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

“What is that?” Rory asked, startled by a sudden and insistent sound from the TARDIS console. The Doctor seemed just as surprised. He sprinted around to the communications panel and began frantically pressing buttons.

“It’s an SOS,” he replied. “Somebody in immediate peril. Grab something. We have to drop out of the vortex. It will be rough.”

“I like that word ‘drop’,” Rory commented.

“I don’t,” Amy contradicted him as she gripped a handhold tightly.

The TARDIS ‘dropped’ out of the vortex with the downward sensation of the overloaded elevator in The Towering Inferno. Amy squealed. She didn’t like it one little bit. Rory tried to be manly about it, but his face was as white as a sheet. The Doctor didn’t help matters by yelling ‘Geronimo’ and laughing.

The TARDIS stopped abruptly but without the bone-crunching finality of a lift at terminal velocity. The SOS sounded again, louder and even more insistently. The Doctor stopped laughing and adjusted the overhead scanner.

“Oh dear, not good,” he said.

“What’s not good?” Amy asked. She looked at the big round viewscreen. The TARDIS slowly revolved in an inky black starfield to reveal a high orbit above a yellowy-brown planet. Then as it turned away from the planet again a much smaller object came into view. “What’s that?”

“It’s a personal space capsule,” The Doctor told her. “Designed to move independently of the mother ship for short range space surveys. Trouble is there is no trace of a mother ship – or any kind of ship – in the vicinity. This is a lost capsule with one oxygen breathing humanoid aboard and almost no oxygen.”

“So… grab it with your tractor beam, transport him aboard,” Rory suggested.

“Tractor beam?” The Doctor looked at him scathingly. “Transport! No sci fi nonsense here, please. I’ve piloted the TARDIS for nine hundred years without resort to gimmicks like that.”

“So… what ARE you going to do?” Amy asked.

“I’m doing it. Oxygen and energy fields extended. I’m popping out now to retrieve the passenger. Rory, you get the medical room ready.”

“What medical room?” Rory asked.

“That corridor, second left,” The Doctor answered him. Rory looked at what he had always assumed to be an alcove in the corner of the console room. As The Doctor headed to the main door he strode towards it and discovered that the back wall was an optical illusion. It was actually in two parts, one in front of the other, concealing the entrance to a corridor lit by the same kind of illuminated jelly tot roundels as the rest of the TARDIS interior.

Amy watched at the threshold as The Doctor stepped out onto nothing. Beneath his feet deep space fell away but he just carried on walking towards the capsule. She watched him use the sonic screwdriver to open a hatch. He reached in and lifted a figure in a white space suit. He turned and carried the body to the TARDIS over his back in a fireman’s lift. He looked like a curious variation on those ‘hero’ shots used to advertise certain manly after shaves. Amy closed the door as soon as he was safely aboard and followed him to the medical room.

Rory had done as he was told. He had an examination table made ready and oxygen ready to revive the patient.

“It’s a woman,” he noted as The Doctor carefully laid her down and removed the helmet. “Is she going to make it?”

“She put on her helmet when the air ran out in the capsule,” The Doctor explained as he fixed an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth. “But the reserve in her tanks ran low, too. She’s suffering from hypoxia.”

“How come she’s in the middle of nowhere on her own?” Amy asked. “That capsule couldn’t have travelled very far, could it?”

“It’s not supposed to travel anywhere,” The Doctor said. “It shouldn’t have been more than a dozen metres from the main ship. She’s been drifting for hours.” He ran the sonic screwdriver over her body like a scanner and seemed pleased with the results. “She’s going to be all right. No lasting damage. We got to her just in time. Getting to be a bit of a habit. You two stay with her. I’m going to nip back out and get the flight recorder from the capsule and then cast it loose. It’s just scrap metal, now. It will fall into the planet’s gravity field eventually and burn up.”

Rory took over responsibility for the patient as The Doctor rushed away. She was looking a lot better, now. The blueness was gone from her lips and her cheeks were starting to flush as her breathing steadied. It was only a few more minutes before she stirred and groaned into the mask. Rory removed it and let her breathe normally as her eyes flickered open.

“Hi, don’t worry, you’re safe,” he told her.

“Where am I?” she asked. “How did I get here?”

“You’re in the medical room of the TARDIS,” Rory told her. “It’s a sort of spaceship. You’re safe.”

