A Day Off
By Jamas Enright
Thad Richards fell back into the chair and stretched. He had had a tiring morning of getting up, and making his own breakfast before 12 o'clock, and so decided to celebrate by watching a Doctor Who video he had been saving for just such an occasion as this.
The occasion was having nothing else to do, and as he had only got the video yesterday, this was the first chance he had to watch it. Yesterday had been cram-packed full of TV watching.
He pushed the play button on the remote, and fast-forwarded through the copyright warning and BBC logo. Soon the familiar swirls and whorls of the opening titles filled his screen. He studied the screen avidly as it told him that he was watching ‘Spearhead from Space’ and it was written by Robert Holmes.
Just as the actual video was starting, there came a strange noise that was immediately recognised by Thad. However, as he had not expected that noise to come from where it did (in the centre of the lounge room he was sitting in) he totally ignored it.
He could not ignore it when it materialised in front of his telly. He started in shock at the familiar blue box, that in no way whatsoever should have been there.
Thad knew that Doctor Who was fiction, just a made-up scientific fantasy that he liked a lot. He had collected nearly the entire collection of stories in book, and was starting on video. What he also knew, was that what he was seeing was totally impossible.
He stood up and swayed on his feet. What he knew to be the TARDIS stayed perfectly still, and one of its doors swung slowly open. He could see the console room he knew to be there, and staggered towards it.
Lying at the bottom of the console was an open, fair haired face, connected to a body wearing a short coat, a striped jumper, and piped trousers. He looked the splitting image of an Earth actor, Peter Davison.
Standing, or rather, kneeling painfully at his side was a pale, shifty looking young man, who was wearing a black school outfit, complete with a tie. He looked like another Earth actor, Mark Strickson, expect that this boy's hair was red, instead of Mark's blond.
Thad reeled on his feet when he saw these two. He hardly dared to believe that he was looking at the real Fifth Doctor and Turlough. Things like this never happened. Or rather, they did happen, but only to other people. Who they are, no-one ever knows.
Turlough looked up, and saw the plump, yet tall figure of Thad Richards, and immediately took a dislike to what he saw. However, his personal opinions had to be put aside, as he had to look after the Doctor.
Thad finally managed to say something. ‘You're Turlough.’
Turlough reacted in surprise. How could this horrible specimen of a human (most likely) know who he was? ‘Yes, of course I am. How...?’ He tried to think of a good way to phrase the question, but it trailed off by itself.
‘I... I saw you on TV,’ stammered Thad. Pointing to the Doctor, he asked, ‘Is that really the Doctor?’
‘Yes,’ replied Turlough, who was starting to get pissed off with Thad. ‘Who did you think he was?’
Thad either didn't hear this question, or couldn't be bothered answering. Either way, he just walked over to the Doctor, and knelt down. ‘What's wrong with him?’
Turlough began his own inspection, but answered the question anyway. ‘We were travelling away from Earth, when we got caught in that wretched time corridor again. Something blew up on the console, giving the Doctor a shock, and he knocked into me. Then I blacked out for some reason, and ended up here. What do you mean, you saw us on TV?’
Thad continued to stare at the Doctor. ‘I've just seen ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ on TV. You were caught in a time corridor, and found the Daleks trying to free Davros. Tegan left you at the end.’
‘I don't know about ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’, but that's right. What else have you seen?’
‘All the Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctor, but I've read a lot of the books, so I know most of the stories.’
Turlough found this too confusing to sort out, but was too worried by the Doctor's condition to ask further. ‘What I need is some medication. He's cracked his head on something.’ Thad could now see a line of blood coming from the Doctor's forehead. Without much pause, a thought popped into Thad's head. He had seen ‘The Edge of Destruction’ a while ago, and remembered about a certain bandage. Without saying anything to Turlough, he got to his feet, and went through the inner door.
He haphazardly wandered his way through the TARDIS corridors, and mostly by luck he managed to find the room he wanted. From a cabinet, he took a roll of coloured bandage and a pair of scissors. He stared in wonder at the items in his hand, and realised what all this finally meant.
Everything he had seen in Doctor Who was true. Wonderingly, he made his way back to the console room, again, making more by luck than anything else. He cut a length of bandage from the roll, and tied it around the Doctor's head. Almost immediately, the colour started to fade.
Not surprisingly, Turlough was rather surprised by this. ‘Wha...?’ was all he managed to ask.
‘I'm not too sure how it works,’ Thad said vaguely. ‘When the bandage is white, the medication has done its work.’
‘How did you know about that?’
‘I saw it in ‘The Edge of Destruction’.’
‘You said that you saw us on TV?’ Turlough had decided to try and sort things out.
‘That's right. Everything the Doctor has done, has been on TV. Well, nearly everything.’
‘Are you saying,’ Turlough was trying to be absolutely sure on this point, ‘that everything we've done, has ended up on television?’
Thad merely nodded.
A groan floated up from the floor, bringing their attention sharply back to the Doctor.
‘Are you alright?’ Thad asked, while Turlough helped the Doctor sit up.
The Doctor raised a hand to his head and felt the bandage. He pulled it off. By now, it was almost completely white.
He looked about him, and it didn't take him long to see Thad. ‘Who are you?’
Turlough explained what he knew had happened.
