Doctor Who

David didn’t like it. He took a lot of persuading, but Susan managed it. The boys were ecstatic about the idea of a holiday in time and space with their great-grandfather who they loved, who had taught them so much and promised to teach them so much more.

“Where can we go?” Chris asked as The Doctor put the TARDIS into temporal orbit. “Can we go see Daleks?”

“No,” The Doctor answered shortly. “Daleks are definitely not on the agenda. Those things are not educational they are genocidal.”

“They sound exciting,” Davie said.

“Exciting?” He snapped his reply angrily before he remembered who he was talking to. He paused in what he was doing and looked at the children with a pained expression that Rose had seen all too often when the past came back to haunt him. She touched him on the arm gently. He looked at her and gave a half smile and nodded.

“Boys… come here to me.” He held out his arms and the twins both came to him. He embraced them lovingly. “If I seem cranky when we talk about things like that, understand there is a good reason. Daleks are the reason we - the three of us - are all that is left of the Time Lords. They destroyed our planet. They murdered millions of innocent people - because WE stood in the way of them dominating the universe. And now, at least, they are gone. I hope they stay that way. Daleks are a history lesson, that’s all.”

The boys said nothing, but they both put their arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. He smiled at that. Sometimes he forgot he was a great grandfather, sometimes he found it hard to contemplate how he could BE one. After centuries roaming the universe alone he had forgotten he ever was a family man. But at moments like that he was happy to be reminded.

“We’re not going to another planet yet, anyway,” The Doctor said. “The only way we got past your mum and dad and got to do this was because I said we’d do some Earth history.”

“Anything but the French Revolution,” Rose reminded him.

“If Susan thinks that’s the scariest time of Earth history, she wasn’t paying attention in class. Rose, what would YOU pick to go see with all of history to choose from?”

“I don’t know,” she said. History was not her thing, really. “Battle of Hastings?”

“Mmm. And you can explain to Susan why the boys start having bad dreams about fields full of dismembered bodies. It wasn’t as pretty as the Bayeux tapestry, you know. Any other thoughts?”

“The Gunpowder Plot?” she ventured again.

“Ok. And we’re all agreed that watching a man being burnt alive is educational?” The Doctor grimaced. “For the record, it’s not a lot of fun being on the receiving end of that sort of punishment.”

“Er…you know this personally?” Rose asked.

“I once got accused of witchcraft in the 15th century. I got out of it before my shoes burnt through, though.” He looked at the three of them. “My point is that history is not funny. And it’s not PG-rated.” He turned to the boys in particular. “Despite the fact that I’ve been putting nearly two hundred years of advanced science, philosophy and other stuff into your heads, you two ARE only ten years old. There ARE things you will see that will upset you. And you have to be prepared. That’s all I’m trying to tell you.”

“We understand,” Chris said, speaking for his brother, too. The telepathic connection between the two of them was, The Doctor knew, rarely broken. They spoke as one when they spoke.

“That’s my boys,” he smiled. “Now, let’s go meet a few old friends of mine in history.”

He set the co-ordinates for their first stop with a smile. Even Rose wasn’t sure what he was up to. But THAT particular smile usually heralded something surprising. And surprising had taken on a new dimension since she started travelling the universe with an alien. She was ready for just about anything.

“So… where are we and when?” she asked as they stepped out into a snow-swept street dressed in late Victorian finery. She smiled to see The Doctor dressed like a real aristocrat of the period and was not surprised Susan had warned them off the French revolution. Even in his usual outfit he had a mark of authority that made people stop and listen to him - and obey. But when dressed for the occasion he always looked like a REAL Lord.

“We are in Turin,” he said. “It is February 1st, 1886, and we are on our way to the Teatro Regio. And may I say that you look stunning tonight, my lovely consort.” She smiled at the compliment. She did like dressing in Victorian outfits. They felt nice. This one, in deep red taffeta, was elegantly off the shoulder, with her silver pendant setting it off, short gathered sleeves and a tight little waist before a wide skirt fell to her ruby coloured court shoes. Her hair was up in a sophisticated knot, finished with lace, feathers and beads. She had a warm velvet cloak over it against the February cold.

Chris and Davie were dressed in junior versions of the same evening suit the Doctor was wearing - white bow ties and waistcoats of silk, jacket and trousers with their own opera cloaks and silk hats. Both looked proud to be dressed in such an adult way and to be taken on an adult outing.

