Categories > TV > Doctor Who8 Reviews
with the Doctor, many endings are possible.
Featuring Sarah Jane Smith, the 7th and 11th Doctors, and River Song.
I own nothing but the plot.
The Doctor poked his head into the bedroom, a room the TARDIS normally had sealed. “Yes?” he asked, confused. “Why are you even in here? How are you in here?”
“Not happy to see me?” River pouted.
“Sorry,” the Doctor apologized as he came in to join her. “Yes, I am always happy to see you, but that doesn’t explain how you got in. I thought you said you wanted a break?” River had been travelling with him until a few days before, after the adventure in New York where her parents had been sent back in time by a weeping angel.
River shrugged her shoulders. “The TARDIS stopped by and opened the door as I was passing, and to tell the truth, I was missing you already.” She saw that the Doctor was nervous, his eyes darting about. “I don’t know why I was directed here.” After a moment, she saw him step over to the desk, his hands reaching to touch something.
River looked at the object under the Doctor’s hands. “Whose, what, late twentieth century? laptop is that?”
“Early twenty-first,” the Doctor corrected. “This was Sarah’s room. Sarah Jane Smith.”
River paused in thought. “So this room has been sealed off since what? Your third regeneration?”
“Sixth, actually,” the Doctor replied, sorting through his personal memories and thoughts. He looked up and lifted the laptop in River’s direction. “Go ahead and turn it on. There should be some files there that Sarah wrote up on me. The TARDIS must have decided you were allowed to read them.”
Seeing the mixed emotions on her husband’s face, River hesitated.
“It’s alright,” the Doctor gently said. “Let me know if you have questions.”
Sarah Jane Smith slumped tiredly in the small car she had just parked, exhausted. She was partially exhausted by the trans-Atlantic flight of that morning, and the subsequent flight in a cramped plane to the small regional airport. She would have been fatigued in any event because she was, she had to admit even to herself, somewhat past middle-age, although hardly elderly, and driving for nearly an hour on the right side of the road in a strange car on a very hot early summer afternoon after that long time in airplanes would stress anyone.
Mostly, however, she was exhausted because she was dying.
Considering all her adventures, especially some of the more recent ones, having developed a number of rare blood and lymphatic cancers was perhaps not too startling. K-9 had made the initial diagnosis, and Mr. Smith had confirmed that interpretation of the data. No cures; no hope for a reprieve.
Mr. Smith had then somehow arranged for both himself and K-9 be go elsewhere, while selling her house and other assets, investing them for her son. Before they left, Mr. Smith had given her an address and told her to find her final rest there.
What did she have to lose?
Straightening up in her car seat and observing there was not a cloud in the sky, she decided to lower the side windows a bit and shut off the car. A second glance confirmed that she was in a pleasant-enough but obviously somewhat working class apartment complex outside this small American city. She was parked in a space in a dead-end turnaround near the two most outlying of the complex’s 20 buildings. That placed her facing the back of the last building of one of the three rows of buildings that formed a rough triangle, and the side of a building which started the next row. The apartment she had been directed to was the nearest ground-floor apartment in the latter building.
She exited the car; the heat and humidity of the Southern summer nearly made her sit back down. Sarah Jane forced herself to walk to the door of the apartment.
She noticed the complex was fairly quiet. Less than a fifth of the parking spots were taken up, and she only heard slight, distant shouts of children in the complex’s pool area and its play area. No doubt many of the people were at work. Far up the line of buildings, she saw an elderly lady come out to take her small dog for a walk.
Sarah Jane paused at the door, and, mostly hoping that whoever she was supposed to meet was home, knocked.
After a few quiet seconds, Sarah Jane knocked again.
“Yes, yes, I’m coming!” came a male voice, one Sarah Jane noted had a distinct if soft Scots accent.
Sarah Jane heard the two door locks turn, and the door was opened to reveal a shortish man with somewhat receding thick hair that was somewhere between wavy and curly.
The two stared at each other for a moment, then he said, “Sarah Jane, this is a surprise! Come in.”
Sarah Jane stepped into the dark cool apartment, and finally giving into the exhaustion and illness, collapsing on the inexpensive, non-descript wall-to-wall carpeting in the 12x15 front room.
