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

Jackie watched Christopher as he operated his father’s TARDIS. He looked strangely right standing there at the console, his face lit by the glow of the time rotor. He looked capable and clever as he moved around from one section of the console to another.

“You look just like your dad,” she said. “Working there. You’re SO like him. So sure of yourself. So sure you know what you’re doing.”

“No,” he admitted. “I’m really not that good at operating the TARDIS. Father programmed in a bunch of presets for me to take you to places. Without them, I wouldn’t know where to start. Most of the drive settings I hardly understand. He… he doesn’t just understand the TARDIS. IT understands him.”

“I can believe that,” Jackie answered. “It DOES look sort of ‘organic’ and alive. It used to give me the creeps. This room. It’s like being inside something living.”

“And now?”

“I feel safe in the TARDIS,” she admitted. “With you, or your dad, I always feel safe. I know I can depend on you both. And the TARDIS belongs to him so I feel safe in it.”

“You didn’t always feel that way, did you,” Christopher said. “About my father OR about the TARDIS.”

“No, that’s true. But I understand both now. And I understand you.” She smiled warmly at the man she was engaged to and he smiled back.

“I’m a Time Lord. I don’t think Humans are MEANT to completely understand us. We’re supposed to be a mystery to you.” Jackie stopped smiling and scowled at him. He smiled even more brightly and reached to kiss her. “If it’s any consolation, I’m not sure I completely understand Humans. Your irrationality puzzles me.”

“Oh, who cares,” she decided. “I know I love you. And that’s all that matters.”

“That’s what I mean,” he said with a grin. “Totally irrational.”

“Oh, shut up and tell me how long it will be before we get to SangC’lune. It’s boring hanging around the console room for hours on end.”

“We’ll be there in another half an hour. Just in time for the Daygone ceremony. And don’t tell me you don’t LOVE that.”

“I do. They are such nice people. It’s one planet I don’t mind visiting.”

“Me too. I….” Christopher stopped in mid-sentence as an insistent alarm sounded on the console.

“What is it?” Jackie asked. “Is something wrong with the TARDIS?”

“No,” he said. “It’s an emergency transmission. Somebody is trying to contact the TARDIS.” His hand reached for the communications console. The monitor picture was distorted and fading in and out and he caught only a few words of the panic-stricken voice.

“Help… Doctor…. Please help us,” the face on the screen was saying. “Doctor… we need you.”

“I’m not…” Christopher began. “Who are you? What is the nature of your emergency? What do you need?” He saw the distorted figure reach for the controls of his video link and figures scrolled down the LCD screen beside the monitor. Co-ordinates sent directly to the TARDIS. “All right,” Christopher said. “We’ll do what we can.”

Christopher cut the communication and fed the co-ordinate from the communications console through to the navigation console. He felt the change in the engines as the drive control registered the new destination.

“We’re going there?” Jackie asked.

“It was a distress call. I have to answer it. Intergalactic law… My father taught me that much.” He turned from the navigation panel to the computer database and cross-referenced the co-ordinate. “It’s a planet. In the Alpha Alpha Psi sector….. Cheem.”

“Cheam?” Jackie queried. “That’s a posh bit of London south of Croydon.”

“No, Cheem,” Christopher answered. “My father knows this place. He wrote the database entry about it. It has his digital signature at the end. Hmm. That’s interesting.”

“What is?”

“Oh, you’re going to love the indigenous species.” Christopher laughed and refused to give any further information.


They landed on the night side of the planet, but as they stepped outside of the TARDIS they could see by the light of a fire burning out of control. Christopher immediately began to run towards the inferno. Jackie was a little way behind. But the heat was so fierce he had to stop long before he got close.

It was a small stand of trees, a copse, he thought was the correct term, though forestry was hardly his expert field. And it was fully alight. There was nothing to be done but let it burn itself out.

But the sound of crackling, burning branches and the heat generated as the trees were engulfed was added to by the sounds of screaming and crying with grief and agony.

