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


The Doctor and his eldest son walked ahead of their respective wives holding a detailed conversation about the flora and fauna of the planet they had chosen to visit. They were using Latin names for the plants, birds, small mammals and insects they encountered on the edge of a deciduous woodland. Rose and Jackie were convinced they were actually making up most of them on the spot.

When challenged, The Doctor claimed to be a founder member of the Linnaeus Society.

“What you do in your spare time is no concern of ours,” Jackie remarked, managing to imply in the inflexions of her voice that the Linnaeus Society was something vulgar.

“He’s just showing off,” Rose told her mum. “Ignore him. We’ve got this fantastic scenery to enjoy. Look at the valley below, and those hills beyond. And that sky.”

“I’m not sure a sky is supposed to have that many moons when it’s not even lunchtime,” Jackie complained. “But it’s nice enough. It reminds me of Primrose Hill, but without the city around it.”

Rose smiled at her mother’s idea of what countryside ought to look like. Apart from a few train rides to Margate or Brighton, she hadn’t really been outside London very often before The Doctor came into their lives. Primrose Hill was her benchmark for a panoramic view.

“I’m still qualified to classify and name newly discovered flora,” The Doctor pointed out, doggedly continuing the discussion everyone else had already moved on from. “This tree, for example.” He reached up and picked a fruit something like a purple lemon and tossing it to Jackie. “We can call this Trefoilis Jacquelinus. Its fruit has a tough exterior, sour pulp and bitter seeds all through.”

“That’s not funny,” Rose told him. Christopher was looking annoyed, too. He was used to his father teasing Jackie, but that joke seemed a bit too mean.

Jackie launched the fruit back at The Doctor with a surprisingly fast underarm throw. He dodged and it disappeared into the undergrowth.

Everyone was surprised to hear a cry of pain from within the tangle of bushes. Christopher investigated carefully and emerged onto the path with a very dirty, very ragged child with wide, fearful eyes that were glassy with tears. He was covered from head to foot in cuts and bruises and his lip was bleeding. Even the most recent wounds looked a few hours old, so they obviously weren’t caused by the fruit. Jackie was relieved about that. The Doctor was a fair target, but not a scared child.

“Poor kid,” she said, her motherly instinct overriding all else. She stepped closer and tried to comfort him, but he was too scared to let her near him. “He’s not much bigger than our Garrick.”

“He’s at least two years older than Garrick,” Christopher told her, noting the skeletal development at a glance. “But not so well fed.”

The boy hadn’t spoken a word. His expression was that of a frightened rabbit. The Doctor stepped towards him and he would have bolted if it were not for Christopher’s firm grasp on his shoulder.

“I just want to examine his wounds and heal some of them,” The Doctor said, holding up the sonic screwdriver in medical analysis mode.

“Here, let me,” Rose insisted, stepping forward and snatching the sonic from his hand. “Of course he doesn’t want a big lummox like you scaring him.”

She knelt in front of the boy and slowly scanned him from head to foot with the sonic.

“He’s got some nasty marks on his legs and arms,” she informed The Doctor. “I think they’re bites. He might have been attacked by an animal.”

“Give him this, then,” he answered passing her a small lozenge. “It’s a broad spectrum anti-biotic and tetanus, in case of infection.”

The boy accepted the sweet while Rose used the sonic to mend the wounds on his legs as well as numerous scratches and abrasions and the cut lip and other bruising on his face.

“The sonic doesn’t do anything about the dirt,” she admitted when she was done. “But he’s all fixed up, now.”

“Let’s see about getting him home to his mum, then,” Jackie suggested. “She must be going spare.”

“I agree,” Christopher said, lifting the boy into his arms. He didn’t protest. The sonic examination seemed to have drained his last reserves of energy and he was nearly asleep on his feet. “Where do you live, son?”

The boy pointed. In the distance beyond the edge of the forest they could see a settlement of some kind. They headed towards it at a gentle pace. As they drew closer they saw that it looked much like a feudal township of medieval Europe apart from the fact that the buildings and the high fence that surrounded it were made out of a sort of white material with a manufactured look to it.

