Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

“What do you think of that, then?” The Doctor asked his companions with a huge grin splitting his face. Amy and Rory looked at the round viewscreen and prepared themselves to be impressed.

On the viewscreen, though, what they saw could easily have been a model created by Gerry Anderson. They went to the door, instead, and the space station looked far more impressive that way. They got a much better idea of the sheer size of it, for a start, and it looked much more completely real hanging there against the glorious, endless starfield.

It was essentially a giant ball in space... or a globe... or a... Christmas pudding. That last image came to mind mainly because they had been talking about Christmas a little while ago and The Doctor had said he wanted to show them something spectacularly Christmassy.

The pudding had thousands of windows set into it. They gave up trying to count them, but there had to be at least fifty floors to it, and it HAD to be about a mile wide at the diameter.

“Well, they measure length in Macro-Metres in the thirty fifth century,” The Doctor pointed out. “But it’s about a mile, yes. Fifty floors open to the public plus parking and warehousing below.”

“It’s singing to us,” Amy said. She blinked as she looked at the lights around the middle of the pudding. They were blinking on and off in sequence, forming words that scrolled around the circumference.

“We... Wish... You... A... Merry... Christmas... We... Wish... You... A... Merry... Christmas... “We... Wish... You... A... Merry... Christmas... And... A... Happy... New... Year...”

“It’s in rhythm, too,” Rory noted. Then both of them heard the tune played in perfect quadrophonic sound by the TARDIS communications array. It was sung by a chorus with a brass band accompaniment and conjured images of people wrapped in scarves and woolly hats carrying song sheets and lanterns as they sang carols in a snow-covered street to the delight of gift-laden passers by.

“Welcome to Christmas Station,” The Doctor said with a grin and went to complete their materialisation in the parking hangar.

“Christmas Station!” Rory queried as The Doctor paid for the parking space where the TARDIS stood rather incongruously. It was surrounded by space craft, mostly the size of a transit van, but some as big as a double decker bus. The Doctor said those were for the coach tours. The smaller shuttles were family runabouts.

“A space station dedicated to Christmas?” Amy added. “I mean... ok... I mean we have Mrs Christmas in Gloucester every year. I suppose this is the same thing on a bigger scale. But what do they do the rest of the year?”

“It’s Christmas all year on Christmas Station, miss,” said the blue-faced young man dressed in an elf costume who issued The Doctor’s day parking pass and charged him the same rate as a family runabout even though the TARDIS could easily have sat in the corner by the vending machines. “We never close.”

“Let’s go to the food court, first, and I’ll explain,” The Doctor said, heading for the row of turbo lifts each operated by another elf-costumed humanoid with skin tones in the primary colour range. They emerged a few seconds later in a wide, bright room which resonated with the sound of people eating and talking. There was an underlying rattle of cutlery and waitresses were constantly moving from the tables to the food counters placing or bringing orders, or cleaning the tables after the customers had moved on.

The ceiling was covered in very realistic crystal glass icicles that sparkled like diamonds and had an internal light that illuminated the food court. The walls above the fascias of the myriad food outlets were decorated with a frieze in white and pale blue colours depicting a Father Christmas on his sleigh delivering presents not only around the world but across the galaxy, his sleigh travelling through space to reach distant planets.

The Doctor picked up a perpetual calendar that was next to the menu. He showed it to his friends.

“December 20th, Earth Time,” it read. “Four days to Christmas on Earth. Twenty four shopping days to Christmas on Proxima Centauri, thirty-five shopping days to Christmas on the colony planets of Orion Psi. Ninety-eight shopping days to Christmas in the Beta Delta system. One hundred and Eighty days to Christmas in Gamma Hydra...”

There were at least a dozen more such dates. Rory and Amy looked at it for a long time before understanding dawned.

“These are planets where humans live in this time,” Rory said. “And... because of different axis of rotation or something... Christmas is a different time of year on each of them...”

The Doctor smiled. His Human friends had worked it out without him having to explain at all. He liked it when they did that. It made him proud of their species.

“So Christmas Station is here all year round,” Amy surmised. “Clever.”

“It’s in orbit around Sedna, the tenth planet of your solar system. It employs thousands of people from all over the Earth Federation. The multi-coloured people doing all the guest relations work are Toi-Gocci, from Gamma Epsilon. They joined the Federation a half a century ago and integrated into Human society very well, despite a bit of colour prejudice in the beginning.”