“There are people in there,” Jackie cried out and tried to get closer. “They’re burning alive.”

“It’s worse than that,” Christopher told her as he held her back. “Far worse. But there’s nothing to be done here.”

“We have to try,” she said, struggling from his hold. “You’re a Time Lord. You can…”

“I can’t walk into fire, Jackie,” he assured her. “Come on. We have to get to the village.”

“What village?” Jackie asked him. “Christopher… didn’t you hear the screaming? It was horrible.”

“I heard. But the screams don’t come from the trees.” He took her hand as they turned and came down the grassy slope from the scene of devastation towards the dark outline of what had to be a village.

“Something’s wrong there, too,” Jackie said as they approached. “I can feel it. I don’t usually… I’m not psychic or anything. Before I met your dad I’d have said that sort of thing was total rubbish. But right now I feel something. I feel… like I used feel when there would be something on the news about missing kids and I’d run and see if Rose was ok, because… because I’m her mum and…”

“It’s called empathy. Any being with a soul has it. Especially the females of the species. The mothers.” Christopher swallowed hard. “The copse…. The trees were young trees. Your analogy was a close one. This is…. It’s not going to be nice, Jackie. If you would rather go back to the TARDIS…”

“I’d rather be with you. Whatever it is, I can handle it. Rose would have. She’d be with your dad no matter what. And anything she can do…”

Christopher considered that and wondered if the same could apply to him. Anything his father could do…

No. There were a lot of things his father could do that he couldn’t. He freely admitted that. He wasn’t entirely sure what he could do here, except feel very, very sorry that it had happened.


There was grief in the village. Jackie was right. He had sensed it long before she did, of course. He had known it for certain when he saw the copse. He cast a glance around him and then headed for the largest building - the community hall.

“Blessings be upon this house and all within,” he said as he crossed the threshold. An old-fashioned Earth greeting that his father had taught him to use when entering a place where strangers were. It was not an invocation of a god of any kind, but it did convey goodwill towards those being greeted.

“Blessings are too late,” one of those within told him sadly. “But I thank you, stranger, for your kind thoughts.”

“They’re tree people,” Jackie whispered as she tried NOT to stare at the tall, graceful, and, she thought, beautiful being who had spoken. He was taller than Christopher, broad shouldered, and a beautiful rich brown colour of mahogany. That was what she was put in mind of as she looked at the face that could have been carved out of wood. He exuded a pleasant odour, too. Jackie was strangely reminded of furniture polish. Christopher could have told her that was an eidetic memory, her sense of smell triggering a response. But she didn’t ask him. She simply decided that somebody who smelled like furniture polish couldn’t be that bad.

“We saw the copse on fire,” Christopher said. “It is too late?”

The mahogany man stood aside and Jackie gasped sickly as she saw the bodies laid out and the tree people crying over them. Christopher bent and examined one of them. Jackie stood by him and stared.

They were young tree people - children, teenagers, slender, with thin arms and faces much smoother than the older one they had spoken to.

And they were all very definitely dead. And they seemed to have died in some agony. The grief of the parents was obvious.

“What killed them?” Jackie asked.

“They burnt to death,” Christopher answered. The word ‘But’ was on Jackie’s lips as she looked at the dead children. There was not a mark on them. Yes, they looked to have been in dreadful pain before they died. But they were not burnt. “This mobile form is only one half of the full tree being. Their souls reside partially in this body and partially in the immobile tree that is the other half of them. If one half is hurt or damaged or killed….”

“Oh!” Jackie gasped. She had often been teased, and sometimes downright insulted, for being slow on the uptake, for being, in short, thick. But she understood this straight away. “Oh, that’s horrible.”

“They were very young trees. Only fifty years old or so. Teenagers by their standards.”

Jackie began to cry. Christopher held back his own tears. He knew his father would, too, though both of them would cry inside for the terrible tragedy that had occurred here.

