Of course, it’s almost impossible to actually know the Doctor, but Adric is confident that he does (maybe as well as anyone does, now Romana is gone). The trick is to subtract what you know of one regeneration from what you know of the new one, find the common factors and weed out irregularities.
He notes that: The Doctor no longer encourages him to put his feet up on tables. In fact, this is quietly frowned upon, which tells him nothing. The Doctor also seems far more nervous, less certain of his own invulnerability, (a difference which could just be down to a recent regeneration) and he seems to have become fanatical about cricket: a sport his predecessor had mocked as a tedious waste of time. That Doctor had preferred fishing. Cricket is a team sport, fishing a solitary one, but both go on for (what seems to Adric) an unnecessarily long time. This tells him that the Doctor is still capable of seeing really boring things through to their conclusions and that he still likes to pretend he can take time off from saving the universe. It’s consistent.
The Doctor is still fiercely intelligent, so that must also be a constant, and, despite his fantastic intellect, the Doctor is still terrible at board games, because he still doesn’t think things through to the end, because he reacts rather than acts. Adric plays the new Doctor at chess (two- and three-dimensional), draughts, La-tme4an Standing (Venusian rules), Scrabble (all known languages using the Roman alphabet allowed), Incendiary, ack-el-mayer, and the Doctor loses everything except the Scrabble. That he wins spectacularly (746 — 430), but only after he insists that ‘QUKZOOOJ’ (which he has over a triple word score) is a word which means ‘funny shaped vegetables’ on one of the outer rim planets. When Adric laughingly suggests they go there next to view the qukzoooj, the Doctor makes excuses about how extremely late it is and bids him goodnight. From this, Adric deduces that the Doctor is still not above cheating.
He can also still be found wandering the TARDIS corridors at odd times. The night after their trip to 1920s Earth, Adric steps out of the Zepplin hanger at what passes for three in the morning and has to duck back into the room to avoid colliding with the Doctor, who is striding along, muttering over a book.
The Doctor has actually passed him, before Adric says, “Doctor?” and the Doctor turns, looking surprised, but pleased.
“Adric. Just the person I was looking for.”
“Here?" Adric says incredulously.
“Well,” the Doctor says, “it worked, didn’t it? Here, take a look at that.” He proffers the book and then frowns. “Actually, yes, what were you doing in the Zepplin hanger?”
“Nothing really. I just couldn’t sleep.” Adric scans the page, the familiar diagrams and lines of numbers. “There’s an error on the fourth row. It should be point… four two five, not point three five.”
“I knew it,” the Doctor says, reclaiming the book which he shuts immediately, apparently uninterested in the rest of its contents. “It doesn’t effect the others, but that’s no excuse for sloppy mathematics. I’ll have to drop in on Albert again soon and speak to him about it.”
“Right after we view the mythical qukzoooj?” Adric asks, pronouncing the word to sound as ridiculous as possible.
“You don’t believe me,” the Doctor says, amused.
“Well, I wasn’t born yesterday,” Adric protests.
The Doctor gives him a weary look that suggests if he’s going to keep saying things like that in the middle of a time machine they are going to have to have words, even if Adric does come from another dimension and is, therefore, technically correct.
“Come on,” he says, striding off down the corridor towards the console room. “I’ll prove it to you.”
There, he fiddles with some buttons which may or may not mean anything specific to him, and the TARDIS dematerialises and rematerialises somewhere that may or may not be the planet specified at take off. Still supremely confident, the Doctor pulls the door release and grabs his hat from the hat stand.
It occurs to Adric that (in all probability) he has let himself in for five hours of looking at strangely-shaped flora, while the Doctor is loudly and smugly right.
Fortunately, the world outside the TARDIS is highly developed: the skyline is broken up by lots of very tall, very thin buildings and several large, green zeppelins. It is obviously not an outer rim world.
“There’s no such thing as qukzoooj, is there, Doctor?” Adric says.
“No,” the Doctor says. “Not really.” He sticks his hands into his pockets and grins. The grin on a different face is still the same as ever: it implies that, even though the Doctor is apparently wrong, he has still, somehow, got one over on you and is just waiting for you to work out what it is. “Shall we take a look around this world anyway?”
Adric laughs and shakes his head and follows him.
The problem is that they’re too much alike, she and the Doctor. Tegan or Adric would have forced him to confront this; Nyssa justifies his silence with her own. She hasn’t even cried, though everything in the TARDIS seems to remind her of that pigheaded boy: crumbs left on the table, an open notebook on the console, an umbrella tucked into the hat stand. Not that Adric ever used an umbrella, of course, but that was typical of his arrogance so it amounts to the same thing. Adric’s death is everywhere and Nyssa helps the Doctor ignore it. When Tegan was here, she distracted both of them with her palpable grief. Now Tegan is gone too.
