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Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

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OK, let’s start:

There are three men in grubby vests talking about salvage. Mmmm, lovely salvage! They sure do love having stuff to salve! Trouble is, they’re out in a remote place, where there is no salvage, and this makes them sad. One of them is a robot, and even HE is sad.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is trying to convince Clara to make friends with the TARDIS, preferably by talking to it. Only he doesn’t say ‘it,’ he says ‘her,’ and Clara finds the whole thing creepy. The Doctor switches the TARDIS to basic mode (which presumably means it can either travel in time OR space, but not both) and Clara has a go at driving…

…just as one of the three men throws a rock ‘n’ roll-powered Magno-Grab at the TARDIS. It’s a direct hit! She’s compromised! And vulnerable! And explosive!

Clara asks if there’s a big friendly button to fix the problem, and there is not. She picks up a device rolling across the floor and it scalds her palm, and then everything goes bang.

The three men haul the TARDIS aboard, and one of them hits it with a hammer. Then they try a laser grinder, and they’re just about to try and blow it up when they spot a ruptured fuel line. They decide to throw the whole pile of junk back into space when they notice a foot. The foot of a Time Lord.

As the three men debate what to do, a fourth joins them. It’s the Doctor, and they’re the Van Baalens – Gregor, Bram and Tricky. They try to convince him the ship was already broken when they found it, but he knows a Magno-Grab when he sees one.

Trouble is, Clara is still on board and the leaked fuel will have poisoned the atmosphere inside, so she’s probably dead, right?

That noise is the cloister bell, it’s the TARDIS alarm noise. Not good news, in other words. And there’s a growling noise down the corridor too.

The three men (and robot) climb aboard, the Doctor expels the fumes, demands their help in rescuing Clara. They don’t want to at first, but this is how he convinces them to help:

Clara finds herself in a stone anteroom with River’s cot, and a desk, and books, and a growling thing. She runs away, and it gives chase.

Gregor suggests the men split up, and then tells Bram to go back and start stripping the console. He gets a panel off, but stops when he hears voices. The voices of old Doctors and their companions. While he’s digging about downstairs, Gregor has found a forest of living metal, bespoke hanging fruits of sentient circuitry that can form any machine. Just as he’s about to steal one of them, the Doctor arrives, and issues stern warnings against annoying the TARDIS.

Gregor ignores them, and takes a circuit, so the TARDIS moves the door. Things will not go smoothly from here on in. Suddenly they’re in a maze that moves around them. An infinite trap.

And Clara’s having no fun either, still being chased by the growly, steamy thing. She’s found her way back to the console room, but the door is missing.

Then Bram falls from the ladder he’s on, and while he’s sorting himself out, one of Clara’s growlymonsters attacks, and kills him.

More of them attack the Doctor, Tricky and Gregor, and while they’re running away, the Doctor whispers “I’m sorry” to them. Curious.

Now Clara is in a loop of her own, around the console room. But the Doctor’s gang have also found a console room, without Clara in it. There are echo console rooms, and she’s in a different one! That’s devious!

Oh no! Clara has let a growlymonster into her console room! They’re having a face-off, she’s about to go the way of Bram, but the Doctor uses Gregor’s salvage scanner to find Clara. She’s saved!

There’s a moment of respite, when the Doctor admits he lied about setting off the self-destruct countdown, followed by the bleak realization that the TARDIS engines are damaged anyway, so it will, in fact, self-destruct.

They head off to the engine room, but Clara gets split up from the rest. She encounters other Claras and other Doctors, because there’s a tear in the time continuum. Oh and the growlymonsters are after them again. The real Doctor arrives, and the two commence holding hands. And with good reason, as they are suddenly attacked by flying fuel rods.

Tricky is speared through the shoulder, and as he’s an android, it should be no bother cutting his arm off to set him free. Except he’s not an android. That was a lie told him by his brothers. It turns out he’d been in an accident that cost him his eyes, throat and memory, not to mention the captainship of their salvage vessel. And they made up the story because they were bored.

So, the Doctor goes into the power source of the TARDIS, the Eye of Harmony, an exploding star, trapped in time, and a place where people only survive a minute or two, or their skin will burn. The others follow him across, but the way is blocked by a growlymonster. They turn back, but there’s another one.

Clara begs the Doctor to explain what the growlymonsters are, but he won’t. Trouble is, Gregor has turned his sensor on the growlymonster identifying it as Clara. The growlymonster is Clara from the future, a Clara from the very near future that got burned in the Eye of Harmony. And the other growlymonsters are a fused-together future Tricky and Gregor. Their only hope is to prevent this from happening, by not touching each other.

Too late! Tricky has kicked his future conjoined self into the Eye of Harmony, but nearly fell in himself. While rescuing his brother, Gregor finds himself fused to him, the two men’s skin burns, and they effectively become the growlymonsters they have just killed. Dammit!

The Doctor takes Clara into the TARDIS engine room, which looks a lot like a cliff face in a slate quarry. Time for some truths to be told. The Doctor loses his cool, demanding to know who Clara is, how he keeps meeting her, and frightening her so much she nearly falls. Finally he believes that she doesn’t know what he’s on about, and they hug.

And that’s when the Doctor figures out what to do. They have to jump into the abyss, which has only been put there by the TARDIS to stop them from jumping into it. It’s a protective abyss. And with a “Geronimo!” they jump into the heart of the TARDIS.

Which turns out to be a temporarily frozen explosion. What can the Doctor do to sort everything out?

It turns out the scald mark on Clara’s hand (remember the scald mark on Clara’s hand?) spells out ‘Big Friendly Button.’ He needs an actual Big Friendly Button in order to save the day! And he needs to find his way back to the moment of the explosion.

OH! Remember that rock ‘n’ roll music? Surely all they need to do is follow that and they’ll be back? Well sort of. The Doctor has to etch the letters that will scald Clara’s palm on the buttony thing that rolled across the floor, and lob it through a nearby time rift, which will hurt.

Also, Clara has seen the Doctor’s name in a book, but if their plan is successful, she won’t remember it. How very tantalizing.

So, Clara picks up the button device, it scalds her hand, the Doctor grabs it and presses the button. And hey presto! Time is reset. The Van Baalens are back in their salvage ship (but on friendlier terms than before), and the immaculately reformed TARDIS is back whooshing through the ether, off to another adventure.

Next: The Crimson Horror

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By Fraser McAlpine