Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

“Pretty planet,” Amy commented as she looked at the round video screen. They were in orbit above a planet that looked mostly green, blue and white like Earth, but with a lot more blue. There seemed to be only one really sizeable island in the middle of a huge ocean –by sizeable Amy guessed it was about the size of Spain. Around it were hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny islands no bigger than the Isle of Man.

From space the planet had a white, translucent glow around it. Amy looked at that curiously.

“Is that the atmosphere? Is it safe?”

“Perfectly safe,” The Doctor replied. “It’s a quite natural phenomena – neon elements in the upper troposphere. It makes the stars shine during the day as well as the night, apparently.”

“It says here that the people of Hallica are very fond of astrology,” Rory added looking at the database entry The Doctor had pulled up on the information console. “Makes sense, I suppose. If stars are so much a part of their lives.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Amy said. “Can we visit?”

“We definitely ARE visiting,” The Doctor replied. “I’m picking up some anomalous energy readings from down there.” He moved around to the navigation drive and the time rotor wheezed in pre-materialisation mode.

“What sort of anomalous energy?” Rory asked cautiously.

Hallica is meant to be pre-industrial. ANY non-naturally occurring energy is anomalous.”

“So does that mean there’s trouble down there?” Amy asked. “I hope not. It always seems like we find trouble everywhere, even in the nicest, most innocent places. Even boring Leadworth got aliens invading it. Can’t we just have a nice visit to a quiet place with stars that come out in the day as well as the night?”

“I’ll do my best,” The Doctor answered her. “I’m putting us down well away from the energy, in point of fact. I want to have a chance to talk to some of the natives first, and see if they know anything.”

The TARDIS materialised beside a small stone pier jutting out into the calm blue edge of that ocean they had seen from above. They were on one of the small islands. It wasn’t a tropical one with sandy beach and palm trees, but more like one of the rocky islands off the coast of Scotland or Ireland. A craggy cliff rose up either side of the quiet cove where the pier had been built. Beyond the shore was a small village of white, single storey houses with flat roofs and rectangular windows and doors set very symmetrically into them. Smoke drifted up from chimneys at each house, and they could see people sitting outside the doors, working at spinning wheels or weaving looms, potters wheels or artist’s easels, all kinds of useful or decorative crafts.

Near to the pier, a man sat under a canvas awning with an easel at which he was drawing. Amy and Rory stepped closer, very quietly, so as not to disturb him at his work. They expected him to be painting the seascape. It was a pretty enough scene, with white sailed fishing boats in the distance. They were surprised to note that his picture was of the sky.

Of course, it was an interesting sky. It was pale blue just like Earth on a cloudless summer’s day. But it was sprinkled with stars that twinkled just as brightly as they would at night.

The man, dressed in a long white robe with a blue, slightly paint-spattered apron over it, had painted the stars exactly as they appeared in the sky from the far horizon to the zenith. Then he had painted in lines joining the stars to form the imaginary patterns that humans called constellations. Near the centre of his canvas was an eight star constellation shaped something like a cat. Another was very like the Plough in the Earth night sky, except it seemed to have a wheel and a sail. There was a bull’s head and an eight legged crab-like figure and many more.

And lower down the canvas was an oblong that was so abstract it might have been meaningless to anyone who didn’t know what a police public call box looked like. Beside it the artist had joined six pairs of stars to look like three very basic stick figures.

It was the TARDIS arriving with three passengers aboard.

“But that’s not possible,” Rory said. “The stars aren’t really in that pattern. It’s just because you saw us beside the TARDIS and then filled it in on the picture.”

“The stars have been foretelling the arrival of three strangers for many days,” said the man in reply. “And here you are. I am so glad you came to me. It’s so exciting. Pollinis Gair will be beside himself with envy that you came to our island and not his.”

He put down his paint brush and wiped his palms on his apron before shaking Amy and Rory’s hands vigorously.

“I am Keifer Micien,” he said. “I am a professional astrologer, as you can see. The only professional on the island of Arcy. My neighbours dabble, of course. But I am the one they come to for the most accurate readings of the stars.”

