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

“Yes, this is the place,” Christopher said as his father flicked on the TARDIS viewscreen to show a space station hanging in orbit above the red planet of Mars. “Young Davie reminded me about it. He wondered if it could be put to some use – scientific research, possibly - instead of just sitting here in low power mode. I said I’d take a look.”

The Doctor studied the exterior view critically. The space station was small compared to the magnificent science laboratory Tau-Omega that once orbited Gallifrey, or the huge multi-level justice centre where some of the most notorious trials were presided over by the Inquisitors. This one was built by humans who had only begun to consider the idea of living in space in the last two hundred years. Even so, it was an aesthetically pleasing structure, built like a thick car tire with a gravity generator through its axis and the whole of the upper surface covered in solar panels to catch the light of the distant sun, providing power for life support and other needs.

Across the six deck high circumference were large letters in luminous gold on silver that reflected that far off sunlight.

“Project New Eden!” The Doctor noted with a wry smile. “Who do you suppose they expected to see that sign?”

Christopher laughed quietly. The Doctor adjusted the settings and the TARDIS moved again very briefly, materialising aboard the station itself. They stepped out onto an observation deck with a magnificent view of the red planet below.

“Eden… refers to Earth mythology of Creation,” Christopher mused. “The garden of plenty where humans began. According to archive records this New Eden was meant to be a place where humans could begin again. It was fully equipped and ready for occupation. A beautiful self-sufficient habitat with food grown in hydroponic chambers and all the facilities of a healthy environment where families could thrive away from an overpopulated Earth.”

“All forgotten about when the Daleks invaded and solved the overpopulation problem their own way,” The Doctor said dryly. “It’s been left, surplus to requirements, ever since. I must say, it looks in pretty good nick, all the same.”

“Good what?”

“It’s still nice and shiny,” The Doctor explained. “Hermetically sealed, no dust to gather, non-corrosive materials. It could have been built yesterday. Funnily enough its NOT in low power mode. All the lights are on, life support systems at full capacity. Either they just came on when we arrived or somebody forgot to switch things off when they abandoned the project. Good job they have all that solar power, otherwise the bill would be huge. Come on, let’s have a good scout around.”

Christopher wasn’t familiar with the phrase ‘scout around’, either, but he guessed it meant to explore the space station.

And that was exactly what they did. The observation platform ran around the edge of the top level of the station, but inside that outer ring were spaces for leisure activities - badminton, tennis and squash courts, a fully equipped gymnasium, a trampoline room. Christopher watched as his father jumped onto one of the trampolines and launched himself into the air, managing a quite respectable forward roll and landing on his feet.

“We’re not here to play,” Christopher chided him.

“I wasn’t playing,” The Doctor answered as he climbed back onto firm ground. “I was testing the gravity. Its slightly lower than Earth. Artificial gravity usually is, of course. All the ball games in those courts would be super-fast.”

There was a children’s play area with climbing nets, ball pools, swings, all of which would be so much more exciting in the lower gravity.

And a swimming pool. A full, fifty-metre Olympic standard swimming pool with a glass roof through which the stars could be viewed by anyone doing the back stroke.

“It’s got water in it,” Christopher remarked. He bent to test the liquid with his hand. “Warm, chlorinated water,” he added. “How is that possible?”

“It definitely wasn’t filled just for our arrival,” The Doctor answered. “This proves that some automatic functions have been running. The water for the pool will be on some kind of continuous filtration and recycle system.”

“Running for nearly seventy years?” Christopher queried.

“Everything was built to last,” The Doctor said. “Getting spare parts out here would always be tricky, so they made it so they wouldn’t need so many. Smart thinking humans, ready to live without depending on Mother Earth.”

They walked on, accessing a stairwell down to the next level. Despite The Doctor’s confidence in Earth workmanship, neither wanted to test the turbo lifts, yet.

Halfway down, Christopher turned and looked back up the steps.

“What’s up?”

“I thought… just for a moment… as if we weren’t alone. But that really is impossible.”

“Empty building syndrome,” The Doctor answered. “You start to hear your own footsteps echo and imagination goes wandering off in all sorts of directions.”

“There are no footsteps,” Christopher said.

“There is some sort of sound dampening going on,” The Doctor explained. “I think the materials making up the walls absorb sound. Stops the place getting too noisy.”


Christopher paused in his thoughts. The Doctor looked at him curiously. His son was a level-headed man who didn’t tend to have that sort of imagination.

“It’s silly, in the extreme,” he confessed. “But I was just remembering when I was a boy… when my nursemaid told me stories about the Cloister Wraiths.”

