DOCTOR WHO: A Place Among The Stars
By Shaun Collins
On a quiet afternoon in a countryside cottage, he lay dying.The bedside monitor beeped, the breathing apparatus did its slow, rhythmic pump up and down, an IV line drip, drip, dripped its medicinal concoction, but still he lay dying.He’d come to accept the idea.He’d lived a long, full life—a good life, by all accounts—and now was growing accustomed to the idea of fading away.
Of course the cancer had other ideas.It was not about to let him go peacefully or quietly.It was in fact, eating him alive.He hated it. He’d spent his whole life putting on a brave front for the cameras, showcasing a “never say die” attitude.He’d fought and won against every kind of threat possible, but the cancer was different.
For starters, it was real.There was no writer standing by with a clever way out, no Beeb executive to step in with a dues-ex-machina.He was going to die, and it would not be fading away.It would be slow and agonizing and above all, undignified.
The man wanted to get up and walk, to clasp his hands behind his back and just pace, as he had so many times in the past, but in his weakened state, could barely shift the bed covers that felt as much like a restraining strap across his midsection as they did a comforting swaddling for his frail form.
A groaning wheeze filled the air, as familiar as it was foreign, sounding as though some great beast was forcing itself through a tear in the fabric of space and time.He instinctively reached for the remote, thinking someone had left the telly on for him.And while ordinarily that would have provided a decent distraction from the ineffective medicines, he couldn’t take the program.
Not that one.Not right now.
But the television set wasn’t on.He looked across to the room’s far corner and watched disbelieving as the familiar blue box took shape, the WHORP WHORP noise continuing until at last it solidified and turned real.The light on top stopped flashing, the materialization process completed.
The door opened and a young man stepped out of the TARDIS.He was dressed like a Oxford professor; brown tweed jacket, suspenders and red bow tie, though he was far too young to sell the look.He glanced around the room for a minute and his eyes settled on the hospital bed against the wall with its astonished patient.
“Ah, good, you’re here.Thought for a minute we’d missed you.”He glanced over his shoulder back into the box.“It’s alright, we’re here.”He spun back around and clasped his hands together.“How are you, my friend?No, wait, that’s a bad question.Don’t answer that.”
“Well of course it’s a bad question!Have you no sense of decorum at all dear boy?”A gruff voice called out, and an elderly man with white hair and a cane forced himself through the doors and into the room.“Just look at him, mmm!”
“I thought we agreed I’d be first to see him?”Came a new voice, and a short man with dark hair in a mop top pushed through.His check trousers and blue shirt made for quite a contrast with the others.He scowled at them as he came into the room, but brightened when he looked at the bed.“My dear Brigadier!What a pleasure to see you again.”
The man in the bed shook his head.“You, you can’t be here.You’re not real.”
“Not real?”Shouted the next man out of the TARDIS.He had curly blond hair and wore a Technicolor dream coat.“I expect we’re some sort of fever dream then?”
“Oy!Leave him alone.”Said a skinny man wearing glasses and a brown pin-striped suit.
“Yes, he’s been through quite a lot lately.”The next man said, a blonde wearing a cricket outfit and what looked like celery.
“This can’t be happening.”The man in the bed said.
A few of them started milling about the room, muttering to themselves about the state of the accommodations.A tall man wearing an incredibly long scarf flopped down on the bed next to him.He crossed his legs, threw his feet up on the bed and smiled a mouthful of teeth.“Well he doesn’t look any worse for the wear to me.”
“Amazing when you consider the medical technology of this time.”Said another with long flowing hair and a silver ascot, as he looked over the array of monitors next to the bed.“They almost killed me.”
“They did kill me.”Said a short man in a hat carrying an umbrella.“Or rather, they will kill me.Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart we presume?”
“Oh must we presume?”The man in the scarf asked.
“Of course we must!”Said the grandfatherly figure still standing by the TARDIS.
“I am not Lethbridge-Stewart.”Said the man in the bed forcefully.
They all stopped to look at him.
“Well of course you’re not.”Came a new voice.It belonged to the one in the crushed purple velvet suit and cape with a shock of white hair.“We know that, for heavens sake.But what else would we call you—” He smiled.“but `Brigadier’?”
The one in the mop top nodded enthusiastically.“You’ve no idea what we’ve had to go through just to get here.”
“The reality compensator is completely blown; take us a month to repair it.”Said another man wearing a black leather jacket as he stepped out of the TARDIS.“Oh, hello!”
“What do you mean; you came here to find me?”Asked the man in the bed.The Doctors—and really, that’s all he could think of them as—stopped and smiled in synch with each other.
“Regardless of our differences, young fellow, we hold you in high regard.Very high regard indeed.”Said the grandfatherly one.
“It’s been a while since I was a young fellow… Doctor.”The words sounded strange in his ears but felt right coming from his mouth.“But, I don’t understand.You’re fiction.”
“What is fiction, but words that describe an idea?”Asked the Doctor in purple velvet.
“And ideas are powerful things.”Chimed in the man wearing celery.
“Some ideas are so powerful; they take on a life of their own.”Agreed bow tie.
“And here we are.”Finished the mop topped Doctor.
There was a moment of silence then, as what the Doctors had said sunk in. “But why?Why now?”
“I think you know why.”Said the bow tie Doctor.“Come with us.”
At that moment, a single gong rang out.It came from deep within the bowls of the TARDIS and reverberated throughout the room.The Doctors looked up at the sound of it. “The Cloister Bell.”Said the black leather jacket Doctor.“We haven’t much time.”
“We know what it means!”Cried out the grandfatherly Doctor.“Let’s see what we can do about it, hmmm?”He turned to the rest.“Don’t be long.”He moved back into the TARDIS with the other Doctor as the bell rang out again.
The Doctor in purple rubbed his hands together.“Yes well, this is it, Brigadier.You can come with us, or we can part ways.”
The man in the bed shook his head.“I can’t just leave, it’s impossible.”
“Impossible!”Shouted the Doctor in the scarf as he lept to his feet and stood on the bed.“Did he just say ‘impossible’?Just look around the room, Brigadier!We’re living proof of the impossible.”
The blonde Doctor with the cricket gear stepped forward.“Brigadier, a place among the stars has been prepared for you, but we mustn’t delay.”The Cloister Bell rang out again, emphasizing his words.
The bedridden man looked at the conglomeration of tubes and wires that linked the machinery to him.He looked at the Doctors, from one to the other.All faces he recognized, all men he knew.And if what they said was true about getting here, he knew he could be in no better hands.
He made up his mind. “All right, Doctors.I’m ready.”
The Doctor in purple grinned and nodded, the mop top Doctor was positively beaming.
“Allons y!”Shouted the skinny Doctor in the brown suit as he pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aimed it at the bedside equipment.Its high pitched hum filled the air, and then a shower of sparks flew from the monitors.The Doctor in the scarf jumped off the bed and along with the short Doctor with the umbrella, and the Doctor with the long flowing hair and ascot began to push the hospital bed across the room.The Doctor in the Technicolor coat swung open both sets of doors to the TARDIS as the Cloister Bell sang again.
“The fabric of reality is beginning to break down!”Shouted the Doctor in the cricket gear.
“Don’t worry”, said the Brigadier as the bed rolled over the threshold.“The writer will get us out of this.”
The Doctors shared another smile, and then closed up the doors.The TARDIS shuddered once, and began to dematerialize.The groaning noise started anew, the light on top flashed.The box became translucent, then transparent, and then the Brigadier got what he wanted:
He faded away. <>