Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Doctor Who:In the dark

If you measure your age in millenniums it should mean that you’ve had time to cultivate an appreciation for time itself as well as an unerring sense of direction. The Doctor, however, had an uncanny habit of getting himself temporarily waylaid and losing track of the hours, days and sometimes even weeks. Navigating through E-Space made it so much harder: for once he had to be alert and ready for anything, especially when the view-screens were no longer working properly.
“Watch out, Doctor!” Emily suddenly shouted, shocking the Doctor out of his reverie. He whirled round to see what the problem was and was shocked to see her eyes scrunched up tight as if she was in the throes of a fit of some kind.
“What’s wrong, Emily?”
“Something’s out there and we’re on a collision course with it.”
“Impossible – we’re in a non-solid state; we’ve yet to condense on a fixed point. Until we do we can’t possibly collide with anything!”
Something slammed hard into the TARDIS knocking Emily and the Doctor flying. The lights dimmed and the central column let out a groan of despair.
“It’s ok, old girl… it’s ok…. That should never have happened!”
“The columns stopped moving, Doctor.” Emily said, pointing to the central console.
“That shouldn’t have happened either. I never asked her to materialise anywhere -we’re still trying to find the Tharrils!”
“So, what did happen then?” Emily still hadn’t recovered from the shock; it was something she had only experienced once before, when she interfaced with the alien race known as the Sibilis. They were a parasitic race that were stranded on Earth. The Doctor had materialised the TARDIS during one of her séances and since then her life had never been the same.
The feeling permeated her in waves, it was similar to the advent of a migraine but one that affected her whole nervous system; she felt queasy, but the Doctor didn’t seem to notice. “What happened, Doctor?” She prompted again; he could be infuriating at times.
“I don’t know. We have materialised and it happened the same time as you screamed. Something has affected the TARDIS.. probably the same thing that’s affecting you too.” He turned to look at her and smiled benignly. “Of course I care…. There’s not much I miss, y’know..”
The TARDIS shook again and Emily cried out in pain.
“Interesting.” The Doctor remarked.
“Not really, Doctor. This is actually hurting me.”
“But is it? Is it a physical pain or is it something more… sympathetic?” Emily just shook her head and tried to stay calm whilst the Doctor focused on his damned instrument panel. “Bizarrely enough the atmosphere is habitable, at least for the time being. We’ll need the space suits we picked up from Gaiafrax in order to breathe, but it should be ok.”
He opened the door to the TARDIS and just stood on the threshold; he’d never seen anything like it. They had materialised inside something that pulsated as if it was alive; but that was impossible, wasn’t it?

Deep within the TARDIS, the Master’s own TARDIS sat having taken on the appearance of a Greek Column with strands of ivy covering it. The Master was feeling in a nostalgic mood, still becoming accustomed to this new body and personality. Being trapped as Missy had been an experience he did not want to repeat. Whilst there were certain advantages -he’d found it far easier to manipulate people as Missy, for example- he was glad to be ruthless and bloodthirsty again.
However, he was now just as trapped in E-Space as the Doctor was. It seemed that the Rani was not as much of a pushover as he had at first thought. Her last gesture had made it impossible for him to return through her CVE. He was now destined to roam E-Space blindly until he found the gateway back. Or he could piggy-back off the Doctor and let him do the hard work. Decisions, decisions…

The Doctor stepped out into the seething, globular corridor being careful what he touched; however each tentative step he took made the place convulse and Emily shriek in pain. This could mean only one thing; they were inside something living, but where had they materialised and how could they escape?
Back within the safety of the TARDIS the Doctor carefully examined Emily. There were no signs of any physical trauma and it had no signs of a psychic attack. The only thing he could deduce was that somehow Emily was empathically tuned into the.. creature, whatever it might be. There were few species that possessed empathy on that scale in N-Space that the Doctor knew of, but E-Space was another kettle of fish; he had no way of knowing. The one thing he did know was that they had somehow collided and were now merged with the entity; it was only the TARDIS’ force shield’s that kept the merging from being complete. That left two possible outcomes: either the TARDIS caused irreparable damage to the beast thereby killing it and potentially trapping the TARDIS within… or the creature would drain the energy from the TARDIS through the strain on the force shield, which would mean the TARDIS, and its contents, would become absorbed as part of the creature for all eternity. Neither of which sounded particularly palatable.
“Emily.. I don’t know how to ask this… and if it wasn’t absolutely necessary..”
“You want me to try and contact this entity, don’t you?”
“Yes. I’m sorry; I need to know what it is… what we’re dealing with.” The Doctor knew just how dangerous this was, but he was running out of alternatives.
Emily nodded and closed her eyes. She tried to push the pain into the background as she had been taught by Annie Horniman. If only she could be here with her, witnessing these sights; she had always believed in life on other worlds and Emily had learnt so much from her. She felt herself become in sync with the creature and her breathing in time with the rhythmic pulsations of the cavern surrounding them. She suddenly found herself enveloped by a wonderful sensation; a love that was completely selfless; to be part of something so much bigger than oneself but not feel alienated by it. To feel connected to everything around, to feel the pain of the TARDIS and not the hate and fear associated with corporeality.
“Oh, Doctor; it’s so beautiful.. I never imagined.” She said, her eyes still closed in a beatific trance. “She’s in so much pain because of us but it just wishes us well; it will do everything in its power to help us.”
“What is she?” The Doctor asked, being careful not to break the transmission.
“It’s so hard to condense the feelings into thoughts; they’re so vast and.. resplendent. The only way I can describe her is as a Space Whale of some kind. She floats through E-Space as an intangibility, feeding off the negative polarities from imploding CVE’s.”
The longer Emily stayed in contact with the Space Whale the more their minds and systems merged; what started out as random feelings were now becoming more cogent thoughts. If this went on for too much longer they could be merged permanently, but the Doctor needed more information.
“Is that why she collided with the TARDIS? Is it because they were vibrating on similar frequencies?” He asked.
“Yes… We felt a bond; a knowing… a cry for help that we could not deny… we could not foresee this happening. We are sorry for causing you distress.” Emily was crying now… the bond was almost complete, the Doctor needed to sever it somehow but didn’t know how. He suddenly thought of it and dug into his many pockets until he found what he was looking for:  a pin. He took Emily by the hand and held out a finger.
“I’m sorry for doing this, Emily; really I am.” He took the pin and stuck it in her finger.
“Ow – bloody hell, Doctor! That really hurt!” Emily thumped him on the arm and suddenly realised what had happened.
“It was the only way that I could think to release you from the link… too much longer and we might have lost you. It was a very brave thing for you to do, though. I can’t imagine what it was like.”
“She was a beautiful creature; I’ve never felt anything like it before; but she’s in so much pain. She could end it so easily by absorbing us and there’s nothing we could do to stop her, but she won’t. She’s pledged to help all life regardless.”
“The Space Whales I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with in the past were among the most empathic, peaceful species in the universe.” The Doctor explained. “It would never threaten life; and I’ve even known them to sacrifice their own so others can live. I will not let that happen here. There has to be a way around where we can both live…”

