“I admit it, I’m lost,” The Doctor admitted. “There’s something wrong with the interface between the logic circuits and the chronological regulator.”

“Er…” Susan ran what he had said through her own logic circuit, otherwise known as her brain. “You mean your clock stopped?”

“Basically.” He grinned at the way she worked out his pseudo-science gobbledegook. “Basically, yes. The ‘clock’ that tells me when in time we are is out of synch.”


“So we’re going to materialise and step outside with this gadget I’m just putting together here, and take an accurate time reading. Then I can reset the clock and we’re away.”

“Ok,” Susan watched as he built a device from what seemed to be the insides of a digital watch, a pocket calculator and a PDA. She would have to take his word for it that it did what he said it should do. “We’re landing on Earth?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Somehow when the TARDIS has problems it seems to default to Earth these days.”

“Is that wrong?”

“It’s to be expected,” he told her. “With a very few exceptions, my travelling companions have been Human. The TARDIS knows there’s no point trying to go to my home, so it sees yours, Earth, as a safe refuge. And that’s ok. I like Earth. I like Humans. Most of them.” He smiled and patted the TARDIS console as the time rotor rose and fell slowly one more time and then stopped. “Let’s go find out where we are.”

They stepped out of the TARDIS and onto a glass floor. Susan looked down under her feet and swayed dizzily as she saw grey-green sea-water about twenty feet below her. The Doctor reached out a steadying hand as they looked around.

It was an odd looking room. The glass floor was not continuous. The see-through panels simply punctuated an ordinary floor. There were tall windows set into a metal frame all around what seemed to be a square room with a lift shaft in the middle. The Doctor stepped towards the windows and looked out. He saw nothing but sea. He followed the windows around until he was looking out at a different side. There, in the distance he saw what looked like islands in the sea. There were more distant islands on the opposite side. As he came around to what he reckoned to be the south side, he saw something else. It was a sort of arc of steel with struts beneath. He looked at it for a long time before he realised what it was.

“It’s the top of a roller coaster,” he said, then realised he was talking to himself. He looked around. “Susan?”

He carried on around until he came back to where he started. Susan was looking at something next to where the TARDIS was parked.

It was the entrance to the lift. It was closed. Just as well, he thought. Since the lift would plunge right down into that dark water. But that didn’t seem to be what was bothering Susan.

“What is it?” he asked as he looked at her. She seemed to be in deep shock. He waved his hands in front of her eyes. She blinked slowly and finally seemed to focus on him.

“This is the top of Blackpool Tower,” she said very slowly.

“Oh,” he answered. “Oh, that’s interesting. The TARDIS really IS reacting to you, then. Not only does it choose Earth, but it focuses on your part of Earth – north-west England.”

“Yes,” Susan responded. “But…. Doctor. This is the top of Blackpool tower and…. and…. and the rest of it is underwater. And so is the rest of Blackpool. And so is…. So is….” She ran around the viewing platform until she reached the east side.

“My home is under water,” she said when he reached her. “It was that way – fifteen miles inland. Everything is gone all the way to….” She pointed to the islands he had noticed before. “That’s Beacon Fell, and Pendle Hill a bit further away behind it. Everything else in Lancashire is underwater. My home town… everything.”

She wasn’t crying. But she was in the emotional state that immediately preceded tears. When he put his hand on her shoulder she was shaking with emotion.

“Susan,” he told her. This is not your time. This is thousands of years into your future. HUNDREDS of thousands of years.”

“But the Tower is here.”

“Blackpool Tower was preserved in the 26th century. The original frame was clad with titanium alloy. They said it would stand until the end of time. And it will, too. Or at least till the end of Earth. And THAT is still billions of years away.”

“Do you know when we are, then?”

“Not the exact date,” he answered. “But it has to be within a century of the year 200,100.”

“Why?” Susan looked at him and he seemed nearly as upset as her. “What happened that year?”

“The Daleks nearly wiped out humanity. They attacked every single continent with heat weapons. Not only did they kill billions, but they melted the ice-caps. The sea levels rose. They kept rising for decades before the climate began to balance again and the ice started to reform, locking the water in and reducing the sea level again.”

“What’s a Dalek?” Susan asked. “And… And where were you when all that was happening? I thought… Well you’re usually there, when there’s trouble. You wouldn’t just let it.…”

“A Dalek is the most evil thing in the universe. Be thankful you don’t know what one looks like. And… where was I?” He sighed and tried to keep his emotions in check. “I was doing my best. Which is all I’ve ever done. That time my best… still resulted in terrible, terrible casualties here on this planet.”

“You lost?”

“The Daleks were defeated,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “So I suppose I won. But it was a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.”

“It cost more to win than to lose?” Susan remembered the definition of Pyrrhic and dared to turn around and look at The Doctor. His face that could crinkle with joy and love of life seemed frozen in an expression of grief at memories he didn’t want to have to remember.

