They slowly walked back through the open gateway in the black metal fence – Catherine guessed it might be made of steel or iron, but she wasn’t a metallurgist, so she couldn’t be sure – that took them back towards the roadway and the main entrances to the Minster. The Doctor was again deep in thought, so Catherine looked at the scenery immediately around them. There were black and gold street lamps at various places both atop the fence and along the roadway. They were in very good condition, so Catherine guessed that they were recent additions, not the Victoriana that they seemed to be. But even 2007 was a period that was well in the past for her anyway, so she felt she really wasn’t qualified to judge.
She didn’t comment as they approached the western entrance to the Minster and saw the sign near it which bore the words, ‘EXIT’. The main entrance, as the sign indicated, was actually through the south door. But she did take the opportunity to stop and look up at the great stained glass window above the western door. Being on the outside, none of the patterns of the stained glass could be seen, but there was some interesting tracery within the glass panels. Even the Doctor was nudged out of his deep thoughts and looked to see what it was that had caught Catherine’s attention.
Without looking at him, Catherine said, “The work in that window is fantastic, Doctor, so intricate.” The tracery included a heart-shaped device with inner curled and leaf-shaped devices.
The Doctor grinned and commented, “Wait until you see it from the other side!”
Catherine looked at him, an unspoken query in her eyes, but he didn’t expand on his comment. She supposed that she would just have to wait and see it for herself. They both resumed walking towards the south entrance. But Catherine couldn’t resist looking at the architecture of the building as they went. It really was spectacular.
The south entrance had a large plaza-like entry to it. Catherine didn’t know the architectural term for it, but there were two sets of what she thought of as tiered stairs with a wide platform in between, leading up and drawing the eye towards the door. “Perspective, again,” Catherine thought to herself, as she matched the Doctor’s pace up towards the entry.
As they entered the building, they realised that there was an admission charge for visitors. “What do we do now?” Catherine whispered.
The Doctor didn’t reply, just pulled the psychic paper out of his jacket pocket and showed it to the woman at the desk. As she waved them through, he returned it to his pocket. When they were out of earshot, Catherine said, in a slightly exasperated voice, “Don’t tell me, the paper said we are here in some official capacity.”
The Doctor looked slightly affronted at that, and then said, “Nah, just that we had an entry pass. The simplest is always the best.” Thinking back over some of her tasks in her previous occupation, Catherine had to agree with him. But that didn’t mean she was going to say so.
As they passed through the south transept, they ignored the entry to the undercroft on their left. Catherine hadn’t seen it – she was more interested in the ornate structure, actually a tomb of an Archbishop of York, which was on their right. Although the Doctor wasn’t really interested in tombs, as such, he was even less interested in looking at the remains of the Roman buildings that were in the undercroft below the Minster. After all, he had seen them when they had been new and open to the sunlight. This was at the time of Roman occupation and long before the Minster was constructed. But he didn’t tell Catherine that. When they reached the centre of the intersection between the transepts and the nave – right below the central tower – they paused. Catherine’s eyes shone as she looked around, taking in the sheer size and magnificence of the place.
Although the Doctor’s thoughts were pre-occupied with the message from Gallifrey, he could still take the time to admire the architectural and artistic beauty around him. He had never visited the Minster before, as far as he could remember, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t familiar with the details of its history and main attractions. It offered him some temporary respite from the memories of Gallifrey which the message had stirred back to the surface again. He was also very curious to see what Catherine’s reactions to it would be.
Of course, this was one of the advantages of travelling with a companion, particularly a human companion. Their reactions were usually so spontaneous, emotional and quite often unexpectedly thought-provoking. But they were never boring or stunted like so many on Gallifrey….. He shook the thought away for the moment and concentrated on Catherine and her reactions.
She had dropped his hand and moved away from him to walk a short way down the long nave towards the western entrance. The Doctor quietly walked over to stand beside her and watched her reaction as she looked towards the Great West Window. This was the window she had commented on earlier when she had seen it from the outside. Catherine had never seen stained glass before. She knew that the Doctor would have been able to tell her how and why it was all achieved, but she didn’t want to know. Its artistic nature was all she was interested in at the moment.
Looking at the window, the Doctor could fully understand why Catherine was transfixed by it. It was a masterpiece of fourteenth century craftsmanship. Not only were the pictures in the stained glass beautiful themselves, but the tracery they had seen from outside cast a dark pattern of leaves against the light at the apex of the window. And in the centre of the leaf pattern, two large leaves formed a heart-shape.
