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

“Alvega is the closest inhabitable planet to Skaro, the third planet in the Skaroan solar system,” Jimmy Forrester read aloud from the scrolling text on the monitor of the TARDIS information database. “The Amarylls were the benevolent vegetable inhabitants of the planet. They were a gestalt race with a collective consciousness ruled by the Controller. They appeared as giant red flowers with heliocentric senses as well as the ability to respond to sound and movement. If threatened they would spray seeds which would spontaneously grow on their enemies and choke them.”

Jimmy looked up from reading the information. His girlfriend, Vicki, was busy controlling their flight. Sukie was assisting her. Earl, the most experienced and the only one of them who actually was a qualified Time Lord, took no part at all in the work. Vicki insisted that it was her TARDIS and she would be in command. He was there because Vicki’s father insisted that somebody older ought to accompany them on these trips, and because, after all, he was Sukie’s boyfriend.

“I am right in thinking ‘benign’ means friendly?” he asked. “Only spraying seeds at people doesn’t sound friendly to me.”

“When it says ‘enemy’ it means Dalek,” Earl explained. He noticed the reactions from Sukie and Vicki. They didn’t equate ‘Dalek’ with ‘enemy’ in the same way everyone else they knew did. The two they had met both turned out to be ‘benign’. But they knew as well as anyone else that Daleks generally were xenophobic menaces hell bent on conquering any other race. Of course the ‘benign’ Amarylls would attack them. Benign species’ all over the universe had to defend themselves from Daleks.

“The seeds even choke Daleks?” Jimmy queried. “I didn’t think they needed to breathe or anything.”

“They’re organic inside,” Vicki pointed out. “Anyway, the point about Alvegal is that it shouldn’t be there. The Daleks destroyed it not long after they first developed space travel. That was about five hundred years after Daddy first defeated them and let the peaceful Thals rule Skaro while they were powerless and trapped within their city. The Thals had built ships and left Skaro to seek worlds without radiation damage to begin again. The Daleks stole the plans for their ships and went looking for worlds to conquer. Alvega was the first they came to, obviously, but the Controller fought them. They beat all but one last Dalek, who defeated the Controller and blew up the planet.”

“Which would all be ancient history,” Sukie added. “Except there it is – Alvega – large as life. There’s Skaro, a dead world, nothing but dust and radiation on the surface, and all those horrible passageways and secret laboratories underground, all abandoned now. And there should just have been rocks and debris here. But here it is - the planet Alvega.”

“Could we have the time co-ordinates wrong?” Earl suggested. “Are we here before it was destroyed?”

“No,” Vicki insisted. “This is exactly right. It’s about twenty years AFTER you and Davie and Sukie were on Skaro and found Dahl being experimented on. Alvega wasn’t there, then. But it is now.”

“Does that happen a lot?” Jimmy asked.

“It doesn’t… it SHOULDN’T happen at all,” Vicki told him. “When a planet is destroyed, it stays destroyed. “It doesn’t… remake itself. If it could… then Gallifrey….”

“I always felt it was unfair that Gallfrey was gone but Skaro still existed,” Sukie added. “But Alvega… why that planet?”

“Well, let’s find out,” Jimmy said. “Surely that’s why we’re here?”

“I’m not sure we were meant to go to the planet itself,” Vicki admitted. “Chris told me to check out an anomaly and let him know what it was. It was navigational practice. But actually landing….”

She paused and looked at her friends. She grinned.

“He didn’t say we COULDN’T land,” she added, reaching for the helmic regulator.

Alvega was a jungle planet with a warm, humid, climate. The young explorers stepped out of the TARDIS and immediately began to sweat even in their twenty-third century breathable synthetic clothes. Lush greenery surrounded them on all sides. Tall trees with impossibly thin trunks towered over them, their branches twisting together to form an unbroken green canopy through which only fragments of sunlight penetrated.

“What’s that smell?” Vicki asked. “It’s delicious.”

“It’s like honey,” Sukie agreed.

“Candy floss,” Jimmy considered.

“It’s probably some kind of trap,” Earl warned. “An enticing smell to draw in insects or birds and devour them… possibly even incautious people.”

That possibility couldn’t be ignored. After all, this was the planet of the sentient plants.

“Just in case it’s a candy floss tree, let’s go and see,” Jimmy suggested. “If it turns out to be un-benign or whatever the opposite of benign is, we have two sonic screwdrivers and a laser scythe to fight back with.”

