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

Dawn on the Atlantic Ocean in mid-summer was beautiful. The sun rose in the east and splashed red-gold over the steely-grey of the water and turned the low-lying clouds close to the horizon crimson and russet. As it rose, the sea settled down into a choppy grey-green and the sky azure streaked with white stratus clouds.

The Doctor observed the sunrise from the railing of the promenade deck before heading back to the first class cabin he was sharing with Adric – the girls being in an adjoining cabin with its own separate bathroom facilities.

He was in no hurry. Adric wouldn’t notice him coming into the cabin. He would be fast asleep having stayed up late. He had been up late every night of the voyage so far, and would probably continue to do so until they reached Boston, where his partner in crime was disembarking with her parents.

The Doctor had been even later up, spending his time with the Honourable Caroline. In fact, this was not the first sunrise he had caught before going to bed. It had been a sweet night in the company of that delightful lady.

“Doctor?” A familiar voice called to him. He turned to see Tegan, still in the dress she had worn to dinner last night. He was still in the dress suit he had worn and there was little use in either of them pretending that they had seen their own beds at all.

“It’s a beautiful sunrise,” The Doctor remarked, keeping up appearances all the same. “I like sunrises. For a little while the Earth sky looks like the sky on Gallifrey.”

“You hate Gallifrey,” Tegan told him. “Why are you nostalgic for it?”

“I hate the political system and the stultifying social structure. I love the sky.”

Tegan nodded. She understood in a way. She had yearned to travel away from Australia, but anything that reminded her of home would evoke a pleasantly nostalgic sensation.

“I never realised how much alike we are,” The Doctor commented. “Both a long way from home.”

“Out of choice,” Tegan reminded him. “Especially now. I don’t know when I’ve been happier than I’ve been in these past days.”

“Me, too,” The Doctor said with a distant smile. “Caroline….”

“Jack….” Tegan murmured. “I really never expected to find the love of my life on a ship to New York. I didn’t even expect it on a plane to New York. I mean, I had no real illusions about air stewardesses and first class passengers. It really doesn’t happen that way.”

Tegan stopped talking. The Doctor wasn’t really listening, and even if he had been she was rambling off on a tangent.

“I’m in love with Jack, and he’s in love with me,” she said after the silence had lengthened.

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “I feel the same way about Caroline.”


“Yes. So much so, that I intend to ask her to travel with me in the TARDIS when we reached New York. I cannot bear the thought of letting her go.”

“That’s… wonderful, Doctor. Do you mean that… you and her… might get married?”

“Yes. Yes, we can do exactly that. I’ll take her back to Gallifrey and President Borusa can marry us. The ceremony is utterly magnificent. Caroline will look beautiful in a Gallifreyan wedding gown.”

“Have you told her that you’re from an entirely different planet?” Tegan asked.

“No, but I’m sure she won’t mind.”

“Just as I’m sure Jack won’t be upset when I explain about coming from the 1980s,” Tegan agreed. “He’s just so sweet and wonderful. It will seem strange living in the 1930s, but I’m ready to do it with Jack.”

“I’ll miss you,” The Doctor told her. “But I’m sure you’ll be very happy.”

“Oh, I know I will,” Tegan said with a wide smile that turned into a yawn. “I’d better get to sleep for a bit. I’m having breakfast with Jack at nine.”

She turned and walked away towards the first class cabin deck. The Doctor watched the sun come up a little more.

Caroline. For the past few days she was all he had been able to think about. Sometimes, like now, he thought there was probably something else he ought to be considering, something important. But when he tried to grasp the idea it evaporated and he couldn’t remember why he was worrying about it.

He turned from the rail and made his way back to his own cabin where he carefully put his evening clothes aside and got into bed without waking Adric.

Or so he thought.

Adric watched from behind his long eyelashes as The Doctor climbed into bed. He knew what time it was by the bedside clock with MV Britannic on its face. He knew The Doctor hadn’t just been for a walk to watch the sunrise – not in his evening suit from the night before.

Of course, there was no reason why The Doctor shouldn’t have a lady friend.