“Can you get that reading on your gadget?” she asked. “Once you have it, we can get away, can’t we? We don’t have to stay here.”

“No, we don’t,” The Doctor said, pulling the gadget from his pocket. He pressed some buttons and it made impressive bleeping noises. The Doctor smiled wryly.

“It is the Earth year 200,133 A.D.,” he said. “A.D. still stands for Anno Domini, of course. I don’t think anyone wants to start dating the years After Daleks. If they did… it would be the year 33 A.D. But…”

“What’s that noise?” Susan turned around as The Doctor’s slightly waffling dialogue trailed off. “An engine… a plane?”

“Airship,” The Doctor answered as he looked out over the southern view where a strange looking flying vehicle was approaching. Susan thought it looked like a sponge cake. It was a slightly elongated round with flattened edges. It even had a stripe round the middle like the jam in the cake. As it drew closer she realised those were windows.

“It’s coming for us,” Susan pointed out as it ‘docked’ with the top of the tower. They felt a very slight clunking noise as it connected. She turned to The Doctor but he was already heading for the winding iron staircase to the upper observation level.

“Very clever,” The Doctor was saying as he watched the airship complete its docking with a section of the observation deck that had been crudely adapted to accommodate it. A hatch opened in the side and two people in something like stewardess uniforms stepped out. They had guns with them and The Doctor held his hands out by his side to indicate he was no threat. The guns were lowered but he had the feeling they might be raised again if they did not play this carefully.

“Who are you?” one of the women asked him. “How did you get here? Are there others?”

“Just the two of us,” he answered. “I’m The Doctor and this is Susan.”

“THE Doctor?” the younger of the two looked at him.

“No, that would be stupid,” the older one said. “But you’d better both come with us. You can’t stay here. Nobody should be here.”

“I’m not leaving my TARDIS,” The Doctor insisted. “If you want us to come along, then fine. But I’ll travel along with you. I’ll put my TARDIS in synchronised flight alongside you.”

“No, come now,” the stewardess said. “We have to get back to Ringway. We only stopped off here because we saw your lifesigns.”

“NO,” The Doctor insisted. “I will come in my own ship.”

“If you have a ship, it should be requisitioned,” the senior hostess said.

“I think not,” The Doctor replied coolly.

“I don’t know how you got here, or why, or where you came from. But you are in British jurisdiction now. Fuel is short here. Private transport is banned. All vehicles are requisitioned, including your… TARDIS?” the woman looked puzzled. “What is a…. what sort of transport is that?”

“It’s a time and space capsule. It is not of Earth manufacture. and unless you conscript me as well it will be no use to you. I’m the only one who can even open the door, let alone fly it. Believe me, better organisations than yours have tried.”

“We shall see. Charla, take the female aboard the P45. I will go with him to his ship.”

That was half a plan, The Doctor thought. He had no intention of leaving the TARDIS anywhere he couldn’t walk back to. But if they had Susan on board their craft he couldn’t just take off and leave this sad post-apocalyptic world behind. For the time being he would have to go along with them.

“Doctor!” Susan protested as Charla took her by the arm, not roughly, but insistently.

“I’ll be right along,” he promised her. He watched as she boarded the airship and it prepared to leave then he turned and went back downstairs. “What’s your name?” he asked the other woman. “I don’t usually invite people into the TARDIS without knowing their names.”

“Patricia Calder,” she answered. “Senior surveyor for the Ordnance Survey.”

“Patricia,” The Doctor smiled disarmingly at her. “Pleased to meet you. Come along with me.” He opened the door to the TARDIS and stepped in. She followed him cautiously and her thoughts were predictable. He got ready to answer the usual questions. But she asked different ones.

“Are you really the one?” she asked. “The Doctor who was there when….”

He looked at her. She was maybe thirty years old. She couldn’t have been there. She was born AFTERWARDS.

Humans! Nothing kept them down. In the three years immediately after the scorched Earth destruction of the Dalek campaign, two of them had got together and had a baby. Any other species would have crawled away to die.

“There are legends,” she continued. “About a man called The Doctor who destroyed the Daleks, saved the Earth.”

“Earth doesn’t look as if anyone saved it,” The Doctor answered as he fixed the navigation drive onto the airship’s course and prepared to follow it in simple hover mode. The TARDIS engines, curiously, objected to that simple form of travel much more than being plunged into the time vortex with all the stresses that put on it.

“It’s only fifty miles, as the crow flies,” he whispered to the console. “Not long at all.”

