"I like to live always at the beginnings of life, not at their end...It amazed me that you felt that each time you write a story you gave away one of your dreams and you felt the poorer for it. But then you have not thought that this dream is planted in others, others begin to live it too, it is shared, it is the beginning of friendship and love."
Falling face-down on the ground, the Doctor turned and saw no one else was around. He pulled himself straight up and turned left to the TARDIS door but couldn't open it. He flicked his fingers, used the key, knocked even, but nothing worked. The TARDIS was locked. He banged hard on the door.
This cannot be!
Something vibrated. He checked his pocket. A phone! Who put it in? He flicked it open and the blue screen flashed an unknown number. The voice on the other end bleeped:
"Doctor, you cannot leave me here! I am trapped!"
"Who is this?"
"I am, the TARDIS."
"I am, the TARDIS."
"This better not be a joke," and as he said, he looked
up to his left and saw the motionless TARDIS, standing there like an ordinary
"You have to come now, Doctor. Come back for me."
The line went dead.
The Doctor leapt on his feet and ran outside the lane. It was
beginning to be dark. He came out and saw the old country houses stacked
quietly. The light in the Essex countryside was dimming on the horizon, and he
wondered if day and night were moving somewhat faster. Something had definitely
changed. He checked the watch on his wrist and frowned. It was only 4pm. What
was going on?
Puzzled, the Doctor walked a few steps on the pavement, eyeing the
yellow arch of the first house, where a light from the first floor room shone
on the roof. Stopping, he rang the bell and after couple of rings, someone
appeared. It was a stockily-built bespectacled, tall man in his 50s.
"Uh, sorry to bother but something's wrong with my watch. I
just wanted to check the time."
"What? Hang on." The man went in, leaving the door
slightly ajar, and lightly using his fingers, the Doctor opened it further and
surveyed the hall where the man's back was still visible to him. Strange,
something wasn't right.
Within a few seconds, the guy returned.
"Funny, how time flies, eh? It's 6:30pm. And the sermon is at
7 and my wife is yet to return from her grocery shopping. And here I thought it
was just 4'o' clock when I woke up from my nap."
He grinned now, somewhat easily at the Doctor, whose forehead
crease and a stern frown did not dissipate.
"May I come in? I need to talk to you."
"Sure. But who're you?
"I am the Doctor."
"Never mind. I'm just visiting."
With a reluctant pull, the door was opened further, and the Doctor
strode in and went inside what was a sparse living room, with few photographs
of the man, with a woman and a young child. And on top of the fireplace, was a
"So, doctor, eh? You’re new here? What do you specialise in?"
The grin on the doctor's face finally appeared, ringing confusion
in the man's head, who now nearly regretted opening the door.
"Oh, no, no! I am not a thief. Put your mind at ease,
"Ambrose. You can call me Chris."
"Right then. Chris, we have a problem. The countryside and
everyone in it is in danger, imminent danger. I need you to get me a
"You're saying? Whatever you said, okay, right."
Eagerly nodding, the Doctor, now entirely in control, sent Chris
upstairs, to his son's room.
"Right then," rubbing his palms, the Doctor went to the
windows, and saw the light had brightened, like it was noon.
"No, you're not getting away with this."
"Yes! Thank you, Chris. Put it down. Let me take a
The compass was on the table, and the Doctor bent closer, screwing
his eyes as the compass touched his nose. After few seconds, the needle jumped
from south west to south east and then north and then northwest.
There was vibration in the Doctor's pocket.
"Help me, Doctor."
"Who're you? Where are you?"
"I am, the TARDIS. I am in Essex. I am..."
the voice at the other end went on to give the address of the adjoining lane
where the Doctor had last seen his blue box.
"How do I find you?"
"The key, Doctor. Use it."
Meanwhile, Chris was trying to plug the telephone wire back into
the handset and still couldn't get a dial tone.
"What's wrong with my phone, Doctor?"
"Nothing's going to work until the earth's magnetic field is
restored. Phone lines, internet, everything is down. Come with me."
"To the TARDIS! Where everything started."
"Huh? But my wife will be home soon, doctor. And how will she
The Doctor gave no heed and walked on, and Ambrose ran after him.
Back at the lane, the two men were outside the blue box. The
Doctor went around it, circling slow and tapping each door, putting his ear to
any sounds from inside. Nothing. Frowning, he bent low, and noticed something.
The TARDIS had moved. The damp patch on the earth where it must have stood, had left
“Hmm. I think this will prove to be tougher than I thought. Right, then! Chris! Give me the compass!”
Utterly in daze, Chris Ambrose, kept his eyes fixed on the TARDIS, wondering if all the science in the world was mysteriously wrapped inside this police box. Or, this man who called himself the doctor, was half-mad.
But the sun in the sky was pinching his senses. 6:30pm! And such bright light, in this weather? He gave a little shiver.
Meanwhile, the Doctor surveyed the damp patch with his screwdriver. There were tiny, glistening crystals that appeared, and he knelt on the ground to sniff those.
