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

“Grandfather, are you sure you don’t want to rest?” Susan asked anxiously. “We’ve been walking for an hour. Is your back hurting?”

“Susan, my dear,” The Doctor responded. “There’s no need to worry about me. I could go on for another hour, yet. More, even. I feel fine.”

And he looked it. Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, walking a few paces behind the old man and the young girl exchanged glances. How many times had The Doctor used the ailments of his advanced age, aching bones, tired legs, wheezing chest or just general exhaustion as an excuse not to explore some new planet they had arrived on? And he often did look ill. They sometimes wondered what would happen to them all if the pilot of that strange craft called the TARDIS just keeled over and died on them. What hope would they have of returning to Earth, then?

When they had such thoughts they immediately dismissed them as selfish and inconsiderate. If The Doctor were to die, they would mourn him deeply as a friend they had come to trust implicitly. Susan would be inconsolable. As far as they knew, The Doctor was her only relative. Neither had ever spoken of anyone else. Indeed, they had never even spoken of their home world except that it was far away and they were exiles who could not return. Just what that meant was the stuff of private speculation. Was the Doctor a political dissident, a defector from a harsh regime? Or had something happened since they left to prevent their return – a military coup or some kind of natural disaster. Neither talked about it, and Ian and Barbara felt incapable of asking the questions.

If something happened to The Doctor, then Susan would be their responsibility. The three of them would have to find a way to get back to Earth and resume some kind of normal life.

But right now, he looked far from dying. He looked positively glowing with health. He still carried his walking stick, but he wasn’t leaning on it heavily. He was swinging it along as he walked at a healthy pace.

“You know,” Ian ventured. “I actually think it’s this planet. It FEELS invigorating. I had a bit of a twinge in my shoulder earlier, a legacy of my death match with Ixta. But it’s fine now.” To prove it, he flexed his shoulder and moved it around in a wide circle. “Better than fine, in fact. And I’ve hardly noticed that I’m the one carrying our supplies for the day in this backpack.”

“Mmmm,” Barbara agreed. “I must say, I had a headache since I woke up this morning, but that’s all gone now. Could there be something in the air that really is good for us, all?”

“Being away from the London smog has to be doing some good,” Ian pointed out. “But we’ve been to plenty of places with clean air. The Aztec village, up in the mountains, was healthy enough from that point of view. Not so healthy for our minds and bodies.”

“That’s another thing,” Barbara pointed out. “That trip affected us all emotionally. You know how I felt about allowing those sacrifices to take place. The futility of it all, and the frustration, knowing I could do nothing about it. And you… You’re a science teacher, Ian. Killing Ixta… that wasn’t easy for you. And it affected them, too. Susan was very upset about it all. As for The Doctor, he’s pretended to be indifferent, but I think he was fonder of Cameca than he let on. He’s….”

“The Doctor, lovelorn?” Ian laughed softly. “No, you’re right. He WAS upset about having to leave her. He’s been downright grumpy and short-tempered with us all, since. He even shouted at Susan yesterday.”

“But look at them both, now.”

Not only did The Doctor have a spring in his step, but his mood was much brighter. He actually had his arm around Susan’s shoulders as they walked, and the two of them were talking enthusiastically. ‘;

“What do you think, Doctor?” Ian asked as he and Barbara caught up with him. “IS it possible that something about this planet is actually improving our health?”

“It’s very possible, indeed, Chesterton” The Doctor replied. And it didn’t escape Ian’s notice that The Doctor had got his name right first time. “I’d have to conduct some proper scientific tests to establish exactly what it is. But I most certainly do think there are properties in the air that are conducive to our physical health. It might even be in the planet itself. Some kind of positive ion field radiating from the planetary core or some such thing. I hope this civilisation the TARDIS detected is an advanced one. I should very much like to talk to their scientists.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” Susan said. “A perfectly lovely planet like this AND advanced civilisation. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”

“It would be everything I hoped to find when we left our home,” The Doctor agreed. He smiled and squeezed his granddaughter’s shoulders lovingly. Susan sighed happily. Barbara and Ian looked puzzled. There was something in the way both of them spoke that they didn’t quite understand, but which, for reasons they couldn’t express, filled them with apprehension rather than joy.

