“This is very strange,” The Doctor said as he looked at the data on the TARDIS console.

“What’s up?” Alec asked as he came around the console and looked at what The Doctor was looking at. At first it seemed just meaningless figures but as he read it he realised it was data about the planet. “Sentient lifesigns 2,000…. For the whole planet? Is that right?”

“It shouldn’t be,” The Doctor answered. “The TARDIS database has this as a moderately populated advanced civilisation. They called it Arcadia Novo.”

“Arcadia… as in a place of unspoiled beauty and ideal civilisation?” Jasmin asked. “Nice. I could live with some of that for a while.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “I could, too. But this isn’t right. There should be more people here, living the good life. Eating grapes, philosophising, writing poetry, singing songs….”

“Can we go and look for them?” Wyn asked. “I don’t know why it is, but I always feel as if not going out when we’re on a planet is a wasted opportunity.”

“It’s that potentially fatal old Human disease,” The Doctor told them. “Curiosity.”

“Yeah, well, you have it, too,” Wyn countered. “You can never keep your nose out of anything.”

“I know. That’s the Human in me. My people were never curious about anything.” The Doctor stepped lightly back from the console and grabbed his coat from where he had left it casually hanging over the safety rail. “Come on then, let’s explore.”

It was an absolutely beautiful planet. Everyone agreed as they stood on a grassy plain by a fast flowing river and looked up and down stream. Upstream it just seemed to go on forever, glinting in the sunlight. Downstream the view was blocked by a stone bridge that spanned the river gracefully.

“Do we go across?” Wyn asked.

“That bridge looks like it hasn’t been crossed for decades,” Alec pointed out as they got closer to it. They could see that the balustrades were crumbling and there were gaps in the stonework of the span. Light dappled the darker water beneath the bridge where the holes showed right through.

“Across?” The Doctor repeated. “I think not. Nobody could accuse me of being a coward but… no.”

Nobody was accusing him of any such thing. They were too busy agreeing with him.

“It’s only a footbridge. Look. There are steps down to it.” They all saw where Jasmin pointed. The steps, too, looked overgrown and in a state of disrepair. But they looked as if they would go somewhere. When they stood at the bottom and looked up they all felt sure there was something at the top of the steps.

“Onwards and upwards then,” The Doctor said and led the way. He took a steady pace, allowing his Human friends to keep up with him. Granted all of them had benefited from the healthy exercise they got nearly every day with him. Wyn was no longer the fat girl who spent her evenings in her bedroom eating chocolate and watching TV. She usually spent them practicing martial arts in the dojo or, if she was at rest, it would be with her guitar or playing chess with Alec or Jasmin. And although she still tended to patronise the vending machine in the corridor by the engine room it wasn’t doing her as much harm as it used to do. She was almost alongside him and not even out of breath.

Jasmin was trailing, not so much because she was unfit as because she had looked back once and lost her nerve and was now taking each step very slowly and hugging the balustrade tightly. The Doctor stopped and let Wyn take the lead as he watched Jasmin’s progress, coaxed along by Alec who assured her there was nothing to be afraid of.

“Slipping all the way back down is something to be afraid of,” she responded. “I’d break my back.”

“I’m sure The Doctor could fix it if you did.”

“No, I can’t,” he said. “Broken backs are serious in any era of history I’ve ever been to, so you take care, Jasmin. All of you take care.”

All the same, when she finally reached him he put his hand on her slightly perspiring forehead and radiated calm and self-assurance until she was able to take the steps with a little more confidence. He took up the rear, keeping a watch on them all as they climbed.

“It didn’t seem as LONG when we started,” Wyn complained. And she was right, though it wasn’t anything sinister about relative dimensions that made it so. Rather the fact that the steps were a trompe l'oeil. Every twenty steps or so there was a wide platform and the next set of steps were set further back. From the bottom it looked like a continuous staircase. When you started to climb it turned out to be a series of stairs, nearly twice as long as it first appeared.

“It must have looked lovely when it was clean and nice,” Jasmin commented. “There used to be ornaments on the balustrades. You can see where they have all broken off.”