“Humans were mean to them because they have bright coloured faces?” Amy asked as a yellow faced waitress brought huge turkey subs served on a green salad and a massive plate of mince pies, cream, and latte coffees to wash it all down with.

“No, they were prejudiced against humans who had such a small range of skin tones in comparison. It was incomprehensible to them. But they got used to you.”

Amy got ready to respond, but she was disturbed by the sound of something wooshing overhead. She looked up to see a huge sleigh pulled by animatronic reindeer whose legs cantered through the air. Behind it were several small sleighs in which people sat, waving and cheering to the consumers below them before the sleigh train disappeared through an aperture that opened up in the far wall to accommodate it.

“What... was... that?” she demanded.

“Sleigh ride,” The Doctor replied. “Christmas Station is also a fantastic theme park. Do you fancy a go on that? The toboggan run ride is sensational, too. You’re a bit old for the boat ride through Santa’s grotto...”

“Maybe later,” Amy replied. “I’ve been looking at the list of shops. I’d like to buy some presents for...” She stopped talking and frowned. “What am I saying? I don’t have any money. Neither of us do. We haven’t worked for the past six months. We’ve been jaunting around the universe getting our clothes out of the Wardrobe, food from the fridge... never even asking where any of it comes from. We go to restaurants all over the galaxy and you pay the bill and we never ask how...”

“Universal debit card,” The Doctor said, waving a thin card with strange swirling patterns on it as well as a biometric data chip. “If you’re wondering about how you can buy presents for your family, just go to customer services over there and show some photo-ID. They’ll sort you out.”

Amy and Rory looked at him dubiously, then left their sandwiches while they went to the kiosk next to the parent and baby facility. They returned a few minutes later clutching cards just like the one The Doctor had.

“These were waiting for us,” Amy said. “And apparently I have two hundred thousand credits on mine. Is that a lot... or does a pair of jeans costs five hundred thousand credits or something? Is inflation really huge by the thirty-fifth century?”

“It’s a lot,” The Doctor said.

“Where does it come from?” Rory asked. “And... where do they send the bill to at the end of the month?”

“It’s your own hard earned cash, with compound interest over a thousand five hundred years, give or take a year or two. When you get back to your own time you need to remember to deposit a couple of hundred in a savings account and forget about it, otherwise you’ll cause a monetary paradox and collapse the whole economy of the Earth Federation. But otherwise, it’s yours to do as you like.”

“Is that where you get your money from?” Rory asked.

“No. I’m a Time Lord. I’m not allowed to do things like that. I’m not allowed to play the lottery or bet on the Grand National, either. I... had some savings in offworld accounts when my planet was destroyed. I’ve been living off the interest these past years. Should be ok for at least another four millennia. Then I can probably cash in a pension plan I have at the Galactic 7 Mutual and Beneficial Society. I’ll get by.”

Amy and Rory decided they were never going to talk about money around The Doctor ever again.

After their lunch they split up to go shopping. That had been their way ever since they were youngsters with pocket money to spend. They would always buy each other a secret gift. With two hundred thousand credits to spend, they could buy the perfect present for each other, as well as for family and friends.

Amy enjoyed the luxury of going into shops without wondering if she could afford to splash out. She took her time looking at the many gifts on sale. She occasionally caught sight of Rory doing the same and was careful not to let him see her. She more frequently saw The Doctor. He seemed to have a very long shopping list. He was frequently to be seen depositing items at the gift wrapping and delivery counter. Amy wondered exactly who he would buy Christmas presents for. She knew his world was gone, along with all of his race... all of his family, if he ever had one. He had never mentioned anything about them.

She brought some of her purchases to the gift wrapping counter as an excuse to look at what he had bought and who it was for. The gift was a sophisticated coffee machine and it was addressed to somebody called Jack Harkness. Another of his purchases was a hand crafted wooden chess set with beautifully made pieces that he was sending to somebody called Ace. There was a small package that looked like it came from a jewellery store addressed to somebody called Sarah Jane Smith. In all these cases, the card that went with them said ‘From The Doctor, with love.’ He was in the process of writing another card, for a lady called Donna Noble. Amy wondered why this one simply said ‘from a friend.’

