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


Peri was content. As a history major with a particular interest in antiquities, the National Museum of Ireland was a good place for her to visit. The gem encrusted treasures of the pre- and early Christian eras of that country filled several galleries and she gazed with an intelligent eye at each of them.

She tried not to take too much notice of The Doctor’s own commentary. It differed from the official guide book in that he seemed to have had a hand either in the making of some particularly fine treasure or in the discovery of items that had been missing for centuries.

“So you’ve been in Ireland many times?” she asked when he talked in detail about the setting of the stones on the famous Ardagh Chalice – the colour scheme was his, apparently.

“Oh, yes,” he answered. “A fascinating place, especially in the era of the High Kings. They were feisty men, but they loved nothing better than a good story by the campfire after supper. I was the Bard of Tara, the Seanchaí of Eamhain Mhacha….”

“The Long-winded of Leinster,” Peri suggested. “It sounds as if you single-handedly created the oral mythology of Ireland. If it turns out that Oisin and all that lot were Time Lords, I will be very disappointed.”

The Doctor smiled widely at her. Peri scowled in return. Actually, if it turned out that all the colourful legends of a whole nation were the result of his fertile imagination that was quite impressive, but she wasn’t going to let him know she was impressed.

Besides, he had wandered off to look at something else. His attention was so thoroughly drawn to one glass display case that he didn’t even notice that he was exclaiming loudly, in what, to the staff and patrons of the National Museum of Ireland must have sounded like a foreign language. His mad idea of what constituted fashion was already drawing curious glances, but now he was being positively stared at.

“Enough,” Peri said to him quietly as she came to his side. “I want to be able to come here again.”

“Yes, yes,” The Doctor replied, paying very little attention to her words, or the fact that he was the centre of attention in a room containing some of the finest treasures of a nation. “But look at that.”

Peri looked. At first she couldn’t see anything worth getting excited about despite following The Doctor’s fiercely pointing finger.

“One of these things is not like the others,” he insisted.

“We’re not on Sesame Street,” Peri responded, but she looked again at the collection of silver and gold cloak pins with swirling Celtic designs embossed into the metal. “Wait… that one isn’t a Celtic design. I’ve seen that in the TARDIS. It’s from your planet… Gallifrey.”

“Quite right,” The Doctor said in a congratulatory tone. “In fact that cloak pin belongs to me. It is in my dressing table drawer.”

“You have a dressing table?” Peri looked at the explosion in a clown’s wardrobe sceptically. “And you still choose to look like that?”

The Doctor ignored her jibe, as usual. He was thoroughly immune to any comment about his clothing.

“Anyway, if it’s in your drawer, how can it be there?”

“Because some time in the future I will have left it in the past.” He read the small information card beside the artefact which told him the pin was found during an archaeological dig among the ruins of the sixth century monastery at Glendalough in County Wicklow. It further mentioned that there were inscriptions on the back of the pin including a date – March 20th, 1134 and another series of characters that appeared to be a mix of Celtic, Roman and Greek.

“Low Gallifreyan,” The Doctor whispered. He put his hand flat against the glass case over the artefact and closed his eyes. Slowly the pin began to move as if pulled by a magnetic force. Peri watched it flip all the way round so that the etched characters on the back could be easily seen.

“There IS a photograph of the back on the information panel here,” she pointed out. “That was just showing off.”

“That confirmed that it’s my pin, imbued with TARDIS energy. That’s why it moved for me.” The Doctor took a pen from his pocket and wrote the date and the other characters on the back of Peri’s guide book before turning and striding off, as if he had forgotten she was even with him.

“Hey, wait up,” she called as she caught up with him. “Where are you going? You said we’d get lunch in the museum café before we went anywhere else.”

“No time for that,” he answered. “I sent a message to myself, to go to Glendalough.”

“We could EAT first,” Peri told him.

“Come along,” The Doctor replied, ignoring her protest and striding towards the place where he had left the TARDIS – up against the wrought iron fence that divided the National Museum entrance from the front of Leinster House, the seat of the Irish government. “We can eat when we get to the monastery.”