“It looks like Teflon,” The Doctor observed as they came close to the gateway.

“What, like pots and pans?” Jackie asked, hoping she wasn’t going to sound stupid.

“Exactly like that,” The Doctor replied. “But Teflon was originally designed for the NASA space programme of the late twentieth century. Good insulation against extreme heat or cold, radiation, that sort of thing.”

“Why would a settlement here need that sort of protection?” Rose asked. “I mean, if this was a hot desert or a freezing icefield, I’d understand. But these trees and the meadows, the river – this place obviously has the same sort of climate as the south of France or Italy or… somewhere a bit nicer than England, but still… normal.”

“That is a very good point,” The Doctor answered. He was about to congratulate her on her observation, but after being called a big lummox he didn’t want to be accused of patronising her into the bargain.

“Well, we’ll surely find out what it’s all about soon,” Christopher pointed out. “But first, we need to find this young fellow’s family.”

That was much easier than expected. As they reached the wide-gated entrance to the settlement a postern opened and a woman dressed in a white, all-in-one hooded coverall rushed out, crying the name of the child repeatedly. Christopher quickly handed him over and stood back to witness the reunion of mother and son.

“He’s quite all right, now,” he assured her she checked him thoroughly for wounds. “Just a bit weary.”

The mother looked at him suspiciously. Christopher wondered if he ought to reassure her that he hadn’t molested the child. She murmured something that didn’t sound anything like a ‘thank you’ and then turned and hurried back through the postern with the boy. The gate was slammed shut behind her.

Christopher looked at the firmly locked barrier then turned to his father questioningly. The Doctor shrugged indicating that he was equally puzzled.

“Not a very sociable lot,” Jackie commented.

“Not even a thank you for finding the kid,” Rose conceded. “Should we knock or what?”

“Maybe we should just leave them alone,” Christopher suggested. “It looks like a rather insular community. Perhaps they don’t really expect visitors.”

“I vote for leaving them alone,” Jackie said. “It really doesn’t seem very friendly. I’m glad the kid is ok, but if they don’t want us…”

The question was settled a moment later when the postern opened again and two men wearing the same all over clothing stepped out.

“Good day to you, strangers,” said the older of the two. “I am Elder Warfo. This is Elder Mardok. Please come within our walls. The wilds are not safe for your womenfolk.”

“They don’t seem safe for your children, either,” Jackie remarked as they passed through the gate into the village.

“You must not worry about that,” she was told by Elder Mardok. “It is a matter for the Physicians.”

“I’m a physician,” The Doctor announced. “I’d like to look in on the kid later, to see how he’s doing now he’s back with his mum.”

“And I AM a mum, and I’d like to see how she’s getting on after a scare like that,” Jackie added. Rose agreed with her. Both of them felt they wanted to see the boy tucked up in blankets on a sofa with a bowl of comfort food to cheer him up.

Both of them had very strong suspicions that this society didn’t have sofas or comfort food. There was a curiously Spartan look to the houses they passed, where people in those white coveralls came to the doors and looked at the newcomers with something like suspicion if not actual hostility.

The Elders brought them to a large building in the centre of the village. On Earth in the Middle Ages, the one substantial structure in a settlement might have been a church. Here, it was more like a community hall and administrative centre.

The visitors didn’t get to see much of what went on in the building. They were brought to a small room furnished simply with a long table that had a look of artificial marble.

“We must talk with the other Elders,” Mardok said. “But you shall be comfortable here. Victuals will be provided.”

“Does that mean they intend to feed us?” Jackie asked as the two Elders withdrew and they were left in the strangely claustrophobic room with no windows and only the one door.

“It does,” The Doctor replied.

“They seem a bit… stand offish,” Rose commented. “I don’t think they get visitors very often.”

“At least they’re trying to be civil,” Christopher conceded. “We should do our best to be friendly, give them no cause to distrust us.”

“We’re always friendly,” Jackie replied. “Diplomacy is just a posh word for being friendly. That’s what we’ve been doing all weekend, being diplomatic. Then his nibs said this looked like a nice planet to stop off on before we head home.”

