“Dominic!” The Doctor smiled as he felt the boy’s mind reach out to him across time and space. “I knew you could do it. Wait, let me help. You’re not strong enough yet. You need to practice. But I hear you. I feel you. Well done, my boy. Well done.”

He looked around at Susan. She was looking at him curiously. He knew his face must have gone a bit strange as he concentrated on reaching out to him.

“Can you take over here for a few minutes,” he asked. “Just keep an eye on those two gauges and make sure the left one doesn’t go over 150 and the right drop below 70. If they do, slowly adjust the knobs beside them.”

“Ok,” Susan answered. The idea of actually doing something important in flying the TARDIS thrilled her. It was one compensation for leaving Forêt and Miche. “What are you doing?”

“I’m talking to Dominic,” he answered.

“Oh,” she said. “I wish… Ask him to give my love to Miche, won’t you.”

“I want him to give my love to Dominique first,” The Doctor said. “But I’ll pass your message on, too.” Then he lay down on the sofa and closed his eyes. He reached again and found the boy’s mind. “Is your mother near you?” he asked. “Go and take hold of her hands, will you.” Dominic did so. The Doctor smiled joyfully. He couldn’t EXACTLY feel her hands, but he knew that Dominic could. “Kiss her on the cheek. And tell her I love her.”

That he DID feel. Dominic’s love for his mother was clearly and fully transmitted to him. The boy reported that his mother was crying - but for joy, not for sorrow, because she knew, now, that her husband would NEVER be away from her no matter how far he roamed.

“Later, tell Miche that Susan is thinking of him, but maybe without the hands on demonstration,” he added after they left Dominique to her own devices. “Meanwhile, let me teach you how to strengthen this ability. Try to send me a picture of something. Something other than your mother. As much as I love to see her face, that’s too easy. Can you picture the Hall of Devotions and show me each part of it in detail.”

It was a stretch, but he did it. After a while though, The Doctor stopped the exercise.

“Enough for now, Dominic,” he said. “I don’t want to exhaust you. Go and get a cup of buttermilk and sit for a while, and then go and play bâton haut with your friends.”

“I love you, father,” Dominic told him. The Doctor’s hearts swelled with pride when he said that. He responded in kind before gently closing the connection between them. He sat up and smiled. He stood and went to where Susan was dutifully manning the console.

“I wish Miche and I could do that. But we’re just Human. You and Dominic are lucky.”

“When you see him again, it will be all the sweeter for being apart for a little while. You’ll know for sure if it really is love.”

“What if it is?” She asked. “I know I could be happy living with him on Forêt. More than you could be. But mum and dad and Heather… especially Heather. We have a LOT of catching up to do….”

“We’ll work it out,” The Doctor promised. “Meanwhile, we’re heading for a really exciting planet. You up for it?”

“I’m always up for it,” she answered with a smile. Visiting really exciting planets was the best thing about life with The Doctor. Forêt was one of her favourites, of course. But she had fond memories of the Eye of Orion, and then there was Pallexia, with the wonderful domes of science, and Kallo V’Asel with its Aurora.

Yes, she’d seen some interesting planets.

This one was going to slide right into her top ten, she thought as they stepped out of the TARDIS and she looked up at a red-orange sky and down to the red-orange grass beneath her feet.


The Doctor laughed softly. Every Earth person said ‘wow’ the first time they saw grass that wasn’t green.

And then they looked around and saw the sculpture garden.

Usually the TARDIS was the most unusual thing in the landscapes it landed in. It worried The Doctor sometimes how conspicuous it could be. He didn’t like it attracting too much attention .

But here, the TARDIS actually looked rather run down and dismal compared to the sculptures. Susan stared around in amazement at the weird and wonderful abstract shapes. One looked almost humanoid, if a humanoid could be twenty feet tall and made of veined rock. Behind it was something that looked like a space rocket made of candle wax that had melted in the heat. There was a small forest of what looked like multi-coloured stone mushrooms, all taller than the TARDIS, and a collection of spiky objects the size of beach balls placed in what Susan supposed was an artistically significant positions.

“Abstract art!” she said with a smile as The Doctor led her through an extensive sculpture park.

