Who and the Terror of Terra
sigh and the lights dimmed again. Ever since the amorphic pattern stabiliser
had become unstable in the Chameleon Circuit, the system default had returned
the TARDIS to looking like an early twentieth century, London Police Telephone
Box. And as the Doctor had made the Earth his preferred home, continuing
to return at regular and consecutive time intervals, it was getting increasingly
difficult, not to say problematic, to find a 'parking space' where the
TARDIS could remain unobtrusive and left unattended in reasonable safety.
He had spent several months considering the problem.
"If only I could get the imaging control operational again."
he sighed. "Even a few different changes would be better than being
stuck as a Police Box forever!"
Not that the Doctor hadn't developed a somewhat warm affection for the
TARDIS's chosen appearance. It was just that… well... you know…
had never been straightforward. It wasn't a simple matter of removing
one module and chucking in another. The TARDIS had soul. Modules and systems
became used to, and comfortable with, one another. It was a bit like playing
from music manuscript. Eventually, playing without the sheets present,
you start to alter one or two notes or expressions here and there, building
in your own feel and interpretation. In the same way, the TARDIS had gradually
modified some components to accept the faults in image stabilisation.
One might say, it had even developed rigid habits. The Doctor blamed himself
for not addressing the problem light years ago.
was a sudden shrinkage distortion (anyone looking from outside would have
briefly seen an oak tree appear on Brighton beach) and then the sound
of the sigh again - although this time the lights stayed bright.
in just the right place was also proving to be a problem. He'd set the
controls for contemporary London, but missed the centre by several miles!
Fortunately the tide was out, he was close to the mainland, and it was
only four in the morning, local time. As he'd intended to make this planet
his base, he would have to consider making more use of the Earth's global
satellite positioning system. He felt sure the TARDIS could be modified
to accept and use the signals. It was high time the TARDIS gave him some
say in terms of where it was going to land.
goodness sake!" the Doctor was exasperated, yet excited. Grabbing
the sonic screwdriver he made another fine adjustment inside an exposed
conduit. Outside, the TARDIS morphed into a rather pleasing beach hut
with decorative pointy bits.
"Ah... now we're getting somewhere." he breathed with relief.
"Perhaps I'll leave it like this for a while until I can find some
more Terbium for the photon accelerator exchanger."
This decided he gathered together a few items, grabbed his coat and scarf,
and strolled out onto the beach.
several miles Northeast in the little coastal town of Southwold, another
beach hut had appeared, taking up position neatly at the end of an existing
row of individually named huts. Sea Breeze; Albatross; Marina; Swiss Cottage;
Frank's Plaice… Calverdier; Skylark; Gulliver; Windlass; Atlanta; Terraqueous.
(Some of the names were rather odd, and Terraqueous certainly didn't look
out of place among them).
glanced towards the majestic pier ahead of him. Sunrise was inspiring.
Beams of light needled through the pier's supports. "There's nowhere
quite like the Earth." he exclaimed.
Startled from his musings, the Doctor turned to find a young man in an
oilskin jacket walking rapidly to catch up with him.
"What was that?" the man asked. The Doctor stopped and looked
quizzically at him.
"Something about the Earth?" the man persisted.
"I was just admiring the view." replied the Doctor.
"Oh, right." The man sounded crestfallen, but then rallied with
renewed enthusiasm. "Jack, pleased to meet you."
The Doctor smiled at the outstretched hand and without taking it replied,
"You can call me the Doctor."
"Are you a local Doctor?"
"No, just visiting."
"Me too." Jack said brightening up again.
"It's rather early to be out, isn't it?" asked the Doctor.
"Speak for yourself Doc. Anyway, I've been coming here quite often
at this time."
"Oh?" the Doctor questioned - his curiosity rousing.
"Yeh. It's the best time of day for inspiration; a clear head, and
"Right." the Doctor agreed.
"It helps my creativity." Jack finished.
"What do you do Jack?"
"This and that. Invent things, you know…"
"Me too." The Doctor found Jack strangely likeable, even though
he had imposed himself to some extent on the previous tranquillity.
"Do you know where I can get some Terbium?" asked the Doctor.
The sea at Southwold shimmered in colours. And the hut named Terraqueous
changed in tandem with those same colours - in readiness for the moment
They were beneath the great pier now. It's massive supports extending
out to sea.
"What's Terbium?" asked Jack.
"Oh, it's a sort of metal. You get it in certain yttrium minerals…"
A bright scarlet flash across the sky ahead stopped them in their tracks.
"Shit! What's that?" Jack exclaimed.
"I don't know?" The Doctor looked puzzled. "It's certainly
not the northern lights... I wonder... No it couldn't be..."
"What?" pressured Jack.
"No" repeated the Doctor.
"No what?" persisted Jack impatiently.
"Oh, nothing. I don't know." insisted the Doctor.
"Perhaps it's lightning?" pondered Jack - determined not to
be left with a mystery on his hands.
"Probably." The Doctor had gone all distant.
They continued to walk in silence, climbed some steps, and found themselves
heading into town. Jack led and the Doctor followed, without really concentrating
on where they were going.
"You're very quite Doc. What you thinking?"
"Oh, nothing really. Is there anywhere we can get a hot drink or
Jack glanced at his watch. "Sandy might be around. We could go there."
