The TARDIS was rapidly taking the Doctor and Catherine towards their next destination. After their recent experience with the purple dust, the Doctor wanted to show Catherine something special, something cultural. Inspired by the magnificent perspective depiction in the mural in the Cloister room, he thought he would take her to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s mural masterpiece of perspective ‘The Last Supper’. He believed that the best time would be while the mural was actually being painted. All he had to remember when they arrived was to restrain himself from telling the stubborn and procrastinating artistic genius what he thought of the disastrous mix of tempura and dry plaster that Leonardo had insisted on using for the mural!
When the Doctor told Catherine where they were heading, he knew he had judged it perfectly. Catherine told him that she had seen a copy of this mural in a museum and had been very interested in its portrayal of perspective. She was also struck by the similar use of perspective in the depiction of Gallifrey in the Cloister room mural. The Doctor could not have chosen a better destination at this time. He grinned as he thought of the way her face lit up when she heard the news. She hadn’t been able to wait to head to the wardrobe room to dress for the occasion.....
Catherine didn’t need any encouragement to head for the TARDIS wardrobe room and an outfit appropriate to their visit to 1497 Milan. She realised that the navy slacks, jacket and high-heeled boots of her dress uniform or any other of the clothes she had brought with her were not really suitable wear for Renaissance Italy. But she didn’t mind. The last time she visited the TARDIS wardrobe, looking for clothes suitable to wear to a fashionable dinner, she found the most comfortable and elegant full-length culottes outfit. It even came with gold fashion sandals to match the cinnamon and gold silk of the culottes. So she was sure that whatever was waiting for her in the wardrobe would be equally elegant and appropriate for 1497 Milan.
Catherine was not an expert on fashions from Italy in the fifteenth century, but she didn’t have to be. When she entered the wardrobe room, there was the most beautiful Venetian dress hanging on a clothes hanger with a neat label attached to the hanger that clearly indicated that this was appropriate attire for 1497. All the appropriate accessories to match were there also. And she loved the luxurious feel of the fabric.
When Catherine had finished dressing and had pinned her long blonde hair appropriately to match, she looked at herself in the wardrobe room’s full-length mirror. She sighed contentedly, and then said aloud, “A time traveller at last…..”
While Catherine was changing into clothes more suitable for Renaissance Italy, the Doctor had changed his black jeans for an identical, but fresh, pair and had swapped his black jumper for a ruby red coloured one, the precise shade of ruby red Venetian glass. Although his style of clothing – jeans, jumper and his battered black leather jacket – were completely out of keeping with 1497 attire, it didn’t concern him. Never, on any of his travels, had he needed to dress according to the period he found himself in. Neither had he needed to dress according to local customs unless he chose to. This was just as well considering some of the places he had visited. He always had the knack of being able to fit in wherever he was. Well, mostly.
The Doctor grinned to himself as he thought of Milan in 1497. He was quite looking forward to it as he sat on the two-seater near the console, allowing himself a short period of relaxation and reflection. Those Italian city states – Milan, Venice and, of course, Florence – were all so vibrant and colourful and alive during the Renaissance.
Knowing that materialisation must be close, the Doctor reluctantly stood up and walked around to stand in front of the console scanner. He was standing there, his arms folded, when Catherine entered the room.
“Doctor?” Catherine asked, as she walked across to stand beside him.
The Doctor turned at the sound of her voice, saying, “Yes, Catherine.” He smiled and his eyes shone as he looked at her dressed as the perfect Venetian lady of the Renaissance. “She looks beautiful,” he thought, but didn’t say so. His smile just broadened into his widest grin.
Catherine, smiled back and asked, “Aren’t you changing, Doctor?”
He looked surprised and slightly affronted at that, as he looked at his jumper and replied, “I’ve changed my jumper!”
Before Catherine could comment, the characteristic whining sound of the TARDIS announced that it was materialising.
The Doctor turned back to the scanner. “We’ve materialised. Let’s see where we are,” he said, flicking a couple of switches on the console nearby. He frowned as he looked at the view of their surrounds. It was undoubtedly Earth, but their location didn’t remind him of the Renaissance Italy he knew.
From the official-looking writing on the bins near their landing site, he knew they hadn’t arrived in Milan or anywhere else in Italy. The writing was definitely English and announced their location as the City of York. “Fantastic,” the Doctor thought, “I don’t think I’ve been to York since Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor there.” And if their location was wrong, he wondered if the time period was wrong also. Judging from the dress of the people he could see walking by, the time period had to be early twenty-first century. But for once he looked at his watch just in case his assumption was wrong. It wasn’t.
Catherine wondered how long it took for him to determine where they were and said as much.
