The Sisterhood watch as a spaceship thunders from the dark sky and crashes with an explosion. No one could survive that. This has been foretold: “And here he is at last. The man to end it all,” Ohila, one of the Sisterhood and a Keeper of the Flame, announces. “My Sisters, the Doctor has returned to Karn. We have always known in our bones that one day he would return here. Such a pity he’s dead.”
THE SPACESHIP; MINUTES EARLIER.
Cass desperately needs help: the ship is crashing. But the in-flight computer thinks she’s injured and needs a Doctor.
“I’m a Doctor.”
She turns around to see a velvet trenchcoat-wearing man, untidy and weary, but ancient and clearly brilliant: the Eighth Doctor. “But probably not the one you’re expecting.”
Cass explains that the rest of the crew teleported off – but not her. Because she was the one who saved them all. Good news: the Doctor can save her too. They run to the back of the ship – “because the front crashes first. Think it through” – to see the TARDIS, big and blue and beautiful, and, as the Doctor explains, bigger on the inside!
It all clicks in Cass’ head: he’s a Time Lord. “I’m one of the nice ones,” the Doctor says, but Cass backs away and the bulkhead door snaps shut. Deadlocked. “I’m not part of the war,” the Doctor yells to her. “I swear to you, I never was.”
“Get away from me!”
“Well, look on the bright side,” he replies. “I’m not a Dalek.”
“Who can tell the difference anymore?”
And the ship plummets down towards Karn.
The Doctor wakes with a start, surrounded by the Sisterhood. Ohila explains, “We restored you to life, but it’s a temporary measure. You have a little under four minutes.”
“Four minutes? That’s ages,” he says. “What if I get bored, or need a television, couple of books? Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting!”
Ohila isn’t so glib as she tells the Doctor that he’s their only hope in the Time War. But the Doctor won’t take part in something so blood-soaked. “Because you are the good man, as you call yourself?” Ohila asks.
“I call myself the Doctor.”
“It’s the same thing in your mind.”
“I’d like to think so.”
He typically makes light of the situation until he sees Cass, a broken, dead woman, pulled from the wreckage. It’s not his fault, she wouldn’t listen, and yet –
The Sisterhood are the Keepers of the Flame of Eternal Life (And Utter Boredom), an elixir that can bring the Doctor back to life, force his regeneration. And the change doesn’t have to be random. Fat or thin; young or old; man or woman? “The universe stands on the brink. Will you let it fall?” Ohila begs. “Fast or strong, wise or angry. What do you need now?”
Suddenly, it’s obvious to him: he cannot ignore the Time War, cannot escape it. The universe doesn’t need a doctor, not right now. Right now, it needs a…
“Warrior. Make me a warrior now.”
She hands him a chalice, filled with a burning mixture. “Will it hurt?” he asks.
“Good… Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly, friends, companions I’ve known – I salute you. And Cass, I apologise.”
He lifts the chalice to his lips: “Physician, heal thyself.”
His body bursts with blinding light, energy bursting and ripping the Doctor apart, rebuilding him, regenerating him – and a new man emerges. A warrior…