After they leave Heathrow, Nyssa goes to the room she used to share with Tegan and begins the process for sequencing the DNA of one of the Doctor’s stranger houseplants. Its leaves are dark purple perforated with small holes and when waved they produce a sound that Tegan claimed was not unlike the Beatles song: ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. She remembers that Adric said it was terrible, and laughed when Tegan said it was a classic back on Earth.
Approximately half an hour after she begins, she notices the Doctor walking past the doorway, then four and a half minutes later he walks back the other way, stops, and turns back the way he came. When he walks back a third time, Nyssa takes pity on him. “Doctor?”
“Yes,” the Doctor says, striding into the room, hands clasped behind his back. “Are you all right? Do you need any help? Ah,” he peers at her equipment, “your spatial-thermic regulator seems to be out of alignment. Do you mind if I take a look at it?”
Nyssa shakes her head with a small smile. The Doctor sits down next to her and they work in the silence which is instinctive to them both. Nyssa thinks: it’s not impossible that this will work, though she knows it won’t unless one of them says something with some meaning soon, and so she says, “Doctor,” again, and the Doctor looks up. “It wasn’t your fault,” Nyssa says.
The Doctor sighs. “No, I’m afraid it was.” He frowns at the apparatus in front of him and makes a minute adjustment to the temperature gauge. “It’s difficult, isn’t it? He… seems to be everywhere.” Nyssa nods tightly; they don’t look at each other. “I should never have let it happen,” the Doctor says. “I was careless, I should have known that he wouldn’t leave. Anyway. I’m sorry,” the Doctor says, “that he keeps turning up. And so soon after Adric - it’s difficult, I know. I’m sorry.”
Nyssa feels like there’s a vacuum where her stomach should be, pulling all her other organs into it. They have never talked about the man who has taken her father’s body. Months and months have passed, and their paths have crossed more than once, and the Doctor has said nothing. She assumed he’d forgotten, like poor Adric obviously had, or moved on. She kept her grief to herself, just as she keeps her grief about Adric balled up tightly in her throat. Now, this new tragedy has pushed the last one into the open, taking its place in the dark of the Doctor’s mind, and the Doctor is finally asking her forgiveness for his part in her father’s death. As well as he can, anyway.
“Thank you,” she says and hears her voice crack slightly, the double pain expanding in her mouth. She steadies herself. She doesn’t want to cry. “But it wasn’t your fault.”
The Doctor manages an awkward half-pat, half-squeeze of her hand before he springs back into shape again, smiles.
“Well,” he says, indicating the liquid in the regulator gage which is now the bright, brilliant blue which represents the correct temperature, “that seems to have done the trick. I’ll leave you to it.”
It surprises Tegan, who has threatened and demanded to go so many times that everyone has lost count, that Nyssa is the one to leave first. Being abandoned at Heathrow doesn’t count. If anything, that experience convinced her that she would never leave again, assuming the Doctor ever came back for her. She wonders if he would have come back for her, if cousins and loony, body-stealing Time Lords hadn’t contrived to throw them together again. Mostly she thinks he wouldn’t. Nyssa says- said otherwise, but they were both there when Adric’s ship crashed into the Earth, and Tegan doesn’t kid herself that she’s special, that she matters more to the Doctor than Adric did, more than Nyssa does. Mostly she doesn’t.
Nyssa’s leaving clearly surprises the Doctor, too. He hasn’t prepared for the event, isn’t ready to provide any arguments that might dissuade her and just blusters about how it’s not safe on Terminus and then withdraws. As she clings to Nyssa, who is actually crying for the first time since they’ve known each other, Tegan sees him hesitate. Say something, Doctor, she thinks furiously, before he turns and strides off, calling for Turlough.
“Take… care of him,” Nyssa says when the Doctor has gone. Tegan nods and Nyssa gives her a watery smile. “Like me, he feels more than he lets on.”
“Take care of yourself,” Tegan says thickly.
Later, without anyone in her room to talk to, she wanders the TARDIS listlessly. The Doctor has parked temporarily in the vortex so they ‘can all have a bit of a rest before the next misadventure.’ Tegan isn’t looking for him, but she finds the Doctor almost immediately: lying on a pale sofa in one of the drawing rooms, staring at the ceiling as Ella Fitzgerald’s voice flows gracefully from a gramophone.
She says, “Doctor?” and he sits up quickly as though he has been caught doing something embarrassing.
“Ah, Tegan,” he says. “Is everything all right? Do you… want something?”