“Oh... what’s that noise?” Susan asked. Again, Barbara and Ian were puzzled. They could hear nothing but the sounds they had heard since they stepped out of the TARDIS two hours ago – bird song and the faint whisper of a breeze that cooled the air as they walked under a flawless azure sky with two small yellow suns shining down from it.

“What noise?” Ian asked. But by the time the words were out he could hear it, too. It was a hum like electricity in overhead wires, but it was coming closer to them. Then The Doctor shouted and pointed. There was a small craft in the sky. It was the same blue as the sky and almost camouflaged at first, but as it drew closer, the disc shape was distinct enough. It had markings around the rim that might have been a language or symbols or merely decorative. As it dropped lower they could see that it was about the size of a large car or small van and had a pilot or driver sitting on a seat near the edge. There was no canopy or roof of any sort. It was the flying saucer equivalent of an open topped bus.

It hovered over them for a few seconds and then dropped low. Susan grasped her grandfather’s hand nervously. Ian and Barbara clutched hands, too. Although the pilot looked like a Human male in his late teens, and waved cheerfully as he brought his craft to land in front of them, they had enough experience of hostile planets to be wary.

“Good day, travellers,” said the young man. “I am Simia. Your coming was seen by our elders and I was sent to greet you and bid you welcome to our city.”

“Good day to you,” The Doctor replied. “I am The Doctor, and this is my granddaughter, Susan, and our friends, Ian and Barbara. But when you say we were seen... Does this mean that you have electronic surveillance of your hinterland?”

“Is the city far?” Barbara asked. “We have walked quite a way, and it would be nice to think we’re getting somewhere.”

“I will take you,” Simia told them. He pointed to the saucer. It was, in fact, more like a bowl shape on top. Within the rim of the bowl was a curving seat moulded from the same blue material. Simia reached out his hand to Susan and gallantly helped her into the craft. He did the same for Barbara. Ian and The Doctor looked at each other and then climbed in unaided.

“Well, gallantry exists in this society,” Ian commented as he sat beside Barbara. “But not safety belts. Are we going to be all right?”

Simia looked to ensure that all his passengers were sitting comfortably and then got into the pilot seat. The craft took off vertically. As it did, they were all aware of a slight pressure against their stomachs.

“Gravity cushions,” The Doctor explained. “Much more secure than safety belts. Even if the craft turned upside down you would be safe.”

“I’d prefer it didn’t,” Barbara answered. She turned to Simia. “What is the name of your city?” she asked him.

“Uvoxia,” he answered with some surprise. “But surely you knew that? Did you not come to Uvo in search of the blessed city?”

“Our navigation is not always accurate,” Ian said with a glance at The Doctor. “We did not know we had come to Uvo and your city is a mystery to us. The Doctor was hoping to meet scientists like himself.”

“My grandmother is our chief scientist,” Simia replied. “I should be delighted to introduce you to her.”

“So it IS a very advanced society,” Barbara commented. “Your chief scientist is a woman.”

“Why should she not be?” Simia asked. “Are men and women not equal in all ways except the merely physical?”

“Tell that to the London Education Department,” Barbara replied. “Especially the salary and pensions section.”

Simia was puzzled by her remarks. But he fixed on the most salient point.

“You are a teacher?” he asked. “You will like our academy. Our library is regarded as the finest in this sector of the galaxy. Our music and arts departments are renowned.”

“Your people value the arts as well as sciences, then?” Barbara said.

“Well, of course. I am an artist myself.” Simia laughed softly. “That is to say I am a student of art. I am ahead of myself. I shall not be entitled to call myself an artist for another ten years. But I have produced many practice pieces which my tutor says I should be proud to exhibit.”

“I should like to see those,” Susan told him. “I like art.”

“It seems there is something for all of us in Uvoxia,” The Doctor commented happily. He looked like a giddy schoolboy as he strained to see the city in the distance. At first there was nothing to be seen except a white outline against a flat plain. But in a very short time they were able to make out individual buildings. White and blue were the predominant colours. The buildings and the plazas and streets around them were made of a white substance a little like marble, and their roofs were a pale blue that was almost white. Bands of a deeper blue were incorporated into the columns and pediments that ornamented the facades of almost all of the buildings.

“It’s like Athens was supposed to look in ancient times,” Barbara said.

“There was a city like it on our planet, too,” Susan mentioned. “I remember it. Very white, calm and peaceful. Grandfather often took me there.”