“Are you…” Another of the tree people came to them. Jackie thought this one reminded her of pine air freshener and wondered if such daft thoughts were appropriate. “Are you The Doctor? The Lord of Time that our leader sent word to?”

“No,” Christopher answered truthfully. “I picked up the distress call, but no, I’m not The Doctor. I am his son. My father is out of contact just now. I came to see what I could do.”

“Your father is a legend.” Christopher turned as what had to be the leader of the village approached. Oak was the only tree he could possibly be. A broad, tall, solid oak who would take no nonsense from anyone. “I am Quercus. I am leader of this community.”

“I am Christopher,” he answered, bowing his head formally. “This is my fiancée, Jackie. And I will do what I can to live up to my father’s reputation, if I can.

“May I ask of you,” Quercus said in a quiet voice that could not be overheard. “Let me tell my people that you ARE him. They begged me to contact the one they were SURE would come to our aid. It would be a comfort to them to believe…”

“Of course,” Christopher replied. “If my presence by any name is a comfort, so be it. But that is surely not the reason the TARDIS was signalled.”

“We hoped,” Quercus continued. “That The Doctor could help us. This was not an accident. It was no chance of nature. We were attacked by an unknown enemy. And it is not the first time.”

“Unknown?” Christopher queried. “From space? Some kind of bombardment?”

“No,” Quercus replied. “Though we think the enemy IS extra-terrestrial in its nature. But we are ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. Abies… my dear…” He turned to the slender, pine-scented tree being that had spoken to them before and Jackie realised that it was female. The voice was lighter than Quercus and there was a gracefulness in her movement.

“Abies is my life-partner,” Quercus said. “And Cerco is my… I think the word you would understand is ‘brother’.” He beckoned to the mahogany man who had spoken to them first. “They can show you… So that you understand. I must… I must…”

Jackie suppressed a gasp as she saw tears roll down the craggy face, disappearing into the cracks of his bark-like skin. Tears? Were they ‘real’ tears as she understood them, she wondered. Or was it sap?

“Forgive me,” he said. “So many lost. The youngest and most vulnerable. I must be strong. For my people.”

Whether they were ‘real’ tears, Jackie realised, it was ‘real’ grief. She reached out and touched Quercus on his branchlike arm. The ‘flesh’ if it could be called that felt warm like a tree in the sunshine.

“Sorry,” she said.

“Thank you,” he replied before going to ‘be strong’ for his people. Christopher turned to Cerco and Abies and swallowed hard before speaking to them. He was feeling shaken by what they had witnessed, too. And it was a shock to his system to realise that he was being looked to as the saviour of the Tree people of Cheem.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” he said as they followed Cerco and Abies. “I’m NOT my father.”

“Actually, yes you are,” Jackie told him. “Rose was explaining it to me the other day. About Time Lord DNA. She said that The Doctor and you and the twins all have more or less the same DNA, and baby Peter, too, because you were all born of a Human and a Time Lord and the Time Lord DNA overwrites the Human. So really, inside, you ARE him.”

“DNA isn’t everything. People aren’t just about their DNA. They’re about how they were raised. They’re about whether they were loved by their parents, whether they’re taught right from wrong.”

“Well, I don’t think anyone could love you more than your dad loves you. And you’re as good as he is any day. So don’t worry.”

“Thanks,” Christopher said, squeezing her hand tenderly. It was good to have somebody who believed in him so firmly.

“Here,” Cerco told him as they came to a building on the outskirts of the village with something that looked like a radio mast on top of it. It was the only outward sign of technology in the village, though the houses seemed modern enough. “Here is our monitoring station.”


They were brought to the main room where databanks monitored the technological life of the tree people. One section was air traffic control, keeping a watch on the vehicles that came in and out of the atmosphere. Another was a weather station. Christopher noted one computer’s readouts indicating the acidity levels of the soil on almost every inch of the planet’s surface.