“Teatro Regio is Italian for Theatre Royal,” Davie said. “Are we going to the theatre?”

“That we are,” The Doctor said, taking Rose’s arm and reaching with his other hand for the boys. Chris got there first, so Davie came the other side and took Rose’s gloved hand.

A family trip to the theatre, she thought as they came to the brightly lit Teatro Regio, which was not at all what she was expecting. She’d seen a couple of theatres called “Theatre Royal” – one was a bingo hall now. Even the one in the West End of London was quite ordinary looking compared to this. She wasn’t sure what the architectural style was. That was another thing they didn’t teach at her comprehensive school. Renaissance was a word that sprang not quite easily to mind, but she wasn’t entirely sure.

She had an idea The Doctor would know. He had once mentioned that architecture was one of the many things he studied in the nearly two hundred years he spent at university. But she felt she didn’t want to ask him. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of her background, and he was always kind when there were things like that that she didn’t know. But she just got fed up of asking him. Anyway, it was definitely Italian.

It was buzzing with posh looking people; men in opera cloaks and silk hats and women in big, amazing dresses.

Suddenly she felt utterly inadequate and faltered in her steps as they approached. The Doctor looked at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve never been to an opera before,” she said. She had seen the posters around the entrance and realised what sort of performance they were there to see. “I don’t know what to do… how to be like… like all those people.”

“Be yourself,” The Doctor told her. “As you ALWAYS are. Be my Lady Rose in a gown more beautiful than any other one here. As for the opera…” He searched for some terms of reference she would understand. “Remember Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Everyone’s first time at the opera is different. And you’ll either love it or hate it. If you love it you’ll always love it. And if you hate it you’ll always hate it.”

“Do you love it?”

“Yes. I do. Although, to tell the truth, when I first visited Earth it was a different sort of music entirely I loved. Bob Dylan really rocks my universe.”

The two boys exchanged glances, and it was Davie who asked who Bob Dylan was.

“Your mother was more into pretty boys like Cliff Richard,” The Doctor laughed. “I liked REAL music. I have a lot to teach you two. But come on. This is the first time all three of you have been to the opera and it is the first night for my old mate Giacomo Puccini’s new opera, La Bohème. So he is way more nervous than you are, Rose. Just think of that.”

With that, The Doctor drew himself up in full aristocrat mode and presented a gold edged ticket. The manager of the theatre himself appeared on the scene, bowing low to “The Lord Du Temps” and escorting him and his party not to seats, as Rose had expected, but to a box, which turned out to be one of the very best ones right above the orchestra pit with a clear view of the stage. There was a bucket of champagne on ice and fruit bonbons and iced lemonade for the boys, although The Doctor, who seemed in a very good mood, allowed them to have half a glass of champagne each – on condition that Susan didn’t find out.

Rose had drunk champagne only once before, at the opening night of the Eiffel Tower. She remembered that and smiled. She had so many wonderful experiences a London shop girl should never have the chance to know, all thanks to her “Lord”.

“You are way better than Richard Gere,” she whispered to him and kissed his cheek.

“And you are far more lovely than any leading lady he ever had,” The Doctor told her in return. She blushed and picked up the programme, enclosed in a velvet cover with tassels and began to read about the opera.

She was several pages into a digest of the plot when she realised she was reading Italian.

“That’s the TARDIS doing it, isn’t it?”


“It’s fantastic to think I can read anything in any language.”

“You got mad at me the first time I told you, and accused my ‘machine’ of messing with your head.”

“I didn’t understand it then,” Rose admitted. “Oh, I owe you and the TARDIS so much.”

“No more than we owe you,” he said. And since that made her blush again he turned his attention to the boys, who asked him a question about the theatre.

“No, sadly, it’s not here in your time. It was burnt down in 1936. They built a modern one in the 1970s. It’s rather nice in its own way, but I like the old one better.”

“Puccini wrote Madame Butterfly, didn’t he,” Rose said, remembering at least one intelligent fact. “I’ve heard of that one.”