The Doctor noticed her beside him and smiled warmly.

“I’ve been around for a long time,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends. I don’t always remember things like Christmas. Sometimes I forget about the friends... I shouldn’t, but I do. For once... I can let them all know I’m thinking of them. They use a special time window to deliver packages. You can send presents for future Christmases and get a whole decade worth of shopping done at once or if you forgot somebody you can send a gift to the past. So all you need to do is give the address and what year you want it to arrive in time for Christmas. Anywhere in the Earth Federation is free delivery. Outside there’s a scale of charges.”

“That’s...” Amy couldn’t actually say what it was. She had given up being surprised by anything these days. But she had been wondering how they were going to deliver the presents, and that was an ingenious solution.

“I’ve finished shopping now,” The Doctor said. “How about you?”

“Yeah, just about,” she replied.

“Let’s find Rory and go on the sleigh ride, then.” The Doctor grinned like a schoolboy at the idea. Amy wondered why a mechanical ride would hold such an attraction to him. He had the TARDIS, after all. It was the biggest and best thrill ride, ever.

The sleigh ride began on the floor above the food court, North Pole World with Santa’s grotto at the centre of it all. Actually, there were eighteen grottos with eighteen different versions of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Sinter Klaus... reflecting a few of the traditions of planet Earth. Amy and Rory definitely didn’t need to meet any of them. They got into the queue for the ride and when their turn came they sat with The Doctor and waited while their safety harness was secured by a ride operator. Then it began to move, travelling along the ground at first, then rising up on its suspended rail. The first ascent was slow, but they had all been on enough white knuckle rides to know what was coming once they reached the summit.

And it didn’t disappoint. The sleigh cars went over the top and descended rapidly down a long, long slope before disappearing inside a tunnel. It was dark for several seconds before emerging in a brightly coloured tableaux with snow covered roofs of an idyllic town below and a sky full of luminous painted stars above. Another dark tunnel brought them out above the food court and then they were travelling over a make believe ocean to reach another idyllic town where the gifts had to be delivered.

It was a fun, fast, and utterly charming ride. Amy loved it. She glanced at Rory and knew he was having fun, too. Then she saw The Doctor’s face. His wide mouth was open in an extended scream of exhilaration. He was leaning forward, his hands on the rail in front of them as if he was willing the ride to go faster.

Along with his Christmas shopping, it was the most Human thing she had ever seen him do.

The ride descended one last glorious slope through the winter wonderland, where it ran alongside the toboggan ride that looked almost as much fun. Then it went into another dark tunnel with twinkling fairy lights all around before emerging in the grotto again and coming to a stop.

“Let’s go again!” Rory enthused.

“No!” The Doctor replied. Then, “Yes. Let’s do it. No... it would be greedy. Yes, why not. You’re only young once... well, you two are. Obviously not me...”

They lined up again. They almost had to wait. There was a party of school children with their teacher who took up almost all of the seats. There was just room for three in the very back sleigh.

The ride started up again. They got ready to enjoy it all over again.

And they did. It was every bit as much fun the second time around.

At least until they passed through the food court.

“Doctor!” Amy yelped. “What are they and what are they doing?”

‘They’ were long thin creatures with lime-green bodies and thin faces, something like seven foot tall grasshoppers. Their eyes were huge and goggling and their mouths opened in a dark circle as they looked up at the sleigh ride. They raised the weapons with which they had been herding customers and staff into the middle of the food court and fired, but the sleigh was going too fast. All they did was smash some of the icicle lights in the ceiling and scare the children.

“Everyone keep calm,” The Doctor called out as they entered the tunnel at the other end of the food court. Actually what he said was rather garbled as he was standing up with his sonic screwdriver between his teeth and climbing over the gap between their sleigh and the next one. Amy and Rory watched fearfully as he clambered over each of the sleighs in turn, heading towards the big one at the front. They were on a fast descent when he reached it, and all he could do was cling on tight until it reached a level part of the ride again. They were in the last tunnel with the fairy lights, when he used the sonic screwdriver to slam on the emergency brakes and stop the ride.

“Everyone out, very quietly and quickly,” he said to the children and their petrified teacher. “Yes, there is something wrong on Christmas Station. Something very, very wrong. But don’t worry. The Doctor is in the House! I’m going to sort this all out very soon.”