“Abstract art….” By her side Ric whirred into action, drawing from his database of knowledge as he went into the mode he was designed for – tour guide. “Art that does not depict objects in the natural world, but instead uses color and form in a non-representational way. On Earth in the early 20th century, the term was used to describe art, such as Cubist and Futurist art, that depicts real forms in a simplified manner, keeping only an allusion of the original natural subject. Such paintings were often claimed to capture something of the depicted objects' immutable intrinsic qualities rather than its external appearance. Elsewhere in the universe abstract art is most highly prized by the people of Nebau Tertius, who believe realistic depictions of living beings to be blasphemous. Here on Rhekan the production of a significant piece of abstract art is compulsory for all students of the university except those taking courses in agricultural science.”

“Thank you, Ric,” Susan said with a laugh. “Meanwhile, as I was saying, Abstract Art!” She smiled as they came upon a very ambitious piece. It was a water feature with a vaguely tree shaped structure that had pot like flowers at different heights around its trunk and branches, from which water was coming out in different colours and different water pressures to gather in a pool of rainbow colours below.

“Not bad,” The Doctor grinned.

“If you like that sort of thing,” Susan added. “It’s all kind of fun, as long as the artists don’t expect me to see the meaning of life in them. I hate that. You know, when somebody puts three lines of different coloured paint on a blank canvas and calls it ‘Origins of the Universe” and expects you to see all sorts of deep philosophy in it… and if you don’t, then you must be a stupid, uneducated idiot.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” The Doctor said. He thought she had summed it all up very well. “But the Rhekans aren’t like that. They just love to create weird and wonderful things for the joy of it.”

“And is this why we came? To look at the sculptures?”

“Not just that, though I thought you might like it. We’re going to the Rhekan university. There is a rather important guest lecture tonight by the foremost expert in the saga poems of Rhekan III.”

“Who’s that then?” Susan asked.

“Me,” The Doctor answered with a grin.

“What? You’re an expert on poetry?”

“Since you ask, yes.”

“Since when? I’ve never heard you recite a poem.”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t, does it?”

“Well, no, but… So how come you’re an expert in them?”

“Spent a summer vacation on Rhekan V when I was a student. The sagas are quite fascinating. They….”

“The Saga Poems of Rhekan V….” Ric again whirred into action but The Doctor nudged him with his toe.

“I’m the expert in THIS field,” he said. “I’m telling it my way.” He began to explain the Sagas to Susan, a collection of ten poems that were as long, in total, as the Old Testament of the Earth Bible and told of the adventures of ten different ancient heroes of Rhekan whose exploits would have had the Disney Corporation begging for the rights to turn them into animated feature films, complete with the Happy Meal hero toy spin offs.

“Not while I have breath in my body!” The Doctor remarked when Susan suggested the idea. She laughed and agreed with him that it would be sacrilege to turn such a work of great literature into a Disney brand. She let him talk at length again about the poems. It was nice to hear his voice when he was enthusiastic about something. She realised as she listened that The Doctor as an expert on the literature of an alien planet wasn’t such a strange idea as she had thought it was. He was an expert in just about everything as far as she could see.

Watching him give a university lecture on any subject would be a treat.

“That one is a BIT more realistic,” Susan said as she saw a sculpture by the gate that marked the boundary of the park. It was an androgynous humanoid about seven feet tall. It was several shades of purple and white and it had its arms folded over its chest. It looked as if it was waiting patiently.

The sculpture moved and Susan suppressed a scream of fright as she realised it WASN’T a sculpture but a living being.

“Illiana!” The Doctor cried and reached out a hand to shake. The being called Illiana smiled broadly as he or she reciprocated. He – or she - was wearing an all in one suit that even covered the face apart from eyes, nostrils and mouth. The texture of the fabric was like chunky knitting, she thought.

“Doctor,” Illiana replied in a feminine voice that solved the question Susan had been trying to work out. “It is delightful to see you again. And who is your companion?”

“This is Susan,” he replied. Illiana inclined her head as she reached to shake Susan’s hand. Susan looked up to make eye contact.

“You are welcome to Rhekan. Any friend of The Doctor will ALWAYS be welcome on Rhekan. He is an honoured guest here whenever he visits.”

