“I really enjoyed Christmas in the 17th century,” Donna said as she came into the console room wearing a contemporary skirt and blouse for the first time since Christmas Eve 1625. “But twelve nights of partying in a row is not good for my sleep patterns, my waistline or my cholesterol. And it is nice not to have to squeeze into a corset.”

“Yes, I’m quite glad to be wearing ordinry trousers again,” The Doctor agreed. “Anyway, where would you like to go to next?”

“You’re really asking me?” Donna replied. “I get to choose?”

“Why not? Go on. Your choice. Anywhere in time and space.



“Well… then… actually… I think I’d like to go home.”

“Home?” The Doctor looked disappointed. Was she really tired of being with him already? Granted there had been some stressful times. Being marooned on a desert island for weeks had been traumatic. Even Christmas had not been without its scares. But he thought she was still game for the adventures.

And besides, he wasn’t ready to part with her yet. He didn’t want to be alone again after sharing his life with her.

“Just for a bit,” she added. “Just to…”

“Oh!” He was visibly relieved. “You mean you want to go home to visit your mum and Wilf, and then we can be off again?”

“Yes, course. What did you think I meant?” She looked at his face and laughed. “As if. I mean, why would I give up being with you, seeing all that fantastic stuff, just to be stuck with a snotty cow at the DSS asking where I’ve been for the past six months and mum nagging about when I'm going to get a proper job and when I’ll meet a nice bloke and settle down, yackety, yakety, change the record, please, mum!”

“If it’s that bad, why do you…”

“I don’t just want to go home, home. I want… if it’s possible… I was thinking…” she paused and looked at him again. “Doctor… I was wondering if you could….”

“Whatever it is, spit it out. The worst I can say is no.”

“I want to go home at New Year last year. Like, back in time just a little bit. I mean, a machine that can go to 1625 and 1943 and the 24th century ought to be able to manage one year.”

“It’s not… about distance,” he said. “It’s… Oh, dear. I did promise, didn’t I? I can’t go back on that, now. “But… Donna… if this is leading where I think it’s leading… if there is something you want to alter about your past… then no, you can’t. Anything you do would have huge implications for your own personal time line and for others. You might even end up stopping yourself from meeting me. And then we’d all be in a mess with paradoxes and recursive anomalies.”

“I don’t want to change anything. Well, not as such. I just… Doctor, I told you about my dad. He died in February of this year. The year that I met you. Well, the thing is… mum wanted me to spend New Years’ Eve with her and dad and granddad. I was living away from home, you see. I had a flat with Suzie Mair. It didn’t last long. I fell out with her. Sometimes she really is a right ‘mare’….” The Doctor’s eyes were looking a bit glazed at that point. “Anyway, I didn’t want to go, because, well, you know what mum’s like… no, you don’t. But anyway, I told mum I wanted to go to a party with my mates. She was really disappointed. And it was a rubbish party, anyway. Some idiot put a whole bottle of vodka in the fruit punch and I missed midnight altogether and woke up at nearly dinner time the next day with somebody’s cat sitting on my head. And… and… I didn’t even go home at all that week. I was busy with other stuff. Then mum rang…. To say dad was in hospital. He had a stroke. A really massive one. Didn’t know where he was, or who we were. Rambling on about things that happened twenty years ago, but didn’t know what day it was. Fed by the nurses… and everything else. He was like that for a month, never got any better. And then… then his heart gave out and…”

The Doctor said nothing. He knew what this was coming around to, now.

“That’s the thing, you see. I never managed to say anything at all to him that he could understand. So… if we went home that New Year, while I'm comatose at Mindy Braithwaite’s house… there’s no change of meeting myself. I mean, I know that’s bad, obviously. And I wouldn’t be changing anything at all. I’d just have a chance of being with my dad, and telling him I love him, and some other things I should have said, before it’s too late.”