It took a little under an hour, in fact, and The Doctor noted that a train from Blackpool to Manchester Airport in the early 21st century only took a half hour more than that. Progress wasn’t always that impressive. He tried not to answer Patricia’s questions about himself, although he did explain to her that the TARDIS WAS a time and space travel capsule with dimensional relativity. From her he gleaned that she WAS, indeed, the child of survivors of the holocaust. She told him about growing up in the ruined world that was left. The population of Earth was reduced to a mere three billion – as far as anyone could estimate, with communications in disarray. The coastal cities were lost as the waters rose and the survivors of the attacks turned inland like a Human tide, causing nearly as much havoc as cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, tried to accommodate the populations of London, Liverpool, Bristol….

But you made it?” The Doctor noted. “You survived. Humanity survived.”

“A lot didn’t,” she answered. “Food was scarce. There was famine, disease. There was no government to tell them how to organise. It took a long time. I grew up in the re-settlement camp up on Saddleworth Moor. Thousands of people living in tents. I was born in a tent, went to school in a tent. I didn’t even see a city until I was fifteen and went to work for The Ordnance Survey.”

“Ordnance Survey?” The Doctor recalled that she mentioned that before. “Map makers?”

“Not just that,” she told him. “It’s a very important job. We monitor the coast and the offshore islands to determine if the sea levels are rising or falling.”

“And which is it doing?”

“We don’t discuss our findings outside of the combined Government Services Offices at Ringway.”

“Ok,” The Doctor answered, “But that’s what you were doing when you spotted our lifesigns, is it? Monitoring?”

“We were coming back from a survey of the Hibernic islands,” she replied. “We were very surprised to see the signal. We thought it might be looters.”

“What’s there to loot? Even the gift shop is closed.”

That time Patricia had no answer.

The console bleeped to indicate they were coming into land. He glanced at the viewscreen and saw the terminal at what Susan knew as Manchester Ringway airport. The old mid-twentieth century terminal was long gone, of course, as, indeed, were planes as she knew them. There were three airships parked on the runway and two inter-continental craft capable of going just outside the Earth’s atmosphere and travelling at supersonic speed between what was left of the continents, as well as a couple of smaller craft that were capable of reaching the artificial satellites around Earth.

From what Patricia had explained, though, this was not an airport any more. It was the administrative capital of Britain. Ordnance Survey was only one of many government departments based there. What was left of the country was run from Manchester airport, one of the few places that was nicely high and dry above the rising tide.

The Doctor set the TARDIS down next to the P45 and was waiting when Susan emerged. She was escorted by two young men in the same airline style uniform, but when she saw him she broke away from them and ran to The Doctor. She looked upset. He put his arms around her gently.

“It was horrible,” she said. “Nothing left. Nothing but sea where there used to be land. Manchester is a seaside town!”

“I know,” he said. “But come on, let’s go and talk to whoever’s in charge around here.”

“I thought we were going to go straight off in the TARDIS.”

“That was before I knew there was still Human life here,” he said. “Now, I think they might need my help.”

“You’re just nosy,” she told him.

“Yeah, maybe,” he answered. “Tell you what, when we’re done, and I’ve fixed the clock we’ll go back to your time and we’ll go see Blackpool as it should be.”

“I’m not sure it’ll ever feel the same again,” Susan answered. “If I see it in sunshine, with all the crowds and the trams, and shops, and the Tower and the Circus and everything, I’ll be thinking of it as it is now.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything just then, but that worried him. Eventually, Susan would move on from travelling with him, and he expected her to return to her own time. He didn’t want the memory of this admittedly nightmarish future preying on her mind when she did.

But there were more immediate issues as they were both brought, not exactly under arrest, but certainly under escort, into the Ordnance Survey offices which were based in the building named Terminal 3 in recognition of its former function. Patricia and Charla were among the escort as they were brought into what seemed to be something of a global centre for mapping and surveying.

They waited in a room with glass windows looking out on the action. The Doctor looked with interest at a large visual representation of the Earth as it was now. There were almost no ice caps, and all of the continents were much smaller, the water having eaten away the coastlines. When the image changed to a view of the British Isles, Ireland was almost entirely gone. Only the highest mountains remained as islands, cut off from each other. Britain fared a little better. Most of it was still a single piece of land, but much reduced. London and most of the south-east was gone. So were Newcastle and Glasgow to the North, much of Wales, again apart from the peaks. Here in the North-West, everything was gone from the Lake district to Chester.

Susan refused to look at it.

The door opened and two men came in. They wore dark blue suits and identified themselves as Ministry of Transport.

“You are aware that personal transport is prohibited within the British Isles?” the one with a badge declaring him to be Gregor Manning, Manager for Transport Requisitions, told The Doctor.

“So I have heard,” he answered. “And as I said already, my ship and me are a package deal. I’m willing to offer you my help and advice. But requisitioning, I think not.”

The Manager for Transport Requisitions looked at The Doctor and began to draw himself up in a posture of self-importance. The Doctor stared at him with the full force of his Gallifreyan aristocratic birth and the Manager for Transport Requisitions had a momentary vision of his unimportance in the universe. He visibly deflated.