“I’m Rory Williams,” Rory answered him. “And this is my wife, Amy. And our friend is The Doctor.” He turned and waved to The Doctor, who was staring up at the stars so intently he might have been about to challenge Keifer’s claim to be the only astrologer in the village. He came towards them and held out his hand to receive an enthusiastic shake.

“Glad to meet you, Keifer,” he said. “I was just admiring your stars. Aren’t they magnificent!”

“They are more than magnificent,” Keifer answered. “They are our guide through the dark waters of the unknown future. As I was telling your friends – the stars foretold your coming. Three strangers in a travelling box. And here you are. I am so pleased.”

He sounded it. His enthusiasm was absolutely infectious, and it soon spread through the village. The weavers and spinners, leather workers and potters, women carrying babies, all came to see the strangers who had arrived as the stars foretold. The Doctor, Amy and Rory found themselves the centre of attention as they moved slowly through the village to the very largest building on the island, and the only one that didn’t have a flat roof. It had a white domed roof, instead. Inside, it was a village hall, meeting room or banqueting room, whatever it was needed to be. The inside of the dome was painted like a bright azure sky with the stars shining brightly in it.

“Those aren’t the same stars that are in the sky, now,” Rory pointed out. “It must have been painted when they were in a different position.”

“Maybe it isn’t meant to be a realistic view of the stars,” Amy suggested. “The artist might have just used his imagination.”

“I can’t imagine that people here imagine star patterns,” The Doctor said. He thought about the way that sentence came out for a moment, then continued. “That roof is a curiosity, definitely. I might talk to old Keifer about it, see if he knows. But right now, it looks like the people want to feed us. And that’s never a bad thing. At least... well, it can be a bad thing. If they want to fatten us up for sacrifice, or it’s a pretty girl doing the serving and she brings special food... sometimes you can end up accidentally married. But... mostly being fed by the natives of a planet is a good thing.”

It seemed like it WAS a good thing. The people were in party mood as they brought flagons of wine, huge round cheeses, fruit, warm barley bread, huge succulent meat pies, and placed them on a long low table around which the guests were invited to sit and feast with them. And that was clearly only the starter course of the banquet. The huge main doors were left open and a smell of wood smoke and cooked meat drifted in. As the evening wore on whole suckling pigs and slices of spit roasted beef were brought to the table.

“I hope this isn’t their entire winter store of food being brought out for our benefit,” Amy commented. “They haven’t gone and left themselves short just to look generous in front of us?”

The Doctor spoke to Keifer about it.

“No,” he said. “Apparently they have been expecting this day to arrive and were fattening the calf as it were in anticipation.”

“HOW can they have been expecting us?” Rory asked. “It’s not as if we sent a postcard to say we were coming.”

“It was written in the stars,” Keifer insisted. “For many days and nights I have observed the movement of the stars, the formation of new patterns, telling news of events to come. Great events, beginning with the arrival of the strangers... and here you are.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me, either,” The Doctor admitted. “But we were expected, and we are welcome. And that’s rare enough for me! Let’s just enjoy the party for now.”

Rory did as The Doctor suggested, but he couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t quite right. His experience was limited, admittedly, but it didn’t seem quite in character for The Doctor to just lay back and enjoy the party when there was something mysterious going on. He was just too much of a nosy parker for that.

Rory knew that because he wasn’t somebody who let a mystery pass him by, either. That was why he had tried to alert his superiors to the coma patients who were apparently wandering around Leadworth. He had seen the mystery where everyone else around him turned a blind eye or simply didn’t see what was right in front of their faces.

So even though he did enjoy the food and the drink and the cheerful company of the villagers, Rory kept his eyes open. And it didn’t take him long to work out what it was that was at the heart of the mystery.

The night sky was lightening on the horizon when The Doctor sought out Rory and found him standing on the pier near the TARDIS.

“Amy is worn out from the all night party. She’s gone to sleep in Keifer’s house. Don’t worry, his wife is there, and half a dozen kids. She’ll be all right with them.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Rory agreed. “They seem very nice people. Very hospitable. But, Doctor.... tell me something...”

Rory paused and looked up at the sky.

“On Earth, we take it for granted that the stars move around the sky at different times of the year... that’s how horoscopes got started. Venus in the cusp of Leo, that sort of thing.”