Earl had the laser scythe for making a path through the jungle. Vicki and Sukie had the sonics. They held them up with adventurous intent.

“Follow the scent,” Earl said. “But carefully.”

It was easy to do that. The smell was strongest in one direction and as they followed it got stronger. They didn’t even have to hack through the greenery as much as they expected. A path resolved itself as they walked.

They came to a small clearing. There was a tree in the middle with fruits hanging from it. The fruits were honey coloured and when Vicki reached to pick one the thin skin burst beneath her fingers, covering them in a sticky-sweet juice.

“Don’t….” Earl called out as she put her fingers into her mouth. “Vicki, you ought to know better. Your father must have told you about not eating anything you don’t know about.”

“Yes, but he meant food offered by people who might have strange marriage rituals. Like how Chris ended up married to Carya.” She grinned widely. “It tastes like honey, or toffee, or candy floss. And there’s nothing wrong with it. I analysed the molecules on my tongue. It is VERY sugary. We’re lucky nobody here is diabetic. But it’s really good to eat.”

She gave fruits to her friends who looked at them doubtfully then bit in. They all agreed that a fruit that tasted like sweets was a glorious idea.

“Like the toffee tree in Narnia,” Sukie commented as she examined the stone from the middle of the fruit and then tossed it away.

“Very like Narnia,” Vicki agreed. The stone was already germinating, burying white roots in the leaf litter and pushing up green shoots. “Is that a bit sinister or what?”

Everybody else threw their fruit stones down and watched the same thing happening.

“I think the Narnian reference is apt,” Earl said. “For whatever reason, this planet is new… there’s a lot of energy in it… lifeforce… call it what you will. I think everything grows fast. I wonder how long this jungle has actually been here?”

“Six Alvegan months,” Jimmy answered. Everyone turned to look at him in surprise.

“THEY told me,” he said in response to their querying faces. He pointed to the strong-stemmed plants standing six foot high with huge red trumpet shaped blooms that turned to face him as he spoke.

“It’s the Amaryll!” Sukie exclaimed in delight. “The sentient plant-life. But… how come they told you anything and not us, and HOW?”

“It came into my head, like a voice,” Jimmy explained. “I don’t know how, and I don’t know why they picked me, except that you lot were all going on about life forces and energy and everything and I was just thinking about getting another of those fruits. Maybe they could get through to me and you lot were too busy.”

“We are all used to automatically putting up telepathic walls,” Earl suggested as an alternative. “Because we want privacy from each other in our minds. But your mind is open.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jimmy responded. “I prefer my explanation, but either way, they spoke to me. They want to explain stuff to us, so open your minds and listen.”

They did as he said. At first the voices were hard to understand. The language of plants was not the same as the language they understood. It was made up of instincts and sensations – the refreshing feel of rain on their leaves, the warmth of sunshine, the urge to grow up from the ground against the forces of gravity. Explaining the history of their world and how it came to be was complicated.

But slowly they told their story.

“The Controller….” Vicki said. “The great sentient root that controls the Amarylls… like their main brain. It was damaged when the planet was blown up, but not killed. It floated in space for a long time, dormant, like a seed in winter, waiting to grow again. Then it gathered its strength. It began to pull the debris of the destroyed planet around itself, growing it again with itself at the core.”

“Yes….” Earl agreed with her. “Yes, I see that.”

“I didn’t know planets grew that way,” Jimmy said.

“Yes,” Sukie explained, trying not to make it look as if she was so much smarter than him. “When a solar system is new, and dust and debris form around a sun, one big piece of debris will gain enough gravity to pull others towards it, until eventually a planet is formed. The rocks at the core will usually melt and that molten core is part of what allows it to rotate and have day and night cycles as it orbits the star.”

“I must have missed that science lesson,” Jimmy suggested so as not to look completely ignorant of such things.

“We learnt it from The Doctor,” Sukie told him. “He took us to see a new star and the planets forming. He moved the TARDIS forward in fast time so that we saw it all in a half hour.”

“I’ll take you to see something like that when I’m more experienced,” Vicki promised him. “I can’t do things like that, yet. It takes really good control of the temporal manifolds.”

Jimmy smiled at his girlfriend. There were exciting times ahead. But there was more to the Controller’s tale, yet.

