The President of Gallifrey was a patient man – a man who was old in wisdom, despite his somewhat youthful appearance. He had never met the Doctor, but knew him well by reputation. Although the Doctor’s exploits were nearly legendary, certainly notorious, in some circles, the President was shrewd enough to realise that on meeting the man himself, he must be careful how he approached him with his request for assistance. The President had reached his illustrious position by his directness, tempered by great tact and perspicacity – what on Earth would be referred to as the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove type approach. Yet, he was at a loss as to how to appeal to the Doctor for assistance.
The Doctor, he knew, had been fighting the Time War in various parts of the galaxy for the last twenty years; he also knew that the Doctor had rescued Gallifrey from invasion in the past. But he also knew that the Doctor bore no attachment to the Society of Time Lords (and the High Council of Gallifrey, in particular), even though he would obey their summons. He was uncertain how attached the Doctor was to Gallifrey, itself – although he shrewdly suspected the attachment was greater than the Doctor himself realised – but he did know that the Doctor bore no goodwill to the Daleks. The Daleks rated the Doctor as their single greatest enemy – they paid him the dubious compliment of referring to him as ‘The Oncoming Storm’; not, what in human terms would be called a nick-name, more a promise of major catastrophe to come. A catastrophe for the Daleks was what the President had in mind – one way or another. However, the Doctor had not been, was not even now, aware of the President’s machinations with respect to him.
The President’s musings were interrupted as the door handle turned and the oak-panelled door to his rather blandly-decorated chambers gently swung inwards on its hinges. Doors were an anachronism on Gallifrey – force fields that were capable of generating the illusion of transparency, translucency or opaqueness, with or without a sound barrier were far more common and easier to maintain. However, it was the President’s whim that he should have a solid oak door and it was his right as President to choose the décor for his personal chambers.
“Lord President. The Doctor to see you,” the Chancellor had said as he opened the door and ushered the Doctor into the room. After introductions had been exchanged and they were all seated – the President and the Chancellor in very upright, solid chairs; the Doctor in a somewhat softer armchair - the Chancellor had continued, “Gallifrey is in dire straits, Doctor. You know, of course, about the effects on other planets of this Time War, both directly and indirectly. Whole civilisations have been wiped out by the Daleks in some cases. In others, their people have been taken as slaves and left to perish when their usefulness has been at an end. The carnage being experienced at the behest of the Emperor of the Daleks….”
The President had raised a hand to interrupt the Chancellor in mid-sentence. While the Chancellor had been speaking, the Doctor’s reactions underwent a change from initial impatience, as was usual for him when dealing with officious individuals, to the not so usual expression of pain at the mention of the Emperor of the Daleks. The change was fleeting – the Doctor had recovered his composure in literally the blink of an eye - however, not before the President had witnessed it and wondered if this would make persuasion of the Doctor to the High Council’s cause easier or more difficult.
The President had allowed the Chancellor to continue, “But you know more about the Daleks than anyone else on this planet, Doctor. You’ve encountered them time and time again in your travels. You’ve even seen their genesis.” The Doctor had reluctantly nodded at this. He was very wary when dealing with the Time Lord hierarchy, but he couldn’t ignore the reality of the Chancellor’s comments – particularly when his special interest was so well-known. Unexpectedly, the President entered the conversation, saying, “Gallifrey needs your special insight into Dalek history, Doctor, if we are to defeat them without having to resort to our contingency battle plan.” The Chancellor had looked startled that the President should be so seemingly indiscreet as to refer to such a confidential matter, particularly to a Time Lord whose reliability, in his opinion at least, was suspect. However, the President had indicated that the audience was over, so there was no opportunity for queries from the Chancellor or for the Doctor to satisfy his curiosity about this plan. The Chancellor and the Doctor returned the way they had come. No further conversation took place between them.
The Doctor had found Andred waiting for him when he emerged from the lift. Although the Doctor’s first reaction had been one of relief, he finally saw the meeting for what it was. The High Council had summoned him to Gallifrey for some devious purpose - as yet not revealed to him he was sure – and they were making sure that he could not leave without Presidential permission, by keeping a friendly eye on him, so to speak. However, he had thought, this could be the perfect opportunity to find out why he had been recalled to Gallifrey..…
Although Gallifrey’s transduction barriers had been stretched to their tolerance limits by continual bombardment, upon the Doctor’s arrival, this bombing had ceased. Some of the High Council hoped this might be the end of it – after all, not only would it save Gallifrey from invasion, but it would mean that they would never have to make the critical decision that was hanging over their heads like some Gallifreyan sword of Damocles. But their hopes were to be short-lived.