Sarah Jane came to and looked around. The bed room she was in seemed to be the same size as the front room. That room had simply held two sets of bookcases across the side walls, and that was all she could remember of it. She looked around tiredly, and realized that she was on a low large futon, set against the outside side wall. To her right were closed folding doors, no doubt to a closet, then a door into the rest of the small apartment, and then a wall. The side wall opposite her was again covered by overly-flowing book shelves. The back wall of the apartment had a door to the outside, a window with boxes of clothes underneath, and then a bit of wall running towards the bookshelves.
The man peeked into the room. “Are you feeling well enough to sit up?”
“I think so,” Sarah Jane said. She struggled to move, and the man came in and efficiently propped her up with a number of pillows. After that, the man sat at the edge of the futon.
“I would ask you if you were feeling better, but since you were passed out for nearly an hour, I took the liberty of examining you. I take it you are well aware of the multiple blood and lymphatic disorders?”
Sarah Jane simply nodded, but noticed that except for her shoes being off, she was still fully dressed. Then she realized that no one would be able to diagnose her illnesses simply by an external look in any case, not to mention that a few were unknown to the medicine of this period. “Doctor?”
The man made a face that wasn’t quite a wince. “Who were you expecting?”
“I wasn’t sure; I mean, well, I hoped it would be you, but I hardly expected you to be, well, here.”
“H’mm,” the Doctor said. “First things first. When was the last time you saw any version of me?”
“About six weeks ago,” Sarah Jane replied. “At what we thought . . . wait a minute!” She wriggled a bit to sit up straighter. “Which one are you?”
“Ah, so you hadn’t met me.” The Doctor looked at her. “I am the sixth regeneration, or the seventh version; whichever you prefer. I take it you have met at least one later version. No, no, don’t answer. Yes, you have. It’s best I not know any details.”
“I’m sorry,” Sarah Jane stated.
“For what?” Although abrupt, Sarah believed she could hear concern in the man’s voice.
After a pause, she answered, “I suppose for showing up like this. I have to admit, I felt I had nothing to lose by traveling here, but I really had no idea what or who I would find, or how long I would stay.”
“I take it you are not married or otherwise have a family?”
“I never married. I did adopt a son. He’s at Oxford; of course term is out at the moment and he’s traveling for the summer. He’s out of contact, even with modern electronics.” She smiled. “He’s off with Jo Jones’ grandchildren on a tour of the Andes.” She looked down. “I’ll never see him again.”
“Jo’s grandchildren? That is a tale I would love to hear, but again it is no doubt best not to. Potential time paradoxes and all that.” The Doctor slapped his thighs and stood up. “You rest a bit more and I shall return in a moment.”
True to his word, the Doctor did just that, returning with a tray which had a tea pot, two cups, cream and sugar, and a vial of clear liquid. “Drink this first,” he told her.
Sarah Jane did as she was told, and only then asked, “What is it?”
“A stimulant of sorts. It will keep your energy up for about seven hours, and buck up your natural defenses as well. It is nothing like a cure or even a palliative, I’m afraid, but it will help you feel better with no side effects.” The Doctor prepared their tea, saying, as he did so, “First of all, Sarah Jane, you are my friend.” He smiled slightly. “You were certainly close friends to at least two of me, and I suspect more. While you never met me, or the last version, you met all of the previous ones of me, however briefly, back on Gallifrey. I can certainly say they all liked you.”
“Thank you,” was all she could say.
“I am currently somewhat retired. I have no contact with U.N.I.T. or any other such organization, and, to my slight surprise, neither the Time Lords nor anyone else has bothered me for some time.”
Sarah looked at the man, confused. “Retired?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Periodically, I do need some time off. One can’t be going around adventuring all the time. I need time to study, to think, to consider.” His head cocked to one side, the Doctor said, “I had very little time for such things in my first regeneration, and only a bit more in my second and fourth. After my third regeneration left you. . . .”
“In the wrong part of the country,” Sarah muttered.