The children looked at him as he spoke. There was absolutely no reason to think that ‘The Doctor in the House’ meant that everything was going to be all right, but somehow it worked. They clambered out of the sleighs and formed an orderly crocodile. The Doctor took the head of the line as they headed back through the tunnel.

“Where are we going?” Amy asked. Somebody had to.

“There should be a maintenance door up here somewhere,” he replied. “It will lead to a staff room. With any luck the Yebu-Dibu-di won’t have access....”

“The WHAT?” Rory demanded.

“Yebu-Dibu-di... the green guys with the lack of Christmas spirit.”

“Yebu... That’s what they’re called.”

“I’m afraid so,” The Doctor replied. “In their language it actually sounds rather menacing, like the Kray gang.”

“Well in our language it sounds like Fred Flinstone with adenoids,” Rory countered.

“Grinches,” Amy said. “They’re trying to steal Christmas...”

“And that’s not a silly name?” The Doctor asked. “Ok, they’re Grinches. And stealing Christmas is exactly what they’re up to. They’re thieves. Big scale thieves. I don’t know how they got past security but...” He stopped walking and talking abruptly. The crocodile ground to a halt and watched as he used the sonic screwdriver on a piece of wall that looked the same as the rest, but resolved into a door. The corridor was narrower than the sleigh tunnel, but better lit and it soon opened out into a control centre where three worried Toi-Gocci with purple faces were watching a bank of monitors and wondering what to do.

“I could do with a cup of tea, please,” The Doctor said to one of them. “Teacher there, definitely could, too. The kids have fizzy drinks and packed lunches. They just need a bit of floor to sit down on.”

The children took their cue and sat down on the carpeted floor. They were still a bit scared, but the sense of adventure was kicking in, too. A picnic under siege was a thrill on its own. The Doctor gave the teacher a chair and a tray of tea turned up very soon after. Amy sat with the teacher and helped calm her down.

The Doctor drank his tea while looking at the monitors and switching between different views of the Station.

“They’ve shut down outside communications,” The Doctor noted. “Nobody can call for help. It also looks like they’ve blocked the turbo lifts and transmats below level twenty-five. That’s the security level, of course. The guards can’t get up here. Access to the transport hangars is out of the question....”

He grabbed a chair and sat at the computer bank. The Toi-Gocci who thought it was his job to sit there moved over docilely. The Doctor was in charge. He typed rapidly at an extended keyboard and data filled the screen in front of him.

“Double deadlock, triple encoded on everything. I can’t even get the glass escalator to the observation deck working. They’re clever. Very clever.”

“They’re everywhere,” Rory observed. “Hundreds of them.”

They certainly seemed to be. As well as the food court, they had taken hostages in the theatre where the pantomime was just starting its second matinee of the day. They were all over Santa’s Grotto, holding all of the international Father Christmases and the children and parents.

They were in the jewellery stores smashing display cases and piling gold, silver and lutanium gifts into sacks.

“Not hundreds,” The Doctor replied. “I make it about fifty of them in total. That’s a lot, but not enough to take control of the whole Station. That’s why they locked off the areas they had no interest in, so they didn’t have to spread themselves too thin.” Rory smirked. “That wasn’t a pun. And there’s nothing funny about them. They’ll hurt people if they don’t get what they want.”

“What do they want?” Rory asked. “I mean... I can see they’re turning over the jewellery stores. But surely there isn’t that much stuff in them... not enough to make all this worth it.”

“You’d be surprised, Rory, old chum,” The Doctor said. “Remember, Christmas Station never closes. And jewellery, especially lutanium and diamonds, are very popular. They have huge vaults right underneath the stores themselves. Once they’ve got what they can see, they’ll go down and break those open.”

“They cannot get off the station,” the Toi-Gocci said. “They’ve even disabled the access to the emergency escape pods on each floor.”

“They planned this, they planned their escape,” The Doctor pointed out. “They’ve left themselves a window somewhere.”

“I... suppose...” Rory ventured, “It’s only money. They’ve not hurt anybody... only scared them a bit. Once they have what they want they’ll go....”