“Is he?”

“Indeed he is. The Doctor is a very clever man.”

There was transport awaiting them. They settled in the back of what looked like a sleek speed boat on dry land and The Doctor made sure their seatbelts were firmly secured. Ric hovered by their feet. Susan was only a little disturbed when a roof slid up and over them. The ‘boat’ rose up into the air and then darted away.

It was fast, but not so fast as they couldn’t see the land below. There was a lot of red-brown in the landscape. She noticed there were several more of the sculpture parks. They dominated the landscape. She remembered what Ric had said about art being compulsory and wondered if they would ever run out of room for all the sculptures.

Between the parks most of the land was red-brown desert.

Not an especially fertile world, Susan thought.

“Rhekan IV has nothing else on it but sculpture parks and the university,” The Doctor told her. “Nothing grows here. I have always been of the opinion that all it needs is some careful irrigation projects. There IS plenty of fresh water. But they have never tried to make it viable. They prefer to dedicate the planet to education. The students come from the other four planets in the Rhekan system.”

“Well, I suppose it’s a way of doing it.”

“It’s not how I’d do it,” The Doctor said. “A whole planet producing nothing but abstract art? Rhekan II and III especially were badly over-populated when I was here last and they really ought to be producing more food. But it’s the way they have always done it, and it’s not for me to tell them otherwise.”

The university was impressive, no doubt about that. It was the sort of place Susan imagined when people talked of universities as ivory towers. It really DID have a white tower that rose up into the sky in the centre and different wings of it spiralled out between lawns of the red-brown grass and pools of cool water.

The craft landed on the roof of the reception hall and Illiana brought them through white-walled corridors to a hospitality room with a view over one of the fertile patches where crops grew. She offered them a drink that was a little like coffee and told them she would be back shortly.

“So when WERE you here last?” Susan asked him as she looked out of the window and drank the drink that was a little like coffee.

“Oh, about two hundred years ago,” The Doctor answered. “I spent a couple of years as a teacher at the university here. The Rhekans are delightful people. So eager to learn.”

“Two hundred years?” Susan thought about it for a while. “So… wait a minute. So how come Illiana recognised you? Didn’t you change?”

“Several times. That would have been. Oooh… my seventh incarnation.” He laughed softly. “I looked more LIKE a university professor then. Middle aged, tweedy sort of look. Wore a hat. Never wear hats these days. Still got the hatstand. But never wear hats.”

Susan recognised the signs of him wandering off into a meaningless verbal meander.

“Yes, but, how come she recognised you? And come to think of it, SHE doesn’t look two hundred years old. It IS just your sort who can regenerate isn’t it?”

“The recognition thing is Power of Suggestion. Like a mild hypnosis. I just put it in her mind that this is how I always looked. As for her… You know, that’s a very good point. Something IS a bit odd there.”


“Maybe not. These are good, decent people. They love learning, art, literature, pure sciences. I cannot believe there is anything sinister happening.”

“I hope not,” Susan agreed. “This DOES seem to be a lovely place. Even if most of it IS desert.”

“A lot of my planet was desert, too. But it was still beautiful.” The Doctor smiled a sad smile as his memory drifted to his lost homeworld. Again that was something she had come to expect from him. When he thought about Gallifrey he always had that expression.

But the moment passed and when Illiana returned to the hospitality room she told them she had been assigned to take them to see the University Chancellery.

“We’re really getting the VIP treatment,” Susan remarked as they were invited to sit in a sort of hover-train that moved along a ‘track’ in the centre of the wide corridor. Again Ric took his place by their feet like a pet dog. The Doctor looked content as they moved at a gentle pace through the corridors and up several turbo lift shafts until they reached the executive suite. The university was very beautiful and very neat and tidy. He was reminded very much of his own alma mater, the Prydonian Academy. Strange that he was never especially happy when he was a student there, but he remembered back to those years with fondness, not so much for the interaction with the vast majority of the other students, but for the joy of learning for the sake of learning. He loved discovering new things, gaining fresh understanding of new disciplines and new areas of expertise.

He wondered if there would ever come a time when there was nothing left to learn.

Possibly when he was dead.

