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

The Doctor stepped out of the taxi that had brought him from the railway station where he left the TARDIS. He paid the driver and picked up his suitcase. He smiled widely as he looked around. The sun was shining. He was on a cliff overlooking the sea. He breathed in the tang of salt air.

He turned and breathed the sweetness of hot candy floss and cooling toffee apples and ice cream in a dozen different flavours. He savoured the smells for a moment before he approached the entrance to ‘Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon’.

“Happy Campers Park,” he translated. “Very nice. Much better than ‘Shangri-la.”

It was the summer of 1970, nearly fifteen years in linear time since his first visit to this part of Wales. The first was a detour due to a traffic collision in space. This time he had deliberately headed for the holiday camp. He wanted to see how everyone was getting on since the Bannerman incident.

The park looked busy, anyway. There was a sound of rock and roll music over the loudspeakers and the little fairground behind the dining hall was a joyous collection of movement and lights. The swimming pool was busy, and there was a ‘Miss South Wales’ beauty contest going on next to it.

All of that The Doctor took in with his first glance around the park. Then he headed for the reception where a young man in the candy striped blazer of the park staff was on duty.

“Good morning,” The Doctor said. “I booked a single chalet in the name of The Doctor.”

“I very much doubt it,” the young man replied. “We would expect a full name on any pre-booking form. Besides, Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon is for families. We don’t HAVE single chalets.”

“Oh, but you do for your special guests. Why don’t you check the guest book? I’m sure you’ll see that my name is there.”

Reluctantly the man opened the book. He ran his finger down the list of guests due to arrive today.

“No,” he said. “Nobody called The Doctor is expected.”

“Are you quite sure?” The Doctor quickly snatched the book from his hands and turned it around. His own hands were a blur. The receptionist thought he saw a flash of something that might be a pen, and then the book was returned to him. He looked down and saw an entry he could have sworn wasn’t there before. It allocated Chalet number 3c to The Doctor.

“But….” There was no way The Doctor could have written that in the few seconds he had the book in his hands. Besides, the handwriting was his own. The receptionist’s thoughts wobbled then he gathered himself up.

“Yes… of course. It says here that you’re a personal friend of the park manager?”

“Indeed, I am. Would you tell her that I’m here, please? I’ll be at the coffee bar by the crazy golf course.”

The coffee bar had striped parasols shading its outdoor tables. The Doctor hooked his question mark handled umbrella over the back of one of the chairs and laid his tweed jacket and hat beside it before sitting comfortably. A young woman in a neat waitress’s outfit came to take his order for coffee and he relaxed watching a teenager trying to get his golf ball between the sails of the little windmill to score maximum points.

“Doctor! It really IS you!” A dark haired woman in her mid-thirties lost some of her poise as she ran to hug him. “I hardly dared to believe it. Oh, you haven’t changed a bit. Even the umbrella!”

“Ray,” he answered with a smile. “It is lovely to see you, too.”

“Most people call me Rachel, now,” she admitted. “Or Miss Dedwydd. I’m not quite so much the tomboy these days. Though I’ve still got the Vincent.”

She slid into the seat beside him, smiling happily. Time had left a few changes on her. She was a woman now, not a girl, and a smart, clever one at that. The name badge on the lapel of her blazer proclaiming her as Park Manager was not the only proof that she was a capable and independent woman in a time when it was still very much a man’s world.

“You’re still MISS Dedwydd?” The Doctor asked then regretted asking something so personal.

“Yes,” she answered. “Well, you know, I really was stuck on Billy. And when he went away… I never really…. But I’m not unhappy. I’ve been running the park ever since old Burton retired. I love it, seeing the holidaymakers every season. Some of them come back every year. I enjoy every minute of it. I hardly have time to think about getting married.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re happy,” The Doctor told her. “Very glad.”

“I often think about that time,” she added. “With Delta and the princess and the Bannermen. It was frightening, very frightening, some of it. But it was exciting, too. And I always feel privileged, to be one of the people who know that there really ARE aliens from other worlds out there… good ones and bad ones. I’m glad that I met you… one of the good ones. It’s always been my special secret.”

The Doctor smiled modestly. He knew that he always had a profound effect on the people he met. That was one reason why he rarely went back to them. This was very much an exception to his rule. Rachel had impressed him very much with her courage and imagination when he met her last. He had thought about asking her to join him and Mel in the TARDIS. He had no doubt she would be a good companion on his endless journey in time and space.

