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

As usual Jo Grant didn’t feel entirely comfortable riding as a passenger in The Doctor’s vintage car fondly called Bessie. They had been travelling at a much faster speed than a car like that ought to be capable of ever since they left the outskirts of London. Now, travelling across the open countryside of Dartmoor where the road ahead could be seen for undulating mile after mile, all of it empty, he had increased the speed exponentially.

“Doctor, you really SHOULD slow down, you know,” she told him. “There might be sheep on the road. Or deer, Dartmoor ponies….”

The Doctor braked hard. The special inertial dampener he had fitted to the car stopped either of them flying through the windscreen. While Jo was still marvelling at that fact a deer came through a gap in the hedge and crossed over to the grassy meadow on the other side of the road.

“I am not only a superb driver with perfect reactions,” The Doctor told his companion. “But as a Time Lord I am also pre-cognitive. I knew that deer was going to cross here. We’re perfectly safe and so is the wildlife. Now, shall we get on? Liz will be waiting.”

He restarted the car and sped on again. The next time it stopped they had just passed a junction between two roads with a hotel called ‘Two Bridges’ breaking up the otherwise empty scene. It was the first building other than a sheep hut that Jo had seen for ages. Just beyond the hotel where the two-way b-road rose up a gentle slope a single lane one joined it at an angle. If Jo had cared to ask The Doctor could have told her it was part of the old turnpike road between Tavistock and Dartmeet and that he once had an interesting encounter with a lady highwaywoman a few miles south-west of there.

Jo didn’t ask. The Doctor stopped Bessie again. A blue Mini Cooper was parked at the junction with the old turnpike. Liz Shaw – Doctor Shaw as she was professionally known - was leaning against the bonnet, waiting patiently. She grinned and waved at Jo, who jumped out of Bessie and went to greet her.

“Hi, Liz,” she said. “If we’re going on from here, can I ride with you? I’m fed up of picking insects out of my hair after a trip in Bessie. Besides, he MIGHT just keep to the speed limit if you go in front.”

“Jump in,” Liz answered with a sympathetic nod. “Doctor, you never change, do you?”

“Actually, I very often DO change,” he answered. “Ask the Brigadier.”

“Never mind. You better had follow me at a normal speed. We’re only about three miles from Leedowne but it’s a bit tricky to get to. That’s one of the reasons I thought you ought to see it.”

“You know,” Jo said as she sat back in the passenger seat of the Mini Cooper and watched The Doctor following along in Bessie in the rear view mirror. “We looked for a village called Leedowne on all of the maps, but we couldn’t find it. The village that doesn’t exist. There’s a Lee Tor, a River Downe, and Downe Reservoir, but no Leedowne village. That’s what intrigued The Doctor enough to drive two hundred and odd miles into the middle of nowhere.”

“Wait until he sees the place,” Liz promised. “It’s absolutely unbelievable.”

“I believe you,” Jo told her. The two women laughed. They had only occasionally met. Jo had replaced Liz as The Doctor’s assistant when she went back to her research post at Cambridge. But now and again their paths had crossed and though one was a professor of applied sciences with two PhD’s and the other had failed o’level general science, they got on like a house on fire. The mutual subject of The Doctor and how infuriating he could be at times, and how frightening and yet utterly exciting it was being mixed up in his sort of adventures, kept them going long enough to forget any differences they might have.

“Why is it tricky to get to?” Jo asked. Liz had driven a good mile and a half west along the relatively straight, well-made but undulating B3357 before turning north onto a lane which even small cars like Bessie and the Mini Cooper had to take in single file. On one side the landscape fell away gently towards the Downe reservoir, glinting like a quicksilver snake under the sunlight. On the other was a thick forest of mixed deciduous trees. There was no sign of a village anywhere in the distance.

“Lee Tor due east,” Liz murmured under her breath to herself. “Bear’s Beacon directly ahead. Yes. I think I have it.”

