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

“Are you all right?” Rose looked up from the TARDIS sofa where she was sitting with Peter in his travel crib beside her. Vicki was safe and sound in her child seat on the console, watching her father piloting the ship to the planet where he promised them a peaceful family weekend together. “Something is worrying you.”

“Susan, and the boys,” he said. “They’re having an argument. I can feel it. I’m picking up Chris’s emotions so strongly. And Davie… That boy… His temper is nearly as hot as mine when he gets going. So is Susan’s. It worries me. They are all going to say something they really regret one day.”

“Why are they arguing?” Rose asked, though she could probably guess. “Don’t tell me, the boys went off in their TARDIS again without telling her?”


“I kind of understand why Susan is mad. I mean, ask my mum. She was really upset when I was away with you for a year.”

Don’t I know it.” The Doctor grinned and rubbed his jaw in remembrance of Jackie’s phenomenal right hook. “Yes, I understand Susan’s point of view. I’m a dad. I know what it is to worry. I also see it from the boys’ side, too. They want to be out there doing it.”

“The way you used to do it.”


“Well, for one, you were nearly two hundred when you got your first TARDIS. They’re not even eighteen. And yes, I know two hundred is only 18 in Gallifreyan years. And I think Susan is right in another way. The boys are way too cocksure of themselves. Both of them. Their trip to Metebelis Three gave them a bit of a scare, but they were right out there again, ‘surfing’ plasma storms with their TARDIS and all sorts of dangerous stuff.”

“We used to do that,” The Doctor reminded her. “When we were young and carefree.” He sighed wistfully. “The way Davie souped up their machine I’d love a go at it with them.”

Rose shot him a ‘don’t you dare’ look. He smiled and wondered what it was about motherhood that changed women from ‘ready for anything’ to ‘be careful you’ll hurt yourself.’ Susan was the same. She used to love plasma storms. She always wanted him to go faster and higher. But now she was scared stiff of the boys having an accident.

“It’s ALL your fault,” Rose pointed out. “You taught them to be that way. To regard themselves as little gods above everyone else and to take no notice of anyone.”

“I wanted them to be confident in themselves. They did have a rotten time of it at school, lonely kids with no friends, only each other. I taught them to stand tall and be proud of what they are.”

“Well, you went a bit too far.”

“You could be right. I’ll talk to them when everyone’s cooled down a bit.”

“No,” Rose said. “That’s the problem. If YOU tell them, that’s you being the great Lœngbærrow patriarch again. Let Susan and David deal with THEIR children their own way.”

He WAS a good father, Rose thought. For a man who once rejected ‘domestic’ with an almost cruel vehemence. Once he got over his fears of family life he embraced it wholeheartedly. He loved and cared for them all. Not just her and Vicki and Peter, but Christopher, his first born son, Susan, and her children. He had slipped into the role of ‘patriarch’ so easily. The way it was done on his own world. And was it any wonder that sometimes clashed with Susan and David’s attempts at an ordinary life as an ordinary Earth family.

"Am I really SO controlling?" The Doctor asked and Rose was surprised to realise he had been following her thoughts.

"Yes, you are," she told him. "And I wish you wouldn't do that. What if I was thinking of having an affair with another man?"

"Then at least I'd know I have to try harder to love you a little more," he answered. "Or is that my problem? I love you all TOO much?"

Rose wasn’t sure what HE was thinking of then. Behind his beautiful slate-grey eyes she knew his mind was working overtime on the problem of how to love his family without controlling them.

And he didn’t find an answer. Personal relationships weren’t something that could be calculated like a maths formula. The best he could do was smile brightly at her and put the problem aside for another day.

“Hey,” he said as the TARDIS indicated by a change in the engine tempo that they were materialising at his chosen destination. “Come on. I promised you a quiet weekend away from Earth. And that’s what you’re going to get.”

“Whenever you promise things like that we end up knee deep in trouble,” Rose pointed out. “Which I never used to mind, of course. But…”

“Yeah.” The Doctor looked at his baby son in her arms and then his daughter as she watched him with bright, alert eyes that were taking in far more than a four year old ought to take in. “You don’t mind if we have a bit of an adventure, do you, Vicki?” he asked her. “The girl I named you after always enjoyed exploring and finding out things.” He smiled as his memory drifted back . “She changed her name to Cressida and married the king of Troy. She was a big fan of the Beatles. I often wondered how that went down in ancient Greece.”