He should have said no. It was a disaster waiting to happen. It was like a re-run of when Rose wanted to meet her dad before he died. And look how that turned out. He really should have said no this time.

“What about me?” he asked. “Do I find my own party to go to?”

“Well… I…sort of… thought… you could…. Mum did say I could bring whoever I was going out with.” She looked at him. He was keeping his expression very neutral, but there was a faint hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth. “Don’t get any ideas, spaceboy. You’re still not my type. But if you put on a less crumpled suit you might just convince my mum that I have a decent boyfriend for once.”

He definitely should have said no.”

“Go on, then,” he said. “Go put on a posh frock and I’ll set the course for Chiswick at New Year, 2008.”

He wore his blue suit. It was less geeky than the brown pinstripe and actually looked like it had seen an iron. Donna looked pretty in a blue dress that she had bought in a market on Bezal Minor.

He parked the TARDIS in the alleyway next to Tescos where he would bump into Donna later in the year. It wasn’t mere sentimentality. He had checked the wine rack in the TARDIS kitchen and couldn’t find a single bottle that was made on planet Earth. They nipped into the late opening supermarket and got a good Australian red and a box of Ferrero Rocher. He had been to quite a few Ambassador’s receptions in his time, and never eaten what he considered a quite inferior sweet under the showy wrapper, but he knew that Mrs Noble would consider them sophisticated.

That done, he hailed a cab, surreptitiously checking with his sonic screwdriver that the driver was a flesh and blood Human – just in case – and they headed for Donna’s home.

“Listen,” Donna said as they turned onto the estate. “Mum… she’s… look… she’s not as bad as she seems. If she gives you a hard time… please… be patient with her. Don’t let her wind you up.”

Donna looked anxious. The Doctor remembered the Sylvia Noble he had met in the other reality at the wedding reception. He hadn’t spoken to her for more than a minute, but the impression he got stretched his qualifications as a diplomat just a bit. And the way Donna talked about her was not particularly heartening.

All the same, this meant a lot to Donna. He promised to be on his best behaviour.

“I know you will,” she told him. “I just hope my mum will be.”

No wonder he felt apprehensive as they walked up the garden path. The Doctor had faced Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Zygons, The Master. He had fought on the front line of the terrible Time War. But his alien stomach churned at the prospect of meeting the most fearsome creature of all - a Human mother.

The front door opened to their knock. He was sure Donna was relieved, too when it was Mr Noble who greeted them.

“Hi, dad,” she said, reaching to hug him. “I decided not to go to the party, after all. I’d love to spend new Year with you and mum and granddad.”

“She’ll be pleased,” he said. “Come on in. And… your friend.”

The Doctor followed Donna in through the hallway to the living room, which he just bet Mrs Noble called a Drawing Room. It was furnished with the best that twelve months’ interest free credit could buy. A gas fire with a reasonably convincing ‘real fire’ effect warmed it. Mrs Noble was sitting on an armchair, but she stood as they entered.

“Hi, mum,” Donna said. “I… I’m here. I changed my mind… I…”

“Well, it’s a good job I’m doing buffet food, not sit down,” she said. “Plenty for everyone.” She glanced at The Doctor. “So is this the latest, then? Bit skinny, isn’t he? Not a mature student or something? Starving on a council grant?”

“Mum, this is…” Donna looked at The Doctor, suddenly uncertain. She had been travelling with him for six months and she still didn’t know his real name. She had forgotten even to worry about it. Calling him Doctor had become perfectly normal to her. But her mother would expect a proper name.

“John Smith,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake. “Doctor John Smith. Pleased to meet you, Mrs Noble.”

“Doctor?” Sylvia’s expression visibly changed as she reached to shake his hand. “Well… I’m… surprised. Donna… associating with somebody qualified. Is that a medical doctor, then?”

“Scientist,” he replied.