“Yes. Though, of course, it’s not the stars moving in the sky, but the planet in its orbit.”

“Yep. And that’s why, over millions of years the constellations slowly change. I saw a picture once of the way scientists reckon the Plough will look in about a million years – just like a straight line of stars. But obviously, it has looked like a ‘plough’ since before mankind invented the plough. We’ve not been around long enough to see it change significantly.”

“Yes, quite right,” The Doctor agreed.

“Earth isn’t unusual in that, is it?” Rory added. “Your home planet... you had constellations that worked the same way?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. He half smiled in a dreamy way and whispered names in a reverent tone. “Aris the Bowman, The Leonate, Tao the Harvester....” Then he seemed to remember Rory’s presence. “Yes, to answer your question that is normal throughout the galaxies. The stars are so far apart that their movement in an ever expanding universe cannot be measured except over millennia.”

“So... in that case... what’s going on here?” Rory pointed to the group of stars that Keifer had interpreted as the TARDIS coming in to land. The Doctor looked at them for a full five minutes silently.

“You’re quite right,” he said. “They’re moving. All of the stars are moving. The patterns are changing and reforming before our eyes.”

“It’s very pretty,” Rory said. “Amy will be sorry she didn’t see it. But what does it mean?”

“I think it means these stars aren’t stars, for one thing,” The Doctor replied. “I wonder...” He reached into the pocket of his tweed jacket. Rory expected him to find his sonic screwdriver or his psychic paper. Or possibly a stethoscope or a magnifying glass. He knew that all of those things were contained within The Doctor’s pockets even though there was never any kind of bulge in the fabric of the jacket.

He was only slightly surprised when he pulled out a small brass cylinder which then telescoped out into a.... well, a telescope. The Doctor used it to look at those peripatetic stars for a long time. Then he gave it to Rory. He put it to his eye and focussed on the top star of the ‘TARDIS’ constellation.

“It looks like...” Rory tried to describe the light that he saw through the telescope. “Well, it doesn’t look like a star, anyway. It’s more like... I don’t know... really bright headlamps on a car. The annoying sort that dazzle me when I’m on my bike coming home from a nightshift.”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed, much to Rory’s surprise. He thought his comparison had been silly. “Except... how far away do you reckon these headlamps are?”

“Well... if they were REAL stars, I’d reckon about... I don’t know... a million miles, something like that? The nearest star to Earth is...” Rory closed his eyes in concentration. “I saw it on Blue Peter.... don’t laugh. I watch the kids shows sometimes when I’ve just woken up ready for the night shift. It’s Proxima Centauri and it’s something like four light years from Earth, and that’s something like forty trillion kilometres...”

“Four point two light years,” The Doctor said. “But close enough. And yes, if these were real stars, we’d be talking those kind of distances. But they’re not. They’re no further away than the outer edge of the planet’s atmosphere. Which, to save you the headache, is about sixty miles up from where we’re standing.”

“That would still make them REALLY big headlamps,” Rory observed. “But really small stars.”

“Yes, it would. Come on. Let’s take a close look at them.” Rory hesitated. “It’s all right. Amy’s safe with Keifer’s family. She might be a bit miffed that we went on a jaunt without her. But...”

“She gets REALLY miffed if I wake her when she hasn’t had her beauty sleep,” Rory pointed out. “Lesser of two evils... let’s go.”

He followed The Doctor to the TARDIS. Inside, before he went anywhere near the drive controls, The Doctor ducked under the console and opened a cupboard. He brought out two pairs of wrap around reactive sunglasses. Rory took one pair and put them on. The console room immediately seemed much darker. The Doctor moved around to the controls and the glass bubble inside the time rotor casing moved up and down slowly. They weren’t travelling in time. They were only travelling a relatively small distance of a bit less than sixty miles in distance. Rory looked at the round viewscreen and saw the pier, the island, the planet grow distant beneath them before the TARDIS revolved slowly and he was glad to be wearing the sunglasses. Even though the viewscreen automatically filtered the worst of the glare, the huge light was dazzling.