“Aah! This is a sample of the Judoons! But I am not in Judoonia until next summer for their annual cultural laugh fest, how is the TARDIS carrying souvenirs of crystals from there?” Rubbing his chin, the Doctor put the compass on top of the crystals and the needle pointed north. After a few seconds, nothing moved. Still, North.
“Chris! Do you have a car?”
“What? Yes, I do. But,why?”
“Let’s go. Questions later!”
Within two minutes, the yellow sedan was racing North and after half an hour, the compass needle shifted from North to north west. The light in the skies started to dim again.
“No, no! Let’s keep going, Chris. The gravitational waves are changing swiftly. Drive faster!
After another twenty minutes, they came in front of a large space ship, suspended in the middle of the road, and an army of rhinocerid humanoids stood guarding it from all around.
“Judoons! My old friends!” The doctor sprang from the car and the entire Judoon flank turned to meet his eyes.
“I can’t say how pleased I am to see you all, but this is an emergency. There’s a gravitational interference with the earth’s magnetic shield and everything’s topsy-turvy and no matter how much we quibble over what’s to come, soon we will have tsunamis and forest fires because of dramatic shifts in the climate because of quick-changing positions of the sun. Of course, my TARDIS is locked but we need to get everything under control and I’ve just the right thing for you!” He held up his hand, and in it, was a compass.
One of the Judoons came forward and stood close to the Doctor.
“It’s the Doctor. Let him through.”
“Right. Chris, I need you to come with me.”
Swallowing his breath and trying to blink, Chris stood unmoved.
“CHRIS! Snap out of it else they will kill you. Come forward.”
“Who is this? Is he an alien?”
“No, he’s a friend. He’s harmless. Let him through.”
After scanning Ambrose, the Judoon general marked an ‘X’ sign on his palm and moved aside.
Stepping on a ladder suspended from the ship, the Doctor and his companion climbed up. Inside, the metal shield gave way to a long brightly-lit corridor.
At the end of the corridor, the Doctor turned right and went in a large circular space, where another rhinocerid humanoid stood facing the two. He had a red mark on his chest.
“Captain! So good to see you! But we’ve got business and before you give orders to shoot everyone down in Essex, as I so believe you are here to do,” the Doctor paused, while the Captain grunted, “I have proof the human race isn’t to be blamed in the least.” The Doctor and the Captain stood eye to eye.
“We got a signal that humans were sending a space ship to Judoon to destroy and we traced the signal here. We have come here to investigate.”
“Of course! And the reason your team hasn’t moved ahead is because there is no trace of the signal anymore. And I know why. The last time we met, Captain, was when a part of the earth was stolen and transported here but it all turned out to be fine at the end because of an alien misunderstanding. I’m afraid we’re seeing a similar pattern emerge where humans have willy-nilly been dragged into an inter-galactic mess. And I’m here to put an end to it. But first, I want my TARDIS back. I believe your team has some clues where I might find it.”
“We do not possess alien technology in our midst. Everything was scanned when we landed and nothing was taken,” the Captain professed.
“Does he mean the blue box? Are there two?”
“Ah, Chris! I’d nearly forgotten you. Yes, what you saw is a genius model replica of the original TARDIS. And that is why it didn’t open. What I do want to know is how the soul of the TARDIS got reactivated. Last time I checked, it was in a woman but securely went back into wires when I fixed it. Now, Captain, if you can shed some light or crystals on this, I’d be delighted. And then, of course, we can set this whole thing straight. ”
The Judoon Captain handed a 12-inch tablet to the Doctor, and used his thumb scan to open it. On it, was a recorded video message.
“You have 24 hours to vacate Judoonia. If not, we will exterminate,” a familiar voice cracked from the background, but on the screen was nothing except a blue box.
“This is worse than I thought. Clearly, the Dalek voice has been used to superimpose on a static image of the TARDIS. The Daleks aren’t behind this, believe me. I demand Captain that my TARDIS be returned to me and whoever is behind this, will be caught. Hurry up, Captain! If you want to clear up this mess, you need to listen to what I am saying. Watch this.”
The Doctor pulled out the compass and put in the Captain’s palm. The needle kept pointing at North.
“We need to move North. All of us. I was expecting a friendly force the moment this whole thing started. I knew the TARDIS was a replica because it didn’t make a knocking sound. You see, even though the TARDIS has an impenetrable wall, it gives a knocking sound similar to a wooden door. And the reverberation of the knock is always due to matter. The replica, with crystals of Judoon somewhat generously all around it, was inside the outer space medium and did not produce sound. But the trick or the genius of the TARDIS is, it has matter no matter if it is in outer space!”