“Were you here before, Doctor?” Alec asked him. “Do you know how it was supposed to look?”

“No,” he answered. “I’ve never been here. Perfect societies don’t really interest me. I’ve tried a few and they always turn out to be imperfect after all. There’s usually some nasty little secret underneath.”

“How do you mean?” Jasmin asked.

“Well, think about it. What would be your idea of perfection?”

“I don’t know. Something like the old pictures of maharajah’s palaces with everyone lying on silken beds around fountains of wine, eating grapes and listening to poetry or music,” she suggested.

“Ok, pretty - if you’re one of the people lying on the bed. But who picks the grapes? Who changes the silken beds when they get manky from grape juice being dribbled all over them?”

“I don’t know. The servants, I suppose.”

“So it's not that perfect for them, is it? They work while the rich sods lie around eating grapes. One man’s luxury is another man’s slavery.”

“I see your point.”

They walked on up the apparently endless steps.

“Remind me why we’re doing this?” Alec commented once. “Why are we hauling our bods up these steps?”

“Because they’re THERE,” The Doctor replied with a laugh. “It’s that same disease of curiosity that brought us out of the TARDIS where we were safe and warm and our legs weren’t aching. Once we found these steps we HAD to climb them.”

“There’d better be a refreshment stand at the top, and a place where you can buy t-shirts that say ‘I climbed the endless steps of Arcadia-Nova,” Wyn commented. “And if they give me any excuses about not having the large sizes I’ll kick the stall in.”

“Wyn’s perfect society is one where sizeism is punishable by law,” Alec commented.

“Too bloody right,” Wyn responded.

“I’d settle for the refreshment stand,” Jasmin said.

There wasn’t one, of course. They stood at the top of the steps at last and tried NOT to look back down and see the decrepit bridge looking very small in the distance. They looked ahead, instead, down the long, wide, boulevard. There were trees spaced out at intervals and beyond the trees was what had once been a landscaped garden.

“It must have been as lovely as Versailles once,” Jasmin said. “I went there once. It’s totally breathtaking.”

“Yeah,” The Doctor agreed. “Versailles has lovely gardens.” There was a strange catch in his voice when he said that. Everyone looked at him expectantly, knowing there must be a story behind that comment, but he said nothing more. He strode towards the nearest tree and reached up to pluck a fruit from among the leaves. He bit it cautiously and seemed to be analysing the taste with all the concentration of a wine connoisseur.

“Refreshment stand after all,” he announced with a grin. “I’m not ENTIRELY sure what they’re called. But they look like peaches and taste like a cross between an orange and a banana, would you believe?”

They didn’t believe it, but they picked fruits for themselves and sat on the rather overgrown grass verge to rest and enjoy their unexpected refreshment.

“You know you were saying about perfect societies,” Wyn said after a while. “Has nobody in the universe ever managed it? Like, nobody ever managed to get it right, so that nobody was poor and nobody was ever overworked and put upon and everyone could do as they pleased?”

“No,” he said. “I used to think… when I first left my home planet and travelled among the stars with Susan… that if I COULD find a place that was genuinely enlightened that way, I might stay there and make it my base of operations for sorting out the rest of the universe. But every apparently perfect place I found, every last one, was flawed in some way. USUALLY in just the way I mentioned before. The ease of living of a few was supported by the burden of the many.”

“So who managed to get closest?” Alec asked. “In your experience?”

“Well, it might sound a bit corny,” he answered. “But I honestly think my own people weren’t far off as far as social equality was concerned. In theory at least we WERE a meritocracy. Everyone was entitled to an equal chance. Granted there was never a Caretaker class member of the High Council, but I did meet a few who had risen in the civil services, that sort of thing.”

“Caretaker class?”