“Please wait here a little longer,” he said. “I need to check with my superiors.”

They were left alone again.

“They won’t really try to take the TARDIS will they?” Susan asked.

“I’d like to see them try,” The Doctor laughed softly. It was almost predictable. The TARDIS would not open for anyone unless he or it wanted it to. And it had a stubborn streak as wide as his own when it chose.

The only thing that bothered him about them trying was the alarm that sounded in his head when the door was interfered with in any way. It gave him a stinking headache for hours after and his patience was already slightly strained.

The Manager for Transport Requisitions didn’t return. Instead Patricia and Charla did, accompanied by a man who declared himself to be Noah Blake, the Director of Combined Departmental Operations. He looked about fifty.

Which made him a teenager when the Daleks struck.

A survivor of the holocaust.

“Noah!” The Doctor smiled. “Did your parents have a sense of irony or what?”

Blake ignored the variation on the joke he had heard all too many times in his life and looked at The Doctor for a long, silent moment.

“You are The Doctor?” he asked in an awestruck voice. “THE Doctor… the one who….”

“Am I famous or notorious here?” The Doctor asked. “Are you looking to give me a medal or arrest me?”

“I… er… Well… neither,” he answered. “I don’t really know. But….”

“No wonder you’re in such a mess,” The Doctor said. “Indecisiveness in upper management. Show me the data on those computers. Let me see what’s going on in this world of yours.”

At last, Susan thought as they were taken to the man control room. Finally we will see The Doctor in action.

They did, though it was not the sort of action that required stunt men or special effects to portray on television. Rather it was an example of his far superior mind going to work on the problems of this Earth that Susan almost didn’t recognise. He sat at a computer terminal and accessed the mountain of data it contained about the weather patterns, sea temperatures, sea levels, the migration of the gulf stream, and he read it all - years of work by the surveyors and scientists of the Ordnance Survey. The data flashed up on the main screen faster than the Human eye could see. After a while everyone else stopped looking. It was too painful trying to keep up. Susan watched The Doctor. His eyes glowed in the reflection of the computer terminal as the pupils dilated rapidly. She had the feeling he would have been reading faster but the computer was going at its capacity already.

Finally he stopped. He sat back in the chair and looked at the people nearest to him. His expression struck them all with a sense of deep foreboding that radiated out around the room until over a hundred technicians and clerks had stood up from their workplaces and were watching and waiting for him to speak.

And when he did he offered them no hope at all.

“This planet is doomed,” he said very simply and very quietly. But those who heard him repeated the ominous word until they all knew what he had said.

“Doomed how?” Susan was the only one who dared ask him the question. “You told me that in a few years it all righted itself again.”

“Not by itself,” he answered her. “The ice caps are still melting, and in addition vast amounts of water that were evaporated by the heat rays of the Daleks are still forming into rain clouds high in the stratosphere. The sea levels haven’t stabilised as they should have. They’re only at about two hundred metres above pre-war levels. But they are going to keep rising, to maybe twice that.”

“Four hundred metres?” Noah Blake stared at him. “But… that means….”

“That would mean that the only places left to live would be the higher reaches of the mountains. The Highlands of Scotland would be more or less ok, but the rest will be isolated islands just like what’s left of Ireland now – what you called the Hibernic Isles. It goes without saying that Manchester will be gone.”

He typed rapidly and everyone looked at the main screen as he called up a computer simulation of the progression of the flood over Britain, over Europe, over the world.

“And it will get worse,” The Doctor continued. “Food will be even more scarce. The air will be thinner, because you depend on the production of carbon dioxide by trees and other green life.” He gave a wry smile to Susan and seemed to know what she was thinking. “Yes, I know there was that film, Kevin Costner and all that. But that was the detail the writers forgot. Human beings CAN’T live on a planet with no dry land on it. Not unless you can live up to your namesake, Mr Blake. And even then it will be touch and go.”

There was a long silence, then several people started to cry. Not all of them women. The Doctor understood how they felt. They had worked so hard to preserve what was left of their world and now he had told them that it was all for nothing.

“So… what are you going to do?” Susan asked.


“To help, to save the planet,” she added. “You are going to help, aren’t you?”

“Susan.…” The Doctor reached out his hand to her. “You believe I can do anything, don’t you.”


“Then… I’m sorry for that, more than I am sorry for what is going to happen to this planet. Because I have to destroy your faith in me. And that means such a lot to us both.”

“There’s nothing you can do?”

“Nothing. Except take you back to when it was all ok, in your own time. I can’t even take any of these people with us, because they don’t belong in any other timeline but this one, and to take them from it would cause a continuum fracture.”

“Oh, Doctor!” The disappointment was there in her eyes. She DID believe he could do anything and finding out there were things even he couldn’t do was a shock.