Vicki laughed as if she appreciated the joke as much as he did. He wasn’t sure if she did. But she always listened to him when he talked. She liked the sound of his voice.

SHE was a chip off the old block, too.


It WAS a really beautiful planet, Rose thought as they walked leisurely by a fast flowing stream that ran through a forest of deciduous trees. She watched with a smile as The Doctor lifted Vicki up on his shoulders so that she could reach with her small hands and pick fruits that looked like plums from one of the trees. She held one out and Rose took it from her and bit into it. It tasted more like a peach with a hint of something really exotic like passion fruit. It was nice, anyway.

“Make the most of the fruit, and the shade,” The Doctor told her as he looked at their position on a small hand-held device that Davie had designed as a compass, map and lifesigns monitor rolled into one. “We’re nearly at the end of the woods. After that it looks like open grassland for a mile or so. I thought we’d take a nice, easy circular route bringing us back to where we left the TARDIS before tea time.”

“Sounds good to me,” Rose said happily. “Sure this isn’t too dull for you, though? With nothing trying to eat us, kill us or take over our minds.”

“It makes a refreshing change,” The Doctor assured her. She laughed ironically “You don’t really believe I’m retired, do you?”

“Nope. Not sure I want you to, really. You wouldn’t really be you. I KNOW you wouldn’t deliberately bring us somewhere dangerous with the children, though.”

“Course I wouldn’t.”

The woods came to an end as he promised and they walked under the double suns of the charming planet known only by its registration number of Y645??.

“Nobody even bothered to name it?” Rose said as they walked down a gentle, grassy slope towards a tributary of the same stream they followed through the woods and watched a herd of something like deer meandering across their path.

“You name it,” The Doctor told her. “I’ll put it in the data record.”

“Just like that? I can name a planet?” Rose laughed at the idea. “Don’t be silly.”

“I’m serious. Give it a name. We’ll claim it in the name of New Gallifrey. Our first dominion planet.”

“That IS silly,” Rose answered him. “We can’t have dominion planets.”

“We already do. SangC’lune, Tibora, Fyrria. Even Shada, the cursed planet. They were all dominions of Gallifrey. I’m the last of the Time Lords so they’re under my protection now.”

“I know, but that doesn’t mean we have to build an empire by conquest. We can’t just go around claiming planets.”

“We COULD,” The Doctor said.

“Well, I don’t want to,” Rose told him. “It doesn’t feel right. Can I still name it though?”

“Course you can,” The Doctor assured her. “By the way, good answer. I don’t think we’re ready to be empire builders, either. In a generation or so, maybe. Peter’s children or grandchildren might come here to establish colonies.”

“Let’s call it Futura then,” Rose said. “For the future of us all.”


“Seems too easy that. There ought to be a ceremony. Something like we had for Peter and Vicki’s naming ceremonies. Anyway, WHY is it empty? Why hasn’t it been colonised before? It’s beautiful. There’s food, water. Everything anyone needs.”

“No species I know of colonises a planet just for the abundant food and water. There have been geological surveys. I’ve got notes about it in the databank. There are no minerals worth speaking of. No oil, gold, lutanium.”

“People are really that greedy all over the universe?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“But the Time Lords weren’t like that?” Rose pressed the point. “SangC’lune and Tibora don’t have any of those things either.”

“SangC’lune had other resources we could use. The background psychic of that planet made it ideal for the pyramids. And Tibora – the people there are the nearest we ever found to a kindred people. Their psychic abilities and their longevity made it imperative that they became our friends, not our enemies. That was pure selfishness on our part.”

“So even Gallifrey wouldn’t be interested in a planet that’s just really pretty.”

“I don’t think ‘pretty’ ever rated especially highly on the Gallifreyan scale of priorities,” The Doctor noted with a wry smile. “Greed. Self-serving expedience. Oh well, at least it means we HAVE unspoilt places like this to enjoy.”

Rose held his hand as they walked leisurely, watching Vicki ambling ahead of them, chasing something that looked like a butterfly with eight wings, each a good two inches long. Then something else caught her eye.

“So… if it’s uninhabited… what’s that?” She pointed to the middle distance, down in the valley and beyond a line of trees. The Doctor looked closer at what she had spotted.

A settlement?

“That’s odd,” he said. “The TARDIS monitors didn’t detect any sentient lifeforms. This doesn’t either, even as close up as we are now.”

“Yeah, but the TARDIS monitors HAVE been known to be wrong, haven’t they?” Rose pointed out. “And so have you.” She thought about it a little more. “Does that mean I don’t get to name the planet? If somebody else already has?”

