Doctor Who: The Last Hope
By Adam J Purcell
NOTE: This is an alternative take of events that may precede the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special (The Day of the Doctor). The TV version, if shown or hinted at, is likely to be very different. This was mainly written on the 19th August 2013 and finally published on the 11th September 2013.
The Doctor thumped the console, there was nothing he could do. With a jolt the TARDIS had arrived at its forced destination and clearly it wasn't happy about it at all.
He knew where he was and had a fair idea why. The sick feeling that had moments before settled in his stomach was rapidly infusing his entire being. Somehow he knew it would come to this, someday. He was just glad he had premonition enough to drop off his latest travelling companion, safely back home. She hadn't liked it and somehow both of them knew they'd never see each other again but it was for the best.
Picking up his messenger bag the Doctor muttered to himself, “Well, old girl, let's face the music...”
The moment he stepped out of what appeared to be an incongruous and here very alien Police Box, he felt it hit him. This was once his home, a very long time ago, but the stifling calm had gone. His head swam and he had to steady himself by leaning on the exterior of his time capsule. Time, yes, the atmosphere was thick of it. Eddying, bubbling, surging. When out there, in the universe, out of the separated reality of his TARDIS, he felt this, though never to anything like this magnitude, not even when staring directly into the Vortex itself and never here. Never ever on Gallifrey.
“Doctor?” the High Council chancellor queried, looking somewhat concerned.
The Doctor squinted at her for a moment, before somehow finding the strength to focus on the here and now, such as it was. The aura was unmistakable and her face hadn’t changed at all, the name Flavia floated to mind. Anger boiled over him, “This is your war, I want nothing more to do with it! Release my TARDIS and let me go!”
The guards to either side of chancellor Flavia stiffened suddenly at his outburst but she looked at him, her face a mixture of understanding and pleading. “Doctor, you know we can't do that. We need you,” she paused, sensing how little he cared about that and added, “the universe needs you.”
The Doctor glared at her, “'Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope', is that it? I've done more than enough for you already. You should see it out there, it's horrific! It's a full time job just trying to help the innocent 'collateral damage' and I'm sick of it!”
“Then help us Doctor, nobody has won more victories against the enemy than you. You are our only hope.”
“Time is tearing itself apart and the Time Lords are as much the enemy as the Daleks...”, the Doctor's head swam again, he could sense that reality itself was almost at breaking point. “How do you even stand this, how is this all leaking in here?”
“The temporal forces are too strong, even for us Doctor. We've collapsed and burnt through over five hundred auxiliary eye of harmonies already.”
The Doctor looked at her, appalled and wishing he'd never sent the Hand back to these degenerates.
“We had no choice. That's not the worst of it, we've brought him back.”
“Him?” the Doctor searched her face and didn't like the thought that it brought to him, “You mean Rassilon?”
The chancellor nodded gravely. “Something went wrong. He hasn't come back right.”
“I'm not surprised. There have always been rumours of his madness but in this,” the Doctor waved a hand to indicate the general atmosphere of temporal chaos, “What were you thinking?!”
“We were desperate, Doctor! We've called on every resource we can and they've all either perished or fled.”
“Add me to the latter. I will not be your saviour. You and the Daleks can wipe each other out, then the universe can lick its considerable wounds and get on much better without you both!”
“Please, Doctor! You are the best of us, you always were.”
“Well you had a funny way of showing it...”
“We were afraid!”
“You are greater than us, more than just a Time Lord, especially now. Nobody has such experience, travelled so far and wide in the Vortex. It infuses you. You infuse it.”
“It feels like everyone here is getting a pretty good dose right now...”
“This is toxic, Doctor,” Flavia snapped back at him.
“Don't I know it!”
Flavia calmed herself before continuing, “Also, Doctor, we could argue that you are responsible for all of this. The enemy-”, started the chancellor.
“The Daleks, you can say their name.” the Doctor interjected.
“The enemy were dying out on their home world, never having looked to the stars, until you arrived-”
“My meddling ways?! You know how this war all started, don't you? The High Council sent me to destroy the Daleks before even that point, at their creation. I suppose it is my fault for not going through with it, too?”
“What is done is done. Please, let's not argue further. There is a group of us, he knows nothing about this, you must meet them.”
The vast chamber of the Panopticon dwarfed the gathering of forty or so Time Lords in the centre. The Doctor had never seen it look like this, though – it had been transformed into some type of war room. Around the outside were rows of terminals, each manned by a technician, apparently monitoring the constant changes to the fabric of space and time itself, attempting to determine wildly disjointed and fluxing cause and effect topologies. It was an impossible task, even for Time Lord technology and their temporal mastery.
The Doctor, Flavia and her two guards approached the group of Time Lords in the middle of the chamber. He recognised many of those before him, at one time respecting many of them. They were the cream of Time Lord society, with a sprinkling of the young pretenders in waiting. As he got closer they parted slightly to reveal a very nasty looking machine, looking for all the world like a medieval torture device, clearly designed for a humanoid to be strapped to.
“What's this?” the Doctor asked, already feeling incredibly fatigued by the constant temporal assault on his existence.
“Something from the dark days, Doctor.” said Engin, an elderly looking man, clearly respected amongst the group.
The Doctor shot him back a 'you don't say' look.
“How many regenerations has it been for you now, Doctor?”, asked Engin.
“It's dangerous out there and you do seem free to waste your energies, your lives, for such trivial beings.”, said Engin, trying to sound sage.
“I will give my very last drop of life to save an innocent if need be, that's something that nobody here can understand.”