“That’s important to a society that depends so much on its soil,” he told Jackie. “If the land was contaminated they would be in terrible trouble.”

“Yeah, I see that,” she replied. “I’m just surprised they have all of this. Aren’t they… I mean… living trees. Ok, I accept that. But I thought their lifestyle would be more sort of… down to earth. You know, non-technological.”

“Our daily life is,” Abies replied. “We live simply. We live in small communities scattered across the planet. We have no sprawling cities. None of us could bear to be trapped in such a place. We need to be close to the soil, close to the trees that are our heart and soul. The land is covered with woodlands. But we have technology that helps us maintain our land. We have communication with other worlds. We understand there are other beings who live differently to us. But the creature that is attacking us…. It is like nothing we have known before.”

“You think it IS a creature?”

“Not life as we recognise it,” Abies added. “But yes. I think it is a being of some kind. Perhaps sentient. But certainly malevolent. It kills without mercy, indiscriminately, and we are helpless against it. In either our rooted or our mobile form we are consumed by it on contact.”

“Can you show me where the attacks have happened?” Christopher asked, turning to the environmental monitor that showed details such as surface temperature on the planet. The operator nodded and typed quickly before the screen resolved into a representation of an area some ten miles square. The place where the copse had burnt was a bright red patch. Another smaller patch lay to the north-west and several smaller ones.

“We have never been able to calibrate our instruments to pick up the creature itself. Only the devastation it leaves in its wake.”

“But these are heat sources,” Christopher pointed out. “If the creature causes this sort of devastation on contact it must be a heat source in itself. It SHOULD show up. Unless…”

Unlike his father, science had never been his chief interest. That was ONE way that they differed, regardless of their DNA. Philosophy and Political Arts had thrilled him more than temporal physics or Thermodynamics, the branch of science that was his father’s – Christopher half-smiled at the accidental pun – burning passion.

But his father had tried his best to interest him in the joys of science. He remembered watching him take a container of some chemical, a clear, still liquid until he added the ‘catalyst’. Then the still liquid had become an inferno. It burned bright orange and sparks flew until the liquid had boiled away inside the heatproof container, leaving behind a strange red ash and the catalyst, untouched and unharmed by the devastation it had caused and, he had been surprised to find, completely cool. It had not even been warmed by the heat it had caused to be generated in the chemical around it.

A catalyst. That was what he was looking for. Something that remained unharmed even as the world around it was consumed.

“These were individuals who died,” Cerco said, pointing to the smaller red patches. Men and women caught in the open as the creature attacked. This… a village where it went on the rampage. Men, women, children, killed because they couldn’t run fast enough.”

“The whole village?” Christopher asked. “No survivors at all?”

“No, not all,” Abies assured him. “Not all. But enough.”

“Then there are witnesses?” People who saw what happened? People who might be able to tell us more about what happened, maybe describe the creature, the entity?”

“Yes,” Cerco told him. “Yes, there were survivors. But they are not there now. They are in the woods. They took their dead to bury in the place where their tree souls died with them. It is another ten miles south of the village. They keep vigil there.”

“Ten minutes, in the TARDIS,” Christopher said as he made a mental note of the co-ordinate. “My travelling machine. Or… my father’s machine, I should say. But I am using it this trip. And I can see if the TARDIS computer can refine this data while we’re at it. ”

“If we are going to meet with the other village, Quercus must be present,” Abies said. “He is magister of all the villages in this region and it would be respectful. I will fetch him.”

She did so quickly and presently they walked back to where Christopher had parked the TARDIS. The sight of the now smouldering copse in the grey light of early dawn upset the Tree people. Abies was especially affected.


“What you need is a nice cup of tea,” Jackie said to her in a comforting way. “I’ll put the kettle on when we get to the TARDIS.”

“Tea?” Abies looked at her curiously and Jackie realised that she had forgotten completely that she was talking to an alien woman.