The TARDIS hovered closer and the light filled the viewscreen making it look like a small sun in the console room itself. The Doctor reached for the door control and Rory was doubly glad that he was wearing sunglasses. The same bright light came through the door and eclipsed the lights inside the console room.

Rory stood on the threshold and reached out his hand.

“It’s glass,” he said. “A glass globe... a really big glass globe.”

“It’s a kind of crystal, rather than glass,” The Doctor corrected him. “Something like quartz. But definitely a globe. About twenty metres diameter...” He pointed the sonic screwdriver at it and took a reading. “Yep. Twenty-two metres to be exact. The light source is... wow... I am impressed. It actually is a small star inside... It’s a ball of hydrogen and other gases, continually reacting with each other and giving off light. It’s an artificial star.”

“Artificial... you mean... man-made?” Rory asked.

“Well, maybe not man-made,” The Doctor pointed out. “That term suggests your own race. Keifer’s people are humanoid, but not related to you at all. Let’s say manufactured for the sake of argument. Though even that term derives from...”

“Whatever!” Rory stopped him mid-ramble. “My point is, this thing was made by somebody and put up here... what keeps it up? Surely it’s subject to gravity? Why doesn’t it fall?”

“Anti-gravity field,” The Doctor explained.

“All right... so... WHY? What are they for? Why do the people of that planet down there have artificial stars in their sky? Keifer is an astrologist... He reads the future in the stars... and the stars aren’t real. So what does that say about his future?”

“That’s what we need to find out, next,” The Doctor replied. “Let’s go back to the village and have a chat with Keifer.”

They landed by the pier again, but as soon as they stepped out they knew something was wrong. It was only just past dawn and the village had been partying all night, but there were crowds gathered. Their mood was a very different one. When the TARDIS materialised they pressed forward. Keifer pushed through the crowd and ran towards The Doctor and Rory calling out a warning.

“Go back to the stars,” he cried. “Go back into your box and get away, quickly.”

“Where’s Amy?” Rory asked. “Where is my wife?”

“We’ll find her,” The Doctor promised. He turned, grabbing Rory and pulling him back towards the TARDIS door. Rory had grasped hold of Keifer and was too worried about Amy to think about letting go. As a result, he pulled Keifer into the TARDIS along with him.

“Oh dear,” The Doctor said when the door closed behind the three of them. “Oh, dear. Not good. I’m not supposed to let people from non-technological societies see inside the TARDIS. Too late now.” He ran to the console and turned on the viewscreen. The villagers were closing in around the TARDIS. They looked anxious.

“What’s going on?” Rory asked Keifer, ignoring his wide eyed wonder at his new surroundings. “Where’s Amy? Is she safe?”

“Pollinis Gair has her,” Keifer said. “He came by sail-raft in the night. He and his people grabbed her from my house. I am ashamed that I did not stop him. I was afraid for the lives of my children. If I did not let them take her my little ones would be…”

Rory grabbed Keifer by the neck angrily. But even before The Doctor had dashed across the console room towards him he had let go. He understood Keifer’s dilemma. Of course he had to defend his children.

“Ok… This Gair has Amy… But why? And why are the villagers after us?”

“Because the stars told him that you were here. And… the stars moved… they changed… The stars warned that you were dangerous. The stars say you are here to bring terrible change to our world…. It is true. I looked at them myself and the signs are clear. But even so, I tried to help your friend. I may be punished for disobeying the stars, but I could not betray those I have sat at meat with. I…”

Keifer stopped talking. Rory wondered why until he saw him collapse into The Doctor’s arms. He carried him to the sofa and laid him down gently.

“What did you do?”

“He was talking about change… as if he and his kind are afraid of change above all things. Just being here in the TARDIS changes his view of his world. If he finds out that his stars are artificial satellites in low orbit around the planet, what do you think that will do to his career as an astrologist? I’ve sent him to sleep. He’ll stay that way until I wake him. Hopefully, that will be back in his own village with no recollection of stepping in here.”

“You can do that?” Rory asked. “Like Men in Black with their memory modifier?”

“Yes, I can,” The Doctor replied. “I am a Time Lord of Gallifrey, one of the most powerful beings in the universe. I can do many things. I don’t, usually. The power to do something doesn’t confer the right. But in this case, I have to assume the right.”