The lane dipped slightly and the view of the reservoir was obscured. When it rose again, Jo was puzzled to note that she couldn’t see the water at all. But she could see the village. The Mini Cooper drove right into it, stopping by the village green where children were playing on swings and one of those ‘witches hat’ roundabouts that Jo remembered loving as a girl. There was a charmingly rustic pub with whitewashed walls and very small windows upstairs under the overhanging thatched roof and hanging baskets around the door. There were a few old men drinking on the bench outside. The sign above the door proclaimed it as the Leedowne Inn. Beyond the pub was a row of houses and a general store-cum-post office. At the far end of the green was an old church with a castellated tower that had a clock set in it. It struck four o’clock with the right number of bell tolls as the two women got out of the car together.

“Oh, dear,” Jo said. “I think The Doctor got lost. Where’s Bessie?”

“Oh, I’d better go back and get him,” Liz said. “Jo, you have a walk around. Buy yourself a couple of magazines and some chocolate from the shop. And some stamps. Don’t forget the stamps. And when I get back we’ll have a drink and something to eat in the pub and you can tell me what you think is the most peculiar thing about this village.”

“Ok,” Jo said to her. Then she was surprised when Liz passed her a purse with coins in.

“You’ll need this,” she said.

“I’ve got money,” Jo protested. “I don’t need….”

“Trust me, you do,” Liz insisted. “See you soon.”

Liz jumped back into the car and drove back the way she came. Jo put the little purse in her pocket and headed towards the shop.

A few minutes later she came out of the shop with a magazine, chocolate, a few other sundries and a very puzzled expression. She went to sit on the wall beside the pub while she waited for Liz and The Doctor to join her.

Liz’s Mini Cooper returned. The Doctor unfolded his tall frame from the passenger seat and looked around at the village ruefully.

“This is all very peculiar,” he said. “I really don’t know what to make of it at all.”

“You’ve not seen anything, yet,” Jo told him. “Liz, you mentioned a drink and food.”

“Yes,” she answered. “Mrs Downes, the landlord’s wife is a wonderful cook. Her hotpot with crust is excellent.”

“Sounds normal enough to me,” Jo replied. “But it must be the only thing that is. By the way, Doctor, what’s up with Bessie? Did she break down?”

The Doctor didn’t answer until they were in the pub, settled at a comfortable table by the open fire. The Doctor ordered a glass of wine while the ladies had sherry and waited for their food.

“I couldn’t find the village in Bessie,” The Doctor explained. “Liz’s car went out of my view in the dip, and when I came out of it there was no sign of it. No sign of a village, either. I reversed and tried again, then I came back and waited. Liz drove me here. I don’t think Bessie could have found her way even if we put a tow rope on her.”

“Which makes absolutely no sense at all, does it?” Liz said. Jo agreed wholeheartedly.

“It’s not the only thing that doesn’t make sense,” Jo added. “Doctor, what do you make of these?”

She put three things on the table - a pile of loose change from the purse Jo had given her, a copy of Woman’s Own magazine and a strip of four postage stamps. The Doctor carefully examined all three artefacts. Not that it needed much care. The thing that was odd about all three was perfectly obvious.

King George VI.

He was on all three.

His face was on both the stamps and the coins. And the magazine cover featured a portrait photograph ‘The King at 78 – his royal birthday’.

“See what I mean,” Liz said, picking up a shilling and two shilling piece. Of course, these coins were still in circulation, even the old pre-1952 ones. They were the same size and value as the decimal five and ten pence pieces that Jo had in her pocket but which were not accepted as legal tender in this village. She had tried and the lady in the shop kindly but firmly told her that she couldn’t take foreign coins.

“Pre-decimal, and there’s still a king,” she summarised. “King George VI who died before I was born. I’ve only ever seen him in pictures. And he wasn’t as old as he is there.”

“He was only fifty-six when he died,” Liz recalled. “Still quite young, really. He would have been seventy-eight by 1973, and would have looked like that, I suppose.”

“He’s the image of his father, George V,” The Doctor confirmed. “Except a smaller beard.”

“But that’s not right, is it?” Jo questioned.