“Doctor, have you noticed that I’m a girl,” Peri asked as she watched The Doctor get the TARDIS under way.

He looked at her, and he might have been thinking of the first time she came into the TARDIS, dressed in nothing but a very skimpy bikini. If he hadn’t noticed then that she was a girl, he never would.

“Well… monasteries don’t usually HAVE girls,” she reminded him. “Especially not in 1134.

“Ah.” He looked temporarily disconcerted, then he flashed her one of his manic smiles. “Don’t worry. I know just what to do.”

“Doctor!” Peri protested loudly as she followed The Doctor along a worn cart track and across a wooden bridge that spanned a small river called Glandassan which fed into one of the two lakes of the beautiful glacial valley of Glendalough – valley of the two lakes. Ahead of them was a grey complex of buildings made of granite and mica-slate - including a very distinctive slender round tower that rose above everything else in the scene. This was Glendalough monastery, a place of sanctity and sanctuary.


“Look at me!” she protested, holding out her arms. The shapeless grey-brown habit with voluminous sleeves and deep cowled hood hid everything that the bikini failed to hide. “I look like Christian Slater in The Name of The Rose.”

“You don’t SOUND like Christian Slater,” The Doctor pointed out. “He is far less shrill.”

“Well, EXACTLY,” Peri responded. “I sound like a woman. How are we going to get away with this?”

The Doctor smiled again and strode on towards the entrance to the monastery. This consisted of a two storey building of the grey granite with a timber roof. An archway brought them under the roof where he rang a bell and they waited for the gate in a second archway to be opened.

Peri looked around and noticed the only decoration in this entrance way – a cross carved into a large stone in the west wall.

“In this time the law of Sanctuary exists,” The Doctor explained. Any fugitive who passes that cross may live in peace within the walls of the monastery for a year and a day. Anyone pursuing him cannot pass the cross to remove him.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Peri remarked. Then the inner gate was opened. A cowled monk bowed his head to the visitors. The Doctor bowed in return.

“I am The Doctor, a friend of Abbot Lorcán. This is my acolyte, Páid. He has taken a vow of silence in order to better hear the wisdom of his elders.”

“Wh…..!” Peri began. She glared at The Doctor, but his back was to her and her face was deep inside her hood so the gesture was lost on him. She glared at his back with such deep animosity that he must have felt it telepathically, but if he did, like so many things, he ignored it.

“Come within,” said the monk. “I shall tell the Abbot that you are here.”

The Doctor and Peri followed the monk through the gate into the monastery complex. They crossed a wide paved courtyard and into another of the strongly built granite structures. This was the refectory where the monks ate together at long wooden tables.

Peri was hopeful. Perhaps there would be food here.

She was dismayed when she was served with a mug of water and a thick piece of dry bread.

“It must be Friday,” The Doctor observed when they were left alone. “The monks observe a fast of bread and water.”

He, himself, ate his bread as if it was a freshly made pizza with everything on it. Peri sighed and bit off a piece of crust, washing it down with the water. It wasn’t her idea of lunch by a long shot.

She was still trying to swallow the last morsel of bread when the Abbot came to greet them.

“Doctor, you are, indeed, welcome to Gleann Dá Locha,” said the Abbot. “And your young companion.”

The vow of silence had obviously already been conveyed to the Abbot. He bowed to Peri – or Brother Páid as she was currently known - before sitting and receiving a portion of the bread and water himself. He ate it, as The Doctor had done, with relish, as if it was the finest cuisine.

In her silence, Peri studied Abbot Lorcán. He was surprisingly young – perhaps twenty-nine or thirty at the most. She didn’t know much about these things, but she had always assumed abbots were older men with years of prayers and penances and Fridays eating bread and water under their belts.

He wasn’t bad looking. He was tall, slim of build, though not skinny. He had bright blue eyes and strong features. A trim reddish-brown beard made him look like a character from one of those old swashbuckling films. If he wasn’t a monk he could have been a knight of the Crusades.

That was a couple of centuries later, of course, she reminded herself.