“I hope one of me has already apologized for that,” the Doctor retorted with a gentle smile. “If not, I do apologize. In any event, after that I had a rather nasty adventure back on Gallifrey. I took some time off to just travel and think. I managed some real time off twice more in that regeneration. The last one before me needed quite some time off as well.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Nearly ten years now,” came the surprising answer. “I believe I will have to be moving on soon, but now I have a good reason to stay a bit.”
“Because of me?”
The Doctor nodded. “I wouldn’t want to risk you.”
“I’m dying,” Sarah pointed out. “How much risk is there?”
“Perhaps a great deal. In your current state, well. . . .”
“I have just a few weeks at best,” Sarah sighed. A few weeks, as in two if she were lucky.
The Doctor merely nodded. “However, with the right treatments, and if you spend most of your time in the TARDIS, you could have a very comfortable two to three months.”
The Doctor nodded. “There are times for grand adventures; there are times to think or contemplate. However, most of all, there should be times for friends to spend time together.”
“What would we do?”
“What would you like to do most?”
Sarah had an immediate answer for that, but she hesitated for a moment, knowing how private this man was. Still, she had to ask. “I would like to know all about you. I can’t write your biography, but I, well, I would just like to know.”
The Doctor nodded again. “Very well, for you, Sarah Jane Smith. Now, do you feel up to a drive?”
“A drive? With you?”
The Doctor again gave her a small smile. “Bessie is long gone, Sarah Jane. If you are up to it, we can take your rental car back to wherever you rented it from, and I can drive you back here. If you aren’t, I can drive it back and if it’s not too far, we will return in a taxi.”
“No, the TARDIS is, in a sense, grounded. That’s one way to prevent at least some adventures.”
“I’m not sure if I can make it all the way to the airport. . . .”
“I can well-afford the taxi-fare back. The pantry and refrigerator are well-stocked, so no need to do any shopping for a day or two, so I will show you the TARDIS when we get back.”
Sarah had decided she would go with the Doctor, and was so again was very tired when she returned. She stood in the bedroom a bit confused. “Where is the TARDIS? I would think it would, well, stand out.”
“It would,” the Doctor agreed. “However, I managed a bit of a workaround to the chameleon circuit. Not a fix, alas, but I have been able to camouflage it quite nicely.”
“Really?” Sarah was surprised.
The Doctor nodded. “If I were to take the TARDIS anywhere, that fix would break, and I don’t think it would work again. Another reason for me to not to go off adventuring. Observe the back door.” The Doctor unlocked it and opened it, showing it was indeed the back door, leading to a narrow concrete walkway behind the apartments. The floor above had an open wooden deck which covered the concrete walkway. The Doctor shut the door and relocked it. He then fished out the TARDIS key and unlocked the top lock. Holding the key against the doorknob, he unlocked the door and opened it, revealing the TARDIS’ interior.
“Clever,” Sarah stated.
“Thank you,” the Doctor replied, gesturing for her to enter. “You rest a bit and I’ll fix dinner. I believe you have a laptop and a recorder with you. Tomorrow, you may start my biography.”
“I have kept too many secrets. Perhaps it’s time someone heard them. While I might say no one has the right to my secrets, if anyone deserves to hear at least some of them, and even to judge me, well, you would be one of the very few.” Perhaps only Susan and Romana had more.
“So,” Sarah commented several days later, “the Time Lords agreed to your theft of the TARDIS if you trapped the Dalaks and used this Hand of Omega to destroy them?”
“I sometimes think the TARDIS wanted me to take her, but overall, yes. I just couldn’t do it – destroy the Dalaks, I mean – well, not then, anyway. At that point, I really didn’t know much of anything about them.”
“So you left with Ian and Barbara because it gave you an excuse to?”
“Yes, and yes, I realize now – I even realized then to a degree – it was mere moral cowardice on the original me’s part. In the end, we very shortly ended up on Skaro.”
“The Fourth Doctor told me a little about that, after we visited Skaro. Our visit would have been earlier in their history, right?”
“More than a few centuries, yes. In trying to avoid destroying them, in several senses I aided in creating them,” the Doctor admitted. “I sometimes wonder if that was a setup by the Time Lords, if not Time itself.”
“Let’s hope so.”
The Doctor thought about that, and agreed. “If so, it would lessen my responsibilities, at least a bit.”
