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

Shakespeare Avenue
June 15th, 1967

To Anyone Who Finds This Letter.

Nobody will believe me. I wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t seen it happen to my little sister, Hanna. But this house eats people. Mum and dad went first, then my big brother, and our dog. Then it was just me and Hanna. We should have run away, then. We should have gone to the police. But we were scared. We didn’t want to be taken to Welfare. We’ve both seen the stories in the comics about orphanages run by mean people who starve the children and get rich on the money. We didn’t want to go to a place like that.

But it would have been better than being eaten. I’m so scared. Now I CAN’T leave. I’m putting this letter in my secret hiding place because there’s nowhere and nobody I can send it to. Nobody will believe me. But THIS HOUSE EATS PEOPLE.

Yours Sincerely

Ruth Mitchell, aged 12.

“Will this do the trick, do you think?” Larry Nightingale asked as he studied the advertisement his wife, Sally, had put in the local newspaper.

“Mr and Mrs Nightingale of Finsbury Park, would like to thank The Doctor for their assistance in their recent house renovation.”

“It’ll intrigue him, and mean absolutely nothing to anyone else,” Sally answered. “You just wait. He’ll be here.”

Two minutes after Sally had submitted the advertisement by email, there was a knock at the door.

“No,” Larry said. “That can’t be him. It must be Jehovah’s Witnesses or a meter reader or something. There’s no way it’s him. That would be too clever even for The Doctor.”

Diary of Jennette Mayfield

Friday, May 10th, 1979

History was made early this morning. Britain has a woman as Prime Minister for the first time, ever. But I don’t think I’ll get to vote the next time, even though I’ll be eighteen by then. I’m going to die, soon, just like everyone else in my family. I’m the last, and I know the house is going to take me next. I can feel it. I wish we’d never come here. It seemed like a dream come true at first, getting picked out of that lottery to have a lovely three-bedroom house with garden and bathroom and everything absolutely rent free. But right now I wish we were ALL back in our terraced house with the outside toilet in the yard and a tin bath in the kitchen every Saturday night. It would be better than this.

I can’t even get out, now. I’m trapped in the house. I’m the last. When I’m gone, it will be over. I think this will be my last diary entry. At least somebody will find it and they’ll know what happened to us.

“Hello, my lovely Sparrows,” said the cheerful sliver of face outside as Larry looked out using the doorchain, just in case.

“That’s NIGHTINGALE,” he answered as he opened the door fully. “You know perfectly well that my surname is Nightingale and Sally married me, and took MY name.”

“That’s a really silly custom, you know,” The Doctor said as he stepped into the hall. “Nice house you have here. Better than that dingy flat over that miserable bookshop.”

Jean Ferguson followed The Doctor in, indicating with her silently mouthed apology that she didn’t share his tactless opinions.

“It’s a really nice flat,” Larry responded. “And the bookshop is lovely. Sally and I love working there, together. But this house was like a dream come true… until we found out it was a nightmare.”

“Would you like...” Sally began as The Doctor breezed into the living room and sat down on each of the armchairs and all three parts of the sofa in turn, as if testing them for comfort.

“If you’re going to suggest tea or coffee, make them decaf,” Jean said. “We were at a spaceport in the blue-star galaxy just before we got your message. The TARDIS had been impounded by customs officials and he drank about fifty cups of coffee while he was waiting to get his diplomatic credentials confirmed.” She paused. “It would have helped if he wasn’t carrying identity papers claiming he was the King of the Belgians while at the same time telling them he was an Ambassador from the planet Gallifrey.”

Sally gave Jean a sympathetic look and suggested camomile tea. The Doctor had apparently chosen a big squashy beanbag to lounge on, his long legs stretched out in front of him. Jean stepped over them and sat in an armchair. Larry went to help his wife with the tea.


Six of us moved into this house less than a year ago. We were happy. We could hardly believe our luck. After losing our home when my business went under, we thought we’d spend the rest of our lives in that awful council flat in the tower block. This house was a Godsend. The children loved the garden. My wife smiled again. I hadn’t seen her smile for so long. I thought the tide was turning for us. But then my family, the most important people in my life, were taken from me, one by one. The search for the girls was agonising. The newspaper articles, making the plea for them on TV. Then our little boy… and the baby. We were suspects that time, not victims. The police dug up the garden looking for bodies while we were being questioned. I wish they’d kept us in custody. Two days after they let us come back Louise disappeared in the same way. Now I’m just waiting for the end. I know it’s coming, soon. I just hope I AM the last. We have to be. Surely somebody will check the computer?