“The highest born in our society were the Oldbloods,” he said. “Twelve Houses in all who were reputed to have been sired by our Creator himself, Rassilon. They are our aristocracy. Then there were the Newblood Houses. They were like your industrial rich of Earth – the people who made their fortune from the cotton mills and bought up mansions and copied the manners of those born to the high life. We had a couple of sub-sects, too. There were several orders of meditative brotherhoods and sisterhoods who lived up the mountains or in great closed communities and practiced contemplation. And we used to have a warrior class, too. A bit like the Japanese Samurai, I suppose. Generally the second or third sons of Oldblood houses would become warriors. We stopped doing that ten thousand years ago or so. We never fought any wars so there was no need for warriors.”

“And the Caretakers?”

“Well, they were the working class. They were the ones who did all the jobs the Oldbloods and the Newbloods never would do. But…” He caught the looks all around. He knew what they were all thinking. “No, it wasn’t like that. There was no poverty. Caretakers had good homes and plenty to eat, and they had the opportunity to better themselves if they chose. It wasn’t easy for them, I grant you that. The Academies were hard places for anyone who didn’t fit in. And if you didn’t fit in you had to be strong-willed and thick-skinned and prepared to hit your head against a brick wall of age old tradition every day.”

“Like Jude the Obscure,” Jasmin said. “Thomas Hardy… you know… a working man trying to be accepted into Cambridge.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Rather like that. Except I don’t think we were QUITE that mean to the Caretakers. At least… I never was…” His voice trailed off as he thought about it.

“Yeah, but YOU were one of the rich ones, weren’t you?” Wyn told him accusingly. “Your father was an ambassador, and your brother was Chancellor.”

“Yes, I’m an Oldblood,” he admitted. “But an Oldblood with a Human mother. The snobs despised me nearly as much as the Caretakers. Maybe more. Gallifreyan social hierarchy – Caretakers, rats, cockroaches, half-bloods. That was it, basically.”

“And THAT is the BEST the universe offers in terms of social equality?”

“Well, yes,” he said. “Because the half-blood managed to become Lord High President for a time at least. No rats or cockroaches managed to rise above their station, I admit. It would have been nice to see a Caretaker make it one day. I think… if I have one regret… we never had a chance to get THAT right…”

Again his voice trailed off as he thought about his lost world. His friends recognised the signs and started to stand up ready to explore again - anything to take his mind off things beyond his control.

“What’s that noise?” Wyn asked after they had walked a half a mile or so along the boulevard which was proving to be another trompe l'oeil, being much longer than it first seemed due to hidden undulations. As they rose up to the top of the path after one particularly long and deep basin the sound that they had been subconsciously aware of for some time got much louder.

“It’s a lawnmower,” Alec said. “Sounds like a Kubota. Or maybe a Massey Ferguson… or a John Deere.”

“Don’t be daft,” Wyn told him. “You can’t recognise a lawnmower from its engine.”

“He can,” Jasmin told her. “He’s dead boring about it. When he was at college he did a day release work-placement in Heaton Park - maintaining the lawn mowers and tractors. But we ARE on another planet. I doubt if any of those companies ever branched out THIS far.”

Jasmin was right. The lawn-mower was not a Kubota, Massey-Ferguson or John Deere, though as it approached the last thing any of them noticed was the brand name of the machine. They were too stunned by the driver.

“He’s DEAD,” Wyn exclaimed. “Look at him.” That was a needless instruction. Everybody WAS looking at him as the lawnmower moved inexorably along. Unsurprisingly, it was not making a very good job of it. Apart from the fact that the mower had several teeth missing and wasn’t cutting properly, the driving was erratic and the route had taken in several overgrown flower beds as well as the one-time pristine lawn.

“But for a dead man, it’s not BAD!” The Doctor commented. “Not bad work at all.” He stepped forward and jumped up onto the footplate of the mower, steadying himself before reaching and switching off the ignition. The driver reached out a grey and unhealthy looking hand and switched it back on again. The Doctor switched it off. The driver switched it on again. The Doctor switched it off and took the key out of the ignition. The driver reached and made a movement as if he was turning it back on and put his hand on the wheel as if it had started up again. The Doctor reached and felt his pulse and put his hand over his chest to feel for a heartbeat, then on the side of his head for a long moment. Then he put the key back in the ignition and turned it. As the lawnmower driver continued his work he jumped down and stood back.

