The TARDIS control room had never seemed so bright, so
warm. So inviting.
Mel was all but dragging the Doctor inside as she looked
around her. As if by magic, part of the far wall opened up and
a long bed emerged – perhaps the TARDIS could tell its pilot
was desperately ill, Mel decided.
The Doctor waved a hand almost irritably towards the bed
and it was absorbed by the wall once again. ‘I’m fine, Mel.’
He glanced up to the ceiling as Mel closed the doors behind
them. ‘No, really, I am.’ He then smiled at Mel. ‘We didn’t do
too badly, did we?’
‘We?’ laughed Mel. ‘“We” did nothing. You, on the other
hand, just saved the multiverse. Literally for once.’
‘For once? Mel, we save the multiverse once a week!
‘Not usually, no. You’re usually satisfied with a race, or a
planet. A galaxy at the most.’ She could tell he was masking
his pain behind his bonhomie, of course. ‘But seriously,
Doctor, I think you need to rest. The Lamprey really took it
out of you. Again, literally!’
The Doctor took a deep breath and stood proudly by his
precious TARDIS console. ‘Nonsense, Mel, what harm could
possibly befall one such as I?’
At which point he began coughing and spluttering. Mel ran
to his side instantly, trying to pat him on the back. Being
considerably shorter than he, this merely resulted in a few
ineffectual thumps to a couple of middle vertebrae. He gently
eased her hand back. ‘You know, I think some rest might be
in order after all.’
‘Doctor’s orders?’ suggested Mel cheekily.
He nodded and smiled back at her.
And Mel’s heart went cold.
She’d been travelling with him long enough to be able to
read the Doctor well by now. This avuncular man who she
trusted with her life. A man whose moods and quirks she
could pretty much predict these days. A Time Lord – so much power contained in such a frail body, despite its appearance
of… well, pretty solidness anyway.
But who really knew what made Time Lords tick? Even
these days, Mel was aware that she couldn’t entirely be sure
of how well the Doctor might be.
‘Having witnessed that final struggle as the Lamprey was
extinguished, she was forced to question whether the Doctor
should have accepted that constant absorption of energy and
light. Could his form really have just taken that punishment
and then shrugged it off as easily as he made out?
‘Doctor, listen to me. Rummas warned you what it might
take to stop it.’
The Doctor was leaning on the TARDIS console, gripping
it tightly enough that his knuckles were white with the strain.
‘So what? Okay, I might not be able to regenerate twelve
times. Eleven, ten maybe. Who cares?’
‘Why? Look at the scanner Mel, look at that. All those stars
and worlds and races and civilisations. They could all have
gone the way of poor Professor Tungard if I’d not stopped it.
As sacrifices go, I could afford it and I truly believe it was
Mel was at his side. She placed a hand on his and drew it
‘Doctor, you’re ice cold. I mean, absolutely frozen.’
‘Really? Can’t feel it myself.’ His gaze was still on the
scanner. ‘Mel, can you press that blue switch please.’
‘Because I asked nicely?’
Mel did as she was told and instantly the TARDIS roared
into life, the central column rising and falling as they left
Carsus for what she hoped would be the last time.
A few seconds later, it stopped and the scanner just
showed space again. Mel frowned but the Doctor smiled,
‘Hover mode. I just want to look one last time at the local
‘One… last… what d’you mean, one last time?’
The Doctor finally pried his hands away from the console,
trying to work the fingers but to no avail. He stared straight at
Mel and she suddenly realised she was facing not a man in
his mid-forties as he normally appeared, but a tired, drained
man, who just this once she could believe was 900-plus years. His blue eyes were grey, the crow’s feet more
pronounced and his hair had a few grey roots and curls,
especially at the temples.
‘We did good, Mel. I’m honoured to have had you at my
side one last time.’
And he fell to the floor with a loud crump.
Mel was at his side in a second, resting his head on her
lap, massaging his temples.’C’mon Doctor, no time to be
sleeping.’ She looked up at the scanner.
All those stars, still twinkling.
All the planets still revolving.
All the life that owed its continued existence to a man, a
wonderful, brave man it had never known.
Might never know.
She realised she was crying and a tear dropped onto the
Doctor’s face. His skin was very grey now. His eyes flickered
open and he smiled tightly.
‘Don’t cry Mel. It was my time. Well, maybe not, but it was
my time to give. To donate. I’ve had a good innings you
know, seen and done a lot. Can’t complain this time. Don’t
Mel couldn’t understand what he was saying. He couldn’t
be… couldn’t be dying.
Had letting his chronon energy be absorbed to that degree
really destroyed him. Finally?
‘No…’ she whispered. It’s not fair!’
‘Yes. Yes it is…’ she heard him say, but the words seemed
to be in her head rather than coming from his closed mouth.
She suddenly found herself remembering their initial
meeting in Brighton. An initial enmity that had given way to
respect, admiration and finally a great enough affection that
she had given it all up to join him aboard the TARDIS. To
travel the universe.
The TARDIS lights seemed to have dimmed a fraction, as
if it… as if she knew. Understood.
Mel wished she did.
Then the TARDIS lurched violently, once, twice, three
times. The Doctor was rocked out of her hands and he curled
up, facing the bottom of the console.
‘Local… tractor beam…’ he said aloud this time, trying to
raise his hand. Trying to reach up, grab the console and haul
Mel watched for a second, convinced that he’d succeed.
Of course he would, if they were under some sort of attack,
the Doctor would leap into action and save the day again. He
‘Doctor!’ she whispered as, instead, his arm drooped and
he was still once more.
His skin was the colour of granite now and Mel was sure it
was blurring slightly.
Had to be her own tears, distorting her vision.
The force of the tractor beams – another one rocked the
TARDIS again – had sent her a couple of feet away from the
Doctor and the floor seemed to be at a severe angle.
She tried to crawl towards him, but another blow, then
another and Mel suddenly wondered if this was what it felt
like to be a deep-sea diver, going down too rapidly. Getting
the bends. She felt, somehow, that the TARDIS was indeed
going down, being dragged through space, like a
rollercoaster car in freefall.
And then it was all over. The TARDIS landed with an
enormous juddering thump, but in her ears, in her mind, it
seemed as if the noise was still going on and she knew then,
that she had failed the Doctor.
He was dying in front of her eyes and her own brain was
closing down, trying to block off the effects of the crashlanding,
or whatever it was, by making her sleep.
She would fight unconsciousness. She’d been knocked
out before, she knew that she could catch it, stop it…
She knew she could…
No… no it wasn’t fair…
The TARDIS door was opening. How? No one had
operated the door controls. They must have been forced.
Mel could barely keep her eyes open, the darkness that
wanted to consume her was winning, and she was losing the
Let it go, she heard her inner voice say. Sleep.
With a final effort, Mel rolled onto her back, facing the
As unconsciousness took a hold, she was sure there were
They moved towards her and as she finally succumbed to
complete sensory deprivation, she heard a strident female
voice barking out an order.
‘Leave the girl. It’s the man I want.’