Except that he was spending so much time with her it was as if he had forgotten everything else. He especially seemed to have forgotten that they were leaving Earth once they reached New York. The TARDIS was still in the hold, travelling with them on this ocean-going ship.

Surely he wouldn’t give all that up for a woman?

If he did, well, Tegan was all right. Her and Jack were getting very cosy, too. But what about himself and Nyssa? They were both orphans, far from home. The Doctor was the closest thing to a parent that they had.

What if he no longer wanted them? What would become of either of them?

Nyssa was worrying about the same problem, but for very different reasons. She confessed them to her friend Laurence over an early breakfast.

“I wish we were staying in America,” she said. “We’re going to be travelling again very soon after reaching New York. We can’t even keep in contact by letters.”

“Why do you keep travelling?” Laurence asked.

“It’s The Doctor. He just… I don’t think he even knows where home is any more. For him, always being somewhere new, always going somewhere, is what life is about, and we travel with him. Tegan is with us by choice. She can probably move on any time she wants. She might even do that when we reach New York. I think her and Jack are serious. But Adric and I have no family and nowhere to go unless we go with him.”

“I’m sorry for you,” Laurence told her.

“It’s not so bad in a way. We have a lot of fun, and I have learnt so much from The Doctor. But sometimes… especially now… I do wish we could settle down.”

“Perhaps he will. He seems very taken with Caroline. Maybe they’ll get married.”

“No, he’s said that he’ll bring Caroline with us when we continue travelling. I don’t think he’s asked her, yet, but he intends to.”

“Perhaps she won’t want to. Perhaps they’ll settle down together and you and Adric can live with them until you’re ready to make your own lives.”

“I’d like that,” Nyssa said. “I really would like that.”

And it actually seemed as if that might happen. A little before lunchtime The Doctor asked Adric and Nyssa, and Tegan to meet him in the sun lounge on the promenade deck. They sat and waited for him to break his news to them.

“Caroline and I are going to be married,” he said. “We’re going to buy an apartment in New York. Nyssa, Adric, you’ll live with us, of course.”

Nyssa looked thrilled. Adric was dismayed, but he didn’t say anything yet. The Doctor looked at Tegan.

“You are welcome to stay, too… or I can arrange to get you back home….”

“It’s all right, Doctor,” Tegan told him. “Jack and I are engaged, too. Look.”

She held out her hand to reveal a beautiful diamond ring. Nyssa admired it effusively. Adric just shrugged. The Doctor hugged her and congratulated her wholeheartedly – with both hearts.

“So you’re going to be a cattle rancher’s wife?”

“It seems so. Well, why not?”

“Why not, indeed.”

“I was worried about missing you all, but if you’re only going to be in New York, that’s fine.”

“I’ll be able to write to Laurence at his school,” Nyssa said happily.

“We’ll get you into a school in New York,” The Doctor promised. “And Adric, too. It’s time he had some normality of that sort. He was running wild on Alzarius and life as a time traveller has no stability. As for the TARDIS – I’ll arrange for the Time Lords to take her back to Gallifrey. I won’t need her anymore.”

It all seemed settled. Adric said nothing. He got up from where he was sitting and went to find the lunch buffet in the cabin class restaurant. He filled his plate with choice titbits and got a long glass of lemonade to go with it, but he just picked at his food in a desultory and thoroughly uncharacteristic way.

“What’s wrong?” Paula asked him. She sat by his side with her own well-laden plate and a tall, frothing chocolate milk with a straw.

“Everything’s wrong,” Adric answered. “The Doctor is marrying that woman – Caroline, and we’re going to live in an apartment in New York. No more travelling. I’ll be stuck here, on Earth.”

“On Earth?” Paula looked at him curiously. “What do you mean?”

“I’m from Alzurius,” he explained. “I told you that the first time we met.”

“I thought it was in France. You know, near Alsace or something.”

“No, it’s in E-Space – outside of this universe of time and space, and even though going back there is nearly impossible, at least I was travelling around with The Doctor. It was good, even when the GIRLS joined us.”

