Authors: Gary Russell
From the makers of Doctor Who
Series created by Russell T Davies
The Death of the Doctor
Written by Gary Russell
Based on the script by Russell T Davies
Very bad news
It was a fairly normal weekend in Bannerman Road. So far.
Of course, normal can mean different things to different people. To Haresh Chandra, “normal” meant it was a good day to go outside, and wash the rather smart car that he drove. Gita, his wife, was inside their home, going through invoices and bills relating to Bloomin’ Lovely. That was the name of the florist business she ran from a small shop on the Parade, up near Park Vale station. Although, Haresh had noted more than once, she seemed to run it from their kitchen table more often than not. The kitchen was Haresh’s domain – he loved cooking and after a hard day being headmaster at Park Vale Comprehensive School, there was nothing he liked more than to come home, turn the oven on and whip up something exceptional for Gita and their seventeen-year-old daughter Rani.
But when Gita was in “bills and invoices” mode, the kitchen was lost to him for the day, so the open air, a hosepipe of water and a soft sponge to shine up his car always seemed the best option. As for Rani, she was where she always was when not studying for her exams. She was over with their neighbour and friend, Sarah Jane Smith. Haresh often wondered why Sarah Jane took such an interest in Rani and her friend Clyde. Haresh was never sure he quite trusted Clyde - he was a bit of a joker at school. Haresh had to acknowledge that Clyde had never actually done anything to upset his daughter, so he opted to keep quiet, but always kept an eye on the boy.
Haresh glanced over at Sarah Jane’s big corner house, number 13. The little green car she drove was in the driveway so he knew they hadn’t gone anywhere, but she had been in there quite some time. Then he remembered it was Saturday afternoon – of course, it was the regular Saturday afternoon call from Sarah Jane’s son, and Haresh’s former star pupil, Luke. He was at Oxford University a year early – yes, he was that brainy – and would soon be home for a long weekend. But in the meantime, he was always the dutiful son and got in touch. Poor Sarah Jane missed him dreadfully, but at least they were in regular contact.
With a smile at Luke’s success, Haresh went back to washing dirt and stuff off the front of his car.
Over the road, in the attic of that big house, Sarah Jane, Rani and Clyde were, as Haresh had guessed, grouped around a laptop, talking to Luke over the webcam. If Haresh had been with them, he might, however, have been alarmed and surprised to see that the attic also played host to a number of alien artefacts and devices Sarah Jane had accumulated over the years that she had spent either travelling in time and space with her old friend the Doctor, or since she had taken up her unofficial role as defender of Earth. From an attic. In Ealing. With Rani, Luke and Clyde. And Mr Smith, the huge, sentient alien supercomputer built into the chimney stack.
Mr Smith had actually been the topic of the initial conversation with Luke. He and his robot dog, K-9, had suggested some new upgrades to Mr Smith’s software, but Mr Smith wasn’t convinced they were necessary. Sarah Jane reckoned this was more because his old sparring partner K-9 had suggested them, but she wasn’t going to press the point. And when the one-liners between Mr Smith and K-9 had got just a little bit beyond witty one-upmanship, she had changed the subject.
‘Well, I hope you’ve finished all your coursework,’ Sarah Jane said to Luke.
Luke clapped delightedly from his small study in Oxford. ‘Ha! Sanjay owes me five quid,’ he laughed. ‘Cos I bet him you’d say that!’
Sarah Jane smiled tightly. ‘I see.’
But Clyde leaned towards the screen. ‘And who is Sanjay?’
Luke paused for a second, as if thinking how best to describe his friend. ‘Well, he’s in a room just down the hall. He’s brilliant, we just clicked right away. He’s studying biology and he’s so clever, he’s like my best mate.’
Rani glanced at Clyde and could see a look of surprise cross his face. For years, Clyde had been Luke’s best mate. They shared so much, and were such very close friends, it had to be hard for him to accept that Luke might have made new friends. Especially so quickly.
Luke carried on. ‘I mean, he’s smart, but so cool too and he makes me laugh. Great jokes and lines. In fact, I think he’s the best mate I’ve ever had in my life.’
Luke paused and stared out of the laptop screen. And then let out a huge whoop of laughter and rocked back in his seat, almost disappearing from view. ‘Oh, that’s brilliant,’ he shrieked, and then reappeared pointing at Clyde. ‘Your face! Gotcha!’
It had been a joke at Clyde’s expense.
‘What?’ Clyde asked. ‘I don’t get…what?’