It hurt him, too. Not just his pride, but something much deeper. He knew this world was his own unfinished business, the legacy of that terrible time on the Gamestation that had cost so much to him personally.

Then Susan rallied herself. She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.

“Doctor,” she told him. “It’s all right. You’re ALLOWED to fail sometimes. You’re NOT a god. You’re a man. And even you have limits. I understand.”

“Oh Susan, dear.” He sighed as he looked up at her, standing beside the chair he sat in, her hand still resting on his shoulder. He reached his own hand out to cover hers. “Yes, I know I can fail. But people die when I fail.”

Like on the Gamestation, he thought. All those people who….

He jerked upright and turned back to the computer.

“Is it still there?” he asked as he began to type rapidly again. “Is it….”

“Is what still there?” Blake asked him. “Doctor what are you….”

Everyone looked at the big screen again. And again there was a collective emotional response.

“The Ghost Station,” Patricia murmured.

“The Ghost Station?” Susan looked at the artificial satellite on the screen and wondered why everyone, including The Doctor, regarded it with such dread.

“Good name for it,” The Doctor murmured. “Better than Gamestation.”

“The bodies were collected. But after that it was put on low power and abandoned,” Noah said. “Nobody had any use for it. Nobody wanted to remember.”

“It’s intact,” The Doctor said. “A huge, powerful space station. It’s intact, and it’s there. And…”

He didn’t want to go there. Ghosts weren’t the half of it.

But he was going to have to.

“You’re going up there?” Patricia was the one who caught on first.

“Yes,” The Doctor answered tersely. “Not alone. I will need a team… your best climatologists, technicians. Noah… you know your people… can you get them together?”

“This will save the Earth?” Noah asked.

“I don’t know. It depends what I find up there. It’s a fighting chance. It’s better than doing nothing. You Humans have ALWAYS done better when there was something to do. Accepting defeat meekly isn’t your way, and it’s not mine, either.”

“May I come,” Patricia asked. “I’m not really what you need. I just take measurements. But… I had an aunt who was on the station. She died… my family always talked of her…. I’d like to see….”

“What was her name?” The Doctor asked. Patricia told him. It meant nothing to him. He knew the names of only a few of the people who had taken part in the Last Stand against the Daleks.

It was easier that way. Not knowing the names. He almost wished he hadn’t asked. Now there was one more he could mourn specifically, by name, instead of generally.

“Yes, come with us,” he said.

The TARDIS materialised in that strange cupboard they called archive six. An empty room, lit by the glow of low level security lights of the station on low power operation. The Doctor took the lead as he crossed the floor and put his hand on the panel that opened the door. He was almost surprised when it did so - even more so to find that the full power came on as soon as he interfaced with something as simple as a door control. The power down must have been set to power back up as soon as any control was activated - like a computer on stand-by that reacts to a key press, but on a much bigger scale.

How eerie it must look from outside, he thought, to see the dark station suddenly coming to life, floor by floor.

It looked eerie inside. The epithet “Ghost Station” was not misplaced. It felt it.

“It… hasn’t changed a bit,” The Doctor whispered as he walked past the banks of computer terminals used by the programme controllers when this had been a television broadcasting station with a sinister and deadly secret. “Oh… no… How can THAT still be there?”

But who would have moved it?

“What is that?” Susan asked as The Doctor knelt and examined the strangely home-made looking contraption in the middle of the floor.

“It’s a Delta Wave Generator. A Weapon of Mass Destruction.” The capital letters seemed to write themselves in the air.

“Something the Daleks made?” Patricia asked.

No, The Doctor replied. “I made it.”

“YOU?” Noah stared at him. “But you… you’re the good guy. You… you made a….”

“A weapon that would wipe out all life on Earth, and in orbit around it. Dalek and Human alike.”

“Why?” Susan asked.

“Because at the time that was the only solution left. And I had to take the decision for all of humanity. Die quickly, painlessly, as a Human, or be sliced and diced and used as DNA for a new Dalek army.”

“You… you would have done that?” Susan was shocked - even more than when she discovered that he wasn’t invincible.

“I was ready to do it,” he said.

“You would have died too?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “I was ready for that, too. The end of it. The end of the Daleks, the end of the Time Lords. But humanity, out there in its colonies across the galaxy would have gone on. YOU would have won the Time War. The universe would have been yours. It… it would have been worth it to ensure that you… your race… survived. The only one with the guts, the determination, the ruthlessness, and the… the humanity… the compassion, the courage… to be trusted with the universe.”

Nobody entirely understood what he was saying. Parts of what he said rang true for some of them. the rest was just overwrought rambling of one who seemed more affected than any of them to be standing in the place where Earth’s holocaust began a generation ago.

“Why didn’t you do it?” Patricia asked.