“And did you. . . ?”
“I did. I returned to London in 1963, and completed the mission.” The Doctor grimaced. “Somehow, it seems the Daleks were weakened, but not destroyed.” After looking off into the distance, the Doctor grimaced. “As I said, after a brief visit to Earth in the next to last ice age, we ended up on Skaro. . . .”
“It must have been difficult for you when Susan left,” Sarah said compassionately the next day.
“It was,” the Doctor agreed. “As you now know, she had even less reason than I to like the society of the Time Lords, and of course she had a much lesser connection to Gallifrey itself. Still, her leaving as she did surprised me. It was a very human thing for her to do, however, and by then she was culturally as much a human as she was anything else.” He sighed. “As you will see, however, that moment defined the rest of my first life, that of the first regeneration, and most of the second. After finally rejecting it, it would affect a great deal of the third regeneration. It affected you most of all.”
“In what way?”
“I wanted to rebuild a family, not just companions travelling with me,” the Doctor answered. “A few months after I gave up on that dream, you came along. Still, let’s take things in order, shall we?”
“I hadn’t realized, that, well. . . .”
“That the Time Lords essentially executed my first regeneration?”
Sarah nodded. Then she frowned. “If you don’t mind asking, how old are you?”
“Ah, with a Time Lord, that is a very complicated answer. In fact, there are generally many answers.”
The Doctor nodded. “One set of answers the physical age. That is somewhat hard to explain after the first regeneration. Let me see if I can explain this.” After a frowning pause, the Doctor said, “If we aged as humans do, without any other considerations, the general population of Gallifrey would live to about the age of four hundred, give or take a decade or so. Well, in our years. A year on Gallifrey is a bit longer than Earth years. Still, in human terms, we would age much like a human until late adolescence, and then our aging would start to slow down.”
Sarah nodded her understanding.
“Regeneration was very much a hit-or-miss thing with the original population. These days, they all would regenerate if they die of what we might call ‘old age,’ and have at least seven regenerations. Time Lords are the elite, usually specially bred and always specially conditioned. Hence, we live longer, are more likely to regenerate if seriously damaged, and so forth. Still, with normal aging, depending on how young we become when we regenerate, we would have between two hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty years per regeneration. So, under normal circumstances, a Time Lord should have. . . ?”
“Around four thousand years?”
The Doctor nodded. “In that respect, I am somewhere in my mid-seven hundreds in Earth years, younger of course in mine. Still, I should be on my second regeneration, not my sixth. That aspect of age is also the one we have been largely conditioned to self-identify. However, there are complications. When dealing with the time continuum and time energies as we do, our bodies tend to age more slowly than the time we experience. A Time Lord who works his entire life within the time monitors of the Citadel, where those energies are the strongest, by the time he dies he might have had a body-age of close to four thousand to even four thousand five hundred years, and that would be the age given in his farewell ceremony, but he could have experienced over a hundred thousand years.”
Sarah’s jaw dropped from the shock.
“Working and living in a TARDIS – and few if any Time Lords have spent as much time in a TARDIS, especially consecutively, as I have – does the same, although nowhere to that degree.” He cocked his head at Sarah. “How much time did you spend traveling with my third regeneration?”
“Between six and seven years, I think,” Sarah replied.
“Your body should have aged a little less than four years, but you spent just over ten years of experiential time,” the Doctor stated. “Earth years, of course. When you’re traveling in the TARDIS in the vortex, you don’t usually notice how much time is passing. I won’t swear I haven’t actually spent even a bit more time than I believe I have.”
“Huh, I’m older than I thought,” Sarah mused. “Is that why you travel with people?” She frowned. “You said something yesterday. About building a new family?”
The Doctor nodded. “That is one reason. When Susan left, I adopted Vickie as a surrogate granddaughter. Dodo was much the same. And, as granddaughters ought, they left as well. Most of the other companions of my original self and into my first regeneration were just that; people I travelled with, even if I enjoyed their company. Jamie and Victoria, and later Zoe, were different. I wasn’t their grandfather, I was more their uncle, if not a friend a mentor. I very much hoped that Jamie would form a bond with one or the other of the girls, and stay with me. Jamie hoped much the same, although he never learned to express himself in that way. Maybe I was fooling myself, but I do believe Jamie and Zoe might have gotten together if the time Lords hadn’t interfered. Of course, even if they had gotten together that doesn’t mean they would have stayed with me.” A wistful look came over the Doctor’s face. “Still, it would have been so very nice if they had.”