“Of course, this planet doesn’t have a molten core. The controller holds it together with a network of roots and even controls the rotation of the planet. It took ages before it was stable enough to let the plants grow, and then even longer before the Amarylls could regrow. But it’s about right, now.”

“It’s a paradise,” Earl admitted. “A plant paradise. Have you noticed there’s no animal life, not even insects.”

“Yes,” Sukie answered him. “I noticed.”

“Ok, I WAS at THAT science lesson,” Jimmy said. “How do the plants pollinate without insects or birds?”

“The Amarylls don’t have to,” Vicki answered. “The Controller provides for their needs. And the Amarylls pollinate the non-sentient plants. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but it seems like the sentient plant life farms the non-sentient. It works for them.”

“Ok,” Jimmy accepted. “So… anyway, mystery solved. We know why Alvega is back in orbit. Do we go back in the TARDIS now?”

“No,” Earl answered. “The Controller is inviting us to explore. He recognises us as friends and wants us to see the world he created.”

“That’s kind of cool,” Sukie commented. “The CREATOR of a world wants us to see it for ourselves.”

“Let’s explore, then,” Jimmy said. “Which way does the Controller think we should go?”

He looked around. The Amarylls were pointing their red trumpets towards a path through the jungle. That was obviously the route they wanted their party of animal life to follow.

They followed it, cheerfully, with excited anticipation of what they might find. They looked at the plants and trees around them curiously, noting the different colours, shapes and textures of the leaves, flowers and fruits. They found many of the latter that were edible and feasted on them.

“I’m glad there is plenty of fruit,” Vicki noted. “It’s so hot and humid we’d be dehydrated without them.”

“I wonder if there is any fresh water, though,” Sukie added. “Something really cool and pure.”

“To drink or to swim in?” Earl asked.

“Both would be good,” Sukie responded. “But I haven’t got a swimming costume with me, and don’t you DARE suggest that it doesn’t matter.”

“Perish the thought,” Earl replied with a sly grin. Jimmy laughed, too, earning hard stares from their girlfriends.

Shortly after that they began to hear a sound other than the swaying of leaves as they brushed against them and their own chattering voices. Alvega was a curiously silent planet without birds and insects, but now there was a noise in the background.

“It’s water!” Sukie exclaimed. “Lots of water, making a mad rushing noise.”

“A river in flood,” Earl suggested. “Or….”

“A waterfall,” Jimmy added. He was slightly ahead and was the first to emerge from the jungle into a place that was as close to paradise as any of them could imagine. There was a crystal clear pool with a river running out of it, the water constantly fed by a waterfall that tumbled straight down a sheer cliff from a high escarpment above. Trees hung over the edge making shaded places but mostly the sun glittered off the water.

“A perfect picnic place,” Vicki pronounced, sitting on a patch of grass dappled with small white flowers like across between daisies and buttercups. A tree something like a weeping willow shaded it. “Let’s stay here for a while.”

Everyone was in agreement about that, but before anyone so much as touched a drop of water Earl tested it with the end of his sonic screwdriver.

“You never know, it COULD be acid,” he pointed out. Vicki and Sukie both agreed with his wisdom. They had heard story from The Doctor and from Susan about a beautiful but deadly place with a sea of acid that they had encountered long ago.

“As it happens this is pure h2o,” Earl confirmed. “With just the right kind of minerals to bottle and sell to gullible rich people for silly amount of money.”

He took his water carrier and replenished it from the pool. He drank a long draught. Everyone else watched and realised how thirsty they were and how warm the water they were carrying was. They ran to the pool. Jimmy filled his water carrier like Earl. Sukie and Vicki just scooped water in their hands and drank. When their thirsts were quenched they sat and took off socks and shoes and rolled up the legs of their jeans to bathe their feet. The boys joined them.

“Now I really do feel like swimming,” Vicki said. She considered the clothes she was wearing. They were all twenty-third century quick drying, crease-free, materials, even the jeans. Would it matter if she just jumped in?

Sukie beat her to it. She leaned forward and dived to the bottom of the pool before emerging several metres from the edge. That did it for Vicki. She joined her cousin in the water. The two girls swam to the far end and back before the boys threw off their sweatshirts and followed suit.

“It’s so clear underwater,” Sukie commented. “I can see everything.”

“Me, too,” Jimmy confirmed, lest anyone think that was just a Time Lord thing. “I can’t hold my breath for as long, though.”