Ian and Barbara made no comment, but both mentally filed that remark. After travelling with Susan and The Doctor for more than a year, now, that was one of only a half a dozen clues about the world they came from.

“Your city is very beautiful,” Susan told Simia. “I think we will enjoy visiting. That is if it is all right? Are strangers permitted to explore your amenities?”

“Why should they not? We have much to share.”

Again, The Doctor and Susan seemed to be pleased with what they heard. Ian and Barbara were happy with the idea of a peaceful, welcoming, enlightened society, too. They had seen enough barbarism and ignorance to last them a lifetime. But The Doctor was smiling as if all his Christmases had come at once and Susan was beaming happily.

The craft touched down in a white paved plaza in the middle of the city. Around it were some of the tallest and grandest of the buildings. Barbara and Ian both thought of Trafalgar Square and the hustle and bustle and noise of it. This was of comparable size, and it was just as busy, with people walking from place to place, or sitting on marble seats beside tinkling water fountains. But there was very little noise. They talked in whispers or with a sort of sign language that meant their hands were always moving even when their bodies were still. Everyone, male and female, old and young, wore white robes with blue bands or stripes for variety.

Simia brought his guests into one of the largest of the porticoed edifices. It was obviously the Uvoxian forum or senate, or meeting house. They were taken to a great hall with galleries around in which white robed people sat watching the Council of Elders in session.

Simia stepped up front and centre and bowed his head to the Council who paused in their deliberations to look at the strangers who came into their midst. A low murmur of interest in this new development susurrated around the galleries. The four visitors stepped forward nervously.

“This is The Doctor and Susan, with Ian and Barbara,” Simia said in introduction. “They come to see Uvoxia. The Doctor is a scientist.”

“Is he, indeed?” An elderly but elegantly beautiful woman with the blue of her robe in a diagonal stripe across the front looked closely at The Doctor and smiled. He smiled back. “I am Sadie. Simia is my grandson, of whom I am somewhat proud even though he does not share my interest in pure sciences. I am second elder of Uvoxia, and I bid you welcome. Quarters will be provided in due course. But you may find refreshment after your journey. When this session of council is over, I shall be pleased to show you our Hall of Sciences, Doctor. Simia will be the guide for your friends as they learn of our ways.”

And that was all the formality there was. Simia brought them to a grand refectory on the lower floor of the Senate where they were given a satisfying meal that suggested no shortage of food or dearth of variety. Ian asked about it and was told that there were vast farms on the southern part of the plain where all the food Uvoxians needed was grown.

They had eaten their fill when Sadie came to see them. She had a quiet word with her grandson before taking The Doctor with her to see the science laboratories he had wanted to see. Simia brought Ian and Barbara to the Academy, another of the grand buildings around the square, and then invited Susan to come to the College of Art with him. She hesitated. It sounded like a ‘date’ and she was only just sixteen and had never been alone with a young man for any significant time.

“I’m sure it will be all right,” Barbara said. “We know where you are, after all. And you know where to find us. Have a nice time, Susan, dear.”

Barbara watched her go off with Simia and then looked around at Ian.

“I hope that was the right thing to do,” she said. “After all, she IS just sixteen.”

“She’ll be fine,” Ian answered her. “Look... they’ve got a Foucault’s Pendulum in the central hall. Only... they don’t call it that. They call it Sadie’s Pendulum. I wonder if that’s the same Sadie The Doctor’s gone off with... Simia’s grandmother.”

“It can’t be,” Barbara pointed out. “It says that the theory of planetary rotation as demonstrated by the pendulum was discovered in the year 3429... The date today... by Uvoxian time... is 3625.... That would make Sadie over two hundred years old.”

“Must be an ancestor of hers, then. Oh well.”

Susan had a very nice time. The College of Art was part university, part art museum and part artist’s studios. She thoroughly enjoyed being shown around the galleries where paintings and sculptures were on show, and then up to the bright, airy room where Simia and a dozen other young art students worked. She admired his own work, finished and still in progress. He talked to her about his life on Uvoxia and she told him something of her wandering life with her grandfather and their friends. She hardly noticed the time go by.

“Susan, dear,” Barbara said when she arrived at the apartment the four visitors had been allocated as living quarters. “I was starting to wonder about you. Are you all right?”