“My second worry was obviously the position of the sun. There was less light and much too soon there was too much light, and as I mentioned we must not quibble, we need to go after whoever is behind this, which is why I insist that I get my TARDIS before I do anything. Do you follow Captain? Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt and generously supplying me with a replica to keep me in the dark. You need not investigate the TARDIS anymore but hand it to me. The phone call was a warning from someone in your contingent, was it not? If you have my records, then I believe I have another request to make. Please let me meet with Martha too now that I’ve proved to be of use to you. I know you asked her to pull this trick, but the Judoons are such a straight-laced race, why go through this trouble at all? It’s very unlike all of you. Unless you’re all a bunch of replicas, which I doubt very much to be the case. But no matter, we have someone mediating between your planet and us, and that is why the earth’s future is in our hands. Now, Captain, are we going to move on my request? Yes?”
Moment later, the door from the right opened, and Martha appeared. She raced towards the Doctor. And behind her, the TARDIS appeared too.
“Doctor! I am so glad you’re safe! Been a long time,” Martha grinned.
“Now Captain, you and I both know I’ve much to thank you for but why go after the humans? Who or what put a catapult on the alien planet that has now come in this galaxy and brought the Judoons with it?”
“We never replaced your TARDIS. We never called you. We traced the signal and picked up the TARDIS. We knew the humans could be responsible for this and we saw the TARDIS and traced your human companion from our records of a previous meeting. What is this compass you’ve given me?”
“We need to go North and quickly, Captain. A headlong embrace with trouble is what I would love right now.”
Marching orders given, the Judoon flank assembled back onto the ship and holding the compass, the Doctor, along with the Captain, Martha, and a wide-eyed Chris, directed the space ship to the trouble that lay in the North.
Piercing the earth’s gravitational field, they flew Northward and entered a starless space where a jolt shook the ship and everyone in it stumbled to the floor.
“We’re close! Faster!”
A large vacuum pulled the space ship into a funnel and within few seconds, everything went quiet. The Judoons readied their arms but the Doctor and Martha raced to the door and the Captain turned around.
“No one moves! Not until you hear my command!”
The metal doors pulled aside, the Doctor jumped out with Martha and the Captain and realized they were on solid ground. They were back in Essex, or at least it seemed like the place.
“Brilliant!” The doctor loosened his collar a bit, and rushed to the nearest bush to smell it. It was just like earth.
“So replicas within replicas. Captain! Walk with me. And give me the compass! Interestingly, I am glad you’ve given up the vowels, can’t say I’m glad enough because the Queen’s English generally catches up with the best of us.”
Martha interjected: “Doctor, what is this place? Where are we going?”
“We’ll soon find out or,” stopping where they stood, the Doctor said, “They’ll find us.”
Five Daleks stood on the pathway and quick with the unstoppable hand movement, the Doctor used his screwdriver to cut open a tree bark that fell on their heads. But mysteriously, the Daleks disappeared in thin air. So did the tree.
“We’re amidst dangerous mirror sensors. I think we will soon lose ground and fall into space if we don’t watch out. Keep close.”
A woman appeared from thin air with a large screwdriver in her hand.
“Welcome Doctor. We’ve been expecting you. So far, you’ve done well. We weren’t sure if you would follow. Thanks for bringing the Judoonia platoon. We’re from Aspara. It’s a planet that went undetected for thousands of years, because we always became replicas of the known planets just when someone came close to detecting us. But someone eventually did and we lost our people. We are only some of us who’re left. Homeless, with a space ship, we came in between the earth and the sun and tried to send a message to earthlings but got no response! We knew the Judoons took every threat seriously and we went through their archives and were surprised to see earth had got in touch and so had you. That technology was never a problem, imitation is what we do best. We had planned to let the Judoons let loose on earth so they would destroy it and we could take over. Judoons have not known to annex new places and this was our opportunity for a new home. But, as always, you interfered and we thought we could mislead you. But now, you have got to die, Doctor! We need a home!”
“Okay, alright, thank you for the cheerful introduction. May I also take a moment to remind you that when you became the ham in the interstellar sandwich the earth lost its tools of communication. Hang on before you pull that gigantic screwdriver on me. Can I inspect it? Okay, no need to point it at me. All along I thought Asparians were mythical creatures meant for stories recited to children of Gallifrey but you’ve been a pleasant surprise so far. Do you have a name though or do I call you First Lady of Mirror Land?”
“Enough, Doctor!” The woman opened a fiery red streak of laser and ducking in time, the Doctor landed on his feet, his screwdriver rolling into the hedges, which kept disappearing even as he went hurtling off the road.
Martha leapt towards the screwdriver and pressed hard, aiming at the alien. But the laser went straight through her and she reappeared behind the Doctor. The Judoon Captain had meanwhile pressed the X mark on his chest and the platoon came running forward and rained laser on the alien. Five more appeared and the fighting went on for few minutes until a cry was heard.
Back on earth, Chris reached home and saw his wife in the kitchen, preparing supper.
“Hey darling! I’ve missed you so much!”
“You drinking in the day, darling? It’s only 6’o’clock. Why do you look as if you’re seeing me after a lifetime?”