Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

“Hey, wow” Rory stepped out of the TARDIS into a sunny afternoon and breathed deeply. “Wow. This is rather impressive, Doctor. What planet is it?”

“Earth,” he replied as he closed the TARDIS door and watched Amy step towards Rory and take his hand.

“I knew that,” Rory answered him. “I was just testing.”

“Of course you were.”

“I know where this is,” Amy said. “We’re in Ireland. It’s... it’s Dromcarr Castle. The home of Anthony Patterson-Mathers.”

She looked around excitedly at the formal garden where the family crest of the aforementioned Mr Mathers had been depicted in topiary and well chosen combinations of perennial flowers. The garden was on an incline from the front gate where the TARDIS had materialised, so that the crest was clearly visible to all visitors. The path of yellow gravel split two ways around it and met again at the base of a wide set of steps in white limestone that led up to the grand front entrance of the Castle.

The Castle was not something ancient and ruinous. It was not, technically, a castle at all in the sense of being built as a defensive structure. It dated from the mid-nineteenth century when a wealthy landowner commissioned an architect to build him something impressive. The architect came up with castellated battlements, a round tower and turret, and long, narrow arched windows in the limestone clad walls. He placed it on a hill with the formal gardens on the south side and a crystal clear lake around the west and north and a planted forest to the east. The lake glinted in the sunlight and reflected the green-and purple mountains that rose up beyond its far shore.

“We should beat it then,” Rory pointed out. “He’s really obsessive about privacy. Anyone who doesn’t have an invitation to visit his Lordship in his castle gets chucked out. I’ve read about it in the papers.”

“Lucky we have an invitation, then,” The Doctor told him, holding up a folded sheet of expensive notepaper. Amy reached for it and noted the Mathers crest at the top of the page before the short note inviting The Doctor and any friends he chose to bring with him to attend the weekend party of Anthony Patterson-Mathers and his fiancée, Miss Angela Sullivan.

“Seriously? They’re engaged?” Amy asked. “I didn’t think they were going to go the distance. I mean... he’s about sixty and she’s my age. I mean... talk about generation gap.”

The Doctor smiled enigmatically and said nothing about that at all as he strolled along the path, apparently casually watching a yacht on the lake beyond the house. Amy remembered that, despite looking younger than she was, he claimed to be nine hundred and seven years old. Perhaps generation gaps were normal for him.

“Anyway,” she concluded. “How come he knows you? You’re personally invited to this celebrity bash. This is official. It’s not psychic paper.”

“Remember his big musical hit of 2002...” The Doctor said.

“Er...” Amy was uncertain. But Rory grinned widely.

“Bachelor Boy,” he said. “The music of Cliff Richard mixed with ice dance extravaganza. It went all over the country, and then worldwide. It brought him back to prominence after a bit of a slump in interest in his west end musicals of the 1980s. Ever since then he’s been on TV talent shows, the national lottery, choosing our Eurovision Song Contest entry, knighted by the queen. There’s no getting away from him.”

“Rory’s mum loves Cliff Richard,” Amy pointed out. “She took him to see the show eight times.”

“Eighteen,” Rory corrected her with an edge to his voice neither Amy nor The Doctor were going to comment about. “But what does that have to do with...”

“I persuaded him that it would be more successful than the Sound of Music on Ice,” The Doctor said. “I saw the alternative timeline where that bombed and he went bankrupt. It wasn’t pretty.”

Rory opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind. Amy linked her arm in his and sauntered happily. They were personally invited to the showbiz party of the decade. Why worry about anything else?

The great door was answered by a butler, an actual butler, who greeted them politely and conducted them through the marble hall and along a corridor lit by chandeliers, then out through a grand French door onto a wide terrace above the lake. There, under a gleaming white canopy an elegant buffet was laid out for the enjoyment of the invited guests. Rory and Amy took a collected breath and both vowed not to get over-excited about the number of celebrity faces they recognised. They would not faint or panic, get tongue-tied or gabble incoherently an octave higher than their usual voices. They would not make fools of themselves.