The Doctor was still a little dazed, but me had managed to grasp the situation. ‘So, somehow we've ended up in a dimension, or universe, or something, where all our movements are merely imagined fiction.’
Thad felt compelled to say something to the contrary, but soon saw that there was nothing to add. The Doctor had summed up the situation perfectly.
‘The only problem now is it how to get back to our own...’ he groped for the word, ‘continuum,’ he finished. He stood up, but seemed unsure as to how to proceed from there.
He reached towards the controls, but left his hands hanging over them. His eyes caught on the damage that caused their predicament.
It was the RSU, Relative Stabilising Unit. It balanced the inner dimensions against the outer, allowing the TARDIS to travel anywhere. The Doctor dropped to his knees to inspect it better. ‘Ahh, the culprit.’
‘What's the RSU got to do with it?’ asked Turlough. Thad didn't have a clue as to what they were talking about, but wasn't going to say so. However, that only meant that he didn't say anything, which pleased Turlough.
‘It must have forced us out of our own continuum when we hit that corridor again. I've got to fix it before we can get back. I'll have to spend a day in dock.’
Turlough sighed. Yet another boring wait while the Doctor fixed the TARDIS.
Thad, however, was pleased. This was his chance to find out one or two secrets that would have other fans fuming with envy. ‘Ah, Doctor...’ he started shyly. It was all very well to watch everyone get on well with him on TV, but meeting him live in person was another thing.
The Doctor took no notice of Thad, disconnected the RSU and went into the TARDIS corridors. Thad followed close behind, leaving Turlough in the console room. Turlough decided the best thing to do would be to try and work out where they were.
Thad had to hurry to keep up with the Doctor, who was striding first in one direction, then abruptly changed to a different one.
Finally, he opened a door, looked around expectedly, showed disappointment, then exception. Thad noticed all this with amusement. Apparently, the Doctor hadn't ended up where he wanted. Hardly surprising.
The room they were in was a kind of laboratory. Again, Thad recognised it from ‘The Edge of Destruction’, but didn't say anything. The place was still in a mess from when Barbara left it, which must have been years ago.
The Doctor brushed some papers off a nearby table, and sent the RSU down. Opening a drawer, he took out a set of small, but precise tools.
‘Doctor...’ Thad tried again.
‘Hmm,’ hmmed the Doctor, not showing any signs of actually listening to Thad.
‘Why...’ he stopped, then started again, committing himself. ‘Why did you leave Gallifrey?’
The was a halt of activity and tension grew in the air. ‘Why do you ask?’ The Doctor still wasn't moving.
‘Just curious.’ Thad tried to pass it off.
‘Haven't you found out yet?’ questioned the Doctor.
‘Er, no,’ admitted Thad, feeling the situation slip away from him.
‘Then you probably shouldn't,’ said the Doctor quietly, resuming his work.
Thad stood there while the Doctor tinkled with the RSU, then drew a breath, and tried again. ‘Er, tell me about the TARDIS then.’ As the Doctor looked sharply up at him, he continued. ‘How does it travel through time and space??’
‘It travels in the vortex of time/space, where they are one and the same. To the TARDIS, all time and space in the universe is one and the same.’
The Doctor refused to elaborate, and avoided any more conversation until he had finished working. ‘Come on,’ he said, then left for the console room, giving Thad no other choice than to follow him.
When they reached the console room, Turlough announced that he had found a large patch of time/space continuum instability. It was found just off the coast of an island called Bermuda.
‘Really?’ The Doctor peered at the readings, confirming what Turlough had said. Turning to Thad, he said, ‘You can't leave that lying around, you know. Could lead to all sorts of dimensional pitfalls and traps.’
‘The Bermuda Triangle,’ breathed Thad. ‘That has been there for centuries. Don't you have it on your Earth?’
‘It's hardly my Earth,’ replied the Doctor, ‘but I don't think so. It's never shown up before.’
‘Well, it's there now,’ said Turlough, ‘and it looks like a pretty good way to get back to our own continuum. That is, if you've got the RSU working?’
‘Of course I have,’ said the Doctor, plaintively. He put it in its proper place, and started wiring it up.
‘Then, there's just a small matter before we leave.’ As Turlough said this, he was looking straight at Thad.
‘What?’ said Thad, confused. ‘Me?’
‘Well, we can't take you with us, can we?’ asked the Doctor. As Thad looked as if he was about to argue this, the Doctor continued hurriedly, ‘If we are a fiction in your world, and we just made it here alive, what do you think could happen to you?’
Thad paled as he thought about it.
Turlough motioned towards the door. ‘So, if you'd just like to...’
Thad walked towards the door. ‘Are you sure this will work?’
‘Well, to be perfectly honest... no,’ admitted the Doctor. Thad opened his mouth to say something else, but nothing came out. He turned and left the TARDIS.
The door shut behind him, and the familiar sound of dematerialisation filled the room. Slowly, the TARDIS left on its journey back into fiction.
Thad collapsed in a chair, thinking that his friends would never believe what had happened. Then he realised that they really wouldn't. He hadn't even got an autograph.
On the now revealed TV screen, words appeared telling Thad that the Doctor had been played by Jon Pertwee.
This item appeared in Timestreams 4 (April 1992).