And maybe not even then.

He learnt something new when they reached the Chancellery.

“That’s in charge of the university?” Susan stood against the railing of the balcony and looked across the wide, circular floor to the huge computer databank that covered a half-circle of wall opposite, rising up like a great church organ into the high roof of the tall room. There was a pointed roof above it, made of some kind of opaque crystal glass. She guessed this was the top of the great tower in the middle of the university complex.

“That is the Arch-Chancellor,” Illiana said. “He is the most advanced computer in the galaxy and is programmed to organise every function of every department of the university. It determines how many students will be energised to participate in lectures and tutorials at any time. Your lecture is going to be a very big occasion. Many thousands of the students will be in attendance.”

“Where ARE the students anyway?” Susan asked. “This is a VERY quiet university.”

“They will be energized for the lecture,” Illiana informed them. “And the tutorial afterwards. To meet an eminent man like The Doctor is a once in a decade opportunity for us all.”

“Well,” The Doctor said with a grin. “Good job I DON’T still wear hats. All these compliments….”

“Yes, you’re a very big man on Rhekan,” Susan answered him. “But Doctor, don’t you think it’s odd, too? I mean what DOES energised mean? Do they all get a complimentary bottle of Red Bull to keep them awake when you’re talking or do they run on Duracells or something?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Yes, it is odd. Illiana, what’s the story? The last time I was here this place was teeming. Is it a semester break?”

“No,” Illiana answered. “They are all here.” She stood up very straight and spoke out loud. “Arch-Chancellor, The Doctor and his companion wish to see the students. Will you grant him permission?”

“Of course.” A voice answered, apparently coming from the walls. It was a deep, educated voice such as Susan expected a university chancellor would have. It was the computer’s voice. “The Doctor is an honoured guest of Rhekan University. He is to be allowed to see EVERYTHING he asks to see.”

“Thank you, Arch-Chancellor,” Illiana responded. There was a faint hum and lights blinked on and off all over the server unit. Then the floor between them and the computerised Arch-Chancellor opened up. Susan gasped as she stared down.

“There must be thousands of them,” she managed to say.

“Hundreds of thousands,” The Doctor added. “About half a million I’d estimate.

“Five hundred and ninety five thousand, seven hundred and seven,” Ric said. “That is how many life support units I have detected in the cryogenic facility.”

“You mean you have more than a half a million students here, cryogenically frozen?”

“What?” Susan understood the word cryogenic even though it was a word used mostly in science fiction in her day. She took Ric and The Doctor’s word for it that there were that many there. She could certainly see rows upon rows of what looked like coffins with people inside. She could see that they extended all the way down the inside of the tower and, she guessed, for a long way underground, too. Above ground the tower was a sort of translucent white as if made of a substance that let through natural light. But below the walls were dark and the rows were illuminated by a green light that came from the bottom of the tower far below.

“WHY?” she asked.

“I was just about to ask that very question,” The Doctor said. “WHY?”

“Famine,” Illiana said. “Not long after your last visit to us, Doctor, there was a great famine throughout the Rhekan system. Crops failed three harvests in a row. People were beginning to die. Our government made a decision. They reasoned that the most academically gifted of our people were the least productive and should be cryogenically preserved to be revived when the food stocks were recovered. In the meantime, they learn continuously. The Arch-Chancellor provides educational programmes that are directly fed into their brains as they sleep. They require only minimal sustenance. Groups of 20,000 at a time are energised every six months to sit their examinations, and from time to time we have special lectures such as you are here to give. The students to be energised are chosen by lottery. The others will have the lecture transmitted to them by the arch-chancellor.”

“I see….” The Doctor said very slowly. He looked at Illiana, then at Susan, and finally at the arch-chancellor super-computer. Then he turned and walked away. Susan was a moment or two more looking down at the phenomenal sight of the huge cryogenic chamber, then she turned to follow him. Ric whirred along beside her.

She found him standing by the lift shaft, leaning his head against the cool white wall.


“Shada,” he said. “It was the prison planet of my world. The prisoners were kept in cryogenic chambers for thousands of years, sometimes. Our scientists concluded after much research that the prisoners’ brains continued to work at a very low level even in cryogenic state. In other words, they were aware at a basic level, that they were in prison for thousands of years. Our scientists concluded that, should any of those long term prisoners be revived, they would most likely have gone mad from the trauma.”

