Teaser: “The Wrath of Rassilon”
THE FAMILIAR wheezing and groaning sound of the TARDIS had inspired many a rush of emotions for John Riddell in his travels with the Doctor: the thrill of danger, the hope of rescue, the promise of a new adventure, and much more besides. This time, though, he felt a novel and incongruous combination of relief and regret.
The door creaked opened and the Doctor greeted his friend with a broad smile and a doff of his Panama, before standing to one side and gesturing for him to enter. Riddell eschewed the welcome, trudging inside in silence, eager to leave behind the Helios starliner and all of which it still reminded him.
“What’s wrong, John? Did someone spike your drink?” the Doctor quipped, punctuating the question with a characteristic short, explosive laugh that irritated Riddell in moments such as this.
He shot the Doctor a glare by way of a reply.
“Spiked? No?” The Doctor seemed crestfallen that his pun had not been better received. “Too obvious? Offensive? Have you spent too long in the company of the Vinvocci for that to pass muster?” A momentary look of panic came over his face. “Wait. That is you, isn’t it, John? You’re not wearing a shimmer?”
“It’s me, old man,” grumbled Riddell, finally breaking his silence as he slumped into one of the plush armchairs in the console room. “I’m just not in the mood.”
At this, the Doctor dropped his cheery countenance and took a moment to study his friend, now looking rather more concerned. “What is it?” he asked with the gravitas to indicate that he already knew the answer, and knew it all too well.
“Can we just get out of this place?” petitioned Riddell.
The Doctor gestured to the big red button on the console. “Be my guest,” he said.
Riddell didn’t need to be asked twice, lifting himself out of his repose, walking purposefully to the console, slamming his hand down wearily on the control panel, and sending the TARDIS into flight.
“This is about the Magla, isn’t it,” proclaimed the Doctor. “I was hoping your shore leave would have helped you to get it out of your system.”
Riddell nodded. “Never have I felt so conflicted in taking a life. What an incredible being, and I was the one responsible for killing it.”
The Doctor sighed. “It was a last resort, John. You took a singular, unique life, yes, but in doing so you saved countless others. Who knows what the Viyrans’ ultimate purpose was? They weren’t exactly forthcoming on that or anything else, and we’ll probably now never learn what the ‘Starmind’ was or is. But we do know that entire civilisations were at stake, and our actions—your action—saved them. And here’s the rub, my friend: I can’t promise we won’t be faced with a similar choice again. Who knows where that big red button is taking us next. That’s what choosing to travel with me means.”
“Well, Doctor,” said Riddell wistfully, “you should know that next time I can’t promise that I will pull the trigger.”
“Quite right, too,” said the Doctor comfortingly, “quite right. And that, dear John, is why I love travelling with you. We keep each other honest, and thus we both keep on learning about our place in this cosmos of ours.”
Riddell smiled thinly as he took his seat once again, appreciative of the Doctor’s words but, moreover, relieved to be en route to an entirely new destination. The Doctor, meanwhile, continued to philosophise as he studied the controls at the console.
“After all, everything must pass in order to make way for new life to thrive. Even those whom are most precious to us must take their leave in order to allow others to spring up in their place. With all of eternity at one’s fingertips, you’ll find you gain a whole different perspective upon the cycle of life.”
“But is that a good thing? Or a bad thing?” challenged Riddell. “Maybe I was born to live out life at a more petty pace.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” countered the Doctor. “Could you really go back to that life now, when you have tasted exploration the way we travel?”
If Riddell had an answer, he was keeping it to himself. And then, as if to save him from any more direct follow-up questioning, the TARDIS interrupted with its characteristically sonorous thump to punctuate the conversation. They had landed.
The Doctor busied himself at the controls, and the scanner buzzed to life. He let out another self-satisfied cry when he took in the vista, that of a luscious tropical jungle. “What was I just saying, John? New life, and positively teeming with it by the look of these readings. I’ll daresay that adventuring spirit of yours is out there on the other side of those TARDIS doors waiting for us. What do you say we go and find it?”