“It’s not true,” Paula insisted. “Nobody comes from outer space. Not normal people, not in real life. I mean there are stories about monsters….”

“It IS true, it is real,” Adric told her. “Tegan is the only Human among us. She’s from Australia. But Nyssa is from Traaken, and I’m from Alzurius, and The Doctor is a Time Lord from Gallifrey. He promised to take us there one day, but he never has, and now he never will. All because he fell in love with a stupid woman on this ship.”

Paula still didn’t look like she believed him, but she thought about what he was saying and then said something that gave Adric food for thought.

“Do you really believe that people can fall in love so quickly? It’s only BEEN four days since we all came on this ship.”

“The Doctor and Caroline did. And Tegan and Jack.”

“And Lady Charlotte Aubrey and The Honourable Robert Lloyd Owen,” Paula added. “My mother was talking about it to Lady Warwick last night. They’re announcing their engagement at dinner tonight.”

“That’s three couples on one ship. Do you think that’s normal?”

Paula shrugged. She wasn’t particularly interested in romances.

“It seems like too many,” she admitted. “Considering none of them knew each other before they came on this voyage.”

“Then it’s not normal. I think something is making them that way.”

“Mushy and soppy about each other, you mean?”

“Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I mean. I wonder….”

He paused in thought long enough to eat a slice of quiche and two chicken drumsticks.

“Do you know how to get into the luggage hold?” he asked, knowing that Paula had explored every inch of the ship several times and had found ways of getting around that the crew surely didn’t know of.

“Yes. It’s a tight squeeze, though. I went in once, but it’s dark and boring.”

“There’s something really interesting down there – our space ship. If I show you, you’ll believe me about being from outer space, and we can use it to find out if there’s something alien making everyone behave stupidly.”

Paula still wasn’t convinced about space ships, but she certainly did believe that some people were behaving stupidly aboard the MV Britannic. She finished her chocolate milk and then went to her cabin to change into something less frilly than she was supposed to wear. That done, she led the way down from the Cabin Class deck, past tourist and third, to the area passengers weren’t supposed to be in at all. The crew quarters and the radio room were a deck below, and after that the engine rooms. Here, was the place where the passenger luggage was stowed.

The door was locked, but there was a vent – for purposes neither of the youngsters knew. The screws were already loose. Paula had dealt with them when she explored this deck. She moved it aside altogether and wriggled through the gap. Adric followed, having a little more trouble, but managing it anyway.

It was dark inside the hold, but not as dark as it ought to have been. There was a light shining on top of the blue box propped against the bulkhead wall, but there was something else, too.

If Adric had ever read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the line about a bad lobster in a cellar might have come to his mind. He hadn’t, and it didn’t, but he couldn’t miss the phosphorescent glow from the much smaller box set down some ten paces away from the TARDIS. It was the size of an ordinary travel trunk – there were dozens more all around it. But this was anything but ordinary. There were symbols on it that didn’t come from any culture on planet Earth.

“You see,” Adric said. “THIS is alien. I bet it has something to do with what’s happening to everyone.”

Paula looked at the glowing trunk suspiciously, but without obvious signs of fear. If she was afraid, she was too outwardly tough to show it.

“But that other thing isn’t alien at all,” she pointed out. “It’s a police box – from England. I’ve seen them in the streets.”

“It just looks like a police box,” Adric answered her. “Let me show you.”

He extracted his key from his pocket and opened the TARDIS door. Again, if she was at all nervous, Paula didn’t show it. She followed Adric into the well-lit room beyond the door. She stepped out again and examined the TARDIS from the outside then stepped back in again.

“It’s a fake door. It goes to the other side of the bulkhead,” she guessed.

“No,” Adric insisted. “It’s transcendentally relative. Bigger on the inside.”

“It’s a space ship?”


“You’re really from another planet – called Alz… Als….”



“Yes, it is, really,” Adric agreed. He moved to the console and looked at the environmental console. The TARDIS had been taking readings of its own for several days. It had already identified the glowing trunk and analysed its effects.

“It belongs to the Honourable Caroline, by the way,” Paula said. “There was a label on it.”

