site banner

the reluctant companion

I was sitting on a high wooden stool in one corner of the control room of the TARDIS-machine, gazing into the ship's scanner screen, which was alive with incandescent 'blobs' and squiggles: expanding; exploding; dazzling. On occasion, these glowing forms would appear flame-like, and once they almost moved themselves into the outline of a diamond - only to break apart and
resume their amoeboid exhibition. In short, they illustrated that we were not in real time and space, and it frightened me to wonder at the weird essence outside our TARDIS that could interfere in this way with the selenium cells, and the cathode-ray tube of the screen in front of me.

My brilliant Uncle - the 'navigator' or 'polet' of the TARDIS, and often known as 'the Doctor' - stood in the centre of the room before, what he called the 'Time-Column'. This was a tall transparent cylinder which would alternately rise, and then drop into the 'core' of the TARDIS. Thus could the Doctor divine our 'flight-path'.

My Uncle began to tell me about his first experiments in time-travel, and of how he had 'built' the TARDIS.

'I constructed the 'core' of the ship by alighting a number of permanent magnets of peculiar hardness in a precise geometric configuration,' he recalled, 'This resulted in a 'field' or space around the 'core' in which time began to slow down - nearly, but not exactly, to the point at which it did not elapse at all. So, as the time-factor was compressed, space was expanded: hence the TARDIS is larger inside than out!'

I was my Uncle's favourite niece, but no scientist, and it puzzled me that I could not therefore witness things about me moving very slowly.

'My dear.' said the Doctor, 'Perception of the progression of time differs from one animal to another, and is quite independent of mechanical measurements. But I can assure you that in relation to the reality you left behind you when you stepped through the TARDIS doors, time is progressing much more slowly in here!'

I wondered if, herein lay the key to my uncle's great age. He did not appear to be over seventy in years, but we all knew, somehow, that he was much, much older than anyone else. Older than Methuselah was the general opinion. Indeed, my uncle very probably numbered Noah's grandfather amongst his life in the TARDIS, and shielded from the normal motions of time by which he lives of we ordinary mortals are governed, that he was probably very nearly immortal.

I did not like to think of the many questions which followed my uncle like a shadow. None of us could say just how - or when - he had entered our lives. From what age had I known my uncle? To even question his identity was to be confronted with a picture as dazzling, as confusing, and as abstract as that on the TARDIS scanner.

The Doctor appeared beside me and looked over my shoulder into the scanner. The floor began to shake; the movement of the time-column became slower; there was a harsh screeching sound, as though a spanner had been thrown between the two huge gear-wheels of a great machine: one wheel being the continuum of real space and time; the other that of the unreality in which we journeyed; and both running smoothly together in the machinery of the Universe until our troublesome TARDIS chose its moment of transition from one to the other.

The sound faded away as the dots and blobs on the screen vanished to reveal a more real, yet nonetheless daunting picture...

I did not rise from my seat as my uncle poured tea and tucked into the sandwiches I had made the evening before our journey. I think I felt a little ill. Nothing much was said.

After tea, Dr. Who left the control-room for a moment, and returned with two space-suits. he removed his coat and climbed into the legs, and then the body and then the arms of the thing and zipped it up. It looked very home-made, and not as bulky as the ones I had been the Americans wearing on the moon. I followed suit (forgive the expression), and then my uncle produced two space helmets the very likeness of goldfish bowls…

The Doctor pulled a lever and the great doors of the TARDIS swung open. Their weight and security reminded me of those of an aeroplane. As we stepped through, they closed behind us, and we were in darkness. Crossing the TARDIS threshold we were walking outside of time and space, it felt like meeting a ghost, and it was probably my own, for how could I exist here?

Then, almost immediately, we stood before the dark blue windowed doors of the police box which was the Doctor's disguise for his machine. There were knots in my stomach. And then, with one silent push from the Doctor's gloved hand, these doors too, swung open...

~~~

'My child,' said Dr. Who. 'Behold, Mars!'

I cannot describe to you my first steps on the planet Mars. Before I cold take it all in, I was tumbling, and bouncing into the alien soil. It was then that my uncle cautioned me as the gravity of Mars being less than half that of Earth. My uncle's voice was highly audible, for there was a speaker (and I presume, a microphone) somewhere inside each helmet. I could also hear very clearly my own breathing, and this made me feel a little claustrophobic.

I believe, looking back, that I was first struck by Mars visually. The sky was very bright, and almost completely milky-white; I say 'almost' for there were patches of green and blue, particularly towards the west (my uncle carried a compass). I assumed (for I could not see the sun), that the sky was nearly all clouded over and that these distant discolouration's were not breaks, but other clouds.