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

Dodo ran into the console, dressed in a shirt and trouser combination that made her look surprisingly boyish.

Not that either the Doctor or Steven were paying any attention to her choice of attire. They were both holding tight to the console as the TARDIS bucked and rolled wildly. Dodo fought her way to the nearest console section and gripped tightly.

“What’s wrong with the TARDIS?” she asked. “Why is it so unsteady? Are we still in space?”

“No,” Steven answered her. “At least the Doc here says we've materialised, but it doesn’t feel like it.”

“We have materialised,” the Doctor insisted. “The time rotor is at rest. “

“It feels like we’re at sea!” Dodo commented.

“Good gracious, yes!” the Doctor exclaimed, reaching for the switch that turned on the exterior screen. “Of course, that explains it. We’ve landed in water.”

“But....” Dodo's eyes widened in terror. She looked at the TARDIS doors as if expecting water to pour in under them.

Or worse, for them to burst open and a torrent of dark, cold water to rush in, sweeping them all to a terrible death. It didn’t help to see gloomy, dark views of a storm-tossed sea on the screen with waves actually going right over the TARDIS, enveloping the ship in a green curtain.

“The TARDIS is airtight in the vacuum of space,” Steven pointed out. “It must be able to withstand water. Isn’t that right, Doc?”

“Yes, without a doubt,” the Doctor replied. “I’m worried how all this buffeting will affect the fluid links, though. They are a very fragile part of the ship's controls. And there's no excuse for calling me Doc, young man.”

“Can't we just take off again? “ Dodo suggested. “Surely we don’t have to be knocked about like driftwood? “

“I agree,” Steven added. “What about it, Doc...tor. Let’s get the heck out of here.”

He turned to where the Doctor had been standing only a few moments ago.


“Doctor!” Dodo screamed as she struggled around the console against a severe tilt to find the Doctor flat out on the floor with a huge purple bruise forming over his left eye and a nasty cut across his nose.

“He's out cold,” Steven confirmed. “But he's breathing all right. He must have fallen and hit his head. He didn’t make a sound. We didn’t even see him go down.”

“We were too busy hanging on for dear life and hoping we weren’t going to drown. Besides….”

Dodo screamed again as the TARDIS lurched. She, Steven, and the unconscious Doctor all slid along the now extremely steeply tilted floor and came to a halt against the door. Steven yelped as he put his own body in the way in order to stop the Doctor being injured further and was painfully jammed against the door.

“There's a right old storm going on,” he said. “Good job the old TARDIS is thoroughly waterproof.”

“No, look. We're being grappled.”

The screen was at a strange angle from where they were still awkwardly lying, but they could see what Dodo thought might be called a ‘jolly boat', the long wooden rowing boat used by sailors aboard old-fashioned sailing ships. Four rather scruffily dressed men with scarves around their heads to protect them from the spray were leaning dangerously out of the boat to attach iron hooks to the TARDIS. It didn’t have very many places where it could be hooked, but they managed it before pulling it alongside the jolly boat which they proceeded to row back towards a rather magnificent looking sailing ship.

Magnificent in a terrifying way. Dodo noted the gun ports all along the side. This was a ship of war.

“Queen Anne's Revenge,” Steven commented as the men, aided by others aboard, proceeded to attach even bigger hooks to the TARDIS before hauling it up out of the water. Dodo held the Doctor’s head clear of the wall and Steven held onto her during the frightening experience. If the grapples should fail, the crash back down into the water could be fatal for them all.

“What?” Dodo asked.

“Queen Anne's Revenge,” Steven repeated. “It was a famous sailing ship in the eighteenth century. Trouble is I’m not sure what it’s famous for.”

“As long as it wasn’t a famous shipwreck.”

“No, it’s not that.” Steven was sure of that much. “When they get us aboard, and upright, it'll be safe to get up. We can take care of the Doc and then I’ll read up on the information screen.”

“They can't get in here, can they?” Dodo worried. “They look a fierce lot. Why do you think they want the TARDIS?”