“You can hold it long enough for here,” Vicki assured him. “Race you underwater to the other end.”

Jimmy was not a boy to refuse a challenge, not even from a girl, and not even from his girlfriend. Sukie set them off and Earl watched to make sure there was no cheating.

Vicki could hold her breath underwater better than Jimmy, but he was strongly built and he swam well. She was much smaller than him and she had to swim two strokes to his one.

On the other hand she had two hearts and she didn’t give up. It was a close race.

Very close.

“It’s a draw,” Earl called out to them as they emerged from the water at the far end. “Jimmy, when you get your breath back, kiss her and call it quits.”

Jimmy grinned and did exactly that. Earl turned and looked at Sukie, who slipped into the water and raced away from him. He dived in and chased her towards the waterfall. Jimmy and Vicki looked up from their own activity to see them hugging in the water beside the waterfall.

“Hey, there’s a cave back here,” Earl shouted to them. “Come on and have a look.”

Earl and Sukie vanished from sight under the waterfall. Vicki and Jimmy looked at each other and then swam to join them, diving under the surface to emerge on the other side of the roiling curtain of water where the other two were sitting on a dry ledge of rock waiting for them. The ledge extended around either side of the waterfall but it was very much an island of its own accessible only by swimming.

“Look at this,” Sukie said to them as they hauled themselves out of the pool and joined them. “There’s food here.”

“Food?” In Jimmy’s imagination food was pre-packed in tins and boxes. He stared at the yellow-grey potato shaped object that Sukie passed to him. It didn’t look edible to him.

“It’s… I don’t know what it would be called here,” Sukie explained. “But I remember mum telling me about some mushrooms that grew in parts of Gallifrey. They were called ground-cheese because that’s exactly what they tasted like. They grew near water where it was warm and shaded. That’s exactly what we have here, and these are just like ground-cheese. They taste like warm cream cheese and they contain the same kind of nutrients. And they’re definitely a change from fruit.”

Jimmy tried the odd looking fruit/mushroom/cheese. He was surprised to find that it tasted exactly how Sukie described it.


“Mmmm,” Vicki commented.

“Try these, as well,” Earl said, passing another odd looking object. “These taste like newly baked bread.”

“Breadfruit?” Jimmy shrugged. “Well, I’ve heard of those, at least.”

“The Earth fruit called breadfruit has to be cooked before you can eat it,” Vicki told him. “I had some once when I went on a trip with Daddy. These are better because you just have to break them in half. Eat a bite of the bread-fruit then a bite of the ground cheese. It’s heavenly.”

“There isn’t a butter nut, I suppose?” Sukie asked.

“No,” Earl answered. “Though I have the feeling that there would have been if we’d thought of it before.”

“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked between mouthfuls of bread and cheese.

“Doesn’t it all seem amazingly convenient that everything we’ve wanted has been here? The fruit, the pool of clean, cool water, nourishing food. Do you think the Controller is arranging it all for our benefit?”

“Why would he or it or whatever, do that?” Sukie asked.

“I don’t know,” Earl admitted. “But I just think none of this is a coincidence.”

“Well, then the Controller is a really good host,” Vicki answered him. “Food, entertainment, everything we could want for a pleasant afternoon. I’m happy.”

“Me, too,” Jimmy added.

“Yes,” Sukie agreed. “The food is great. I think the Controller is being benevolent and really clever and he must be so tuned into our thoughts that he figured out what we need. The only thing he hasn’t come up with is a polyester tree. I could really do with a dry top. It really wasn’t a good idea swimming in the only clothes I have with me. I feel kind of yukky now, sitting here.”

“We’re only staying here for the afternoon,” Earl pointed out. “I suppose you can put up with it that long.”

“I was thinking of staying longer,” Sukie answered. “I mean… it IS nice here. We could camp if we had some more supplies – food, clothes, comfy cushions….”

“What if me and Earl went back to the TARDIS and got some stuff,” Jimmy suggested. “And then you two girls could strip off and hang your clothes to dry. We’ll shout a warning and you can get back into your clothes in time.”

Sukie and Vicki looked at each other, then at their boyfriends and wondered if that was a good plan or not.

“Ok,” Vicki decided and passed her TARDIS door key to Jimmy. “We’ll see you later.”