“Mmm. Good point,” The Doctor responded. “Sorry about that.”

“I’ll try to contain my disappointment. But… well, I suppose we’d better find out who IS living here. Could be a crash site, survivors who want to get home, that sort of thing.”

“Could be empty. The remains of a survey camp that decided there was nothing worth further investigation on this planet.”

“Could be something nasty. Sontarans or Cybermen.”

“Could be anything.”

The Doctor grinned. It had been a long time since he and Rose had explored a new place. Mostly in recent years they’d gone to tried and trusted SAFE places like SangC’lune, Tibora, Aquaria, Paradise, the quiet idylls of one sort or another where he could be sure of a welcome from the indigenous population. The dangerous and unknown places he had explored with Chris and Davie, or occasionally, with Christopher.

It wasn’t that Rose wouldn’t still follow him into the heart of a volcano if he asked her to. It was that he, himself, was reluctant to put her in danger now that she was the mother of his children. She was far more precious to him now than ever before for that reason.

He knew, of course, that Human women, Rose included, had a short way of dealing with such chauvinistic ideas about a woman’s place. And intellectually he would agree. But Gallifrey was a society where women’s lib had never quite scratched the surface of ten million years of unchanging attitudes and he found it hard to go against that race instinct to treat her as a precious jewel to be treasured and protected.

But now, he recognised the glint in her eye that he knew so well. The thrill of the chase. The excitement of facing the unknown.

The quick thinking and adventurous girl he fell in love with the day she swung on a length of rusty chain to rescue him from the Autons was still there underneath the cautious mother of his children.

And he, despite those patriarchal instincts that made him want to hold everyone he loved in his arms and protect them from all harm, had never quite stopped being the Don Quixote of the universe, his sword raised against every wrong and every injustice.

What a pair they were, he thought as he lifted Vicki up on his shoulders to piggy back downhill to where they had spotted that sign of sentient life on this apparently uninhabited planet.


It WAS a building. It looked, Rose thought, like a giant igloo. It actually had the domed shape and the tunnel-like entrance that igloos in comic strips and cartoons had – as opposed to the REAL homes of real Inuit people in the Arctic circle. It wasn’t made of snow, either. She knew it couldn’t because it was in full sunshine and it wasn’t melting.

“Some kind of strong polymer,” The Doctor guessed. “A self-contained habitat. Brought here in prefabricated pieces by cargo ship, of course. I wonder if anyone is home.”

He lifted Vicki down and walked hand in hand with her as they approached the entrance to the habitat. There was an electronic lock of a sort, but no doorbell or any kind of communicator. He reached in his pocket for his sonic screwdriver. There weren’t many doors closed to him as long as he had that.

“Don’t bust the lock,” Rose warned him. “This is somebody’s private property.”

“I didn’t." There was an audible click and the door swung open. The Doctor picked Vicki up again in his arms and stepped inside. Rose followed.

“Well, so much for uninhabited planet,” she said as they stepped out of the long entrance corridor into the central part of the domed habitat. It looked like a mess hall where people gathered to eat and talk and generally socialise.

And they were people in the sense that Rose used to recognise as people before she set foot on Platform One and discovered that ‘people’ was a very loosely applied term in the rest of the universe.

These WERE what The Doctor classed as humanoid. They wore ordinary clothes and had ordinary hairstyles and looked just like the sort of people she was used to seeing every day.

There was something a little unusual, but she couldn’t, for the moment, put her finger on it.

At first, nobody seemed to notice them. Then one man collecting plates from the empty tables looked around and saw them. His tray of dishes fell to the ground with a crash but, fortunately, no smashing sounds. They seemed to be made of an unbreakable substance. Others looked around at the sound and then they focussed on the strangers in their midst. Finally, somebody stood up and stepped towards them.

“Welcome, friends,” the woman said. “I am Sigma B. Forty. I am section 1 habitation manager. I bid you welcome to Dome.”

“Nice name,” The Doctor said with a bright smile. “Sigma. Delighted to meet you. I am The Doctor, this is my wife, Rose, and our children.”

“Children!” Sigma looked with what Rose thought was an almost hungry look and reached and touched Vicki. She looked at the woman and hid her face in her father’s shoulder.

“She’s a little shy,” The Doctor said. Rose thought that was strange. Because Vicki was NOT shy. She was the most outgoing and friendly child possible. On SangC’lune she had romped and played with the village children without any inhibitions. On Aquaria she had swum with the dolphin people. She had chatted away telepathically to the infants of the queen of Gheo who gave birth to fifty babies together once every hundred years. And there was nothing she liked better than having grown ups pay her attention. But something about Sigma B. Forty made her wary.

