Van Baalen Bros. Salvage Ship A89//0989. The joint captains, Gregor and Bram, rest during their long voyage through the blackness of space, a photo of them and their father, torn or cut at one side, pinned up by the former’s bed. Tricky, an android, cleans one of the ship’s components – when the alarm goes off. “Incoming Salvage. Please validate.”
The TARDIS spins through space too. In the main console room, the Doctor tries talking Clara into piloting the Time Ship: “It’s important to me you get along. I could leave you two alone together… Take the wheel. Not the wheel. I’ll make it easy – shut it down to basic mode for you.” He turns the shields off – and all the lights go out.
The Van Baalen’s suit up, music blaring, and the ship’s doors opens. Gregor uses a remote control device to steady the magno-grab, pulling the TARDIS into their ship. Inside, the console sparks, the Doctor rushing around to try to get the shields back up. But no use. “Please tell me there’s a button you can press to fix this,” Clara begs. “Oh, yes. Big friendly button,” the Doctor lies. Suddenly, there’s a bright light and a metallic device rolls across the floor. Clara grabs it – but it burns her hand and she drops it again. Then all goes black.
“Crack it open.”
The TARDIS lies on the floor of the Van Baalen ship, Bram advancing on it with a sledgehammer and then a focussing-laser cutter. Neither work though. “It’s like she’s alive,” Tricky says.
Then a stranger joins them. A man with stupid hair and a bow tie. “Hi. I’m the Doctor.” Bram tells him that the TARDIS was junked when they found it. The Doctor disagrees: “What broke my ship was a magno-grab. Found this remote in your pocket. Eh? What are the chances? Outlawed in most galaxies, this little beastie can disable whole vessels unless you have shield oscillators… Which I turned off so that Clara could fly. Damn it…. Clara. Where is she…?” But Clara’s not there. She’s still on board. And the TARDIS is leaking fuel. “If she’s in there,” Tricky concludes, “she’s dead.”
Deep within the TARDIS, Clara wakes up, her hand itching – hurting – and the cloister bell ringing.
The Doctor promises the Van Baalens that if they help him find Clara, they’ll get the salvage of a lifetime. He unlocks the door – and they see the vast, sprawling space within. “This ship is infinite,” the Doctor explains.
Their mission: to find Clara. In an area that big, it could take days. More than days. But the ship is toxic; what makes the Doctor think the Van Baalens will help? He locks the doors and starts a countdown. One hour until the TARDIS self-destructs. “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman. Didn’t anyone ever teach you that?” he says. “Okay, a little gently persuasion.” And the countdown changes to just 30 minutes. Who’d like 15…? They agree to help.
Gregor scans the ship to find out what salvage it contains. The list is looooong. He suggests splitting up to find Clara – and to acquire as much salvage as he can. He instructs Bram back to the console room. “Strip it apart.”
Clara wanders through the TARDIS, discovering a swimming pool, a storage area complete with cot and toys of the ship, and a multi-storey library. She advances on a sole book; massive, gilded, stood on a pedestal. The History of the Time War.
Bram rips at the console and voices echo around –
– From the initials Time And Relative Dimension In Space-
-The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental –
-The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through –
– We are in space! –
-Anywhere in time and space? –
-I’ve extended the air shell –
Clara flicks through the tome and settles on a name “So that’s who…” she says. But suddenly, there’s a growling behind her. A creature? And she runs.
Gregor finds a metallic tree, its arms ending with glowing orbs. Its value is incalculable. “Living metal,” Gregor’s computer explains. “Bespoke engineering. Whatever machine you require, this system will build it.” Despite the Doctor’s efforts, Gregor snatches one of the orbs and rushes away from the tree.
He, the Doctor and Tricky find themselves going in circles. The TARDIS will find a way to stop Gregor from stealing from it, rewriting its own geometry to fold back the corridors into one another. Tricky tries to stop Gregor, but he he’s too determined.
Clara finds herself back in the console room. Or does she? The doors are sealed over and when she runs elsewhere, she finds herself back in the console room.
Seemingly in another console room, however, Bram rips open a panel, leading down, down, down into a great expanse. He climbs down – but there’s a growling coming from behind him. A humanoid figure, its whole body burnt and zombie-like, stumbles towards him. Its movements are odd, jerking from side to side, somehow not quite there. But the creature still grabs him, burning him, steam billowing from the pair – and leaves Bram deathly still on the floor.
The Doctor, Gregor and Tricky find themselves also running from the creatures, the TARDIS giving up on trapping Gregor for now. It leads the Doctor and Tricky into the console room, while Gregor has run a different path.
The Doctor searches the console room. He can hear Clara. But how? “It’s an echo,” the Doctor says of the room. “The console room is the safest place on the ship. It can replicate itself any number of times. It’s trying to protect us… The TARDIS has got Clara safe. That was her!”
Clara screams as one of the creatures rushes towards her. She tilts her head at it, trying to understand. It tilts its head too.
The Doctor hears her scream, just briefly. “It’s like a light switch,” the Doctor says to Tricky. “Two positions, flickering at super-infinite speeds. We’re only together for a brief second.” He scans the area with the sonic screwdriver. “If I can just isolate her position, I can nudge the alternation, reach in and grab her.”
Gregor bursts in and the Doctor uses his computer to locate Clara in the echo console room.
The creature is so close to her now – –
“Unidentified human,” the computer announces. “It doesn’t know Lancashire!” the Doctor yells, triumphantly. It’s found her!