“Rory Williams, how can you say that?” Amy responded before The Doctor had a chance to speak. “How can you suggest that innocent people should put up with bullies holding them at gunpoint while they steal what isn’t theirs and just get away with it? Your mother didn’t bring you up that way.”

“I know,” he replied in a suitably chastised voice. “But there’s too many of them to fight. We can’t...”

“Who said anything about fighting them?” The Doctor said. “I know what their way out was going to be.”


“I’m going to redirect their mail. Coming?”

He addressed the question to Rory, but Amy followed him as well. They watched as he carefully disconnected the passenger sleighs from the main sleigh and then used the sonic screwdriver to repair the circuits he had blown in order to stop it in the tunnel. He jumped aboard. Rory and Amy followed a moment before the sleigh pulled by its mechanical reindeers moved off at a cracking pace.

“We’ll just end up in the grotto, and they have guards there,” Amy pointed out.

“We’re heading for the grotto, but we’re not going to ‘end up’ there. I’ve given the sleigh a power boost. We’re going to surprise the Grinches.”

It surprised Rory and Amy when, instead of slowing down when the sleigh reached the grotto it increased speed, jumping its track and sailing through the air unfettered.

“But it can’t do that!” Amy protested.

“Oh, it can. They don’t usually LET it. The customers obviously feel that an old fashioned guide rail is essential for a white knuckle ride. But the sleigh works by null gravitational shift – in essence it creates a pocket of zero gravity around itself, pushing against the real gravity to give it momentum. As long as there is gravity aboard the station we can go anywhere we want. Are the Grinches following us?”

“Some of them are,” Amy replied. “Do we want them to follow?”

“Yes,” The Doctor told her. “Grab some of the labels off the fake presents in the back of the sleigh there, will you. Rory, do you have a pen?”

“No,” he answered. “I wasn’t expecting a test.”

“That’s ok, use mine,” The Doctor said pulling a very high quality gold pen from his pocket and handing it to him. Rory glanced at it and noted the words ‘Hello Sweetie’ engraved in silver on it. He filed that under things he would not bring into a conversation with The Doctor and listened as he told him what to write on the labels he picked off the faux presents.

“Not sure I understand,” he said, passing pen and completed labels back to The Doctor. “How does that defeat Yebu... da.. di... Grinches.”

“You’ll see when we reach the shopping mall,” The Doctor answered. “It’ll be good. One of my best non-violent resolutions to a crisis.”

The ride wasn’t really as much fun now as it was when it was just a ride. Amy was feeling a little sleigh sick by the time they reached the shopping mall. And she wasn’t at all happy when The Doctor swooped low over one of the jewel stealing grasshoppers and dropped a parcel label on a loop of string around its neck. He did the same to four more of them and then, having got their attention, he turned the sleigh and headed towards the gift wrapping counter. The Grinches gave chase, firing their weapons wildly. They blew the heads off two of the mechanical reindeers and hit the side of the sleigh once, but moving targets didn’t seem to be their speciality.

“Lousy shots all round,” Rory said. “I think being in the thing they WANT to hit is the safest place to be. All the same, I hope you know what you’re doing, Doctor.”

“Oh, I do,” he answered with a wild laugh. The Sleigh glided over the gift wrapping counter and the Grinches clambered over it to try to reach it. Amy and Rory peered over the side and gasped in surprise at what happened to them.

“Where did they go?” they asked in unison as the five creatures disappeared in a flash of white light.

“They had correctly addressed labels on them,” The Doctor said. “They’ve been delivered. That was their way out of here, by the way. They were going to post the loot to themselves using the gift delivery system – anywhere in time, free delivery within the Earth Federation - and then post themselves afterwards.”

“So where have you posted them to?” Rory asked.

“The Shaddow Proclamation. The police force of the galaxy. They never get presents. Shall we send them some more?”

The Doctor banked the sleigh low and grabbed a bundle of labels from the counter. Rory filled them in while he went in search of more Grinches.

“They are a bit stupid,” Amy said as they led four more of them to the gift wrapping counter with labels around their necks. “Why don’t they take the labels off? And why do they chase us. They should just get on with stealing the stuff.”

“They’re thick,” The Doctor agreed. “Thick as thieves.” He laughed as he pulled the sleigh up high above the counter and another four intergalactic criminals were posted to the correct address.