The two men slid into the water and swam under the waterfall. The girls waited for a few minutes, just in case they came back for some reason, or for no reason at all except to embarrass them, then they took off their soggy clothes and hung them on the warm rocks. They lay down on the ground, giggling a little at first at the mad idea of it all, then relaxing and drifting into a warm, cosy, afternoon nap.

Earl laughed out loud as he pushed through the undergrowth away from the paradise pool. He had caught a thought from Sukie.

“They think we might go back and peep at them,” he told Jimmy.

“Certainly not, it would be rude,” Jimmy insisted.

“I wouldn’t dare. Sukie’s brothers and Vicki’s dad would hang me out to dry.”

They both laughed good humouredly and the same mood stayed with them as they made their way back to the TARDIS. They didn’t have very much in common, a twenty-eighth century Time Lord and a twenty-third century Human, apart from the girls they both cared for, but they always found a middle ground.

Usually it was the two girls they both cared for. They invariably ended up talking about them.

“You really expect to marry Sukie eventually, don’t you?” Jimmy said to Earl.

“I don’t think I have any choice in the matter. We’ve MET our future grandson. If we don’t get married I think time unravels.”

Jimmy laughed. He had become accustomed to mad ideas like that by now.

“I wouldn’t want it THAT set in stone. It would be too weird. But I love Vicki. She’s special… not just because she’s half alien and can do stuff and owns a TARDIS, but… special….”

“They both are. We’re lucky.”


“I wouldn’t trudge through a jungle in the sweltering heat while they take it easy if they weren’t,” Earl added.

“Too right,” Jimmy confirmed. “Does it seem to you a lot harder than when we came the other way?”

“We had more help from the Amarylls on the way there,” Earl agreed. “Hey, you guys, we just need to pick up some stuff from the TARDIS and then we’re going back to the girls. How about you make it easy for us?”

“Do you think they’re listening?”

“They ought to be. I think that’s the whole point. This whole planet is one big psychic nerve. The controller knows everything we’re thinking.”

“Then it’s a good job we didn’t plan on peeping on the girls. He might not have liked it!”

“Yeah!” Earl laughed, but as he chatted with Jimmy lightly he carefully placed a different set of thoughts behind the strongest mental wall he could construct for himself. He had some ideas that didn’t quite fit the mood and he needed to work them through for himself before he let anyone else, least of all the Controller, know what he was thinking.

It really did feel like hard work reaching the TARDIS. By the time they got there they were hot, irritated and exhausted. They had stopped talking cheerfully and were just glad to be inside the cool, climate controlled console room.

“Couldn’t we take the TARDIS back to the waterfall and save ourselves the trouble?” Jimmy asked. “You can pilot, it can’t you? You’re a Time Lord.”

“I’m not the Time Lord that owns THIS TARDIS. It belongs to Vicki. She and Sukie are imprinted on it. I don’t think it would work for me.”

“Isn’t it worth a try?”

“Yes, I suppose,” Earl conceded. He went to the drive control and set it to hover mode rather than risking a dematerialisation. The controls felt sluggish, but they responded.

“Come on, old thing,” he whispered to the TARDIS. “Find Vicki. You know her. Go to her.”

Jimmy laughed.

“You make it sound like a dog looking for its owner,” he said.

“That’s not so far wrong. A TARDIS is a semi-sentient thing. It bonds with its owner. It’s loyal.”

And so it seemed to be. The TARDIS hovered over the green canopy and headed directly for the waterfall. They had a great view of the whole extent of the jungle world. They saw the river that flowed from their pool as a glint of silver overhung with green and the great plain on top of the escarpment the waterfall descended from.

“It really is a paradise,” Jimmy said. “Absolutely fantastic. We should stay a few days, maybe longer… make it a real holiday. We could still be back home on Sunday night as promised.

“Somebody would find out,” Earl pointed out. “We’d both be in trouble. But… even so… it IS tempting… spending some quality time with the girls. As long as….”

The doubts formulating behind his mental wall almost found voice. Inside the TARDIS it was probably safe enough to do so, but Jimmy couldn’t hide his thoughts. He had said so earlier when he was the one who picked up the telepathic Amaryll voices first. He couldn’t share his concerns with somebody whose mind was so open to the Controller.

“Let’s play it by ear,” he said as he brought the TARDIS to land on the grassy bank where they had sat earlier. He brought a large waterproof bag with changes of clothes, towels, cushions and food supplies for camping in the cave behind the waterfall. They swam with the supplies between them and kept everything dry.

