Queen Elizabeth the First had smallpox in 1562 and it nearly killed her. I find it dubious Moffat knew this when he set her portion of 50th in that year. I could rant for days about lack of research when using an historical figure, but I won’t, it’ll go in the blog. I’ll simply write it in myself and hope I do history a little more justice while weaving in the fantasy.
William Cecil and Francis Walsingham waited outside Her Majesty’s chambers as her ladies in waiting silently hung the red cloth around Her Majesty’s bed. She too was swathed in the red stuff as she lay in her deathly state, the disfiguring red bumps of the pox rendering the monarch completely unrecognisable. Walsingham and Cecil knew they must prepare for the worst.
How could this happen?
The country was in no shape for a new monarch. Their queen, however difficult at times, or steeped in controversy over her refusal of suitable husbands, and her blasphemous protections of her religion, had done well thus far, and four years of reign was too soon to lose her.
France, too, was… problematic. Already at war with Protestant factions on the continent, Elizabeth’s untimely death could spell disaster if the French believed England ripe for the taking, and without a husband or true heir, the future was uncertain at best, and grim in all realistic foresight.
War seemed inevitable. On this much, Her Majesty’s advisors agreed, and it must be prepared for in all haste.
On top of all, a witch— and not just any witch, but one no one believed could possibly exist— had been caught wandering around the palace. The palace! The man was oddly dressed, and unmistakeably did not belong as he meandered through the halls of tapestry and paintings, and had somehow managed to breech all their security. How many guards had either missed him entirely, or been put under a spell? They couldn’t be sure, but it was a dismal thought. How many others could pass so easily through their fortifications, and at such a sensitive time? How soon would news spread to France that they were so wholly unprotected? This man – this witch – was a harbinger of calamity.
How could this happen?
His Majesty, King Henry, had sentenced the abomination to die before their current ruler had drawn her first breath. Most agreed this impossible man the drunken ravings of a thwarted love affair, and gave it no credence. If it had not been for Henry’s furious insistence upon court painters replicating the witch’s likeness (and his stolen bride’s,) they would never have recognised the wretch; never have believed such a fantastic story to be true.
Now, of course, they must consider the witch’s presence to be the blight which brought all the current misfortune upon them. His very existence, still full of youth and vigour, though all those who lived when he last plagued them lay dead and buried, proved his guilt. He would be beheaded and burnt, but in him, too, lay the only hope of returning their queen to them. It was blasphemous, Walsingham warned, a sin for which there could be no repentance. God did not suffer witches to live, nor spare the hell fire to those who consorted with them. Cecil agreed, but what were their two souls in exchange for their queen and country? Perhaps, a merciful sentence would persuade the fiend to undo what had been done. Perhaps, some time on the rack would be a method proving more efficient.
In any case, having seen to the care of their suffering queen, it was time to confront the witch.
“I don’t believe the door was unlocked,” Lios reasoned as they sneaked down yet another smelly stone corridor. “It can’t have been! He was a prisoner! There’s something fishy going—”
“Oh, shut up, Lios!” Torin interrupted irritably. “Do you have to look a gift horse in the mouth?”
“Of course, he’s right, young man,” the Doctor in the battered green coat interjected. “His suspicion is not misplaced, but the Bad Wolf Girl is our likely saviour, rather than any trap laid to ensnare us.”
The boys shared a wary look.
“Expectations of a party such as ours is highly unlikely, and they had a future me secured in his cell. The machinations of primitive peoples are rarely so sophisticated.”
“I hate to agree with anything this one says,” chimed the one in sand shoes, “but no way they could know—”
“Wha’ were you knabbed for again?”
“Right, so, zero chance they’ll assume you’d try anythin’ funny.”
“Blimey, they’re not Daleks, are they? They’re ordinary—”
“Apes get jumpy when frightened,” Leather insisted.
“Bickering changes nothing, you—me lot,” the oldest chided. “However, it does increase our chances of being caught.”
“Oi,” Torin remarked softly, “how do you know the way out?”