She also reminded herself that the Abbot thought she was a boy and tried not to look at him with too much of a feminine interest.

“I have prayed for help these past weeks, and here you are,” Lorcán was saying to The Doctor. “You always come when I am in need of your special skills.”

“What is the problem?” The Doctor asked him. “I will help if it is within my power.”

“We have a ghost,” Lorcán answered very simply. “A figure has appeared with increasing frequency, sometimes at night, sometimes by day. It wears strange clothes the like of which none of our brethren have ever seen and has all the appearance of a man, but it is not a corporeal form. It has been seen walking through walls and upon the empty air where there is no floor.”

“Have you seen it, Lorcán?” The Doctor asked calmly, neither dismissing nor confirming the possibility.

“I have not, but sober men of indisputable character have sworn it to me.”

“Good enough,” The Doctor agreed. “Is there some particular place where the ghost has been seen?”

“The cloister,” Lorcán answered. “And the library. Once, so it was sworn by a dozen or more, it walked in the air among the beams of the Cathedral roof, proving that it was not immune to sanctified ground.”

“I shall investigate the matter,” The Doctor promised solemnly. “Of course, I shall have your leave to go where I choose within the monstery?”

“Naturally,” Lorcán replied. “It would be best if the brethren don’t know the purpose of your work. To that end, joining with our daily devotions and labours would be desirable. It will be time for Nones in an hour. Perhaps you would like to rest in your cell before then?”

“I would, indeed,” The Doctor agreed. Lorcán nodded to a young monk who had appeared in the refectory just at the right moment. He was tasked with escorting The Doctor and his companion to their place of rest.

Of course, Peri knew that a ‘cell’ was the word for the room where a monk slept. Even so, she wasn’t quite ready for how very basic the accommodation at Glendalough was. She looked around in despair at the small, bare room with only one narrow palette bed with a straw mattress and a woven wool blanket on it. Beside it was a plain wooden table and chair with a bible and a tallow candle.

“Where am I supposed to sleep?” she demanded as soon as she was sure she could not be overheard.

The Doctor pointed to a second blanket laid directly on the cold stone flag floor. Peri said nothing. Her face said it all, and as she had pushed back the cowl of her robe there was no mistaking the message.

The Doctor said nothing. He sat at the table and waved her down on the palette bed. It was lumpy and straw stuck out through the mattress cover. It was certainly nothing to envy.

“And another thing. The Abbot and the other monks… they keep talking to you and ignoring me. They say ‘you’ meaning just you, not plural, and when you were talking to the Abbot… you kept saying ‘I’, not ‘we’. Just because I’m silent doesn’t mean I don’t count.”

“I wouldn’t dare think otherwise,” The Doctor assured her. “Especially as the silence is only temporary. Please lower your voice just a little. The brethren do pass along the corridor outside. Quite apart from causing distress by your femininity, shouting is not usual within the monastery. Hushed tones are appropriate when conversation is necessary.”

“I’ll give you hushed tones….”

“Please, DO!” The Doctor insisted.

Peri looked mutinous, but he had a point. She spoke much quieter out of respect for the sacred place, not because The Doctor told her to.

“It’s still not fair….”

“The life of an acolyte isn’t fair. They work hard and pray hard and get little thanks for it, and unlike children who have to be seen and not heard, they tend to be neither seen nor heard. Lorcán WAS disregarding you because of your lowly status, and of course I replied to him in the singular pronoun because it would look strange if I appeared to treat my acolyte as an equal and a confidant, let alone an equal partner in the investigation he asked me to conduct.”

“Just don’t get used to the idea,” Peri told him. “Or when we’re done in this place you won’t hear hushed tones for a week.”

The Doctor accepted her injunction with a wry smile.

“This ghost….” She decided she might as well change the subject now that she had let him know where he stood with her. “It’s a real ghost?”

“There is no such thing as real ghosts,” The Doctor answered. “I have come across things believed to be ghosts or spirits many times in my life. The majority of them are mistaken identity. A lot are deliberate hoaxes to frighten…”

“The sort of thing the Scooby Do gang invariably unmask.”

