busman's holiday

“I don’t want any trouble, Doctor. I just want an easy life.”

“Me too, Brigadier. Me too.”

“I am retired, you see.”

“Let’s treat this as a holiday.”

- Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Doctor, Sympathy for the Devil.

* * *

They visit the planet Kalphernias, where the sky is a delicate shade of puce, and the sea so hyper-oxygenated that, the Doctor claims, one can breathe comfortably underwater through one’s skin.

Unfortunately, they arrive several thousand years before the tourist industry, or, indeed, the wheel.

(“Running away from enraged locals with slingshots is not my idea of a holiday!”

“It’s hardly my fault if the temporal co-ordinates jammed! We just need to fix the freak weather conditions, find out what’s happened to their sacred relic, and swap it for the TARDIS. Easy.”

“You have a real gift for understatement, Doctor...”

* * *

They attend the Great Exhibition of Cerulea, famous throughout time for prototype chronal-accelerators.

The inventor, however – whose name was Kyrios, which the Doctor afterwards admitted should have been a tip-off – turns out to be the Master, cobbling together Gallifreyan technology in the hope of attracting a passing Time Lord.

(“Why did you hit him so hard?”

“A sense of moral indignation? Doctor, he’s going to metaphorically jump up and down and shout ‘look at me!’ until you give him your TARDIS.”

“We’ll drop him off on some C-class planet. No technology, no problem.”

“So long as it’s not *our* problem.”

* * *
They visit Kar-Charrat, which, the Doctor informs the Brigadier, houses one of the most extensive libraries in the universe. There, in the new wetworks facility, all the knowledge of the universe is coded into infinitely complex protein-liquids.

It comes as something of a surprise when they discover that the liquid is actually a sentient lifeform.

(“If I’m too old to be fighting my own battles, I’m certainly too old to be fighting other people’s.”

“This isn’t a battle, Brigadier, it’s a negotiation. You couldn’t leave the Kar-Charratians like this, could you?”

“Never thought I’d be fighting for a glorified swimming-pool...”

* * *

They visit Marinus, apparently in the middle of a cultural renaissance – concerts, plays, galleries where harmless telepathic pigments writhe into new forms, feeding on the observer’s enjoyment.

Of course, the pigment-creatures turn out not to be as harmless as previously thought, and begin leaving trails of colour and catatonic victims. It takes a dangerous feed-back loop of psychic paper to get the last enraged shred of mauve corralled.

(“They do say that art isn’t art unless it threatens your very existence.”

“Get us back to the National Gallery, Doctor, and we’ll see how threatened you feel by the average Gainsborough.”

* * *

They arrive on Telephos for the first regnal year of Euphron the Enlightened. Unexpectedly, he turns out to be a self-centred despot with a penchant for setting up golden images of himself.

(“Brigadier, will you kindly get down! When in Rome – “

“I’ve never been to Rome.”

“It’s only a local custom.”

“I didn’t kowtow to Geneva, the Prime Minister, or alien invasions. I certainly won’t to a blasted statue. Besides, my legs are too old for kneeling.”

In the weeks of uprisings and constitutional debate, there doesn’t really seem to be much option but to lend a diplomatic hand.

* * *

They arrive on Khadath – a model of peaceful democracy, the Doctor claims, and with a galaxy-wide reputation for its festivals – just in time for the second Kzinti invasion.

(“- need to show them who’s top dog. You will make such a production out of everything, Doctor.”

“I only smiled!”

“Did it never occur to you that baring your teeth at an eight-foot tall tiger might not be construed as friendly?”

“And a parade-ground bark is?”

The Kzinti seem to think the Brigadier is a Khadathian leader; no-one likes to disabuse them, especially the Khadathian government. Anything to keep negotiations open.

* * *

Discurus is an ocean paradise, with seas the palest jade and skies the deepest emerald. Colonists have hardly started to leave their footprints in the silver-white sands.

It’s rather a pity, therefore, when the landmasses start to reshape, the earth cracks and oozes, the seas boil. There’s hardly time to discover that the whole planet is one giant organism with an over-active immune system before they all have to take off to avoid the rising tide of digestive acid.

(“I never was too fond of paddling.”

“That’s probably for the best, Brigadier. If you’re at all attached to your feet.”

* * *

On Volag-Noc, they recapture a temporally-unstable criminal, tracking her over the frozen wastes with scanners made of curious crystals and held together with masking tape.

They hinder a mining company on Tetrapyriarbus, preventing the release of subterranean poisonous gases, and saving the semi-sentient bat-like inhabitants.

They foil alien invasions on Earth (though ‘swamp’ might be a more accurate name at this point, or maybe ‘volcano’), Manussa, Dulkis, Skonnos, Tigella, and Earth again. They aid, abet, and otherwise encourage uprisings on at least half a dozen worlds, the names of most of which the Brigadier didn’t know in the first place.

(“I sometimes think your ship doesn’t like me.”

“Nonsense! She just...doesn’t want us to get bored.”

“I wanted a holiday! When was the last time we were on a planet that wasn’t about to be invaded or blown up?”

“That’s an exaggeration. You didn’t even try to enjoy that last planet. You wouldn’t even try the local beer!”

“I hardly had a chance before it was shot out of my hand! In any case, CAMRA would revoke my membership if I drank that muck.”

“What was wrong with it?”

“It was

“You’re a true citizen of the galaxy, Brigadier.”

* * *

The concrete boxes of buildings aren’t unusual, gap-toothed with shell-holes; nor are the muddy sky and ashen ground. They meet up with the usual courageous, disorganised rebels, and hear about the war and the invasion and the labour camps. Somewhere a mistake was made that has to be unmade. Someone has to interfere. As always.

Except that this is 2142, and the Earth is ruled by the Daleks.

The Doctor pauses at the door of the TARDIS.

“I promised you a holiday,” he says, sounding oddly lost.

The Brigadier opens the door. “I hope you never thought I believed you.”