. So just… please… for once in my life, do as I ask and stay out.”

Donna gave him a whole series of ‘looks’ but she obeyed his instructions. There was something rather creepy about the inside of this ship, anyway. She wasn’t sure she wanted to go out into it. But she had to make a show of protest in the name of feminism.

“Donna isn’t happy with you, guv’nor,” Ben whispered as he and The Doctor moved silently down the corridor from the cargo hold where the TARDIS materialised towards the bridge.

“She’ll get over it. Seriously, there is nothing she can do here. She’s safer aboard the TARDIS. We can do what has to be done here.”

“So what’s your plan, guv’nor?”

The Doctor didn’t exactly have a plan. He was hoping to get lucky. And for once in his life, it happened. He got lucky. Twice. First, he and Ben were lucky when they heard heavy footsteps coming towards them and the door marked supply cupboard opened. Second, when the aliens decided to stand by the half opened door to discuss their plans.

“Are the holding pens ready for transferring the slave stock?” asked one of the grey-green reptile skinned bipeds.

“They are,” the other replied. “These humanoids require a higher concentration of oxygen in their air than our own species. I shall arrange for the environmental controls in the pens to be adjusted.”

“No. Let them learn to breathe harder,” the first said. “When they are working in the silicose mines on the Drathig homeworld they will not have the luxury of a controlled environment. Have the humanoids been rendered insensible?”

“The entire population of the planet will be fully unconscious in three minutes. Then the transfer to the holding pens can begin.”

“Excellent. This planet is rich in mineral wealth. It shall be catalogued for future exploitation.”

The two aliens moved on. The Doctor grinned at Ben.

“Talk about exposition,” he said. “Now we know what it’s all about. The Drathig are known throughout the galaxy for preying on small, helpless communities and enslaving them. The life expectancy of a humanoid in those silicose mines… they’re expendable. New stock is easily found… on planets like Pangomiss.”

“What are you going to do, guv’nor?”

“Only one thing I can do,” he answered. “The one thing I don’t do… at least not very often… come on…”

“Come on, where?”

“To the power core. I need to blow up the ship.”

“What…” Ben was appalled. “But… Guv’nor…” Ben looked at him with an almost hurt expression, as if The Doctor had let him down somehow. “That’s why you made Donna stay in the TARDIS. You knew she would be appalled at… at… they may be alien beasts… but it’s still murder. I never… I never thought you were a killer, Guv’nor. I thought… I’ve never… I’m a thief… but I’ve never… I mean… sometimes you have to knock a man on his head to make a clean getaway… but killing…”

The Doctor said nothing. He checked the corridor and then began to run. Regardless of his qualms about The Doctor’s intentions, Ben had run with him, keeping up with him easily as he reached the power core.

That was a simple description of a room that glowed and hummed with alien energy.

“Is this safe?” Ben asked him.

“No,” The Doctor replied. “It’s dangerous stuff. It’d kill you in minutes. You stay outside and keep watch. If any Drathig turn up… they have a weakness… hit them square on the bridge of the nose and they drop like flies…” He saw Ben’s hesitant expression. “It knocks them out long enough for a ‘clean getaway’,” he added.

“I was hoping not to get that close to any of them,” Ben answered. “But I’ll do what can for you, Guv’nor.”

The Doctor nodded and stepped into the energy core. He had a minute to do what he had to do to turn the radioactive power source that fed the engines into a means of destroying the ship. His Time Lord body could absorb a minute’s worth of radiation without long term harm. He worked quickly. He could feel the radiation on his flesh. But he could also hear the change in the engine sound. The reversed polarity was already having an effect.

He stepped out of the core. Ben was standing there with two unconscious Drathig at his feet. The Doctor adjusted his sonic screwdriver and used it to revive them. They looked startled.

“Your ship is going to implode in ten minutes,” he said. “That’s just enough time for you to launch your emergency lifepods. When you finally arrive back at the homeworld, tell your leaders to stay away from this space quadrant. If I hear you’ve tried to enslave any other race of people, you’ll answer to me.”

The two Drathigs looked at him and, for a moment he thought his usual air of authority had failed and they had just seen a skinny humanoid in a badly pressed suit trying it on. Then they jumped up and ran away. The Drathig were all running, now, trying to reach their emergency lifepod stations. They were too desperate to bother The Doctor and Ben as they headed back to the TARDIS.

“Guv’nor…” Ben said as The Doctor closed the TARDIS door behind them. “I… was wrong… you don’t mean to kill them…”

“Kill… of course not,” The Doctor replied. “They’ll have a miserable time of it, drifting back to their home quadrant in lifepods. But they’ll live.” He looked at Donna. She had been clearly worried by the emergency sirens and panic within the ship, but now The Doctor and Ben were back she was all right.

“You were testing me?” Ben asked. “To see if my loyalty to you…”

“I don’t expect anyone to put loyalty to me before their own conscience, Ben,” The Doctor told him. “For the record… I have killed… sometimes with my bare hands. It’s been necessary, sometimes, to do what is against my very nature in order to assure the greater good. But in any given situation, if I can choose to save lives, even the lives of my enemy, I will do so. And… be assured, I would never ask you, or anyone who travels with me, to do what I would not do myself.”

“I understand, Guv’nor,” Ben answered him solemnly.

“Ok!” The Doctor’s serious expression changed to a wide grin. “This ship is going to make some pretty lights in the Pangomiss sky in three minutes time. The Royal Astrologer would be dead excited about portents and signs if he wasn’t unconscious. Let’s go wake him up.”