“Your…nursemaid?” The Doctor remembered well enough when Christopher was young enough to need a nursemaid, though he couldn’t recall her name or face. “She had no right to tell you stories of that sort. Your mother would have been horrified. Besides, scary bedtime stories were MY prerogative.”

The Doctor grinned at his own joke. Christopher smiled, too.

“She did it to make me go to sleep – the Cloister Wraiths come for bad boys who don’t go to sleep, she would say. I used to pretend to be asleep and listen for them coming up the back stairs. The only thing that ever did was the under-footman to see the nursemaid.”

“Sounds like I should have fired both of them,” The Doctor observed. “But you weren’t scared of the Wraiths?”

“No. Nor was I worried much later when we told each other stories about them in the dormitory at the Academy. And certainly not when I was a Councillor working in the tower above where the Cloisters were. But right now… in this place… I could start to believe in something very like it.”

The Doctor nodded in understanding, but again he was surprised that Christopher was spooked in that way.

The way he was feeling himself.

“You know,” he said, changing the subject deliberately. “Davie’s idea for scientific laboratories isn’t a bad one. The Tau-Omega base was a centre of excellence for Time Lord research, and if anyone could emulate it with the best Human minds our boy could. But living permanently on a space station like this was a terrible notion.”


“It’s just not a natural place to raise a family. Everything is artificial. There’s artificial day and night, no direct sunlight, ever, artificial gravity. People… especially humans with their tendency to overreact, don’t live well in enclosed environments like this. They tend to go a bit bonkers after a while. Even our own people knew that. There was a strict rota on Tau-Omega. Everyone had to spend a full lunar cycle back on Gallifrey every eight weeks. I remember a very clever scientist called Egos Ronas who refused to take a break because he was working on something critical. Eventually he decided he was the king of Tau-Omega. He took everyone else hostage and blocked any relief shuttles. The Celestial Intervention Agency had to pump anti-psychotic drugs onto the station before teleporting him into a padded cell for treatment.”

“Better keep an eye on Davie if he sets up here and loses track of time,” Christopher considered. “He can be very intense about his work.”

“Brenda will keep a brake on him,” The Doctor said with certainty.

They reached the hydroponics chamber taking up the whole of the next deck down. Food self-sufficiency had been the primary concern for the New Eden developers. Every possible kind of fruits and vegetables were being grown, here. Even one unexpected foodstuff in a carefully darkened and temperature-controlled section.

“This is the Amazonian fungus my old friend Professor Clifford Jones found in 1978,” The Doctor said with a proud smile. “High protein and capable of being processed into a very realistic meat substitute. He never did manage to feed the world with it, but here it is, in space, to feed the New Edeners.”

“I don’t think Edeners can possibly be a word,” Christopher thought out loud. “But… father… you’re missing something. These fungi… and the plants in the other section…. They’re being cultivated, pruned and fertilised, prevented from growing wild…. Harvested. But this place was abandoned before the project was started. They shouldn’t even be here.”

The Doctor was puzzled. Then he caught a movement in the corner of his eye. He turned and pointed to an odd looking figure moving along the rows. It looked like a cross between a scarecrow, a wheelbarrow and a lawnmower. A metal limb with surprisingly dexterous artificial fingers was plucking mature fungi and placing it into the ‘barrow’ part of it that was supported by a small wheel at the front.

“Robotic gardeners, pre-programmed for the tasks. Something must have set them off doing what they were meant to do. And there’s nobody here to tell them to stop doing it. They also explain why we felt we weren’t alone. There are probably service bots on every level, cleaning, performing low level maintenance. Robotics was becoming an advanced science on Earth before the Daleks came. Afterwards, not only were the scientists dead or missing, but people had seen enough of mechanical things with the Daleks. They never really picked up on it again.”

“That’s all every well,” Christopher pointed out. “But… where does the food they harvest go? If they’ve been stockpiling perishables for over seventy years we should be knee deep in rotting vegetation.”

“Good point. There are some things that don’t make sense around here. Let’s try to find out the secret.”

“You would never say ‘this is none of our business, let’s go back to the TARDIS’, would you?” Christopher remarked.

“Never,” The Doctor replied. “I’m a professional nosy parker and I can’t resist a mystery. Remember those stories you heard in the Academy dorm. Did you hear the one about the student who got into the Cloister and came out again unscathed?”

“Yes…” Christopher began. Then he stared at his father in astonishment and possibly some disbelief. “You? No. I don’t believe it.”

“Cloister Wraiths aren’t so scary if you’re polite to them,” The Doctor said. “They are the psychic echo of old Time Lords who left their consciousnesses in the Matrix on the point of death. Show them due deference and they can be kind.”