“Well, of course,” she replied. “Simia was painting my picture and we talked so very much while he was doing it, I hardly noticed the time passing.”

“I must say, I was quite engaged myself,” Ian said as he passed Susan a plate of delicious food and helped himself to a drink. The fine repast was provided for them along with the accommodation without any question of payment. “I never enjoyed myself so much even back in my student days. I was always too busy worrying about getting a job at the end of it all. But here... people learn for the sake of learning. As if it was the end not the means. I felt so...”

“Me, too,” Barbara agreed. “It’s all so unhurried. As if they have all the time in the world.”

“They do,” Susan told them. “Simia told me... Uvoxians never die of natural causes. That positive energy grandfather talked about... it prolongs life. And they use that prolonged life to learn and to discover and to advance their civilisation. It’s a perfect lifestyle.”

“It sounds it,” Ian said. “They’re wonderfully talented, too. We’re going to the opera this evening. We were invited by a chap we met at the Academy. It’s his own work. I’ve never met the composer of a whole opera before.”

“That sounds nice for you,” Susan replied. “Simia has asked me to have supper with his family... his mother and father. They’re both artists, too. Is that all right, do you think?”

“I....” Barbara was suddenly uncertain. “Does... Have you asked your grandfather if it’s all right?”

“I don’t know where he is,” Susan admitted. “I haven’t seen him for hours.”

“He must be with Sadie, still,” Ian said. “They’re both scientists. They’re probably deep into some experiment and utterly oblivious to anything else. You go and spend time with your friend and his family. And don’t worry about The Doctor. He’ll be fine.”

Susan smiled gratefully and took her leave of them both.

“The Doctor ought to be here,” Barbara commented when Susan had gone. “He ought to be aware of what’s happening to her.”

“She’s safe enough with Simia, surely?” Ian pointed out. “They are a very honest and honourable people as far as I can tell.”

“Yes. But... I mean... Susan... he’s her grandfather. Her only relative as far as either have ever let on. And she’s going out for the evening with a young man. It’s something he should be here to see. He’s missing an important time in her life. If I had a sixteen year old child, I’d want to be a part of this in some way.”

“Have you considered... Sadie was a fine woman for her age. Maybe his interest in her isn’t just scientific. And... what with this rejuvenating air and everything....”

Barbara looked shocked at the idea, but then she realised there was no reason to be. The Doctor had as much right to pursue such an interest as anyone else.

“Good luck to him,” she said. “But he shouldn’t neglect Susan, all the same.”

Whatever The Doctor was doing with Sadie, it engrossed him fully. He didn’t reach the apartment until breakfast the next morning. He made no apology for his absence. He simply sat at the table and ate food while talking about the observatory where he had studied the planetary system of which Uvo was a part for the best part of the night.

“You and her looked at planets through a telescope all night?” Ian tried not to look too disbelieving.

“It was a most fascinating experience,” The Doctor replied. “Sadie is a very intelligent woman. I found her utterly engaging company.”

“I’m going to be spending the day with Simia,” Susan said before anyone else could get a word in. “He’s taking me on his hover saucer to explore the countryside.”

Barbara looked at Susan and then at The Doctor. This was exactly the sort of thing she had been talking about yesterday. The Doctor ought to be paying attention to what Susan was saying. She was clearly developing a relationship with a young man, going on excursions with him. It was The Doctor’s job to caution her about rushing things, to ask questions about the young man, to tell her how long she could be out with him for. And, with those injunctions in place, to be pleased that an important epiphany in her transition from girl to woman was happening so pleasantly and easily.

“That should be most enlightening,” he said. “I am going to be spending the day with Sadie. An engaging woman, very engaging.”

Barbara said nothing. She just hoped both of her friends, old and young, knew what they were doing.

It certainly seemed as if they did. And they were happy doing it. As a week, two weeks, passed, everyone settled into what could almost be called a routine. They met for breakfast and supper, and exchanged details of their scholarly and other pursuits. Susan had joined in the art classes with Simia and produced some clever drawings of her own. Ian and Barbara indulged in the pure learning environment of the Academy. The Doctor spent every waking hour with Sadie in the Hall of Science.