They had circled around and labelled another six Grinches who immediately gave chase and fell into the same trap when the air in the shopping mall shimmered red and a dozen huge, broad creatures in leather armour and black lacquered helmets materialised. They spread out, their laser guns raised as they went in pursuit of the remaining Grinches. One remained beside the gift wrapping counter. He took off his helmet to reveal a head like a rhinoceros and a humourless expression.

“The cavalry,” The Doctor said with a triumphant laugh. “Well, the Judoon, anyway. The only people who can break through double deadlocks. Hold on, going in to land.”

“Hold on tight,” Rory said to Amy. “He doesn’t even land the TARDIS without a bump half the time. Can we trust him with a sleigh?”

The Sleigh actually touched down very gracefully right in front of the Judoon captain, who levelled his weapon at them and spoke in a staccato set of monosyllables.

“He’s accusing me of unlicensed driving of a Sleigh,” The Doctor said. “Keep calm, put your hands up and don’t say anything. Let me deal with this.”

Amy and Rory raised their hands and said nothing. The Doctor stood up, waving his psychic paper and, of all things, a red santa hat with fake fur around it that he pulled from his jacket pocket.

“Mo do fi go ro yo wo to,” he said in a deep voice. “It’s ok, I’m Father Christmas. Look, I have the hat. And, look, in my other hand, sleigh driving licence. Ho, Ho, Ho!”

“Ho go ro fo,” the Captain replied. Then he raised a small blunt instrument that scanned The Doctor for a long time.

“Scan identifies The Doctor, Gallifreyan, last of Time Lords, signatory of the Shaddow Proclamation. Also known as The Oncoming Storm, the Destroyer of Worlds, Theta Sigma, Ka Faraq Gatri.... Father Christmas.... legitimate pilot of sleigh.”

“What? Seriously?” Amy and Rory looked at The Doctor in astonishment, but the expression on the Judoon Captain’s face didn’t alter one inch from that stern, uncompromising one. “Perhaps they’re bad boys?” Amy added in a whisper. “He doesn’t come down their chimney.”

“Never mind my weekend job,” The Doctor said. “As a signatory of the Shaddow Proclamation, I order you to round up the Grinches and put them behind bars for... oh, ten thousand years should do it. They nearly ruined Christmas for everyone and that’s a very serious crime in my book.”

The Grinches were already under arrest. The Judoon squad marched back into the shopping mall with them in a tight group, long, gangly arms raised above their heads and their goggly eyes wobbling with fear. The Judoon formed ranks around them and the air shimmered. The whole lot transmatted out of the shopping mall - except for the Captain.

“Jo Ko, Lo Ro-Go-Fo-Go-Do-Do-Ro,” he said to The Doctor, handing him a piece of printed plastic before pressing his stubby hand against what might be his heart if Judoon anatomy was even remotely similar to Human. Then he bowed.

“Go-Fo-Do-Wo,” The Doctor replied solemnly. Then a grin split his face. “Ho, ho, ho! Go on. Try it. Just once.”

The Judoon didn’t. He stood to attention as crisply as a humanoid rhinoceros possibly could and repeated his salute before the air shimmered once again.

“That’s nice,” The Doctor said looking at the piece of plastic. “I’ve been awarded honorary membership of the Judoon special constabulary!”

“Ho, ho, ho?” Rory queried.

“Funnily enough it means the same in Judoonian as it does here. But he just wasn’t in the Christmas spirit.”

“Maybe he was a bad boy?” Amy ventured.

“Never. Judoon are sticklers for discipline. If he’d been bad, he’d have had to put himself under arrest. Never mind the Judoon. They’re incredibly boring people. You should hear their drinking songs.”

“No thanks,” Amy and Rory decided. “What do we do now?”

“You two go on up to the winter wonderland deck while I take the sleigh back and escort the kids and teacher to the nearest ice cream outlet. Then we can have an afternoon on the Christmas Station piste, or a quite ride on a horse drawn sleigh...” He looked at the battle-scarred remains of the mechanical sleigh and grinned. “Honestly, I can promise no trouble this time.”

“We believe you, Doctor,” Amy told him, grabbing Rory’s arm. “See you up there. Ho, ho, ho!”

“Ho, ho, ho,” Rory added.

“Go Fo Do Lo,” The Doctor replied to them. “Merry Christmas in Judoon.”