And that made Rose wary. She knew The Doctor was, too, even though he didn’t show it. He let Sigma show them to a table and others of the Dome people brought them food. They all seemed very friendly, and The Doctor said the food was perfectly fine and they could eat. He sat Vicki on a chair with a couple of cushions underneath her to raise her up to the table and took Peter on his knee while Rose ate.

The food was good. She suspected there was a connection between the meat that was served with a green salad and those rather lovely deer they had seen running around outside, but she tried not to let that bother her too much. And there was fruit and cheese that looked and tasted harmless, even if the fruits neither looked nor tasted like anything they had seen before and the cheese was a strange consistency and was flavoured with those unusual fruits.

“I am Lamda C. Thirteen, and I hope you are happy to be with us,” said a pleasant looking young woman who brought a jug of fruit juice to the table. She seemed fascinated by the sight of Peter.

“It is very pleasant here,” The Doctor said as he responded to Rose’s hand signals and passed Peter to her. He needed feeding, and he wasn’t quite ready for deer meat and exotic fruit. She unbuttoned her blouse and put him to her breast. The Doctor smiled as he always did when he watched his wife feeding his children.

The reaction of Lamda and Sigma and all the others who were looking towards their table was remarkable. They had occasionally been in situations where people were embarrassed or annoyed by the idea of breast-feeding, but never before had The Doctor seen people watching with rapt fascination as if it was the first time they had ever seen such a thing.

He looked from the absorbed faces to the room generally. And he realised what it was that he and Rose had both felt in the back of their minds was wrong.

There were no children around.

Of course, it was mid-afternoon and they might be at school.

Even so….

“Can I touch him?” Lamda asked as she moved her seat closer and stretched out her hand hesitantly towards Peter. “He is so beautiful.”

“That he is,” Rose answered proudly. “Five weeks old yesterday.”

“Five weeks….” Lamda looked surprised. “So… so new. How can that be? How was he made?”

“Er…” Rose looked up at The Doctor. Was she being asked to explain the facts of life to a woman who looked well old enough to have had children of her own? He shrugged. He wasn’t sure he understood either.

“My friends,” A male voice distracted the female chatter of Sigma and Lamda as they gushed over Peter and Vicki. “I am told we have visitors to our little community?”

“This is The Doctor,” Sigma B. Forty said. “And Rose, and….” Her voice seemed to jump up an octave. “And their CHILDREN.”

“And very lovely children they are,” the man said. He held his hand out to The Doctor. “I’m Alpha R. One. I am leader of this community. I welcome you. It is rare that we have guests. But our hospitality shall not be found wanting. I hope you will stay with us a little while. I am sure we can entertain you.”

“Well, my wife would be delighted to be entertained,” The Doctor said. “For myself, I would prefer to be informed. I was under the impression that this was an uninhabited planet. How long has your community been here?”

“We are the first generation to settle here,” Alpha R. One replied. “We came here to find peace and a chance to live the lifestyle we chose.”

“So you’re political dissidents. Or is it a religious thing?”

“Something like that,” Alpha R. One said. “We are all happy here. We want for little.”

“Except for children,” The Doctor noted. “I’m right, aren’t I? There are no children here.”

“You have judged correctly.” Alpha told him. “There are difficulties. And yes, it is a source of distress, especially for the females. It is a delight for them to have you visit with your beautiful little ones.”

“So I see,” The Doctor noted.

“Alpha,” Sigma looked at her leader pleadingly. “Won’t you ask them to stay until supper. It would be so wonderful. We can put on a play for them later. Our special guests.”

“You would be most welcome,” Alpha said. The Doctor hesitated. He looked at Rose. He could see her thoughts. She was unsure. On the one hand Lamda and Sigma and the other women who crowded around, wanting to see the children and talk to her, seemed nice. But on the other, their enthusiasm was a little daunting. Even a bit frightening.

“Yes,” she said slowly as she turned it over in her mind and could think of no real reason to say no. “Yes, all right, it would be nice to spend some time with our new friends. But if we’re not going to return to the TARDIS soon I really need a quiet place where the children can get an afternoon nap. Vicki is looking tired and Peter really needs to be settled down for an hour.”