And elsewhere, too. It had escaped nobody’s notice that The Doctor joined them for breakfast in the apartment, but he rarely slept there. Of course, astronomy was a night time pursuit, but Ian had some ideas about what was occupying The Doctor for so long that Barbara absolutely forbad him to mention in front of Susan.

Then one afternoon Susan sought Barbara out in the Academy. She wanted to talk to her about something that, while not exactly upsetting her, was obviously preying on her mind.

“It’s grandfather,” she said as they sat in the cool, airy refectory and drank a milky drink a little like latte coffee. “He...” Susan paused and blushed as she searched for her words. “This morning, Simia and I went to Sadie’s apartment. He had a message from his mother to his grandmother. And... we let ourselves into the rooms. And... Sadie was in her bed.... with grandfather. They were both rather surprised to see us.”

“Oh!” Barbara had wondered almost as much as Ian had. They had speculated between themselves. But to have their suspicions confirmed in such a stark way was disconcerting. “Oh, my dear... I mean... I’m sorry you had to find out like that...”

“It... was...” Susan began. “I mean... I knew he was fond of her. In the same way he was fond of the Lady Cameca. And this invigorating air... he has been healthier than he has been for a long time. And... Barbara... I’m glad for him. For them both. Simia told me that his grandfather was killed in a saucer accident many years ago. That’s why Sadie is alone. Most people her age are in couples. And grandfather... he’s been alone for a very long time...”

“You know I did wonder about that,” Barbara admitted. “I mean... he’s your grandfather. So at some time... assuming that these things work the same way on your world... we... Ian and I... both assumed... not that we’ve gossiped about The Doctor in any way. But we couldn’t help wondering...”

“He had a wife a long time ago. Long before I was born. I’ve only ever seen pictures of her. We have a saying about the dead... that they sleep in our mind. It means... that... when the chance comes again... as it has for grandfather... there is no need for guilt... about betraying anyone’s memory. And... it has only been a few weeks, but he has fallen in love with Sadie.”

“Well... I should hope so,” Barbara pointed out. “If he is sharing a bed with her, then I should think love would come into it. Do you think he might...”

“Ask her to marry him?” Susan smiled softly. “I do hope so. It would be nice... to be a family. Simia said so, too. He said he would like to think of The Doctor as his step-grandfather. And I would like Sadie as a grandmother. She is very nice.”

“That sounds as if... you and Simia. I mean....”

“Oh, I like Simia very much,” Susan explained. “But as a friend. Not... I’m only sixteen. On our world we wouldn’t even consider that kind of relationship for many years. Even on Earth... No, we haven’t really thought of it like that. I liked the idea of us as... well, brother and sister. If grandfather and Sadie were married... well it would be sort of like that.”

“Well... yes... I suppose...” Barbara conceded. “And, you’re right, of course. There is plenty of time for you to meet the right young man.”

“But... oh, dear.” Susan gripped Barbara’s hand tightly. “I think the air here does something else, too. It has made you forget something important about all this.”

Barbara frowned. She couldn’t think of anything.

“If grandfather marries Sadie... it would mean... he and I would stay here... on Uvo. For good.”

“Well... I suppose so. Unless Sadie wanted to come and join us in the TARDIS.”

“She couldn’t. She’s three hundred years old. And as fit as a Human woman of... well... your age, Barbara. But that’s only because of this planet and what it does to people’s health. If she left the atmosphere, she would die. The ages would catch up with her. So... so grandfather has to stay with her... or leave her. And I wouldn’t... I couldn’t see his hearts break again. It was hard enough for him to leave Cameca. But we all knew from the start we couldn’t stay in that village. It was wrong for all of us.”

“Yes, it was...” Barbara agreed. She shuddered as she recalled her own feelings about that.

“But Uvo... Barbara, when grandfather and I left our home world, I was very young, you understand. I didn’t really know what it was all about. It was politics. I still don’t really know the whole story. And I don’t think I want or need to know. But we travelled through the galaxies in hope of finding a better life, a better way of living. A... a perfect society.” Susan smiled wryly. “We didn’t find it on Earth. Not in the 1960s, anyway. I liked living there. But nobody would imagine that Earth was perfect. The wars, the atomic bomb, all sorts of prejudices and hate...”

“I couldn’t agree, more,” Barbara told her. “But we... those who don’t have time and space machines... we do our best. Earth isn’t the worst place you’ve visited, I am sure.”