When they emerged in the cave they were surprised. The girls’ clothes were still hanging on the rocks, but Vicki and Sukie were clothed in something that looked like gossamer fashioned into toga style dresses.

“What’s this?” Earl asked, feeling the fabric that Sukie was wearing. “Where did you get it from?”

“There really is a polyester tree,” she told him. “Well, not exactly. More like a silk tree. Vicki took a little walk while I was napping. Yes, with no clothes on. There was nobody to see, so why not? Anyway, she found this tree with a silky smooth bark that kind of unwinds into long sheets. It’s fabulous stuff, really light but soft.”

“So I see.” Alarm bells were ringing behind that mental wall. This was too much.

“It’s weird,” Jimmy said. “But cool, too. I mean… clothes from a tree. Neat.”

“Cotton comes from a plant,” Sukie reminded them. “This is just a step further. It’s already woven.”

“It’s the Controller, isn’t it?” Vicki said. “Anything we need, it provides somehow, through the plants.”

“What if we wanted a pile of gold?” Jimmy suggested.

“That wouldn’t happen,” Sukie told him. “That’s what you WANT, not what you need. We NEED shelter, food and clothes, so those are all here. We can cover the floor with those huge leaves from that tree with the big coconut-like fruits to make sleeping pallets and cover ourselves with more of this silky stuff and sleep beautifully. There’s dry, dead wood for a fire. I know we’ve got food from the TARDIS, but we really don’t need it. We DO have everything we need provided by the Controller.”

“Yes, I see that,” Earl answered her as he put a cloth down on the floor and brought out the food he had selected. “But I’ve brought a whole roast chicken, hard boiled eggs, a big pork pie with that kind of crust you love, Sukie, cherry tomatoes, radishes, coleslaw, loads of crisp green salad, a big tub of yoghurt and a fresh strawberry tart for afters. There’s also a big bottle of ginger pop, the sort you drink by the gallon, Vicki. That’s our tea this afternoon, a good old fashioned Famous Five style picnic and the Controller can’t beat it for a spread. Anyone who wants to eat the Controller’s bread and cheese instead, Jimmy and I will have their share, because it really was hard work getting through that jungle, and I’m sure the Controller knew it was, and didn’t do much to make it easier for us. And while we’re at it, I’m fine with staying the night in the cave, but I’m having my memory foam camping mattress and pillow under me and a climate-proof cover on top. I’ve got no plans to wear tree bark, either. I’ve got my Team Campbell hoodie that Davie gave me for Christmas and it’ll do me just fine.”

Sukie looked at her boyfriend curiously. There was an edge to his voice that she had rarely heard. The edge was there in his thoughts, too – those that he let her see. She could tell he had a huge mental block that she couldn’t penetrate.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “I thought you liked it here.”

“I do like it here,” he assured her. “This planet is really something. But we shouldn’t take it for granted.”

Sukie was still puzzled. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek.

“Forget it. Let’s enjoy the picnic. Are you hungry or are you stuffed with cheese fruits? I’m still prepared to eat your share.”

“I’m hungry,” she told him. “Pass me over a slice of that pie.”

They enjoyed the picnic in the good old fashioned way of people who had read Enid Blyton when they were all much younger. They talked cheerfully and watched the light that filtered through the waterfall curtain change as the sun went down. Before anyone could possibly suggest that there might be a candle tree in the vicinity, Earl ignited a gravity globe to light the cave after it got dark. Later, he dimmed it down a little before they made up their beds in two distinctly separate sides of the cave, a girl side and a boy side.

As the official grown up of the party, Earl was the last to go to sleep and the first to wake up, a little after dawn. He felt strangely disturbed when he did. He had dreamt some very odd things. Of course, even for a Time Lord, dreams were odd things. But the most disturbing thing was that these dreams didn’t come to him by themselves.

They had been put there by The Controller.

He rose from his comfortable camp bed and went to the cave opening. The newly risen sun glittered off the water. He stood on the ledge beside the falling torrent and looked across the pool.

His fears were realised at once. The TARDIS was gone.

No, not gone. But certainly inaccessible. It was covered in thick vines that the strongest knife couldn’t possibly cut through.

“That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it,” he whispered. He sat on the ledge and looked around. He glanced up at the pale blue Alvegan sky, then into the pool. “You planned this all along. You wanted us to stay here.”