“I said INTERESTING planet,” The Doctor argued. “Interesting, with all those moons and a post-industrial society that appeared to have abandoned technology. When have I ever described a planet as ‘nice’?”

Food and drink was brought by more people wearing the same hooded coveralls. It was unusual stuff, strangely coloured vegetables and surprising flavours, but palatable for all that.

It was a strictly vegetarian meal, but whether that was because the people themselves eschewed meat or because they didn’t want to offend their visitors nobody was sure.

They certainly seemed to care about animals. Around the walls of the room were paintings of a furred creature something like a bear. All of the images were of immature specimens playing in the wilderness or curled up in nests.

“They care so much about animals. But what about their kids?” Jackie was still not satisfied on that account. “That youngster lost in the forest, all cut up like he was, and they were all safe here behind their walls, even the mum. On the Powell Estate, if there was a kiddie missing, the whole lot of us would be out searching until he was found. That mother didn’t even look outside the gate.”

“It’s possible they aren't allowed out of the settlement without authority,” The Doctor suggested. “Elder Warfo did say that the wilds weren’t safe for women.”

“Elder Warfo is a patronising twit,” Rose said. “He’s obviously never heard about the female of the species being deadlier than the male.”

“Well, he never met your mother before,” The Doctor replied.

“You could do with laying off the sarcasm and paying attention,” Jackie told him. “Have you noticed that there don’t seem to be any kids around the place?”

“That’s true,” Rose added. “On the Powell Estate, even on a school day, there are children everywhere.”

“Perhaps they deal with truancy more effectively, here,” Christopher suggested. “The children may all be in lessons.”

“I don’t know. Jackie is right. It doesn’t feel right to me,” The Doctor conceded. “I think we should go with the female intuition on this occasion.”

“You’re still not forgiven for Trefoilis Jacquelinus,” Rose told him. “But you’re going the right way… for a lummox. What do you think? Shall we go snooping around?”

“Will they let us?” Jackie wondered. “The way Elder Whatsit and Elder Thingummy escorted us here, it seems like they don’t want us wandering around.”

“That makes me even more intrigued,” The Doctor pointed out. “But I fully intend to find out what’s happening around here. Jackie, I think you and Rose should do the house calls. Two mums who want to meet other mums. Nobody can object to that. Christopher and I will do our intergalactic ambassador thing and talk to the Elders… find out the official version of life here.”

Jackie and Rose agreed to that idea. They swallowed their cups of the drink that was something like lemon tea and left the table. There were no guards outside the room. The idea that the visitors might wander off after their ‘victuals’ did not seem to occur to them.

They stepped out together into the open air and looked around the village. Of course, they had no idea where the woman and her child lived, but they thought they might ask around.

It proved harder than they expected. Earlier, people had come to their doors and looked at the new arrivals, but now all the doors were shut. There was nobody to ask directions from.

“This is really weird,” Rose declared after they had wandered for some time without seeing a single resident on the streets. “Do you think they have some sort of curfew?”

“In the middle of the afternoon?” Jackie pointed out. “Never heard of such a thing. I think they’re just hiding from us. I call it downright unsociable.”

“So do I,” Rose agreed. “Shall we knock on some doors?”

“Let’s start with THAT one,” Jackie suggested. As they drew close to one of the Teflon houses they couldn’t miss the fact that two people were arguing loudly inside. They listened like only two people raised on a council estate could listen to somebody else’s business.

“I don’t care what the Elders say,” said a woman’s voice that was verging on hysterical and tinged with pent up anger. “He’s not ready and I’m not sending him out again tonight.”

“If we don’t, there will be penalties,” replied a male voice. “He must go with the other children. He is of age.”

“He’s NOT ready,” the woman again insisted. “You saw him when the strangers brought him home.”

“Strangers!” The man spat the word out viciously. “The strangers must not interfere. They should go before they do untold damage.”

“Fine by me,” Jackie decided, turning away from the house. “I know where I’m not wanted.”