He was thinking about it, now. Ace had outgrown the ‘apprentice’ role she had filled for so many years. Since she went home to make amends with her mother and start a new life back home on planet Earth in the 1980s he was feeling a bit lonely in the TARDIS.

And just for once, he thought it might be nice to ASK somebody to join him instead of having them accidentally thrust into his madcap universe.

But was Rachel the one? Was she ready for adventure and excitement, or had he left it too late. She had made her own life here at the holiday park, carved her own niche. Could he really take her away from all of that?”

That was what he came to find out.

“How long are you staying, Doctor?” Rachel asked him.

“Oh, just the weekend,” he answered. “You know me. Restless spirit. Any longer in one place and I get itchy feet.”

“Well, the weekends are always fun here at Gwersyllwyr Fodlon,” she promised him. “We’ve got our talent contest tomorrow evening. I hope you’ll enter. I’m sure you could impress the judges. Tonight I’ve got a really good up and coming band playing. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of them, but they’re quite good. They’re called the Bay City Rollers.”

The Doctor smiled and thought about his years of exile to Earth in the mid-1970s. Jo Grant, and then Sarah Jane in their turn had both kept him abreast of modern musical trends.

“Get their autographs,” he said. “In a couple of years’ time young girls will be impressed by their collection of pen scrawls.”

Rachel laughed. She drank her coffee and glanced at her watch.

“I wish I could talk some more,” she admitted. “But there’s such a lot to do around here. Do enjoy all our facilities. I know they’re not really what you’re used to, but….”

“I shall do my best to enjoy EVERYTHING,” he promised. “I’ll see you later, at supper, perhaps?”

“Oh, yn wir,” Rachel answered. “Eich gweld yn nes ymlaen.”

She dashed away with the energy of the girl fifteen years younger he had known before. The Doctor finished his own coffee and sauntered up to the crazy golf kiosk to hire a club, balls and a pair of plimsolls for wearing around the course. He spent a happy half hour lining up his shots, making the ball roll through the mouth of the clown, across the bridge over a blue painted ‘river’, between the sails of the windmill and around all of the assorted obstacles on each colourful tee. Of course, he got a hole in one every time. Other crazy-golfers stopped playing to admire his technique, but he was oblivious to them until the end when he received a round of applause. He smiled and bowed theatrically and went to take back his equipment.

Of course, he should have remembered to make a couple of mistakes. Humans tended to get suspicious of people who got everything right first time. When he came to the outdoor ten pin bowling alley with colourful clown faces on the pins, he tried not to knock them all down every time. The same went for the hoopla and the hook-a-duck. He didn’t try the shooting range. He knew he could hit the target every time, but he didn’t care very much for guns.

He even went on the Ferris Wheel. As experiences went, it was nothing compared to piloting the TARDIS through the Caelian Maelstrom, but he enjoyed it anyway.

He enjoyed being among so many humans, all having a good time. Too often his contact with humans was in times of despair and tragedy. It was refreshing to hear them laughing and chattering happily.

At supper time he dressed carefully with a fresh shirt and tie under a deep red jumper and carefully pressed trousers. He put a light brown jacket over the jumper and finished his ensemble with a panama hat with a band that matched his tie and well-polished brown leather shoes. The evening was fine and warm, but out of habit he brought his brolly with the question mark handle with him. Long ago, near the end of his first incarnation he had carried a walking stick, sometimes out of necessity when he was tired, but quite often for something to do with restless fingers. The brolly served the same purpose.

Rachel had told the staff in the restaurant to expect him. A table for two was arranged beside the dance floor. He drank iced lime and soda and watched the preparations for the Bay City Rollers to perform later. The band themselves were being served a light meal in the opposite corner. They weren’t yet famous enough to have to eat backstage with a security guard outside their room to fend off the hysterical teenage girls.

Then his attention was caught by somebody else. Rachel swept across the floor towards him. She was wearing a black halter neck dress that was cinched at the waist by a belt before the skirt fell in soft flutes to her calves. Her hair was up and her cosmetics carefully applied. She looked utterly feminine and utterly beautiful. Staff and guests alike turned to admire her. The Doctor stood and held out the chair for her gallantly. She smiled warmly as she sat.

“I should have dressed up,” he said. “You look delightful.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” she responded. “I always try to dress up on Friday nights. As the manager, it’s sort of expected….”

He wondered if that was entirely true, or had she made a special effort for him. He knew they must look a suitable couple. His seventh incarnation wasn’t as young-looking as his fifth, but nor was it as ancient as earlier ones. Rachel in her thirties was an elegant woman.