“TARDIS?” She repeated the word carefully, as if testing the sound of it on her own tongue. “I know that word. I’ve heard it before.” She looked at Rory. “Are you a doctor?”

“No, I’m a nurse,” he answered. “The Doctor is having a look at your capsule.”

“The Doctor…. Yes. The Doctor. He….”

The Doctor bounded back into the medical room and placed a solid state data recorder on the counter before coming to look at his patient.

“Ida Scott,” he said with a wide smile. “We really have got to stop meeting in impossible situations.”

“I… don’t understand,” she said. “Who are you?”

“I’m The Doctor. We met before… on Krop Tor. We went down the shaft together and discovered the ancient city beneath the ground. I went all the way down to the pit. You nearly died of oxygen starvation, but I got you out in time.”

“No,” she protested. “That Doctor was…. You’re not him.”

“I could explain,” he said. “But it would take far too long. We have more important things to worry about just now. So this is a short cut.” He put his hand gently over her forehead and closed his eyes. Amy and Rory watched him and knew that he was doing something weirdly telepathic to Ida’s mind. When he took his hand away and opened his eyes she was smiling up at him.

“Doctor, we REALLY have to stop meeting like this,” she said. “Thanks for rescuing me, AGAIN.”

“You’re welcome. As a nurse, I am sure Rory here would recommend that you rest for at least twenty-four hours after your brush with death. But that would be really boring for you, wouldn’t it? Would you rather get up and help me find out what happened to your ship?”

“Yes, please, Doctor,” she said. Rory helped her to sit up. She swayed a little dizzily once she was upright, but The Doctor said that was nothing a cup of tea wouldn’t solve.

“I’ll make it,” Amy said. “Just this once, seeing as we have a guest. But don’t either of you men take that for granted.”

She brought the tea to the console room where Ida was telling The Doctor how she came to be stranded.

“I’m part of a survey team,” she said. “The Magnusson Expedition. Our ship is called the Thor Heyerdahl after a twentieth century Earth explorer….”

“I knew him well,” The Doctor told her. “Loved messing about in boats. Man after my own hearts.”

Ida looked puzzled by The Doctor’s comment but continued her explanation.

“I was out in the capsule – we called it Ra-III – observing the partial eclipse of the planet below us. Everything was fine. Then… the ship vanished. One moment it was there, the next… gone. All radio contact was cut off. I was on my own in space, with three hours of air left in the capsule… another hour in the oxygen tank of my suit. I was… waiting to die. I didn’t even let myself hope. The four hours went by… just me talking to the flight recorder… in case anyone might find my skeleton floating in space and pass on the messages to my friends.” She glanced at the flight recorder sitting on the console. “Most of what I said was daft, sentimental stuff, and it doesn’t matter since I’m not dead. Don’t pay any attention to it.”

“I won’t,” The Doctor promised. “Four hours fifteen minutes, by the way. That’s how long you were alone before we reached you. Another ten minutes and I’d be passing those messages on. That’s what I call a near death experience, Ida. But you made it. So don’t give it another thought.”

“I won’t. But… Doctor… If you do listen to the recorder… just before the ship disappeared, Thom Avis, the communications officer, reported a burst of energy… just a few seconds. It registered as a bit of static on the radio. But he thought it had come from the planet, below. And that was weird in itself, because the planet is uninhabited. It’s protected by intergalactic statutes. Nobody is supposed to set foot on it without a whole load of special permits.”

“Blimey,” Rory commented. “What planet is that then?”

“It’s Planet One,” The Doctor said. “The oldest known planet in the universe. And you’re right, Ida. Nobody is supposed to be there.”

He turned from her and began feverishly turning wheels and pressing buttons. The central rotor wheezed up and down as it did when they began to materialise anywhere.

“We’re going to the planet?” Amy asked. “What about those permits?”

“Oh, that doesn’t apply to me,” The Doctor replied. “I’m the one who restricted everyone else.”

Amy and Rory fully believed him. Ida decided she probably did, too.

Amy had been here before, briefly, of course. Rory hadn’t, and Ida had only ever seen satellite pictures. Now she stood before the great diamond escarpment, the oldest piece of cliffside in the known universe and stared at what was believed to be the oldest written message in history.

“Niall Mellowes, our historian, stared at photographs of this for hours,” she said. “He gave up trying to understand it. He said some of the characters looked a little like old Earth Greek, but if there was a meaning to it he couldn’t figure it out.”

