I’m in a decidedly better head space now. Have had something of an emotional roller-coaster this last week or so, for all sorts of reasons, but definitely a bit brighter now. So instead of whinging, I present to you a Tenth Doctor piece I wrote after the Paul Cornell two-parter ‘Human Nature’/’The Family of Blood’. I loved those episodes; they were deliciously creepy and along with Steven Moffat’s ‘Blink’ were definitely the highlight of New Series 3 for me.
Fire, Ice and Rage
‘He’s like fire and ice and rage…’
Tim Latimer’s words would likely echo around in his skull for years, if not forever. He knew that. And if there was one thing the Doctor understood, and to which he could relate with no difficulty, it was the concept of ‘forever’.
Most humans couldn’t, of course. To them, forever was a brief spark, a gnat’s span. To an ancient race like the Gallifreyans, forever was… well, forever. Always. From here to eternity…
No, hang on, that was a film.
‘I made you a cup of tea.’
The voice behind him was soft, almost apologetic. Martha stood there, two steaming mugs of tea held expertly by the handles in one hand and a plate of biscuits in the other.
He studied her intently for a moment or two and she shifted uncomfortably under that steady gaze. Rather tentatively she tried to break the ice.
‘Mum always reckons that there’s no problem so bad that chocolate bourbons won’t soothe it.’
It was the right thing to say.
‘Your mother, Martha Jones, is an astonishingly perceptive woman.’ The Doctor grinned infectiously, accepted a mug of tea from her and helped himself to a couple of biscuits which he crammed into his mouth cheerfully.
Martha visibly relaxed. Since the business with the Family, it had been like walking on eggshells around the Doctor. He’d been brooding, throwing himself into repairs and maintenance around the TARDIS like there was no tomorrow – even repeating jobs he’d done already. Martha had tried talking to him in those early, difficult hours after they had departed 1913 earth. Those early, difficult hours when he’d stood staring at the Chameleon Arch for extended periods with undisguised longing in his eyes.
At first she’d been fearful that he would decide to undergo the change again; that she’d lose him to John Smith like she’d already done once before. Then the mood had shifted almost seamlessly from obvious misery into anger.
The doctor in her had tried to treat the situation with clinical detachment. Now that had been hard. SO hard. That look of near child-like vulnerability on his face. The look that changed without warning into one of an ice-cold fury.
‘He’s like fire and ice and rage…’
They were primitive, basic drives. She saw all three of them during that one solitary phase, but he never directed the rage at her. No, it was all directed either at the TARDIS, which received more belts with the mallet than usual, or inward, at himself.
Had the Doctor been human, she’d have diagnosed serious depression.
If he’d been human.
But he wasn’t.
Martha had never felt that fact more acutely than she had done over the past couple of days. Never had she felt more keenly the insurmountable distance, the impossible differences between them.
‘How are you feeling?’ The question was tentative, but asked with an encouraging, reassuring doctor-trained warm smile.
‘Never better. I have to say that these are really good biscuits.’ The Doctor reached for another chocolate bourbon and waved it around. ‘I always liked those lemon puff things, myself. Marvellous, really. Give humans a bit of sugar and some dodgy artificial flavourings and the world’s their biscuity oyster.’
‘There’s something fundamentally wrong about a biscuity oyster.’
Having so said, he dove back below the TARDIS console, where she could hear him humming cheerily to himself as he yanked out a handful of wires and then shoved them back in again. He was doing it for the sake of it, that much was obvious.
She slid into one of the chairs that were in the console room and rested her feet on the rail, watching him as she sipped her tea. It was odd, but for some reason which as yet she’d been unable to fathom, or at least unable to fully admit, the whole Joan Redfern incident had left her deep in thought about her feelings for him.
Martha couldn’t prevent the sigh that escaped her lips and the Doctor slid out from under the console and looked up at her.
‘Never better,’ she replied, with a grin almost as infectious as his own. It certainly carried about as much conviction as his had done only moments before – which was to say, none at all.