“I take it you felt the same for Jo and me?” Sarah asked.
“Jo . . . I wasn’t romantically attracted to her, but I loved her very much. She and Jamie, and you with my third regeneration, well, yes, except for Susan and one other, I loved the three of you more than I have any of the others I traveled with until recently.”
“But not romantically,” Sarah pointed out.
“To be honest, looking back, my third regeneration was attracted to you but was too thick to realize it until I was involved with Romana.”
The Doctor smiled a tight smile and replied, “Let me tell you about the rest of my time before you, and then we can discuss after.”
“So, Mel’s leaving also hurt you?” Sarah asked some days later.
“As always, I thought I would have more time,” the Doctor acknowledged. “Still, I hope she’s happy. I know Ace is, and having a great deal of fun. Ian and Barbara are still alive and well, as are Polly, Jo, and Liz.”
“Mike Yates is already gone . . . and I soon will be,” Sarah pointed out.
The Doctor nodded. “Benton and the Brigadier are both ailing and Ben, well, he’s also nearing the end.” He looked up. “Even though I should have a great deal of time left in this regeneration, somehow, I don’t feel as if I actually do.”
“Doctor . . . since you were short-changed in all of your regenerations, will you get it some of that time back?”
He shrugged. “There is some evidence to hint that my last regeneration might live longer to partially make up for shortened regenerations, but it’s very uncertain.” He gave her a twisted smile. “Time will tell.”
“Doctor . . . speaking of time, how much time have I spent in here?”
“You have experienced seventy-two days, and aged maybe ten.”
Sarah nodded. “I think I should spend more time writing up my notes, even if no one will ever read them.”
The Doctor stood and moved to a wall. He stroked it, and said, “The TARDIS will time-lock your room. When she thinks it time, she’ll let me, or whomever she thinks best, in, so that your story will go on.”
“I’d like that,” Sarah acknowledged. “Doctor . . . would you be able to take, well, my body back in time?”
“I can take you anywhere and anytime you’d like. I won’t claim to have complete control over the TARDIS’ systems, but I have much greater control than when you travelled with me.”
“Just a few weeks back. Everything was arranged.”
The Doctor nodded sadly. “Of course, Sarah Jane.”
The Doctor paused by the door. “Yes?”
“If . . . if you really meant it, what you said about me and some of the others, could you say it to me directly? Just once?”
The Seventh Doctor turned and said gently, “I do love you Sarah Jane, and I will never forget you.”
“No,” Sarah Jane said with a hint of her usual cocky grin, “I know you won’t.”
River came into the TARDIS control room, where the Doctor, her Doctor, was standing motionless at the console, his back to her.
“You read it all?” he asked.
“I did,” she acknowledged.
“I hope I didn’t come across too badly,” the Doctor said. “Whatever her feelings, Sarah Jane was a very good investigative reporter.”
“As you suspected, she was in love with your third regeneration, but she very much liked all the ones she met, including you,” River told him. “I’m sure she gave a very honest account of what you told her, and she wrote it up beautifully.” She came over and placed her hand on his shoulder. “I know what some people think of your companions.”
The Doctor shrugged. “Some think of them as my pets, while others are convinced they are all lovers.” His mouth became a twisted grin. “Of course, any who know I traveled with Captain Jack Harkness might have a good reason to think the latter.”
River’s reply was indirect. “It must be so lonely for you.”
“It can be,” he acknowledged. “Like most things, there is a tradeoff. For every good thing, there’s some sort of a down side.”
“I know how you feel for me, even though you rarely say so directly,” River said in a hesitant voice. “You and the second Romana were lovers. . . .”
The Doctor nodded. “The original Romana was falling for me and fought it. She regenerated, hoping that would solve her dilemma, which it did, although likely not in the way she had expected.” He looked at her. “My eighth regeneration. . . .”