“They must have seen it in the water and thought it was valuable.”

“It IS valuable, but not in a way those men would understand.”

“No... I am sure it isn’t,” Steven agreed. As the TARDIS was hauled on deck and shoved against a bulkhead, he caught a glance of something even more worrying. He decided not to draw Dodo’s attention to it just yet.

“Let’s get the Doctor into bed,” he said now that the TARDIS was relatively steady. The slight swaying now had to be the movement of the sailing ship itself.

Steven carried the Doctor to the narrow but comfortable day bed where they had all rested from time to time on long trips. There was a blanket made of thin but very warm fabric that he drew over the still disturbingly quiet form.

“He IS still breathing just fine,” Steven confirmed. “But he's so still and pale. I don’t know what we ought to do.”

“There’s a thing in the cupboard,” Dodo suggested. “The Doctor told me it was for medical diagnoses.”

She hurried away and returned with an odd-looking instrument like a portable radio with a long cord ending in a cup shape. Steven looked at it for a moment or two then applied the cup to the Doctor’s chest while pressing down a switch on the instrument.

After a while a screen lit up. He read the diagnosis in the very small text.

“It says... autonomous repair coma... Minimum completion two hours.”

“Which means.... “

“It means that the Doctor is in a sort of self-induced coma while his head repairs. It must be something his race can do.”

“That’s strange,” Dodo admitted. “But it means he's going to be OK. We just have to leave him to get on with it.”

“I think so. Two hours, though.... Two hours before the Doctor can get us away from here. Neither of us have the first idea how to operate the TARDIS.”

“But we have to just wait?”

“Not much else to do,” Steven confirmed in resigned tones.

“What’s that noise?” Dodo turned from the Doctor's side and stepped towards the view screen. The noise was coming from the crowd that was gathering outside – at least a dozen men all around the TARDIS.

At first the voices were difficult to make out. Slowly the TARDIS travellers started to hear various accents, something like Cornish or west country, Irish, Caribbean, all of them rough, uneducated, their language unsophisticated and decidedly coarse.

“I'm not sure you should be listening to this,” Steven told Dodo, but she laughed off his concern.

“They’re trying to read the sign on the front,” she said. “They’re not doing very well.”

One of the men had managed to sound out the word ‘police’, but neither he nor his comrades knew what ‘police’ meant.

“I suppose this is long before Robert Peel invented policemen,” Dodo noted. “Funny to think that they have never heard of something we take for granted.”

“It is probably just as well they don’t know what it means,” Steven replied. “I don’t think these men would be keen on the police.”

“Why not?” Dodo asked. To be sure, they were a rough looking lot, and their language really was unpleasant, but they were just sailors, weren’t they?

“Come here,” Steven said, moving to the TARDIS information console. He typed in ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge'. Only a few seconds later the information screen filled with text and pictures.

“That’s why the ship is famous,” he explained. “It belongs to the most notorious of all eighteenth-century pirates – Edward Teach or as he was popularly known, Blackbeard.”

“Ohhhh!” Dodo exclaimed. “So... we're on a pirate ship?”

“I saw the skull and crossbones when they were pushing the TARDIS around. That’s when I remembered why I knew the name.”

“It’s... kind of exciting,” Dodo enthused. “Real history... real historical people.”

“Dodo!” Steven was fiercely serious as he turned to her. “Dodo, don’t even think about going outside. What those men would do to a girl like you doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“I wasn’t planning on doing anything of the sort,” Dodo protested. “But I don’t know what gives you the right to tell me what I can and can’t do.”

“With the Doc out of action, I’m the only experienced space officer around here. Besides. he’d say the same if he could.”

“If he could say anything he could get us out of here,” Dodo answered sulkily. “Yes, all right. I won’t do anything.... Oh... look. Do you think that’s him?”

The rough crowd were parting to allow a much grander figure to approach the TARDIS. He was tall, broad-shouldered, dressed in black velvet and leather. His face was partially obscured by a huge black beard.

