This story features the Seventh Doctor and takes place shortly before the events of the Doctor Who TV Movie.
Written by Alex Skerratt.
Never trust a bread basket. Such a bundle of disappointment – the chef’s subtle way of telling you that dinner would be a while.
So – I didn’t prevaricate. My dinner party. My rules. The main course arrived as soon as the diners sat, and I watched them tuck in. I wasn’t hungry. Besides, this whole meal was merely a framing device – a quirky introduction to a more exotic story.
“Doctor, this is exquisite!” said Filby, dabbing the meat juices off his grey moustache. “What is it? Pheasant?”
I smiled. “Why not…” I answered.
There was a woman next to Filby – a psychologist. I never learnt her name. She was visibly unimpressed with my coyness, and wasn’t afraid to show it. She said she wasn’t fooled by my dinner invitation, and demanded to know my true intentions.
“Indeed,” added the Provincial Mayor. “Doctor, you are not usually one to entertain guests – particularly at your town house. What is it, exactly, you want from us? And what the Dickens is that cabinet?”
I smiled, and stood up. Carefully, I wandered towards the blue telephone kiosk in the corner of the dining room. “Gentlemen… lady…” I announced. “I can see there’s no fooling you. I brought you here to witness a miracle…”
Filby chuckled. “Oh Doctor! Your pheasant isn’t that good…!”
“You’re right,” I admitted. “It’s pterodactyl…”
Filby glared fearfully at his food, but I interjected before he could respond. “Now! What would you say if I told you I had discovered the means of exploring the fourth dimension?”
“The fourth dimension…?” said the Mayor. “You mean… time itself? A means of travelling into the future or the past…?”
The Psychologist scoffed. “I’d say you needed your head examining,” she stated. “Nobody can travel through time, Doctor. It is scientifically impossible.”
“Ah!” I answered. “Then I needn’t apologise for what happens next! Correct?”
The diners looked at me, agog. Something told me I’d killed the mood.
It was the Mayor – in no uncertain terms. I can’t repeat what came out of his mouth.
“I am going on a journey!” I declared. “I shall step inside this cabinet, and disappear from sight. When I return, I will have travelled to the far future and returned to the present. But from your perspective, mere seconds will have passed.”
Filby laughed, and stroked his beard. “By jove, it’s like a night at the music hall!”
“Come to your senses, Filby!” the Mayor snapped. “You’re not buying this claptrap, surely?”
“I’ll humour the man. He gives me food and fine wine! I can entertain his parlour tricks…”
“Oh it’s no parlour trick, I can assure you of that,” I whispered. Then, raising my hat, I nudged the cabinet door and stepped into the darkness.
The time rotor glowed a sapphire blue as I headed for the controls. It was a glass cylinder, attached to a console of brilliant lights that blinked and pulsed in the candle-lit chamber – a space much vaster than its wooden shell would suggest.
“And now for the floor show,” I mumbled to myself, as I manipulated the dials. “Now, let me see… anno domini, eight hundred and two thousand, seven hundred and one. Go…”
The engines roared, and the time rotor began to rise and fall. The machine was in flight, propelling itself towards the future.
As I peered through the glass cylinder, my hearts began to patter. There was a shape – a dark shape, at the other side of the controls. It shifted, moving closer. It was a man.
I stood motionless, just watching – and I glared narrow-eyed at the figure. “Well, well, well…” I uttered. “You don’t belong in this story…”
“On the contrary, Doctor, you always need an antagonist…” the man replied.
His body shimmered, shifting in and out of focus like a reflection on water. But I could see his face clearly. It was a face I knew well.
“Master,” I said, calmly. “So you avoided execution…”
“Not quite,” he replied. “I’m still a prisoner on Skaro. However, time travel is always possible in dreams, and it wasn’t hard to catch you napping.” He sniggered. “I must say – this is quite some tale I’ve stumbled into…!”
I looked across at my favourite chair, where an old book lay abandoned next to a cold cup of tea and some sweets. Of course… I was dreaming! I dozed off while reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Yes – I was on chapter two. The Time Traveller had just shown the machine to his guests…
I looked back at the Master, who smirked as he surveyed his surroundings. “Oh really,” he jeered, picking up the book. “The Time Machine? And an over-flowing pot of jelly babies? Oh my dear Doctor, it’s like you’re parodying yourself…!”
“I’m not a parody,” I insisted. “I’m an homage. Now tell me – why have you projected yourself into my dream? Have you come to say farewell…?”
“I have come to make a request,” he answered. “I have been tried and sentenced, and within the hour I will be dead.”
I nodded. “Yes I heard about the charges they brought against you. They say you listened calmly…”
“Well what did you expect?” the Master barked. “Protestations? Pleas for mercy? No Doctor – I wouldn’t give those creatures the satisfaction…”
“And yet you come to me now,” I pointed out. “Very high and mighty of you…”
The Master inched closer. There was a lingering desperation in his eyes. Perhaps even a sadness.
“Will you do it, Doctor?” he enquired, softer now. “Will you collect my remains, and take them home…?”
I gazed wistfully at my old friend. “Your captors will never agree…”
“They already have,” said the Master. “They fear the Time Lords. They dare not exterminate you. You know that.”
I faltered. I listened calmly, but I couldn’t trust the man, even on the scaffold. Not even in death. What was he plotting? What part would he play in my story…?
“I’ll take that as a yes,” the Master purred, revelling in my torment. “Thank you, Doctor. I knew I could count on your bleeding hearts…”
I glared at the Master, sternly. “I promise nothing,” I insisted.
“And you’ll get nothing,” he replied. “Nothing will happen to you, Doctor. They’ll simply send you the co-ordinates, and my dead remains will be waiting for you on Skaro. How’s that for a conclusion…?”
The Master began to fade, his face rippling and bending. Teasingly, he raised his hand and waved. “Sweet dreams, Doctor…” he sneered, and disappeared from view.
And that was that. I was suddenly alone with my machine – a little sad and confused, and certainly afraid. Hmm. Funny that – afraid. Should a dead man be feared? He was nothing more than a dream, a story…
But then, very soon, I’d be awake. The dead man would be dead, and I’d be on course for the planet Skaro to collect his remains.
No. It was a story I didn’t want to read. It was a request he should never have granted…
Podcast version – performed by Wink Taylor
Seventh Doctor hanky – Official BBC Sylvester McCoy hanky – order now from the Lovarzi shop!