Alice awoke with a start. She was lying in her bed in the TARDIS. They had only been travelling for a little while when Alice had explained to the Doctor that what she really needed was a bit of a rest before she visited what the Doctor promised would be her first alien world.
He had shown her to a small room with a double bed, bedside table, full-length mirror and a lovely, white fluffy carpet. He had told her that it had belonged to a former travelling companion of his - Caroline - and that he was glad to have someone back in it at last.
She had only meant to rest her eyes, but had found herself drifting off into a deep sleep.
But now she was wide awake, sat on the edge of the bed and wondering where the voice had come from.
“Alice!” came the voice again, followed by a laugh.
She panicked and stood up quickly, feeling herself wobbling ever so slightly.
“Who’s there?” she called out?
She brushed her hair from out of her eyes and realised she had been sweating. She felt scared. Really, really scared.
“ALICE!” came the voice again.
This time she bolted for the bedroom door…
…and found herself in the darkened corridor outside.
“Knock, knock,” came the voice again.
Alice span around and at the bottom of the corridor she could make out a dark, obscured humanoid shape.
“Who are you? What’s going on?”
“ALICE!” screamed the voice again.
Alice shielded her eyes as the shadow ran along the corridor towards her, and then…
…The lights suddenly came on and Alice was standing there on her own.
She looked around her nervously, regained her composure, and then made her way towards the console room.
Once she got there she found the Doctor hunched over the console, eyes dark and staring down at one of the panels. He didn’t really seem to be looking at anything. Just staring vacantly.
“Doctor,” she said, “are you okay?”
“What?” he mumbled, not looking up from the panel.
“I heard a voice. There was a person in the corridor. It came for me.”
“The TARDIS is psychic,” he said, no hint of emotion in his voice. “It was probably tuning into something in your head…or mine. Were you asleep?”
“Were you dreaming?”
Alice thought for a moment. “No. At least I don’t think that I was.”
“You don’t remember, because your dream escaped into the real world.”
“What? Is that possible.”
He looked at her, his face stern and his eyes cold. “In this time machine, anything is possible.” His eyes flicked to the sofa beside the console. “Sit down.”
She looked at him. He looked frightening. Just for a moment. He wasn’t the person she’d met back in Little Pebbleford. He looked so, so different.
“Please,” he said, suddenly breaking into a smile. “We’re about to land.”
She quickly sat down on the sofa as the lights in the console room lowered gently. The sound of the TARDIS engines filled the console room before finishing off with a large THUD.
“We’ve landed,” he grinned.
Alice felt like she’d suddenly woken up again. Like the Doctor’s previous mood had been some kind of nightmare. It was difficult to get a handle on the bloke. He seemed so distant sometimes, but she wasn’t regretting coming. She just had to try and adjust to his way as best as possible.
“So,” she said, getting up from the sofa, “where’ve we landed?”
“Ooh, sounds interesting.”
“Not really,” said the Doctor, bluntly. He flicked a switch and a TV monitor descended from the ceiling. On the screen was an arctic landscape with a blizzard blowing across it. There was nothing to be seen but miles and miles of ice and snow under a green sky.
“Well it looks…interesting,” lied Alice. She was trying to look excited, but was failing miserably. It looked just like the North Pole or something.
“It’s not interesting at all,” said the Doctor. “In fact, it’s quite a dull little world.”
“Well why are we here then?” she said, getting confused.
“Ah, it’s what happens here that’s interesting,” he grinned. “It’s a few centuries into your future, and this is one of the first colony worlds of the Human Empire.”
A few minutes later they emerged from the TARDIS. The Doctor had wrapped his coat tightly around him and was wearing a black scarf adorned with yellow smiley faces. He also wore a very silly looking bobble hat on his head.
Alice, meanwhile, had put on a big, grey coat she had found in a room near to hers. She’d also put on a woolly hat and a pink scarf.
She shivered in the biting cold winds.
“So,” continued the Doctor, “not too long from now, the first colony ships arrive. They set up camp and then begin to terraform the world around them.”
“How do you mean?” asked Alice, kneeling down and prodding the snow on the ground.
“They completely change the world around them. Alter it’s look and atmosphere and make it a more hospitable place to live. Issenttii is one of the key strategic points for the Earth Empire. This place is the springboard for countless other colony worlds. Without it, your planet would get nowhere.”
“And what about any aliens living here?”
“There aren’t any,” grinned the Doctor. “In the early days the Empire were quite careful which worlds to choose. They had to be uninhabited. They got a little careless later on, but Issenttii is definitely lifeless.”
“It’s good to know,” smiled Alice. The thought of a planet full of living beings being completely changed around them didn‘t impress her one bit. “So….what do we do now?”
“Investigate!” said the Doctor, clutching his cane and marching off towards a nearby mountain range.
“What is there to investigate?” shouted Alice as he walked off. “It’s uninhabited!”
They made their way across the icy wasteland and towards a nearby mountain.
Alice gazed up in awe of the huge, ice mountain that loomed over her. It felt so unreal to be here. She kept expecting to wake up from a dream and find herself in her bed, still in Little Pebbleford, with an hour to go before school.
“Just over there,” said the Doctor, spinning on the spot, “is where the first ships land.” He pointed about half a mile into the distance. Then he pointed up at the mountain. “The mountain remains and the settlements are built around it. In about 100 years this Mountain is renamed Mt. England.”
“Fantastic!” said Alice, smiling at the impossibility of it all. “You’d hardly think it was possible.”
