The Ship

By Jon Preddle (as Donald Peathe Jnr)

Space goes on forever, and forever is full of space; at least that is how it seemed to the Sleepers. For some time now, they had slept as their space craft travelled onwards to a new home.

The saucer-shaped craft was fixed on a set route towards a planet across the galaxy. And it was inside this ship that the TARDIS was materialising...

The Doctor emerged into the gloom, a gloom broken by the colourful flashing of warning lights on the control panels beneath the observation ports. A siren wailed.

Quickly locating the ‘off’ switch, the Doctor was able to shut off the din and the lights. Using a torch, he surveyed the chamber he was in and saw in a corner a series of transparent glass tubes, standing vertically between floor and ceiling. One of the tubes was glowing, and inside, the Doctor could see the figure of a man.

‘Oh dear, I seem to have activated the revivication system,’ the Doctor muttered. He watched as the tube hinged open, and the man stumbled out.

He was dressed in a silver coverall, and appeared to be about forty years old, with a lined face and hair grey around the sides. The Doctor helped the man to a chair, and hit the man's face to bring him around.

‘Oh, oh, where am I?...’ The man's eyes opened, and he pulled back on seeing the Doctor's face peering at him. ‘Who are you.

‘I'm the Doctor...

‘How did you get here?’ the man demanded.

‘I nearly crashed into your ship. I had to make a quick materialisation inside your craft in order to avoid a catastrophe.’

The man was clearly confused by what the Doctor said. ‘I-I-I can't remember anything.

‘You are clearly suffering from amnesia. No doubt a side-effect of being brought out of suspension too early,’ said the Doctor.

The man rose to his feet. He stumbled but regained his footing. ‘The others!’ he shouted, on seeing the other tubes, still sealed.

‘They are safe,’ replied the Doctor. He then spied a pile of machinery propped up against a wall. He knelt down to study the complex looking electronics. ‘Hmm, a robot of some sort. Obviously disassembled, or under repair...’ He stood and turned. ‘Now, tell me, what are...’ He stopped as he saw the man's horrified expression. He was gazing out of the view port and pointing.

The Doctor followed his gaze, and he too was horrified at what he saw. A huge ball of fire was hurtling through space towards the ship. ‘A supernova!’ shouted the Doctor. Quickly, he darted to the console and turned the joy-stick controls. The craft suddenly turned and the supernova zoomed past them. The ship was saved.

‘That was close,’ breathed the Doctor. ‘I don't understand, though, how that could have happened. The ship was...’ He suddenly realised. ‘Ah, I see - the extra weight of the TARDIS caused the ship to slow down and so the computer over- compensated and caused the ship to shift off course by a few degrees and into the path of that nova.

The man jus stood and stared, sweat pouring down his face. ‘It's okay now, we're safe,’ the Doctor assured him, helping the man back into the chair. ‘Now, I must be off. I've got to get back to Earth.’

‘Earth? EARTH!’ shouted the man. ‘Take me with you, please. I can't stand it anymore.’ He grabbed the Doctor violently.

The Doctor pushed him off. ‘I'm sorry, I can't.’

‘Well how about redirecting this ship to Earth. We were supposed to be going to another planet but I think we may never find it. Better that we go home.’

The Doctor rubbed his chin and the back of his neck in thought.

‘Why are you rubbing my chin and neck?’ asked the man.

The Doctor stopped his rubbing and turned to the man. ‘Very well. I will change the co-ordinates for Earth. It's the least I can do.’

He crossed to the console and punched in the coordinates. ‘There we are.’ He turned, but the man was not there. He could see the open tube slowly closing, the shape of a man inside.

The Doctor entered the TARDIS again, and soon it vanished. As it did, the tube swung open again, and parts of the broken robot fell out...

The Doctor sighed as he stood over the controls of his beloved TARDIS. It will be good to see the Brigadier again, he mused.

Suddenly he heard a sneeze. He crossed to the interior door and flung it open. The man was standing there, his finger over his nose, stifling another sneeze.

‘Oh no, what are you doing here?’

‘I wanted to go to Earth...’

‘But I reset the controls for Earth,’ the Doctor explained.

‘I know, but I wasn't convinced that the ship would get there. You had a ship, and so I decided to hitch a ride.’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘You don't realise what you have done. When the TARDIS landed on your ship, its extra weight took the ship off course. Now that you are no longer on board, the ship is lighter - and will still be off course!’

The man hung his head in shame. ‘We have to go back, don't we?’

‘I'm afraid so,’ replied the Doctor, and reset the controls to return to the spaceship...

Much, much later, the Doctor was back on Earth, and telling the Brigadier about the strange man.

‘I wonder what happened to them?’ mused the Brigadier.

‘Yes, so do I...’

‘SMITH! SMITH!’

‘Coming, Professor,’ responded Smith sheepishly.

Professor John Robinson pointed at the remains of the broken robot. ‘Smith, are you responsible for this?’

‘What's the point in asking him. We all know he's guilty,’ said Don West.

‘I'm sorry,’ said Smith. ‘I didn't mean to.’

‘What happened?’

‘The bubble-headed booby, er, the robot, was trying to sing and so I was trying to change his voice circuits so he could do opera, and I guess I deactivated him.’

‘I'll deactivate you, if you don't put him back together,’ threatened Don.

A small boy rushed onto the control deck. ‘Dad!’

‘What is it, Will?’ said the Professor.

‘Come and see...!’

Robinson followed his son to the control panel - and his mouth dropped open when he saw the sight on the screen. ‘Earth!’

He turned to his family. ‘Maureen, Judy, Penny, Will - for years we have been lost in space, and now it seems we are finally back home. Home...’

Unseen, Smith waved his hand out of the window - waving to a friend somewhere out there...

This item appeared in Timestreams 2 (April 1991).

Index nodes: Fiction