“It’s not the worst. But the best... Oh, Barbara, Uvo is so perfect... it’s what Grandfather has dreamt of for all those years... the Perfect Society he yearned to find. And now that he has... Oh, I know we could both be happy here.”

“Yes... I can see that...”

“But... The problem is... what about you and Ian? This was grandfather’s dream... mine, too, in a way. I shared his yearning. But yours is to get back to Earth and everything that matters to you.”

Barbara looked surprised, as if she hadn’t thought about that aspect of their situation.

“Well, yes... Earth... in our own time... yes... it WAS what we wanted,” she said. “But... then again... Ian and I have been happy here, too. Perhaps...” She sighed. “Susan... you know... as frustrating as it was at first, when it seemed as if we could never find our own time and place... I have enjoyed most of it. Except sometimes when we’ve been in danger or we’ve seen terrible things... like the human sacrifices... but mostly I’ve enjoyed travelling with you and The Doctor. And I’ve secretly been glad every time we haven’t arrived back in London in the fog, in November. I think about Ian’s car, left outside that old junk yard. It probably has a dozen parking tickets on it by now. And what will we say to the headmaster at Coal Hill, or to our landlords about the rent... and so many complications we’ll face when we get back. And... I’ve thought more than once... what if we never went back. And now... Uvo is our chance to live a happy, contented life far from London fog and parking tickets.”

“So.. .you and Ian wouldn’t be angry with grandfather if he decided...”

“I think it could be the best thing that ever happened to us all. Of course... I would have to talk to Ian. Maybe he feels differently...” Barbara shook her head. “No, I’m sure he feels much the same way. And... that’s good. Because... Well, if this is a perfect society... for me, it would be a little less perfect without him in it.”

“Barbara!” Susan smiled widely. “I always thought... you know, even back at Coal Hill, the girls used to gossip about you and Mr Chesterton. I hoped it wasn’t true. Because if you got married, you would have to give up teaching. And you were my favourite. But now there’s nothing stopping you being together.”

“No, there isn’t,” Barbara agreed with a wide smile. “Though... your grandfather and Sadie... well, people of their age might grab their opportunities while they can. But Ian and I... perhaps we’ll do things the old-fashioned way.”

“The old fashioned way is good,” Susan replied.

The Doctor believed in the old-fashioned way, too. He had enjoyed being courted with steaming cups of bitter dark chocolate by Cameca, and if fate had allowed them the time, if his motive in knowing her all along hadn’t been to find the means to leave her world, if he hadn’t felt so old and past all those things, then...

But it hadn’t happened. They had fled from that place leaving it touched by their presence but very little changed. And they had come, now, to this place, to Uvo, where things were so much simpler and easier, and where Sadie had filled a hole in his soul that had been empty for a very long time.

He reached and pulled her closer in his arms. She smiled at him warmly. A warm smile from a woman who responded to his embrace, was something he hadn’t known for such a long time. His two hearts beat faster and he let them. He was enjoying this feeling, this freedom from responsibility, this chance to know deep, wonderful, physical love.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” Sadie said with a soft laugh. “Lying in bed in the middle of the morning...”

“I am thoroughly ashamed,” The Doctor replied. “But I can live with that. As long as I have you, my dear Sadie.”

“Oh... my love. My...” Sadie pressed herself close to him and whispered a name in his ear that he hadn’t heard for a long time. Nobody beyond the solar system he was born in knew that name except her. He had told it to her when they had become lovers for the first time. It was her right to speak it in the midst of their passion.

“I love you,” he whispered. And it was a VERY long time since he had spoken those words. A long time again since soft lips had formed the words and said them to him in return.

He felt content for the first time in a very, very long time. Longer than he cared to remember. Before life become so much harder, before the values he cherished became tarnished and corrupted, before life itself soured for him and he sought an escape from it.

He was content. And he knew from bitter experience that contentment was a fragile and easily broken thing. But he little knew how easily, and how soon this contentment would be shattered.

The catalyst was a knock at the door while they were lying together one afternoon in the warm aftermath of love. Sadie rose from the bed and wrapped a silk robe around her before going to answer the door. After a few minutes The Doctor wrapped a matching robe around his body and came into the spacious living room to see what was keeping his lover.

He found her sitting on the couch, her head in her hands, crying grievously. There was an envelope on the floor and a note in her trembling hands.