They promised themselves they wouldn’t.

Rory headed to the buffet and waited until Dame Helen Mirren had finished with the salad before picking up the spoon. He passed it on to Ricky Wilson, the lead singer from The Kaiser Chiefs, who was waiting equally patiently for him to be done. He added a chicken drumstick and some other delicacies to his plate and looked around for Amy. He saw that she was sitting near the parapet overlooking the lake talking to a young woman in a red dress before he was distracted by the voice of Sir Derek Jacobi asking if he had finished with the duck pate.

The young woman in the red dress was actually the lady of the house, Miss Angela Sullivan. Amy had recognised her straight away. She was in enough glossy magazines, after all. But she was surprised to see her sitting alone, apart from the crowd, and not exactly looking like the sparkling star of stage and screen that she was meant to be.

Amy’s natural empathy kicked in and she went to sit with her.

“You don’t look like you’re enjoying the party,” she said to her.

“I... er...” Angela Sullivan looked surprisingly disconcerted. “I... I’m ok. I just don’t... I’ve got a little bit of a headache.”

“Oh. Would you like me to push off and leave you alone, then?”

“No... er... please... stay here. If we look like we’re talking nobody else will bother us. I don’t think I’ve seen you at one of Tony’s parties before. You’re not from one of those Find a Star contests, are you? The latest hot property?”

“I can’t sing for toffee,” Amy answered. “And I don’t intend to try. I’m... well, I’m just a ‘plus one’ really. I came with...” She looked around and spotted The Doctor talking to the lord and master himself, Sir Anthony Patterson Mathers. “I’m with The Doctor.”

“You are?” Angela smiled brightly. “Oh, I’m so glad he came. Tony was really worried this wasn’t his thing. But he wanted a chance to talk to him. Which one is he?”

Amy pointed out the angular figure in animated conversation, including some wild looking gesticulations. The eccentric outfit didn’t seem quite as out of place among this celebrity a-list. She spotted Rupert Everett and Chris Evans both wearing tweed and Colin Firth and Ewan McGregor in bow ties exactly like The Doctor’s.

“He isn’t exactly what I was expecting,” Angela admitted.

“He’s not what anyone is expecting,” Amy replied. “But... well... you know... The Doctor is somebody you want around when there’s a problem. Is there a problem here?” She looked around at the breathtakingly lovely scene. The castle was reflected in the mirror-still lake along with a blue sky. It was hard to imagine anything being wrong in such a lovely setting.

“When we’re in England, it’s all right,” Angela continued. “I know what people think. I’m a jumped up nobody, marrying him for a leg up in showbiz. But it’s not true. I really do love him. And he’s not... in private, he’s not as arrogant as he seems when he’s on TV. He’s a lovely man. We’re really happy. But here... He’s determined not to let it bother him. He says it’s all nonsense and this is the twenty-first century and everything. But... it’s Dromcarr Castle... and the Mathers curse.”

“What curse?” Amy asked.

Rory was in the midst of a crowd that included some of the biggest names on his TV. Patrick Stewart, Zoe Wannamaker, Felicity Kendal, Sean Connery AND Jason Connery were all listening to him talk. Tessa Dahl and Gemma Arterton stood either side of him, eagerly drinking it in. All of them knew about The Doctor by reputation and when they discovered he had actually travelled with him they wanted to know more. He was the centre of their attention. He was their A-list celebrity. He forgot to be tongue-tied or over-awed as he answered their questions about his adventures alongside The Doctor. He tried not to sound as if his own part in their battles against alien vampires and creatures of the void was too monumental. He knew they would disbelieve him if he made himself out too much of the hero. So he kept his own achievements low key and plausible and played up The Doctor’s role.

“He must be here about the Mathers Curse,” Zoe said. “It has to be that.”

“What curse?” Rory asked.