“Good heavens!” Clearly a scientist was even more impressive than an MD. She positively fawned over him after that, inviting him to sit down on the armchair nearest the fire, and within reach of the best of the crisps and nuts and other nibbles left out around the room. Mrs Noble went to the well stocked mahogany look drinks cabinet and asked him first what he would like. When he asked for an iced lime and soda her estimate of him rose yet another notch.

“Teetotal? Very good. Not like that useless lump she was with last year. Couldn’t pass a pub. Geoff, can you go get the ice from the freezer?”

“I’ll get it, mum,” Donna said. “Dad, you sit down there on the sofa.” She ran off to get the ice. It allowed Mrs Noble a chance to get in the question she so obviously wanted to ask, and which The Doctor didn’t want to answer.

“So… just how did you and Donna meet? I mean, the sort of people she usually hangs around with, what would a Doctor of Science be doing with them? Somebody clever?”

“I… er…” The Doctor began. He was clever. Very clever. But he wasn’t sure he had a convincing lie to cover that one.

“Mum!” Donna protested as she returned with the ice and Mrs Noble finished the iced lime and soda and then poured very small sherries for herself and Donna and an even smaller whiskey and soda for Mr Noble.

“I’m just saying… he’s a bit different from your usual sort.”

The Doctor glanced around the room looking for some means of changing the subject. His eye fell on a framed photograph on the dresser. He stood up and looked at it closely. It was a very old black and white photograph of a couple at their wedding. He smiled as he recognised them both.

“This must be your mother, Sylvia,” he said, and then hoped that she didn’t realise he hadn’t been told her first name. “You’re the very image of her.”

That was a white lie, of course. Mrs Noble might have looked like her twenty-five years ago, perhaps. Even so, the eyes, the nose, her smile when it was genuine, were still recognisable.

Sylvia smiled warmly then and forgot to question Donna any further about the nature of her relationship with The Doctor as she told him about her two parents who were both war heroes.

“You must be proud,” he told her. “Your mother has passed on, I take it?”

“Yes. But my father is alive. He should be here, soon. I’m not sure where he is. Either down the veterans club or up at his allotment with his telescope. It’s his hobby. Astronomy. I suppose that’s not your sort of science? He’d be really happy to meet somebody who knows about that sort of thing.”

“I know a bit of astronomy,” The Doctor admitted. “Though temporal mechanics and thermodynamics are my specialist fields.”

“Oh… I… see…” Of course, she had never heard of either of those sciences. He was showing off just a bit. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered what he said. She was impressed that he was a scientist. The specifics didn’t matter. “It all sounds very interesting,” she added.

“It’s fascinating,” he answered her.

“Do you get well paid for that sort of thing, then?” she asked.

“Mother!” Donna protested. “Leave him alone.”

“I’m just asking, that’s all,” she said. “I mean… its not often you bring a boyfriend round who actually has any real prospects. Most of them are useless, good for nothing…”

“Mark Henderson wasn’t. He was a business manager at West Ham.”

“He was on the till at the club shop. But a scientist. Thermo… whatever it was. That’s much more like it.”

“Mum, stop it,” Donna pleaded. “The Doctor isn’t.. I mean… Just leave him alone. I didn’t come here to listen to you nagging and I didn’t ask him to come here so you could pester him. I thought it would be nice to have an ordinary family evening, all of us, together. Just this once. But… ordinary in our house is… embarrassing. I wish…”

Donna sat down on the sofa next to her dad, blinking back tears. Mr Noble looked uncomfortable but didn’t say anything. The Doctor recognised a classic case of a man who knew his place in his own home. He wondered how he could help diffuse the situation. He let his mind reach out beyond the drawing room. He found the kitchen where Mrs Noble already had an array of party food worthy of an Iceland food store advert prepared and more waiting to be cooked. He concentrated on the oven.

“Doctor of thermodynamics,” he thought as he concentrated his mind on the frozen sausage rolls that still had another fifteen minutes cooking time. He turned them golden brown with the power of his mind.