“Yep, he’s definitely dead,” he confirmed. “No heartbeat, no pulse. And the body is starting to decay. There is a very basic brain activity, but in every other sense he IS dead.”

“You don’t seem too worried about that,” Alec remarked.

“I’ve seen stranger things than dead people carrying on working,” he said. His friends exchanged glances as if they were daring each other to ask what was WORSE than that. Nobody was brave enough to ask.

“He’s a zombie?” Wyn asked, coming back to the point.

“Not in the Saturday night scary monster sense,” The Doctor assured her. “He isn’t going to rip your throat out. He just wants to mow the lawn.”

“WHY does he want to mow the lawn?” Jasmin asked. “Was he the lawnmower man before he died? Is this some kind of reflexive action… keep on doing what he thinks he should be doing?”

“That’s as good a guess as we’re going to get,” The Doctor answered, smiling at her. “Until we find out more I think we’ll go on that as a theory.”

Jasmin looked proud to have come up with an explanation even The Doctor couldn’t fault.

“Don’t be so surprised,” he told her. “You Humans have the capacity to understand so much. All you have to do it use the parts of your brain that lie idle most of the time.”

“Doctor, you should know better than that,” Alec told him. “That thing about Humans only using 10% of their brain at any one time is a MYTH.”

“Perfectly true,” The Doctor replied. “I was just testing you. Of course, you don’t use your brains anywhere near as efficiently as my species does. But you do ok for yourselves.”

He was teasing them. They all knew that. It took their minds off the tedium of the endless walk along the road to nowhere and off people who really were using less than ten per cent of their brains while their bodies slowly decomposed.

“Is that a building up ahead?” Alec said after a while.

“Yes, it is,” The Doctor told him. “I noticed it a half hour ago, but I didn’t want to be called a show off because I have better eye sight than you lot.”

They all called him a show off anyway. He grinned and reached into his jacket pocket and put on his glasses that made his enhanced eyesight even more impressive. “It’s a nice looking house. Very impressive. A real ancestral pile. Looks a bit rundown though.”

As they drew closer to the house the others were inclined to agree with his first impressions. It WAS a nice looking house, in the style called ‘Palladian’ with lots of columns and porticos and windows all in proportion to each other. It clearly was a mansion once owned by somebody with money. But it had seen better days. The windows were damaged and dirty. The great door under the main portico was weathered and peeling. The steps leading up to it were broken and weeds growing around them.

And yet there were lights on inside.

“Let’s introduce ourselves to the Lord of the manner,” The Doctor said as he bounded up the steps.

“Oh, don’t,” Wyn complained.

“What if there are more zombies?” Alec added.

“Then we can say hello to them,” The Doctor said as he pulled the bell pull. Nobody was entirely surprised when it came away in his hand and showered him with brick dust, plaster and some suddenly homeless insects. The Doctor muttered something about narrative causality and threw away the cord.

But somewhere inside the house a bell had sounded and he brushed himself down while he waited.

The others were still hovering nervously on the bottom step. They all instinctively moved backwards as they looked at the man in a butler’s uniform who opened the door.

“I told you,” Alec said. “More zombies.”

“Good afternoon,” The Doctor said politely, and apparently undaunted by the fact that he was talking to a dead man in a butler’s uniform. “Is your master in? I am The Lord du Temps and these are my friends Sir Alec and Lady Jasmin and the Honourable Blodwyn Grant-Jones.”

The butler, who The Doctor clearly heard Wyn christen ‘Lurch’ under her breath nodded and signalled him to come inside. He turned and grinned and beckoned to the others and reluctantly they followed him. What choice did they have? If they wanted to get off this nutty planet they needed to make sure their designated driver wasn’t eaten by ghouls.

“Doctor,” Wyn said as she stepped into the hallway. “This is a VERY bad idea.” She looked behind her and saw Jasmin and Alec walking very close together, holding hands tightly. The Doctor reached and took her hand and she felt a little better, but not much.

The inside of the house was slightly better than the outside. The floor had been cleaned recently and the furnishings and surfaces dusted. But the curtains looked moth-eaten and unwashed.