It reaches out at her, Clara pressed against a wall – –
He sonics the area…
She lets out a terrified scream – –
And the Doctor is there, hugging her. The creature is locked away, somewhere in another echo.
The Doctor turns off the countdown; it was only a fake anyway! Still, the TARDIS is reinventing the architecture all the time and these weird creatures, these weird time zombies, are still stumbling about… Oh, and the engines are actually exploding. They’re still in trouble. Lots of trouble.
They take a detour to the centre of the TARDIS, desperately trying to stop the engines from blowing up. The detour takes them down through the echo console, down seemingly-endless corridors, and – Clara sees echoes of herself and the Doctor, wandering around; him trying to talk her into piloting the TARDIS. The TARDIS is leaking, the Doctor explains. Leaking the past. “There’s a rupture in time somewhere on board the ship; a small tear in the fabric of the continuum. It must have happened when the TARDIS was pulled in by the salvage vessel.”
Then the corridors around them groan, creak, struggle. They’re under the primary fuel cells and when the fuel leaks, the roads expose themselves, expand and warp. Bang! Bang! Bang! Rods erupt around them. The Doctor and Clara dodge them. But down the corridor, they hear a scream.
Tricky is pinned to the wall by a gleaming, metal rod.
“Just cut my arm off,” Tricky instructs Gregor. He’s an android, so what’ll it matter. Right…?
“Tell him,” the Doctor says. But Gregor won’t. “Robots don’t need blast suits,” the Doctor explains, sadly. “They don’t need respirators. They don’t get frightened of monsters in the dark… Two bionic eyes and a synthetic voice box. But you, my friend, are human. Flesh and blood.”
Gregor tells him it was just a stupid joke, to relieve the boredom, and he cuts at the rod with the laser cutter, the metal cutting off the blood supply to his shoulder. But Gregor lied again: it wasn’t just a joke. Tricky is a Van Baalen brother too, left captain of the ship by their deceased father. “Why can’t I remember?” he asks. “It was a salvage accident,” Gregor replies. “There was a big explosion. You lost your sight, voice and your memory.” Gregor and Bram tricked him, just so they could be captains instead.
Clara joins them and Gregor points his scanning computer at her. It identifies her as: “Lancashire.” Its intelligent sensors learnt from the Doctor.
They reach the TARDIS’ main power source: the Eye of Harmony. A Time Lord engineered star, right on the verge of death, trapped at the point of turning into a black hole. Perpetual energy. But they can’t stay long, the Doctor explains: “Our cells will liquefy and our skin will start to burn.”
But they’re trapped on the bridge suspended beneath the Eye of Harmony as the time zombies bang at the doors either side, desperate to get to them. With Clara demanding the Doctor tell her what they are, Gregor turns the scanner on the creature. “No,” the Doctor begs. “Secrets protect us. Secrets make us safe!” Too late. It identifies the creature as: “Lancashire.” It’s Clara.
“I burn in here,” she says, shocked.
“It isn’t just the past leaking out through the time rift. It’s the future,” the Time Lord says, sadly. “Listen, I brought you here to keep you safe, but it happened again. You died again.”
“What do you mean, ‘again’?”
But as the creatures bash through, something clicks in the Doctor’s head: “As long as we can interrupt the timeline, this can’t happen!”
Tricky pushes one of the creatures off the walkway – but falls himself. Gregor catches him, pulls him up… and the two are burnt, just as the Doctor and Clara get out.
They enter the engine room of the TARDIS: seemingly a massive cliff, descending into nothing. There’s no way across. “We’re about to die. Just tell me who you are,” the Doctor confronts Clara. “I look at you every single day and I don’t understand a thing about you. Why do I keep running into you?” He tells her that they met before, at the Daleks Asylum. And then in Victorian London. And both times, she died. “What are you, eh?” he demands. “A trick? A trap?”
He realises that she’s neither. She’s just Clara.
And they jump off the cliff.
The heart of the TARDIS. The very centre. But it’s blown apart, all the components scattered into nothingness.There’s no hope. This is it. A temporary fix; soon, the whole place will go up. No way out.
Then Clara shows him her burnt hand. Fragile human skin, like parchment. And written there: BIG FRIENDLY BUTTON.
The Doctor grabs the remote control of the magno-grab out of his jacket, and burns those three words on it with his sonic screwdriver. “The rift in time – all the memories leaking out. I need to find the moment we crashed. I need to find the music!”
“I’ve thrown this through the rift before,” he elaborates. “I need to make sure this time; going to take it in there myself. There might be a certain amount of yelling.”
But if he does that, they’ll be back to square one. Clara won’t know the Doctor’s name anymore – and she won’t know that they’ve met before. “It’s better that way,” the Doctor concludes.
Music blares as the Doctor and Clara rush around the console, desperately trying to fix the shields. “Please tell me there’s a button you can press to fix this,” Clara begs. “Oh, yes. Big friendly button,” the Doctor lies. Suddenly, there’s a bright light – and the Doctor reaches out, handing the Big Friendly Button, the remote control, to – – it drops to the floor. Clara picks it up, burning her hand, and she throws it to the Doctor
The Doctor presses it, rewriting history. A bright flash of light…
In the Van Baalen ship, the three brothers are all alive and well; the photo of them and their father left uncut, Tricky part of the family.
The TARDIS spins off through space.
Clara joins the Doctor in the console room. “Do you feel safe?” he asks her. “I need to know if you feel safe. I need to know you’re not afraid.”
“The future. Running away with a spaceman in a box: anything could happen to you.”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” she says, smiling. “Push the button.”
NEXT TIME: “WE ARE GOING TO THE NORTH.”