The Master felt himself get anxious; like the Doctor, he knew just how dangerous things were getting. If the Doctor didn’t act fast then they would all be trapped within E-Space, but unlike the Doctor he didn’t have any qualms about hurting the poor Space Whale. He was going to have to take the reins in hand, it seemed.

The Doctor suddenly turned to Emily in a eureka moment: “Of course -I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner!”
“You’ve thought of a way to escape?” Emily asked.
“It’s going to be difficult and not without a certain amount of danger but if I changed the TARDIS’s energy frequency we should be able to dematerialise again so it goes out of phase with the Space Whale. We would become more intangible for the briefest of moments with only the TARDIS energy fields keeping us together.”
Emily had no idea what the Doctor was talking about but knew enough now to just let him work his magic. It didn’t matter how many times he had tried to tell her that magic didn’t exist she was faced with it every day. Although she believed in rational explanations over the fantastical there was a point where even she had to just sit back in awe. She knew that there existed a state where even the most advanced science was almost completely indistinguishable from magic.
The Doctor, for his part, was close to panic. Although the explanation was enough to placate Emily he alone knew just how dangerous the next few minutes were really going to be. It was certainly going to cause the Space Whale a great deal of pain -they were now enmeshed he just hoped that the Whale could quickly heal itself.
He busied himself around the console; what he was going to do meant perfect timing -he needed the TARDIS to go completely out of phase with the Whale and it therefore meant moving outside space and time for the briefest of seconds. That was hard enough in his own universe and he had only managed it once himself when the Watcher commandeered the TARDIS on the way to Logopolis. There was no way of knowing how being in E-Space would affect things.
He was just about to flick the last switch when he suddenly felt himself go faint. It was a sensation he’d not encountered before; a momentary dissociation with his own body; he could almost see himself make the next few adjustments. He switched the focal point inducer into reverse and inverted the force shield before completing the procedure. The whole of space and time flickered around them as the column turned a dark crimson; Emily fell on the ground screaming. Something had gone wrong, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
The flickering slowed down, with each blast of null-time lasting longer and longer sending shards of pain through the Doctor’s every nerve ending.
Emily was beside herself, writhing in an agony that would surely kill her if it went unchecked. There was only one thing the Doctor could do now. He apologised to the Space Whale and felt his head go light as he punched the dematerialisation button. The world suddenly flashed back into focus and Emily stopped screaming and curled up into a foetal position. It was over but at what cost?

An hour later, Emily had regained consciousness and found herself lying on her bed with a coverlet over her. The Doctor sat at the other end of the room watching over her full of remorse.
“Please tell me there was no other way, Doctor.” She said.
“I just don’t know. Something… went wrong during the transference and the TARDIS lost focus… if I hadn’t dematerialised the whole of space and time could have been affected. The Whale had somehow managed to unify our two opposing forces more than I had at first thought. By rights our two ‘bodies’ should never have been able to exist in the same place but somehow the Whale had absolute control over its corporeality.”
“I think I understand, Doctor… before you de-materialised I caught one final flash from the Whale itself; a final good-bye. In its last moments it loved you more for trying and forgave you.” She sobbed again, she had never known such a selfless love before.
“I wish there had been another way…” The Doctor mourned.
“… before she died the whale implanted in me where the Tharills are…” Emily finally said, “she gave me the way to go home, Doctor; that was her last wish.”

The Master sat back in his TARDIS feeling strangely pleased with himself. Not only had he managed to manipulate the Doctor into killing the whale but now he too had access to the way home. He too knew how to get back to N-Space.