“I chickened out,” he answered. “In the end, I couldn’t do it. Genocide… is something I have never been able to do. I couldn’t… I couldn’t take the responsibility for your deaths, even along with my enemy, your enemy, even along with my own destruction. I couldn’t press that handle down and finish what I had started.” He fingered the black metal plunger that went down into the contraption. As he did so he remembered that moment.

He wasn’t afraid of his own death. In so many ways he would have welcomed that. He had so much pain inside him that would be ended in the moment when his brain fried.

He would have been the first, standing there next to the machine. The Daleks next. Then the people of Earth as the Delta Wave spread. He would have been dead a few seconds before everyone else.

That wasn’t what had stopped him.

It was the same thing that had stopped him centuries ago when he had those two pieces of wire in his hands and could have destroyed the Dalek race there and then, in an instance.

He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t commit genocide. Not against the Daleks, and not against the unsuspecting people of Earth whom he had always tried to protect.

In the end the responsibility was taken out of his hands. Rose destroyed the Daleks and saved Earth from total destruction. His catharsis came when he in turn saved her from a painful death, and suffered a painful regeneration instead.

He had gone on to fight the Daleks again, and that time it had cost him even more dearly than his own life. But until now he had not returned to this place.

If he had the slightest option, he would not have come back now.

“Is that still primed?” Noah asked him.

“No,” he answered. “The Delta Wave has to build up. But if it isn’t used it dissipates. It would take about twelve hours for it to build again.”

He stood up and walked away from the horrible weapon. He turned instead to the powerful control system that did more than just broadcast television programmes.

“This was always more than a television broadcaster,” he said to all those who were listening. “It won’t be easy. Not even for me, with my big brain. But I think… I am pretty sure, we can make this into a weather control centre. And we can start refreezing the poles.”

“What!” A shock resonated through the people who had travelled to the Station with him. “Is that possible?”

“It’s not possible,” somebody answered. “This is a waste of time. It’s….”

“It’s not fair. Offering false hope.” Patricia complained. “Doctor… you said… you said Earth was doomed. And that’s probably not a great surprise to most of us. It’s been obvious for a long time. But to come here and say it can be changed…. It’s not fair.”

“You’re not even certain.” Noah added. “‘I think… I’m pretty sure.…’” That’s what you said. You can’t give us any guarantee. That machine of yours… is the only guarantee we ever had. A quick end to it all.”

“Death is the only guarantee any of us have, including me. Life is always a gamble. I’m offering a gamble now. Who is prepared to try?”

“If it works, how long will it take?” Patricia asked. “I mean… ice caps…. Don’t just refreeze….”

“About four hundred years,” The Doctor answered. There were sighs as he said that, and murmurs. He knew that wasn’t the news they wanted to hear exactly. From being almost ready to believe him, and to hope, they seemed to deflate again.

“No,” he assured them. “That’s good. All you have to do is maintain this station, teach the new generations to do the same. You can rebuild the Earth little by little. You were already doing that. Yes, it will be a struggle. But anything worthwhile is. The Earth will repair itself slowly, helped by the station. Four hundred years from now, for your descendents, it will be the Paradise mankind has sought ever since he was cast out of it in the first place.”

“We are working for the future generations? Not for ourselves?”

“Yes. But isn’t that how it always is?”

Around him he could see them thinking about it. He could feel them coming around to his idea. All but Noah regained their confidence in what they had come to do. He remained depressed and uncertain. But all he really needed, The Doctor thought, was to see everyone else working together.

“Show us what we have to do,” one of the climatologists said to him. “We’re in. A slim chance is better than no chance.”

“That’s what I always say,” The Doctor answered with a wide smile as he set the computer technicians at the consoles and told them which programmes to call up. Meanwhile he brought the engineers to the floor below where the servers and databanks were kept, as well as the transmitters that beamed the TV programmes to Earth.

“What can I do?” Susan asked as he set the others to work. “I’m not a technician. I don’t know what any of this is.”

“See if there’s any food or drink on the station,” Noah said to her. “Those of us doing the real work will get hungry.”

“Well it’s not likely there would be,” she replied. “This place has been abandoned for decades.”

“There were food synthesisers in the refectories on every tenth floor,” The Doctor told her. “They should work. Here…” He gave her the sonic screwdriver. “They might still want money. Setting S?34 overrides the system and gives you unlimited credit.” Susan took the sonic screwdriver from him. “What you get back, I’ll find you something more useful to do. We’ll be here on the station for a couple of days. We can ALL take it in turns to do domestic chores.”

Noah gave him a black look and began to remind The Doctor that he was Director of Combined Departmental Operations, but like his colleague, the Manager for Transport Requisitions, he found himself realising he wasn’t as important as he thought he was.

The Doctor had a Department all of his own.

And his Department was in charge. He made that clear from the start. He was true to his word about the domestic chores. He even took his own turn. He worked longer hours than anyone else as they did the work steadily to convert the broadcasting station to something else entirely.