The Doctor was battling with his memory. Something he knew wouldn't come
to the surface.
was humming and the humming was words. "Land and water, land and
water, land and water, land and water." The sea began to heave upwards,
becoming a formed rectangular block. The door to Terraqueous flew open
as if someone were about to run out. Instead, all that could be seen was
darkness. A void so black it made hell seem colourful. The sort of black
that eats all lights and creates all fears. The sea shape churned in its
rectangular guise, lifted from the surface, and propelled itself towards
and through the open doorway.
Jack raised his arm towards an archway. "My friend, Sandy, will make
us a drink."
The Doctor motioned Jack to lead on. Through the archway was a small café.
The smell of ground coffee and warm bread met them as Jack opened the
Jack. Hello." She addressed the Doctor.
"This is the Doc." Jack responded to her visual enquiry.
"Are you off colour Jack?" asked Sandy.
"No. I just call him Doc."
"Oh, right. What would you like?"
The TARDIS in its new form seemed strangely oblivious to the events of
the day so far. It had hardly noticed it was changing colour from time
to time and was indeed otherwise at rest.
in for her cousin for a few days." volunteered Jack. "He's back
"Tell me Jack, why were you so interested in what I was saying earlier?"
"What, about the Earth thing?"
Jack briefly glanced about him before continuing in a low voice. "It's
something I was told recently... well, yesterday actually. Some bloke
on the beach… Said something about someone who was going to be important
to the Earth, and that I was going to have to help with something. I thought
it might be you."
Southwold was quiet.
Terraqueous was quiet. But the sea was also quiet. In fact, it had disappeared
Sandy joined them
at the table. They sipped their drinks and ate hot buttered toast, while
Jack told them about some of the inventions he had made.
"...And that was how I managed to open the door using sound."
"Very impressive." Said the Doctor.
"I was also experimenting with flow forms." Continued Jack.
"It's really interesting how water behaves when..."
The Doctor had jumped to his feet. "That's it!" he exclaimed.
"I knew I'd seen it somewhere before!"
"Seen what, Doctor?" exclaimed Jack. The Doctor was heading
for the door.
"Hey! Wait!" shouted Sandy. "You've left your hat!"
"I'm going after him." Jack yelled.
"I'll come too." Sandy grabbed her coat and followed Jack out,
locking the door behind her.
"What about the shop?" Jack called back.
"It'll be okay for a minute, Jack."
The Doctor had got
halfway to the pier before they caught up with him.
"Where are you going?" called Jack.
"I have to get to the TARDIS."
"The what? Hey! What are you on about?"
A few minutes later
they arrived at the beach hut. The Doctor raced up the steps, opened the
door, and disappeared inside. Jack and Sandy stopped abruptly outside
the now closed entrance.
"Oh, come on." Jack said pathetically to Sandy, and opened the
They could only be
described as shocked and speechless as their minds struggled to cope with
the huge size of the room they found themselves in. The Doctor meanwhile
was wrestling with the conduit panel.
"It's stuck!" exasperated the Doctor.
Jack sprang out of his trance. "Here, let me try."
The panel juddered to the right a fraction.
"It's no good. It's like a limpet." exclaimed Jack.
The Doctor moved around his controls, tutting and twitching with his fingers
poised and then removed from various buttons and levers.
"Ah ha!" He pulled out a metal tube-like thing, turned it over
and replaced it. The panel came away and Jack fell backwards clutching
it to his head. Inside the conduit, a turbulent black sea swirled to the
tune of Terraqueous Terata.
"We have to stop
it." The Doctor cried. "You hear it?" Jack and Sandy glanced
at each other.
"Terraqueous Terata." Exclaimed the Doctor as he struggled to
pull a long cable out of a storage unit.
"Of land and water. Monsters!" Jack and Sandy were obviously
"I've accidentally triggered the process. I have to neutralise the
terbium resonance synchroniser."
Sensing renewed urgency, Jack screamed back. "What can we do Doctor?"
"I need something to join that coupling over there to this cable."
The Doctor waved the cable's end in the air.
Jack searched his pockets. Pulling out a handful of screws, nails and
other bits, he extracted two bulldog clips and a crocodile clip. "Any
of these any use?"
The Doctor grabbed the clips and proceeded to fiddle with his cable inside
In Southwold, the beach hut
door began to strain to the motion of a black sea. Suddenly, the door
flew open and all the shapes of hell fought for supremacy over the exit.
The leaders galloping towards the sand that was once ocean.
"Come on come
on. We don't have much time." The Doctor muttered anxiously.
"Jack. Push that blue lever."
There was a gushing sound, the lights dimmed and the walls turned black.
Bubbles of water formed like stars around the room and everyone started
"I can't breathe!" cried Sandy.
The Doctor struggled for control. "Quick Jack! The other lever! I
can't reach it!"
Jack made a final attempt, caught the lever with the tip of his finger
and pulled it down.
On Southwold beach
the hut vanished. Air-bound water creatures turned to rain and sea-bound
devils spread outwards as rippling waves.
caught his breath and looked at his new companions. "Right. Good.
That seems to have done the trick."
With that, he turned away and left the room. Jack and Sandy gawped at
each other in disbelief. Who was this man called 'Doctor'?
Richard Gentle 1999