“Yes, of course,” Sigma said. “Come along with me. We will make you comfortable.” She reached out her hand towards Vicki, but she still wouldn’t come near her. The Doctor carried her as they followed Sigma through a warren of corridors to the dormitory area. She opened a door into a plainly decorated but perfectly adequate room with a bed, dressing table and other furnishings. What it didn’t have was a window. It felt, Rose thought, like a cabin on the cross-channel ferry.

She laid Peter in the bed straight away and tried to persuade Vicki that she WAS tired. She wasn’t having it yet, but Rose knew she would start to droop in half an hour or so.

Sigma brought a jug of the same fruit juice they had drunk in the dining room and then left them alone. Vicki begged a cup of it and Rose let her have one. She poured a glass of it for herself and for The Doctor.

“I’m going to leave you here for half an hour,” he said when they were alone. “I’m not happy about being this far away from the TARDIS. I’m going to go get it and bring it here. In case we want to leave quickly. I can slip out quietly on my own, and I can run across country much faster without you and the little ones.”

“You think there’s a problem?”

“I don’t know. Something isn’t QUITE right about them. Vicki senses it too. She doesn’t know how to explain it. But in her mind she knows there’s something.” He took hold of his daughter and looked into her deep brown eyes. He could see her thoughts. Mostly they were about drinking fruit juice at the moment, but there was something that puzzled her about Sigma and the others.

“Vicki judges people by looking at their minds,” The Doctor said as he refilled her cup with juice. “Not reading them as such, but looking at the kind of mind they have. But she can’t see into Sigma’s mind. That’s why she’s shy of her.”

“What about you? Can you read them?”

“No. I tried earlier when I was talking to Alpha. I think they might have some kind of natural defences against telepathy. That doesn’t make them bad though. Just impervious to nosy Time Lords and their kids.”

“But you think there’s something here, don’t you? You’ve got that look in your eye. You want to find out what the mystery is.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Don’t you?”

“As long as it’s nothing icky. Like… they turn into ghouls after dark.”

“Well, just in case they do, I’ll be back before it GETS dark.” He drank his glass of fruit juice and kissed her gently before he slipped out of the room. She lay down on the bed next to Vicki who had decided to go to sleep after all. She felt a little tired herself. A little nap until The Doctor got back would be ok, she thought.


The Doctor slipped out of the habitat easily enough. As soon as he was clear of the building he broke into a run. He time folded as often as he dared. He wanted to get to the TARDIS. He wanted to get the TARDIS back to where his family were.

He was in sight of it when he started to feel strange. His steps faltered and the last few yards seemed harder than the miles he had run. He reached for his key and almost dropped it. His hand shook and his vision was blurred as he reached for the keyhole. He managed to open the door and step over the threshold before he collapsed.

His last thought before he blacked out was self-incriminating.


Rose woke in the dark room. She felt cold and she felt alone. She reached out her hands and knew at once that the children were not there. She stood up and ran to where she thought the door was. It wasn’t locked. But when she opened it there were two of the Dome people standing as if on guard.

“Go back into the room,” she was told. “You must remain in the room.”

“I will not,” she replied. “Where are my children? Where are they?”

“The children are safe. You will remain in the room.” The guards pushed her back into the room. This time she heard the lock click into place. She felt her way back to the bed and laid down on it. Her heart felt like lead. She didn’t know what was happening exactly. She didn’t know WHY she was suddenly a prisoner in this room and her children taken from her.


It was dark when The Doctor woke. It didn’t feel as if it had been dark for long, but several hours had passed. He scrambled to his feet and reached the console. He programmed the navigation control to take him back inside the habitat. He hoped it would be close to the room Rose was in, but he couldn’t be sure. There was a strange kind of energy about the habitat that stopped him getting a precise lock. It was harmless, but it was a nuisance to navigation.

He had to get back though. He knew now that something was VERY wrong in there.


The door opened. Rose sat up quickly and shielded her eyes as the light snapped on. She was surprised to see Sigma B. Forty standing there, flanked by the two guards.

“Where are my babies?” she demanded. “What have you done with them? If you’ve hurt them…”

“The children are safe. They will be looked after. They will be loved.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We have no children. Your children will bring joy. You will provide more babies for us.”

“Er…” Rose stared at Sigma. “I don’t know if anyone has ever explained the facts of life to you lot, but it takes two people do to that. And if any of your men comes near me he’ll know the meaning of ‘A world of pain’. I’m not kidding.”

“The children are safe. They will be loved. They will want for nothing. You will provide more babies.”

“Don’t be stupid.”