“Edward Teach - Blackbeard,” Steven confirmed. “And just because he looks more elegantly dressed than his men, don’t imagine he is any sort of gentleman. He is a vicious murderer.”

“I know,” Dodo assured him. “But... he is rather amazing.”

Teach was much better educated than his illiterate crew. He easily read the illuminated sign above the door ‘Police Public Call Box’, though he was as puzzled as the rest about the meaning of the phrase.

He looked at the other words, printed on the sign over the telephone cupboard.










Teach read each line slowly, his dark brows furrowing in confusion. Long before the invention of the telephone, the police force, or cars, the message was incomprehensible to him.

He at least understood ‘pull to open'. He yanked at the cupboard door. The telephone inside was a new puzzle to him. He somehow worked out that he should put the receiver to his ear, and it was possible that there was static noise of some sort, but nobody could have answered his ‘call'. After a minute or two he threw the receiver down in frustration.

But then he gave an instruction to his men that really worried Steven and Dodo.

“Open it up.”

Teach stepped back and watched as the men attacked the TARDIS door with cutlasses and knives and even hammers. The noise inside was terrifying, but it was soon clear that they were making no headway. What looked like wood could not be marked by their edged weapons.

Teach growled in anger and stepped forward again. He drew a pair of flintlock pistols and aimed them at the keyhole. Steven and Dodo both automatically stepped back, even though they were seeing it all on the screen, not actually at the door. Seeing guns pointed at them was unnerving, even so.

But even gunpowder couldn’t dent the TARDIS exterior. Nor could four pirates at once charging the door or their attempts to break the little windows.

And that frightened the pirates more than anything. There began to be mutterings about witchcraft and devilry.

“’Tis a thing from Davy Jones’s Locker,” one of them said. “’Tis a cursed thing. We should throw it back in the sea where it belongs.”

Several of the men signalled their agreement with cries of ‘aye' and the rather less cognisant ‘arggh’ which echoed the same tone. Some of the men moved as if to carry out the idea, but Teach sprang at them, replacing spent pistols in his hands with a pair of swords in an eyeblink.

“If it is from Jones, it is a blessing, not a curse, but it is more likely some sort of bounty lost by a merchant ship. We'll have it opened one way or another. But it'll keep for now. Lash it there and then get to your proper duties.”

Teach turned away. Two men drew close and began winding ropes around the TARDIS, fixing it to the thick, strong main mast. The others drew away, nervously looking back at the strange box with its mysterious incantations and a door they couldn’t open.

“Well, we’re safe enough for now,” Steven said. “If the men are scared of a curse they'll leave us be. Why don’t we get something to eat and drink and wait it out.”

“You do it,” Dodo said. “I want to sit by the Doctor, just in case he needs anything…. Just to keep him company, even. Perhaps, somehow, he'll know he's not alone.”

“Yes, all right,” Steven conceded. As Dodo sat by the Doctor's side he headed for the kitchen within the TARDIS’s many corridors that everyone preferred to the automatic food dispenser with its artificially flavoured food bars.

As soon as he was gone Dodo sprang up and reached for the door control. The door opened inwards so the ropes didn’t impair it. Dodo ducked under them and out onto the deck.

It was getting dark. There were plenty of shadowy places she could hide when patrols came by, but when she was sure she was safe to do so, she went to look out over the dark and tumultuous sea.

The sky was heavy with storm clouds and rain pelted down, adding an extra sting to the spray that overwhelmed the deck. Dodo resisted the instinct to gasp aloud as she got soaked in freezing water.

She almost cried out loud when she saw the other ship that the Queen Anne’s Revenge was drawing close to. She recognised a Spanish flag blowing in the wind but she couldn’t see its name.

The first salvo from those fearsome guns of the Queen Anne's Revenge made her scream in horror, but her voice was unheard in the terrible noise. She saw the cannonballs rip into the side of the Spanish ship, making flying pieces of matchwood of the poor hull.

As a second salvo boomed out death and destruction she backed away from the sight, hiding beneath a companionway with her head buried in her hands and her whole body curled up in a tight ball of horror.

