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

Sparks flew from the sonic lance as The Doctor finished welding two sections of the underside of the console together. He adjusted his position on the sling seat and turned off the lance before pushing the geeky round lensed goggles up onto his forehead. He heard a trilling sound in the shadows and smiled as Humphrey the darkness creature ventured closer.

“Sorry old boy,” he said. “I know you don’t like the sonic lance, but I’ve been meaning to fix the phasic modulator for absolutely ages.”

There was an inquisitive trill.

“It started going a bit out of sync when I was in my first life. The Time Lords didn’t help when they messed with the TARDIS and stranded me on Earth in my third. Never worked properly since. Glad I finally got around to doing it. One of these days I might get onto that chameleon circuit. Then again, why worry. At least if it’s always a police box I know what to look for when I park it.”

Humphrey trilled at him again. He laughed softly. Then he looked up through the smoked glass floor. He could see his two Human companions in the console room. Amy was sitting on the command chair. Rory was leaning up against a pillar. They were talking quietly – privately – which meant it was something between the two of us and he wasn’t meant to eavesdrop.

He wasn’t MEANING to eavesdrop. He really wasn’t. But he caught the word ‘Doctor’ in the sotto voce conversation.

Either they were talking about him, in which case he was, like any other sentient creature in the universe, curious about what was being said behind his back, or one of his friends needed a medical doctor. In that case, he was bound to be concerned. He cared about them. If one of them was ill, he wanted to know.

It was about him. But whatever they were talking about they had come to a conclusion already. Amy stood up and said she was going to make coffee before heading towards the inner door. Rory took her place on the seat. The Doctor slid himself off the sling and bounded up the steps to the console room.

“Is it fixed?” Rory asked. “The phase whatsit doobrey...”

“Phasic modulator,” he replied. “Yes, it is. No more getting lost on the way to Rio. The modulator means I can pinpoint any place in time or space, or time and space for that matter, first time, every time.”

“Good. Then we’d like to go to June 25th, 2005, at 9.15 in the evening, on the east side of Leadworth Green, outside Leadworth Scout Hall.”

“Well,” The Doctor responded. “That’s pinpointing all right. Why?”

“Does it matter?” Rory asked. “Can’t we ask for something? We’ve been knocking about here, helping you out in all sorts of mad situations. What if we wanted to go somewhere for once? Why not?”

Amy came back into the console room with a tray of coffee cups. Rory’s had ‘world’s greatest lover’ on it. Amy’s said ‘A present from Rio’. That was meant to be a hint to The Doctor. They still hadn’t managed to get to Rio.

The lettering on The Doctor’s mug was Alterian. It said ‘Visit Alteria’. They’d never done that, either.

He sipped his coffee and watched the starfield slowly revolving on the large round viewscreen. They were in temporal orbit on the outer edge of the Sol system while he finished the repair job and decided where to take his friends next.

“You’re asking me to take you to a time and place where you might encounter your younger selves,” he said.


“I presume you’ve both seen all three of the Back To The Future films?” he said. “Timecop, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey... ”

“Yes...” Rory answered. “But I don’t...”

“Then I don’t have to explain how dangerous travelling in your own timeline is, the dangerous consequences to the fabric of reality, to your personal future as well as the Human race itself...”

Rory and Amy looked at each other doubtfully.

“June 25 2005?” The Doctor said thoughtfully, moving on. “You’d be 16, Amy, and you’d be 17, Rory. It was a Saturday, in the middle of a heatwave. By 9.15 in the evening it would be balmy and beautiful. Perfect for two teens to experience their first romantic kiss behind the Scout Hall.”

Rory and Amy looked at each other guiltily.

“Well,” Rory ventured. “It was at the front of the Hall, actually. But more or less right.”

“You want to go back to your first kiss? That’s a fixed point in your personal history. A turning point in your relationship. Interfering with that could be catastrophic.”

“We don’t want to interfere with it,” Rory assured him. “We want to time it.”

The Doctor said nothing, but his expression was best described as quizzical. It was enhanced by the fact that he was still wearing the goggles on his forehead. He seemed to be quizzing them with two pairs of eyes.