Christopher wasn’t sure whether to believe his father or not. What convinced him it might be true was that this was the first time he had heard the story. His father wouldn’t have told him something like that before he went to the Academy, where peer pressure might have convinced him to do something equally foolhardy.

He wasn’t sure that knowing you only had to be polite to the Cloister Wraiths helped in this situation, either. The feeling that they were not alone on the New Eden space station was still with him. Nor was he convinced it was service robots zipping about doing their work. Service robots were the very basic form of artificial intelligence with simple programming. They were soulless mechanisms.

What he was feeling, on the very edge of his mind, was something more than that.

It was even more intense when they descended to the next level of the Eden Station. This was the living area, a small town in space with large, bright rooms set aside for a school, a chapel, a hospital, these communal places set around a wide plaza for socialising as well as private apartments for the families who would be living here on the station.

As they crossed the plaza Christopher was even more certain than ever that there were other souls aboard this space station. He knew it wasn’t his imagination. He was not a person who readily gave in to fanciful notions. He was an educated, rational man, a politician. He didn’t believe in ghosts.

Then he knew for certain that his imagination wasn’t at fault. His father suddenly darted away and caught something that wriggled and squealed as he walked back.

It was a child, maybe five or six years of age, dressed in an all in one bodysuit of machine woven artificial fabric. It might have been a boy or a girl. There was no obvious way of knowing.

“Hush,” The Doctor said to the child. “Don’t cry. There’s nothing to be scared of. Where are your parents?”

“Hiding,” the child answered.

“Hiding, where?” Christopher asked. “And… why?”

The child pointed vaguely towards one of the communal places around the plaza. It appeared to be a restaurant or refectory where the Eden residents might eat together when they didn’t make food in their private living quarters – the equivalent of a restaurant in this place where nobody was going to need money.

They headed there. Unlike a lot of the other doors, this one was unlocked. The two glass and chrome sections slid open to allow the two men to enter side by side, The Doctor still carrying the child. Inside, most of the fifty or more tables were unoccupied, but half a dozen in the middle had table cloths and ornamental lanterns with artificial candles glowing inside. Half eaten meals and half drunk bottles of wine were on each table. A high chair had a plastic sippy cup on it.

“There are people living here,” Christopher concluded, though by now it was patently obvious. The clues had been there from the start, perhaps. The swimming pool, the cultivated plants, the whole sense that other souls were aboard the station. This, though, was absolute proof that somebody had been here only a few minutes ago.

“It’s all right,” he called out in a calm, friendly voice. “We mean you no harm. Your child is safe. Come out, won’t you?”

They weren’t hidden very well. Even a half hearted game of hide and seek would have flushed them out from under tables, behind the serving counters and in the kitchen where the food was prepared from the hydroponics bounty. Slowly they emerged and took their seats in the refectory.

There were a lot of children. Christopher counted at least thirty from toddlers up to teenage. Then there were five couples in their late twenties or early thirties who had to be the parents of the children. Three women and a man were in late middle age, presumably the grandparents of the youngest generation and two men in their seventies.

And there was one woman in extreme old age, perhaps approaching her centenary. Frail as she was, she had, remarkably, taken part in the hide and seek, her wheelchair being placed behind the fridge freezer in the kitchen. She was near blind, peering myopically through spectacles at the new arrivals.

Five generations, going back seventy years, assuming the old lady was in her late twenties when the Earth authorities forgot about the New Eden Station in the total breakdown of society that the Dalek invasion had wrought.

“You were here when the Dalek war began?” The Doctor asked the old lady.

“Mother Edith was one of fifteen technicians finishing the project,” said one of the elderly men. “When communications with Earth were cut off they waited.”

“The Daleks didn’t come here?” Christopher queried. He had heard first hand from David, his son-in-law, and from others of the surviving generation, about how the ships had come through the solar system to overwhelm what little defences Earth had. Surely, they would have detected the semi-operations station.

“They came,” Edith said in a cracked voice. “We lost three of our number before we struck back. After that we weren’t attacked again. Not by Daleks, anyway.”

“The twelve who were left knew that this was the start of New Eden, after all. There were meant to be more, but with Earth destroyed they began again, mating… bearing children. We, in our turn, bore our children, and down to the next generation. Some have been lost, but the children thrive. Humanity continues.”

“But humanity has continued on Earth,” The Doctor told them. “Even if you had no contact, you must have heard radio transmissions. You surely knew that there was life on the planet, still.”

The New Edeners looked at each other and answered vaguely, but implying that they had not heard anything. Christopher had the impression that they were not quite telling the truth. Perhaps after so many years they were satisfied with their life and didn’t want contact with anyone else.