Rose agreed, but it proved more difficult than they expected. Four men blocked their path, and this time they WERE guards. They had edged weapons that they pointed menacingly.

“Ok, we get the POINT,” Jackie said. Rose laughed at her pun despite feeling that things had taken a nasty turn. They walked, prompted by the guards, back to the community hall. They were back taken to the room where they had eaten, and the guards were disconcerted to discover that The Doctor and Christopher were no longer there.

“Nobody said we had to stay here,” Jackie pointed out. “I expect they’ve just gone for a bit of fresh air.”

“You will remain here, and if your men do not surrender themselves it will be the worst for you.”

“Try to remember we rescued one of your kids,” Jackie told the guards. “We weren’t asking for a parade, or medals, but a bit more gratitude would be appropriate.”

“It’s ok, mum,” Rose told her. “Let’s just sit and wait for our men to turn up, then we’ll head back to the TARDIS and leave this ungrateful lot to stew in their Teflon houses.”

She sat. Jackie did the same, but far more reluctantly. The guards left the room. This time the door was closed and locked.

“It’s ok,” Rose told her mother. “This is just like the old days. We were always getting locked up by some alien or other. Either it was me rescuing him or him rescuing me. Or sometimes we were both locked up and we had to work it out together.”

“Well, you know how I feel about that sort of thing,” Jackie pointed out. “And now he has me and Christopher up to our eyes in trouble, too.”

“The only question is whether we sit here and wait for them to rescue us, or do something about it ourselves,” Rose answered. She looked up and around the ceiling. There were no obvious ventilation grilles or access hatches. She went to the door and examined it carefully.

“Nothing doing, there. The lock must be electronic. Besides, There’s no gap to pull the key through on a piece of paper.”

“Does they really work?” Jackie asked.

“It did once. But it’s no use this time. If HE was here, he’d do something clever with his sonic screwdriver and it’d be open.”

“He’s NOT here. And just how long do we wait for him?”

“I don’t know. Let’s give it half an hour. There’s still some of that tea stuff left. Fancy a cuppa?”

“It’s not exactly PG Tips, but go on, then.”

The Doctor and Christopher found the hall of the Elders easily enough. They stepped out onto a balcony overlooking the chamber and were about to make their presence known when they became aware that they were the subject of the heated debate. They quietly concealed themselves behind the balustrade and listened.

“You were foolish to allow the strangers into the settlement,” said one of the Elders accusingly to Mardok and Warfo.

“We owed them hospitality,” Mardok argued.

“You should have sent them away.”

“They have seen nothing. They know nothing,” Elder Warfo added. “They will leave of their own volition soon and nothing more will come of it.”

“They should be cast out into the wilderness,” insisted the other Elder. “Before they are allowed to see anything that would bring the scientists back to our world. Do you wish our children to be taken as they were in times past? Would you have the mothers weeping as before?”

“Would you have us behave so uncivilly towards those who come only in kindness? They found one of our young in distress.”

“And by doing so their curiosity was whetted. They came here not out of kindness, but to find out why our children go into the wilderness.”

“You are too cautious, Gerdon,” Mardok retorted. “They are not dangerous. They are not the scientists we fear.”

“We cannot take the chance,” Gerdon insisted. He paused as a guard noisily entered the chamber and reported that the women had been found asking questions in the street while the men were nowhere to be found.

“You FOOL, Mardok,” Gerdon exploded angrily. “They must be found. Where are the women, now?” He was mollified by the fact that Rose and Jackie were locked in a windowless room, but what he said next was horrifying.

“If the men are not found within the hour, the women will be put to death as an example of how we deal with deceitful strangers. The men will be killed on sight. Let it be known.”

The Doctor felt Christopher’s panicked response as a telepathic pain in his frontal lobe.

“Calm down,” he replied. “That’s not going to happen. We’re going to get the women and then we’re getting out of here.”

“If they let us,” Christopher pointed out. “We seem to have overstayed our welcome.”