“No, it’s not right. Something is very odd about this village,” The Doctor assured her. “The fact that it doesn’t actually exist, for one thing.”

“It looks like it exists to me,” Jo commented. She took a forkful of the hotpot that had been delivered to the table. “Tastes like it exists.”

“Not according to the Ordnance Survey maps I consulted before we set out,” The Doctor explained. “You were perfectly right about that, Liz. The Downe Reservoir ought to be right on this spot. Leedowne ceased to exist in 1884 when the dam was built across the river and the valley flooded.”

“Flooded?” Jo queried. “What happened to the people?”

“They were moved,” The Doctor answered. “It has happened quite a few times on Dartmoor. The surrounding lowlands suffer from water shortages, so small remote settlements have been relocated in order to provide sources of clean water for larger towns and cities. It’s nothing to what was done in Egypt a few years ago when the Aswan dam was built. That was an amazing project. And the Tennessee valley in the 1930s….”

“Yes, Doctor.” Liz cut him off. “All those water projects are very commendable. Here, by the way, the Tavistock Leat provides the drinking water. It’s an artificial stream coming off the river and running downhill as far as – well, Tavistock, obviously.”

“They do have RUNNING water, don’t they?” Jo asked. “You know… from taps… and toilets that flush.”

“Yes,” Liz assured her. “But the landlady here tells visitors who aren’t used to it not to drink unboiled water.”


They continued to eat their very delicious meal while individually giving thought to the implications of what they had discovered. Liz bought more drinks. When they had finished eating they pulled their chairs close to the fire.

“We haven’t gone back in time,” Liz explained. “It IS still 1973. We know that from the dates on newspapers and magazines, and the fact that the king IS 78 this year. It’s more like….”

“An alternative reality.” The Doctor nodded in understanding. “Of course, we know such things exist. We’ve come across them before. Liz, remember the trouble I had during Project Inferno with the British Republic - Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart and Section Leader Shaw.”

“Well, I read your report about it, of course,” Liz answered. “And I can only imagine what my ‘other self’ was like to talk to. But you only got into that alternative Earth by doing dangerous experiments with the TARDIS console and using huge amounts of power. This place… I just drove into it by accident the first time. I drove back out when I found out what I had discovered – and then took a week to work out how to get back in again.”

“Yes, I wondered about that,” The Doctor said. “Why couldn’t I find the village in Bessie?”

“It’s a very small gap,” Liz explained. “Bessie was just a bit too wide for it. The Mini Cooper slips through all right. Even then I have to line it up really carefully with all the local landmarks to do it. I’ve been able to come and go easily enough for about a month, now, studying this world. But I thought it was time to call in the expert.”

“Quite right, too,” The Doctor told her. “Have you tried contacting U.N.I.T. from the village?”

“Yes,” Liz answered. “It exists, but it isn’t run by our Brigadier, and nobody knew who I was. They don’t have you as scientific advisor, either.”

“So it isn’t just this village,” Jo surmised. “There’s a whole Britain out there with different history?”

“A whole planet Earth with a different history,” Liz replied. “Neither of the two world wars happened. I think that’s one reason why the King survived. It was always said that the stress of leading the country through World War Two took a toll on his health.”

“Is that possible?” Jo asked.

“Oh, perfectly possible,” The Doctor answered. “The balance of power in Europe in 1914 was so very precarious, a row of dominos that only needed one push to send the whole lot tumbling. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive of Austro-Hungary was the push. After that it was unstoppable. But if Gavrilo Princip had got stuck in traffic or his gun had jammed, then the dominos might have stood long enough for the diplomats to succeed in averting war. And, of course, if World War One had not left Germany financially ruined and humiliated then a nasty-minded house painter called Adolf Hitler would not have been able to influence so many people with his vision of a Third Reich. The new stack of dominos that started tumbling in the 1930s would not have been set up.”

“There was still a war in the Pacific between the USA and Japan,” Liz pointed out. “But it was a smaller thing and Japan capitulated without the need for the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, atomic bombs have never been built, here. Splitting the atom was done for purely peacetime purposes – for atomic power stations. Which means the Cold War and the Arms Race never happened. The USA and Russia are on friendly terms. There was no Cuban missile crisis. I could go on all day with the differences between our history and this one. Some of them are huge, like that. Others are small and subtle, unimportant… like….”