But Sarah Jane and Rani were laughing too, and Sarah Jane gave Clyde a hug. Even K-9 in Oxford flashed his eyes as if sharing the joke.
‘That’s a classic,’ Rani giggled.
And Clyde realised he’d been had. Luke was teasing him, and he stared hard at his friend in Oxford.
‘No way! Forget next weekend, swot-boy,’ he said, trying to sound cross, but then joined in the laughter. ‘Oh, you are so on your own.’ Clyde smiled as Rani ruffled the top of his head. ‘Right, that’s war, Lukey-boy. I’ll get you for that, when you least expect it.’
Luke just smiled back. ‘Bring it on,’ he said.
The laughter was interrupted by Mr Smith, suddenly making a loud pronouncement.
‘Emergency broadcast!’ he said, instantly silencing everyone. ‘UNIT armed forces are converging on this house, Sarah Jane. Right now.’
Haresh had been joined by an excited Gita when the noise began. Other neighbours were standing by their houses or gathering on the corner. Old Mrs Kuthrapali was there (of course she was, it might be gossip-worthy), so was Mr Lawrence and his fluffy dog. The Frasers were gathered around their car…everyone was staring at Sarah Jane’s house, which was now surrounded by a group of black Landrovers with UNIT insignia emblazoned on their doors and bonnets. Black clad soldiers with red berets, guns slung over their shoulders, were pouring out.
Haresh and Gita had encountered UNIT before in connection with Sarah Jane Smith, so they weren’t quite as surprised as everyone else was, but neither of them was quite sure what UNIT were. Some kind of special military department, Haresh had gathered last time, which Sarah Jane must have encountered through her journalism. But he always got the impression that it wasn’t exactly a very warm connection, and Sarah Jane certainly seemed to share his concern that men with guns near Rani and Clyde wasn’t that good an idea.
‘What do you think Sarah’s done now, my darling?’ Gita asked Haresh, while peering at a tall, well-built soldier stood closest to them. ‘Should we ask him?’
Haresh sighed and eased his wife back towards their house. ‘I’m sure Sarah Jane will deal with it.’
At which point a sleek black car with red military number plates and darkened windows glided up and stopped, its nose just on Sarah Jane’s drive.
A soldier hopped out of the driving seat and opened the rear door and a woman got out. She was tall, young and beautiful, but carried herself with an authority that Haresh immediately related to. She wore a long, dark dress uniform, emblazoned with a UNIT logo on the sleeves and a ribbon of colours across her chest, and a red beret. She was in charge of all these people, no two ways about it.
As she stepped on to the driveway, a voice rang out.
‘And you can stop right there!’
It was Sarah Jane, striding out of her front door, Clyde and Rani sensibly staying back a bit.
‘I’m not having UNIT soldiers on my property.’
Haresh called out. ‘Everything all right Sarah Jane?’
She waved to him. ‘Yes, fine, thank you. They’re just leaving.’
But it was clear that the tall woman from UNIT wasn’t going anywhere. ‘Miss Smith, my name is Colonel Tia Karim, representing the Unified Intelligence Taskforce. May I have a word in private?’
Sarah Jane indicated the assembled troops, vehicles and neighbours. ‘Oh, I think it’s a bit late for privacy, Colonel,’ she said tightly. ‘So as you are not getting any further on to my drive, just tell me what you want.’
Colonel Karim didn’t react, as far as Haresh could see. ‘I’m sorry, but it is my solemn duty to inform you…’ and then the officious demeanour dropped slightly. ‘I’m afraid, Miss Smith, your friend the Doctor is dead.’
‘Don’t be stupid,’ said Clyde, backing up Sarah Jane, along with Rani.
‘He can’t be,’ Rani added.
Colonel Karim sighed loudly. ‘I apologise for just dropping this on you all. I know you all knew him. But last Sunday, at 1700 hours, the body of a Time Lord was returned to Earth. UNIT’s scientific advisors have checked the DNA and it’s definitely him. I’m sorry for your loss.’
Haresh had only caught snatches of the conversation across the road, but he knew the Doctor was an old friend of Sarah Jane’s, someone very special to her. Didn’t know he was a Lord though.
Colonel Karim seemed to glance back towards Haresh and the other neighbours, adding, ‘I’m sorry for the whole wide world. Because he’s gone. The Doctor is dead.’
The Epitaph Stone
If Colonel Karim was surprised by, or even interested in, the contents of Sarah Jane’s attic, thought Rani, she hid it well. But then, maybe UNIT knew exactly what was up here. They seemed to know far too much about everything, and Rani knew that made Sarah Jane wary of them. Even though she used to help them out alongside the Doctor once.