“The Mathers Curse,” said a man called Lord Henry Mountcharles, whose title dated back centuries but whose fame dated from the 1980s when he turned his own Irish stately home into the venue for a series of very popular rock festivals. “You see, Dromcarr was built by Sir Henry Mathers II in the 1830s. But the land it was built on had been seized by his father, Henry Mathers I from another family, the O’Sullivans, after they got into debt to him. Henry II then married the youngest daughter of the O’Sullivans, thinking that he could unite the families and prevent any kind of blood feud breaking out. But she died in childbirth. Rumour has it that the Dromcarr Banshee had been heard that night. Anyway, her father blamed Mathers for her death and vowed that the Mathers family would never know happiness as long as they resided at Dromcarr. And so it proved. The son that was born to Henry Mathers II grew up sickly and weak. He died on his honeymoon. As luck would have it, his bride was already in the family way and a son was born, but he was killed leading his brigade in the Somme offensive in 1916, and that was the end of the family line. The castle was inherited by a distant cousin who never lived there and then sold it off to pay taxes in the 1920s. It was used as a convent school in the 1960s and 70s and then a hotel for a couple of decades. Then Tony bought the place. A Mathers is living at Dromcarr again. And he’s about to marry a Sullivan.”

“Yes, but...” Rory said. “I mean... he’s not really related to the original guy, is he?”

“Neither is she,” Jason pointed out. “The names are pure coincidence. But the rumours persist. And apparently the Banshee has been heard in Dromcarr Woods.”

Rory looked around. He wasn’t sure when woods could be classified as forest. He would have thought the dense evergreens that worked right around the lake and up the hill qualified as the latter. But another thought overlapped that one.

“What would anyone be doing in those woods to hear anything?” asked Gemma. Rory nodded. That was exactly what he was wondering.

“Sounds like a bit of an old wives tale to me,” remarked Sean Connery dryly. “And I thought Tony felt the same.”

“But he called The Doctor,” Felicity pointed out.

“Perhaps he just asked him to come and enjoy a weekend in the country,” Patrick added. “And I for one hope we all will do just that. We’ve got the promise of fine weather and some glorious Irish countryside. Tony’s brought a top chef in for tonight’s dinner party.”

“It’s not that I’m worried, as such,” Angela added as she finished explaining herself to Amy. “Neither is Tony. But... well...” She sighed. “No, that’s not true. He is worried. He actually DOES believe it all. I know it sounds daft. This is the twenty-first century and after all he’s not really related to the Mathers who built the house. And I’ve got no Irish connections of any sort. But...”

“Don’t worry,” Amy assured her. “If there is anything in this at all, then The Doctor will sort it out.”

Were Banshees and family curses The Doctor’s kind of thing? Amy wondered about that briefly. Then she decided that ANYTHING was The Doctor’s kind of thing. And if there WAS any danger to anyone he would sort it out.

“Tony is worried about something,” The Doctor said to Rory as they got dressed for the formal dinner later in the evening. He looked out of the window of the room allocated to the two of them, next door to where Amy was sharing with Michelle Ryan. “But I haven’t had chance to ask him about it. I was sure he was about to spill the beans when Andrew Lloyd-Webber descended on us and started talking about his search for the next Dorothy. Nobody else could get a word in edgeways.”

“He’s worried about an old family curse and Banshees,” Rory answered nonchalantly. The Doctor looked surprised as he related the conversation he had.

“Actually, it wouldn’t be Banshees,” The Doctor told him. “Even if there is more than one of them. Banshee is both the singular and the plural. One sheep, a flock of sheep. One Banshee, a cohort of Banshee.”

“Take your word for it, Doctor,” Rory said. “Anyway, there may not be any Banshee or Banshees at all. Patrick reckons there’s nothing in it and we should all just enjoy the weekend.”

“Patrick who?” The Doctor asked.

“Captain Picard,” Rory said. “You know... of the Starship Enterprise.”