“Not my first rodeo, is it?” he grinned at his son. “Got chucked in here in my first body.”
“Meant to, of course,” Sandshoes beamed in tandem. “Was the only way to get to the TARDIS.”
“Bragging,” sniffed the youngest of them, “about our stints of incarceration isn’t exactly setting an ideal example, you must be aware—”
“Shut up, you Nancy,” Ears sneered, “I don’ want to hear you talk.” He rounded on the others. “Don’ feed them ideas. This is why the other one wandered off, innit? Got herself into it, an’ now you’re glorifyin’—”
“As I just said—”
“I know I told you not to talk—”
“Who’s down there?” a voice echoed down the stone walls from behind them. “Show yourselves!”
“Oh, perfect. Fantastic. Look wha’ you’ve—”
“Doctor!” Torin cried, inserting himself between the two youngest Doctors. “This is the part where we leg it!”
“Right,” they chorused, then put on a burst of speed.
“Stop!” the angry voice behind them cried. “In the name of Her Majesty, the queen, stop!”
“Does anyone actually stop when you say that, I wonder?” Torin yelled, making a rude gesture over his shoulder as he ran. “Oh, the queen, you say? That’s different! Let me turn myself over straight away!”
“Torin!” Lios exclaimed. “Don’t antagonise the men with the weapons!”
“But it was daft!”
They ducked down another hallway where another two guards stood, swords drawn.
Allowing furious momentum to carry them, the two boys crashed into the guards, grabbing their wrists and angling blades away from themselves. Leather and the Dandy added their respective weights to the scuffle, and soon had the two guards unconscious.
The sounds of many heavily shod feet grew in their wake, and they took off, full tilt, once again.
As if by some tacit agreement, the Doctors seemed to know where they were running, so Torin and Lios followed without question, until they came to a dank chamber full of boats. Traitor’s Gate lay opposite them, and the boats sloshed gently with the eddying current. They all set to work, obstructing the entrance with anything they could find.
“As much as I’d love a lazy afternoon floating on the Thames,” Torn informed his party, “I don’t fancy sharing it with the blokes with swords and arrows. They’ll get through the barricade eventually. How do we keep them off our tail? The sonic won’t work on wood.”
A wicked gleam entered Leather’s eyes.
“You’re not blowing up any part of the Tower of London,” Lios told him firmly, without taking his eyes off the one in the bow-tie.
“We will sink the other boats,” said the youngest Doctor, “quite obviously.”
The wicked light shone from six sets of eyes.
“Brilliant!” cried Torin.
“But that means one of us will have to stay behind,” Lios argued reasonably. “There’s no time otherwise.”
The oldest Doctor moved over to his eldest son and began removing the vortex manipulator from his wrist.
“I’ll do it and catch you up,” he said lightly.
Torin yanked his arm away.
“No way!” he fumed. “I’ll do it! You have to get back to London – well, future London and stop the madness there. This whole thing is about you, not me. You can’t stay behind for anything.”
“Torin,” the Doctor warned.
“No,” he insisted. “Doctor, my mum is there. You have to. If something goes pear-shaped, I’ll scarper. I promise.”
He nodded reluctantly and clenched his jaw tightly.
“Good,” Torin beamed, “now, go.”
“I’m staying with Torin,” Lios informed them.
“You’re not,” Torin argued. “You’re—”
“I’m not leaving you,” Lios insisted, “I told you that.”
“I have the space hopper! I’ll be fine!”
“And it carries two! I’m not leaving you on your own, you idiot!”
“Lios—” the eldest Doctor began.
“No,” Lios interrupted, an edge of panic in his voice, “he’s not doing it alone.”
“I’ll stay with him,” offered the youngest Doctor. “After all, it was my idea.”
“He’s perfectly safe in my care,” the man said gently to the agitated blond.
The other Doctors exchanged dubious glances but remained silent.
“I’m also better qualified to operate the device he means to use to allow our escape. I’ll see your brother is safely returned to you, I promise.”
Lios swallowed hard, but nodded.