Nigel Atkinson.

232 words/1207 chars/1.18kb

“It’s this house,” Sally explained. “It eats people. At least, that’s what the victims have said. I’m not sure what they mean, exactly. There’s no blood or anything, you know, Amityville Horror stuff. But it’s happened at least six times.”

“Six?” Jean queried. The Doctor wasn’t talking, which was probably a good thing since everything he had said since he arrived was caffeine-fuelled nonsense. Now he was quiet, sitting with his fingers pressed together just in front of his lips like he was praying or playing ‘here’s the steeple’ like in the nursery rhyme. She could only hope it was some form of psychic meditation and he was mentally connecting with the house while listening to every word Larry and Sally were saying.

Larry put an odd collection of memorabilia on the coffee table. Jean looked at a yellowing envelope with a letter folded carefully inside it. There was no address on the envelope and it had obviously never been posted. With it was a diary for the year 1979, a 3.5inch floppy disc of the sort most computers no longer had a drive for, a CD rom with the date 11/10/1998 written on it and a memory stick shaped like a banana. Larry told her that the memory stick contained a recording of a video log by a seventeen year old boy.

“That’s five,” Jean pointed out after counting twice.

“There’s THIS, too,” Larry explained. “I had to find a second hand shop that still sold the players.” He put an old cassette recorder on the table and pressed play. A frightened voice was heard over the slight hiss and static that came with cheap microphones and recording medium that had been stored for a long time.

“It’ll get me next. There’s nobody else left. I don’t know what to do. I can’t get out. I shouldn’t have stayed as long as I did. Now it’s too late. But I was a little bit scared. I thought, if I went to the police, they’d just think I killed my husband and children. I mean, people do that sort of thing, don’t they? But I swear I didn’t do anything. The house took them, one by one. And now… now, it’s just me left, and I’ll be glad when it’s over. At least, then, I won’t be so scared and miserable, and alone.”

There was a click, and then another, as if the woman talking thought of something else.

“My name is Sarah Adams, and I didn’t kill anyone. If you find this tape, then you’ll know I’m telling the truth.”

Then there was static for a few seconds, before music.

“Bucks Fizz?” Jean identified the track. She had heard the songs many times on 1980s theme nights at the Port Royal Arms. Larry stopped the tape and pulled it from the player. It had slightly unravelled. He carefully reeled it up with a pencil in the cog.

“It says ‘EMI, 1982’ on the label. She put sticky tape over the lugs to allow it to be recorded over.”

“So this victim was after 1982, when the tape was released, and before 3.5 inch discs were the industry standard for computers - the second half of the 1980s?”

“Making this the third set of victims who left a message,” Larry confirmed. “They’re all about the same. The only thing that changes is the technology.”

“There might be more,” Sally added. “Who knows how many people DIDN’T leave a message in the house.”

“Where WERE all these messages?” Jean asked.

“In a box at the back of the built in wardrobe in the master bedroom,” Larry told her. “Behind the back wall of the wardrobe. We found it when we knocked it down. It was a manky, old-fashioned thing. I wanted to put in a nice glass alcove unit. Then we found those, and we knew there was something really mad going on here.”

“One of them talked about some sort of lottery,” Jean said. “What was that all about?”

“It’s how we got the house, too,” Sally explained. “We got a letter to say we’d won a prize – a house, rent free, for life, or as long as we wanted to live there. We thought it was some kind of con at first. I mean, people don’t just give away houses.”

“I’d be very suspicious about a lottery I didn’t even enter,” Jean said.

“Quite right,” The Doctor remarked. “Never accept a prize if you don’t remember entering the lottery. On Numbris IX that’s how they cull the population – by picking people from a lottery and executing them.”

“Lovely,” Jean responded. “Let’s NOT go for a picnic there.” But The Doctor had gone back into his meditation mode again.

“Anyway,” Larry continued, hoping that The Doctor WAS taking mental notes. “When we checked it out, it seemed fine. Apparently some eccentric type left money in the 1960s to buy or build houses and give them away to deserving people – young families, starter-outers like us. It seemed like it was on the level. We were thrilled. We thought it would be ages before we could afford a house at London prices.”

“Then we started the renovations. First we found the murals under the wallpaper, and then all this stuff. That’s when we knew we needed help.”