“Oh no!” Jackie exclaimed, her face going through several shades of embarrassed red. “I’ve done it again, haven’t I? It’s like when we had dinner with the Israeli ambassador and I ordered the pork chops.”

“The Israeli ambassador had no objection to you ordering pork chops,” Christopher told her. “And you haven’t said anything wrong here, either. I think a cup of tea would be a very good idea.” He briefly explained the process of infusing hot water with the dried leaves of an aromatic plant and flavouring it with the crystalised sap of another plant and the lactations of a mammal indigenous to Earth. He added that it contained many of the nutrients that the Tree people themselves took in their daily diet.

“Tea would be very pleasant,” Quercus said. “Just what we ALL need.”


Jackie wasn’t sure if she was being humoured, and Christopher’s description of her cuppa didn’t sound as comforting as she meant it to be. But all the same, once they were on board the TARDIS she went to the kitchen which still looked like the one in her flat back in 2016 and made tea. She found a packet of biscuits in the cupboard and studied the ingredients carefully before putting them on a plate. There were no nuts or fruits in them. Nothing that might seem like cannibalism to a Tree person. She thought she was probably safe.

“So… what have you found out?” she asked Christopher as she handed him a cup of tea. “What’s that?” She looked at the screen but it meant nothing to her. She wondered if it ever would. Making tea was the one thing she could do competently in this situation. Beyond that she wondered if she had anything to contribute.

Rose never just made the tea when she and The Doctor were in these situations, she thought.

“I’ve interfaced the TARDIS computer with the one at the monitoring centre,” Christopher said. “And I am going back through the data over the past few days since this problem began, looking for heat sources. And I think….” He stood back from the console as he sipped his tea. He and his father were always rather unique among their species for their enjoyment of that Earth beverage. It was strange in his own case since he had not actually visited Earth before his father brought him there five years ago as a homeless, confused refugee from their lost world.

He had inherited more of his father’s traits than he thought.

The TARDIS certainly accepted him on the basis of his DNA. He wasn’t even entirely sure how he did most of the very advanced programming. He could almost believe it was reading his mind and presented him with the information he needed on demand.

“Look…” he said, to Jackie and to the Tree people, too. He put the environmental console readout onto the main viewscreen. “I’ve managed to overlay surface temperature readings for the past 48 hours. Do you see…. Wherever the creature went it heated the air around it. That’s how it sets the fires. That’s when it reached the village, and here…. the copse. It seems to have just touched the outer edge of the copse. But the wood was dry and it spread rapidly. In the village it seems to have bounced around like a…. a…” There was an Earth cultural reference he was thinking of but it eluded him.

“Pinball,” Jackie suggested.

“Yes, pinball.” He realised it was a pointless analogy since the Tree people had never seen a pinball machine anyway. “The pattern is completely random, erratic. I don’t think this is a sentient creature killing with any sort of precision. It’s more like an animal acting on instinct.”

“And that matters because?”

“It means we’re hunting an animal driven by limited instincts not a sentient creature with guile and cunning.”

“Whatever it is,” Jackie pointed to the screen. “Is that LIVE? Is that happening now?”

Everyone looked. They could see the same kind of heat trail that Christopher had traced before. But this one was moving now. It was like watching the vapour trail of an aeroplane but along the ground.

“It’s heading towards the woods…. where the vigil is taking place,” Quercus said. “Please… can you get this machine there quickly… we must warn them.”

“Yes, hold on,” Christopher said. “Jackie, grab the power release lever. Everyone hold tight. A fast landing could be bumpy.” He looked at Abies who was looking anxious. “Yes, I understand, landing among the people is a breach of etiquette. And I’m sorry about that. But this is about saving lives.”

“I understand,” she assured him. “Please hurry.”

He hurried, as best as he could. Again he felt as if the TARDIS WAS co-operating with him. He wasn’t sure he was doing as much as it looked like he was doing.