The Doctor looked at her, a bit apologetically, as he said, “We haven’t arrived in Milan and this isn’t 1497. The TARDIS has brought us to York, in England.” As Catherine didn’t react at all, he added, “In 2007.”
In her former job, Catherine had always been trained to expect the unexpected, so she took the change as a matter of course. So she didn’t complain about the effort she had put in, dressing for Renaissance Italy. But she did say, rhetorically, “Well, I’d better change these clothes for some more appropriate, hadn’t I?”
As the Doctor watched her quickly leave the console room for the corridor leading to the wardrobe room, he smiled to himself and his eyes twinkled. Once again he thought what a fantastic companion Catherine was and how well she fitted in with life in the TARDIS…..
Catherine could have chosen to wear her navy dress uniform again or even the tan informal plain-clothes version of her uniform, either being acceptable wear for York in 2007. But she chose instead to select something from the TARDIS wardrobe. To her, that made a statement about her separation from her old job at Central Orion Protection and Security. As she quickly walked along the corridor towards the console room internal door, she was happy with her selection – a short-sleeved plain orange, cotton blouse and a matching orange calf-length, tiered skirt printed with a pattern of tan leaves in an adhoc fashion on the fabric. A pair of low-heeled tan sandals completed the ensemble. Her long blonde hair was left hanging loose over her shoulders. She thought it was more casual-looking that way.
When she entered the console room again, the Doctor was waiting for her by the TARDIS doors. He made no comment on her attire, just asked, “Your first visit to Earth?”
Catherine nodded and said, enthusiastically, “It was always somewhere I’d wanted to visit as my great-great grandparents migrated from there to the colony where I was born. But I never thought I would actually do it!”
The Doctor grinned and his eyes twinkled, as he replied, “Well, here’s your chance.” He held the door open for Catherine to step through first.
She stepped out onto the stone pavement of what must be a plaza of some sort. A plaza in front of the most enormous single building Catherine had ever seen. In her time, she was used to seeing large buildings, but never like this strange edifice. The large buildings she was familiar with were always multiple, multi-purpose buildings, built up over time. Although she tried to hide her amazement, the Doctor, following her out of the TARDIS, was not deceived.
“Fantastic, isn’t it?” he said rhetorically, as he secured the TARDIS doors behind him. The Doctor looked around him, gaining his bearings. He raced around to the area directly behind the TARDIS. “Catherine, have a look at this,” he said.
Catherine walked around behind the TARDIS to find the Doctor leaning against its blue panels, his arms folded as if he had been waiting for her for hours. Her first thought was to make an appropriately sarcastic remark, but she never uttered it because he suddenly grinned at her enthusiastically and said, rhetorically, “See that, Catherine?” He gestured towards a blue-greenish looking statue on a raised plinth behind the TARDIS, interested in her reaction to it.
Catherine, with her interest in antiquities, thought the statue was of some ancient warrior. To her, it seemed as if the man was dressed in some type of formal battle dress and was seated on a strange sort of chair or maybe it was a type of throne. But she thought the latent strength depicted in the figure, whoever he was, was interesting. The way the figure held his sword with a light but strong grip, sword point to the ground as if in peace, but leaving the effect that it could be raised for war in an instant. Catherine wondered if the whole effect was to be a powerful statement or maybe a statement of power.
The Doctor watched as Catherine walked around to the front of the plinth where she read the legend:
She looked across towards the Doctor and raised her eyebrows in an unspoken query. The Doctor grinned and then walked over to her side.
He nodded towards the statue and said, “It happened quite near this spot, Catherine. I remember it well. The day was…..” His attention seemed to be distracted. Catherine wondered why. She followed his gaze, but all she could see was a Roman column standing on its own in front of another building, a roadway of some sort between that building and their current position. But before she could ask him what was so special about that column, the Doctor had crossed the roadway to have a closer look. All she could do was quickly follow him and hope to make some sense of it.
What Catherine didn’t know was that the Doctor’s former Academy friend and later his most determined enemy, the Master, had always had a penchant for using tall, narrow items as the outer appearance of his TARDIS – quite often a column or pillar. To the Doctor, a lone column standing in an unexpected place meant the possibility of it being a disguise for the Master’s TARDIS.
Although logic told the Doctor that the Master had died long ago, even before the Time War, there was always the possibility that he had visited York in 2007 some time before that. While the Doctor didn’t relish such a meeting, he needed to know one way or another. And he could only do that by taking a close reading on the column. If it were a TARDIS, the temporal mechanisms, even at rest, could be detected using a specific setting on the sonic screwdriver.
As he approached the Roman column, the Doctor paused for a moment. There was a deep frown on his face as he took the sonic screwdriver from his inner jacket pocket and set it to detect a possible TARDIS.