The Doctor and Amy both tried to keep a straight face. Of course, prolonged exposure to the TARDIS’s background energy gave its passengers the unique ability to understand any language, written or spoken. The Doctor, in any case, knew the language as very ancient Gallifreyan – which bore a passing resemblance to old Earth Greek.

Rory knew what the message meant and put two and two together. He understood The Doctor’s expression fully.

“Hello sweetie?” Ida repeated the message twice out loud. “That’s the oldest written message in the universe? Hello sweetie?”


“You know there are theories that it was put there by God… the Creator of the universe… a message of such profound wisdom and enlightenment that it would only be revealed to humankind when we reached such a state of intelligence and understanding that we deserved to have it revealed to us.”

Ida was clearly disappointed.

“Maybe God’s message to humankind IS ‘Hello Sweetie’,” Amy said helpfully, trying not to look at The Doctor.

“Maybe we got the translation wrong after all,” Rory suggested.

“Maybe we should stop looking at it and get on,” The Doctor said, trying not to sound irritated. “This is as far as I’m prepared to take the TARDIS on this planet. Too much interference from relatively dimensional technology would upset the natural balance of the ecology. We walk from here. And the first part of the walk is straight up the cliff.”

Everyone shouldered their backpacks and prepared themselves for the task. The Doctor took the lead. He looked like he knew what he was doing and where he was going. It was entirely possible he hadn’t a clue about either and was just winging it, but even those who let that thought cross their minds put their trust in him. It never occurred to them to ask themselves why.

The path wasn’t exactly straight up the cliff. In fact, it was within a great cleft in the rockface that had been formed centuries before. What was remarkable about that was the fact that rough steps led up all the way. It seemed unlikely to any of them that they had formed naturally.

“They’re called the footsteps of God,” Ida said. “But after the message I’m not so sure I’m ready to believe that.”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor admitted. “Very few people know anything at all about Planet One. Beyond these steps is undiscovered country. It has never been mapped or recorded in any way except for long range scans from space. We wouldn’t be doing this now, except Ida is right. The energy burst DID come from this planet. And that means somebody is here who shouldn’t be, with technology they shouldn’t have.”

“Do you think the crew of the Thor Heyerdahl might be on the planet, or are they dead?” Ida asked.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor told her honestly. He couldn’t give her any better answer than that. He wished he could. The missing people were friends of hers. She was obviously worried about them. But for once he really was without any kind of answer to a question and he didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep.

“If they are… The Doctor will find them,” Rory told her.

“That I believe,” Ida answered him.

They reached the top of the cliff feeling various levels of breathlessness. The Doctor looked as fresh as he did at the bottom. Rory and Amy were trying not to look unfit compared to him. Ida needed a sit down. It wasn’t so long since she had been suffering from Hypoxia, after all.

“We can rest a while,” The Doctor said. They all sat down in the lush green grass that grew right up to the edge of the cliff. The plateau they had reached was the very definition of the word ‘verdant’. In the far distance there was a forest of thick green trees, but the plain that stretched in front of them was far from barren. There were bushes thick with some kind of berries and small trees, again fruit bearing from the look of them. A stream ran through the greenness, tumbling over the cliff into a waterfall.

“It looks so alive,” Amy commented. “As if just about anything could grow here.”

“Are there animals, too?” Rory asked. “If there’s all this vegetation, something should eat it.”

“Something does,” The Doctor agreed. “There are certainly no lawnmowers around here. The grass would be longer if something wasn’t grazing it.”

“So there might be a herd of cows somewhere?”

“Not domestic cows,” Ida pointed out. “They’d be something like the wild buffalo of the American prairies, before white men came and slaughtered them. This is unspoilt territory. Mankind hasn’t been able to spoil it.”

“Why does Mankind always take the rap for that sort of thing?” Rory asked. “Don’t other species over-populate and overeat on their planets? Do we have the patent on pollution?”

“No, you don’t,” The Doctor assured him. “I have seen much worse than the Human race for that sort of thing. It’s only because your species is so numerous, colonising so much of the galaxy, that you have such a reputation.”

“Is that why nobody was allowed to colonise this planet?” Amy asked as they stood up and started on their trek across the fertile plain. “Planet One…”

“The oldest planet in the universe,” Ida explained. “At least it is believed to be. Those few surveys that were allowed to be done found that the bedrock beneath all this lush fertility is older by a billion years than any other known planet.”

Rory and Amy looked at The Doctor expectantly.

