Published on April 26th, 2013 | by Philip Bates
“I’m talking to the spirit that inhabits this house,” Emma Grayling says, Professor Alex Palmer readying his equipment, including camera and satellite to detect unusual frequencies. “Are you there? Can you hear me?” Just static. “I’m speaking to the lost soul that abides in this place. Come to me. Speak to me. Let me show you the way home.”
A white apparition, humanoid, screaming, hands outstretched in front, rushes at her – and disappears in a gulp of fresh air. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door.
Alec checks Emma’s alright and heads for the grand, wooden door of Caliburn House, an ominous, grim mansion, as a storm rocks the atmosphere. He opens it and – - “Boo!”
A strange man and a young woman wait at the door. Who are they? Ghostbusters, of course…
They barge into the house, the man – the Doctor – knows both Alec and Emma: the former was a “member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Specialised in espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance behind enemy lines. You’re a talented watercolourist, professor of psychology and ghost hunter.” And Emma Grayling is his assistant; non-objective equipment. Meaning psychic. “Sometimes I sense feelings; the way a telepath can sense thoughts,” Emma explains. “Sometimes, though. Not always.” The Doctor describes empathic psychics as the most compassionate of people. And the loneliest.
Alex figures he’s from Military Intelligence, and the Doctor agrees: “Health and Safety.”
The Doctor and Clara look over the banks of equipment and he scans around with his sonic screwdriver – but he can’t detect any life-threatening transmundane emanations. “So where’s the ghost. Show me the ghost. It’s ghost time.”
Alec wheels over a display filled with photos, articles and accounts of the Caliburn Ghast. The House has been there 400 years – but she’s been there much longer. The Wraith of the Lady, the Maiden in the Dark, the Witch of the Well. A ghost. “In the 17th Century, a local clergyman saw her,” Alec explains. “He wrote that her presence was accompanied by a dreadful knocking, as if the Devil himself demanded entry. During the war, American airmen stationed here left offerings of tinned Spam. The tins were found in 1965, bricked up in the servants’ pantry, along with a number of handwritten notes. Appeals to the Ghast. ‘For the love of God, stop screaming’.”
The Witch of the Well: a glaring, white spirit; always reaching out in front; always screaming; dead.
The Doctor grabs a candelabrum and he and Clara set off to find said Ghast. Something – a shadow? – follows them. They reach the heart of the house: the Music Room. And the Doctor’s breath inexplicably turns to mist. “Cold spot. Spooky,” he says, stepping in and out of a doorway. “Cold. Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. Warm.” He grabs some chalk and draws a large circle around the cold spot.
Emma and Alec are still fiddling with equipment. “Does it seem colder?” the Professor asks. Ice starts forming over the windows and their breaths turn to mist.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
A very loud, very angry noise echoes through the house – as if the Devil himself demands entry. “Doctor,” Clara says, “I may be a teeny, tiny bit terrified… But I’m still a grown-up… There’s no need to hold my hand.”
“I’m not holding your hand.”
Lightning shocks the house and a black mass moves behind them. They run back to Alec and Emma as a spinning black circle levitates in front of them. The Doctor grabs the camera and takes as many photos as he can. Help me! The ghost reaches out for Emma – and the disk crackles out of life. The screaming Witch of the Well disappears too.
Clara makes tea for Emma, while Alec and the Doctor head to the dark room to develop the pictures. The Doctor asks how a man with such a glowing military record ends up here, hunting ghosts. “I killed,” Palmer replies, earnestly, “and I caused to have killed. I sent young men and women to their deaths, but here I am, still alive… and it does tend to haunt you: living, after so much of the other thing.”
Clara asks if Emma and the Professor are a couple. A definitive no. “Why not?” Clara asks. “You do know how he feels about you, don’t you? You, of all people?”
“I don’t know. People like me; sometimes we get our signals mixed up. We think people are feeling the way we want them to feel – - y’know, when they are special to us… when really there’s nothing there.”
Clara assures Emma that there’s definitely something between them. How does she know? Well, it’s obvious; it sticks out like a big… chin. Emma returns the question, enquiring about her and the Doctor. Clara doesn’t think so. “Good,” Emma replies, eerily. “Don’t trust him. There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.”
The Doctor grabs Alec’s camera and takes Clara to the TARDIS. He dons a familiar red spacesuit and the TARDIS dematerialises. Where are they going? Nowhere. So when are they going? “We’re going Always.”
A volcanic Earth, early in its life. 6 billion years ago. The TARDIS materialises and the Doctor steps out. He takes a photo and disappears inside again. The time rotor pulls and pushes and the TARDIS appears throughout time, the Doctor stepping out each time to take a photo. Eventually, they land on another desolate, volcanic Earth, burnt by an expanding sun. “Have we just watched the entire life cycle of Earth, birth to death?” Clara asks. The Doctor mutters an affirmative. “And you;re okay with that?” she continues, a tear in her eye, “To you, I haven’t been born yet – and to you, I’ve been dead 100 billion years. Is my body out there somewhere, in the ground?”
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
“But here we are, talking. So I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.”
The Doctor disagrees. But then what are we, to him? “You are,” he explains, “the only mystery worth solving.”