The remaining three Doctors sprang into action, untethering a boat, wading out to the gate, boarding the vessel, and taking up a paddle respectively. After sharing a look full of promises and portent with Torin, Lios followed suit and got into the boat.
“You’re very close,” the Doctor remarked casually as they disappeared through the wooden gate.
“We— you’re not going to remember this, are you?”
The Doctor smiled.
“We are. Close. We’re very close. All of us. We’ve always been together,” he said, rummaging in his pockets and pulling out a corkscrew and an ice pick. He held both up for the other man to inspect.
The Doctor selected the corkscrew with amusement. “Motorised?”
The Doctor chuckled and began boring holes in the boat nearest.
“Lios always sort of held us together,” Torin offered while stabbing at the bottom of his own craft. “Selene and I… we both have a stubborn streak, and he’s always made peace; reminded us what’s important is family, and that, no matter what, we can depend on each other. He doesn’t like… well, he just doesn’t want to lose us.”
“He’s a kind young man.”
“He thinks too much with his emotions,” Torn shook his head, “lets fear get in the way of common sense. Sometimes, you gotta take a few risks.”
“Now you sound like me,” the Doctor remarked blandly, moving on to the next vessel when he was satisfied the first was taking on enough water.
“Weeell,” Torin grinned, apparently pleased with either the idea or his work on the submerging boat, the Doctor wasn’t sure, but he hoped it was the latter. “Hey, do you mind if I ask you some things?”
The Doctor eyed him warily. “Are you certain that’s wise?”
“Look, I’m from your future,” he reasoned. “I don’t need to go locking any of this away, none of it’s happened for me yet.”
The Doctor’s eyes wandered over to where the Bad Wolf Girl stood, leaning against a stone pillar, and watching. She grinned in her eerie, lupine way and shrugged.
“I’m all ears,” the Doctor replied.
For some reason this made Torin fidget and smooth down his hair at the sides of his head.
“Why are you here?” he asked after a few hesitating moments in which all he did was chip at the bottom of the boat he had selected.
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I… Only, they’re all just blithering along in this aren’t they?”
The Doctor cocked his head.
“The other yous, they’re here, and they’re going along in all this because they’ve things to do, and they’d each do them – we’ve a thing we really must get back to, and obviously, there’s something here to do, and it might be related, but it’s not like each of these things couldn’t be sorted by just one of you, right?”
The Doctor grunted but made no further comment.
“So, there’s no real need for four of you to be cracking at it, is there? And that means there’s something else. Something big. And you’re the youngest, which means – I mean why would the older of you need one of you, who wasn’t supposed to be able to help, to step out of time and come here when it really wasn’t necessary, or even all that plausible that you could? They’re all – we’re all here because you are. Isn’t that right? You made this happen.”
The Doctor sighed heavily.
“So… Why? What’s gone wrong? I know what the others need to do. My— The one in the suit needed to not get his head chopped off. The one in the leather coat has a problem with moles in the twenty-first century—”
Torin nodded. “Big ones. And our one went to find our sister who’s… been in a bit of a strop of late, and done something quite rash – but, well, I’m pretty sure it’s done, and now we have to deal with it. But what do you need? How are we meant to help you, if you’re the one who made all this happen?”
“You’re very clever, young man,” the Doctor smiled sadly.
“Thanks, I’m told it’s genetic.”
“I… have a hard choice to make,” the Doctor returned. It was clear the topic was a difficult one. “I needed to have some questions answered first.”
“Like what sort of man I would become if I did the unthinkable.”
“Oh,” Torin frowned. “Is that all?”
“Is that all?” the Doctor hissed. “It’s everything! Isn’t it enough?”
“Well, no,” Torin retorted. “Not really, no. That was a complicated space-time disturbance that brought you all together. Just a peak into the future doesn’t seem enough by half. Slightly daft, actually.”
The Doctor, who had halted in his work, stared at him with his mouth agape.
“Well, it is!” he insisted vehemently. “You’re missing something.”
“Enlighten me then.”