“Look,” Amy responded impatiently. “He says the kiss went on for at least a minute. I remember it being about twenty seconds. I’m not saying it wasn’t a pretty good kiss, mind you. But I think quality is more important than quantity in these things. And…”

“And anyway, I think it’s too good an opportunity to miss,” Rory added. “Being able to see it from a neutral point of view, if you know what I mean, Doctor. It would save a lot of potential arguments when we’ve been married a lot more years…”

The Doctor swept the goggles from his face and thrust them into a cupboard under the console before pulling something else from the cluttered space.

“There are rules,” he said. “Under no circumstances do you go closer than ten feet from the younger versions of yourselves. You don’t speak to them, or to anyone else who might know you. And you wear THESE.”

He handed them both what looked like school swimming medals hung on pieces of ribbon. They slipped them over their heads unquestioningly and said nothing at all when The Doctor ‘boosted’ them with the sonic screwdriver.

“Personal Perception Filters,” he said to their unasked questions. “They don’t make you invisible, but they do make you unnoticed by anyone who isn’t expecting you to be there. At least they do as long as you don’t do anything silly like jumping up and down and waving at yourselves or anything really embarrassing.”

“Ok…” Amy and Rory looked at each other. They knew they were there, so they could see each other. They could see The Doctor when he put one on, too.

“Perfect timing, Doctor,” Rory commented as they stepped out into a warm June evening in 2005. Leadworth Scout Hall was hosting a disco. Music filtered out through the doors. Quite a few couples weren’t dancing, though. The evening was just too nice to be inside. The Green was the trysting ground for most of the young lovers. The older Amy and Rory looked away from their school friends in mild embarrassment.

“It looks as if we’re all sex mad,” Rory commented. “Snogging all over the place.”

“I wasn’t judging,” The Doctor said. “Where are you two?”

“There,” Amy said. She pointed towards the teenagers who stepped out of the Hall, looking nervous and tentative. Young Rory grasped young Amy’s hand and drew her away towards the bus shelter. It was possibly the last private refuge for any pair of would be lovers.

“Yes, our first kiss was in the bus shelter,” Amy said, daring The Doctor to comment. He didn’t. They stepped closer. Rory had the stop watch.

They waited.

The kiss happened.

“Fifty-five seconds,” Rory conceded. “It felt like forever. I was so nervous.”

“I’m not much of a judge of these things,” The Doctor said. “It… looked as if… you were both enjoying it.”

“Well. Yeah… it was enjoyable,” Rory admitted. “Amy and I…we’ve always been friends. But… being her boyfriend… That was… it was a big step. It was what I wanted. What we both wanted. But…”

Rory’s awkward explanation of the transition from childhood friends to young lovers was cut off abruptly by a piercing alarm. It was coming from the Scout Hall. Young Amy and Rory in the bus shelter looked around in surprise. The couples in the Green all picked themselves up and adjusted clothing before coming to see what was happening. Young people and the adults who were meant to be chaperoning them started to come out of the Hall. There was an attempt to form lines the way they had learnt at school, but this wasn’t school, it was Saturday night and the result was far less organised.

“Is it real?” somebody asked. “It’s a false alarm, isn’t it? Somebody pulled the switch…”

Then somebody else spotted smoke from the little window at the side of the Hall. There was a fire in the kitchenette where the Scout masters and the caretaker made hot drinks or sandwiches when they were on duty. Even as the huddles of youngsters stood and watched the fire took hold. The Hall was built of wood, and it was the middle of a heatwave. By the time the Leadworth fire engine got there it was a spectacular blaze with flames and thick, acrid smoke pouring into the sky.

“Everyone is out,” Rory said after glancing around at his friends. “They’re all ok.”

“Thank goodness,” Amy added. She slipped her hand into his and stepped back as their younger selves drifted closer than ten feet.

“We’d better go,” The Doctor said. “Before we interfere with something more important than your first kiss.”

He turned towards the TARDIS. Amy and Rory followed. Even though the TARDIS did have a kind of perception filter on it, so that people didn’t worry about either its arrival or departure, it wouldn’t have mattered this time. Nobody around the Scout Hall was paying any attention to a police box when they had a fire engine to look at.

“That was rather more dramatic than I expected,” The Doctor commented as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit once more. “I thought it was only the fires of passion that were being stoked with your first kiss.”