“I think something is ready to come out of the oven,” he said.

“No, they’ve got ages yet,” Mrs Noble answered. Then she sniffed warm sausage meat and flaky pastry and hurried out to the kitchen.

“Give your mum a hand, Donna,” her father said. Donna looked reluctant, but did as he said.

“Don’t mind Sylvia,” Mr Noble said to The Doctor when they were left alone in the drawing room. “She’s…. she’s a woman of strong opinions. But she’s got a good heart underneath.”

“It’s… not for me to judge,” The Doctor answered diplomatically.

“No. But… Doctor Smith…”

“Just Doctor,” he said. “People… just call me Doctor. It’s a long story. You don’t want to hear it. But… “

“Doctor… Neither of my girls know it. But I’m not as fit as they think I am. If… Donna is a good girl. But she is a bit of a dreamer. She needs someone to look after her. And Sylvia… she hides her real feelings behind that sharpness. She’s vulnerable, too…”

The Doctor was having trouble visualising a vulnerable side to Sylvia Noble. But there was a question in what Mr Noble was saying – or not saying. He read it clearly.

“She’ll be all right,” he said. “Don’t worry. They’ll both be all right.”

He didn’t make any promises he might not be able to keep. Not in so many words, anyway. But it was good enough for Mr Noble. He thanked him quietly. Then both of them looked towards the kitchen. There were voices that had been in a whisper, but now raised in volume and pitch. Both men clearly heard the phrase ‘sleeping with him’ from Sylvia, and Donna’s reply that she was thirty-six years old and could sleep with anyone she chose.

Mr Noble looked even more embarrassed. The Doctor wondered if he ought to tell Donna’s father that they were just platonic friends. What Sylvia was suggesting in the kitchen went right against his honour as a Time Lord and he really wanted to set the record straight. But somehow he couldn’t find the right words.

“I’ll look after her,” he said.

The front door opened. An elderly but still energetic looking man stepped into the drawing room a few moments later. The Doctor knew him at once. Sixty-five years had passed since they met at RAF Ringway in the latter part of 1943. Corporal Mott had married, raised a daughter and become a grandfather in that time. But his eyes were the same, and even dressed in an old duffle coat, scarf and woolly hat he had a military bearing about him.

“Evening, Wilf,” Mr Noble said. “She’s in the kitchen, nagging Donna. This is… The Doctor. Donna’s friend, come to join us in ringing in the New Year.”

“Doctor?” Wilf turned the word over and The Doctor saw it in his eyes. A memory awoke across the years. He reached out to shake hands, and the physical connection completed the process. The Doctor had blurred the edges of his recollection of when he was a young man in the Parachute Regiment. He had forgotten that a man called The Doctor and a women called Donna had been a part of it all. But now it all came back to him. His eyes widened in surprise and he grasped The Doctor hand rather longer than a handshake needed to take.

“Delighted to meet you, Doctor. I…” He was obviously going to say something else but Donna came running in from the kitchen and hugged him enthusiastically.

“Oh, it’s lovely to see you, gramps,” she said.

“It’s good to see you, too, sweetheart,” he answered with a genuinely warm smile. “But it was only last Sunday you were up the allotment with me. Anyone would think it had been six months.”

“Feels like it,” she answered.

“Well, hang your coat up if you’re stopping,” Sylvia said to her father. “I suppose you’ve been down that club again. How many have you had?”

“The usual,” he answered. “A half pint with the old sarge,” he answered. “He’s off to his granddaughter’s for the evening. He invited me along, but I thought I’d be better with my own family.” He turned and approached his daughter, meaning to give her a kiss on the cheek but she stepped away.

“I’m busy,” she said. “I’ve still got to do the prawn vol au vents and spicy wings and just you stay out of the kitchen. I’m not putting the food out until eleven.”