The Doctor thought her analogy was appropriate and told her so.

“A VERY few,” he continued. “A very, very few are anomalies that need to be corrected, but they are corrected by science, not by prayer and exorcism.”

“I guess you won’t be telling that to your friend Lorcán,” Peri suggested. “He’s an abbot, after all. His business is prayer.”

“No, I won’t tell him that. But I will get to the bottom of the mystery. If it is innocent, I will do my best to resolve the problem. But if it turns out to be something of the Scooby Do gang nature, somebody trying to frighten the monks or cause harm to their contemplative life, they’ll know my wrath.”

The Doctor looked so very sincere when he said that. Peri was secretly proud of him. He cared about these monks and their surprisingly young and handsome abbot and sought to protect them from anything that would harm them.

“You seem different,” she commented. “Here in this place. I mean, you look different without that silly coat, of course, but you seem more serious, too. Serious in a good way… as if putting on a monks habit made you more like them.”

The Doctor smiled softly.

“You’re not one, are you?” she asked. “Do they have monks on your planet? Do they have religion? Did you ever….”

“There are men who choose a contemplative life,” The Doctor admitted. “But not in this sense. We don’t have religion in the way you understand it. We worship no gods.”

“So you don’t believe in this kind of life….” She waved her arm vaguely towards the pewter crucifix that was the only wall decoration. “You don’t believe in God and Jesus and….”

“It is not part of my culture. But that doesn’t mean I can’t respect good people who choose such a life and live it diligently,” The Doctor explained. “Lorcán is just such a good man who believes wholeheartedly in his God and doing His Will.”

“And how do you know him?” That was a question Peri had been burning to ask ever since they arrived.

“I met him some years before he became a monk, when he was being tormented by an alien being pretending to be an avenging angel. I sent it packing and gave him peace of mind.”

“That was nice of you.”

“Believe it or not, I AM a nice person,” The Doctor replied. That is why I subliminally put the idea into Lorcán’s mind that we needed a little time to rest. I thought you’d prefer that to going to a scripture class in Latin or weeding the garden. Lie down on the bed and have a little quiet time.”

“I’ve had nothing BUT quiet time since I got here,” Peri retorted, but she figured she would NEED the rest if they were going to be ghost-busting for the next few days. She tried to ignore how uncomfortable the straw mattress was or the fact that there was no pillow and the blanket made of raw wool was itchy. She lay quietly and watched The Doctor open the bible, hand-copied in Latin as all bibles were in this time, and read it from cover to cover in a little over fifteen minutes. When he was done, he sat with his fingers pressed together, held in front of his lips, almost as if he was praying. Since he had told her that he didn’t pray, she supposed it was some form of Time Lord style meditation.

Watching him sit so still seemed to mesmerise her. She wasn’t asleep, and she knew that time was passing, but she was quite relaxed and at peace.

All too soon, though, The Doctor stirred from his contemplation and came to wake her.

“Somebody is coming to bring us to the cathedral,” he said. “Put your hood back up and remember your vow of silence.”

“When this is over I’m going to pay you back for that,” Peri vowed, but she did as he said before the cell door opened and the young monk was back to take them to the devotions said at the ninth hour of the day – Nones. They joined the throng of monks in their grey-brown habits as they came from their afternoon tasks and Peri wondered if there were any more acolytes under a vow of silence who might actually be girls. After all, it was impossible to tell in their non-descript and all-encompassing clothes.

What she didn’t see was the strangely dressed ghost. It failed to make an appearance at Nones. As the brethren left the cathedral at the end of their divine office and returned to the refectory for their afternoon portion of bread and water The Doctor assured his acolyte that their work was hardly begun and they must be patient.

Peri remembered glumly that she faced two hours of silent scripture study with the acolytes of Glendalough then the evening service called Vespers, followed by more bread and water and then the service called Compline before retiring to her bed on the floor of the cell at a little before seven o’clock in the evening.

The ghost had better turn up and save her from such a dismal prospect.