“Murals?” The Doctor opened his eyes again and stretched his limbs. “What murals? Show me.”

“Upstairs on the landing and in the bedrooms,” Sally told him. He HAD been listening after all. That was a relief. Now he was on his feet and charging across the room. He had mounted the stairs before Jean and the two householders caught up with him.

“Wow!” Jean exclaimed when she reached the upstairs landing. Sally and Larry had stripped several layers of wallpaper, right down to the original plaster.

And the plasterwork was covered with murals that would make Da Vinci think the Last Supper was a waste of paint. They were, like his great work, frescos, painted onto wet plaster so that the colours soaked deeply into it. That meant that they were done when the house was being built in the early 1960s.

But even a cursory glance at the fashions worn by the people in the images, the kitchen appliances in the view of a woman serving breakfast to her children, the hi fi and television watched by a family in another picture, the mobile phone and laptop computer one of the characters was holding, suggested a really big problem with history.

“I think that’s Ruth Mitchell and her family,” Sally said about the first family tableaux. “Mum and dad, big brother, two little girls and a dog. That one is the late 1980s family who had a computer with floppy drives. And I recognise that woman from the Vlog. She’s the newest.”

“Their pictures are on the walls of the house?” Jean was astonished. “It doesn’t seem possible.”

Before she met The Doctor, she wouldn’t have believed it. She would have assumed it was a clever bit of fakery and wondered why anyone would do it.

Now she was prepared to believe that a house could eat people and leave their images on its walls.

“But why?” That question still stood. Why would a house do that?

“I am wondering the very same thing myself,” The Doctor said when she put it to him. “I can’t believe the intention was malicious. There is no sense of evil in these walls. This house… is a happy place. The aura is benign”

“Great,” Jean responded. “We’re all looking to you for answers and you go all mushy on us, talking about happy places and benign auras. There are dozens of people missing, families, children. They were scared.”

“They’re not scared now,” The Doctor pointed out. “Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“Well I am,” Larry responded. “Because… Sally is gone.”

“What?” Jean turned around twice. Sally had been standing next to The Doctor on the landing. Larry was at the top of the stairs. She hadn’t gone past him, and a cursory glance confirmed that she wasn’t in any of the upstairs rooms.

Then Larry cried out in horror. Jean reached out to comfort him as he stared at a mural image of Sally, standing alone in the garden, her arm out, as if beckoning him to join her.

The Doctor didn’t offer any comfort. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and began examining the mural with an almost obscene, certainly insensitive, excitement, talking at breakneck speed about ion residue and interstitial portals.

He was in mid-sentence when Larry hit him square in the jaw. He reeled back, surprised and shocked, rubbing his chin.

“That serves you right,” Jean told him. “The next time you have more than three cups of coffee in a session I’m going to lock you in the TARDIS for twenty-four hours afterwards. And don’t think I can’t. The TARDIS is a woman. She knows when you need sorting out for your own good. Now shut up talking nonsense. This isn’t a science experiment. A friend of yours has GONE, and if she isn’t dead, then you’d better know how to get her back.”

“She isn’t dead, I promise you that,” The Doctor said in a voice containing just a hint of contrition. “Larry, I assure you, on my word as a Time Lord, that Sally is not dead, and I CAN get her back. I just need the TARDIS to….”

He looked around as he spoke.

“Oh… Oh dear.”

“What?” Larry and Jean looked at him, then at the landing window.

“It wasn’t frosted before, was it?” Jean asked.

“No, it wasn’t,” Larry answered. He ran to the window, then to the bedroom where there was a much bigger window made up of six separate panes. Four of them should have opened, but when he tried they wouldn’t budge. The same frosting had covered them. Jean pressed her face close and tried to look out but there was nothing but a whiteness to be seen.

The Doctor ran downstairs and confirmed that the front door was sealed shut. Larry went to the kitchen and found that the back door was the same.

“If we went up to the attic to the little skylight window that I noticed when we were coming up the garden it would be sealed, too, wouldn’t it?” Jean said to The Doctor. “This house is completely isolated by something that doesn’t want you to get to the TARDIS. It happened before. It’s why the lady with the Vlog didn’t put it on the internet where it would be seen. I bet wi fi and mobile phones are cut off, too?” She brought out her own phone. It had been adapted by The Doctor to send and receive from anywhere in time and space, even times before mobile phones existed. It was showing the ‘out of range’ symbol.