“Yes, I can always rely on a warm welcome at my daughter’s house,” Wilf said with an unmistakeable note of sarcasm.

He sat down on the sofa with Mr Noble. Donna came and sat between them both. That was what she had wanted when they came here. To be with the two men who really did matter in her life. She had hoped it would be a happy reunion. So far it hadn’t been, really. She felt humiliated by her mother’s latest tirade in the kitchen, and the fact that The Doctor couldn’t have failed to hear most of it. She was worried about what he might think of her.

“I still think the world of you, Donna,” he thought, and wished he had a way of telling her that.

Nobody talked. Soft music played on the CD player, but nobody talked, and the silence felt oppressive.

“Look at the lot of you,” Sylvia said, coming to the door again. “Sitting around like a lot of lemons. Well, I haven’t got time to do entertainment, too. Why don’t you go out for a walk. Dad, you can show The Doctor your telescope. He’s a scientist. He’d be interested. Donna, you could use the exercise. And you, Geoff. You’ve hardly left that chair all evening. Just be back by eleven for a proper New Year celebration.

They all looked at each other, then Donna stood up and looked for her coat. Wilf and Geoff did the same. The Doctor slipped his own overcoat on, and a few minutes later all four of them were out on the street. It was a cold, clear night with the stars bright above them. The Doctor looked up at the constellation of Orion, directly over London. Then he looked around at Donna and saw her on her dad’s arm, happy to be with him and out of earshot of her mum.

“She should have come with us,” Wilf said. “The walk would do her good, too. But there’s no telling her that. Always was a stubborn one, our Sylvia.”

“Donna has her moments,” The Doctor replied. He had fallen in step with the old soldier, leaving Donna with her father, walking a little more slowly.

“Donna’s more like her grandmother… My own girl. You remember her, don’t you, Doctor? A smashing, brave girl. She was scared out of her mind by those aliens, but she still did her duty.”

“I remember,” The Doctor answered. “So do you… now.”

“Clever trick that,” Wilf said. “Your doing, I suppose. For the best. But we understand each other, now.”

“That we do, Wilf,” The Doctor agreed. He looked back at Donna and her father. Geoff was far younger than Wilf, but his health was failing fast. He looked all right just now, at least. The walk up the hill to the allotments wasn’t affecting him too badly. He was a little breathless by the time he reached the top, but not dangerously so. There was nothing about this walk that was going to contribute to the stroke that would soon strike him down.

All the same, Geoff was ready to sit down when they got to the cosy shed where Wilf spent his leisure time. It was warmed by a calor gas heater and a kettle was boiled on a camping stove to make coffee for everyone. Donna sat in the shed with her dad while The Doctor and Wilf went outside and looked up at the stars together.

“Not much point getting a telescope out when the alien is already here,” Wilf said. “You’ve been up there among the stars. And Donna?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “She’s seen quite a few of the planets up there around those stars. She couldn’t hope to see them all, though. A Human life just isn’t long enough for that.”

“You do time, as well, don’t you? This isn’t something I can talk to Donna about next week, is it? She hasn’t done it yet.”

“I’m afraid not,” The Doctor told him. “Tell you what, though, Wilf, we’ll drop by for a cuppa in the shed this time next year and she can tell you everything. Is that a deal?”

Wild nodded. That was acceptable.

“So… can we see your home from up here?” he asked.

“No,” The Doctor answered. “It’s sun… is the star on the bowstring of Sagittarius. It’s over that way, somewhere, to the south. But it’s low in the sky from England and there’s too much light pollution spoiling the horizons.” But he looked up at Orion. “There’s a planet up there that I spent a lot of time on when I was younger. Knew a girl there.”

“Aye, aye,” Wilf said with a knowing wink.

The Doctor shared the manly joke and then looked from Orion to the Plough and Cassiopeia. “There’s a planet in that direction, too, where I have family and friends. And Earth… Earth itself is a place I call home when I come back to it. I’m… lucky in many ways.”

