As the Doctor remembered the cold and calculating way that the President had calmly announced the High Council’s plan for the destruction of Gallifrey, he was surprised to find that no tears came to his eyes. Maybe he had wept enough this day already; maybe the return of the feelings of horror – the reliving of them really – excluded something as mundane as tears. He didn’t know. But he did start to relive the acute feeling of anger that he had felt at the time. He knew the anger was pointless as there was no-one left to be angry at, but the anger was there all the same. In a sense, the anger was worse because there was no longer a target for it. However, he was determined to conquer it, as he knew how destructive this type of emotion could be – particularly to a newly regenerated Time Lord – and the only way to conquer it was to face the horrific memories that surrounded it, painful as they were…..
But if the President thought this had been the heart of the issue as far as the Doctor was concerned, he was mistaken. The real issue for the Doctor had been the complete lack of engagement by any of the High Council with the fact that the whole of the Gallifreyan population – including themselves – would be destroyed with the destruction of the Daleks, under this plan. He had been ambivalent as to the entire destruction of the Daleks, as he would be to the genocide of any sentient life. However, to save Gallifrey, nothing was impossible. Still, as the initial shock faded away, he had felt a real anger building up inside him. It was explosive, like the build up of steam under pressure at a power station, and he could feel it coursing through his veins like the first lava from an erupting volcano. But, in a quirk of Gallifreyan physiognomy, it was not hot, but cold anger he felt. This had been the start of no short-lived hot, tempestuous emotion, but a far more dangerous and destructive emotion. Not good for him, certainly, but even worse for his opponents. It had to be controlled. So involved had the Doctor been in his attempts to control this emotion, that he had not seen Castellan Andred, with a brief nod from the Chancellor, earlier slip past him to the lift and leave the scene.
As the President had looked at the Doctor, he could see the strong emotions coalescing inside him, despite the Doctor valiantly trying to rein them in. “This man has always had a strength of character, despite being somewhat unorthodox in his methods,” the President had thought, “but that is what we need here. We were so right to recall him!” While the President considered further, the Doctor, who by this time had managed to keep control of his emotions and had guessed something of the President’s thoughts, spoke to him, “How will this plan of yours be implemented, Lord President? To safely remove the restraints on a force of that magnitude is an unlikely event, to say the least – and how will you ensure that I follow your wishes to the letter?” The President had not replied, but had deliberately turned away to consult with one of his senior councillors.
After a seemingly difficult pause, the Chancellor had replied, “It is all in hand, as we speak, Doctor. The Castellan has organised for the trigger device to be attached to the console of your time capsule. A simple matter, really. Releasing the mechanism from there will ensure your protection. Nothing has been left to chance.” This was the first time that the Doctor had noticed that Andred was no longer present in the room. The Chancellor had noticed the Doctor’s look and continued, “The Castellan will meet with you and give you further details.” At this, the President had turned to look over his shoulder at the Doctor, saying, “I believe that the Earth expression appropriate to this occasion is ‘Goodbye and good luck to you’, Doctor.” With a nod and a dismissive wave of his hand, the President had then signified that the Doctor’s audience was at an end. The Doctor had been given no opportunity to say anything further, as the Chancellor escorted him to the lift and down to the ground floor…..
The President had access not only to the ancient wisdom of Rassilon, the greatest of all the Time Lord leaders, but to a portion of his power also. Through this power he could manipulate the essence of the Time Vortex itself, in a limited way, if he had to and grant the one thing that no-one else could – an extension to a Time Lord’s lifespan. It had been a power rarely exercised; never without a lot of thought and even then only in special cases. The President had the sole discretion of the use of this power and did not have to consult the High Council before determining on this course of action. However, for posterity, he had to inform them of his decision and the reasons for it, before any action occurred, so that their views would be taken into account.
In this case, there would be no posterity to provide the information for. But, as a matter of courtesy and of policy, he had informed them of his decision and asked for their approval. The verdict from the High Council, including the Chancellor, who was still sceptical of the Doctor’s general reliability, had been in unanimous agreement with the President. For the Doctor, who would be the last surviving Time Lord, it was important that his existence not be terminated too soon. Gallifrey’s and the Time Lords’ heritage would live within him.
The President had resolved to use this little known power of Rassilon on the Doctor’s behalf immediately. But this was not as a reward for services rendered. The High Council had never recognised the Doctor’s contributions to the harmony of the universe! They had never even officially recognised the services he had provided to Gallifrey itself, in rescuing it from invasion and destruction in the past. There had been individual members of the High Council who were fully cognisant of the Doctor’s services in the past, but they were comparatively few in number. Granting this extension to the Doctor’s lifespan had been planned to ensure that his risky lifestyle did not cause him to throw away his remaining regenerations too soon. A premature extinction of the Time Lords had never been part of their contingency plan.