“But these students….”

“Are innocent young people, subjected to something WE considered a punishment for the most heinous of crimes.”

“But they’re learning as they sleep. They’re not just going slowly mad. They’re even going to hear your lecture.”

“I’m not going to give a lecture,” The Doctor told her. “Not under THESE circumstances.”

“But Doctor.…” He looked around as Illiana came into the room. “You have no idea how much we have looked forward to your visit. All of us. When I was chosen to greet you, I was so thrilled. It means so much more to me than just a chance to be energised before everyone else.”

“YOU were also cryogenically frozen? The teachers…”

“Yes,” she answered. “We, too, are taken out of the chambers in rotation. Who would supervise the examinations?”

“Who, indeed,” The Doctor mused. “But Illiana… such a terrible.…”

“But it isn’t terrible. It is quite pleasurable. The body and mind knows such perfect peace. I chose to develop my knowledge of music in my last period of the chamber. And when I woke, I felt as if I could sing forever.”

“That does sound a bit different to what happened to the prisoners,” Susan added. “Doctor, you must give the lecture. Otherwise you will disappoint so many of them who won’t have the chance to be revived at all.”

“You think I should do it for them?”

“Yes,” Susan told him.

“Please,” Illiana begged.

“Ric, what do you think?” The Doctor asked. “Seeing as it seems to be coming down to a vote.”

“You came here to give a lecture, master,” Ric said. “Not to do so would be illogical and non-productive.

“I’m not sure logic has anything to do with it.” The Doctor looked around at them all again. “Ok, but I want my TARDIS brought here. I need to check some things in the database. And I want absolutely as many students as possible revived. Open up all the lecture theatres, all the classrooms, have the lecture relayed by video. I want as many living, breathing, walking students in this place as it can hold.”

“I… will pass your requests on to the Arch-Chancellor,” Illiana said.

“No,” The Doctor told her. “You will pass my non-negotiable TERMS to the Arch-Chancellor. He might be the smartest artificial brain in the galaxy, but I’m The Doctor and I’m the smartest LIVING brain he’s ever going to meet.”

Meanwhile, he really DID want his TARDIS. He had not been especially happy about leaving it in the sculpture park. He felt vulnerable without it. Illiana made the same transport available to him, but he took over the driving. The hover-train that was internal transport within the university whirred noisily as he pushed the throttle forward and made it run at something considerably faster than walking speed, and when they reached the hover car on the reception roof he slid into the driver’s seat, warning Susan to buckle up.

“Ric, you stay here with Illiana and keep an eye on things,” he told his other companion.

“I will keep a laser sight on ‘things’,” Ric corrected him phlegmatically. The Doctor grinned. Marius’s creations were always annoyingly pedantic and he wouldn’t have them any other way.

“I love flying,” The Doctor said as the hover car rose vertically and Susan thought her stomach had stayed below. “Used to do a lot more of it, you know. In my third incarnation, when I was exiled to Earth in the 1970s, there was a rash of UFO sightings around southern England. Most of them… ninety-nine percent of therm… were ME in my flying car. Some day I must get on to U.N.I.T. and ask them what they did with it. I’d like it back.”

Susan smiled and wondered what the one percent of UFO sightings that weren’t The Doctor’s ‘flying car’ might have been.

“Aliens, obviously,” he replied even though she hadn’t asked the question. “I dealt with them, of course. And the dinosaurs in London and the poor old Loch Ness monster.”

“What did you do to the Loch Ness Monster?” Susan asked. “And bear in mind, I’m only asking to take my mind off your flying.”

“Sent her home to the Loch,” he answered. “She was no trouble to anyone. It was the aliens who wanted to use her for the old ‘take over the world’ routine that were the problem. And what’s wrong with my flying?”

Susan didn’t reply. The Doctor cheerfully told her that the TARDIS was dead ahead. She still didn’t reply. He smiled and landed the craft. Susan unbuckled her seatbelt and jumped out, breathing deeply. The Doctor moved nearly as quickly to open the TARDIS door. By the time Susan came inside he had the console fired up ready to move the TARDIS to the university. He was also studying the computer database very intently. Susan watched his eyes flicker as he took in several thousand pages of information in a few minutes.