The Doctor smiled as he saw the look of wonder on Catherine’s face. He said, “It’s called the Great West Window, Catherine, but it’s also known as the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’.”
Before he could impart any further information to her, Catherine turned to look at him and said, in a surprisingly matter-of-fact tone of voice, “Because of the heart-shaped leaf pattern in the window?”
The Doctor’s smile broadened into a grin and his eyes twinkled as he nodded and replied, “Yep.” He watched as Catherine turned to look over her left shoulder back towards the way they had come. She took in the stained glass windows, including the sixteenth century Rose Window, but didn’t comment. Then she turned around to face the eastern side of the building.
Catherine had never seen anything so beautiful. Even inside this impressive building, this structure was spectacular. The structure was carved from some white stone – Catherine didn’t know what it was – with fifteen figures highlighted against red backgrounds. Both the figures and the friezes above them were adorned with flashes of what Catherine was sure was real gold. The whole effect was of a wall, except for the central archway which obviously led through to some inner sanctum of some sort. Catherine thought the whole structure was fantastic and said so.
The Doctor grinned as he saw the expression of awe and amazement on Catherine’s face. He knew she would remember her first impression of the Quire Screen for a long time. And she was right. It was a fantastic structure.
But the Doctor was impatient to move on. He said, “Come on, there’s more to see than this.” Not waiting for her reply, he quickly headed off towards a nearby entry, bypassing two very unusual clocks.
Catherine quickly followed him and arrived in the octagonal-shaped room just in time to see him persuading a group of tourists that the room was needed soon for an important meeting of the Dean and the Chapter. Which was always possible as the room they had entered was the Chapter House. Naturally, the tourists obligingly left the room and the Doctor closed the door behind them.
Catherine was not surprised that they left so promptly, but was surprised that the Doctor had achieved it without the use of his psychic paper. When she asked him about it, he just smiled enigmatically, and then placed his hands in his jacket pockets and stared at the floor.
The Chapter House was a beautifully designed room created, like the Minster itself, in the Gothic architectural style. Each of its walls was a mix of sculptured and carved elements and stained glass windows. Catherine took all this in as she waited for some comment from the Doctor. She too looked at the floor, but whereas the Doctor was apparently staring into space, Catherine actually noticed the floor in all its beautiful detail.
It was a mosaic of tiles making a complicated pattern of squares, circles, angles, curves and triangles. The tiles had differing patterns which together made an even larger and more ornate pattern. There were tiles or groups of tiles which showed star-shapes, leaf-shapes, vines, crosses, circles, floral-shapes or feathers. Several tiles even showed a pattern of crossed keys which seemed out of keeping with the rest.
The colours of the tiles were varied too. There was pale ochre on black, light blue and light green colours but the predominant colours were black, terracotta and sandy yellow.
This floor appealed to both Catherine’s interest in art and her curiosity. Why place a floor like that here? She also wondered if the crossed keys were yet another connection to Gallifrey. When she broached this question to the Doctor, he responded with a grimace, saying, before relapsing into silence again, “No, Catherine, the crossed keys do not have anything to do with Gallifrey. They are a purely local signature.”
Catherine wondered what he meant by a local signature. She could have asked him, but chose not to because he seemed to be miles away again. Or was it worlds away? She had enjoyed her visit to the Minster so far, there were so many sights that she would treasure. But she hadn’t forgotten about the mysterious message from Gallifrey; a Gallifrey that was long gone as far as the Doctor was concerned. Although she had tactfully not asked too many questions because she could see that he was hurting emotionally from the contact, she had to admit to herself that she was starting to become exasperated with him. He still seemed to be shutting her out. But despite coming to this room and ensuring none of the other tourists would be interrupting, he had said nothing further to her about the message and what action he meant to take on it. And to her irritation, she didn’t know how to tactfully broach such a sensitive subject.
The Doctor hadn’t been precisely staring into space after they entered the Chapter House. He wanted to tell Catherine about the message, about the link to Gallifrey and about Gallifrey itself. Telling her about Gallifrey was necessary, but it meant he had to take a risk. Not a physical risk, but an emotional risk. The Doctor realised that although he took physical risks all the time without a second thought, he rarely took emotional risks. But any real discussion about Gallifrey might come perilously close to him having to tell her about his role in Gallifrey’s demise and he didn’t know how she would react to that knowledge. The growing emotional bond between him and Catherine was strengthening, but he really didn’t know whether it would survive after she knew the full truth. And, after due consideration, he found that he wanted it to survive – at least for the present.