Tegan shifts her weight awkwardly from foot to foot as the Doctor raises his eyebrows, hands clasped in front of him over his knees. What she wants is for him to show some sort of human, all right, some sort of Time Lord feeling. What she wants is for him to notice that she’s upset, get up off the sofa and hug her, because he’s upset too and because that’s what friends do. Normal friends anyway. It’s not what the Doctor does. The Doctor put his arm around her once after she’d been possessed and frightened out of her wits. She remembers he smelled very human: of cotton, mainly, sweat, and peanut butter.
She shrugs. “No, nothing’s wrong. I was just… thinking.”
“A very worthwhile occupation,” the Doctor says. “And what did you think about?”
Nyssa, Tegan thinks. Adric. Turlough. I think about how we can’t trust Turlough. I think about you. Whether you feel anything at all. Whether Nyssa was right.
“I was wondering if you danced,” she says because if Nyssa was wrong then she doesn’t really want to know, and because she promised to take care of the Doctor. That includes protecting him from his own almighty Time Lord angst. She tilts her head, raises her brows.
“No,” the Doctor says with an apologetic smile. “I’m afraid I don’t.”
“You never wanted to?”
The Doctor starts to say something that looks like ‘no’, but seems to think better of it. “It’s just - I’ve never learned how to.”
“Don’t worry, I can teach you,” Tegan says brightly.
“Tegan,” the Doctor begins, as Tegan starts to sort through the stack of records next to the gramophone, all of which seem to be from the early twentieth century. “I’m not sure-”
“Are you doing anything important?” Tegan demands. She removes Ella and slides a collection of swing music from its sleeve. “Well? Come on. It’ll be fun, I promise.”
The Doctor groans and gets to his feet. Tegan sets the needle over the record and Glenn Miller’s In the Mood bursts into the room.
“Don’t you think I ought to start with something a bit slower?” the Doctor asks, eyes wide with what looks like genuine fear.
Tegan tries to imagine the Doctor engaged in a romantic waltz or a sultry tango, and laughs. “Trust me,” she says, when he gives her a worried look, “this one’s going to be much more useful.”
That Tegan has gone is… sad, obviously, but not too sad. Turlough wonders if, at their final meeting, he stood too obviously with the Doctor while Tegan said her goodbyes, whether his parting handshake was too hurried. He knows it was really. All that time together and all he could manage at the end of their friendship, association, whatever, was a clasp of hands and an embarrassed “bye”. He should have said something else, but it had seemed more important to let the Doctor know that not everyone was abandoning him. At least, he didn’t smile.
The thing is — Turlough has been desperate to be alone with the Doctor since day one. In the beginning, this was really just a matter of tactics. Killing the Doctor when he was on his own seemed a lot easier than killing him when he was surrounded by other people. But it was never easy enough. The Doctor gave him lots of opportunities to keep his promise to the Black Guardian and Turlough failed to take any of them. He thought that was cowardice at the time.
Later, once he was free of that bargain, Turlough found himself actively seeking out the Doctor’s brand of calmness to balance Tegan’s louder and more obvious charms. The Doctor tolerated his help with the TARDIS, and let him win at chess sometimes, which Turlough appreciated, even though he doesn’t need to be coddled. It was just nice— to have his feelings considered, particularly by the Doctor, which… is the problem. Recently he’s begun to realise that all the stupid, reckless things he’s been doing recently, all those things that look like bravery to other people, are because he wants the Doctor’s notice, he wants his approval, he wants— to matter to him.
Tegan and the Doctor got on very well. Sometimes. Actually, they didn’t seem to get on at all most of the time, they argued constantly, but they liked each other enough to stay together despite that. They’d certainly been ‘friends’ long before Turlough came on the scene, and, as far as Turlough knows, she hasn’t ever tried to kill him, which must have gained her some points.
It’s not that he was ever excluded, or that he disliked Tegan, because he did like her — that’s what made it so difficult. But he was sure he’d be able to talk to the Doctor properly without her around. He was sure the Doctor would realise that Turlough was someone he could rely on after that tricky ‘trying to kill him’ stage had passed.
Now they are finally alone and all Turlough can think to say to him is: Doctor, can you at least look at me, give me some indication that you want me here?
It’s not how he imagined it at all. It’s quieter. The Doctor has hardly spoken to him. They haven’t landed anywhere since Tegan left two days ago and the Doctor has spent that time listening to old records, making half-hearted repairs to the TARDIS, and muttering to himself about the Daleks.
“Doctor,” Turlough says firmly to him once he starts repeating whole phrases as well as ideas. “You’re becoming obsessed.”
“Yes. Obsessed and depressed,” the Doctor agrees, which is something, Turlough supposes. It’s new conversation, though not conversation concerning anything he couldn’t have deduced for himself.