Sarah Jane’s old friend who took her away from planet Earth many years ago in his TARDIS, and who had inspired her to start up her defending-Earth plan. Rani, Luke and Clyde had met the Doctor about a year ago, when Sarah Jane had been about to marry a nice man called Peter. The Doctor had arrived and stopped the wedding, revealing that poor Peter had been duped by an old foe of theirs called the Trickster, a member of something called the Pantheon of Discord. The Trickster was always trying to destroy something Sarah Jane referred to as ‘the fabric of time’, usually helped by a tiny dwarfish alien slave called the Graske.
Perhaps this was some kind of plot by the Trickster, because surely the Doctor couldn’t be dead. He was so…so alive. The most alive person Rani had ever met, he just burst with energy and drive and –
‘The Doctor was found 10,000 light years away,’ Colonel Karim was saying, which brought Rani back into the moment.
Clyde was holding Sarah Jane’s arm, although she didn’t look like she needed his support or comfort. Indeed, Sarah Jane looked anything but upset. Angry, maybe, but she wasn’t crying or anything. She moved Clyde’s hand from her arm.
‘His body was found by a race we know to be the Shansheeth, which we recognise as a sort of intergalactic undertakers.’ Colonel Karim passed a small black stone to Sarah Jane. ‘They gave us this. They call it an Epitaph Stone, it’s a recording device. An alien death notice, really…’
Sarah Jane snatched the stone and stared at it. ‘Oh, come on, Colonel, this is ridiculous. Epitaph Stone? There’s no such thing…’
Mr Smith’s melodious voice rang out. ‘Sarah Jane, I can confirm that the Shansheeth are known throughout the universe as the carers of the dead. It is said they trawl the battlefields of outer space, looking for heroes to take to their original homes.’
Sarah Jane crossed the attic and placed the stone on one of his scanning trays, throwing him a look. ‘Just shut up and play this thing,’ she snapped.
Mr Smith lowered the attic’s lights and a pool of white light appeared in the centre of the attic.
And then a hologram flickered into existence before them. Rani walked around it, realising that wherever she stood, the flickering image stared at her. She reached for Sarah Jane’s hand, but like Clyde before, her gesture was pushed away, gently but firmly.
The creature in the hologram was about seven feet tall, and looked like a giant vulture, with its beaked head at the end of a long neck and three blue crystals embedded in its forehead. It was wearing long purple robes with ornate gold braiding and two clawed hands were in supplication around its chest, almost as if it was praying. When it spoke, the voice was solemn and low, and to Rani sounded like it was coming from something dead itself. There was no feeling or emotion as it spoke and she felt goosebumps rise on her skin in response.
‘I bring condolences from the Claw Shansheeth of the Fifteenth Funeral Fleet, upon this terrible day –’
Sarah Jane snorted. ‘Oh, well, Colonel, if you’re going to trust that thing. Just look at it.’
Rani coughed at Sarah Jane. ‘That’s not fair,’ she said quietly. ‘Since when do we judge by appearances?’
Sarah Jane wouldn’t look at Rani, but instead just stared at the huge bird-like creature, now frozen in the air before them, as Mr Smith had paused the recording. ‘Ever since this lot started lying to us. To me.’
Rani nodded. ‘Okay. Look, I hope it is a big mistake, I really do. But for the Doctor’s sake, we’ve got to find out the facts. Which means we stop. And listen. Just like you always taught us, yeah?’
Sarah Jane finally looked at Rani and took a deep breath. ‘Okay. Yeah. Mr Smith?’
And the computer continued to play the holographic message from the Shansheeth.
The melodious voice continued its spoken lament. ‘The Shansheeth did journey to the Wastelands of the Crimson Heart, whereupon we found the body of the last of the Time Lords. Witnesses say that he perished saving the lives of five hundred children from the Scarlet Monstrosity.’
‘Sounds like him,’ Clyde murmured to Sarah Jane, but she wasn’t listening. She was just staring at the giant hunched-up vulture flickering in the midst of the attic.
‘The famous Gallifrey, the Doctor’s homeworld, is long since lost. But legends talk of his love for planet Earth. Therefore the Claw Shansheeth will return the Doctor’s body to the human race.’ The blue-jewel-encrusted Shansheeth bowed its mighty head a bit lower. ‘O weep for him, peoples of Earth; mourn his loss. For the universe feels darker this night.’