He could almost regard this as a date. It was a VERY long time since he’d had one of those, but he thought he could still remember how it was supposed to go - food, conversation, music, dancing, a walk in the moonlight, perhaps a kiss.

Well, he would deal with that if and when it arose. The rest he could handle. The kitchens at Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon were not quite up to the standards of a four star restaurant, but the food was palatable and they were given first class service from the waiting staff. He was perfectly capable of holding an engaging conversation with a woman. Rachel enjoyed hearing him talk about his recent travel experiences. In return she talked about the challenges of running a holiday camp in a time when South Wales had to compete with the South of France and the Costas and other places within easy reach by plane.

The Bay City Rollers got ready to play while the waiters were clearing away the desert dishes and bringing coffee. They stuck to covers of popular hits to begin with before introducing a few songs they had written for themselves. At first the dance floor was quiet. People were still digesting their food. Then it began to fill up. Couples held each other, formally or informally. Young, unaccompanied girls danced near the stage, keeping their eyes on the band. The Doctor offered his hand to Rachel and they danced to a fast jive tune, surprising some of the younger generation who thought rock and roll belonged to them. Later, they enjoyed the slower tunes, too.

Then they went for a walk down to the cliffs where the tide washed the rocks below and the moon shone down on the Bristol Channel. In the far distance the bright lights of Weston Super Mare twinkled like yellow stars that echoed the silver ones in the sky.

They walked back around the silent crazy golf course, and The Doctor started to worry a little about that part of dating where a kiss became expected. Should he or shouldn’t he?

He was saved from making a decision by a frantic yelling and a man in candy striped blazer and yellow pants who almost tripped over the fairy castle obstacle as he cut across the crazy golf course to reach them.

“Miss Dedwydd!” he gasped. “Come quickly. The hall. It’s… It’s….”

“A fire?” Rachel groaned. “Oh no. Please, not that.”

“No… it’s not… not that. It’s… come and look…. Please….”

The man turned and raced away. The Doctor and Rachel ran after him, back towards the restaurant-dance hall that was the centrepiece of the park.

It was gone. Rachel stared at the empty space where it ought to be. She reached out her hand tentatively, as if she thought the hall was invisible. There was nothing there.

“But this is impossible,” She gasped. “How could it be gone? What about the people? All the guests, the staff….”

“The Bay City Rollers….” The Doctor was reaching out, too, but he knew the hall wasn’t invisible. He was testing the air where it ought to have been for the tell-tale signs of ion residue or other indications of advanced technology.

“The Bay City Rollers….” Rachel was horrified. “That’s their tour van right there. They were still on stage. They….”

“They have their first top ten hit in early 1974,” The Doctor said. “Unless time unravels here and now in 1970.”

“So does that mean….”

“’It means we have to hurry,” The Doctor added. “Rachel, I need to get to the railway station. You said you still have the Vincent.”

“Yes. But….”

She looked down at her very feminine dress and shoes.

“I’ll drive,” The Doctor told her. “Quickly. There’s no time to lose.”

She nodded and ran in her pretty evening shoes to the shed behind the reception. She wheeled out the ‘Vincent’, a motorbike that made both men and women swoon with envy. The Doctor sat astride it. Rachel hitched up her dress in as dignified way as possible and sat on the pillion seat. The Doctor kick started the engine and it roared into life. The front headlamp lit up the coast road as they headed towards the railway station two miles away where he had left the TARDIS, hoping for a weekend without his extra-terrestrial technology.

The Vincent Black Shadow, one of the fastest two wheeled vehicles of its time, covered those two miles easily, but The Doctor knew that every minute counted and he wished the TARDIS had been closer. Lives could depend on him saving as much time as possible.

“There it is,” Rachel called out as he approached the freight yard beside the station. “The TARDIS.”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered gladly. “Yes.” He drove straight through the fortunately open gate and headed straight towards the TARDIS. The door was closed. He snapped his fingers. On a few rare occasions in the past he had opened the door that way. He usually used the key because it was less ostentatious.

But right now he needed that door open. To his relief the TARDIS ‘chose’ to oblige him. Both doors opened inwards and the Vincent sailed right through. The doors closed behind as he halted the motorbike and slid off the seat. Rachel parked the Vincent carefully while The Doctor went to the console and programmed their swift return to Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon.

“Oh no!” Rachel cried as the TARDIS materialised. “Oh Doctor! Look.”

She ran to the door, yanking it open. He followed her slowly. He knew what he was going to see and he was in no hurry to see it.