The TARDIS materialises again in 1974 and the Doctor lines all those negatives in a projector. “The Ghast of Caliburn House: never changing, trapped in a moment of fear and torment,” the Doctor tells them. “But, what if she’s not? What if she’s just trapped somewhere time runs more slowly than it does here? What if a second to her was a 100,000 years to us? And what if somebody has a magic box – a blue box, probably? What if said somebody could take a snapshot of her, say, every few million years?”
She’s not a ghost. The Witch of the Well is a pioneering time traveller named Hila Tacorien. The photos show her in a wood, running, screaming for help. “She’s in a pocket universe; a distorted echo of our own. They happen sometimes but never last for long,” the Doctor says, and points to Emma. “You’re a lantern, shining across the dimensions, guiding her home. Back to the land of the living.”
He clicks onto the last slide to see what she’s running from. There’s a shape in the woods. A humanoid – just about – pulled at and bony, sneering and on haunches. A Crooked Man.
They can’t use the TARDIS because the pocket universe’s entropy would drain the Time Ship’s power and they wouldn’t be able to escape. So there’s no other option…
The Doctor uses a crystal from Metebelis III and a subset from the Eye of Harmony to create a psychochronograph for Emma; focussing her thoughts and amplifying her natural abilities. The Doctor ties a rope to himself and the rotating black disk appears again. It expands to consume the doorframe, to create a reality well – a wormhole – and the Doctor jumps through.
In a shadowy forest, he finds Hila, running scared from the Crooked Man. They both run, trying to find the wormhole back. On the outskirts of the forest, an echo of Caliburn House appears and the Doctor and Hila enter. The creature bangs on the door, trying to get in. Bang! Bang! Bang! “That’s what that noise was! Lovely!” the Doctor yells, smiling.
The Doctor attaches the rope to Hila, and she’s pulled through the ‘reality well.’
But Emma struggles to maintain the link – and as the Doctor reaches the wormhole, it disappears and he’s left alone in the forest.
“Wake up! Wake up! Open the thing,” Clara begs Emma. “She needs to do it again!”
Desperate, Clara runs to the TARDIS… but it won’t let her in. Suddenly, the TARDIS Voice Visula Interface appears: a projected image of Clara. “I’m programmed to select the image of a person you esteem,” the TARDIS clarifies. “Of several billion such images in my databanks, this one best meets the criterion.” Clara scowls, but explains the situation. They have to get into the pocket universe to save the Doctor. “The entropy would drain the energy from my heart,” the projected image says. “In 4 seconds, I’d be stranded. In 10, I’d be dead.”
“You’re talking, but all I hear is ‘meh meh meh meh meh,’” Clara yells. “Come on – let’s go!”
The Interface dissolves… and the TARDIS doors open.
The Crooked Man scurries after the Doctor, a blurred shadow between the trees. “I am the Doctor – and I am afraid.”
“I know that you feel you can’t do this, Emma, but look at that woman over there,” Professor Palmer says, pointing to Hila. “You saved her. She’s only here because of your strength, and so am I… I was as lost as her, but being with you, you gave me a reason to be, Emma. You brought me back from the dead.”
Emma puts the psychochronograph back on and the three join hands again, calling out for the Doctor.
“You still need me,” the Doctor reasons, as the Crooked Man encircles him. “You need me to piggyback you across.” But he won’t. So he carries on running. And then an echo of Caliburn House appears. “Hurry!” Emma screams.
But the creature tackles him to the floor, desperate to use the Doctor to get back to the main universe – to be the bogeyman, the monster under the bed.
Then there’s the echo of ancient engines and a bright blue box plummets through the air. The Doctor grabs it and is lifted from the ground.
Vworp! Vworp! Vworp!
The TARDIS appears through the wormhole, and Emma collapses once more.
The storm is over and the sun rises over Caliburn House.
A recovered Emma takes the Doctor to one side. “You didn’t come here for the ghost, did you? You came here for me.”
“I needed to ask you something,” the Doctor replies. “Clara… What is she?”
“She’s a perfectly ordinary girl. Very pretty; very clever; more scared than she lets on.” And that’s it. Isn’t that enough?
The Doctor can’t take Hila back to her own time: she went missing and it’s a fixed point. The Doctor reveals that Hila is Emma and Alec’s great, great, great, great, great granddaughter. “Hold hands,” he tells Emma and Professor Palmer. “That’s what you’re meant to do. Keep doing that and don’t let go. That’s the secret.”
Suddenly, things click into place. There is something in the house after all. A Hider. Something that stalked the halls and held Clara’s hand. The Crooked Man wanting a piggyback into our universe…
“But birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Every lonely monster needs a companion!” the Doctor says. There’s two of them. “It’s the oldest story in the universe – this one or any other. Boy and girl fall in love; get separated by events. War, politics, accidents in time. She’s thrown out of the hex, or he’s thrown into it. Since then, they’ve been yearning for each other across time and space, across dimensions. This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a love story!”
He asks Emma for a tiny favour.
Back in the pocket universe, the Doctor yells for the Crooked Man, who runs to the Time Lord. “I’m sorry! I understand now! I can take you to her!” the Doctor says. “I can take you to a safe place far away from here! You can be together! Well, come on, then. She’s waiting!”
Vworp! Vworp! Vworp!
“Get ready to jump.”