“My people thought so, too,” he agreed. “That’s why we were part of the intergalactic Treaty to protect Planet One from any colonisation or interference of any kind.”

“You know what Humans think it is, of course,” Ida said.

“Yes, I know,” The Doctor replied.

“We don’t,” Amy pointed out.

“Planet One – the first planet,” Ida explained. “The first to cool from the superheated chaos of the Big Bang… or the first planet to be fashioned by God. For those who believe in it, this is the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were cast out from. And… look at it. You can see why people would think it.”

The Doctor reached up and plucked a fruit from a tree he just happened to be close to as Ida spoke. He gave Amy something that looked like an apple but had the taste and texture of a peach, except without the stone.

“Forbidden fruit?” he suggested.

Amy paused in eating the fruit and thought about that.

“Or just nature’s bounty,” The Doctor added. He picked more fruit and they all enjoyed the unexpected treat. “Ida, I wonder about you. The last time we met you were on Krop Tor, the place where all myths and legends about the devil originate. Now I find you at the planet where Humans expect to find their God.”

“Wow, seriously?” Rory asked. “That’s kind of… big.”

“It’s not why the survey was here,” Ida assured them. “We were trying to find out if there was any animal life here. Since we’re not allowed onto the planet, we were doing it by monitoring levels of carbon dioxide in the lower part of the atmosphere… to see if anything was breathing down here.”

“And....” Rory let the question hang.

“We hadn’t got very far,” Ida admitted. “But our findings suggested that there was animal life in abundance. But we had no way of knowing what sort of life.”

“Brontosaurus,” Amy said.

“You can get a cream for that,” Rory said.

“No, I mean… Brontosaurus… we were talking about herds of cows before… aren’t they the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that they said were just like big cows?”

“Just one of the many inaccuracies of that film,” The Doctor told her. “Brontosaurus is more correctly called Apatosaurus….”

“Doctor,” Ida said, bravely cutting into The Doctor’s lecture about the correct identification of dinosaurs. “I think Amy wasn’t worrying so much about what they’re called… as the fact that there is a herd of them over there by that clump of bushes.”

The Doctor turned and looked at what all three of his companions were now staring at in wonder. He could have launched into another long discussion about why they were not, strictly speaking, Apatosaurus, either, having shorter necks and tails than the genus identified on Earth, but he knew nobody would have been listening. Instead he watched the huge but surprisingly graceful movement of the herd grazing on the juicy leaves of the bushes or bending low to enjoy the grass.

“There won’t be much left on that bush by the time they’re finished,” Rory observed. “There has to be at least twenty of them.”

Amy tried counting but gave up. She kept mistaking tails for heads.

“I haven’t read the bible for a bit,” she admitted. “But I’m sure there was no mention of dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.”

“Poetic licence,” The Doctor said. “It doesn’t mention kangaroos, either, but they’ve been on Earth for millennia. And giant reptiles inhabit Planet One. No wonder you could take readings of carbon dioxide output from orbit. Magnificent. Let’s leave them alone for now, though. We can carry on walking around them. The source of that energy burst that Ida’s ship experienced is ten miles that way, where the ground rises beyond that stand of trees.”

“Ten miles?” Rory and Amy looked more than a little disturbed by the prospect of such a long hike. Ida was a little more enthusiastic for it. She said she was used to long walks on the exercise deck of the ship. She described the walking machines with all around simulations of scenery from Earth or any choice of planet with different levels of difficulty from a stroll in the country to a mountain path.

“This is far better,” she added. “The air is so invigorating. It smells ‘real’. It’s amazing. This is the biggest place I’ve actually stood on for a long time. There’s sky above me and air all around. I feel quite free.”

Her enthusiasm was catching. Rory and Amy felt fitter for the task than they thought they were. They walked on past the grazing Apatosaurus, carrying on a slightly silly discussion about whether the plural should in fact be Apatosauri or Apataosauruses.

“How come they’re here, anyway?” Amy asked after a while. “If Planet One is so ancient, and we’re in the future from when Rory and me come from anyway, why are dinosaurs still here? Shouldn’t they have died out?”

“They only died out on Earth because of a cataclysmic event that caused planetwide climate change,” The Doctor explained. “But for that mammals might never have been able to proliferate and Humans wouldn’t have become the dominant species.”

“The Silurians would,” Amy remembered. “They were the sentient species before they hibernated to avoid the cataclysm.”