The TARDIS materialised in the dining hall. The Doctor stepped outside and was immediately challenged by two of the Dome people who no longer seemed to be friendly. He was still feeling a little groggy from the drugged fruit juice that he had stupidly drunk without even thinking of testing it first. Even so, his challengers were clearly unused to fighting and a roundhouse kick knocked one of them to the floor and the counterpunch laid the other one out. He bent and checked that they were out cold and that was when he realised the truth about them.

Then he heard Rose’s voice. He turned and began to run.


“No,” Rose said again as the two guards stepped towards her. She stepped back from them, and then launched herself forward, using the martial arts The Doctor had taught her years ago. She was rusty. She hadn’t done much of it in the past few years. She had been too busy having babies. But she remembered the principles. And the two guards went down easily. Sigma gasped as she found herself slammed against the wall, her hands locked behind her back.

“I WANT my children back NOW,” Rose hissed. “Take me to them now. Or else.”

She pushed Sigma into the corridor. As she did so she heard a voice that gladdened her heart. She turned to see The Doctor running towards her.

“They have the children,” she said. “They want to keep them because they can’t have any of their own.”

“I know,” he told her. “But they can forget it. Come on, this way. I’m picking up their lifesigns on the scanner. They’re together.”

“You’re coming with us,” Rose said to Sigma. “Come on. Move it.” She wasn’t gentle. Sigma squealed in pain as her arm twisted in Rose’s grasp. The Doctor looked at her and then pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. He looked at it for a moment and then turned it to a setting he rarely used. He aimed the beam at Sigma’s forehead and she became strangely docile.

“She’ll come with us without a fight,” The Doctor told Rose. “You can let her go. You’re not going to be a problem, are you, Sigma?”

“I do your bidding, Lord,” she replied. The Doctor made a disgusted noise and aimed the beam at her again.

“Are you going to do as you’re told?” he said again.

“I will not try to escape,” she said this time. “I am your prisoner.”

“That’s better. Can’t stand servility.”

“What the heck are you doing?” Rose asked as she released her hold on Sigma and she walked a little ahead of them without attempting to run away. “What did you do to her head?”

“A bit of signal jamming,” he answered. “She’ll be back to normal later. But for now she’s doing as she’s told.” He passed the lifeform detector to Rose. “Look at this.”

“What?” She stared at the hand-held screen. It showed a schematic of the whole habitat.

But there were only four lifesigns in the whole place. One Time Lord and one Human walking together, and two half Gallifreyan, half Human signs behind a door at the end of the corridor.

“Alpha told me these are the first generation to settle here. That was a strange response to the question ‘How long have you been here.’ But it never occurred to me to question it. They ARE the first generation, but if I’m right, they’ve been here since before Christopher was born.”

“They’re…” Rose looked at the lifesigns monitor again. “They’re… what are they? Oh my…. Vampires? Undead?”

“Rose!” The Doctor laughed gently. “All the years we’ve been knocking about the universe, you ought to be able to tell the difference between the undead and the never alive.”

She was more than ready to query that point, but they had reached the door. The Doctor stopped and looked at it carefully, debating in his mind whether to kick it in or use the sonic screwdriver.

“Use the screwdriver,” she told him. “My babies are behind there. Don’t frighten them.”

The Doctor smiled at her logic and set the sonic screwdriver to lock-melting mode. He waved Sigma back and she did so obediently as he pushed open the door carefully. He didn’t know what to expect. He had no indication of how many people were inside, whether any kind of weapon was being used to threaten his children.

“Rose,” he whispered loudly as the door was fully open. But Rose needed no instructions. She saw her children on the bed in this exact duplicate of the room she had been left in. Vicki was sitting up and she was holding her baby brother as if protecting him from Lamda C. Thirteen, who looked as if she was trying to work out how disposable nappies worked.

Lamda tried to stand in the way as Rose ran into the room, but Rose just raised her arm and smashed her elbow into the side of her head. Lamda slid to the ground, stunned, as Rose embraced the children.

The Doctor stepped into the room more calmly. He was impressed by Rose’s gut reaction to the woman who had taken her children. She really DID take after her mother in a lot of ways!

He prized the children out of Rose’s arms long enough to make sure they were all right, then left her to hug them while he turned his attention to Lamda. He took hold of her firmly and pulled her to her feet before pushing her down onto a chair.

“He’s my baby now,” she protested as she tried to reach out to Peter. Rose held him all the tighter in her arms. “He’s mine.”