“Doctor?” Susan sought him out in what was, by everyone’s watches, the middle of the night. Everyone else was asleep, camped on the floors where they had worked. He was still working hard, his sonic screwdriver in his teeth as he worked in the back of a computerised relay system, interfacing it with several pieces of equipment found in the TARDIS.

“Drrghhhmphhhh,” he replied. Susan reached and took the screwdriver from his mouth. He smiled. “Hello,” he repeated. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“I was for a bit but I woke up. I thought I’d come talk to you. For company.”

“Are you ok?”

“Sure,” she said. “It just feels a bit creepy here. Ghost Station… a lot of people died here, didn’t they…”


“There’s a bit of talk… about ghosts. And when I went down for the food… the place felt so….”

“It’s nothing,” he assured her. “This place used to have thousands of people working on it. Then suddenly it all stopped. It’s been on low power for thirty years, just ticking over. Now it’s getting used to people being here again. Anyway, even if there were ghosts, I don’t think they’d do any of us any harm. They are just poor souls who were sucked into the madness that went on here.”

He looked at her. She looked at him steadily.

“You don’t believe in ghosts, Doctor?”

“I don’t need ghosts. I have enough to deal with in the living world.” He looked at her again. He put down the panel he was working on and sat with his legs crossed in front of him. He held out his hand and she sat beside him. Her hand stayed in his as he said nothing for quite a long while.

“What I said earlier, about the Delta Wave, about how close I came to ending everything… it shocked you, didn’t it. Seeing a scary, dark side of me.”

“Just a bit,” she admitted. “I didn’t think suicide was YOU.”

“The Daleks killed nearly everyone I ever loved. They destroyed my planet. Then they came here and nearly did the same to Earth. I thought… I really thought… make an end of it… a final end. No more Daleks. No more Doctor. No more chasing them across the bloody universe. Let it all just rest.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” she said. “I would never have met you.”

“I would never have met you,” he answered with a smile. “You’re a good girl, Susan.”

Susan smiled and sighed, not unhappily. It was nice being The Doctor’s surrogate granddaughter. She knew that was how he thought of her. And it felt good. Sometimes, when he held her hand as he did now, she wished it could be a more intimate relationship. But she knew that would never be.

“When this is over, we do need to visit some bright places,” he said. “Blackpool, for you. We have to restore your faith in the ground you walk on. And for me….” His eyes went a little dreamy for a while. “I think it’s time I went to see Dominique.”

“Your wife? The one who lives in the tree village?” The Doctor didn’t answer in words. His smile was enough. But something about the way he had spoken made her wonder. “Do you mean you want to leave me in Blackpool while you….”

“Oh, no, of course not,” he assured her. “I want you to come and meet my Dominique. And Dominic. My son. He was fourteen when I last saw him. He’ll be nearly fifteen now. Almost a man by their standards.”

He thought of them for as long as he dared. Then he picked up the piece of motherboard he was working on again. Susan stayed by his side, holding the sonic screwdriver and the more mundane tools while he worked.

“We can leave when we’re done,” Susan said after a while. “We’re lucky. I don’t know how they keep going.”

“They do it because it IS their world and there’s nothing else they can do,” The Doctor answered her. “They’ll be all right. It won’t be easy, but when this is done, they’ll be on the way back.”

“The Doctor saves the Earth. Again.”

“The Doctor does what HE has to do,” The Doctor replied. “Because there’s nothing else I can do.”

He worked on, talking to her from time to time. He was glad she was there. The place WAS creepy. The more so for him, as he had so many memories of it. Strange that HE should need company to stop him getting the creeps.

She fell asleep after a while. He didn’t realise until he asked her to pass him a micro spanner and looked around to see why she hadn’t responded. He smiled and put his coat around her before he went on with his work.

It took three days, and three night shifts for The Doctor. They all worked hard and steadily.

All except Noah. His behaviour puzzled all of them. He worked with the others, but he had no enthusiasm for the work, and he didn’t believe it could possibly work. He voiced that opinion so often that the others began to shun him. The Doctor wasn’t sure everyone was completely convinced, but most of them were prepared to hope - and trust in The Doctor’s belief that it would work.

“This is it,” he said as he sat in the control seat at last and looked at the console before him. “I just have to switch this on….”

Susan stood at his right side. Patricia stood to his left. The others of the crew who had worked so hard gathered around him. He took a deep breath and pressed the switch. The console lit up. The main viewscreen flickered and resolved into a view of the Earth. The two poles, with their pathetically small ice caps were the focus of two thin beams emanating from the Game Station. Finely charged ion energy that would gradually reduce the temperature and freeze the poles again.

“We’ve made a start,” he said. “As long as you look after the station now, you have your future.”