“There was?” Adric felt a little less clever. He had missed that clue. But now it all made sense in a horrible sort of way. “Come on, we have to find The Doctor.”

Paula followed him out of the TARDIS. They gave the glowing trunk a very wide berth even though they knew, now, that it wasn’t dangerous to them. They crawled through the vent and into the passage outside. They made their way up to the Cabin Class area where they belonged and sought out The Doctor.

They found him in the Promenade Deck lounge with Caroline. They were sitting there, holding hands, and talking in a tone that Adric and Paula both immediately classified as ‘soppy’.

“Doctor,” Adric said in a tone that suggested urgency. “Please can I have a word… in private.”

“There is nothing you can’t say in front of Caroline, after all, she will be your stepmother once we are married.”

“She won’t,” Adric responded. “You’re not my father.”

“Adric….” The Doctor was nonplussed. It was true that he was no blood relative of the boy at all, but he had been like a father to him, guiding him, educating him. He meant to carry on with the responsibilities of parenthood, but within a real family home such as neither of them had known for a very long time.

“No, Doctor. Come away from her and listen to me.”

Adric was insistent. The Doctor looked at him angrily. The boy was being very rude towards Caroline. It was thoroughly improper.

“Adric, go to our cabin and remain there. I will not listen to any more nonsense from you,” he said in a firm tone.

“No,” Adric replied. “Doctor, listen to me. There is a box in the hold – it’s… it’s a Bellassic emotion enhancer.”

“It’s what?” The Doctor looked at the boy curiously. “What are you talking about? How could anything like that be aboard this ship. How do YOU know about such things?”

“I don’t. But the TARDIS does. Especially when it’s been in the same hold for days. It analysed it.”

“Oh, for heaven sake, go away,” The Doctor snapped. “Stop talking nonsense.”

Adric went away. Paula caught up with him on deck and stood next to him as he held onto the rail and faced out towards the prevailing wind. He hid his tears of disappointment and betrayal with the salt spray that hit him directly in the face.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said eventually. “We’ve got to get rid of that trunk. It’s the only way. He won’t realise the truth while he’s under its influence.”

“So let’s do that,” Paula told him. “Come on. Let’s do it.”

“How?” Adric asked.

“I don’t know, but we’ll work it out when we get down there again.”

As the two youngsters headed for the nearest companionway, Jack and Tegan came around the deck, holding hands and smiling. They stopped in the shelter of the lifeboat station and embraced fondly.

“I’m so happy,” Tegan whispered as she laid her head on his shoulder. “I never expected to feel this way.”

“Nor I,” Jack answered. “But as soon as I saw you standing just over there by the railing, I knew it was right.”

“It’s been so sudden. But I know what you mean – it’s just right.”

They embraced closer and Jack turned his head to kiss her.

Adric and Paula got into the hold again the way they did before – using a vent only just big enough for them to squeeze through. That presented their biggest problem of all.

“If we could get it up on deck, we could push it overboard,” Paula said. “But how do we get it out of here? The door is locked from the outside.”

“The TARDIS,” Adric told her. “Come on, let’s get this thing inside it.”

It wasn’t especially heavy, but they had to push a lot of other boxes aside before they could get it to the TARDIS door and across the threshold.

“The TARDIS doesn’t like it being in here,” Adric said when he closed the door. “Look at the way the time rotor is flickering.”

“What are we going to do now?” Paula asked. “How do we get up on deck?”

“In the TARDIS,” Adric insisted. He moved to the manual drive console. He had used it before, accidentally, when he was on Alzurius and moved the TARDIS into a cave. Now he had been taught a few things by The Doctor he was confident he could move it on purpose to where he wanted it to go.

Well, not quite. The TARDIS materialised in mid-air on the port side of the Promenade deck, hovering at the same rate of knots as the ship itself but not even close to being on the deck itself.

Still it would do for what they intended. The door opened and Adric and Paula pushed the alien trunk out. They hardly heard the splash. The TARDIS and the MV Britannic were already leaving it behind when it landed in the water and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Adric!” Tegan turned from kissing Jack and ran to see what was happening. At the same time, The Doctor came running. He was astonished to see his TARDIS hovering beside the ship with Adric and his friend at the door.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. “Adric, what did you do?”