“Glad to hear it, Doctor,” Wilf said. “Everyone should have a refuge. A planet, a shed up on the hill.”

They looked up at the stars again. As they did so, a group of very faint but unmistakably moving objects that didn’t belong to any constellation passed in front of the Plough. They both expressed surprise. They might have been planes, but there were at least a dozen, and their path didn’t coincide with any of the London airports.

“Meteors?” Wilf asked.

“No,” The Doctor replied. “Something else. Something quite wonderful and unexpected. Something you really should have had your telescope out for Wilf. You’d have liked it. But… Oh….”

Wilf knew what the ‘oh’ was for. He noticed it, too.

“One of them is falling.”

“Yes,” The Doctor noted. “It’s got caught up in Earth’s gravity and pulled away from the rest of the flight group. Oh, dear.” He held up his sonic screwdriver and took some readings. Wilf said nothing. He knew The Doctor probably knew more about it than anything else.

“Oh,” he murmured. “Oh, I hope this isn’t my fault. The TARDIS is parked down there, and it might be attracting the capsule towards it. Oh… dear.”

“It’s bad?”

“Very bad. The capsule is falling at a rate of… let’s say very fast. And… it’s going to fall on….”

He took another reading and then looked at the city below them.

“That building with the flat white roof and a helipad.”

“It’s the hospital,” Wilf told him.

“Oh, it would be,” The Doctor groaned. “At the speed it’s falling, it’ll be like a bomb hitting it. There’ll be more than one death. But… ok… no need to panic. There’s still time.”

He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and pointed it towards the now much brighter and distinct object as it fell through the atmosphere. Deflecting it from the hospital and towards the allotments was easy. But it was still coming too fast. If it hit the ground like that it would still be fatal to the being inside and he wasn’t keen on the fact that he and Wilf were standing on the ground it was going to hit.

“Come on,” he whispered as he held the sonic screwdriver up in the air and concentrated his own mental energy into the anti-gravity beam that he was using to slow the falling travel capsule. His arm shook with the effort.

But it was working. The capsule was slowing. By the time they could see it clearly it was beginning to look like something that was under control, not merely falling. When it was just above their heads, The Doctor moved his arm slowly, guiding it down to the soft ground in the middle of what had been Wilf’s vegetable patch in the growing season.

“So… it’s an alien ship?” Wilf asked. “Bit smaller than the last one.”

“It’s a single being travel pod,” The Doctor answered. “Qualian. They’re all off course. They shouldn’t be anywhere near this solar system, let alone skimming Earth’s atmosphere. I’d better open it up and have a look.”

The capsule was about a metre and a half in diameter and made up of the same sort of panels that a football was, forming a sphere from flat surfaces. The Doctor felt around the circumference until he found a panel that depressed at his touch. There was a hiss of compressed air and the capsule opened up. Inside one half, was a panel of switches that lit up and buzzed erratically. In the other was a figure curled up in a foetal position among soft white padding that protected it from anything other than the terminal fall that The Doctor had averted.

“It’s a girl,” Wilf exclaimed.

“A Qualian female,” The Doctor confirmed. He ran the sonic screwdriver in medical analysis mode over her and confirmed that she was unharmed. “No physical damage, but rather scared. It’s all right, little lady. You’ve been knocked off course somehow, but I'm going to sort that out now. Just you sit tight and don’t worry. I’ll look after you.”

The girl turned a pale, alien face towards The Doctor and Wilf. She had huge eyes in a thin, pointed, elfin face, and looked quite beautiful in a fragile way. She blinked and her small mouth turned up in a smile.

“Gordon Bennet!” Wilf exclaimed. “She understand us.”

“There’s a translation device on the dashboard, here,” The Doctor explained. “I just need to adjust some settings and then she can take off again, back to her people. They’re waiting for her. They’re a royal entourage, you know. She’s once of their princesses.”