The TARDIS materialised in the woods, right among the people of the village as they kept vigil for their dead. The effect on them was startling. Some were afraid. Most were outraged at the intrusion into their solemn ceremony.

“My friends,” Quercus said as he came to the door of the strange blue box. “The danger is approaching this place. Please come inside. There is safety here.”

The villagers looked at Quercus and then at the strange blue box that looked barely large enough for three of them to get inside. Quercus repeated his instruction more urgently and then stepped aside. The closest of them approached and stepped across the threshold of the box. They turned and told the others it was all right and begged them to hurry.

“Everyone, quickly,” Christopher told them. Come away over this side, away from the doors.” He glanced up at the screen. The heat trail was zoning in on them. They had seconds to evacuate seventy people.

“We need a weapon,” Jackie said. “Why doesn’t the TARDIS have some sort of zapper?”

“The TARDIS is an exploration vehicle built by a peaceful race who never sought conflict with anyone,” Christopher answered. “And my father would NEVER let the TARDIS be armed. Besides, I’m not sure what sort of weapon would stop this.” He adjusted the control slightly and stared in surprise at the screen. “The TARDIS has identified it. It’s made up of an energy similar to that which powers the ship. That’s why… Artron energy creates no heat. The radiation it gives off is harmless and undetectable except by an artron detector. But any combustible material coming into contact with it would be incinerated.”

He stopped talking and looked around at the refugees pouring into the console room. He reminded himself he was a diplomat and berated himself for using a phrase like ‘combustible material’ when these people WERE that material.

He glanced at the lifesigns monitor. Even with the double doors both open the entrance to the TARDIS was a bottleneck. And he couldn’t do that manoeuvre his father did sometimes that materialised it around people. That was advanced piloting. If he got it wrong he could kill them. He ran to the door where Quercus was directing his people into the mysterious box still. “Quickly,” he said, adding his voice of urgency. “Everyone get into the TARDIS.”

“It’s coming,” somebody screamed. In the darkness of the woods where the morning sun had not yet penetrated a different light was causing devastating results. Inside and outside the TARDIS people screamed as the trees that were their other half caught fire as the energy creature streaked towards them as if it was a guided missile.

“Take me,” Quercus screamed and stepped into the path of the sun bright entity the size of a football that flew through the air a few feet from the ground. “Take me, spare my people.”

“No,” Christopher cried and ran to stop him. “No, it’s not looking for victims in that way. You can’t reason with it… you…”

Everyone was screaming, but two voices in particular filled his head as he took hold of Quercus and tried to pull him away. One was Abies and the other Jackie. Both women screamed in anguish as they saw their men in the path of the deadly energy creature that killed on contact.

Quercus screamed too as the entity passed straight through his body, searing a hole in his torso. Christopher felt his agony empathically but he didn’t feel any pain even though he was standing right behind him and the creature passed through him, too. It didn’t sear a hole in his body. He simply felt its heat in his every cell before his own system automatically regulated his temperature. He turned momentarily to see it streak towards the TARDIS door.

“Get down,” Jackie yelled, grabbing Abies and pulling her to the floor as the entity streaked over their heads. There were more screams and confusion and a crash within the TARDIS but Christopher didn’t know what had happened. He was aware of only two things - that he was alive, and that Quercus was dying in his arms. His mortally wounded body was dead weight. He laid him gently on the ground and knelt beside him but there was nothing he could do except give him comfort in the last moments. His hands clutched at his shirt and he tried to speak, sap tears stinging his eyes as he fought the agony.

“It’s not…” he began. “It’s NOT evil… it’s lost. It…. I felt it… it’s lost… frightened.”

“The entity?” Christopher was surprised. First by what he was saying, and secondly by the fact that in his last moments his thoughts were not for himself, or for his mate, but for the creature that had killed him.

“It’s…. frightened. Help it,” he said. “Abies… my love…”

Christopher felt his grip on him slacken. But when he put his hand into his he found it stiff like wood. His face was the same. He looked, in death, like a very fine wooden carving of a man. He stood as Abies ran to her lover’s body. Jackie came to his side.