Rachel was doing her best not to cry. He wouldn’t have blamed her if she had. The swimming pool was gone. The fairground had vanished into thin air. So had the crazy golf course and three blocks of chalets. The reception, the gate with ‘Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon’ across it and two remaining chalet blocks were all that were left. Everything else was gone

“What’s happening?” she asked. “Doctor, what can do this? How can the park… all the people… how can it all vanish like this? It’s just not… not natural.”

“No, it’s not,” The Doctor agreed. “It’s completely unnatural. Rachel, come back into the TARDIS. Let me find out what happened.”

At first she didn’t take any notice of him. She stepped closer to the space where her office ought to have been. The Doctor called out to her from the threshold of the TARDIS.

“Rachel, Ray… please come back. It’s not safe out there.”

Rachel turned and ran. He reached out his hand and caught hers, pulling her into the TARDIS. He grasped her in his arms and slammed the door shut just as a bright light shimmered all around the TARDIS. Rachel looked at the viewscreen and saw the last parts of the holiday camp disappear.

“What is it?” she asked. “What did it?”

“A VERY powerful transmat,” The Doctor replied. “VERY powerful indeed. I’ve never seen one anything like as strong as this before.”

“A transmat? What does that mean?”

“It is a portmanteau word meaning Transmission of Matter,” The Doctor explained. “In the fifty-eighth century there was a huge intergalactic court case centred on whether the word could be copyrighted by any one corporation or if it was public domain like ‘hoover’ and ‘biro’.”

“Doctor… I... really couldn’t care less about that.”

“No… of course you don’t. I just….”

“Where has my park gone, and the guests, staff… and… and the band….”

“They’re all….” The Doctor looked at the TARDIS console and gasped in surprise. “Well, I didn’t actually expect that. It’s impressive. Really impressive.”

“Impressive!” Rachel looked at him in disgust. “Doctor, you sound as if you don’t care… as if this is just some clever science experiment or….”

“No, it really IS impressive,” he insisted. “And I don’t think any harm was meant by it. I think they miscalculated just a very slight bit. That’s why the camp was moved in sections instead of all at once. If they’d got it right we’d never have noticed. Or at least you wouldn’t. Nobody in the camp would have noticed except me. As a Time Lord, I certainly would have been aware of such a major time shift. But….”

“DOCTOR!” Rachel lost her temper completely. “This is just malu awyr wrth siarad aer poeth!”

“That’s a very charming colloquialism,” The Doctor replied with a half smile. “Rambling hot air?”

“Just tell me what’s going on!” Ray insisted.

“It’s all right,” The Doctor continued in a calm tone. “Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon and all within its boundaries are just fine. They’re just not here right now.”

“Not here right now? But then where… and WHY?”

“It’s not the ‘not here’ that mattered in what I said just now, but the ‘right now’. They’re not here right now. As for why…. I’m not entirely sure yet, but…. Ah…. Yes. Come on. Let’s go and find out what this is all about.”

He took her hand very gently as they stepped out of the TARDIS again. She gasped in surprise to see an alien space ship parked on the place where the children’s sand pit should have been. The aliens from the ship were walking around the park grounds with curious looking instruments like electronic divining rods held out in front of them. The aliens were something of a sight to see. They were no more than five foot tall, very thin, with spindly arms and legs and necks that looked too delicate to hold up their heads. They were all naked, but that didn’t seem to matter as they didn’t seem to have any gender, and their skin was a deep ochre-red colour. Their faces were especially alien. Their eyes were so deep set into the eye sockets that they were almost hidden and their noses were inverted. They had no lips, and their teeth were set in rictus grins.

For a while they didn’t seem to notice that they were being observed. Then one of the aliens drew close to them. He – or possibly she – bowed politely to Rachel and then to The Doctor.

“Ah!” The Doctor said. Then he began to use his hands in a fast, complicated signing that the alien responded with. Rachel tried to make out if it was anything like the sign language for the deaf used by humans, but it was just TOO fast.

“Rachel,” he said after a few minutes of manic gesticulation. “This is Maka. He is the leader of this expedition from a planet called Akiron. They came to search for the last resting place of the long lost tribe of Akrirons. They visited Earth some four-hundred and thirty thousand years ago when Wales was a sandy plain and established a small colony. But they think the whole group perished when the ice age gripped the land.”

“You mean they’re archaeologists?” Rachel queried.

“In short, yes.”

“But… then why…. What did they do to my camp?”

