Doctor Who: A Hull of a Time
By Leslie McMurtry
Disclaimer: All hail Moffat.
Thanks: Sally Varlow for Writers’ Britain.
Spoilers: “Blink”; set between “The Five Doctors” and “Resurrection of the Daleks.”
The Doctor’s piloting skills were getting worse and worse, thought Turlough drearily. Earth again, which was more often than not tedious in the extreme. Though, in all fairness, attempts at calm had ended in calamity-Eye of Orion, indeed.
“Well, this is the church,” the Doctor said, doffing his hat and waving his arms as if that made it better. “It’s Holy Trinity in Hull, where Andrew Marvell’s father was vicar.”
“I don’t think they had motor cars in the seventeenth century,” Tegan said with characteristic sharpness and stomped off. Turlough assumed back to the TARDIS, but half-expected to find her stuck in a muddy field with one high heel sunk inches into murk. Why she insisted on wearing them, he had no idea.
The Doctor, meanwhile, was staring uselessly at the front of the church, as the motor car in question drove up and parked by the small cemetery. Bells were ringing, and right then a joyous collection of people came out the front. “Ah, a wedding,” said the Doctor, smiling. “I love weddings.”
Turlough gave a non-committal glance over his shoulder to make sure Tegan hadn’t been trampled by cows or something, then followed the Doctor toward the church. The façade was weathered and Gothic-looking, spries and whip-thin, lacy stuff around the windows. The husband and wife stood in front of the big doors, greeting all the guests who were streaming out in cloche hats and two-toned shoes. The woman was in white, a dress with an enormous train and sprayed everywhere with orange blossoms. Indeed, the smell of citrus was overwhelming, and Turlough sniffed.
The Doctor strode up to the couple and, removing his hat, offered his hand. “Congratulations.”
The husband was happy enough to take the Doctor’s hand, but the wife, dark-haired and slightly flinty, said, “Come from a cricket match, have you?”
The Doctor looked faintly embarrassed and then said, “I’m sorry, we seem to have turned up a bit unexpectedly. I was just showing my young friend here where the poet Andrew Marvell was born.” Turlough rolled his eyes and shook the husband’s hand. “ ‘But at my back I always hear / Time’s wingèd Chariot-’ ”
“ ‘Drawing near,’” finished the wife.
The Doctor looked at her, impressed. Though the wedding guests were in what Turlough knew was their “Sunday best,” he had surmised the majority of them were farmers and laborers. “I studied Seventeenth-Century Poetics at University,” the wife said breathlessly. “It’s been a long time since I-”
The woman’s face suddenly closed off, and she clawed at her long veil. “No, I’m only joking. Read it in a book once, that’s all.” She peered closer at the Doctor. “What did you say your name was?”
At that point, a photographer from the car that had just driven up interposed himself between the Doctor and the wedding guests. The Doctor looked meaningfully at Turlough, and then began to move back toward the road. “We’d probably head off. Or at least find Tegan.”
“Yes, Doctor,” repeated Turlough.
“Do you imagine she went into that pub?” He pointed to one across the road.
“Wait!” It was the wife hurtling after them, holding up her train with one hand, splashing her immaculate white shoes. “I didn’t hear who you were.”
The Doctor looked intrigued. “I’m the Doctor, and this is Turlough.”
“The Doctor!” the wife exclaimed. “I’m Kathy Nightingale.”
“Er . . .”
“Don’t you know me?” She looked crestfallen. “I’m Sally, Sally Sparrow’s friend.”
“I’m afraid I don’t-”
“I’ve got to take these photographs,” said Kathy Nightingale. “But if you meet me in that public house, just down the road, in half an hour, I’ll explain everything.”
Tegan was not in the pub, and after an unsuccessful ten-minute search, Turlough suggested she had taken a train to Heathrow.
“In 1926? I doubt it,” said the Doctor, nettled, and not understanding Turlough’s attempt at levity. There was a pot of tea, in front of him, fresh cream and sugar, and some brown bread and butter. Turlough was slogging through his own cup of black tea, though he had never really liked the taste of any British institution.
“Kathy Nightingale,” the Doctor repeated for the hundredth time. “I don’t know anyone by that name. I’ve met Florence Nightingale before, but that’s something else entirely.”
“Is it?” Turlough asked disinterestedly. He wanted to find Tegan and get going. Hull was damp, even in the sunshine, and while the poet had at least sounded interesting, the wedding was not his, uh, cup of tea.
“Perhaps she’s a relative? The great-granddaughter of this Florence person? Maybe she just thinks she knows who you are. Maybe she’s confused you with someone else.”
“But she said she’d been to University.” The Doctor creased his hat in his hands. “That’s not unheard of right now, of course, but she did seem terribly embarrassed about it.”
“Another time traveler, do you mean?”
“It’s possible,” said the Doctor, stroking his chin. “And who is this Sally Sparrow?”
Turlough swallowed some tea and said, “Does it matter?”
“Oh dear.” The Doctor looked positively ill.
“Unless the Doctor she’s talking about is in my future.”
“Or several.” The Doctor sighed. “What if Kathy Nightingale is someone who’s going to travel with me in the TARDIS in the future, and at some point, I leave her behind in the 1920s? And she’s gotten so used to it, she’s going to marry a man from that time?”
Turlough tapped his foot irritatedly. “If she’s married, I don’t see what the problem is.”
“What if she wants me to bring her back to the exact moment where I picked her up in the first place?” The Doctor’s face was full of horror.
“What if,” said Turlough, “this is when you pick her up the first time, travel with her for an unspecified amount of time, and then go to an earlier date in the 1920s to leave her behind?”
The Doctor seemed to give this serious thought before frowning. “That’s nonsense. Stop confusing me.”
Turlough cleared his throat. “I was just trying to help.”
“Oh, I have my doubts,” said the Doctor tartly. He slurped his tea unhappily. “If she’s seen the future-me, she’ll tell the now-me all about the future-me. That’s dangerous.”
“Oh,” said Turlough, rolling his eyes. “You’re a Time Lord, isn’t all of this quite usual?”
“On a purely hypothetical level, maybe. But I have to confess, no Time Lord has backtracked into his own time line as much as I have. Or will.”
Kathy had changed into a more practical frock of blue crêpe and had managed to escape for five minutes down to the pub while the wedding gifts were packed in the car and the cake cut and tasted. She’d complained of nerves, or something.
She’d had no idea what the Doctor looked like, of course-she’d imagined somewhat a bit cooler-looking than a fresh-faced chappie in cricket whites. But finding the pub deserted sunk all her high hopes. Beside a still-warm cup of tea was a piece of paper, folded in half, with her name written on it. In ball point ink, she noticed.
“Dear Kathy, Sorry to dash off like this. Places to go, things to do. This will all make sense some time in the future.
“Do give my regards to Philip Larkin.
“Yours sincerely, The Doctor.”
Kathy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.