“Have you done it to me, or to Amy?” Rory asked. “Seriously, have you? And if you had, how would we know? Would you tell us the truth?”

“Rory, don’t be paranoid. I’ve not done anything like that to you. But if I did, it would be because you saw something so terrible that it would be in your best interests not to remember. Something so dreadful that...”

“Ok, I believe you. What are you doing, now?”

“Trying to find Amy,” he replied. “Remember her... your wife. You forgot all about her while you were worrying about whether I’d manipulated your memory. Keifer said Pollar Gair came on a sail-raft. That doesn’t exactly sound like a supersonic craft and it only happened a little while ago. I’m looking for Amy’s lifesign somewhere on the ocean between the islands.”

Rory stepped closer to the console and looked at the video screen. There was a map of the islands. On all of them small purple blips, some so close together they formed a single mass, represented the local people. There were individual purple blips to be seen on the sea, too.

“Fishing rafts, trade rafts, transport rafts,” The Doctor said even though Rory didn’t ask. “The sea is a busy place. But... ah....”

He pointed to a glowing white blip that was moving towards the big island in the middle of the ocean.

“Amy,” he said. “She’s travelled in the vortex. It makes her lifesign glow. Don’t worry. Any radiation aboard this TARDIS is completely benign. Neither of you will glow in the dark. But the vortex stays with you forever.”

“So...” Rory began. Then he felt the TARDIS swoop down. In the centre of the round viewscreen a dot on the ocean got big enough to identify as a craft. A few seconds later he could see that it had people aboard. The TARDIS was bearing down on a wide raft made of logs with a sail fixed to it that drove it before the wind remarkably swiftly. It couldn’t outrun the TARDIS, though. As it drew closer the sailors were in a blind panic. Many of them actually leapt off the raft into the water. Those that remained dropped to their knees in fear.

“Amy!” Rory cried out. He ran to the door. The Doctor opened it. He jumped the few feet between the TARDIS and the raft, landing awkwardly but safely. Amy was tied to the mast, standing upright as if she was a living figurehead for the primitive craft. Those of the sailors who hadn’t jumped ship stirred themselves to fight, but Rory was running on adrenaline. He punched wildly but most of his blows connected. The sailors went down like toy soldiers as he fought his way to the mast.

“Behind you,” Amy called out. Rory half turned and brought his elbow up to the jaw of the sailor trying to grab him. While the man was still dazed Rory grabbed a sharp dagger from the sailor’s belt and used it to cut Amy free. They both turned and ran as the TARDIS briefly touched down on the raft.

“You were a lot of use,” Amy said to The Doctor as she stepped over the threshold. “Rory was brilliant. He did all the rescuing, like a real hero.”

“I was piloting your rescue ship,” The Doctor replied. “Good to see you, Amy. Are you all right?”

“I’ll live,” she answered. “I’m going right off this planet, though.”

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to put up with it a bit longer,” The Doctor told her. “I still need to find out what’s going on here.”

“I don’t think I care,” Amy said. “Those people grabbed me out of Keifer’s house. The villagers... all the same people who were being nice to us before... were all yelling and shouting... they tied me up... They said they were taking me to the gods.”

“That’s a coincidence. I’m taking you there, too.”


“Keifer said it hours ago. He said the gods live on the central continent.”

“Gods don’t usually need a continent to live on,” Rory pointed out. “I bet they’re not real.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything in response to that, but he had a smile on his face as if he thoroughly approved of Rory’s way of thinking.

“We’re just going to drop in on them?” Amy asked. “These ‘gods’.”

“That’s more or less the plan,” The Doctor replied. “Why?”

“Well, you know... it’s obviously them controlling the stars, giving the people these messages to welcome strangers or to capture them and hand them over. They don’t exactly seem like nice gods.”

“Well, no, I wasn’t exactly expecting to eat ambrosia with them at their banqueting table,” The Doctor admitted. “But I want a word with them, all the same.”

“What makes you think they’ll listen?”

“The reputation of my own people,” The Doctor replied. “Time was, we were regarded pretty much as gods, you know. I thought... one god to another... a bit of a chat about how things were going around the place.”