“He is NOT,” The Doctor replied. “You cannot HAVE children, Lamda. None of you can. That is your tragedy.” He heard a scuffling sound and several more of the Dome people pressed into the room. “Everyone back off,” The Doctor warned, waving the sonic screwdriver in a vaguely threatening way. Rose stood warily, putting her body in front of the children. “We’re going back to my ship now. Me, and my wife and children. These two women are coming with us to make sure there is no hanky panky on the way.”

“We’re just going to leave?” Rose said as she turned and picked Peter up with one arm and took tight hold of Vicki’s hand in the other.

“I would prefer to do it that way,” The Doctor told her as he faced the Dome people who still blocked their way out of the room. “Because if they force my hand they won’t like it very much.”

“What is going on here?” The crowd moved aside as Alpha R. One appeared at the door. “Lamda, what have you done?”

“She and her friends tried to kidnap my children,” Rose answered. “And don’t you come the innocent, either. You must have known something was going on?”

But Alpha DID look genuinely shocked at this news. The Doctor studied him closely for a long moment and then pulled Lamda towards him.

“Independent thought, of course,” he said. “No, this wasn’t a conspiracy by the whole Dome community. It was just a few deluded individuals who let their emotional responses overrule either logic or moral restraints. They really believed they could take our children for themselves.”

“They wanted us to “produce” more for them,” Rose added.

“Produce?” The Doctor smiled grimly. “Interesting choice of word. You still haven’t worked it out, have you, Rose? Exactly what they are? They live long lives, never age. Can’t have children. Don’t show up on the lifesigns scanner. You’ve been too worried about Vicki and Peter or you would have put two and two together by now.”

“Well… if they’re NOT vampires, the only other thing they could be is robots,” Rose answered. “But surely… they’re TOO realistic.”


“Lifelike? Humanlike? Look this is hardly the time for semantics.”

“No, you’re right about that. But we’re getting to the truth of it now.” He looked at Alpha, Sigma and Lamda, and the others crowded around the door looking to their leader to see what they should do. “You are ALL artificial lifeforms. You have a lifespan of anything up to several thousand years and your creators have given you the intelligence, the ability, to enjoy that life to the full, and to live as close to real organic life as possible. You are fuelled by the food you eat just as a Human is. You have emotions, you have creative ability. You have relationships. What you don’t have is the one thing no AI engineer has ever managed to do. You don’t have children. AI life IS a form of life. I was a delegate eight hundred years ago at the Treaty of Ux when we defined non-organic lifeforms and signed a binding intergalactic Treaty guaranteeing such lifeforms the right to life, to be recognised as lifeforms and not machines, to a fair trial in criminal cases and many other such rights. But nobody could give you the means of reproduction. You CAN’T have children. And you certainly CAN’T kidnap mine or expect us to reproduce FOR you. THAT is against OUR rights as living beings.”

“I am not an… a…” Lamda had tears in her eyes. They had the ability to process salts and liquids in their food and produce tears. They were the most advanced, the most amazing AI lifeforms, he had ever seen. But…

“I am NOT an artificial lifeform,” she sobbed.

“Yes, you ARE,” The Doctor said. He adjusted his sonic screwdriver as he took a firmer hold on her arm. The cutting tool HURT her. They also had a very advanced empathic circuit that simulated pain. And he was sorry for that, because causing anything pain went against the grain. But he had to make the point. He reached and pulled back the simulated flesh and held her exposed forearm up. As her hand moved the artificial muscle-like fibres flexed inside her arm.

But there was no blood. Her flesh did not bleed.

Around him he was aware of astonished gasps, from Rose, and from the other Dome people.

“Sorry,” he told her as he pulled the flesh back in place and used the screwdriver to repair the damage. “I AM sorry I did that to you.” He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her near him. He cuddled her tenderly. “Forgive me that cruelty,” he said. “But you had to know.”

“I want…” she sobbed. “I want to be like her. I want to have a baby like Peter of my own.”

“I am sorry about that, too,” The Doctor said. “It cannot be done. In an infinite universe almost anything is possible except that. Reproduction in the way you mean it is only given to organic life forms. Your kind can be replicated, copied. But you cannot be born as babies and grow as we do. It cannot be done.”

“But… When I saw your children I felt… a hunger inside me… a longing. So did Sigma. We both… we had to….” She looked at Rose as she held her children tightly. “But if we cannot… What can we do?”

“You can’t do anything,” Alpha said. “I can apologise to you, Doctor, and to your wife, for the anguish and the pain caused to you. I take full responsibility for it.”