“What I had to do,” he answered. “But I don’t know how to get back.”

“Here, catch!” Jack Havelock called out, taking the strange situation with surprising calmness. He grabbed one of the lifebelts and threw it to Adric. “Tie it up and we’ll pull you in.”

Jack and The Doctor did just that, hauling the TARDIS onto the Promenade deck. The Doctor leapt aboard as soon as it landed and cancelled the hover mode before it drifted down to the other end of the ship, then brought the two youngsters out.

As he did so, Nyssa and Laurence ran to find out why the TARDIS was on deck and at the same time Caroline came from the lounge.

“Adric was right,” he said to her accusingly. “None of it was real. My emotions were being influenced. We all were – except Adric. He was too young to be affected by those kind of emotions. That’s why he saw it all so clearly.”

“I needed a man,” Caroline said in her defence. “Unless I can marry a Human – a native of this planet – I have to go back to Bellassia. Once there, I’ll never be able to leave again. My tourist visa expired twenty years ago.”

“If you wanted a Human, you made a big mistake picking The Doctor,” Tegan told her. “Besides, have you never heard of true love? You can’t MAKE somebody want you.”

Caroline was thoroughly downcast. The Doctor almost felt sorry for her.

“Just… go away, out of my sight,” he told her in a very restrained tone, as if he was just holding back from real anger. “Stay away from me, from every man aboard this ship until we reach the USA. There are over two hundred million people there. You can lose yourself among them. Maybe you’ll meet one who will love you without any tricks. Maybe you won’t. But that’s how it is.”

Caroline accepted the act of mercy he offered her. She turned and walked away slowly. The Doctor looked around at his companions and their shipboard friends.

“Tegan, you and Jack probably have a lot to talk about right now. When you’re through, come and find me.”

“Yes, Doctor,” she replied. She turned to Jack. He took her hand gently and they walked away, seeking a quiet place to have a very difficult conversation.

“Nyssa, I’ll talk to you later. You and Laurence go along to the auditorium. There’s a film show and lecture about the Marconi experiments with television.”

That left Adric and Paula looking worried in case The Doctor was angry at them.

“I should have listened,” he said. “Even if I was smitten by Caroline I shouldn’t have forgotten to listen to you, Adric. Please forgive me.”

“It’s… all right, Doctor,” Adric answered him. “I’m… sorry… about Caroline. I’m sorry it wasn’t real.”

“So am I,” The Doctor admitted. “It was nice while it lasted. I haven’t been in love for a long time. I….”

He stopped. The two youngsters were looking aghast. An adult talking about love in front of them was just too much.

“Go and get ice creams,” he said. “The biggest ones they do.”

The two ran away as soon as he said that. The Doctor closed the TARDIS door and walked slowly back to the promenade lounge. He sat there, deep in thought, until, as he predicted, Tegan came to see him. She sat by his side, brushing her tears away. He reached out and held her until she was ready to talk.

“As soon as Adric got rid of that trunk… the emotion enhancer… it was as if we’d both – Jack and I – both woken up from a dream. It was a great dream, but still just a dream. It wasn’t real. We weren’t in love. We barely knew each other apart from what we’d talked about in the past few days. We couldn’t get engaged. I gave him his ring back. It once belonged to his grandmother. It wasn’t fair to keep it.”

“That was the right thing,” The Doctor assured her.

“It still felt bad. Even if it wasn’t real, it had been nice for a while – feeling as if my future was all mapped out – a future that had somebody else in it.”

“I understand. For a while I felt the same way. I really was ready to give up all that I am for Caroline. That sense of belonging somewhere – that must have been her. She was so desperate for a way of staying here on Earth.”

“I’d feel sorry for her if I wasn’t feeling a bit sorry for myself,” Tegan admitted. She sighed deeply and let The Doctor hug her as a good friend.

“The ‘might have beens’ of life,” he said. “They’re a whole section of quantum physics. I was always good at quantum physics. Do you want to see what your life might have been like if that ‘might have been’ with Jack had been real?”