“We can take you to Earth,” The Doctor said. “You can see how the world has recovered from adversity. All of you can come with us. Or… if you are happy here…. There are plans for others to come here. You can be here to greet them, and work with them. You seem to have everything ready, in any case.”

“We should be glad to receive visitors,” said one of the younger people. There was a tone in her voice, though, that didn’t sound welcoming, and at the same moment there was an odd shift in the way everyone was sitting. Even the youngsters seemed to stiffen, warily. “It has been a long time since we had meat.”

The Doctor turned quickly and struck the man who had crept behind him. Christopher was only a moment slower as they tried to break through the crowd that had slowly surrounded them. They both had quick reflexes and could fight bare-handed if they had to, but they were outnumbered and it wasn’t long before they were overwhelmed. As they both went down, clubbed over the head with ornamental lanterns from the tables, they heard one of the older men telling the younger ones to take them to the larder.

Christopher woke an indeterminate time later with a pain in his head and the sound of his father’s sonic screwdriver close to his ear.

“Keep still a moment longer,” he heard his father say. “Either my skull is thicker than yours or they got you harder. You’ve got an oedema that isn’t mending like it should. Give the tissue repair mode a little more time.”

“They didn’t want to eat us right away?” he asked as the healing mode of the sonic acted like a balm to his bruised brain and his vision cleared. They were in a stark, nearly empty room with only minimal light glinting off what he quickly realised were meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. It was very cold. He was lying with his head on his father’s leather jacket folded into a pillow to protect him.

“They weren’t hungry yet. Or perhaps fresh meat calls for special preparations. This room is some sort of cold store. We’d be frozen stiff if we were Human. As it is, our bodies can adjust, in the short term, anyway.”

“You’re so calm. Does that mean you have a plan of escape?”

“Yes. I’ve already taken a quick look. There’s a maintenance shaft that will get us back to the top level, where we left the TARDIS. It’s a rough climb, and there’s a really nasty storeroom we have to go through, first.”

“Nasty… how?” Christopher asked. He stood up, shakily, grasping his father’s shoulder for support, but with no pain, now. He gave him his leather jacket back.

“Don’t ask,” The Doctor said. He led the way to the back of the cold store to an access panel he had already opened with the sonic. It led into a room that was still cold, but only because there was no heating in it, not because it was deliberately refrigerated.

There was no light at all in here except the sonic screwdriver in penlight mode. Christopher gasped in horror at what its blue-white beam revealed.

First, a dozen or more broken Dalek casings.

Dead Daleks!


The Doctor shook his head and turned the light on random piles of clothing and weapons dumped in this strange repository.

“Is that…”

“Sontaran space armour,” The Doctor answered in a curiously terse voice.

“They… ATE the creatures inside Dalek casings… and a Sontaran….”

“And over there are the chain mail suits worn by Dominator clone soldiers in their invasion attempt.”

Christopher couldn’t even begin to process what the New Edeners had done to the Dominator army. His mind was fixed in morbid fascination on what a Sontaran could possibly taste like. He had by-passed the idea of Dalek organics as a foodstuff. It was just too ghastly to contemplate.

“Here’s the access shaft,” The Doctor said. Christopher looked through the narrow panel at what could have been the inside of a steel chimney. The narrow ladder went up a very long way. It was a daunting prospect, but preferable to staying amongst the horrors he had witnessed. He reached for the rungs and began to climb. His father followed behind him. They both moved as quickly as they could, but it was still going to take a long time.

“It looks like you were right,” he said as he climbed, carefully, aware of the fatality of missing a step.

“About?” The Doctor asked.

“Living in places like this sends people mad’.”

“I’d have been happy to be proved wrong.”

“What are we going to do about them?” Christopher asked. “We can’t leave them here preying on unwary travellers. Not even Daleks.”

“I’m thinking about that.”

“You… don’t have a plan this time?” Christopher was surprised, not disappointed by such an answer. It always seemed to him, for as long as he could remember, that his father made up plans instantly. Thinking about it was uncharacteristic.

“I’ll have one by the time we reach the TARDIS.”

That was another twenty minutes’ hard climb and then a wary trek through the leisure facilities on the top deck.

“They know we’ve escaped,” Christopher said as they passed along the edge of the swimming pool and were unnerved by an echoing laugh and the sound of scampering feet. “I think they’ve sent the children to round us up. Like a pack of wolves.”

It certainly felt that way as they passed through the children’s playground and saw the shadowy figures flitting around, hiding as they were clearly so good at doing.

“You know, I think they might have been here all along,” The Doctor admitted. “Keeping us under observation. I also think that child let me catch her more easily than expected. I have more trouble with my own at bathtime.”