“Nothing,” The Doctor assured him. “Nothing at all. I hope he’s right. A country weekend in county Kerry could be very nice. Your tie isn’t straight, by the way.”

Rory adjusted the black bow tie that went with his dinner suit. The ensemble came from the TARDIS wardrobe along with The Doctor’s evening attire and a dress that Amy wouldn’t let either of them see until she was ready. They stepped out of the room and met her in the corridor. She waved to her roommate and promised to talk to her later before turning and waiting for either The Doctor or Rory to comment on the classically styled little black dress that she was wearing with high heels and her hair piled up on her head elegantly.

“Wow, Amy,” Rory said. “You look fantastic.”

“You look like you don’t know how to fasten a bow tie,” she replied, stepping closer and adjusting it for him. She turned to The Doctor and did the same for him, even though he was pretty sure his own was on straight. Then she took both their arms, smiling widely as they headed down to the dining room.

The grand dining room was true to its description - grand. There was a long polished table with place settings for thirty-six people. The narrow windows were framed by satin curtains and mirrors placed on the opposite wall helped disseminate the natural light before the sun went down and silver candelabra provided a warm illumination.

The Doctor was near the head of the table with the host and hostess. Rory and Amy were further down, with Lord Mountcharles and Cameron Macintosh either side of them. The conversation was light and mostly show-business orientated. Nobody seemed at all worried about curses or Banshee.

Then, just as the coffee and brandy was being served, there was a power cut. It didn’t go dark in the dining room because there were candles on the table, but the effect on the guests was predictable.

Everyone but Rory.

“Ok, that’s just corny,” he said in a voice that carried over the feminine shrieks and the manly protests. “I’m in a room full of actors, having dinner and the lights go out. Good job there isn’t a storm outside or it really would be a joke.”

There wasn’t a storm. But all of the windows in the dining room suddenly imploded and a terrible scream penetrated the room. Not just one scream, but a chorus of voices making a gestalt sound that penetrated the minds of all within hearing. Rory covered his ears. Everyone was doing the same. Their own screams were inaudible over the Banshee wail that came from outside.

The Doctor was obviously suffering, too. But he struggled to his feet, reaching into his dinner jacket for his sonic screwdriver. Rory was struggling to stay conscious as people collapsed around him. He watched The Doctor adjust the sonic and hold it up like a green flashing beacon. The sound it usually made was inaudible over the wail, but Rory knew it must be making one.

There was no change in the air, no shimmer of any kind. But Rory had the hazy idea that the sonic screwdriver was creating some kind of sound shield that radiated out from it and encompassed the room. He felt it encompass him. He was so relieved that the noise had stopped that he didn’t realise at first that every other sound had, too. Around him people were unconscious. He and The Doctor were the only ones still upright. He reached for Amy and assured himself that she was alive. He examined some of the others, too, and concluded that they were just unconscious before looking to see what The Doctor was doing.

“Wow... can the sonic screwdriver really do that?” he asked as he watched him aim at the windows one by one. The shattered glass flew back into place, almost as good as new.

“It’s not permanent,” he admitted. “Some time tomorrow they’ll fall apart again. Must make sure nobody is standing near them when it happens. Glass, after all, is silicone that’s been heated until its molecules bond together. The sonic impulse tells them to keep bonding, at least for a little while.”

“It keeps the noise of the banshee out?”

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. He turned from the windows and went around the table examining the unconscious guests. He moved some of them into more comfortable positions and shifted sharp cutlery out of their reach, but there seemed little more he could do for most of them.

A very few of them responded when he touched them. Rory watched him use the sonic screwdriver to revive two men. He recognised them as Ricky Wilson and Ewan McGregor. He advised them to drink some water while he found that Derek Jacobi, Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart were starting to wake up, too.

“What about Amy?” Rory asked. “Can’t you wake her up?”

“No,” The Doctor replied. “The others are too deeply affected. I can’t wake them, yet. It would be dangerous to try.”

“Why are they different?” Rory asked. “Or me?”