“It’s all possible, Alice.”
Alice’s gaze was diverted momentarily to a nearby opening at the base of the mountain. “I wonder where that leads.”
“Hmmm?” said the Doctor, following her gaze.
“Looks like some kind of opening.”
The Doctor frowned. “Very strange,” he said, walking over to it. He knelt down beside it and ran his fingers along the edge of the opening.
“What’s strange about it?”
“Feel it,” said the Doctor, urging for her to have a look.
Alice crouched down and touched the edge of the opening. It was ice cold and very smooth.
A thought suddenly dawn on Alice. “It’s man made.”
“Exactly. Not a naturally formed opening in the mountain side.”
“But you said this place is uninhabited.”
“It is,” said the Doctor. “So it must have been a passing trade ship or something. Perhaps they crashed and needed to find shelter.”
“I don’t see a crashed spaceship,” said Alice, looking around the desolate waste ground. When she turned to face the Doctor again, he was already half inside the opening. “Hang on!”
“Come on,” said the Doctor. “Let’s go and see what they left us.”
Alice followed him into the icy tunnel. Strangely, the deeper and deeper they got into the mountain, the warmer it became, and Alice was glad of that fact. Soon she was removing her scarf and hat.
“Have you noticed something, Doc?” said Alice.
“What?” said the Doctor, gently running his hands along the smooth walls.
“We’re walking down steps.”
“Steps?” said the Doctor.
“Yes,” said Alice, stopping and nodding downwards. “They’re steps.”
And so they were. Crudely cut steps leading down and down into the mountain.
The Doctor frowned. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“You said the planet was uninhabited. Are you sure?”
“There are no records of any alien life form on Issenttii. And even if there were, the Earth Empire wouldn’t land here and terraform the planet. Not if there were signs of life. Like I said, they got a bit ruthless in the later days, but not now. Now they’re just explorers.”
“Well,” said Alice, pushing forward, “let’s hope you’re right about that.”
As they continued on their way, Alice began to think about a few things she’d learnt of the Doctor since she’d decided to travel with him. He’d told her he was dying. She wasn’t exactly sure of what, but she had a feeling it wasn’t an every day disease.
Before Alice could ask him anything, he had already turned the questions on her. “So,” said the Doctor, “tell me a little of your home life.”
“Like what? It was very dull. Well,” continued Alice, “I say dull. It wasn’t really dull. Looking after my sisters was great, but I just didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. Mum and Dad were always at work. And then my Dad went away.”
“What happened?” said the Doctor, shining a small torch in her face.
“He ran away with another woman.”
“Ah,” said the Doctor, shining the beam away from her. “I’m sorry.”
“Ah, don’t mention it,” said Alice. “It was always going to break him. My sisters weren’t exactly the easiest of kids to deal with. I think he got scared after Katy was born. He wondered where it would all end.”
“That’s a pretty mean thing,” said the Doctor.
“A lot of blokes go through it, don’t they?”
“I wouldn’t know,” said the Doctor, looking a little uncomfortable.
“Oh come on, now, Doctor.” Alice smiled. “Have you ever been married? Any kids?”
He looked at her. “I’ve been a father. Several times in fact. And a grandfather.”
“Wow,” said Alice. “And where are your family now?”
The Doctor’s eyes flicked back to hers. “Better off without me.”
Alice frowned as she watched him edge a little further than her. That was an odd thing to say. She wondered if they’d disowned him for some reason. Surely no matter what had happened, though, they’d want to be with him for his final days. But then again, maybe he hadn’t told them.
She felt sorry for him. He was going to die alone and without family surrounding him. She made a conscious decision to try and stay with him as long as she could.
Eventually the tunnel widened out until they were in what looked like an entrance hall. The roof of the cave was quite high up, and there appeared to be a gap on the far wall.
“I really am not liking the look of all of this,” said the Doctor.
“Come on,” said Alice, “we better go and see what’s through there.”
Just as they were about to continue their walk, there was a running sound and the Doctor suddenly dropped from Alice’s view and crashed to the floor. When he hit the ground, the torch fell from the Doctor’s grip and blinked out.
“Doctor!” exclaimed Alice. “Where are you? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” said the Doctor, scrambling around in the dark. “Just slightly bruised.”
Alice managed to feel around until she was touching the top of the Doctor’s shiny head. She felt for his arms and hauled him to his feet.
“What the hell was that?” asked Alice. “Something knocked you over.”
“Indeed,” said the Doctor, peering into the gloom, “and it ran towards the gap in the wall.”
“We can’t even see it now,” groaned Alice. “I can’t see the torch anywhere.”
“Fear not,” said the Doctor, lighting the end of the sonic screwdriver. It cast a red glow over them. It wasn’t bright enough to really see, but they could at least make out a general path.
“I don’t think this is safe,” said Alice, as they crept forward.
“So you keep saying.”
“It must be.”
Eventually they reached the crack and clambered through.
And then the Doctor’s hearts sank.
Below them, deep down in a large area at what looked like a cavernous crater, were lots and lots of lit fires, their flames dancing around wildly. Gathered around each and every one of the fires, were small, greyish figures. It was difficult to make out any features at this height, but they looked to be around 2 feet tall.
“Uninhabited?” said Alice, arching her eyebrows in the darkness.
“It would appear not,” said the Doctor.
Next Time: The Doctor and Alice are faced with difficult decisions when they meet Rotox and the Issenttiians. Coming Saturday 8th February 2014.