“Next time I have that sort of gut feeling, we should take notice of it,” Christopher added. “But earlier they were just watching. This time… they mean business.”

It not only felt, but looked like it as they reached the badminton courts where there was nothing to hide behind. The children ringed them, keeping their distance, but never taking their eyes off the two men. They knew they couldn’t run. These youngsters would be faster. They didn’t dare stop. That would be fatal.

The most worrying moment came when they reached the observation gallery. The TARDIS was in sight, but four children were in front of it. Others slipped around from behind to join them in blocking the way to safety.

“Move aside,” The Doctor said, raising his hand. He held the sonic as if it was a weapon. It was still in penlight mode, dazzling the eyes of the children it was pointed at. Perfectly harmless. Even so, Christopher felt uneasy about his father even pretending to threaten children in that way.

At least until one of them darted forward and bit him on the arm. He yelled out loud and pushed the child away. He landed hard, and, as a father, Christopher felt guilty about his violent reaction, but the bite was deep, drawing blood, and the way the child bared his teeth and hissed at him dispelled any sympathy he might have had.

“Quick!” The Doctor shouted. “Don’t be gentle. Just push them aside. Get to the TARDIS unless you want to be their mid-afternoon snack.”

He, himself, simply ploughed through the children, roughly shoving them out of his way. Christopher followed, doing the same, but reluctantly, hoping he didn’t hurt any of them.

But they reached the TARDIS door. The Doctor got it open. They propelled themselves forward and shut the door behind them. There was a moment to pause for breath and celebrate the fact that they were alive. Christopher looked at the fading bite marks as his cells regenerated. He was unharmed, but it had been a close thing.

“Do you have a plan?” he asked as he got his breath back.

“Yes, but I have to make sure there’s nobody in that pool room, first. I don’t want any drowned kids.”

That didn’t seem to be a problem. Most of the children were gathered outside the TARDIS where they obviously thought they had their victims cornered. The adults were still down in the living quarters.

The Doctor adjusted several settings on the environmental console. Christopher watched in astonishment as the children succumbed to something completely invisible in the air around them.

“They’re all right,” The Doctor assured him. “I just put them to sleep with a harmless anaesthetic in the air. It’s kinder than what happened to Egos Rona. Come on. Let’s collect them up. The adults will keep, for now, but we’ll take care of these kids.”

Christopher still wasn’t sure what the plan was, but he helped his father carry the children into the TARDIS. They took them to the room The Doctor used as a martial arts dojo and laid them on the soft practice mats.

“Before we get back to Earth, you need to pull some political strings,” The Doctor said. “We need somewhere to put the Edeners... all of them. A secure hospital ward would be the best idea to begin with, but later, something better… some kind of building – an old house with gardens for preference, something pleasant and reassuring, but secure, with mental health doctors and nurses, beds, equipment. Everything they need.”

“You want me to arrange all that in the time it takes us to get back to Earth?” Christopher was astonished. “Tall order. Wouldn’t it be easier to bring the experts to the station?”

“They might just end up as lunch. The children are practically feral and they have the run of the place. Nobody would be safe. Besides, I think they have to be taken away from here. It’s what made them the way they are. The Edeners need to breathe fresh air on Earth. They have to be contained until they stop craving flesh, but they should also be able to look up at a sky, as well.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Christopher promised.

A hospital ward wasn’t difficult. By the time the young Edeners woke up they were in beds attended by professional staff. Later, the older members of their community joined them. Their confusion about going to sleep on the station and waking on Earth, a place that only Grandmother Edith had ever seen before, was almost as much of a shock as learning that they were prisoners of the Mental Health system, but it was a situation they had no choice but to accept.

Within a month a premises had been found, an old Victorian house in the Kent countryside that was up for sale with most of the furnishings included. Some renovations were needed. The original brick wall was secured further. Electronic gates were fitted. The rooms all had security cameras installed. But in a very short time the Edeners had a home on Earth and people to look after them. They could walk in the gardens and look up at the sky as The Doctor hoped they would. At first it scared them, but slowly they started to appreciate it.

All except Edith, the matriarch of the group. She had died quietly of old age before they reached the house. She was buried with all solemnity. The Doctor and Christopher joined the mourners, feeling a duty to do so.

Afterwards they had tea at Brooklands with Davie and talked about his ideas for the space station. He admitted that finding cannibals living aboard was unnerving but was confident nothing like that would happen to the people he intended to install there.

“Just remember Egos Rona,” The Doctor warned. “Even the smartest people can come unglued.”

“I’ll remember him,” Davie promised. “Just as soon as you tell me who he is.”