“You covered your ears and then watched what I was doing. It distracted your mind enough to keep you conscious until it was over. Ricky is a rock musician. He’s used to hearing noises at both ends of the audible range at high volume and Ewan spends more time with motor bikes than is entirely good for him. It gave them partial immunity.”

“What about us?” Sean Connery asked.

“Well... er...” The Doctor stammered as he sought to choose his words carefully. “That is to say... You are all... of the... mature.... generation... and...”

“What The Doctor is trying to say,” Rory added. “Is that you’re all probably going a tiny bit deaf with old age. Sorry, but... you know...”

The three elders of the acting profession looked at each other and then laughed.

“Well, at last there’s an advantage to getting on a bit,” Patrick said. “But what is happening and when WILL everyone else wake up? What do we do about it?”

“It’ll be a couple of hours,” The Doctor answered. “They’ll all be a bit stiff from sitting still and they’ll have headaches, but they’ll be all right. You three keep an eye on them. Rory, Ricky, Ewan... you come with me. Grab a couple of torches and...”

“You’re going after the Banshee?” Derek asked.

“That’s the idea,” The Doctor replied.

“Count us in,” Sean said. “If they’re not going to wake up for a couple of hours, then they won’t come to any harm. Besides, there are caterers and Tony’s own staff around. They can help.”

The Doctor opened his mouth to say something. He knew that the three men had a combined age of over two hundred. But they fixed a look upon him that he was powerless to resist.

“My son is there, unconscious,” Sean Connery pointed out. “This is personal. Don’t you worry about any of us slowing you down. We’re all used to doing our own stunts.”

“All right,” he decided. “But we have to go to the TARDIS, first. We need weapons.”

Rory was puzzled by that. The Doctor never carried weapons. There were none on board the TARDIS.

At least nothing anyone would recognise as a weapon by the usual definition of the word. He left them all waiting outside, emerging from the police box fifteen minutes later with an arm full of assorted ear muffs and an Aldi shopping bag full of the most diverse collection of sound recording equipment imaginable. There were a couple of 1970s cassette tape recorders with microphones, two 1980s Dictaphones with mini-tapes and one digital one from a later decade. He himself had a backpack which proved to contain a portable reel to reel recorder with a boom mike complete with fluffy cover. He presented Patrick with the most unlikely recorder of all. It looked just like an ordinary pen.

“They haven’t been invented yet in this decade,” The Doctor explained. “But they’re going to be the must have tool of industrial espionage in the 2020s. They pick up a whisper across a conference room.”

“These are our weapons?” Ewan asked as The Doctor strode away towards the woods. “I learnt fencing for the Star Wars films, you know. I could handle myself.”

“You can’t fight a creature made of sound with a sword,” The Doctor replied.

“A creature made of...”

“Made of sound.”

“Is that possible?” Derek asked.

“Yes,” Ricky, the musician, answered him before The Doctor could do so. “All matter is energy. Sound is a form of energy. It’s... unlikely. But possible.”

The Doctor said nothing. He just nodded and smiled blithely. He liked it when humans did the thinking for themselves. If they did it more often they wouldn’t need him as much.

“And that’s what a Banshee is?” Patrick asked. “I always thought they were...” He paused and looked around at his companions in their assorted ear muffs that dampened rather than cut out all sound. “Come to think of it... I’m not sure I had any idea what they were. It’s a word I’ve heard... a sort of ghost...”

Everyone else considered the question. All of them had heard of a Banshee, but they really couldn’t say what it was, what it looked like, only that its cry was meant to be fatal.

“It would have been, if I hadn’t cancelled out the sound,” The Doctor said. “At least to some of you. That’s one of the odd things. The cry only kills some of the people who hear it. It killed the lady in childbirth way back when the whole Mathers curse began, but not her husband or any of the people attending on her. The name derives from Irish, by the way Béan Sidhe meaning fairy woman. But that’s wrong, too. They’re neither women, nor fairies. They’re just an entity made from sound energy.”