The same was true of the drawing room that they were showed into by the voiceless butler. The furniture was dusted, the carpet swept, but the carpet was worn out and old and the furniture was threadbare. It looked as if it had once been a fine room but had been allowed to go to ruin.

“They’re alive,” Wyn whispered as she looked at the four people, two men and two women, all in evening dress that looked as old as the house around them. They were sitting on soft armchairs playing Bridge around a card table. “They’re not Night of the Living Dead.”

“Yes, I noticed that,” The Doctor answered her. Jasmin and Alec drew up beside him as The Doctor introduced himself once again. The eldest of the four stood and reached out his hand to shake. The Doctor stepped forward.

“Delighted to meet you, old chap,” the man said. “Sir Aubrey Westman at your service. This is my brother, the Honourable John Westman, and Lady Sarah and Lady Anne, our wives, respectively. May I offer you and your charming friends a drink?”

“Er… yes, why not,” The Doctor said, though as he saw the butler head towards the drinks cabinet he wondered if that was a good idea. As Sir Aubrey invited them to sit ‘Lurch’ approached with a tray of what looked like dry martinis with an olive in each glass. Wyn looked at hers suspiciously, just to make sure it WAS an olive and not an eyeball or something. Not that she planned to drink it anyway. Ok, there probably wasn’t anything you could catch from a living dead butler, but all the same….

“We were just passing by,” The Doctor continued brightly. “And thought we must drop in and introduce ourselves. So… how are you all these days?”

“We’re making do, of course,” Lady Sarah said. “We just can’t get the staff. First the war, and then the plague.”

“Plague?” All four of them said the word at the same time. The Doctor looked around at the butler as he stood by the door, his hands neatly by his side, his head erect like a well trained butler.

“Have you been offworld?” Lady Anne asked. “Surely you heard?”

“We have been away for a very long time,” The Doctor answered. “And I can’t help noticing some changes….”

“The plague swept through the population,” the Honourable John Westman explained. “There was a vaccination, but not enough of it to go around. And of course that pushed the price up. Aubrey bid very highly at auction. He managed to obtain the last four doses in the county. But for that we would be dead or…” His eyes turned towards the silent butler.

“Those that didn’t die became… like him?” Jasmin spoke in a steady voice but The Doctor, looking at her eyes, could see the effort she was putting in to stay calm. Alec and Wyn were just holding their martini glasses and trying not to look at anything at all. As a result their eyes looked nearly as blank and expressionless as the poor butler.

“Just as well really. Otherwise there would be no domestic help at all,” Lady Anne said. “Honestly, it’s hopeless. You saw the state of the gardens, of course. And the house is badly in need of repair. But there is just nobody to do the work. It’s the same everywhere. Every family is having to make do in the same way. The deadheads… that’s what we call them… they can manage simple tasks. The gardener… he can just about cut the lawn if John puts fuel in the tank. But there’s no chance of getting a game of tennis. The courts are just ruined. And it's the same inside the house. “The cook… I am so tired of the same meals day in and day out. The maids are just hopeless. Barton there… he seems to know his routine. He can answer the door, serve martinis….”

“You have a… a…. deadhead… as a COOK!” Wyn managed to speak at last.

“Well, there is just no alternative. Sir Roger Haverstock has a live cook, I’m told. But nobody else I know.…”

“Haverstock paid through the nose for extra doses of the vaccination and gave them to his staff!” Lady Sarah noted. “Dreadful waste. When you think about the Bellings over at Mardyke House - the whole family dead.”

“That was tragic, of course,” Sir Aubrey said. “They were duped,” he added for The Doctor’s edification. “The doses they received – just placebos. There was no investigation. It’s a bit difficult to have a murder inquiry when there are no police to arrest the blackguards.”

“The police all died?” Alec was puzzled. “There wasn’t even vaccination for essential service people?”

“Well how could somebody on a policeman’s income afford it?” Lady Anne reasoned.

“How indeed,” The Doctor said in a soothing voice. “It must have been quite terrible for you.”