He looked across at Catherine and saw a fleeting glimpse of her exasperation. “Fair enough,” he thought. “I deserve that.” Perhaps her perception, intuition and logic would help her to understand his quandary and she could advise him how best to respond to the message.
He took his hands out of his pockets and smiled at Catherine and said, “This unusual room is called the Chapter House, Catherine. It has been used for administrative meetings for the Dean and the Chapter since it was completed in 1286. And still is in 2007.” The Doctor looked around for a moment, and then added, “The one constant in the universe – administration.” Catherine nodded in agreement. She’d seen more than her fair share of administration when she worked for Central Orion Protection and Security.
The Doctor’s smile became a grin and his eyes started to twinkle. He continued, “Except that here, each wall was designed with six identical bench-type seats set into it – a design meant to signify that every member of the meeting was equal in status to the other members. Unfortunately, the idea of equality is not a constant in the universe!” The Doctor paused and the twinkle disappeared.
Catherine asked, “Not even on Gallifrey, Doctor?” She knew it could be interpreted as insensitive for her to ask about Gallifrey, but she thought it was a natural query under the circumstances. Anyway, if it made the Doctor talk about Gallifrey even a tiny bit, she might be able to persuade him to, at least, discuss the message with her.
The Doctor could have laughed out loud, but instead he said quite seriously, “Especially not on Gallifrey. Time Lord society is – was – built along strict hierarchical lines, despite being an oligarchy. I doubt that thoughts of true equality ever seriously entered their heads.” He looked at Catherine, pausing in case she had a comment to make. She didn’t, so he continued, “But they weren’t the only race in the universe to think like that, Catherine, and it seemed to work for them despite the strict rules that had to be followed.”
“You speak as if you didn’t belong to their society, Doctor…..” Catherine said.
Whatever she had been about to say next was interrupted when the Doctor said, abruptly, “In a way, I didn’t. I actually renounced my membership of the Society of Time Lords, long ago. But being a Time Lord is more than whether you are a member of a society or not – or whether you live on Gallifrey or not. It’s not even whether you obey all their rules and, trust me, they had many. Being a Time Lord is a feeling in your very being, Catherine, and you never lose it even if…..” The Doctor stopped in mid-sentence. He needed to pull himself together before he lost all sense of perspective. If he wasn’t careful, he thought, he would find himself telling her about his period of exile and his involvement in the demise of Gallifrey. The former was a period of his life long gone, so was irrelevant, but the latter seemed to be ever-present with him. He had no intention of telling her about either if he could help it.
Catherine could recognise the passionate feeling he seemed to still have for Gallifrey, despite its loss. She wouldn’t interrupt his discourse. If she listened intently, a trick she learned very early in her career, she might learn more than if she asked him questions directly. That didn’t mean that she wouldn’t prompt him occasionally if she needed to.
The Doctor continued, clearly in an unusually expansive mood, “In my student days at the Academy on Gallifrey, I used to cause trouble for myself and for my tutors, by continually asking why the Time Lord rules existed. It wasn’t that I objected to rules – every civilised society needs its rules. But for me, I needed to know the logical and the emotional reasons around those rules so that I could understand them. And for most of the rules, my approach worked. But when it came to the rules about strict non-involvement, I could never understand them. I never felt emotionally right about them.”
Catherine thought she detected a trace of bitterness behind his last words, so she asked, “Why? What was so different about those rules from all the others?”
The Doctor looked at her for a moment as if he couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “Non-involvement means exactly that, Catherine. A Time Lord can observe, but never become emotionally or physically involved.” He looked up at the very ornate Chapter House ceiling while he composed himself.
Catherine said, “But you have always wanted to be involved, Doctor, haven’t you? You wanted to help; to advise; to make a situation better; to make people better. The Time Lords must have understood that, surely?”
The Doctor looked back at Catherine and replied, “A few understood. But it was never politically correct to say so.” He walked over to stand directly in front of her, maybe little more than an arm’s length away and then added quietly, “But what you don’t understand, Catherine, is that a Time Lord is supposed to stand by without emotion and watch civilisations be destroyed or planets burn without lifting a finger to assist unless specifically requested to do so.” Tears started to fill his eyes at this. Catherine was horrified when he added, so quietly that she could barely hear him, “I watched Gallifrey and its civilisation burn, knowing there was nothing I could have done to prevent it from happening.”
Catherine saw his pain, but for once in her life she didn’t know what she should do…..
(* To be continued….. *)