“Not for another eight years,” The Doctor told her. “I like it better than La Bohéme, actually, but there are two very good reasons not to go to THAT premier. Firstly, it was at La Scala, and I know how you feel about Milan. And secondly, Chrístõ took Julia to that one. And we DON’T want to create a paradox at the opera.” He smiled in reminiscence. “I think that’s one reason WHY Madame Butterfly is a favourite. It reminds me of the innocent days. Then again… my seventh incarnation DIED listening to that opera. Grace had it playing in her operating theatre. It’s the last thing I remember before….”

His voice trailed off, but the orchestra were preparing themselves for the overture and a hush came over the auditorium. The house lights were extinguished and the opera began.

It was the first time at the opera for the boys, too. The Doctor watched them. He had wondered if the outing WAS a bit too ‘adult’ for them. He knew they loved doing anything with him – with their granddad. But he hoped they would genuinely appreciate something he loved all his life.

Was he TOO anxious for them to be SO like him? He saw so much of himself in them. But could he expect them to be carbon copies of himself? Was he being manipulative, trying to mould them to his type? That would be wrong. He knew that. He had to remind himself NOT to do it.

They did enjoy it. He knew at once from the soft gasps they gave as the curtain opened on the first act. He knew in the way they sat forward on the edge of their seats, the way they forgot about the sweets and lemonade and just watched.

Yes, they were enjoying it. He was relieved about that. He sat back in his own seat and looked at Rose. He wanted her to enjoy it too. He wanted her to share the things he loved. He wondered how he would feel if she didn’t. People who cared about each other didn’t have to like the same things. But there were so many big things that could push them apart. If they had these small things to bind them, it would be a guard against the bigger things. At least that was how he justified to himself the otherwise selfish desire for her to love the things he loved.

Rose remembered what The Doctor said – quoting Richard Gere – about the first time at the opera. And one of them at least was right. She loved it. Of course, she realised, understanding Italian helped. Thank you, TARDIS. The fact that they were all ‘foreign’ was one reason this art form was closed to her before. But that aside, she loved the grand spectacle, she loved the costumes and sets and the music that throbbed in her heart and soul. And as the tragic dénouement unfolded she actually cried, so engaged was she in the story.

The Doctor looked at her and smiled. He also thought Richard Gere had a good point. He was GLAD she was enjoying it so much. For all his own selfish reasons, and for other reasons, too. He knew that her lack of education bothered her. He took care not to seem too clever and make her feel small if he could help it. But he was glad she DID genuinely seem to like the opera, and promised himself he would take her to more such events. Julia had loved opera and theatre. But then Julia had gone to a much better school and loved ballet and opera and had been prepared in various ways for her future as the wife of a Gallifreyan aristocrat.

He chided himself for comparing them. Rose was a unique and wonderful person in her own right. She would never be Julia, and he didn’t want her to be. The comparisons were unfair. The only thing they had in common was that he loved them both until his hearts ached with trying to contain it all. And that was enough.

When the opera was over, the audience were appreciative. At least Rose thought so. But as they made their way out into the busy foyer The Doctor told her and the boys that the critics were not wholly convinced by this performance.

“That’s a shame,” Rose said. “I thought it was good.”

“I couldn’t help noticing that.” The Doctor smiled. “Come on now, I’m going to introduce you to the composer.”

He brought them backstage, identifying himself at the entrance by the side of the stage as Lord du Temps, an influential friend of Puccini’s. As usual, the mention of his “title” assured an escort to the private drawing room where the man of the moment was receiving selected guests.

“Il Dottore!” Puccini cried and embraced The Doctor like an old, old friend. “How are you? I am so glad you came to see my new opera. How did you like it?”

“It was fantastic,” The Doctor told him with feeling.

Puccini smiled at him. “I fear the critics are not going to be so enthusiastic. But I have hopes. But who is la Bello Signorina by your side, Dottore, and are THESE your bambini?”

“Giacomo,” he said formally, “May I present la bellissimo Signorina Rose, and these are, indeed, my own kin, my dearest boys, Chris and Davie.” He smiled. Of course, Rose was far too young to be the mother of ten year old twins, as anyone looking closer must realise, but he had no reason to disabuse anyone who made the obvious mistake. “What of you, Giacomo? Have you made the Widow Gemignani an honest women yet?”