“We’re in the presence of royalty?” Wilf snapped to attention and saluted. “Honoured to meet you, your Highness,” he said. The princess smiled widely and nodded in acknowledgement of his obeisance.

“They travel in a caravan of these pods, across space, between their planets,” The Doctor added. “For reasons I couldn’t tell you, they rule two of them, millions of light years apart. I’m setting a course correction for the Emperor to download as well. They really shouldn’t have been this near Earth. Once she’s gone, we should get out of here, back down the hill. Somebody will have monitored the capsule. U.N.I.T. Torchwood, C.E.T.I., one of that lot. If it’s just a UFO freak with his telescope we’ll be lucky. Anyway, there you are. Done it. You’ll be away again in a few minutes, princess.”

“Thank you,” she replied in a soft, sweet voice. The Doctor closed the capsule and sealed it. He stood back, pulling Wilf with him. A few seconds later, there was a soft noise and the capsule rose up from the ground, the downdraught creating a pattern in the soil that might well give the aforementioned UFO seekers some food for thought. Then it accelerated away. They looked up and saw it rejoin the main group and they faded away as the emperor took on board the course correction and they left Earth’s atmosphere.

“Good journey,” The Doctor said, waving, even though they couldn’t see him. Then he turned to Wilf and smiled. “Our good deed for the day, anyway.”

“That was amazing,” Wilf managed to say.

“It was, wasn’t it! Lucky we were here, really. Otherwise she would have been a goner and so would half the hospital.”

“Does that mean… after all…you came here from the future, you and Donna. Does that mean the princess did crash first time around?”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “I think we were always going to be here to save the day. Predestination usually annoys me. But on this occasion, it was good. Anyway, we’d better collect Donna and her dad from the shed and head on back down the hill. Before we’re knee deep in investigators.”

“Aye,” Wilf agreed as they walked back to the shed where Donna and Geoff had been blissfully unaware of the excitement. Donna was holding her dad’s hand and they were talking softly, about some of the things they never quite managed to talk about when Sylvia was around.

“You’ve got a good man there, you know, Donna,” Geoff said before he knew that The Doctor was listening. “He’ll look after you.”

“I know he will, dad,” she said. Then she looked up and saw him standing there. “Time to go back to mum’s buffet, is it?”

“Yes, it is,” Wilf said. “Come on. Whatever she says, she’s got to be lonely there on her own. Let’s go and make her New Year a good one. Doctor, she’s a bit taken with you. Compliment her on her cooking. It’ll keep her nice and sweet for the rest of us.”

“Happy to oblige,” The Doctor answered.


“A year ago,” Wilf said as he and The Doctor and Donna stood on the hill again, on New Years’ Eve, 2008. “Hard year for us all, wasn’t it, sweetheart.” He hugged his granddaughter as they both thought back over the past twelve months. “Losing your poor dad… the funeral. Your mum took it bad. She blamed herself for not seeing he was ill. But she couldn’t have known. Not if he didn’t want her to know. It shook us all. But she took it the worst. My poor girl. She’ll be glad to see the back of this year.” He sighed and then his tone brightened. “We owe you one, Doctor. For making the last few months good for Donna, at least. We miss her, me and her mum. But she’s better off with you, doing wonderful things, seeing wonderful places. When you’re ready to come home, sweetheart, we’ll come on up here again and you can tell me everything. All the stars you’ve got to see up close.”

“I’ll do that, gramps,” she promised. “Meanwhile, you’d better get back to mum’s party. She’ll start to notice you’re missing soon. Even with all her bridge club mates around.”

The Doctor shook hands with Wilf and Donna hugged him, then they turned to the TARDIS, parked by the shed. Wilf stood and watched, and saluted as it disappeared.

“Good luck, Donna, good journey, Doctor,” he said. “Happy New Year to you both.” Then he pulled up his collar around his neck and went off down the hill.