“Well, how am I supposed to know!” Torin cried in frustration. “You made it happen, didn’t you! And how did you, you know, make it happen? Maybe there’s a clue there.”
The Doctor heaved another sigh and went back to the sabotage. Already he could hear voices and shouts in the distance. Their time was running out.
“I spoke to the Moment’s interface. She offered to show me.”
“Oh,” Torin frowned. “You could’ve just said.”
“Is it so important?”
“Everything is important, you know that. You told me that.”
“I’m growing tired of your cheek.”
“Yeah, that’s your fault too, I’m afraid,” he grinned, his manner slightly softened. “Look, a weapon of incredible power offers to rip open space and time to take you on a ‘this is your life’ tour, and you don’t think it might have some other reason for it?”
“It… perhaps, but I think she wanted me to be sure. I’ve asked her to destroy billions of people, my people. I cannot make this decision lightly. As punishment, I must live with this knowledge. I must live. Do you think it will not destroy me? Don’t you agree that I should understand, try to reconcile myself to it? Would you have me damn myself forever without such an understanding?”
“Nooo! No! Look, it’s lovely that you’re making peace with the past —er—erm— the future —er— the future-past reconciliation thing is good, but is this all the Moment does? Not reconciling, I mean, is it just a bomb thing? I understood it was sentient.”
“So, and here’s what I’ve really wanted to talk to you about, why can’t you ask it— her to do more than blow everything to smithereens?”
“Look, I know I don’t know everything,” he tugged at one of his ears and fidgeted. “I’m not— I’m— you’re— I only know what you told me, but I never understood why, I mean, why destroy everyone? Why would it even agree? I suppose, I get why it would if it was a bit psychotic, and you’d know better than I would if that were the case, but did you ask it why burning everybody to dust is plan A? You never said blowing stuff up was all it could do… and obviously, you’re here. It isn’t all it does, is it? It opened a stable window for you when the Timelock should’ve been impenetrable, why can’t it open something to evacuate your people before everything burns? Why can’t it do something to help? So… ask. Can’t be worse off than it already is. Worst she could do is refuse— oh, right, that could be bad, but it isn’t likely, is it? That she wouldn’t want to help you because you didn’t want to kill people? My siblings and I had this whole speech ready to convince you to try, we worked equations which would allow temporary escape into a pocket, or bubble – and were right! For the last century, we researched a way to create a bubble universe inside the void which would feed on the energy from this universe, rift energy. It would be small, only large enough to sustain something the size of an asteroid or a moon, and it’ll take unbelievable amounts of energy to get it right, and the risk is huge – and by huge, I mean we’ll need something like a supernova to create it, and there would be minutes tops to allow for an evacuation, and it would mean building transportation, and we’ve no guarantee that they’ll even take us seriously enough to hear us out and get on it in time, but again, we planned to go back and give them said time to plan. I-I think I’ve said enough. This! This could be so much better, so much less risky! Ask it to blow up the Daleks, and the Travesties, and the Degradations, and the Neverweres and Meanwhiles, ask it to even blow up the planet and everything in the bloody Timelock, but just wait until they’ve had a chance to—”
“Oh, Torin,” he abruptly had to sit. “You don’t understand, I’m not just saving Gallifrey and the universe from the Daleks, I’m protecting existence from the Time Lords! Preserving them would be foolhardy. What they intend to do, Torin—”
“I know! Look, our sister is there trying to stop the Final Sanction from happening. I— We’ve got to trust that she can do it, which she can’t if you bloody well blow her up now!”
“Your sister is what?” The Doctor all but leapt to his feet in his agitation.
“Well, I’m almost positive,” Torin groaned. “She gave us the slip, that’s what we were doing in London, looking for her where she said she’d be. Only she wasn’t, and she planned on slipping through the Timelock on a rift. Lios said he thought she’d been planning to do it for a while, and she finally got the opportunity. She’s gone to stop the Final Sanction and save as many people as she can.”
“How can she possibly accomplish this? Don’t you think I’d have done it if there was any way for it to be done?”
“I’m telling you that impossible doesn’t exist,” Torin insisted vehemently.