She stayed there while the assault on the Spanish ship continued. She heard the terrible shouts of the pirates as they boarded their quarry with cutlasses and pistols ready to cut down any barrier to plunder. She tried not to hear the last cries of the dying men who put up such opposition.

It was a short fight, though it felt long enough to Dodo as she stayed hidden in the shadows. She knew it was all over when she heard the triumphant laughter of the pirates carrying back chests full of Spanish silver and saw the orange glow of the Spanish ship on fire, a burning hulk with only the dead or dying aboard. Soon it would sink, extinguishing the flames and, but for some charred driftwood, every sign that it had even been in these waters.

Dodo cried softly, in sympathy with the pirate Blackbeard’s latest victims, with hatred of the black hearted and bloodthirsty men who had carried out the attack, and mostly because she knew that Steven was right. She should never have left the TARDIS.

She slowly stood up and left her hiding place. She moved along the deck, towards the main mast.

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was black with soot and heavy as it gripped her tightly.

“What be your business on this ship, lad,” the pirate demanded. He pulled her round and, to her horror she realised that it was Blackbeard himself. “We gut stowaways and show them their own livers before they die.”

“I’m... not...not a lad,” Dodo stammered.

“So I see,” Blackbeard replied, pulling her closer and pressing his other hand around her face. “Well, there are worse things than gutting that I can do to a wench.”

“Not while I have breath,” said a welcome voice as Steven cracked Blackbeard over the head with the TARDIS’s emergency door opener that strongly resembled a crank handle for an old car.

It did the job. Blackbeard keeled over, knocked out by the blow. Steven held onto the heavy piece of metal in one hand while grasping Dodo in the other. He hurried her back to the TARDIS before anyone found the captain.

They were just in time. The alarm was raised and orders given to search for the stowaways who had attacked Edward Teach, Captain Blackbeard himself.

The pirates rushed about, searching high and low, every corner and possible hiding place.

Every place but the strange box. Either they were still scared of a curse or they didn’t think that two people could be hiding inside it. Either way the TARDIS was unmolested.

“I was an idiot,” Dodo admitted tearfully.

“Yes, you were,” Steven answered. “A complete idiot. But you’re safe, despite your idiocy. Go and get out of those wet clothes and tidy yourself up and we’ll both sit quietly with the Doctor, and when he wakes he needn’t know about it.”

“Ohhhh!” Steven’s kind tone made Dodo cry again as she ran to do as he said.

When she returned, dry and clean in fresh clothes, Steven had brought a pot of tea and a tray of sandwiches. Dodo ate and drank gratefully, sitting in a chair beside the Doctor's bed. A cup of tea was poured for him, but it went cold as he slept on.

Four more cups of tea went cold before the Doctor showed signs of waking up. Dodo poured a fresh one and put it down as he stirred and opened his eyes.

“Thank you, my dear,” he said as he sat up and took the cup and saucer. “Have I been a lot of trouble to you?”

“Not at all, Doctor,” Dodo answered. “We were a bit worried about you until the little machine said you were mending.”

“Oh, yes, very useful,” the Doctor said. “The TARDIS... we did land safely?”

“We landed,” Steven answered him. “Safely is another matter.”

He quickly explained about the Queen Anne's Revenge and Captain Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard.

“Goodness, what a difficult place to land. It is a good job neither of you left the safety of the TARDIS.”

Steven said nothing in answer to that. Dodo didn’t even dare look at the Doctor as he finished his tea and rose from the daybed ready to dematerialise the TARDIS.

“They’re outside again,” Dodo noticed, looking up at the screen. Four pirates were drawing close to the door, determined to overcome their fear of Davy Jones’s curses.

“I think they’re going to have quite a surprise in a minute,” the Doctor said with a chuckle. “What a pity we won’t be able to see their expressions.”

“A great pity,” Dodo answered with a little laugh of relief as the TARDIS dematerialised and left Blackbeard and his men far behind in time and space.