“Well,” Amy said. But The Doctor wasn’t really paying attention. He was busy at the console. In fact, he was actually becoming quite frantic, moving from one section to another, consulting the monitor, pressing buttons and pulling levers.

“Is something wrong, Doctor?” Amy asked.

“At risk of a cliché, yes, something is wrong, very wrong.” He looked at the round viewscreen on the wall. Amy’s eyes followed his. In temporal orbit they ought to be looking at the Earth and its moon and the starfield beyond. What she could see was a view of Earth and its moon against a starfield as it might look if it was rendered for 3D and she wasn’t wearing the special glasses.

Then it cleared. Everything looked normal again.

“It’s gone, whatever it was?”

The Doctor’s voice when he spoke was unusually cold.

“What you just saw was the space time continuum adjusting itself to accommodate a paradox.”

“Err… in English, please, Doctor…”

“Somebody changed history, and all of space and time was changed to prevent the fabric of causality unravelling completely.”

“Well… if it prevented it… isn’t that ok?” Rory asked. “It’s good… isn’t it?”

“It’s never good to interfere with time,” The Doctor replied. “Never, ever, ever. Even the smallest change, an idea before its proper place in history, a sixpence in a bank account that wasn’t opened before… any small thing…”

“What if…” Rory began, then stopped. He and Amy exchanged worried glances. The Doctor looked from one to the other and his expression tightened. The lines on his forehead became deep furrows. His eyes narrowed, his lips were pressed together firmly.

“What did you do?” he asked in a quiet, controlled voice. Amy almost wished he had sounded angry. At least it would have got it over with.

“While you were watching Rory time our kiss… I went into the Hall… and set off the alarm.”


“Because nobody did the first time around, and the fire took hold so fast… and some of the fire exits were locked and people couldn’t get out… and four people... two of our friends and two of the scout masters trying to rescue them died of smoke inhalation,” Rory told him.

The Doctor didn’t say anything. Again, Amy wished he would just yell at them. If he would just do that, then they could say they were sorry, and he would forgive them, and they could all just carry on being friends.

But he didn’t say anything. He just went to the console and hit the materialisation switch. The TARDIS landed with a groaning, wheezing sound on Leadworth village green. He opened the doors and stepped out. Amy and Rory followed him. He still didn’t say anything. They followed him around the duck pond with no ducks and up past the village shop. Rory remembered he was still wearing the perception filter and nipped inside. He picked up a copy of the Leadworth Gazette and dropped fifty pence on the counter without anyone noticing.

“Look,” he said, opening the paper. Everything is fine, just the same as it always was. Except…”

He folded over a page and showed it to Amy, who showed it to the Doctor.

“Look at those two… Sarah Swift and Danny Armitage. They were two who would have died. But they didn’t, and they’ve both just graduated from Oxford with first class honours. And they’re getting married in September. Isn’t that good? Surely it’s better than them dying horribly.”

“For them, it is,” The Doctor told her. “But what about the people whose lives were altered because they were alive?”

“What people?”

“Places at Oxford University are limited and fiercely competed for,” The Doctor explained. “If they both got in, then two other people didn’t. They might have had to settle for a less prestigious university, perhaps they missed out on the chance to go on to post-graduate research, and maybe the cure for cancer or the solution to world hunger was lost because of it, and millions will die in the future who might have lived.”

“Danny graduated in business studies and Sarah is an archaeologist,” Rory pointed out. “They didn’t take any places from science students.”

“The point still stands,” The Doctor said. “Come on.”

He turned back to the TARDIS. Amy and Rory followed. He still wasn’t saying much. Amy had a feeling he really was angry, but he was holding it all in.

“No,” he said as he went to the console. “I’m not angry, at least not at you. With myself, maybe. I always forget about that fatal Human flaw…. That thing that gets you all in so much trouble every time… the thing that makes taking any of you away with me, showing you the almost unlimited possibilities of time and space…”

Amy felt as if she wanted to say something, but she couldn’t think of anything appropriate.

“What flaw?” Rory asked.

“Compassion,” The Doctor replied. “Your race has it in such huge measure, more than any other I have found in a thousand years out there in the universe. Four people… four of your friends… died that day. How could I expect you to behave differently? It was my fault for not seeing it coming from a mile off. Timing the length of a kiss? I fell for that one, didn’t I!”