“Everyone mentioned it being too late to get away. We were warned, and we didn’t think it would happen to us,” Larry recalled dismally.

“Ok,” The Doctor said with the only upbeat mood of them all. “It’s a bit harder without the TARDIS, but I can still do it.”

“Do WHAT?” Jean and Larry both asked.

“Go through the interstitial portal and get Sally, and anyone else who wants to come, back from the disjointed reality they are in.”

“What the blinking flip is an interstitial portal? Larry asked. “And a disjointed reality for that matter. It sound like something the drugs squad ought to know about.”

“If I said a magic door to a dream world you’d laugh,” The Doctor responded indignantly. “Interstitial portal is the correct word for it. Let’s stop talking and start working. Without the TARDIS I’m going to have to rig something up by hand, using primitive materials. Larry, go and get me an electric egg whisk, laptop computer, and a set of Christmas lights. Jean, go with him and hold his hand.”


“He is part of this house, now. It is only a matter of time before it pulls him through the portal. But if you hold onto him, he’ll be safe. You’re not part of the house, yet. You’re his anchor to this reality.”

“Why didn’t you say so before Sally was taken?” Larry protested as Jean gripped his hand tightly. “We could have anchored her, too.”

“I didn’t know for sure until one of you was taken. Besides, it will be better this way. Her need to get back to you will make it easier to bring her through. Now go and get the things I need. Oh, and if you have any salted peanuts, they will be good, too.”

“You want nibbles?” Larry asked, scandalised.

“Not just for me, for Sally, too,” The Doctor assured him. “Interstitial travel drains the body of salts and proteins. Salted peanuts are the quickest way to replace both. Go, quick. Don’t waste time talking about protein deficiency and interstitial portals.”

Larry was about to point out that The Doctor was the only one wasting time on those things, but Jean tugged at his hand. They went to get the things The Doctor asked for. Meanwhile, he set about tapping at the walls all around the landing and using the sonic screwdriver to locate the portal.

Jean and Larry ran back up the stairs with their hands full of household items that usually had no connection with each other. Larry watched in some anxiety as The Doctor unscrewed the back of the laptop and extracted sections of it that he soldered to the egg whisk and the string of Christmas lights.

The Doctor arranged the lights in a rough circle on the floor and then plugged them into a wall socket. At once the lights came on in a chaser formation. He stood in the middle of the circle and held the egg whisk up before he switched it on, too. The laptop fired up, despite most of its innards being ‘outards’ and displayed a swirling pattern not unlike the vortex image on the TARDIS screens, except silvery and more chaotic.

The egg whisk was creating its own silvery vortex in the air within the ring of Christmas lights. At first, it was too small to be any use, but gradually it was big enough to envelop The Doctor.

Then he vanished. The egg whisk fell to the floor, switching itself off automatically. The image on the laptop was of something like a black hole with silvery edges around it.

“What now?” Larry wondered aloud.

“We wait for him,” Jean answered with a sigh. “I’m sorry about his mood. I did wonder about the coffee, but I thought maybe his species could drink that much.”

“It’s all right. He’s… you know… The Doctor. He’s going to sort it out. I just wish he could have done it sooner. Sally means the world to me, you know. When my sister was sent back to the 1920s by the Weeping Angels she was there for me. She was… kind to me. She was the one person who knew what really happened to Kathy, the one I could talk to about it all. And… we…”

He paused. That line of conversation must have seemed totally demented. But then again, Jean knew The Doctor, too.

“I understand,” she said, very simply.

It took nearly twenty minutes. The Doctor was gone that long. Jean held Larry’s hand all that time, the two of them standing on the landing, looking at the mural image of Sally.

Then the image of her faded away in front of their eyes. Larry gave a small whimper of despair as even that comforting reminder of his wife was taken away from him. Then the laptop beeped. The silver vortex swirled around again on the screen. In the air a silvery mist grew and coalesced. Larry let go of Jean’s hand. He ran to embrace Sally as she stepped out of the ‘magic door’ or ‘interstitial portal’ followed by The Doctor.

“Salted peanuts,” he said. Jean pulled the packet from her pocket. He grabbed a handful and put them in his mouth, crunching noisily. Sally was a little more genteel about it, but admitted afterwards that the snack helped clear her head after the strange experience.

“Let’s go downstairs and have tea, coffee… iced water,” The Doctor suggested.

“I’ll do some more camomile,” Sally offered. “Then we’ll talk. There’s a LOT to talk about.”