“So… could there be a reptile-descended lifeform on this planet?” Amy wondered. “There’s been time for them to evolve.”

“They don’t look like reptiles to me,” Rory said, looking up into the sky.

“What don’t?” The Doctor looked up to see what Rory was looking at. Everyone looked up and stared in astonishment at the riders mounted on the backs of pterodactyls. Then a sound like thunder underground made them look around again. These riders were mounted on wiry looking reptiles about the size of a small horse, but running on two legs. Rory was reminded momentarily of a film he saw once of people ostrich racing.

“Orinthomimus,” The Doctor said. “Possibly an ancestor of the larger flightless birds like the ostrich.”

The people riding both the Orinthomimus and the pterodactyls were Human. They were dressed in skins and carried spears made of flint heads tied to long lengths of wood with leather strips. Some of them had hand made bows and leather quivers of arrows.

They were hunting by air and land. The riders on the pterodactyls went in for the kill first, diving towards the grazing brontosauruses and scattering them. Then the reptile riders closed in on one of the beasts that had become separated from the herd and fired arrows and spears at it. The sound of the creature’s dying bellows carried across the plain, along with the roars of the hunters and the creatures they were riding.

Even before the brontosaurus was completely dead the hunters started hacking at its flesh, cutting huge pieces of meat to store in bags made of cured hide hanging either side of their rides. They were collecting meat for food.

“It’s… natural,” The Doctor said in mitigation of their behaviour. “People hunt for meat… to sustain themselves.”

“It’s horrible,” Ida responded. “We don’t eat real meat. All our food is synthesised from vegetable protein.”

Rory and Amy couldn’t say the same. They came from a society where vegetarianism was still regarded as a fad and meat eating was normal. But they were used to seeing burgers frozen in a box or chops ready to put under the grill. The suffering of the animal, the blood involved in butchery happened a long way from their supermarket.

Then one of the Orinthomimus riders turned away from the work and approached The Doctor’s party. He jumped from his mount while still several yards away and walked towards them slowly, as if he was astonished by what he saw.

“Ida!” he said in a hoarse voice. “Ida Scott. But how is it possible? How could you be here, now… after all these years?”

“What?” Ida stared at the man. He had a long, ragged beard and straggly hair, both white with age. His face was lined and tanned from living outdoors. His eyes were still bright and alert, but he had to be at least fifty years old.

“Ida… it’s me… Thom Avis… I was talking to you before… But it was thirty years ago. I was twenty-three… It was my first deep space mission….”

There were tears in his eyes. He reached out an elderly hand to Ida’s young one. He grasped it tightly.

“Thom….” She whispered his name. “Is it really you? But… how…. How can you be…”

“I’m The Doctor,” said The Doctor, reaching out a friendly hand to the man. “I gather you’re one of the people we’re looking for. Are the others here, too?”

“Not all. We lost some over the years. But…” He looked around. The brontosaurus carcass still had a great deal of meat on it. There weren’t enough of them to reduce it down to the bones. “We will have to get going. The blood will attract carnivores. Come with us to our camp.”

He waved and three more of the Orinthomimus riders came towards him. He showed Ida how to climb up behind him. The Doctor was happy enough to get up behind one of the other riders. Amy and Rory were not entirely sure they liked the idea, but they didn’t have a whole lot of choice. They climbed aboard their rides. The Orinthomimus were ridden bareback, of course. Sitting on the scaly back of a reptile was like nothing either had ever experienced before. There were other discomforts, too. The riders they were forced to hold onto were sweaty and suffering from serious cases of body odour. There was a smell, too, from the bags of meat.

Even heavily laden the Orinthomimus were swift animals. They covered the miles in no time at all, bringing them to the green hill that The Doctor had identified as near the source of the energy burst. It saved them a ten mile hike, but by the time they dismounted Rory and Amy were groaning with backache and other pains. Ida was just as stiff and uncomfortable, but she made rather less fuss about it.

“You’re not used to riding,” The Doctor said just a little too cheerfully. He didn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects at all.

“So when did you learn to ride dinosaurs?” Rory challenged him. But, of course, he didn’t answer. Besides, there were more important things to think about in the camp. The Orinthomimus and the pterodactyls were corralled in paddocks. The Orinthomimus grazed on the leaves of a tree but the pterodactyls were fed some of the brontosaurus meat. The rest of the meat was brought to a fire where it was cooked on a spit like a really huge kebab. A sort of unleavened bread was prepared by the women as well as what looked like sweet potatoes that were baked in the hottest part of the fire.