A short time, what in Earth terms would be called forty-five minutes, after the Doctor had returned from his audience with the President, there was a huge sound which seemed to rend the very air in two. It was the onslaught of a massive missile shower, courtesy of the Emperor of the Daleks. The transduction barriers, already fragile from previous determined bombings had finally collapsed. Gallifrey was unprotected and at the mercy of the Dalek invasion fleet, whenever their Emperor chose. An emergency and extraordinary High Council meeting was ordered. All High Councillors and the Castellan had actually been on standby in case of this eventuality, but had hoped this would never happen. Their last resort – summoning the Doctor to Gallifrey to provide them with the benefit of his experience to prevent just such an outcome had been implemented, as he himself had guessed, too late to have any real effect. It would seem that their only means to retaliate against the Daleks would be their contingency battle plan, but this required full High Council and Castellan approval for implementation to take place. All participants (and the Doctor) were summoned to meet with the President without delay.
Castellan Andred had gripped the Doctor’s hand in a very firm handshake. “This will probably be the last time I have the opportunity to speak with you privately, Doctor,” he had said, “I have learned a lot from you and about you – and I have been better for that knowledge. Thank you.” Without any further conversation, Andred and the Doctor quickly headed for the High Councillor’s lift and the extraordinary High Council meeting.
As before, the Chancellor was waiting for them as the lift doors opened. But this time, the lift had taken them directly to the High Council chambers. The Castellan passed through to the inner sanctum of the chambers for the vital discussions that were about to take place. However, there was no question of the Doctor participating in the meeting – he had been ushered to a reception area to wait for the results of their deliberations. Luckily, the reception area had a comfortable sofa which he could sit on.
After what had seemed an eternity of time to one who was unused to inactivity, the Doctor had heard his name being called, reluctantly he knew, by the Chancellor. He had been summoned into the presence of the full High Council.
The Doctor remembered how much his previous incarnation had resented this waiting – it was like he was some errant schoolboy outside the principal’s office awaiting punishment for some misdemeanour; his previous incarnation had determined not to rush to the High Council’s bidding, so had carefully stood up, stretched his long legs and removed a piece of entirely imaginary fluff from his velvet sleeve, then casually followed the Chancellor through the doors into the inner sanctum. An excellent means for putting others in their place without words – a mannerism picked up from a chance meeting with Beau Brummell on one of his visits to Earth, but never put into practice before. The Doctor grinned slightly at the memory of the irritation on the Chancellor’s face…..
The Doctor had turned slowly after watching the sanctum doors close behind him, frowning in concentration as the President spoke. There was no pleasantness in the President’s words – they were completely unemotional. “The contingency battle plan, Doctor. That is what the High Council,” he gestured to his colleagues around him, “has decided must be implemented as soon as possible. It is the only way to save the universe once and for all from the Daleks. I’m sure that you, with your deep knowledge and experience of the Daleks and the misery that they cause, will appreciate it most keenly. It is because of your knowledge and experience that you have been selected by consensus to implement the plan. You are the only one who can.” The Doctor’s frown had deepened. To paraphrase that Roman poet who had interviewed him about his experiences witnessing the fall of Troy, “I fear High Councillors, even when they bring compliments.” With this in mind, he had waited for the instructions that he knew were bound to come – and he didn’t have long to wait.
The President had continued, “You will implement it for us.” He looked at the Doctor with eyebrows slightly raised, as the Doctor had appeared to be about to disagree. Actually, accepting the inevitable, the Doctor had replied, “What is this contingency battle plan?”
With a question in his eyes, the Chancellor looked at the President. The President nodded. After a long silence, the Chancellor answered the Doctor. “You will completely dismantle the controls that harness the power of Black Hole Omega – colloquially known as the Gallifreyan Eye of Harmony. The initial explosion will set fire to all the Dalek ships within range and the collapse of the Eye of Harmony will vacuum up the remainder out of reach of the initial fireball.”
The Doctor had looked as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “But that explosion will destroy Gallifrey and its people,” he had said when he could find the words. He had been truly shocked by this. “You can’t permit genocide on the whole of the Time Lord civilisation!”
The President had looked him straight in the eyes
and said, coldly, “But we won’t be. You will survive…..”
(* To be continued….. *)