November 2013 – this time – Fifty by Paul Evans

Fifty

By Paul Evans

From an observer’s perspective, Clara Oswald emerged from her cabin a split second after entering it; revived and wearing fresh clothes.

She suspected that the novelty of life in the TARDIS would never abate. Skipping subconsciously down a short corridor, she entered the spacious control room. Her inexplicable host was tinkering as she had left him nine hours previously.

“Morning Doctor.”

“Hmm?” responded the twelve hundred year old Time Lord, engrossed in reconnecting a component to the central console.

“Morning.”

“It’s always morning somewhere. Axis rotation dependant of course.”

Accustomed to such awkwardness, Clara smiled and shook her head.

“Do you ever sleep Doctor?”

“Of course I sleep.” He responded, regarding her for the first time since she entered. “I’d be impossible to live with if I didn’t.”

Clara raised her eyebrows and cocked her head in an accusatory manner.

The Doctor nodded like a schoolboy resigned to detention, and flashed a charismatic smile.

“How long did you sleep Clara?”

“I don’t know. Eight hours.”

“Ah! Eight hours relative to you! The TARDIS folded the time you slept – within the confines of your room – so we don’t get out of synch. Peri and I sometimes didn’t see each other for days until we – well “I” – sorted that out.”

“Peri?”

“One of your predecessors; ropey accent but she had her charms.”

The Doctor adjusted his bow tie and hastily resumed his exertions.

“Oh,” he added without looking up, “the TARDIS seems to be warming to you.” He gesticulated vaguely to an area left of the external door.

Clara narrowed an eye suspiciously then literally jumped for joy.

“A coffee machine! Where did it come from?”

“The TARDIS is constantly adapting her interior to our preferences; she’s the ultimate in user interfaces.”

The Doctor paused once more and appeared to regard his home for the first time.

“She’s barely recognisable from the day I borrowed her.”

“You stole her Doctor. I was there remember?”

The Galifreyan smiled almost sadly, and removed his sonic screwdriver from the inside pocket of his tweed jacket.

“In fact,” he muttered in a conspiratorial tone “I think we can afford to momentarily restore factory settings …”

With trademark flamboyancy, the Doctor extended an arm and activated his alien device in a wide arc.

The control room blurred. Clara rotated on the spot, eyes wide with wonder as her world shimmered. In seconds her surroundings resolved into a sparser version of the familiar compartment. Gantries dissolved into a single deck; hexagonal bulkhead motifs morphed into circles. Bohemian grunge sharpened to clinical white. Meanwhile, the central column maintained its inexorable rise and fall as it had done for (relative) centuries.

The Doctor pursed his lips as if containing an almost overwhelming emotion.

“It’s been the most marvellous journey,” he whispered.

Clara allowed him this moment and resumed her role as his emotional anchor.

“Show me something new Doctor.”

The Doctor’s sombre face broke into another smile. He swept a last gaze before restoring their surroundings.

“How about the last episode of Eastenders?”

“I’ve seen it,” said Clara. “It wasn’t the ending I was expecting.”

“Well in fairness the Daleks invaded Earth the following day – eventually foiled by a dashing time traveller – and it must have dropped off London’s priorities. Daleks! They’d be much less grumpy if they could play the ukulele.”

He regarded a hinged flat screen display.

“I could introduce you to Bilqis, Queen of Sheba: the original Muslim queen! She had a fondness for Battenberg cake if I recall correctly.”

“Perfect! But … won’t people start dying when we arrive.”

The Doctor nodded. This wasn’t the first time one of his companions had expressed this concern.

“Those events occur with or without us,” he soothed.

“I know. But … is it possible for our visit not to coincide with an invasion?”

The Doctor set coordinates, altering the Type 40 Mark 1 time machine’s trajectory through the continuum.

“Yes,” replied the Doctor, resuming a well rehearsed routine “we could arrive days after our intended arrival to check the coast is clear, and then jump back.”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Clara.

“But …”

“What? It would work!”

“If we arrive and there’s no invasion; is it because we foiled it? Trust me; nipping it in the bud is much more efficient.”

Clara made to protest but was cut off as she drew breath.

“And, arrival days after our intended visit might coincide exactly with our potential adversaries’ action.”

Clara closed her mouth and nodded in resignation.

“The truth is Clara, the TARDIS has seen far more than me. She’s not as temperamental as she might seem. Are you old girl?” he ran the fingers of one hand across the console.

“If we land in a tight spot it’s because we’re meant to be there. Draw courage from the fact that we can make a positive difference; apathy is an option a civilisation can ill afford.”

Clara stood like a chastised child. The Doctor placed his hands on her shoulders and gave her an encouraging squeeze.

“Or maybe this time we’ll just stop for an uneventful cup of tea.”

Spinning on his heel he threw a lever. With the groan of ancient engines (and mis-applied handbrake) the central column’s vertical exertions ceased.

The Doctor regarded the external door, and then looked searchingly into the eyes of his coquettish companion.

“Shall we?” he invited enthusiastically.

* * * *

Happy Anniversary Who. 50 years of inspiration.

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