“You really are a match for any computer, aren’t you,” she told him.

“Oh, MORE than a match,” he replied with a grin. “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes, Doctor, but please make this a GENTLE TARDIS trip back to the university.”

“It will be,” he answered. “But I’m not going back directly. There are a couple of things I want to have a look at first. Why don’t you grab yourself a sandwich in the kitchen. It’s WAY past teatime.”

“I am hungry,” she admitted. “But the idea of making myself a sandwich after all that talk about famine.…”

“There’s no famine,” he answered. “If there ever WAS a famine, it is long resolved.”


“There are very few TRUE famines caused by actual lack of food. Most of the ones you know of in the history of your world were caused primarily by politics. It’s the same the universe over. Time and again people have starved to death while food or resources with which to purchase food were being exported.”

The Doctor’s eyes glittered as he spoke. There was a deep, suppressed anger beneath that paragraph about economic realities.

“The reason my own Susan and I first set out from our homeworld was to try to make a difference in the universe, to right its wrongs. I tried so hard. But it’s such a big universe and there are so many stupid, stupid things wrong that don’t even HAVE to be. And I think this is ONE of those.”

“Can you make it right?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think I can. Or at least I can help them make it right for themselves. If I’m right about what is happening, anyway.”

“Well, then,” Susan said. “I’ll go make us BOTH a sandwich while you do what you have to do.”

He did what he had to do. What he found pleased him in one way, because he liked to be proved RIGHT. But at the same time it dismayed him because it proved once again that Human beings, possibly the most exasperating race in the universe – or second most exasperating if he counted his own people – were not alone in their capacity for stupid and unnecessary cruelty to each other.

For once it would have been NICE to be proved wrong.

He materialised the TARDIS on the balcony opposite the Arch-Chancellor. Ric and Illiana were waiting.

“It is almost time to energise the chosen students,” she said. “The Arch-Chancellor has agreed to the extra numbers on this special occasion. I must go to meet them as they are revived. They will be given a meal. Rations have been made available. The lecture is scheduled for two hours time.”

“Two hours is more than enough time for me to get ready. Susan, why don’t you go with Illiana and greet the students. A friendly face is just what they need. That and a good hot cup of tea. Plenty of sugar.”

He had a strong feeling hot cups of tea were not included in the rationing, but he had to trust that Illiana and those of the faculty who would be thawed out with the students could handle that side of things. He had his own work to do.

“Arch-Chancellor,” he said, standing and looking at the great computer. “You and I need to talk, don’t we.”

“We do indeed,” the computer replied. “That is why I extended the invitation to you. I knew if anyone could help my students, The Doctor could.”

The Doctor allowed himself just a few seconds of utter smugness. He knew he had a reputation among many species of the universe as an all round good guy, but this was the first computer to put its faith in him.

“What do you need me to do?” he asked.

The computer told him. He nodded in understanding. Yes, computers could teach. Computers could learn. This one had been programmed to teach and to protect the students. Somewhere along the line it had learned to love them, and to worry about what the future held for them.

It was taking care of them within its programming.

But it was still a computer. And a computer couldn’t break its own programming.

That was where a brain like his came in.

“Ric,” he said. “Do you understand what you have to do?”

“Affirmative, master,” Ric said with a soft sound as his hoverpads raised him off the ground. He hovered over to the great computer and plugged himself into the external port that extended itself towards him.

“Good boy, Ric,” he said as he turned away.

“You look like a total geek,” Susan told The Doctor as he emerged from the TARDIS in a deep purple academic gown over his suit. “Cool sort of geek, but still a geek.”

“Yeah, that’s me,” he agreed with a grin. “Are you ready?”

“For a two hour lecture on a bunch of poetry I have never read?” Susan laughed. “For YOU, I will try to stay awake. I wouldn’t do it for anyone else.”

“The students are glad to be awake for me,” he answered.