She stopped talking and looked up with a bright smile as a man came into the bar from the staff only entrance. He looked around and then returned her smile and came to the fireside.

“John,” she said with a tone in her voice that surprised The Doctor. He had known Liz Shaw as a very dedicated scientist with very little time for personal relationships. Indeed, her fierce feminism and her determination to succeed in fields of study usually closed to her as a woman meant that she really couldn’t pursue such relationships. Married women were expected to retire from Cambridge, and U.N.I.T. was about as misogynistic an organisation as it was possible to get – well, on Earth, anyway. The Doctor thought ruefully of his own people, who practically defined words like misogyny, xenophobia, obstinate, narrow-minded….

Anyway, the point was, The Doctor never expected to see Liz with that kind of smile on her lips, that softening of her eyes, that note in her voice as if somebody had walked into the room and now nobody else mattered.

Liz Shaw was in love.

Jo had noticed, too. She smiled even more widely as the man called John sat down by the fire next to Liz. She introduced him properly as John Downes, son of the landlord and landlady of the Downes Inn.

“Delighted to meet you, John,” The Doctor said, shaking hands with ‘Liz’s young man’ as he had mentally filed him already. “Do you work in the pub with your parents?”

“No,” he answered. “I’m a research scientist at the Geffen Institute. It’s a facility funded by the university of Exeter. Not quite up to Cambridge, where Liz has been working, but we’re doing some great work with… well, I can’t really talk about it around here. Propriety secrets, all that. But it’s work that will benefit mankind hugely.”

“It really is,” Liz confirmed. “I’ve seen the institute and John has shown me what he’s doing. It will be years before they can even make an announcement about their work, let alone offer the public any product, but they’ve got the funding and the work is going on all the time.”

“I’m pleased to hear it,” The Doctor told her.

“I hope it doesn’t involve animal cruelty,” Jo said. “I don’t approve of that.”

“Nothing of the sort,” John assured her. “We are quite ethical in our research. When we do get to the testing stage we will only use condemned prisoners who have agreed to take part in the project.”

“Condemned….” Jo’s eyes narrowed, but The Doctor put his hand on hers firmly and his expression urged her not to say anything just now.

“Are your friends staying the night?” John asked, changing the subject quickly. “You and Jo can share and there’s a comfortable single room for The Doctor.”

“Well, I hope so,” Jo managed to say. “After driving all the way from London this afternoon, it would be nice not to have to face that journey again tonight. Especially with The Doctor driving.” She looked at him pointedly. He gave a smile back to her best described as whimsical.

Anyway, it was settled that they were staying the night at the Downe Inn. The rooms were clean and pleasant, if basic. Jo put away the things from her overnight bag and looked out of the window. The room was at the back of the pub, and there was very little of the village to see. Instead there was a wide, empty vista of rolling moorland. It was getting near sunset, now, and the valley was thrown into sharp relief with the shadows deepening and the slanting sun highlighting the rest. She could see clearly all the way to what she guessed was Lee Tor – not exactly a hill, but a place that was higher than the surrounding area. There was something at the highest point – some kind of monument or marker. She found a small but strong pair of binoculars in her luggage and used them to get a closer look. Yes, it was a cairn of stones about the height of a man. She wondered what it was for. Did it mark something special?

“It’s where the beacon used to be,” Liz said, stepping quietly into the room. “In the old days when news was signalled by beacon fires on the tallest hills. I mean, really old days. The last message sent that way was something like the death of King George I.”

“Oh, that’s all right, then,” Jo answered her. “As long as it’s not something horrible like a memorial to somebody who died up there.”

“No, nothing of the sort,” Liz assured her. “Although, I suppose there must have been plenty of people who did die out on the moors. It can get dark very quickly, and sometimes there are mists. There are very few lights at night. Not what we’re used to in towns and cities, that’s for sure. It would be easy to die of exposure out there.”