“But… look… it’s ok,” Rory pointed out. “Nothing is wrong with the world. You saw. Everyone is fine.”

“They are now. Only six years have passed. But what about the future?” The Doctor put his hand on the phasic modulator and pushed it forwards. The time rotor glowed, but they didn’t enter the vortex.

“We’re going forward in linear time, staying exactly where we are in space,” The Doctor said. “The time vortex is too unstable when a repair to causality has taken place. Anything could happen. We might find that Earth has been erased from existence altogether.”

“That couldn’t happen,” Amy said. “You’re just trying to scare us, now.”

The Doctor said nothing.

“You are. You’re making it seem much worse than it is.”

The Doctor still said nothing.

“I’m not sure he is,” Rory told her. “I think... we really...really did something bad.”

“No,” Amy answered. “No, I won’t believe it. Saving them... giving Sarah and Danny a future... I won’t believe that was wrong, no matter what you show me.”

The TARDIS stopped. Bright sunlight shone through the round viewscreen. It was a beautiful day in Leadworth. The village green looked much the same as it ever did, except that there was a new house at the west end where the old burnt out Scout Hall used to be. It was a very nice house with beautiful gardens in front. It obviously belonged to somebody who had done very well for themselves.

The Green itself was looking festive with bunting and flags hung around and a marquee erected beside the duckless duck pond. There was a stage on which a band was playing and it looked as if the entire population of Leadworth, Upper Leadworth and the surrounding villages was packed into the green for the party.

“This is Leadworth in the year twenty-thirty-six,” The Doctor said. “Twenty five years into your future. There’s a distinct possibility you two are still living here. So be careful. Keep your perception filter on, and if you happen to see your children, don’t try to interact with them.”

“Our children?”

“Never mind. Come on.”

The people of Leadworth were enjoying the party. Few of them noticed that they were being gently moved aside by three people they didn’t quite see. On the stage, the band finished their set and the crowd turned their attention to the two people who came to the microphone.

“It’s them!” Amy said. “Look, Danny and Sarah. They’re older, but it’s them.”

Danny Armitage was dressed in an expensive silk suit. His wife, Sarah was in a designer dress. Her hair was exquisitely done and her make up was impeccable. Amy felt a twinge of envy. She wondered if she would look as good at forty-something.

She glanced around briefly to see if she could spot her future self, but then she turned to listen to what Danny was saying.

“My friends,” he said. “My neighbours, it is twenty years to the day since I opened Armitage Autos, producing the world’s first truly roadworthy electric car. People said it was a risky venture, and it was. I was almost guaranteed to take a fall. But here we are, twenty years down the road, and the Armitage Electric is the best selling family car in the world. We’ve provided jobs for all and helped the environment into the bargain. So, my friends, I want you all to join Sarah and I... and...” He turned and waved to the edge of the stage. Two teenage boys ran to their parents. “And Michael and Ashley... in celebrating the good fortune we all share in.”

The crowd cheered and clapped. Danny and Sarah waved cheerfully. So did their children. The band played on as they left the stage and the party continued.

“Well,” Rory said as he and Amy followed The Doctor back into the TARDIS. “It looks like they really made good. And they’ve done good for everyone else, too. Jobs for the community... They’re great people.”

“Danny always was a nice kid,” Amy said. “And Sarah, too. I’m glad for them.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. He reached for the phasic modulator and moved it forward again. On the viewscreen, at first, at least, it was possible to watch the life of the village green moving on in time like a video on fast forward. Rory and Amy counted fifteen years by the number of garden parties thatwent on in the Green. They passed by at a rate of one every minute.

Then things got too fast and it was just a blur. But even so, they got the feeling the garden parties had stopped. Something was different in Leadworth.

The TARDIS stopped twenty-five years later. For a little while Amy and Rory looked on in disbelief. Then they followed The Doctor outside.

“What happened to the place?” Rory asked.

“Maybe there’s a war?” Amy suggested. “It looks like... martial law or something.”