The TARDIS materialised just outside the city gate. The Doctor, Ben and Donna stepped out and looked around sadly. Even though they knew what was going on, now, and they all knew this story had a happy ending, it was distressing to see the people all slumped on the ground, men, women, children, limp and unresponsive to everything The Doctor and his friends did to try to wake them.

“We’re not going to waste time frolicking through the city like the play had us doing,” The Doctor concluded. “They’re all in comas induced by a sonic disruption field introduced into their atmosphere.”

“You can help them?” Donna asked. “You can, can’t you? You did in the play…”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “Yes, I can.” He lifted the nearest Pangomissan and carried him into the TARDIS. Donna and Ben remembered what happened in the play and did the same. With their unconscious victims they followed The Doctor through the TARDIS all the way to the cloister room where they had spent those blissful hours. When he put his victim down on the floor within the pool of light from the fake window, they did the same. Then they watched as he went to that strange looking well and pulled on one of the elaborately carved poles. The well cover opened and the room became brighter. Donna edged closer. She looked into the well. It contained something that looked a bit like mercury, fluid and continuously moving. But emitting its own iridescent light.

“It’s called the Eye of Harmony,” The Doctor said, even though she hadn’t asked. “It’s a tiny fragment of a neutron star. So small you could hold it in your fist… except it would burn your arm off if you tried. It’s the lifeblood of the TARDIS. It also used to be a telekinetic link back to the Matrix on Gallifrey. But now it’s self contained within my TARDIS. Pure artron energy. You don’t want to fall it in, I can tell you. Dangerous if misused. But… small doses…”

“Small doses invigorate humans… yeah, you said. But what….” Then she turned around and looked at the three Pangomissans lying on the Cloister Room floor. “Oh… right…”

“Bit of a boost… they should wake up in a few moments, nicely refreshed, and beautifully calm and peaceful.”

As he spoke, the three people woke up. They were puzzled by their surroundings, but not worried. They seemed quite healthy.

“Can’t bring them all in here, though, Guv’nor,” Ben pointed out. The whole city…”

“No, we can’t,” The Doctor agreed. “That’s why…” He turned back to the well and waved his hands over it as if casting a spell. It was what the three Pangomissans thought, anyway, when they saw a glowing ball of the energy rise up and spin in the air above his hands. He walked away, holding out his hands, and it moved with him. He led the three Pangomissans and his two companions out of the Cloister Room and through the TARDIS, through the console room and out onto the plain in front of the Sultan’s great golden city. He bent with the glowing ball towards each of the people lying on the road and even close proximity to the ball made them wake up. He set off into the city, using the ball to rouse everyone he found. The revived people followed him as he made his way to the palace.

Of course, he roused the Sultan and his entourage, and explained to them what had happened in the very simplest terms. He was lauded as the saviour of Pangomiss. The first three victims to be revived told about the strange blue box and it was sent for so that the people could pay homage to that, too.

“There must be loads of others, yet,” Donna pointed out. That only revived the ones we could see. What about the rest?”

“They were meant to wake in about twenty-four hours, anyway,” The Doctor pointed out. “By which time they would be manacled prisoners in a space ship with barely enough oxygen to sustain them, of course. I could leave them to be cared for by their own. Or… one more spectacular gesture.” He held the ball of light up high and it flew away from his hands, almost faster than the eye could see. Released from his hold, it would fly up into the atmosphere and disperse in this planet’s equivalent of the Van Allen Belt. Not only would that rouse anyone still under the baneful influence, but the residual energy should remain there for at least half a million years with any luck. Should the Drathig have any ideas about coming here again, their sonic disruption field wouldn’t work. They would have to invade the old fashioned way and fight the locals on their own terms, at which point they ought to find that the Sultan’s Guard were useful as well as ceremonial with swords capable of slicing even a tough reptile head clean off in a microsecond.

Of course, there was a banquet to celebrate the heroic deeds of The Doctor, Ben and Donna. The TARDIS was placed on a raised dais in the banqueting hall and festooned with golden garlands. They were all festooned with golden garlands. And more besides. In the small hours of the morning, when they stepped into the TARDIS and The Doctor gave the Sultan and his people one last surprise by dematerialising it right before their eyes, Ben and Donna both admired the jewels they had been given as gifts from the grateful Pangomissans.

“Let me see,” The Doctor said taking a soft red coloured jewel from Ben’s unprotesting hands. He shuffled in his pocket and produced one of those magnifiers that jewellers held screwed up to their eye to examine their wares. “Yes. That’s a magnificent red diamond. Must be a good inch and a half across, weighs…” Donna and Ben both got slightly lost in his calculations of weight and carats, lustre and other details.

“It’s worth a lot?” Donna asked as he gave the diamond back to Ben.

“Put it safe in your room, Ben,” The Doctor told him. “You don’t want to have that taken by pickpockets. When the time comes for you to leave the TARDIS and make a start for yourself, I’ll make sure you go to the right people to give you the best price for it. And whatever age you choose to live in, whatever planet, you won’t need to worry about working for a living.”

Ben looked as if he might fall over in surprise.

“What about this one?” Donna asked, holding up a similarly sized white-blue jewel. The Doctor appraised it. His advice to her was the same. Plus one other injunction.

“Don’t let your mother ever find out what this is worth,” he said. “She won’t be able to stand the shock.”

“But… we did nothing,” Ben pointed out. “Is it right to take something so valuable?”

The Doctor smiled at Ben. He fully appreciated the irony that the former thief should question the morality of accepting such a gift.

“It’s right. You deserve it. Think no more about it. Now… do you want to risk choosing another random destination or will you both trust me to pick somewhere exciting to visit?”