“So they don’t actually curse anyone?” Sean asked.

“There’s nothing personal about them. They don’t care about blood feuds between Sullivan and Mathers. Superstition coloured the story. There’s no curse. And once we deal with the Banshee, there will be no reason why Tony and Angela can’t live happily ever after that they don’t make for themselves.”

“Let’s get them, then,” Derek Jacobi said. “Where will they be?”

“In the woods,” Ewan answered. “I can hear them again. Listen...”

“No, don’t listen,” The Doctor contradicted him. “Keep your ear muffs on. It will be uncomfortable, especially when we’re close up to them. But enough of the sound will be filtered out to stop you passing out. Follow the sound. Everyone. Quick as you can. Nobody trip over anything. We’ll have to leave you behind if you sprain an ankle.”

Nobody tripped. The sonic screwdriver made a remarkably powerful penlight that illuminated their path through the woods. The sound of the Banshee cry got louder, but it was only a little more annoying than a car alarm that wouldn’t shut off.

“What about everyone back at the castle?” Sean Connery asked, shouting loudly above the din. “My son is there, still. Will he be all right?”

“The windows will hold until we’re done,” The Doctor answered. “They’ll be fine.”

All of them had friends or relatives among the dinner guests. It was personal for them, even if it wasn’t for the Banshee. That drove them on towards the source of the horrible wailing cries.

They reached a clearing in the woods, lit by the moonlight directly overhead. Everyone stood and watched for a whole minute, surprised and startled and even a little entranced by the sight.

It was like something from a fantasy illustration. If The Doctor had not told them all that the Banshee were neither women nor fairies, everyone would have fully believed that they were both. They certainly looked like seven tall, slender women dressed in... well basically, nothing but moonlight... with long silvery hair sparing their blushes. They were moving around in a complicated dance as they wailed. In the middle of the ring of dancers was a stream of energy coming down from above. The Banshee reached out their hands as if it was a fountain of water that they were drinking from.

“What is it?” Rory asked.

“It’s the life force of victims,” The Doctor answered.

“You said everyone was safe in the castle,” Patrick said accusingly.

“They are. But there are other people in Dromcarr. It’s Friday night and past chucking out time at the pub. There will be people caught out in the open. And I interrupted their feast earlier...”

“I don’t want my son to die,” Sean pointed out. “But I don’t want them to kill anyone else either.”

“Nor do I,” The Doctor replied. “Quickly, spread out around the edge of the clearing. I’m not sure if they can see in the ordinary spectrum or not. But keep to the shadows. On my signal you know what to do.”

Everyone did as he asked – one nurse, four actors and one rock musician took up positions around the clearing. The Doctor got his boom mike ready, noting the long moonshadow it cast on the scene. Then he raised his hand and dropped it quickly. At once everyone switched on their recorders and held them in outstretched hands. The Doctor pushed the boom mike further out towards the Banshee.

The effect was remarkable. They stopped dancing and turned about, their faces panic-stricken. Their wailing cries had a desperate edge but the sound was increasingly thinner and so were they. In the moonlight, it was possible to see them being pulled seven ways. Sound transformed into corporeal bodies was still sound and it was being drawn into the various recorders and saved onto tape, onto memory cards, onto digital solid state media.

It should have been impossible. It occurred to each and every one of them that when an ordinary sound was recorded it remained a sound. It wasn’t sucked into the recorder. But that was exactly what was happening to the Banshee.

“Ok,” The Doctor called out at last, switching off his tape machine and pulling his ear muffs off. “We’ve done it.”

“They’re gone?” Rory asked. “For good?”

“They’re recorded sound,” The Doctor answered. “If anyone is stupid enough to hit the play button, the Banshee he captured will get out again.”

“What if we press rewind and record over them?” Ewan asked.