There were still no ducks in the duck pond. There were no people on the green except for guards who patrolled outside the wire fence that enclosed it. There were signs fixed to the fence posts. Loitering, sitting and sleeping on the Green were prohibited on pain of immediate arrest. More guards patrolled inside the high gates that now barred the way to Armitage Manor on the west side of the Green. Around the other three sides, all the buildings Rory and Amy knew in their lifetime were gone - the shop, the old people’s home, the library. They had all been replaced by ugly three storey concrete buildings that had the look of barracks – or prisons. As they watched a lorry arrived outside one of the buildings. A group of people climbed down. They were all dressed in drab grey overalls with the letters “AA” stamped on them in darker grey ink. They filed slowly into the building, their bodies hunched as if with exhaustion. A group who looked a little less tired came out and got into the lorry. It drove away.

“Shift change,” The Doctor commented. He followed the group into the building. They went into a long, low-roofed refectory, where they were each served a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread.

“We’ve got work,” said a man to a woman who sat beside him at a wooden table. “We’re better off than the unemployed.”

“Are we?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” the man answered. “They sleep in the open and they eat the stale bread left over from our meals.”

The woman tapped her bread roll on the table. It made a dull, hollow sound as if it was already quite stale.

“Because we eat the best, don’t we?”

“We eat. Be grateful.”

“To who? Our lord and master, Mr Michael Armitage? It’s all his fault. Him and his brother, Chancellor of the Exchequer… driving the economy into the ground… the banks closed, businesses ruined… families homeless. And then his bright idea… nationalise all jobs. Conscription for Work. Except there aren’t enough jobs, so what happens…”

There was a television screen fixed to the wall. A news bulletin was being broadcast. It was showing pictures of a riot outside the Houses of Parliament. The scene wasn’t unusual to Rory and Amy. They had both seen the student fee protests in their own time. It looked much the same, except that these people were dressed much more poorly and there was a desperation to their expressions.

And nobody sent the army in to shoot the students.

The people at the table turned away and finished eating their food.

Amy and Rory turned away with tears in their eyes and looked imploringly at The Doctor.

“Let’s go,” he said.

They followed him out of the building and back to the TARDIS.

“This is our fault, isn’t it?” Rory said. “We made this future.”

“You didn’t make the economy fail.” The Doctor replied. “That sort of thing happens every so often. Look at the twentieth century, the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression, the Recession of the 1980s, then the Downturn in the early 2000’s. It’s… well, it’s economics. But the Crash of Twenty-Sixty shouldn’t have been as devastating as that. Causality has been badly damaged. And it might be worse, yet. If we go forward another twenty-five years…”

“No!” Amy and Rory spoke together.

“No,” Amy repeated. “I don’t think I could bear it. Just tell us what we have to do to make it right.”

“I think you know what you have to do,” The Doctor replied. “Question is, are you ready to do it?”

Amy cried. Rory was barely holding back his own tears. They hugged each other, unable to speak out loud. Rory looked at The Doctor and nodded.

The TARDIS materialised outside the Scout Hall on a warm, pleasant evening in June, 2005. Not far away was the other TARDIS. They could see themselves a few hours ago in their personal time, watching their younger selves from this time.

“You just have to go out there and stop Amy from setting off the alarm,” The Doctor said to Rory. “It’s as simple as that.”

“I know,” he answered.

He stood on the threshold of the TARDIS and watched Amy slip away towards the Hall. Twice he stepped out. Once he got three steps before stopping.

The alarm went off. It was too late. Rory came back into the TARDIS.

“I can’t do it,” he said. “I know about the future. I know what it means… but I can’t… it feels too much like… like murdering them.”

Amy hugged him tightly. The Doctor closed the TARDIS door again.

“I understand,” he said.

“Isn’t there another way?” Amy asked. “Some way to stop those awful things happening… without them having to die.”

“Not without breaking a lot of rules,” The Doctor replied.

“The rules have already been broken,” Rory pointed out. “What’s the difference?”

“It wasn’t me breaking them before. Oh, well, it really looks as if it’s too late for that. Nothing for it but to go back to the future. Just don’t ever tell anyone that I said anything that corny.”

“Who could we possibly tell?” Amy asked. She watched the viewscreen again as it scrolled through the years until they reached the dark times again, when it had all gone wrong. This time The Doctor moved the TARDIS a short distance, inside the grounds of Armitage Manor, close to the side entrance to the house. The guards at the gate didn’t pay it any attention, and since they were all still wearing their perception filters, the three people who got out of it weren’t noticed either.