“I am still making a dishonest woman of her,” Puccini replied in a tone that suggested a joke between men. Rose figured she should ignore it in a ladylike manner. But the great composer came and took her hand and kissed it with a flourish and he shook hands with the boys, who were, he supposed, awestruck to be in his presence. Rose wasn’t so sure. They were the Doctor’s great-grandchildren, after all. It would take a pretty impressive person to make them awestruck after him.

“I thought it was a fantastic opera,” Chris said. “But they should have got central heating in the apartment. Then Mimi would not have been so sick.”

“I loved it,” Rose added before the composer asked what central heating was. “I cried when she died. It was so very sad.”

“Ah, you felt the heart of it.” Puccini kissed her hand again. “She has the soul of an artist, Dottore, just like you.”

“Count on it,” he said, still laughing at Chris’s anachronism.

“Ah, but Il Dottore is a father! That I cannot believe. It seems only yesterday we were both Bohémes in Milan, enjoying the wine and the women and forgetting to pay the rent.”

“Really?” Rose looked at The Doctor and wondered if she would ever know everything about his life.

“I never bothered with the women,” he said with mock indignation. “I left that to you. And I paid the rent on at least two occasions. As for Milan...” He winked at Rose. “Not really our favourite place these days.”

“Ah, that’s a pity. It is a wonderful city.”

The conversation went on that way for some while, until Rose pointed out that the boys were looking tired. At that, The Doctor reluctantly left his old friend. They hailed a cab outside the Teatro to return to where they had left the TARDIS. After the excitement of the evening, it felt ordinary and domestic, though in a nice, nice way.

The Doctor took the two boys to their room and put them to bed while Rose changed out of her opera gown and made coffee in the kitchen. The Doctor returned to her dressed in his usual clothes and they sat on the White House sofa together drinking the coffee. Rose looked through the opera programme again and found herself humming one of the tunes.

“You really did enjoy it, didn’t you?” The Doctor said with a smile.

“Yes. I know it was meant to teach the boys, but thanks, anyway. I loved it.” She laughed. “Did he ever make an honest woman of the widow whatsit?”

“Gemignani,” he laughed. “Yes, in 1904. Despite the fact that she had a son to him some time later this year. But that’s late nineteenth century Italy for you. And I just bet you’re going to ask next when it was that I hung out with him in Milan.”

“Well… I WAS curious. Another of your student adventures?”

“No. It was later,” he said. “After Julia…. After Christopher was married and didn’t need me around so much, and I was feeling that my life was in a rut. I took off by myself for a few years. I was high enough up the political ladder to pull strings and get leave of absence from my work, and from the planet! I didn’t have to run away as I did later with Susan.”

“And is that when you became Il Dottore?” she smiled.

“Yes,” he said. “Though I prefer the English translation – The Doctor.”

“So… Puccini gave you your NAME?”

“Yes.” He smiled as he remembered. “Il Dottore is a stock character from an old Italian style of theatre called Commedia Dell'Arte. Characterised usually as one who talks too much and pretends to know more than he really does.”

“Sounds like you, all right,” Rose teased.

“Giacomo called me it because he couldn’t figure out that I was proficient in so many areas of expertise – philosophy, art, architecture, science etc. - he not knowing about me being a Time Lord and going to school for two hundred years. So he figured I just knew a bit about everything and was winging it.”

“How did he recognise you, anyway?” Rose suddenly realised what it was that nagged at the back of her mind about their meeting. “Susan has pictures of you when your son was alive, and you were totally different.”

“Power of suggestion,” he said. “I just put a thought in his head as we went in the room - ‘This is Il Dottore, he hasn’t changed a bit.’ - And as far as Giacomo is concerned, I’ve always had this daft looking face.”

“It’s not a daft looking face,” Rose said, smiling. “You’re a great looking guy. I always thought so.” She touched him gently on the cheek. “And you looked fantastic in the Phantom of the Opera outfit.”

“I look like a wingnut with a nose stuck on. But as long as you love me, I don’t care.” He held her close to him. “You know, today was almost too perfect. Nothing tried to eat us or take over our minds or the planet or otherwise mess things up. How much do you want to bet it doesn’t last?”

“You shouldn’t have said anything. That’s tempting fate.” But she was enjoying the peace too. After Arachnoids and Wintermen and Italian gunmen, what could be nicer than a simple night out, even if it WAS in the nineteenth century. And what better way to end it than a cuddle on the sofa with the man she loved.