“At least that’s better than dying of experimental drugs in your friend’s laboratory,” Jo said bitterly. She didn’t mean to sound that way, but the thought came into her head and the words just came out.

“I thought you were worrying about that,” Liz said. She sat down at the window with her. “That’s one of the differences about this version of Earth. The death penalty wasn’t abolished in 1965. There are people who are campaigning for it now, but they reckon it won’t happen for another ten years or more. As for the experiments, John didn’t mean anyone would be killed with the drugs. This is something that goes on a lot. The idea is that the prisoners volunteer to take part in the trials – and the government or university – or the Institute in this case - pay a sum of money, either to the prisoner’s family or, if they wish, to their victim’s family. I’m not entirely sure I like the idea, but mostly because I don’t like the death penalty. In some ways the idea has merit.”

“Maybe you’ve been visiting here too often, then, Liz,” Jo told her. “You’re losing hold of the values we have in our own world.”

“It’s not all good,” Liz answered her. “If I were to stay here, with John, then I would have a hard time getting work. For one thing, it would be hard to get a reference, since Cambridge here never gave me a degree. But also, women’s rights are WAY behind. The number of women in scientific jobs is tiny, and a lot of them are just assistants, and they’re paid far less than the men.”

“That’s absolutely outrageous,” Jo commented.

“Yes, I’ve said so to John. We actually had a row about it, and agreed to disagree about it. He said I was a very strong-willed woman, but that was all right because he LIKES strong-willed women.”

“That sounds a little bit patronising to me,” Jo told her. “I’d have kicked him.”

“I think the women’s rights thing is a knock on effect of NOT having two world wars. If you know your history, it was women working in the men’s jobs in the first war that swayed opinion towards the Vote, and in the second women played such an important role that equal rights were inevitable. But the women in this society have never had those chances to prove themselves.”

“Well, it’s still a bit pathetic,” Jo told her. “Liz, are you seriously THINKING of staying here, in this alternative world?”

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “SERIOUSLY thinking about it, even if there are things I don’t like. John… well, you know, he doesn’t exist in our world. I checked. His parents never married – they never even met. The Leedowne community all moved away to different places when the reservoir was built. Besides, he wouldn’t even know me there if he did exist.”

“And you like him THAT much? Enough to give up your place at Cambridge and being a part of U.N.I.T.?”

“Yes, I think I would, if he asked me,” Liz admitted. “I know I sound like I’m letting the side down – perhaps I am. Giving it all up for a man. Not very feminist, is it?”

“It’s not very Liz Shaw. But… well, I suppose, if it’s really what you want, then I hope you’ll invite me and The Doctor to the wedding. And the Brigadier - though you’ll have to come and get us all in the mini. His staff car will never get through.”

Liz laughed. So did Jo. They forgot about the things that bothered either of them and talked as young women about men, clothes and make up as the sun set and the moorland turned darker than anything Jo had ever seen. The only lights to be seen were just to the north of the Tor. Liz said it was the Institute.

“What’s that?” Jo questioned, pointing to another light that had appeared in the sky directly above the Institute. It got bigger as they watched. Then Jo turned and ran from the room. She was about to knock on The Doctor’s door when he opened it, his face tense and urgent.

“I know,” he said. “There’s a UFO above the Institute. Come on, both of you. Liz, your young fellow must have an off-road car?”

“A Land Rover, yes,” she answered. “Doctor, is it real? I mean… an actual lights in the sky UFO? Really?”

“It’s real, and this world is ill-prepared for such a thing without me.”

John Downes was ready with his car keys, as anxious as they were to find out what was happening. The journey was not a pleasant one for Jo. He drove across the pitch dark moorland with as little regard for safe speeds as The Doctor, but without inertial dampeners.

She was glad when they drew close to the gate and he stopped to insert his ID card in the electronic slot. He was upset to find that it didn’t work.