The Doctor did a little sonicing and entering to get them in through the kitchen door. It didn’t escape their attention that soup and stale bread wasn’t on the menu here, but they let that pass for now. The Doctor moved through the house stealthily, followed by his two companions. They came, presently, to a bedroom that had been fitted, at some considerable expense, with all the medical equipment a chronically ill patient might need.

“Danny Armitage,” The Doctor said, pulling off his perception filter and stepping close to the bed. The frail old man turned his head slowly. He had an oxygen mask on, but he pushed it aside to speak.

“Who are you?” he demanded with surprising fierceness. “How did you get in here?”

“I’m The Doctor,” The Doctor replied. “Not one of your doctors, but THE Doctor. I make people better. These are my friends, Rory and Amy.”

They moved closer, pulling off their perception filters. Danny Armitage looked up at them and his eyes widened in surprise. The Doctor put his hand gently over his chest and steadied his heart. He didn’t intend to kill the old man.

“I used to know you,” he said. “But that was… a long… long time ago. How…”

“My friends and I have come from the past,” The Doctor explained. “We can’t help noticing that this future is a bit of a disappointment. We thought you might be able to shed some light on why that is.”

“My sons,” Danny answered. “They’re not bad men. They just got some things wrong.”

“They got a lot wrong,” Rory pointed out. “Look at what’s happened around here. People living like slaves, shot down for protesting about the mess.”

“Danny,” The Doctor said quietly and gently as he placed his hand on the old man’s forehead. “I want you to think back. There must be a moment, an event, a turning point, when things could have gone differently. Think about what that moment was.”

Danny didn’t have to think about it. He already had, many times, lying there in his sick bed. The Doctor easily saw his conclusion. It was clear in his mind.

“But it’s too late,” Danny added. “That was nearly twenty years ago. I can’t go back and change it. If I could… with my last ounce of strength I would…”

“If you have that ounce in you, then you can,” The Doctor said. “Rory, from here on you’re Mr Armitage’s personal, private nurse. You’re taking care of him. That’s a portable respirator over there. Grab it. Amy, important job – opening doors ahead of us. Perception filters back on. Things are going to bleep like mad any moment.”

Rory took the respirator. The Doctor unfastened Mr Armitage from all of the monitors around him and lifted him carefully. Amy ran to open the bedroom door. As she did, two men in private nurse’s uniforms rushed in. They saw the empty bed. The didn’t see Amy and Rory, followed by The Doctor, carrying Mr Armitage, slip out of the room. Nor did the guards who rushed up the stairs as they made their way down.

They came unhindered to the TARDIS. Once inside, Rory’s nursing duties began. He made the old man comfortable with the oxygen on standby while Amy went to the lumber room beside the secondary kitchen down the stairs for something The Doctor said would be useful.

Danny Armitage laughed when he saw what it was. He coughed distressingly afterwards and had to take some oxygen, but he thanked The Doctor and his friends for giving him something to laugh about for the first time in years.

“A bathchair! That must have been an antique in my grandfather’s time. You want me to ride in that?”

“It was the general idea,” The Doctor said.

“I’m not so desperate as that,” he answered. “In fact, I think this strange ship of yours is doing me a bit of good. I don’t ache so much as I have. Just get me a walking stick of some sort, just to be on the safe side.”

“Walking stick!” The Doctor smiled widely and opened a cupboard under the console. He pulled out an old fashioned dark wood walking stick with a delicately curved handle. “Haven’t needed this for a long time. You’re very welcome, Mr Armitage.”

When the TARDIS came to a stop again, four people got out. One of them leaned heavily on a walking stick, but he refused to let anyone treat him as an invalid, least of all Rory.

“We were on the school soccer team, together,” Danny reminded him.

“We were both subs,” Rory countered. “I don’t think we ever got to play more than a half game. It didn’t matter to you. Sports weren’t your thing.”

It was a garden party day. The Green was filling up. The band was playing. The beer tent and the buffet were very popular. The garden of Armitage Manor was a haven of peace just beyond the festivities. The middle-aged Danny Armitage was sitting on a bench in the sun, looking over a sheaf of legal-looking documents.