“That would be murder,” The Doctor replied. “Don’t do that. I’ll store them in my library for the time being. Next time I’m passing Nexus Vega I’ll let them go. The people there don’t have any ears. The Banshee can wail all they like. Nobody will hear them.”

“Won’t they die anywayy?” Ricky asked. “If they can’t get that lifeforce?”

“They don’t actually need it to survive. They live on the background sounds of the world around them. The lifeforce... it’s like party treats to them. Gin and Tonics and bottles of Wkd all round. They’ll have to go cold turkey.”

The party of Banshee hunters returned to the TARDIS. The Doctor took possession of the earmuffs and recorders and told them that their friends should all be waking up by now, feeling rather headachy but nothing a couple of paracetamol and a glass of water wouldn’t cure.

“Rory, hold on,” he said as everyone else headed back towards the castle. “You and me have something else to do.”

“But... Amy...” Rory began.

“I’ll get us back to the dining room before them, I absolutely, definitely promise,” he said. “But there’s something else I’d like to do before we call this a satisfactory night’s work.”

Rory was ready to ask what that was, but decided he might as well just go with the flow. He watched as The Doctor put the TARDIS in motion. Less than ten minutes later they stepped out again. They had earmuffs and the sonic screwdriver this time.

“Sonic, of course, means sound,” The Doctor pointed out. “It makes a handy little recorder. Ninety minutes standard play, more if playback quality isn’t important. I sat in on a lot of the Beatles Abbey Road sessions with it. Got some great bootleg recordings.”

“We’ve travelled in time,” Rory observed. “The Castle looks newer and the woods aren’t as dense.”

“It’s 1835, the night Elizabeth Mathers, nee O’Sullivan died in childbirth. We’re going to take down the Banshee that killed her.”

“Can we do that? Isn’t it.... changing history or something? Isn’t that something you’re not supposed to do?”

“Some things are fixed points in time. There’s nothing I can do, no matter how much I wish I could. Other times... some things are flexible. Small details can change without harming causality. This is one of those times.”

They came to the same clearing in the woods. There were only three Banshee this time. They were dancing and wailing and drinking from a stream of lifeforce.

The Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to ‘record’ them away, then shoved it into his jacket pocket, smiling with satisfaction.

“Not over yet,” he said to Rory. “Elizabeth Mathers is still very ill.”

“We’re going to get involved in that?”

“I’m The Doctor. You’re a nurse. You must have done midwifery?”

“Not... hands on... as it were...” Rory answered nervously. “I was just... I handed the instruments to the obstetrician. But I learnt the theory...”

“Time for your first practical,” The Doctor told him.

The footman who opened the door to the urgent knock was surprised but not displeased to know that a Doctor had arrived. The two of them were conducted immediately to the birthing chamber. The Doctor dismissed the midwife who was clearly in over her head and he and Rory set to work calmly and professionally.

Three hours later, as the dawn broke over Dromcarr lake, Henry Mathers III was being held in his mother’s arms as his anxious father was let into the room. The Doctor and Rory quietly left before they could be thanked for their efforts.

“The birth was so messy, she’ll never have another baby,” The Doctor said as they returned to the TARDIS. “So the timeline isn’t upset by her living a good few more years. Her son does have a congenital heart defect that will kill him when he’s in his twenties. I can’t change that. But he’ll grow up in a happier family. I can’t change HIS son being killed in the First World War, either. That’s a major fixed point. But heart defects and war are normal misfortunes for Human beings. The family will mourn, but they won’t feel cursed. There won’t be any reason for Tony and Angela to be anxious about coming to Dromcarr House.”

“Well... won’t that mean Tony has no reason to invite us to his party weekend?” Rory asked. “Isn’t that a paradox or something?”

“Oh, he always invites me to his parties,” The Doctor answered. “Why do you think all those other celebs knew about me? Games of Truth or Dare after dinner. I’m always having to tell them some story or other about Silurians or Sontarans or Judoon on the Moon. This time, some of them have a story of their own to tell, about how we defeated the Dromcarr Banshee.”