Rory and Amy both looked at The Doctor with wry smiles. If they ever thought much about what gods looked like, they would not have imagined a skinny, angular god whose arms and legs seemed too long for his body, dressed in tweed and sporting matching braces and bow tie in deep red.

Then both remembered the first time they really got to know The Doctor, when he stood on the roof of Leadworth hospital and gave an entire alien invasion fleet a thorough ticking off for daring to try to harm a planet that was under HIS protection. Yes, The Doctor could be godlike when he chose to be. His actual physical appearance belied something utterly magnificent and indefinable that left them, two mere mortals, breathless with awe.

Then he did something completely daft, like using one foot to hold down a lever on the console while he stretched his arm to reach another one, and the idea of him as a god dissipated rapidly.

“Why didn’t you say you needed a hand?” Amy asked as she and Rory took control of the levers he couldn’t reach.

“Force of habit,” he replied. “Been piloting the TARDIS solo for eight hundred years. Having a crew to help is...” He looked at his two current companions, and his memory stirred as he recalled so many others, mostly, but not exclusively, humans, who had joined him in the TARDIS. It wasn’t unusual for him to have help around the console. It was just his own stubborn streak that made him try to do it all himself.

“We’re coming in to land, anyway,” he said. “But it might be a bumpy ride. I’ve got to penetrate a couple of shields.”

“What sort of shields?” Rory asked. The TARDIS began to pitch and toss almost as soon as he said that. He and Amy both grabbed handholds on the console as The Doctor manned the drive control like an old sea captain at the wheel in a force ten gale. All he was short of was a big oilskin coat and a drenching of cold sea water every so often.

“Anti-transmat, for a start,” he replied. “They play merry hell with the TARDIS, of course. And there’s a really big perception filter around the area I’m interested in. The gods of Hallica really don’t want anyone to see their Mount Olympus.”

The TARDIS settled down as it broke through the shields. The Doctor calmly pressed the materialisation switch. He turned on the viewscreen to see what effect the roar and woosh of the engines and the displaced air might have on the gods of Hallica. He was pleased to see that they were suitably surprised. He locked off the drive control and bounded towards the door. Rory and Amy were caught by surprise and took a moment longer to join him outside.

This definitely wasn’t one of the feasting halls of Olympus. It was more like a big computer control centre. The ‘gods’ were computer operators busy at their consoles. Or they were before the TARDIS arrived. Now they turned from their work and stared.

Rory and Amy stared back. Their first impression was that these people LOOKED quite godlike. They were all at least six foot tall, fair of complexion, with blue eyes and blonde hair. They looked no more than about twenty-five by Human measure. They were dressed in long white robes.

The Doctor seemed unimpressed.

“Who’s in charge here?” he demanded. “I want to see the boss, right now.”

“That would be me,” said a man who looked a little older than the others. He sported a neatly trimmed short beard and moustache and there was a star-shaped badge on his shoulder suggesting some kind of superiority over the others. “I’m the G.O.D.”

“The god?” Rory questioned.

“The General Overseer of Destinies,” the man explained. “And you are the three strangers who accidentally got involved in our programme.”

“Programme?” Amy looked obstinate. “I was kidnapped and tied to the mast of a really unseaworthy boat by some rough types, and nobody helped because the stars told them not to. THOSE stars... which it looks like you’re in control of.”

“My apologies,” the G.O.D. said. “Your distress was quite unintentional. The stars were interpreted correctly but the reaction of the subjects was more extreme than we expected. We simply wanted them to bring you here so that your presence didn’t continue to disrupt the programme.”

“What programme?” Rory demanded. “What the heck is going on around here? Why have you got all this technology hidden away on this island while the people make cloth on hand looms and throw pots on a wheel and....”

“Well, it’s not as if they’re losing out on anything,” Amy pointed out. “The people on those islands are happy enough when they’re not panicking because of weird messages in the sky. They don’t need technology. But what’s going on, anyway?”

The Doctor didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. Rory and Amy had it covered between them.

“I will explain,” the G.O.D. said. “Why don’t you come this way. I will show you the observation hall.”

