Doctor Who: Shaving is a Tedious Thing
By Leslie McMurtry
"When he's stressed, he likes to insult species... He cuts himself shaving, he does half an hour on life forms he's cleverer than." - Rose in Steven Moffat’s “The Doctor Dances”
Disclaimer: I don’t think I own anything. Not even the razor.
Thanks: To Steven Moffat for coming up with the line in the first place, Evan for her cogitative help, and Jamie because I shamelessly stole his title.
Spoilers: This is set between “The Long Game” and “Father’s Day.”
Even the light on this hideous planet was ugly and coarse. Rose had faced a Dalek, a strange metal killing machine with something pitiful inside; she’d been inside a video game and a Slitheen-run prison. But nothing sucked her soul out quite like this place. This Place. The Doctor had spouted off some number identification for the planet swinging forlornly between two moons, far from a sun, but she’d immediately forgotten it. And the planet didn’t have a name, not a pronounceable one. It was like the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and that would have made her laugh, in another time. She knew the planet’s written name by heart; she’d seen it enough times on printed forms and signs. [ ‡, it was. And no one else could seem to pronounce it either-they called it Here, or This Place, or pointed to the written name in mid-speech.
In a morbid kind of way she couldn’t wait to tell her mother she’d played advocate on an alien world. She was, in fact, dressed up in a pant suit and heels she’d found in the TARDIS wardrobe, in doubt that it was the correct way to dress at legal proceedings but unable to find anything approximating the circular robes worn by the planet’s administrators. In her hands she clutched the paperwork, the interminable paperwork, she’d filled out to the letter, aware that any minor error could result in more delays, in more frustration.
“Your paperwork, Advocate.” The aliens had small, squat bodies, six toes projecting from stubs of feet, no arms, with an extendable neck that ended in a glassy face, which faced her now. She handed it over the counter, then quickly added, “By sub-section . . . er . . . 14 of the . . . er, Second Clause, as his Advocate, I should . . .”
The alien blinked its several eyes. “Wait a moment. You will be granted an audience with your client before you make your appeal.”
Rose sat down, flustered, surprised not only that she had memorized the correct protocol, but that her request was being granted. Soon she was ushered toward a door where was a room more dingily lit than usual. As she walked in she saw someone sitting at a low desk, and she looked for the Doctor. One of the aliens blocked her path. “The prisoner has been granted time for personal grooming before his court appearance. You are not-”
“I’m his Advocate, yeah?” she snapped.
The alien turned. “Is the presence of your Advocate acceptable?”
The someone replied in the affirmative, without looking at Rose, and she had to mask her shock. “Doctor!”
The alien scurried out. Rose had lost track of the days since the Doctor had been charged, a week, slightly less than two? They’d been allowed, as per protocol, to communicate in writing, which was a step up from No Communication Whatsoever, which had been rescinded only upon her being designated an Advocate. But enough time had passed to render the Doctor unrecognizable. He was hunched over the desk in a defeated posture, which made him seem small. “Doctor,” she repeated, stumbling into a sort of chair opposite him.
It was then she noticed on the desk was a square piece of shiny fabric, a basin with a swirly, nearly clear liquid, a mirror, and an old-fashioned leather case, completely at odds with the rest of the objects. She looked back up at the Doctor. There was a hunted, desperate, lifeless quality to his eyes, which roved restlessly around the room and finally settled on her.
“Someone wants me to look presentable,” he said, and his voice sounded hoarse. There was no preamble, no recognition. She moved back, surprised. There was a tiny, faint flicker of humor. “Want to help me shave, Rose?”
She racked her brains; This Place of the dim lights drained her of the ability to tell time. The beard he had grown, dark and coarse, hid his cheekbones and jaw. This was how she had not known him at first: stupidly she had never actually expected him capable of growing a beard. As she fumbled for something to say, her eyes glued to him, he unrolled the leather case to reveal a short, stubby brush, a sort of porcelain pot, and a long, straight razor, so sharp she winced as she saw it. “Wass that then?” she blurted.
“Shaving kit, Earth, circa 1900,” he said. “Was apparently the best they could replicate, their knowledge of Earth being so limited. Guess I should be glad it wasn’t a sharpened flint.” There was no hint of humor in his face; she felt her mind swim with the figures and regulations she had memorized and suddenly was less sure of herself. “Well, go on, you’re my Advocate, speak to me,” he said, and there was a hard edge to his voice.