He felt rather than heard the Controller’s response.

“No,” he answered. “No, we won’t. You have no right to try to hold us. We won’t do what you want.”

Again the reply, and he felt that it was an angrier, more determined reply, but he wouldn’t be intimidated.

“No. The answer is NO. Release the TARDIS and let us go when we’re ready to go. I won’t tell the girls about this. They’ll be upset to discover your ulterior motive, and I don’t want them upset.”

The Controller wasn’t having it. The TARDIS remained firmly tied down and he was sure that any attempt to free it would be met with resistance. There were a dozen or more of those red flowers waving their heads in his direction. He had no desire to be choked.

He tried a different tactic.

“Yes, I see your point. This planet isn’t quite complete with only plant life. I miss birdsong, insects, even fish in the pool. And I’m guessing you really only have power of Creation over plants. But you’re doing this the wrong way. You don’t WANT us… or anybody like us. You don’t want sentient animal life forms. We would never be satisfied to be subject to you, or to your Amarylls. Sooner or later, if not in this generation, in future ones, you’d have a rebellion on your hands. We’d end up fighting you. We’re like that, especially the Human side of us. But our Gallifreyan blood doesn’t take to being subjugated, either. We ARE princes of the universe, Lords of Time. We’re never going to get on with a ‘Creator’ like you. It would be like the Clash of the Titans, gods fighting gods.”

The Controller stopped being quite to stubborn and considered that point for a while. Earl pressed his point.

“Seriously, you don’t want us. But if you stop trying to hold us, and you treat us as friends, not captives, we might be able to help you. What you need isn’t a bunch of argumentative sentients on your world. What you need is birds, insects, fish, small mammals that would make their homes here. That’s what you’re missing. They’d live in symbiosis with your plants, the birds and insects pollinating, the mammals eating the fruits, fertilising the soil… you get the picture.”

The Controller did get the picture. But it didn’t know what to do about it.

“That’s where I can help. But not while you’re holding us to ransom. Free the TARDIS and then I’ll tell you.”

There was a pause. Earl thought there was nothing quite so remarkable as the feeling of a whole planet thinking about something.

Then the vines began to fall away from around the blue box until it was free.

“Right, now let me tell you what I can do. I’m from a planet called Earth in the twenty-eighth century. They have a fantastic programme in that time to collect and preserve the DNA of animal and plant life against the possibility of the planet suffering the sort of cataclysm that you’ve seen here on Alvega and on your neighbouring planet of Skaro. They have specimens of practically every creature on our planet. I don’t have the greatest pull myself. I’m only twenty years old. But I know people who do. Some of those species could be introduced here. It will take time. Don’t expect instant results. That’s what you thought you’d get by holding us here. But what’s needed is a proper survey of the planet, of your plants and soil, to see what animals would thrive. But I can get the ball rolling. The four of us can stay a little while and start the survey.”

He paused.

“There’s another thing. This planet is vulnerable. The Skaro system is notorious because of the Daleks. I’m going to talk to my girlfriend’s brothers. They’ll put a Seal around you, so that only people with legitimate business here can get in. You’ll be safe, if you trust me and my friends.”

He felt the Controller considering his proposals before he had an answer.

He got the answer.

“Ok. On Earth a handshake is appropriate now. But that’s not going to work with this deal. I can’t even imagine you signing a Treaty. But you can call it settled from my end. How about….”

He turned to look at a plant growing nearby. He touched the fruit that had formed on it, a pale yellow-white, mottled coloured with a familiar texture. He laughed softly and picked enough of what he knew was going to taste exactly like a pancakes with maple syrup, one of his all time favourite breakfasts, for everyone.

“I thought you didn’t like the Controller providing food,” Sukie said to him as the four of them breakfasted together beside their pool and contemplated an early swim once they had digested the food.

“I had a bit of a chat with the Controller,” Earl explained. “We’ve come to an agreement. This was his handshake on it.”

Leaving out the bit about the TARDIS being held to ransom and the Controller’s plans for them to be two sets of Adam and Eve’s to populate the planet, he explained what he had suggested for the completion of Alvega as an unspoilt, paradise planet. His friends voiced their approval.

“Two good things,” Vicki said. “First, we get to stay here longer to start the survey and second, we can come back lots of times helping the project.”

And that summed it up for them all.