“They’ll let us.” The Doctor moved surprisingly quietly for a man of his physical size. Christopher carefully emulated him even though covert operations were hardly his forte. They followed a corridor that intersected with the main entrance to the chamber and surprised a pair of guards who were not expecting the fugitives to be right outside the seat of their authority.

Christopher wasn’t accustomed to physical violence, either, but he followed his father’s lead again as they rendered the two guards unconscious and dragged them into an ante-room. A few minutes later they were wearing the white coverall clothes that made the locals so difficult to tell apart.

“How about you pretend to be ill and I’ll shout for the guard?” Rose suggested after their men failed to turn up to rescue them in the designated half an hour.

“I’m pretty sure that DOESN’T work,” Jackie observed. “Except in really bad cowboy films.”

“Worth a try, though. Go on, groan loudly. Try singing.”

“Less of that from you. It’s bad enough from him,” Jackie responded, but she conceded that it was better than doing nothing. Her impression of somebody with acute abdominal organ failure was surprisingly convincing. Rose hammered on the door and called for help.

They were both surprised when the door actually opened - so surprised that Rose nearly forgot to bash the guard that stepped inside.

That was just as well since it was Christopher, quickly followed by The Doctor who was encumbered by two more unconscious guards who he started stripping of their coveralls.

“Here, quickly get into these outfits. They’re made of a sort of unpatented Spandex. They’ll fit all shapes and all sizes, including yours, Jackie.”

“We’re going to get out of this place dressed as locals?” Rose asked as she pulled on the coveralls over her own clothes. The fabric obviously absorbed sweat since there was nothing but a faint talcum powder smell from it, but she still didn’t fancy wearing somebody else’s clothes next to her skin. Jackie felt the same. As The Doctor promised, the fabric moulded to their shapes and they looked like female members of this strangely suspicious society.

“I’m all for leaving, but I still want to know if that kid is all right,” Jackie insisted. “What about doing some poking about, first?”

“Me, too,” Rose agreed. “Just walking out through the gate is too easy.”

“We should get out of here while we can,” Christopher told them. “As soon as they find out that you two are gone our element of surprise is blown.”

“I agree with Jackie,” The Doctor contradicted him. “I agree with you, too, mind you. We DO need to get out of here. But I want to know what they’re so paranoid about. What’s all that stuff about scientists taking their kids?”

“Taking what kids?” Jackie demanded.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor answered. “It’s obviously something that happened in the past and they are so scared of it happening again, they’re prepared to kill us to stop us telling these scientists where to find them.”

“Charming people,” Jackie commented.

“Actually, I think they ARE,” Christopher told her. “I really don’t think murder comes natural to them. Fear is making them act against their nature.”

“All the more reason to find out what’s going on,” The Doctor insisted. “Let’s do some snooping while we can.”

He locked the door behind them as they left the dining room-cum-detention centre. Just to give them a bit more time before discovery he deadlock sealed it. The two guards would have a miserable time, especially since Rose and Jackie had finished all the tea, but that couldn’t be helped.

Dressed as they were, nobody questioned them as they left the community hall and made their way through the equally anonymous streets. The only surprising thing was that Rose and Jackie could find the house they had visited before. The Doctor knocked in an authoritative manner – something only a Time Lord who had spent nine lifetimes butting in on other people’s lives could achieve.

When the door was opened by the mother of the child they had found in what was starting to feel like another life, The Doctor put his foot against the jamb and held it open until all four of them were inside.

“Nobody means you any harm,” he said to the very worried mother as she clung to her child protectively. “But if we don’t get some answers to our questions it might be on the agenda later. Where is your husband?”

“He’s gone to fetch the Physician,” she answered. “If the Physician does not declare Kole unready he must go with the others to the wilderness tonight.”

“You mean you chuck your kids out into the forest every night… while the grown-ups hide behind walls and gates?” Rose asked. “Why?”

“A very good question,” The Doctor confirmed. “And I suspect that it has something to do with why the Elders of this community want us dead, so I would really appreciate knowing the truth before people with pointy weapons come after me.”