“Well, we soldier on.” Sir Aubrey said. “It has been a struggle though.”

“Struggle?” Wyn finally lost her cool. “Look at you, sitting there. Drinking drinks made for you by a poor man who ought to be… I don’t know… ought to be DEAD. No, he shouldn’t be. He ought to be properly alive. Everyone should be. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You are alive because you had the MONEY. Anyone who didn’t died or became a living dead SLAVE like him. You are MONSTERS. And believe me, I KNOW monsters. You may not have two heads or talons and horns. You don’t drink blood or... or… or… or whatever. But YOU are the monsters. When I came in here I was scared of HIM… the dead guy. But he’s no harm at all. He hasn’t got enough brain power to BE dangerous. He’s just SAD. YOU LOT are the MONSTERS.” She looked down at her drink and took the olive out of it before throwing the liquid at Sir Aubrey Westman. She looked at the olive on its sad little stick and threw that away before turning and running out of the house.

“Well… I never heard the like!” Lady Anne said breathlessly.

“You have now,” Alec said. “Come on, Jasmin. Let’s go get some fresh air.”

The Doctor watched them go and then turned to Sir Aubrey.

“Sorry about that. She’s rather a highly strung girl. You should have seen her before she went to finishing school. She used to throw drinks at anybody at a drop of a hat.”

“It really is rather.…”

“Where exactly do you GET your staff from?” The Doctor continued in a light, conversational tone as if he wasn’t at all addressing a man who was dripping dry martini. “Is there an agency?”

“The city morgue,” Sir Aubrey said. He, too, seemed to have forgotten that he had been on the receiving end of Wyn’s home truths. “We rang them up and asked them to send along domestics. We’ve gone through a lot of maids. They don’t seem to last somehow. The brains pack up. We’ve had two cooks. But Barton and the gardener have lasted well enough.”

“I see,” The Doctor said. He stood up slowly and laid his untouched drink on the table. He turned and stepped towards the still silent butler. He took out his sonic screwdriver and scanned the barely alive body. After a few minutes he put it away again. He nodded in understanding and then walked out of the house.

The others were already walking briskly down the boulevard. They had passed the undead lawnmower man as he unthinkingly shredded the rose beds.

“Hey,” The Doctor said as he caught up with them. “Wyn, you were fantastic. I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

“Oh, Doctor,” she said. “It was HORRIBLE. I thought….”

“Sometimes the monsters are Human,” The Doctor told her.

“Doctor,” Jasmin said as they walked on. “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death.”

“The Hippocratic Oath again.” He looked at her. “The part rejecting euthenasia. Very important, I always thought. I have always hated the very idea. Life should be preserved.” He thought about that. “No, that’s not right. Preserve… means to keep something exactly as it is, frozen in time. Like a specimen in a jar, like a pressed flower. Those people… the deadheads… they’re ‘preserved’, kept going to do the job they used to do day after day with no end except when they break down, like the maids, and have to be replaced. What I should say is… life should be valued and protected.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Jasmin said. “Like… we can’t do anything about it. Because it would be euthenasia… and we don’t believe in that.”

“Except they’re not alive,” The Doctor said. “So it isn’t.”

“But you said there was brain function,” Alec told him. “That’s life of a sort. Not MUCH of a life, but still….”

“Let’s go back to the TARDIS,” The Doctor said quietly. “I don’t know about you, but MY curiosity is well and truly satisfied about this bloody planet.”

“It’s certainly not the perfect society you were looking for, is it,” Wyn said to him as they came to the top of the steps down to the riverside.

“No, it is not,” he sighed. “I don’t think there is one. The universe is imperfect. We just have to do our best.”

“I think it would be a boring place to live anway,” Wyn told him. “You wouldn’t last five minutes. You love adventure.”

“You could be right,” he agreed. “But it would be nice, still, to actually FIND a true Arcadia, a place where everyone could live the sweet life.”

“They would all just be lazy and stupid,” Alec said. “That’s what’s wrong with that lot back there. They were so used to being waited on, that when disaster struck, instead of pitching in, getting their hands dirty, they carried on playing bridge, drinking martinis…. And they got their zombie slaves to do the work.”