“On the contrary, Doctor. That's why we're all here. That's what this device is for. We're giving our regeneration energy to you, Doctor. All of us, all of it.”
“What?! You're insane!” the Doctor looked around the group and could see they meant it. “The lot of you! Nobody, not even a Time Lord, can possibly absorb that much energy – it must be, what, a few hundred regenerations worth!”
Chancellor Flavia put a soothing hand on his arm and spoke softly to counter the heat in his voice, “We believe it can be done. You will need every edge you can get. There are few of us against the untold armies of the enemy but should you fall you will rise up again and again, and again. The universe's champion, indomitable. You know this is a role only you can fulfil.”
A figure in the shadows watched on as Flavia’s two guards strapped the Doctor into the device as he protested.
“Don’t do this, just imagine the consequences in this temporal instability. Look at Rassilon. How many Time Lords have regenerated in this?”, the Doctor indicated around them all as best he could with his now very limited ability to move, “What did it do to their minds? At least do this in my TARDIS!”
“Sorry, Doctor, we can’t take that risk, we’ve no idea how it might react, what defences it may bring to bear. Do you know the trouble we had tracking you? We should be able to track a TARDIS anywhere but not yours, not anymore. We don’t believe that is entirely down to you, Doctor. You and that machine, you’ve become too closely entwined. There’s a reason why we decommission them so regularly but, in this case, together you really can be more than the sum of your parts. We need that.”
“It seems you give me no choice but I don’t do this for you, I do this for all the innocents that you give not a single thought to! I expect that sort of disregard from the Daleks but not from the Time Lords. I am ashamed to be one of you!”
An ancient and vicious looking level was pulled down and, one by one, the assembled Time Lords funnelled themselves toward the machine. One at a time, each of the donors had both of their hands clamped into the side of the machine before a shrill, almost drill like sound, screamed from the device or maybe them, it was impossible to tell. Streams of golden energy coursed along their bodies, flowing down their arms and into the machine and then into the Doctor, almost obscuring his entire body. Most of them collapsed, such was the strain on their bodies, their hands still fixed into the machine as their energies dwindled and died. Some managed to help themselves up as the machine released their hands, some needed assistance from the guards and some flopped to the ground and had to be carried away. A few died in the process. Alive or dead, it was nonetheless the supreme sacrifice a Time Lord could give, all their remaining regenerations. Many of them would now eventually, inevitably, have the most excruciating of deaths – that of an aborted regeneration, where their bodies don’t realise they lack enough energy to take it to completion. Such was their desperation to win the war.
As the process continued the figure in the shadows came forward, at first barely noticed by the remaining nervous Time Lords, especially over the noise of that process and even more so the constant screaming of the Doctor.
“Rassilon!” exclaimed Flavia.
“This is bold, even for you. In the middle of Panopticon – it’s quite a statement of intent..” Rassilon looked around at the rest of the war room.
“It’s too late to stop it, there are only a few left, he’s already had hundreds of regenerations worth.”
“You should have trusted me, Flavia. I approve.”
“Approve? Do you know who that is?”
“Of course. I’d recognise him anywhere. You could say we go way back. He won’t fail us as that ‘Master’ did. If nothing else he will be a useful distraction for my own plans. I couldn’t have done better myself.”
The pair watched as the last of the donors gave themselves to the machine. At the heart of it the Doctor was glowing with the golden energies, his features in constant flux, his body arched forward in pain, his mouth opened impossibly wide and emanating from it a blood curdling scream that somehow continued despite his lungs long since having emptied of air.
The final donor, this one most definitely a volunteer, collapsed near the end of the process, her captured hands stopping her from falling to the ground. The drilling sound stopped for the last time and her hands were released. She crumpled to the ground. In human terms she looked at least forty years older than she did a few moments before, now an elderly woman. The two guards dragged her by the arms towards a line of the fallen, next to the dead Engin.
Rassilon and Flavia watched the last of the energies subside as the Doctor’s body slumped, his face finally relaxing. The Doctor’s features settled. Despite all of the life giving energies that had been crammed into him, far beyond that naturally possible, his ‘new’ face looked old and haggard, complete with an untidy white goatee that further added to his apparent age.
The Doctor tried to speak but all that he managed was a gravely rasp.
“Relax, Doctor. It is done.” soothed Flavia.
“No.” the Doctor just about managed.
“No?” exclaimed Rassilon.
“Not...” the Doctor drew upon his willpower as few others ever could and his still gravely voice strengthened, “Not the Doctor. If I do this, I need a new name because I won't be the Doctor anymore...” He noticed the line of the dead before him, with the guards looking down at the woman on the end. Her body appeared to be trying to pitifully regenerate. Suddenly he recognised her, just as the guards put her out of her misery with a stazer. He couldn’t stifle an involuntary and uncharacteristic laugh.
Rassilon and Flavia quizzically followed his eye line to the settling body, still wearing its ceremonial white gown of office.
Time was still ripping and reforming around them, almost mirrored by the now settling cells in his body, and he could still sense the madness of it, it perfused him. He had to fix this and he could, he knew it. Reform it as it should be. He refocused on the dead woman, this time noticing that her once white skullcap was now charred black around the edges. He remembered back to the last time he had met her. That possible future had been averted, hadn’t it? There was one way to avoid it for certain and this was the moment. The moment to claim it.
His craggy face turned back to Rassilon and Flavia and fixed them with a steely glare. “If I am to prosecute this war for you... Call me the Valeyard”.