Catherine arrived by his side as he aimed the beam at the column. She nearly asked him what he was doing, but thought better of it when she saw the expression on his face. Whatever he was doing, he did not look pleased.
In fact, the Doctor’s emotions could best be described as mixed. No, he did not want to meet with the Master at this time. Especially when he knew what the Master’s future held for him. But on the other hand, to meet another Time Lord was always an interesting challenge.
As it turned out, the Roman column was simply that – a Roman column. The Doctor murmured, replacing his sonic screwdriver in his pocket, “But why is the column there? It shouldn’t be.”
Catherine could hear the Doctor’s words, although she was aware he was really uttering a thought aloud.
Without making any comment, she walked over to the column and read a sign attached to the column. It said:
“I think this provides the answer, Doctor,” Catherine said, pointing to the notice.
The Doctor read the notice and, looking slightly embarrassed, said, “Oh.” He quickly recovered from his embarrassment and added, enthusiastically, “Fantastic. I love the way humans mark these occasions.”
When Catherine asked the Doctor what a ‘Minster’ was, he just grinned and gestured towards the huge stone building across the road from them. “Shall we take a look around?” the Doctor asked, not at all concerned that some of the people walking past were wondering what a big blue box was doing parked next to Constantine’s statue.
She replied, “Why not?” The Doctor took Catherine’s hand and they crossed the road together, heading towards the green space to the north of the Minster.
True to form, the Doctor wanted to gauge his bearings by checking the outside surrounds first. Although he chatted to Catherine as they walked past the main entrance to the Minster, his mind was racing forward considering the possibilities as to what had actually caused the TARDIS to change destination. He was used to the TARDIS being erratic from time to time, and if they had only been a relatively few years out he wouldn’t be concerned. But a difference of more than half a millennium could not have occurred by chance.
One possibility was some external interference which affected the TARDIS while they were travelling in vortex. But he knew there had been no such interference. For a moment, he did wonder if there might be some lingering after effect from the purple dust invasion of the time rotor. But he rejected that possibility as he had checked the mechanisms of the TARDIS thoroughly after its expulsion.
The only possibility for the interference was something centred on Earth. And that interference must have drawn the TARDIS towards it. As the TARDIS had brought them to York in 2007, the Doctor expected that the source of that interference must be centred somewhere in or near that city. But it must have had a very strong effect to have overridden the TARDIS flight coordinates and thrown it off course by so much. The Doctor knew it couldn’t be of Earth origin.
But not knowing what sort of interference it was made it difficult to search for. If the Roman column had been the Master’s TARDIS, it would have made the task easier because he would have known where to start the search. He looked at Catherine and thought how much Catherine’s expertise would be invaluable in solving this problem.
As they reached the green area behind the Minster, Catherine marvelled at how green the lawn was as they walked along the path behind the Minster. The Doctor stopped and frowned in concentration, apparently at a small garden off the path they were walking along. He dropped Catherine’s hand and put his hands in his jacket pockets. Catherine doubted he had even heard her comments about the lawn. Turning to face him, she could see there was something disturbing him, but she didn’t know what it was, so she asked him. When he didn’t respond, she patiently repeated the question.
This time he heard her question and looked at her, replying, “Something powerful has drawn the TARDIS off course, Catherine.” He took his hands out of his pockets and looked around before heading for the garden. Catherine followed, interested to see what had drawn the Doctor to it.
It was a pretty, but non-descript garden really – a central tree with small groundcover shrubs or herbs around its base. The garden was edged with a low decorated wall. Catherine was fascinated by the decorations. They included small arches and sculpted figures, animals and plants, some inset, some in relief. She had never seen anything like it. The designs were prolific around the outside of the wall, but there were also some designs inside the wall as well.
She looked at the Doctor and said, borrowing from his vocabulary again, “They’re fantastic! I’ve never seen anything like them.”
The serious look on the Doctor’s face disappeared in favour of a grin as he saw Catherine’s eyes shining with enthusiasm and the joy of discovery. “That’s why I travel, Catherine, to see new and fantastic things.”
Catherine was very tempted to reach down and touch the sculptures, but her instinct for the out of place and irrational told her there was something amiss. Her instincts had never failed her yet, so she restrained the impulse. The enthusiastic shine in her eyes of a few moments earlier disappeared as she said, “There is something wrong here, Doctor.”
He didn’t reply immediately, just extracted the sonic screwdriver from his jacket pocket. After carefully resetting it to do a specific scan of the immediate vicinity, including the garden itself, he switched it on and deliberately aimed it at the base of the central tree in the garden.
He looked at Catherine and said, in a very serious tone, “Yes, there is.”
(* To be continued….. *)