The white robed technicians returned to their work as the G.O.D. escorted The Doctor, Rory and Amy out of the control room. They emerged onto a balcony overlooking a huge hall. Using a common Earth measure, it was the size of four football pitches. It had a cool, stone flagged floor and limestone walls. There was a domed roof of clear glass or crystal through which some of the artificial stars of Hallica could be seen.

All around the room were huge video screens – some as much as twenty feet across. Groups of people were standing in front of them, watching avidly. Rory was reminded of the time he and Amy went into Gloucester to watch the Last Night of the Proms on a big video screen set up in the city centre.

Except these people weren’t watching the Last Night of the Proms. They were watching the ordinary Hallican people on their islands, going about their daily lives. On one of the screens, the people of Keifer’s island were still gathered near the pier as if they weren’t sure what to do next.

“We have been here for Millennia,” the G.O.D explained. “I mean, not us as individuals. Our lifepans are considerably longer than the subjects you see on the screens, but not THAT long. I mean this facility has been here since Galactic year 5588.55.9. It was a research project originally, sponsored by the University of Selajo X. They began with fifty specimens who were brought to one of the islands and allowed to develop culturally. The ‘star systems’ in the troposphere not only gave us a way of controlling the people, through their superstitious reliance on the signs, but as you can see, we monitor them through cameras in geo-stationary orbit.”

“I’m having trouble reconciling the phrase ‘allowed to develop culturally’ with ‘controlling the people’,” The Doctor said. “What do you mean by ‘controlling’?”

“Well, that was the point of the original project. It was an anthropological study, to see how far the movements of the stars would affect the actions and activities of the people. We used the stars to give them messages about coming droughts or storms, to see if they would take precautions or...”

“I hope there were no signs in the stars demanding they sacrifice their first born or any nonsense like that,” Amy said fiercely.

“Oh, goodness, no, nothing of the sort,” the G.O.D. answered. He seemed genuinely shocked by the very concept. “We did our best to ensure that the signs benefited the people. For example, after the first four generations, the original island was becoming overcrowded. The stars told them how to construct craft that would take some of them to new homes. And they guided them on that journey. As you see, that worked very well. All of the islands are now populated, and they learnt to navigate the seas well enough to communicate with each other and to feed themselves by catching fish. Obviously we had to take precautions to prevent them venturing onto the mainland. The stars taught that this was the home of the gods and off limits to them.”

“So...” Rory wasn’t being slow. He just wanted to make sure he understood fully. “Your ancestors brought the ancestors of those people here to study them... and thousands of years later you’re still studying them?”

“The anthropological research is still ongoing,” the G.O.D. said. “But it no longer relies on educational grants. Not since we started allowing the broadcast networks on Selajo to carry the images from the monitor cameras. Hallica is watched daily by over two billion people.”

“Beats the X-Factor hands down,” Rory commented. Then he thought about that a little more. “But... no... It’s not right. It really isn’t. You mean to say... those people... Keifer and his family and friends... their daily lives.... They’re just ENTERTAINMENT for the people on your world?”

“So... what are all those people doing down there?” Amy asked.

“They are enjoying the Hallica experience – visiting the planet itself, viewing the Hallicans close up. That is why the stars had been predicting visitors, in fact. It had all been arranged for a group of competition winners to actually go to one of the islands and enjoy the hospitality of the Hallicans. It was all set before your accidental arrival. We had to call it off, of course, when you received the hospitality instead. We’ve had to issue the winners with complimentary tickets to come back again next month....”

“This is horrible,” Rory said. “It really is. You can’t do that do them. Their whole world is a fake. You’re using them.”

“It’s not,” The Doctor contradicted him. “It really isn’t. Not for them. It IS their reality. And that’s the problem. Because I can’t stop it. G.O.D. said it... the funding to keep this planet going comes from the broadcasting revenue. What would happen if the broadcasts stop?”

“That would be unthinkable,” G.O.D. replied. “We would have to close the whole project down. The cost of maintaining the troposphere... the shields that keep the control base secret. The whole thing is astronomically expensive... We would have to abandon it altogether.”

“And the people?” Rory asked. “I don’t mean those working here. I mean those... the ones in your goldfish bowls, being watched for FUN. What would happen to them?”