“Yeah, they would be. It was really creepy, you know - watching them. The ones that were selected for ‘energising’, the chambers are on sort of hydraulics. They pop out from the rows and the doors open, and they wake up. I was down at the very bottom with Illiana. Looking at them all, the way one was chosen, then a whole row of them left.… There was one guy… he was really upset because his girlfriend wasn’t one of the ones who was revived. He wanted a chance to spend a bit of time with her. Can you imagine.… I mean I was missing Miche so much, but at least I’m awake and alive, and I have more than a few hours every couple of decades to be with him. And you and Dominique always know how much you love each other. But these people…. It’s a horrible way to live, even if it WAS a good idea at the time.”

“I know. That’s why I’m going to do what I can,” he promised her. “They’re going to get a lecture that they will never forget.”

“You mean this isn’t just.…”

“Stay awake and you might find out,” he told her with a grin as he put on an old fashioned mortar board hat that made him look even more like a geek and swept down the corridor to the main lecture theatre.

As he walked out onto the podium and looked around at the thousands of students looking back at him in rows upon rows he really did feel nervous. Strange that he should be. In most respects he was the universe’s biggest show off who loved an audience and a chance to prove how clever he was. But standing on a stage, with so many people waiting for him to speak to them gave him a dry mouth and butterflies in his stomach.

He took a sip of the water glass that was set there for him then pressed the button that started the autocue and the synchronised visual presentation on a big screen behind him.

At least that was the idea. But the pictures he was showing had nothing to do with saga poems and he was not taking any notice of the autocue.

“How many of you lot are literature majors?” He asked, scanning the crowd. He cupped his hand to his ear. “Come on, speak up,” he encouraged them. Somewhere in the very highest tier of seats a few people waved. “So why are the rest of you here? Why should you want to listen to me talk for two hours about a bunch of ancient poems?”

There was a murmur around the hall. This wasn’t exactly what they were expecting.

“Don’t get me wrong. These are brilliant poems, and maybe some time I’ll come back and give you that lecture. But tonight I’m going to talk about something more important to you all.”

He paused for breath, and a little more for effect. Then he glanced at the picture on the screen behind him.

“I want to talk about history tonight. The history of a planetary system that was doing ok for itself, by and large, except that it was producing far less food than it had people to feed and its exportable resources were only just covering the shortfall. Then the crops failed several years in succession. Disaster of a terrible kind faced the people. And the government took a very drastic decision. They could only feed the people who were directly involved in production. So they put their academic population, students and teachers, alike, all into cryogenic storage. They did it because they valued them, because when the crisis was over they would have a need again for artists and poets, writers, thinking people. So they put them in a safe place and they put the great Arch-Chancellor computer in charge of nurturing their minds while they used their precious food resources to nurture the bodies of the people who worked and produced food, and produced the goods they sold offworld to buy more food. And they waited for things to get better.”

He paused as the students took in the images on the screen of the first batch of students going into the cryogenic chambers. There were mutterings and murmurs among his audience as they remembered when it was their turn.

“Things DID get better. The foodstocks recovered. It took quite a while, twenty years or more. But by then, the government had come to realise something. All the brightest and smartest people were in cryogenic sleep and what they had left was the working masses, people who did as they were told, and did it without complaining, because they were people without ambition and ideas who didn’t strive for anything else. A controllable people. A people who FORGOT about their students and teachers in their cryogenic chambers. The Arch-Chancellor continued to look after them. He did what he was programmed to do. He taught them the lessons in his databanks. He revived them in turn to take their exams, to build their compulsory pieces of abstract art that their minds had dreamed slowly for years, and then to go back to sleep again for another couple of decades. Which brings me to a question. Does anyone know how long they have been asleep?” He stepped off the podium and walked along the front row of students, repeating the question to them. They answered with guesses in the range of twenty years – that one he expected, since he had fed that figure to them before – to forty, fifty, even a hundred years. He nodded and walked back to the podium. On screen a rather flashy graphic showed the years running by at a superfast speed, the planets of the Rhekan system spinning away the years. When the final figure, the current date, flashed in big letters on the screen, there was more than a murmur. There was an outcry.

Two thousand years had passed.