She got up and turned around, on the pretense of straightening her jacket. “I’ve followed all the processes of the appeal an’ I’m confident once they hear my case, we’ll be allowed to leave.” She heard the clink of porcelain and a swish-swish sound. She took a deep breath. “It hasn’t been easy, you know, especially since you’ve insisted on maintainin’ total innocence as your plea.”
“Oh, Rose! I did nothing wrong. I landed the TARDIS. How was I supposed to know it crushed a single life form? And that on This Planet, that’s a capital offense?” Hysteria coming into his voice.
“I know,” she said, leaning over the desk. “It’s absolutely mad! But it would have been so much easier if you’d just lied and said-”
“Easy?” he snapped, and he was on his feet, too, staring across at her with bloodshot eyes, with a gauntness and a pallor beneath his beard so striking she was amazed she hadn’t noticed before. He paced. “You’ve had the TARDIS to go back to! You don’t know what they’ve done to me in here. It’s beyond torture. It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s hard to escape, though, when you’re the only Time Lord in existence-kind of hard to disappear, isn’t it?!”
“Doctor,” she said quietly, “what did they do?”
“It’s a stupid system, and a stupid planet! But we’re powerless to stop it--!”
“We’re not powerless.” She gulped. “I’ve made the appeal, and I’m going to get you out.”
He shook his head distractedly, picked up the razor, and ran its dull edge along his thumb. Alarmed, she cried, “What are you doing?” He looked petulantly from her to the razor, threw it down, and sat. He dipped the brush into the porcelain and then the water. She couldn’t believe it, but he was working it into a lather. “You didn’t have to stay,” he grunted, not looking at her.
She laughed, despite her heaviness. “Oh yeah? And how amma supposed to fly the TARDIS?”
“You have your key,” he said. “You know how the ship works by now. You could get home.” The word “home” sounded so hollow. “I hate being caged in,” he said. “Pain, unpleasantness, that’s all bad. Death, even, I’ll take it, but not prison.” He trembled, then went very still. “Rose, do you understand?”
He started lathering his face, as matter-of-fact as an automaton. “Understand this, Doctor: I’m not going anywhere.” He ignored her, picking up the mirror in one hand and the razor in the other. She didn’t know whether to watch or turn away; it somehow felt indecent to be there. His expression was intense and impersonal; this she’d seen before. She could almost laugh at this incongruous scene.
“Excuse me,” he said, from beneath the lather, “can I get a little privacy?”
Sighing, she moved to the other side of the room, checking her watch. She hadn’t quite worked out units of time in her paperwork, but she was sure they didn’t have long. She’d been so driven, so determined. Now . . . “I was worried about you,” she said to the wall.
“What, me?” She hazarded a look and saw him wiping his shaven face. There was a smear of blood all down the right side.
“You’ve cut yourself,” she cried, rushing over and lifting a Kleenex from her pocket to his cheek.
“D’you think I can’t see that?” he snapped, pushing her away. She bit her tongue to keep from voicing her frustration. He dabbed at the cut with his finger. “Some Time Lord I am,” he said. “Cutting myself shaving.” He looked at the dried blood on his finger. “I’ve always fought for what I thought was right,” he said quietly. “I don’t pretend I haven’t made mistakes. A lot of people have died. Far too many. Maybe more than have been saved. I’ve asked myself before when and if I’ve had the right to destroy, to save, to change things an’ people. I’ve been on trial before,” he admitted.
She moved cautiously forward. She took his hands in hers; they were icy. “Doctor, we are going to get out of this. Trust me.”
“I do,” he said at last. “Trust you.”
She gave both his hands a squeeze and then let go. “But we can’t win our case havin’ you with a streak of blood down one side.” She dipped the shiny fabric in the soapy water and wiped the blood away. He gave her a big grin, warm enough to dispel some of the gloomy lighting. “Do I look respectable, Advocate Tyler?” She smiled by way of answer. “You look smart, by the way,” he said. He stood up and leaned close, and for a second she thought he was going to kiss her. Instead, he stood up straight. Her Doctor. He was back.
“Don’t let them intimidate you,” he said. “You know your rulebook as well as any of them, an’ you’re creative, you’ve got the edge.” He clapped his hands together. “I can almost taste the chips.”
“The chips we’re going to eat to celebrate.”
They walked into the court room together, heads held high. Though he never said as much, Rose felt, for once, she had saved him. Which was what gave her the courage to ask for what happened next.