Aware he sounds petulant, he asks, “You miss Tegan?” because he needs to know which one of them this is about. If it is about either of them.
For a moment, the Doctor looks almost angry, but he recovers his composure quickly.
“Well, we were together a long time,” he says, as if this is an answer.
He returns smelling like ash. Peri stands awkwardly at the other side of the hexagonal console as the Doctor shuts the door and presses several buttons like a sleepwalker doing the same old things at night as he did during the day. His face is utterly blank which looks wrong on a man who has just saved the world. And he has just saved the world: Peri saw that on the large screen in the wall. She saw him outwit that horrible Master, who has burned to death, or whatever that was, and that’s good, isn’t it? That’s what they were trying to do. That was the point, right? Though perhaps it wasn’t. There’s no way of telling without asking the Doctor. She doesn’t know him well enough to guess.
The Doctor hasn’t moved since the center column thing started flashing, and it suddenly occurs to Peri that she’s alone in a time traveling machine with a man she doesn’t know at all, actually, and who she can’t possibly understand. He looks human, but he isn’t, that’s for sure. Who knows what he might do next, or what he might be feeling?
“Doctor?” she says tentatively. “Are you OK?”
The Doctor looks at her as if surprised to see anyone standing there. “Yes, of course. I’m all right,” he says and gives a brief smile. He looks back at the console and decisively presses another button which changes color from red to blue. “Now, we should get back to Turlough. He must be wondering what’s happened to us.”
TARDIS travel still seems incredible to Peri, and she can hardly believe they’ve moved until she steps outside to where Turlough is waiting to say goodbye. It’s horribly awkward. The kid is obviously hoping the Doctor is going to ask him to stay at which point he will stay, meanwhile the Doctor is, just as obviously, unaware of this silent ultimatum, or pretending not to notice it. Men, Peri thinks exasperatedly, and that’s sort of comforting. They might be aliens, but some things don’t change apparently, no matter which galaxy you’re in.
It gets even more awkward when Turlough assumes that she’s going to keep traveling with the Doctor. Peri stutters denials, but he’s right: she doesn’t want to go home. There’s nothing waiting for her in the States and, she might be wrong, but the Doctor doesn’t look like the sort of guy who can be left on his own too long. Sure enough, it takes only the tiniest amount of wheedling before he agrees to let her stay and he even manages a smile before a giant lurch sets them both grabbing at the console.
“Where are we?” Peri asks when the TARDIS stops shaking.
“Technically, we’re nowhere,” the Doctor says, checking the console instruments. “This is the vortex. The place,” he retrieves a cream and red cricket sweater from the floor and pulls in on over his head, “in between places. I usually stop here for a bit after, well, after my adventures.” He looks over at her. “Would you like to go somewhere?”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” Peri says, though she would and it must show on her face because the Doctor raises his eyebrows. “All right,” she admits. “Could we go somewhere? Please?”
The Doctor purses his lips, then says thoughtfully, “Turn that black wheel next to your right hand.”
There are three almost identical black wheels and Peri puts her hand on one at random. “This one?”
The Doctor nods and so she spins the wheel a tiny amount so that he can correct it if he changes his mind. The center column begins to bob up and down drunkenly.
“Again,” the Doctor says, beginning to flick switches, apparently at random. “We’re still in the same galaxy. I thought you said you wanted to travel.”
Peri spins the wheel again, and again when the Doctor looks up at her, with eyebrows raised and an expression that clearly says is that really the best you can do? She’s beginning to think he must be having her on, when he says “Stop,” suddenly, and yanks something that looks suspiciously like a bike pump underneath the console. The TARDIS makes the screechy noise that means it's dematerializing and touches down gently.
The Doctor lets go of the console gingerly. “There,” he says when nothing explodes, which must be a reaction left over from traveling with other people who have often seen bits of the TARDIS explode. “Let's take a look,” he says and starts for the door, pulling a hat and long coat, both of which match his pants, from the handstand as he does so.
“Where are we?” Peri says.
“A new world,” the Doctor says mysteriously, adjusting his collar.
“Well, what’s it like?” Peri persists because she doesn’t want to freeze to death or burn to death or be arrested or sacrificed for being human or a woman or wearing pink shorts.
“You’d know if you went outside,” the Doctor points out. “Always get your information first hand, Peri, if you can possibly help it.” Peri turns a pleading look on him and, grudgingly, he adds, “It’s very sandy. Very like Sarn actually, on the surface, anyway. You won’t even need to change your clothes if that’s what you’re worried about.” He pulls a lever on the console and the doors open. “Come on,” he says, striding outside without waiting to hear her answer.
Peri smiles and shakes her head and follows him.