“Is that surprising with all the alarms going off and THAT hanging above?” Jo said, pointing to the underside of the UFO that hung in the air over the Institute’s main building. It was a classic flying saucer, a metallic ball in the centre with a sleek fin all around it. The lights on the underside pulsated in a curiously hypnotic rhythm.

As John tried again to get the electronic gate to work, The Doctor climbed out of the back of the Land Rover and took out his sonic screwdriver. It was a matter of moments to disengage the electronic lock. He pushed open the gates and stood aside for the car to pass then jumped back in.

“I suppose driving right up to a building that aliens have taken over is a good idea?” Liz asked. “I mean… we don’t know what’s happening in there.”

“I think I know very well what’s happening in there,” The Doctor answered her. “And later, you and I are going to have words, Mr Downes. Your answers to my questions might have a strong bearing on your future.”

John Downes was puzzled by The Doctor’s comments but far more concerned by what was happening to his colleagues who were working the night-shift. He was ahead of The Doctor and his two female companions as they reached the main entrance.

It was locked, of course. Again The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to open it. Inside, they found a security guard lying in a crumpled heap.

“He’s just knocked out,” The Doctor confirmed. “No sign of a blow. I think it was some kind of neural disruption. I suspect we might find more unconscious people here.”

They did. Several more night guards were lying in uncomfortable heaps in the corridors. The Doctor simply put them in the recovery position with their airways clear and left them.

One man needed attention. They found him in a laboratory where a bunsen burner had fallen over and set light to some noxious and combustible material. John Downes tackled the fire with a foam extinguisher while The Doctor carried the man out of the laboratory. He was suffering from smoke inhalation. The Doctor gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation until he started breathing normally and then, again, left him to recover.

“Are there labs in the basement of this building?” The Doctor asked John Downes.

“It doesn’t HAVE a basement, let alone labs,” he answered. “What makes you think…?”

The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver to what appeared to be an ordinary door with a ‘restricted’ sign on it. It swung open. Inside was a metal lift door. The one button – marked ‘b’ for basement was key operated but again the sonic made short work of that.

John Downes expressed his astonishment as he stepped out into the well-lit corridor. He had never been in this part of the Institute. He didn’t even know it existed.

“Then you are not a very observant scientist,” The Doctor told him. “There are air vents that would be visible around the outside walls apart from countless other clues.”

John Downes admitted his mistake.

“But WHY do we have a secret basement facility?” he added.

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Jo replied scathingly. “Somebody is doing unethical experiments, probably doing horrible things to animals - or prisoners.”

She was right, though not in the way she imagined. The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver once more to open the door to a large laboratory where some very specific experiments were going on.

There were four people lying on the floor. The Doctor confirmed that they were all just unconscious like the others they had found. John Downes identified them as the director of the Institute, Professor James Atkins, his colleague, Professor Martin Worthing, and two female research assistants. Jo was about to remonstrate about the fact that John didn’t know the names of the female assistants when she realised what this laboratory was about and forgot to worry about feminism in her outrage at an even worse injustice.

“Oh, that’s HORRIBLE!” she exclaimed about the individual fastened to a table by steel braces on its spindle-thin arms and legs. It was an alien. It had grey, hairless skin and had a hugely disproportionate head with large eyes and a small mouth.

The eyes were wide open. It was fully conscious, but its skull had been opened up and probes attached to its exposed brain. A machine was measuring brain waves and levels of serotonin and adrenaline and several other things Jo didn’t understand at all.

“I’m sorry,” she said to the alien. “I’m sorry for what was done to you. I will make sure those who did it are punished.”

“Jo,” Liz said to her cautiously. “You can’t say that. You don’t know what this is all about or who authorised it.”

“I don’t care if the PRIME MINISTER authorised it,” Jo retorted. “He should be punished for such a terrible thing.”

“I quite agree,” The Doctor said. “But just now, I think the best thing we can do is let this one’s own people take it home.”

He turned and nodded towards the door, where three large-headed aliens stood, nervously looking at the four humans who had escaped their knock-out beam.