There were cheers. There were calls for a celebration. Susan reminded The Doctor that the food synthesisers could produce something that tasted sort of like wine.

Parties were rare in their world. This was the first many of the crew had been to in their lives. They got the hang of it easily enough, though. They were all enjoying themselves when somebody thought to ask where Noah was.

“He’ll be all right,” The Doctor assured them as he sipped a glass of synthesised champagne. “Once he realises the Station is working. You need to organise transport shuttles to and from the Station, shifts of technicians. Once that’s in order Susan and I can be off….”

He stopped. His hearts thudded as his ears detected a sound nobody else had yet heard. A rising noise of something charging up.

“What?” he cried. “No. Who would….”

He dropped his glass as he turned and ran back to the control room. Susan followed on his heels. So did Patricia. The others followed slowly, anxious to know what had gone wrong.

“Noah!” he yelled as he came out on the control room floor. “What are you….”

“The weapon!” Susan cried. “He’s….”

“He’s powered it up. It must have been on for hours. We didn’t even notice until the wave built up enough to be audible.”

“No!” Patricia cried. “No. He can’t.…”

“Noah!” The Doctor stepped towards him as he stood with his hands on the plunger that would launch the Delta Wave. What are you playing at?”

“I’m finishing it,” he answered. “Four hundred years…. That’s no good to us. Better to end the suffering now.”

“Noah,” Patricia said again. “Please don’t… you’ll kill us all. Everyone here, everyone on Earth.”

“This world of ours was rubbish even BEFORE the Daleks wrecked it,” Noah said. “You young ones think it was a good world. It wasn’t. True we had food and shelter. But nobody could be sure of anything else. Not even living through the day. You couldn’t plan on anything, couldn’t care for anyone, because at any moment you or they could be transmatted to one of those damn games and… and EXECUTED for getting a trivia question wrong. I watched it happen to my father. Can you imagine how it feels to see somebody you love killed for amusement on a television programme.”

“Noah….” The Doctor swallowed hard and tried not to remember the gut-wrenching sick feeling of seeing Rose enveloped in the “disintegrator beam” from the robot controller of one of those games. He knew it would have given no comfort to Noah to know that it wasn’t a disintegrator, but a transmat to the Dalek DNA processing. Noah’s father might well have lived – a form of life anyway – as a Dalek.

“Noah, don’t do it.” Patricia begged him. “It’s all right. The Doctor did it. The process is starting. The poles will refreeze in time. Earth will be saved. Humankind will survive.”

“NO!” Noah screamed hysterically. “NO. Better to end it now. The way The Doctor intended it to be. We should not have survived. It should have ended. This life isn’t worth saving.”

As he spoke, he pressed the plunger down. The Doctor lunged towards him, his scream mingling with the cries of those around him.

“Nothing happened!” Patricia cried a moment later. “We’re still alive.”

“Yes, we are,” The Doctor said. He wasn’t sure why. The generator was at full capacity. They should all have been dead now.

“Noah!” he said quietly. “Come on, now.” Two of his colleagues came to his side and gently but firmly took him away. He was sobbing pitifully, disappointed that he had not caused Armageddon

“Why DIDN’T it work?” Susan asked. “Why are we alive?”

“I don’t….” The Doctor knelt and opened up the panel in the side of the generator shell. He laughed hollowly. “There are two crossed wires, shorting out the trigger mechanism. I think…. I think it was my fault. I did it wrong. I was working under pressure. It was a stupid blunder though, even so.”

“You mean…” Susan gasped. “When you were here before… even if you HAD pressed the plunger, it wouldn't have worked?”

The Doctor laughed a slightly hysterical laugh.

“That’s exactly what it means.”

“Well….” Susan began, but she couldn’t think what to say after that.

“It doesn’t matter.” He turned and looked at the crowd. “Give Noah a sedative. I’ll take him back to Ringway before we leave. I think he got a bit space station crazy. He just needs a long rest. That’s another thing that you need to watch out for, though. Don’t let anyone stay too long on the station. It DOES get to Humans being in space all the time.”

He took Noah. He took the Delta Wave generator, too. Susan didn’t ask what he did with it, but it wasn’t there on the station for anyone else to misuse.

“Life IS better than death,” she told The Doctor as they walked in the sunshine on Blackpool promenade in mid-June, 2009. They were both eating candy floss. “I’m sure Noah will come to understand that in time.”

“I hope he will,” The Doctor agreed. He looked up at the Tower. I think I’d like to see the top while the gift shop is open.”

“Good enough,” Susan replied with a grin. It had not been as hard as she thought it would be to come back and see Blackpool as it was. She kept looking at things like the pier and the Sea Life Centre and the arcades and trying to imagine how far under the dark water they had been. But it didn’t frighten her as much as she thought it would.

“Thank you,” she whispered, because she knew there was nothing to be scared of while she was with The Doctor.