“And what of the Daleks on Gallifrey? If the people are moved, they’ll surely follow. It’s what they do. They’ll never stop.”
“Loads less than the fleets out there right now, and I know you lot have the technology to imprison them and eject them into the void,” he felt a stab of guilt for this half-truth. He knew they did get out eventually, and now he was sure how they’d gotten trapped in the howling in the first place. “Your people are still fighting! People without a say in High Council decisions! Children shouldn’t have to die because a few of the adults are nutters. Look, there’ll be plenty of clean up, but this’ll work. I know it. You just have to think beyond the war and the madness! You said the Moment was talking to you, made it possible for you to galivant around outside the Timelock, so just give us a little more time! Ask her for another fissure!”
“And if I can’t?” The Doctor watched his latest boat sink with dread eating at his insides.
“You can,” Torin insisted, punching another hole in the one he was working on. “You have to. You can’t kill my sister like this. Well, obviously, you can, and it would, and I’m not saying if the answer you get is… I’m just saying, I just know that this can’t be how it goes. It just can’t be. We’re here for a reason. I know it. We can save a few. Maybe we can’t save everyone, maybe Gallifrey really does have to go, but sparing some innocents we can do.”
“You have so much faith in the fairness of life, Torin. I don’t know how I can possibly make you understand just how misplaced it is, and I hate that I don’t want to. Please, don’t hate me – him if I add filicide to my list of crimes today. I don’t – I can’t—”
Shouts behind the barricade made them both jump. They each moved to a new boat and began working furiously.
“It’ll work, Doctor. Please. Leave the rest of it to us. Please.”
If someone had told the Doctor that this decision could have gotten harder when he crossed the desert, he’d have laughed bitterly in their face. He could’ve laughed at his own stupidity.
The Doctor sat up, his eyes narrowed in Torin’s direction.
“Did you say a pocket dimension?”
“Yeah, we worked it out that—”
“With an asteroid inside?”
“Shada? What, the prison?” Torin made a face, slamming the ice pick through one of the floor boards of the boat he was sabotaging.
“Yes, it is just such a place in just such a pocket. We already have all the access necessary. I don’t need to ask for a fissure, nothing needs to be moved apart from people.”
“Brilliant!” Torin cried. Angry shouts to halt and allow themselves to be incarcerated sounded again, along with the straining sounds of men attempting to shift heavy objects. “That’s brilliant! Well, that’s years of doing maths utterly wasted too, but brilliant! Only, how do we tell my sister?”
“If she shares this insane plan with the right people, we may not need to.” The Doctor smiled.
“Yeeeah, the Alpha’s not great at sharing plans with people, insane or not – the plans, not the people – although they’d need to be a little off in the head to – I mean – never mind. I’d always assumed I’d get to do the talking, but it’s a damn sight better than having to work from scratch and hope no one noticed. Can we get to it from the other side?”
“Yes,” he nodded hesitantly. “I’ve done so before, but…”
“One needs a special book to do so.”
“Oh,” Torin grinned, “is that all? Well, where do we find it? I’m assuming I can’t just walk into a shop and get one. The Library, maybe? Mind you, I don’t really want to go there with all the Vashta Nerada, but—”
“No, only one copy of this particular book exists, and it is housed in the Panopticon—” the Doctor stopped mid-sentence and shot Torin a strained look, “did you say Vashta Nerada on The Library?”
“Erm, no…” Torin shook his head, watching the final boat begin taking on water and standing. “Nope. Noooo. Forget I said that, will you? Kind of important later.”
The Doctor sighed.
“So, how do I get it from the Panopticon?”
“You don’t,” the Doctor pronounced with finality.
“Well, that’s no help,” frowned Torin. “How are we supposed to get it then?”
A curious light bloomed within the blue depths of this younger version of his father’s eyes. If Torin had been the sort who analysed these sorts of things, he might have said it looked very like hope.
“I’m sure other ideas will present themselves in time,” he smiled softly, “but for now? We have work to do. Hand me the space hopper.”