But the High Council had its own parameters to place on this. The councillors had resolved that the Doctor would never know that this had been granted to him. It would take effect when he next regenerated, the connection to the Time Vortex at the heart of the TARDIS being the conducting medium. But he would only discover it in the due course of time. This would be long after all the other Time Lords and Gallifrey itself had been destroyed by his hand. All this discussion had taken place prior to the Doctor being told of his role in the contingency battle plan…..
As the Doctor and the Chancellor left the lift, the Doctor had seen Andred waiting for them. Although no words were spoken by the Chancellor, it had been made abundantly clear to the Doctor that he was to have no further time to himself; no opportunity to risk the implementation of the infamous contingency plan; no opportunity to choose the path that his fellow Gallifreyans had chosen. But no opportunity to come to terms with what he had to do, either. Andred escorted the Doctor to the TARDIS one last time, explaining how the trigger mechanism worked and what the Doctor had to do. As they had reached the TARDIS, Andred held out his hand to the Doctor, offering the time-honoured Earth custom in sealing a bargain – a handshake. The Doctor had paused for a brief moment before grasping Andred’s hand, firmly. Andred farewelled the Doctor, with the words, “Doctor, Leela always admired your sense of honour and your strength of purpose. She would have been so proud of you, this day.” The Doctor had felt the sincerity in Andred’s words, so replied, “And of you too, Andred.” With that, the Doctor turned, unlocked the TARDIS door and went in.
On entering the TARDIS, the Doctor had looked across at the console and the trigger mechanism that had been attached to the main dematerialisation control. He could not leave Gallifrey without pulling this lever, but the moment the TARDIS dematerialised all his roots would be gone forever. The Daleks would be destroyed, as the High Council wished, but Gallifrey would explode in the process. The Time War would have ended – a war that had caused many planets and civilisations to be decimated and had ultimately led to the death of Susan. But the price to be paid for this was that the Time Lords and all they stood for would be gone forever – except for him.
There should have been a better way to respond to Gallifrey being at the mercy of the Daleks than this – a better way to end the Time War than this. But the time for this debate had long passed. Gallifrey’s fate – and his - had been sealed the moment the transduction barriers had been destroyed and it had now reached the brink of its own event horizon. The Doctor had smiled faintly, when he had thought of that. With the dismantling of the controls harnessing the Gallifreyan Eye of Harmony, the black hole’s event horizon would be very near indeed. All Gallifrey had been prepared for this and agreed to it, but he had not. He had no options – the High Council had made sure he was left with no choice. Allow Gallifrey and the rest of the universe to be destroyed or enslaved by Dalek firepower or to destroy the Daleks for good, at the cost of the Time Lords and their home planet.
He pulled the dematerialisation lever, forgetting to set the space time coordinates before he did so. As the TARDIS had dematerialised, there had been an enormous sonic boom and Gallifrey had exploded in a huge ball of flame. The Doctor had watched the TARDIS scanner to see the results of his handiwork. He had felt that it was important for him to witness Gallifrey’s death for posterity’s sake. Gallifrey had disappeared and the Dalek space ships were on fire. He had then turned the scanner off as he could not bear to see any more. The TARDIS continued on its flight, using default coordinates.
However, a strange phenomenon had begun to take place within the TARDIS. The TARDIS had been modified so much over the centuries that the attachment of the trigger mechanism to the console, by a technician unfamiliar with the TARDIS’ modifications – only the Doctor knew the exact details of all the modifications he had made – set the scene for an overload of the system as the Doctor pulled the lever. This overload, like an electrical fault, had automatically grounded itself and as his hand was connected to the dematerialisation control at the time, it grounded through the Doctor’s body. For the Doctor, shocked by the twin horrors of what he had been forced to do and the witnessing of its results, had been too numb to notice what was happening. A yellow glow had started to crawl beneath the skin of his hands as he had doubled up in agony and dropped to the TARDIS floor. This had been the start of the Doctor’s eighth regeneration…..
He looked down at the sleeve of his battered black leather jacket and heartily approved of its battle-hardened appearance. It summed up how he felt at this time – weary, frayed at the edges, but surviving to fight further battles. Facing up to these very painful memories had somehow restored the fight in him. There would be no more tears today. He reset the TARDIS’ coordinates from its apparent default setting of Earth. He was not ready to look for solace there – yet.
(* THE END *)
(* Next Story: ‘Peace and Tranquillity’ *)