Kole’s mother sighed and explained. Even The Doctor, who thought he had seen and heard most things, was surprised by her story. Christopher was astounded. Rose and Jackie were just dumbfounded.

“That explains everything, including why your Elders think they have to take such desperate measures against strangers,” The Doctor conceded. “All right, we’re going now. We won’t be back, and if I have anything to do with it, neither will anyone else who doesn’t belong on this planet. You can tell your Elders that, if you wish. It might help with their paranoia.”

With that, he turned and led his family of time and space travellers out of the troubled little house. They were a short way down the street when Kole’s father and the Physician returned. The Doctor was curious to know what the diagnosis might be, but he knew he couldn’t wait to find out. He brought everyone towards the main gate separating the village from the wilderness.

As they arrived, they couldn’t help noticing a bit of a palaver. The guards were crowding around a blue box that contributed an unusual splash of colour to the all-white community.

“They’ve captured the TARDIS,” Rose whispered.

“No,” The Doctor replied with a grin. “They’ve BROUGHT the TARDIS to us… saved us a walk.”

With his usual ‘bold as brass’ attitude he parted the crowd and went right up to the door, reaching for his key. By the time anyone realised what was happening, the four travellers were inside and the door closed again. Moments later it dematerialised. The effect that had on the locals was predictable.

They didn’t go far in either time or space – only about half a mile and three hours. The TARDIS materialised again deep in the forest just after sundown. Divested of their white coveralls, Rose, Jackie, Christopher and The Doctor stepped out, each wearing perception filters so that they could observe without anyone knowing that they were there.

It wasn’t long before a group of boys and girls, all of them at least ten but no older than sixteen, entered the forest. Already, a remarkable transformation was coming over them. They shrugged off their coveralls as thick fur covered their bodies, their arms lengthened and changed to forelimbs and their faces took on the appearance of the bear-like creatures they had seen in the photographs within the community hall.

“This happens to them every night from around early puberty?” Christopher questioned. He had heard the woman explain about this unusual aspect of their lives, but until he saw it for himself he wasn’t quite ready to believe it. “Amazing.”

“They’re so CUTE,” Jackie enthused. “I just want to cuddle one of the little ones.”

“Don’t even think about it,” The Doctor ordered her. “In this form, they’re just the same as any wild animal. Handling them is dangerous to you and to them. We’re here to look, not touch.”

“How does it happen?” Rose asked. “I mean, it’s not something that usually happens to people.”

“They’ve got an element of mutability in their DNA,” The Doctor answered. “Maybe less than one percent, far less than any major shape-shifting species, but enough to give their young an incredible experience for five or six years of their growing up. It’s unique, and amazing, and apparently several generations ago a scientific survey found out about it and took the children to experiment on.”

“I’m trying not to imagine what sort of experiments,” Christopher said. Rose and Jackie agreed. They had both signed high street petitions against animal testing plenty of times. The thought of that happening to these amazing children was utterly repugnant.

The Doctor was about to add that it was time for them to leave when Rose grabbed his arm in excitement.

“Look, that’s Kole!” she whispered loudly.

“Yes,” Jackie confirmed. The child was among the last to arrive and the last to complete his transformation. “He’s ok. He’s done it this time. Last night he must have had trouble.”

“He’s a late developer,” Christopher noted.

“So were you,” The Doctor told him. “You were twelve before I could take the stabilisers off your bike.”

“I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison,” Christopher complained. “I was the only Gallifreyan child WITH a bicycle.”

“I can’t tell which one he is, now,” Jackie commented. “Kole… he’s just like the others. And that’s fine. Being the same is the best thing for any kid. Standing out from the crowd is trouble whether you’ve got fur in your DNA or your dad makes you ride a bike when nobody else does.”

“Absolutely true,” The Doctor agreed. “Now, come on. It’s time we were gone. I’m going to see the Shaddow Proclamation about declaring this a protected planet. That should stop anyone even THINKING of messing with these kids ever again. In a couple of generations they might forget to be so suspicious and paranoid and be really nice people. Except nobody will know because the planet will be protected.”