The frosting on the windows was lighter, now, with the ‘ghosts’ of other houses visible through them, but the doors were still sealed. The feeling that it as was just a matter of time stayed with them, though, as they drank camomile tea and Sally told Larry and Jean what had happened to her.

“It was another world, an alternative reality, I suppose. It was familiar, and yet, not familiar. There were houses, just like the houses in this street, with lovely big gardens and wide windows gleaming in the sunshine. There were little shops at the end of the street like there used to be in the old days – not just a grotty old Spar, but a bakery with real bread and a grocer, fruit and veg shop, a nice old-fashioned sweetshop where the sweets are in jars on shelves - everything people think about as being good. There were children playing in the street, riding bicycles, playing with dolls, playing footie on the green, without all those snotty signs saying ‘no ball games, no cycling’ and whatever, and nobody scared to let their kids out to play because of paedos. It was a really nice, happy community.”

“Really?” Larry was surprised. He wasn’t sure what he had expected – some kind of limbo full of shapeless, nameless horrors, perhaps.

“Really. I mean, it might have been Earth except for two things – well, three things. One, we don’t have nice communities like that one Earth. Then there was the sky. It was pale purple and even in broad daylight, with two suns shining, there were five moons, all different shades from dark brown to silver.”

“And the third thing?”

“You weren’t there,” Sally told her husband. “That’s how I knew it wasn’t my world. If you were with me, I think I’d have been happy to stay. It really is everything a neighbourhood ought to be. There were people having barbecues and cocktails on their patios, neighbours going round to each other’s houses. It wasn’t like here where everyone has their own self-contained spaces and you hardly talk to the next door neighbour except to complain about the noise. And they were all really happy.”

“They?” Larry’s eye turned towards the ceiling. He was thinking of the people in the murals.

“Yes, all the people who used to live in this house, and others, too. The first ones, the parents are elderly now, and the girl who wrote the letter, Ruth Mitchell, aged 12 in 1967, well she’s older, as well, though not as old as she ought to be. She looked about forty-five. She gave me a cup of tea and a sandwich and showed me pictures of her grandchildren. She said I’d be allocated a house once my husband got there and we’d be fine.”

“So...” Jean sought for something to say. “They’re all safe. They’re not scared or in danger?”

“No. It’s like a social experiment that really works.”

“That’s it!” The Doctor exclaimed. “That’s exactly what it was. I just don’t know WHO would have done it.”

“Maybe it was him,” Larry suggested, pointing to the window. It was completely clear, now, and they could see a man walking up the path. He was dressed in a black cloak and a wide brimmed hat over a waistcoat and trousers of a pea-green colour. “That’s Mr Belling. He was the agent who arranged the paperwork for the house. He was wearing a pink suit when we visiting him at his office. We thought he either had a complicated personal life or his other premises were in Diagon Alley with all the other wizards. But he had all the right qualifications as a conveyancing solicitor on the walls.”

“You know I wonder about that sort of thing, sometimes,” Jean said. “How would any of us, not counting The Doctor who is a know-it-all, even recognise the right qualifications stuck on the wall of an office? I should think people could get away with all sorts of things stuck in an authentic looking frame on the wall.”

That thought filtered through their minds as Mr Belling came to the door and unlocked it with a key.

When he came into the drawing room and found everyone sitting there drinking camomile tea, he was perturbed to say the least.

“I… um… er….”

“Stay right there, matey,” Larry said, jumping up to block the door. “We want some answers from you.”

“I think there has been some sort of mistake,” he said.

“Oh, too right there has,” Larry responded. “You picked the wrong victims this time. We have The Doctor on our friends list.”

“I CAN use the sonic screwdriver to put you into semi-stasis,” The Doctor added, swivelling the sonic in his hands menacingly. “But it would be more civil if you were to sit down here and had a cup of Sally’s delicious camomile tea and talk to us of your own volition.”

He sat. Sally gave him tea. He took several sips and congratulated her on a well made cup of camomile.

“It comes from a packet, from Sainsburys,” she pointed out. “I can hardly take credit for the taste. But let’s have the explanation, now.”

“You are quite right,” Mr Belling conceded with a sigh. “You see… in the 1950s this was my house. At least, it was my father’s house. He was a rather famous writer at the time – at least, famous if you really liked fantasy stories about alternative worlds. But he had an amazing imagination and he taught me to think like him. One day, I tried to imagine what it would be like if there was another world on the other side of the bedroom wall – one without war and strife, where people lived the way they were supposed to live.”