Tegan nodded, though she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. She obeyed when he told her to close her eyes. The touch of his hand on her forehead was cool and soothing.

Then she felt her mind filling with memories that weren’t there before: a beautiful white wedding and a glorious honeymoon, her new home on the ranch in Colorado, the joy when their first daughter was born, the greater joy when a son came along two years later.

There were tough times when the Depression bit down, when they made very little profit, but Jack employed almost every man who asked for work even though there was very little for them to do.

Then there was the war, when most of the fit and able men – including Jack – went to Europe or the South Pacific. Tegan managed the ranch with the help of other women and a few men who weren’t deemed fit for service. Her two sons and her daughter worked hard along with her and tried to believe that the war would be over by 1945, as their mother told them.

Then it was. Jack came home with a medal and a slight limp from a leg injury. He also had an idea that would boost the local economy. He used his severance pay from the army to build a cannery. Beef products from tinned pies to strained beef and carrots for babies were produced in their thousands and shipped off in lorries all over America. The profits came pouring in like never before. The already substantial house was extended into a beautiful mansion. Tegan woke every morning to breakfast served by a maid and a glorious view out of her bedroom window of the ranch stretching right to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

The children grew. Their daughter’s wedding was another red-letter day in their lives. Then their first grand-child. Jack retired and let his two sons take over the business together. He and Tegan enjoyed the fruits of their labours in their late years….

“That’s enough,” she said, pulling away from The Doctor’s touch. “I suppose the only thing that can happen after that is dying in bed at a ripe old age with no regrets. I can miss out on that.”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed.

“It feels real – the memories of a whole lifetime. The children… grandchildren. It’s as if I lived all of that in the time I was sitting here.”

“It’s as real as you want it to be,” The Doctor told her. “Keep the memories of what could have been, and when you find a life just as satisfying as that one, grab it with both hands and be happy for a second lifetime, Tegan, my dear.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” she told him. She embraced him fondly and then stood and walked away. The Doctor wasn’t at all surprised that she spent a little time with Jack – but as a ship-board friend, not as a future husband.

The night before the MV Britannic reached Boston, its first stop on the other side of the Atlantic, there was another grand ball for the Cabin class passengers. Jack and Tegan danced together most of the night, but when it was over, they kissed briefly and parted as friends.

Paula was forced to wear a ballgown and stay away from the buffet. Adric was dressed formally, too, and the boy and girl danced together several times. It wasn’t as embarrassing an experience as either thought it would be.

Nyssa danced with Laurence. They had a pleasant time and said goodbye, promising to write to each other.

The Doctor didn’t dance. He was content to watch his companions enjoying the company of friends they had made on the voyage.

He still had to have a long talk with Nyssa, though. He did so under the stars later that evening.

“Doctor, why wasn’t I affected the same as Tegan was?” she asked. “I mean… Laurence and I have been close, but not in the same way.”

“You’re not quite old enough for that sort of relationship. Neither is Laurence. He’s still a boy with school years to get through. The idea of romantic love didn’t spark in either of you. The same with Adric and Paula. Their passion is still the all-you-can-eat buffet. When your time comes, it will happen. In the meantime, Laurence just needs a chum, a pen pal to write to from school?”

“Yes. But I can’t.”

“This is for you,” The Doctor said, giving her something that he had kept with him all evening for just this moment. It was a small, portable writing table with a lid and stubby legs that opened out underneath. Inside was writing paper, envelopes and pens, as well as a selection of stamps. “This isn’t just an ordinary writing desk,” The Doctor added. “It’s made for Gallifreyan lady travellers. This slot here, in the top, is for letters to go into when they’re finished. Time Lord trickery then transports them to the postal system of the time and place they’re addressed to. Letters written back will be dispensed through the same slot. You and Laurence can be pen pals from wherever you are in time and space.”

“Doctor….” Nyssa was speechless. She kissed him on the cheek as a way of saying thank you. He smiled warmly. He’d had quite a few kisses these past days, but perhaps that was the one that mattered the most – the kiss of a grateful friend.