It wasn’t exactly a barbecue. The bread and the potatoes had burnt parts and they had to brush a lot of ash off them, while the chunks of brontosaurus meat were charred on the outside and raw in the middle. Rory, Amy and Ida made a pretence of eating. They weren’t quite hungry enough for it. They shared their meat with two youngsters who scampered around the campfire, a boy and a girl aged about five or six, dressed in cured skins and with unruly hair and wild eyes.

“Whose children are they?” Ida asked. She looked around at the little community. There were eight people she recognised as part of the crew of the Thor Heyerdahl. They were all in their fifties and sixties. When she knew them they were all in their mid-twenties and thirties. They had aged something like thirty years.

They had been here for thirty years. That much was gleaned from the conversation around the fire. When they were first marooned on the planet they hoped for rescue, but as the years went by they knew it was unlikely. They made the best of it. Some of them became couples and children were born. The eldest of those were stout young people in their twenties, now. The youngest were the two children who scrounged extra food from the adults. One of the younger women was heavily pregnant. She was the daughter of two of the original maroonees who had been coupled with the son of two others. A third generation was about to be born.

“I don’t understand,” Ida said. “For me, it has only been a matter of hours since the Thor Heyerdahl vanished. How can it have happened thirty years ago?”

Nobody knew the answer to that question.

“How did you get here?” The Doctor asked. “What do you remember?”

“I remember being on the ship,” Thom Avis replied. “Then I blacked out. When I woke I was here on the planet. So was everyone else from the ship… all except Ida. We didn’t know how we got here, but it was obvious we were cut off from the ship – if it was still intact, even. All we knew was that we’d been brought here, safely, somehow - as if something wanted us to live.”

“What sort of something?” Rory asked.

“We called it God,” Avis said. “But we knew it wasn’t… despite the legends about this place. We all felt it… in the cavern where we woke up… that there was a presence, something sentient and… benevolent.”

“What cavern?” The Doctor immediately wanted to know.

“It’s beneath the hill, there. We don’t go in there very often. It’s… well, a sacred place, you could say. We bring the children when they are safely born. It feels right to do so. But for the most part we stay away.”

“I think you ought to break your rule,” The Doctor said. “I really need to talk to your god.”

That was a startling thought. There were murmurs all around the camp and a lively debate ensued about whether it would be blasphemous to allow the stranger to enter their sacred place.

“What are they on about?” Rory asked. “They’re acting like some kind of native tribe. They used to be technicians and pilots and whatever on a space ship…. Intelligent people. They can’t surely be that superstitious.”

“The younger ones know nothing about the ship except tales from their parents,” The Doctor reminded him. “To them this is their life, their world, with whatever rituals and beliefs have grown up with their generation.”

“What will they be like in forty or fifty years when the first lot are dead and nobody remembers how they got here?” Amy asked.

“Content?” The Doctor suggested. “Hunting brontosaurus is hard work, but they eat well from it. They live as good a life as they can make for themselves. Just because it isn’t technological doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.”

“But they don’t have to carry on doing that, now,” Ida pointed out. “We’re here. We have the TARDIS. We can take them all home.”

The Doctor said nothing about that. The debate was over. By a very small majority it had been agreed that they could go to the Cavern of God.

“No time like the present,” The Doctor said. “Avis, you lead the way.”

Rory, Amy and Ida debated quickly whether to follow The Doctor or stay in the camp and chose the former. Having a chat with God seemed an awesome thing to do, one neither of them felt quite up to, but curiosity got the better of them. Just what would The Doctor have to say to a deity?

They had the feeling he would know exactly what to say.

Almost all of the tribe followed. A few stayed at the camp, the mother of the younger children and those in charge of the fire and the livestock. The rest formed a curious crocodile as they entered the small cave entrance and even smaller passage that was the ante-chamber to the cavern itself.

“Wow!” Rory expressed how all of the newcomers felt when they emerged into the cavern. It was the sort of place people on Earth would pay money to see. It was lit by some kind of phosphorescence in the walls themselves which was reflected in the stalactites on the high roof. It was as big as a church and felt just as monumental. The idea of shouting in a place like this was unthinkable.

But that was exactly what The Doctor did.