‘Good,’ he said, smiling warmly – and it was a genuine smile for the first time in two days. It had the effect of sending relief flooding through her system. She admitted it to herself – she’d worried about him. Before the Family, she’d often catch him brooding like that, staring into the console, lost in memories that he wouldn’t share. She suspected that many of them were memories of Rose, who she still knew little to nothing about.
She knew he’d loved her, though and in some ways it was a perfect example of knowledge being pain. She felt frequent surges of jealousy towards a girl – or woman, she had no idea how old Rose had been or anything – she’d never met and that was just insane.
In her own quieter moments, she’d tried to analyse just what it was she’d found attractive in him. He was pretty easy on the eyes, there was no denying that. He made her laugh – and that was a big ‘plus’ in her ‘book of reasons to date men’. And when he was nice, he was very, very nice.
But when he was bad, he was terrifying.
‘He’s like fire and ice and rage…’
Tim Latimer’s words would stick with Martha for a very long time, too.
The Doctor had not told her what had happened to the Family of Blood and she honestly didn’t want to know. She’d observed the fury of the man before and it wasn’t something that she felt she could bear to witness again. He’d returned from his task looking grim and sober and had then gone off to talk to Joan.
And he’d come back even more grim, even more sober and had thanked her for looking after him.
And he’d hugged her.
She relished those tactile moments. There was something so very exuberant about them. They filled her with all flavours of hope and every time she gave up a silent prayer to a God she’d long ago stopped believing in for them to mean more than she knew they meant.
They were so far apart. So very far apart.
Did she love him? Yes, she did, but she was starting to come to an understanding. She was more in love with who he was, what he was, rather than an adoration of the Doctor himself. He was everything she wasn’t after all. He was a rebel, fought against the system where she had always, according to her mother, been a ‘good girl’, whatever the hell that meant. He threw caution to the wind and acted on impulse where she tended to consider the consequences of her actions. He was a free spirit and what was she next to that?
An old stick in the mud, that’s what.
‘He’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun.’
Yes. He was dark and mysterious, staggeringly unpredictable – and there were times when she felt that if she gazed on him for too long, his radiance, his brilliance, would dazzle her.
She’d finished her tea and slid off the chair to collect his empty mug. There was a quiet companionship between them at the moment and there was something oddly relaxing about that. She no longer felt compelled to try and impress him, no longer felt the urge to try to be someone she wasn’t, nor could ever hope to be.
For now, at least, it was okay to just be Martha Jones.
She watched him a little longer.
‘He’s ancient and forever.’
He’d tried to explain the concept of forever to her only a few days before they had encountered the Family of Blood. They’d been circling around a veritable ballet of space dust and charged particles, a dancing whirlwind of motes that had been so beautiful that tears had sprung into her eyes. Lights that spun and shone before her. A scene a million times more outstanding than the Aurora Borealis, the thing she had always considered the most beautiful natural phenomenon she would ever see. And she had said that the memory of it would stay with her forever.
‘Forever?’ he’d said, his voice uncharacteristically melancholy. ‘You have no idea what that means.’
And it had been then that she’d started to understand him, to begin to get a real taste for his terrible loneliness. Her heart had reached out to him, but he hadn’t noticed. He wouldn’t ever notice. She could declare her love for him, paint it in letters fifteen miles high and until he moved on from all he had lost, he would not see what was right there in front of him.
And that, he had said during that conversation, would take forever.
‘He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe.’
Such things he’d shown her. Such concepts he had introduced her to.
And such heartache.
She too had stood there staring into the staggeringly pretty dust cloud, her heart filled with the song of a thousand particles and she had, for a moment, touched infinity.
And for that, she would always love him.
‘Hey, Martha, if you’re making more tea, I wouldn’t say no to another cup.’ She smiled at him.
‘You’ll be lucky. Besides, it HAS to be your turn. Do you really expect me to make the tea forever?’
She paused, bit her lip. The Doctor studied her and smiled that smile.
‘I dunno,’ he said. ‘It wouldn’t be THAT bad.’
‘And… he’s wonderful.’