“My dear, what has happened?” The Doctor asked, reaching his arms around her. “Has there been an accident? What is it?”

“Oh, my love,” she answered through her tears. “Oh, I am so sorry. If I had foreseen this... I should not have... it is so unfair to you... That’s why I am crying. I would not have promised so much if I knew I would not be able to keep that promise. But... it is random. Completely random. There is no way of knowing when it might come...”

“When what might come?” The Doctor asked. “My dear, can it be so bad as that? Tell me, please. Whatever it is... If it is in my power, I will make it right.”

“But it isn’t,” she answered him. “My love, there is nothing you can do.”

Susan found out about it from Simia, who was told the news by his parents. When she heard, she burst into tears and ran from him. She went to Sadie’s apartment, first, but neither she nor her grandfather were there. Or if they were, they didn’t answer the door.

She found Ian in their own apartment. He was shocked at her tears and even more shocked when he heard what she had to say.

“But...” he began. “But how could they? It’s.... it’s monstrous.”

“Simia explained,” Susan told him bitterly. “There is no natural death, here. People would live forever if... if they hadn’t decided centuries ago on a way of limiting the population.”

“Everyone over the age of...”

“Two hundred and fifty...” Susan gulped back another sob.

“Everyone over that age... is in a sort of lottery... and when their number comes up...”

“They have two weeks to put their affairs in order... to make their will and... say their goodbyes...”

She breathed hard, fighting back the tears. Ian waited for her to recover herself.

“And then... it’s a pill... a little white pill. They swallow it... and go to sleep... and never wake up.”

“And Sadie’s number came up.”

Susan burst into bitter grieving tears again. Ian did his best to comfort her. But there was little he could say. He was almost relieved when he saw The Doctor step into the drawing room. He stood and stepped close to him, then drew back. Grandfather and granddaughter embraced, sharing each other’s grief. He went to find Barbara and explain to her the huge, dreadful catch that went with living in this ‘perfect society.’

“It... makes a sort of sense,” Barbara admitted as they talked quietly about it in the Academy refectory. “The population would be impossible to manage if nobody ever died. Looking at it in abstract, it is logical.”

“Daleks are logical,” Ian replied. “We’re Human and you can’t.... This is nearly as bad... in many ways it’s worse... than the Aztecs and their Perfect Victim trained to accept his fate. In fact, it’s the same. Everyone in this city has accepted that... one day... they will be expected to die voluntarily. It’s...”

“It’s horrendous,” Barbara agreed with him. “I’m not saying it isn’t. Just that it makes sense. A horrible, dreadful sense.”

“What are they going to do?” she asked after a long, awkward pause where neither of them knew what to say.

“They... as in...”

“The Doctor and Sadie. What are they going to do? He can’t take her away from here. She would die, anyway. Can she appeal? Can they ask for more time?”

Ian shook his head.

“What are WE going to do?” Barbara asked. “I don’t want to live in a place like this. Not now. Everything I thought was good and beautiful about it... I can’t... I can’t bear the idea of studying, learning... not now. Not here.”

“We can’t stay,” Ian agreed. “But what about The Doctor? What does he want to do?”

There was only one thing The Doctor could do. He had to accept the matter as it stood. There WAS no appeal. No extensions were granted. Sadie reminded him that she was a member of the Elder Council. If she asked to be exempted, how would it look to other citizens who were required to comply with the law? She told him she had lived a good, fulfilling life and achieved all she longed to achieve. She had no regrets except that their new found love was curtailed.

The Doctor couldn’t do anything, any more than Barbara had been able to do anything to stop the Axtecs from sacrificing their victims. He had told her, then, not to interfere. He couldn’t interfere now. As much as it hurt him, he had to let this happen as it had happened for countless generations.

She had two weeks to put her affairs in order. The first order of business, then, was a wedding. The Doctor took her hand and they presented themselves in the Council of Elders. Susan and Simia were their chief witnesses. Ian and Barbara and Simia’s parents were there, too. They were formally and properly married. Nobody could object in any way to The Doctor spending every precious moment of those two weeks with Sadie. Much of that time they spent in seclusion. It was hardly a honeymoon, but it was the best they could make of the time they had.