“The one you won’t call the Doctor?”
He nodded. “He formed no real attachments. I cared for all my companions, and loved most of them. You resist being called my companion, and I understand why, so there were only two who were my lovers.”
“Romana and Rose.”
The Doctor nodded. “The ninth regeneration fell in love with her, and to my surprise, that carried over.”
“Yes, I loved your mother, and your father for that matter. I wasn’t in love with her; perhaps because I first met her when she was seven. She was always that little girl who waited as well the adult Amy.”
“She was in love with you as well as Father,” River pointed out.
“I was her fantasy, but while she would have liked to have had me on the side, she truly loved your father much more, and she proved that long before they left me.”
River gave him a crooked smile. “You were all so shocked to learn I was Melody.”
“We were, which also meant I had to live so that you would be born, although you didn’t know that when you saved me.” He looked her in the eye. “Does it help you deal with giving up several lifetimes?”
“I don’t regret that for a moment,” River replied. The Doctor just looked at her. “I admit there have been times when I wish it hadn’t been necessary, but that’s a very different feeling, Sweetie.”
“True, but that wasn’t what I asked first.”
River smiled sadly. “I barely understood what was happening, and had no idea how many times it might happen. Even now, we couldn’t say how many more times it might have. And it also helps that I love you.”
The Doctor let the subject drop. “Shall we go?”
“Any place in particular?”
“Ah.” He turned to the TARDIS console and opened a hidden panel. Then he flipped a toggle. The TARDIS immediately responded.
“Huh,” the Doctor said, “usually she asks if I’m certain. But then,” he added, looking at River, “you weren’t with me those other times.”
The 7th Doctor sighed, and entered the TARDIS. It left, but quickly reappeared. The 8th Doctor walked out. Nearly ten minutes later, he went back to the TARDIS, and it disappeared for a moment.
The next regeneration came out, and spent nearly fifteen minutes, before he sighed. This would be one of the few breaks he had in the Time War, but not even he could fight all out all the time. When he left, the TARDIS again quickly reappeared. The 9th Doctor only spent a few moments at the site before he left as well.
The 10th Doctor came out of the TARDIS. He had resisted coming, but having met Sarah Jane again, he felt he had to visit. When he came back to the TARDIS, there were tears on his face. Again, it quickly disappeared, and then immediately reappeared. The 11th Doctor and River walked out. The Doctor was, as the previous Doctors had been, carrying a small bouquet, this time of wild flowers. River was not surprised to see they were under a shady tree in a cemetery. The Doctor led her over to one of the larger markers. River could see there were already five different bouquets of various types in front of the marker. There were numerous arrangements behind it.
SARAH JANE SMITH
1 February, 1946—19 April, 2011
Loved Mother, Good Friend
“Hello, Sarah Jane,” the Doctor said, stooping to add his tribute.
“Five others?” River asked. “So, even the one you don’t like to talk about?”
“Even he,” the Doctor acknowledged. “Even the one who traveled alone honored her. For him, she represented a part of what he was fighting for, that no one would be subjugated to the Daleks.” He pointed at the arrangement of red poppies, and then made a more general gesture. “We others did this for many reasons. Because she knew so many of us, and those that met her loved her, albeit in many different ways. Because she loved us. Because we disappointed her. And because she stands for all the people who traveled with us, and all the people whose lives we touched, for good or ill. All the people we cared for, and all the people we’ve disappointed by leaving.”
He startled River by taking her hand. “Sarah Jane, this is River, my wife. River Song, this is Sarah Jane Smith, in some ways my most constant companion. Let me tell you a few of the things that have happened since the last me visited.” He hesitated, and then said, “I almost regret to say I’m the last, but I still have a lot to say.”
‘The last?’ River thought. ‘Spoilers!’
Twenty minutes later, the Doctor and River entered the TARDIS, and it quickly disappeared, and then immediately reappeared. The next Doctor came out and walked over to the grave, his face for once sad rather than irritated or angry. He added a sixth bouquet of flowers to the pile. “Hello, Sarah Jane,” he said. “I know the last time I was here I thought I was the last, but let me tell you some of what’s happened since I was last here.”
Never the end.