“What way is that exactly?” Jean asked, suspiciously.

“In nice communities with all mod-cons, but all the traditional ways of living, too – the corner shop, the bakery, everyone friendly and looking after each other.”

“And….” The Doctor prompted.

“And it happened. It actually popped into existence. I found myself in my world. But there were no people in it. The houses were there, the bakery and corner shop, all of it, just waiting to be populated.”

He took another sip of his camomile tea.

“I concentrated hard, and brought my father and mother, our dog and cat, the new baby, all into my world, because I wanted them with me. They were cross at first, but they thought it was a lovely place to live and they settled down. Of course, one family was no good, so I brought myself back here and set up the lottery, to choose families to live in the house. The nice ones, the people who would be happy in my world, were chosen. I know I should have done something about the WAY it took them. It was frightening for them, being separated like that. But once they were all together it was fine. They were all happy in my world. Some families didn’t fit. The ones who argued, who were mean to each other, spoilt children who wouldn’t play nicely, they tended to move out of the house after a while. They said it didn’t suit them – in fact they didn’t suit the house. The ones it liked, it brought to my world.”

“So how many people HAVE you snatched out of this world into yours?” Larry demanded.

“I really can’t remember, now,” Mr Belling admitted. “But I assure you, they’re fine.”

“They were taken without being asked, and you frightened them,” Sally pointed out. “Children were scared of being eaten. Did you put all their diaries and letters in the cupboard?”

“Yes. I didn’t know quite what else to do with them. Destroying them would have been wrong. But I really didn’t mean to frighten ANYONE. I just wanted happy families in my world.”

“It stops, now,” The Doctor said. “Whatever your intensions were, it was wrong. You can’t kidnap people.”

“Can’t you bring them back?” Larry asked him.

“They don’t want to come back. They ARE happy. Besides, where would they live? This IS their house – all of them – as many as fifteen families altogether.”

“It would be a tight squeeze,” Sally admitted.

“They can stay,” The Doctor decided. “They grow up slowly. Childhood is a nice, long, happy, carefree time. But they grow up. They get married, have children of their own. It’s a viable community, and it will continue to grow without any more people being taken from this world. I’m going to seal the portal, stop the house choosing any more people. Larry and Sally will be happy here. They’ll raise their own family. What happens after that history will decide, not this house.”

“Yes,” Mr Belling accepted. “Yes, I agree.”

“The only question is whether you want to stay here or go over there, first, before I seal the portal,” The Doctor added.

“I’ll go to my world. My parents are there, still. And my brother and sister with their children.”

“That’s settled then. Finish your tea, Mr Belling, and then we’ll send you home to Belling World or….”

“Thera,” he said. “That’s what it’s called. It’s….”

“An anagram of Earth,” Larry pointed out. “Clever… sort of. Though not so clever as not coming up with a daft idea like that in the first place.”

“No, it IS a nice idea,” Sally told her husband. “I just don’t fancy it myself. Apart from anything else, I think….” She paused and smiled. She looked at The Doctor. “You know, don’t you. You said something before we came back through… about having extra peanuts….”

The Doctor nodded and smiled.

“Larry, we’re going to have a baby, and as imperfect as this world is, I think it belongs here, with us. That was my second reason to come back, after being with you. So that’s that.”

The Doctor and Jean left Larry and Sally to talk about the many things they had to talk about and took Mr Belling upstairs to the landing. The Doctor created the interstitial portal once more with the egg whisk and fairy lights. Mr Belling stepped into it and disappeared. The Doctor adjusted the sonic screwdriver and waved it all around the wall. The images, including one of Mr Belling with an extended family of his own, faded from the walls.

The lights fused, the egg whisk stopped spinning, and there was a very terminal whine from the laptop. The Doctor waved the sonic screwdriver at them, but the damage was obviously too serious.

He carried the home made interstitial portal generator downstairs and put the sad pile of junk on the coffee table.

“I’m afraid I owe you a laptop, an egg whisk and a set of Christmas lights,” he said.

“We owe you a lot more than that, Doctor,” Larry answered, a grin splitting his face. “We’ll call it quits. Can you stay for tea?”

“Yes, we can,” Jean answered. “But let’s keep The Doctor on the decaf stuff for a bit longer. He really is too much trouble when he’s had too much caffeine.”