“Why should you take responsibility for the free actions of individuals?” The Doctor asked. “That is the point. You aren’t organic, but you ARE lifeforms and you all have free will. What Sigma and Lamda did was stupid, but it was free will. And nobody else can be blamed for it.”

“Except the one who created their free will,” Alpha replied.

The Doctor looked at Alpha R. One and something clicked into place. “You aren’t just the LEADER of the community. You were the first member of it?”

“I was the creation of Ralph Noae, the foremost Artificial Intelligence scientist. He created me as the repository of his memory, his genius.”

“In effect, you ARE Ralph Noae.” The Doctor smiled. “Alpha R. One is an anagram of his name. Except that you are aware of the difference between the organic lifeform that WAS Ralph Noae who died three-quarters of a millennium ago and yourself, the artificial lifeform he created to give himself immortality.”

“Yes,” Alpha answered. “You understand.”

“I met Noae when he was a young man,” The Doctor said. “Just starting out on his fantastic developments.” He smiled as Alpha R. One looked at him curiously. “Yes, we both looked a little different then. A lot of water under the bridge. But… Noae was one of the reasons why the Treaty of Ux was established. His work was pushing the envelope, redefining Artificial Intelligence. He kept running into problems with ethical committees trying to stop his experiments. There was resistance to his creation of such ‘realistic’ looking artificial lifeforms. I remember how passionate he was when he addressed the Ux Conference. He moved a lot of people who would have rejected the idea of artificial life hands down. Unfortunately he also SCARED a lot of them. His vision of a future where AI and organic life were equal was too much for them. And there was another idea of his that even I couldn’t agree with. One that went a step too far. You know what I mean, don’t you.”

“AI lifeforms that don’t know what they are,” Alpha said with a nod of his head.

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “And you can see why. Look at Lamda. Look at all of your people here.”

“You call us people? Even knowing… I thank you for that much.”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “I call them people. And they are FINE people. But they are emotionally disturbed. And it’s because they are living a lie. You brought them here so that they could live their lives fully. But they must be TRUE to themselves. You have to tell them the truth. If necessary you will have to reprogramme them to ACCEPT that truth.” Lamda was still clinging to him. She felt like a warm, living being. She had cried genuine tears of grief. The expression on her face now was heart-breaking. He hated that he had been the one to make her face the truth, and in such an abrupt way.

“Lamda,” he said to her. “Listen to me now. I hope you will forgive me for hurting you. For my part, I forgive you for the hurt you caused to me and Rose. I hope you will come to understand WHY it was wrong, and why the thing you desired can never be. And I DO hope you come to terms with your true identity. For your own sake.” Then he kissed her forehead gently and stood up. He reached out to Rose and she came to him. He lifted Vicki into his arms and turned back to Alpha.

“I’ll come and see you all again in a few months time,” he said. “When I do, I want to see a community of incredibly sentient and wonderful artificial lifeforms who are happy with what they are and enjoying their life as they should enjoy it. That is how it should be. How it MUST be.”

“If we fail…”

“If you fail, I will be very sorry and very disappointed. But how I feel won’t be your problem. Your problem will be more and more of your people going mad because they don’t understand themselves. If you care for them, you will spare them that pain, not because I say so, but because you know it is right.” He paused and watched Alpha’s face. He knew that in his microchip brain he was working it out. And he felt sure he was going to do what was right. “Good man, Ralph,” he said.

“No,” Alpha answered. “Ralph Noae is dead. I am Alpha R. One. I at least am sure of that.”

“Good man, Alpha,” The Doctor amended. Then he took his wife’s hand and walked away back to the TARDIS. When he was safe inside its protective walls and he had put it into temporal orbit he looked at Rose as she sat on the sofa with the children close to her still. He crossed the floor and knelt beside her.

“You can let go of them now. They’re safe,” he told her.

“I don’t feel as if I could ever let them go again,” she answered. “That was so frightening.”

“I know. For me, too. But it’s over now. They weren’t evil, Rose. Just…”


“They misunderstood themselves. If Alpha does the right thing they’ll be all right.”

“I’m not sure I care as long as I never set foot on that planet ever again.”

“No,” he told her. “No, I don’t want you to feel like that. That’s not right. We ARE going to visit them again to see that they are all right. We’ll even bring the children. I am sure Lamda and Sigma would love to see them. Once they have come to terms with the fact that they themselves can never be parents. We have to come back. After all, you NAMED the planet.”