“Nothing. They would remain here on this planet. They would be able to continue fishing and growing their own food. But, of course, the stars would be switched off. They would have to learn to fend for themselves.”

“Their stars would be switched off!” Amy shuddered. “That would be horrible for them. It would feel like the end of the world for them. They wouldn’t know what to do.”

“Exactly,” The Doctor said. “That’s why I have to let this continue. But...” He turned quickly and grabbed the G.O.D. by the collar of his robe and pulled his face very close to his own. “No more competitions. Nobody from your world will show their faces on those islands. You will leave those people in peace. You will make sure the stars tell them nothing except to expect a dry summer or a bitter winter. Because from now on, MY favourite TV programme is going to be YOU. I will be monitoring what you do in your control room, and if I think you’re manipulating those people in ANY way, I’ll be back and I’ll bring the full weight of intergalactic law down on you. Exploitation of non-advanced societies is a level one offence under the Shaddow Proclamation. You’ve been breaking the law for millennia. The fines will be astronomical.”

Rory and Amy both wondered what authority The Doctor thought he had to make such threats. Then they wondered why G.O.D. believed he had that authority. Then they realised they were being silly. Of course The Doctor had the authority, just like he had the authority to scare the living daylights out of the Atraxi, and to organise a peace treaty between humans and Silurians.

Now, he was letting G.O.D. know what to expect if he defied him.

It was what Amy and Rory had come to expect of The Doctor.

“Come on,” he said to them both when he was done. He turned and strode back into the control room. He gave a disdainful look at the technicians then continued his stride all the way back into the TARDIS.

Rory and Amy followed him. They watched as he spent some time at the environmental console. They wondered what he was doing.

“Re-arranging the stars. I’m telling the Hallicans that we’re coming back from the gods with blessings upon their lives. One more lie on top of thousands of them. But it’s better than having them think strangers are bad. And after all, we have to take Keifer back to his family.”

“You’re really not going to do anything to stop that obscene circus?” Rory asked. “That lot will still be watching the Hallicans for entertainment.”

“If it was up to me, I’d pull the plug right now,” The Doctor answered. “But I have to think of the Hallicans. I can’t take away their world. They live by their changing stars, but the last thing they need is for their lives to be changed. They cannot know the truth. Keifer has to go on being a maker of star maps, predicting the future through his precious stars. He must never know what they truly are.”

The TARDIS landed by the pier again. The people were there, waiting. This time, they looked far more benign. Amy noticed that Pollinis Gair and his sailors were among the crowd. They looked wet, but otherwise unharmed by their experience.

The Doctor went to Keifer. He woke him slowly. Before he was fully awake, he spoke to him in a gentle tone.

“Listen to me, Keifer Micien,” he said. “When you step outside among your own people you will forget everything you have seen inside the TARDIS. When they ask, you will tell them that you went to see the gods, and that they were beautiful and godlike and they hailed you as the greatest star-map maker in all Hallica – greater even than Pollinis Gair. They’ll have a new feast in your honour and you’ll lap up the glory, as you deserve. And when we leave, you’ll tell your people that it was written in the stars that the strangers won’t be back again.”

“I understand,” Keifer murmured.

“Good man,” The Doctor said. “Come on, now. Wakey wakey.”

Keifer opened his eyes and stood up. He walked to the TARDIS door with The Doctor, taking no notice of the amazing console room. They all stepped outside to a tremendous cheer from the people. The Doctor smiled and waved like a film star for a few minutes, then stepped back into the TARDIS with his companions. A few minutes later they were in orbit above the beautiful planet with the glowing troposphere.

“Not altogether happy about that,” he said. “Having to hypnotise Keifer... more manipulation. My people could have ruled the universe if we’d chosen to. We could have made everyone, everywhere, do what we thought they should do. But the ability to do something doesn’t confer the right. Something that lot down there, G.O.D. and his crowd, forgot.”

He shook his head sadly. Then he turned to his two companions and smiled brightly.

“Tell you what, if you’re still in the mood for star-gazing, how would you like to be VIP guests at the launch of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in 1957. One of the seminal days in Human observation of their universe. They had some excellent canapés and champagne at the official reception. I’ll introduce you to Bernard. He’s a very nice man, and very clever... for a Human.”