The older Danny walked right up to him. The Doctor, Amy and Rory waited and watched. The middle aged man went through various stages of shock and disbelief before finally listening to what his older self was saying. Then, at last, the middle aged Danny took up the sheaf of papers and tore them into unreadable and utterly invalid shreds.

“Sweetheart, you didn’t say you had a visitor!” Sarah Armitage, still looking elegant in her late forties, came into the garden. The elderly Danny looked at her and caught his breath. “Why… for a moment… I’m sorry… you look a lot like Danny’s father. He died three years ago.”

“I’m an obscure relative from a distaff line of the family,” he replied. “I just dropped by on the offchance, but as your husband has kindly explained, you have a bit of a do on. So I’ll be on my way. It was… utterly delightful to meet you, Sarah. Delightful.”

He looked very emotional as he walked past his wife and rejoined the three time travellers hidden behind their perception filters. They watched as Sarah and Danny were joined by their sons, both in their early twenties now, and looking the spitting image of their father at that age. The four of them walked down the garden and out onto the Green to take their part in the festivities.

“This was the day I was going to retire and hand over the company to the two of them,” Danny said as he walked back to the TARDIS. “That was where it went wrong. Both of them got too ambitious. Michael got the company involved in too many ‘lucrative’ partnerships that didn’t work out. Ashley… he got into politics with high-minded ideas. But he lost the way somewhere.”

“So what did you do to change all that?” Amy asked.

“I told my other self not to retire. He agreed. He’s going to take on both boys in middle management positions, with limited executive power. They will have to work and learn and earn the right to run the company.”

“And that will be enough to change that awful future?”

“Michael never truly understood what it meant for me to build a business from scratch. This way, he might get an inkling. Ashley will have to work with ordinary people, see things from their point of view. He might be a more thoughtful politician. I hope so. I have always thought that was where I went wrong with them both.”

Amy started to say something, then she noticed that the world had become a 3d picture again for several seconds.

“Something changed,” she said. “For the better?”

“We’ll find out when we take Mr Armitage back to his own time,” The Doctor said, reaching for his TARDIS key. They all stepped inside. The noise of dematerialisation was lost in the cheers from the crowd as the party host took to the stage.

When the TARDIS came to a stop again, it was in the garden of Armitage Manor, still. At first, Rory and Amy thought it was still in the ‘good’ times before it all went wrong. Then they saw a banner hung across the entrance to the Green.

“Party in Hope, Twenty-Sixty-One.”

Danny Armitage led the way out of the TARDIS, still leaning on the walking stick, but looking hopeful. He looked up at the sunlight and smiled.

“Father!” A man who was the spitting image of Danny in his forties crossed the lawn to him. “We were just coming to get you. Are you all right? Where did you get that stick? I bought you an electric wheelchair.”

“The stick was a present from a friend,” Danny replied. “And it does me fine for now. I’ll sit in your electric wheelchair when I’m good and ready. Are we all set to get this party off with a bang?”

“We are,” Michael Armitage replied. “A couple of journalists were asking about the expense. They think we should have scaled things down this year, with the recession biting, so many people unemployed…”

“That’s WHY we need a bigger party than ever, to give them something to smile about,” Danny said.

“That’s exactly what I told them.”

“Chip off the old block.” Danny took his son’s arm, as a concession to his frailty. Before he walked away he glanced back once and saw three people stepping into a blue box that his son had spectacularly failed to take any notice of at all.

“Thank you,” he said.

“It’s all right now, then?” Amy asked The Doctor as the TARDIS flew through the cool blue time vortex. “No riots, no shooting, no martial law and people eating stale bread?”

“There is serious unemployment in that time,” The Doctor replied. “Times are tough. But no tougher than they have ever been before. Just ordinary economics.”

“And Danny is fine. His family are doing good just like he did. They’re all happy.”

“Yes. But don’t let that…” The Doctor looked at his two friends sternly. “Never, ever, ever, do that again. Not for any reason. Promise me on your honour as Time Lord companions that you will never…”

“We promise,” Rory said. Amy echoed him. The Doctor’s stern expression lasted ten seconds more before it melted into a grin. They were forgiven.

“Right, then. Let’s test this phasic modulator properly. Rio anyone?”