“It’s all right,” The Doctor said to them. Then he spoke in another language entirely. His tone was gentle and reassuring. He bowed his head and they bowed in return then moved closer. The Doctor told everyone to move back. The aliens closed in on their friend, surrounding the table where he was held prisoner. They raised their hands above him and a glow emanated from them. It grew until it enveloped the table. Through the glow the three Humans and one Time Lord saw the skull and the flesh on it repair itself. Then he sat up as if the steel bonds weren’t there and stood beside his friends.

“Good journey,” The Doctor said to them, bowing his head again. The aliens bowed to him and then left.

“That’s what they came for?” John Downes asked. “For their… friend.”

“Their brother. They’re family,” The Doctor answered. “His ship crashed. He was brought here and your people experimented on him.”

“I knew nothing about this,” Downes assured The Doctor. He turned to Liz Shaw, who was looking at him with a disgusted expression. “Believe me, sweetheart. I had nothing to do with this, at all. If I had known….”

“Well, now that you do know,” Liz answered. “What ARE you going to do about it?” Jo nodded in agreement.

“I….” John knew that his future prospects of a friendship, let alone anything deeper, with Liz, depended on his answer to that question. He made up his mind exactly what he intended to do.

The unconscious people were starting to recover. The two senior scientists were alarmed to discover, first of all, that unauthorised personnel were in their top secret laboratory, and then that their alien specimen was gone. Professor Atkins was all but ready to call the authorities.

“I AM the authorities,” The Doctor told him with an iron note in his voice. “You won’t find anyone in any higher authority. And from what I’ve seen here, the only official report you two will be making will be your resignations.”

Atkins was about to protest, but there was something about The Doctor’s expression, the iron look in his eyes, that silenced him. He stared at those eyes for a long minute then sagged in defeat.

John Downes stayed to make sure everyone at the Institute was unharmed by their alien experience. The Doctor took Liz and Jo back to the Downe Inn. They drank tea by the fire in the now closed bar and talked about what they had seen. The Doctor explained about the race of aliens who communicated by telepathy, and had told him all about their search for their missing brother. They had traced him to the Institute and used a high frequency neural disrupter to render the humans unconscious while they searched for him. They didn’t mean to harm anyone, only to find their brother.

“They won’t come back to this planet,” The Doctor added. “They’ve seen how dangerous humans are, what they can do to an unarmed, helpless, lost creature. They will shun this world and warn others to do the same. That, I am afraid, is the shame of the Human race.”

Liz and Jo both nodded sadly and accepted that censure on behalf of their race.

When John got back to the pub and joined them at the fire it was to report that both Atkins and Worthing had resigned. The two assistants had made statements about the unethical treatment of the alien creature but he thought they might keep their jobs. It was the two professors who had been the most to blame, after all.

“It will need to be confirmed by the university,” he added. “But I’m the acting director of the Institute as of now. I can make sure nothing like that ever happens again. And, Liz… you could join me. There’s Professor Worthing’s position to be filled. My recommendation would be enough. You could work on the project with me… the one we can’t talk about… but would be of such great benefit to mankind.”

“Work with you?” Liz looked at John, then at Jo and The Doctor. Neither of them needed any kind of telepathic skill to know what she was thinking. Working with John at the Institute would be a dream come true. It was a different dream than being married to him, and giving up science altogether. But it was a dream, all the same.

“Are you sure?” Jo asked Liz later when they were getting ready for bed at last. “Staying here in this world… where so much is different.”

“I’m sure,” she answered. “Some things - the things I don’t like so much - I might be able to help change. Other things… are just fine here.”

“The Doctor said he’ll have to get U.N.I.T. to do something about the road… a fence of some sort… so that people don’t pass through by accident. But he says I can come and visit if I want. And there’s no reason why you can’t come and visit us in your car.”

“I would like to do that,” Liz agreed.

“Then that’s ok, then. And… if you do decide to get married… we’ll be there, all of us.”

Especially dedicated to Caroline John who played Liz Shaw in Doctor Who and who died on 5 June 2012, between my writing this story and posting it online. May this be a fitting way for Liz to bow out of my Eight Doctors series.