“I thought you were… I saw it go through you the same as it went through… him… Oh my God. Are you all right…. It killed him but you…”

“It’s deadly to their kind,” Christopher said. “It would hurt you, too. Your body would not take the shock. But I just felt as if I’d been plugged into the TARDIS console for a few seconds. It’s the same kind of energy that my people use. I have artron energy in me. It’s what lets me regenerate.”

“Well… lucky you,” Jackie said. “Lucky me. I thought I’d lost you. But…”

Inside the TARDIS there were cries of anguish that matched Abies’s keening outside. He saw the glow of burning trees and knew that there were people inside dying because their tree was dying. He looked at the fire and then back at the TARDIS and made a decision.

“Pick them up,” he said to the people who were tending to the dying. “Bring them this way.” He himself picked up one young, willow-like Tree person in his own arms as he ran. It registered in his mind as he reached the inner door that there was a football sized hole burnt through it. He was aware that the door was made of a metal that was capable of withstanding a small nuclear blast. But for the moment he put that thought aside as he ran through the internal corridors followed by a string of tree people with wounded friends and relatives. He hoped he was right.

He hoped he could find the way. He hadn’t been in that part of the TARDIS since he was 150.

He hoped it was still there.

It was. He burst through the double doors into the TARDIS swimming pool and literally threw himself and the willow Tree person into the water. It was cold water, but it steamed as she went under and came back up spluttering and gasping for breath, but no longer burning from within. The others who poured in behind him understood straight away. They plunged into the water with the wounded and dying.

“What…” Jackie started to ask as Christopher climbed out of the water, his usually impeccable suit dripping wet. “Why…”

“They and their trees are symbiotic. The tree is on fire, they burn…. They’re plunged into water, the trees…”

“Are put out…” Jackie hugged him excitedly. “Christopher! You’re a genius. Even your dad wouldn’t have thought of that.”

“I’m sure he would,” he answered. “The TARDIS understood. It made the water as cold as possible.”

“You couldn’t save the other one, though?” she added. “Quercus?”

“No, I couldn’t,” he said. He walked back to the console room where Abies and Cerco had brought his body inside. They were keening softly for his death.

Christopher looked at them and shared their grief but his mind turned to the creature responsible for the death of that brave man. He remembered Quercus’s last, agonised words.

“I felt it, too,” he said. “In the moment it passed through me. I felt its thoughts. It’s NOT killing them out of spite. It’s NOT malevolent. It’s lost and alone and it’s killing them because it’s panicking. It didn’t MEAN to hurt them.”

“Tell that to them…” Jackie said as she cried tears of empathy for Abies. “The kid who knocked my Pete down in his car didn’t mean to do it. But the end result was the same for me and Rose.”

Christopher held her close to him. He understood her point. His wife had been killed deliberately, by a jealous rival who would rather see her dead than married to a half-blood. Did that make his grief any more or less acute than Jackie’s or Abies’s?

No. Grief was grief. No matter what the species, no matter what the circumstances.

But the fact remained that the creature was, like the driver that killed Pete Tyler, an accidental killer. And it was as much in need of help as the Tree people were when they called him.

And it was in the TARDIS still.

And he knew WHERE it would be.

“Jackie,” he said. “Make lots of tea.”


“Make tea. Abies and Cerco are in shock. The others are cold and wet. Can you think of a better way to take care of them all?”

“No. But…”

“We all have our talents. Yours is making tea and looking after people. My father’s is saving the universe. Mine is… negotiating. I’m going to negotiate.”

With that he kissed her lightly on the cheek and turned and ran back into the mysterious corridors of the TARDIS interior. Jackie sighed and headed to the kitchen.


There WAS only one place a creature made up of something like Artron energy would go.