When the last day came, Sadie had a meal with her family – that family included Susan, Ian and Barbara as well as her daughter and son in law and her grandson. It was a fine meal, beautifully cooked. The table was set with fine linen and silver and best china. There was good wine.

Everyone tried to enjoy the food and the wine. In truth, nobody did. It was meant to be a celebration of her life. Simia’s father several times toasted the scientific achievements and discoveries Sadie was responsible for in the course of her research. But it was difficult to feel anything but sadness, and it was a relief, in some ways, when the meal was over.

They sat quietly in Sadie’s drawing room as the clock ticked. Sometimes somebody spoke. Mostly they said nothing. Then at a little before midnight, Sadie stood. She went to her daughter and son in law and hugged and kissed them. She hugged her grandson and kissed him. She went to Susan and held her tenderly. She said something to her that nobody else heard, a private word between them both. She shook hands with Ian and Barbara.

Then The Doctor took her hand and they went to the bedroom. The door closed. Ian and Barbara sat with Simia’s parents and waited. Simia and Susan left the apartment. The Doctor had asked them to do something. They went to do it.

It was some two hours later that they returned. Simia had elicited the help of some of his artist friends to haul the TARDIS into the drawing room from where he had landed his hover saucer outside the apartment block. The friends paid polite respect to those assembled there and left quietly.

A half hour after that, the bedroom door opened. The Doctor stepped out. His eyes were glistening with tears, but he bore himself up with a straight back and a proud demeanour. He had cried his tears in private. He nodded to Sadie’s family. They went into the bedroom to view her body, laid out in the correct way once it was over. When they were satisfied, he went into the room again. He emerged carrying Sadie’s body in his arms. For the first time since they came to Uvo, he looked as if he was burdened, but he would accept no help from anyone. He stepped through the already open TARDIS door. Ian and Barbara followed. Susan stayed long enough to hug Simia, who she had come to know almost like a brother, and to say goodbye. Then she stepped through the blue police box doors and closed them behind her. A few moments later it vanished with a wheezing, groaning, mournful sound.

“The atmosphere on Uvo cleared my mind,” The Doctor said as he went to the controls. “I know how to pilot the TARDIS as it should be piloted. I don’t think the knowledge will stay. I think the effects will dissipate rapidly once we leave. But before it does... at least I can do an accurate temporal orbit above the planet.”

He locked off the drive control with the TARDIS slowly turning on its own axis so that the planet of Uvo came into view every minute. He opened the doors and stepped towards the threshold with Sadie’s still body in his arms. He kissed her cheek once, then as the plant spun away below, he let her go. Her body fell through space, back towards the world she was born on. He murmured some words that neither Ian nor Barbara understood. Susan told them that it was a funeral rite in the high, ceremonial language of their own world. He was saying his last farewell to Sadie. Now she, too, slept in his mind.

He turned away and closed the door. He walked back to the console leaning heavily on the walking stick that he took from the hatstand beside the door. He had carried Sadie easily, but now he needed to support himself. Nobody looking at his ashen face could wonder at that.

“I still have the knowledge in my head,” The Doctor said, looking steadily at his two Human friends. “I can feel it sliding away. But... if you say the word, right now... I could get you two back to Earth in November 1963. I could get you back before your car even picks up a parking ticket, Chesterton.”

Ian and Barbara looked at each other. Susan bit her lip and watched them anxiously.

“What sort of people do you think we are, Doctor?” Ian asked. “That we’d just jump ship and leave you at a time like this. You and Susan... we’ll not abandon you.”

“There will be other opportunities to get back to Earth,” Barbara told him. “Don’t worry about us.”

Susan looked at them both with an expression of relief and gratitude. Sadie’s last word to her had been to look after her grandfather. She fully intended to do that. But she was glad there was somebody to look after her.

“Well, don’t go blaming me if you’ve lost the best chance to get back where you belong,” The Doctor told them. “It was entirely your choice. Chesterfield... make yourself useful and check the spatial diagnostic.”

Ian had no idea what a spatial diagnostic was. He followed The Doctor’s rather impatient instructions. The view of Uvo disappeared from the screen, replaced by the swirling time vorex.

“It wasn’t a perfect society, after all,” Barbara observed. “I’m sorry for that. I hope you’ll find it one day, Docor.”

“Hmmm... what’s that?” The Doctor looked up from the console. “Perfect society! Poppycock. No such thing.”