“And the moral of this story is…,” The Doctor began. But he knew they didn’t have to answer that. They understood the moral.

When they reached the TARDIS, The Doctor immediately put it into temporal orbit above the planet. From space it looked pretty. But they had seen it at close quarters now and they couldn’t reconcile that prettiness from above with the ugliness below.

The Doctor interfaced the sonic screwdriver with the TARDIS database and then called Jasmin to his side. Alec and Wyn came too.

“I wanted you to see this,” he told her. “Because I know the idea of ‘killing’ the ‘deadheads’ bothers you on principle. I scanned Barton the butler. This is an ECG of his brain.”

Jasmin looked at the picture on the computer monitor showing the butler’s brain in a 3d schematic.

“What’s that?” she asked, tapping a slender finger on the screen. “That shouldn’t be there.”

“Clever girl,” The Doctor congratulated her. His hands moved rapidly over the keyboard and the picture zoomed in on the tiny blip Jasmin had spotted.

“A microchip?” Alec exclaimed. “In his brain?”

“A microchip driving those basic brain functions that make him the perfect butler - able to answer doors and mix martinis but otherwise stay out of the way.”

“And the lawnmower man has one?”

“And the maids and the cook.”

“I’ve seen this sort of thing before,” The Doctor said. “Dead people keeping on working through the chips in their heads that maintained the work function and nothing else. If the chip gets fried… that wasn’t a pun but feel free to laugh if it releases some tension… they die again.”

“Again….” Jasmin repeated the crucial word of that statement.

“That’s right,” The Doctor said. “They WERE dead. They were reanimated by somebody who saw a business opportunity.” His eyes flashed angrily when he said that. “Profit!” He spat the word. “Jasmin, the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply. It wouldn’t be taking life – it would be restoring death. It would be doing the right thing.”

“Yes,” she said with a note of relief in her voice. “Yes, I see that.”

“Can you do something?” Wyn asked him. “The two we saw weren’t all of them. There were other houses….”

“Easy,” The Doctor said. “Already working on it.” He had moved to the environmental console and had lifted the top panel where the buttons were. He was working with hands almost too fast to see, within the workings of the console. “A refined EMP signal, one that will only affect those particular microchips. I can send the signal from here and it will cover the whole planet in minutes. All the ‘deadheads’ will just be dead. Their lords and masters will have to dig their graves themselves.” He looked up at Jasmin. “You’re the one who quoted the reason why not. If you think I shouldn’t….”

“Do it,” Jasmin said without hesitation. “Do it, Doctor. Let them all rest in peace.”

He nodded. He looked at his hands and reached and pressed the button he had jury rigged. They all felt a slight change in the TARDIS engines. Other than that there was no sign that anything had happened.

“How do we know it worked?” Wyn asked.

“You don’t trust me to be a genius who gets it right every time?” he asked, feigning hurt. “You don’t want to take it on faith?” He smiled grimly and set the TARDIS co-ordinate. “Let’s go see.”

Nobody stepped out this time. Their curiosity about Arcadia Nova had been well and truly satiated. They watched on the viewscreen as the lawnmower moved in an erratic line towards one of the fruit trees that lined the boulevard. It crashed into it with a grinding of lawnmower engine, crunching of metal and creaking of wood, followed by several soft thumps as ripe fruit fell on and around the lawnmower and the driver as he slumped over the wheel. Nobody said anything. Yes, The Doctor had done it right. But it was a sad kind of victory. Nobody was celebrating.

“No.” Jasmin said as The Doctor sent them on their way again. “We can be proud of this. We made things better. We did, didn’t we, Doctor? It was a good thing?”

“Yes, it was,” he said quietly. “Yes.” For a moment he was distracted, thinking about the sad little planet they had just left. Then he turned to his friends and grinned. “So nobody wanted to stay to dinner with the Westman’s? How about somewhere with a more reliable chef? I’m thinking Paris, early 1900s. The hats of the day are so you, Jasmin.”