He stepped cautiously into the Cloister Room. He was surprised to see how bright it was. Usually the Cloister Room was a quiet, dark place. But now it was lit by the shimmering light of the energy entity as it hovered above the elaborately carved well cover of the Eye of Harmony.

It had been attracted to it, of course. Like attracts like.

“Can you communicate?” he asked it in spoken words and also using his telepathic synapses. “Can you understand me?”

There was a pause. A silence. Then he felt within him as if there had been an answer. It wasn’t words. It wasn’t any language he knew, or his father might know, for that matter. It was more like senses, emotions. He felt the creature respond to him at a basic level. But he understood.

It was lost and alone. It had accidentally fallen to ground on this planet and the environment had been so completely alien to it that it didn’t know what to do. It had panicked. It had caused devastation and death. But it had not even realised it had done so.

It didn’t know it had killed the Tree People because by its definition they weren’t life.

“What can I do?” he asked. “Where is your world? Can I take you home?”

Again he felt rather than heard the reply. Instinctively he looked up and saw the great vaulted roof of the Cloister Room resolve into a starmap. The creature hovered under it as if it was searching for the answer to his question.

But the answer wasn’t there. It seemed to find the place it wanted, but there was a black hole there, not a planet.

“Your home is gone?” Christopher felt his hearts lurch. “Your sun collapsed into a black hole. I understand that. My home… my planet was destroyed in the same way. I DO understand. But I found a new home. What can I do for you?”

The creature span around and then swooped down. Christopher gasped as the creature passed through him again. But as it did he felt clearly what it wanted. He turned as it hovered again over the well cover. A glow emanated from beneath the cover as it always did. But he wasn’t sure if it was somehow being stirred by the energy creature.

“You want… But… look… yes. The Eye of Harmony is made up of similar energy to you. Yes. But… if you join with it, you will cease to exist as an individual. You’d be like a drop of water joining a puddle. Sorry, that was a terrible analogy. If you ever saw a puddle it would evaporate. But you would be completely subsumed by the Eye. You would be dead, to all purposes.”

He felt the creature’s reply. He sighed.

“I wish there was another way,” he said. “But if that’s your choice.” He went to the mooring staff that held the well cover closed and pulled it. The well slid open and the bright, actinic white light of the Eye of Harmony filled the room, almost overwhelming that of the energy creature as it hovered above. The Eye was clearly aware of its presence. The liquid-like surface arced and reacted to it as it descended. Christopher stood back and watched as the Eye enveloped the entity and merged with it. He wasn’t sure if he ought to feel sad or not. On the whole not. He was right in that it didn’t exist as an individual now. But maybe it wasn’t completely dead. It had become a part of the Eye, a part of the heart of the TARDIS. And that was a life of a sort.


Jackie had done her best for the Tree people. The tea was helping those who had got cold in the pool. It was a small comfort to those still suffering the grief of losing a loved one, though it would take far more than that to mend those wounds, of course.

“The creature?” Abies asked him. “Is it dead?”

“It’s gone,” he assured her. “It will cause no more harm to your people. Take the survivors back to their homes. Let the dead be buried according to tradition, and go on with your lives. Put this behind you.”


“Gone?” The Doctor looked at his son as he sat with him in the sunny pub garden where he had explained how come he and Jackie never actually made it to SangC’lune. “Nothing is ever completely gone in the TARDIS.”

“No, but I don’t think it will be a problem to anyone,” Christopher said. “It’s just a pity it caused so much hardship to the people of Cheem.”

“The funerals were beautiful,” Jackie said. “Do you know, they bury the dead in the woods, and they plant saplings over them and they believe that the dead are reborn again in the new trees that grow.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “And who’s to say they’re wrong. You did well, both of you. Christopher, any time you want to take over the TARDIS permanently, take over the family business…”

“No thanks,” he answered. “I’m going back to Westminster on Monday for a nice relaxing Second Reading of the Saturn Trade Bill. I know what I’m good at, and I’m sticking to it.”