For a moment the hologram froze and the caught-in-the-moment Shansheeth seemed to be staring right at Sarah Jane, almost daring her to react.
She didn’t, even after the hologram vanished and Mr Smith raised the lighting.
Rani wiped a tear from her cheek and even Clyde seemed a bit upset, clearing his throat suddenly.
And still Sarah Jane said nothing. Did nothing. Just gazed at the space where the giant bird had stood. Colonel Karim waited and when no one spoke, she finally let out a sigh. ‘UNIT is taking charge of the funeral, in conjunction with the Shansheeth. We’ll be using UNIT Base Five, situated inside Mount Snowdon.’
‘What do you think?’ Rani whispered to Sarah Jane.
‘Thank you,’ the older woman replied.
Colonel Karim smiled slightly, just for a moment. ‘Then you’ll come? All of you?’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Sarah Jane. ‘Nothing is going to make me miss this. I’ll be there.’ And she looked Colonel Karim straight in the eye. ‘And prove to you that this is all wrong. He’s not dead.’
If Colonel Karim was going to respond, she chose not to, but instead nodded and saluted before leaving the attic.
After she had gone, there was silence in the attic until they heard the front door below slam shut.
‘Sarah Jane –’ Mr Smith started, but she waved him into silence.
‘He’s the Doctor,’ she said. ‘He never gives up. And nor do I.’
Haresh was drying the dishes, while Gita was on the phone to a client, wandering around the back garden, gesticulating madly, despite the fact that whoever she was talking to couldn’t see her.
The front door slammed shut and he turned from the sink to see Rani walk in, sullen and looking at the floor, as if something really interesting was on the carpet that she had never seen before.
‘So,’ he said to his daughter, ‘what was that all about? All those soldiers and stuff? She’s weird, Sarah Jane. I mean, there’s always something happening at her house and –’
He was cut off as Rani all but launched herself at him from the living room, throwing her arms around him and giving him a huge, tight hug.
Pleased at the hug, Haresh was nevertheless aware this was unusual and something was upsetting her.
‘Hey,’ he said quietly into her ear. ‘What’s this for?’
‘Don’t you ever go anywhere, okay?’
‘What?’ laughed Haresh. ‘Not even to the shops?’
But Rani held him tighter. ‘Please. Not anywhere. Ever. Promise?’
‘Okay,’ Haresh said, hugging her back. ‘I promise.’
Finally Rani broke free and told him that the Doctor had been killed in an accident.
‘They knew each other via UNIT,’ Rani explained. ‘That’s why they came to tell her.’
‘Must have been a pretty important person for all that noise and kerfuffle,’ Haresh said.
‘He was,’ Rani said simply.
‘Did you ever meet him?’
Rani nodded. ‘Once.’ But that was all she said about him.
And Haresh knew that if his daughter was this upset, Sarah Jane had to be feeling a great deal worse.
‘Is there anything we can do for her?’
But Rani shook her head. ‘I think she just wants to be left alone.’ She smiled at her dad. ‘She’s asked Clyde and I to go to the funeral tomorrow, in Wales. Is that okay? They’re sending a car for us and putting us up and everything.’
‘Well, I’m not sure…’ Haresh started to say, but then saw Rani’s face. And he could never say no to either of the women in his family. ‘Of course you must go,’ he said. ‘You have to support Sarah Jane.’
And Rani hugged him again. Just a little bit tighter. ‘I love you, Dad,’ she said.
Later that night, in the attic of 13 Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane was talking to Luke, via webcam.
Tonight, Luke could sense that his Mum needed him to listen to her rather than talk fun nonsense, as they usually did.
‘I always thought…if ever the Doctor died, I’d just know,’ she explained, although she wasn’t looking at Luke’s image, but was walking around the room. ‘Wherever he was, if he was far away on some distant planet or lost in the depths of the Dark Ages…that I’d know. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel a thing.’
Luke had met the Doctor on a couple of occasions – once they’d even teamed up to save the world from the Daleks and on another, he’d saved Luke’s life when he’d carelessly walked in front of a speeding car, because he’d been distracted, talking to Clyde on his mobile.
The Doctor meant a lot to him, too, so he could more than sympathise with his mum. But Luke was pragmatic – practical and rational. ‘That doesn’t actually mean anything, though, Mum,’ he said quietly.
‘Maybe it does!’ she said rather loudly. ’Because I don’t think he is dead. He can’t be!’ And she came back to the computer and looked at Luke. ‘I’m going to that funeral, Luke, but only to find out what’s going on. Because I know the Doctor is still alive!’