Even The Doctor had been surprised when he checked what he had found against the TARDIS’s records. He hadn’t visited Rhekan for two hundred of his personal years, but he was a time traveller and he had returned far, far later than he himself had even realised.

Some of the students began to cry. Others shouted in dismay, disbelief, anger. He waited for them to settle.

“That’s only half the story. Two thousand years ago, Rhekan was an overpopulated technological society. But without young people with new ideas, without universities turning out technicians and scientists, and even writers and poets, the society ground to a halt. It stagnated socially and technologically. And then it went into reverse. Society slowly decayed, broke down altogether. There were several very terrible wars. Rhekan I and Rhekan II were both completely wiped out by chemical warfare, and on the two remaining populated planets what is euphemistically called conventional warfare further decimated the population.”

On screen pictures appeared of the current population of Rhekan III and Rhekan IV. Small, isolated villages of subsistence farmers just managing to hang on from harvest to harvest.

“That was the state of affairs two hundred years ago. Then another famine struck. And now…”

On the screen, data gathered a few hours ago by the TARDIS. It showed that Rhekan III and IV were now completely uninhabited.

“You have two planets there that are new Edens. You can begin again. You can get it right. You and your friends, when we can get the rest of them energised, have a hard struggle, but you are the brightest and best of your people. You have been learning for two thousand years. You are ready.”

“We’re not ready,” somebody protested.

“Yes, you are,” The Doctor replied. “You’re scared, I know. But you can do it. The Arch-Chancellor has made sure you can. HE worked it out long ago. He knew that you’d all been forgotten. He knew that being able to make beautiful if exotic sculptures or understand the saga poems would not be any use to you. So he began to teach you agricultural science, architecture, engineering, political science, economics, the skills you need to build your new world, literally and figuratively. What he couldn’t do was break his programming. He couldn’t get you or himself out of the cycle that you have been in all that time. That’s why he brought me here. To break the programme. And that’s what I’m doing.”

There was a silence for a long moment as he stopped speaking, then the cheering began as the students realised that they had been freed from a prison they didn’t even know they had been in until The Doctor told them about it. As he turned and left the stage, Susan caught up with him.

“Oh, I’m so proud of you,” she told him. “You’ve saved them all. They can all be woken up now. That boy and his girlfriend can be together. All the others.…”

“It wasn’t me,” The Doctor answered her modestly. “It was a computer that learnt to love the students it was programmed to teach and wanted to help them.”

Of course, it wouldn’t happen overnight, The Doctor realised. Half a million people could not be revived all at once. The first of them would have to prepare the ground for the others. It would be years, perhaps, before the last of them could be revived. Until then, the Arch-Chancellor was needed to look after them as he had been doing for those two millennia.

And so was Ric. He was providing the Arch-Chancellor with an important new programme. It was he who was selecting the best candidates for reviving.

“Ric,” The Doctor said as he approached the Arch-Chancellor and his new assistant. “I’ve got a new list here. These are people who are close friends or relatives of the ones already revived. They should be next so that these people can start rebuilding relationships. That’s the most important thing for them in these early years of their new lives.” He slotted the memory chip into Ric’s drive and he whirred into action.

“Affirmative, Master-Doctor,” Ric said. “I will begin processing these graduates immediately.”

“Graduates?” The Doctor smiled. “So they all passed their exams then? I suppose they should after two thousand years of education. Some of them must be nearly as smart as me by now.”

“I have never measured your IQ, Master-Doctor,” Ric replied.

“You know, we never sorted out this Master-Doctor thing,” he said. “I suppose there’s not much point now. Are you going to stay here and work with the Arch-Chancellor for the good of the students?”

“Affirmative, Master-Doctor. I have a purpose here. Estimate it will take at least twenty years to revive all of the students. By which time the first wave will have children of their own who will need to be educated. There is work for me to do here.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ll miss you, Ric. It was nice having you around the TARDIS.”

“But you had no use for me,” he argued. “You took me with you out of loyalty to Professor Marius.”

“Are you analysing my motives?” The Doctor asked with a laugh. “You’re an intelligent radiator. What do you know?”

Ric made a noise that could have been a laugh. To his surprise, the Arch-Chancellor laughed, too. The computers were laughing with him.

And he thought he had seen everything!