“They moved it out of the way for safe-keeping,” The Doctor explained. “It is what they do if they find any later structure on an archaeological site. They moved it into the future. Their ‘dig’ will be finished long before then. They’ll take the relics of their people’s history and then put everything back the way it was.”


“It wasn’t the ordinary sort of transmat that transports matter from place to place. Instead it was a temporal transmat. Everyone and everything in the park has been moved forward in time about one hour. It’s all perfectly safe. Nobody will even know anything is wrong. It’s just like the hour lost when the clocks go forward for British Summer Time.”

“They’re really safe? Do you promise me?”

“Yes, I do,” The Doctor assured her. “Maka assures me that they are very careful. They never do any damage to the topography of their dig sites. They’ll leave quietly when it’s all over.”

“Well… then… well, really, they could have ASKED.” She looked around at the patient activity of the alien archaeologists and thought about that. “Well, no, I suppose they couldn’t, really. But surely there is an easier way.”

Maka was waiting for The Doctor to translate her words when one of his comrades brought him a message that had to be exciting and urgent because the sign language was so rapid it became a blur.

“Ah, wonderful,” The Doctor said when Maka turned and explained the new development to him. “They’ve located the main grave site. It’s right beneath your crazy-golf course. Come and look at the schematic on their main computer.”

Maka bowed and led them both to a place near the space ship where more of the archaeological team were examining scans of the ground under the holiday camp on huge portable videoscreens. The scans distinctly showed up what were obviously graves of very thin humanoid beings. Their skeletons were neatly laid out.

“Who did that?” Rachel asked. “If they ALL died.”

“I rather think the last of them dug their own graves and laid themselves out,” The Doctor answered her with a sad note in his voice. “Maka and his people will know more when they take the relics back to their own world and study them. I’ll look forward to reading their findings.”

Rachel was about to ask how they intended to take the relics back, but the alien archaeologists had that covered. They brought long thin cases from their ship and laid them on the ground over each ancient grave. They held those ‘divining rods’ over them and waited quietly. A red mist filled the cases and when it dispersed there were fossilised Akiron skeletons in each one.

“VERY localised transmat calibrated to the very slightest remnant of their DNA in the ground,” The Doctor explained to Rachel as the Akirons carried the cases onto the ship with deep reverence for the bones of their ancestors. The Doctor took off his hat respectfully. Rachel bowed her head as it was done. Maka came to them both and deep bowed again then he stepped aboard his ship with the last of his people and their equipment.

“Good journey,” The Doctor said, waving to the ship as it took off into the night once more. “There, see, just over fifty minutes to complete the expedition. They’ll be heading back to their university with one of the most important historical finds of the century. They’ll be famous.”

“As long as they don’t reveal the location of the find,” Rachel pointed out. “I don’t want to do overnight accommodation for Akiron tourists.”

“I don’t think you need to worry about that. Come on, now. Let’s step back into the TARDIS. Crossing the time threshold unprotected is rather unpleasantly like being drunk.” He smiled at Rachel warmly. “You’re supposed to ask what’s so unpleasant about being drunk and then I can answer ‘try asking a glass of water.’”

Rachel groaned at the terrible pun. Then she followed The Doctor into the TARDIS. This time it stayed exactly where it was while time caught up. Rachel watched anxiously on the viewscreen as Parc Gwersyllwyr Fodlon came back, bit by bit.

“Well,” The Doctor said eventually. “Everything seems to be in place, now. Would you like to go and see how the Bay City Rollers are holding out on your stage, or would you like to go forward three years in time and see them on Top of The Pops surrounded by admiring fans?”

“We could do that?” Rachel asked.

“We could. Or we could go back and see Elvis Presley’s first professional gig, or the opening night of Handel’s Messiah in 1742 or the first Electric Prom on the moon in 2120….”

“Doctor… are you asking me to go on a trip in your TARDIS with you?” Rachel asked.

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “What do you think? I mean, I know you love your job here. I know you’re happy. But I think you’ve wondered, sometimes, what it would have been like if you’d come with me the last time.”

“Yes, I have,” she said. “Doctor… if I go and just make sure everything is all right out there, check up on the hall and make sure there’s no damage anywhere… will you wait for me? You wouldn’t go without me?”

“Certainly not,” The Doctor promised. “You do just that.”

Rachel smiled widely and ran from the TARDIS. The Doctor whistled a cheerful tune he learnt on a spaceport in the Orion sector as he parked the Vincent safely by the back wall of the console room and secured it with gravity clamps in case of turbulence in the vortex. He looked forward to the adventures he and Rachel would fall into in the foreseeable future.