“Hello,” he called. “Are you there? Talk to me. I’m The Doctor, last of the Time Lords, Guardian of Causality and all that. I’m important.”

There was no answer that anyone else heard. But it seemed as if The Doctor was hearing something. He stood quietly and listened.

“Really?” he said presently. “That explains a lot. So what’s the story with these people?”

Again he seemed to be listening for quite a long time.

“Ok,” he said at last. “That makes a whole lot of sense, now. If it’s all right with you, I’m going to have a chat with these good folk and tell them what you’ve told me. I think they ought to know, don’t you?”

He clearly had their assent. He turned and told Avis and his people to come and sit on the cavern floor. They formed a rough kind of ring. Rory, Amy and Ida joined them. The Doctor sat in the middle and waited for them to be settled and ready.

“I don’t know whether the presence here is a god or not. If you want to use that term, go ahead. But what you have here is something very rare. It is actually the sentient mind of the planet itself – Planet One. Remember it is so very much older than any other planet in the known universe, so old that it has a mind of its own. It’s a good mind – a kind mind. It has been aware of ships orbiting it, scanning the surface, trying to unlock its mysteries. Thirty years ago, give or take, it was aware that the Thor Heyerdahl had come into its orbit. It knew something was different about this ship for two reasons – one, it didn’t come into orbit gradually, but popped into existence instantly, and two, because a huge slice had been ripped out of the hull and it was losing life support drastically. It found all the organic beings on the ship and brought them to the cavern to save their lives. The ship fell into a decaying orbit and eventually crashed into the ocean on the other side of the planet. It caused a tsunami that swamped the nearest landfall, but it was an uninhabited area. The planet mind cared for you all until you recovered and went out to explore your new world. It watched over you as you worked out what to do to survive. It has been pleased with your resourcefulness.”

“How did the ship end up damaged and thrust thirty years back in time?” Ida asked.

“The planet mind doesn’t know, but I’m guessing a time ribbon. They’re dangerous, unpredictable things that strike randomly. This one must have been big enough to swallow most of the ship, except for that section of the hull that was sheared off. That would have been left behind in the present while the rest of it was instantly dumped in a different time. It would have been fatal for all on board but for that timely rescue.”

“Wow,” Amy murmured. She was the only one who could think of anything to say at all for a long time. Then Avis spoke for the whole tribe.

“I don’t know if you came here expecting to rescue us, but I don’t think that will be necessary. We belong here, now. What you said about the planet… only confirms it.”

“Quite right,” The Doctor agreed. “May you prosper and be fruitful as they used to say on my planet. Actually, I don’t think there is any doubt about that. You’re going to be just fine as long as you carry on the way you have been doing all along.”

“What about me?” Ida asked. “Do I come along with you, Doctor? I’ll have to report the loss of the ship and its crew. What do I say?”

“Is that what you want?” The Doctor asked her in return. “Do you have anyone to go back to? Will you be missed?”

“No,” she admitted. “I’ve got nobody. That’s why I spend so much of my time on deep space missions.”

“You’re welcome to join us, Ida,” Avis said. “The life is hard, sometimes, especially in winter. But it has its rewards, too.”

Ida looked at The Doctor and his friends. She looked at Avis and what was left of her own friends from the ship.

“I… think… I might stay,” she said. “I suppose I’ll get used to barbecued bronto-steaks.”

Avis and some of the others hugged her welcomingly. She smiled nervously. She had made a monumental decision to change her way of life in ways she probably hadn’t yet fully realised. But she knew she had made the right decision.

“I suppose this is goodbye, then, Doctor?” she said. “I won’t be getting into any more trouble that you need to get me out of.”

“Glad to hear it,” he answered. “I’ll send a report to say that the Thor Heyerdahl was lost with all souls aboard. Nobody will look for any of you here. The planet is yours, with its very own blessing.”

Then he listened again to a voice only he, a Time Lord, could hear. He smiled widely.

“Brilliant. The planet-mind is saving us a walk.”

There was a familiar noise and the TARDIS materialised in the cavern to the further astonishment of people who had already had quite a few surprises this day.

“Goodbye, Ida,” The Doctor said. Rory and Amy shook hands with her, too, before they followed The Doctor into the TARDIS. Ida and her new found tribe watched as it disappeared again in a flurry of displaced air and a noise that echoed strangely around the cavern.

“Just who IS he?” Avis asked. “The Doctor….”

“Oh,” Ida replied. “The stuff of legend. That’s him.”